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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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REVIEW:  SuperBad by Vivi Andrews

REVIEW: SuperBad by Vivi Andrews

Dear Ms. Andrews:

I’m a sucker for superhero romances, which is why I had to pick this one up.

superbad vivi andrewsSupervillain daughter Mirage aka Mirabelle Wroth has been in treatment for the last 3 months after destroying the mind of the man who turned her into his mental plaything. Her shattered mind leaves her unable discern which are implanted memories and emotions and which are real ones.

Her brother Lucian is at a loss at what to do to keep Mirabelle from hurting others as well as herself. When Lucian’s superheroine girlfriend suggests bringing Captain Justice whose abilities include forcing others to tell the truth, Lucian reluctantly allows Justice access to his sister. Recently dumped by his ambitious reporter girlfriend, Captain Justice, aka Julian Case finds an unexpected connection with Mirabelle.

I think what I found odd about this novel was that it seemed like a superhero story that had been cut and pasted with
passages taken from teen romances. So despite the fact that both Mirabel and Julian end up in serious life or death situations, they both still have time to ruminate about each other’s sexiness in a rather juvenile manner.

“Affection? Did Julian actually like her?

It was weird to think they might be friends. If he’d been just trying to get into her pants, she would have understood it more. She certainly wanted into his. And, since her relationship with Kevin, she knew better than most that you could be physically attracted to someone who repulsed you on other levels. But for Julian to actually like her. For him to push himself beyond his limits just because he enjoyed seeing her happy.”

On the other hand, the pairing of Julian, who is portrayed as seeing the world in black and white, with Mirabelle, a supervillainess-who-believes-she-is misunderstood was a nice contrast. The scenes in which Julian and Mirabelle are fighting about the nature of superheroes are probably some of the strongest scenes in the book.

“…[Y]our father is one of the most powerful supervillains in the world,” he barked. “Are you proud to follow in Daddy’s footsteps?”

“You don’t know shit about my family. My father is a scientist. He’s never hurt anyone. We only steal the supplies he needs for his research from major corporations who can afford it –”

“Demon Wroth? What world are you living in?”

“The real one. Not the one defined by rigid moralistic assholes who named themselves Protectors of the Universe just because they happened to be born with superstrength.”

Both Julian and Mirabelle’s lack of emotional maturity made the scene where they finally get together seem rather tired (one of those instances where they are physically thrown together because of danger and they end up kissing each other). It seemed rather like generic action movie romance stuff and as a result, the sex scenes seemed very dry and just didn’t emote. The sex scenes tended to be mostly physical descriptions that were relying on previously developed emotional tension to have impact. As a result, I found them rather ho-hum.

The plot is rather flimsy as it relies on making Mirabelle’s Big Bad Dad out to be a misunderstood guy, but not before he kidnaps two other people and forcibly injects them with an unknown substance. What more disappointing was that the ultimate resolution talk between Julian and Bad Dad happened “off screen,” so to speak.

Though there are some nice reversals of the traditional comic book narrative (like the up and coming reporter dumping the superhero) I think I could have used a little more chemistry between the main characters.  C

Amy

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