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REVIEW:  Bound by Lorelie James

REVIEW: Bound by Lorelie James

Bound Lorelei James

Dear Ms. James:

I went into this book with some great expectations but ended it disappointed and not interested in reading the second book of the series. This story pairs up Ronin Black with Amery Hardwick. It contains some of the most fetishistic portrayal of Japanese cultural (without any actual minority in the story) I’ve read in a long time along with some poor dialogue, strained conflicts, and unsexy love scenes.

Let’s start with the issue regarding the cultural appropriation in the story. Ronin Black is described as having high cheekbones and a wide, chiseled jawline courtesy of Germanic or Nordic genes in his lineage. and eyes that tilted upward in the corner, “indicating his family tree also included an Asian branch. His black hair nearly brushed his shoulders.” That’s not so bad although Japanese have high cheekbones and it’s rather common to ascribe the cheekbones and chiseled jawline to European genes and the tilted eyes to Asia.

Ronin is one quarter Japanese but his life is 100% Japanese. He has Shunga prints in his halls; he runs a dojo and is disdainful of Brazilian jitjitsu. He has a zen rock garden on his roof and bonsai trees. He says he lives by the “Samurai code.” I’m not even certain how Ronin is actually one quarter Japanese as we learn that his father was a serviceman stationed in Japan and was also one quarter Japanese. I guess that makes his mother one quarter Japanese in a land that’s one of the most homogenous in the world. Ahem. I don’t even want to start contemplating how a Japanese mother would name her child after a disgraced, itinerant and masterless warrior.

Ronin prefers to be addressed as Sensei Black, trained in a monastery and has had a run-in with rival martial arts experts that the heroine refers to as “Karate Kid” like. Even Ronin’s sexual fetish is rope bondage learned from his monastery master in Japan.

But it’s not just the portrayal of Ronin who, maybe I could accept, but Amery’s interaction with him. Amery constantly refers to his “ninja skills” and his “Zen sayings.” The evil ex is apparently Japanese and Amery refers to her as a geisha and exotic. “She had a better idea what Naomi looked like—probably exotic in that Japanese geisha way.” Later meeting another Amery’s sister, Amery describes her as exotic as well and refers to the Japanese woman’s bodyguard as sumo wrestler or just “Sumo Guy”. Even Ronin is described as exotic as well as his cologne. The sister must be one quarter Japanese because she and Ronin share the same parents but the sister is described as Japanese by Amery. Yet Ronin is not.

To round out the weeaboo nature of this book is that Amery has a scar that she got after being gored by a bull that is amazingly shaped in the Kanji letters of Ronin. ““Because it’s nearly identical to the Japanese symbol for a rogue samurai warrior.” NEARLY IDENTICAL

Um, wow. That is some amazing scab picking. What made me laugh/cry even more is that Amery’s skin is described as white and pure. (She, of course, thinks it is pasty, but our 1/4 Japanese hero thinks it’s pure).

But let’s set that all aside for now and talk about the romance. This is one half of a duology and I think the conflict really suffers from having to stretch beyond one book. Amery is from a fundamentalist upbringing and sometimes her interactions with Ronin are colored by her shame and others it is because Ronin can’t bring himself to reveal anything more than his Japanese fetish to her and at other times it is Ronin’s possible violent nature. Because, you know, owning a dojo and all where she’s learning self defense equals being a violet thug.

Their interactions don’t even read particularly sexy to me. At one point, he’s practicing his “tethered turtle” technique and they make lusty turtle innuendos. . “Come out of that shell and beg me to fuck you, turtle girl.” He later tells her that since she won’t perform with him, he has to use other models and will be touching them with sexual manner. I wish she would have responded that she’d be practicing her massage techniques complete with a rub and tug ending but don’t worry, Ronin, it don’t mean anything.

In sum, I found this book to be offensive with stilted dialogue, an ever changing set of conflicts, and decidedly unsexy love scenes. The strange thing is that I’ve enjoyed Lorelei James books in the past. This is such a departure. It felt forced and awkward. You know, if you’re going to write a character who loves all things Japanese and speaks it at random times, why not just make him Japanese? F

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

REVIEW: Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

Dear Ms. Sheridan:

When I came upon your book, I had spent several weeks reading dark books with quite a few anti heroes and your sweet, tender romance was quite refreshing. I had no idea what I was in for when I started the book as I hadn’t read you before.

Archer's Voice mia sheridanBree Prescott suffered an unknown trauma, got in her car and just drove. She ended up in a small town in Maine where she rents a cabin and hopes to heal.  In Pelion, Maine, Bree encounters the Hale boys. Archer Hale is a loner who lives on his land and rarely comes to town. His cousin, Travis, is the opposite. He is gregarious and flirtatious but it is Archer to whom Bree is drawn.

Most of the story is told from Bree’s first person point of view although there are a few scenes from Archer’s. Archer is  mute from an incident that happened back when he was seven years old. Shy, uncommunicative, and possibly a bit agoraphobic, Archer doesn’t really know what to make of Bree who keeps stopping by his property but he looks forward to every visit.

For Bree, there’s something that intrigues her about Archer. The fact that he can’t speak doesn’t bother her at all because, as we are told early on, she is “intimately acquainted with that disability.” I don’t want to give it away (although it does appear fairly early in the text) but someone close to Bree was deaf and because of that she knows how to sign. Her ability to sign and perhaps her familiarity with deaf people makes the connection with Archer easier. Others view him as strange and  even a little dumb.

Because Archer is inexperienced with women and because he has an intense desire to please Bree, he is easily manipulated by his cousin which causes drama between Bree and Archer but for the most part, most of the conflict is external.

Much of the time is spent with Bree and Archer getting to know each other, both emotionally and then physically. Archer’s had very little experience with the opposite sex and for those who enjoy the virgin hero trope, Archer’s lusty and sweet awakening to intercourse is well done.

The conflict is primarily driven by the other Hales, specifically Travis the cousin and his mother. Archer tells Bree that he is mute because he was shot by his uncle when he was seven. The story opens with a seven year old Archer listening to his Uncle Connor beg his mother Lys to run away. As the tale unfurls, you learn of a complicated soap operatic relationship between the Hale brothers and Archer’s mother. And there’s some suggestion that drama is attempting to repeat itself between Bree, Archer and Travis only Bree’s affections clearly lie with Archer.

What drags the grade of the book down for me was the transformation of Archer from a bearded loner to the character he becomes at the end. It was too fantastical for me and not in keeping with the rest of the story. The ending drama was overstated as well.

Both characters are in their twenties, but the tone of the story does read a bit young despite the explicit love scenes. However, reading about a tender, sweet, inexperienced hero after several dozen alpha males, this felt like a breath of fresh air.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

 

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