Thirty Nights
by JoAnn Ross, contemporary (2001)
Harlequin Blaze, $4.50, ISBN 0-373-79009-0


Welcome to the world of Harlequin Blaze, where sex tries to coexist with puritannical smalltown "conservative" values. So far, the result is like watching some sort of freakshow where Kermit the Frog is getting it on with the Pope or something equally bizarre.

You can have sex in the world of Harlequin Blaze, but you cannot accept responsibility for initiating it. You can have orgasms, but there must be an underlying selfless cause for the perpetuation of the orgasms, saving Daddy being a favorite cause. (So, in effect, you're having sex for Daddy. Let's see what Freud has to say about that.) You can have sex, but it must be with the guy you fell in love with since you're twelve.

So let's see. "Conservative" according to Harlequin Blaze means having sex in the name of pain and suffering with the guy you have a pedophilic-tinged crush on since you were a teenybopper in the name of saving Daddy.

Gee, I wonder why there are so many right-wing wingnut jokes floating around the Internet.

I've just described the plot of Thirty Nights, by the way. If this story has been unapologetically, well, normal - a story about two people with healthy libidos getting at it monkey-see, monkey-do style, it'll be a spectacular story. The chemistry is there, and the sexual heat can smite and singe one's eyebrows off. But see, the heroine can't have sex for sex's sake, and she is allowed to have wild monkey sex only with that first guy she sees and has a crush on. In short, despite having sex and spread wide open three thousand ways to China and back, a woman's sexuality is still supposedly very dependent on a man's whims. She can't play, she can only react, close her eyes and think of the Harlequin Blaze's disapproving editor's face, and chants, "Fuck to save Daddy! Fuck to save Daddy!" as he pumps her to kingdom come.

Uhm, nice.

See, heroine Gillian Armstrong is a world-class pianist - sort of like a female Yanni, eeeuww, but she has to sleep with Hunter St John for Daddy. When she was twelve, she didn't have breasts but she had this big crush on Hunter, her daddy's research assistant, but Daddy ended up stealing Hunter's gene splicing research and kicking Hunter out of the team. Oh no. Today, while cuddling up after some hot sex with some fellow scientist, Hunter sees Gillian playing the piano in Stonehenge on TV and whoa, gets an erection! Zoing! Lil' girlie has grown up, and now Hunter wants to play! (Did someone say "Creep"?)

So Hunter, now a superstar scientist, blackmails Daddy Armstrong. Send Gilly over for some jam and bread fun, and he'll not expose Daddy. Gillian sighs, but decides to head on down. She is certain that he can't be that bad, he can't be serious, but well, anyway, here she comes. Sex for the sake of Daddy. Now that's an independent woman, huh?

Hunter is like a third-rate Captain Nemo, acting all hard - in more ways than one - and surly. But then comes the sex, and okay, almost all is forgiven. Hunter is actually a sexy guy. He gives good sex stuff. Then the author puts in the usual who's-the-villain stuff and the story goes down the dumper again.

Gillian has no character development. She just reacts to the circumstances, and if she's having sex, it's because Hunter is doing it to her. This is passing the buck of one's sexuality at its finest. Hunter has not much either, but he starts out cold and he thaws at the end, so at least there's some growing up on his part. Not so for Gillian, the goo-goo puppet doll, who finds a new Daddy in Hunter after her old Daddy popped off to hell. Or something.

Thirty Nights isn't too bad, although it's not that good either. In fact, I really am starting to dislike the entire line from the books I've read. There's nothing more irritating than reading about heroines having sex for all the (wrong) reasons.

Tell me, is it so hard to meet a guy, fall for him, and maybe if the time is right, have some fun sex, or does "good storytelling" now consist only of heroines being led around the nose by male authority figures in their lives? If we want to go all conservative, damn it, then be conservative. Don't insult me with half-hearted "sexy, hot, explicit romances" that only zones in on how dysfunctional the whole "sex for rescue fantasies, sex for Daddy, sex because I wanna have SEX NOW and then pass the blame on the man for making me pregnant NOW!" crapfest is.

Such concept of passing the buck on a woman's sexuality to the man or on circumstances is not only cowardly, I find it offensive, especially when these heroines are supposed to be empowered, enlightened modern women. Harlequin Blaze can't even get the fundamentals of sexual attraction right, unless they are aiming for an audience where sex is something to be enjoyed in shame and secrecy. Pathetic, really. Maybe they should rename the line "My breasts aren't grown yet, but I have my eyes on you!"

Rating: 70


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