Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: Forceful Negotiations by Eden Connor

Title: Forceful Negotiations
Author: Eden Connor
Series: Carmine Club, Book 1
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release Date: 22 April 2013

Why would a former beauty queen and ex-wife of a billionaire become a pimp? Sending the demigod of lust, Eros, to find out why Willa Davis Seachrist is running a secret sex club seems like the solution to Saint Peter’s problems.

Teague Tillis comes to Carmine House in search of a man to make her fantasies come true. When former prosecutor Cam Calloway wins the bid for Teague, her fantasy challenges everything he believes, but if he can't satisfy her, conniving Willa will offer her to his nemesis.

Welcome to Carmine Club. The cost to join is a price you've already paid.

**Rape Trigger Warning** (Content warning taken from beginning of book): This book contains graphic scenes depicting consensual rape fantasies and public sex acts.

To elaborate a bit, this book is about one woman's rape fantasy, and her struggle with accepting that's how she likes sex; and the conflict an upstanding do-right guy has with fulfilling it and not losing himself in the process. To be fair the author did offer a warning, but I don't read those things at the beginning. I dive into the books. So I missed this one. I wanted to be sure that other readers knew about it before getting it.

Frankly, that's the least of my problems with this book. And I'll apologize now as this is ends up being a bit rant-y. It hit a LOT of hot-buttons for me though.

I read this book for two reasons; 1) I was hoping for a interesting take on Eros - god of desire and attraction, and 2) I wanted a sexy, quick story centered around a sex club devoted to women's desires (for a change). And also the third reason of being egged on by my friends (I'm looking at you Anna & Cory!!)

**Spoilers ahead!!** I'll tag them, but I have to quote sections of the book to show what I'm talking about.

Let us start with the good stuff. Um... There were no grammatical errors. That seems harsh, but it's the best thing I can say about this book. We were just not a match.

So, I guess onto my problems.

1. Writing: It was awkward, full of too many adjectives, repetitiveness and hyperbole. There were also several times I had to read sections over and over to try and make sense of them, and I never succeeded.

No well-dressed businessman loitered at the side entrance to her building, lying in wait to force her into a conversation she didn't want to have. Reaching behind her neck, she clawed at the hood of her track jacket, yanking it over her head. The side street was littered with slow-moving cars and puddles left by a fast-moving rain shower. Pausing on the center line between lanes, Teague cursed and raised a middle finger when a truck sporting oversized tires threw dirty water on her tennis shoes. Cold water sloshing around her toes spurred her dash across the final lane.

Awkward phrasing, no? Some more examples from further in the book.

In the next paragraph her heart stops when someone surprises her, and they have a FIVE sentence conversation before her "heart stuttered back to life." If your heart is stopping for the time it takes to say five sentences between two people, you might have bigger issues than this book is letting on about. By the way - as much of a workout as her heart gets by stuttering, racing, pounding, pulsing...etc - I'm surprised she didn't have a heart-attack.

Well, okay, there was one other thing I liked - especially right when I first read it. (It was later ruined.) This is Willa talking - owner of the sex club that auctions off the women to men that will then fulfill their fantasy.

"From the cradle we're taught our goal should be to please men. ... We learn to do whatever the men in our lives need us to do. ... I wasn't struck as much by what had changed for women in two hundred and fifty-three years as I was by what has not. Rich or poor, women still have to scrimp in one important regard. Sexual satisfaction. Too damn many of us live in sexual poverty, Teague.

"By the time we're ready for a relationship with a man, we're already conditioned to deny the most essential part of ourselves. The sexual part, the inner goddess that wants to be fucked exactly the way we need. We're taught to be ashamed of our needs, even to be ashamed of having any, whereas men can speak freely about their wants an no one thinks twice about it. ...

"One day I had an epiphany. What if I could use my money and this estate to offer women their chance to explore their fantasies in a safe, consensual environment? Sex clubs aren't a new concept, but most cater to men. Why not create a club where our fantasies are the ones being honored?"

Yes! Exactly what I was hoping for when I picked up the book! That made me happy, and look back on the previous 19% of the book a little more pleasantly.

Unfortunately for me it didn't continue in this vein. Before I get to the rest of my problems, here are a few more awkward phrases from the rest of the book.

1. Her handwriting was as jumbled as her nerves. p.21
2. To the left, a second building nestled against the main house like a lover. p.21
3. Iron urns lined the drive behind the house, cuddling boxwood topiaries coaxed into corkscrew shapes. p.21
4. ...svelte grandmother clock... p.25
5. ...smoothing her side-swept bangs in a way that made Teague think of a cat perfecting its fur... p.27
6. Curt's paw curled over hers... p.37
And this last one - is this a curse people actually say? I've never heard it before. Cam's the one saying it and he's from Chicago, which is near me.
7. "Jesus jumped-up pretty boy Christ."

2. The characters. Teague's kind of a bitch. She thinks about one of the women she meets as a "wren," another as a "peacock." And she continues to call the one a "wren" throughout the book. I'll give that she does consider one woman her friend, but we never really see her interacting with her. We're just vaguely told that they're good friends. She lumps men together as greedy, inconsiderate, messy idiots. A particularly lovely quote from Teague's thoughts (about Willa - who is divorced and whom she knows absolutely nothing about.)

How much pain could Willa suffer, when her divorce settlement was rumored to be close to a billion dollars?
I'm not even going to bother saying anything to that.

Cam's not much better. He's willing to do whatever to get ahead - and not in a sexy way. For example, he drinks bourbon, which he hates, when he goes to the club (at his boss's behest) because that's 'what they drink in the south.' Heaven forbid his boss realize he likes some other liquor. I couldn't help thinking that he was selling himself out every time he turned around. He even bids $3,500 at this sex auction to impress his boss; knowing that he has that money earmarked for getting a condo. Yeah, that's sexy - prostituting yourself out for something you're not sure you can afford, or want, because your boss is watching. Attractive.

Here's a lovely quote from his POV, after reading Teague's fantasy:
Disgust soured his stomach. What kind of insane asylum are these people running?

3. The misandry of men (yes, instead of a bunch of misogyny there's the subtle contempt and underlying message that men are idiots and led around by their penises) and the patronization of women. I touched on how men are portrayed a bit above, but here's some direct quotes that just pissed me off. And right after that fabulous speech by Willa about how women deserve to have their fantasies satisfied, too. *sigh*


Willa speaking again:
"Men must compete in order to tap into that head space where we need them on our club weekends. We want them feeling manly and confident. Competitive. Think of the auction as sexual theater, designed to provoke these feelings. ...

"We need their testosterone pumping. The auction sets that up nicely. You'll strip and be handcuffed to one of our luggage carts. ... Male members will be allowed to touch you with their hands or mouths any way they see fit prior to the bidding, short of penetration. They have to compete with each other for that right. ... You'll be masked, unable to see."

Okay, so men just need to be shown a woman they have to compete for and it'll throw them all into cave-man mode so they can fulfill her fantasy? I just don't like the implication there. Maybe I'm expecting too much or something though? Whatever, it didn't work for me.

So I wondered, what's in it for the men? Other than getting to have sex with a woman...why would they spend insane amounts of money to bid on fulfilling a fantasy - that's UNKNOWN to them - of a women. Well, lucky for me, this was asked...
"Willa's stroke of genius was designin' the auction so if one man fails, he knows others are waiting in the wings, ready to succeed. Peer pressure..."
Great. Let's shame some guy into doing something he may not be comfortable with. Carrying on that thought.
..."It's essential to a man's self-image to see that look of admiration and satisfaction in a woman's eyes after sex and know he put it there..."
Um. No it's not. If it were you wouldn't have this little club, because guys all over the place would be dying to pleasure a woman's greatest fantasies. Logical fallacy here. Again, carrying on:
"...Whatever it is, Teague, be sure you write it down completely. There's no creature less well-equipped to guess what a woman wants than a man."
Okay, well this is just patronizing all the way around. No one is equipped to guess what anyone else wants. That's why frank discussions about desires, needs and wants is necessary to most relationships.

Patronization of women, you ask?
It's not that hard for us men to get off, but women, ah, they're marvelously complex little creatures...
(emphasis mine) To be fair to the book here, the guy saying this is kind of an asshole - at least I think he's meant to be portrayed as that. It's Cam's boss, which makes me respect Cam even less that he's so eager to please this guy! Anyway. Next..

Teague's "friend" setting her up to meet with the people trying to strong-arm her out of her building (she's been avoiding them):
"...only reason I don't feel bad about doin' this is because I believe she needs to let that place go so she can move on."
Because of course men know best for us little 'ole women. [/sarcasm]

4. The complete derailment of the idea that women can be sexually free. This is the one that put the nail in the coffin of this book for me.

"What if she's happy without a man? (Eros asked Peter)
"Woman was made for the comfort and companionship of man. She cannot find true contentment without true love."
Now that wouldn't be so bad if the book subverted this message, but it seems to reinforce it.

His attention was drawn back to the blonde. Perhaps her soft-colored mask gaver her the improbably air of innocence, even though she was spread and being fondled.
"Innocent" women (even in appearance only) are apparently the only ones worthy of attention and true love...

...Zach was almost certain Jane was the club's architect. If a virgin was in charge, making decisions based on only what she read in her Human Sexuality textbooks, he wanted to know now, so he could talk Will into stopping the auctions.
Yup. Because there have been SO many complaints that she obviously doesn't know what the fuck she's doing. Mind you, immediately after this he starts seducing her (while she says and does nothing - just letting him do it, so she's completely passive in it all - ugh).

Those are the big ones for me. But there's also the weird world-building, and an Eros that acts more like a whiny, irresponsible child. And the sex that wasn't that sexy, but felt incredibly stilted. And finally ***spoiler***

the way that Cam used sex, and Teague's rape fantasy to get her to negotiate with her about selling her building...

So not okay with that.

Then they're all happy-ever-after, and the story abruptly ends.

That ended up a bit longer than I meant, but this book really bothered me a lot. Maybe it'll work better for you...

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