Fiction: “The Other Side of Midnight” by Sidney Sheldon

Other Side of MidnightAfter Up Close And Dangerous left such a ragey flavor in my mouth, I didn’t read anything for like, a week. But when I was ready to read something again, I was still in the mood for schmaltz. But I also wanted a known quantity – I really didn’t feel like taking a chance on an author I’d never read before. Fool me once, shame on you, and all that.

So instead of the library, I went to my mom’s house and borrowed a couple of her Sidney Sheldon books.

Mom has pretty much the entire Sidney Sheldon… collection, for lack of a better phrase? He didn’t really write series – his books are like, stand-alone soap opera-esque epics that cover a woman’s life and the crazy antics she and her lovers get into, and also sometimes murder. By the time I was in high school, I had pretty much read all of the John Grisham novels published thus far, as well as the Kinsey Millhone series and most of Dick Francis’s stuff. And I was looking to add … more sex to my violence, as I’m fond of saying.

And since Mom was the one who introduced me to Dick Francis and Sue Grafton and John Grisham, she really couldn’t tell me I wasn’t allowed to read Sidney Sheldon’s stuff. Besides, Nick at Nite was a thing and I was really into I Dream of Jeannie (created by Sidney Sheldon!).

By the time I was a sophomore in college, and I had read every book by Sidney Sheldon my mother owned. And here’s the thing – I could read one of those books in like, two days. It was amazing! And it wasn’t just because I didn’t have a full time job and plenty of free time, either – the plots of the books just grabbed me and wouldn’t let me put them down.

The Other Side of Midnight was Sidney Sheldon’s second novel ever published. And when I went to my parents’ house that day with a Sheldon novel in mind, that was the one I grabbed.

(And then I kept it at my apartment, and then I moved it to my new home in Auburn. A couple of weeks ago my dad was helping me with a basement window thing and when we were eating lunch, he saw that I still had The Other Side of Midnight – it was out while I was writing this review. And poor Dad – he looks at me and asks, “Are you really reading that?” And I had to say, “No, Dad, I already read it.” YOU TOLD ME TO BROADEN MY HORIZONS DAD THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT)

So what is The Other Side of Midnight about?

It is the story of two women, both born just after World War I. For much of the book, each chapter moves between what is going on with Catherine Alexander, a young woman in Chicago, and Noelle Page, a young woman in France.

At 18, Noelle enters Paris a young, naive girl and immediately runs into Larry Douglas, on break from flying planes for the RAF. They have a wonderful weekend in Larry’s hotel room, at the end of which, he proposes. He says he’ll be back the following weekend to marry her. But – I’m sure you can guess what happens – he doesn’t return. In spite of her heartache, Noelle manages to become a model in Paris – very lucrative – and escapes much of the horrors of the Nazi occupation. However, she does manage to use her feminine wiles for good, and is able to smuggle her Jewish doctor out of Paris to save his life.

Meanwhile, Catherine has been going to college and then gets hired as a secretary for a PR firm. She makes an impression, and is practically running the place while her boss gets promoted to work with … I don’t know, Department of War or something? I’m not looking it up, I still know where the book is but it’s on the other side of the house and I’m still lazy, you guys. Anyway, she and Bill Fraser (her boss) get along very well together, and start sleeping together.

One day, Bill sends Catherine out to Hollywood to be assistant director on a film promoting the war effort. At the studio, she runs into Larry Douglas (!), and he’s such an ass to her that she assumes he’s just an actor and not actually a pilot. But when he apologizes and sets her straight, they … get married almost immediately!

Back in France, Noelle has turned her modeling career into an acting career, thanks to her manipulation of one of the premiere directors of Paris. The theater-going crowd worships her, and her best performance is the one she gives off-stage. Because she has hired a private detective and paid him handsomely – and his only job is to keep tabs on Larry Douglas. She receives reports monthly, telling her that he has been stationed back in London, or that his wife has returned to Washington for her job. And Noelle files the information away, just waiting for the best time to strike.

Because you see, all Noelle really wants – not fame, not money – is to enact vengeance on Larry Douglas.

Sidney Sheldon slowly strings the two ladies closer and closer together – after the war, Larry becomes a pilot, first for Pan Am, and then privately for a Greek tycoon named Constantin Demeris. Demeris also happens to be Noelle’s latest partner. And how do you think Larry managed to be plucked out of obscurity to be Demeris’s personal pilot?

I’m not going to ruin the ending or the rest of the plot for y’all. Unlike a soap opera, this book does have an ending. And even better, it’s a satisfying ending. But the getting to that ending – there’s plenty of drama to keep you reading.

Now, I was unable to read this in two days – unlike when I was in high school, I couldn’t spend an entire afternoon reading the book. But it was definitely a quick read. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense and haven’t tried Sidney Sheldon yet, I think now is as good a time as any.

Grade for The Other Side of Midnight: 4 stars

Fiction: “Trouble in High Heels” by Christina Dodd

Trouble in High HeelsFIRST THINGS FIRST, for those of you keeping track of the Saga Of The Abandoned Car:

The Friend has finally – FINALLY – purchased a new vehicle.

it's about damn time

HOWEVER – the abandoned vehicle is still abandoned. Details to follow when they become available.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress. (hahaha none of those words apply to this blog in any way, shape, or form i’m a horrible person ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

When I was moving out of my apartment in Portland to my current place in Yarmouth, not only did I move all of my books, but I also rescued a few dozen from my roommate, who was going to throw them away because she wasn’t going to read them again, and she didn’t have the time to donate them or sell them to a used bookstore. (We were both very busy during those few months, and I totally get it.) She read a lot of contemporary romances, whereas I had primarily stuck to the historical branch of that genre. One of my rescue-ees was Christina Dodd’s “Fortune Hunter” series; I had heard good things about Ms. Dodd, so I figured, “why not, I’ll read them eventually.”

Flash forward to November, 2016. I was still coming to grips with the next president of the United States (and still am, bee tee dubs, but I am trying so goddamned hard to not talk about it here), and a lot of my feelings just … went away. I wasn’t interested in doing anything. Instead of catching up on any number of TV shows I was told I should watch (This is Us, Stranger Things, Black Mirror) I found myself rewatching 30 Rock. But only for a couple of seasons. Or Bob’s Burgers.

And in the midst of all this, I wasn’t interested in reading anything. I was going back and forth between Publish & Perish and a couple of romance novels, but I was just … going through the motions.

One night, I randomly pulled a book out of my contemporary romance bookshelf, conveniently located right next to my bed. I had done this a few years ago and ended up reading Demon Rumm. Well, the book I grabbed in mid-November was Danger in a Red Dress – the fourth book in the series. And when I verified what the first book in the series was, I realized … my ex-roommate didn’t have that one.


So I added Trouble in High Heels to my latest Amazon purchase (along with the remainder of my James Bond series, so I now own all of them in the same style, and that did give some joy to my heart). And eventually, in December, I started reading it. And I finished it in January, after what turned out to be a bit of a hardscrabble road.

Hoo boy.

Let me first say: I was expecting a bit more out of this book. I’d heard many good things about Ms. Dodd – her characters, the plots, all were supposed to be good. But after reading this, I can only hope that maybe she wrote it as a form of satire? But then continued for another three titles in the series to make sure she hits all the points? Maybe? I mean … well, lemme go through the plot.

Brandi Michaels —

*sigh* I feel like I could probably stop right here.  You can figure out what the problems are gonna be, right?

ANYHOO. Brandi Michaels is a lawyer in Chicago who was just dumped by her fiancé when he calls Brandi to tell her that a) he’s not marrying Brandi anymore, because b) he just married c) his sidepiece d) who happens to be knocked up e) with his kid. Also, he didn’t understand why Brandi wanted to continue with her fledgling law career when he was going to be a doctor and he could take care of her. Why should she want to work?

So instead of giving up and going back home to Momma, Brandi decides to have a one-night stand following her break-up, and ends up with a weekender with a hot Italian dude named Roberto. And then Monday comes along, and on her first day of the job, she learns that Roberto is actually a) a client of the law firm, b) is also an Italian count, and c) a suspected jewel thief.

yeah okay sure.gif

And as part of the whole “representing” thing, she has to pretty much handcuff herself to Roberto, and all he wants to do is bone, because he’s uber-confident about everything, and she wants to be seen as intelligent and professional, but she keeps ending up in delicate situations, and long story short, the Mafia is also involved but everything turns up okay in the end.

I guess I didn’t expect the plot to be so … farcical? I mean, I don’t recall that there were actual handcuffs between Brandi and Roberto, but … the whole plot feels like it was lifted from a sweeps storyline on General Hospital, that was then turned down for being too ludicrous.

In addition to the plot being far-fetched and dumb, the characters are stereotypes. Brandi Michaels is described to look exactly how you may think someone named “Brandi Michaels” looks like, apologies to real-life Brandi Michaels who probably don’t look like a blonde, less-intelligent version of Jessica Rabbit. She’s smart enough to graduate with a law degree from Vanderbilt, but when her assets are discussed, they’re only found in her double-D cups. Every person she comes in contact with treats her law career as just something to do until she settles down. At the end of the novel she gets engaged to Roberto, but I can’t recall (and I’m not going to look it up) if she decides to keep her law career, or if that’s even a condition for their marriage.

Roberto is a cipher, installed to be the dall, tark, and mysterious stranger —

I just wrote “dall” and “tark” – what the hell, Alaina. No, you know what? I’m keeping it.

— Talldark, and mysterious stranger who reveals he has emotional baggage. Now, usually, that’s my kind of dude. But Roberto was just so … flat. For the first half of the book, he was just a piece of meat that Brandi lusted after. Even when she learned he was a suspected jewel thief, there wasn’t any depth to him. It wasn’t until later – almost the end of the book – when we learn his motivation for getting involved in this latest scheme.

“I’m not an international jewel thief – not usually – but I know the family business and I keep up the Contini contacts. Nonno [Roberto’s grandfather or uncle or someone] called and said that Mossimo Fossera intended to steal the Romanov Blaze. I used my contacts. I went to the FBI and told Aiden Tuchman that if he would find out who my father was, I would help him bring down the Fosseras.” [Roberto] shrugged his massive shoulders. “It’s as simple as that.” [p. 372]

Oh my god, he has Daddy Issues! Just like Brandi has Daddy Issues, but to a different degree! No, see, the book starts with Brandi at 11, overhearing an argument between her parents about her:

“[Brandi’s] smart, too. She’s never had anything but straight A’s, even in math.” Mama didn’t pay a bit of attention to Daddy’s insult to her, but leaped into the fray to defend Brandi.

[…] “Brandi’s probably going to be some kind of freaking English major and a drain on my wallet for the rest of my life.” He sounded so disgusted, as if being good in English were a waste.

“She’s the best in her class in gymnastics and ballet.”

“A bunch of skinny little girls in tights!”

Brandi gritted her teeth. She wasn’t skinny or little anymore. She had a figure, and at five-foot-ten she was an inch taller than Mama and four inches taller than any of the rest of the girls in her class. But around the house Daddy hardly glanced at Brandi, and he had never bothered to come to her recitals. [p. 6]

I just to point out here: in these paragraphs? Brandi is eleven. At the age of 11, this kid is taller than me, a 34-year-old woman. And apparently, she has a figure. At eleven. I am not okay with the fact that this eleven-year-old kid is given “a figure”.

(I know that girls develop at different rates, and it’s entirely possible that an eleven-year-old girl could be taller than an adult woman, and could possibly have “a figure” already. But that description, taken in conjunction with the phrase “around the house Daddy hardly glanced at Brandi”, I am hit with the idea that Brandi wanted Daddy to notice her the way he notices other women – adult women, I presume – and I just got … wicked icky about the whole thing.)

And as I said before – or may have alluded to, because I’m not scrolling up to see if I did say it or not – a lot is made of Brandi’s figure. By her mother, Tiffany –

“What are you wearing [to the lawyer party]?” Tiffany asked.

Uh-oh. “That black sheath I bought for parties at law school.”

“Darling, black? That’s so New York. Show those Chicago lawyers how good a Southern girl can look! […] the sheath doesn’t show off your figure.”

“Thank God. Do you know how hard it is to dress for business with a chest like mine?” [p. 20-21]

– her mentor, “Uncle” Charles –

“Now, Brandi, you go ahead and dress up for [Roberto] Bartolini; I know he enjoys seeing a pretty girl as much as I do. Anyway, I always thought you worked too hard. When this is over and you’re buried in dusty law books, you’ll look back and wonder what you were complaining about.” [p. 278-279]

– and a whole bunch of randos at that fancy lawyer party, where she chose a red dress in which to snare her one-night stand after being dumped by her skeezy ex:

She unbelted the coat. Unbuttoned it. Taking a deep breath, she slid it off her shoulders and down her arms.

The silence in the foyer was profound.

She looked around. Jerry’s mouth was hanging open. One black security guard had his arm braced against the wall. The other had taken a step forward. The Asian security guard was smiling as if she’d just had a vision – Brandi hadn’t realized she was a lesbian, but obviously she was. And of the Hispanic guests, the husband looked enthralled and the wife furious.

So Mother was right. A red dress worked.

A long, silk, sleeveless scarlet dress with, as Mr. Arturo said, “Two really elegant design features, darling, and both of them hold up the bodice.” [p. 54]

There’s a lot here. There’s the fact that, with one fell swoop, Brandi’s scarlet-clad tits apparently turned all these professional individuals into the Wolf from Red Hot Riding Hood. I’m not sure if we’re to believe that Brandi has such an uncanny sense of gaydar that she is normally able to pick out all gays and lesbians in a quarter mile radius, but apparently she was so proud of herself stunning everyone else into submission she missed the Asian lesbian security guard, but also, in retrospect, it was obvious that the Asian lesbian security guard was gay? How was it obvious?!

And for all of her protesting that Brandi’s extremely smart in addition to having a crazy figure, Brandi isn’t always … the smartest …

Check out her first meeting on her first day at work, after having spent the weekend in flagrante with Roberto, a tall Italian count:

“[Our client] has dual citizenship, American and Italian. The FBI claims he’s a jewel thief. They assert his specialty is diamonds, big diamonds, and that he’s stolen from museums and private citizens in New York City, San Francisco, and Houston. The CIA also has an interest in him, claiming he’s committed similar crimes in Rome, Bombay, and London. But the FBI landed him first.

[…] The FBI has videos of our client in two of those locations prior to a robbery, and most important, an audiotape of him speaking to the owner of the jewel a mere hour before the robbery took place. He’s renowned for romancing females before he allegedly steals their finest pieces — […] and this woman, Mrs. Vandermere, says she saw him take her eight-carat diamond necklace before he left for the night. The FBI is prosecuting on circumstantial evidence and one woman’s accusations.” Glenn swayed like a cobra preparing to strike. “They might be able to make it stick … if our client were poor. But he’s not. He can afford the best defense, and that’s us.”

“Of course,” Brandi said.

“He’s independently wealthy and a respected businessman.” Diana smiled with reminiscent pleasure. “The fact that he’s an Italian count doesn’t hurt, either.”

The hair on the back of Brandi’s neck stood up. She drove her pen tip into her notebook. The top page tore, but she barely noticed. Wildly she looked from one attorney to another. “What’s his name?”

“Don’t you ever read the papers?” Sanjin asked.

“His name!” Brandi rapped her knuckles on the table.

Her fierce demand took even Glenn aback. “It’s Bartolini,” he said. “Roberto Bartolini.” [p. 119-120]

Like, for real: maybe it was drawn out for dramatic irony, but come on; hearing dual citizenship with Italy wasn’t going to ping her brain at all?

By this point, I hope I’ve given ya’ll a sense of Brandi. But what of Roberto? Well, he’s short on words and prone to random Italian outbursts, to remind the reader he’s Italian:

“Why didn’t you tell me later?”

“When, Roberto? At the courthouse, when you were mouthing off to Judge Knight? At the Stuffed Dog, where Mossimo’s men were threatening you with a gun? At your grandfather’s?” She was getting wound up. “I actually meant to tell you yesterday morning, but Tiffany appeared and I didn’t want to explain why I hadn’t told her, so I kept quiet. Then we moved to the hotel, then we went dancing, then you hit Alan, then we came to McGrath and Lindoberth so I could yell at Uncle Charles, for all the good it did me, then we got stuck in a murderous elevator, and now here we are – ”

Buono!” Roberto held up a hand. “You’re right. We’ve been busy.” [p. 295]

Finally, I have two other quotes, and then I promise, I’m done with this book. (I really didn’t expect this review to be more than 2,000 words; for that, I am sorry.)

When Brandi first spies Roberto from across a crowded room, her thought that I read almost made me fall off my elliptical machine (yes, I brought this book to the gym):

He was the one. He was the Matterhorn and she was going to scale him. [p. 70]

And this son of a bitch – I have no idea what the fuck this sentence even means:

Memories like that had kept [Roberto] awake far into the night … and gave him a hard-on big enough to warrant a line at the Navy Pier amusement park. [p. 223]


think Roberto’s trying to liken his massive erection to a thrill ride that mayhap be found at the Navy Pier Amusement Park in Chicago. But given the choice between Roberto, the Italian Matterhorn, and the Disneyland Matterhorn, churro me up, baby, I’m going to Disneyland.

Grade for Trouble in High Heels: 1 star

Fiction: “Charade” by Sandra Brown

charadeHey guys, remember when I read that kind-of-awful romance novel by Sandra Brown a couple of months ago, and I mentioned another book I had read by the same author when I was in high school? And then I said that if I could find a copy for cheaps I was gonna buy it and read the hell out of it, hoping it doesn’t suck like Demon Rumm did?

You guys! My mom had a copy!

(I had forgotten that my mother had read Charade first, and what probably happened is that years ago I bought a copy, and then left it with my mother so she could re-read it. Merry Christmas to Alaina 2014!)

(Because yes, this was the last book that I managed to complete in the year 2014, and my stats on that will be forthcoming shortly. Hooray for snow days and increased productivity!)

This may have been the first book in the “romantic suspense” genre I ever read – when I was a teenager, I had no time for “mushy romance,” and to be truthful, even up until about five or six years ago, I still preferred romance in my violence over violence in my romance. Charade had an interesting mystery and the romance stemmed from it through coincidence rather than creating a mystery around it.

Cat Delaney, the Susan Lucci of this universe’s soap opera scene, has a bad heart, and we begin the book at her heart transplant. After her recovery, she decides to retire from acting in order to give back to her community. Inspired by her own orphaned childhood, (because why not), she moves to San Antonio to head up a television segment called Cat’s Kids, which would help get children adopted in the area.

I … just read that sentence, and I guess that during the actual reading of the book, it never hit me how ludicrous that whole thing sounds. Not the soap opera actress relocating to Texas part (although if she were relocating to El Paso, it would definitely be unbelievable), and not even the soap opera actress deciding to do a weekly segment on a local newscast part. I mean, it’s not like she’s doing hard news or anything, so a journalism degree isn’t exactly required. No, the ludicrous part is the idea of showing kids who should be adopted and getting the kids adopted quickly. Maybe it was different back in the ’90s, but nowadays, there is so much red tape when it comes to adoption that while a news program would be a nice thing, there’s no way it would make a difference.

ANYWAY. Here’s where the mystery comes in: there were five other heart transplants on the same day as Cat’s, and on the anniversary of the transplant, one of the recipients dies. And this year, Cat’s in the bulls-eye.

She meets her romantic interest, Alex Pierce, on one of her fact-finding missions: he’s house-sitting for a couple who are interesting in adopting one of her Kids. (Sidenote: I get that it’s the name of her show, but man, the characters are constantly calling the show by its full name. Cat’s Kids. Cat’s Kids. Cat’s Kids. WE GET IT, IT’S THE SHOW.) Alex is a writer, and so when she shows up at 9, he’s just pulling on a pair of jeans and coming to answer the door shirtless after a long night of … writing, and Cat is intrigued, but also appalled at his rudeness. But he keeps showing up to events and being nice to Cat, trying to make up for his earlier rudeness, and when she starts to get threats related to her heart transplant, he reveals he’s a former cop and a current crime writer, so he starts to help investigate the backgrounds of the other, deceased transplantees.

Overall, the plot moves quickly, and there are only a couple of overwritten sentences. There’s a moment where Cat, in the middle of being assigned a security detail, protests by saying that she’s not an “objet d’art.” Nobody talks like that. Oh, and there was a cute moment where Cat’s talking to one of her Kids and she likes his red cowboy boots because they’re like her red cowboy boots, and all I could think of was Ted and his red cowboy boots and his determination to pull them off.

And where does the Charade of the title come into play? Well, you’re led to believe that someone close to Cat is the killer, and he comes across as a nice guy and helpful and sweet and then she thinks she’s figured it out and accuses him of being the killer, but then it’s this other person in the story. You can probably guess who is set up to be the narrative patsy, as this is a romantic suspense story and not, for instance, Gone Girl or some other mystery that actually is able to surprise you as you read it. But I’m not going to spoil it, because that’s something I try very hard to not do anymore.

And how does it stack up, nostalgia-wise? Remember, I was reading this in late high school / early college, and my tastes and reading matter have changed in those *mumblegrumble* years. (You know you’re getting older when you find yourself rounding your age up, even though your birthday isn’t for a whole fifty-nine days.) Well, it was … nice. I mean, I had read it a couple of times back then and I knew the first suspect was just a red herring, and as soon as I saw the character list I remembered who the serial killer was, so I was pretty much just going along until everything resolved itself. I did forget a bunch of incidental stuff, and I had completely forgotten that there were a number of subplots that really had nothing to do with the serial killing main plot (Who stole Cat’s transplant medicine? Oh, it was that chick because she hates her.)

As one of the first “steamy” books I ever read, reading it now, it’s actually … very tame. It’s not a Jane Austen novel, but compared to some of the historical romances I’ve read?



Overall, it was nowhere near as annoying as Demon Rumm, and I maintain that Demon Rumm was one of Ms. Brown’s first novels because the writing has definitely improved in Charade. I’m going to rate it four stars, but please take note that one star is purely for nostalgia. And for finding it when I didn’t think I had it.

Grade for Charade: 4 stars

Fiction: “Demon Rumm” by Sandra Brown

Demon RummYou guys, I am the worst. How am I so far behind review-wise? Wait, don’t answer that, I know the answer: I’m lazy. I’m lazy and also the worst. I have finished reading two books in two weeks, and I should be here bitching about the time it’s taken me to write their reviews, but when I have two books to review before those? The worst. If you look up “the worst” in a dictionary, you’ll see my picture.

ANYWAY. Almost two months ago, I was suffering from a mild, self-diagnosed case of insomnia. Basically, I couldn’t fall asleep, and everything I tried to do didn’t work. I actually stayed awake through Sleepy Hollow (poor Sleepy Hollow – I love that show, but somehow I always fall asleep around the halfway mark of nearly every episode). The book I was reading at the time wasn’t quite boring enough. The melatonin I took must have been a placebo. Regardless, I wasn’t sleeping. So I reached into the bookcase near my bed, attempting to grab Ten Days That Shook the World, which is a first-person account of the October Revolution of Russia in 1917 – supposedly, as I’ve yet to get past page iv of the introduction.

So I’m reaching for the Valium in book form when I spy the spine of this novel by Sandra Brown on the shelf. Now, years ago – like, high school years ago – Sandra Brown’s Charade was one of the first books in the “romantic suspense” genre I ever read. It was great, and if I ever find a paperback copy of it for cheaps, I am totally buying it. I think I may have read other titles by Ms. Brown, but if I have, they certainly didn’t leave as vivid an impression as Charade did. So my gut reaction, when seeing this book, was “Hm … this could be interesting.”

Then, there’s the title: Demon Rumm. It had to be about a pirate, right? I mean, what else would “Demon Rum(m)” signify, besides a pirate – or maybe an alcoholic demon? And then when you pick up the book and see the cover, well – the female legs on the cover, tanning on a beach … the ocean setting removes all possibility of spirits that have a problem with spirits  — all those things led me to believe, in the split-second before I turned the book over to read the back of it, that this was going to be a suspenseful romance about a pre-Jack Sparrow alcoholic pirate. And I think everyone here knows how I feel about pirates, and especially about pirates who fall in love with women who make them want to be better men.

(look, the guy who plays Captain Hook on Once Upon a Time clearly graduated from the Derek Zoolander Skool for the Really, Really, Ridiculously Good Looking, and no, I will not stop talking about it.)

SO ANYWAY in my insomnia-esque state, I was really excited to see what exactly Demon Rumm was going to be about. Therefore, you can imagine the level of disappointment I felt when I learned this book had nothing to do with either demons, pirates, or rum.

Instead, Demon Rumm is a fairly straight-forward romance, wherein man meets woman, woman doesn’t like the man at first because she thinks he’s an asshat, man tries to change her mind about him and realizes she has baggage and/or secrets from a previous relationship, man tries to overcome aforementioned baggage and help the woman find her powerful self, woman reveals her secret baggage and therefore gets over said baggage, woman and man sleep together, man and woman end up getting married and living happily ever after.

But somehow, in my addled state, I decided to read a little bit of it. Maybe I thought it would be the final nail in my “please let me sleep” coffin of wishes.

Here’s where the book surprised me: I read seventy pages that night. How is that even possible? Of course, the chapters were a quick read, and those seventy pages took only, like, forty minutes, so in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t like it entranced me so well that it kept me awake. But I do remember looking down and seeing how far I’d read, and saying out loud, “what the fuck? How have I read so much?”

So what the heck is Demon Rumm all about?

Demon Rumm was a stunt pilot for the movies, married to Kirsten Rumm. (We never learn her maiden name, as it is not important to the story.) A few years before we begin our tale, Demon Rumm died in a tragic accident. A movie studio picks up the life of Demon Rumm as a biopic (somehow before Kirsten has finished writing the book it’s based on – the logic is handwaved in this situation), and casts Rylan North as the star. Rylan North is the late 1980s version of Matthew McConaughey, as far as I can tell. He’s apparently gorgeous, with a proclivity for sunbathing nude, and probably goes around saying “all right, all right, all right.”

Rylan invites himself to live in Kirsten’s home to get a better understanding of Demon Rumm and how he lived his life. God, he’s so Method I can’t stomach it. Anyway, Kirsten looks at Rylan’s intrusion as just that – an intrusion. She doesn’t want to talk about her husband, she doesn’t want to talk about how he died, and she certainly doesn’t want anything to do with Rylan.

Except his chiseled abs and persistence eventually wear her down. Apparently their marriage wasn’t as perfect as it seemed on the outside, and she’s harboring a terrible secret about it. A ~terrible~ secret, one that came between her and Demon (no, seriously, I know he has a real name, and yeah, the book is right next to me, but I’m not looking it up) (it may have been Charles?), and Rylan is determined to figure out what it was.

But he spends two-thirds of the book thinking Kirsten was “frigid” towards Demon, because that was a viable reason for unhappiness back in those days of yore. Spoiler alert! The real reason Demon and Kirsten’s marriage was falling apart? Demon was impotent and didn’t know how to deal with it, and he may have crashed his plane on purpose as a form of suicide. Over his limp dick.


So now that the secret’s out, Kirsten and Rylan are able to get together and everything’s fine and dandy and I think Rylan wins an Oscar for the role, so there’s that too.

Here’s what I found … I’m not going to say “interesting,” because that’d be a lie, but, I don’t know, “out of the norm”: The entire story was written from Rylan’s perspective. Now, in many of the other romances I’ve read, historical or otherwise, usually the main point of view is from the female in the relationship – while it might not be written in first-person, the majority of the insights comes from the female character through a third person’s omniscience. Occasionally, those romances will switch points-of-view between the female and the male characters, so we the reader can understand that while Sabrina is entranced by Bruce’s dark, lusty eyelashes, at the same time Bruce is equally unnerved by Sabrina’s blue eyes and porcelain skin.

(Leave me alone, I can’t write mushy crap; I’m too much of a cynic.)

But in Demon Rumm, we never go into Kirsten’s mind; not once. We see her reactions, but through Rylan’s eyes, and therefore, his interpretations of her reactions. I get that it was most likely done as a way to keep up the suspense around the mysteriously un-erect penis (and man, that would have been an excellent mystery for the Hardy Boys to solve), but it was still different enough to be worth a mention.

Let’s see, what else – oh, I found this horrible and jarring and awful, for a couple of reasons. At one point, Rylan’s sister visits with her young son, and Kirsten gets jealous because of course Rylan doesn’t immediately say, “Oh hey, Kirsten, is it okay if my sister and my nephew visit me? That’d be really cool, thanks,” nor does he introduce them as his relatives upon their meeting Kirsten, because Rylan is somewhat of a dick. This brings up Rylan’s previous relationship with a rising starlet who got pregnant and had an abortion without telling him. I am not going to get into my personal beliefs around abortion here, for it is neither the place nor appropriate setting, and while we are discussing fictional characters here, I found Rylan’s extreme anger around his girlfriend’s decision indicative of a larger problem:

The wrath he had first felt when the young actress told him about the abortion thundered through him again. Unconsciously he clenched his hands into fists. That was the day he had learned that everybody was capable of violence. He’d wanted to kill the selfish bitch with his bare hands. The urge he had felt to destroy her frightened him even now. He thanked heaven that somehow he had kept himself from murdering her for aborting his child. [p. 188-189]

Okay, now that that unpleasantness is out of the way, what did I find funny about the novel? Well, one little word that I’m pretty sure was made up, but then the sex writing – hoo boy, are parts of that bad.

Kirsten describes the night she met Demon to Rylan, and says about her former boyfriends:

“Most of the men I went out with were academicians.” [p. 60]

Wait, Microsoft Word is recognizing that as a valid word. What? Why say “academicians” when “academics” is probably the same thing? *looks it up* YEAH, IT MEANS ACADEMIC. WHAT THE HELL. (Or, she was only dating members of the Royal Academy of Arts, which seems like a stretch.)

So now that that’s over, let’s get onto the bad sex writing. Oh Sandra Brown, please tell me this was one of your first books, because I seem to remember that Charade didn’t suffer from these problems.

His body settled more deeply into the cove of her thighs. [p. 70]

A cove? I mean, I guess it is kind of w– hm. Ew.

Oh man, this page has two good examples:

Her mouth opened up to his like a flower, then her lips closed petal soft around his intrusive tongue, hugging it.


He tilted his hips forward, until her thighs parted slightly and cuddled his hardness between them. Reacting strictly on impulse, he began lightly slamming into that marvelous softness with rhythmic movements. [p. 74]

I don’t know where to start. Her lips hugging his intrusive tongue? Her thighs cuddling his hardness? Him lightly slamming into her softness that also happens to be marvelous? I’m not even touching the actions Rylan’s making and how they’re described in almost violent tones, but whoa, Nellie – that is some extremely purple prose up there.

Oh, here’s another example of how, unlike in the classic Bush song, Sandra Brown makes sure that there is sex in her violence:

He used his tongue to make quick, stabbing thrusts against her nipples, then sucked them gently. [p. 149]

I honestly didn’t come out here to rail against the patriarchy and the violence towards women I’m seeing in this book, but apparently I only picked quotes that did that? Look, this book isn’t The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but I guess my subconscious picked up on a disturbing trend, or something. I’m not going to come out and say that this book is aggressive towards women, because really, Rylan doesn’t demonstrate** any aggression towards Kirsten, and both of their feelings are real – well; as real as emotions demonstrated by fictional characters can be. (“Real zombies? Did you just say ‘real’ zombies??) I guess I’m more disturbed by the word choices made to describe these actions, rather than the actions themselves. The actions themselves weren’t violent, but the words used implied violence, and I’m like Bush: I want no sex in my (non-consensual) violence.

**I know, aside from the murderous rage he feels about his almost-baby-mama. But even then, that’s inconsistent with how he feels about her eighty pages prior:

He held no grudge toward either woman, only felt extremely lucky that he’d escaped them when he had. [p. 104]

But then, as quoted above, eighty or so pages later, he wanted to kill her. But he doesn’t hold a grudge. But he still makes fists when he thinks about her.

Well, I’ve just written two thousand words on a very problematic book, so I’ll leave you with the one line that made me laugh until I cried (and in case you’re wondering, I fell asleep shortly thereafter):

His desire last night hadn’t been rooted in his groin, but in his heart. [p. 104]

I swear, as God is my witness, I’m going to make that into a cross-stitch pattern.

Grade for Demon Rumm: 1 star