TW : Sexual assault (played down as romance, because of course)
Wow, thank YOU for making me reacquainted with rape culture on page, I’ve missed it so much!!!
– Says no one ever.
So, you’ll have to excuse me if this review isn’t exhaustive and if I don’t mention everything that annoyed the fuck out of me, but somehow I had convinced myself to let the flaws go in the beginning. Let it go, Anna, enjoy your damn book, Anna. Isn’t it what so many readers LOVE telling me (in bullet points, wouldn’t be funny otherwise, I suppose) in the comment section under my reviews? Yes!
Well. From now on I’ll link to this review as a proof that it does not work. Sure, I was able to go past the stereotypes and repetitive ramblings and asshole moves and all the little things that show that RS Grey wants to write feminist heroines but genuinely doesn’t know how to do it. Woohoo for that!
Unfortunately, even lenient Anna has a problem with non-consensual kisses, especially when the so-called hero repeatedly follows the same pattern of behavior.
First of all, I do not know what’s supposed to be sexy about punishing kisses but I, for one, find them rather disgusting and appalling. I mean is there some parallel universe I should know about where forcing yourself on people gives them fuzzy feelings? Huh? Nope? That’s what I thought.
REALLY THOUGH I genuinely need guidance to know when I am supposed to swoon here?
“Torn between wanting to submit to my desire or hold my ground, I turn toward him, and his mouth crashes down on mine without warning. He kisses me mercilessly even as I struggle against him. My hands fight their way between us and I try to shove him off, but his ironclad embrace is too strong for me to break. I know I won’t be able to outmaneuver him, so I resist in a simpler fashion by holding completely still. He can force me against him, but I don’t have to respond, and I don’t have to kiss him back.
My rebellion makes him even more annoyed.
Okay so I’m going to be honest here because I don’t even want to be sarcastic about it : these few lines made my heart beat erratically and my eyes water, because what we have here is the depiction of a sexual assault, and no, I’m not exaggerating. What we have here is a woman who makes it clear that she does not want to be kissed by the male character, whose physical force prevents her to stop him. I underlined the second last sentence because for personal reasons, it resonated strongly in me. What we have here is a woman who is forced to use the last defense we have when we’re sexually assaulted, the very same that makes people doubt our words when we finally find the courage to confide in them about what happened to us.
So fuck you, book, for making me feel like shit in implying that such behavior is okay and should lead to romance (because it very much does, in the following pages).
But I told you earlier that it didn’t happen once, but several times, remember?
“My mouth is open to shout at him yet again, but his lips crash down against mine in a punishing kiss. I struggle against him and his mouth turns merciless. I’m angry – livid, in fact. Tears of exhaustion and rage slide down my cheeks. I want my freedom, and I’m prepared to get it by any means possible. I even try one well-placed stomp on his foot, but he evades my assault and I grow still, defeated, allowing his lips to move over mine with fierce tenderness. Eventually, sick of my games, he pulls back and cradle my face between his hands.”
Yet again another assault following the same pattern as the first. Except there, and that’s why I underlined the words, the abusive behavior of the male character isn’t apparently enough, but the woman is framed to be the abuser. How fucking SICK is that? So SHE is assaulting him? HE is sick of HER games? What kind of disgusting bullshit is that??
Few lines later, the heroine reassures the reader by telling us that once in the bedroom, he doesn’t force her. I mean?? Am I supposed to be grateful that he’s not a straight down RAPIST but ONLY a sexual ASSAULTER??? THE ROMANCE, PEOPLE. THE ROMANCE.
More generally, the power imbalance between James and Brooke is truly horrendous and difficult to read about.
To conclude : I will never read a book from RS Grey again, and I’m thoroughly disgusted that people are playing it down as “”alpha-male behavior””. Nope. Let’s use the right words and call it how it really is : it is assault, and the male character is a bully and an assaulter. There. It wasn’t that hard, was it?
PS. I realized after that they subtitled this book with the delightful ‘a romantic comedy’ and wow, way to make me want to puke.