Posted by: Andrea | December 1, 2009

The Harlequin by Laurell Hamilton



So does anyone remember back when Anita Blake used to actually solve murders?  Yeah me too.  I miss that.  Oh, and she also used to avoid having sex with vampires.  I miss that too.

I’m not going to lie, I LOVE a good paranormal romance.  Though technically Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series was around before there was a ‘paranormal romance’ section in book stores.  The Anita Blake series was my first introduction to modern paranormal stories and I loved them all immediately.  Anita is a necromancer who raises zombies for a living, since all the paranormal stuff is ‘out of the coffin’ now (to steal a term from True Blood.  Which I also love, but that’s another post entirely).  Wereanimals and vampires and a ton of other things besides are all real and all just trying to live their lives in normal society.  Anita also happens to be a vampire executioner and a federal marshall in her spare time, which includes assisting the police to solve paranormal crimes and hunting down and killing rogue vampires. The stories were interesting and witty and had fighting and crime solving and a female lead.  Anita was tough and strong and could shoot guns and fight bad guys.  What more is there to love?  The series is full of male eye-candy (well as much eye candy as you can have in a book) but Anita was always completely against casual sex.  She didn’t succumb to the flirty guys even though they all seemed to lust after her constantly (OF COURSE).

Anita isn’t exactly relatable due to all the zombie raising and vampire hunting and killing.  But she also was constantly being underestimated by the men around her due to her size (she’s just over five feet tall) and the fact that she’s a woman, which did ring true to me.  In a lot of ways Anita was able to be the smart-ass that I always wished I could be when people underestimate me.  Everyone can relate to being misunderstood or discounted, especially in work situations.  The police cases were also interesting mysteries with some sort of new and scary paranormal bad guy in each book.

And….then Anita decided to have sex with one of the main vampire dudes.  And then the books started to royally suck.

It was really unfortunate, actually, because I so enjoyed these books.  Don’t get me wrong, these are not works of literature, but they were the ultimate guilty pleasure books for me.  At least for the first five or six books Hamilton attempted to make them about a mystery with an actual plot.  Now?  In her latest book, The Harlequin, Anita spends 400 pages having sex with multiple partners, talking about EVERYTHING (I don’t think Hamilton has ever heard the term ‘show don’t tell’) and having paranormal visions about vampires and werewolves that ultimately do nothing to advance the plot.  There no longer even IS a plot that I can determine.  My mind boggles that Hamilton manages to fill so many pages with such utter rubbish.  How can I have read 150 pages and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED?!

Of course, this is the FIFTEENTH book in the series and I’m still reading them.  Yes, I’m pathetic.  But at least I got this one at the library.  I refuse to pay money for them anymore.  The thing that bugs me the most is they are SO badly written.  I think they’ve probably always been badly written but at least the plots were engaging enough that I didn’t mind.  Now?  OH I MIND.

See here’s the thing.  Ok here’s the first thing, anyway.  I find Anita’s characterisation  extremely juvenile now.  Or as if she’s written by a juvenile.  Hamilton goes to extreme lengths to describe how sexy Anita is and how every man in her vicinity wants to have sex with her at every opportunity.  And yet Anita spends the majority of the book downplaying her appearance, seemingly so that men can tell her all the time how gorgeous she is.  There’s even an entire chapter that goes into intense detail about how Anita wasn’t wearing a bra at one point and she had to wear a tight tee shirt.  Why do I need to know this?  How is this advancing the story?  Is her lack of a bra going to somehow tie into the non-existent plot?  Are her bra-less boobs going to suddenly burst out of her shirt and distract the bad guy?  No?  Then I don’t need to know about it.  SHUT UP HAMILTON.  It just reminds me of the stories I used to write when I was twelve and was intensely insecure with boys.  None of the boys I crushed on would ever come up to me in class and tell me how gorgeous I was, so I’d just write a story about a thinly-veiled version of myself and have those guys go up and tell HER!  Genius!  Except not.  And do you think it’s a coincidence that Hamilton is also just over five feet tall and bears a resemblance to Anita?  I THINK NOT.

Second thing, I wasn’t kidding when I said Hamilton depends excessively on dialogue passages to pad out her book.  The amount of dialogue is unbelievable, and goes a long way to explain why so little actually happens in the plot.  It’s because all they do is stand around talking!  Usually about Anita’s relationships, which is SO BORING when she’s dating about six different men and they all have problems.  I can’t even keep track of all these guys and I’m supposed to care about all the different ways they’re not emotionally fulfilled?  The dialogue also comes across extremely stilted, with people sharing far more information than would seem normal and in very odd ways just so that the conversations can delve deeper into all the emotional problems.  I was desperate for Anita to get distracted and go kill someone just so something could happen, anything!

On a related topic, as I said before there was FAR too much ‘telling’ and not enough ‘showing.’  Anita would constantly make a statement, and then follow it up with ‘they just would’ or ‘it just would.’  For example: But if their sons could be as powerful as Thea, or even close, then suddenly Samuel’s family would rule the East Coast.  They just would.    I felt like we as readers were supposed to read that and think, ‘oh, ok Anita, if you say so!’  It bugged me.  A LOT.

Oh, and, if Anita says one more time that someone ‘let me see in his face’ some ridiculously complicated emotion that would be almost impossible to just ‘show’ on your face, I will throw that book across the room.  Anita does a lot of ‘letting people see’ things in her face, which just makes me want to vomit.  STOP TAKING SHORTCUTS AND WRITE ACTUAL DESCRIPTIONS.  God.

Breathe…I am breathing…

There aren’t a lot of books that make me as infuriated as Hamilton’s books do.  Maybe the Twilight books, but then I only read the first one before I did literally throw that book across the room and vow, NO MORE.  Alas, I just can’t give up on Anita even though it PAINS ME how much these books suck now.  They are complete and utter crap and yet I’m still reading.

But you don’t have to!  If you’ve seen these books on the ‘paranormal romance’ shelf of your local bookstore, don’t make the same mistake I did!  You’ll get sucked in too, you’ll think these books are good, but trust me.  As soon as Anita and Jean-Claude get it on, RUN AWAY!  It’s all downhill from there.

p.s.  Try Kelley Armstrong, if you want a good paranormal romance.  LOVE HER.


Responses

  1. I read Twilight, hated it. Then got talked into reading New Moon, which was much, much better. Her writing even improved. So, thought I’d give Eclipse a try. Back to hating it. She could have ended there. But no! She had to write Breaking Dawn. My teen dared me to read it, so I have. Really, the only thing it’s good for is starting a fire. Honestly, I’d love to burn the book. And I have never felt that way about a book before.

    Stephenie Meyer, if you’re paying attention here, DON’T MESS WITH ACCEPTED VAMPIRE LORE, especially since that lore has been around longer than you!

  2. ooh, would that be awesome if Stephenie Meyer was hanging around reading my blog? I may just have to write that review of Twilight I was considering writing!

  3. Will it be a scathing review? I mistakenly shocked my MIL over Thanksgiving by bluntly telling her what I think of the entire series.

  4. Oh it would be SCATHING. I can honestly say there is nothing about that book I liked. I spent the entire time rolling my eyes in disgust.

  5. But, you HAD to keep reading, didn’t you? Like me, you have a hard time walking away from a book once you start it? I hope you didn’t buy the entire series first like I did because now I feel obligated to read them all. Maybe I’ll have a small party where I toss them into the fireplace… Probably not, but they really are that horrid of a read!

  6. Heya, I found this site through Oregonsunshine’s blogroll.

    #1: I wish this was my blog. If it were, that would mean I was actually an American living in Scotland, instead of someone who just daydreams about it.

    #2: I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH EVERY SINGLE THING IN THIS POST. I know I’m a little late to the party (you blogged this a year ago!), but GAAAAH. The series used to be good– if not good for you, then at least entertaining. I think I stopped reading somewhere around Harlequin— I can’t even remember. It’s was the book where Jason goes back to visit his dad… I (stupidly) bought it brand new in the hardback form from the bookstore. I dont’ usually spend that much on books, but at the time I was in dire need of some good escapist fiction. I opened the book and started in chapter 1… that’s the chapter where Jason starts going on about how sad he is that:

    A: His dad is dying and he feels like he doesn’t know him.

    and

    B: His old girlfriend only liked to have sex in the bedroom, so he hadn’t done it any other room in quite awhile.

    Obviously, we both know which problem was more horrifying and need of being rectified by Anita. Five or six pages later, Anita and some other dude are STILL doing creepy, kinky things with Jason, and I had a moment of clarity. “Why am I putting this crap in my brain hopes of finding some sort of a plot hundreds of pages down the road?”

    I actually threw the book away. It’s one of the only books I never finished and definitely the only brand-new book I’ve ever tossed in the trash.

    At any rate, if you’re looking for an Anita Blake-type heroine, read the Mercedes Thompson series by Patrica Briggs. If you don’t particularly care that the hero be female, read the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

    At any rate, I’m enjoying reading through your archives. Thanks for the distraction from an otherwise boring day!

  7. Hi Becky, thanks for stopping by! I haven’t heard of the books you recommended but I’ll definitely check them out. I’m always interested in new fantasy/paranormal books to try.

    And i know it’s totally stupid and weak of me, but I DO want to keep reading Laurell Hamilton’s Merry Gentry books. There’s a new one out and so far I’ve managed to keep myself from buying it because they’re almost as bad as the Anita books. I think there’s something slightly OCD about me where I just have to find out how the series ends. It’s a sickness really.

  8. FINALLY!

    I found your blog that one day, read through tons of your archives, commented…

    and then promptly lost the address. I’ve been googling you ever since, trying to find this blog again🙂

    I feel the same way about wanting to know how the series ends. In addition, the sad fact is that Hamilton’s writing is actually really good. She creates memorable characters who have great personalities and I love her dialogue (usually.) If she could just clean up her act a little, I’d be happy to call her my favorite “being bad” author (authors of books that you read, even though you really don’t benefit from the material at all.) SIGH.

    I HATED the Twilight series, and if you did as well, then you’ll probably enjoy reading through Dan Bergstein’s “Blogging Twilight”. He’s just an average guy who reads through the series and blogs about it chapter by chapter. He’s pretty humorous and it’s great for a laugh🙂

    I will say that I enjoyed The Host by Meyer. I’m almost embarrassed I did, but there you go.

    Congrats on the upcoming nuptials.

    PS: I just have to know—- is Scotland really as pretty as it seems in photos and movies? It seems impossible that a place could be so consistently gorgeous.

  9. Scotland is very very beautiful, in certain parts of it. You really can’t beat it for consistently gorgeous scenery, no matter what time of year. However, there are also very ugly parts of its cities, plus it seems like Scottish people haven’t exactly gotten the hang of not littering or of picking up after their dogs. SO MUCH dog crap all over the streets, it’s disgusting. However, as long as you get out of the big cities, pretty much everywhere is beautiful.

    I’m SO disappointed in Hamilton! She IS such a good writer, she proved that when she started writing her Anita books. Even the first Merry books were great. I think she’s become a victim of her own success, churning out books as fast as she can in order to keep the fans interested. I just feel like it’s so unnecessary! If I knew the next Anita book was going to be fantastic, I’ll happily wait a year. I don’t need to have that book in six months, especially not if its super crap.

    I’ll definitely check out ‘blogging twilight’ since I LOATHED the twilight books. I’ll admit, I would have loved it when I was fourteen, however, I AM NO LONGER FOURTEEN. And no other self-respecting adult woman should love these books either! However, I’ve realised that my opinion is not the common one, so I usually keep it to myself. Usually.🙂


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