Source: Review copies provided by the publishers through NetGalley.
Are you feeling cheerful today? Here’s a bunch of mini doom-and-gloom reviews to help you with that.
Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh
I was very excited when Ms. Singh announced that she was publishing a Contemporary Romance, but this book was a disappointment that I couldn’t even finish.
A rock star falls in love with the virgin, skittish heroine the moment he first sees her. There is absolutely no reason why these two would want to be together, not even to have sex. The problem here wasn’t the trite tropes and contrived plot, though, but how incredibly half-baked the book was. Nalini Singh’s books are all about complex world-building and interesting characters, and at first I thought that the shortcuts she was taking were the product of bad PNR habits that didn’t translate well to a contemporary setting. But whereas the fated mates in the Psy/Changeling series are nuanced people who take time to develop a relationship, this book had two stock, flat characters getting together for superficial reasons in what ultimately was an underdeveloped story. I hear the second half gets better, but I seriously doubt it, because the groundwork just isn’t there.
This book had a lot going for it: I appreciate the different setting that opened the world and, in theory, revitalized the series by taking the focus away from the original cast of characters; I liked the vampire hero who was a quiet, honorable, world-weary gentleman; and I liked the slow-building relationship between the two leads. But it was so boring, that I can barely bring myself to talk about it now. The slow-building relationship only transformed into romance because this was supposed to be a romance, and the two leads had nothing in common, never really spend that much time together, and they didn’t even have enough sexual chemistry to help this poor reader pass the time.
Also, the hero, Xavier del Torro was from Valencia. I don’t think del Torro (two R’s) is a real name (never heard it and I lived in Spain). Googling isn’t proper research, but I couldn’t find anything. Del Toro (one R), on the other hand, is del Torro’s appropriate, non-jarring friend. That name does exist, and it’s even right for the time and place, so I guess this guy was named after a typo that was never corrected. Also, he’s from medieval Valencia, yet speaks Spanish. Medieval Valencians, much like their 21st century counterparts, spoke Valencian. Look, I get that I’m about to win a gold medal in nitpicking, but these are the type of details that turn a boring experience into distracting torture, even if I’m the one lonely reader unfortunate enough to notice them.
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.
And then I read this book and started questioning my life choices.
This is New Adult Urban Fantasy. I guess NA now means “the heroine is in her early twenties”, because I don’t see how this one is any different from the non-NA UF’s. But I digress. What’s important here is that this book isn’t good at all. The biblical world-building is paper-thin, and when I wasn’t groaning I was cringing. The main character discovers she’s trapped in an epic battle between angels and demons, that she’s David’s (as in David and Goliath) descendant, and that demons want her dead, so of course she goes: “sure!” And let’s not forget the insta-love with a built-in conflict, because who needs complexity, right? It’s not a bad idea, and I don’t care if you’re using the Bible, but ideas must be developed, otherwise we just get a lazy mess filled with stuff like this:
His mouth twisted. “Judas’s descendants are a threat to Archons, so eliminating the line means eliminating the threat. Throughout history, demons have tried to do the same to David’s descendants. They nearly succeeded several times, most recently with the Holocaust.”
When in need, appropriate real-life human drama and horrors.
The hero, Ed, is a socially-awkward, high-strung millionaire who made a lot of bad decisions and is paying for them. He’s a bit of a compromise for those who hate millionaire heroes: he has the money, but he’s about to lose it all, and maybe even go to jail; he doesn’t have an underground BDSM club, and in fact, he’s quickly losing control of his life.
The heroine is, indeed, great. She takes care of her step-son, she takes care of her brilliant daughter, and she takes care of her huge dog. She is poor, but doesn’t dress like a cheap slut. She’s poor, but she reads a lot and has a ton of books. She’s poor but she won’t take charity. She is poor, but she isn’t loud. She is poor, but she’s clean. See the pattern? She’s poor like her neighbors, but she is not like her neighbors at all. And although the book was charming and engrossing, the portrayal of poverty, and especially the way the heroine’s brand of poverty was set apart from that of the other people around her, was upsetting. The differences are subtle and I had to read the whole book to realize what was happening, but by the end I had the impression that this woman was being rewarded for being better than the rest and for conforming to some weird idealized, and certainly privileged, idea of what poverty should and shouldn’t be.
They come together as enemies and turn friends/lovers during a road trip that comprised most of the novel. As I said, I liked it, but I’m not comfortable recommending it. Oh, and the dog doesn’t die. This is a spoiler you want to know.