Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Ranty McRanty Review: That Dangerous Energy

I picked up That Dangerous Energy by Aya de Leon based on my enjoyment of one of her previous books, A Spy in the Struggle. Like that previous reading experience, this more recent release is a genre bender, blending social commentary in a romantic thriller format. Unfortunately unlike the previous book I found this one extremely heavy-handed with all the subtlety of a chainsaw.

Morgan Faraday is grabbing every opportunity she can to pull herself up out of a family legacy of abusive partners, young single motherhood, and poverty. If that means figuring out ways to keep her Oil Tycoon Billionaire Boyfriend happy (OK, his name is Sebastian Reid), by God she'll do it. She's been getting good advice from her BFF who is working her way towards early retirement by being a Sugar Baby, and Sebastian seems hooked.  Then she meets Kevin Templeton, who from here on out I will call Crunchy Granola Climate Change Activist.

Crunchy Granola Climate Change Activist and Morgan spark right away, but she dismisses the attraction because she's hoping to keep her hooks into Oil Tycoon Billionaire Boyfriend. Then Crunchy Granola finds out that Morgan is dating Oil Tycoon, gets all butthurt and tells her her hoped-to-be-future hubby is EEEEEEEVVVVVIIIIIIIILLLLLLL!

So what makes Oil Tycoon Billionaire Boyfriend evil exactly? Well...

  1. He inherited and is running his father's oil company
  2. Greenwashing (I guess? His investments in wind and solar are legit so....)
  3. Lobbying

Wow. So evil. Also, not illegal. 

Eventually some slapdash racketeering charges are thrown in to give readers some ultra-cheesy and laughably bad courtroom drama at the end, but up until the 90% mark I just wasn't seeing it. As far as thriller villains go this guy doesn't even make the Time 100.

Because a hot man has come into her life, and at his urging (so gross), the heroine decides to spy on Oil Tycoon Billionaire Boyfriend because golly, she believes in the cause! Power to the people y'all! That is until she has a fight with Oil Tycoon Billionaire Boyfriend, he leaks out some tears and she inexplicably has a change of heart and thinks she can "change him." Like, WUT?!  He holds all the power in your relationship and you can change him? Sure Jan.

Look, I knew what I was getting when I picked up this book. The author infuses her books with current social commentary (Climate Change, Black Lives Matter, etc. etc.) but a feminist manifesto this most certainly is not. What we have here is a heroine whose sole identity is wrapped up around men - whether it's bagging the Oil Tycoon Billionaire Boyfriend to escape the poverty cycle or Crunchy Granola Climate Change Activist because he sure is dreamy and she hits the land speed record for believing in his cause. On top of this? The social commentary is akin to an Acme anvil falling from the sky and drilling Wile E. Coyote into the desert sand. It's a bunch of buzzwords and slogans with no real meat behind them. It's all Fossil Fuels Bad, Climate Change Bad. There's no depth. There's no nuance. It's like getting beat upside the head with a baseball bat for nearly 300 pages.

Then, predictably, the author comes for the romance genre and I officially lost the last of my f*cks. Hand to God, as we're barreling towards the conclusion Crunchy Granola Climate Change Activist's lawyer takes a jab at romance novels for romanticizing billionaires and whitewashing how terrible real-life billionaires are. Look, does the romance genre romanticize billionaires? Yes. Do I know a single romance reader who confuses Bezos, Musk or Facebook Boy for romance novel heroes? Absolutely not. Maybe give women a little credit for having the ability to separate fantasy from reality.  Although I've already established how decidedly unfeminist this book is so....

(Seriously, I'll read a billionaire romance hero all day long but am just as likely to punch one in the face if the opportunity ever presents itself.  I contain multitudes.)

Other than chuckling a couple of times at some truth bombs there was nothing here that worked for me. I walked into this book knowing I was going to get political commentary and that said commentary would lean fairly far to the left. That's not my problem (at all) with this book. It's the lack of nuance. It's the lack of depth. It's a heroine who I frankly don't like all that much because she lacks an identity outside of the men in her life. The author tries to combat this by including flashbacks to her family's history and including the heroine's artistic passion for textile art (quilting). Spoiler Alert: It's nowhere near enough. 

Final Grade = D-


azteclady said...

I'm all for political commentary in my fiction, especially left-leaning; however, there are ways to make it work and there are ways to turn readers off. Making the heroine a non-entity? Taking potshots at genre romance while writing a genre romance? Yeah, fuck that, and the author with it.

Jazzlet said...

Authors if you despise romance leave romance alone! And don't tack something as serious as climate change onto a book without at least doing a bit of work to make the subject interesting. Which it is, depressing sure, but how the climate scientists put all the different sources together is fascinating (to me anyway).

Wendy said...

AL: It was SO disappointing. The previous book I read and enjoyed by this author had strong themes of environmental racism and the Black Lives Matter movement and never descended into preaching for me. It also featured a more nuanced heroine - a corporate lawyer turned whistleblower for the FBI. Easier for the reader to get behind than an artist trying to hook a billionaire boyfriend IMHO. Oh well. Can't win 'em all.

Jazzlet: That was the biggest issue for me, the climate change storyline had no depth to it. I walked away with nothing more than "climate change is bad!" I certainly didn't expect a scientific treatise on the subject but some actual depth outside of the characters talking in slogans would have been good.