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REVIEW:  The Nekkid Truth by Nicole Camden

REVIEW: The Nekkid Truth by Nicole Camden

Nicole Camden Nekkid Truth

Dear Ms. Camden:

 The story is narrated by Debbie Valley, a photographer who does crime scene photos on the side. She suffers from a disease called prosopagnosia, a type of face recognition amnesia, which resulted from brain trauma incurred during a car accident. She cannot recognize anyone’s face. Not her mother, her father or even a lover. It drove her slightly crazy when she first realized she had the problem but Debbie is the kind of person who is able to recognize the value of just being alive, particularly each time she take a crime scene photo.

After the accident, Debbie became fascinated with bodies because she couldn’t recognize faces anymore. Much of her work is of nudes which garners three reactions: “shock, disgust, or rapture”. But to Debbie, it’s her way of surviving, of living. “I can’t help but feel that if it’s my destiny to live life without ever again knowing the relief and joy of seeing a familiar face, then at the very least I can enjoy what I do without shame and sometimes with a great deal of pleasure.”

The real problem is that Debbie is in love with Detective Marshall Scott. Scott and Debbie have a complicated history since it was Scott’s partner who caused the accident leading to Debbie’s disability. Debbie doesn’t hold it against Scott, but Scott holds it against himself and despite his attraction toward Debbie, has never taken any action. He also recognized that she was a mess, emotionally, following the car accident. Everyone seems to know that the two of them are hot for one another but until his birthday party, they’ve been circling like wary beasts in a cage.

And the man himself, where’s he at?” I was starting to calm down, though if I had to move off this stool I was going to lose it again.

“He’s over at the other end of the bar,” he said gently, pointing, and I jerked to attention.

A dark-haired man with a stubbled jaw and a dress shirt opened to reveal a tanned throat sat almost directly across from me, surrounded by men and women vying for his attention. He would say something occasionally, but mostly he just stared at me, and I supposed it must be Detective Scott. God, he was hot.

Debbie, for all her pluckiness, is still suffering from her disability. “Since I’d gotten hurt, I had doubted, often, whether I was capable of loving anyone anymore. How could I? I wouldn’t recognize Mel Gibson if he walked through the door, much less someone I loved.” But Scott realizes that he and Debbie belong together and act on his long time feelings and her long time invitation. The sensuality of the book was increased because Debbie’s narration, her focus on the other senses, on the beauty of the body, the sweet musky smell of man, sex, and lust all created a visceral image for the reader. ‘It felt as if he did me for hours, so tirelessly, so carefully did he work me.”

While the relationship is tender and sweet and joyous to read, it is because the reader falls so hard for Debbie that the story has so much appeal. This is one of my favorite passages from the book:

When I woke from the coma they’d kept me in to keep the swelling in my brain under control, the first thing I’d seen was a tiny blond woman with blue eyes looking down at me. She was crying and laughing at the same time and calling me her baby. It took me a minute to recognize her voice, and when I did I became even more frightened than before. I didn’t recognize her. This stranger had my mother’s voice. I panicked and jerked away, screaming, and the doctors came in and sedated me. It took days to sort out what was wrong with me, and I cried every time I looked at my mother and didn’t see the woman I loved more than my own heart.

I remembered learning in college that when a baby first looks into its mothers face, there is an instant connection. Something about the mother being a mirror of that child’s self, and that mirror in some way defines what it means to exist. I would argue that it also first defines what it means to love. I think that was the hardest part for me, losing that connection, and it wasn’t till I looked down at her hand clasped in mine weeks later that I found a measure of peace. They were my mother’s hands, wrinkled and tiny, filled with love.

The remarkable thing about this story is how much emotion and depth the relationship is given despite just the one narrator. I never felt as if the hero was a mystery. Debbie’s struggle to come to grips with taking the chance of loving someone, despite her disability, was a tender and meaingful. The A- is because the suspense thread was weakly inserted and unnecessary in this short story space.   A-

Jane

PS this book is free right now. FREE!

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REVIEW:  Against Reason by Scarlet Blackwell

REVIEW: Against Reason by Scarlet Blackwell

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He lost his heart once. Is it too damaged for love to find it again?

In the five years since the love of his life abandoned him at the altar, Jake Morgan hasn’t left his house. The locals in this small, English town have dubbed him “Mr. Havisham”, but he’s too preoccupied wrestling his demons to care about Dickensian comparisons.

Forced to admit he’s losing the battle to keep up his large estate alone, he reluctantly places an advert for help. The striking young man who answers his call shakes him to the core.

When Darius answers the ad for the position at the mysterious mansion, the bitter, lonely master of the house tugs at his heartstrings. Setting aside his own run of bad luck, Darius batters at Jake’s emotional walls with kindness and determination that defy all attempts to drive him away.

Just as tendrils of new love begin to intertwine, though, a terrible voice from the past intrudes. And threatens to drive Jake back into the shadows where Darius can never reach him.
Warning: “Great expectations” of steamy man-on-man action, mouldering wedding cake, and heartwarming romance.

Dear Scarlet Blackwell,

When I read this novella for the first time I had many issues with the characterization and plot, but I thought that the writing tugged at my emotions enough for me to enjoy it to some degree. But then I reread the story and paid more attention to writing and character details, and I unfortunately realized that I had to lower the rating to D.

The language is over the top: there is a “cock spurting fire” and a “bottom like peach”. Plus there is an instantaneous attraction when the characters meet and TSTL main character.

As the blurb tells us, Jake had basically not left his house since his partner abandoned him on his wedding day – so it is easy to figure out that Jake is not in a good mental state. Jake also thought that it would be a good idea to keep his wedding cake in his dining room during the five years after his partner left him at the altar. I think that is a pretty strong indication that Jake will need lots and lots of therapy. Jake has a health condition (OCD), but while I am aware that it can affect people differently to a degree, I felt very uncomfortable that it was mentioned initially, but then pretty much forgotten. I think his condition was another indication that he needed therapy. But rather than taking his condition seriously I thought that the story was an example of the “love heals everything” trope and I really did not like that. I did not think that Jake was ready for the relationship at all when the story ended. Here is the example of why I felt that the story treated Jake’s OCD as a plot device rather than a part of who Jake was:

“I should go.” Darius turned the key and pulled open the door. He bounded down the steps to his car and got in. As he started the engine, Jake moved slowly. He closed the door and turned the key once, forgetting his counting. Dazed, he walked to the kitchen like an automaton and checked the soup in the pan, stirring it a couple of times. Then he walked across to the living room and sat down heavily, senses scattered.”

That happens after they kissed for the first time. I mean, it is great if it made Jake forget about his counting, but I just did not buy that. There was nothing in the scene to make such a sudden change believable to me.
Jake’s attraction to Darius starts the second they meet. And I mean “the second they meet” literally.

“The wind nearly buffeted him back. The stranger lifted his face eagerly in relief. Their eyes locked, and that troublesome heart of Jake’s, battered and broken and way beyond salvation, gave a curious little leap as he gazed upon man’s face. His stomach lurched too. Warmth spread down toward his groin. He stepped back, blushing, confused as to what had just happened”.

Jake goes through angsting about whether he should hire Darius or not, then when he hires Darius, he goes through angsting about whether to have sex with him or not – all of those emotional things just felt so fake to me, especially because everything was happening within just a few days.

Considering that I usually do not care for “love heals everything” stories at all, it is telling that my main problem with this novella was not even this trope. No, my main issue with this book was Darius. I could not shake off the impression that the author wanted me to believe that Darius was a good guy, and I instead had a mental picture of him as an ass of the highest order. When Jake is accusing Darius of using him because he needs a place to stay, Darius denies it, gets upset, etc. And I kept thinking – wait a second, did you or did you not say just a several pages ago that you would not mind using your employer because you needed a place to stay and basically if flirting would do it, that would be fine with you? Apparently trading sexual favors would be too much for Darius, but making sure Jake was interested and wanted to keep him close was totally okay.

Was I expected to forget Darius’ thoughts about that?

And then we have Darius’ doing his thing closer to the end of the story. The word “cruel” does not even begin to describe what he did in my opinion – it really goes into a very spoilerish territory so here it is under the cut:

Spoiler (Spoiler): Show

Jake’s ex shows up and wants Jake to take him back and Jake seems undecided, so Darius shows Mark Jake’s dining room with the wedding cake and wedding presents from five years ago. Mark starts laughing but still wants to get back together. Jake throws both of them out.
And Jake forgives Darius after month of agonizing when Darius catches him (before Jake decides to go to Nova Scotia and be a recluse there), which would have been fine, if I had seen the slightest sign that the man changed and but I really never saw that.

I wanted to reiterate that I did not feel that Jake himself was ready for any sort of relationship especially because he hesitated so much over whom he should choose to have a lasting relationship with, not deciding till the book was almost over. I thought that Jake taking Darius back was a sign of massive stupidity, instead of the everlasting love the story was trying to sell to me.
I cannot recommend this one.

Grade: D.

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