I keep wondering where, for me, a book changes from a “try to wade through” to a DNF. I’ve become a lot more conservative with my time in the last couple of years, unwilling to give a whole lot of it to a book that rubs me the wrong way (or, almost as damning, fails to capture any of my interest). My DNF points on books seem to be in the first 10% for most of them, first 30% for almost all of the rest.
Usually if a book is at the “wading” point I may not have many strikes left before it becomes a DNF, but still feel there’s something worth reading. A lot of the time, wades are books where I’m just not terribly enjoying the author’s voice, which is a shame, but I will power through because I’m interested in the story. Infected: Prey was one of these, del Toro’s vampire books were another, there are several more. As I’m not a huge fan of suspense or thrillers that’s enough to turn a book into a wade for me on its own. Sometimes things as simple as tense (first person present eurgh) is enough to do it, but then again, with authors I trust I will take the plunge and sure enough they will take advantage of tropes or tenses I can’t stand and turn them on their heads enough that I’m thrilled (see: Bella Andre, especially my-best-friend’s-sibling + bonus secret baby, or Courtney Milan’s Trade Me with the should-be-damning trifecta of contemporary, billionaire and first-person-present, but is instead glorious). So yeah, wade I will, but the books already have several strikes against them.
Then there are outliers. I recently read J. C. Emory’s “Ride” (Bayonet Scars, Book 1) as I’ve been desperate to find something similar to Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, and figured hey, maybe Motorcycle Club/Gang books will fit the bill somehow, plus they’re pretty popular and I haven’t read one. This may not have been the one to start on, but foolishly I let Amazon’s “best selling in…” or rankings get the better of me (plus a 4.1 average out of over 240 reviews). I should have checked the reviews, but I was honestly boggling my way through all the different MC romances on offer.
First up: This isn’t a romance. If it hadn’t been billed as one, I wouldn’t have picked it up — I wanted a little schmaltz with my leather and bikes — but if you take out the romance classification, then the book might be forgivable. As a romance, there’s no way, and interestingly enough this was not what made it a DNF (although it definitely made it a wallbanger). The protagonists (nothing heroic about either of them) don’t like each other, much less love each other — by 80% of the book, he’d raped her, but that was it. Oh, she kept having pantsfeelings for him (and getting off with other people but hating them and pretending they were him so that totally doesn’t count I’m sure) and he decided to “fuck her out of his system” and deliberately made it as painful and awful for her as possible, and man, if those things don’t scream love, I don’t know what does.
The woman (sheltered girl, really) spends most of her time crying, and if she’s not crying she’s running away and then using her newfound freedom to… get drunk. She spends most of the book drunk, in tears, or both. It’s only after she’s killed more than half a bottle of tequila the dude fucks her. He’s not real big on consent. Dude spends most of HIS time drinking or doing drugs (“he’d needed to do a line just to be able to see her”), and again, some folks may take “I have to hit the hard stuff just to be around your face” as true love, but I’m not really into that.
Actually, all the Motorcycle Club seems to do is drink, get high, and apparently either jerk off or have sex and never clean anything up ever. I’m not sure how this lifestyle supports hundreds of bikers, but there you go. I’m also guessing this is the ultimate dude fantasy, although it sounded so vile I really don’t know many people who would ever let their homes get like that, women involved or not. I just finished a series about bootleggers and liquor, and it had less drinking in it, and definitely less “I hate myself and my life so I will get drunk and then sleep with someone and then hate them and myself even MORE yes” going on!
All of this made it a slog, but it was at the 85% mark where the POV swaps to the dude’s and he is mentally calling everyone (his mom, the girl, everyone) a slut and a whore that I was finally done. I was hoping for redeeming qualities — I got nothing. It was bad enough that every woman in the book is either outright called a slut or is an ineffective drunk that the DOGS get more characterization and page time than any woman, but once the hero started echoing the heroine’s views of everyone that way? Yeah, done. I know authors argue that it’s the character’s beliefs and not their own and to not judge them accordingly, but seriously, when every single character has the same belief — and the book is also written fully in support of that belief — I judge, indeed.
Maybe something happens in the last 10% of the book and there’s suddenly truuuue loooove (because they kept touching PINKIES dontchaknow, that totally makes the rape and hatefuck and abuse a-ok!), but nothing ELSE happened in the rest of the book. There’s all this woo and talk about how dangerous it is to be in the club and how dude will die if he gets soft and has feelings for someone, yet we never see… anything happen. Oh they shoot up an empty house in the beginning, but that’s in the first couple of chapters. I imagine the last 10% involves the girl running away a few more times, getting drunk, and while they’re drunk the dude proves that he has feelings for her ’cause he touched her pinky all those times, it’s true love, and she’s happily-ever-after in the life she hates with people she hates on the back of his bike (that doesn’t really go anywhere for most of the book except around town). 85% is way more of a chance than I give most books. This one was just… what?
Also the numerous misspellings, the bizarre unrelated quotes that start each chapter (that are occasionally misattributed or at least attributed to someone whose name is spelled wrong!), the homonym confusion, missing words, racist phrasings and really weird “I don’t think that means what you think that means” turns of phrase… yeah. I probably should have gone with my gut on the wallowing, but I really wanted to finish a Club book and see what the heck it was all about.
This clearly was not the one to do that with.