In between Something Wonderful and this one, I actually picked up another romance. It was a contemporary-set novel and usually I don’t care for those at all, but it was pretty enjoyable. The hero and the heroine were super hot for each other, they cared about each other, they were mature and respectful and loving, she had her own life and so did he, and so on. And you know what? They were such good people that it was difficult to Recap. Difficult and noticeably absent of disgust and horrified amusement.
Luckily for me, there are plenty of other books like this one for me to be horrified and insulted and creeped out by. Thank goodness, it got scary for a minute.
So I know from the back of the book that the dude is accused of killing his wife, so to make it better he…kidnaps the lady? Huh. And then of course they fall in love. So. There’s that. It sounds like such a weird, creepy plot that I can’t imagine a romance growing out of it. But, then again…see every other installment of Romance Recap.
What I know from the book is the dude (Zack) gets kicked out of his house by his grandmother who hates him (he is also filthy dirty rich) and goes to California and eventually becomes a movie star. The girl (Julie) grows up in a home for orphans, illiterate, until her loving shrink sends her to Texas to live with a really nice family. And they are really, really, REALLY nice. Even though Julie steals things (though she’s set up as a Robin Hood sort of character – stealing on behalf of the other kids in the orphanage) they still want her and love her and treat her awesome and when she’s accused of stealing they believe it wasn’t her and then they want to adopt her because they LOVE HER SO SO SO SO SO SO SO MUCH.
Okay. But where’s the story here? So far I’m bored out of my damn mind.
Still waiting. First I had to read all about Zack and how he’s an AWESOME actor but an EVEN AWESOMER director, a GENIUS really, and made these two women (well, one’s like 13, so…woman and young woman) into stars again by directoring them SO WELL, and one of them seems to like him for him (not the young woman) so they sex and he’s like, I’m sick of being a big manwhore I want to have a baby, and she’s like, me too let’s get hitched, only after the wedding (and his super blockbuster awesome movie) she gets all career-oriented (THAT BITCH) and doesn’t want to have babies anymore. And he’s like, damn I got tricked by a shifty she-devil. AND THEN he catches her sexing her costar (his too, since he’s starring and directing this movie, what a powerhouse of creative genius) she’s like I WANT A DIVORCE and he’s like I’LL KILL YOU BEFORE I LET YOU HAVE ANY OF MY MONEY. And then there’s an accidental shooting on set, and guess who? It’s his wife. And guess who everyone suspects? Him of course, with the death threats and all.
But UGH I am so tired of hearing about his charmed life and how amazing he is and how everyone loves him and how he’s acted with all kinds of real-life movie stars (SO MUCH NAME-DROPPING) and how he has such an enormous overblown ridiculous ego. When is he going to kidnap the chick already?!
Meanwhile, Julie grows up to be an elementary school teacher and BELOVED BY ALL; dude grows up to be a convicted murderer. But then he breaks out of prison and takes to the road. She’s also on the road raising money for her adult literacy program and he figures she’s an easy target so he slashes her tire (later they laugh about this – haha, so romantic) so he can fix it and con her into offering him a ride, which she does, because she’s JUST SO NICE. So eventually she realizes who he is and he pulls out a gun and kidnaps her and makes her drive him to this remote mountain lodge-mansion, but not before being a major super asshole and threatening her with death every ten seconds and, oh yeah, passionately kissing her when she tries to scream for help. Which she liked. And so did he…so now he’s all amped to seduce her. PERFECT. And then she’s like, well clearly he won’t murder me if he thinks I’m a total moron, so she gets really excited to GO OUTSIDE AND BUILD A SNOWMAN OMG and then escapes on a snowmobile. Only instead of escaping she crashes into a tree (lady drivers, HAHA). But he thinks she fell into the frozen pond so he jumps in to “save” her and she’s like, awwww he’s SO nice! Then instead of running away she takes him back to the mansion and warms him up and still doesn’t run away and calls her family to tell them she’s ok and still doesn’t run away and then falls asleep on the couch. And when he wakes up, he’s like, why didn’t you run away? And she’s like, uhhh I didn’t think of that. So maybe she really is a moron? And then they totally do it, which is of course totally magical and amazing and even more totally of course her VERY FIRST TIME. Thank goodness he was always so promiscuous (with LADIES, before jail) and has turned into a super amazing lover, am I right? Also, she’s already using words like love. Awkward.
But he also ponders once that he’s maybe in love (DUBIOUS) and they’re sort of pretending like they just live together and happen to never leave the house or have friends. So. They are watching movies one night. And since he’s a big shot actor/director he TOTALLY whines through the movie about how bad it is and then she’s like, what about something with Swayze or Costner or Stallone?, and he’s like, WHAT ABOUT SOMETHING STARRING ME?, and I’m like, oooh Costner, what’s he up to lately? So she puts on his SEXIEST movie and he sort of gets over his man-baby tantrum and they both admit to some jealousy. BUT THEN (actually, a bit later) a HELICOPTER FLIES LOW OVER THE HOUSE. So he straps on a gun like some kind of Rambo shit and she hides in the woods. Oh, just some drunk kids. Don’t drink and fly! But she was scared! And also more determined now to help him prove his innocence than ever…except…wait…is he going to do that or is just going to run away and disappear? And she’s like TELL ME EVERYTHING SO I CAN HELP YOU and he’s like CHANGE THE SUBJECT and then she says maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it because he’s JUST SO GUILTY and he responds by basically raping her. FOR HER OWN GOOD. See, it will make her hate him and then she won’t feel so bad when he leaves. And I, reading all this, am choking on my fury. The next morning he has a change of heart and begs her to stay and he’ll tell her everything but first can he sleep in her arms? And she’s all, ok I’m not mad let’s snuggle.
EVERY TIME they have sex it’s described in terms of violence. Judith McNaught even made up a word for it – roughtender. Roughtender. Yes. When you’re seething with anger and even sexing the woman you love (DUBIOUS) isn’t cause enough to put the anger aside, but it’s okay because she’s so hot for you…roughtender. And then he molests her AGAINST HER WILL while she very clearly BEGS HIM TO STOP and when he does stop it’s only to BERATE HER for “liking it.” And the next morning things are all lovey again? Are you KIDDING me?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?! THIS. IS. NOT. LOVE.
This isn’t the most disturbing thing a romance hero has done to his heroine (BY FAR) but it still makes me not want to finish the book. Judith McNaught is a messed up lady.
Honestly, I might as well have just stopped reading because the book doesn’t get any better. They go on to separate, pine for each other, lie to each other, he goes back to jail, he hates her, she’s hurt, she’s shut down emotionally, she dates the FBI agent who arrested him (JULIE IS JUST SO DAMN LOVABLE) and things continue in this outrageously dull vein FOR HUNDREDS OF PAGES, until finally at the end they reconnect, get engaged, live apart and sexless in her hometown until the wedding (this her father insisted on), get married (Barbra Streisand, his close personal friend, sings at the wedding), go back to Hollywood (everyone loves him again), have a baby, he wins another Oscar, she writes a book about their whole “love story,” blah blah blah, happily ever after, the end.
There’s an author’s note at the end about how this book was written in part to highlight the issue of illiteracy, in particular its effect on women, which is all well and good and great and hat tip to Judith McNaught, but for cripes’ sake. This book. What wasn’t horrifically boring was horrifically…horrifying.
A lot of people who don’t know anything about the romance genre automatically write off every book as silly fluffy nonsense about ladies in corsets and dudes with too much money and time on their hands – and in a lot of ways I wouldn’t argue with that assessment. This is not deep literature. But fans of the genre are quick to point out, and rightfully so, that being silly fluffy nonsense isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And when that silly fluffy nonsense focuses almost entirely on women and women’s voices and women’s stories (and women’s orgasms – hello!) it becomes even less bad, even less silly fluffy nonsense. It becomes AWESOME.
But still. Hilarious as the bad writing may be, I have a real problem with women’s stories (like this one) that seem to give permission to women to let their men treat them like shit, abuse them and villainize them, disrespect them, in the name of “love.” In the name of, let’s face it, not being alone. In that way I think a lot of these books (books produced by women! for women!) are absolutely poisonous and, frankly, not funny.
NOT PERFECT. Not even a little.