This is possibly the strangest romance novel I've ever read, and I've read some real

I picked it up because I had heard that it pushed the fantasy of being romanced by a dangerous man to the max. This is true. It pushes that fantasy so far that it would become a deconstruction of it if Stuart had the slightest sense of irony, humor, or deconstructive intent. Instead, as [ profile] oyceter put it, the book appears to the Creature From Anne Stuart's Id. And her id is a scary, scary place.

Annie (please God no don't let the similarity of names indicate a Mary Sue) is the daughter of a CIA agent-- something which she has no idea of until her father dies mysteriously after telling her to look up his CIA protegee James should anything ever happen to him.

James is not merely a CIA agent, but an assassin in the secret sub-group Annie's father had been running on the side. He is tall, dark, handsome, and Irish. He is also completely bugfuck insane. And a sociopath. And a semi-licensed serial killer. While many novels have assassin-heroes, they generally are able to partition off the part of them that kills into their job persona, while leaving them able to relate to other people, such as women they're romancing, without constantly thinking of killing them. Not so James! He cannot look at anyone, especially Annie, without thinking about how he could kill her and that maybe he ought to do so. For the entire book!

This is the romantic lead.

There is a flashback scene in which Annie is ineptly cooking a turkey and James helps out. He only gets so far as picking up the turkey before thinking, "Sex and death, sex and death... No! Must not think of sex and death!" I swear I don't think this is supposed to be funny. Or at least, I don't think the sex and death part is supposed to be funny.

Annie is boring. James is fucking creepy. Again, if there was any irony at all in the tone, it would have been a brilliant and disturbing look at the dodgy nature of some very common fantasies and romance tropes. But there is no irony that I can detect. So it is disturbing without being brilliant, though it's certainly bizarrely compelling.

The sex scenes play more like rapes and less like rape fantasies than the rape fantasy sex scenes in any romance I've ever read. Let me put it this way: rough sex is one thing, "Stop, stop, oh I can't help myself from responding" is another thing, but when the hero is considering snapping the heroine's neck while he's having sex with her, the book has gone beyond the realm of romance and into some other place entirely-- a place I hope not to ever visit again.

The appeal of the "dangerous man" fantasy, in my mind, rests entirely on the premise that he isn't dangerous to you. (Except to your heart.) You can get into a gray area (often featured in Gothics) where he might or might not be dangerous to you, and then the frisson is not knowing whether or not to trust him-- "My head says no, but my clitoris heart says yes, oh yes!" But when the reader knows for certain that the romantic lead is a freaking nutcase, it kills the romance deader than everyone who crosses James' path.

I borrowed this from [ profile] oyceter after she heard about it from [ profile] coffeeandink. Thanks, you two! I think.

ETA: I don't own the book, so cannot quote it, but if anyone who has it would care to quote the relevant section of the turkey scene (or any other bit, really) in comments, that would be great.
ext_6428: (Default)

From: [identity profile]

See, I utterly loved and found it deeply sexy despite the boringness of Annie and because of the total fucked-upness of James. Sometimes I think I don't really have a sense of humor.

From: [identity profile]

You know, if the whole book had been from Annie's POV I might have thought James was hot. That kind of freaks me out. Which confirms my theory that the human race would die out if we all became telepathic. Sometimes you just don't want to know what's going on inside other people's heads.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter

I can't remember now if I found it sexy or not, mostly because I was having so much fun with how very over-the-top Gothic it was.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter

I'm going to have to dig up the book and post a quote, though I probably won't get to that till tomorrow.

But... hee! I will never think of turkeys the same way again.

From: [identity profile]

It has occurred to me that Hannibal could be considered a romance novel.

From: [identity profile]

I really can't read it any other way without wtfing, honestly. Which is not to say I think it's a good or enjoyable romance novel.

From: [identity profile]

You're not wrong. James is a nutcase.

And yet I'm with [ profile] coffeeandink. I loved it. I love all Stuart's sociopathic heroes. Like, seriously love them.

And now I fear I have revealed waaaaay too much about myself.

From: [identity profile]

Heee.. I may have to go read another Stuart.

I've been told that her latest Cold As Ice is really good--it's the one where the hero is a spy who slept with another guy in a previous, connected book.

From: [identity profile]

I read COLD AS ICE. It was one of her better ones (well, given that I've only read maybe 4).

From: [identity profile]

"My head says no, but my clitoris heart says yes, oh yes!"

Would it be very bad if I had a t-shirt made up with this as a slogan? It could be the new call-of-the-wild.

I just read Anne Stuart for the first time ("Cold as Ice") and so have picked up a few of her older ones to get to know her work a bit better. From what I can tell, this creepy guy, boring girl thing (or creepy AND boring guy and boring girl thing in some cases) seems to be how she's made her career. But this one seems to have taken the out-there hero to the extreme.

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