Sunday, 16 February 2014

#CBR6 5: One Night of Danger, Clara Bayard

Page count: 231 pages
Time taken: 3 hours

Trigger warning: Domestic violence

Carly Chase works a dead-end job which she hates. After a particularly bad day at the office, she goes out for a night on the town with her BFF, and meets the sexy and surprisingly into her Sam Rollins. As her work life spirals deeper into crime and physical danger, she turns to Sam for help; but is he all he appears to be?

Unlike the first book of the Alpha's Touch box set, this one was surprisingly well written and enjoyable. There, I said it. From a feminist point of view, Carly is pretty awful, but she's well written enough that she has good reason to be, and while she does a whole bunch of things that one might generously call "of questionable judgement" they all serve to drive the plot forward, and it's difficult to see how the story could have progressed if she hadn't done them.

There are a few things that annoyed me - the erotica parts used really clich├ęd phrases in place of "erection" and "vagina" which I got really bored of, but I appreciate that many people prefer floaty euphemism so I'll put that down to taste. Carly is described as a "plus-sized beauty", but in fact there's nothing in the book to make me think she's particularly plus-sized at all, just tall and correspondingly bigger all over. It's possible I missed something, but all of the occasions where Carly's narration talks about it is really just stuff most women get paranoid about even when they've nothing to be worried about. Then again, that in itself might have been a commentary on the fact that society deems all women not built on petite lines as "plus-sized" even when they aren't, which as a taller than average woman myself I feel pretty strongly about.

Sam also bothered me as a romantic lead; Carly's mistakes were compounded by his, although his actions are presented as reasonable and logical, and his character seems an uncomfortable mix of proper hardcore alpha male and sensitive understanding and empowering feminist-appropriate type. As it's a first person narrative, and he's not the first person, the conflicting drives seem much more stark than they might have done if the novel had been from his perspective.

The plot was pretty light and relatively predictable, although there were a few nice touches in there which I didn't see coming. Where the book really stood out for me was the fact that Carly is the survivor of an abusive relationship, and has struggled her way back to herself; she suffers a couple of panic attacks and flashbacks over the course of the narrative. It's dealt with pretty sensitively, and it's not brushed off. Current estimates suggest that one billion women worldwide are victims of domestic abuse. That's 1,000,000,000 women, or the equivalent of the entire population of India. It's important that this is recognised in media and entertainment, because it's brushed under the carpet all too often.

Whilst it loses a point for its general predictability, I was impressed enough with its treatment of a difficult subject to add a point back, so this gets three stars: you probably won't hate yourself for reading this, but it won't blow your mind.

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