Tries something new with the Fifty Shades premise, but is too busy fangirling over itself to make us give one fuck about the supposed conflict.
An advance reading copy of this book was generously provided by Harlequin Books.
I admit, when I first read the blurb for Temptation I was intrigued by its ‘taboo’ premise. Despite the allusions to another Fifty Shades of Grey tropefest (I must disclose here that I still haven’t read it), you’d think the fact that the heroine is a married mother would dramatically change the dynamic—perhaps even enter a new provocative plane of thought?
Yeah … no.
What actually happens plays out like superlatively BAD fanfic, or the gratuitous and melodramatic josei and shoujo manga I love to hate-read. Temptation is a poorly written collage of bombastic erotica cliches, narrated by a tedious, immature and entitled heroine. I’m still not sure whether to be ashamed or proud that I actually finished the book. It is just awful on so many levels.
Our narrator is Alexis Summers, a 35 year old stay-at-home mother of two who decides to return to the workforce. She is ‘happily married’ to Rick, a decent enough guy. She starts her new job at the prestigious
Crown Towers City Towers hotel whose owner, Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent Bryce Clark, is — whaddaya know — a handsome blond bachelor billionaire, complete with sexy toned body, stalker tendencies (for ‘research’), dead parents, pilot’s licence, cooking finesse, musical dexterity, and bedsport prowess.
Their first encounter is the stuff of Tropey Tripe legend. It’s Alexis’s first day, so naturally she bumps into ‘the most delectable specimen of a man’ she’s ever seen, spilling her cup of hot chocolate onto both of them. Oh, and this guy ‘arrogantly smirks’. A lot. Alexis fumbles and blushes with the gusto any insipid heroine would be proud of.
Oh shit, Mr Sexy Handsome Gentleman is actually her BOSS! Of course! Within minutes he’s whisked her away into a luxury brand store and by page 23 he’s already inappropriately zipping her up in a new Versace dress and they’re eyefucking the hell out of each other. Within a day she’s risen up the corporate ladder from concierge assistant to sexy bossman’s PA, and boasting an equally impressive pay rise (that would take me at least 10 years to earn before tax).
Not bad for a day’s work, huh? Are your eyes rolling yet?
We don’t see the narrative from Bryce’s perspective, so we are privy to Alexis’s vivid and frequent inner odes to her boss’s allure and perfection. Cue the non-stop gushing (in more ways than one). I think I know a little about fangirling, but this is just beyond ridiculous. The first person POV indulges Alexis’s teenage infatuation with Bryce to such an exasperating extent, I wanted to stab things swiftly and repeatedly. In fact, my annoyance grew in proportion to her mounting praise/awe of him.
Seriously Alexis? You’ve been out of the house one day. One day, and you have pretty much undressed this man in your head, and now you want to do naughty things with him.
This sexy masculine man had me in knots and I could not keep up.
This irresistibly gorgeous, filthy rich, privacy invading, control freak was flirting with me, and me with him.
“He cooks, are you serious? All the money in the world and the man cooks?” He has just escalated from sexy, rock god, billionaire, boss man to perfect, sexy, rock god, billionaire, boss man.
“So, my boss is a billionaire, the sexiest man I have ever laid eyes on, and he wants to fuck me senseless.”
This was my ultimate fantasy. He was my dream guy and he was about to finger-fuck me in my dream car.
This goes on, and on and on … Like, how old is she, 15?
Beyond the excessively cheesy banter and flirtation, we start to see that this isn’t all a game, and that Bryce really harbours feelings for Alexis, though I cannot think why. Indeed it’s difficult to see how this *zomg cosmic orgasmic* connection even came about because there is no concrete foundation for it. From their first ‘accidental meeting’ in the hotel, to the very last page when they’ve finally succumbed to a fuckfest and declared their love for each other, I could not tell you what is so special about Alexis and Bryce. Despite immersing myself in Alexis’s head for a good 300 pages, I was not at all impressed by who she is and what she becomes. Her frankness could be considered refreshing, but my tolerance could only go so far. That is what largely lets this story down: Alexis’s juvenile and indecisive voice.
This man was getting the better of me. I wasn’t sure if I liked him getting the better of me. Let’s face it. I did like it, but did I like him having the upper hand? No, I didn’t think that I did. Maybe I could quite possibly step it up a little and try and beat him at his own smirking, flirting and groping game. But would it work? Or would it just fuel his fire? Also, was that crossing the line? I was married, and he wasn’t. For the love of fuck!
Yes, Alexis, for the love of fuck!
Still, let’s give her some credit for having some sense of shame and self-awareness — she does feel that this is ‘horribly wrong … but somehow … so right, very right.’ Despite nursing such torment, she yo-yos between guilt and lust with remarkable ease.
I buried my face in my hands and started to cry. “How could you possibly understand? Even I don’t understand what’s going on here. What are we going to do? I can’t keep doing this to Rick, and I can’t keep doing this to you, or me for that matter.”
“I understand you have morals and have made vows you don’t want to break,” he said softly as he pulled me to his chest. “I respect that, I truly do. It just makes you even more desirable.”
Um, yeah. That makes sense. Suddenly she’s slut-shaming herself and he’s the good guy acting on restraint. Because consistency.
There is a defining point where Alexis leaves a note for Bryce saying that she’s fallen for him, but in a moment of regret, runs back to retrieve it before he notices. Only he’s already standing there, note in hand, ready for her as she runs weeping into his arms. It should be a victory for both characters, but it just feels so overdramatic and staged.
Alexis’s lack of conviction and how changeable she becomes in Bryce’s presence is bewildering. I’m like, Lady, have you no pride? She claims no real ownership over Bryce, yet seethes with jealousy whenever a woman gets close to him. She claims to be happily married, yet gets into compromising positions with Bryce and thoroughly enjoys and encourages them. But no, technically she isn’t cheating because she hasn’t had penile sex with Bryce yet, despite having full-on daydreams about him fucking her, and having him see her naked, and having him finger her and make out with her. Nope, she tells her husband, ‘I wouldn’t do that to you’. Technicalities are such small mercies, no?
I was equally disturbed by sexy beast Mr Clark and his grand gestures, which get grander and more absurd by the chapter. It would be better to ask what can’t Bryce do? After all, he’s up there with God, if he hasn’t also charmed God’s knickers off too. Bryce is endowed with so many nauseatingly perfect qualities that he is left with no character whatsoever. How do I relate to this character if he is so utterly flawless? He obviously can just take care of himself. His only damage seems to be the fact his parents and little brother died in a horrible accident, which grants him automatic entry into the Tall Dark Alpha Brooding Stalker Billionaire club, but none of my sympathy since I’ve heard this story too many times. I’m being facetious, but how much more clichéd could Bryce get? He is like an avatar on a video game — crammed so full with all the shiny customised features to fit into the fantasy that the result is an unrecognisable amalgamation of everything and nothing.
It would make more sense if he were written in a metatextual context. Bryce could learn a thing or two on the art of the billionaire playing the billionaire from my man, Bruce:
Credit: unknown :( (most likely Tumblr)
Tropes aside, what makes the alpha-hero so compelling and loveable is how he is humbled by the heroine, and how he overcomes the insurmountable to earn the heroine’s respect and love. Bryce never comes close to reaching that maturity, certainly not in a way that endears us to him. His grand gestures are so excessive, so unbelievable, that the reader is stuck in a state of incredulity (and for myself, lots of LOLs) rather than touched by his thoughtfulness. Alexis is practically handed to him on a platter by virtue of him doing his ubersexy stalker billionaire thing, throwing his ubersexy billionaire money at just the right people. It’s not a prelude to a provocative love story, nor is it a great testament to Bryce’s character.
Inevitably, there is the infidelity to deal with, which no doubt will put off many romance readers to begin with. Maybe I am simply the wrong target audience for this kind of story, not having the privilege of being a white, middle-class, 35-year old mother and wife caught in a love triangle, but I believe great writing can justify the most tawdry or taboo of acts. I can’t fault the flaws of the human condition or lament the state of moral bankruptcy, if I am convinced that these two people share something profound and pure, and that their being together is the only way, no matter what the hurdles are.
This simply does not apply to Alexis and Bryce. I could not give one fuck if they united or not, since I felt no emotional connection with either of them, nor did they have real romantic or sexual chemistry together. So how I could I possibly want to cheer for their relationship? Their coming together feels altogether like a series of half-baked fantasies — it’s forced from thin air; it lacks any semblance of genuine passion, urgency, and tension; everything progresses way too smoothly and predictably. You can only get away with instant love or instant lust for so long before the lustre fades and substance has to prevail.
Then there is Alexis’s husband, Rick, who is another ‘tall, dark and handsome’ guy and is by all accounts a good man at first. Although he is designed to (eventually) pale in comparison to Bryce, our failure in getting to know him and his dynamic with Alexis only highlights his primary function as a device to green light Alexis’s affair with Bryce. Because hey, he too transgressed beyond a kiss and hug once, so turnabout is fair play! Everyone for affairs! Affairs for everyone!
Temptation — who doesn’t feel temptation? But is it really a temptation if there is no tangible sense of thrill or danger? Temptation is never convenient; it comes at the worst times and we have so many mechanisms for confronting it, ignoring it, or succumbing to it. The ‘cheating’ part is virtually spoon-fed to us, held aloft by the laziest, silliest and most uninspired reasoning I’ve ever heard. It was so full of LOLs and WTF I can’t even. It involves a confrontation between Bryce and Rick, which happens in the only chapter told in the third person (just to throw you off there). Their exchange actually poses an interesting dilemma regarding marriage, but it feels too agreeably set-up. It not only puts both men in a sordid and mercenary light, but it reflects on Alexis’s questionable taste in men. What happens here has consequences in the following instalments (yep, there’s more).
While I struggle to forgive the inanely superficial characters, I am most disappointed by the novel’s wasted potential. This narrative could have gone in so many complex and twisted ways. Why not explore the internal conflict of an atypical heroine at a crossroads, or consider the challenges facing a mother returning to the workforce, or question marriage as a social construct? Is monogamy a myth? What if we can be in love with more than one person? How do women confidently exhibit their sexuality in a society obsessed with youth and impossible standards? What impact does a broken marriage have on relationships with our children or with our friends? Instead of moral ambiguity or sophisticated character studies, we get silly and childish adults having mindless fun, using REALLY bad puns, with no care or responsibility. And hey, that’s all swell and fine for a while, but it does not justify consuming the entire novel.
I can see why some women enjoy this story, given its fantasy scenarios: the sweeping Officer and a Gentleman rescue, the romantic Pretty Woman proposal, the Cinderella/Ugly Duckling makeover, the liberating Girls Night Out, the cosy luxury hotel getaway. These backdrops all centre on the woman’s desires (if somewhat material/stereotypical), and her own sense of desirability, which are to be celebrated. Yet no amount of glitz and glamour can redeem an essentially vapid story headlined by self-serving and undeveloped characters.
Ultimately, that the archetypal virginal innocent heroine is replaced by a wife/mother doesn’t elevate the story. It makes everything worse. Alexis lacks any refined complexity or nuance that convinced me she is a mature adult facing a genuinely difficult moral dilemma. Similarly, Bryce is contender for the most ridiculous pastiche of the alpha-billionaire hero I’ve ever read. It would be grossly generous to label them a hero and heroine for they possess qualities of neither.
To be fair, this is K.M. Golland’s first novel, and it is clear she tries to channel Sylvia Day, but this story really could do with a few more rewrites and a decent edit. It’s not so much the theme that is unsavoury but the prose, and I just could not reconcile with it. It is an easy read, sure, but I feel no temptation to learn any more about Alexis and Bryce. I read the preview for the second novel, which actually begins from Bryce’s point of view, but it felt even creepier being inside his head. Apparently, he knows she’s The One merely after seeing her job application, ergo he must have her (!).
It’s this sort of overblown writing that frustrated me to no end. I’ll probably make Kat proud and kill all the fairies just to see what happens, but if Alexis and Bryce barely have to work at it to be together, why should I? My standards aren’t high; it’s not a prerequisite to love the protagonists, but I should at least be able to understand them. Unfortunately, Temptation fails to rise beyond its stereotypical premise to concern itself with potentially fascinating ideas on love, relationships, gender, sex, and the ‘working mother’ myth.
Yay or nay?
Temptation tries something new with the Fifty Shades premise, but is too busy fangirling over itself to make us give one fuck about the supposed conflict. Now I’ve a high tolerance for OTT cheese and whine but this novel is so intolerable beyond belief I actually got a stomachache. I cannot even recommend this as a ‘so bad it’s good’ story. I’d make a bad pun myself about the next instalments, Satisfaction and Fulfilment, but I’ve said more than enough.
Content advisory: Beware the creepy cardboard cutout billionaire and the most insipid, immature head of a heroine I’ve had the misfortune to be inside of (!). Porntastic scenarios, gagworthy sex puns even I would be ashamed of, involuntary thigh clenching, and Arrogant Smirking™ are frequent and profuse.
Series: Temptation (Book 1)
Author: K.M. Golland
Publisher: Harlequin Books