Exorcising DNFs: #2

Writing her first DNF round-up post was cathartic for Miss Bates. She didn’t exactly enjoy discarding some TBR titles. But she didn’t want to “dismiss” them either. She just didn’t think she’d be back with another so soon. Articulating why a book left her cold, as she wrote in her previous DNF post, is as revealing, hopefully, and interesting, as why it did. Here are some more romance novels that didn’t work for Miss Bates and reasons why not. Every time Miss Bates writes one of these posts (and they are sorta fun to write), she feels like she should break out into an Adele song, setting fire to rain …

Darian_Hunter_Duke_of_DesireMiss Bates admits to a certain superficial aesthetic weakness for alliteration and a pretty cover. Caroline Mortimer’s Darian Hunter: Duke of Desire had both and Miss B. went for it. A certain trepidation set in when she read that Mortimer has written over 150 romance novels … surely, one can’t sustain excellence with that level of production? (On the other hand, her beloved Betty Neels wrote over a hundred; even The Divine Bets had her clunkers, though.) Miss Bates thought this prejudicial of her and plunged in … to meh. She supposes Mortimer’s romance perfectly serviceable and run-of-the-mill: indeed, if a reader wants tried and true imperious duke and feisty, older-woman (there’s one thing original about this romance), then Darian Hunter might do to while away a few hours. But two hours and thirty-eight-minutes worth of reading time were too much for Miss Bates. Darian Hunter, duked too young, carries the responsibility of his deceased father’s estates, guardianship of his younger brother, Anthony, and SEEKRET espionage missions for the crown in Napoleonic France. When Anthony falls for the promiscuous widow, Mariah Beecham, Countess of Carlisle, though laid up by an only-days-old bullet wound, Darian returns to London to save his baby brother from her clutches. Mariah, at five feet, had a lot going for her in Miss B’s universe: she was diminutive and that’s sure to keep Miss B. reading. Sadly, Mariah was diminutive, yes, but only seemingly promiscuous … she hides her virtue to ensure that fortune-hunters stay away and, as cover for her own SEEKRET espionage work for the crown! Miss Bates can forgive this “unlikely coincidence,” but she has a lot of trouble with the pounding-over-the-head virtue of a heroine and an overbearing hero. Actually, overbearing may be okay, but downright physically intimidating ain’t. In their first confrontation, Darian Hunter, Duke of Desire, gets in Mariah’s space, like intimidating-pushy-like. Miss B., who herself only stands at a bare five feet, was claustrophobic and wanted to smack distasteful Darian, Duke of Bleh. Add an info dump in chapter two and some copy errors (“amount of times” in place of “number of times”… eek!) and Miss Bates, spinster-grammar-geek and proud of it, was taken right out of this romance novel. (Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley. Darian‘s still around if you want to read him, at the usual vendors.)

Virgin_For_His_PrizeThe first chapter of Lucy Monroe’s A Virgin For His Prize near-had Miss Bates running for the hills. It was convoluted and silly and there was too much telling over showing, as any good English schoolmarm would know. Maxwell Black, tycoon, wants heiress (not terribly rich heiress, as her alcoholic dad eroded the family fortune) Romi Greyson. They were together a year ago, but she broke it off when she realized he wasn’t willing to commit to her. She’s a virgin and holding out for marriage. But she’s no puritanical miss, rather, discerning and still in love with Maxwell. Maxwell, on his part, wants Romi more than any other woman he’s known and machinates an elaborate blackmailing scheme involving getting her father into rehab, saving the Greyson company, and threatening Romi’s BFF’s fortune, all fairly benignly, unless she marry him. What bothered Miss Bates? It was sordid, not fun and clever, but distasteful. What kept her reading to nearly 70% before she gave up? There was something fresh and fun in Maxwell and Romi’s banter. Miss Bates liked Romi, the way she stood up to Maxwell and yet didn’t deny her feelings, or desire for him. She also didn’t give in to his blackmail, but counter-offered with a night of love-making and three days to think about it. It’s that love-making night that finally threw Miss Bates out of this tottering narrative. It went from funny and defiant on Romi’s part to growly and smoulder-y on Maxwell’s to LUDICROUS. It turns out that Maxwell received “lessons” in perfecting his love-making technique, with absurd passages such as Max saying to Romi:

“I studied the pressure points of the body with a master of Dim Mak who made it his life’s work to also discover the unexpected areas of the body that could give the most pleasure … Naturally, my teacher also trained me in traditional kung fu.” No wonder his body was so buff. “It was part of your exercise regimen then.” Even so, it was a little mind-boggling that Max had made a study of sex.

Um, “mind-boggling” is the word. There’s much crying out throes of passion and all, but the image of pressure points, kung fu, and quaint phrasing in “pleasuring” (Grasshopper!) had Miss Bates snort-guffawing. A Virgin For His Prize was unsavory to start, held great promise to turn out campy and fun … and then laughable and not-fun-at-all. (Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley. This Prize Virgin is still around if you want to read her, at the usual vendors.)

Playing_Playboy's_SweetheartCarol Marinelli’s Playing the Playboy’s Sweetheart turned Miss Bates right off from the get-go. Forget turning her off, it gave her reader-whiplash: details and backstory and insta-something and telling-not-showing came at her with a speed that could have been a virtuoso writing feat … if not for its abysmal failures. Miss Bates was taken by this baby because, let’s face it, she’d do anything to find another doctor/nurse Betty Neels universe. What she usually discovers is that La Belle Betts is the non-pareil. Without taking a breath, see if you, dear reader, can take all of this in: Emily Jackson is theatre nurse to junior surgeon and heartbreaking, womanising heartthrob, Hugh Linton. Except, as Emily tells us early on, no one breaks her heart; she’s guarding it because blah blah her parents’ divorce, REASONS. They work at The Royal, a London hospital: while life-saving surgeries occur on pallets and things, nurses weep over Hugh’s heartbreaking ways in the background, usually the cafeteria, where nurses go to cry. There are abrupt changes in POV, alternating Emily and Hugh. Suddenly, Hugh is talking to Emily about his sister’s post-natal depression and this sends Emily into a spiral of memories about her own twin half-brothers and cruel, now ex-step-mother, forbidding her to see them. She be saintly and determined to protect her heart by finding a nice staid man, Emily assures us again, out of the blue. Pronto, we’re transported to the hospital Christmas party where Hugh wants to save Emily from being driven home by the hospital nurse-drunk, Gina. Emily is internally resisting her overwhelming attraction to Hugh and determines to leave with Gina. Hugh must stop her: he grabs her and plunges his tongue down her throat. All of this, folks: In. The. Prologue. (The first chapter begins two years later.) Other than the whirlwind of events and back-stories, Marinelli’s diction carries some peculiar, unappealing, idiosyncrasies. Here’s the phrasing that sent Miss Bates running, “Never, in all her twenty-three years had a man detonated her the way Hugh had.” Detonated? Plunk went the Kindle cover. (Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley. Playboy and Sweetheart are still around if you want to read them, at the usual vendors.)

22 thoughts on “Exorcising DNFs: #2

  1. I got a laugh out of your “explosive” post Miss Bates. The quote from the Lucy Monroe tome was priceless! I had NO IDEA that there were Carole Mortimer historicals. Golly. She did quite a number of perfectly serviceable HP’s but iit’s very hard to imagine her in this genre, and after reading your DNF, well, I’m not going to bother trying!

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    • I wish I could quitcha writing these, but I’m hoping it’ll all taper off as I cull the ARC-TBR … I know, that quotation really did me in too!! I was okay until then, just kinda reading along, mildly amused and bemused; then, the “Grasshopper” business just KILLED it. Thanks for reading my rants!

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    • Re: Carole Mortimer’s productivity—
      According to the ‘Fantastic Fiction’ site, Ms Mortimer’s first book came out when she was 18 or so and at one point in her career had been been writing about 5 books a year. For comparison’s sake, Jayne Ann Krentz averages 3 a year, as does Nora Roberts (most of which, for both authors are longer than category titles).
      I remember reading Ms Mortimer’s early HPs, and like Joanne, was surprised to see her name on a historical. Not that I was going to read it then and i’m sure not going to read it now!
      Thank you Miss Bates for the no-holds-barred mini-reviews. They made my morning.

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      • Well, that’s certainly prolific!

        I’m glad you got a kick out of the reviews: they’re actually a lot of fun to write. And as I said to “Lawless,” I’m on my way to burning more bridges by starting a DNF: #3 post. 😉

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  2. ROFL! Great post, Miss B!

    Duked too young, SEEKRET espionage missions, a well-pleasured Grasshopper, and then ….tick….tick….tick…. KABOOM!

    Your head is spinning around, isn’t it?

    Someone wise recently told me, don’t wrap your dislike of something (be it book, movie, etc.) in fakety-fake blah-blah concern, get your hate on. It can be so cathartic.

    These books all get ‘tinned soup’ rating, but your post is worthy of a glorious ‘Queen of Puddings with lashings of whipped cream’ (rating system ‘borrowed’ from TUJD).

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    • Thank you! I admit I DO get a kick out of writing them … and I think someone gave you good advice. It WAS good to just say THIS IS LUDICROUS!!

      The TUJD is my favourite rating system of all time!

      Though I didn’t rate these because I didn’t feel justified in doing so in light of, you know, DNF … “It was badly done, indeed, Emma.” 😉 Sigh Knightley …

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  3. Oh, Carol Marinelli. I’ve read a half dozen of her medicals and they didn’t stick with me. I was so excited she wrote a nurse hero and doctor heroine (super rare), but you would think this guy is the chief of the ob/gyn service! Super macho and commanding, almost an overcompensation.

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    • I think the strangest thing about it was the bizarro writing: it was like Romance Bizarro World. Nurse hero and doctor heroine would be super-cool. I guess maybe she had the idea, but not the execution. Have you read Cara McKenna’s After Hours? The heroine is a nurse in a psychiatric facility (very gothic atmosphere, loved it) and the hero, quite macho, but NOT overbearing, is an orderly. Power relations there are so well done, meaning all for the heroine … and the background of a depressed and depressing Detroit, so good.

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  4. This post, since it’s all about Harlequins, reminds me of the process of going through a Whitman’s sampler, taking a bite from each to find the good one. There’s no shame in putting the bad ones back half eaten. 😉

    As for finding the next La Neels, I don’t think we’ll see her like again. Her world, and her charm and skill in sketching it, might be too singular to be repeated. 😦

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    • Ha!! I love that description and it gives me a wide berth for being a greedy greedy puss when it comes to category treasures. I love them so, that every pretty cover lures me to my doom: I hear their siren call and can’t resist.

      You are so right about La Neels, “her charm and skill in sketching her wonderful world” and her easy, elegant prose … we won’t see its like again.

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  5. Are you aware of the Facebook group The Uncrushable Jersey Dress for all things Betty Neels? One of the members is doing laugh out loud bullet reviews of the books in order–Betty From the Beginning. The comments then discuss likes and dislikes of the book . I’m so enjoying although I have to admit I don’t remember that much about the BN books I read as a teen other than that the Dutch doctor names were completely unpronounceable. I was much more a fan of Essie Summers, which no doubt explains my never ending fascination with New Zealand.

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      • I had to look on Amazon because I decluttered all my paperbacks a few years ago (I could kick myself now!) and two that I distinctly remember are Not By Appointment and One More River to Cross. But the main thing I remember was falling in love with New Zealand. I broke up with any place that took such a long plane trip for many years (Maui from the East Coast just about kills me….doesn’t stop me from going whenever I can, but it kills me!) But then I started reading Rosalind James Escape to New Zealand series about the All Blacks rugby team a couple of years ago, and of course started picking up all sorts of EnZed set stories and now I’m back in love again. Gobbling up Karina Bliss and other authors… all I have to see is New Zealand and I’m a one-clicking fool. The very interesting thing about the Rosalind James books is that she is an American who lived in NZ, so she sees interesting cultural things that the native authors may not notice. So now…off I go to order the same Essie Summers books I gave to Goodwill. Sigh.

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        • Oh, thank you so much for those titles! I learned, the hard way, not to de-clutter books … clothes, shoes with out of fashion heels, yes, but not books. You never know when you’re going to NEED to reread something, or allude to something for a friend, or copy out a passage on a birthday card. But I did a huge purge a few years back too and now I have to kick myself for it sometimes, especially when I have to buy books I already had!!!!

          I hope your Summerses come cheap!!!

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  6. “Detonated”? An exploding heroine is a visual I never expected to find in a romance. Thank you for reading these partway so we don’t have to. Your sacrifice is appreciated!

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    • LOL! You’re most welcome: I think I have problem, though, because I’m starting a DNF #3 … soon-ish.

      That use of “detonated” is utterly original!

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  7. Oh, Lord, this post made me laugh. (It was the kung fu that did me in.) I, too, have another DNF post in the works (though it probably won’t be as ranty as my last). It just feels so good to put them to rest.

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    • I’m glad it was funny! I think I’m addicted to them: like your Laurens post. I’ve already written a third, but am not ready to post it yet. It’s totally utterly beautifully cathartic to put them to rest!

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