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This book was like listening to someone shriek even after the reason for shrieking has long past and the person should’ve calmed to the point of being able to use her normal voice or just being too tired. This story lived in high drama and angst without ceasing, and 95% of it was fabricated, not organically formed through various situations. This is a story of Chantel’s (a deceased past lover of Phillipe) obsession with Phillipe, Phillipe’s obsession with Chantel and Gemma, and Gemma’s obsession with both of them. Gemma is the h, and Phillipe is the H in this tale. Writer and heroine, Gemma, performs a sort of an investigation of Phillipe as she meets with him to write a story about him, per his requests. Simultaneously she tries to answer for herself and her readers whether or not Phillipe is really the villain the world speaks of him being while also fighting her attraction to him.
The only positive in this story was the occasional way the author wrote with understated eroticism. But it was too rare to carry the whole very contrived story. And the narrator did a good job with the exception of her overly-French pronunciation of Chantel while speaking with no French accent the rest of the time. She, unnecessarily and in exaggerated form, pronounced Chantel’s name with a false and poorly done French accent. Yes, the story takes place in France, but Chantel was born and raised in America. And Phillipe was acted with no French accent AT ALL!
To really enjoy this book it seems to be that you need to be the sort of person who buys into the idea that a person can “feel” where another person is in a crowd w/o actually being able to see them, the sort of person who lives and acts primarily on intuition and connection and how it leads a person’s behavior and beliefs, and the sort of person who sees more positive than negative in succumbing to what one “feels” instead of what is logical or what one understands through analysis or serious consideration, thought and sees little wrong with living much of one’s life in that way, on feeling and not thinking. It’s a type of intuitive-based or rationalized hedonism excused by always saying “I couldn’t stop myself.” Apparently I’m not that type of person, though my Myers-Briggs type points to me being on the intuition band-wagon but not enough to enjoy this story. I prefer stories that have the primary romantic characters be more thoughtful, use their brains as much as their bodies and their emotions/passions. It’s also helpful if you like stories dependent on and thus, full of journal or diary readings. I don’t. Chantel’s journal if read by Gemma throughout the story.
Also, is there something that draws women to visual artists like painters and sculptors? I think there’s an idea or myth that males who practice those artistic forms are more attuned to the female form, can appreciate it and are, therefore, more sensual. That idea seems to be integral part of this story. If you’re into that, then maybe this story will appeal to you more. I was very relieved when the story was over.
This is a tale of a gullible, needy, very sexual female writer named Gemma caught up in her too-quick attraction to Phillipe who enjoys playing “head games”—as she admitted—with her by using his dead ex-lover and obsession, Chantel, as his main tool. Gemma acts as a strong woman when she’s engaging in her journalistic inquiry with Phillipe but at no other time with him. Unfortunately, these moments are brief and too easily concluded when Phillipe turns on his charm or uses his “head games” with her. Additionally, her reason for meeting Phillipe and being at his home, her goal to write a story about him and Chantel, is treated as an afterthought. Not once does she take any notes the few times she asks questions. She’s too busy having sex with him or having sexual fantasies about Chantel or Phillipe or both. Not once does she have any contact with an editor or anyone connected with publishing this story supposedly so desired by the public. This is supposed to be a story of a lifetime, and it’s treated with great nonchalance except as a trope for her being there and having sex with Phillipe. More astounding is the fact that she never expresses any serious concern about being painted nude by Phillipe while being on “the job” as a journalist. Clearly that would be proof of her lack of objectivity and crossing all professional lines while completing her story, but she doesn’t even hint at hit. She makes one statement about her lack of objectivity and then never thinks of it again. I want tell whether or not she actually writes the story.
One example of this story’s many contrivances is this exaggeration: Phillipe is rubbing Gemma’s vaginal area and listeners are told that he can feel her wetness through her pants. Either Gemma has on no pants and/or those are the thinnest pants ever. But we are told that she has on “slacks,” so it’s hardly explainable or plausible. One example of how this story is consistently over-the-top. Also, Phillipe seems to use his negative reputation to keep Gemma from knowing him, from being sure of him, from no longer seeing him as an enigma. Once he told her, “Oh, and Gemma, you should always doubt my intentions.” This was another contrivance, a failed attempt to make Phillipe seem mysterious or something. It was just irritating to me. The story was lessened for me for another reason. It was nothing new. It used statements I’ve heard in too many similar type stories. Things like, “Don’t close your eyes; don’t ever hide from me” and “I want to take you here” [in relation to anal sex] and the ever-present, “greedy pu**y.” Grrrr. Too common. Overdone. It’s so much like much of the romantic-erotica books out there taken to the 1000th degree unnecessarily and unceasingly. A person’s head would explode if she existed in this type of high drama all of the time.
It was also strange that Gemma had no problem getting naked for Phillipe, a complete stranger she’s known for less than a week, so that he can paint her. There was never any indication that she was “free” with her body like that, that she felt no shame in ever showing her body. This is especially strange considering she had studied his paintings of his “obsession,” Chantel, who looked very different from her and had a different type of body, which he clearly found desirable and called “perfection” to Gemma.
I’m unsure if Gemma and Phillipe’s sexual interactions occurred too quickly, if their “relationship” wasn’t really given a chance to develop before sexual acts occur. I think I would’ve liked for things to go slower, to progress with more hesitation, more query and not just one-sided curiosity as was the case here, Gemma’s curiosity. Before their first sex act, Phillipe masturbating Gemma, there was never a clear indication that Phillipe even found Gemma appealing. It didn’t seem to be explained or quite make sense that they were suddenly sexing it up. To use an analogy, it was as though one person was on the far left and another person on the far right, then, all of a sudden, they were together in the middle. But it’s never revealed how they moved from their corners, how the distance between them disappeared, how they got from opposite places to the middle, together.
The sex scenes written about were between Phillipe and Chantel, as told through her diary entries, and Phillipe and Gemma. The story doesn’t waste any time including sex in the story. The first sex was self-masturbation. And this story is full of sex, which usually, I don’t mind. But I tired of it here. The story could’ve been much shorter and, likely, better without so much of it. The first time Gemma and Phillipe have intercourse, Phillipe talks about what it was like having sex with Chantel. I think I get what the author is trying to do by forcing the absent and dead Chantel into Phillipe and Gemma’s “relationship,” but I don’t think the author succeeded beyond adding strangeness, which I don’t think was the author’s intent. Instead, the whole story just came across as exceedingly unhealthy and, as a listener, somewhat boring and very, very tiring.
This story doesn’t end with a HEA. I think the ending was to leave open a sequel. On both points I can say two things: no HEA is appropriate b/c I certainly didn’t have one listening to this story, and, point 2, the sequel doesn’t matter b/c this is my first and last Ella Frank novel.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
I will start by saying that this is a well written story but it did not work for me. I understand dark moments but this book was dark from start to finish without a touch of light at all. There are plenty of erotic scenes in this book but in my opinion there was very little dialog between Gemma and Phillipe so it was hard to sense a building relationship or love. The different POVs were hard to follow as well. Also, it is so strange but I kept feeling like I was listening a historic erotic novel instead of it truly being modern times...I don't want to provide any spoilers to explain that thought so I'll just leave my comment vague. From seeing all the other 5 star reviews I am in the minority and I originally gave this book 4 stars but as time went on I just couldn't sit with that so changed my review to 3 stars. Yes, it is a well written book and based on the reviews there are plenty of people that loved it but again it just didn't work for me. If you like books that are dark from start to finish without a happy-ever-after ending then this is your book.
Angela Starling did a good job with the delivery of the story.
8 of 13 people found this review helpful