Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Deal by Ann Owen


The way I literally raced to the Kindle store when I found out that Ann Owen is a penname of Nina Pennachi. In case you don't know who Nina Pennachi is, she is the author of the cult classic bodice-ripper nouveau, LEMONADE, and the as-yet-to-be-published-in-English book, CAPITAN SWING. I've never been more tempted to pick up Duo Lingo to learn Italian, let me tell you. Watching my European friends reading that book has left me jealous as fuck.

Anyway, the Slave for Revenge series is in English and it's serialized into bite-sized installments, AND it's about a stepbrother blackmailing his sister into a relationship. Well, that sounds familiar... and exciting. And it's set in Victorian times, you say? SIGN ME UP, MA'AM.

After reading this book, though, I feel conflicted. I'm giving it the same rating that I gave LEMONADE but for vastly different reasons. LEMONADE was a story of emotional depth and complex characters with some passages of truly beautiful writing, but it was a little too clunky and long-winded for me to love it, even though I think about the story all the time. THE DEAL, on the other hand, is what I would call a sex fantasy. It has some pretty extreme CNC and a hero who truly despises the heroine and himself for being attracted to her, so the entire foundation of their relationship is based purely on revenge, as the title promises, and exploitation.

Now, I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with this. I wrote an essay in defense of dark romance recently about how authors shouldn't necessarily be held responsible for the actions of the characters, and how you can write about things that you don't endorse. I think this is a fantasy for people who enjoy CNC and coercion and that is fine. But it makes for some uncomfortable reading and I would be very unlikely to recommend this book to anyone unless they specifically asked me for something forceful and degrading, because it's pretty clear that the heroine is unhappy and conflicted.

Also... the sex scenes were very unsexy. At one point the hero tells the heroine to drink the "juice of his balls." And you might argue, "well, it's VICTORIAN, Nenia, what else are they supposed to say?" But if you're going to take the "it's historically accurate route" how the fuck would the sheltered, man-fearing, church-going heroine know what the word "pussy" means? Like I said, it's a sex fantasy. You're not supposed to really read it beyond the surface level storyline I guess (although will that stop me? noooo).

I'm probably going to keep reading because it reminds me of some of the adult fanfiction darkfics I read as a kid who was definitely not supposed to be reading fics like that. But don't go into this expecting LEMONADE: PART TWO. The only thing that is the same is her slightly rambly writing style. I can see why she published this under a penname, probably to prevent such comparisons.

3 out of 5 stars

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