Karla's Reviews > Savage Ecstasy

Savage Ecstasy by Janelle Taylor
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's review
Feb 07, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: indians-and-halfbreeds, bodice-ripper, historical-romance, cover-sparklies, abduction, rape, america-colonial, forbidden-love, hero-alpha, hero-is-chained-in-my-basement, heroine-annoying-and-way-annoying, hero-jealous-possessive, hero-abusive, wusses-need-not-apply, hero-fullblood-indian, overrated
Recommended to Karla by: SmittenKitten
Recommended for: lovers of alphas, infodumpy historicals, Mary Sue heroines
Read from February 01 to 06, 2011 , read count: 1

(Sorry it's so long. Some books really get me going. LOL)
Oh, the inevitable disappointment that lies under a flashy cover. The "Caucasian-looking Indian brave staring at the white woman's boobs" artwork was burned into my 8-year old brain and only within the last year did I discover just what book it graced. I was psyched and was going to keep this one, fersure! Well, I'm going to be swapping it out because I doubt I'll ever want to read it again. It's not an excruciatingly bad book, but it's very rough and (IMO) amateur. Sort of like Devil's Desire, it's an obvious debut effort by an author and makes a wealth of beginner's mistakes.

Alisha Williams resides in a settlement in the Dakota Territories in the year 1776. She and her Uncle Thad left Pennsylvania before war broke out between the colonies and England (Alisha's mother country) and now reside with a group of other settlers in a stockade fortress on the outermost reaches of the frontier. Gray Eagle is captured by these settlers and tortured, but Alisha's gentle and innocent nature makes her look upon him as a man in need of help, not a "filthy savage." The tender feelings aren't exactly reciprocated, but when Gray Eagle escapes and returns with a raiding party, Alisha is spared and spirited off to serve as his bed slave. They clash and reunite often, with Gray Eagle keeping his knowledge of English from her so that he will always have the upper hand. The dainty and delicate Alisha has one last adventure - and further rude awakenings to human nature - before rejoining with her destined-in-the-stars lover Gray Eagle.

Like I said, it wasn't a bad book, but it could have been a hell of a lot better. Foremost in the Plus column is Gray Eagle, a very alpha hero who doles out the abuse with only his pride and honor in mind. He remembers a wrong and has no compunction about rectifying it with a can of whoopass. When he has the three men who tormented him in his power, you can bet there's going to be some suffering. His vow to not appear weak in front of his tribe forces him to put Alisha through the proverbial wringer, even though it pains him to do so. It's a If only the wench would behave herself and submit, I wouldn't have to crush her fingers kind of bodice ripper situation.

There's also some interesting stuff about the Sioux workaday life and culture, but unfortunately there's too much of it and it's conveyed to the reader with the clunky devices of Question and Answer and, occasionally, a big ol' Infodump. However, I did like the rather true representation of Gray Eagle and his tribe as ruthless raiders with a taste for brutality. They're not PC-ified New Agers in loincloths, and Gray Eagle isn't that copout Indian hero in so many romances: the palatable half-breed educated in the East who now elects to roam the Plains in buckskin on a horse. He's full-blooded and has a mindset at vast odds from the white invaders.

Coupled with the vast cribs from the "Sioux" encyclopedia entry, the book suffered from Telling & Not Showing, with the narrator being distant and omniscient, informing me just what everyone was thinking without really illustrating it. Most annoying was the use (rather, overuse) of foreshadowing, with future turns in relationships or the effect of current actions further down the road telegraphed with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Very clumsy and annoying.

The dialogue was very stilted for the most part, with Alisha rambling on and on and conveniently giving details to someone who she mistakenly thinks doesn't understand a word she says. Another overused device was the internal monologue, with characters asking themselves a minimum of five questions as they work through some particular dilemma. For example:
At least, his family did not have to witness his torture and death, or worse, to be tortured and killed themselves. Suddenly, the thought came to Ben, only the men who were directly connected with the brave's capture and beating were taken prisoner. Sure, they had taken a few female captives, but no other men. Did that mean he wanted personal revenge on them? But why had he placed Alisha with them instead of with the female captives? Did he intent to torture and kill her, too? That is, when he finished with his other ideas first?

As he walked along, he pondered, how can I force this obedience? I must prevent her turning to Wanhinkpe Ska [White Arrow]. What punishment would she fear the most? What would bring this fear to her heart? Would she fear losing me and my protection enough to yield to me completely? If she feared I was going to give her to another, or others, would she come to me and beg me to keep her? Would she promise to never interfere or disobey again? If I could show her how bitter and harsh her life would be without me, would she come to me once more in submission and love?

Umm...yeah. Maybe you can see what I mean. Some of the internal thoughts were also very repetitive, as the same character would tell themselves the same thing over and over. OK, OK, we get it...

As I read, there were some things that yanked me out of the story and seemed anachronistic (or piqued my curiosity WRT accuracy), so I looked them up....
* The use of the phrase "keep a low profile" in 1776. It's a 20th century idiom. While it wasn't in dialogue, it still seemed out of place. Likewise the phrase "There's a catch" (which was in the dialogue). Origin? 1855 onwards, according to this slang dictionary.

* The setting of Fort Pierre for the last part of the story. If this is the Fort Pierre that is in South Dakota, it wasn't established until the 1840s by one Pierre Chouteau, Jr. If it was Pierre de Varennes, who is mentioned in one of the massive backstory dumps about Alisha's love of knowledge and learning, then this would move the story into Canada, because as far as I can tell, de Varennes has no name connections to any forts south of the Canadian border.

* The description of military uniforms as bluecoats and gold braid. Sounds real post-Civil War western cavalry, doesn't it? For that matter, the fact that there is cavalry posted in the Dakota Territory in 1776 seemed out of place. I'm probably wrong, but the whole shebang as described in this book sounded more like the Plains Wars than the fur-trading outposts of the 18th century. Also, wouldn't there be some issue of whether they're His Majesty's Army or part of the Continentals? There was not even one aside about issues of loyalty. Actually, Alisha and her uncle left Pennsylvania before the war even started, so they're unaware of what's going on back East. As far as these boys in blue are concerned, they're part of King George's forces, which would mean redcoats.

* And a big ol' mistake: "I'll see the men are here at 1800 hours." From Wikipedia (with a source): "The British and Canadian militaries first started to use the 24-hour clock in late 1917. Previous to this, military orders were drafted using the familiar "a.m." and "p.m." suffixes."

I really really hate being nitpicky, and I probably wouldn't have been if the story had been told in a more engrossing way. However, the clunky way the characters, events, and emotions were written got me bored about halfway through and so things started to stick out.

Last but not least is Alisha, who was the biggest weakness. I simply couldn't get behind her. She was an obnoxious Mary Sue of the Sweetness & Light variety. Kept innocent and sheltered from any unpleasantness in the world by her well-meaning parents, the rest of her life is doomed to be an eternal decline into disillusionment and sorrow. She also cries at the drop of a hat at anything sad or mean, and giggles and smiles at anything winsome and perky, like squirrels. She's the simpler-minded sister to Aislinn (from The Wolf and the Dove), who was also a gleeful, skipping idiot when things were sparkly and a sad little clown when the sun went behind a cloud. I suspect Alisha will have a long cry when the brutal news is broken to her that there's no Easter Bunny. Even if she had been a Mary Sue with some insane ability, I'd have liked her more. But she was a Mary Sue with no attributes beyond being so beautiful and radiating such innocence, that she compels men to love and lust just from one look at her. Gah. And the slapdash addition at the end (view spoiler) was pretty lame. Her wide-eyed innocence and baffled outrage at the bigotry and prejudice exhibited towards any Indian that crosses a white man's path reminded me too much of well-meaning, yet overbearing, White Guilt. A fine and understandable sentiment, but it was done with an unsubtle hand. (I say that from my own experience on an Ivy League campus, so it's only a personal observation. YMMV.)

So why 3 stars? Gray Eagle, of course. He was awesome and everything I want in an old-school alpha hero. Unfortunately, like Wulfgar (also from The Wolf and the Dove), he got a crap heroine and long-winded, boring storytelling. The excessive bodice-ripping stuff like torture and rape and insurmountable conflict between the hero and heroine also rates this one above a mediocre 2 stars. I'll still continue with this series and hope that Taylor got the foundation laid in this book with both the romance and the historical era (whichever one it is) and our couple can move on to more interesting things.
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Reading Progress

02/02/2011 page 69
13.07% ""Alisha didn't realize the fierce determination she had instilled in Gray Eagle to capture and possess her, for she had only seen and felt his hatred and brutality." --Yeah, biting her hand doesn't exactly indicate he wants to send her flowers and come a-courtin'."
02/03/2011 page 150
28.41% "It's as gloriously BRy as I'd dreamed it would be! :D" 1 comment
02/03/2011 page 178
33.71% "She must bow to his authority soon and accept a mild truce between them, or accept his power and her hate. If he could not have her willingly, then he would take her forcefully and her hate with it."
02/04/2011 page 246
46.59% "And Alisha is going to end up doing something stupid with White Arrow, I KNOW IT." 2 comments
02/04/2011 page 279
53.0% "Looks like Alisha's going to spend some time in the special rape teepee (for lack of a better term)." 1 comment
02/05/2011 page 318
60.0% "The declarative internal monologues and questions are getting a little wearying. I'm thinking 4 stars as of now."
02/06/2011 page 395
75.0% "Now that I've got 5.5 hrs of shoveling, snowblowing and roof raking out of the way (up & at 'em at 4:30am!), I'm going to finish this bad boy today." 5 comments
02/06/2011 page 441
84.0% "Not much caring for this Jeffrey & Powchutu bit. Or maybe I'm just sick of the ham-handed foreshadowing. :-\" 2 comments

Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-29 of 29) </span> <span class="smallText">(29 new)</span>

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Karla This cover was burned into my memory as a kid and I FINALLY tracked it down. W00t!

Karla Jeanine wrote: "Sweet you now have the "Indian staring at boobs" book! :D"

Yes, my delight is almost frightening. :D Will let you know how it is, of course! I'm KEEPING this one, even if it's bad. The cover will never get away from me again.

Karla Jeanine wrote: "I'm going to have to make you a bookmark of the cover! ;)"

Ohhhh, I'd never want to use it for fear of mussing it up! Horrors! The boobage peeping must be preserved!

Karla And you've given me a terrible idea. I should get the brightest, most awesome, highest resolution cover art image and put it through my cross stitch pattern maker program.

message 5: by Karla (last edited Mar 17, 2010 06:11AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karla I have 2 big ones that are in progress. Yes, I get bored too, but I can't leave them unfinished. :P I'm about halfway done on one of this painting (it'll be 11" x 14", 16 ct Aida cloth, finished):

Karla Jeanine wrote: "Ohhh that is pretty! If you can power through that one then yes I say we need a cross stitch of boob staring Indian!"

I've been working on it for almost 5 years. LOL One day I'll finish it.

Karla Jeanine wrote: "Well you are just going to have to do the boob Indian man first! :) You can even cut it in half to save you time - so the title is missing from your finished product. I give that one 2 years max..."

The one of a pug I'm doing now is 28ct linen. I'm going blind! Everything else from now on is going to be 14ct Aida cloth. My eyes are important to me. :P Plus, it'll go faster.

Dani "The REAL Cullens_Girl since 2002" Okay - Karla - this cover art is forcing me to create a new shelf: cover art OMG

Dani "The REAL Cullens_Girl since 2002" oh that and I think the only thing that could make this a better BR was if SHE was the one captive and imprisoned lol

Karla I saw it first when I was about 8 and I never forgot it. Drove me crazy trying to find it again in this era of blah reissues.

One of the BEST BR covers EVAH IMO. :D

Karla It's a neat twist, though. Usually it's the gal in chains. I'm not picky, as long as SOMEONE's in captivity, I'm happy. LOL

Kerrie Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) wrote: "And you've given me a terrible idea. I should get the brightest, most awesome, highest resolution cover art image and put it through my cross stitch pattern maker program."

ZOMG I missed these comments! Yes, do it!!!! I still have the program on my rickety old Toshiba so I'm going to try! :D

Karla I wish I could scan a high res from my cover, but it's got a narrow scrape on it from top to bottom, marring its utter perfection. :(

SmittenKitten Aw, Karla, I was really hoping you would like this one!

message 15: by Karla (last edited Feb 07, 2011 12:23PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karla So was I! But Taylor has no place to go but up in her storytelling abilities.

ETA: I was thinking about SmittenKitten's comment that she was hoping I'd like it. Actually I did like it (despite its flaws). That's what GR's 3 stars means. But I didn't really like it (4) nor think it was amazing (5). Books that have ticked me off in the same technical areas have gotten lesser ratings because there was nothing as redeeming as Gray Eagle, so I think I've rated it fairly according to my tastes. :) Plus I do want to read the sequel, so that does say something about it. The abrupt and anticlimactic ending sort of forces one to want to read the next book and see what's going to happen.

Karla Jeanine, I'll take Wonder Woman over the wide-eyed drip that is Alisha. All that whimsical innocence and wonder had me imagining her like one of these chicks:

Karla omg what is that from??? O__o

message 18: by Kerrie (last edited Feb 07, 2011 09:20AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kerrie Nice research on the anachronisms, sis! It's almost like you work in a library. :D

Karla Kerrie wrote: "Nice research on the anachronisms, sis! It's almost like you work in a library. :D"

LMAO! :D And the lib had that slang dictionary (and several others) so...score!

message 20: by Karla (last edited Feb 07, 2011 12:55PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karla Jeanine ♥ Cheshire Catt ♠ wrote: "Those are the very creepy pictures of Keane. Just search Keane big eye and you get tons of them."

I really REALLY hate my curiosity sometimes.... And BTW, that Keane Big Eye is actually how I imagined Alisha during her many crying jags and brave attempts to not cry (and fail). Either an anime chick or a crying baby doll.

message 21: by Sans (new)

Sans I suspect Alisha will have a long cry when the brutal news is broken to her that there's no Easter Bunny. Can I be the one to tell her? I really want to shit on someone's parade today.

Awesome review, as always!

Karla Go ahead, Sans! Not that I want to see her cry AGAIN, but part of me wants to really hurt her bad. >:D

message 23: by Sans (new)

Sans *cackles* We're evil bitches.

SmittenKitten Karla, I have to say - I love reading your reviews for books I've read... even if I didn't rate the same as you, I pretty much agree 100% with your assessments. This review is no different - Grey Eagle is awesome and Alisha is doe-eyed and unrealistic.

And thanks for pointing out the historical inaccuracies. I expect authors to do the research and get it right!! It really bugs me when they don't.. after all, I get most of my historical knowledge from romances... LOL

Karla Thanks, Smitten! I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to the inaccuracies - and I didn't even know they were inaccuracies - but my mind was wandering and when a person said, "1800 hours," I thought, "Hey, yeah, just when did the military start using that time format?" Or when Powchutu decides to "keep a low profile," I love the origins of certain slang terms, so I checked that one out too. So I wasn't looking for errors but when stuff stood out I wanted to look them up, just for curiosity's sake. (It's why I don't read as much as I should because I get distracted on Wikipedia. LOL)

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Great review Karla! I read this whole series way back when it came out...of course back then there was nothing to compare it to like "to-day" Im finding for myself that when I re-read some of these "it was the best book" now...I think..did I really like that book?? Its really funny to see how much the writing style has changed over the years..some authors got better..hmmm..will you make it threw the whole series? :)

Karla I'm going to try to read them all. :) Sharon here really loved it and was able to identify in some way with the heroine which made it an awesome book for her. Me, however...Alisha was simply way too out there and innocent to be believable. I mentioned on one of Jeanine's updates for this book that Alisha has NO experience whatsoever with bigotry and prejudice of any sort. Being mean or saying something mean to anybody based on things like race/color/etc. is totally foreign to her. Really? She's British and she never heard anything mean about the Irish, Scottish...the FRENCH? In the 1770s? They were snarky about everybody back then. :P What about on the boat trip over to the colonies? No nasty-toned conversations in the cabins or on the deck that might have tweaked her perfect little ears? She's well-read (so we're told), but obviously never picked up a newspaper where there might have been less-than-pleasant opinions about other nations/peoples in the world. She was literally kept under a rock by her parents. Which probably explains her perfectly white & translucent skin.

LOL I told Jeanine that if I keep talking about it, I'm going to end up demoting it another star.

message 28: by Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* (last edited Feb 09, 2011 12:56PM) (new) - added it

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Do you find the "Harleys" the same way Karla? Or just the older romances/BR? I guess it also depends on an author..some I wont even try another of their books if its bad...your more "gamey" than I. :)

Karla Granted, I haven't read all that many Harleys, but I can't name a Harley heroine who was as obnoxiously innocent as Alisha was. Charity Child came close, but I actually liked her quite a bit.

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