Monday, October 7, 2013

Sweetly Bad by Anya Breton

The Basics:

Sweetly Bad, by Anya Breton
Ellora's Cave Publishing Inc.

I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second book in the "Haizea Brood" series. I haven't read the first one, and that might account for some of my feelings about this one.

My impression is that this is one of the first in a new line of books called Curve Appeal featuring plus-sized women.

Roughly, the plot is that Drew, a playboy witch stranded with a broken-down Ferrari, must prove to his mother that he's turning his life around while being labeled kill-on-sight with the Underground.

Erica, our curvy heroine, is the irresistible mechanic who is willing to help Drew while working through some of her own issues.

What worked for me:

The author writes really consistent characters. Erica is sassy and capable, while Drew is a complete ass. I thought they were both fully realized, and believable as individuals.

Breton's also created a vibrant world that deserved better than this short book permitted. There's some interesting magic elements, some handy Cleaners to keep the witches secret from vanilla humans. Though the introduction of the paranormal into the book was both abrupt and delayed, this element was more interesting to me than the romance between Erica and Drew.

What didn't work for me:

Oh dear. 

As one of the first books in a series featuring plus-sized women, I wanted something that was generally positive about said women. Instead: nearly every speaking character comments on Erica's weight in a negative fashion, from her sister to her ex-boyfriend to the villains to Drew. Erica herself expresses some mixed opinions - I found it quite realistic that she'd both own her body *and* have some doubts. Unfortunately, having everyone else jump on the 'you can't be happy/sexy when you're size sixteen' bandwagon made it really hard to come away with positive feelings. Yes, Erica was depicted as a competent, even badass!, woman. And she, at times, was take charge about her sexuality. BUT the general lack of positivity about plus-sized women in the dialogue was just... ugh. I assume her weight was constantly raised as an issue to justify or underline the book as part of the Curve Appeal line, but because because it was always in a negative context, I found it very offputting.

There were several plus-sized cliches - a reference to a chubby chaser, inability to be happy at 'that' weight, breaking furniture. Each one made me feel increasingly uncomfortable - not a good response when reading erotica!

Ultimately I didn't think "Sweetly Bad" was a particularly erotic book. The first major sex scene was undercut by Erica's impressions about Drew. Not only was he a poor kisser, but Erica found his package, ah, lacking. It was hard to understand why the two of them were hooking up at all, given the begrudging attraction. There was very little tension between them other than in a 'will she throw him out the door or not' kind of way.

I think the book would have benefited from an increased word count - there was so much crammed in from Erica's ex-boyfriend issues to Drew being hunted by other witches to the redemption of Drew. Several more chapters would have made Drew's transition from asshole to contrite lover more thorough and believable.

The Bottom Line:

I was curious about the book (and the Curve Appeal line), which is why I requested it via NetGalley. If I'd paid money for it, I think I would have been disappointed that it didn't deliver on my expectation of a steamy erotic story featuring a plus-sized woman.

The book would have been better served if it was marketed solely as a romance. The more I thought about it, the more the story grew on me - but I can't think of many erotic novels that I've read and then spent much time analysing afterwards....

If you can get past the first thirty-five pages or so, I think there's something here to like, buried below the negatives. There wasn't enough to satisfy me, but your mileage may vary.

Two and a Half Stars
For anyone who is interested in the Curve Appeal line and isn't looking for hot erotica or anyone who doesn't mind spending some time thinking about the different elements of the novel afterwards.

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