Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: Offensive Behavior

Bless her heart, even though she knows I have a TBR that can be seen from space that doesn't keep KristieJ from recommending books to me.  Or nagging me about them.  Which she does a lotOffensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton jumped to the top of the queue because Kristie said the magic words: "virgin hero."  Did I like it?  Well, sort of.  But I'm a big enough person to admit that a lot of what was a mixed bag for me sits firmly in the camp of Wendy Is A Weirdo.

This book has a plot that honestly can only be found in genre fiction.  Once upon a time Zarley Halveston was a world-class gymnast with her eye on the US Olympic Team. Then she screwed it up.  Now she's working as a pole dancer in a past-seed bar known for it's food poisoning track record and going to college.  Reid McGarth was a dot-com wunderkind before his lack of people skills led to his ouster from the company he founded.  So now he's a member of the idle rich, drinking rotgut at a dive bar, feeling sorry for himself and watching Zarley dance. 

And that's pretty much it.  Eventually they hook up, have sex, have more sex, and have to work through their internal baggage to have a meaningful relationship.

This book started out great for me.  I have a weakness for heroes who have hit rock bottom and this book basically opens with Reid doing his best to pickle his liver.  I also like no-nonsense, I don't need your pity, heroines and Zarley isn't the sort to get taken in by a drunk (even if he is a regular) who lives in the back booth.  But while it started out great, it slid south for me the further it went along.

Here's the thing: when it comes to contemporary romance my brain is wired for category.  This book felt entirely too long for me.  It would have been perfect as a Harlequin Blaze.  A Temptation, if that line still existed.  Once Reid sobers up (around the 30% mark) that leaves us with 70% of sex, Reid ticking off his former friends at his company, and Zarley telling Reid he can't buy her.  Blah, blah, blah.  At 350 pages I felt like this book was 100 pages too long.

I'll be blunt, I got bored.  My interest waned.  At first I thought it was a combination of 1) my cantankerous nature 2) the Reading Slump That Won't Die 3) my belief that all contemporary romance is infinitely better when it's category length.  But then I did begin to notice cracks. 


Namely that this book is, at it's heart, a rescue fantasy.  Stuff happens to Zarley over the course of this book and Reid wants to make it all better - which he can do since he's fabulously wealthy and doesn't have to work for a living.  Zarley does push against this, but then towards the end of the story she breaks things off with him because, wait for it, he's essentially ignoring her (he finds himself working again on a big project and is burning the candle at both ends).  Boo-frickin-hoo.  He has a job.  He is busy.  And because he's working his butt off he's not around to spend time with her.  She writes him a Dear John Letter to this effect.  Seriously?!?  Seriously!?!?!?!?!?!

Yeah, it sucks - but it's called being a grown-up.  Suck it up cupcake. 

So that annoyed.  And all the sex, which to be perfectly honest after the First Time felt like page filler to me.  The whole He Can Rescue Her With Money/Resources, She Can Rescue Him "Emotionally" thing that after years of reading romance kind of annoys me (Why can't the hero rescue emotionally?  Why can't the heroine be the one with resources/money?).  The whole New Adult thing - the characters, their baggage, the whole dot-com thing, the fact that the heroine's name is "Zarley" (my apologies for any Real Life Zarleys reading this review - but Zarley?  I'd never speak to my parents ever again). 

And I'm about 90% sure a lot of this is me being unreasonable.  It grabbed me by the throat the first few chapters but once it lost steam?  It really lost steam.  I skimmed big chunks - including almost all the sex scenes.  I have absolutely no interest is picking up any other books in this series.  After the initial shine, the character failed to fully engage me (any of them - including the secondary ones).  It just....didn't work for me.  Lots of other people have loved this book (I get it, I do) - so why didn't it work for me?  I'm not sure but I'm beginning to think New Adult is not my bag.

I can read a Harlequin Presents story featuring a 21-year-old heroine, but for some reason you slap on the New Adult label and I'm out.  Maybe I'm too old?  Maybe I just don't get millennials?  Maybe I just haven't found the right New Adult romance for me?  Is this story "bad?"  I wouldn't call it bad.  But it just wasn't for me.  If you're a New Adult fan and you haven't already read this, give it a whirl.  You'll probably love it.  I did like the beginning.  I did feel like Reid made for a compelling Jerk Face hero but other than that?  Meh.

Cranky Wendy out.

Final Grade = C


nath said...

The issue is there are really few well-written and plotted New Adult books in my opinion. Every author jumped on the bandwagon with this new label. Now, even characters who are 24-25-26-27 years old are considered New Adult. Is it because we're aging?!

I remember a few years back wishing for the return of the businessman hero... and it sorted of happened. Except, they're not just businessmen now. They're billionaires! All of them! Is there really that many billionaires in the world!?

Okay, sorry ^_^; Got carried away. I think all the points you brought up are valid. Some people will overlook it and others will be bothered like you. I've been skipping most of the sex scenes lately when I read. Just not interested. As for the length, gotta say for a self-pubbed ebook, 350 pages is long. Most books nowadays don't even clock 300 pages.

And she breaks off with him because he's too busy? in what world is she living?

Wendy said...

Nath: So much that. When I saw Molly O'Keefe's Everything I Left Unsaid referred to as "New Adult" in some circles I wanted to throat punch someone. The characters are on the downslide of their 20s. And what about all those category romances featuring younger characters. Are we going to start calling every Harlequin Presents with a 25 year old heroine New Adult? If so stick a fork in me.

I'm still trying to pinpoint exactly why this book didn't work for me and I think you hit on it with the plotting. It could have been a whole lot tighter and leaner. As it was the second half of the book was a slog for me.

Ha! And she also breaks it off with him because when he starts working again on a "passion project" he's not only super busy, but she also feels like "he doesn't need me anymore." There's also some manufactured jealousy and ugh. Super weak.

I'm reading a historical next and hopefully that will recenter me.

azteclady said...

I have a book by this author buried somewhere in the kindle--I believe it was free or on sale for a buck, or some such. When I got it, I didn't realize it was NA, but when I got that part, I lost whatever interest I had in the book.

I'm 50, and I really don't need to read about people in their mid-twenties acting like thirteen year olds, which is mostly what I've seen in NA.

Sorry, tangential rant here.

Good luck breaking out of the slump--I'm, as you know, still nowhere I can fact anything new. Ah well, this too shall pass.

At some point, one hopes.

Frédéric Michaud said...

The thing With New Adult books is that (in my experience) is a hit or miss. There are a couple that I really loved and some others that I really hate. I had a discussion with some of my friends about NA genre.. we did some research on the internet and it is saying that characters need to be in the 18-30 bracket. Sometimes it seems to be some YA and they added some sex. What is lacking the most (in my humble opinion) is the character development/growth in NA. I also love MC that hit rock bottom, I just finish one M/M romance with a heroin addict that was wonderful, both MC had 24; it was not marketed as a new adult book (although it would have fit in this category) and it was written with a touch of wisdom and maturity. NA tend to focus upon partying, college and new experiences, it is like the icing.. but without the cake lol:)

Lynn Balabanos said...

I haven't read this one - and based off of your review won't bother to pick it up - but I've also struggled with NA books. The ones I've read I haven't liked and I'm close(er) to NA age so they should work for me. But they don't. I think it's exactly what Frederic said. NA tends to deal with partying, college, struggles in early careers and the characters tend to respond/react to these issues without a whole lot of maturity and insight.

Lori said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one for whom NA just doesn't work. It makes me feel like a bit of a cranky old lady, but I've totally given up on it. For me NA is the new billionaire---if I see it anywhere in the description of a book I just move on. Not reading it. The chances that I'll like it are very small, my TBR is enormous & ever-growing, and life is short.

Jill D. said...

Loving your colorful reviews!!! Keep it real, Wendy!

It's so funny to me about NA. It's like I can totally tolerate YA, but sometimes when I read NA, it annoys me. It's like I expect them to be adults and act like it, while in YA, I can tolerate the inexperience/immaturity because I expect it of them. Not really a fair comparison, but there you have it.

Jazz Let said...

Jill D I think it's reasonable to expect them to be more mature than teenagers, NA should be more than YA with added sex. I know I did stupid things as a young adult, but they weren't the same stupid things I did as a teenagers, my worries had changed too, both about relationships and aabout the rest of life. I'm not asking for them to be worrying about retirement plans, just be more mature than teenagers!

Wendy said...

I'm really late in responding to these comments - all of which I found really interesting! It's helping me form a more solid opinion on why I'm having some issues with New Adult.

Frederic brings up a great point about lack of character growth being an issue and I think that's a big part of that for me. Yeah, I'm happy they found true love and all, but they need to "grow" more than that for me to buy into the HEA. If they just have great sex and fall in love but they're still a mess when it comes to their professional lives? Yeah, no.