2 out of 4 stars
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H.M. Irwing's Heartaches 2: Bad Boy Vibes is the second installment in a series revolving around Anna Simmons and Rafael 'Rafe' Brown. Anna, who'd been raped by her ex-boyfriend and his family, is trying to move on from the trauma. Rafe is also trying to overcome his rape at the hands of his ex-boyfriend. The battered and bruised couple turn to each other for support and healing while planning their revenge.
Unfortunately, there is not a single thing I liked about Heartaches 2. I actually struggled to finish reading it. There were a number of errors, the writing often felt awkward and clunky, there was entirely too much focus on character's eyes, and there is a rape disguised as sexy intercourse.
The errors that occur within the novel, while not overly abundant, add to the poor writing and make it clear that the book was either not edited, or it was poorly edited. Most of the mistakes are simple ones that could have been avoided had a dictionary been consulted. For example, the author uses "trashed" instead of "thrashed" to describe Anna's movements as she fights Rafe off her when he attacks during a nightmare. Other examples I noted include the use of "remanence" when it should be "remnants" and "acquisition" which should be "acquiescence."
Then there's the author's overuse of fragments to add emphasis, many of which start with "but." There is a place and time to use fragmented sentences, but too much of this novel has fragments, most of which don't succeed in emphasizing points or dramatizing responses. I'll also be the first to say that I use sentences that begin with "and" or "but," though I try to limit those instances (especially in my reviews). Irwing didn't limit themself. There are 290 sentences that begin with "but." That's an astronomical number considering the copy of the novel I received is only 152 pages.
Now, we've all heard the saying "eyes are the windows to the soul," and it can be true. Eyes are especially important to romance novels for this very reason. A person's eyes can show hurt, distrust, lust, love, laughter, anger, and any emotion in between. It's important to realize, though, that the eyes aren't the only important element. Irwing, unfortunately, only focuses on the characters' eyes. That's not to say there's a blatant disregard for describing any other gestures or scenes, but those are lacking in comparison. There's also never a definitive answer to what color Anna's and Rafe's eyes are. In the opening of Heartaches 2, Anna's eyes are "shimmering emeralds." That's a distinct, beautiful description, but later Anna's eyes have become "evergreen depths," then change again to a forest green. In the opening, his eyes are "dark depths." It's vague, but leaves things open. A few pages later Rafe's eyes are "melted chocolates," then become tawny, then aren't tawny but have tawny specks in them instead. These are all noticeably different colors, and not exactly interchangeable. People's eyes change colors, but the change is not that different and certainly not within seconds.
To give a good idea of my frustration with the writing and the overuse of eye descriptions (and even more eye color changes), here's a spoiler free passage that I think shows the author's clunky writing pretty well:
I think this could be a really poignant point in the novel, but it falls flat. The chalice description comes out of nowhere and feels awkward to me. Anna’s and Rafe’s eyes are each two different colors in this paragraph alone, too. I understand that Irwing is tying to show the couple is hurt and upset, but it could have been handled so much better.Rafe met her shards of emerald head-on and shivered to find the visible cracks forming in their midst. The broken chalice was not quite as whole as it once was. It was, in fact, swiftly disintegrating. A muddy hue swept in past the crystal green to awash it in ebony. A murky jade stared back at him only a moment later after what had seemed an eternity. Pain and regret were all that was reflected to her.
The most appalling part of Heartaches 2 is that the author spent all of Heartaches setting up and using rape as a major trauma in Anna’s and Rafe’s lives, then spent Heartaches 2 portraying how rape took its toll on them both, only to completely undermine the efforts by writing a rape scene thinly veiled as sexy. Near the end of the novel, we’re introduced to maid Suzi, who enters the bedroom of her sleeping employer early one morning. Suzi sees the man has an erection, mounts him, and proceeds to have sex with him. He does wake up and participates, but prior to that he is sound asleep, meaning he can not give consent. That is absolutely rape no matter how you try to disguise it.
Overall, I give this novel a rating of 2 out of 4 stars. From awkward, clunky writing, dependency on descriptions of eyes, and (not so) “sexy” rape, this novel has its problems. This is not the worst story I’ve read, but it needs help. I think with a proper editor, this could be turned into an interesting tale.
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