by Jade Lee, fantasy (2006)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-563-X
Jade Lee seems like an odd choice of an author to contribute to the Crimson City series since she's more well-known for being a Robin Schone wannabe. However, Jade Lee is the pseudonym for Katherine Greyle whose first published romance is the award-winning futuristic Oracle. In a way, the author has come to a full circle of sorts with Seduced By Crimson.
And lastly, a way for the Draig-Uisge and the power source to sync up. They had to merge their energies such that he could shape up her power. How to do that? They had to have sex.
Up until that ghastly part on page 16, I am starting to enjoy Seduced By Crimson. What stops me from throwing this book across the room in my disgust at Jade Lee trying to turn the whole Crimson City series into yet another "Shag For World Peace" campfest is the fact that the hero is a druid and unless I'm greatly mistaken, there are historical evidence that druids incorporated sex in their rituals when they are not sacrificing people left and right to their gods. But that is my own take on this book and for all I know, Ms Lee could be happily trotting down the "Shag For World Peace" path because she, like too many paranormal romance authors out there, believes that there is no plot unless that plot involves the heroine having to splay her legs and lie on her back in order to save the world from a terrible disaster.
The disaster in this book is the demons trying to take over the world. Our hero, Patrick Lewis, is not just a druid, he's the Draig-Uisge, although what that is and what exactly makes a druid so special are best left to speculation since Ms Lee does a pretty poor job in expanding her canon in this book. The "Draig-Uisge" is pretty much another fancy term for "Must shag for world peace: heroine wanted for interdimensional diplomatic copulation missions". Our heroine, Xiao Fei Finney, is a hemophiliac Pheonix, which means that her blood can do all kinds of magic things like turning vampires back into humans and closing demonic gateways. But I'm sure all that silly stuff is nothing compared to her magic ovaries and wundervagina. Therefore, this is the plot of the story: Patrick needs to have sex with Xiao Fei to amp up her powers and then bleed her because her magical blood can do all kinds of wonderful things like closing the demonic portals, curing him of his "demons killed my parents and now I cannot complete my thought without lapsing into those dot-dot-dot things... like this..." blues, and more. He is acting on his dead mother's last word, of course. I have to love a story where the mother's last words to his son is pretty much, "Screw that woman, dear, and then bleed her so that the world will be saved!"
It is very hard for me to make the attitude adjustments needed for this book since the last few books in the Crimson City pays homage to strong women without resorting to over-the-top sexual objectification of the heroine the way Ms Lee does to Xiao Fei Finney. By the way, "xiao" means "small" while "fei" means "fat". I don't know what Ms Lee is thinking to call her heroine "small fatty" but hey, it's her book, I suppose, and she can do what she wants with the names of her characters.
It's a pity that Ms Lee has to reduce her heroine's worth solely into her breeding abilities because there are some really interesting concepts in this story. I like the idea of a heroine whose blood can make a difference in this world. However, Ms Lee uses that premise to turn Xiao Fei into a martyr who doesn't want to kill even the nastiest of vampires (she can save them, after all!) and all she wants in her life is to find a man and start breeding so that she can repopulate the world with Phoenixes. Patrick is nothing more than a one-dimensional hero with guilt-ridden blues that uses his baggages as an excuse to act like a sex-obsessed jerk at times towards the heroine. Watch out for the first love scene between the main characters, by the way. I don't mind the less-than-sweet aspects of that scene but I certainly don't like it when the author wants to pretend that it's okay as long as the heroine enjoys it after a while. I have nothing about less-than-sweet love scenes but I wish the author will respect my intelligence by not telling me that a knee in the groin is enough to make everything okay again between the hero and the heroine.
The pacing of this story is way off - the demons are pretty much pushed off-stage for our main characters' tedious reproductive melodrama and the stories seem to move in circles especially during the sagging middle. The ending strikes a truly discordant mood with me when Xiao Fei happily announces that she's going to get Patrick to knock her up as often as possible. Excuse me, I think my self-respect is fleeing from me and I need to go catch it back.
Seduced By Crimson is a particularly frustrating book because Ms Lee sometimes shows that she can write pretty well by having the main characters grapple issues like sacrifice, trust, and even just how far one can go in being a martyr without turning into an outright fool. There are some secondary characters snorting in disbelief that all the two main characters need to do to save the world is by having sex. Therefore, there are some self-awareness in this story about how ridiculous it can be at times. However, at the end of the day Ms Lee chooses to emphasize the joys of martyrhood and the pleasure the heroine gets from being a broodmare. Even if she sometimes tries to evaluate her story and has her characters wondering what they are doing, she goes ahead at the end of the day and has those characters going all the way in being two more insipid characters in one more ridiculous paranormal romance. As if we don't have enough of those ridiculous "Shagpile for World Peace" stories already in the first place.
Another reason to give this book the middle finger is Ms Lee's happy one-dimensionalization of the demons after all the work Carolyn Jewel put into expanding the demons' mythology in A Darker Crimson. Then again, everything about this book does not fit in with the other books of the series. The other books aim to be a dark fantasy romance while Seduced By Crimson is aiming for the lowest common denominator by wanting to be yet another "Breed Me For Salvation" story. Really, please come back, the real Crimson City! I'll never complain about the heroines being wusses again, not after I've been subjected to this horrifically mindless celebration of a woman being some walking Receptacle For Male Seed.
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