REVIEW: Reaper’s Property by Joanna Wylde
Dear Ms. Wylde:
I picked this up even though I had to buy it direct from the Ellora’s Cave site and even though I have never read you before (although my records indicate I purchased a book by you that was published in 2002, Price of Pleasure). The motorcycle club angle intrigued me as did the comparison by the reader recommending it to Kristen Ashley’s Motorcycle Man which I consider to be the KA gateway drug. I’ve never watched one episode of Sons of Anarchy and know next to nothing about Motorcycle Clubs but from what little I’ve read they appear to be breeding grounds for unhealthy misogyny and crime.
Reaper’s Property brings both those elements to life within the confines of a romance story. Will this raise a reader’s hackles? It did mine but the authenticity of the world in Reaper’s Property and the interesting power struggle made the story more compelling than most. I’d recommend this book to readers so long as they know what they are getting into. The story is told primarily in first person from Marie’s point of view, although there are several scenes told from Horse’s point of view, in the third person.
Marie took one hit from her husband’s fist but no more. She left him and moved in with her brother, Jeff, into the trailer where they grew up. Their mother is in jail for assaulting a police officer. Marie is without a job. Unbeknownst to her, Jeff has begun to do some work for a motorcycle club called The Reapers out of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The Reaper is a huge, well, gang even though the word is never used in the book. Their power structure spans several states and their reach includes Eastern Washington, Yakima Valley where Marie lives.
The motorcycle club comes to visit and one of the members, Horse, is attracted to Marie. Horse visits her over the space of a month or so, infrequently given that she lives about three hours from his home base in the Idaho. She is intrigued by him but is insulted by his constant use of the term “sweet butt” which she knows is no endearment. She bristles at the idea of being someone’s property and frankly, Horse has a violent edge to him that is scarier than her soon to be ex husband has ever emanated.
Jeff gets in serious trouble with the MC and the MC offer her the opportunity to either be Horse’s “house mouse” or Jeff will be killed. Marie agrees to go with Horse. There are a lot of other shenanigans that happen but essentially it is a) does Marie come to accept living within the confines of the MC rules? (yes) and b) does she begin to trust that her relationship with Horse can have some equality? (yes, but).
In many ways, this is a story of dominance and submission. Horse wants Marie to submit, but not just to him but to his world. He tries many times to explain to Marie that being his property isn’t the same thing as she perceives it to be. His paradigm is different from hers. To be his property, he declares, is to be cared for him and by the club. “Seriously, a biker’s old lady is like his wife. She’s his woman, his property, and if anyone fucks with her the entire club will come down on them. Hard.”
Marie resists and her resistance pulls at Horse all the more. Horse uses the word “tribe” frequently to describe the club. Within the tribe, different words have different meanings, or at least that’s the refrain that Horse tries to sell Marie. Marie plays role of the reader. She’s unfamiliar with the MC. She doesn’t like the idea of being property. She struggles with the offer she is being made and doesn’t understand the significance.
How much one enjoys this book depends on how willing they are to accept Marie’s consent. Marie is no doormat and indeed, the entire book rests upon Marie standing up for herself, frequently. Horse’s overbearing dominance would look even more menacing contrasted against a weaker female character. Marie’s refusals and independence invoke outbursts of temper by Horse and there were times I felt Marie was in jeopardy. But Marie’s willingness to resist Horse is part of what makes her so attractive to him. And importantly, at every juncture of Horse’s dominance, there is obvious willing consent on Marie’s part. In other words, his dominance turns her on and when she tells him to stop, he stops. Always. Most importantly, Marie can leave Horse.
Horse has only two real rules – don’t denigrate him or the club. He encourages Marie to get a job and an education. He provides the funds and ability for her to do so. These sorts of actions mitigate against the idea that Marie’s only life would be as Horse’s appendage. Through the daughters and wives and old ladies, Marie understands how to gain agency within the club.
However, much of the agency Marie derives is premised on Horse’s emotional servitude to Marie and that is true for most of the women who aren’t “sweet butts.”
“…. We’re gonna practice every day until you’re comfortable with it, can do it without thinking. This gun is part of you now. You got me?”
“I got you.”
“Oh baby, you have no idea,” he replied ruefully, brushing back my hair and tucking it behind my ear. “No idea at all. Now let me watch you shoot. Chicks with guns are hot.”
This story came off tightly written and well researched. The motorcycle club rang authentic and even though I recoiled at some of the story, at the same time, I appreciated the grittiness of it. If you are going to have a motorcycle club story, why whitewash it? Make it work for me in all the non PC glory. I wouldn’t ever want to live in a MC or have a partner like Horse but visiting was a wild and compelling time. B
Sold! Thanks for the review.
This one reminded me quite a bit of Sheehan’s Undeniable, although it is better written and I certainly like Horse way more than Deuce. The MC world is extremely misogynistic, and there is a great deal in this one to take offense at. I agree that Reaper’s Property has a “realistic” feel to it especially in relation to Motorcycle Man which has a “fantasy” feel. I did like that the author stayed true to the ugly, gritty realities of the MC world she was creating. I’m still pondering my reaction to this and am not sure that I could continue to read any forthcoming titles set in this world.
I also wonder if given current events and current debates surrounding gun control if this one will prick a nerve in readers.
I hate-read this one. I found Horse to be mostly distasteful and his relationship with Marie to be one that made me uncomfortable more than not. That being said, I resented any intrusion to my time spent reading the book and found that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.
The grittier depiction of a motorcycle gang read much truer to me than Kristen Ashley’s, but I think that realism/grittiness is why I had a hard time finding a connection with the book. I doubted most the time that Horse saw Marie as more than a piece of ass, which made me have a harder time buying into them as a couple and also into their HEA.
I’m quite sure I’ll read the next in the series though, because in the end, I liked the book well enough to keep going, but nowhere near as much as I love Kristen Ashley’s books.
It is just me, or are motorcycle gangs becoming the werewolves of the contemp subgenre? The appeal and dynamic seems to be very much the same to me.
@Isobel Carr: Don’t know. Are the Sons of Anarchy fans the same as those who enjoy Teen Wolf?
Thanks for the review. I’m looking to try this one out. I was wondering if there’s cheating going on- specifically, by Horse? Also how long is the book? Thanks.
I almost bought this after you raved about it on Twitter but I restrained myself..barely. After this review I bought it. Sometimes I hate you. Like I need another crack book to read?
Also? I love that you called Motorcycle Man the gateway drug. Truer words.
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@Tabitha: My Calibre plugin says 93,633 words. As for cheating
Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler) Show
Sweet Butt as an endearment. That cracks me up so much.
@KT Grant: Yeah, it’s not really an endearment though and he stops calling her it half way? through the book. I can’t recall. It was a pretty insulting term.
@Tabitha: On the cheating thing, I think Horse crosses the line – although he is caught by Marie before consummation (we don’t know if that would’ve happened). I’m not convinced that he was faithful to her until she promised to be his Old Lady. However, I was convinced of his desire to be faithful after she agreed to be his woman.
Thanks, Jane and JenniferRNN!
@Holly: I’m sorry? (we both know I’m not sorry at all).
@JenniferRNN: Actually what I found more chilling was one line in the book that was an echo of what I think Alisa Valdez wrote her abusive alpha male saying.
@Kati: I was completely convinced at the end but Marie in jeopardy is part of what made the story so compelling. I think that there is room for grittier works and more fantasy works. Undeniable did not work for me at all because I felt like there was zero power in the woman’s hands and that she was a vessel being passed around and abused. I didn’t have the same sense in this book. Maybe because the writing was better and Wylde was able to present a more nuanced view inside the MC world.
I think most of all I really appreciated the authenticity and that it was a little dark and scary for me to read at times. So many books I read are sanitized and I’d rather have this and feel in jeopardy at times than to not feel at all while I read.
@jane_l: I haven’t read the Valdes book (and will not). Which line?
I was also disturbed by Horse’s subversion is getting Marie to do what he wanted. I believe that he put Jeff up to being sick so that Marie would not go out – without ever telling her he didn’t want her to go out. I have no doubts that he would use this method if he felt he needed to. The next time she goes out without his permission, Horse gets a lap dance (that I think was more than that).
@Jane: Teenwolf had a pack?
@JenniferRNN: It was something like “I’m in charge here and don’t you forget it.”
I think Horse’s view of Marie changed and evolved. He wanted her as a possession initially, but I think she changed him and by the end of the book had moved more toward her direction than she had toward him but maybe that is my own sympathetic interpretation of the story.
@jane_l: Yes, I think he said something like that several times.
I do agree that Horse’s view of Marie changed. I did buy into their HEA and even liked Horse somewhat, just felt like it would be tough for most women to be happy living their MC tribe lifestyle. For example, the orgy thing. That stuff isn’t going to go away. And while Horse did evolve enough for me, I didn’t care for the “you must come and adapt to my lifestyle” message.
@JenniferRNN: Oh, for sure. Like I said, it was nice for a visit. The orgy thing, though, I mean, those women were willing and I didn’t see it much different that the sideshows at the BDSM club books.
And yes, Marie isn’t changing the MC nor is Horse going to abandon the club and the misogynistic underpinnings but if he had, I think that wouldn’t have read realistic for me.
I was sold on this book yesterday when Kati tweeted to me something like – the hero is a total asshole douche, yet lovable.
I’m weak for these types of heroes. (in small doses) :)
And the fact that Marie stands up for herself.
OMG. Motorcycle Man is a gateway drug…but I had enough of the way Tack treated Red to deal with an even gritter relationship. But damn me cause I sure want some spoilers!
Perhaps it’s that I live in a community property state but I keep wondering what “property” means in terms of a split-up. If a woman is a club member’s old lady and they break up, is she entitled to half of his share of the club? I’m thinking about Tack explaining to Tyra (Motorcycle Club, Kristen Ashley) that there’s a buy-in or a distribution of funds when a biker (trainee/guy who isn’t a full member of the tribe …) becomes what, fully-vested? A voting partner?
Seriously, there’s lots of money involved: do old ladies have to sign a pre-nup? What if they don’t and their relationship reaches common law status (I’m not sure how that’s measured–is it in years together?). Thanks … I know it’s a bit off topic and since this is a romance, I’m supposed to think their HEA will last forever and a day but this has just been niggling at me.
@Janet W: Those are great questions!
Hi, I’m Joanna Wylde (the author) and I loved your letter to me, LOL! I appreciate that you put your time and effort into reading (and writing about) my book. It’s an amazing thing to have someone send you a link to a place where people are actually talking about your stuff. I’m really honored, and also glad that you gave such a strong overview so that readers who aren’t looking for something this hard core won’t buy it and hate it ;)
I didn’t want to butt in, but I wanted to respond to Janet W’s question about community property and distribution of assets in an OMC (outlaw motocycle club).
Before I go any further, I want to offer a caveat: I am not living in the life and wouldn’t dream of implying I am. I am a former journalist and have done a ton of research into club life (including interviewing many MC members, including several one percenters, reading books, articles and even academic works) and think I can offer some clarity (not just about my book, which is obviously a fantasy set in a background that was as real as I could get it, but still within the bounds of my fantasy world). Please note – this is only about 1%er or outlaw clubs. The vast majority of clubs are just groups of people who like to ride together.
Back to property: There’s very little I can find out about the specifics of real property (as opposed to property as slang for a claimed woman) held communally by MCs. What I have been told (by guys living in club life) is that it’s common for one member to hold it – for example, the clubhouse is often owned/rented by one person, but used and paid for by all (the clubs have regular dues to cover expenses). This is used not only as a hang out, but as a backup place to live when things get too tight at home (not uncommon, apparently – one source was living in the clubhouse with his wife and kids because he’d lost his job). The ties of the club are strong enough that it’s not an issue, apparently. One guy told me that most of the clubs he knew used houses as their clubhouse, because they want them to be residential and they have run into zoning issues mixing businesses with housing. Even bikers have to deal with city ordinances, apparently… I chose an old national guard armory for my book because it happens to be a real building in my community and looking at it has always filled my mind with stories. I figured that since it lies within the county (so business zoning is not an issue, at least around here) and it isn’t commercial, it was realistic enough.
As for business income/property, I can’t find any evidence that very many real clubs actually make a lot of money (this might be why they don’t fight about property much – either that or they’re smart enough to keep it hidden). They’re about riding bikes more than anything, hanging out, partying, camping, runs… Money seems to be more of a means to an end than an end of itself. For most, it’s about brotherhood and bikes.
Some groups are far more organized than others (one size doesn’t fit all in any world, and definitely NOT in the MC world), and many MCs don’t have any sanctioned criminal activity at all. That being said, those same clubs seem to have groups of individuals who are engaged in shady activity to varying levels… How organized that activity actually is is up for question. The cops and ATF seem to disagree, and have gone after various groups under RICO many times (although not usually groups as small as the “Reapers,” which is a decent sized club, but not a big player like the real clubs you’ve probably heard of – Hells Angels, Mongols, etc.)
I decided to make the Reapers a more sophisticated organization financially because it’s a better story. The idea of owning formal “shares” in a club seems completely at odds with what I know of MC culture, although I’m sure if there was a parting of ways, they’d divide things up. I do know that among members, it is very egalitarian. They really do have officers, they have regular elections, they have bylaws, etc. They are notorious for not following society’s rules, but there are lots of rules within their own culture. It’s probably more structured in some ways than the life I lead. The most common businesses I have heard of clubs running are strip clubs.
So, I think if a member and his wife got divorced, they’d probably have to split their assets like anyone else under the law. The question is, how much would they have in traceable assets? A lot of bikers live pretty close to the bone – it’s not a life that mixes well with a career. It’s not uncommon at all for the wife to be the bread winner, especially to get health insurance. Their criminal activity is well documented, but that’s not what they’re really all about (at least for many – I suspect there are plenty of sociopaths out there too). There are family clubs that are far more welcoming to women and children, and clubs that treat women like dogs. One guy shared that he wouldn’t want his daughter to live the life, but that he really hoped his son would. This man is married, batshit crazy about his wife and realistic in his understanding that club life strains the marriage. He actually (with permission) transferred to another, affiliated club because they were more supportive of family life.
I hope that answers the question, or at least addresses it. Lots of people have been asking me about my research, and I’ve done some posts on my Goodreads blog. I am certainly not an expert, but it’s been very eye-opening for me. It’s a diverse, rich, disturbing and impressive culture that varies from club to club significantly, but is still centered around the same common ideals, I think. They definitely see themselves as rebels and heros in a world with too many rules.
Law enforcement disagrees…
PS – Love the gateway drug comment! Kristen Ashley should come with warning… Or sell her books in giant sets. Sooner or later you WILL read them all, LOL! My favorite is At Peace, followed by Sweet Dreams/Motorcycle Man tied for second.
@Jane and Tabitha:
Re: the cheating. I’m going to hope I do the spoiler tag right, so anyone following along, beware!
In addition to the lap dance, there is a scene where Horse is with another woman. It’s after he and Marie have met, been intimate but not have sex, and have no understanding of a relationship, but to some readers who don’t think the hero should be intimate w/anyone once he meets the heroine, it could be construed as cheating.
Re: Sweet Butt
It’s made pretty clear through the course of the book that that is definitely not an endearment, and it’s not used frequently, after the first third, so it’s not something you have to get past, really. The explanation of the usage is fascinating, though.
@Joanna: Thanks for sharing your research. I’m not always comfortable with author comments on a review–they can sometimes just shut down the conversation– but I found yours genuinely interesting.
Books like this aren’t for me, and I think it’s for the following reason: the MC may band together to defend a member’s property against outsiders, but it seems like that’s based on the dude’s property rights, not the property’s right not to be harmed. Somehow, I don’t feel so confident, when I read these descriptions, that based on that rationale, the MC would do much at all with regard to the member’s own actions toward said property.
That’s the problem with being property. All the rights vest in the owner.
I bought this one after seeing Jane’s tweets about it. I’ve never watch Sons of Anarchy and I can’t say Motorcycle Clubs do anything for me, but I’ll be fascinated to read about it and see whether this is book crack for me or not.
But, not yet. I’m being GOOD (good I tell you!) about my review books. Soon I hope…
Re common law marriage, very few states recognize common law marriage, and requirements for recognition vary among those states. It’s not enough in any of those states to live together for a certain number of years.
Property division would likewise be decided by state statute, depending on the arrangement of the couple, their marital status, and their intentions(e.g. the presence of a contract).
California, for example, a pure community property state, actually allows contracts for property division between unmarried couples, so long as the contract cannot be construed as one of property in return for sexual favors (which is per se illegal).
Within married relationships, couples can contract to keep certain assets separate that would otherwise be considered community property. Likewise, if a traditionally separate asset becomes co-mingled as part of the marital estate, it can become de facto community property. And even if a prenuptial contract is signed, thanks to Barry Bonds’s contentious divorce from first wife Sunny, there are now ways to legally challenge those agreements upon divorce, as well as various notions of quasi community property that are engaged for couples in unusual circumstances (e.g. woman marries man who, unbeknownst to her, is still married to someone else, and was thus fraudulently induced into marriage).
For an unmarried couple in California, they would have to have some kind of a contract (although it can be implied) designating a particular property split at the time one departs from the relationship and club. If they were married, all of the relevant community property statutes would apply, including those that allow for pre and post nuptial contracts regarding different types of separate and community property.
Best author comment ever.
I don’t watch the show or read any MC books, but this review and its comments are riveting.
I am not a big fan of first person narratives so I went into this one already with a bit of hesitation. But I found myself drawn in to the Reapers and Horse and Marie’s relationship. I wanted to hate Horse but throughout the book you could see glimpses of the man beyond the tough biker from his friendship with his brothers to his growing relationship with Marie. I was…facinated. No it wasn’t always pretty but I didn’t expect it to be. But most of all the characters felt real to me and by the end I was satisfied with their HEA.
Following up on property question: I went back and asked someone about property on one of the boards I frequent. He says “legit” businesses would be owned by individuals, no shares. That makes sense to me – legal ownership is only relevant if you resolve conflict in court, and I suspect very few of these guys would look at a lawsuit as their first line of defense in a dispute.
Following up on the joint property question: I talked to a guy on one of the boards I frequent about this. He says property is usually owned by individuals, who run the “legit” businesses under their own names. Makes sense to me – legal ownership probably means less in a world where disputes are not solved in the courts or through legal intervention. They police themselves.
Thanks, Joanna Wylde, for answering my question about property, and really going deep with your insights. You have been truly immersed in researching this world. The reason I asked in the first place was a couple lines in Jane’s review:
I couldn’t help wondering about property and property rights from a woman’s point of view, a woman in love with a member of a motorcycle club like Reapers — but of course in a fictional world, these questions may not be pertinent. I understand and believe what you’re saying — in this world disputes are not solved in the courts or through legal intervention — so there you have it.
I have been obsessed with the research – they’re like a Germanic warrior tribe (with all the good and the bad) living right in the middle of our society without us even knowing about it. Cops describe one percenters as dangerous, violent organized violent criminals. There’s something to that, for sure. Some of them are truly evil men. One size doesn’t fit all.
But there’s another way of looking at them, which I think matches what I’ve seen online and my own personal experiences with sources. According to Throttle (paraphrased here), the old lady who wrote The Biker Babe’s Bible, if you want to know the difference between a one percenter and everyone else, picture a big crowd of people at a public event. Suddenly some drunken asshole in the crowd starts harassing people. Some people will ignore it, some people will tell him to stop, some people may even call the cops. A one percenter will just go punch the fucker out. He’s following a different set of rules.
My book is just a romantic fantasy. I would imagine that life with a biker would be great if he was a good man, but if he wasn’t? Not a good scene. (Same with any man, though.) It’s fun to write and read about. If my daughter hooked up with one, I’d probably kidnap and deprogram her. But my husband watches action movies where the guy shoots a thousand baddies and then gets laid as a reward. We both know it’s not real. I’d like to think this romance falls into the same category.
Joanna, you said, “We know know it’s not real. I’d like to think this romance falls into the same category.” Well exactly — I’m sure the world of private detectives and law firms and SEAL teams and a million other settings have good and bad aspects — but when I’m reading a great story, a romance, I suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride. Thanks again. And great analogy–the guy hitting the shit out of the asshole. Our contractor is a biker (altho not a 1%er) and I bet the stories he could tell :)