Aug 18, 2008

Does flannel turn you on? Well? Does it?

Paradise County
by Karen Robards

Sure, I said I was going to read The Betrayal of Bonnie, but when it came right down to it, Karen Robards started to look all enticing again. I can't explain it, especially considering Karen Robards single-handedly inspired the books to avoid tag when I read Hunter's Moon. I think I was convinced this was the book for me when I went to its Amazon page and found reviews simply stating "ew."

Also, according to the Amazon page, Paradise County's "sensuality rating" is an eight. I didn't really know what this meant, considering Amazon has no guideline that I could find that lists what is to be expected from a book with a sensuality rating of eight. If this is on a scale from one to ten, ten being explicit sex on each page and one being accidental skin contact resulting in innocent blushing, Amazon doesn't say and thus I was intrigued enough to find out for myself.

So, one of the summaries I found that is shorter than having to type the ridiculously long (for this book) summary on the book jacket:

Grief-stricken at her father's suicide and struggling to cope with the collapse of the family businesses, photographer Alexandra Haywood travels to her family's thoroughbred horse farm in Paradise County, Kentucky. She cannot understand why her father would take his life, and her journey to Whistledown Farm is driven by her need for answers as well as the need to sell the farm. Sparks fly when she encounters farm manager Joe Welch, and Alexandra is yanked from the cold lethargy of grief that has gripped her emotions since her father's death. She doesn't want to be attracted to the handsome, difficult man but her hormones refuse to cooperate. Joe doesn't want to crave the gorgeous blond who intends to sell the farm and destroy his dreams, but he, too, has no choice.

The two have bigger problems, however, when a crazed killer whose heinous crimes have gone undetected in Paradise County for many years targets Alexandra. Before Joe can save her, his own son and her young sister may also fall victim to the madman.
On the book jacket, Alex is referred to as a "rich rhymes-with-witch." That's really the only thing I'd like to point out there. Also, the county isn't actually called "Paradise." It's Shelby County (Motto: Good Land, Good Living, Good People). People just love it so much they call it Paradise.

Moving on, Joe wakes up one night and suspects that something is wrong. Immediately he thinks this is parental intuition telling him one of this three children is off being unruly and/or disobedient. Thrilled with the opportunity to be a disciplinarian, Joe hunts down all of his children, shocked to find them all in the house. I deduce from this that Joe is not a very good father. Plus, what is it with Karen Robards needing to have main characters with tons of kids? Especially when the book has a sensuality rating of eight? (Whatever that means.)

So he decides that since he's up he's going to check the horses. This naturally leads to the discovery of a body, who happens to be his boss. And it's a suicide. Or so they think. Naturally, because they think it's a suicide, you know it's not a suicide. Especially when every so often a chapter comes along that's told from the viewpoint of "the predator." The predator slips out of the barn and is kind of annoyed because things didn't go according to plan, so he has to go taser some kids at a rest stop. Bully for him.

Anyway, we skip forward a few weeks to Alex, the dead guy's daughter. She's pretty much liquidating everything because her dad sucks at business and was going bankrupt. The farm is last on her list of things to deal with, and she wants to do it personally because if she brought her lawyers with her that would have probably gotten in the way of the potential sex she could have with Joe, the farm's trainer or foreman or only worker on the place. Now that I think about it. He's really the only one there. So she meets with Joe and he immediately doesn't like her and really doesn't like it when she basically fires him on the spot. Then he remembers that he has this contract thing that means he can't be fired until next December. Alex is not impressed because she has no money to pay him with anyway and essentially tells him to go to hell. But then her asshole fiance has to call so he can randomly tell her that he got married yesterday to someone who is richer than her. One cannot climb the social ladder with a girl who has a bankrupted, dead father, after all.

And then Alex's half-sister, Neely, magically appears from her boarding school to tell Alex what she already knows and that Joe is "sex on a stick." Neely, unfortunately, is going to be sticking around for the remainder of the book. As soon as the two girls decide to stay the night in the house, weird things start happening and Alex gets knocked over the head, resulting in a wild dash out of the house in the rain to Joe's house, which is conveniently located at the bottom of the hill. Because it's November, Alex is all wet and chilled and woozy. This, naturally, means they both have to get in the shower. This, naturally, leads to sexual awakenings. Although there is no comfort-turned-sex, thankfully. Instead he takes her to the hospital like a sensible person.
On the way to the hospital, she sees a person on the second floor porch. Joe thinks this isn't possible. Alex thinks it might be the ghost of her dead father. Or the person who knocked her out. Either way, they don't find it and the next day they have sex because...well, I don't really know why. They just do because it seems like a good idea and she doesn't want to regret not having sex with him, I guess. But then she sort of says her ex's name and he gets all pissy again. The mood is killed, so he tells her to get her crap together because the power is out in the house and she can't stay there without power and she refuses and then they wind up chasing each other around the house, which gets interrupted by Neely. So she does have a purpose after all, which is to save us from Joe and Alex killing each other.

Instead of staying with Joe, Alex hauls Neely off to the Dixie Inn. The predator is thrilled about this, calling the inn "ground zero," as I guess he has tiny cameras in each room. This would suggest that he lives there or owns the inn, which sort of kills the mystery of who the guy is. Anyway, Alex gets a letter the next day (she's been in there a grand total of two days) because the phones have been out for a whole day, making this letter (its existence possible only because the lines are down) the fastest delivered letter on the face of the earth. The letter is from Alex's lawyer, who tells her all about this story the papers are running in Philadelphia about how Alex's dad is a jerk, and tells her to stay in Kentucky for a while longer because reporters are camped out at her house in Philly. Like they don't know about the farm and can't camp out there? Well, whatever. She decides to stay in Kentucky, giving her time to go to a bonfire by way of wagon for the local high school's upcoming basketball game.

Meanwhile, Joe learns his ex-wife died. I didn't care.

So they get in the wagon and hay ride their way to the bonfire, where they discover that they should really take the next few weeks to discover if they can stand each other. They arrive at the bonfire with the kids, proceed to abandon the kids, and troop off into the woods. You know what this means? It's time for wilderness sex! On a picnic table. Who knows where that table came from. Anyway, they are interrupted by Neely and Joe's oldest kid, Eli, who are smoking pot in the woods and drinking beer. The world ends. Then Joe's dad manages to get completely belligerently drunk and makes a scene. The world ends again. Joe yells at Eli to take Neely home while he and Alex take his dad back to his house. Drama ensues some more as his dad keeps yelling and basically wrestles with the sheriff as they try to force him into the car.

Meanwhile, the predator is just having the best time of his life. He's at the farm house in Alex's room, setting up cameras everywhere. Only then Neely and Eli have to interrupt him. He's not so thrilled anymore.

As Eli and Neely are dealing with the crazy guy, Joe and Alex have determined that they are in love. More sex happens while Joe's dad sleeps it off in the other room. The predator takes Eli and Neely down to the basement of the farm house, where he has apparently set up shop with no one noticing, and shoots Eli. Yeah, don't worry too much. Eli just bleeds a lot, but fails to die. Neely puts up a fight, and inspired by a disembodied voice that sounds like her father, she takes off one of her socks and ties it around the neck of their cat, who I guess followed them down into the basement.

So, taking a break from the craziness for a minute, I had to wonder exactly what she expected the cat to do. Realistically. Fictionally, the cat ran back up to the main floor and alerted Alex to the insanity happening in the basement. Would a cat do this in the real world? Well, I've got a cat, and I decided to test the theory on her. This was the result:

So, this is Phoebe with a blue sock tied loosely around her neck. Notice her uncomfortable sitting position. This is what I call Phase One.

Phoebe protests the sock. This is Phase Two. Phase Two lasts a matter of seconds.

This is Phase Three. Phoebe plops onto the ground, looks uncomfortable, and glares at me. She's moved all of one square foot, mainly during her brief attempt to struggle, before deciding to put up with it and humor me. Don't worry, I took the sock off right after this photo and she's now busy grooming herself on the sofa. Perhaps she'll get some tuna later as a reward.

Having completed my experiment, I have determined that a cat would never allow someone to tie a sock around its neck with expectations that it would walk up a flight of stairs. Supernatural forces must have been at work. As it turns out, they are.

Alex find the sock, but can't do much because the predator emerges from a closet or something and attacks her. He hauls her into the basement and taunts her for a while before telling her his grand plan, which I guess was to lock her up in the basement and have deviant sex with her until he got sick of it and eventually burned her alive. Only then Joe shows up. Sensing that his plan has gone awry, the predator (who is the owner of the Dixie Inn, but we really don't care enough to take note of this) sets everything on fire and goes back to the inn. Only everyone escapes and lives and because the killer was stupid the police find him without having to do much work. It also turns out that the killer guy had killed dozens of people and was keeping their bodies stored in a passageway leading from the basement. You would think the whole house would smell considering there were twenty-four bodies in there, but nope. Then Joe and Alex get married and this horse that Joe's dad is all crazy for wins an important race at Gulfstream.

Also, Alex's father is now at peace and he can go float away to heaven now. Apparently he was the person she saw on the balcony that night. So he waves at her and Neely and then drifts off. Seriously.

Possibly interesting, but more probably confusing points:
  • Sucking on someone's tongue. Is this possible, and, more importantly, would you be turned on or disturbed if it happened to you?
  • Sucking on body parts through cashmere. Again, is this a turn on or weird?
  • Describing someone's weight as "a body bag full of wet cement" when they're on top of you...a turn on or disturbing? You know, just forget it. Please.
  • "Daddy Studmuffin. You did him. I can tell." Wow. I just don't have words.
  • The way to a man's heart was through his dick, and anyone who didn't know that didn't know crap about men. Really. I enjoy it when romance novels are as blatantly stereotypical as humanly possible. Karen is really good at this.
  • She actually used the phrase "rocked her world." And here is where I should stop reading. Of course, I'm not going to. However, for the record, I am skimming at this point.
  • Mouths in this book are always "hot and wet and demanding" or "hot and wet and devastating."
  • He was hot, sweaty, and his breath was stertorous in her ear. Okay, let's pick out the word that is most awkward in this sentence. Did you pick "stertorous?" Good! Now, pick up a dictionary. Stertor means "a heavy snoring sound accompanying respiration in certain diseases." I really don't think that's what Karen was going for. Even outside of pathology, it basically means the guy is snoring. Yet...he is awake? Joe is a mysterious man who may or may not have lung disease, I guess.
  • Everyone wears flannel at some point in this book, and Joe especially likes it because he wears it all the time. I haven't been more annoyed at the repetition of the word "flannel" before now.'s actually better than Hunter's Moon. But, you know, that doesn't say anything at all.


Molly said...

Okay, the tongue-sucking thing? I've seen it come up before, and it always sounds like the GROSSEST THING EVER. Plus you'd have to have a really long tongue for that to even work...

sundae_mourning said...

i'll go out on a limb and say that i enjoy tongue-sucking when it's done properly. which is not all the time.

sundae_mourning said...

oh, and i forgot to say that i totally adore the pictorial of Phoebe and the sock. it almost makes me want to try it with Whitey, though knowing him, he'll decide it's too much effort to remove and just flop down with it still tied on.

Mara said...

You definitely should try it out with Whitey and report back. My experiment is a little weak with only one cat to try this sock thing out on. ;)