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REVIEW: Force of Law by Jez Morrow

Force of Law CoverDear Ms. Morrow:

I didn’t expect anything of this book except that the excerpt intrigued me, so to discover a gem like this was a wonderful surprise. I love how you played with both the Cinderella fairytale and the old skool Harlequin Presents tropes and came up with something so powerful and good.

Tom is an auto-mechanic. Or not even that? Tom works at a quickie lube joint (no, not that kind). He’s a year out of a relationship with Wells, a pampered scion of a rich family who seems to like slumming. Wells disappeared one day and Tom only found out later that he’d been left for a woman. The story opens when Well’s cousin Law pulls up in his Lamborghini Diablo and offers to take Tom to Well’s wedding reception. Law is huge, filthy rich, invincibly powerful — all the requirements for a Harlequin Presents dominant asshole male. Tom doesn’t know what Law’s motivation is, but Tom sees it as an opportunity for revenge, for final closure, and he agrees to go.

I love the descriptions of Law:

Law Castille was an impressive guy. Always had been. He had always intimidated Tom, damn him anyway.

His bold profile presented toward Tom with a high, solid cheekbone, heavy jaw, and rounded chin. His full lips were seductive, cruel. His dark hair was corporately trim, but it looked soft. Tom couldn't see his eyes for his sunglasses, but knew they were striking, very dark with a hard, gemstone gleam.

He was bigger even than Tom remembered, sleek and massive as a prize bull. He had his shirtsleeves rolled up around his huge biceps. His muscles didn't have that distorted, outsized, veins-popping steroidal look. To make sure, Tom glanced down at his crotch. Steroids shrank the testicles. Nope. There was nothing small down there.

The black fabric of Law's trousers was drawn tight across his heavy thigh, showing the interwoven cabling of muscles underneath. Tom's cock lifted.

He tore his glance away and sank back into the bucket seat. Last thing he ever wanted was to get caught getting hard for Law. He wasn't sure where that had come from. Testosterone had reached critical mass in here. He didn't dare look back or he would turn into a pillar of-’okay, into a pillar. He stared straight ahead.

After the wedding, Law corners Tom in his apartment and you manage to write one of the best forced seduction scenes I’ve ever read. Tom is still convinced Law is straight and that he’s about to be raped by Law as a way to put him in his place. Tom has always been sure that he’s dominant, so to have Law threaten him and then penetrate him terrifies him . . . and remakes his world. You do an absolutely brilliant job of showing how very much Tom is both scared out of his mind and yet also desperately wants Law, and then showing how Tom remakes himself for the better in his new role and in his relationship with Law.

The conflict is very Old Skool Harlequin Presents: what does Law feel for Tom? Tom admits to himself very early that he loves Law and although the reader can see Law caring for Tom, his ruthlessness and his granite demeanor mean that Tom has very little idea of his role in Law’s life. The doormat to asshole ration that’s Jane’s way of measuring a good Presents is almost even. While Law’s an asshole, he’s a fun one without apologies or angst, and Tom is no one’s doormat. And the ending is pure Old Skool Harlequin Presents, too, with a full declaration of love at first sight and ruthless drive to the goal of stamping himself on Tom’s life and truly memorable grovel. Utterly, brilliantly perfect.

And I love your humor:

He flipped open the phone. "Hi."

Law didn't waste time with hello. "We're on the ninth hole, fishing Aquaman out of the water hazard."

Golf. What fun. "And what are you learning about your business partner?"

"He can't swim," Law said for starters. "And I really need to rethink my position with his company."

Tom grinned. "What's he learning about you?"

"If he were paying attention to this phone call-’and he's not-’he would know that I can be led around by my dick."

"I'm not leading you, Law."

"But you could."

I also love that the difference between Tom as a mechanic and Law as a billionaire is never an issue between them. Jessica at Racy Romance Reviews posted about this recently in her review of Victoria Dahl’s Lead Me On. But unlike in Pretty Woman — which this book is obviously modeled on, down to the polo game — the class difference between Tom and Law is never an issue. And whether that’s realistic or not in real life, it’s completely refreshing in my reading. The conflict in this book is pure romance-angst about what Law feels, rather than Tom wondering whether he deserves Law or will be able to live up to Law’s lifestyle or whatever else he might think as a mechanic going out with a billionaire.

There is one completely shocking scene toward the end of the book that I don’t want to give away. But you’d written Law so well up until then that I could not only believe that he’d done what Tom thought he’d done, but could forgive him for it too, as Tom did. Perfectly done. I haven’t been on the edge of my seat reading a book in a long time the way I was with that scene and the aftermath of it.

The story is told almost entirely from Tom’s deep third person perspective. And while I always miss seeing the relationship from both sides when this happens, I think adding Law’s perspective as you do, late in the book, is actually unnecessary. The scene where Law receives a blackmail threat can be cut and explained when Law discusses it with Tom, and Law’s thoughts about his conversation with his mother could also be part of the denouement with Tom, rather than told from Law’s perspective. It just seemed a curious choice to add his perspective more than three quarters of the way through the novel when it’s not totally necessary to our understanding of the plot.

That aside, this book is, as I said, a complete gem. It took me back to my days of reading Harlequin Presents when I was thirteen, but with the twist of it being a wonderful, sweet m/m romance instead, told with humor and obvious caring. Thank you!

Grade: B+

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

This book can be purchased in ebook format at Torquere Books.

This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free. We do not earn an affiliate fee from Torquere Books through the book link.

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.

25 Comments

  1. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Force of Law by Jez Morrow | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary -- Topsy.com
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 16:52:54

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erotic Romance and Sarah Frantz, dearauthor. dearauthor said: New post: REVIEW: Force of Law by Jez Morrow http://bit.ly/d3acwz [...]

  2. El
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 17:21:03

    Not necessarily based on Pretty Woman, which has a strong resemblance to the musical My Fair Lady. (Which is based on Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which I’ve read but don’t remember well enough to know how closely they all follow each other.)

    So this story could possibly be echoing any or all of them.

  3. Christine M.
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 18:48:27

    I’m off to buy. You sold me this book. :)

  4. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 19:24:30

    @El: Yes, indeed, or Cinderella, considering that Law takes Tom to get a new suit, acting as his fairy godfather, although he does say at one point that if Tom calls him a fairy, he’ll bite him. Hard.

    @Christine M.: I hope you like it! It’s over-the-top, but in a totally good way. :)

  5. Christine M.
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 22:56:03

    @Joan/SarahF:

    It was awesome. I absolutely loved it!

  6. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 23:09:57

    @Christine M.: Yay! OMG, spreading the love! Wasn’t it amazing?! :)

  7. rebyj
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 15:11:56

    Off topic kind of but I’d pay money to see a Lamborghini Diablo parked outside of a jiffy lube!
    Sounds like a book to buy. I love reading positive reviews.

  8. Christine M.
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 16:54:39

    @Joan/SarahF: I devoured it! Definitely worth another read, or two, or three!

  9. Lou
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 17:29:11

    I don’t read a lot of m/m romance, but your review sold me.

    So I bought the book, and I read it, and I LOVED it.

    It was so good, and I didn’t want the story to end. Law was this unstoppable force of nature. A very delicious one at that. Heh. :D

  10. Kirsten
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 20:53:02

    Thank you so much for the review. I read it and loved it. I also downloaded the author’s other books at Amazon’s Kindle store.

  11. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 09, 2010 @ 20:56:45

    @Lou and @Kirsten: I’m SO glad you liked it! Like I said, such an unexpected gem of a book. And @Lou: I love your description of Law. I think the title works so well. :)

  12. Ivy
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 09:40:20

    I’ve never really read much m/m & only if there was an f in there somewhere. Emma Holly’s~Menage, like that. This does sound really good though….Out of curiosity, what does a sf get out of m/m other than a really good story?

  13. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 09:58:01

    @Ivy: Not sure what you mean by “a sf.” And I’m not sure what else there IS to get out of any book besides a good story. Well, no, of course there’s other things, but that’s certainly the first thing, in my mind. And this was an exceptionally good story about two people falling in love. They just happened both to be men.

  14. Ivy
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 12:47:56

    Straight female. I’m a reader who, when I read erotic and other romance, relate to the heroine. I get lost in the book…I’ve tried the f/f and can’t relate to that. Not that the books were bad, they just didn’t appeal to me. I can’t put myself there, so to speak. I can relate to the m/f/m. The book reviewed sounds really good and I just wondered how a woman relates to the m/m or does the gender just kinda fade away. I don’t think I’m alone in the relating thing..(?) I’m truly curious..

  15. Alla
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 19:17:15

    @Joan/SarahF: You sold me on this book too, I bought it today and read in one sitting. LOVED it, so refreshingly different from many m/m romances and at the same time as you said uses recognizable tropes.

    But I just have to ask now, because I am just too curious, what awful scene you were referring to in the review that Law did?

    I understand you do not want to spoil, but could you at least hint in some way?

    Thanks

  16. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 19:20:42

    @Alla: Law’s reaction to the road rage/gay bashing incident. Tom asks him a question after they make love, a serious question about what he’d done. I totally thought he had, too. And I was totally going to go with it and was a little freaked that I liked him that much TO go with it.

  17. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 19:37:22

    @Ivy: I like…romances. I don’t care whether they’re m/f, m/m, f/f, m/m/f, m/f/m. If they’re good strong romances, with lots of emotion, angst, and hot sex, I’m all over them. I will admit, I really like m/m romances. I like seeing TWO strong men submit to love just as much as I enjoy seeing one in m/f romances. So, what I get out of it is just…a romance. I will also say, though, that I absolutely do NOT identify with the heroine and/or the female character. So, that might be where we differ.

  18. Ivy
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 20:20:32

    That makes sense. I’ve not been able to finish a book because I couldn’t stand the heroine. It still sounds really good though so I may just have to give it a go & see if it flies. Thanks.

  19. Saien
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 17:33:27

    Is this book in traditional format? I went to Amazon and didn’t see it. Only saw a few by this author in Kindel.

  20. Joan/SarahF
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 17:57:20

    @Saien: If by “traditional” you mean “print,” then no, I don’t think so. You can buy it in a variety of e-formats at Torquere, though. Sorry.

  21. REVIEW: Life After Joe by Harper Fox | Dear Author
    Sep 09, 2010 @ 20:24:19

    [...] with gay stereotypes in ways that I adore. It’s why I liked Jez Morrow’s tidy little Force of Law and Anah Crow’s dark, violent Uneven. The angst and heartbreak and pain is also a big plus in [...]

  22. nasanta
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 03:56:22

    @Christine M.:

    Late. I know I am. Found this review through Shuzluva’s Best of 2010 List. I had the exact same reaction as Christine M. before I even finished reading the review. Just need to fish out my CC. :D

  23. Sarah Frantz, Best of 2010 List | Dear Author
    Dec 09, 2010 @ 12:02:09

    [...] Jez Morrow, Force of Law [...]

  24. ronjaraeuber
    Dec 10, 2010 @ 02:53:34

    Sold :-)

  25. Estara
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 15:22:44

    Sold me, too ^^.

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