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REVIEW: An Uncommon Whore by Belinda McBride

Dear Ms. McBride.

An Uncommon Whore by Belinda McBrideThe excerpt of this book on Loose Id really intrigued me. I liked the writing, I even liked the space opera set up. I was excited to read it. But the book itself is a book of missed opportunities. As I read it, all I could see was the idea struggling desperately but fruitlessly under the execution and that made me sad.

Pasha is a slave who can’t remember anything of his life and is alternately content as a slave and whore but also constantly trying to escape, to what he knows not. His reptilian owner (literally, not metaphorically) takes him to a space port to pimp him out and he sees a man he knows he has to connect with. Pasha’s owner plays cards with him while Pasha gives him a blowjob, and the man wins Pasha’s services for a night. The man, Griffin, reveals that Pasha is actually Helios Dayspring, the priest king of their displaced and war-ravaged people. Griffin, of course, has been looking for Helios for five years, ever since their people were exiled from their planet and Helios went missing. Now that Griffin has found Helios — and of course they are former lovers, too, and immediately restart that relationship — they do a little roaming around the galaxy for various reasons, including finding a way for Helios to get his memory back from under the control of the implanted slave microchip in his brain. They eventually make their way back to their new planet, where Helios takes his rightful place as king.

The plot is fine. The plot is all there. The plot is a little naive when it comes to interplanetary politics and the probable actions of vast mining corporations. The new planet on which Helios and Griffin’s people settled has vast resources of a crystal that can power cities. I find it very difficult to believe that this wouldn’t have been noted when the planet was first discovered. I also find it very difficult to believe that once this IS discovered by the rest of the galaxy, that the pastoral, idyllic vision of the future at the end of the book is at all believable. But the plot is…solid, with a few tweaks.

And the characters are great. Helios and Griffin have to get to know each other again, and have to negotiate the power dynamics of their relationship together. Helios has been changed by his slavery, but he also knows that he can survive pretty much anything. He knows that there is power in submitting (although this book is NOT a BDSM book at all), and power in companionship and he brings his new understandings to his new relationship with Griffin. I do NOT like, as I never do, that their exchange of “I love you” comes early, leaving little emotional conflict for the rest of the book, but their relationship dynamics are still interesting and well-thought-out.

In fact, everything’s well thought-out. It’s the execution that…is just boring, ordinary, meh. The idea is amazing! OMG, so interesting and brimming with possibilities. You could say incredible things about issues of slavery and power and companionship and loyalty. You could delve deeply into the minds of these men. They’ve suffered some truly awful things and have come out stronger and better and more realistic. But the execution is…throwing words on the page to tell the bare bones of the story. This book should be about 400 pages. Instead, it’s 122. This book should be an epic space opera with huge responsibilities. Instead it’s an erotic romance with a nifty premise. You could even KEEP the erotic stuff in. In fact, the erotic aspect of the story is perfect and integral to the plot and it would be a deep disservice to the story to get rid of it. But….oh, it’s like you’ve got this phantasmagorical image of a beautiful woman. It sparkles and shines in its beauty and depth and complexity, but it’s completely see-through, just air and dreams. And in front of you, all that is “real” of the woman’s beauty is a skull, bare bones and foundation, with no indication of the true beauty of the woman except for a haunting melancholy of loss and regret. That’s what I feel when I read this story, because it could be so brilliant but really, your writing is just not up to the task.

I love these characters. I love this idea and the possibilities of their story. But I’m so disappointed with this book.

Grade: C-

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

This book can be purchased at Loose Id.

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

3 Comments

  1. Heather Massey
    Feb 04, 2010 @ 20:00:14

    Ah, fudge. I bet I would have enjoyed the 400 page version as well. While I’m currently enjoying a variety of science fiction romance novellas, the grand scope of some plots often leaves me wanting more in terms of word length. From what you’ve written, this one seems to have a significant disconnect in terms of story scope and length.

    Thanks for the review, though. Good to know about it.

    ReplyReply

  2. Mina Kelly
    Feb 05, 2010 @ 04:26:44

    I have to admit, I kinda wanna buy it just to look at that artwork.

    I’m surprised to see it classed as a novel, though, at only 112 pages. I mean, that’s long for a novella, but doesn’t that round out to about 30,000 words?

    ReplyReply

  3. Mina Kelly
    Feb 05, 2010 @ 04:36:27

    Actually, I can’t count. It’s more like 50,000, isn’t it? Which is reasonable for a short novel. Never mind!

    (also, I knew I recognised that artist! I used to follow her stuff back when I was in more anime fandoms)

    ReplyReply

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