Monday, November 6, 2017

Jen's Review: Devil's Gamble

Devil's Gamble by Michele Arris
Publisher: Crimson Romance (November 13, 2017)
Series: Tarnished Billionaires, 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance

The tantalizing Tarnished Billionaires series scorches on with book two, starring a bred-to-be-bad hero longing to make good for love.

Sienna Keller saw how men used her mother, and from an early age she swore she’d never allow it to happen to her. So when she meets smooth-talking billionaire Gavin Crane, who uses his connections to help her art career, she resolves to keep things strictly professional—no matter how gorgeous he is.

Gavin might be the son of the head of the Kavanagh organized crime family, but he wants no part of that life. It’s important to him to prove to Sienna that he’s a good guy. But when she winds up in the hospital with a gunshot wound, he is driven to exact revenge. His father agrees to provide security to watch over her as well as find the man who shot her, but at a cost—Gavin must come back into the family business.

As Sienna begins to let her guard down around Gavin, seeing the kind, caring man he’s always wanted her to see, his secrets begin to pile up. Has she done the one thing she vowed never to do—trusted her heart to the wrong man?

Sensuality Level: Spicy

Where to Buy*:
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Jen's Review:

I'll be honest, I struggled a bit with this one. Devil’s Gamble is the story of artist Sienna Keller and a man she (kinda) works with named Gavin Crane. Early in the book, Sienna is shot during a break-in at her home, and Gavin offers to have her stay with him while she recovers. I’ve been thinking a lot about why this particular book didn’t work for me, because it just pushed so many of my own personal buttons.

A recent conversation with Jaime Green helped me realize something important about myself as a romance reader. I vehemently agree that the HEA is the key element of romance, but for me, there’s another non-negotiable element. The romantic partners must be equals. Specifically, in a M/F (or MMF, or MFM, or MFF!) romance, the heroine has to be an equal in the story, and she must have agency. Give some alpha-male hero and I won’t blink an long as the heroine is his match. I need all the characters to have their own desires, goals, and dreams and the WILL to pursue them. I’m not interested in wishy-washy characters; I’m downright offended by wishy-washy heroines. Every heroine doesn’t need to be a badass, but she does need to be actively working on whatever the fuck is important to her.

And that leads me to my problem with Devil’s Gamble, Sienna spends most of the book sitting around reacting to Gavin’s decisions, but making very few of her own. My frustration was only compounded by the fact that the hero is doing that “lying to protect her” thing. After Sienna is shot, Gavin goes to his mobster family to secure protection for her. He finds and beats the crap out of her attacker. Gavin has many conversations with many different people who encourage him to tell Sienna the truth...and yet...he doesn't. For a really long time. It’s not a good look for Gavin, and it created an edge of unlikeability that never went away. He comes off as a patriarchal, controlling douchebag who think he knows best for her.

The whole front half, with her recovering from a gunshot wound, had an unclear timeline and plotting that defied reality. It reads like a snowbound plot where she can't leave, only it never feels believable. At one point, Sienna is convinced he is having an affair, but she doesn’t leave his apartment. Any time I find myself asking the characters questions, I know the plot isn’t working for me: Sienna, you’re in Georgetown, if you think he’s cheating on you, why don’t you go downstairs, get in a cab, and go home? Gavin, you’re rolling in cash. If you want to protect Sienna without getting mixed up with your mobster family, why didn’t you just hire bodyguards?  Most of the plot consisted of Gavin acting in ways that prevented him from achieving his stated goals, and Sienna just reacting to him. It didn’t feel like real conflict, it felt like machinations to prolong the plot until it was long enough to be a novel.

I think overall the writing was strong, and that’s probably what kept me going with it as long as I did. There was one glaring exception. Very early on, Gavin describes Sienna, who is half-black and half-Asian American, as having "slant-angled" eyes. This honestly floored me since it is such racially charged language, similar to "exotic" in that even if an author swears it's neutral, it's just isn’t to the people who have been on the receiving end of those words. I don’t know what else to say about that, but it was there and I noticed it.

This book has a lot of good things going for it, and I’m sure that it will find an audience. For me, the lying and the plot holes were tough hurdles to overcome. I wanted more for Sienna, and more for myself as a reader.


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Jen received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher.

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Thanks for the review, Jen! It's always hard when a book has potential that doesn't deliver.

Also, I'm side-eyeing the "slanted-eyes" comment. Thank you for pointing that out here.

The line about heroines needing to have a purpose and whatnot? THAT TIMES A MILLION. Which can tie back into the unlikeable heroine conversation from last week

What do you think? Does this one sound like your kind of romance or would the things Jen pointed out bother you, too?


Until Next Time,

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