William Morrow, $13.99, ISBN 978-0-06-230240-3
Contemporary Romance, 2013 (Reissue)
One of the greatest things about indie publishing is that it eliminates the role of the agents and acquisition editors as gatekeepers that block every aspiring author from his or her dreams of making billions of dollars selling books that they wrote in three weeks after being “inspired” by the latest bestseller. Where once aspiring authors have to make sure that their cover letters are written in proper English, now everyone can pretend that he or she is Cormac McCarthy and unleash books that reinvent the rules of English grammar to dizzyingly creative new heights. Who cares about boring things like grammar and other crap anyway? Smart readers should be touched by the spirit of the story and post on Goodreads hundreds of pictures of models and what not that they imagine the hero to be. Everyone else is a dumb hater!
Fortunately, traditional publishers are still good for one thing. They pick out bestselling indie series, offer the authors some big money and promises that the publisher will handle all the boring stuff like editing, marketing, and accounting, and release these books again, after driving some intern to drink by making the poor dear clean up the narrative into something that resembles the English language.
Hence, the trade paperback edition of Jay Crownover’s Rule, the first book in her Marked Men series.
If I want to be diplomatic, I would say that if you love Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster, you would love this one. But who cares about diplomacy, right? The more accurate statement is this: if you want to read something that follows the Beautiful Disaster formula with absolute fidelity, then you will love this book. Because it’s practically the same book in spirit, only with extra helping of misogyny to sweeten the deal.
Self-proclaimed bad boy with tattoos and piercings – Rule Archer (not a porn actor!) – stalking the good girl Shaw Landon (also not a porn star!) and getting violent when he imagines her getting it on even an inch with another bloke even as he acts hot and cold around her. Shaw is in love with him, but there are also other guys to clutter the scene, and let’s not forget his jealous psychotic ex-girlfriend. She’s very busy being this clean-cut darling to make readers with self-loathing issues feel reassured that beautiful girls are all sluts and bad boys secretly want these readers for their alluring purity. But hey, there are some exposition on how tattoo artists are creative geniuses that can look deep in your soul and give you the tattoo of your dreams, or something like that, so it’s not really too much like other formulaic new adult stories!
The most memorable aspect of this story is its over the top misogyny. In the opening scene alone, Rule wakes up after a drunken shag with some slut (every female here that offers some kind of sexual competition is, naturally, a slut). She is angry that he can’t remember her name and that he wants to kick her out… and he responds by telling me, the reader, that she shouldn’t have gone home with drunk guys if she didn’t want to be treated like dirt. Or that she is in no way able to judge anyone since she goes home with drunk guys. This attitude prevails throughout the story: it’s your fault if a guy treats you like dirt, because you put out, shame on you. Slut!
And yet, Rule is supposed to be seen as a sexy and adorable woobie. Sure, he treats those girls like crap, but they are sluts so that’s okay! Besides, he has a sad childhood, so that makes everything right, you see. It’s New Adult Logic. The ingénue’s vagina is the new therapy couch, and if a guy treats you like crap, it’s because you are an immoral slut so you don’t deserve him. If you can buy this amazing philosophy, then Rule will, er, rule your roost.
Another incredible aspect of this story is that these characters are supposed to be young people, but they all speak in stilted monologues that make them seem at least twenty years older than they claim to be. Say what you will about Jamie McGuire, but she does let her characters speak and act mostly their age. Also, for a supposed bad boy, Rule comes off as, instead, a whiny crybaby prone to launching into embarrassingly corny declarations of just how much he adores Shaw. He doesn’t care what she looks like or what she does – he loves her, he wants her! Of course, the author doesn’t walk the walk and make Shaw a non-Caucasian fat chick with body odor, so Rule’s constant prattling is all lip service at the end of the day.
If you enjoy the formula prevalent in the current bestselling new adult titles, then this one would be another cliché to add to your collection. If you don’t, well, given that this one has nothing that makes it stand out from other titles that it strives to emulate, you can safely give this one a miss. It doesn’t even follow the formula right – it’s just another tedious and badly written fantasy to placate sad little girls who are heartbroken that the hot jocks in their neighborhood keep preferring hot girls with bosoms instead of them.