See what I did there? Genius, I tells ya.
2 out of 5 Bacon Strips
I found Sweet Surrender on the bargain shelf at Borders; after having read it, I know exactly why.
Gray Montgomery is a cop whose partner's just been killed while on-duty. The details of the shooting are never disclosed, but the partner's father, Mick, an ex-cop, is investigating the shooting independent of the Dallas PD. He leans on Gray to help him, insinuating that the PD is trying to claim that his partner (Alex) was responsible for his own death, or that Gray might be.
Mick says he has a lead on the real shooter, Eric Samuels. Samuels has hooked up with a woman who routinely begs money from her daughter, Faith Malone. Faith was adopted as an adult by "Pop" Malone, who runs a security firm in Houston with his son and two other young men.
Mick arranges for Gray to take six months' leave from the Dallas PD and work for Pop in Houston in order to be close to Faith and through her track her mother and Eric Samuels.
Of course, Gray can't just get in and out and get the job done. He falls for Faith, and falls hard. She falls for him, too. Of course, he's lying to her and using her as bait , despite learning fairly early in his "investigation" that she hates her mother and wants nothing to do with her. He doesn't come clean, though, until the happy-ever-after.
The plot is ridiculous. I expect that of a romance novel: one of the unnecessary, but all-too-often observed, conventions of the genre seems to be glossing over anything that might require research or difficult writing. There's a wealth of plot that Maya Banks completely ignores for this novel. We're never told the details of the shooting which kills Alex, let alone shown them. Gray and Mick's relationship is likewise just handed to us on a bad-prose platter, as are the details of Faith's life.
Oh, and what a character Faith could have been. The book bills itself as "erotic romance", and I think I'm supposed to believe that it's more than just regular romance because of Faith's particular kink: she's a submissive. Only she can't find a "real" dominant, and she keeps dating guys who don't want to be in charge, who can't make decisions. Gray, being the typical romance Alpha male, trips all her triggers - but she can't be sure that he's really as dominant as she'd like, so she pursues other avenues.
I wanted to like Faith so much. I wanted to read about a woman taking control of her sex life, owning her desires, and clearly asking for things - especially since those things were submissive, something we see a lot of in Romanceland, but rarely do we it expressed as a kink, or see our heroines asking for it. What I got was a woman who could have done all that, if she wasn't stuck in the middle of this horrible book. Banks seems to have had two different women in mind when she was writing Faith; it's unfortunate that the one we're stuck with most often is consistently referred to as "soft", "sweet", "feminine", and the like. She's small and blonde and pretty. No one takes her seriously, not even when they're fucking her. Gray is repeatedly told by all the other men around her that she's perfect, and he'd better keep his hands off. But they all come around at the end (for the HEA), when he tells them he'd like nothing better than to take care of her for the rest of her life. And yes, he means that as ickily as it sounds: he wants her to sit at home, being pampered and not worrying her pretty head, while he takes care of the big, bad world outside.
It was insulting and sexist, and that wasn't something I could take on top of a heaping helping of bad prose, thin characterizations, and convoluted, ill-executed plot. The only reason this book gets two bacon strips is that I've read worse.
Next week: I tackle the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. Or at least a few of them.