This installment was… frustrating. Yes, that’s probably the best description for about three-quarters of this Dulcie adventure. Downright stupid fits not quite the other quarter. Because there is a dash of revolting thrown in that absolutely must be accounted for. Revolting. Yes, that is correct. You aren’t reading a typo or a misstatement. But I will get to that in a few.
First, the frustrating. The bad writing is starting to surface. I am not paying attention to things like the active vs passive voice switches, the run-on sentences, the bad grammar (because while bad, it feels like natural speech versus a well written book so it actually, to me, reads ok if I think of these as little plays in my mind and all the words are just part of a natural conversation). No, I am talking about the characters. Dulcie seemed like a pretty cool girl in the first book. And she was even better in the second. The third book didn’t add to her coolness factor, but it didn’t detract either. This one, however? Oh my goodness is she a blubbering idiot. She is delusional, whiney, self-contradictory (at one point she thinks that she never gave up fighting to get out of her situation, but caving to each and every demand and command isn’t exactly fighting) and she becomes so irritating. Not to mention the story itself – her lies and that Knight knew but was lying too and all the manufactured drama/stress because both characters are liars… well, I can only take so much of that internal struggle from our “heroine” before it gets old. Really, really old. Like ancient Babylonian times, Noah’s Ark kind of old.
The stupid. Dulcie went from being a pretty with-it law enforcement agent to a complete moron. Zero to stupid in less than 10 seconds, flat. The Flash has nothing on her. That’s not great character development. That’s exactly the opposite of what I want to read. Had she started out a walking talking potato it would be one thing. But she is supposed to be this kick-ass regulator and she was smart enough to eventually figure out the deal with Quill in the first book. While here, Johhny Bravo is an Einstein in comparison. When characters don’t learn from their mistakes, it can be frustrating. When they are as idiotic as Dulcie is in the book… stupid is too smart. How can she not think of any options – none, zero, zilch. I thought of 15 within seconds and I am really not all that creative. I know that there needs to be some sort of tension or obstacle, but we could have gotten to the same end point in a number of other, totally valid and less moronic ways. The character didn’t need to become a walking lobotomy.
More stupid. The title. A play on Wuthering Heights, I get that. But where, oh where, is the relationship? Other than a play on the title just to play with the title. I was wondering this with the prior installments, but here it was too much to continue to ignore. There were also a number of book-to-book inconsistencies that I picked up here. For example, she had returned from the Netherworld a day after meeting her father, which was mere hours after being at Gabe’s where she took a shower. But here, her return, she says she hadn’t taken a shower in Hades knows how long. Ok, this isn’t exactly plot risking inconsistency, but there were a fair number of them here and I wonder if the author and/or editor just fell asleep at the helm. Lazy and… you guessed it… stupid!
Even more stupid. While we needed to see how the “relationship” between Dulcie and her father was going to impact things – and they were for sure going to impact things – was there a race going on that someone failed to mention? The speed with which this story takes place, from Dulcie getting home to getting her job back to ending the way it did, remember the Flash? This element of the pace makes him look like a tortoise. A man who is supposed to have been a master criminal and all around tyrant for at least a hundred years can’t take a few days or weeks to give his new plant time to get settled and work through a workable solution? Tosh! Poor planning on the author’s part if you ask me.
Then Dulcie’s libido needs some help. Sure, in the PNR genre the libido is the elephant in the room and characters are often overcome by it, unable to silence their inner voice telling them how bad they want to jump bones and eventually the fail to control their urges, heating up pages (or chapters depending on how good the author is). And often, characters think the coupling isn’t smart (ok, always not just often – but this is where the couple’s struggle to be together, the he’s too good for me, I am too damaged, I can’t… comes from) and that tension or obstacle is necessary to the plot. When done right, it makes the steamy scenes steamier and the happy endings happier. When done right, the reader gets to sigh a sigh of relief that the characters have coupled and beaten what-ever was keeping them apart. But when done wrong, the characters are stupid, whiny, self-centered annoying reflections, with the emotional range of a teaspoon. But the teaspoon is Nicky Ferrante compared to Dulcie. While her libido puts Charlie Harper to shame – as absolutely all reason and any teeny tiny sense of intelligence disappears instantly every time Dulcie gets too close to Knight since she automatically stops thinking even semi-coherent thoughts about anything other than lust. Dulcie is the poster child for Lust. And it became really tedious and boring in this installment. Especially given the revolting – and unfortunately, her inability to do anything other than lust after Knight, while being self contradictory in the same thoughts doesn’t appear solved even at the end of book 5.
The revolting. This was the worst part of this book. By far. The cliffhangers in this and the last book sucked. The fact that I idea I might get a slightly more sexy version of the cozy mystery was burst worse than on over-inflated balloon sucked. All of the stupidity and frustration noted above sucked. But what sucked the worst was **spoiler ahead** the scene towards the end between our 2 main characters – Knight, who I was really starting to like, and Idiot. Where they are fighting and he goes from being a good guy to a rapist. Yep. He does. Just like that. He is all over Dulcie, she is telling him no repeatedly, and he reads her body language and decides that she doesn’t mean no when she says it, she really means yes. So he forces himself on her. It doesn’t matter that she eventually says ok – it never should have gotten that far with these characters. I have read books with rape elements or scenes. And typically there is a reason for the scene. Here – I think the author just flipped her lid. And, the way the characters handled the situation subsequently, made me ill. I had to put the book down and re-read a number of times to make sure I really read what I thought I did. (Compounding this is the fact that in the following book, which I will review in the next few days, the author even does some victim shaming. That too was revolting.) And the larger lesson of it’s not the victim’s fault and no means no, no matter what (I counted 6 times she explicitly said no or stop or don’t do this and a number of others where she had that thought) and that rape isn’t the same as passionate sex (which is one of the explanations for the whole thing later) and that no man can read the mind or in this case body of another to change no to consent. Never mind that she eventually, begrudgingly, says she wants to have sex – since it is after he has already penetrated her. His response at one point to why he is forcing himself on her is “because I can.” WTF??? Let that sink in. Is my revulsion misplaced? The more I think about it, the more revolted I am. And the more disappointed in the author I am (especially after reading Malice in Wonderland, by the way… but I won’t spoil that one in this review).
This is NOT ok. Glossing over this by the characters, is NOT ok. Ending the book on this note, between these characters, is NOT ok. Turning the hero into a monster like this, for no apparent reason, is NOT ok.
So where do I stand? I definitely need to reclassify these from the mystery to the PNR. I am terribly disappointed that the individual mystery per book is not the way this series went and it took this ugly dark twisty turn. And I read book 5 (Malice in Wonderland). Not because I was really psyched to after the way 4 ended (and that is such a shame because I was really enjoying the series up until this point) but because I was curious as to how the author would handle things and I felt like I couldn’t let it end on such a sour note. We’ll talk about my disappointment and more of the frustrating and the stupid in the next Dulcie review.