Let me start by saying that when I review books I always try to keep in mind the hours (and hours!) of effort that it takes to write them. Because of this, I do my best to be constructive in my criticism and praise an author’s skill where it is due. It’s a very rare thing for me to come across a book that I feel has no redeeming qualities at all. Sadly, Comfort Object
by Annabel Joseph is that rare example.
The central female character in the book (I can’t even bring myself to use the term “heroine” in relation to her) is Nell Ashton, a Harvard drop out and professional submissive. She’s got a dad in jail, a suicidal mom, and a bunch of idiot siblings. Daddy issues? Check. Screwed up childhood? Check. Oh! And she’s only a professional submissive so that she can save up some money to go back to college and finish her comparative cultural mythology degree - a revelation that had me rolling my eyes and thinking, “Yeah, her and every other stripper in L.A.”
I suppose that the one
positive I can say about Nell is that she is an unapologetically sexual being; she likes it rough, she likes it dirty, and she likes it often. I can appreciate a character that is tapped into her wants and needs, and not afraid to admit to them or to act on them. Doesn’t mean I like
her, though.Within the first few pages of the book, a sexy blond beefcake walks into the club where Nell is working. He paddles her butt for a bit, then offers her $2000 bucks for some raunchy playtime back at her house. She’s horny, he’s hot, so she agrees. Yup. Our “heroine” just took money for sex. Ick! Seriously, am I way off base here? Am I the only person that this prostitution trope doesn’t turn on in any way, shape or form? I just don’t see how we, as readers, are supposed to identify with and like a female character that sells her body for sex?!
And then there’s the book’s depraved puppet master. No, not the blond that just paid two grand to get his rocks off in every hole Nell has, but his boss. Classy guy, this Jeremy Gray. His number one desire in life is to find a super kinky sex slave to be at his beck and call 24/7. But, since Jeremy’s a high-profile Hollywood A-lister, he can’t afford for the world to know about his sexual appetites. Instead, he sends his blond minion to the club to find him the perfect girl and try her out for him. With blondie given Jeremy the proverbial “thumbs up,” he arranges to have her fired from her job and evicted from her apartment so that she is so desperate that she has no choice but to agree to be his sex slave for the foreseeable future. I’m all for a dominant leading man, but Jeremy Gray is just a kinky, self-involved asshole.
A snippet of Jeremy’s thoughts about mid-way through the book may give you an idea of why I loathe this character so, so much:
“[W]hat she was enduring for me was, perhaps, not so great for her mental health. Well, I was paying her plenty of money to compensate.”
Ugh. Just… ugh. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time that I actively disliked two characters so much.
I can’t deny that there was definitely sexual chemistry between the two main characters and Jeremy was pretty creative in his scenes and punishments, but that alone isn’t enough to make for a good story in my opinion. The book just didn’t have the level of genuine caring between the characters that I prefer when reading about them doing deliciously naughty things to one another. Without the emotional connection, some of the scenes and ALL of the name calling (worthy of the most extreme BDSM porn), made me feel sordid and sleazy after reading them.
In addition to the novel’s premise and both of the central characters, I also didn’t like Ms. Joseph’s casual, conversational writing style (I realize I might be in the minority with this critique, but it’s a personal preference). I found the unnecessary quotation marks irritating (like she was going to have a glossary of terms at the end of the book), and the frequent sentence fragments made the book feel like a stream of consciousness exercise on speed.
Verdict: To put it mildly, I wish I could un-read this one. Save yourself the trouble and skip it.