Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Review: No Choice But Seduction

I read my first Johanna Lindsey book when I was 11. It was The Magic of You and was the first Malory book I read, though it's the fourth one in the series.

The not-so-cool thing about romance novels, which is a reason why I don't pick them up much nowadays, is that rape is generally cloaked under this rose-tinted romantic overtext. Bad enough that as I grew older, I really did think romance was about the whole being-swept-off-feet stuff and completely forgot to include a personality.

Except, of course, Amy Malory actually did have a personality, but this review is not about her.

No Choice but Seduction! What a problematic title in the first place! I mean, if you do enough readings on the whole concept of seduction, it's easy enough to see it's pretty darn close to rape! The title is also a misnomer, because Boyd Anderson, hero of the story, actually has a choice besides that, and he actually really does his fucking best to not resort to that. Why do I have to give props to a fictional hero for not being a douche?

Which is one of the positives of the book - Katie Tyler, our intrepid heroine, has a personality! And and and! OMG flashback to Heather Corinna's An Immodest Proposal in Yes Means Yes, female desire! How about that. Big plus.

I finished the book in five hours. Lindsey's books are really easy to read that way (especially moving into the 90's when her books got funnier and had less drama) and I really loved the family angle taken in this story - then again, it's a reason why I like the Malory series. I picked it up on the recommendation from Tariq's wife (we had a conversation about romance novels through him one evening. I think it made him feel baffled and used) who told me, "it's her best one this decade!" and I had to agree. I'd been giving up on Lindsey, especially after the disappointment I suffered when Drew Anderson turned out to be a huge complete fucking douchebag.

So back to Katie Tyler and Boyd Anderson! Katie is a highly imaginative woman who's out for adventure now that she has money and no life. Boyd wants to settle down. Shenanigans happen which end up with Boyd treating Katie like crap, and Katie gets to flounce out on him later on in front of his extended family.

That's where Lindsey's cleverest piece of writing comes up - Katie sees Boyd on his knees begging for forgiveness and she shoots at him to scare the shit out of him. "Unfortunately," Lindsey writes, "this all happened later in her imagination, and not in a room full of people."

BRILLIANT! It was quite a turn in the narrative and I love cheeky little things like that.

Personally, I do find it interesting to see characters from past novels show up, interacting with each other. Because it proves, you know, there's a life after marriage. For example, Rosalynn, from Book Two of the Malory series, doesn't have a clue what to spend her money on! LOL! This totally did not show up in any of the other books but it was a neat thing to add in this one, I guess. After Amy's story was written, suddenly in other books, she starts getting feelings. Going all clairvoyant-y, you know (their great grand-mother was a gypsy). This didn't really show in the book she was featured in, and would've been nice to have gotten a story developing that, but whatever.

Because Boyd spends most of his time in the book being either stupid to Katie or seasick (go figure), there's not a whole lot of interaction between them until much later. And sadly, the funniest scene doesn't featuer them, but Boyd with the two famous Malory brothers, Anthony and James.

Here's where the stupid should sink in: Boyd's so desperate to get Katie's attention he decides to ask help from Anthony and James, formerly London's premier rakehells. (Give this a moment. I laughed, and then facepalmed.) Anthony's daughter, Judith, has just been rescued by Katie, so the Malory family is rather favourably disposed towards Katie at the moment. Nonetheless, James and Anthony give Boyd advice on how to seduce Katie anyway. (Not that this is supposed to help, the two of them are pretty confident that Katie's too strong-minded.) So, wait, this young woman helped your daughter out, and you're gonna teach this fellow how to seduce her? Gimme a break.

Moving on to the funny, though, James tries to give Boyd a lesson on how to look at a woman (you know, that typical look which is supposed to melt women's panties off them, or something). "Show him how it's done, Tony," he tells his brother.

"He's not my type," comes the reply. And then relents and gives Boyd the Look.

LET THE HOMOEROTIC SUBTEXT SINK IN.

I had to put the book aside to howl silently in laughter. Homosociality in action, anybody?

About a little past halfway through, I took a moment to realize, "OMG IT'S BEEN HALF THE BOOK AND NO SEX HAS HAPPENED YET WHUT?"

The seduction eventually does happen - even with Katie's participation, it doesn't count because Boyd tricked her, even if it wasn't completely related to the result (does it, doesn't it, you decide) - and Anthony, who has in the interim found out Katie is his daughter as a result from a past indiscretion, comes bearing down on the two, horrified that he gave Boyd tips to seduce his own daughter (double standards, BOO, Sir Anthony! BOO!) with James.

Katie, having found out Boyd's ruse by now, is pissed off, and stalks off onto James' ship. She has a happy reunion with Anthony, and it's great, you know. Turns out, Katie's mother, even though she was terribly in love with Anthony at the time she got pregnant, eventually did end up with a happy life, and Anthony is happy to hear this, having been angsting over how horrible life must have been for her after the breakup. This is nice, you know? I mean, how much dreariness can one have in life? They go back to London, where Judith is waiting to latch on to her new sister Katie. Happy times.

There is a coda, of course, with Katie being reunited with her maternal grandmother and finding out why her mother ran away in the first place (which was just another consequence in a long line of shit that oughtn't not happen), and everything was handled really well - as it should have been because most of the people involved are adults.

Satisfying read. Boyd holds up well in trying to be a decent human being, Katie's half-interesting, the sex is okay, and the backstory is good.

We're running out of Malorys.

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