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REVIEW: Cage by Harper Sloan

Dear Ms. Sloan:

This book was recommended on the basis that it was in the vein of Kristen Ashley. I avoided the first book because many reviews indicated that the heroine was weak and somewhat twee, spending her time being held by all the big handsome men in her life while she weeped.  Not my thing.

The male protagonist is Greg Cage, a big security professional, who lost his sister to a domestic abuser. The story opens with Greg having sex with a “bitch” named Amanda. Greg treats this person cruelly. While he bills himself as super protective and caring about women, it’s only a certain type of woman that is deserving of that type of treatment.

This is how Greg views himself:

Some of us are put on this earth to heal, to make others’ lives brighter, and when those people don’t want our help, our love? We feel it deep.

Yet this is how he treats the woman he has sex with in the first chapter.

Why do I put up with this bitch? Oh, that’s right, because if I wait any longer to get some, my dick will shrivel off. “Amanda,” I roar her full name. “Hear me right now. You do not get to sit here and sling that shit. My sister calls and I’m done. Get that now, if you ever plan on revisiting my bed.”

“You’re done? Your dick is still hard,” she shrieks at me.

I don’t have to look down to know that my dick is screaming at me to finish. I reach down and caress my balls, trying unsuccessfully to ease the ache that is coiling in my gut. Fuck… I need this so bad.

“Babe. I don’t have time to take my time. You want to finish? Fine, but it will be hard and fast.”

This feeling of not helping is new to me. For the last almost five years, I have been the rock, the go to, the strength to help, and it almost makes me feel like I am doing something that would make Grace proud of me. Something better than all those years that I spent wasting away, living off booze, and whores on the road.

Cage’s attitude toward Amanda is stomach churning. He is so mean to her and why? Because she opens her legs to him. She pursues him avidly and doesn’t take no for an answer. Why should she? He goes from sticking his fingers in the female protagonist’s sex on a dance floor to punishing Amanda by boning Amanda in the back room.  Mandy is clearly mentally unbalanced but instead of treating this as a serious concern worthy of someone’s “help” she’s referenced as thus:

 I don’t care what happens to the bitch, but according to him, she is back on her meds and seeking help. ‘Back on the meds’ should have been clue enough that she really is a psycho bitch. Maybe next time, she will keep up with those damn pills. All that matters is he says that she won’t be a problem, and I believe him.

I took from this that a person who may take medication (such as a person who is bipolar, depressed, manic, etc) is a psycho.  I found this just one of many distressing characterizations. Probably the worst, though is Sway.

Sway is the only gay character in the book and his depiction is over the top and stereotypical of a certain type of gay (none that I’ve ever encountered). He’s constantly making lewd comments about all the assets of the Corps Security. He dresses in skin tight pants and shirts. He calls people “darlin’.” In one scene he is painting the sidewalk in front of the security offices in gold glitter and throws the glitter onto these men. Sway has no role within the book other than to be the comic relief.  He is in two scenes, one going crazy over a baby and this one where he is painting the sidewalk in glitter and throwing it on the hot men of the Corps Security.

A clear sign of my distraction is my missing Sway’s presence when I pull up at Corps Security. I am busy picturing Melissa bent over my kitchen counter, but when I look up and see Swag waving like an idiot, the hard on I have been sporting all morning dies a quick death.

What the fuck?

Over the last few years that I have known this man, I have learned he is as unpredictable as they come. But the sight that meets me this morning is like nothing he has ever done before. There he is, standing on the sidewalk wearing those camouflage skintight pants things that chicks wear. The ones that make a man fall all over himself to follow her ass around the world, but on this man, they might scar me for life. If that isn’t enough, the sparkling burgundy shirt hugging his round  stomach might get a good laugh. Then, I notice what he is doing.

“Sway? Why are you painting the sidewalk?” I question, looking down into the bucket of golden shining paint, “Is that fucking glitter?”

“Don’t you start with all your alpha hotness, Gregory. Of course, this is glitter! You can’t paint the sidewalk gold without glitter!” He’s serious, bobbing his head left and right, and waving his hands all over the place.

“This is for real? You’re painting the sidewalk fucking gold? Does Axel know about this shit?”

“Of course he does, my king of hotness. Don’t be such a tight ass. Actually, never mind that darlin’, be a tight ass… just let me see it.” He starts laughing like a loon and all I can do is look around and notice the explosion of fucking glitter.

“Sway, my man, you wouldn’t know what to do with me.” He sobers instantly and I kick myself for encouraging him. “Forget I said that. Tell me why you feel the need to throw glitter all over the damn place?”

“Because my hunk of fine, glitter makes everyone happy!” When he starts dancing around his paint bucket, I have to leave. There is only so much Sway that I can handle when he is acting like this. I might joke, but that man is the funniest little shit I have ever met.

The second Coop steps out of the out of the jeep, Sway attacks, throwing glitter in the air and screaming ‘good morning’. When he leaps into Coop’s arms, I fear I might hurt something, laughing as hard as I am.

The plot is essentially Melissa and Cage dealing with “psycho”, learning to overcome the loss of their sisters to the same domestic abuser, and learning to trust each other. As for the romance between Cage and Melissa, there mutual lust was apparent but even with their similarities (and crazy coincidences) I didn’t really understand why they loved each other. Their animal attraction was the primary driver of their connection for so much of the story and the love rested almost solely on the fact that they’d both lost someone due to domestic violence. But the love? I have no idea what the one loved about the other outside of the bedroom activities.

There are a lot of references to sad women and the other men in the Corps Security group and how their love for each other is kept unconsummated through some secret angst.  These scenes were awkwardly inserted throughout the story in a very repetitive manner.  Cage would see one of the ladies looking distressed and the corresponding Corps Security would be either destroying their office or stomping around tragically unhappy.  Cage’s heart would hurt for all involved. I guess because unrequited love is not psycho and therefore worthy of his big heart.

I know I’m supposed to see Melissa as this awesome chick who stands up for herself and takes care of herself, her mom, and her nephew; yet Melissa spends every night at Cage’s house and Cohen, the nephew, makes only a few appearances. Given that Melissa was essentially her nephew’s mother since Melissa’s sister died, her inattention to Cohen seemed weird and only served to enforce that Melissa was more interested in physical pleasure than anything else. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Melissa was supposed to be this awesome self sacrificing heroine who was taking up the yoke of motherhood.  The showing never matched the telling.

Finally, Melissa’s treatment toward Mandy was disturbing. Yes, Mandy slashed Melissa’s tires but Melisssa’s constant references to Mandy as “demented” and “fucking nuts” and “psycho bitch” just served to reinforce this idea that those who suffer from a mental illness are somehow lesser. I’m sure that this isn’t what I was supposed to take away from the book. I know I was supposed to see Mandy as the villain because she kept trying to interfere with Cage and Melissa and became increasingly unstable and dangerous, but Mandy was written with such a heavy hand (with her fake tits and her complete lack of self esteem and her wild eyes) that I couldn’t help but feeling sorry for her.  The insults thrown Mandy’s way actually distressed me rather than made me want to cheer Melissa.

This book has received glowing reviews and maybe there’s a story here I didn’t see but the characters’ actions as written revealed a completely different set of individuals than the reader was told existed. D

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  A Terrible Love by Marata Eros

REVIEW: A Terrible Love by Marata Eros

Dear Ms. Eros:

I requested this book because I have yet to read a New Adult romantic suspense and I thought that this book might bring something different to the genre. Unfortunately the suspense portion of the story hinged on rather dumb people and highly suspect coincidences lending a feeling of unbelievability to the entire story.  The best part of the story was the heroine’s love for ballet.  That was the only thing that came off authentic in the entire book.

Hugging couple on black backgroundJess Mackey is the missing daughter of a presidential candidate. She has moved to Seattle and because of hair dye and colored contact lenses, she is completely incognito.  No one can recognize her!  And she’s able to afford going to another college without any family help. If only college was so cheap, right?  Jess is tormented by a memory of hiding in a closet while her best friend is bludgeoned to death by her step brother.  Her answer to this is to run away. The fact that a presidential candidate’s daughter was missing would be such huge news that unless the chick is living in an underground, closed off silo this storyline doesn’t work at all.

At her new college, she has made friends with a couple of girls and is meandering her way through classes because she misses her true love – dancing.  Her friend and roommate knows this and arranges for her to “secretly” audition for the Seattle Pacific Ballet which is selecting a student from her University to be part of the ballet company.

Jess is also the hottest thing on campus apparently because gorgeous male specimen A, Marcus, asks her out and continues to pursue her even though Jess is embarking on a sex only relationship with gorgeous specimen B, Camden.  She also has a hottie she sits next to in Biology class that defends her from jocks who make rude remarks to her. Everyone loves her and wants her from her killer step brother to the random stranger hanging around campus on his motorcycle.

In an effort to maintain suspense, the backstory of why Jess has run away and what trauma she has sustained is dribbled out in vague references and isn’t even fully explained in this book. I started the companion book on a whim and it was fully explained in the first chapter.  Why we didn’t get this kind of closure in book 1, I’m not entirely sure. (The companion book is the same story from the male POV). Suspense isn’t driven by Jess’ flight from her PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FATHER but rather some brute on campus that is repeatedly trying to rape Jess.  After the third attempt on Jess’ body, I’m not horrified or scared for her, I’m rolling my eyes at the clumsy use of this plot device.

There were two areas that I thought was decently done – the sexual tension and the dancing.  The love of ballet exudes from the pages as the heroine spins on her toes and sweats blood and tears through each practice. A true ballerina.  But as a romantic suspense, vagueness and lack of a believable plot really drags the story under.  The whole tone of the book is vague and melodramatic with Jess constantly telling us how not pretty, not talented, and ordinary she is.  Given that everyone else thinks she is beautiful and desirable and the best ballerina ever, her Eeyore attitude is wearying and comes off as false modesty.

A tiny bit of racism at the end. Thanks a lot. But seriously, if I see a white chick do that in a nail salon, I think I might punch her out. Really not funny.

FANCY NAILS, the sign claims. Uh-huh.

We sit down and strip our winter boots and socks off.

“I make your feet look pretty,” an Asian pedicurist promises.

But he hasn’t seen my feet yet . . . really looked.

Though anything would be better than what’s going on now. He looks at my beaten feet and asks, “What do you do to your feet, pretty girl?”

“I dance,” I answer.

“You pay extra for more work.” His syllables pop like second- language gunfire.

“Okay.” I relent and Carlie shrieks laughter beside me.

“I love you long time,” she giggles while she shakes her ample bosom back and forth and my face flames in embarrassment.

I realized at the end of the story that this was a good idea and I’d love to read some New Adult suspense but something that was better executed than this.  D

Best regards,

Jane

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