Friday, July 15, 2016

Fools Like Us (Charlie Crane)

Fools Like Us
Charlie Crane
Torrid Books
Fiction, Romance
** (Bad)

DESCRIPTION: Working with an LA law office, Chris often sees people at their worst, but he's learned not to judge. After all, his own life is hardly a rose garden: when his marriage collapsed, his ex Mel took their daughter Trish across country to live with her new husband Charles, a stern man with more money than Chris will see in a lifetime. When he meets Billie, victim of an abusive husband, sparks fly - and, after half a joint and a couple drinks, so do caution and clothes. But there's more to this budding relationship than mere sex... or so he thinks. When concerns arise over how Trish is being treated by her stepfather, who lives awfully well for his apparent means, Chris and Billie head to New York City to find out what's going on - a trip that may teach them both more than they wanted to know about their new love, and themselves.

REVIEW: As a disclaimer, I was asked to review this book, though I purchased my own copy. I read romances occasionally, and this one was supposed to have a touch of suspense on the side, so it looked potentially interesting. It turned out to be more of an erotica novel than a romance, though, and the suspense by and large failed to materialize.
Chris starts out as a deeply flawed, wounded soul, whose desire for intimacy led him to a string of infidelities and ultimately cost him his family... yet he hasn't learned his lesson, and never really does, jumping in the sack with Billie while the ashes of their shared joint are barely cool. He bangs her everywhere, in most every way, even when she's half asleep. (I guess love means never having to ask for consent - despite Billie coming from an abusive relationship. So... what, her husband treating her body as his own personal plaything was wrong, but with Chris it's right? Or is it from every man it's right, as Chris isn't the only man to take liberties? I understand this is a "thing" for some people, but taking the consent factor out altogether just gives off an icky vibe in this day and age.) Billie is supposed to be just as lost as he is in life and love, having hooked up with a loser who only got worse through financial and personal failures, yet she also fails to learn much from her past, and some of what was set up as abuse... without giving away spoilers, let's just say there's a distinct shift in tone about the incidents and her level of consent as the story progresses. Both seem incapable of separating true intimacy from sex, despite long - pages long, in some instances - discourses on how special and wonderful this new thing between them is. Some of it adds some character depth, but it grows repetitious quickly. It got to the point where I was skimming the sex scenes, because they were so frequent and often did so little to advance the plot or characters. (When sex scenes are skimmed in erotica, something's wrong...)
Speaking of the plot, it felt rather stretched, puffed out by the sex, the aforementioned discourses on the relationship, and other meandering details. As one example: at one point, Chris sets out to meet a PI whom he intends to use to dig up dirt on the evil stepfather Charles. Not counting the initial phone call where they arrange their first meeting (at a dive bar), Chris spends ten pages waiting fruitlessly in said dive bar for the PI to show (while an overaged waitress alternates between flirting with him and yelling at the barkeeper), then four pages go into a cab ride where the PI reveals himself, and roughly ten more pages cover a prolonged and circular conversation outside the cab before Chris and the PI finally agree to work together - and not a single page or line in that time frame refers to the details of the case (and the plot) itself! Simply establishing the PI character should not have taken nearly that long, and the whole bit in the dive bar never once comes back into play... yet this sort of pattern plays out again and again (and again) throughout the book: seemingly simple things occur, eating large amounts of page count and sometimes leading to sexual encounters, at the end of which the story has barely advanced. Things become mildly more tense when the relationship between Billie and Chris is threatened by a phone call from Billie's husband - a call which, despite Chris knowing what type of man he is, and despite the many pages devoted to his seemingly innate trust of his new lover, immediately throws a monkey wrench into his happiness. (Suddenly the drunkard wife-beater is a more trustworthy source than the woman he's come to love despite, even because of, her flaws?) But it doesn't seem to matter, ultimately, as the climax finally saunters into the final pages, almost out of the blue. Then it ends... in a way that literally had me staring at my Kindle, wondering what the point of the whole thing was (aside from the sex), and if it really was supposed to imply that one man swooped in to save (or attempt to save) the women in his life from their own poor choices without having to deal with his own flaws in any meaningful fashion.
Ultimately, this was less the romance it promised to be, and more of a steamy, prolonged roll in the hay, with a little distracting side-story thrown in.

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