I wish to finish the romance novel commentary, this time on the book Untamed, by Nora Roberts. It is by far, one of the (if not THE) worst books I have ever read. And to that list I include the ‘’books’’ I tried to write as a teenager, so the bar is pretty high.*
I’m reposting the plot, just in case anyone missed it.
Plot: Jo Wilder had the heart of a lion and the temper of a wildcat. And when Keane Prescott crossed her path, she bared her claws (we get it, she is a fierce feline woman). Jo was certain her charming new boss imperiled everything she cared for, but she couldn’t deny the attraction between them. Though Keane’s kisses left her breathless, it was his tenderness that threatened to tame her heart (cause, you know, she is Untamed).
The book was written in the 80’s and takes place in a traveling circus. Not a Cirque de Soleil, cute acrobat circus. No. It is a full on, animal show circus, along with a couple of acrobats.
Cringe. It gets worse.
Jo (whose real fucking name is Jovilette, if you can believe it) is a lion tamer**. She grew up in the circus and inherited her talent from her father, also a lion torturer tamer. Both her parents are dead, of course. She is a 20something beauty,*** who has time to read truckloads of books,**** tame (sorry, torture train) her lions, do her routine, participate as an acrobat and be funny and apparently amazing.
The book opens with the news that the son of the recently deceased owner, a father figure to them all, will come to inspect his property. He is a high profile, young, successful Chicago lawyer and everyone in the circus is unsure about their future. Jo swears her hatred towards that unknown man. While putting up the main tent for their show, Jo, atop an elephant, spots a handsome man in the crowd. She talks to him, gives him a ride with her elephant, they flirt.
DUN DUN DUUUUUN It turns out he is the new owner. Who knew?
I will not bore you with the flirting details, because, honestly, who cares. They have chemistry, she hates him, or at least tries to stay honest with her hate commitments, he is charming and ooooh so very, very painfully masculine and he sticks around while trying to decide whether he’ll keep the circus or not.
I swear to you, the most compelling character was some dude who is a clown, has a heart of gold and speaks a total of four times.
While Keanan lurks around at the circus, he bonds and aggressively flirts with Jo. He crosses the line of sexual harassment so many times, it’s not even funny. The line is a dot to him midway through the book. At some point Jo (the untamed, brave one) thinks to herself something along the lines of: oh well, what can I do with his advances, I don’t think I can resist, he is my boss after all.
The peak of his rapey vibe comes when one of the lions dies of old age, or of just giving up on life.****** Jo is distraught and something goes wrong during her torture training session. She gets attacked by one of her lions, who apparently had it with her. She gets a few cuts, described, very confusingly, shallow and deep at the same time, and she is in shock etc. Keanan takes her to her caravan, to tend for her, where she soon falls asleep. She wakes up, in her bed and wearing her jammies. When she asks him what happened and why she had no recollection of her falling asleep he blurts out THAT HE PUT A SLEEPING PILL IN HER DRINK.
HE FUCKING ROOFIED HER.
Not cool bro. Not cool.
He drugged her, got her naked and put her to sleep, like a creep. How can I NOT imagine that he raped her as well? Or maybe he stared at her while feverishly masturbating.
She asked, why didn’t he ask for her permission and he replies something along the lines of: You wouldn’t have agreed.
OF COURSE SHE WOULDN’T, YOU FUCKING CREEP.
She meekly accepts that and goes on loving him, while at the same time being in conflict with herself, since her life is freedom and the circus and she wouldn’t change it for the world. She really stresses that point when he decides to go back to his normal life.
IF the book ended there, it would have been the 80s roofie fantasy we all needed and craved for, where the woman remains intact as a person, and goes on with her life, taming (sorry, torturing training) her lions*******.
The book ends with her finding him at his extremely 80’s home (that even has a white fur rug, or at least I imagine it does), and asking him to allow her to become his mistress. She is willing to leave her life at the circus that she so much loves and swore would never abandon.
He be like, ok.
The (outrageous) end.
I acknowledge that the book was written in the olden days, but, COME ON. The sexism, the cringe, the roofie, all of it…
A plus was the fact that she researched circus life and it was depicted fairly well.
But, COME ON. I would be inclined to forget all the above had she stayed true to her beliefs and need of freedom. But no, she had to chase the man and become his mistress (not even his wife, mistress, although he was not married).
*I shit you not, they were a take on Charmed, with 5 sisters who discovered their magic powers. I wrote I think 2 and a half books before I realized that is was extremely shit. I have kept all of it, in its handwritten glory, and I intent to post some (translated to English) parts.
** She claims lion torturer trainer, which makes things soooooo much better, I guess.
***I was expecting big, curly hair, given the period it was written, but I was pleasantly
surprised when I read that Jo had straight hair, escaping the norm. That was the only pleasant surprise in the book. There were many unpleasant ones.
**** She speaks like, five languages, so she tries to read books in the original language they were written.
****** Did I mention that the lions come from Africa, born free and then captured, only to spend a lifetime in the circus. COME ON Roberts! Make them at least born in captivity, to ease the fucking blow. Every time the lions were mentioned, I cringed so hard, I thought my face would freeze like that.
******* Which, by the way, refers to as ‘cats’. Serves her right for these shallow and deep cuts.