Samhain Publishing, $6.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-128-3
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Don’t quote me, but someone told me that Ani Keating’s Thirty Nights started out as a fanfiction of EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which we all know started out as a fanfiction of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. If this is true, do we have a word or phrase to describe this fanfiction of a fanfiction of a fanfiction of a fanfiction of a… thing? Although, to be fair to the author. one can argue that all of those authors and publishers reinterpreting BDSM as Billionaire Doms are Surefire Money and churning out derivative Fifty Shades of Grey wannabes aren’t doing anything that is very different from what this author is doing.
Poor Elisa Snow. After her parents died – car accident – she fled England to America, where she spends her days in Reed College being all awesome (she has created a “a nutrient component that in small doses can deliver the equivalent nutritional sustenance of a serving of wild salmon”) and her nights getting all sexy and seductive when posing for artists. Don’t laugh – those paintings sell for thousands of dollars, although our heroine gets only $50 for each time she strikes a pose. Well, she won’t be a romance heroine if she can negotiate better contracts that gives her some financial advantage.
Alas, just one week before she graduates, she has work visa problems. Apparently the stuffy folks in charge of handing out visas are not impressed by her salmon-saving endeavors. If only she has told them that she is very important as her sexy existence will inspire the artists of America into starting a new renaissance movement!
When the story opens. poor Elisa is told that she must go back to England after she graduates. Oh no! How can she go back to England and start again? I suppose there is a bright side: she can always eat her invention when she’s hungry – no malnutrition issues to worry about! Everyone spends the first few chapters in this story telling Elisa that she’s the most special snowflake ever – AMERICA IS MAKING A BIG MISTAKE! – while she sheds artful tears.
Fortunately, there is Aiden Hale. He’s a former military dude who, after coming back for Iraq, manages to make billions of dollars as a venture capitalist without being shady or scamming old people out of their retirement funds. Hey, it’s possible, don’t scoff – Robert Kiyosaki tells me so and we all know he will never lie. He wants to hire Elisa – remember, she’s all hot and sexy and mysterious – as a model for a painting, and he’s all masterful and sexy that all the pipes in Elisa’s basement explode and flood the whole damned place. She has to say yes, of course. Besides, it’s that or deportment.
Thirty Nights may or may not have its origins as fanfiction, but it is structurally similar to those Billionaire Doms books out there, and I must admit that I’m a bit tired out by the whole thing by now. This one has those two fall in love, Aiden then drives her away, Elisa discovers something shocking, and this one ends on a cliffhanger as she prepares to depart for England. Been there, done that, not too excited or enthusiastic about this trip, I’m afraid.
On the bright side, Elisa turns out to be a pretty likable heroine, and she never oozes the whole “pathetic spineless damsel in distress with very little brainpower” vibes that plague many of her kind. Aiden isn’t a factually inaccurate Dom. In fact, this one may be a bit lacking in the heat department compared to some of those books out there, and there is a stronger emphasis on romance as opposed to just sex alone. This may be good news for some readers – especially with Aiden lacking weird mommy issues – but readers hoping for hot, hot, hot sex may be a bit disappointed.
All in all, I have no strong issues with Thirty Nights. It’s readable, it has only minimal amount of those nonsense in other Fifty Shades wannabe books that irritates me (misogyny, over the top special snowflake syndrome, et cetera), and the nerd in me is charmed by Elisa’s use of the periodic table as a metaphor for things in her life. The author’s use of immigration woes as a plot backdrop could have been more interesting; it’s not very exciting as it is, mostly because Elisa never feels like she’d lose anything big by going back to England. Maybe if she had been from a third-world country riddled with poverty and strife, perhaps.
But the biggest issue here, as I’ve said, is that the fundamental structure and vibe of the whole thing feel overwhelmingly been there, done that. I really wish the author has done a little bit more to mix things up and knock me down.