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REVIEW: The Cage Match by Bonnie Dee

Dear Ms. Dee:

Cage Match by Bonnie DeeI have seen your writing described in many places in such high terms and with such delight (comparisons to Laura Kinsale have been made) that maybe I expected a little — or even a lot — too much from this book. I found it when I was looking through your backlist. The excerpt intrigued me and I was super-excited with the set-up of the book written by an author who I thought, by reputation, would be able to handle the implications of it. Yeah, not so much.

Andreas is a 25 year old, do nothing rich kid, titular heir to one of the corporate structures that runs the world in the post “plague years” near future. He finds himself at a cage match, randomly betting on a match with his friend, with blind stakes where the loser announces the stakes after the bet is over. Andreas wins an hour with the man he bet on after he beats his opponent into unconsciousness. Andreas is not quite sure what to do with Jabez so…they talk. Andreas finds out that Jabez is a fighter as a way to pay off his indenture for an armed robbery conviction. They do eventually get around to a blowjob, but Andreas is fascinated enough with Jabez to go back the next night and ends up saving Jabez after he wins his bout in a pyrrhic victory and passes out. So Andreas takes Jabez to his estate, gets him healthy, buys his indenture, hires him as a personal trainer and security consultant. And they fall in love with little to no angst about their complete opposite social levels — like, complete opposite: orphaned street mercenary and spoilt corporate heir.

And then there’s a whole storyline about saving the world and revitalizing the slum that comes out of nowhere and takes over the story in a way that’s just…oh, this story could have been so wonderful. And maybe I’m just looking for the wrong thing, and maybe I’m trying to tell people what to do again when I have no place to do it. But! As a reader who looks for deeply emotional stories that actually get deep into the issues brought up by the situations of the characters an author has created, I have to say, this story set up these characters as so different, so diametrically opposed to each other in situation and life experience and then it just snapped its metaphorical fingers and let the Power of Luurrrve (TM SBTB) work its magic and everything was better without anyone having to WORK for it. And that pissed me off.

One shouldn’t create a do-nothing, lay-about of a corporate heir whose father doesn’t think he’s worth anything and literally have him change the entire social order of his world without a huge shift in personality. Oh, hey, he suddenly realizes that people live differently from him. Oh, hey, he suddenly decides his friends are nasty little shits when he just loved them before because he was always a good guy, he just didn’t realize it. Oh, hey, in THREE DAYS of training he can begin to defend himself against a mercenary?! WTF?

And one shouldn’t create an illiterate street orphan, a criminal, a mercenary, a guy exploited and abused his entire life for rich people’s pleasure and have him end up the indentured servant of the wastrel corporate heir and have them fall in love without any resentment, without any angst or concern or apparently understanding of the vast differences in their experiences, their lives, their world views. And one shouldn’t have the corporate heir basically own the illiterate mercenary and then have him say “I don’t want you to feel beholden to me or under any compulsion like you have to give me sex,” and have the mercenary go, “Oh, okay.” And yes, okay, in this story, Jabez does a hot/cold, on-again/off-again “must protect myself emotionally for when rug gets pulled out from under me,” but I’m sorry, these two men are going to have so much to deal with and you gloss it all as unimportant and that just felt so blindly disingenuous to me that it made me crazy.

So I’ve got a couple of your books in my pile still, and I’m still interested in reading them, because your writing was mostly engaging, even if your plot and characterization was implausible, but maybe I’ll read them with much lower expectations.

Grade: C

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

This book can be purchased at Loose ID and other etailers.

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.

5 Comments

  1. Bonnie Dee
    Feb 25, 2010 @ 12:19:28

    Thanks for taking the time to review. Sorry to disappoint. Try Seducing Stephen.

    Go into it with lower expectations. That’s the ticket. I did that with Avatar and was pleasantly surprised by the movie. Simplistic plot with no shades of gray in the villains but other than that it wasn’t bad.

    ReplyReply

  2. Janine
    Feb 25, 2010 @ 21:03:09

    One shouldn't create a do-nothing, lay-about of a corporate heir whose father doesn't think he's worth anything and literally have him change the entire social order of his world without a huge shift in personality. Oh, hey, he suddenly realizes that people live differently from him. Oh, hey, he suddenly decides his friends are nasty little shits when he just loved them before because he was always a good guy, he just didn't realize it. Oh, hey, in THREE DAYS of training he can begin to defend himself against a mercenary?! WTF?

    And one shouldn't create an illiterate street orphan, a criminal, a mercenary, a guy exploited and abused his entire life for rich people's pleasure and have him end up the indentured servant of the wastrel corporate heir and have them fall in love without any resentment, without any angst or concern or apparently understanding of the vast differences in their experiences, their lives, their world views.

    I haven’t read this particular book and so I can’t say whether I would view it in the same light as you did, Sarah, but I agree with your philosophy. Diametrically opposed characters can’t fall in love without some kind of change process. And shifts in a character should be accompanied by some kind of an internal struggle.

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  3. whey
    Feb 25, 2010 @ 22:15:55

    I didn’t have an expectations before reading it, and this was pretty much the same reaction I had. Unfortunately I didn’t finish it, but I’m going to see if one of her other books works for me.

    ReplyReply

  4. Aleksandr Voinov
    Feb 26, 2010 @ 07:32:09

    Damn, that sounds like it could have been amazing – I love reading and writing mismatched couples.

    ReplyReply

  5. Morgan
    Feb 26, 2010 @ 16:14:45

    I read Cage Match a couple months back and thought it was really good, much better than the review implies. I like stories with a lot of action in them. It’s sort of a Roman gladiator story set in the future – and I thought the characters were true to that and well done. Sorry you didn’t like it. Different strokes and all that.

    ReplyReply

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