Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Under The Skin: Intrusion
You start a book.  You read a few chapters and think, "Hmmmm, this is OK. Maybe."  You're not quite sure if it's your thing or not, but you keep reading.  Then the author gut-punches you.  You swoon under the sheer weight of the emotion.  You wonder, how is she going to tie it all up?  And then?  AND THEN?!?!?!  You get to the finish line and you're thinking, "Wait. Is what I think is happening REALLY happening?!"

The answer would be yes.  And yes, the above is an exact moment by moment account of what my reading of Intrusion by Charlotte Stein was like.  It was one hell of a roller coaster ride.  I cannot remember the last time a story put me through these kinds of paces and for that?  Yep, my second A grade in a matter of days.

This is going to be a hard review to write, mostly because I think it's the sort of story one needs to go into "blind."  But I'm going to try.  Stein's latest follows the lives of two damaged people who have been touched by violence - Beth and Noah.  They meet when Beth, still picking up the pieces, thinks Noah has dog-napped her dog.  So even though his house looks like something out of a horror movie, she goes over there to confront him.  Naturally he did not, in fact, dog-nap her dog - but she soon realizes that her sleepwalking neighbor is also living in fear.  What follows is them tentatively forging a friendship, and succumbing to their mutual attraction for each other - which is, hello, complicated.

First things first - Stein has a very unique writing style.  She writes the way some of us think.  It's very stream of consciousness and can be a little jarring.  I like Stein's writing, but even so it still took me a few chapters to wrap my head around it.  So I always recommend that new readers download a sample before ponying up for the whole book.

Also, as much as I don't want to give too much away, given that both characters have been exposed to violence?  Expect some thriller elements at play here.  I have a hard time classifying it as romantic suspense - but if you're a reader who prefers to not read romantic suspense?  That's all I'm saying.

Now, on to the good stuff.  Of which there is so much in this story.  I read an exorbitant amount of romance, and of that?  I read my fair share of what can be classified as "erotic romance."  You would think this wouldn't be so hard to come by, but erotic romance with real passion?  With real intensity?  Not always easy to find or pull off and Stein does it with Beth and Noah.  The tension, the sizzle, these two tap-dancing around each other?  I'm getting heart palpitations just thinking about it.  This is a very common pitfall in the sub genre.  Authors get so hung up on writing about kink or fetish thinking that's going to make the book "hot" - when in reality?  No.  No it doesn't.  It just makes it kinky.  What makes a book "hot" is that intensity between the characters.  You know that saying about the brain being the biggest erogenous zone?  Yeah, Stein gets that.

She gets it because she excels at awkward.  People are people.  We like to think we're cool and suave and will say all the right things - but in reality?  No.  No we won't.  We're not cool.  We're not suave.  And for most of us, when we meet a person who gives us that zing of attraction?  We turn into blithering idiots who can't string a full sentence together.  Stein gets that.  She really, really gets that.

Instead of "meet cute" it's more like "meet holy crap did I just make an ass out of myself?  Of course I did."

Beth and Noah are the types of characters who aren't comfortable in their own skin.  They're damaged goods.  Damaged goods who are wildly attracted to each other but also frightfully scared.  With good reason.  These are people who need each other so desperately and yet you wonder if they're going to be able to get past the scared.  This is a romance, so they do - and those moments?  Oh happy sigh!

The ending is - well the ending is where this book is going to divide or conquer the reader.  I'll be honest - I can poke holes in it all day long.  Hell, I could drive a truck through the holes.  And yet?  I don't care.  Because by this point Stein had grabbed a hold of my hand and was dragging me along for the ride.  I was swept up in it.  The intensity.  The emotion.  I had ALL THE FEELS!!!  So yes.  Will the ending work for everybody?  No.  And I can respect that.

I read a lot and I've read a lot of good books this year.  But it's the amazing book, the cut above book, that sticks with me and sends me on a journey like Stein does here.  It's not going to be for everybody, but it totally was everything for me.

Final Grade = A


Kristina Stutts said...

That's awesome. Congrats to you!

PK the Bookeemonster said...

What an amazing feeling when that happens. Merry Christmas!

Wendy said...

PK: It was an amazing feeling! My year end reading has been a string of DNFs, sprinkled in with two A reads almost back-to-back. Very odd - but I'll take it!