Friday, December 25, 2009

Review/Rant: Mirror, Mirror by Amanda McIntyre

Title: Mirror, Mirror
Author: Amanda McIntyre
Genre: Erotic Fiction
Length: Short Story
Published: September 2008
Sensuality: Burning
Setting: Urban/City
Disclosure: Purchased Myself

Unlike those that came before, lover number seventeen left Charlie aching for more, and for the first time, she regretted her and Paul’s arrangement. Theirs was a most unconventional marriage. Unable to enjoy sex firsthand, Charlie’s wealthy husband provided her with a stream of anonymous young, handsome lovers, while cameras hidden behind the mirrors enabled him to enjoy their lovemaking second hand. It was an arrangement that had sustained their marriage, but Charlie was beginning to resent her goldfish bowl lovelife. Then a chance encounter with number seventeen led to the forbidden--a hot session of soul searing sex in a clothing store dressing room, with no prying eyes intruding on her pleasure. Or so she thought. Then things began to turn really surreal, and Charlie discovered nothing was what it seemed.

For most of Mirror, Mirror, it was ... meh. I was interested enough to keep reading, but not terribly invested in the story. As the story wore on, however, I became increasingly curious about how the author was going to create that "satisfying" ending and resolve the conflict. Then the ending came and I wanted to throw the freaking book against the freaking wall. I didn't, but only because it's an e-book and I didn't want to break my Sony Reader. Suffice it to say: I was pissed.

You know those endings which at first surprise you, but then you think back over the story and realize little clues had been dropped along the way, and the ending is actually quite clever? This isn't one of those endings. Hell, this ending isn't even out in left field; it's beyond left field. The main character, Charlie, does something extremely TSTL, then on the next page all the conflict that has been building and building for the entire story is poof! gone. It was like Charlie'd had a total personality transplant and everything she'd been feeling for the last 45 pages was being remembered through glasses so deeply rose-colored as to be opaque.

In addition to it being beyond left field, the optimistic and so-called "satisfying" ending disgusted me on so many levels. But I can't explain that without giving away major spoilers, so if you want to know why you'll have to read the following Rant section.

Grade: F

This rant contains major spoilers, frequent swearing, and irrational anger. Read at your own risk. (Highlight text to read.)

Throughout Mirror, Mirror it becomes increasingly evident that Charlie is not only very unhappy with "whoring herself out" (her words, not mine) for her husband's pleasure -- he's the driving force behind her sleeping with all of these men -- she's also terrified of him. He's extremely controlling -- he literally watches every single move she makes through an elaborate video setup, she's not allowed to go anywhere alone or without permission, he chooses all of the men she has to have sex with -- and she has to constantly be on guard with her facial expressions, emotions, tone of voice, etc. She's terrified of what will happen to her and Lover #17 if Paul ever finds out that she's emotionally attached to this one, as Paul is very wealthy and powerful. It may not be a physically abusive relationship, but it is on every other level. Paul is, to put it mildly, an obsessive, dangerous, controlling stalker.

As the story wears on, and Charlie is feeling more and more desperate, I couldn't figure out how the author was going to realistically get her out of her predicament and have it all end well. What happens is that Lover #17 -- in a complete 180 of his character up to this point -- decides to kidnap Charlie, collect a large ransom, then murder her. He tells her as much when he shows up to kidnap her. And Charlie just goes right along with the plan. Seriously? He tells her he's going to murder her and she doesn't even attempt to save herself? She just follows him like a puppy dog out the door? What. The. Fuck.

But the real what-the-fuckery is when the reader is transported a month in the future to see how it all turned out. At first it seems like Lover #17's plan was to trick Paul by faking the kidnapping and murder, all so Charlie could escape her abusive husband. Uh, no. Turns out, Charlie is still with Paul and Lover #17 is in prison.

Wait, what? Charlie is still with Paul, you say?

Yep, and she's blissfully happy. No, Paul hasn't changed. He's still the obsessive, controlling, stalking emotional abuser who expects her to whore herself out to any man of his choosing. It's just that Charlie has come to realize that Paul's behavior is because he really, truly loves her. *sigh* He's just so wonderful. She's so thankful that he'd secretly implanted a chip in her cell phone, and tracked her down rescued her from the big, bad kidnapper. She's so thankful for his love that she's determined to do anything at all to please him, because pleasing him is the very least she can do after all he's given her. Oh! could her life just get any more perfect? *big sigh*


Was I just transported to some alternate universe where emotional and psychological abuse is the ultimate expression of love? Did I not just spend 45 goddamn pages reading about the heroine's increasing emotional distress and fear? Did I not read about how much she hates living every second of every day under constant scrutiny? How she feels there's no one she can trust because they're all loyal to Paul? How she wants so badly to get away from him, but is too damn afraid of what he'll do? How she's tired of whoring herself out to please him?

I'm supposed to read all of that and then to be satisfied with how Charlie's been lobotomized seen the light and realized that Paul is an abusive psycho just really, really loves her with all of his twisted big heart? I'm supposed to be happy that she's so fucked in the head grateful to Paul for controlling loving her that she's willing to do anything to please him?

Are you fucking kidding me?! I'm supposed to buy that? And be happy about it? I'm about as happy about that ending as I would be if I stepped in a big pile of dog crap.

Merry fucking Christmas to me.

Okay, yeah, I'm still a little pissed. And not a little irrational. But I'm done now. I feel much better. I've mentally thrown the book at the wall at least half a dozen times, but it's not the same, you know? I just really needed to get all that off my chest. So, uh, thanks for putting up with me reading.


SusiSunshine said...

I'm so proud of you that you not smashed your sony at the wall. I probably would have!
Sounds horrible and not at least thought through. Admire your selfrestraint! LOL
Hope the rest of your Xmas reads are better!
Frohe Weihnachten!

Keira of LoveRomancePassion said...

Wow... just wow. WTF indeed. You need something so incredibly fluffy you turn into a marshmallow right now. Hugs.

Katie Mack said...

Susi - LOL, thanks. At least I read a good book right before this one. :)

Keira - I think I'm going to read A Virgin River Christmas next, which should provide the needed comfort. :)

Wendy said...

Wow. This one might win. I read a Spice Brief earlier this year that warped my fragile little mind - but at least it didn't try to deliver a traditional HEA. Sounds like this one did - and that's where it all went horribly, horribly wrong.

Lynn Spencer said...

Wow - that tops even the very worst Spice I've ever read.

Katie Mack said...

Wendy - I would have been okay with just about any ending other than that one. If she and #17 had faked her death and run away together, or if she had just figured out some other way to escape her husband even without #17, all that would have been fine. The story would have ended up in the C-range. But since by the end I just wanted to escape her husband, having her stay with him seriously pissed me off.

Also, since I've been working my way through the Spice Briefs, I'd like to know which one warped your mind so I may avoid it. ;)

Lynn -- F reads are very, very rare for me, so yeah, at this point Mirror, Mirror is at the top of Worst Spice I've Read.

Wendy said...

Katie: It was Tonight, My Love by Tracie Sommers.

Katie Mack said...

Thanks Wendy. I figured you reviewed it for TGTBTU, so I went over and read the review. Now I'm morbidly curious about Franny's fate, but definitely not curious enough to have any desire to read it. I'm also very thankful for the warning, as that's one I probably would have read.

Lynn Spencer said...

BTW, I forgot to mention it before, but Amanda McIntyre has also written some good Spice. Her story in the Winter's Desire anthology is pretty good and I liked Diary of Cozette. Cozette is chockfull of anachronisms, but still a good story.

Katie Mack said...

Lynn -- Thanks for the recs. I'm always very hesitant to try an author again after an experience like this, so it's good to hear some positive remarks.