So I finally finished Seven Nights last night and thought is was OK, but not great. Final grade is C+.
At first I was going to get to one of these books in due time, but reading everyone's reviews so far, and how some of the guys have really gotten into 7 Nights, have gotten a little excited myself and went ahead and ordered Indiscreet by Mary Balogh from the library. Plus, with Laura saying it's not as steamy as the rest and being a single guy and all, well... maybe I should start off slow and steady and work my way up from there. You know, exposure therapy and all.
The sex didn't actually affect me the way I thought it would. It was mostly concentrated into an 80 page string of continuous sex scenes in the middle of the book. At first it was kind of meaningful to me because the sex was the only way he was really able to open up to her and he tried to be excruciatingly diligent about treating her respectfully in bed. I found that part of the story uplifting and a little bit...ahem...arousing. To guys fully ensconsed in the porn generation, it would show how to actually be with a woman, rather than just basically using her. I quickly got bored of it however, because some of it was getting a little too kinky and I was just reading page after page of these graphic sex acts that were as explicit as anything one might find on the internet, and it felt like the book was falling into a porn rut. The culmination of that occurred during the bondage/oral sex scene, which was the biggest "Oh brother" of the entire book and actually made me laugh out loud. Yes, there was a legitimate (depending on your perspective) emotional reason behind why she binds him, having to do with him still being somewhat distant from her and forcing him to face her and fully accept her, but I thought, "Oh, this is just too much." I had expected the book to be a little bit slower burn, with the sex scenes more spaced out, but considering the author had kind of boxed herself in with this 7 day timeline, I guessed it kind of had to happen that way. Considering I had never been able to fully relate to the couple, just empathize with certain aspects of them, I was never able to really dissociate and materialize my imagination into their very sexual reality as if I were there. Towards the end of the sequence I was sort of glossing over the sex and actually remembered thinking how I hadn't watched the latest season of Star Trek Discovery. My level of horniness was actually very low, and the story became merely another subject for dissection and analysis. I actually can't very much imagine an audiobook version of this, imagining a narrator describe some of these scenes with a tone of machismo and bravado makes me blush. Not sure a female narrator would make me blush any less. If they ever made a movie depiction of this that was totally true to the book, it definitely would be putting one foot over the line between being a Not Rated and purely "Adult" film, at least in the US.
Fortunately, shortly after the bondage sexcapade, we get back to something resembling an actual plot, and the book gets a little bit exciting. Jonas ends up gallantly riding in to save Sidonie's sister in law, and by extension Sidonie herself, from being beat up by from her abusive husband. I respected him for that and finally started to actually like Jonas. Then he gets arrested for a murder he didn't commit. Sidonie has a plan to get him out of jail, but it requires disclosing that she knew he wasn't a bastard and is actually a lord, and has been keeping this from him the entire time, despite how much she was entreating him to trust her during their sexual adventures. Jonas is of course furious, and I think I would've reacted the same way initially, however she is basically saving his life and offering him a way out, which should count for something. He does realize this, but instead of showing her any gratitude or offering to really understand where she's coming from he just tells her that she hates her and never wants to see her again. Expecting him to be a perfect knight in shining armor and her to be a perfect lady is really
getting into the unrealistic stereotypes but...sigh...these two, such drama.
A few months go by and they're both super depressed, but then end up chancing across each other again (big surprise) and Jonas learns that she's pregnant. What follows is three or four chapters where Sidonie wants back what she had while Jonas talks around her, pretending to hate her when he really doesn't. He marries her in a type of loveless shotgun wedding and assures her that she will never see him after that, much to Sidonie's chagrin. By this point I was like "Oh, just kiss and make up or don't. Quit dragging this senseless drama out so much." I couldn't really care less whether they ended up together or not. I thought it was sad that everything was going to hell after the intimacy that they shared, but I was ready for this novel to be over. And then the shining diamond in the rough appears. They learn at the last possible moment that trust is paramount and promise to absolutely not lie to each other about anything ever again, no matter how trivial. Well, well, there's a moral to this story after all. The closing page gives one a warm and fuzzy ending.
Trust is the fulcrum on which the entire plot rests. Lack of trust is what drives Jonas' descent and explains much of why he acts like such a jerk toward her. It also relates to Sidonie's initial "feminist" values, she will never submit to any man because she knows they will only abuse her, and she values her notions of independence above all else, love be damned. That little tidbit is an interesting little jab at our present times. Trust is what transforms Jonas from a beast into something resembling a man, and trust is what gives Sidonie the capacity to love. Their disingenuity and harboring of lies, and intent to deceive each other destroys trust and nearly destroys them. One could extrapolate that the lies and destruction of trust facilitated by postmodernist ideologies will destroy the world in a similar manner. So I guess Laura's point is if you are an average Romance reader and are emotionally invested in these two characters, the resolution of the story will plant a seed in your mind, even though you are probably intellectually unaware of the line of force behind the concepts presented in this novel. Although I'm not exactly singing this book's praises, it has changed me in a way, it made me think more about my feelings and be a little less dismissive of them in certain instances. I'm not quite sure where that's going though.
Unless the pacing is better in the next one, there wasn't actually enough there to make me enthusiastic about reading it. I don't think I can sit through another 150 pages of horribly cliched tropey stuff to have it dump me into 80+ pages of sex, with maybe 20% of that being inspirational sex, and then a little bit of heroics to then dump me into some tragedy, which then leads to a bunch of telenova style melodrama as we slowly beat around the bush about point the novel is actually trying to make. If the negative proportions are halved and there is more "meat," then I might be persuaded into reading it. I'm hoping that the world building in this series really flowers into a bigger more profound story instead of basically going back to square one every time with a new couple, with just a couple of elements carried over. The first chapter of A Rake's Midnight Kiss was included at the end of the book and it didn't move me at all. Then again, you probably can't judge any of these books by how they begin.