Simon & Schuster Gallery Books Imprint
Softcover ISBN 9781476730097
Around 2003, when I was looking for a pre-published book to be covered by reviewers, one of the promising review sites was Romantic Interludes. I reviewed some books for the site along with maybe twenty other reviewers, but it never got off the ground. You cannot imagine how excited we were when the big purple curtain finally showed up. Only it never rose. It just sat there for a long time while some webguy forked it to Gabby (the owner) and tried to squeeze more money over for web development. Gabby and her site folded; and as it drifted into obscurity, as the owner was going to just chuck it all, she me the keys. The site was a disaster, but we had content, and we had passionate reviewers who were all very sick of being strung along to ...well, nothing. I invited everyone (and our reviews) into an emergency meeting, and right there and then, instead of everything getting thrown away, we brainstormed names, formed Novelspot and published the first 150 reviews overnight in one massive post. We've come a long way from that day, in many ways--a majority of the ebook publishers who initially sent books to RI tended to produce erotic fiction for women--SF and romance novels, mostly, with somewhat more sex than the big paperpack publishers tended to publish. It was actually quite a while before other books were available to us. They weren't even publishing mainstream content in ebooks at the time, but we didn't quite realize it. We had grand dreams of being a haven where we could review books and get our own books reviewed, offer, provide and get all kinds of interesting and innovative services, all for the sweat equity we put into the writing. Yep--no revenue stream here, at least not beyond breaking even. Honest, professional, well written reviews--that's what we were going for. However, it was years before we emerged from the stigma of being an "erotic" book reviewer. That was never the focus of Novelspot. We always intended to be about a good read, a resource for readers and writers, not just about exciting a reader's libido. Which brings me to the book I should be talking about...Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren, the pseudonym of Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. I had to start off the review with this explanation, because I have to admit that I am less delighted with the book because of it's erotic nature. The content is exactly like the first erotic books we tended to receive for review. This is exactly the type of content that came in labeled "erotica" from Ellora's Cave, Liquid Silver, Phaze, and all the other e-publishers out there.
The book itself has an interesting history. Here it is, if you live in a box under the expressway and haven't heard the story yet. Beautiful Bastard started off as a piece of popular fan fiction. More power to the authors for being able to jump in to publishing that way. I have to applaud when authors get their wings. (I'm not getting into the hen-pecking and quibbling over standing on the back of someone else's fiction. Nothing is new under the sun, and someone must have worked out the legalities. Simon & Schuster can afford a bar load of lawyers.) And yes, the book is a good read for what it is. The story is written in point-counterpoint fashion, alternating first person voices of two characters, intern Chloe Mills and her boss Bennett Ryan. It's a good choice for these particular characters, since they are capable of seeing only their own point of view anyway.
The book is called a romance, and it is not. Beautiful Bastard is erotica, all about the hot chemistry between two people thrown together in the workplace. Yes, it is shallow, but that is because it is focused. The psychology and depth behind this book would be a whole other story, and probably would take more thought than most publishers give readers credit for. I am not offended by the book's aggressive D/s leanings, by the hate-hate/love-hate sex-based relationship, or by the fact that they are total horndogs. But if I had been someone who purchased this book because I was looking for a contemporary romance, I would have been. Not to mention, in real life, there would be crushing lawsuits that would ruin both their lives. This isn't reality--it's power struggle genre, a brand of D/s. (That's Domination and submission for those of you living in that box.) I understand how the power dynamic works in this genre, and believe me, this book is all about that dynamic. Anyone who is a fan of this kind of book is going to rate this book an 11. Other people, not so much. FYI, a six from our rating system is a good rating: 6 Quills: Want to read a good book? I figured or you wouldn't be here. This is a good representation of its genre, fun to read, enjoyable, but it doesn't quite have the oomph to take it to that next level. Still, I'd recommend reading it, if you like this genre.
Another thing: there are a lot of highly opinionated people who follow Twilight, and a lot of readers and fans and writers who know a lot about fan fiction who must have a lot to say. I'm not one of them. I've never laid eyes on Twilight the original, or Twilight the fan fiction. I can't say if it is derivative, or a parody, or be lucid in any way over the original. I can only say that if this is Twilight based, not being a fan was the right choice for me. Furthermore, if what you want is mainstream fiction, you feel, as many writers and readers do, that sex is part of a story. Sex can add spice if it supports a story, but is not the whole story. I would no more unknowingly select a book of erotica to review than I would deliberately crunch through a whole can of peppercorns straight from the tin.
I am striving for balance here. The book is not presented as the blatant erotica it is. The UK's Guardian may get away with saying that Fifty Shades of Grey thrust Erotica into the Mainstream, but however popular some titles are as they flash in the pan, regular readers know that mainstream is mainstream and erotica is in its own little room. This is not a mainstream book. In fact, this book has it's own little niche market inside the house of erotica. This is not a contemporary romance, it is a specific genre: hot boss plus hot intern have lots of nasty secret sex because they can't resist each other. Definitely residing under the D/s roof, though it's hard to say which of the pov characters is more tormented. And not really for a good reason either, other than they just work together.
I'm sorry if you wanted to read this book in public, pretending that you were reading a mainstream book. I am sorry if I inadvertently kicked you out of the closet, whether it was the erotica closet or the D/s closet, I don't know. But face it. This is erotica. If you're ashamed, get a kindle or ipad. So this is what I have to say: if you're looking for a nice contemporary read with lots of story, character development, depth and meaning, get a different book. If you're offended by graphic sex, get a different book. If you are a fan of contemporary books that lean heavily on romance, get a different book. Beautiful Bastard is a book about hot sex in the office place between characters who are having a self-destructive sexual power struggle spiraling out of control.