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REVIEW: Jungle Heat by Bonnie Dee

Jungle Heat by Bonnie DeeDear Ms. Dee:

I’m really excited about the fact that Carina has three m/m romances in their opening month line-up and I was extra-excited that you’d written a m/m Tarzan revisioning. All I can say now is that I really hope Carina’s other two m/m romances can redeem this book.

James Litchfield is part of an 1888 expedition to the Congo in Africa. As an anthropologist, he’s thrilled to find a man who has been brought up by gorillas. He hides his discovery from the rest of the expedition, though, sneaking away to spend time with the man he dubs Michael, teaching him words, and falling in love with him, and having sex with him. His secrecy is rendered moot, however, when he succumbs to malaria while out with Michael, who carries him back into camp and is captured. The rest of the story tells of their journey back to England, Michael’s exploitation at the hands of the man who funded the expedition, James’ struggles both to help Michael survive and to stay away from him sexually and emotionally because he thinks he should, and finally the custody hearing about Michael’s future.

As an academic educated in the post-colonial tradition, I was first intensely uncomfortable with the facile way the story presented — or, more accurately, made passive reference to but mostly ignored — the massive problems with British “scientific” exploration in places like the Congo in the nineteenth century. I tried hard to convince myself that a text told from the perspective of one of the 1888-set characters wouldn’t be able to recognize the terrible damage done to African people and places alike by British feelings of cultural superiority and superior fire power. But as I got further into the book, I realized that everything was facilely written. Nothing went deep, nothing was truly discussed or examined, nothing MEANT anything.

Also, an 1888-set text shouldn’t have James musing about his “homosexuality,” considering the word was first published in English in 1895 in a translation of von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, which itself was only published in German in 1886. As scientific as James may be, I really don’t think he’d think about his sexuality *as* a “sexuality” — that is, as a sexual *identity* — or be calling himself “a homosexual” in 1888. This bugged the crap out of me.

But the facile writing and the bad research were themselves symptoms of the overall issue that the book seemed to be a puppet play motivated solely by plot elements. Go back and read that plot summary — it’s all about what happened, not what the characters felt. James must find Michael, so let’s direct puppet James over into clearing to be attacked by a leopard so Michael could save him. Puppet James would logically feel X in a particular situation, so let’s tell the reader that he’s feeling X. There’s almost no showing in this book — it’s all telling. And that much telling just gets tedious. Very quickly.

It was also just sloppy. At one point, Michael, who can read body language better than anyone else, tells James that one of his colleagues is sad:

James through back over Blake’s behavior during the meal and realized his usual river of speech had been somewhat dammed and his great appetite had diminished. “You’re rigth. He does seem upset about something. I wonder what it is.”

He would be certain to ask Blake. It suddenly occured to him he gave very little thought to the particulars of Blake’s life when the man had proven a trusty and valuable friend. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

And that was it. He didn’t talk to him, or at least, we didn’t hear about it. And it’s like that again and again. You need to show that Michael is perceptive, so you have him talk about Blake. It’s logical that James wonder what’s wrong with him, so he does. But because nothing has any emotional weight at all, you never bring it up again. That’s the most egregious and obvious example, but it’s a problem throughout the book that none of the characters’ actions mean anything beyond the 10 pages or so in which they happen.

And there’s no internal conflict. At all. Oh, every now and then James gets an attack of conscience about his “homosexuality” or about his interference in Michael’s life, but these men fall in love very quickly, they have sex, they enjoy each other. There are no internal barriers to overcome on either side and the external barriers…while not forced, are all just puppet emotions: James/Michael SHOULD feel this, so let’s tell the reader he feels this, but, again, it doesn’t MEAN anything because these men are just puppets.

So, no internal conflict, all telling and no showing, bad research, no MEANING…purpose…theme, no emotional weight or repercussions, and no artistry whatsoever or anything other than by-the-numbers logical plot points that are obviously the results of a “What if…Tarzan were a m/m story instead?!” thought on the author’s part: add all this together and this book was really awful. The idea was great, but rather than figure out what the situation would MEAN to the men, you just directed them through the motions of the plot. I couldn’t figure out how far I needed to read into it to be able, in all good conscience, to give it a DNF review, so I actually read the whole thing. ::shudder:: As such, I therefore feel perfectly justified giving it a D. Not an F: it wasn’t actively ridiculous or contrary to all good taste or immoral, which are my criteria for an F. It was just boring as shit and frustrating, because it could have been so good.

And I think I’m probably not going to try to read any of your books again. We don’t mesh.

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

Book Link | Kindle | nook | Books on Board | Carina Press

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.

40 Comments

  1. Janine
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 11:46:18

    I couldn't figure out how far I needed to read into it to be able, in all good conscience, to give it a DNF review, so I actually read the whole thing.

    Wow, that’s going above and beyond. I ditch a lot of books early. Personally, and this is just my own rule of thumb, if I make it to or past the one-third point without finishing, I write a DNF review, because I figure by that point I should be able to give a good plot summary as well as good reasons for why I didn’t keep reading.

    If I can’t make it to the one-third mark, I don’t review the book.

    From your description, I’m not sure I would have been able to make it even as far as one-third of the way with this one. I started one of Ms. Dee’s historicals once, didn’t get far, and concluded that if I try her again, it will be with a contemporary.

    As an aside, Sarah, I’m curious if you’ve ever read Patricia Gaffney’s Wild at Heart? It’s m/f, but it also pays homage to Tarzan/Greystoke, and has an adorable hero who was lost and then raised by wolves for part of his childhood. It’s set around the same time frame (early 1890s, I think), though in the U.S. And the hero is also named Michael. Really excellent book, if you’re looking for Tarzan-influenced stories.

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  2. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Jungle Heat by Bonnie Dee | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 11:50:14

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sarah Frantz, Cara Wallace. Cara Wallace said: RT @SarahFrantz: One of mine!! RT @dearauthor: New post: REVIEW: Jungle Heat by Bonnie Dee http://bit.ly/9AueMI [...]

  3. Joan/SarahF
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 17:37:21

    @Janine: I haven’t read that Gaffney. I have it on my shelves, but if I *have* read it, I don’t remember.

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  4. katiebabs
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 19:42:58

    Wow, I’m in awe of how above and beyond you go, especially with the research end.

    The idea of a MM Tarzan book sounds very appealing, but now I’m not so sure I would give it a read.

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  5. katiebabs
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 19:44:13

    Janine: Wild at Heart is one of my favorite Gaffney books. Such a shame she isn’t writing romance anymore :(

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  6. Janine
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 19:51:31

    @katiebabs: Yes, it’s a wonderful book! My second favorite of Gaffney’s after the super-controversial To Have and to Hold. Sarah, I hope you give it a whirl.

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  7. katiebabs
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 19:53:06

    And Crooked Hearts. :)

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  8. kerry
    Jun 12, 2010 @ 20:51:19

    Ouch. I bought this at Carina the other day (but haven’t read it yet) because I’ve really enjoyed some of her other works. (Bone Deep was a great book, and I also really enjoyed one about two guys – one of whom I think owned a bar or something.) Anyway, sounds like this wasn’t a great effort but she does have some other books which are pretty good. At least IMO.

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  9. Keishon
    Jun 13, 2010 @ 06:09:14

    I agree with Kerry that the few I’ve read by Bonnie Dee were good but I’ve not read anything lately that has worked for me. I didn’t care for Bone Deep though. I nearly bought this one but decided against as I admit I need guidance on which m/m to try that are well written and worth reading.

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  10. Alanna
    Jun 14, 2010 @ 15:07:21

    I’m going to disagree. Although I’m no historian, I am a romance book lover and avid reader. I read Jungle Heat and truly loved it. I hope no one is swayed by one person’s opinion to discount a book or an author.

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  11. D Suede
    Jun 14, 2010 @ 17:19:43

    Completely disagree. Not only with the thrust of the review, but also with the strange criteria by which you were judging a romance novel. I loved this book, and found it fresh, well structured and moving.

    Burroughs was hardly historically accurate, and he’s flagged on the title page. And while it’s fortuitous that you are educated in postcolonial history that in no way puts you in a position to treat a romance novel as if it were a modernist treatise on the ethics of imperialism. That’s such a weird preconception! Ditto Kraft-Ebbing. ALL genre fiction takes liberties with period and veracity.

    It’s great that we all went to liberal arts schools and have these facts at our fingertips, but does anyone read GONE WITH THE WIND for coverage of the treatment of slaves or social roles of women in the antebellum South? What could they learn thereby? Bizarre. ROmantic fantasy is a genre with its own rules. KNOW THE RULES before you denigrate them.

    This novel is a piece of romantic fantasy. It is an adventure completely bound up in communication (a seductive enough idea) and in fact, not only did I “buy” the interaction between the two protagonists. I actually appreciated the internal landscape of OddOne/Michael’s conflict straddling two worlds and the compromises required by each. So while I’m sorry the book didn’t work for you, it did for me.

    For what it’s worth, I thought the “external” events driving the story echoed some pretty subtle internal states (James’ anxiety, Michael’s confusion, the impossibility of clarity without language). For the record it is actually very common for an action-adventure novel to use external events to drive plot and to reveal character: um, Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Solomon’s Mines, COunt of MOnte Cristo… Anyone, Anyone? Part of the mechanics of a romantic adventure are the way it elides ccertain historical realities, and the way it externalizes internal states to produce susp[ense and action.

    While it may irk some people, it is the nature of Orientalist (and other pulp) fiction to reduce minorities to fodder and spearcarriers. Does EVERYTHING have to flex some kind of PC muscle to entertain people? Oy. Further, if an author announces that they are working in a genre like puklp fiction to produce a new romance novel, demaniding that they footnote gender studies and charts about subSaharan migratory patterns seems asinine.

    In any case, I just thought it was worth mentioning that there are people with a grounding in history who enjoyed the book. Quite a lot actually. And that carrying your own baggage into a novel without unpacking the novel’s baggage isn’t actually a review, it’s a criticism of a book that no one has written.

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  12. Mina Kelly
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 04:21:59

    I can’t comment on the structure or writing, since I haven’t read the book, and I’m probably not going to. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to take issue with other parts of your argument, D Suede.

    does anyone read GONE WITH THE WIND for coverage of the treatment of slaves or social roles of women in the antebellum South? What could they learn thereby?

    Seriously? Of course people read it for its commentary on slavery and women’s roles, and of course they learn something from that. For example, the way certain writers depict slavery to place emphasis on what were seen as more positive aspects and to avoid the more negative, due to their own political and social bias. I’m almost certain it’s a set text at some universities, specifically because of the historically dodgy depiction of womens roles and slavery. It has its own Sparknotes. Obviously not everyone reads it that way, but considering the size of that novel I don’t think I’d slog through it for the plot alone (that’s what the film is for!).

    Of course a review is one person’s opinion of a book, and other commenters have expressed their opinions of why they did and didn’t like it, but you can’t say the reviewer’s opinion is less valid simply because it’s more obvious. There will be multiple reviews of this book across the internet, and they’ll come to different conclusions. Joan clearly stated where she was coming from and why the novel bothered her as a result. Anyone else coming from the same position will probably be bothered for the same reasons. Personally, I really appreciate this review because though I like the basic set up, it would really bother me to read a book like this with gaping historical innaccuracies and handwaving of the racial issues, because I’m coming from a similar position to Joan (if less qualified!).

    And that carrying your own baggage into a novel without unpacking the novel's baggage isn't actually a review, it's a criticism of a book that no one has written.

    The baggage isn’t personal, it’s social, and it exists regardless of the novel. It’s like writing a book set in Israel and pretending Palestine doesn’t exist. Just because you don’t want to address the baggage doesn’t mean other people are going to forget it exists.

    If you’re writing a book in a historical, imperialist setting you have to accept that while some readers are happy to enjoy the plot as presented, others are going to find the lack of depth uncomfortable. It’s an uncomfortable subject, and individual’s will have different tolerances for it. Some people would hate the book if it went too deeply into the racial problems of the period, and I’m sure if they reviewed it their reviews would reflect that.

    However, I really hope you’re just being hyperbolic when you say “it is the nature of Orientalist (and other pulp) fiction to reduce minorities to fodder and spearcarriers” and suggest this racism should be condoned just because it’s a romance novel. Yes, it’s common in nineteenth century pulp fiction. So are rape romances. How many historical fiction authors get to handwave rape without being called on it? Why should racism be the same?

    Further, if an author announces that they are working in a genre like pulp fiction to produce a new romance novel, demanding that they footnote gender studies and charts about subSaharan migratory patterns seems asinine.

    I’ve got to say, as someone currently writing pulp fiction I’m actually quite offended by this. I want my 50s pulp to both (a) accurately reflect the period it’s set in and (b) not offend any potential readers. It’s a hard line to walk, but if you’re going to write something pulpy it’s the challenge you set yourself, and if you fail either (or both!) you’re going to be judged for it. I’m not going to footnote every source in the book, but if I’m asked I can produced a pretty decent list of resources for anyone who wants to learn more about the Hobbit species of Indonesia or gender roles in 1950s Britain. And yet, it’s still a pulp novel, with cheesily named characters, shark vs crocodile fights, lost species, and a lot of silly cliffhangers.

    If romance wants respect as a genre, it needs to play by the same rules as other genres. Accuracy, consistency, and a certain amount of self-awareness. To claim you can avoid those just because it’s romance is insulting to all the romance authors who make the effort, and all the readers who appreciate it. Yes, a book may be perfectly enjoyable even if it does avoid those, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t point them out. How else is the genre going to better itself if they don’t?

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  13. Mina Kelly
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 04:26:58

    In addition, I’m really disappointed this has the above mentioned issues, because I’ve been craving some m/m Tarzan or Jungle Book for a while. Well, specifically Mowgli/Tarzan (I blame the Fables comics). I keep thinking of writing something like it, since I can’t find any, but every time I go to the feral children website for research it’s just terribly depressing.

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  14. Angie
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 04:41:43

    D Suede @ #10 — I agree completely with Mina in #11. And I’m going to add that saying it is the nature of Orientalist (and other pulp) fiction to reduce minorities to fodder and spearcarriers. Does EVERYTHING have to flex some kind of PC muscle to entertain people? to justify the perpetuation of racist stereotypes simply for your own entertainment is a blatant and egregious example of white privilege. How nice for you, that you can kick back with your entertainment and enjoy the exciting action scenes where all those black spear-carriers are mown down like the fodder they are, while the characters who more closely resemble you get to have all the adventures and beat the bad guys and save the world and fall into each other’s arms at the end. It’s a shame that sort of thing isn’t equally entertaining for people who aren’t white, for whom the characters resembling them are the ones getting shot, mangled or eaten by crocodiles.

    It’s not about being “politically correct” the way you’re using it. You can sneer all you like, but being able to sneer at the idea of respecting other people is another exercise of privilege. It’s about social justice — being fair to everyone, including not defending the entertainment value of reading about people who aren’t like you getting mangled and killed.

    Angie

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  15. Bonnie Dee
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 05:58:00

    Thanks for taking the time to review Jungle Heat. I'm sorry it didn't match up to your expectations, but I'm glad to see the book fostered discussion which is better than lying dead in the water. Regarding the discussion of colonialism, if that was the element I'd wanted to focus on I would have made the relationship between James and one of the bearers, which would have naturally opened the topic to deep exploration. But this story's primary focus is on communication between two people, not the state of Africa during the time period.

    Anyway, I hope you give other Carina m/m titles a try. They cover a wide range of genres from contemporary to paranormal to mystery and suspense. I’m sure you’ll find something that suits you among them.

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  16. Aleksandr Voinov
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 07:24:42

    All I can say now is that I really hope Carina's other two m/m romances can redeem this book.

    Ouch. The book I co-wrote with Kate Cotoner, “The Lion of Kent” is not out before August and not even on the Carina Press website yet, but I’m a little unsettled by the thought that because one m/m romance didn’t work for the reviewer, other books and the publisher are “automatically suspect”. “Sippenhaft”)* is unsettling indeed when it comes to books.

    I haven’t read “Jungle Heat”, and I can’t, really, because I’m working on a story with a very similar premise and I don’t want to “steal” or “plagiarize” ideas.

    I agree that the issues of British colonialism are thorny indeed in the material, and I’m not sure if anybody can read the original “Tarzan of the Apes” without cringing at how the author treats the natives, however entertaining the story itself is. But that’s my filter (and certainly my white privilege) and after seeing the “white privilege” debate flare up in WriterLand, I’m treading especially carefully and also work harder to have a more diverse cast. I’ll see what feedback I’ll get for mine – it’s an experiment.

    )* “Sippenhaft” means, loosely translated, “collective guilt/punishment”. Means if one is seen as guilty/faulty, their family/related items are being treated with suspicion or punished, too.

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  17. Mina Kelly
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 08:25:51

    Ouch. The book I co-wrote with Kate Cotoner, “The Lion of Kent” is not out before August and not even on the Carina Press website yet, but I'm a little unsettled by the thought that because one m/m romance didn't work for the reviewer, other books and the publisher are “automatically suspect”. “Sippenhaft”* is unsettling indeed when it comes to books.

    I was reading an old entry on here when the same subject came up. A lot of ePubs practice publisher branding was well as author branding, which can be a double-edged sword. You’ll be more willing to experiment with new authors when you trust the publisher and more likely to try a new publisher if you like their authors. It works well for ePub as it identifies niches and encourages people to buy directly from the publisher rather than retailers.

    However, a reader might find they like Samhain’s m/m but not Cobblestone’s, or they like Loose Id’s heat level but not Ravenous Romance’s. If you’re an RR author, it’ll sting that someone isn’t reading your book for the sole reason they didn’t like a complete stranger’s, but you’re with RR because they think readers who like their other books will like yours. Someone who doesn’t like their other books probably won’t anyway.

    I doubt anyone would seriously abandon Carina on one book, but if they tried all three current m/m romances and found none of them to their taste, they’re going to assume they and the acquiring editors have different opinions on what makes a good m/m and try somewhere else. They might be tempted back at some point, they might not. Other readers may find Carina offering them something Liquid Silver isn’t and make the switch in that direction. There’s been several people in this thread who liked Jungle Heat, so they’ll be the people more likely to take a chance on your book. (and colour me interested in another book with a similar set up too)

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  18. BarkLessWagMore
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 09:07:29

    I have a question about the Carina m/m line. Are these romances just with male leads or are they erotic m/m romances similar to Loose ID/Ellora/etc? I asked on the Carina board about a heat level and was told I’d find everything I needed in the blurb. Nope, didn’t help or maybe I’m just not reading between the lines correctly. Are they sweet or explicit? Anyone? I like both but prefer to know what I’m buying.

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  19. katiebabs
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 09:19:14

    Why is it so wrong for a reviewer to bring up the fact that the author may have not done enough research for their novel? I think Sara F has valid points because there are readers who won’t read a book if the historical accuracies are false.

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  20. K. Z. Snow
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 09:23:51

    Just had to say how gratifying it is to see readers and other authors rise to the defense of a book (and, by extension, a writer) that’s been subjected to intense criticism. I don’t mean gratifying in a “we must protect our own” hive-mentality kind of way — I don’t know Bonnie and don’t have a horse in the Carina race — but gratifying because, often, it’s the right thing to do.

    Any reader who decides to pass on a book based on one person’s intensely subjective perception of it, regardless of how persuasively that opinion is presented, is doing her/himself a disservice. Although I haven’t read this particular story, I do know Bonnie Dee is an excellent writer. I wouldn’t offhandedly dismiss anything she wrote.

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  21. Aleksandr Voinov
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 10:42:25

    Mina: Personally, I think only author-branding works. There are some publishersthat I have an open bias against (won’t mention them by name), but they publish at least one great author (can’t mention her, either). So, yeah, I understand publisher bias, but I’m not sure it’s really constructive. A new writer might not be aware of Samhain/Loose Id/Torquere’s bias/rep, might still be taken on and be “different”. Editors have wide-ranging tastes, too.

    I can’t talk about the “similar book” yet… I only ever talk about books once I have a first draft, but it’s a different take and I’m writing it with Barbara Sheridan.

    @BarkLess: Personally, I could have sold “Lion of Kent” to the other m/m pubs out there (I think, I offered it to Carina exclusive, so I can only shoot from the hip – but it’s no different from my other m/m releases with Noble Romance, Dreamspinner and Loose Id (upcoming)).

    @Katiebabs: Personally, I’m a stickler for research, too, but I’m a trained historian, so I’m brainwashed to over-research. In a funny way, my professor is still watching over my shoulder. I killed many books with over-research, too, and always went off on a different tangent than originally planned.

    I agree that the source material (“Tarzan of the Apes”) needs to be read with a very critical eye indeed – due to the Colonialist/Orientalist baggage – but I haven’t read Bonnie’s book (yet) so I don’t know how she treats the source material.

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  22. Robin
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 11:14:15

    @K. Z. Snow:

    Any reader who decides to pass on a book based on one person's intensely subjective perception of it, regardless of how persuasively that opinion is presented, is doing her/himself a disservice.

    I’m so waiting for the day when someone makes this comment in response to an A review. ;D

    Seriously, I think this comment is itself a “disservice” to readers in that it presumes all sorts of not so flattering things about our ability to parse different perspectives (and to intuit the moral authority of each), make up our own minds, read multiple reviews, etc. I mean, we could apply the same warning to the opinion of a single m/m author who comments in defense of a fellow m/m author, which I doubt you’d accept as flattering or fair. Nor should you.

    As for some of the “defenses” in this thread, I find them troubling. Even Dee’s own comment that “this story's primary focus is on communication between two people, not the state of Africa during the time period” misses, I think, the point of Sarah’s critique. I can think of several trad Romances — Gaffney’s Wild at Heart & Judith Ivory’s Sleeping Beauty, for example — that focused very decidedly on the romantic relationship between protags (and in Gaffney’s case on a very similar dynamic), but both manage a self-consciousness and critique of the colonialist project/mentality. They’re not books *about* colonialism, but they don’t merely perpetuate its logic, either. Which is not to say that I’m yet accepting Sarah’s view that Dee’s book does this (I may read it and perceive the opposite) – I’m just saying that you don’t have to write a book about Africa during the colonial period to exhibit a sensitivity to these power dynamics. And that I’m hella glad the Romance community is finally starting to talk openly about these issues.

    Does that mean Dee needed to write a different book? Of course not! If we tossed out all the Romance novels that contained colonialist, imperialist, racist, misogynist, homophobic, etc. material and viewpoints, we’d have chucked too many books to count. I don’t doubt that we all love books that contain offensive aspects.

    However, some of the suggestions in this thread that Sarah’s perspective on this book is wrongheaded, beside the point, or (my personal favorite) ignorant, are really troubling to me, and don’t strike me at all as “defenses of the book” but of ignoring or embracing cultural, racial, and political standards that IMO do far greater disservice to all of us (and the genre) than the persuasive potential of a single opinion.

    In fact, I’d love to see some specific, thoughtful defenses of the novel by others who have read it. As far as I can tell, the only other person in this thread who has read the book is Alanna.

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  23. cs
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 11:32:10

    @K. Z. Snow: Eh, seriously? There is nothing wrong with people disagreeing with OP with how the book worked for them but as Robin said, I’d like to see that same mentality applied to A reviews. I can hardly take authors seriously when they come in rushing in to defend their fellow authors. You may see that as being cool, as a reader and customer I don’t. To take the author at hand right now, I read rave reviews of one of her books, I read it, and hated it. I’d never read anything else of the authors. So from what I can understand in what you said, I can read a positive review and read a book and whatever the outcome of how I felt with the book is fine. However, if I decide not to read a book BASED on a negative review, I’m doing myself a disservice. Sorry, but I’m a grown adult, and I don’t appreciate being being labelled and put into a box, because you THINK so. If I don’t want to read a book based on a review, I will (and I have on numerous occasions. Same is applied to positive reviews as well). It is up to ME.

    In response to the publisher, I’m not sure why the OP cannot be critical of the publisher. I’ve seen a lot of hype with this publisher, and why? because you tell me it is run by qualified and talented people. Maybe to you, cause I don’t know who they are and could care less. However, if Ravenous Romance (is that what they’re called) was allowed to be burnt like a witch at the stake, then I’m sure we’re allowed to be a tad cynical of the new press. I am with any new business sorry to say. I’m hoping to see more reviews from the M/M line from various reviewers I visit, to be those who review first are like the front line. They take the bullet first, and I am beyond grateful for those who review both intelligently and critically and provide good insight, thus allowing me to make an informed judgement on whether this book could potentially work for me.

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  24. Jane
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 11:47:31

    @K. Z. Snow

    Just had to say how gratifying it is to see readers and other authors rise to the defense of a book (and, by extension, a writer) that's been subjected to intense criticism. I don't mean gratifying in a “we must protect our own” hive-mentality kind of way -’ I don't know Bonnie and don't have a horse in the Carina race -’ but gratifying because, often, it's the right thing to do.

    How is defending a book from valid criticism a morally correct thing to do? The “right” thing to do? That seems quite strange to me.

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  25. Charlotte Stein
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 12:19:19

    “Seriously, I think this comment is itself a “disservice” to readers in that it presumes all sorts of not so flattering things about our ability to parse different perspectives (and to intuit the moral authority of each), make up our own minds, read multiple reviews, etc.”

    Have to say, although I don’t feel like I’m being done a disservice by KZ Snow’s comments, I very rarely make my book buying decisions based on one review.

    Four things make me buy: the author, what I’m after at that particular time, the blurb, and the excerpt.

    A negative review might hit some of my buttons and turn me off a book, but turn me off an author or a publisher forever? Nah.

    ReplyReply

  26. Tweets that mention http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2010/06/12/review-jungle-heat-by-bonnie-dee/#comments_accesskey?utm_source=pingback -- Topsy.com
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 14:22:47

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: [...]

  27. cs
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 14:56:34

    @Charlotte Stein: @Charlotte Stein: The author, blurb and genre do it for me ~ only when I am on the fence do I go scouting for reviews (and from sites that I believe to be impartial or as much as they can be). When I do read reviews, I read more than one just to get a better insight. I don’t read excerpts, they never work for me. If they’re from chapter one then I’ll read it, but if they’re random extractions from chapter ten then no.

    I’m easily annoyed so anything can put me off a publisher and author ;]

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  28. Charlotte Stein
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 18:52:40

    @cs:

    Yeah, I’d say genre is a pretty big factor for me. But I find the excerpt important not because it gives me an idea of the story or owt like that, but just because I look for certain things in terms of style and quality of writing. Huge strings of short sentences? Choppy punctuation? Maybe even an error or two? Not for me.

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  29. db
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 22:39:45

    I wouldn’t take anything KZ Snow says seriously, as she has admitted that fiction to her is just “making shit up” and she has no need to portray things realistically nor bear any sense of social responsibility.

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  30. Keishon
    Jun 15, 2010 @ 23:06:18

    Any reader who decides to pass on a book based on one person's intensely subjective perception of it, regardless of how persuasively that opinion is presented, is doing her/himself a disservice. Although I haven't read this particular story, I do know Bonnie Dee is an excellent writer. I wouldn't offhandedly dismiss anything she wrote.

    I’m glad you think that Bonnie Dee is an excellent writer (and I like her too) but I think readers are smart enough to make up their own mind. It is after all, an opinion. Jeez.

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  31. Robin
    Jun 16, 2010 @ 02:46:18

    @db: I’ve always been baffled by that position. I’ve seen it primarily as a defense to the idea that authors should be political activists with their fiction, but also with an attendant demand that the author be respected for the work, nonetheless.

    As to the defense, is anything “made up” out of whole cloth, without social/cultural influence, historical reference, etc.? Also, I think that position can perpetuate a kind of rhetorical bait and switch by erroneously equating awareness with political activism. I don’t know of any reader who wants to read read a political treatise or encyclopedic history text in a novel – we want to be entertained and have our own imagination and emotions engaged.

    But if someone freely chooses to write a novel set in colonial India, for example, and invokes colonialist myths or stereotypes or popular texts from that period/region, my respect *for the fiction* is going to be influenced in part by how the book treats the dynamics invoked as part of that setting. I mean, why would someone choose to set a book in the midst of those dynamics if they don’t want to deal with them at all, or if they don’t want the reader to engage with them?

    If readers are supposed to respect the work of the author’s imagination for its own sake, then I guess I’d ask that the reader’s intelligence and integrity be respected, as well.

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  32. Joan/SarahF
    Jun 16, 2010 @ 13:37:12

    I’m not sure where to start with this despite to say, “What @Mina Kelly said.”

    However, issues with the political aspects of the texts would have merited a mention and nothing more if I’d been involved in the characters. I felt that the facile presentation of problematic issues was part and parcel of a larger problem in the book in which everything was presented in a facile, surface manner. I forgive a lot for a good story between two great characters. But, for me, this wasn’t it. I never connected with the characters, I never felt for their concerns, I never was brought to care what happened to them.

    Oh, and what @Robin says, too.

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  33. cs
    Jun 16, 2010 @ 15:16:37

    @Charlotte Stein: I don’t know why, but I always feel if a read a part of a book then it ruins the overall book. I know it’s a tad strange. I think excerpts only work for me for new authors (well to me anyway).

    @db: Well, I personally don’t read K.Z. Snow for several reasons, and she has added another reason as to why for me.

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  34. Lane
    Jun 17, 2010 @ 10:26:59

    @Keishon: If you’re looking for a well-written M/M historical, I’d suggest Luisa Prieto’s Written in Blood, or Alex Beecroft’s False Colors.

    It think they both did a good job of bringing the eras they wrote about alive within the setting of thier stories, and that _included_ acknowledging the social ills that were a _part_ of those eras.

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  35. Motivation Monday - Pride and DRM | Solelyfictional
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 06:38:04

    [...] domain stories of wild childs, hollow earths, advanced ape societies and Darwinism being mocked. There was an interesting discussion on colonialism in the comments of a recent review over at Dear A… (I stick my oar in as well, though I haven’t read the book in question), which prompted me to [...]

  36. Emily Rylon
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 15:28:22

    I wanted to wait until I’d finished Jungle Heat before commenting on this post. Unlike the reviewer, I did connect with the characters. I love this story and don’t agree that it lacks conflict or meaning. The sensibility of the Englishman James resembles that of most Victorican heroes. As a reader, I’m more interested in the relationship developing between the two men than in any critique of colonialism. I think the author does a great job of showing the difficulties inherent in pursuing an illegal relationship with someone who lacks linguistic ability or any sense of social mores. The issue of exploitation focuses on that, as well as the Ape Man being exhibited to London society, rather than the plight of native Africans. Both are handled with sensitivity. Readers who want a more intellectual approach to the period might want to shy away, but if like me you want to read a romance that’s full of passion, I recommend Jungle Heat.

    ReplyReply

  37. Lee Rowan
    Jun 22, 2010 @ 20:59:48

    I never could buy into any version of the Tarzan story, so I’m not likely to read this book in any case. But as a reader and writer of gay historical romance, I do have an opinion on accuracy–apologies for the rant, I’m speaking in general about things I’ve seen elsewhere as well as some of the specifics in this review and the comments.

    I don’t really understand why anyone writes historicals if they don’t want to do at least some basic research on the period–real research, not watching a couple of movies or reading other historicals set in that time (though I do think such reading is part of the job). Research is work! I think a writer almost has to enjoy the research for its own sake, the discovery of tiny details that bring the past alive. If not… a fantasy, “futuristic,” or parallel universe setting is an easy alternative for a world with an invented history, and these genres raise no expectations of real-world accuracy.

    A reader who picks up a novel labeled “historical” has every reason to expect the author to try to get it right. Nobody is going to achieve that with every tiny detail–anyone who tries will probably swamp the reader with an infodump, so use of fact needs to be judicious, but a professional writer has a responsibility to the reader.

    Language matters! Language is a writer’s only tool, and the words used to describe same-sex relationships are very important: they define how the characters see themselves. You wouldn’t expect a modern man to say he was going to crank up the horseless carriage and motor down to the haberdasher for a box of collars–it’s the same problem when using jarringly anachronistic terms about something as intimate and vital as sexuality. The reader doesn't know the difference? Well, how is the reader ever going to know if the writer can't be bothered to get it right?

    Historical romance is not Romantic Fantasy. Historicals should have some basis in historical fact, not in the pretty lies people told themselves to hide ugly truth. Just because that was done in classic fiction of 50+ years ago-’well, a woman who got an abortion 50 years ago could be convicted of murder. Things change, and using old wrongs to justify new ones isn't much of an argument. There’s a big difference between choosing not to mention the fact that Milady has a chamberpot under her bed (and uses it) and pretending that it’s okay if a plantation owner ‘services’ an enslaved woman to ‘produce’ more servants. That’s called rape. Historicals, especially romances, don’t necessarily need all the odiferous details, but there’s a line of basic respect for human beings that a writer does well to at least be aware of. That’s not “political correctness,” that’s basic human decency.

    This book is one of a very few m/m stories of a new line of books. If expectations are high, I think they have reason to be. And for a historical, accuracy is a valid expectation.

    The one big question appropriate here, I think, is: does this reviewer apply the same standards of accuracy to m/m as she does to conventional m/f stories? If so, what you’ve got is a very tough reviewer who demands a lot from a book. Fair enough. However, if m/m romance has to meet higher standards–if it’s expected to dance backwards and in high heels when het romance is given a pass for a quick polka… that’s a different matter. Since I don't read reviews very often, I just don't know.

    I hope DA reviews Last Gasp sometime. I’ve just read an excellent m/m story in that anthology set in China during the opium wars–Chris Smith’s The White Empire. A character who is in many ways a real cad suddenly discovers there are some things he just can’t ignore, and his newly-hatched conscience gets him into a situation that has no right answers. This novella, Smith’s debut, doesn’t sacrifice either accuracy or emotion and it’s a nail-biter right to the end. She dances backwards in high heels and makes it look easy.

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  38. Sirius11214
    Jun 25, 2010 @ 20:09:34

    @Lee Rowan:

    I am commenting based on the reviews by this reviewer that I have read, but I could be wrong since I had only been reading Dear Author for about a year. I do not think the question as to whether this reviewer is less tough on m/f romance than on m/m romance can even be raised in the first place, simply because I believe she mostly reviews m/m romances.

    Sirius11214

    ReplyReply

  39. Sirius11214
    Jun 25, 2010 @ 20:17:50

    As a reader I wanted to comment on something else based on reading comment of K.Z.Snow, especially because it really does apply in this situation.

    I think it would be great if some authors understand that sometimes well written NEGATIVE reviews can also help their sales a lot.

    You see, I love SarahF reviews, whether I agree with them or not, I consider them to be so well written that they helped me make a buying decision several times.

    And well, I actually heard Ms.Dee’s name for the first time when I read SarahF’s review of her Cage fight. As far as I remember it was not a particularly positive review, I however was very intrigued by the book.

    So what ended up happening? So far I had purchased THREE books by Ms.Dee (two written with somebody else and yes Cage fight). I hugely enjoyed her historicals and at least liked Cage fight if not a lot, at least more than Sarah did if I remember correctly. So basically this reviewer helped this author made at least three sales. I think this is a good thing for this author, no?

    I have not read the book reviewed here. But just for the sake of seeing if I agree with Sarah I probably will.

    So, what I am trying to say before rushing here and being defensive maybe it makes sense to think that somebody may be very intrigued by well done critique and will purchase the book if for nothing else but to see if the book is as bad as the reviewer seems to think.

    Sirius11214

    ReplyReply

  40. Why Accuracy in Historical M/M Romance Matters (to Joan/SarahF) | Dear Author
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 04:01:18

    [...] my review of Bonnie Dee‘s m/m historical romance Jungle Heat, there has been considerable discussion in [...]

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