by Sylvia Day, contemporary (2012)
Berkley, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-425-26390-7
Sylvia Day's Bared To You is the first book in the Crossfire trilogy. While you may have heard comparisons of this book to EL James's Fifty Shades Of Grey, please don't get too excited - Crossfire here refers to the building where both our hero Gideon Christian Grey Cross and our heroine Eva Anastasia Rose Steele Tramell work. So we won't have a Christian Grey copycat blasting every woman he considers a whore to pieces with an AK-47, or, even more disappointingly, some mad villain blasting the main characters to bits with some weapon of mass destruction. Why innovate when you can settle comfortably in the bandwagon hurtling towards that wonderful land where bags of money rain down from the sky?
I know, the author said that this trilogy isn't patterned after EL James's trendsetting cultural landmark of a series. But really now, this book operates on the same principles that EL James and the increasing number of authors who want to be just like her operate on.
Eva is the Mary Sue heroine who stumbles around with stars in her eyes, beloved by all, and becomes the sole Madonna in the sea of Whores in the hero's mind. To be fair, Ms Day wisely gives Eva some superficial background angst and a past sex life instead of turning this heroine into a disgusting bag of innocence, so Eva is tolerable for, oh, 200 or so pages. Eva also has an awareness of the hero's "I am a white Taliban" tendencies, so that's something good if I want to grasp at straws. Unfortunately, Eva's awareness doesn't translate to action. The hero says shut up and put out, she obeys and is rewarded by orgasms only mentally unstable whackjobs can give.
Gideon Cross exists as a testament as to how, deep inside, every asshole is actually broken and if the woman is patient enough and endures long enough, he will realize that she's the one for him. Because he is hot and rich, his relentless sexual harassment of Eva is the sign of a Romantic Courtship of a Broken Man.
The story moves in precisely the same manner as the original as well as the other copycats in the market. The heroine is subjected to tedious and predictable "I want to fuck you, and I know you want it, so put out now or I'll get angry!" first date antics, the heroine pretending to be offended by constant dry humping and bruising mauling when she's in fact a one-woman Niagara Falls from all that romantic attention, jealous whores trying to tear our heroine away from him, and plenty of beating me in the head about how Gideon's state of mind makes him a woobie instead of a sexual predator.
And it's all so boring, believe it or not. The main reason for this is because, for a long time, the story just meanders around, showing me scenes after scenes of mundane moments, so much so that I wonder whether Sylvia Day has been taking masterclasses from the editors of the Harlequin Kimani line. This book swings from one extreme to another, from mundane "Sue on the Loose" moments to breathlessly passionate "He wants to screw me on the first date without even saying please, and I'm all wet from excitement!" by-the-numbers "Am I as rich as EL James yet?" caveman courtship moments.
Still, I must give Sylvia Day plenty of credit for creating what must be the most overt and blatant Emotional Tampon of the Year character in Cary, Eva's room mate. Like other adoring males in Eva's hemisphere not named Gideon "Surly is My Molestation Marathon" Cross, he exists only to soak up Eva's insecurities and be her biggest cheerleader when he's not hanging around asking her to tell him her life story, because we all know that such men have nothing better to do than to become unpaid agony aunts for skinny white chicks moaning about their privileged lives.
And when Cary has outlived his usefulness - the void in Eva's life is now filled by Gideon's pee-pee - he is immediately turned into a bad guy and, when he tries to tell Eva his problems, she scolds him and says that she has too much to deal with at that moment. Yes, now that the emotional tampon is all soiled, it's time to toss it away into the refuse bin.
Bared To You is a boring story too obviously patterned after a bestselling series with only superficial variations to the formula, with the added bonus of a laughable treatment of gay and bisexual males as emotional tampons for insecure white women. Reading this book only makes me miss Christian Grey and Anastasia Rose Steele - at least their story have plenty of unintentionally hilarious moments, while this book only makes me cringe in how obvious it is trying to emulate the recipe for Ms James's success. In the case of this book, better writing certainly doesn't translate to a more enjoyable read.
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