Over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I recently read an interesting discussion about female sexuality and dating, and how well that is represented in the current climate of contemporary romance. One of the points of view discussed was that despite the explosion in popularity of online dating and, in particular, apps like Tinder that facilitate no-strings hookups, that scene is seldom portrayed in the genre. All too often, the heroine’s sex life before the hero is glossed over, minimized, or even laughably dismisssed, with authors finding increasingly ludicrous ways to ensure that pneumatic, conventionally attractive 20-something women are still virgins. The conventional wisdom is that readers, by and large, still aren’t interested in heroines with active sex lives. Their inner monologues can be filled with sexual longing, sure, but actual, on-the-page promiscuity? From heroines who just genuinely enjoy sex and it’s not because they have some deep-seated Daddy issue? No dice.
In the comments, a reader mentioned Sweet Obsession as an antidote. Here, a heroine is featured who is only interested in casual sex, not a relationship. I was curious to read the book because, as discussed, that point of view is so limited, and because I think it’s a state of being that a lot of women privately relate to. I believe there are a lot of women out there who are happy with where they’re at, not necessarily pursing men for relationships, but still getting it in every now and again, because people have needs, you know? I wanted to see how an author would approach a romance from that angle.
Regrettably, while I respect J. Daniels’ decision to write our heroine Brooke the way she is, I still feel like she misses the mark in terms of giving a voice to the modern single casually dating woman. Daniels gets a lot right, calling out the double standard between the perception of sexually active men and women, but in many other areas, it seems like Brooke is written to stand apart from women, not represent (some of) them. Any one of these behaviors on their own, fine, but all together and Brooke becomes one of those Strong Female Caricatures: she jokes and swears like a man! She doesn’t have a lot of female friends (mostly ’cause other women are jealous! The ones she does have are in a relationship, so not competition!) She *actually* likes sex! She propositions men! Her best friends are a gay couple and they call each other “bitch” a lot! And discuss the dick sizes of men she sleeps with! She has no feelings! Try to hang out with her longer than a second after a hookup, and she calls you a pussy!
I’m not saying Brooke is complete garbage, but… I just don’t really know women like this. The biggest disconnect for me is Brooke’s disparagement of other women, both conscious and not. In my experience, though many women probably have at least one Mean Girl in the past who called them a slut, it is the support of other women who help us get through the b.s. Because so many of us have had that experience, we know what it is like when someone else is going through it. Women form tribes for a reason, is what I’m saying. It’s often us against the world. So when Brooke casually refers to strangers as “bitch” (and not in an affectionate way,) flippantly dismisses the notion of female friends, and makes fun of men by wondering if they “have a vagina”, well, I’m just not sure how much Brooke likes other women. And, petty as I am, it makes me feel less sorry for her that sometimes she gets flak from men, because if it’s just from men that you’re constantly seeking approval, well girl — that’s a fool’s errand.
With all of that off my chest, I’ll talk about the rest of the story. It’s pretty standard, to be honest. Mason, the hero, talks a good talk about wanting Brooke for more than sex, but 100% of their interactions are very sexually charged and Brooke gives him very little to work with other than sexual bravado for most of the book, so I’ll just have to take the author’s word that he sees more in her. All together, it’s just Mason chasing Brooke, Brooke getting fidgety because WHAT ARE THESE FEELS? And lots of foreplay and, later, sex. I’ll be honest — these scenes were very good. If I recommend this book on any merits, it’s that those sex scenes are very tantalizing.