Thursday, April 18, 2013

Time Off For Good Behavior by Lani Diane Rich

Skeptic Scale: ♥♥♥

She: Everything goes wrong for the h - she loses her job, she suffers a terrible accident, she's getting harassed by a jerk of an ex-husband - and it has all left her a shrill and crochety cow. She needs to rebuild her life and while she's going through the painful process she meets the H.

He: A kind, patient lawyer who volunteers himself for the role of Knight in Shining Armor. We learn almost nothing about him except he is nice and has a sad back story. A nice, beta man that you wouldn't mind bringing to your Aunt Edna's knitting circle.

Conflict: The story is highly h-focused so the thing that keeps them apart is the h's (very accurate) conviction that she needs to sort out her own life before getting into anything with a dude.

What I liked:
1) The banter was quick and sharp and not forced even if it was a bit on the sitcom-y side.

2) Fast paced and generally funny

3) Had a sort of girl-power theme about it (hot pink cover = Girls Who Kick Ass But Who Still Totally Own Their Girliness) and I liked that we focus on the woman lead through the woman's own eyes, and not through the "Male Gaze"* (high fiving all my second-wave feminist sisters! woo hoo!)

What I mean by this is that we learn about the woman's thoughts and personality, her transition to a more centered human, through her own voice and not from the dude's description of how "her eyes seemed to glow with renewed vigor", or how "her skin, smooth and supple, did nothing to hide the inner strength he knew she possessed." This is a non-trivial point for me, because it almost never happens in romance novels.

What I was only meh about:
1) The hero was really underdeveloped. For example, you find out this tragic thing about his past and that is supposed to stand as proxy for his entire personality. Again, this is one of situations where H falls for h in spite of her craziness and I am left flapping my mouth like a trout  hung on a plaque in the basement - WHY DOES HE EVEN LIKE THIS CHICK???? GIMME A REASON!

2) The h is a bitter shrew. I mean, aggressively rude, temperamental and has a history of terrible decision-making. I was almost shocked in the first couple chapters with her portrayal (very impressed, but also a little scared - for instance I wouldn't want to be the chick reaching for the same cab door as her and then getting shoved out of the way into a slimy puddle because she would totally be the crazy cat to do that to someone who got in her way.) 

So yeah, hardly an endearing h.

3) ANOTHER crazy-stalker side story. This time it's an ex-husband. It's getting super old. I am not sure WHY the H would want to get involved with such a person? 

Romances always explain this point by making the hero out to be someone who wants to "save everyone". 

This is dumb and evolutionarily impossible. You only have a biological desire to save things you love/want to have sex with, or share genes with. And babies and puppies - but that's nature's way of making sure genes of the human race and those that we engineered to co-evolve with us are preserved. So gimme another reason he should fall in love with her before wanting to save her.

Side note: For as cavalier as people are about sex in general, there is this amazing tendency in romance novels to show how people fall in love in the seconds after doing the deed (usually the first time with each other and Bam!)... I wonder why? Is that the ultimate romance then? Lots of very modern sexual tension followed by an almost puritanical moment after fluids are exchanged where one or both parties realize this is love for Realz? Not getting it, and certainly not buying it. But I keep reading about it so maybe the joke's on me...

*Just in case anyone wants to know more about the objectification of women in the media and social consciousness:

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