Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Bitch: Night Tides

Today, my friends, is a very special day, because I have discovered a very special book (actually I discovered it months ago and only just found it again, but we're not going to discuss why my housecleaning skills sometimes bite the big one). Once again, we will be delving into the dark jungle of WTF-ness that is Paranormal Romance, exploring the darkest reaches of the human imagination and discovering whole new species of purple prose.

BUT! This book! This, my dear beloved readers, is no typical book. We shall not be dancing with demons or swapping hemoglobin with vampires. We will not be snogging angels or watching witches. No. No my friends, we have special fare today.

This is a book about a woman who has sex. With a lake.

Book: Night Tides
Author: Alex Prentiss
Readability: It's about a woman who has sex with a lake. With a lake.

What you need to know before you buy: This is on the back cover: (heroine) feels the water caressing her bare skin, teasing her senses, drawing her body into a lush erotic embrace. So this is not hyperbole. Sex with a lake.
You know, there are times when I think my upbringing made me a prude. That it's just sex in general that I don't like. Then I remember the (admittedly small) handful of books that actually managed to turn me on, and that this small handful included the most twisted scene in Kiss of Shadows (though none of the others really qualified)

To make it even worse, the friend of mine who gave this to me has the second book in this series now, and he and I sat down and talked about it. And we came up with this:
Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase hard water stains.

So let's get right into the book, shall we?

First sentence: The terror began, prosaically enough, with casual rudeness spurred by a misunderstanding.


Yeah. I have been editing way way way way WAY TOO LONG when commathetical clauses OF ANY SORT make me cringe. (In a totally unrelated comment I had to physically restrain myself from correcting the comma murder in both of the true crime novels I bought the other day. Why can I no longer enjoy my comfort trash? Editing. That's why. Editing.)

Clunky first sentences aside, our first chapter is technically a mystery novel prologue. If you've read a lot of mysteries, you know what I'm talking about. The villain takes his prey. The protagonist will spend the entire novel trying to solve the event mentioned in this first chapter. And you could skip the whole thing and not miss anything, because the MC will rehash these few pages until the ink starts bleeding off the page. Basically, girl gets soda, tells creepy guy starting at her butt to get screwed, Creepy guy staring at her butt decides to kidnap her.

Then we meet Male Lead's Brother, detective Martin Walker, who introduces us to the lake. Actually there are three lakes with individual names. I am going to call all three the Lakes Sex, because I cannot tell the difference between all three and they are treated as the same damn thing. Look, you're asking me to believe that someone is making the beast with two backs with something that only has beaches. Throwing names on top of this might violate my suspension of disbelief.

Marty is investigating the missing girl, who is asian and so is he, and there's a little hit-you-over-the-head racial tension of the folk-only-care-about-missing-white-girls sort, which I do believe is true. However, if you want to make a point about it instead of just look racially sensitive, subtlety might help your cause. This makes David Caruso look like Sherlock Holmes or something.

Also mentioned is a crime blog called the Lady of the Lakes, which the cops hate because it's keeping too close of an eye on them. And it was at this point that I knew exactly who ran it and how important it would be to the plot.

Finally, after another abduction scene, we get to our protagonist: Rachel Matre. She's in the lake. Doing the post coital float. We didn't waste any time with this one. As she swims to the shore, she is taken again, and we find out that the water really does get hard.

Keeping bathtubs clean in this town must really be a bitch.

Anyway, in addition to giving her orgasms, Rachel also receives visions from the lake (okay, lake spirits. It's still a story about having sex with water.) which tell her to help certain women in need. Like the girls being abducted. Well, okay. In response to her latest vision, Rachel leaves the lake. We find out she went swimming nude in the middle of the night. Halfway home she gets accosted by drunk guys looking to have a good time.

I walk to and from my job as an overnight baker. NOTHING scares me more than the idea of meeting Mr. Wrong on the way and being found in a dumpster the next morning ... and yet I have no sympathy for Rachel. Hey, Rae? If you really want to avoid incidents like this, you might want to try bringing this home:

Anyway, we find out that surprise, surprise, Rachel runs The Lady of the Lakes (Sporfle) so she can post all the visions she has during visits to the Lakes Sex. And it has become insanely popular and a huge critical success.

*looks at own blog* Right.

Rachel also runs a diner, where during a clash between two customers, we learn two important facts about this book: Rachel hates men (HATES) and we're going to have one of those drawn-together-by-their-mutual-dislike kind of romances. Ethan Walker, our hero, kicks an asshole out of the diner, and rather than thanking him for kicking this entirely-unremovable creature out of her eaterie, Rachel throws Ethan out for creating conflict for the other customers. Both spend several pages dwelling on the color of the other person's eyes.

Meet the male lead.

Ethan runs a construction company. The missing girl's clothing is found on his worksite, but we know it's not him because he is a VP char. Murder mysteries try to make the do-er a surprise, and this one is no exception. I quit reading mystery novels a long time ago because I didn't like having my brain tied into pretzels while simultaneously guessing who the bad guy was nine pages in.

After a lot of character-related rambling we find out that our villain is doing this for vengence. No hint as to why. Author really wants you to assume this is sexual. REALLY wants you to assume this. So much so that the actual reveal is pretty pointless.

Everything between now and the end can be broken into three parts: Ethan angsting about how much he is drawn to the mysterious Rachel, Rachel hating men and gabbing on (and on. and on. AND ON) about how the Lakes Sex give her everything she needs (while simultaneously lusting after Ethan. Character consistancy? Oh please) (yes. Seriously. Please.), and various modes of skulduggery while Ethan and Rachel try to find the missing women. Jeffery Deaver this ain't.

We also get various red herrings and get to read about how long they fool the main characters, in between the passages of raging man-woman-lake-lust.

Which brings me to one of my bigger bitches about this book: The sex. Or rather, the lack of real intercourse. We get to read a lot about how Rachel and Ethan, after meeting only once (please. Ladies. You have Random Encounter with Dude, you do not want Dude lusting after you forever and always. THIS IS CREEPY STALKER NUTS, not romantic.) fantasize about each other. In exquisite, rapturous detail that is about as realistic as the boobs on Netiri (the cat woman from Avatar). Once again we have that delightful combination of a plot that only exists to support the sex, and sex too feather-thin and too shoehorned into the prose to support the plot. It would be one thing if Rachel and Ethan were actually making out, dragging it out and behaving realistically. Instead, they hate each other, say nasty things to each other, do everything they can to alienate the other, and still wind up ... well, I can't really say romantically linked, because they don't really get together by the end of the book. Rachel's loyalties stay firmly (heheh) with the Lakes Sex. But they do stop manning battlestations, and given the way they're at each other's throats (for no justifiable reason) I don't understand how this is possible.

Then again, this is a book about sex with a lake.

So at the halfway point, Rachel has a stalker who isn't Ethan and who is Red Herring 1. He vandalizes the diner the same evening that one of the missing girls is found dead in the lake. The other two girls are revealed to be slathered in lotion.

Also we jump from traumatized women being presumably raped to Ethan and Rachel making out on his desk. Book, you win points for effort, but you lose double for unpleasant transitioning. I think this is why these romance-novels-with-murder-mystery-twists don't really do it for me. It's really hard to squick me out, and jumping from psychological fuckery to, well, literal fuckery is one of the few things that does it. I actually do study the psychology behind violent criminals because I write about it, and understanding what makes the really bad guys scary helps me make my bad guys just as scary (I hope). I don't have a degree, I don't pretend to be an expert, but I like to believe I have a fairly good grasp on the subject. It's unpleasant and (because I know I'm in a vulnerable category) scary as hell. I am NOT in the mood for a sex scene right now, and yet romantic sexual tension is what I get.

This is like combining Dulce de Leche caramel ice cream with a dill pickle. DO NOT WANT.

Given that our author has done every other cliche in the book, we now have the villain reveal that he's going for Rachel next. Except this is no surprise. We figured eventually he'd do that anyway, because that's how things go in this kind of book. Male lead has to rescue female lead, otherwise we get no rescue sex. So while Rachel is being stalked by Unnamed Villain, they have sex, and we blow both Ethan and my suspension of disbelief all in one go.

See, we just spent the WHOLE BOOK establishing two facts about Rachel:

1. Rachel has sex with a lake approximately once a week.
2. This activity has lead Rachel to believe she doesn't need a man. At all. Ever. And has not for years.

So when Ethan makes the inevitable offer of mutual satisfaction, Rachel says the following:

"Condoms in the nightstand."

Right. Also, while I do like to employ the word "fuck" on occasion, using it in the sex scene as a descriptive adjective does not do it for me.

After things settle down (heh) Rachel tells Ethan about his competition. Naturally, Ethan is skeptical. I mean, it's only sex with a lake. So they go out to the lake to ... investigate. Yeah. Investigate. Right. it turns out the Lakes Sex are not opposed to a threesome.

So now we go back to the murder mystery B plot. It turns out the girl they found was not murdered. She died of an asthema attack while being held prisoner. Except that a death that occurs in the course of a felony, such as a kidnapping, is murder. In this case if the girl were free, she would have had access to her medication and would not have died of an asthema attack. So the police would still treat this as a murder investigation BECAUSE IT IS ONE.


And then we cut straight to Ethan and Rachel giggling and touching and kissing. And then Rachel runs off to the lake to have a nightcap, in the middle of the night, and gets kidnapped.

My belief in this woman as a strong, functional heroine is being severely threatened.

So now it is up to Ethan to find her, and chase down all those red herrings sewn throughout the book. And he runs around turning over rocks, crannies, crevasses, and looking everywhere but where Rachel is, because if he actually found her, we'd have an effective hero and a shorter book.

And now we get to find out what our villain wanted with these girls, what the linking trait was and why he's been kidnapping them. The answer?


He's not raping them. He's not murdering them. His only desire is to tattoo them from head to toe. He's a tattoo artist dying of Plot Disease, and all the women he has kidnapped have refused elaborate designs in favor of what they wanted. As, you know, customers are wont to do. So our villain, our scary boogeyman, is an artist throwing a temper-tantrum because he had to sell out. He is now doing those designs (which sound really tasteless and not at all what a casual tattoo customer would want) on the kidnapped women as part of his legacy.

And I have to say, this concept itself creeps me the fuck out. Putting myself in the girl's shoes, having artwork forced onto my skin, being decorated against my will and then forced to carry this person's brand for the rest of my life? Makes my skin crawl. But this is just so anticlimatic. Note to authors everywhere: DO NOT MAKE YOUR VILLAIN WHINE. IT TURNS EVERYTHING TO CHEESE.

This would have been really effective. In a different book.

Ethan, desperate to find Rachel, goes out and sits in the lake. Meanwhile, in her captor's basement, Rachel discovers a puddle of lakewater and ... um. Um. Yeah. I would so not do that when being held in a crazy person's basement. And the Lakes Sex give Ethan visions which results in rescue. So the climax (snigger) in a book about sex with lakes involves tattoos and, well, sex with the lakes. But not before Rachel beats her kidnapper to death with a floor.

Sorry. Page 296 is about two hundred pages to late to convince me that you are badass.

She also breaks up with Ethan, and I have to say, this is a first for me with romance novels, and we end with Rachel taking one of those other traumatized victims out to the Lakes Sex for some primal catharsis.

Meanwhile, I shall go buy industrial  strength brain bleach. Preferably like this:

1 comment:

  1. "Meanwhile, in her captor's basement, Rachel discovers a puddle of lakewater and ... "

    Sex with a puddle in your captor's baement? It's probably the lake's creepy hentai-addicted brother.