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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Painted Faces - L.H. Cosway In short, I really loved the premise. Drag queen, that is, straight drag queen, falls in love with sassy girl next door. The narrative seems to hold the promise for a very original hero, but...

In theory, Nicholas is my kind of guy. Beautiful in a fey, androgynous sort of way. Black hair, blue eyes, scrumptious. Unfortunately, he also may be a little too alpha for my tastes. The instant he meets Freda (Fred), he's coming on stronger than plate of spaghetti with extra garlic. Makes it absolutely clear that he is desperate to eff her.

I reckon the point of all this over-the-top heterosexuality is to demonstrate that despite his fondness for makeup, panty hose, and singing songs from Cabaret to a house full of less-than-hetero men, he's man all the way through. But for me, this approach sort of obliterated a lot of the "original" in the original premise. I guess it felt like he could be pretty much any other "get ovah here, woman, and bleep me now," testosterone-poisoned male, except, he likes to wear dresses sometimes.

Similarly, the narrative is treading the thematic waters of a certain popular YA series -- cough, starts with T -- whereby a blindingly handsome and wealthy man sweeps into the hum-drum life of a ordinary girl (who doesn't believe she's pretty), and is abso-effing-lutely, obsessively in love with her; must have her now, etc. Hey. *Holds hand up in surrender* I get the appeal.

It just doesn't work for me with this novel. Skimming through the almost entirely glowing reviews, at Goodreads, I encountered one where the reader describes the approach as "clunky."

Yeah, clunky. That works. The story is sexy. The heroine is spunky (though I really didn't find her all that funny), the hero happy to bust gender stereotypes. But the treatment of gender issues, sexual abuse, body image, etc., nonetheless felt sort of superficial. Someone else said that in the defter hands, this would have been much better, and I agree. The writing was functional, but just didn't have enough sparkle. The best bits, the parts where the voice was strongest, were the prologue and epilogue, told in Nicholas's POV.

There's a side plot involving Fred's stalker ex and some acts of bigotry against gays, but it never goes anywhere or generates any real tension. By and large, the plot is basically thus: Nicholas really, really wants to have sex with Fred, eventually, gets his way; acts like a callous boor; apologizes and the two declare undying love for each other. It's all rather [Elrond voice on]thin[off]. I don't entirely buy their love story. I get why Fred would want this man. He's hawt! But I don't feel the Ever After under the lust.

OTOH, Nicholas is sex on a stick. And I gotta give the story props for a hero who is something other than a fireman, cop, SEAL, Marine, spy, etc.

Amusing read, but I'm just not the right audience for this one.