Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lora Leigh - The Military Books - Review

Surely there is an archetype for the flawed hero, the one who drives you crazy and NOT in a good way… but yeah, in a good way, too. He makes so many mistakes. Does stuff that any reasonable heroine could not and should not forgive – maybe they’re small things, but they are so eminently avoidable and it could be SO DAMN GOOD with him if those mistakes weren’t there.

I'm not talking about lovable eccentricities. I’m talking about rolling your eyes, you just made me throw up a little bit, aw-fer-*&$$&%%-sake, didja HAVE to go and do that, kind of mistakes.

But in spite of all the reasons not to love this guy, the heroine—and maybe the reader—still just can’t get enough. Just when you’re completely ready to throw in the towel and go meet that nice guy that your mom’s friend of a friend knows… there’s that little spark. And you stick around just along enough for another spark to come along. There’s just enough there to keep you going.

This is a dysfunctional relationship for sure. And it’s the one I’ve got going with Lora Leigh’s books. I still cannot manage to get interested in the genetically-modified Breeds with their bizarre genitalia and chemical sexual slavery, but the military ones…. hmmm. I can’t seem to leave those alone, even though they drive me nuts.

I’ve read Wild Card, Dangerous Games, and Killer Secrets thus far. In each one, there are enough technical mistakes to make me want to hurl the book across the room. For example, in Dangerous Games, there’s a scene where the hero makes it a point to tell the heroine that he's already ordered room service for himself and the heroine. Two pages later, she digs into “the cheeseburger that she’d ordered.” In Wild Card, an obnoxious potential villain guy starts talking smack to the heroine, saying rude and repulsive things to her. The hero goes all psycho on his ass, pins him by the throat and says “Touch her again and I’ll kill you.” Very dramatic, very alpha – except the Bad Guy never touched her at all in the scene; it was all talk. There’s just no reason for that, it’s pure sloppiness.

I’ll say right up front that I don’t know diddly-squat about military men, military operations, or any of that, much less about SEALs or Special Ops. But a lot of the plotting and action and even the language around these operations rings false and clunky to me. In Dangerous Games, there’s a pivotal scene where they’re expecting a very powerful, very dangerous enemy to make a move, to try to kidnap the heroine from an exclusive club. The hero is sitting around the lounge drinking whiskey. I call that very unlikely. Swirling it around the glass, making a show of drinking, all fine, but no – he’s specifically drinking hard liquor. Stuff like that.

Even the characters start off a little stiff, like they’re fighting their way out of a cardboard box. Fortunately they seemed to generally loosen up by 1/3 or so into the book, and I really liked Sabella in Wild Card right from the start.

So why keep reading? Well, the same reason we all go back to that mythical bad boy: the sex.

I don’t just mean the explicit erotic scenes. Leigh also writes erotica and her love scenes are hot, explicit, x-rated. Although I haven’t read all of her books, I believe it’s safe to say that her trademark is writing relationships with a power struggle, physical and emotional. She writes characters that are fiery, smart and stubborn; the heroines are nobody’s doormat but the sexually dominant partner makes them crazy – and that would be the good kind of crazy.

I make no moral judgment about writing, buying, or reading books *just* for good sex scenes. Which these are. But far more interesting are books with sex scenes that cause the characters some struggle and conflict and growth, and I believe that Leigh’s books do that. For every woman who has worried that “nice girls don’t do that,” this is a believable and important examination. And given that male readership of romances is on a sharp rise, I’ll add that the same goes for any man who has worried that his partner would be shocked, horrified, etc. by some of these, hmmm, earthier pleasures.

THIS is what keeps bringing me back to Leigh’s books – the chance to see her characters struggle through realistic inhibitions and insecurities, and share themselves fully, sexually and emotionally, with a partner who does the same.

Reading order:

Tempting SEALs:
1. Rescue Me*
2. Killer Secrets
3. Hidden Agendas
4. Real Men Do It Better*
5. Dangerous Games
6. Honk If You Love Real Men*

Elite Ops (related to Tempting SEALs)
1. Wild Card
2. Maverick

*Anthology containing a related novella

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ps, if you have a review from either of these series or about Leigh in general on your blog, feel free to post a link in comments!

7 comments:

Chris said...

Hmm, so the technical mistakes aren't just limited to her Breeds series. Her editor should be shot. Ugh.

BevBB said...

Surely there is an archetype for the flawed hero, the one who drives you crazy and NOT in a good way… but yeah, in a good way, too.

The Almost Jerk? Hehehe.

Ahem.

Trying to remember here without going to the bookshelf but I think Dangerous Games is the only one of these that I've gotten. What turned me off that entire series was the anal sex scene about a third of the way into it.

It wasn't the anal sex per se because that's in most of her books - and most erotic romances - and sometimes it bothers me and sometimes it doesn't. It was this particular hero's attitude in that scene that bothered me the most. It was just way off and I was never quite convinced she completely redeemed the relationship from that point for me, even though I finished the book. It just left me with a definite lack of interest in checking out the rest of the series.

The odd thing is that I've read a lot of her Breed books - feline, wolf and coyote ones, at any rate - and really enjoy them. Weird.

Jennifer Pifer said...

Lora Leigh is a bawdy broad and I love her for it. Her earlier breed work is better than the later. The gals in her later ones are the ones who drove me crazy. Whine, bitch, and moan too much.

Love her navy seals books. have you read Feehan's Ghostwalker books? Think Tempting Seals but with psychic abilities. EXCELLENT stuff.

Carolyn Jean said...

I just started a Lora Leigh book: Marly's Choice. I'm glad to see your review - I'm not sure what to make of it yet!

But hold on - what's this about male readership of romance being on the sharp rise?????

Do tell!

Nicola O. said...

Carolyn, that's based on the stats that RWA published in 2005 here:

http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre/romance_literature_statistics/readership_statistics

"Gender of Romance Readers
78% of romance readers are female
22% of romance readers are male (a significant increase from the 2002 survey that showed only 7% of readers were male.)"


And I gotta believe that that's an under-reported statistic, you know?

Nicola O. said...

Chris, that was my thought as well. A good editor and a good miltary consultant would do wonders for her military books (not sure the Breeds qualify, I guess they're sort of quasi-military). And I'm guessing she could afford it at this point.

Bev, I can definitely understand a level of discomfort with the power play going on in that and other erotic scenes. I think what redeems it is that the heroine's reactions, emotional, physical, etc. are in character and show that she conflicted but still aroused. Of course, a lot of the appeal in these kind of scenes is in personal taste, too.

Jennifer, the only stuff from Feehan that I've read are a couple of the witchy ones. They were OK but I didn't love 'em. Maybe the library....

rueyn said...

If you find that you really like military-type books (especially for the action scenes), but want them well-researched and well-written technically, then try Cindy Gerard. Either the Bodyguard series (all former Special Ops) or the Black Ops, Inc. She's as good as Feehan, but there's no paranormal.

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