Saturday, July 21, 2012

Son, I Am Disappoint.


So I'm trying to make myself write again, and as part of my research I'm devouring a bunch of recent books in the same genre, namely, mass-market chick paperback aka mummy porn. And oh dear, what a disappointment.

I intentionally chose to read some by a certain MAJOR publisher. Let's just say if you think "hot romance books in the supermarket" then you have the correct one. They publish a hundred new titles every month, in virtually the same cover, and only the steamy manhunk photo changes.

I'm going to avoid naming authors because quite frankly I don't know how badly these books were mangled by the publisher. I have to assume that they forced enormous changes to the original manuscripts until they no longer resembled what they had been. You'd hope so, considering they take AGES to offer a contract, and then anywhere up to four years to actually publish (!).

Book one was a total wet blanket shemozzle. Plot synopsis: Miss Businesswoman meets Mr Tycoon. They have an argument and immediately hate each other. Even though they somehow can't take their eyes off one another and come really close to doin' the deed (hot and steamy!), they agree to stay apart because, well, they hate each other. Thanks to the death of a mutual friend, the two main characters end up sharing custody of a baby (whoa! a fabulous coincidence and convenient for a love story). They still hate each other. They decide to live together despite all this (wtf), and then get married for forever (wtf) with an agreement of no sex (wtf, who makes a deal like that) all ostensibly for the sake of the kid. Then they have hot and steamy sex, then fall in love. Ah, happily ever after. The book ends with them excitedly discussing getting pregnant. How does anyone find marriage-baby-potential-preggers stories hot and steamy? It might be just me, but I always assumed we mothers reading romantic fiction enjoy the fantasy-escape of not being mothers for a few hours. Is the "let's make another baby!" thing really necessary or does it add to a "hot love story"? Maybe I should be blaming the publisher for this aspect?

The thing is, I could suspend reality and get into the (questionable) plot if the book hadn't been so full of spelling errors, grammatical snafus and split infinitives. And they weren't minor or beginner errors (which this hastily-written blog post probably has in abundance). When you spell the name of the main character wrong you have a problem not to mention how many enormously long sentences there were that while strictly speaking were not wrong made it inherently difficult to read giving the reader a sense of wtf was the beginning of the sentence about again because it was so long ago that I've forgotten. I know for a fact this particular publisher ensures each manuscript gets edited by at least four (four) people before it's sent back to the author for final review. How do such obvious spelling and grammar stuffups slip past supposed-professionals four times? Are they in financial doo-doo and using the fifteen-year-old work-experience kid to edit it for free? Or is the eBook created by feeding physical hand-torn pages of the paperback into a scanner and booting up ancient software with a reading accuracy of 87%?

Also, some of the plot points felt padded and dragged out unnecessarily. It's as if there were an interesting basic premise underneath, and someone had thrown in a wrench and churned it up with saccharine until it fit some kind of magic formula for sale. "Dear author, it's a great story, but it needs a conflict early on. Please make them hate each other, or something. Oh, and we need them to be married in the middle, even though they hate each other. It's so that the sex scenes don't need to discuss condoms. You understand. Just minor changes that you need to make. You know, just the whole book. By Friday. Love, Editor."

Book two, ahhhhh. Relief. I could see from the very beginning that this author knows how to write. Proper grammatical structure right from the beginning. I relaxed and hoped to actually enjoy it. Then, kapow! She foists so many unbelievable plot pieces into one pile that I'm only four chapters in and seriously annoyed. Let's have a checklist for the storyline of "Miss Independent and Mr Wealthy" so far.

✔ believable or plausible
✖ ridiculous or unlikely

steamy weekend fling with complete stranger whose name she doesn't even know ✔
he does something asshole-y ✔
despite using contraception which did not seem to have failed, she falls pregnant ✔
but she decides not to tell him because she hates him for being asshole-y before ✔
hospitalised; doctor will not let her leave without proof of someone to care for her ✖
she has no friends, family, co-workers, facebook buddies, anyone else to ask for help ✖
she hasn't seen him in half a year, but he turns up on the same day that she calls ✖
without even knowing about baby ✖
he doesn't even ask why she's sick, before coming ✖
he somehow trusts it's his kid, despite him knowing he used a condom correctly ✖
he proposes to a complete stranger within minutes of finding out about the kid ✖
he convinces her of why this is a good idea by babbling on about lawyers and prenups ✖
she still hates him and doesn't want to marry him but somehow gives in within minutes ✖
Miss Independent allows him to take over planning her entire life ✖
he discusses her medical care with the doctors, without even asking her ✖
for some reason she moves into his house within two days ✖
they speak very familiarly yet they've never spoken since the week of the fling ✖
this intelligent, independent woman can't see he's a controlling, dangerous, asshole ✖

Score so far: 4 believable elements, 14 stupid ones. I believe the balance is unfortunately tipped way over into the "this is ridiculous" side of things. I can actually understand why the bullying is going on - the author is building character, with the fact that he's very used to getting his own way and taking charge (the hero has to be strong), and my guess is that the lady shall tame him and turn him into an adorable, gentle human-being-daddy. But it's bad enough that you already know this story will end with "and the two of them fell in love and lived together with their baby forever" - having to read Pinocchio's tall tales to get there is going to be painful.

And I know there are mouse-women whose self-esteem has been chipped away for years by controlling and dominating men like the "hero" in this book. But for goodness' sake, it simply doesn't happen via ONE one-night stand plus ONE ten-minute conversation. You'd have to be an idiot not to see that a Romeo who moves you into his house and arranges a marriage with you is a control-freak. And unfortunately the woman has been painted as being intelligent. Lemme guess: It was probably really-well done until the editor started mangling it. "Dear Author, please spend more effort in showing Mr Wealthy as a controlling and dominant character, and please make Miss Independent quite a bit more docile. And please do it in the first five minutes. What the heck, just make her roll over. Love, Editor."

I can almost forgive spelling and grammatical errors more than a book with so many ✖s in the plot. I am torn between thinking that it could be easy for me to write these, and dismay that it's apparently so easy to write these. (Famous last words.)

I weep for humanity.