Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Mini-Reviews: Wendy's A Big Ol' Meanie Pants

I have (somewhat) of a reputation for being a cranky reader.  Or, if not cranky, at least a "tough" grader.  But this year?  I've lost my mind.  For a variety of reasons, I'm in a slump. And part of that slump seems to be that I'm either reading books I really, really love or books that I really, really am disinterested in.  As in, they may not necessarily be "bad" books - they just aren't engaging me for "reasons."  And given the size of my TBR and the looming ARC pile?  I'm giving myself permission to DNF more.  Here are the latest additions to the DNF pile - one of which was written by someone I consider a friend.  See?  Wendy is mean even to people she knows!

I have read three books by Susan Meier and none of those books cracked out of my C grade range.  So why do I keep reading her?  Because of The Angst.  She can write angst really well.  But Her Brooding Italian Boss might finally be the book that has me saying, "Oh well, so long. We're just not a good fit for each other."  I got to 30% and called it a day.

Heroine has just found out she's pregnant by her ex.  Oh, and she's unemployed (or underemployed - I can't remember now. But suffice it to say money is a BIG issue).  Anyway, instead of hauling the Baby Daddy to the nearest courthouse, she's at a friend's wedding where she runs into our Hot, Emotionally Wounded By Evil First Wife, Italian Artist Hero.  Before you can say Rescue Fantasy (thanks in large part to Hot Hero's meddling Bazillionaire Father), she's working as his personal assistant and getting all fluttery around him.

Here's the thing with Meier - she's really fond of the Rescue Fantasy and she tends to lay them on pretty thick.  Like, with a trowel.  It was little annoyances at first.  Ho hum, another rescue fantasy.  How many times is the heroine going to fret about being "pregnant with another man's baby?"  And then, it happens.  We learn about Evil First Wife and I was DONE.  Fading from glory supermodel hitches to hero's rising star wagon.  She plays around on him - uh, a lot.  Gets pregnant with his baby (presumably), doesn't tell him, then gets an abortion.  Hero now a shell of a man because of her betrayal, but naturally everyone around him (including the heroine) thinks it's because he loved her SO MUCH!!!!

I found this conflict...annoying.  The shorthand that only women who are Pure Evil would ever have an abortion.  The genre has never been good with handling this particular issue well - but it's comical how totally Old School it is here and honestly?  I found it rather insulting.  So, I'm out.

Final Grade = DNF

So, yeah.  I've known Megan Frampton a long time.  In Internet years we're like 239 years old.  She was also my editor at Heroes & Heartbreakers for several years and brought me in on that project back when it was still "a project."  I knew going into this book what to expect from her "voice," so I started The Duke's Guide to Correct Behavior expecting a frothy, light read.  I called it quits at the 40% mark when I realized I just didn't give a hoot about the characters and what happened to them next.

Through a series of improbable circumstances (namely three people dying before him), the hero is now a Duke.  He's very whiny about this.  All he wants to do is travel, be footloose and fancy free, drink and bed a bunch of women.  Um, dude.  What exactly do you think Romance Novel Dukes do?  Anyway....

His young daughter arrives on his doorstep after the child's mother dies.  What's refreshing here?  He knew he had the daughter - she isn't a secret and he had been paying Early Victorian Equivalent Child Support to the Baby Mama.  But ye gads!  More responsibility!  So he decides to hire a governess through heroine's employment agency.  A Duke using their service is a major step up for them, but oh noes!  No eligible governesses!  No matter, the heroine will take the job herself.

And....that's pretty much it.  After 40%.  I do have a reputation for loving The Angst, but yes - I am capable of enjoying light and fluff.  But I also expect conflict in my light and fluff and there just really isn't much conflict to be found here.  Other than the hero having NO clue how to be a Duke, which seemed odd since it's not like he was born in a gutter.  The guy knows how society works, so him not having the faintest clue how Duke's behave just makes him seem stupid.  But anyhoodle....maybe conflict shows up later in the story?  Entirely possible.  But at 40% I just didn't really care about these people in their thinly drawn early Victorian (1840) world and.....done.  Have you seen my pile of ARCs?  Of which this was one and it came out in November 2014?

Megan is a friend (hopefully still is if she sees this blog post....), and if I had been reading a print edition I would have skimmed through to the end.  But I just can't seem to skim digital with any sort of efficiency, so I'm moving on.  I'm hoping for better with Frampton's more recent work and chalking this one up as a bump in the road.

Final Grade = DNF


Nikki said...

I actually like to read your take on your DNF books. I'm keeping my fingers crossed about that friendship business.

azteclady said...

I can't see how stating your honest reaction to something you read (story, characters, whatever), without being offensive toward either the book or its author, should impact your friendship.

It may smart for a bit, but I have every confidence Ms Frampton is self confident enough to internalize that this is an opinion about one story, not her entire oeuvre nor herself.

Wendy said...

Nikki: When I DNF ARCs I try to write....something. Books long-buried in the TBR are more hit or miss. Depends on how far along I get or I hit a major string of them (like I did during last month's TBR Challenge).

AL: She wrote a really fun short story for Loveswept that I liked quite a bit (which is linked in this post) - so...hey! I also have her other Avon releases in the TBR and I'm pretty confident about one of them - which Mrs. Giggles (way crankier than I am!) gave a favorable review to.

lynneconnolly said...

There are several different kinds of DNF. There's the one where someone has read the book, doesn't like it and explains why she doesn't like it. There's the one where the reviewer is more concerned about the piece she writes than about your book, and snarks everything she reads, trying to prove how clever she is. Another one is the reviewer who doesn't like the author for some reason, and uses the book as her vehicle. And the one where the reviewer is plain wrong about something. It could be a fact in the book, grammar and spelling, or something else. And the one where the views of the reviewer are offended by the views within the book.
I've had all of those, and the best by far is the first one, the one Wendy does. Honesty is wonderful, and so is an articulate review.
Personally, I don't reply to any of them, because everybody is entitled to their opinion, whatever that happens to be and for whatever reason.

Wendy said...

Lynne: And let's be honest - readers are a little wacky. The reasons I DNF book may sound like just the ticket for another reader, and Lord knows we all have tropes and themes that either just don't work for us, or else are really hard sells. So I try to be as specific as I can on why I DNF'ed something. And if a reader stumbles across it and thinks, "Wendy is insane, that sounds AWESOME!!!" then hey - my work here is done.