We’re back, bitches. Now new and improved with the PattyKates tag instead of appearing mixed in with Katie’s solo reviews. And, to get us off to an interesting start, Patty has selected King by T.M. Frazier.
Patty: King is the story of a homeless amnesiac named Doe (as in, Jane Doe) and the questionable love story between her and a criminal named King. We’ll get to the part where Katie messaged me with “What fresh hell is this?!” in a bit.
Katie: I made Patty buy this one for me. Ain’t gonna lie, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it after hearing her description. She did promise interesting conversation would arise, though, so we shall see. (I wound up reading it in about four hours.)
Patty: Heh, heh, heh… I love the sound of Katie’s indignation in the morning.
Anyway, so this Doe woman was found, memory-less and seemingly worse for wear. After an exhaustive search (HA! It was not even a little tiresome, based on the fact that the police couldn’t find her family or any trace of where she came from and gave up after like, their lunch break) she was tagged as a Jane Doe. Since there was some question regarding her exact age, she was sent to a group home – which she referred to as “Camp Touchy-Feely” – but eventually ran away from the constant threat of groping and turned herself loose on the streets as just another nameless (literally, in this case) runaway.
She barely survives the mean streets of Fictiondom thanks to the help of a hooker with a drug problem and sets about trying to find a place where she can trade herself for a meal and a warm bed.
Katie: Hooker may be putting too kind a face on it. Think Erika Christensen in Traffic.
Patty: Doe ends up trying to find her meal ticket at an Out of Prison Celebratory House Party being thrown by King’s friends. After a bumpy intro (that’s one HELL of an understatement, btw), she is taken into the fold by King and his BFF, Preppy, who own the house. Preppy is… not right. But he makes hella good pancakes.
Patty: The author does a pretty good job of describing the sheer desperation Doe is experiencing at the beginning of the book, as well as King’s seriously messed up childhood and subsequent poor life choices. It’s gritty, ugly, and downright frightening. The writing is unapologetically dark and uncompromising in its depiction of a seedy underworld and there is nothing pretty or swoon-worthy about Doe’s meet-cute with King.
Also, she does not try to paint King as a Byronic hero nor does ANYONE have a heart of gold in this fairy tale. In that regard, it was somewhat refreshing: these are seriously damaged people who exist in a world far, far away from suburban picket fences and mall food courts. There will be no dashing hero astride his white steed rescuing anyone from this mess.
Katie: I kind of like that even though she’s writing about criminals, they’re only moderately successful at best. So often the heroes of romance novels are super wealthy or powerful or successful. This was a different approach.
Patty: Despite reading the entire book with a grimace on my face, I’ll admit to being sucked into the drama. Kinda like how you would watch an episode of COPS because you can’t find the remote and somehow get invested in the fate of the dude wearing the wife-beater and wonder what, exactly, that stain on his shirt is all about and why he isn’t wearing any pants.
HOWEVER, once the Big Reveal regarding Doe’s identity happened, the author lost me. This is totally not a spoiler because King figured it out within 20 minutes of meeting Doe and alludes to this fact early on. I don’t know what was more absurd: who she really was or the fact that she was missing in the first place. It basically relied on a deus ex machina wherein common sense and a Google search are non-existent, along with any plausible suspension of disbelief. Maybe, maybe, the second installment will uncover a deliberate attempt by Doe’s family to keep her hidden/lost; that would explain an otherwise ridiculous and completely weak excuse of a mystery. Even King states that it was kind of pathetic that the police couldn’t figure it out. ALERT: YOUR PROTAGONIST JUST LEPT OVER A PLOT HOLE AND CALLED YOU ON IT.
Katie: There’s a good bit of bad – lost memory trope, of which I am not a fan, terrible editing (Seriously. A refresher course in the proper use of apostrophes needs to be applied.), the fact that we’re not even sure the heroine is of age, but the worst for me is Preppy. Preppy, who is funny, amusing, a good friend, and look! Aren’t his bow ties totes adorbs? Yeah, totally, right up until you get intoxicated and he sexually assaults you.
Patty: Yeah, Preppy was… not… OK. At all. There is just no way to make a sexual predator sociopath “quirky”, I don’t care how good his pancakes are.
Patty: So, would you say this isn’t a romance? I mean, boy meets girl, holds her hostage, they fall in love. Do all romances have to be about upright citizens with unblemished criminal records, a finely-tuned moral compass and clean sheets? Mind you, this isn’t my thing; I don’t enjoy violent suspense, no matter how destined for smexytimes a H/h or H/H might be. But the volume of positive reviews despite the anti-heroics makes me wonder if readers aren’t just enjoying a little “disconnected voyeurism.” Shows like Dexter, Ray Donovan, and SoA all have characters which we loved and rooted for, despite an obvious disconnect with what we would tolerate and accept in real life. No one wants to date a serial killer.
OK, maybe some women do.
Is Ugly Romance a genre?
Katie: I think they’re calling it Bad Boy Romance. This one just had too many issues for me, though. No one has moved past any of their baggage (or seems to have any desire to), and some of that baggage is pretty gruesome. There’s also the fact that Doe is quite possibly underage, and King most definitely is not. It’s not so much that I require everything to be clean and whitewashed, as I want there to be romance and/or love involved, not just desperation. For example, one of my favorite relationships in the Buffyverse was Spike and Drusilla. Totally bad people doing not nice things, but they had genuine feelings for each other. With King and Doe? It was lust on his end with a hint of pedophilia and on hers pure desperation since she is literally starving, with no place to stay, and no clothes. Even though King is holding her against her will, it’s a move up in the world since she’s now got a roof over her head and a full belly.
Also, this turned out to be a serial with a cliffhanger ending that I saw coming a mile away. I hate it when they do that.
Katie: Not for me, thanks. It was just too grim and filled with desperation. When I read romance, I ultimately want an escape from real life, not an immersion in the darker corners of it.
I’m not reading part 2. You can’t make me.
Patty: Girl, I’M not readint part 2. It took a good two days to get this look off my face.