February 21, 2014

Erotica Review: Beautiful Bastard

I did not have high hopes at first for Christina Lauren's Beautiful Bastard. I heard the book summarized at San Diego Comic-Con as, "Like 50 Shades of Grey, but better."  That interested me, because I have been on the search for a good erotic novel with some rougher bones--some Dom/sub, BDSM romance--and 50 Shades was one of the most disgusting disappointments I've ever wasted time on. With some unapologetic roughness right up front in its title, Beautiful Bastard seemed a bit more promising.

Like I said, though, from the first chapter I had my doubts. This is directly due to the immediate hyperbolic promises by the author that Bennett Ryan, our leading man, is all things perfect. Described as "gorgeous", "unbelievable", "incredible", and, at one point, "the most well-hung man ever seen" (note that isn't "the most well-hung man she'd ever seen"; THE most well- hung. Ever seen. By anyone.). I very quickly grew cynical, and every time a new description of Bennett's perfection snuck in, I as a reader was kicked out.
No.  Just... No.

I have a rant about things like this. "The Perfect Man" is so unbelievably overused and so damned boring. Plus, its lazy. Authors, are we really so lmited? Is there so little out there to say? Can't we find more interesting and dynamic ways to paint the picture of our devastatingly attractive lovers? Bennett Ryan could easily be Christian Grey, and --UGH-- even Edward Cullen. And that's so disgusting I can only cringe every time I hear how "perfectly chiseled" and "gloriously endowed" he is. Can we please just paint ourselves some real men? Its not as if women or men or readers the world over have only one cookie-cutter understanding of what makes one attractive. And as authors, really... we are better than that. Please, if you write erotic romance, do the genre a favor and don't be lazy. Don't give in to cliches. Make your characters honest.

Getting back to Beautiful Bastard, though, despite my embarrassment for Christina Laurens in the opening chapter for her overuse of tired archetyping, the rest of he book made up for it...and well.  

The characters were sympathetic and real, which immediately put them well ahead of the 50 Shades ilk.  If the Bennett descriptions are lazy, the rest of the plot certainly isn't, and to the contrary, it plays out with heartbreaking and breathtaking authenticity.  The sex scenes are very frequent and very hot; when the dialogue got dirty, it got me going.  I listen to the audiobook in the car on the way home and more than once I walked through the door and immediately had to have a frisky romp with my own leading man. I'd call that successful erotica.

The love story is modern, independent, complex, and ultimately endearing. Given the rough and primal nature of the sex relationship and the attitudes of the two mains, I didn't initially expect there to be a deeper romance in the offing, and that was comfortable for me. But it turns out there is more developing underneath the wonderful fucking--and it's good! Not sappy, not forced, and it doesn't compromise the individualities of the characters or the tone of the story. This is a romance, but its a romance I can happily (and eagerly) share with my husband, and expect it will hold his interest. That's a nice perk for me, married to a guy who wouldn't ever pick up a bodice-ripper style romance.

All in all, despite an eye-rolling start thanks to overblown description, I honestly loved this book. It's not a Dom/sum, BDSM novel like I originally thought, but its sexy and rough in all the right ways, anyway.  Great read, and I very much recommend it. We'll call it a strong four stars on my list.

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