Spoiler: They Make Babies

Love me, love my “primitives.”

Posted in Romance Review by firstmatejess on March 27, 2010
Bad dog, no biscuit.

Jennifer Crusie's Cinderella Deal.

I had to give a presentation to a non-profit group recently, on contemporary gender theory and feminism. I pulled a pair of nylons out of my drawer, realized they had foot smudges on them, and carefully pulled them on so that the foot smudges were on the bottom of my feet again.

This scene is reminiscent of a lot of what’s called “chick lit”: a woman doing femininity, but doing it badly. While Jennifer Crusie writes for the same purposes as a lot of chick lit — for a long time she was shelved in the fiction section at my local Borders, same as The Devil Wears Prada — her heroines are absolute failures at femininity. They wear bizarre outfits, don’t want to have children, pack on extra pounds, leave their successful career to try to be an artist, and take in stray dogs. They’re usually a little miserable.

What appeals about the heroine who does femininity badly is that she’s still part of normal society, but I can relate to her. Crusie’s heroines are different. If they could just be a little different — a little more typically feminine or a little more tough-skinned — they could really make it. As it is, though, they’re just barely getting by.

I am a unremitting sucker for this narrative, as those of you who’ve met me might imagine. My daily life is less about smudgy stockings and more about making dirty jokes at staff meetings. (Goats are hilarious, and yet no one laughs at my goats-in-thongs jokes. What gives?)



Jezebel reviews Danielle Steel (so I don’t have to).

Posted in Things To Read by spoilerbaby on March 1, 2010

Over at Jezebel, Sadie reviews Danielle Steel’s Big Girl: A Novel.

I had a moment of intrigue when I first saw the cover for this novel.  The cover’s design steers away from Steel’s previous gold-plated cover style and toward a “contemporary romance” style.  (Probably aiming for the “chick lit” crowd, but I recognized it first and foremost as a romance genre.)  The title, too, gave me that familiar flare of hope I have for romance novels that feature women with some heft.

Thank goodness that I shook off that temporary mental paroxysm and reminded myself that this was Danielle Steel.

I once bought a novel by Steel at the airport, since I had read every other romance novel in the store.*  I can’t remember the title, or the characters, or what was happening; it was so boring that I immediately lost interest.  It was so boring that I didn’t read it.  I didn’t read anything at all, rather than pick it back up.  That’s right, nothing.  I read during the commercials before a movie starts at the theater, for fuck’s holy sake.  I have been known to read and enjoy things like Casca the Warrior when I have nothing better to hand.**  Steel was seriously, seriously boring.

Anyway, I’m rather pleased that Sadie agrees:

So, are all Steel’s novels written like they’re for remedial readers? I’m not being snide (I mean, I am, but I’m also serious.) Because short of YA, I can’t imagine what the market is. Clearly, she’s onto something, being the 7th-most popular author of all time, but seriously? I mean, I’ll read trash, but the whole point is, it’s usually entertaining.

Read the rest of Sadie’s brief review here. Then buy something more interesting.  Hell, I’d pick Glenn Beck over this.  At least Glenn Beck is loathsome.***

— First Mate Jess

* – I am in earnest! I had read every other romance novel in the airport bookstore.  This is the problem with being a speed reader.  Well, that, and the massive backlog of novels I have to review.

** – My fencing coach had the whole Casca series up on the balcony level of the club, and I would read them during our summer and winter training camps (rather than talk to people during lunch break, obviously).  They were about this guy Casca, who was the Roman soldier who stabbed Jesus in the side and whom Jesus DOOMED TO ETERNAL LIFE, and his travels THROUGH HISTORY, mostly violent war-related history.  There were sex scenes with FALLEN WOMEN.  The books were all gloriously ridiculous and sexist and violent and pro-Christian, and I would sit there and giggle delightedly over them.  Tiny ten year-old me, hip-deep in terrible dime novels, was a very happy creature. For example, there was one where Casca ended up in Nazi Germany, fighting for the Fuhrer! And his unit ended up rebelling, because they saw what was happening to the Jews!  They had no idea before that!  Oh man, giggling again.  I love things that are that wrong.

*** – Not that I would ever give Glenn Beck money.  I might steal his book rather than deal with Steel, though.  Or maybe I would just read the back of the free packet of peanuts, over and over and over again.  Yeah, probably that.

A very short review.

Posted in Romance Review by spoilerbaby on February 19, 2010

Robin T. Popp’s Immortals: The Haunting, in brief:

Dreamwalking, gunfights,
Genies, kidnappings, magic–
Still no chemistry.

If you like wacky supernatural hijinks and don’t really care why the hero and heroine find each other attractive — or are willing to accept “spirit mates” as an excuse — then you might enjoy this book.  I certainly finished it!

Spoiler: They Make Cubs!

Posted in Romance Review by spoilerbaby on February 6, 2010

Sometimes I go to the bookstore and buy a romance novel, not because I really want to own a particular romance novel, but because I really need to buy a romance novel.  I imagine this is fairly common, at least in a capitalist society; the act of buying a romance novel is kind of like telling myself, “you deserve a break! your mental well-being is totally worth $7.99 plus tax!”

When I went to the bookstore about a week ago, I browsed through my usual raft of authors, and read the backs of a bunch of regencies.  I couldn’t find anything that really grabbed me, though.  After about a half-hour of searching, I finally decided to check out the supernatural romances.  It would be broadening my horizons!  I quickly ruled out any and all vampire novels — I’m easily annoyed by vampires in literature — and mostly focused on shapeshifters and other spookery.*

The book I picked up was Pride Mates, the first in the “Shifters Unbound” series by Jennifer Ashley.  What followed was a confusing reading experience; it was simultaneously a compelling book and COMPLETELY wackadoodles.


A short note!

Posted in Things To Read by spoilerbaby on February 4, 2010

I have it on good authority that my fellow Jess (who I will call Captain until she gets off her butt and pseudonymizes herself*) is going to write a review of the new Kristan Higgins.  I have it on good authority that I am going to respond to that review with several scintillating remarks (probably along the lines of “LOL SO TRUE! MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY!”).  I have a backlog of romance novels to tell you about, too, including the rereleased Cinderella Deal, by Jennifer Crusie, and a couple of frankly hilarious novels that I will reenact for you in capslock (I’m sure you’re on tenterhooks) and then deconstruct from a race theory perspective (I wish I were kidding– no, wait, you wish I were kidding).

Parentheticals aside (never!), I’m writing this post because I am one of those weirdos who subscribes to the email lists of her favorite authors.  A few days ago, I got an email from the Elizabeth Hoyt listserv that said she’ll be coming out with a new book in August 2010.  It is entitled Wicked Intentions, and you can read a synopsis and an excerpt here.  Here is the stepback, which is usually my favorite part of any romance novel, because they are inevitably both amazing (I want to meet these artists) and hilarious (OH MY GOD IS THAT HIS SCHLONG, IT IS, IT IS HIS SCHLONG):

Clearly a strumpet: note her lack of petticoats.

This one does not involve schlongitude, but it does involve a serious lack of petticoats on the part of the lady.  What a sawce-box!  Check out the detail on the rug beneath them: who are these artists, seriously? Where can I meet and potentially seduce them?

I hope this finds you well.  Another post in the near future!

— First Mate Jess

* – No pressure, Captain! Also, “pseudonymizes herself” sounds kind of dirty, and I still totally meant it!  Whoa!