by Alissa Baxter, contemporary (2013)
Decadent Publishing, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-61333-611-3
The Blog Affair is one of the titles in Decadent Publishing's Ubuntu line, which consists of romantic tales set in the continent of Africa. This doesn't mean that the main characters are black, though. The characters here are white, not that I am complaining. It's an interesting concept, a romance line that is characterized by a culture rather than the characters' skin color. It's a bit of a letdown that this story is quite bland compared to the story of the line it belongs to.
Emma Bradshaw has just stepped away from another bad relationship, and she's had enough of being what she perceives as a magnet for unsuitable men. That's a good giveaway of her attitude throughout the story, by the way: it's always the men's fault, never hers, even if the common thing binding the parade of cracked hearts is her. She wants to get away from everything. As it happens, her friend, a romance author that Emma never considers a "real author" because that woman writes romance novels - such a charmer - has broken up with a guy she has never met but "dated" online, and that guy needs a new PA, so Emma can go apply for that job!
Any other woman may go, "Wait, me work for a guy that you just dated online and later broke away from - a way to get away from my last relationship? Are you crazy?" but Emma is like, hey, good idea, here she goes. Bye, Durban! Hello, Cape Town! And hello there, Nick Reynolds, hot author. Of course, Emma is currently thinking that all men are bastards, and starts a blog about the bastardy of men. The blog becomes very popular even as her feelings for Nick start to flummox her. Can there be a happy ending for Emma and Nick?
This story is written more in a chick-lit style than romance, but while it tries to project the cynicism that chick-lit novels tend to do when it comes to love, it's far more optimistic about love than the typical chick-lit novel. Usually, this is a good thing, but in this instance, the execution still falls short of my expectations.
The problem here is that the story revolves around gender stereotypes, done many times before in romantic comedies, chick-lit books, even romance novels. The thing is, if the author wants to play with this premise, she needs to go all out for gold. She has to be really wicked, funny; the satirical observations on point and cutting while tickling my funny bone. Here, however, Emma is just going on a neurotic man-hating rampage on her blog. It's clear that she's writing out of her rear end. She's mad at her exes, so she writes sweeping negative generalizations. The big problem here is that, while everyone in the story raves about how funny and accurate Emma's blog entries are, I find them clumsy, one-dimensional and shrill.
Also, because Emma has to fall in love in the end, she has to be wrong about her opinion of men. Therefore, it's not enough that Emma is shrewish, petulant, obnoxiously judgmental for no reason, she also has to be wrong. So, what's the point of even rooting for this heroine? I'd rather see her trip on her heels right into a manhole than anything else. A lot of things about Emma - her dismissive attitude about everything, her snotty missed-the-point rants, and a lack of wit to make her flaws tolerable - make her an annoying heroine to follow.
Because much of the gender stereotyping in this story feels shallow and banal, the end result is like being in a room with a stand-up comic and staring awkwardly at the poor dear as that fellow keeps missing the beat and bungling up the delivery of the punchline.
It also doesn't help that The Blog Affair has a meandering pace, focusing too much on mundane scenes. A story with a premise such as this one needs to be fast and cutting - it needs to grab me by the throat from as early as possible and make me laugh every other page. I need to laugh with Emma, to nod my head and say, "Yeah, she's right. Men can be adorable, but they can also be annoying like that!" Instead, this story bores me with details of Emma's more mundane day to day activities.
The Blog Affair needs to be witty and wicked, but it's instead dull and blunt-witted. The story meanders, the humor is too low key, the male-bashing is shallow and bitter instead of creative and incisive. The execution dooms the premise - this story never had a chance.
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