Friday, May 24, 2013

Limerence (Obsession #2) by Claire C Riley


Mia’s life is going well. She has a job she enjoys, she’s madly in love with her fiancé, Oliver; he’s just found a new job that promises to pay well and be both intriguing and challenging. She has her family, she has her friends, everything is looking bright

Until Robert Breckt, Oliver’s new employer comes to tow. Rich, powerful – and a vampire. A vampire who quickly becomes utterly obsessed with Mia in a way that defies all reason or restraint. Breckts obsession consumes him in his pursuit of Mia, just as his powers slowly batter at her life, drying to draw her to him.

Mia has to fight to hold on to what she wants – what she truly wants – and walk a difficult maze between love and obsession.

This is a review that is going to be a difficult one for me. Because it’s exactly what it says on the tin, we know exactly what it is and it does that extremely well. But what it does isn’t something I’m a big fan of. While at the same time I am very impressed with the cleverness of what it does do.

The book is called “Limerence.” For those unfamiliar with the term, Limerence is a sexual obsession – it’s being romantically attracted to someone and having a complete and utter obsessive need to have that romance reciprocated beyond all reason.

And that is exactly what is portrayed. Actually, it’s a little disturbing that what this book very accurately labelled as “Limerence” in so many paranormal romances is portrayed as “true love”. It makes me wonder if the author is trying to make a commentary on the truly horrendous behaviour that is excused in the name of romance in the genre in general. Even if they haven’t, it does an excellent job.

When Breckt arrives in town he sees Mia and becomes utterly and completely obsessed with her. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be part of the woo-woo of being a vampire or whether it’s his own personal obsession – and I like that it isn’t made clear either way what it is. Because whether it was woo-woo or just him, this outright obsession is still as debilitating regardless of its cause. And it is debilitating to him. It’s not romantic and sweet and “awww look how in love he is”. It’s distracting. He becomes distracted from his tasks, he becomes ineffective at his mission, his obsession intrudes on his thoughts all the time, leaving him unable to focus on anything else, unable to achieve anything. He even stops looking after himself properly.

Obsession isn’t romantic and shiny – it’s toxic and consuming

And so it goes to Mia, the target of his “affections.” At no point does she consider it romantic – and his using his powers on her causer the same level of obsession in her and to the same effect. And so often we see protagonists in this genre isolated – and in Paranormal Romance they leave the few ties they have behind to be with their true love; well Mia has a family. She has parents, she has friends, she has colleagues, she has a fiancé, Olvier. Being taken from these people isn’t a sign of her entering into a new life, nor is their loss inconsequential: the obsession and his use of his powers cause her to be isolated, to lose her life and everything she values.

At every point Mia fights desperately against the magical attraction even as it draws her in. No matter how much the book spends describing just how much she wants Breckt, that description never overwhelms the fact the attraction is entirely non-consensual and her actions are being coerced. There’s even a terrifying sexual assault scene which, even with vampire woo-woo making her want him and need him etc etc she still thinks of AS terrifying and an assault.

Even her friend Rachael has her mind altered and – well, rather becomes a stereotype of so many hostile female characters in the genre. She becomes aggressive, she grows to hate and resent Mia; she attacks Mia for no reason and feels unreasoning and excessive jealousy beyond any common sense. But it is manipulated from her and, when snapped out of it in a glorious rejection of domestic violence, she is there and supportive of Mia.

Now while all of this is a wonderful commentary on how woo-woo doesn’t make romance and it is an absolutely awesome portrayal of what limerence is and what it means and the cost of it =- it’s also a large book with a LOT of emotional monologues. A lot of Breckt sat down mentally obsessing about Mia. A lot of Mia sat down and mentally obsessing about Breckt. A lot of Oliver mourning how his life is falling apart. And even while I hail and applaud this excellent portrayal of love-as-obsession as something toxic, I still will never ever be a big fan of huge monologues of sexual obsession

But that’s very much a “your mileage may vary” moment.

Oddly, the other element that didn’t impress me overly was the supernatural and the background plot. We know about the vampires and, obviously, that Breckt is one, but I only have a minor idea of what that means in this book. There are different factions in the vampire world but, again, I only have a vague idea of what each side stands for and why. There’s a vampire hierarchy, different vampires powers, a vampire queen and all kinds of other manipulations and who knows what else happening in the supernatural world.

And I know enough to know this stuff is there, but don’t really know that much about it. In fact the end of the book, after pages and pages of excellent, though extremely lengthy, descriptions of the growing obsession and its cost, we suddenly seemed to sprint into a world full of vampire issues I didn’t understand or entirely follow. I suspect that the limerence section was the predominant part of the book, the introduction to Mia and her history and the foundation of the series and then the vampire issues at the end were a lead in for the next book. I don’t think the transition was smooth and it either needed considerably more time or considerably less.

Inclusionwise, the book trips up. We have a fair few characters with Mia’s friends and family and colleagues, with Breckt’s vampires and the only POC I can think of is Devon who is the very epitome of the big scary Black guy. There are no GBLT characters.

Whether intentional or not, Limerence is an excellent commentary on what sexual obsession really means and serves as a harsh mirror to so many books where such compulsive attraction is considered romantic . It’s compelling in its unflinching gaze and makes no attempt to sugarcoat things. The world itself has a lot of potential which I think can be developed well. Personally, I’m not a fond of the style of subject matter, but there’s some very compelling points for me and, if you find the thought processes more to your taste, it’s going to be an excellent read.

A copy of this book was received from the author in exchange for a review