Review: Market for Love, Jamaica Layne

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In which my inner bitch is unleashed upon the blogosphere.

Previously published as an ebook with New Concepts Publishing (yes, that New Concepts, the one of the web furor earlier this year at  Karen Knows Best and Dear Author) Market for Love is published under the Cheek imprint, a division of Random House, which is “about female pleasure. …but it is also about the pleasures of pampering, shopping, dressing up, having great times, and enjoying all that young life has to offer.” Chick lit meets erotica, basically.

The plot of this book is simple: a stock analyst has sex with her new boss without knowing who he is. Mortified and concerned for her job, she tries to put a stop to the affair, but he demeans and harasses her repeatedly in the work place, uses questionable means to obtain personal information about her, and stalks her at her home. She eventually gives in, only to have him decide he has to push her away in order to save her from himself. They declare their mutual love. The end.

My biases: I need to admit to two things that may well have caused my mere lack of enjoyment to morph into strong dislike. First, when I was asked to review it, I Googled the author, whose name was not familiar to me. It turns out that Jamaica Layne is a pen name for a playwright whose works about women have been recognized by the National Women’s Studies Association and performed at universities (often sponsored by Women’s Studies programs) around the country. I wasn’t stupid enough to expect “empowerment erotica”, but I confess that the sting of this book was more painful due to how little I expected the anti-woman sensibility which animates it.

Second, on Monday of last week, I found out that one of my male students was stalking and harassing one of my female students. I know both of them fairly well, so this situation was upsetting on more than one level. The female student was moved, with a security detail, to a safe house, her studies abandoned, her sanity in shambles. Restraining orders aside, she cannot walk across the quad without fear, day or night. Suffice it to say that when I poured myself a glass of wine Friday night and sat down to enjoy some light contemporary romance, I was not in the mood for “sexual harassment erotica”.

Without further ado, what’s not to like about Market For Love?

1. The sexual harassment. Can office romances be hot? Sure. Do I think no romance should never be written that features an alpha boss and his or her employee? No. I really liked The Raven Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt, for example. But the way this is written, Miranda is a victim, pure and simple. Her body “betrays her”, sure, but in her head, from her first meeting with Max (when, a complete stranger, he chastises her in public at a coffee shop), he makes her feel only negative things: scared, sad, angry, embarrassed, incompetent, powerless. When Miranda rebuffs Max, trying to establish some boundaries, he reminds her that he’s the boss and she can be fired at any moment, referring to her privately as “a stone-cold frigid bitch.”

2. The characters. Max is the classic alpha of yesteryear, the reincarnation of Steve Morgan of Sweet Savage Love, except that unlike Steve, who was at least self-reliant, Max has a self-pity streak a mile wide. His lowest moment? Before he was a millionaire, “He had driven a used two-door Honda to work and was miserable.” (Poor baby. Let me loan you my used two-door Volkswagen. At least it’s European!) To him, women are “pretty accessories”, whom he uses as they deserve, for “sex, entertainment, or just boring dinner conversation” (with your subtle, nuanced view of human relations, I wonder whose fault that is, Max?). Nothing more to say there. Except that he has a deeply romantic way of coming through when the chips are down and his affair with Miranda is revealed:

“Do whatever you want with the information I just gave you, Joe. Just get the national media talking about something other than how much of a skanky whore the beautiful woman I love is. That’s all I ask.”

Do I need any more romance in 2008? I think not. I’m full up until at least 2009 with that line.

But what about Miranda? She’s a high powered, capable executive, right? Well, you tell me. She has a very bad morning, losing millions for her customers, and falls apart, walking around her office complex like a zombie with raccoon eyes, weeping copiously. At a meeting, by just looking at her, Max nearly brings her to orgasm, making her flustered and completely incoherent. And here’s a typical Max/Miranda interaction at a “business lunch” when he propositions her yet again:

“I’m afraid that’s impossible, Max. I’m leaving.”

“Not if I can help it.”

The nerve of this guy, manhandling her in a public place! Miranda was furious. She struggled to free herself of Max’s grasp. “Let go of my arm, asshole,” she whispered.

The couple in the booth across the aisle started to stare. Miranda felt her face flush — but not from embarrassment. As much as she hated to admit it, being manhandled by a handsome CEO in a public restaurant was damn sexy.

… but, before she could move a inch, Max tossed some cash on the table and half-led, half-dragged Miranda out of the restaurant. She stumbled behind him, teetering on her kitten heels as she struggled to keep up.”

But how does Miranda, our tough executive, deal with all of this?: “After all that had gone on with Max and her job over the past week, she decided she needed a new wardrobe.”

As an aside, the phrase “kitten heels” is mentioned so often that I looked them up. They are sexy low heels, with a thin, set-in heel. More here. As I was reading, I was thinking of a fun drinking game: do a shot every time (a) Miranda has an orgasm (she tends to have 4 in a row), (b) the phrase “kitten heels” appears in the text, or (c) the word “squidgy” is used. However, I decided by about page 30 that to do so would be to encourage alcohol poisoning and desisted.

3. The sex. What if the reader is not an obviously uptight politically correct academic? Is the sexxoring at least good? I’m not an expert in erotica, but I think not. And here’s why. (a) For erotica, there ain’t much sex. There’s a lot of mental lusting and only a few (like 3) actual sex scenes. (b) The sex is only sexy if you like arrogant men, genitals that have personalities which rival the hero and heroine’s, and purple prose. Here’s an example which showcases all three:

“Is this what you’re looking for, sweetheart?” he said, pointing at his very healthy, very prominent and obviously very excited prick.

“Yes.” Miranda breathed, feeling her nether parts swell and sweat with heady anticipation, her already throbbing clitoris screaming for the pull and push of his hard thick long member against it. The folds of her sex blossomed like a wet lily.

I fully admit I was not in the mood for the plotline of this book when I read it, but I don’t think I possess whatever mood might be necessary to appreciate writing like this.

Published in: on November 9, 2008 at 7:34 pm  Comments (24)  
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24 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Meh. I think I’ll pass. Great review!

  2. Sounds lovely.

  3. Thanks for the review. Sorry the book isn’t to your taste.

    Best,

    Jamaica Layne

  4. Okay, this is an interesting review. I really admire how you make your perspective so clear. The author’s pedigree is extremely interesting, too, and I wonder, Is it possible she is writing for an audience that doesn’t include herself? Like maybe that’s a perspective issue too, and it’s more about a paycheck than erotica? Plays don’t bring in any money.

  5. Oh, ick. Thanks, I’ll take a pass on it. Great review!

  6. “very prominent and obviously very excited prick”
    That is just weird!! I know it’s said men name them – though Ron never told me his pet name – but to have a completely separate personality is a tad unnerving.

    “The folds of her sex blossomed like a wet lily”
    Just ewww.

    And a book where sexual harassment is a turn on for the heroine is button pushing – and not in a good way!

  7. Ay ay ay ay caramba.

    Great review Jessica. I will be sure to stay away…

  8. My first author comment on a review! Thank you, Ms. Layne, for visiting and commenting.

    Also my first (hopefully not last) comment from Jane. Thanks for visiting!

    Carolyn Jean — According to Ms. Layne’s blog (at least that’s where I think I found this), the pay for erotica is not good, the slimmest margin in publishing. If I recall correctly, she earned a $2000 advance for Market for Love. Not exactly high stakes, IMHO, although she has a half dozen more books under contract. Based on what I’ve seen (as a total outsider, mind you) you have to want to write for writing’s sake.

  9. Dear Carolyn et al:

    You are correct that I am not writing my erotica for the same audience as I write my plays. Very different audiences, and therefore very different aesthetics. This is precisely the reason I use a pen name for my erotica.

    I fully appreciate that my books aren’t for everyone, and also appreciate hearing a variety of different reader perspectives.

    Best,

    Jamaica Layne

  10. I read every day, but my commenting skills are poor.

  11. I wasn’t in any danger of wasting my money, but it’s good to know that the book lives up to the online persona.

    Just sayin’.

  12. Jane: On your commenting skills, I doubt it, but thank you for reading. I wouldn’t be blogging without DA.

    Karen: You cannot see this, but I am typing a reply to your comment using a ten foot pole. :) Thank you for visiting!

  13. My favourite part of this highly entertaining review has to be the bit where you had to look up kitten heels.

    Also, how old is this book? From what I recollect (I’m an InStyle junkie… /shame) kitten heels are so last, last last year… actually, I think I could chuck in at least one more last.*

    Ahem. In a serious vein, I think romance does the psycho stalker alpha-asshole hero thing quite often. The prose looks dire, though. I don’t think ‘nether parts’ should ever be used in a sexy way, but in an erotic novel?!

    *It’s all coming together: you mentioned this is a reprint.

  14. Meriam,

    My favourite part of this highly entertaining review has to be the bit where you had to look up kitten heels.

    Well, I’ve been shopping Talbots pretty exclusively for about 15 years for work clothes — pumps or loafers for me — and wearing jeans and clogs or sandals the rest of the time. So I am totally out of the loop on young hip women’s clothing.

    Also, how old is this book? From what I recollect (I’m an InStyle junkie… /shame) kitten heels are so last, last last year… actually, I think I could chuck in at least one more last.*

    Well, it’s just from 2006. Not that old, although I guess trends are pretty brief.

    Ahem. In a serious vein, I think romance does the psycho stalker alpha-asshole hero thing quite often.

    I used to think that, but since I started reading romances, I have managed, through studying reviews and blogs prior to purchase, to avoid most of them. Ah well.

  15. For an entirely different opinion of this book, visit http://www.loveromancepassion.com.

  16. I used to think that, but since I started reading romances, I have managed, through studying reviews and blogs prior to purchase, to avoid most of them. Ah well.

    Yes, they are largely avoidable, particularly if you do your research. But research you must, because they exist in multitude to enrage the unwary reader.

  17. Hi Jessica. I’ve been checking your blog regularly and the review of Immortal Warrior was the most recent thing till I clicked today (14th). My laptop hates WordPress!

    I find this post interesting because I’ve been reading your blog long enough now to have an idea of your tastes and I’m sort of intrigued to read this book to see if I will agree with you. I have a feeling that despite you and I both being educated middle class working women (yes?) and mothers (yes?) with liberal views (yes?) and a feminsit outlook (to be incredibly vague) you might not like some of the stuff that I really like.

    I saw that you were mooting whether to try James Lear on Carolyn Jean’s blog. Regardless of whether you like it or not, I’d be incredibly interested to hear your thoughts on it. Though it is pretty much gay porn….

  18. Tumpkerin,

    I want to read some m/m but I don’t think I want porn. I think I’ll post on this in the near future.

    Yes, we do have similar backgrounds (you’ve basically described my “About Jessica” page above). I’m very liberal in terms of what I think other people should be allowed to do, but conservative my own lifestyle choices, and I am finding that extends to my reading choices.

  19. Oh my word, lol. All I can say is the more I read your blog, the more I like it. :D

  20. Thanks KMont! Hope you had a great vaca!

  21. I’m on about page 65. You could add to that drinking game; drink every time one of the characters pounds their fist on the tabletop. I’ve never seen people do this much fist-pounding. It’s like they all have spastic nerve disorders.

    Also, what kind of tough, capable, intelligent grown woman is “too embarrassed” to ask her (female) assistant to run out and get her some tampons? Or just to borrow a quarter for the machine? She doesn’t even have to say what it’s for. She could just ask to borrow a quarter. It’s very strange.

  22. Yes, I found it very hard to believe this woman could have succeeded at folding her laundry, let alone a high powered business career. (Didn’t notice the thumping, thank god)

    I’m glad it wasn’t just me. Thanks for your comment!

  23. A wet lily? Really? Never thought of that one, but aren’t wet lily clammy and thin and clingy?
    I don’t know about erotica, but erotic romance pays pretty well.

  24. wet lilies. Sorry. no way of editing.


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