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REVIEW:  Promise Me This by Christina Lee

REVIEW: Promise Me This by Christina Lee

promise-me-this-lee

Dear Ms. Lee,

Promise Me This is the fourth novel in your new adult series. I’ve enjoyed the previous books to greater and lesser degrees but overall, I’m a loyal reader interested in seeing where you take us next.

In your latest novel, we catch up with Nate and Jessie, two characters introduced earlier in the series. Jessie and Nate seem to come from two different worlds. Tattooed and edgy, Jessie works at the same tattoo parlor as Bennett (the hero of All of You). She’s an independent free spirit, who loves photography. Preppy and brother of their university’s star football player, Nate comes from a rich family. (He’s the cousin of the hero from Whisper to Me.) They’re happy being just friends and intend to stay that way.

Nate has reasons for this, though. He doesn’t do girlfriends, only one-night-stands. His family background is extremely abusive, and he grew up watching his father abuse his mother. Afraid that he’ll turn out like his father, he’d rather not make romantic connections with anyone at all. Jessie is his safe girl. He can have a relationship with her, but only platonically. That’s enough for him.

But then Jessie walks in Nate with one of his hopeful random hook-ups, and suddenly the guy she’d always thought of as clean-cut and not her type intrigues her. Her curiosity gets the best of her, and courtesy of a photography project Jessie needs to complete, the wall that Nate carefully constructed in his head comes down.

My feelings are mixed about Promise Me This. When I finished, I liked the book overall. I still do. But it took a while to get my thoughts together to write this review. Why? Because despite liking the book, something was missing.

Promise Me This is Nate’s story. He has a lot of damage because of his father, and the effects show internally in the ways he thinks about himself and his predilections in bed. (Nate likes kink, but because of his father, he associates that kind of behavior with abuse, even though it’s nothing of the sort when all parties are consenting.) Much of the book is devoted to Nate overcoming this and healing himself, coming to the realization that he does want a relationship with Jessie and that he isn’t like his father at all.

In that aspect, I actually thought the book did a great job.

The problem is that the book is unbalanced. We see Nate grow and change. We do not see Jessie go through the same transformation. Don’t get me wrong. I liked that Jessie was independent and self-reliant. It’s refreshing when a character has their shit together. But coming to the realization that Nate has depth beyond his preppy playboy ways is not a character transformation. Nor is being the supportive rock as he wrestles with his demons. I want to believe Jessie could be all the traits I loved about her and work through something at the same time.

For me, a satisfying (standard) romance is about two people meeting and overcoming some sort of internal conflict so reach their HEA. But each person should have their own, separate internal conflicts. Each person should work through their issues to reach their happy ending. Nate did but in my opinion, Jessie did not. As a result, I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

I think readers who enjoyed your previous ones will like Promise Me This as well. It read fast, and I found it to be a mellow read. (This isn’t damning praise. I need mellow reads sometimes.) It just lacks a couple ingredients to make it great. B-

My regards,
Jia

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Dear Author

REVIEW: Cage by Harper Sloan

Dear Ms. Sloan:

This book was recommended on the basis that it was in the vein of Kristen Ashley. I avoided the first book because many reviews indicated that the heroine was weak and somewhat twee, spending her time being held by all the big handsome men in her life while she weeped.  Not my thing.

The male protagonist is Greg Cage, a big security professional, who lost his sister to a domestic abuser. The story opens with Greg having sex with a “bitch” named Amanda. Greg treats this person cruelly. While he bills himself as super protective and caring about women, it’s only a certain type of woman that is deserving of that type of treatment.

This is how Greg views himself:

Some of us are put on this earth to heal, to make others’ lives brighter, and when those people don’t want our help, our love? We feel it deep.

Yet this is how he treats the woman he has sex with in the first chapter.

Why do I put up with this bitch? Oh, that’s right, because if I wait any longer to get some, my dick will shrivel off. “Amanda,” I roar her full name. “Hear me right now. You do not get to sit here and sling that shit. My sister calls and I’m done. Get that now, if you ever plan on revisiting my bed.”

“You’re done? Your dick is still hard,” she shrieks at me.

I don’t have to look down to know that my dick is screaming at me to finish. I reach down and caress my balls, trying unsuccessfully to ease the ache that is coiling in my gut. Fuck… I need this so bad.

“Babe. I don’t have time to take my time. You want to finish? Fine, but it will be hard and fast.”

This feeling of not helping is new to me. For the last almost five years, I have been the rock, the go to, the strength to help, and it almost makes me feel like I am doing something that would make Grace proud of me. Something better than all those years that I spent wasting away, living off booze, and whores on the road.

Cage’s attitude toward Amanda is stomach churning. He is so mean to her and why? Because she opens her legs to him. She pursues him avidly and doesn’t take no for an answer. Why should she? He goes from sticking his fingers in the female protagonist’s sex on a dance floor to punishing Amanda by boning Amanda in the back room.  Mandy is clearly mentally unbalanced but instead of treating this as a serious concern worthy of someone’s “help” she’s referenced as thus:

 I don’t care what happens to the bitch, but according to him, she is back on her meds and seeking help. ‘Back on the meds’ should have been clue enough that she really is a psycho bitch. Maybe next time, she will keep up with those damn pills. All that matters is he says that she won’t be a problem, and I believe him.

I took from this that a person who may take medication (such as a person who is bipolar, depressed, manic, etc) is a psycho.  I found this just one of many distressing characterizations. Probably the worst, though is Sway.

Sway is the only gay character in the book and his depiction is over the top and stereotypical of a certain type of gay (none that I’ve ever encountered). He’s constantly making lewd comments about all the assets of the Corps Security. He dresses in skin tight pants and shirts. He calls people “darlin’.” In one scene he is painting the sidewalk in front of the security offices in gold glitter and throws the glitter onto these men. Sway has no role within the book other than to be the comic relief.  He is in two scenes, one going crazy over a baby and this one where he is painting the sidewalk in glitter and throwing it on the hot men of the Corps Security.

A clear sign of my distraction is my missing Sway’s presence when I pull up at Corps Security. I am busy picturing Melissa bent over my kitchen counter, but when I look up and see Swag waving like an idiot, the hard on I have been sporting all morning dies a quick death.

What the fuck?

Over the last few years that I have known this man, I have learned he is as unpredictable as they come. But the sight that meets me this morning is like nothing he has ever done before. There he is, standing on the sidewalk wearing those camouflage skintight pants things that chicks wear. The ones that make a man fall all over himself to follow her ass around the world, but on this man, they might scar me for life. If that isn’t enough, the sparkling burgundy shirt hugging his round  stomach might get a good laugh. Then, I notice what he is doing.

“Sway? Why are you painting the sidewalk?” I question, looking down into the bucket of golden shining paint, “Is that fucking glitter?”

“Don’t you start with all your alpha hotness, Gregory. Of course, this is glitter! You can’t paint the sidewalk gold without glitter!” He’s serious, bobbing his head left and right, and waving his hands all over the place.

“This is for real? You’re painting the sidewalk fucking gold? Does Axel know about this shit?”

“Of course he does, my king of hotness. Don’t be such a tight ass. Actually, never mind that darlin’, be a tight ass… just let me see it.” He starts laughing like a loon and all I can do is look around and notice the explosion of fucking glitter.

“Sway, my man, you wouldn’t know what to do with me.” He sobers instantly and I kick myself for encouraging him. “Forget I said that. Tell me why you feel the need to throw glitter all over the damn place?”

“Because my hunk of fine, glitter makes everyone happy!” When he starts dancing around his paint bucket, I have to leave. There is only so much Sway that I can handle when he is acting like this. I might joke, but that man is the funniest little shit I have ever met.

The second Coop steps out of the out of the jeep, Sway attacks, throwing glitter in the air and screaming ‘good morning’. When he leaps into Coop’s arms, I fear I might hurt something, laughing as hard as I am.

The plot is essentially Melissa and Cage dealing with “psycho”, learning to overcome the loss of their sisters to the same domestic abuser, and learning to trust each other. As for the romance between Cage and Melissa, there mutual lust was apparent but even with their similarities (and crazy coincidences) I didn’t really understand why they loved each other. Their animal attraction was the primary driver of their connection for so much of the story and the love rested almost solely on the fact that they’d both lost someone due to domestic violence. But the love? I have no idea what the one loved about the other outside of the bedroom activities.

There are a lot of references to sad women and the other men in the Corps Security group and how their love for each other is kept unconsummated through some secret angst.  These scenes were awkwardly inserted throughout the story in a very repetitive manner.  Cage would see one of the ladies looking distressed and the corresponding Corps Security would be either destroying their office or stomping around tragically unhappy.  Cage’s heart would hurt for all involved. I guess because unrequited love is not psycho and therefore worthy of his big heart.

I know I’m supposed to see Melissa as this awesome chick who stands up for herself and takes care of herself, her mom, and her nephew; yet Melissa spends every night at Cage’s house and Cohen, the nephew, makes only a few appearances. Given that Melissa was essentially her nephew’s mother since Melissa’s sister died, her inattention to Cohen seemed weird and only served to enforce that Melissa was more interested in physical pleasure than anything else. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Melissa was supposed to be this awesome self sacrificing heroine who was taking up the yoke of motherhood.  The showing never matched the telling.

Finally, Melissa’s treatment toward Mandy was disturbing. Yes, Mandy slashed Melissa’s tires but Melisssa’s constant references to Mandy as “demented” and “fucking nuts” and “psycho bitch” just served to reinforce this idea that those who suffer from a mental illness are somehow lesser. I’m sure that this isn’t what I was supposed to take away from the book. I know I was supposed to see Mandy as the villain because she kept trying to interfere with Cage and Melissa and became increasingly unstable and dangerous, but Mandy was written with such a heavy hand (with her fake tits and her complete lack of self esteem and her wild eyes) that I couldn’t help but feeling sorry for her.  The insults thrown Mandy’s way actually distressed me rather than made me want to cheer Melissa.

This book has received glowing reviews and maybe there’s a story here I didn’t see but the characters’ actions as written revealed a completely different set of individuals than the reader was told existed. D

Best regards,

Jane

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