I just want to make things clear right off the bat.
This is not a traditional romance, and most people would probably say that this is not a romance at...moreI just want to make things clear right off the bat.
This is not a traditional romance, and most people would probably say that this is not a romance at all. There is so much in this book that just blows past my comfort zones. If I were grading this book based on how comfortable it made me feel, it would probably be right around zero stars. There's no way to talk about this without including spoilers, so I'm going to spoiler tag liberally.
I am recommending this book, but I should be very, very clear and let you all know that if you read this, expect pain. Lots of it.
The main female protagonist of this book has sex with a great many people during the course of the book, both male and female, including (view spoiler)[an underage boy, although she didn't know he was underage at the time--but she also didn't ask--and I am so not okay with anything about that scene and it makes me feel sick just thinking about it (hide spoiler)] and the main male protagonist is married (although he and his wife are separated, and his wife had an affair with another man). This is not a book for people who can't handle criticism of the Catholic church. It's also not a book for people who can't handle nuance about things that should not be nuanced. There are parts of this book that left me very uncomfortable--and which I am still very uncomfortable about. If you are looking for a comfort read, or something that's going to leave you with a happy glow at the end, this is not that book.
If you're looking for erotica for the pure sexual thrill, this book isn't it, either. At least, what I mean by this is: while there is a good amount of sex in the book, it's not that kind of sex--takes over the page and leaves no room for anything else. And I'm saying a lot about what this book isn't, and not a whole lot about what it is.
This is a book about notorious erotica writer, Nora Sutherlin, who is writing a book. She's pawned off on editor Zach Easton, who is notorious in his own right--as a no-holds barred editor who kicks his authors' asses there and back again. Zach--a lit fic editor--isn't pleased to be handed an author who writes "one-handed reads" and basically thinks that he'll intimidate her until she decides she can't work with him. And that plan lasts about two seconds after he meets her, and realizes that she can't be intimidated.
Zach is married. His wife, Grace, had an affair, and rather than trying to figure out what he could do to try to fix the relationship, he fled England (where they'd lived together) for New York. They haven't divorced, but he expects to see the paperwork any day. It's clear from the beginning that he's not over her, and doesn't know how to be over her: he's just numb, and going through the motions.
That brings us to Nora. Nora is an extremely complicated character. She was in a long-term submissive relationship with another man named Soren who was brutal--but they both loved it. She left him many years ago, but is still in love with him--in a complicated, painful way, such that she still visits him on their anniversary, and he considers their relationship not over, but temporarily on hold. This man also happens to be (view spoiler)[a catholic priest. Who fell in love with Nora when she was fifteen--although their relationship wasn't consummated until she was twenty. I am so not okay with that--even with the waiting until consummation--because they had a relationship of trust and he was not only her confessor, he was put in charge of her by the state for a while after she had a brush with the law. Have I mentioned how not okay I am with that? (hide spoiler)]
In any event, Nora is now separated from Soren, and she has, living in her house, an unpaid intern named Wesley. I'm also not okay with Wesley-the-unpaid-intern, or her laughing comment that sexual harassment is part of the job description: I am so not good with that. (view spoiler)[Especially since Nora met Wesley because she was teaching a class and he was a student--this hits every one of my HELL TO THE NO buttons. (hide spoiler)] Nora and Wesley have never had sex, but there is definitely tension between them.
And that's where the story starts. Add in more partners for Nora than I can count on one hand, and honestly, if you handed me a synopsis for this book to me, I would say that I would never, ever want to read anything like it. EVER.
This isn't the kind of erotica that gets you hot and bothered. (I mean, it might do that; I don't know.) It's the kind that punches you in the stomach and then kisses you on the cheek. The very fact that there is so much that I am not okay with in this book is part of the reason I enjoyed it. This book made me feel everything. It was beautifully written--not just the language, but the emotional arc.
It was impossible to feel sorry for Nora, who had once been submissive to a sadist, because she was so incandescently unbreakable. Conversely, it was impossible not to feel for Zach, who loved his wife desperately and had no idea what to do about the fact that he was losing her. And then there was Wesley. And Michael. And I don't know what to do with any of these extremely damaged characters but hold my breath and hope that they don't hurt themselves any more than they have to.
At this point in my reading and writing career, books that can pull me outside myself--that can make me stop criticizing and thinking and just grab hold of my heart--are so unlikely and valuable that I don't know what else to do with them. It was extremely, extremely painful to read.
As for the ending... (view spoiler)[Nora ends the book miserable, sacrificing her relationship with Wesley, the one pure thing she has, for his sake. Zach ends up back with his wife, which struck me as absolutely the right thing for me. Is this a happy ending? Well, both characters end in committed relationships, but not with each other. And as for Nora... I still don't know how I feel. Tiffany sent me the second book and we learn so much more about Soren in that one, all of which is even more spoilery than just a spoiler tag can cover. I still don't like him, even knowing more about him, and I'm extremely uncomfortable with the way that he's portrayed. I have serious issues with Soren, and I wish more people would read this book so I could talk about it. (hide spoiler)]
It hurt me so hard to read this book. I was completely not okay with...just about everything in it. And I still loved it.
There's a line that Miranda Darling uses about Smite in Unraveled: "He was all blade, no handle. If she held him close, she'd risk getting cut." That's kind of how I feel about this book: all blade, no handle. I wouldn't want to read a book like this every day, or even every week. But once in a while, I can handle the pain.
There's a line near the beginning of the book that goes like this: "Nora said nothing as he joined her, only turned her head and gazed out at the night. She seemed to be trying to stare down the city. He had a feeling the city would blink first."
That's kind of how I felt about this book--like it was trying to stare me down. And there's no question. I blinked.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Pull by B.A. Binns is one of the most powerful Y.A. books I’ve read all year.
David, the protagonist (you notice I don’t include his last name), is dea...morePull by B.A. Binns is one of the most powerful Y.A. books I’ve read all year.
David, the protagonist (you notice I don’t include his last name), is dealing with a lot for a kid in his senior year of high school. You see, a few months ago, his dad murdered his mother. His father’s in jail, and David himself, as the eldest in the family, has gotten the job of keeping his family together. Without the money he makes from an after school construction job, his sisters and he would have been split up around the globe, sent to distant relatives, many of whom don’t really seem to care about the family.
So David finds himself the man of his family, when he’s not even a man himself. And David does not know how to deal with what has happened to him. He changes his last name. In part, so that people at his new school (one that’s in a poor part of town, instead of the wealthier area where his parents used to live) don’t recognize either his skill at basketball or his father’s name. But in larger part, he doesn’t want to keep his father’s last name–just as he doesn’t want to visit his father in jail, doesn’t even call him “father” anymore.
But David’s suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the murder. And he’s struggling from a lot of things that feel absolutely real: He doesn’t want to go to college, doesn’t enjoy school, and does like girls–and as much as he likes them, he also blames them for the way they make him feel.
David is never a comfortable character, and he won’t make you feel comfortable (especially if you, like me, wince at the thought of someone not getting an education). And that, I think is what makes this book so raw and powerful. It is simply too easy to believe that David is real. To buy into what is a complex mix of teenage anger and angst and hope and self-hatred and arrogance all at once–and even though those things sound contradictory, when David lets you know how it is, in his short, terse, no-nonsense style, it’s real.
His character is so strong, so powerful, that even through (especially through) his terse denials, you can feel so much. I got more raw emotion from one of David’s curt “I don’t cares,” delivered at the right time than I do from most books.
And just to give you a taste of what he’s like, this from the first few pages of the book, after David has just had a traumatic flashback in the middle of gym class when the sound of the basketball hitting the court reminds him of a gunshot wound:
The gym teacher’s whistle sounds, the shriek knifing through my ears. He runs over from the sidelines where he’s been talking with another man while the inept group of students practiced passing the ball. His pale face holds wide, worried gray eyes. You’d think he’d never seen a guy downed by a basketball before. Probably hasn’t been teaching in the inner city very long. Probably still has ideals and intends to do some good or something.
Probably needs to get the hell out of my space.
And that’s David for you.
Like I said, this is not a comfortable book. But the day I got it, I was up until 1 AM reading, even though I had a 6 AM flight the next morning, and I got up half an hour early just so I could finish.
This book is seriously, utterly, powerfully compelling. And so I’m giving away a copy to one random commenter.
A Lady of Persuasion is the final book in Tessa Dare's trilogy, and it’s the story of Toby—Lucy’s school-girl crush from Goddess of the Hunt (which yo...moreA Lady of Persuasion is the final book in Tessa Dare's trilogy, and it’s the story of Toby—Lucy’s school-girl crush from Goddess of the Hunt (which you should have already purchased). It’s also the story of Bel, Gray’s sister, from Surrender of a Siren. Which, y’know, you should already have purchased, too. Sorry. Not trying to make you feel guilty.
But speaking of which, A Lady of Persuasion is a book about guilt. It takes Isabel, a lady who is afraid of feeling good, and in fact, feels guilty when she does, and pairs her with a man who teaches her how to laugh and have fun... and feel very good indeed. It does so while wending its way through the Society for Superceding the Necessity of Climbing Boys, Don Giovanni, ice cream, and more sheep than any good shepherdess could shake her little shepherding crook at. Bel might not want to have fun, but Tessa clearly does, and she will make you choke with laughter at the things that happen.
But like all of Tessa’s books, the funny parts do not indicate that it’s a book without seriousness. A Lady of Persuasion is also a deeply serious book—a book about a man who fears that he may not be serious enough, and a woman who needs to learn to let go of her seriousness and enjoy life. And so you’ll get to the end, and amidst all the laughter, you’ll feel a tug on your heartstrings. Because Tessa will persuade you to adore her characters.
Finally, I have this last thing to say: this is also an enormously brave book. Because there is a secondary romance in this book. It’s between a wonderful man and a brave, headstrong women, who have a great deal in common. One of the things they don’t have in common, though, is the color of their skin. That romance is a perfect gracenote for what is already a phenomenal book.(less)