Thursday, May 25, 2017

Painted Faces by L.H. Cosway

How often do you grab books while they're free or discounted on Kindle and then never read them? For me, pretty much all the time. That's why my friends and I have started the Kindle Clean Out club where we BR books that have been sitting in cyberspace, gathering virtual dust. You can read Sarah's review of this book here, and Heather's review of this book here.

This is actually my second book by this author. The first was STILL LIFE WITH STRINGS. I received a copy of the book directly from the author and ended up giving the book two stars because even though I loved the idea of a romance with a sexy violinist (*drools*), the romance felt rushed and unrealistic, the heroine was kind of a judgmental little sh*t, and the two of them had sex without a bloody condom - my #1 erotica pet-peeve.

I leaped at the chance to obtain PAINTED FACES because this sounded like yet another interesting concept - a romance between a baker and a straight drag queen. "Yes, okay, just give it here!" said foolish me. "I'll totally sign up for that!" I began reading the book and was dismayed to find myself with yet another book that also felt rushed and unrealistic, with a judgmental little sh*t of a heroine who has sex without a condom.

Oh. My. God. There is no escape from the madness.

Fred is the worst heroine. She's always making judgments about everyone around her, slut-shaming women, body-shaming women, reverse-slut-shaming women (if you're not actively having sex, you're all dried up). She's snide about a woman with a college degree who became a stay-at-home mom. She makes fun of her friend Anny for having a threesome. She age-shames this woman for having sex with Nicholas (before she and Nicholas are together) because having sex with a younger, attractive man makes you desperate. Her mouth (or at least, her words) is always running to deliver these constant asides that make her seem desperate to relate to you, the reader. Do you enjoy relaxing in sweatpants? Do you like watching people eat the food you cooked? Do you think furry animals are cute? Wow, you do? Oh my God, you're so unique and quirky...JUST LIKE FREDA.

Her relationship with Nicholas starts out with them being friends, but that, too, felt rushed and desperate. I liked how secure Nicholas was with his sexuality, and how he indulged in both stereotypically masculine and feminine activities without making a big fuss over it. Unfortunately, Nicholas is also an alphahole who gets really grabby with the heroine. When they first meet, he presses himself up against her backside while she's cooking (ew, predatory, no). He's constantly grabbing her breasts or talking about her body. He sleeps around with other women and then mocks them - either behind their back or in front of them, to other women (mostly Freda) - and uses them to make other women who want to sleep with him jealous (everyone). He's constantly tearing at her clothes, at one point yanking her dress down so he can molest her in a bathroom (again, before they're together). He employs the heroine with a job that's 100% pretense so he can gauge whether or not she's worthy of him. It's all so sick-making and by the end of the book I despised him. How can you possibly like a hero who tells the heroine that she's pure and clean, while other women are dirty, and after sleeping with another woman, tells the heroine he was imagining her while doing it??

I wanted to like PAINTED FACES, but I didn't. I liked parts of it - the role music had to play, the drag shows and performances, the descriptions of middle class Ireland, baking - but the whole of the book was ruined by the two main characters and the wasted potential. I feel like this book could have stirred up some very interesting dialogues about transphobia, homophobia, sexuality, gender fluidity, sexual abuse, and heteronormative relationships that would have been incredibly relevant and interesting. Instead, it just took the same tired old cliches and tried to gussy them up with sparkly heels and mascara.

It did not work.

1 to 1.5 out of 5 stars

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