Monday, June 13, 2016

Rocked by Love (Gargoyles #4) by Christine Warren

When Kylie Kramer gets a phone call to inform her that her best friend Bran has died due to a previously unknown heart condition, she's certain that something doesn't smell right about the story. After breaking into Bran's computer and doing some research, Kylie is even more convinced that there's more to the story than she has been told.  Her search for the truth of the death of her friend causes her to enter a battle for the survival of humanity that just might cost her heart.

As you can tell from the man titty on the cover, Rocked by Love, is paranormal romance.  This fourth novel of the series is almost identical to the previous three.  A woman unaware that she wields magical power is attacked close to a statue of a gargoyle which bursts to life to protect her, thus introducing her to a world of magic and danger.  Naturally, she turns out to be the gargoyle's mate. Kylie, like all of the other female love interests balks at the idea that she is destined to be the mate of a Guardian/Gargoyle but is of course convinced by the end of the novel. It's all rather formulaic.

I know, I know. There are those of you who feel that the paranormal romance genre should not get knocked down for being formulaic however, I don't agree.  In the case of Rocked by Love, while the romance itself comes down to paint by numbers, it does have an intriguing plot which continues to hold my interest in the series.  The gargoyles series is focused on stopping agents of darkness from ending humanity and in this entre, Warren even included a surprise ending quite separate from that of the predictable HEA. I want to know what is going to happen with Nocturnis and how our heroes are going to defeat this great amassing power.

In Rocked by Love, Warren used technology as a form of magic to power Kylie.  I found this interesting largely because tech is an industry largely run and ruled by men.  Kylie is an absolute tech mogul and genius, successful enough to never have to work again in her early 20's. Not only is she sure of who she is, she sure of her capabilities.  My biggest problem with her portrayal is that Warren made so much of Kylie being a geek but couldn't seem to follow through with the requisite references and no, tribble slippers alone don't count.

The most obvious thing about Kylie is her Jewishness or rather non Jewishness.  Kylie's father is Jewish; however, she doesn't attend synagogue. or keep Kosher and so does not self define as Jewish. However, Kylie's speech is constantly littered with Yiddish phrases.  Her Jewish heritage is clearly an important part of her identity and something that Warren continually reminds the reader of.  Let me start off by saying that I am far from an expert on Jewish culture, religion or mysticism but as I read Rocked by Love, something felt really wrong to me. I very much want to give Warren credit for not shying away from making her female love interest someone other than the prototype that has come to proliferate this genre but I am not the only reviewer to take issue with her stereotypical and empty characterisation.

I do however have to admit that I laughed at Kylie's grandmother's threat to Dag ( yes that's the name Warren chose for the male love interest)
"Just so you know, however," she said with a smile.  "If you hurt my little girl, I'll make you wish your mother had died a virgin."
Rocked by Love is another installment in which consent continues to be an issue. On several occasions, Kylie actively tells Dag to release her or to give her some space and he absolutely refuses to do so.  He isn't quite as controlling or domineering as the other male interests in this series but that isn't saying much. Any time a woman wishes physical contact to stop, it should end immediately. Warren makes it all okay by having Dag eventually wheedle Kylie's consent.  I am also quite irked by Dag's continual effort to silence Kylie, continually referring to her as impudent, and demanding a respect he has not earned. In fact, no one is entitled to that kind of subservience.  Yes, it's been 100 years since Dag has been awake in human society but the sexist idea that man has a right to silence a woman at will irked the shit out of me.

In terms of race, the Gargoyles series continues to be virtually erased.  We are introduced quite briefly to Kylie's friend Victor Gill and his description is rather problematic.
Standing on the short side of average at around five feet nine inches, he had a lean, lanky build, and the kind of casual, preoccupied appearance of someone who paid ore attention to a computer screen that to clothes, hairstyles, or cultivating more than a passing acquaintance with sunlight,  He wore dark-framed glasses over his exotic dark eyes, and the dusky skin tone of his Korean ancestry kept him form a kind of glow-in-the-dark pallor.
Victor is the only character of colour in this book and the only one thus far in this series.  Rocked by Love is set in Boston and still, Warren couldn't be arsed to include a person of colour as a simple side kick, let alone major character.  Also, what in the world was Warren thinking when she decided to call Vincent's eyes exotic?  Could it be anymore racially problematic?

As well as essentially not having any characters of colour worth speaking of, Rocked by Love also has no LGBT characters.

This series really could exist with the romance element being crammed into each book which is why I continue to read it.  It's at its best when the Wardens partner with their Guardian gargoyles to take on the forces of darkness.  The action scene at the end was well written and kept me on my toes. The world building is really rather thin at this point and I do think that rather than all of the philosophical wondering about the role of religion and power, Warren would have done better to build her Gargoyles lore more.   By now, the myth of the seven women of power has run quite a bit thin. There were entire sections of the book that I skipped because it simply went over old information.  Each novel should be adding something to the larger meta but at this point, it has begun to feel like Warren has run out of ideas.