Madeleine Maguire has a crush on Michael “Spike” Moriarty. He’s tall, buff, tattooed, has black hair and yellow eyes, and rides a Harley. ::wolf whistle:: Hot stuff. And he seems so mysterious… Every time Madeleine sees Spike, her heart goes a-racin’ and all she wants to be is his lover-girl.
Spike Moriarty has a secret. He once killed a man and went to prison for it. He came across his sister being beaten to death by her boyfriend and Spike sprung into action. He killed the guy and went to prison for many years for manslaughter. Now he is a semi-famous French chef and not a lot of people know about his past. And boy, does he have a chip on his shoulder about it.
Madeleine and Spike encounter each other at a mutual friend’s party. Spike spends the evening flirting with everyone wearing a skirt, while Madeleine hides in a corner, watching him and being miserable. But Spike isn’t the only the thing that’s weighing on her mind. She is very wealthy, but her brother controls her money. She would like to tell him to back off, but she has always been intimidated by her brother and doesn’t want to confront him alone. If Spike would agree, she would like to take him with her to the family home for Memorial Day weekend. Spike is immediately offended. He thinks Madeleine only wants him to go with her because his looks would be a shock to her wealthy, white-bread family, and Spike doesn’t want to be used that way. Thanks but no thanks, Madeleine.
Amnesia is my favorite Harlequin Presents trope. It’s like a reset button of sorts; it can enable relationships to start over and turn total jerks into fine upstanding citizens and sweethearts. This particular story, however, uses amnesia as a pause button. Neither of the two leads change very much and once the afflicted recovers her memories, the same arguments from before continue, as though a year hadn’t gone by.
Samantha is the only survivor of a very bad car accident, which severely injured her leg. She wakes up in a hospital with severe retrograde amnesia, unable to remember her life before the accident. When she is released from the hospital, she stays in the town where she found herself and finds a job as a receptionist and bartender in an old rundown hotel. She knows nothing about her previous life and as far as she knows, no one has ever looked for her.
Poor, poor Caroline Storr. For years, she suffered through a physically abusive marriage with an alcoholic, afraid to ask for help because she lived in a small town and the scandal would have killed her mother-in-law. But when Peter starts hitting her little girl, Kelly, Caroline decides she’s had enough and whisks herself and her daughter away to London. Cut to three years later and everything is coming up rosy. She had stumbled upon a copy-writing career and with the help of a small inheritance from her father, was even able to buy a house. She hadn’t heard from her drunkard swine of a husband since she’d left him and she and Kelly are doing just fine.
And then comes the asshole in the Porsche. Nick Holt, her husband’s cousin, was a painful reminder of her one emotional indiscretion—she was secretly crushing on him while she was married to Peter. Peter, of course, was a jealous, insecure psycho, and tended to “J’accuse!” Caroline of cheating on him with everyone from the mailman to the kindly town doctor. He also loved to cry his heart out to Cousin Nick and talk about what an amoral, selfish, cheating slut Caroline is. Nick, who was also secretly crushing on Caroline and felt very guilty about it, was at first unable to believe what his cousin has been telling him, but quickly changes his tune, when—say, on a lark—he makes a pass at Caroline by kissing her and she KISSES HIM RIGHT BACK, the dirty harlot! Peter was right! Ever the avenging-angel-slash-hypocritical-asshole, Nick takes it upon himself to hire a private detective to find Caroline, marches his self-righteous ass to her front door, and proceeds to tell her three things: 1) Peter is dead, 2) Peter’s mom is dying and wishes to see her granddaughter, 3) Caroline has been judged and found guilty of harlotry, and Nick himself will be her executioner. Oh, and could dirty, amoral whore Caroline and her little moppet uproot their lives, pack up everything, get into the goddamn Porsche, and go see Grandma before she croaks.
In high school, I had a crush on this guy named Micah* and he was totally into George R.R. Martin. Micah and the nerds at school were freaking out over this new book, A Game of Thrones and talked about nothing else and I, desperate for Micah’s attention, decided to read it. For the most part, I was like, “What the fuck is this?” because I was deep in my Johanna Lindsey and Nora Roberts phase at the time. Then one day, he saw me reading A Game of Thrones at lunch while absently stuffing my face with a Taco Bell Chilito (seriously, what happened to the Chilito? It was my fave) that I had filled with crushed bits of Doritos Ranch (I was 90lbs at the time and didn’t think I was ever going to get fat) and he was like, “Oh, cool, you like George R.R. Martin too?” and it was the first thing he had ever said to me EVER and I almost fainted with delight and nervousness. I nodded like a deranged mime and he flashed me a peace sign and walked away. And I was pretty sure I had chilli grease and Dorito dust on my face because he never spoke to me again. I was three-quarters of the way through when he started dating this girl that I was WAY cuter than and I was like, “Fuck this,” and ditched the book (I picked it up again the next year to finish it and read half of A Clash of Kings).
And then the show came out and I thought to myself, “Ooookay, I don’t remember the book being filled with lots of skanky doggy-styling and incest and all sorts of naked craziness. I gotta pick the series back up.” And so I started from the beginning. Much to my surprise, it’s way better this time around, probably due to HBO providing eye candy and skanky nakedness for my noggin (I CAN HAVE THE SHOW INSIDE MY BRAIN). Light up your torches, bitches, ’cause it’s time to get fantastic with snarks and grumkins and dragons and direwolves!
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
HERE BE SPOILERS
Kindred is one of those books one might hesitate to review because—for me, anyway, I’m thinking, “Shit, I’m not worthy.” This is Octavia Frickin’ Butler we’re talking about here. Octavia Butler was a goddess in the world of sci-fi. Not only was she a frickin’ genius and wrote heavy, issues-laden, but ultimately engrossing books, she was a lady sci-fi writer. It’s hard to imagine in this day and age, but science fiction is still unfortunately a male-dominated field and for an African-American lady to come in, re-write the rules, and dominate? That is crazy-awesome. She also wrote about black chicks and made them the protagonist of her books even back in the day when people would refuse to read something just because the lead character is black. Shit, I’m pretty sure that’s still going on. She is admired and praised by veteran sci-fi writers, even by the alleged pompous sexist dickbag, Harlan Ellison. Can someone who writes snarky book reviews riddled with dick jokes that are not always funny really dare to *gulp* critique a book written by the great Octavia Butler? Pssssh…enough about me. Let’s get under the blankets, turn the flashlight on, and delve into… (melodramatic pause) Kindred.