April 24, 2017

DNF Review: His Custody by Tamsen Parker


Cover description: close up to a man and a woman embracing. She's wearing a lacy black bra, he's shirtless.Source: Review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Content Warning: graphic descriptions and discussion of self-harm. 



Keyne is a happy, privileged 17-year-old girl whose life changes abruptly after she becomes the sole survivor of an accident that kills her parents, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s parents. The two families were incredibly close, and now the only survivors are Keyne and Jasper, her boyfriend’s older brother who wasn’t on the boat that day. She has an aunt and uncle, but they are sketchy and she only feels safe with Jasper, so thanks to the magic of creative liberties, Jasper is awarded custody. He is 32.

A couple of days before I saw this book on NetGalley, I re-read Craving Flight. Ms. Parker is an incredibly talented and compelling storyteller. Her voice is lovely and although BDSM Romance isn’t my jam, I loved that book. I guess I was in the right mood to make the wrong decision, because I did not pay attention to the blurb. So, disclosure, I’m not the best match for this trope, but also, Jesus Christ, book, go sit in a corner and think about what you’ve done.

Where do I start? I already told you that Jasper ends up Keyne’s guardian, a position he’s utterly unqualified for. First, he’s a billionaire workaholic with an unstable personal and professional life. Second, he’s a drug user and an alcoholic, but he kind of quits those through the mighty power of the alpha male’s willpower--a willpower that isn’t mighty enough to keep him from lusting after, and eventually fucking, his underage ward, but more on that later. And he also has a girlfriend who, of course, is vocally against his decision to take care of Kayne, yet she’s nothing but a soon-to-be ex, so she goes away to join Romance’s Army of Evil Exes of Books Past, and next Christmas she will come back to remind us that internalized sexism is alive and well in our genre.

 Keyne is deeply traumatized by the accident and she’s having trouble coping with all the grief. She’s depressed, she can’t sleep, she won’t eat, she won’t speak; it’s pretty bad. And to be fair, Jasper recognizes that he’s in over his head. She sees a therapist, but we mostly hear about this from his point of view, and it’s something mostly mentioned in passing.

Jasper is in rough shape as well, after all, he also lost his family, but he doesn’t do anything about it, and the progress he makes is because Keyne is in his life. This is a common genre character arc in which one of the protagonists (or all of them) finds solace and emotional healing through their love story. But the emotional and mental health issues these two are going through seem insurmountable without professional help, and that, among other more obvious things, renders the romance unviable to me as a reader.

At first, their relationship develops slowly. This is not an insta-lust story, but things get inappropriate quickly when Keyne, who has nightmares and trouble sleeping, goes to Jasper’s room in the middle of the night and next to him finds enough peace to sleep.

Keyne was standing there in sleep shorts and a camisole, hugging herself and weeping. He knew this might happen. She’d been taking sleeping pills for the past couple of months and they’d decided with her doctor and her therapist maybe she shouldn’t anymore.  
“Bad dream?”  
She nodded and flung herself at him, making him glad he’d put on a shirt. Judge Pollard wouldn’t be excited about his attire, but it was better than nothing. Keyne’s hands fisted in the worn cotton at his back, her small frame heaving with violent sobs. He hesitated for a split second but then hugged her back. Of course he did. What kind of human being wouldn’t offer comfort to a sobbing girl?  
“Okay,” he murmured into the top of her head. “You’re okay.”  
When her keening had turned less convulsive, he pet her hair. It was soft and it smelled good. It had been a long time since anyone had let him hold them like this. Sarah wasn’t affectionate, and though he had hugged his family when he saw them, including the O’Connells, it hadn’t been like this. A quick, greeting squeeze, not a prolonged embrace. The longer he held her and the calmer she became, the more he became aware of her body pressed against his.  
Which was flat-out unacceptable. She’s a kid, Andersson. A child who woke up from a bad dream and sought out the only person who was around to offer her comfort because everyone else was dead.
 
He is aware of how wrong the situation is, but of course, that’s not enough to keep him from eventually acting on his feelings. Yet those feelings never felt romantic as much as a mix of lust and emotional need. She makes him feel grounded and needed, and as her caregiver, why wouldn’t he feel that way? But because this is an erotic romance, we need courtship and sexual desire, so we get twisted versions of common courtship tropes, like the hero and heroine forced to spend the night on the same bed, and the hero suffering through it with lusty thoughts and morning wood, except that this time, the heroine is 17.

There's more. Keyne self-harms, and Jasper is furious, worried, and even considers bringing it up with her therapist. But then again, when presented with the possibility that she might be hurting herself, this is his immediate reaction, which to be fair, could be a form of panicked denial, but, well, you be the judge:

“I went to replace Miss O’Connell’s linens, and her door was closed. I knocked and she told me to come in. She happened to be getting out of the shower, but told me to do whatever I needed to do. I was hanging up some towels when she dropped her comb and when I picked it up . . .” The woman took a deep breath and set her jaw. What the hell? 
“When I picked it up, I noticed a cut on Miss O’Connell’s leg.”  
The gears in Jasper’s mind were turning, but not quick enough, they weren’t up to speed. He did his best to come up with a reasonable explanation. “She had just showered, right? She could have cut herself while she was shaving.”  
The image of Keyne soaking wet, gliding a razor up her calf and then to her thigh while one foot was propped up on the bench in the shower was enough to derail his mind again. Jesus, Andersson, shut that shit down. Where the hell was this even coming from? It made him want to dig his own brain out of his skull and send it through the garbage disposal. Knock it the fuck off, you sick bastard. 

It’s not surprise that he ends up handling the issue himself, because he doesn’t seem to know the difference between self-harm and blood play:

The thing was, it wasn’t so much the act of cutting that bothered him. It was the motivation. He’d been with a few women who liked blood play and one of his girlfriends had been really into it. It wasn’t his favorite, but she loved it, so he’d indulge her on special occasions. Happy birthday, kitten. I’m going to cut you.  
He understood what she liked about it; the rush she got from him holding her life in his hands while he teased her by running the flat of the blade all over her body before selecting his sites: the underside of her collarbone, below her breasts, along the peak of her bottom ribs so the rivulets of blood would run down the slope of her solar plexus and pool in the hollow of her belly. She’d liked her inner thighs, too, and the memory made him acutely ill.

And how does he handle it? He gives her his blood play kit, and tells her to do it in front of him:

“I’m not going to stop you. I don’t know how.” Not without physically restraining her or getting her locked up in a psych ward, neither of which he was going to touch with a ten-foot pole. “So here’s the deal. You want to cut yourself? You’re going to do it in front of me.”


He doesn’t offer much of a rationalization for this, but I assume he wanted to be there to keep her safe and maybe make her stop. And it works:

“I mean, I’m done. I won’t do it anymore.”  
His breath caught in his chest and then he did turn around. “Okay.”  
Tears welled in her eyes and her voice shook like she was about to lose it. “I—I just wanted to feel something that wasn’t that. It didn’t matter if it hurt or felt good but nothing felt good enough. I wanted to know I could feel something, that maybe, someday I’d be capable of feeling something other than empty, other than sad, other than hopeless.”  
Her breath shuddered out and she put her head in her hands, her wet hair spilling forward around her face. “If I . . . if I feel like doing that again, will you tell me not to? I think I could stop, if you told me not to do it anymore. I don’t want to keep cutting myself, but I . . .”

I will be the first one to say that I’m not familiar with the subject, as my depression doesn’t manifest this way, but is this not an irresponsible portrayal of self-harm? Is this scene supposed to signal that this is not about mental health but about her budding kink? I found this part incredibly upsetting.

I DNF’d the book about the halfway mark, which is when they finally have sex, a month or so after she turns 18. I found the narrative contradictory at times. On the one hand, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on how mature and strong Keyne is; Jasper remarks how mismatched she and his gentle, immature brother were, and when she goes back to school she struggles with how different she feels from her peers and how she has trouble bonding and connecting with them at their level. But on the other hand, there are some elements that infantilize her: Jasper calls her Tinker Bell, her childhood nickname; every time she goes to his bed she acts like a little girl visiting a parent (until she wakes up and thinks about erections); and when they have sex, she’s a virgin, and he’s gentle, a bit patronizing and borderline didactic. That was my breaking point.

I don’t know what the eventual dark moment will be or what happens after. Maybe they get separated and reunite years later. I hope the book gives Keyne time to grow and have healthy experiences, so that the decisions she make feel truly informed. But I don’t plan to stick around and find out. I don’t know if this is a trope that’s possible to pull off convincingly, at least not to me. At times I felt complicit, because she is the one who initiates that first sexual encounter, he feels like a sick fuck (his words) most of the time, and she really likes and needs him, so that, to me, read like the book working hard for the reader to know that she had agency, that she consented, thus making it okay for me to consent and to go along with the romance.

I’m going to leave it here, because this has gone on for long enough and I didn’t really intend to write a rambly review. I see that the guardian/ward trope is having a bit of a comeback (by which I mean this is the second book I’ve heard of), and I confess that I don’t really remember ever reading one until now, but taboo romance has become popular and I guess this book counts as one. I don’t know, friends, I was already unhappy about Catholic priest Romances, but at least in those everyone is a consenting adult and there’s no power imbalance (I hope).  Anyway, insert your own thoughtful closing thoughts here, because I’ve ran out of those.

Grade: DNF
Purchase: Amazon


From the USA Today bestselling author of School Ties and the Compass Series
He needs to be a better man for her sake, but she makes him want to be so bad...
 
Keyne O’Connell leads a charmed life. She has a caring family and a terrific boyfriend. Her senior year is about to begin, and her future looks bright. But one dark summer night robs her of everyone she loves, thrusting her into the care of her boyfriend’s intimidating, much older brother. 
Dark and brooding, Jasper Andersson is not a good man. His business dealings are barely legal. He’s a womanizer and a casual drug user. He has no interest in becoming Keyne’s guardian, although given her limited options, he doesn’t have much of a choice. He knows he must protect her at whatever the cost. 
But living in close quarters soon stirs up feelings inside them both that are far from platonic. Keyne needs a firm hand to keep her in line, but what she desires could lead Jasper into trouble...

His Custody by Tamsen Parker
Intermix. March 21, 2017.

21 comments:

  1. LOL! Great review. I also loved Craving Flight but have had issues with some of her other books. This sounds like it would trip my ick meter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't think I'll read her other books, even though I really loved CF and I've heard great things about them, but this one pushed me past my breaking point.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I appreciate your effort of writing a value able piece of content. You can also visit our website for mba project report

    ReplyDelete
  4. I appreciate your effort of writing a value able piece of content. You can also visit our website for Web Design Service

    ReplyDelete
  5. Really wonderful and nice blog. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up.
    If you would like to download vigo videos from vigo app or website then
    Vigo video downloader will assist you for downloading.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We in Kalp Solutions get Recruitment Partner for e-Commerce Sector high level of expertise in the area space of employing the right ability for the right work. We have a group of gifted specialists who have the proficiency to get the ideal possibility for any association by checking the data set that they keep up with. We keep a standard enrollment methodology which can limit the time just as costs of a business. This as well as work on the whole employing interaction and makes the quest for the right applicants proficient and simple.

    As referenced above we have a group of experienced HR specialists who select Recruitment Partner for e-Commerce Sector, talk with, screen just as pick the best possibility for the customers. This makes the total recruiting measure simple and straightforward. Having numerous long stretches of involvement and information in the field of enrollment, we comprehend the need of our customers. This is the explanation we like to adopt a comprehensive strategy to enrollment.

    The scouts by and by check and select from the many candidates for ensuring that the customer's requirements are met appropriately. We have as of now effectively enrolled the best gifts in various fields like FMCG, Hospitality, Engineering, Construction, Pharma, Supply Chain and some more.

    Rapidly construct your own altered reports to impart to inner groups.

    please contact us official link here : https://kalpsolutions.com/services/

    ReplyDelete
  7. Delicious Bakers By xlncbakers is a bakery based totally out of Cakes in dwarka. Wedding ceremonies are intended to be the most beneficial event in a person's existence and consequently you want to have a cake-cutting ceremony also. So if you are searching for a properly cake enterprise who can provide you with tonnes of cake merchandise and format nit in the most stunning manner with a lot of cake toppers then you can pick Delicious Bakers By xlncbakers. They have been in the enterprise for years now and they love to make all the couples smile for their wedding ceremony day.

    Products Offered

    Delicious Bakers By xlncbakers have years of ride in this discipline and they put their coronary heart and soul whilst baking all the merchandise easily. The corporation has a group of high-skilled chefs who bake the first-class desserts and different candy items and make sure to make your D-day a lifetime memory. They furnish customised offerings so you can bake your personal cake with your personal notions and specs and additionally make certain protected and easy shipping of the product at your doorstep.

    Delicious Bakers By xlncbakers provides an array of merchandise which can be chosen in accordance to your taste-buds and requirements. There are a bunch of offerings and merchandise supplied with the aid of which consist of the following:

    Cupcakes

    Brownies

    Macarons

    Cake pops

    Cake jars

    ReplyDelete
  8. We, Biggest ingredients Hindustan Pvt. Ltd. from 2019 are one of the famous manufacturers of an extensive array of Bakery Ingredients Cakes in mahipalpur. Our offered range consists of best grade Eggless Cake Premix, Cake Premix, and Bakery Ingredients.

    official website: https://xlncbakers.in/

    P No – Q-60 , Kh No – 33/17, Q - Block, Nihal Vihar,
    Phone: (+91) 8193031552
    Whatsap: (+91) 9289287552

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks a lot for giving us such a helpful information. You can also visit our website for assignment ignou

    ReplyDelete
  10. Facing a daily reality such that over 80% clients look for an item or administration web based, having a web presence has become crucial. In the event that your business gets first page rankings, this implies your future clients give more trust and are probably going to purchase from you. At ESEO, our point is to assist you with getting best positions on web indexes for your objective catchphrases.

    As referenced previously, assemble entrust with your crowd before they become clients. Regardless of whether you have a disconnected presence, it's fundamental to have a running site with every one of your components recorded; in case you are to stand out. That is the place where SEO becomes an integral factor. With our Professional SEO Services in India , we assist you with interfacing the street to more leads and repeating deals.

    That totally relies upon the current status of the site, the watchwords you are attempting to rank for among central point. We will make a tweaked bundle contingent upon your necessities and the degree of SEO needed to move your site to the highest point of web crawler rankings. We are not a cash stamping SEO business, so you can anticipate total straightforwardness from our side.

    Aside from the standard enterprises, for example, IT, Manufacturing, Retail and Pharma; our SEO specialists have worked with testing businesses and conveyed faultless outcomes that other SEO organizations consider unthinkable. We would be more than cheerful in examining your necessities, regardless of how troublesome that may sound. We generally urge our customers to try out, and afterward we resolve to convey.

    Subsequent to having a conversation, we will concur on specific objectives dependent on which we will send you month to month reports to follow the advancement. Our revealing is very basic and straightforward and will give you a 360 degree perspective on how your objective catchphrases are performing and how the whole Affordable Web Design Packages are taking care of business.

    Most certainly. Neighborhood SEO is our specialty and we have assisted different nearby organizations with gaining top situations on neighborhood web indexes. We urge you to talk about your nearby SEO needs exhaustively and we are glad to help.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Welcome to the new generation in mobile online cricket games every cricket games lover can get all news, views, run, wicket required run rate
    and many more information at fantasypower11.
    cricket online games
    play cricket online

    ReplyDelete
  12. Usually I never comment on blogs but your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it. You’re doing a great job Man,Keep it up. Meanwhile visit our website for nmims solved assignments 2021

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks a lot for giving us such a helpful information. You can also visit our website for nmims project report

    ReplyDelete
  14. Scout Active is an Active / Practise Wear brand for Girls aged 6-16 years made of Italian eco-friendly fabric. Scout Active is activewear that is on trend and ready.

    ReplyDelete
  15. A Professional SEO Services in India audit will appear intently at a range foundational factors that may want to have an have an impact on on your website’s performance. It have to cowl the entirety from a range of technical troubles and structural issues to on-page web optimization overall performance and more.

    A positive audit will be greater than simply a criticism of all the matters that aren’t pretty right. It must additionally assist you find out new possibilities and take gain of the impending potential.

    Either way, your audit need to grant the data you want to make an actionable plan, which includes:

    Load instances – People are in a hurry all through the holidays. Even a 2nd or two extend in the common load instances can critically enlarge purchaser dissatisfaction and minimize conversion rates. You can’t manage to pay for these losses in the course of the vacation season. Make certain your content material and photos are loading properly. If that doesn’t pace matters up, it may additionally be time to seem deeper into the internet site structure and locate different methods to limit load speeds.
    Mobile friendliness – The quantity of humans purchasing on line is greater than ever (thanks to sure world events), and extra of these clients are additionally going to discover their choices on their cell devices. This is specially authentic with last-minute consumers who think: “Oh right, I forgot to get Soandso some thing this year. I higher order it now.” They’re going to pull out their smartphone and order some thing earlier than it slips their mind.

    ReplyDelete

Blogger likes to eat comments, so I suggest copying it before hitting "publish" just in case it doesn't go through the first time. This is a pain, I know, but it's the only solution/prevision I can think of, and it will save you the frustration of losing a comment. Also, thanks for visiting!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

FTC Disclaimer

The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.