Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton


Rating: WARTY!
erratum:
" Young man, would you please some with us?" should read 'come' with us.

The Cracked Spine was an intriguing adult fiction story which I got for advance review purposes. I initially enjoyed it, but as it went on and on, it wore me down and I ended up not liking it, mostly because of the protagonist and the complete lack of rationale for most of her actions. The curious thing about this that there was no blurb available for this novel. It was quite literally a mystery book, and normally I wouldn't pick one up for review without having some idea of what's in it.

This one intrigued me from the cover and the title, and I thought it was a murder mystery set in a book shop. Which person who loves books doesn't like the idea of a novel involving books? Of course not every such novel ends up being even so much as readable let alone lovable. As I began reading this one, it seemed more like some sort of supernatural or sci-fi novel than a murder mystery, but then a murder occurred (and it wasn't in the book shop). In short, it was all over the place.

I failed to grasp the point of bringing the supernatural into the story considering that it played no part in the plot. Additionally, Delaney is supposed to be able to "hear" books speak, and several times we get a hint of her "hearing" a quote from a book - usually Shakespeare - but this made absolutely no sense whatsoever. It played no part in the plot or in resolving the mystery, so I simply didn’t get this at all. It just made her seem in need of some serious psychiatric attention.

So Delaney Nichols is not in Kansas anymore. She's in Edinburgh, Scotland, to take up her new job at The Cracked Spine, an old, small, dusty, disorganized book shop on a narrow street in Edinburgh, Scotland. The shop is odd, but the main character is more odd. She uproots herself from Kansas and flies to start a new job in this obscure little shop in Edinburgh. We're given absolutely no reason whatsoever to justify this flight. Delaney is decidedly odd and not in a good way.

Consider the cataloging system she apparently employs: "It was more than the fact that it might be in the P's for parody. It wouldn't have been that simple, I decided." Who catalogs books by putting them in 'P' for parody? A chain book shop might have a humor section where parody would be, but it would be alphabetized by author. In a disorganized antiquarian shop? And a specific section on parody? No. It was just weird and took me out of my suspension of disbelief for a second or two. A bookstore like this wouldn't have survived with so many employees and so little movement of books. No one actually seems to do any work there.

So ween granting that the owner is old and quirky this cataloging seemed off. It seemed even more off that Delaney would think this way - but then we never do discover why she was hired. The shop itself has too many quirks. On her first brief visit, she meets a young man dressed in Shakespearean costume, who introduces himself as Hamlet. He says he's acting in a local production of Macbeth, although he's too superstitious to use the play's name. Fie on that, say I! Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries "What if Macduff doesn't want you laying on him?" Well, the rest is silence, so let's not paint the lily.

I digress, but there's an on-line source which purports to correct misspoken Shakespeare, and one of the misquotes is from Richard 3.0, where the titular character says, "Now is the winter of our discontent...." He goes on to finish his assertion by adding, "...made glorious summer by this son of York," except that corrections page itself is incorrect in that it says, "sun of York"! I really enjoyed the irony. Shakespeare is often misunderstood because there's been many a year slipped 'twixt bard and modern lip. Even words we still use have changed meaning.

Moreover, they had a different way of speaking four hundred years ago - of pronouncing words, as the Crystals demonstrate at the Globe Theatre. It puts a whole new sense and sensibility on some of the seemingly obscure things he wrote and the rhymes he apparently didn't make. When you pronounce "Nothing" as "Noting", for example, then "Much Ado About Noting" makes sense given how often that last word is used in the introductory scenes, and how important the act of noting events accurately becomes during the rest of the play.

Do I really digress? Not so much, because part of this mystery centers on the location of a Shakespeare first folio - a new one that has been surreptitiously discovered, the existence of which known only to a local cadre of wealthy friends in Edinburgh. The fact that there are many so-called 'first' folios rather robs them of their cardinal precedence, doesn't it? I mean, only one can actually really be the first. The rest are not to be. That is their destiny.

Edwin, the owner of the book shop where Delaney now works, bought this new folio (maybe the last first folio!), and inexplicably left it in the charge of his previously ne'er do well sister, who inexplicably hides it in a place where it’s inexplicably discovered. Now she's been murdered, no one knows where the folio is, nor why she was murdered. Was it an unsavory character from her addled past, or is it someone who was looking for the folio? And why is Edwin hindering the police investigation into his sister's murder by withholding information about it from the police? Was the folio stolen and if so why would his reputation - or preserving hers - be more important than tracking down his sister's killer? None of this makes sense, nor is it explained.

I found it funny that chapter three ended with a 'five' leading into chapter four: "I didn't wake again until my alarm sounded the next morning at five." But that's just me. It felt like a countdown to something wicked this way coming. It wasn't. It would have been hilarious if it could have somehow been continued, but it was not to be. That's the question?!

As you may have gathered, I had some problems with this novel, the first of which was why the main character suddenly started acting like a detective. She knew no one here. She had nothing to prove and no vested interest in any piece of property or person, yet she immediately and suddenly started acting like a private investigator for no reason. She neglected the job she was hired to do, and pursued the case like a pit bull, yet no one says a word about her behavior! Worse than this, she's unaccountably aggressive and rude without having any reason to be so. It just felt wrong. If you're going to have a character do this, then please at least equip her with a rational motivation for out-of-character behavior! Give her something which spurs her into it - don’t just have her running all over for no reason at all!

In general, the writing was very good from a technical perspective, and for the most part it was readable, despite it being first person PoV. Some authors can do that voice without it being nauseating to read, but this created problems for the author, and it shows. When you write like this you can only tell the story from the PoV of the narrator. If something happens elsewhere, she doesn't know about it and we're set forth upon a sea of details, which by depressing, rends us. It lets slip the dogs of "Bah!" It's no better than a flashback or an info-dump which makes me want to shuffle off the awful tome. As it happens I made it to the end, and discovered it to be a total let-down. The plotting was less than satisfying.

One example was when the police came looking for Edwin, the owner of the book shop and the brother of the murder victim, Jenny. Instead of going to his home, where he might reasonably be expected to be - and in fact where he was - the police came to the book shop though there was no reason whatsoever for them to visit it. Another example is when Delaney goes with Hamlet to the police station. There's no reason for her to do this! Indeed, she's supposed to be working, yet off she goes of her own volition, accompanying one of the shop's part time employees - a teenager she barely knows - without so much as a by-your-leash. For me, her behavior turned her into an insufferable busybody, but the take-home lesson from this is that the author forced herself into adopting this unnatural and annoying behavior for her characters because of her choice of first person voice - the most limiting and restrictive voice you can choose. It felt so unnatural that it took me out of the story. Again.

The only explanation for this behavior is nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with Delaney having to witness things in order to derive something from what she sees or hears. The shop visit could have been explained by having the police say he wasn't at home which is why they were there at the shop, but this didn't happen. It was also weird in that when the two police detectives arrive, they turn out to be a chief inspector and an inspector rather than the usual Inspector and sergeant. Why did such a relatively high ranking officer show up on a murder investigation? There's no explanation offered, so what we're left with is the surmise that this is a case of special treatment because rich people were involved, which speaks very badly of the Scots police force. Did the author intend this insult? Who know - maybe they do things differently in Scotland but this seemed odd to me.

There was some genderist phrasing in the novel, too, such as when Delaney encounters the man who is quite obviously destined to be her male interest: Tom from the pub which shares Delaney's name and is across the street from the book shop. "He was beautiful, but in a manly, Scottish kind of way." What exactly does that mean?! A guy can't be beautiful without it being qualified lest it impugn his manliness or imply that he's gay? Scots manliness is different from other varieties of manliness?! I have no idea what it meant, but it felt like an insult.

Personally I'd prefer it if the character wasn't described in such shallow terms at all whether it's male or female, but if you're going to do it, don't insult people further by trying to make 'beautiful' a word inextricably tied to femininity which consequently requires qualifying if it's used elsewhere. It's like saying, "The castle was beautiful, in an impregnable, granitey kind of way...". Consider the inverse: "She was beautiful, but in a feminine, Scottish kind of way." Does that make any better sense? I think it doesn't. I think it sounds like an insult to Scots women.

A big disappointment was that chances to present Delaney as a strong female character seemed to be frittered away, as in when I read: "I'd had an issue with the warm water in my shower, but Elias said he'd fix it...". Immediately we have to go to a guy. What would be wrong with saying the same thing, but letting Delaney fix it: "I'd had an issue with the warm water in my shower, but I figured it out and fixed it." It's just as easy to write and doesn't make your main female character dependent on some guy for no good reason at all. It supports your position of having her figuring out a crime, because she's showing that she's independent and a self-starter. But Delaney really wasn't. She was never in any peril. She was totally dependent upon men throughout the story, and everything magically fell into place for her: a place for her to stay, free transportation whenever she needed it by means of the friendly cabbie trope, everyone being nice and friendly, and helpful. She wasn't quite a Mary Sue (although she was close), but the plot itself definitely was a Mary Sue.

One issue I could definitely relate to was in how much of the Scots accent a writer should convey in the writing. I wrestled with this problem in my own novel Saurus. Fortunately only one of the main characters was Scots in my case, so I didn't have to have everyone speaking like that all the time, but I can sympathize with a writer who does find themselves in such a position. Do we go full-tilt and risk readers becoming annoyed with the constant 'tae' in place of 'to' and so on? Do we start out full-tilt and slowly reduce the incidence, so the reader only has to deal with it for a short time before it becomes embedded and hopefully they won't notice as we reduce or even eliminate it? Do we only put a hint, or do we simply confine ourselves to referring to the accent once in a while, but not actually depicting it by changing spelling? This author went the 'changed spelling' rout and it became a bit tiresome. It was definitely a lesson for me.

In addition to the changed spelling, there are actual words employed, such as 'ken' which means 'knowledge'. It can be equated with 'know'. Ken is actually a verb, and it has tenses, which is what made this sentence wrong: " Edwin certainly ken what he was doing." That's like writing " Edwin certainly know what he was doing." It should have been "Edwin certainly kenned what he was doing," or "Edwin certainly kent what he was doing." These are issues that most people might not notice (or even care about!) unless they're actually Scots, but for a writer, they're worth keeping in mind. Talking of which, I didn't get this sentence: "Dinnae mynd a bit". I don't know how we're expected to pronounced 'mynd' - is it just the same as the regular spelling, 'mind' or is it supposed to be pronounced 'mean-d' or 'mein-d' or something like? If the pronunciation isn't any different, why misspell it? If it is, why not spell it phonetically?

A big concern I had with this novel was over the stereotyping of the Scots. There's a lot of talk in the novel about drinking and whisky and while, in the UK, Scotland does consume more alcohol per capita than the rest of the country, on a global scale, the Scots fare poorly when it comes to consuming whisky: they're beaten by France, Uruguay, the USA, Australia, Spain, and the UAE. In overall alcohol consumption they're eighth in the world, and when it comes to drinking Scotch, they're not even in the top ten! So the stereotype doesn't hold.

In the final analysis, I found I really didn’t like Delaney and had no desire to read more about her in a series. She’s more of an idiot than an investigator. First of all, as I mentioned, there’s no rational reason offered for why (other than being a royal mile of a busybody) she gets involved in any of this. There’s no justification for her repeatedly skipping work to investigate, and it’s completely ridiculous that she appears to be going out of her way to solve the crime on the one hand, whilst at the same time, she’s actively hampering the police investigation on the other by withholding evidence!

She finds important evidence in Jenny’s apartment in form of torn-up bits of paper with writing on it, distributed in several locations, yet she fails to inform Edwin (even though he’s in the apartment when she finds it). She also fails to inform police of this. The resolution of this is, in the end, unimportant, but when it’s explained, it's given to us wrongly! We're told that one (incomplete) section of it reads, "ut tell him I’m so", yet when it becomes clear what this is, there is no word with 'ut' in it.

Delaney outright lies to the police about the existence of the missing first folio, even though Edwin had said it was okay to tell, if the police asked. In short, she’s actively tripping-up the investigation instead of helping it. A nicer resolution to this tale would have been to have her charged with obstructing a police investigation, but she isn’t, I'm sorry to report. If this had been set-up as a situation where we knew one of the police offers was somehow involved, then her behavior would be understandable, but this is never intimated. In short, it felt to me like she’s simply going through actions by rote, adhering to a regimented sequence to which she held tightly regardless of how stupid or silly it made her appear in doing so. I don’t have time for a character like that and I can’t recommend this novel.


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Exile by Diana Gabaldon





Title: The Exile
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: WARTY!

I decided to add some graphic novel/comic book content this month, and this is the first I will cover. I love Scotland, Karen Gillan, Stephen Moffat and all that. My own novel Saurus is set there. I'll also be reviewing two other - and new! - comics up next right after this one. The Exile is written by Diana Gabaldon, better known for her non-graphic novel output, but this one, part of the Outlander series, is really well illustrated by Hoang Nguyen and is apparently being picked up by Starz TV as a series.

Jamie Fraser is the main character, and his is hardly an original Scots name, but Gabaldon essentially took the character from Jamie McCrimmon, a fictional character in the longest running Sci-Fi series on TV, Britain's Doctor Who. McCrimmon was played by a man born in Yorkshire (the same county both my parents were born in!): Frazer Hines! It's not much of a stretch to get to that name, is it?! So note that Gabaldon hatched this whole series from an episode of Doctor Who. No problem so far, but stay tuned for a comment on this in my conclusion.

Gabaldon's character returns to the highlands after a stint of mercenary work in France, so we have the text, which is written in English, being peppered with the occasional phrase in French and also, Gaelic. Honestly? I see nothing but pretentiousness in this in the context of this specific story. Anyway, Jamie returns and is met by his godfather, although how his godfather knew he would be there at that time on that night is a mystery. Jamie tells his godfather that he has no idea what he wants to do with his life, but he doesn't want to kill anyone any more after the horrible death of a woman he had the hots for. She died (perhaps at his own hand) as he tried to shoot the guys who were trying to rape her. Of course after this, Jamie totally rejects his pacifistic stance and blithely enters upon a humongous killing spree. Jamie's a jerk.

But don't worry, his "love" for this irreplaceable woman of his past is soon to be completely annihilated by the new woman in his life - a married nurse who was somehow deposited back in time, apparently by faeries (at least we don't have to gag over the term 'fae' here, but look at that spelling!). Rest assured that being happily married and pining frequently for "Frank! Frank! Oh Frank!" is in no way a hindrance to Claire Beauchamp's glomming onto Jamie without a second thought. Along with Claire's trip through time, some evil fairy king type dude was unleashed simultaneously, and he's a very naughty boy, so hike up yer kilt, we're off and running o'er the bonnie hielands!

Not that the fairy king really does diddly in this story. Unfortunately, the story itself shamefully lets down the classic artwork. This story completely sucks, makes no sense, and seems intent upon conveying only two messages: firstly, any time you're away from your spouse, the best way to handle it is to start having sex with a complete stranger whose sexual history you have zero knowledge of and secondly, if you're ever heartbroken because you think you killed the partner of your dreams, just get your leg over the nearest available flesh and everything will be fine and dandy.

Oh, and the Brits are to be worshiped out of one side of your mouth and portrayed as the most dastardly villains out of the other, because all that any British officer ever had a mind to do in Scotland back in the 17th century was to brutally rape English women who were lost in the highlands. This novel is WARTY!

Now you will recall that I said I had a little comment to make on Gabaldon's source material for this series, and how she had no problem taking her inspiration from the BBC's long-running Doctor Who Sci-Fi TV show?? So now read this taken from her web site: "You know, I’m very flattered that some of you enjoy the books so much that you feel inspired to engage with the writing in a more personal way than most readers do. Both for legal and personal reasons, though, I’m not comfortable with fan-fiction based on any of my work, and request that you do not write it, do not send it to me, and do not publish it, whether in print or on the web. Thank you very much for your consideration." That's Gabaldon's fan fiction policy!

I guess Gabaldon is a big "Do as I say, not as I do" artist, huh? I'm not going to be reading any more of her material.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin





Title: Knots and Crosses
Author: Ian Rankin
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: worthy

Well how weird is this? For the first time since I started this blog in January, I'm bereft of both galley ebooks and library books! Yep! For the next few volumes I review, I'll be going through books which are wholly-owned subsidiaries of me! Just thought I'd get that off my chest! Not that it was actually on my chest, but you know what I mean. And before we go on I have to note here that after I read this novel, I watched two of the Rebus TV shows and couldn't watch any more. I started on the third and had to ask myself why? Rebus in the TV shows is presented as nothing but an incompetent, cluless, thoughtless drunk, and I couldn't even begin to sustain an interest in a waste of time like that.

I have to award Ian Rankin the MIRAPro (Make Ian Read A Prologue) award for 2013. He bypassed all my defenses and titled the entire first section of the book 'Prologue', even including numbered chapters in it to force me to read it! That's without question the sneakiest assault yet, and since I cannot see anyone beating that approach, and even though it's barely past the half-year mark, he gets the award hands-down. He then adds assault to injury by including an epilogue! He also gets a What? award for this sentence: "...some of them brought in from stations outwith the city"?! p26. I'm sure that makes sense in Scotland. I've just never heard that phraseology before!

This novel is over a quarter of a century old, but something talked me into reading it. I probably would not have had I not been able to purchase it used! Rankin should probably thank the penny-pinching Scot trope in me for buying it. But why look at this novel in particular? Was it because I love Scotland (it was featured powerfully in my novel Saurus), or because I believe I once watched the TV version of this novel - although the memory is vague? It doesn't hurt that I recently got through viewing Prime Suspect an equally venerable TV show set mostly in London, and featuring a feisty and put-upon detective, too. I've even started watching the US version of that show and it's proving quite watchable, too. However my decision to read this novel was arrived at, it was evidently not a completely dumb one, because I was finding it reasonably readable at about one third the way through it.

Seasoned and battered Detective Sergeant John Rebus, on the Edinburgh police force, is put on a child abduction task force only to discover, his first night on the job, that both children have been recovered - but dead. Rebus has, curiously, received the same number of hand-delivered letters, each one showing up at the police station where he works, with his name and nothing else on the envelope, and containing a piece of knotted string and one short sentence: 'there are clues are everywhere'. A third envelope arrives not long afterwards. This has a different message and a different 'toy' enclosed. Yet despite the fact that Rebus gets an envelope for each murder, this guy is so lousy a detective that he never, ever links the two things together, and this costs him in the end.

Rebus isn't exactly adored on the force, so he's given really low-level jobs, such as reading through case files for the assorted known deviants and perverts in the area, and then knocking door-to-door to find out what, if anything, anyone has seen regarding the two abductions/murders. He appears to luck-out personally in the cafeteria one day, when a fellow detective invites him to a party she's throwing, but when he gets there, she's with another guy. He hooks up instead with a detective inspector named Gill Templer. This is later misspelled as 'Temple' in the novel, which goes to show two things: a spell-checker will not completely save your ass, and professional editors are really no better than editing yourself when you get right down to it. Gill is also on the task force, and they end up in bed together. Gill is evidently quite an adventurer in bed, but the relationship really goes nowhere.

Rebus has a bother, Mark, who is a stage hypnotist, and who is also apparently a middle-man in some shady drug dealings, which are weirdly tied to the main case on Rebus's agenda. Rebus has an ex-wife who is dating the son of Rebus's superior at work! So yeah, it couldn't really get any more screwed up than that.

On top of all this, we discover that Rebus is an ex-SAS soldier who has mixed feelings about being in (and then leaving) the military. The way this is written made me suspect that whatever is going on in Edinburgh right then has something, somehow, to do with his military service - and for once, miraculously, I was right, but this revelation only goes to make me feel even more cheated that I didn't get a decent detective story out of this! Most of my suspicions and guesses are completely wrong, so I was a bit surprised by this one being right! This is why I'm not a detective; I do have designs on writing such stories, though!

So, long-story short: I went into this hoping for some cool detective work and I got a police procedural where none of the police work paid off in any way at all. I got no great insights, no deep observations, no cool detecting or problem-solving. I got a lot of nauseating swilling of whisky and smoking of cigarettes, which I felt was unnecessary - and an unnecessary slur on the Scots! So like I said, I feel cheated; however, the story itself wasn't bad in the sense that it was badly written or too stupid to take seriously. So how do I rate a novel like this? I thought about this for a while, and in the end, I decided that I will rate it a low worthy, but qualify that by adding that based on this novel, I doubt I will ever feel a compulsion to read any of the numerous sequels to it!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lingerie Wars by Janet Elizabeth Henderson






Title: Lingerie Wars
Author: Janet Elizabeth Henderson
Publisher: Unknown
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, this review is shorter so as not to rob the writer of her story, but even so, it will probably still be more detailed than you'll typically find elsewhere!


This novel appears to be the first in an Invertary series. Whether any of the others will be an improvement on this I don't intend to find out.

The English and the Scots have long been antagonistic. In the past, these disagreements were fought out on the battlefield, but that stopped when Elizabeth 1st died without leaving an heir. She herself picked James 6th of Scotland to succeed her. He had been the longest reigning monarch ever to rule Scotland, but when he became James 1st of England, he set about combining the two nations into one (along with Ireland), and setting up a single parliament to govern them. The flourishing of English society which had taken place under Elizabeth continued during his reign. Bacon, Donne, Jonson (Don Johnson lol!), Marlowe, and Shakespeare lived in his era, and it is his name which became attached to the Authorised King James Version of the Bible.

These days, those battles are fought on the football field, and each year the four nations which comprise Great Britain: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales represent in a week-long battle for soccer supremacy in the quaintly titled 'Home Internationals'. Though a single nation, the UK is allowed four teams because it was the birthplace of football. I remember one interview on TV with the then manager of Scotland where he referred to the upcoming match between these two nations as taking on the "Anglish" - not playing against England, the team, but against the nation! I found that amusing. So these games have deep roots that go beyond mere football. I love Scotland: it was featured powerfully in my novel Saurus, so when I saw this novel pop up on Netgalley, I couldn't resist it, even though romances like this aren't exactly my cup of tea, especially after the very disappointing Skinny Bitch in Love.

The male protagonist is a retired British soldier, with the asinine name of Lake Benson (can we not ever have a romance without these bizarre pretentious names?!). His sister, believe it or not, is called Rainne! Rain feeds lakes, so are we to take home from this that Lake's sister is servile? She's certainly portrayed that way. He has loaned her money to open this underwear shop directly across the street from an exotic lingerie shop owned and run by Kirsty. These names remind me of stories I used to read to my kids when they were toddlers, about a blue dog and his rainbow-hued friends. The shops are supposed to be in a little Scots town of Invertary, which is fictional but seems to be based heavily on a real town called Inverary which sits on a Loch-side.

So we immediately know the over-arching plot: Lake and Kirsty are made for each other and will live happily ever afterwards, unless this story truly is different, which I seriously doubt at this time. The only mystery, then, is how well it's written and how entertaining are the contortions through which these two will go before they finally get together. I'm sorry to have to relate that I was sadly let down on that score. David Tennant and Kelly MacDonald have already done this kind of thing in film, which wasn't great but was passable enough to idle away an hour or two, and was a lot better than this novel.

There are unforeseen issues with the shop, 'Betty's Knicker Emporium', one of which is that the contract under which the shop was sold stipulates that 86-year-old Betty still has a say in it - including that the sign stays unchanged. Betty owns the building; Rainne merely leases the shop, so this immediately presents the problem of how much money Lake has sunk into this if it's jsut for rent and stock. It's not like he bought the building. Kirsty comes over to visit with Rainne (someone whom she's been trying to help in getting her business afloat) and gets into a dispute with Lake, which ends up with the two of them declaring all-out war on each other (the lingerie wars of the novel's title). Kirsty, who essentially melted when she saw Lake. The cliché-laden description of this encounter all but made me toss my breakfast all over my keyboard. I was hoping that we could keep that YA nonsense to a minimum and actually enjoy a fun story here, but that hope was quickly dashed to death on this rocky romance.

While Kirsty is rather discombobulated by this turn of events, Lake finds himself excited by the prospect of planning a battle. He gets a dose of reality, however, when 86-year-old Betty shows up and lets herself in, offering him a hot meat pie for breakfast, and demanding he toss the coffee he's made and make her some tea. I confess I did love Betty and the conversations they had. Lake's assessment of Betty is: "In another life she would have made a leader of a great terrorist cell. Or a dictator of a small country." This is the kind of story I was hoping for. Unfortunately, it's not what was delivered. I really liked the opening few paragraphs of chapter 2; the interaction between Lake and Kirsty there was really enjoyable, as was his relationship with Betty. Even Rainne comes out of her shell a bit, but this is yet another romance (and indeed there seems to be no discernible difference here between adult fiction and young-adult fiction) which goes the way of the woman turning into a limp rag and the over-confident male smugly dictating her every breath.

The battle lines are slowly being drawn, with a newspaper article back-firing on Kirsty, and Lake finding out that she was once a model of the same hue as those of Victoria's Secret, until her then boyfriend crashed a car in which they were driving, and while he walked away (taking a chunk of her money with him), tragedy walked all over Kirsty's body, sending her into PTSD, as well as marking her with some serious physical scarring. I found it a bit weird that I was reading this (Lingerie Wars), interleaved with reading Blind Date which also features a female protagonist with body scars. Were I superstitious, I'd be in danger of becoming creeped-out by these coincidences between my current ebook and my current hardback! But it's just a meaningless coincidence.

So, I was toodling along with this story, enjoying it sporadically in fact, despite some significant potholes in the interaction between the two main protagonists. I was even willing to put up with some sabotage of Lake's store which was conducted not by Kirsty, but on her behalf. No one was hurt and it was done rather in fun (if somewhat mean fun), but my enjoyment of the novel came to a screeching halt when Lake began manhandling Kirsty and then breaking into Kirsty's home and snooping around one night when she was sleeping upstairs. He snooped her financial information on her laptop, had someone hack into her website and advertise his own store on it, and then he ogled her while she was fast asleep in her bed.

I'm sorry but no.

What is this - a clueless, trope infested, young adult novel? It wasn't supposed to be, but it's indistiguishable from one. This was entirely unacceptable to me, and I found it offensive that the Kirsty character is such a dishrag, not only permitting, but even falling in with Lake's manipulation of her even as she mumbles feeble protestations. What the hell kind of a woman is she? Well to begin with, she's one who has lost all my respect. Clearly, she's not any kind of a woman; rather, she's just a toy for this guy: a living, life-size sex doll for the adolescent soldier-boy. If you don't find that offensive, not in the least, then I'm sorry, but there's something wrong with you.

If this were a spy novel, then yes, I'd half expect some breaking and entering, and snooping. If it were a stalker novel, or a thriller, or a horror story, or a story about a psycho killer, then yes, it would be "appropriate" to the tale to have this happen. Even if this were a comédie noire, this might be "acceptable" - for example, a pair of spies who were entering into a relationship both snooping on each other and breaking into each other's apartments. It would fit the fable in those instances, but for a light romantic comedy? No. You lose the light right there and instead starkly illuminate a host of problems with this kind of fiction, whereby women are portrayed as having no value other than as man-toys. How is the way Kirsty is represented here different from how, for example, women are portrayed in porn movies: as having nothing on their mind other than idly waiting for some guy who is just like Lake to denude them and 'do' them? Let me answer that: it isn’t. There is no difference, and I find both equally offensive.

How can it be viewed in any other light: to have a guy manhandling and manipulating a woman who is in financial straits and who is scarred both physically and mentally, and for the female protagonist to accept this as fine amnd have no protection from this sick bullying lech? No. There is no way I am going to accept this as a comedy or a cute roamnce, and Henderson should be thoroughly ashamed of herself for even thinking this up for such a genre, let alone committing it to an actual novel. If she were going somewhere useful, or interesting with that line of plotting, that might be a different story, and I admit I'm judging this having read only 30% of it, but in those sixty-some pages, I've seen no hint whatsoever that she plans on heading anywhere other than Lake clubbing Kirsty over the head, and dragging her back to his cave.

Has Henderson neither read nor seen anything of the military scandals whereby women in the military are abused and raped by men like Lake Benson, and who are denied justice because they’re women? Not that there can be any real justice for such appalling abuse, but you know what I mean. I wonder how she feels about perpetuating the lie that it’s just fine for military men to take what they want, because it’s really what women want too, isn’t it? (So she'd have us believe, if judged by this novel).

I sat and thought about whether I really wanted to read any more of this trash - about whether the remaining 70% could make up for the first thirty, and I'm sorry but I can’t find it in me to read any more. Henderson has in these first few pages, robbed me of any faith I might have held in her ability to take this anywhere, at this point, where it could possibly shed the sewer stench with which she's now so irremediably imbued it. 'Warty' hardly describes a canker like this. Remind me never again to make the sad mistake of imagining that a story with a saucily playful title like Lingerie Wars could go anywhere other than where Henderson has let it sink.