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This review is from: A Chemical Romance (Kindle Edition)
I had a surprisingly complex relationship with this book and so I'm giving it a bewildered 4 stars even though I'm going to be expressing confusion a fair amount, This book wanted to be at least three different books, one of them excellent, but story lines and characters were lost during the transition though.
Someone recommended this book to me as part of my quest for a spanking book where the man is not a bully and the relationship comes across as well thought out. It turns out that in many ways and at certain moments, this book is exactly that, but the book had a few genre changes and the heroine had a personality change -- not the expected one for a book with spanking -- and I don't know what to say.
Let's start there. The first 30ish percent of the book felt like one novel -- a really good one. The characters were complex and intelligent, their relationship developed pretty slowly, without the hero dropping the spanking on a virtual stranger for arbitrary reasons, and all the secondary story lines were well done. They worked in an AIDS clinic and the author brought that vividly alive. When there was a medically crisis, it read -- to admittedly a non-medical person -- realistic and exciting. Too often authors try to fake it through a character's job with all the seeming authenticity of a third graders idea of that job and so I was delighted that all of this felt so real. It was like no book I'd read before that dealt with spanking -- so strong across the board. So interesting that I could have liked it as simply a romance or a more grittier story about the clinic. I was a happy reader for reasons I never expected going in.
I also liked, in this first 30%, that the heroine was smart with slight impulse control issues. A character says to her early on, "Don't worry, you'll be back to you usual, competent, unorthodox self." The line was heavy-handed but accurate to what we saw of the character. She was shown being smart and compassionate, if quirky. She could also stand up to the hero in an argument, even though there was a tendency to become childish. They had friendly competitions to out "vocabulary" the other. Her love for the job was clear. She knew and could use martial arts.
The spanking introduction was also done well and hinted at its own complexity -- combining the concepts of erotic spanking and discipline, saying they were separate in the relationship, and it seemed to be something the heroine was suited for and looking for. I felt like, while it had been an interest of his, they were discovery their relationship and that aspect together, with respect and intelligence.
****Perhaps a bit SPOILERY from there on out, but I wouldn't think enough to ruin the book. Still, in discussion the mood/genre shift and dropped plot lines, I do reveal a few specifics. *****
30ish percent, all is right with the world, and then the world changed. The book never stopped holding my interest, but it was a different book -- or two -- none of them as accomplished as the first one. The competent, if a little rash, heroine began to not be able to go two pages without tantrum or personal injury. The professional who stated she never missed work and who told her friend she loved her job too much to leave it seemed to not be the least bit interested in it after a point and so that great early tone was gone. It can't be a cool insight into an AIDS clinic if the heroine is never there and rarely thinks about being there. Her best friend who she has a mostly non-annoying relationship with -- which a lot of authors have trouble handling -- all but disappeared other than an occasional reference. Another friendship with an almost boyfriend seemed to be headed somewhere as he dealt with her new relationship, but whoosh.
The nearest explanation I can give is that the book then split off into two other genres -- a ghost, maybe even reincarnation novel, and a book that was heavily, obsessively heavily, focused on the spanking and there was no room for that really interesting first book. This was a long work that seemed to evolve into something unrecognizable. There were still good moments, but it was not that really good, consistently good book and not what I'd signed up for based on the description. They writer sold me on a book for spanking was part of a larger relationship and integrated it into a story that appealed on many levels -- only to be about, when it was not in ghost mode, her earning spankings due to an bubble-headedness and the grace of an elephant. (This is the martial arts girl.)
At about the point I mentioned, the book abruptly left the clinic and the heroine -- who was so competent and able to defend herself -- was sort of a mess. The hero hired an assistant at the clinic, which is fortunate because being Lana's keeper became a full time job. Every step she took was another crisis and all impulse control left, so then the spanking that was a nice, intelligent evolution, became a little repetitive and her (Freudian) need for them was a constant until she couldn't remember to buckle her seat belt or -- remember she's a nurse -- read up on the medication she was taking.
The hero is wealthy and lived in the family home, the heroine starts having vivid dreams/memories of being the hero's great great grandmother who also cannot walk two feet without hurting something or putting herself at risk. This was rather interesting, but jarring next to the first portion of the book. Either she is the reincarnation of the other woman, or the men in this family are genetically prone to a certain type.
We're given to understand the hero's sister is on the crazy side. There is one scene where this is confirmed and there's a feeling this will be dealt with at some point, might even be another source of danger -- and that disappears. There is a ton of talk about the Adam's dysfunctional parents and how the heroine will have to deal with it/curb her temper around them -- the father has a very brief scene and is atrocious -- and it all seems to be working up to a meal that gets canceled repeatedly and never happens.
I read this all through in one long sitting, so there is no denying it kept my interest, even as I was dismayed, or confused as to the tone shift. I definitely wanted to review it and sort out my opinion. I guess I just wish the heroine had kept more of the competence she started the book with, that the clinic didn't get lost. I could have happily also enjoyed the rest of it, but with different characters perhaps, or at least a definitely different book that continued with them. I missed the first story and the skill it took to write it too much to embrace fully what it became. At 30% I was wanting the book not to end, but in some ways that's exactly where it did end.
4 stars for keeping my interest over a fairly long read and for 1 great story and two goodish ones. The first portion of this book is going to be hard for another book to beat, because it was exactly what I wanted and didn't expect to find.