Broken Boundaries

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Title: Broken Boundaries
Authors: Evangeline Anderson
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Sci-Fi Spec
Length: Novel (160 pages)
Rating: 2 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

MY BLURB

Chaz Brighton is the youngest and most talented recruit the Academy has ever had. Superfast reflexes and god-like hand-eye coordination ensure his place as a gunner, one half of a team to man the Needle, a space fighter so advanced that everything around it is classified. Imagine his surprise when he lands on the lunar space station that serves as the training facility to find that not only is he partnered with the most dangerous, enigmatic man at the academy, older cadet Eric Ferron, but the Needle must be flown naked with their bodies pressed against each other, preferably interconnected. The only way to keep themselves alive during battle is for Chaz to totally submit to Ferron. Can Chaz do what it takes to stay in the program and save Earth at the same time?

THE REVIEW

This is not the first book by Evangeline Anderson that I’ve read. Showing that every reader is different, I was lukewarm about The Assignment, a book which Wave adores. I also know that, as Ingrid put it, EA’s books are not “fluffy and rosy all the way.” Not letting that stop me from reading and reviewing Broken Boundaries (I thought the blurb was very interesting), I entered into the experience with an open mind.

I thought the idea of Top Gun meets Starship Troopers meets Star Wars meets Independence Day with some hawt man-on-man lovin’ fascinating, and it started out pretty good. I tried to ignore the niggles of discomfort at opening scene where beta Chaz Brighton, one of the protags, is having a dream about being coerced into anal sex, but it got better as we are introduced to this young man and learn how he got to be aboard the Lunar Academy of Excellence, the training facility for the Fleet that protects Earth at some point at least 50-some years in the future. His dream is to be a gunner on a Needle, space fighters that are shaped like needles, and to fight alien threats like the Saudebers (commonly called Lobsters because, well, they look like lobsters). We also meet alpha Eric Ferron, the scarred resident bad-boy and best pilot at the Academy who has a terrible reputation for his temper and violence, and whose last partner died mysteriously. So far, so good. Alien lobsters — funny. Anderson is a good writer, and I am enjoying how she has put the story together so far. The Needle program is super hush-hush, so Chaz is in for numerous unpleasant surprises now that he is officially a Needler, those who man the fighters, one of which is that he is being partnered with Ferron. Another is that manning the Needle requires the pilot to be draped over the gunner. Naked. Preferably connected, if you know what I mean. One dominant, one submissive. Hmmmm, interesting concept and a bit campy, but I’m getting a little nervous around Ferron’s actions and words, and am hoping it’s not going where I think it’s going. We meet some of the other cadets, mostly arrogant, prissy and/or homophobic jerks that make life difficult for many. We also learn a little about of the futuristic technology used, especially for the gunner-half of the team. We’re thrown terms like “neural net,” “bone growth stimulator” and “smart metal.” But then it all went downhill.

I think the easiest thing is to group my many issues by topic, not necessarily in order of how they come to us in the book, but by my reaction to them:

Rape
Those boundaries that are broken in the title, that’s personal will around the sex act: rape (and attempted rape and an almost constant talk of coercion/rape). It’s the under- and overlying theme in the story. Ferron is constantly saying things like “I want to stroke you, suck you and violate you in every possible way,” and “You will get used to my hands on your body, Green Eyes…You have no choice so you might as well get over it now.” And these were the ones clean enough to print on the blog. There will be those who talk of “forced seduction” and how it’s not really rape since the seducee gets hard and may kinda like it (if he could get over how sick it all is). To them I say bullpucky. It reminded me — and not in a good way — of 80s het romance novels, where rape was often the vehicle for the romance. The heroine just needed to be shown how great sex could be, and if force was the way to it, then so be it. I hated it then, I hate it now. But here is the quote of quotes (since it may be considered a spoiler, I’ll black it out and you can highlight it to see):

“Please, Ferron, I don’t want it to be like this my first time. I just…I still don’t feel ready. Can’t we do this without you…without you f*cking me?”

“If it was just the final exam, I would agree not to,” Ferron said softly. “But it’s a hell of a lot more than that, Green Eyes. And you know it.” His voice became suddenly deeper and there was a tone in it Chaz couldn’t quite understand—regret maybe?

“Look, Ferron—” he began but the older cadet cut him off.“Spread your legs, Brighton,” he said and there was a steely note of command in his voice Chaz knew he wouldn’t be able to disobey. “Get ready to be f*cked.”

“Ferron, please…” Chaz protested but he already knew it was useless.

That is rape and I was disgusted. Rape = Love? Not for me. And not for Chaz, at least at first. Ferron’s actions were and incredible betrayal to him — and to me. Regardless of what my issues other were/are, this alone ruined it for me.

Gay For You
I understand that this is a common theme for Anderson, and while there are some stories where I can buy it, I didn’t here. Chaz is supposed to be fighting the attraction he’s feeling toward Ferron, but I didn’t believe it. Too much fight, not enough attraction, and that attraction he feels, he absolutely hates himself for it. His Needler peers call him “latent;” I call him straight forced to have responses and feelings he normally would not have had if not for this situation. He says he will only be “that way” with Ferron, that he loved Ferron. After he’s been screwed literally and figuratively. Without his consent.

He hurt me, part of him argued. He broke his promise—made me into something I didn’t want to be.

He did what he thought he had to do, something that sounded suspiciously like the voice of reason argued back in his head. And as for making you into what you didn’t want to be—get real, Chaz. Don’t you mean he made you face the fact of what you are? Nobody can make you gay or straight. Ferron just made you acknowledge it for the first time.

I think he had it right the first time. There are also several other Needlers who are obviously not gay, but for some unknown reason, stay in the program.

If Sanderson had his way he’d probably be home and married to his girlfriend, trying to forget he ever had any kind of urges toward another guy.

Few likable characters
From the protags themselves to Landrews, the Nellie queen, to Burns, the homophobic bully, I didn’t like one character. Well, maybe the twins, who are the only non-sexually-involved Needlers, and we don’t get too see them very much (though their finishing of each others’ sentences got old fast). I didn’t find Chaz sympathetic — why the hell wasn’t he fighting back or asking questions or leaving the damn program? — and I thought Ferron was a brute, even if he showed some remorse after the rape thing.

Significant homophobic overtones
Another Anderson theme. Even Chaz, who is supposed to be Gay For You hates gays, hates the feelings he has, hates himself. Many of the other cadets do some serious gay bashing, verbally and physically, going as far as attempted rape.

Suicide attempt and thoughts of
I really, really dislike the idea of one protag saving the other from suicide, and I didn’t like it any better here. Depression so deep that it causes a person to want to kill themselves is not sexy, it’s time for medication, therapy, and maybe a short hospital stay.

Not a romance
There was not a romantic element I could see here. None. I am simply amazed that this was marketed as a romance.

After I wrote this review, I was still pretty upset. I decided to go out to see what others were saying. Was I the only on that felt this way? Could I be the only one expecting a romance and seeing something that didn’t resemble it at all? It’s possible as every reader is different, and perhaps my idea of romance isn’t the same as the next person’s. Boy, this is one controversial book! The other reviews are mixed, but what struck me is that some say it’s hardcore yaoi; some say darkfic; some say forced seduction; some say it’s an EA book, what do you expect? I expect a book marketed as a m/m romance to be just that, not hardcore yaoi, not darkfic, and definitely nothing including rape-inspired love. And I would expect some warning about at least dubious consent in the blurb.

OVERALL

In saying all of this, it’s entirely possible — even probable — that those who don’t mind “forceful seduction” (read rape) and/or Gay For You plot devices, and/or who are fans of Evangeline Anderson’s will absolutely love this book. There are already quite a few voices to that effect, and many defenders. As much as I thought it was a well-written effort, and as much as I went into it with an open mind, what I perceived as the rape factor alone made this one a fail for me.

16 thoughts on “Broken Boundaries

  1. Erastes

    I dislike “dub con” immensely, and to call it romance is entirely wrong. Yes, we all know this kind of relationship exists, and people are raped everyday, but rape that turns to love revolts me. As you said, this thing has been done to death in het romance. The publisher needs to wise the hell up, and label it as yaoi, and if people don’t know what that means they can go and look it up. I will give this one a miss.

    And while I’m here – does that cover in ANY WAY entice anyone who might be looking for a Top Gun meets Starship Troopers meets Star Wars meets Independence Day story? I don’t think so!!

  2. NL Gassert

    I looked at the cover before reading the blurb and thought, “hmm, cowboys.” So not Top Gun meets Starship Troopers meets Star Wars meets Independence Day.

    That’s why I usually don’t bother even looking at the cover. They can be very hit and miss and really don’t need to have anything to do at all with the story inside.

    Thank you Aunt Lynn for a very thoughtful review. Every now and again I enjoy a good angsty darkfic, but this “romance” seems to have too much of what I don’t enjoy.

    Nadja

  3. Kassa

    I felt the same as you Lynn, as you can tell by my review. I don’t think it’s a m/m romance at all nor do I feel that it’s justified by saying it’s darkfic, or yaoi or anything else. Even if you take that into consideration, I still didn’t feel it was a good book. But that’s just my opinion.

    Clearly, you’re not alone but it is interesting to have such polarizing opinions.

  4. shoganrea

    Wow, this book really was an ideal candidate for a dueling review. I just read Jenre’s review and now that I’m reading Lynn’s they couldn’t be more different. But neither of them is right or wrong in my opinion, they just have different perspectives.

    Great review, Lynn!

    Christian

  5. melka

    These dueling reviews are really fascinating because I’m quite solidly in between you and Jenre. You highlight everything about the non-con that I found revolting and really nailed all the issues one could have with this work. Even when a man get’s hard or even off, if he says no, it’s still rape. I don’t buy that crap about “the body” saying otherwise or being more truthful. And yet, in the parts where I could suspend disbelief, I couldn’t help but enjoy it like a campy sci-fi like how Jenre describes. I’m very ambivalent about this work, like being fascinated with a train wreck. Apologies for the blather.

  6. Aunt Lynn

    TP: Yeah, your and LBG’s review was one of the ones I saw after the fact, and I know how you feel. Thanks for stopping by.

    Erastes: Well, I can say that EC is no longer in the m/m business. And yes, the cover is odd. Where’s his butt crack? I barely glanced at the cover when I opened the ebook file, but if I were to be buying, I admit that it doesn’t convey anything to me about the story.

    Nadja: Cowboys, huh? I need to go back and look. My first thought was about the missing crack, but cowboys may be it. Like I said, if you don’t mind some rape with your non-romance, this might work for you.

    Kassa: I love these dueling reviews. Sometimes we’re in almost perfect agreement, sometimes complete opposites, and with three of us, I had one of each! But yeah, not a romance for me at all, and I’m glad to see that I’m not alone. That makes me sad, though; I wanted to like the book because I think EA is a talented writer and that this book had potential.

    Christian: You bet it is! When I finished and went out to look what others were saying on both sides, I realized it would be perfect for a dueler, and you can see that we got both sides here.

  7. Teddy Pig

    Well, I can say that EC is no longer in the m/m business.Surprise I Agree with their decisions on that too! Frankly I don’t think EC is going to be selling much better in any genre.

    This was a prime example of EC not understanding the markets or what those markets expect and yet they want to be seen as some type of “expert”. pfffft!

    Besides the fact this product showed EC’s typical lack of skilled editing. Then of course their typical cover art. Or is that fart?

    Sad to see how far they are falling down. All is not lost, maybe they can do Erotic Inspirationals.

  8. Tracey

    First off, the cover was a turn-off. I dislike covers with naked people on the cover; I want to be able to carry my books outside the house if I go to physical therapy or a restaurant, and if someone asks me, as they often do, “What’re you reading? Is it any good?” I want to be able to hold up the book with pride rather than embarrassment.

    This is not the author’s fault. And it is common in gay romances for the publisher to put two naked men–or naked torsos, as their faces are generally concealed or chopped in half by what used to be considered poor photography.

    Nevertheless, I don’t like this particular convention in gay romance, and I wish it would stop. Because aside from the embarrassment factor, a cover is supposed to a) tell something about the contents of the book and b) make it appealing to the audience.

    So what can we deduce from this cover? That it takes place in a hot and mountainous wasteland and it involves two men who are going to get naked and have sex at some point. The cover tells us nothing of pilots, space fighters, lunar space stations, space battles or Earth. Thus the cover completely fails as advertising itself to the science fiction fans who like romance and who might read it.

    I must say that this seems like a poor marketing decision.

    As for the contents…well, “dub con” (to give it the polite term–I just call it rapefic, and I’ve seen ONE story in twenty years that deal with the psychological fallout of rape rather than eroticizing it) is not my thing. I loathe it, in fact. I tend to think that rape fantasies like this one feed people’s false beliefs about rape and rape victims, and quite frankly, I think that there are enough false beliefs about both without reinforcing them.

    Yes, I know that many people like rapefics. They are entitled to like them and to say so. By the same token, I am entitled to dislike them intensely, and to say so.

    And I’ve known too many people who were suicidal to believe that love or sex will fix everything. It doesn’t. I’d be very annoyed at a book that tried to tell me otherwise.

    I cannot comment on my impression of the contents. But I can say that based on this review, I wouldn’t read the book. I wouldn’t even want to.

  9. Aunt Lynn

    TP: This is the first book I’ve read from EC, and it’ll be the last for numerous reasons. They usually have so few offerings — and less now — that I would consider buying that I stopped looking. I was actually surprised that this EA book was published by them. In my opinion, this was a marketing nightmare. So many people, based on the cover and blurb, were expecting one thing and got something completely different.

    Tracy: Yeah, that cover conveys nothing to a potential reader as to what they’ll find inside. And rape = love is not for me — nor for quite a few people who have talked about this book. It was a fail for me on many levels.

  10. Ingrid

    Love this duelling reviews especially since this book gives so many different opinions.

    When I bought the book I did not expect a romance novel so that makes me wonder why other people did. It is an Evangeline Anderson book, whatever tag the publisher put on it, it won’t be a romantic book. The day EA starts to write about moonshine, roses and candle light dinners I might reconsider buying her books. It is just not her.

    Makes me glad I am not a reviewer and can just state my views as commentary :)

  11. Erastes

    Ingrid: I did not expect a romance novel so that makes me wonder why other people didBecause anyone who didn’t know the author (e.g. me, for one) wouldn’t have known otherwise. EC define “Romantica” as Erotic romance is defined by us as: any work of literature that is both romantic and sexually explicit in nature So I’d expect a romance.

  12. jessewave

    Hi Guys

    Is it safe now? *g*

    I just get back and saw that the conversations are still going on so obviously this was a good idea to have 3 duelling reviews of this book.I have not read Broken Boundaries as yet and I’ll probably have a completely different opinion, but I promise not to let you suffer through my opinion – just check out another review blog. :)

    I guess in some ways I lucked out asking for 3 different reviews on this book. Who knew? The luck of the Irish I guess.

    I really like Evangeline’s writing and the book I think is her signature, The Assignment, is one of my all time favourite books. Every writer has books that do not resonate with the readers or reviewers because we all have different opinions, as demonstrated here.

    Everything is done in good fun here but obviously a lot of thought and hard work goes into reviews and I hope that came across. I’m so appreciative of the talented reviewers who decide to share their skill with the readers on this blog, and I know that the readers love to read their reviews which help them, in no small way, in their purchase decisions. Thanks Jen, Kassa and Aunt Lynn. I hope that you had fun.

    I have to think of another book that will create as much controversy for the next duelling review. If anyone has suggestions please email me. *g*

    I’m posting this on the other reviews as well – they were all excellent.

  13. Ingrid

    Erastes, perhaps EC should not have published the book then. They are going outside their regulations when looking at it that way.

  14. Aunt Lynn

    I think EC could have saved some heartache if there was just a dub con line added to the blurb. Some of us expecting a romance, or those of us who do not take rapefics well, could have passed over it. But as Wave said, the controversy and the discussions around it here and other places will certainly have the potential to raise sales!

  15. lbgregg

    Check check check. TPig and I reviewed this and we had, pretty much, the same reaction. Two thumbs down.

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