FIction: “Some Like to Shock” by Carole Mortimer

Some_Like_to_Shock_copyHoo boy.  Hoo, boy.  Holy shit, you guys — this is gonna be a scene.

So, let’s flash back about a year ago when I was on one of my patented late-night Walmart runs, most likely buying frozen potstickers and Hawaiian Punch (because that sounds like something I’d do), and I would always walk by the book aisle, mainly because I want to see if the idiots who stock the Walmart at night have blocked the books with pallets of toilet paper again.  Well, on one of those nights, I saw this book, and it was, I wanna say another 25% off the sticker price?  And while the title wasn’t that intriguing, the fact that the male love interest was nicknamed Lucifer did make me chuckle.

I may have bought it because I was expecting a shit-ton of “loving the devil” jokes, and if there’s one thing I like, it’s making a bunch of jokes in a row that have a common theme.

So I brought it home, and read it sporadically through the entire year, because holy shit you guys, it is so bad.  And I would have put it down completely, soaked it in gasoline, set it on fire, and walked away from it without looking back, if it weren’t for my friend Brad.

Oh, jeez … that sounds like there’s a connection between romance novels and Brad.  Let me be clear: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO CONNECTION.  This segueway will make sense in about two sentences paragraphs.

See, there was this one time when I rented A Good Day to Die Hard from Ye Olde Redboxe.  And it was so bad, you guys.  It was so bad, it hurt, because dudes — I love Die Hard.  I love it so much, I watch it every Christmas Eve and every time I catch it on TV.  I could be in the middle of something Very Important, and if Die Hard‘s on, fuck it — I gotta see Alan Rickman fall to his death.  Every damn time.

So a few months ago, Brad and I were discussing movies we’d seen recently (at that time), and I got into a bit of a tirade about A Good Day to Die Hard, and when I told him that I stopped halfway through because I just couldn’t take it anymore, he — well, he didn’t yell, and he didn’t get angry, exactly, but he did say my name with force.

And after he not-yelled my name, he said this:

“Kid, no matter how bad something is, or how bad you think something is, you should always finish it to the end.  Because one of two things will happen: you will either find something in it to redeem it and make it have been worth your time, or, you will just get tons more shit to bitch about it with.”

Profound words from a guy who didn’t think Droopy the Dog was a real thing.

What he said stuck with me, and will continue to stick with me.  It’s why I will probably never have a “Did Not Finish” up here again.  Because it’s true — either you find something positive to say about whatever it is you’re not enjoying, or you’re just going to have tons more logs with which to stoke your rage fire.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel a little chilly up in here; let’s burn this motherfucker down.

(MOM: don’t click that link.  TRUST ME.)

So Some Like to Shock is a historical romance under the Harlequin History banner.  It stars the widowed Dowager Duchess of Woolerton, Genevieve, and her paramour, Lord Benedict Lucas, also known in some circles as “Lucifer.”  Ostensibly, Benny Luke wants to get with Genevieve as a cover while he spies shit for England or whatever.  Genevieve is a girl that just wants to have fun.  They start hanging out, and then of course they end up falling in love, and there really isn’t any  more than that.

Except that the book tries to make there be more of a plot.  So, backstory time: Genevieve was married to this old duke whose first wife had died, so for those counting, Genevieve is Wife Numero Dos.  Old Dude was creepy and disgusting, and their wedding night was a bit on the violent side.  (All kidding aside, while we do not see Genevieve and Duke’s wedding night in the present timeline, we only learn about it through Genevieve telling us the story, and it could borderline on being rapey.)  But then, in trying to whatever her, Old Duke has a stroke and becomes paralyzed mid-coitus.  I wish I were kidding.  And then! When he can’t ‘pleasure’ her or whatever (essentially his injury and/or God’s justice makes him impotent following the wedding night), because he can’t beat her, he makes his son do it for him.  So now Genevieve is a battered mother-in-law, and only escapes when the Duke dies.

Except the Duke’s Son still wants to have control over her, for some reason that I can’t really suss out.  Something about how this girl he wants to marry, the girl’s father won’t like it if he learns that the Duke’s Son’s ex-mother-in-law is parading around Town with a dude nicknamed Lucifer, and I’d say “like anyone gives a shit,” but then I remember that back in the 18whatevers that’s all anyone did — give shits about what other people were doing — so, let’s just end the Sad Tale of Lady Genevieve with another “whatever.”

And what’s Lord Benny Luke’s Sad Sad Tale of Woe?  Someone murdered his parents.  Even sadder?  He didn’t take that opportunity to become Batman.

So emotionally-damaged Genevieve is working through her intimacy issues with Benny Luke, and Benny Luke is apparently just trying to control his massive erection whenever he’s in her presence.  Gross.  When he wonders why she’s so inexperienced, she tells him, but it goes on and on and ON.

And look, duh – they end up getting engaged in the last five pages of the book.  No shit lady, did you think they were just going to order a fucking pizza?!  And my worst problem isn’t with the stupidity of the plot — it’s how the book is written.

Because here’s the thing: the actual telling of the story is awful.  Whenever Genevieve and Benny Luke have any conversation whatsofuckingever, this is basically, essentially, how it goes:

– Someone says a line of dialogue.  For instance:

“I am told, however,” Benedict continued scathingly, “that there is a very thin line between love and hate — and obviously you have not crossed over that line as yet with regard to your former lover.”  He arched a coldly derisory brow. [108-109]

Then, the other person reacts, but only in their head.  In great detail.  To continue with our example, we now hear Genevieve’s thoughts:

Genevieve became very still as she took in the full import of what Benedict was saying to her. He truly did believe that a previous lover had done this to her? That a man she loved, and who professed to love her in return, had done this to her after discovering she was now involved with Benedict and that she was remaining silent now in order to protect him?

Just an example. Because in addition to losing the flow of dialogue, the thoughts that Genevieve is thinking?  Are completely repetitive!  Guys, I picked a page at random, and I can guarantee you that the reader has heard these thoughts of Genevieve’s at least twice before, just in different word order.  But before Genevieve even answers Benny Luke, she thinks for an entire two more paragraphs of thoughts.

THIS HAPPENS THROUGHOUT THE BOOK.  And maybe I’m just partial to banter and good dialogue – I am, I admit that wholeheartedly.  Han and Leia, Indy and Marion, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, Benedict and Beatrice, Margo Channing and Bill Sampson.  Banterers have imprinted on me from a young age.  So when dialogue pretends to be snappy, but chunks of stupid inner thoughts break it up, I get super pissed.

Let’s see, what else did I want to bitch about …

OH THIS PISSED ME OFF.  So, at the beginning of the book, Genevieve meets Benny at the wedding of a mutual friend.  The following is, I shit you not, actual lines of dialogue that Benedict says to Genevieve, in chronological order.  I have omitted Genevieve’s responses and narration; imagine reading just Benedict’s lines in a script:

“May I offer you a ride in my carriage, Genevieve …?”

“Sure a lady as … daring as you cannot be feeling nervous at the idea of travelling alone in my carriage, Genevieve …?”

“But I am sure it is not too late for you to remedy that particular omission, if you so choose …?”

“Unless, of course, you feel it would be too daring to travel alone with me in my carriage …?”

“Shall we …?” [various, all from Chapter 1]

SERIOUSLY. GOD. STOP FUCKING DOING THAT.  I can just see him smarming before lifting his voice and cocking his eyebrow and just being terrible.  It’s like the smile Prince Ali Ababwa gives Jasmine right before she gives him a piece of her mind and pushes him off the balcony.

Also, see the quote about a lady as … daring?  You should really italicize ‘daring’ there.  Because the ellipses without italics following it does nothing to show tenor change in the character’s voice, and also, you’re really pissing me off.

And, as Benedict was only too aware, this past week had seen both her close friends becoming entangled in relationships with his own friends Dante and Devil. [44]

OF COURSE.  OF COURSE his friends are nicknamed Dante and Devil.  And OF COURSE her friends (Sophia and Pandora, in case you’re wondering, and also, look at me, not making a bad joke about the Devil and Pandora’s box right now) are enamored with his friends.

Okay, I just took an inventory of what else I need to cover in this stupid  book, because true confessions: I’ve been writing this review for, like, four days, and I just need to be done with it now.  I have five things left to cover; I’m going to go in order of quickest discussion to longest.

I.

“You look as tired as I, Benedict,” she spoke in self-defense.

His mouth twisted derisively.  “It is after two o’clock in the morning.” [105]

This caused me to yell, “Nothing good ever happens after two a.m.!  Listen to Ted’s mom!”

II.

Benedict’s chin rose.  “And how do you intend to go about achieving that?”

“By persuading you to drink the contents of this vial in the tumbler of water at your side.”  He held up a glass bottle he had retrieved from the pocket of his pantaloons.  [266]

Okay, first of all: the way that sentence is written, it sounds like the second guy is going to make a Boilermaker out of a vial of something and a glass of water.  Worst Boilermaker ever.  But second-of-ly, something loses its capacity for terror when retrieved from pantaloons.  I mean, is pantaloons not one of the funniest words ever?  I seriously giggled a lot when I read that.

III.
In case you couldn’t tell, the conversation referenced above is between Benedict and the villain, who, in true James Bond Villain fashion, comes in in the last chapter and monologues over the whole joint.  Not that I’m going to talk about him more, but you know I’m calling the villain Syndrome for the rest of this review.

But seriously – monologuing?  Come on, son!  Why do you need to tell Benny Luke that you’re poisoning him?  If you were a real villain (who also happens to be Benny Luke’s godfather and the only person he trusted following the death of his parents, oh whoops, spoiler alert, not that anyone cares), you’d lean over his injury-bed (not quite deathbed yet), surreptitiously pour the contents of the aforementioned vial into the aforementioned tumbler of water on the aforementioned side table, and then walk away.  THAT’S ALL YOU GOTTA DO.  It’s like the dude never went to Villain School.

IV.
How did Benny Luke get injured?  He got shot.  How did he get shot?  I DON’T FUCKING KNOW, THESE ARE ACTUAL QUOTES AND TRUFAX:

It was only when she fell down onto her knees beside him and was able to see the stain of red rapidly soaking through his waistcoat that she realized that sharp crack and whistling noise had been the sound of a bullet being fired and then fast approaching its target.

Which was when she began to scream … [NOT my ellipses, I swear]

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

“Cook has prepared a delicious chicken broth and a milk pudding for your dinner, your Grace.”  Jenkins placed the tray down upon a small table beside the chair where Genevieve sat in quiet contemplation.

[these are my ellipses, but I’m only skipping two paragraphs: … ]

It had been days, Genevieve acknowledged.  Far too many days.  And nights.  Days and nights when she had sat at Benedict’s bedside, willing him to fight the fever that had beset him within hours of the doctor removing the bullet from his side … [240-241]

I can attest by swearing on any number of religious texts you place in front of me, whether they be the Holy Bible, the Torah, the Quran, or even the Necronomicon that worships the mighty Ch’thulu: I only omitted two paragraphs up there.  That is the actual sequence of events: Benny Luke gets shot, and then Jenkins serves Genevieve some dinner six days later.

WE DO NOT SEE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THE SHOOTING.  I was so excited when Benny Luke got shot – for many reasons, but mainly because it meant there was going to be some action for once!  Things were actually going to happen!  We weren’t going to spend page after page after page conversing about the same damn topic!  And by that, I of course mean the fact that it takes these characters entire chapters to have a simple conversation about the weather, because we’re always returning to their inner mindbrains after every damn line of dialogue.

So Benny gets shot!  And I rejoice!  But then he’s just sleeping?  And Genevieve has been nursing him but we don’t see that?  We don’t see the doctor removing the bullet and telling Genevieve to stay out of here, this is no place for a lady?  And where are Genevieve’s friends during all of this?  Shouldn’t they be there to comfort her?  Where are the constables asking questions?  WHAT IS GOING ON AND IS THE CHICKEN SOUP MADE OF PEOPLE*

(*Hannibal season 2 trailer is released tomorrow.  OMG.  OMG.  O  M  G)

So that totally pissed me off and made me flip tables.

And now, before I discuss the final discussion point, I want to put up a warning y’all haven’t seen since I reviewed Decadent: the following paragraphs will consist of somewhat explicit language.  I’m assuming most of y’all have probably peeked at Fifty Shades of Gray, though I have not.  This language won’t be as explicit as that most likely is, but it’s a little racier than I’ve talked about in the past.  So, caveat lector and all that, and also, Aunt Amy?  Maybe Emily shouldn’t read this, and I am still sorry about giving her that book, that was an accident.

V.
Holy shit, the sex is bad.

Or, rather, the sex writing is bad.  Here, take a gander:

His tongue swept slowly, erotically across her lips, parting their softness as he groaned low in his throat before his hunger returned to deepen the kiss. [78]

That makes me think he’s licking her.  As in, he’s licking her face.  Like a dog would lick your face.  He’s licking things to claim them as his own.  And it’s disgusting and not sexy whatsoever.

But that’s not the worst of it!

“Have I not warned that you are in danger of finding your wings well and truly singed in a situation such as this one?”

“I already burn, Benedict,” she assured him huskily, holding the darkness of his gaze with her own as she pulled the last covering away from her breasts before leaning forwards to place those breasts enticingly close to his parted lips.  “I burn, Benedict!”  She sounded both distressed and fascinated that this should be so.  [79]

I … I can’t stop laughing.  And crying.  And neither are in good ways.  I mean, look, this scene could maybe be sexy, but she keeps saying his name!  When was the last time you were having sex and saying your paramour’s name all the time?  I mean, in a logical manner?  Or saying shit like “I burn”?  I mean – god, this book sucked.

I’m going to just write this bit of dialogue and leave where everything is going on to your imagination:

“Touch me there too, Benedict?  Give me the pleasure, all the pleasure, I have only ever dreamed existed until tonight, here with you!”  [80]

I hope that question mark was supposed to be an exclamation point; otherwise, I don’t know exactly what she’s asking.  Is she asking if he’s supposed to touch her there, too?  (“You’re touching me there, too?”)  Or is she asking him to touch her there? (“Please, will you touch me there, too?”)  I think it sounds more realistic if she just straight-up tells him where to touch her, but I guess that’s too modern of me.

And now, my final point (and I apologize for everything I’m about to say.  And quote.)

“Benedict …?  What is happening?”  She gasped suddenly, her eyes wide when he glanced up at her.  “Oh.”  Her eyes widened even further, her body tensing even as Benedict felt the first contractions of the muscles as she began to climax.  [81]

I’m not going to actually say anything for this scene.  What I want you all to do instead is think of the classic scene from When Harry Met Sally and imagine Sally ending that amazing demonstration with a simple “Oh.”

Would you still have what she’s having?

Grade for Some Like to Shock: No stars

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2 thoughts on “FIction: “Some Like to Shock” by Carole Mortimer

  1. Not that the book isn’t terrible…just the writing alone sucks (no I haven’t read it; just from your brief quotes, I can tell it’s bloody awful!) but to give the deluded woman who wrote it a bit of justice, I believe Harlequins have a page number “size” that they “enforce” and the 6 missing days may have ended up on the edit room floor. The whole thing should have ended up on the floor or maybe lining a litter box, but hey…probably a couple of people (besides yourself) probably bought it. Thank you for the Rage Song. I wish someone out there understood that just because a woman (usually) likes to read historical romances, that said romances should be cheaply and sleazily written. You can have great dialogue and interesting little plots in a short romance; it’s not impossible. I have given up on finding good (good in that the writer actually knows at least something about 1800’s history and society and not just what they imagine went on) historical romance and am reading contemporary romance…

    • Ah yes – thank you for the info on Harlequin’s standards. This was the first Harlequin I’d ever picked up, and I guess I kinda knew about the regulations? But knowing this author, she probably never wrote the missing six days.

      One of my favorite historical romance series is by Lauren Willig. The first book is “The Secret History of the Pink Carnation,” and it flashes back and forth between contemporary and historical times. The writing is FABULOUS, and there is tons of banter and parts of it made me giggle out loud, and from delight, not horror. I’d definitely try her. Renee Bernard is another good author; I’ve read three of her books and haven’t been thrown into fits of rage.

      Speaking of the Rant Song, that is something I took directly from Scrubs, and the best part of that show, Dr. Cox: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7d-qdQ893o

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