Okey dokey folks, this novella was dumb. And porny. And a one-handed historical smutfest if ever I've read one. And implausible, both in terms of theOkey dokey folks, this novella was dumb. And porny. And a one-handed historical smutfest if ever I've read one. And implausible, both in terms of the sex and the story. Even for a Regency, which this one purports to be. And did I say porny? An orgy, complete with a 3-on-1 (with buttseks!!) on the second page. Heroines furiously fingering themselves after they've watched said orgy from keyhole, then stripping naked and doing more of that furious fingering then a circle jerk of sorts with the "rake" she's trying to sell her virginity to.
Sometimes, I'm thinking, after an author gets established, they should make sure that early crappy smutty stuff like this doesn't make its way onto the internet. That way snarky folks like me can't find it and mock it on sites like GoodReads.
And another thing. The heroine's name is KENDRA. What the fuck. I looked, this name wasn't used much before 1960. It had a brief flash of fame in 1880 but before that I couldn't find anything. Kendra makes me think of scrunchies and pompoms and I was hard-pressed to think of her as anything other than a Saved By the Bell type teen.
So back to the story. Ahem. Kendra's family is on the verge of ruin. Daddy is on his deathbed, creditors are banging on the door and she can't find her betrothed. Well, she wrote him one letter a month ago and he hasn't responded, so I guess that's what the synopsis meant about the exhaustive search. Anyhoo, she goes off to stay with her "slutty" friend (again, did they use this term in 1813?? I know it's been around forever but it seemed anachronistic to me), who teaches her all about fellatio, three-ways and buttseks, not to mention how much she herself "likes the cock" (Jay and Silent Bob reference here, I'm having way too much fun). She helpfully confirms for our intrepid heroine that you canNOT get pregnant by swallowing that stuff, but neglects to share the mechanics of the withdrawal method with her.
So Kendra and her slutty friend hatch a scheme for her to get some cash to pay the bills, which involves her selling her virginity to this manwhore named Derrick Thornton. Of course, at no time does this dim bulb seem to realize that he has the SAME LAST NAME as her betrothed. To whom she has been betrothed since she was one. year. old. Apparently she only knows him as The Earl of Blackpool, and it's pretty obvious no one in her family has read Debret's Peerage.
To make things even more fun, Derrick, when he's not being a huge slut is also some type of spy. Kinda like a Regency James Bond -- I was thinking Roger Moore era. Now, Derrick is actually away shagging spying for the Home Office. So while he's gone, his identical twin Devlin is pretending to be him. Living in his house, trying really hard not to have any sex. Oh yeah, and having guilty feelings about having just received a month old letter from his intended, Kendra Smythe, begging him to save her family from financial ruin.
Enter his betrothed, using the name "Kate Smith", offering up her virginity to him/his brother for the fire-sale sum of 5,000 pounds. He cannot ruin her that way, he thinks (although he'd really like to tap that luscious piece) so instead he doubles the money, offers her a week of nights and promises her virginity will remain intact. Well! How's a girl to turn that down?
Lots of porny sex action follows, where Kendra discovers that she REALLY "likes the cock" and even better, falls in love with Devlin. In the meantime, Dev has unleashed his uppity manservant to find out who she is, and said uppity manservant is quite happy to let the cat out of the bag. Then a bunch of silliness happens so that the author can finagle the mistaken identity finale (how's that for alliteration!).
Here's how THAT played out:
Kendra tricks Devlin/Derrick into actually having intercourse with her - she just wants that very large cock inside her, he thinks she's trying to trick Derrick into marriage. Tears, she leaves. Kendra cries to her slutty friend about her dilemma, which is when we discover that she knows beans about contraception. We also find out that slutty friend (a devious wench if I ever saw one) knew all along that Derrick was Devlin's brother when she sent Kendra to him. Her reasoning was that Derrick was perfect to break her in, so to speak, because (1) he was good at it; and (2) his get would look just like his brother's, so no one would know if he knocked her up. Fucking brilliant, I thought.
Devlin, as himself, then discovers her true identity and figures this solves his conundrum of how to have his cake and eat it too. "What? My porny fuckbuddy is actually my fiancee? Capital!" So he writes her a letter saying he's coming to marry her ASAP. Off he goes to her house in the country.
They meet, she CAN'T FIGURE OUT HE'S NOT THE SAME GUY SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH LAST WEEK (even when he's standing right beside his identical twin, who she was supposed to have been fucking the week before) and marry, what seems like the next day. Then, still not having figured out that this is the same guy, she does a bunch of dirty talk, oral sex and more of that furious fingering with her new husband.
And there's a nifty little switcheroo with an emerald necklace, that ties all the mistaken identities up nicely. Or conveniently, depending which way you look at it.
Well, now I've spent more time writing this review than I spent reading the novella. And for sure I've had more fun with the former.
I'm not writing this author off; she has some more recent stuff that I'm looking forward to trying. But other than for the smutty parts, I can't really recommend this one.
The POV. I rarely like first person, but this -- well. For some reason I lovedSo here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
What I liked about it:
The POV. I rarely like first person, but this -- well. For some reason I loved Ana's voice. I must have identified with her quite strongly, because I even found her "inner goddess" amusing. She seemed very real to me (with the exception of her complete sexual inexperience. I found that to be a bit of a stretch), and I liked her very much.
What I LOVED about it:
The smouldering tension throughout the entire book. It kept me sitting in one spot virtually all day long. Well, sometimes I was squirming, but that was only during the really hot parts. That's a pretty impressive feat for an author. The keeping me in one spot reading all day, not the squirming. :) James set the tone right from the get-go and didn't let up for a second.
Those EMAILS. Sigh. I once had a very intense love affair that began with notes passed back and forth at work (alas, it was before email) and I was reminded of that when I read this. I loved them. And it is so much easier to say things in writing that you are much too afraid to say to someone you care about in person. I loved that Ana was able to be so saucy to Grey, and that he was able to show a more light-hearted version of himself, 'twitchy palmed' CEO that he was.
Referring to each other as Miss Steele and Mr. Grey. More of the same saucy flirting as in their emails. Sigh.
It goes without saying that I fell like a rock for Christian Grey. He had me from the beginning; the elevator scene sealed the deal. He has all my favourite romance hero traits rolled up into one gorgeous gazillionaire package: the stuffed shirt, the alpha, the bossy bastard, the tortured, the gamma. You name him, he's in there.
Ms. James has created some electrically compelling characters in Ana and Christian. I loved them both, I identified with them, I cared about them. They were so, so good together - so good for each other without their even realizing it. And the chemistry between them was palpable - another testament to how well James was able to create and maintain that tension I talked about throughout.
I'm not going to talk about the smoking hot parts of the book other than to say that James very definitely delivers on the chemistry and tension she set up from their first meeting. I believe this book is marketed as erotica/romantica and imo it very definitely is.
What I noticed about it:
I could tell right from the first page that the author is British. Frankly, I wondered why she'd set her book in Seattle when it could have quite easily been set in London. Both main characters (but especially Christian) used words, expressions and turns of phrase that would only be used by a Brit. It also showed up in the prose. I'm not complaining - I simply put the American settings in the background and pretended everyone was from England - but I did notice, and until I adjusted it pulled me out of the story a bit.
From time to time throughout the book I noticed little things with the writing - a GR friend referred to it, I think, as "unpolished", and I would agree. However, the story James was telling and the characters she has created far, far outweighed any issues I had. So much so, in fact, that all I can remember now is that there was something - but not actually what it was.
What I DIDN'T notice about it:
When reading GR reviews of this book I kept coming across references to Twilight fanfiction, and that this had previously been on the internet under another title (which I haven't read).
Now, I don't know anything about fanfiction, and even less about Twilight fanfiction, but how you could call this story derivative of that one is completely beyond me. I've read Twilight, and for the record thought it was silly, over-rated crap. I suppose you could draw a really long bow and say Christian was similar to Edward in that he was older and possessive and domineering and that Ana is similar to Bella in that she is quite young and inexperienced (but not nearly as vapid and shallow as I found Bella to be) but really? Should you have to work that hard when you're reading? Most romances are similar in characterizations, archetypes and storylines - there are only so many ways to shake them up. If you want to look for romances with character types similar to those twits from Twilight you'd be hard pressed to find one that didn't.
And if the author started this book as an homage to Twilight, well, whatever floats your boat, I guess. The fact that it's now unrecognizable as such (to someone like me, anyway, thank God) can only be a good thing for Ms. James. For every squealing Twilight fan, there's at least one like me who doesn't get the appeal.
Would I recommend it?
If you love steamy, steamy stories with a strong romance and can handle a little bit of naughty sex, then YES, YES, YES!
(In terms of naughty sex: there wasn't anything really extreme in here, more the suggestion of it. Nothing worse than a couple of spankings actually happens. And it's all quite tastefully done.)