Monday, June 3, 2013

Lady Luck by Kristen Ashley

Skeptic scale: 

Wait. Before I begin the calm and reasonable part of the review, I NEED to first tell y'all this about this one scene in the book. It's a total non sequitur, because, of course, you may not have read the thing yet. But it is IMPERATIVE that you know it. Had I known this scene existed I would have hired a humvee just so I could run over this madness a thousand times until all that was left was a mangled fistful of tattered detritus.

So. Man and woman are living together and she's taking care of home and hearth and he's out earning the cheese (and by that I mean he's working in an auto shop). We know that so far he's not sure that he LOVES, loves her, but he likes her. And obviously he likes having sex with her. So he comes home one day and we see him sliding towards the realization that he's got it GOOD, son. He maybe, probably, definitely DOES love her. Aw. So sweet. But HOW does he come to this realization, you ask?

Well, he's back from the gym and he dumps his gym bag on the floor and then just gets this swell of manly joy - you know, because he knows she's gonna sort through his crud and take care of it.  

Dude. WTF? I'm old enough to know this for the garbage it is, but I fear, I TREMBLE, that some poor girl will be reading this and believing that is actually how she needs to operate to gain the love of a man. Listen little girl, no really, LISTEN TO ME. A man who thinks he can get away with that crap is NOT HOT. He's a baboon. A fuchsia-arsed BABOON. I think in 2013 we have come far enough to negotiate a SLIGHTLY fairer deal - say, him agreeing to dump his stinky gym clothes in the laundry hamper? Have we come THIS far at least? I like to think so, but then I read about goons like this and my world comes crumbling down again...

Oh, Mother Demeter. I think that must have been one of the most revolting scenes I have EVER read in a romance novel. Any novel maybe. And I've read some sick stuff.

And ANOTHER thing. I fully realize, I'm going on and on and everyone gets it, but here's one more thing about that whole stinky gym clothes bull that got me. These romance novels are fantasy. No man's abs are ever "as tight as a drum" unless he's an anorexic underwear model. Or Tom Brady. No man's buns are tight enough to bounce a quarter off of unless he's Michael Phelps training for the Olympics, alright. So yeah. It's all a great big fantasy. And I love that. BUT. If you get to build your FANTASY MAN - why, oh whyyyyyy, would you make him be a dude who thinks it's his woman's job to deal with his stink-ass piggishness? C'MON, sisters. We're better than that.

That is all. End of rant.

Resume in inside voice:

Lady Luck by Kristen Ashley is the most fascinating romance novel I have read in a long time. Not because the story was particularly interesting or original. But because it slapped me in the face with its sheer aggressiveness and swagger - drug-dealers, pimps, ex-cons, serial abusers of the English language. It has it all!

I was riveted - partly with horror and partly with an amused confusion that these words have been read (and seem to have been thoroughly enjoyed) by so many devoted fans of the author. Even though I doubt I will ever pick up anything else Kristen Ashley has written, I am sort of weirdly glad I got through it. Just because it made me think and analyze what it was that made me so uncomfortable.

This is the story of a man who gets out of jail after being framed for a crime he didn't commit. He and the heroine, for reasons still slightly confusing to me, need to get married in order for him to put in motion a grand Plan o' Vengeance in order to clear his name and begin his life anew.

The hero and heroine spend the majority of the book having athletic sex all over the house and engaging in frequent misunderstandings with one another due mainly to the fact that the hero is unable to speak in full, coherent sentences. Everyone seems to be born of substance-addicted and/or abusive families and this can explain the cavalier attitude towards death and danger as well as the characters' generally poor language abilities. 

The hero does have some smokin' hot and also romantic lines and we know he is definitely alpha-dog extraordinaire. So, that was fun. But! I couldn't really fall for someone who refers to his wife as "his p*ssy" <wince> so all the alpha domination stuff just came across as cheesy and gorilla-like.

Relationship with money:
All the characters in the book have a strange relationship with money. Most of the characters are working class people. Some have done well for themselves running businesses. None of them seem wildly successful or able to earn a great deal through legal means but there's a lot of emphasis on buying "nice stuff". The money they talk of is of the duffel-bag-full-of-cash variety, not the steadily (and boringly?) accumulated weath you usually associate with rich individuals. And when people do have money they seem to be off buying bling for their "p*ssies" <CRINGE>, fancy cars and house stuff. How about a 401k, huh guys? For example, before his incarceration, the hero was working in an auto shop. That seemed to have paid well enough for him able to have purchased several luxury cars and a nice house chock full of fancy trimmings. Oh wait, he's a crack poker player. So when he needs some nice sh!t I guess he just trundles off to Vegas and earns him some Cash Money. Doesn't really make a lot of sense, but I guess it is fantasy. 

Gender roles:
I guess it's sort of implied that the characters' view of men and women's roles is somewhat traditional (Byzantine). 

Man - protect woman, make money, buy woman things so she's happy

Woman - do whatever man says, do his laundry and make his protein shake when he comes back from the gym, put flowers and sh!t everywhere, keep it tight. Keep your sass under wraps until someone bad mouths Your Man, in which case, Let 'er Rip, girls!

I actually went to goodreads and amazon to look what other reviewers were saying about the luxuriant use of colorful language, but shockingly, I seem to be the only one thus affected. I thought that was really interesting and have been doing all sorts of introspection to figure out the cause of all the discomfort I am experiencing.

Also, here's the thing about the sex scenes. I have read, and appreciated, enough risque fiction where characters say all sorts of saucy and explicit things to one another that I was kind of let down by the scenes in this book. And there are MANY scenes. Maybe that was part of the problem. I had to digest a new (kind of repetitive) sex scene every chapter or so, and because I had been reading all sorts of interesting language in the character's regular day affairs, by the time it comes to the bedroom, those words simply don't pack the same punch.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE a well-placed expletive. I find that swearing, when used skillfully, can be used to create humor, express passion, anger, sorrow, and even happiness. But here, the characters seem to use the words all jumbled together in a way that just seems unnecessary. They all just seem to come across as uneducated and crass, and, forgive me, somewhat dumb.

Ultimately, I couldn't really understand the point. 

For instance

This is the hero talking to the heroine about how a man should love his woman:

"Now, I got a dick and I assume he had a dick so, seein’ as he and I have that in common, I’ll tell you, your pussy was my pussy I would not be sellin’ pussy, not that I’d do that shit anyway. I would not be sellin’ dope and I wouldn’t do that shit either. What I would do is make fuckin’ coffee drinks if it meant you could wear your heels and feel good about sleepin’ in my bed."

Here was my immediate reaction to THAT little delight:

Seriously. Try reading this bit out loud. Without laughing, please. It can't be done because the slang is being used awkwardly and there really isn't the need for that many extraneous expletives to make the words impactful. Here's where I began to squirm when I realized the hero was a little.. simple, maybe? 

Let's end with the numbers*, because as we all know, the numbers don't lie. 

# of F-bombs: 840 (this is an exceptionally LONG book, but still guys, that's almost 2-3 per page)

# of other swears (incl. ones starting with S, D and A): 622

# of times the C*** word is used: 9

# of times a woman is referred to as a

: 65

# of times a woman is referred to as a


*For comparison Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence which was the first book where the F word was published legally, and a novel that met with a great big scandalous brouhaha, had 30 instances of the word and 7 instances of the C*** word. The books are of slightly differing lengths, sure, and Lady Chatterley's Lover was published in 1928 and things have become more racy here in 2013, but the order to magnitude difference in the numbers gave me pause. 

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