Monday, May 26, 2008

Welcome to Temptation, by Jennifer Cruise [1]

*/***** (1/5)

Jennifer Cruise's WELCOME TO TEMPTATION contains way too much estrogen for my tastes. I thought the book defined what it means to write a lot of words without an inkling of substance: it's episodic, melodramatic, and it's bloated nonsense. A lot of contemporary romance novelists write about Small Town America where everybody knows everybody and this one is no different. Similar to the innocence of a girl losing her virginity in historical romance, I suspect the contemporary romance genre enjoys stretching "innocent", conservative principles in Small Town America. The inane frippery in this one really knows no bounds. There's way too many characters (presumably setting up other novels), the plotting dulls, the pacing sags, the settings are empty, and worst of all, the leads lacked substance and chemistry. Although I can't say I liked McCarthy's HEIRESS FOR HIRE (*), lord that was heaven compared to this estrogen-pumped frivolity. Now I have to say the ending saved this novel from being rated a zero and Sophie reciprocates a little bit, but just not enough. For book containing some language, Cruise ignores the love scenes with the exception of Phin servicing Sophie orally in the beginning. For the rest of the book: "And one hour later...," or "The morning after..." Again, I found the passion and chemistry in McCarthy's HEIRESS FOR HIRE superior. I also found WELCOME TO TEMPTATION mundane and predictable: a mayoral election is on the horizon with Phin's chief rival Stephen Garvey hounding his every move, Sophie, her sister Amy crash into town (literally) to shoot a rather raunchy film starring the beautiful Clea, more people show up out of the woodwork including: Clea's jerk husband Zane, Sophie's hot brother Davy (for a future novel), and the porn movie producer Leo. There's a death, Sophie and her sister's bawdy version of the film scandalizes Temptation, OH, and lest we forget, love triumphs in the end.

The book presents the interaction between our heroine Sophie and hero Phin mostly from Sophie's cloying perspective. Predictably (for the romance genre) and much to my ire, our hero Phin notices Sophie's ordinary brown eyes, brown hair and lips ("devil's candy") while Sophie constantly swoons over Phin's classic beauty, incomparable height (the book meticulously notes how he's taller than his friend the police chief), broad shoulders, supple behind, and gorgeous good-looks. Phin is attracted to our ordinary heroine Sophie's mouth, he wants to kiss the skin between her neck and shoulders, but the book eschews Phin thinking of Sophie as beautiful or pretty. I don't get it. Why are heroes from romance novels forbidden from viewing the source of their attraction as hot while the heroines flushed over their heroes' perfect handsomeness, muscles, butt and height? You'd think these greedy romance heroines haven't seen a cute guy before. The plotting and pacing meanwhile pursues meandering, frivolous directions strife with insipid melodrama and soapy events. For example, Phin and Wes visit the Whipple farm to help fix up the place, Sophie makes sandwiches, Rachel helps paint the house, Sophie befriends a dog, more of Sophie antagonizing Phin, Sophie and Phin bantering (romance translation = Sophie being a bitch to Phin), etc., etc., etc. Phin gives Sophie the best oral sex she's ever had, Sophie calls her boyfriend Brandon to confess, Amy and Sophie gossip about Sophie's orgasms, Clea's husband Zane visits, they discuss the cherry wallpaper at the Whipple farm.

The book paints Sophie's character as the daughter of two scam artists, the product of a tough, possibly loveless childhood, independent and someone who takes care of herself, whether that's sexually or otherwise. So of course the book is about Phin going down on her and Sophie turning herself over to him. I was more and more annoyed the more I read this completely senseless farce of a book detailing Sophie's evolution into someone selfish in bed and acrimonious otherwise. The perfect combination every gorgeous, successful guy prizes, right? Let's not forget Sophie's killer ordinary brown hair and brown eyes. The perfectly gorgeous guy tolerates the rather bland heroine's cold shoulder and insulting demeanor while she enjoys him wanting to give her oral sex endlessly without the least bit of a desire to reciprocate on her end. Like so many other romances, the ordinary heroine acting cold and insulting while the handsome hero services her carnal desires (he goes down on her) constitutes what passes for "witty" and "romantic" in this genre. Following the night where Phin orally services Sophie (and leaves Phin right after she's satiated), Sophie continues to act bitchy and resentful the next day. While Phin defends Sophie when Zane calls her sexless, Sophie continues to act like Bitch Numero Uno around Phin all the while enjoying him wanting to go down her.

Phin's "best friend" Wes starts scolding Phin not to casually sleep around with a nice girl like Sophie. Despite the fact Wes has known Sophie for only a couple days. When Sophie's brother Davy gives Phin a hard time for their relationship and offers to beat up Phin, Davy is lovable and cute because he's protecting Sophie. When Phin's mother Liz gives Sophie a hard time, Liz of course is the "ice queen." All to show how awesome Sophie is personality-wise, and how everyone close to Phin (except his mother) show instant loyalty towards Sophie including Phin's daughter Dillie. I had to suffer through Sophie's constant barrage of girly thoughts highlighting how gorgeous Phin is and how hot he looks all the time (he's immaculately pristine 24/7). If Sophie isn't thinking it, either Sophie or her sister are saying it; for instance, when Sophie defends her relationship with Phin to his mother by mentioning again and again how gorgeous he is and that she's not after his money. Phin, on the other hand, is easily attracted to a grubby, ordinary Sophie no matter her bland condition (she was painting once and yet the book goes out of its way to note that Phin is attracted to her in spite of her rather grimy, plain looks). The book exhibits a knack for dismissing any balance in the romance and skewing the relationship into a one-sided affair: the sex scenes were consistently a one-way street (Phin always services Sophie's pleasure -- and no after Sophie's greedy, selfish participation in the sex, it will inevitably bore the guy no matter her reaction), Sophie's cloying perspective inundating readers with estrogen, and Phin symbolized the female readership's sexual eye candy while noting Sophie's rather bland looks and emphasizing her hard-knock childhood and personality in the process. This book clearly demonstrates how to write chick-lit at its best (or worst, depending on how you look at it).

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