Cassia Leo, $2.99
Contemporary Romance, 2013
Poor Claire Nixon. Like many heroines of this “new adult contemporary romance” genre, she has angst and issues in place of a genuine personality. She was close to her mother, but that woman was a junkie and poor Claire was the one who found her dead one fine day. For the next eight years she was scuttled from one foster home to another. Today, at twenty, she is a college drop-out with a secret. And then, she meets Adam Parker, who bears a striking resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio (I’m just quoting the author here), but can she believe his assurances that she’s worthy of love?
Relentless isn’t a love story. It’s actually a fantasy of a heroine whose past is a free ticket to behave like a passenger in first class on Whiny Airline, while everyone around her scrambles to assure her that she’s special. She takes her time to realize that, and, basically, the pay off of the whole story is the heroine finally realizing what everyone has been telling me, the reader, for the last few hundred pages: she is truly, truly amazing.
There is no pacing or build-up, just filler scenes after filler scenes of Claire whining to someone else – usually Adam, sometimes her BFF – about how unhappy she is, and the other character will repeatedly assure her that, to this one-dimensional prop of a character, Claire is amazing and awesome and, of course, special.
Yes, Claire has an unhappy last eight years, but here’s the thing: the author surrounds Claire with people who adore her. Claire’s BFF offers her emotional and even financial support. The good guys fall madly in love with Claire at first sight despite her constant whining that she’s plain. Her employer doesn’t just tolerate Claire’s frequent screwing up at work, this woman actually defends Claire from customers who get annoyed at her shoddy service. As a result, Claire comes off as a more fortunate person than most, so her constant whining about her “horrible” life makes her seem rather delusional.
She’s also horribly self-absorbed. When she learns the true horrific extent of her late mother’s life, her reaction is basically, “How could she do that to me? I hate her!” even if Claire’s life is nowhere as tragic as her mother’s. Claire even lashes out at Adam in her “Me! It’s all about me!” melodrama, but everyone lets her behave like a first-class brat because, remember, she’s special. The author says so. And then there’s her big secret, which is revealed without any build up in the story. Worse, the revelation makes most of her previous antics rather illogical. I don’t want to give away any spoiler, so let me just say that I’d expect her big secret would make her more understanding when it comes to her mother. But no, Claire only cares about how things in life affect her.
As for Adam, the author could have replaced him with a cardboard cut-out of a penis and I wouldn’t know the difference. At first, he’s creepy because he practically forces himself into Claire’s personal space for a chance to score. I guess the author is just following the formula which says that every hero in a successful indie bestseller has to be a creep of some sort? But once Adam has what he wanted, he turns into a robot that exists only to spout melodramatic assurances to Claire about how truly remarkable she is. He’s her uncomplaining punching bag when her full brat mode takes over. He patiently assures her that she is truly all that every time they share a scene and she bombards him with incessant whining about her neurotic self-esteem issues. There isn’t any credible development in this relationship – he loves her at first sight, heaven knows why, and he remains doggedly devoted to her until the very end.
And he’s not the only one here that loves her like this, because heaven knows, a special heroine needs to collect a harem of devoted Ken dolls. Oh, and there’s also the obligatory jealous bitch who hates Claire for getting all the boys. So yes, every time Claire whines that she’s plain or unremarkable to the boys, I want to shove these Ken dolls down her throat.
Everything here just meanders around in an agonizingly slow pace, with the drama centering around the heroine turning every scene into her therapy session. And, really, Claire’s life is actually better than most people’s, so her constant angst makes it seem like she’s living in a different reality from everyone else. It’s also annoying how Claire doesn’t really do anything to get herself out of her doldrums. She just whines and treats the people who adore her as her punching bag. Because the author makes this story go on and on and on, with the heroine just whining on and on and on to the one-dimensional props masquerading as secondary characters, Relentless is, er, relentless when it comes to delivering self-indulgent vapid melodrama.