Some Kind of Sexy
Remember the last episode of Seinfeld? After eight years of getting TV audiences to laugh at the antics of its self-absorbed characters, the show suddenly turned judgmental, condemning the characters for the very behavior the show milked for laughs. Some Kind of Sexy reminded me a lot of that, because it’s just as hypocritical. In her opening letter, the author says this book is a tribute to scandalous women: “Women who dare to defy convention, dare to be themselves, dare to go after what they really want in life.” So why does she spend half the book revealing how pathetic they are?
Juliet Emory was raised by her Aunt Ophelia, an independent woman who led a group known as The League of Scandalous Women. The group’s members were all free thinkers, dedicated to intellectual curiosity, interested in their own sexual freedom, and an unwillingness to be bound by society’s restrictions. Juliet wants to live her own life the same way, which is why she’s dismayed to find all of her single girlfriends getting married and having kids. Juliet has no interest in settling down. She wants to enjoy herself with whatever man she chooses.
Juliet is a party planner, and her latest job is to plan Cole Matheson’s 30th birthday party. Based on his picture, he’s the most attractive man she’s seen in a long time. When the stripper she hired for the party cancels on her, Juliet decides to make a fantasy of her own come true and steps in to the role herself. Her scheme goes according to plan, and she and Cole spend one steamy night together. But the next morning she learns Cole isn’t the wild party animal his brothers made him out to be. The psychologist normally doesn’t do one-night stands, and now that he’s found Juliet, he’d like to get to know her better. For Juliet, who’s not looking to settle down, this is the last thing she wants.
The story gets off to a terrific start, and I started to write the review in my head: “Juliet Emory is exactly what a Blaze heroine should be: bold, brash and uninhibited.” I then had to erase that headline when the author sold out her heroine, turning her into a screwed-up mope who began to act in increasingly irrational ways. Ideally, Juliet would gradually discover that while it’s great to be a free and sexually open woman, she loves Cole and wants to settle down with him. Instead, the author lays on the psychobabble as she bends over backward showing how Juliet is wrong, wrong, wrong not to want to settle down in the first place.
The morning after their sex-filled night together, Juliet tells Cole she’s not looking to settle down. Cole tells her it sounds like she has issues. This is so condescending I couldn’t blame her if she never wanted to see him again. Besides, a man this determined to have a relationship with a woman he knows nothing about other than they had fantastic sex really shouldn’t be judging anyone else. Why should she want a relationship with this man when all she knows about him is that he gets drunk and sleeps with strippers?
But the author ignores the fact that Cole is a know-it-all clod and naturally has him turn out to be right. The rest of the book is spent slowly revealing that Juliet does have secret fears that are the real reasons she doesn’t want a relationship. She isn’t choosing not to have one; she’s afraid to have one. They grow closer together, and as they do, Juliet responds to Cole’s advances with borderline hysteria at times, latching onto the slightest comment to drive a wedge between them. It becomes clear that Juliet is just a screwed-up little girl.
In the book’s final indignity, the author even sells out Aunt Ophelia. At one point Juliet thinks, “She was destined for a different kind of happiness, the same kind her aunt had had. She’d grow old gracefully, hang out with her league of scandalous women, and find new ways to raise eyebrows.” But rather than let Juliet decide that that life isn’t necessarily for her, the author indulges in the ultimate cop-out. Obviously, a good Harlequin heroine could never idealize such a woman, and so, in a deus ex machina readers will see coming a mile away, the author must finally reveal the sad truth about Aunt Ophelia.
Deciding to set aside your preconceived notions about marriage because you love somebody so much you want to be with them is romantic. Deciding to settle down because you figured out you’re a neurotic mess and your beloved role model was a big phony is not. In the end it felt less like Juliet decided to marry Cole out of love than because she’d spent the entire book being clubbed over the head about how marriage is good and being single is bad, and Cole is the closest man on hand. Her gay sidekick tells her that if she doesn’t find someone, she can pop out a baby for him. Horrors! She begins to think about how pathetic she’d look as an old woman at the clubs. Tragedy! She’s surrounded by married and engaged women who don’t understand why she wouldn’t want to get married. Grab a man, Juliet! Grab a man now!
It’s one thing to tell a story about a woman who hides her fears of commitment by sleeping around. It’s another to sell a book by presenting the heroine’s behavior as fun and daring, then turning around and showing how the same behavior is unhealthy and wrong. It’s the old bait and switch, and the author’s talking out of both sides of her mouth. The first few chapters of this book get a B+. From there it’s a slow slide to a D. A more accurate title would be Some Kind of Aggravating. What a letdown.