Recently I was given a copy of Unleashed — a set of 4 short stories all in the genre of Paranormal Romance.
Awesome, I think. I need a good escape.
Unfortunately, two out of four of the stories made me want to escape back into real life because the men I know are better than the ones portrayed within the stories. That’s pretty damn sad, considering I’ve classified my last two relationships as wars because of the PTSD they’ve given me (Vietnam and Desert Storm, in order, in case you’re interested).
I mean, there’s a reason we read romance — we want to believe in people loving each other. I am the Mulder of paranormal romance — but my Scully side wants a little more from romance stories than “instant soul-mate, just add tears”.
But. Not knowing any of this before I started, I dove in eagerly into the first story, “Bond of Silver” by Rebecca York.
This story follows Alexander on a quest to find his soul mate — it takes a while to figure out what the crap is going on, but eventually the readers discover he is from a land called New Atlantis, which was founded by the refugees from — you guessed it — Atlantis, many centuries ago. It is located in the Caribbean and hidden from the modern world by magical powers possessed by the people who reside there. But, they need new blood to keep the shield strong — so they go to the Temple of Dreams where they go into a hallucinogenic stupor to dream of their soul mates. Their soul mates are out in our world and have the kinds of powers needed to keep the shield strong, and when people of New Atlantis dream of their true loves, a bond is formed and….
Ok, I have to stop. I was about to vomit.
Anyway, despite the whole “OMG SOUL MATES LOL” thing that just instantly turns me off in any romance, I had high hopes, and continued in my quest to finish this story. I read the whole thing.
YOU WIN, REBECCA YORK. I AM OFFICIALLY BORED TO DEATH.
There is nothing more to the story: Alexander dreams of Claire, but THE WITCH comes in and is like OH NOES YOU’LL TAKE MY DAUGHTER FROM ME (blatant rip-off of Rapunzel, btw). Claire lives in California, and is an artist like he is. Her powers are also similar to his. But not as strong, natch, she’s a female, we’re all weak lol. After she “saves his life” because he stupidly fell off a cliff, they fuck and he goes to stay at her mom’s bed and breakfast. Also, he’s lying about who he is and fakes a rock-climbing injury (tendon, in ankle, walks with a limp) in order to insinuate himself into her life TOTALLY NOT THE BEHAVIOR OF A SOCIOPATH AMIRITE? Mom has problems with them being together cause she knows that he’s from New Atlantis cause — ding ding ding — she was a soul mate of Alexander’s foster-father and he got her knocked up and then left her to raise a daughter with telekinetic powers alone (I am imagining a high school prom and lots of pigs’ blood, don’t know about you). This brings up the whole GASP YOU WERE LYING TO ME I’M GOING TO RUN AWAY INTO THE HILLS WHERE IT’S BEEN STORMING ALL DAY AND GET BURIED IN A MUDSLIDE KTHXBAI. Alex then saves silly female’s life and she realizes how he really must be her Twue Love(TM), and decides to go back with him. Foster father shows up and manipulates mother to come back too and EVERYTHING IS PERFECT FOREVER, YAY.
No, Claire, your career isn’t important! Pack up and move to this random dude’s magical home where recreational drug use is second only to lessons in kidnapping because your vagina is lonely! Good idea!
Also, whoops, SPOILER ALERT LOL. (I’m such a douche.)
2 stars. That’s being generous, and it only gets that because of the last story, which tipped the scales.
But that’s for last. Next is “Red Skies at Night”, by Diane Whiteside. This story is in the Texas Vampires series, and it acted as a salve to my wounded eyes after Bond of Silver. A blend of paranormal romance and hard-hitting detective thriller, there are also touches of western in this well-crafted story.
Whiteside’s characters, Gillian and Travis, are intelligent and well-developed. There is as much conflict between them as there is raw sexual energy, and their relationship develops honestly. There is no flowery talk of soul-mates. No “I’ve been a virgin till now!” This is a story about two experienced adults who know what they like and are courageous enough to go for it, even when flung into a situation that could cost both their lives. Well told, the story is riveting — I was on the edge of my seat until the end — and ties up all loose ends. There is nothing to leave the reader wondering “Wait, what about…?”
This story sold me on Whiteside’s writing, and I’ll be searching for more of her work at my local library and bookstores.
5 stars, no spoilers. You’ll have to read it and see for yourself why it’s so good.
The next story is “Come Moonrise” by Lucy Monroe. You can probably guess by the title that it involves
furries werewolves. They’re hot recently, though not as hot as vamps (IRONY LOL — get it? Cause vamps are dead…they don’t have body heat. They’re cold. Get it? ….you guys all suck).
The story follows two best friends, Ty and…fuck, I’ve forgotten her name already. Probably because I was pretty drunk when I read the story. Anyway. Whatserface has been in love with Ty for like, ever (hello shades of my past! How are you doing? Would you like some tea?) but all he has ever shown her was callous indifference, coupled with a need to never see her get hurt. Gee, sounds just like my ex-boyfriends (Vietnam/Desert Storm), who didn’t love me but “cared about me” enough to emotionally manipulate me into falling for them over and over, only to break my heart multiple times.
But. I digress.
So, there’s a falling out between Ty’s and whatever’s families because of her cousin, who’s a bitch (women are evil bitches! Don’t trust them!) but a human one (lol get it? cause they’re werewolves…bitch for female dog. It’s funny. Really. Trust me. …you guys still suck.). So female heroine goes over to visit even though she’s just been told by her aunt that this is a Bad Idea and that Ty is interested in this little French-Canadian bitch who just moved in (bitch here used literally, and also, hello, shades of my life) so Female Heroine Whose Name Is Not That Important should just give up on her quest for his love, right now.
She doesn’t, natch. People are stupid when they’re in love. Or just in romance novels, you know. Anyway. She goes over and somehow she and Ty end up going to Olivia’s (the French Canadian) and seriously why can I not remember the heroine’s name it’s really fucking bugging me ANYWAY they are there because main character is a vet and Olivia’s horse is about to foal (seriously, how the fuck do werewolves keep horses? HAVE YOU SEEN HOW A HORSE REACTS TO A WOLF? It is NOT pretty, let me tell you) and Slartibartfast (I’m just going to call her this from now on, with apologies to Douglas Adams) is like, SuperVet, or some shit.
So she and Ty help the horse foal and then drive home but it’s stormy, and Ty is acting more and more like a jerk, and then they’re in an accident OH NOES and they walk in the snow to a cabin where they can stay until a rescue comes. Ty is progressively more bitchy, and it is literally PMS because it’s almost full moon and his change is coming upon him (“Tonight, on a very special Blossom.”). Also, the scent of a woman who is ovulating, or “in heat” LOL DOG JOKE, drives him nuts and makes him need to hump things. It would be charming if it weren’t a recipe for rape.
SOMEHOW Slartibartfast ends up in bed with him even though she started out on the couch, and BAMSEX. All. Night. Long. Until neither can move.
Now, what she doesn’t know, is that this is essentially the same as marriage — they are now mated for life because they had sex. (Also, yes, Ty was a virgin up until then but somehow he’s incredibly skilled, making her orgasm multiple times with JUST HIS THOUGHTS, which is not true to life at all if some of the virgins I’ve fucked are anything to go by BUT AGAIN I DIGRESS).
The next morning, they fuck again, and then when she says she loves him he FREAKS THE FUCK OUT and starts pulling all this emotional manipulation crap on her, which was all very familiar to me and had me screaming at the page “Oh my gods, girl, run, run now, for the love of FUCK RUN!!!!!!!”
Instead she takes a bath. Not my first choice. But. I am not a heroine in a paranormal romance — I act sensibly with dudes.1 This is why I will be alone until the day I die.
There’s some more emotional abuse until he’s finally ready to admit that he loves her and always has (AWWWWWWW) but is pissed off that she “gave her body” to someone else before him (*vomit*) and also is willing to stand the wrath of his father, who literally wants to tear his throat out (I am using literally correctly; the pack law was that if you mated a human YOU DIED BITCH) in order to be with her, and wooooo happiness forever. Cause she’s gonna have some puppies, aww, yeah, everyone loves puppies.
So. Aside from the forgiving of his jerkish behavior, which was dumb, and the whole “Twue Love(TM) = virginity before marriage yay!Christianvalues!” the characters did actually seem real. You know, aside from one being a werewolf. And the sex was really hot. Overall I was interested in the story.
And now, patient and loyal readers (all two of you), I bring you to the coup de grace. (No, there’s no accent on the a because I am fracking lazy, just deal with it, plebs.)
The last story in this collection was “Beyond Limits” by Susan Kearney. BEYOND THE LIMITS OF MY TOLERANCE FOR STUPIDITY AND MISOGYNY, I mean to say. That is the full, unabridged title, only released to people with brains.
I have to admit, I stopped reading this story before the first sex scene. I could not handle the sheer levels of misogynistic thinking or two-dimensional character depth. I gave up and skipped ahead to read the last few sentences and confirm my suspicions. Life is too short to read crap, which is why I’m reviewing it here for you. SO YOU CAN BE SPARED MY FATE.
This is another story set in the New Atlantis world. Prepped by the first story in the book about this magical fairy land of unicorns with huge dildoes for horns, we are somewhat prepared when Samantha’s pilot Ian reveals that he is from there, and she’s his soul mate.
What I wasn’t prepared for was him actually being some dude named Ari who had shapeshifted into Ian in order to kidnap Samantha and crash land her fracking plane in the ocean, near a sandy atoll, so he could force her to trust him.
Are you vomiting? Get yourself a towel. I’ll wait.
Oh, we’re all back. Well, we left off with Ari kidnapping Samantha — not only did he impersonate her pilot and put her life in danger, but he also stalked her for a year in preparation of this heist and disabled the black box on her airplane. So no one can find her. Ever. He tells her her life is in danger unless she learns to shapeshift, like he can, and that in order to learn this arcane skill, she must first trust him.
Despite her “annoyance” with his behavior, Samantha finds herself attracted to this dude cause he’s from like Grecian stock or whatever and desperately wants to bone him, even though he’s demonstrating all the classic signs of an abuser.
SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.
There is a name for what Samantha goes through with this dude: it is called Stockholm Syndrome, and it is not sexy. Ever. At all. Ari alternates his abuse with caring attention so that she gets roped in with the classic tropes of “Oh, but you only see his bad side — when we’re alone he’s different!” and “No, I just fell from a palm tree, really,” or “He didn’t mean any harm when he erased the SOS from the sand that it took me several hours of hard work to build, even though I have a limited supply of water with me and will die within the week if no rescue comes, thereby making me totally dependent on him,” and “But I can’t leave him I’M TRAPPED ON A FUCKING ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CARIBBEAN.”
All familiar, I’m sure. (Well, some of them at least. Not all of us get trapped on sandy atolls by Adonis-like men who only want our trust because they love us. *swoons* What? Where was I? Oh, right, I’m a feminist. *slaps self* Much better. Carrying on.)
Instead of doing what most normal human beings, and probably some mammals (except Chimpanzees, they’re douchecanoes), would do in order to get to know a potential mate — you know, go to her place of work, pee on the corners of the building, maybe ask her out to coffee — Ari stalks and kidnaps her. He does this because “You’re such a high-powered businesswoman, Samantha, that there are all these walls up around you and it’s hard to get to know you. You needed your walls torn down so you could see real love! You know, the love that takes you away from all you know without your consent and puts you in a situation that could kill you unless you form a codependency with me, so that you can never, ever leave me. Ever. That’s real love. Not dating or getting to know people. That’s a lie fed to you by the patriarchal agenda. You need to become a real woman by coming to New Atlantis with me and living in slavish obedience to me. Really, you’ll like it. Trust me.”
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS I DON’T EVEN
In the end, Samantha goes to New Atlantis with him because she’s been so abused and scarred she doesn’t know how to function in the real world anymore, and “he needs me”. (Also, I have a question: how the fuck does shape-shifting help feed the forcefield around New Atlantis? It’s like the most useless superpower ever. The fuck.)
I tried to find the epilogue where he murders her and wears her skin as a shirt, but it was sadly lacking. Perhaps in the sequel, where he goes searching for more “soul mates” that he can capture, abuse, and rape, and then kill when he’s done with them? Certainly looking forward to that, I mean what a great escape from the real world where that sort of thing never ever happens am I right?
Damn women. Being such uppity bitches with their careers and own lives. Need to take them down a notch.
*notices blue lines under her skin, heading to her heart*
AUGH THE MISOGYNY IT’S POISONING ME!!!!!!!
*goes and reads some Solanas; blue lines disappear*
Ahhh, that’s better.
Oh, right, the stars.
I’m going to give you my score with a quote from one of my favorite Objectification of Milla Jovovich films:
Listen to me right here, ok Aknot? Four stones, four crates. Zero stones, ZERO CRATES!!!!!!
Where crates = stars. Simple math. You can do it. I have faith in you.
Thank you, readers, for your patience. This has been a rambling, angry book review from Katje van Loon. Tip your waiters and feed your pets. I’ll be here all week. And into eternity.
-Katje van Loon
1. This is a blatant fucking lie; I am stupider than most romance novel heroines when it comes to relationships. This is why I am alone — it’s a choice, because I’m tired of doing the same shit over and over again and expecting different results.