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Summer Reading – Big Fails & Small Wins

Summer Reading – Big Fails & Small Wins
I wanted and planned to have some really good romantic smut to read and recommend. Sadly, all the books I tried refused to cooperate with my schemes.

“Summer Reading” is concept I never quite got.  My reading tastes have never really undergone a seasonal variation, except that around Thanksgiving I usually dig out a book on the JFK assassination and in December I tend to reread Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and a couple of Mary Balogh’s or Barbara Metzger’s Christmas themed Regency Romances.

Of course, I grew up in West Texas, and one of the perks was that in the summers we had heat advisories so often that we stopped paying attention. We would wring out t-shirts in cold water to wear to bed.  Reading indoors during the hottest part of the day was a recommended activity to avoid heatstroke as well as a favored way to avoid snakebite.  Not exactly the idylls described in Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day.  I never got the memo that the summer heat meant I wasn’t supposed to concentrate as well as in other seasons and should read things that didn’t require too much thought or just read stories that are set on a beach.  (This led to me to discover that On The Beach was not about summertime when I was about thirteen.)  As an adult, when summer-time book displays needed to be made, I’d have to consult the New York Times Book Review pages for suggestions on what most people consider fun summer books.

I wanted and planned to have some really good romantic smut to read and recommend.  Sadly, all the books I got refused to cooperate with my schemes.  The first one, “The Forbidden Cabin” by Cheri Zee, well…the phrase ‘stinks on ice’ came to mind in the first five pages.  When the older protagonist started thinking about how sexy her daughter’s fiancée is, that wasn’t…necessarily bad.  That’s not an unusual fantasy choice.  Then, in the following paragraph she’s wondering if the young man in question has dreamed of having ‘a mother/daughter sandwich’…and that actually made me throw up a little.  That lovely thought of mature adult mother and daughter incest was justified in the text by the fact that both women have the same type of breasts.  Yes, identical breasts, that are – you guessed it, small – but not too small, and perky.  Mother and daughter have tits that are described with an adjective that is often used to describe small, yappy dogs.  I had a flashback of the time a guy told me he liked a woman’s breasts that sat up and said hello.  I told him mine say hello, take a seat, order drinks and demand to know the dinner plans.  Needless to say, the affair didn’t last long…neither did my attempt to continue with this book.  Cheri Zee couldn’t even create an entertaining Shayla Black level of bad.

The next book I attempted, Carl East’s Mature Women Volumes 1-5, (no, I didn’t make it through all five volumes)…started with sweaty a teenage boy mowing the lawn of a nice neighbor for extra money. He goes into the house to get ice water and discovers her showering and we all know the bad Penthouse Letters style story to follow.  I don’t find this set-up erotic, I find it a great beginning of a Criminal Minds’ episode in which the sweaty 19 year old ends up becoming an insane maniac who is thrown to the ground and manhandled by SSA Morgan wearing a very well-fitting t-shirt in the final act.  Which I somehow suspect isn’t what is going to happen in Volume 5.

The next attempt was The Wild and Wanton Edition of Persuasion, by Micha Persell and Jane Austen (note to authors, if you are reworking a classic, the original author gets the top billing), and it wasn’t in the dead fish smelly ice club of badness, it was just bone numbingly dull which makes the title rather sad.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has less sex, but is a much more fun read.  Just mentioning that.

The first of the last set is Kate Richards’ Spanking Ms. Whitman, which is another what an amazing coincidence to discover that the perfect man in the office that I have a crush on is into all the same things I’ve got secret fantasies about but never told anyone about and isn’t that convenient? type of fairy tale… actually if there had been a fairy in this tale, it might have conjured up some drama.  Mostly, it is mindless, uncomplicated drivel.

The worst for last book is Renee Rose’s Pleasing the Colonel, a domestic discipline type of historical romance, which for the unwary is a type of story in which everyone does the same things as a BDSM story, except nobody is allowed to really enjoy it.  People (actually, just the submissive, because the dominants are holy creatures who are all knowing and wise who never make mistakes and if they do, the submissive would never think of punishing them), are punished for being screw-ups and to improve them, just for their own good.  Not for a reason as base as finding this sort of thing exciting or pleasurable that both partners agree to do for fun. Also, this sort of thing never seems to be discussed or agreed upon in advance in these sorts of stories; the submissive is usually ambushed with a ‘You screwed up!” and given the choice of punishment or being thrown out of job, home, security, or so on, always wildly disproportionate to the transgression.

(You burned the eggs at breakfast?  Submit to this caning or go live in an abandoned chicken coop, wench!)

Of course this kind of unrealistic absurdity can work in fantasy, but if not written with care and insight only makes the characters look stupid. After the initial punishment, the submissive character is always repentant and secretly loves the dominant for being ‘strong’ (not blackmailing, intimidating or abusing their authority, but ‘strong’).  Of course, the dominant is pleased that the submissive partner surrendered but doesn’t have sex with them, even if he really would like to, because this ISN’T ABOUT SEX it’s about LOVE…to beat someone into being a better person, even though only the dominant partner knows what that sort of person is…the submissive partner is not going to give up material things, cut her hair and dedicate her life to selflessly helping the poor because of the dom’s influence in this sort of story.  The dominant is to be loved for being a whole and complete control freak which is Good For Everyone, and he (usually, there may be a story of this type with a female dominant but I have never seen one) is only dominant because he has to be, not because he enjoys it, because where would we be if we didn’t have him to tell us what to wear, how to speak, when to go to bed, what purpose to have, because nobody had a life before he showed up and only chaos would ensue otherwise…well, this not only stank on ice, it would have released an odor while sitting on an ice floe on Charon, the frozen moon of Pluto.

As a result of those fails, my main summer reading this year was catching up on Ian Kershaw’s work.  He’s a brilliant historian, and specializes in social history of Nazi Germany.  I read his first book on the subject, The Hitler Myth: Image and Reality in the Third Reich, and his last one, Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry, the Nazis and the Road to War.  Both are absolutely brilliant and I recommend them whole heartedly for all history fans, just like I do the rest of his works.  However, you can’t call either one, or any of his books for that matter, light reading.  He’s one of those writers that I have to read ten pages and then I go back and read them again to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  I enjoy doing that.  Of course, this is also why I have the closed captioning on all the time on my TV, which also annoys a lot of my friends. Go figure.

Anyway- summer’s nearly over and I’ve still not found a racy book I can honestly recommend. What have you been reading?


About Kate Keene


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