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Blue Sage by Anne Stuart
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There are some authors I can't stop reading, even though I don't like their stuff and usually want to bang my head against a brick wall the entire time. They're kryptonite and catnip, sapping my will to live energy while at the same time being something I absolutely have to read.

(Also see: Johanna Lindsey)

If that makes me an irrational hater, so be it.

By now, after a few nutty little tomes by one Anne Stuart, I should realize that I'm not ever going to get anything subtle. Stuart writes with the Ham-Handed Hammer of Foreshadowing, the Dull Machete of Emotional Nuance, and the Spastic Chainsaw of Premise. For lack of a better term, I'm calling her stuff Woobie Noir. Her characters are tough and hard-boiled, but they're nothing but Cadbury egg cream on the inside. She goes for effect and the reader's gut - I'll give her that much - but the pieces usually don't fit or flow, and the story becomes a cobbling together of snarling "damaged" characters who growl and hump. And the final scenes have always been a hot mess as the wheels come off the plot wagon.

So I usually finish her books feeling more brain-damaged than when I began. Yet I can't stop.

But enough about my issues...

Stuart whips out her chainsaw with the setting of Morey's Falls, Montana, a small town east of Buttfucknowhere that, a decade ago, was the grisly locale of a mass shooting by a war vet who snapped and opened fire on a July 4th celebration. 16 people died, and there isn't a person in town who didn't lose a friend or family member in the massacre. In the intervening years, there hasn't been one day that it hasn't been talked about. Everyone talks about it every single day. Central to this obsessive grieving process is Ellie Johnson, the sole survivor of the shooting, who sort of got communally adopted by the entire town when she was left an orphan. Going beyond that, she is practically "owned" by the town and made a terminal victim and living memorial to that awful day.

In a totally bizarre case of convenient grounds for future misunderstanding with the hero getting shit done in a crisis, the town deemed it easier to have the orphaned Ellie marry the old widowed Judge Lundquist than go through the adoption process because a marriage of convenience would be a faster way to get her taken care of.

So when the book opens, Ellie is a 30-something virgin widow who wears floppy flannel nightgowns like the Judge's dead first wife and hobbles around with a cane because her knee got blown out by the expert marksman who knew how to kill his targets with one shot. (Huh, whut?)

Anyway, Ellie's out riding the prairie bare-breasted (because that's what virgin widows did in 1987 Montana) and encounters Tanner, the son of the shooter, who has come back to Morey's Falls for an anniversary reckoning. Of course the first thing Ellie does after realizing who Tanner's related to is check out his muscles and package. She then ferries him around town as he goes out of his way to tell everyone just who he is and berates Ellie every other page for using her cane when she doesn't need it, since she only limps when she remembers to. (She's FINE, get it? It's the town keeping her down! She's on the victim pedestal and lurveing it!)

Of course Tanner is feeling sudden pangs of love and monogamy for the first time in his life, and the blowsy blond town slut (usually his type) suddenly holds no attraction. Ellie and Tanner drink a lot of coffee and needle each other and beat up themselves and tell each other to stop it. This happens for pages on end.

Then the farm animals and local pet dogs start getting killed.

Oh look, it's The Mystery poking its head into the proceedings! Yes, there's a bad guy on the loose, hanging outside Ellie's bathroom window and grinding up ciggy butts just like the shooter used to do. Cue the talk about "Is the shooter really dead? Is the son mimicing his dad's schtick to revenge himself on the town?" and even the hero sucks up pages asking himself if he's doing it in his sleep. (I shit you not.)

I'll 'fess up at this point and say that Stuart pulled a fast one on me. I didn't correctly guess who the killer/stalker was because I was approaching the mystery with a bit of logic and Stuart opted to throw some crazy shit at the wall instead. She got me there. (view spoiler) I shouldn't have been surprised that Stuart pissed the mystery and tension aspect down her leg. She hasn't failed yet in that department.

Naturally Tanner redeems himself in the eyes of the town, as he thwarts the new shooter at the very last second and a whole decade of deep-rooted psychosis and hatred is washed away in a community group hug.

And garnish with an Epilogue sprinkled with kittens of Pregnancy, Secondary Character Romance, and Eternal Domesticity.

So what with the utterly ham-handed set-up with characters damaged for its own sake (the twauma and damage really got thrown around willy-nilly simply for effect) and a town psychology that probably hasn't ever existed on this earth, combined with a plot that - when the mystery is taken out - is little more than a series of arguments and clichéd tough dialogue interspersed with rock-hard groins, I didn't hate it, but it was still a definite miss.

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Reading Progress

December 15, 2011 – Shelved
February 21, 2012 – Started Reading
February 21, 2012 –
7.0% "I love Stuart's refusal to kowtow to reality. Because I know that if *I* was faced with the son of the guy who had gone on a killing spree in my tiny town (and shot me), one of my first thoughts would be to check out his package. *eye roll*"
March 1, 2012 –
25.0% "I'm not sure if IRL a whole town would support the idea of a 60-something judge marrying a 16 y.o. orphan because marrying her would be a faster way to take care of her than the adoption process. O__o Also a small town that, for over a decade, has talked about the mass shooting every single day? Black Rock looks like Mayberry compared to this place."
March 1, 2012 –
30.0% "At least Charles Tanner had been a marksman. No one died a lingering, painful death. He knew how to hit a target, hit it neatly & cleanly... Except that he hit the 1st victim AKA "heroine" in the knee. But other than that, superior marksman."
March 1, 2012 –
32.0% "She couldn't rid herself of the feeling that someone was watching them, someone with the same twisted outlook as Charles Tanner. Someone with a gun. Oh great, Harry the Hideous Hippo has relocated to Montana!"
March 1, 2012 –
35.0% "The merciless glare of the early afternoon sun played up every wrinkle in her seamed, lined face. C'mon, Stuart, you couldn't find a way to also wedge "crease" and "furrow" in there?"
March 1, 2012 –
42.0% "OK, so Ellie limps only when she's aware of it because it's part of her role as the massacre martyr, and Tanner smokes only when he's not distracted. I think I've got it. But if you want to keep mentioning it every chapter, Stuart...."
March 1, 2012 –
69.0% "The heroine just dashed off in pursuit of the hero on her horse wearing nuthin' but a nightie, and the hero just finished a bath in the stream & hasn't bothered to button his jeans.

"SEX SCENE! SEX SCENE!" couldn't be telegraphed more loudly.

March 1, 2012 –
79.0% "Her knee hurts? She has to rub at it? She reaches for her cane? She limps? Wow, this is new. Haven't seen this before. Do you think it's a good idea to set this new character behavior loose on the reader so late in the game?"
March 1, 2012 –
93.0% ""I'm going to make Charles Tanner look like an amateur. When I'm finished everyone in this country will remember the name of Lonnie Olafson." There are only 2 names that could strike terror into my heart, and "Lonnie Olafson" is one of them."
March 1, 2012 –
100.0% "After all that phony hard-boiled angst & twauma & damage, we then get an epilogue that read like one of these. I love baskets of kittens, but still...gag me.
March 1, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-36 of 36) (36 new)

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Karla I'm already inclined to be more generous with this one. No friggin' puppets.

Karla Told ya it was cheezy! :D

message 3: by Sarah Mac (new)

Sarah Mac Who are you & what have you done with Mrs Steve Morgan?!

message 4: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant You diehard -- you're just as bad as I am. :)

Karla What else was I going to do at work yesterday feeling like a zombie and utter crap? :D Stuart's "OMG TRAGIC ANGST DAMAGE DOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!" kept me rolling my eyes to know that I was still alive. :D

message 6: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant Just saw your shelf name - "shitty authors I can't stop reading" LMAO!

message 7: by Sarah Mac (new)

Sarah Mac Heeeey, two stars! At least it's better than Hideous Harry.

message 8: by willaful (new)

willaful I need that shelf name for all my Diana Palmer reads.

Karla I recommend that everyone have a shelf like this because it seems like everybody has at least one author who is both kryptonite AND catnip in one package. LOL

message 10: by Sarah Mac (new)

Sarah Mac Dahling, you've outdone yourself with this review. :D Most definitely one of your top 10. *applauds wildly*

message 11: by Rachel (BAVR) (new)

Rachel (BAVR) Bwahahaha! I love this review so much, especially this part: I shouldn't have been surprised that Stuart pissed the mystery and tension aspect down her leg.

Also, that first group hug is the most beautiful (and fucking HOT) thing I've seen in a long time. I can't stop watching it. O.O

message 12: by Kerrie (new)

Kerrie Awesome review! The clips of Buster would have made me squee, but I was at work. :)

message 13: by Karla (last edited Mar 02, 2012 01:56PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Karla Sarah wrote: "Dahling, you've outdone yourself with this review. :D Most definitely one of your top 10. *applauds wildly*"

Thank you! *bows* Thank you! *bows*

Karla Rachel wrote: "Also, that first group hug is the most beautiful (and fucking HOT) thing I've seen in a long time. I can't stop watching it. O.O"

Ain't it? I nearly DIED when I saw it and then I couldn't stop watching it, office co-workers be damned. *__*

Karla Kerrie wrote: "Awesome review! The clips of Buster would have made me squee, but I was at work. :)"

Hee hee! And thanks for making that GIF with Trevor Eve trashing a Top Gear car. :D It was PERFECT for what I wanted to say. :D

Karla ♥ Cheshire Catt ♠ wrote: "Sounds like great wtf AS awesomeness again :)"

Oh I'm sure you'd LOVE it! :P Though I'd love to know your threshold for coffee drinking and "You don't need the cane, Ellie!" arguing. XD

message 17: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Walton Grant (clicking "LIKE" over and over and over)
Sarah is right - you have outdone yourself with this one. My favourite line is this:

Anyway, Ellie's out riding the prairie bare-breasted (because that's what virgin widows did in 1987 Montana)

And, btw, Oh my GOD that group hug is HOT. I can't stop watching it either.

message 18: by Karla (last edited Mar 03, 2012 05:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Karla I still can't stop watching it. O__O I have NO IDEA who those guys are - soccer players? - but they seem to be very supportive, demonstrative boys. :D

ETA: Some internet sleuthing showed that jersey on the Spanish National team. Further sleuthing has me convinced the one getting double-teamed is Cesc Fàbregas. And I've spent way too much time on this. LOL

message 19: by Kerrie (new)

Kerrie I find it fascinating that the most macho cultures can become totally blind to Teh Ghey once sports are involved. :D

Karla Definitely fascinating. :D Typing in "soccer hug" in Google Images turns up the same kind of squealing hugs among both high school girls and muy macho players from Spain. LOLZ.

message 21: by Sarah Mac (new)

Sarah Mac Oh, those metrosexual Spaniards! >:D

message 22: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Huston My god, what stamina you have, woman! This sounds like a truly dreadful one, and I have to say, your clips here had me rolling with laughter. Especially the Top Gear one.

Karla I love that Top Gear clip. I'd never let Trevor Eve anywhere near my car. :D

message 24: by Chrisolu (new)

Chrisolu LOLROF at that second giff. That male group hug is sooo hot.

*fans self*

BTW, I love the review. You're a riot as always.

Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~* Loved your review Karla! :D

message 26: by Rachel (BAVR) (new)

Rachel (BAVR) Where are the soccer players? D:

Karla I did this before I learned the fickle nature of hotlinking. D: I'll keep trying to refind the gif because it was all kinds of slashy hotness. Like Leo/Zo hotness. ^___^

message 28: by Rachel (BAVR) (new)

Rachel (BAVR) If all else fails, you can put in the Leo/Zo season 2 embrace on the ship in its place. :D There are only, like, several months until S3! \o/

Karla I've failed so hard to re-find that gif and I'm PO'd at my initial laziness. D:

However, I did find....


message 30: by Rachel (BAVR) (new)

Rachel (BAVR) I just really want to insert myself into all of those group hugs. I don't care if it's sweatier than a sauna full of overweight executives. These soccer hugs are my destiny. ^___^

Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!} Anyway, Ellie's out riding the prairie bare-breasted (because that's what virgin widows did in 1987 Montana

I winced. Then again I don't even dare going out jogging without my over-the-shoulder (sport) boulder holders. Riding a horse? Omg the painful bounce. NOPE. LOL

Karla Bromancey soccer hugs are the best. :D

The last time I rode a horse was when I had my oversized fun bags and NOPE NOPE NOPE. Painful as fuck. D:

Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!} D: I've never been horse back riding, but just the thought of it with big boobs, makes me wince.

Horses kinda freak me out. I think they are awesome and beautiful, until I get close to them, and my brain just goes NOPE. I think it's because they are so big. I swear that they can sense my discomfort. LOL I like to keep a 5 ft distance from them, at least.

Karla Well, when they step on your foot, it DOES hurt so you're wise to keep a distance. :P My mom's gelding had a foot fetish, too. Get near him and he'd be sniffing and nibbling your tootsies, after he charged over to you to say "HI! :-B"


Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!} That's actually really adorable. ^___^

Happy new years day. :D

message 36: by Sanya (new) - rated it 1 star

Sanya Thank God I finished this twin peaks bizarreness...now thinking:one or two stars...

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