Bodice Rippers & Erotica Book Reviews: Jennifer Echols
Jennifer Echols is a former newspaper editor, college writing teacher and PhD candidate in English and has her own website.
Going Too Far
Love Story by Jennifer Echols
Read by Natalie October 2011
Natalie recommends as potentially good but just too confusing and disjointed
This is my third Jennifer Echols novel after the excellent Going Too Far and the very mediocre Forget You. While Love Story is not as bad as Forget You, Echols just canít seem to recapture the magic of Going Too Far. Love Story is about 18 year Erin Blackwell. Studying creative writing at New York University, Erin is determined to fulfil her dreams of becoming a published novelist. Problem is her grandmother, the woman who has raised her since she was 12 wants her to study business so she can return to Kentucky and run the family horse breeding farm. This is not what Erin wants, so in a bid to threaten her, her grandmother gives all of the family fortune, including Erinís college fund to Hunter Allen, the stable boy who helps out on the farm, leaving Erin to struggle through college on her own. Finding solace in the romantic stories she writes, Erin is startled to find Hunter in her creative writing program on the exact day her story, featuring a rich girl falling in love with a stable boy is being read and critiqued by the class. Mortified that everyone will find out Hunter is the stable boy from the story, Erin desperately tries to convince him and their friends to keep her secret. However Hunter has some secrets of his own, including his own swindling of Erinís grandmother as he secretly studies pre-med and not business as she thinks. Sent to New York originally to keep an eye on Erin and make sure she doesnít starve, Hunter is really interested in getting together with her, having been in love with her since he was 12 years old. However the past is marred by secrets and class-distinctions, Erinís mother having been involved with Hunterís father which lead to her death, Hunter being ostracised by Erin and her friends at school because he was her stable boy and most of all Erinís grandmother abandoning her and giving her family legacy all to Hunter. While Hunter and Erin write their stories, trying to tell each other how they really feel, everyone in their class starts to read between the lines, seeing things for how they really are Ė that both Hunter and Erin are struggling and that they are both in love with each other. This could have been really good. Unfortunately it wasnít. The stories of Hunter and Erinís past were confusing and disjointed, as was their present day behaviour. They ran so hot and cold against each other in person, yet spelt it all out in the stories they wrote, it makes you wonder why they couldnít just talk to each about how they really felt. When a final conversation between Hunter and the grandmother is overhead and pretty much misinterpreted by Erin, the scene is set for a final show-down. But Erin doesnít realise Hunterís real feelings and real motive, nor does she understand her own and the game she plays leaves Hunter fuming and her wondering how it all went wrong. Erin is impossibly annoying in this book. She is stuck-up, stupid and so pig-headed itís unbelievable. Hunter is always clear about how he feels, and while he might not explain why he took her grandmotherís money straight away itís mostly because he never gets a chance. Despite how mean Erin is to him, he still keeps looking after her, caring for her and being honest about how he feels and she still keeps throwing it back in his face. While it appears by the end that maybe they have finally worked everything out, both in their own minds and with each other, the ending is a little rushed and open-ended leaving the reader wondering whether it actually will be a love story after all.
Forget You by Jennifer Echols
Read by Natalie October 2010
Natalie recommends this as a poor follow up to Going To Far (see review below)
After the success of Going To Far, Echols has given us Forget You. This is the story of Zooey, the all American girl who wants to maintain the perfect facade even though her life is far from it. Captain of her high-school swim team, supposed girlfriend to the football captain, Zooey tries to create this perfect image. In reality, her home life is a disaster. Her father has knocked up his 24 year old girlfriend and her mother has just attempted suicide and has been sent to an institute. To make matters worse, Doug Fox, brother to the officer who responded to Zooey's 911 call about her mum knows everything. For some reason Doug hates Zooey and she is now paranoid he is going to tell everyone at school what is really going on with her. Then Zooey has a car accident and not only can she not remember the last 24 hours, but suddenly Doug is acting like her boyfriend, while the captain of the football team is ignoring her. The book is told from Zooey's point of view and I know she is supposed to have amnesia, but honestly, it's like the author does too. She seems to have forgotten she wrote such a good book (Going To Far) and has instead delivered this. The book is disjointed and annoying, there were times when I had to re-read sections to try and make sense from them. Zooey is also one of the most annoying characters and I had zero sympathy for her because she was just so delusional. I know this was fall-out from the tragedy of discovering her mum, but it just wasn't written in a way that conveyed that. At the end I was left disappointed by this book, which is a complete contrast to how I felt when finishing Going To Far.
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Read by Natalie September 2010
Natalie recommends as an interesting rom-com/coming of age story
Going Too Far is probably geared towards the young adult market, but it was still an interesting read, which was alot more realistic than some other novels in this category. Meg is a troubled 17 year old who despite being bright at school and winning a college scholarship, is hell bent on destruction. Drinking, getting high and screwing around, she doesn't care what this is doing to herself or her parents, a past trauma is driving her to just live. Then one night, a prank goes too far and she finds herself arrested and forced to spend her spring break riding the night shift with the cop in a bid to teach her a lesson. The cop in question knows Meg well, having arrested her previously and been in the year ahead of her at school. He wants to teach her a lesson so she doesn't end up dead or in jail, but there is something else driving him too. Over the course of the week together, they both push each other's buttons, revealing more and more of themselves as they do. With a growing connection that scares both of them, they fall in love, admit their feelings and are eventually able to heal each other. The banter between these 2 characters is really good - Echols writes it honestly and at times randomly and I thought the story was well constructed and mostly believable. The chemistry and developing relationship is really well written and leaves you with a smile on your face at the end. I only wish it had gone on a bit longer.