Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

‘If He’s Wild’ … isn’t really wild … June 2, 2010

So – a sexy sex post. As you can see by the title, Howell’s If He’s Wild actually fails to be … well … wild. Maybe it’s because last week’s book had sex practically on every page – but there was something different in this book.

The sex was uncomfortable.

And not in that ‘omg this is so raunchy!’ way that I have to fan myself and buy one of these Vera Bradley book covers:

$15? WTF?!?

But first – have a dancing cyberman (click for more dance-y dance):


Yeah, don’t ask me why I felt that was needed.


The strange sexuality in this novel begins with a completely random kiss – and I mean random. Out of the blue. What is going on?

“‘There is one other thing that may help in your search.’ Suddenly aware of how she grabbed hold of his hands, Alethea subtly tried to pull away from him, but he ever so slightly tightened his grip., and it was enough of an invitation that she stopped. ‘Germaine was dressed as a boy.’ She nodded at his look of astonishment, ‘Her father must have thought it safer for her to do so. Even her hair was cut short, like a boy’s.’

Hartley stared at her in shock for a moment, then abruptly yanked her into his arms and kissed her. He had the fleeting thought that this was unwise, before he lost himself in the sweetness of her kiss. It was not a gentle kiss either. Startled by his action, she had gasped, and he had taken swift advantage of that, plunging his tongue into her mouth and savoring the heat of her, the taste of her. She tasted like more. He wanted to feel her soft pale skin rub against his and her body wrapped tightly around him.” p.79

My marginal note: Kiss (WHAT?)

First – just look at the language itself. He ‘plunges’ his tongue into her mouth (I’m actually laughing as I type this) and there’s this dangling sentence that I can’t even make sense of: “She tasted like more.”

What does that even mean?

It gets better – after a paragraph trying to explain the kiss (the information she gave him was just so compelling), the first thing Hartley actually says to Alethea is:

“‘I was so transfixed by her face, I missed seeing how short her hair was. I feel certain that Germaine would contrive to continue that disguise,’ he said, breaking the heavy silence that surrounded them.” p.79

Um … what? What what?

It’s like the definition of awkwardness right there. And not in a cutesy way. It’s as if the Howell was like: oh shit! Gotta have them kiss … okay … here! Here’s a good place!

At least with Isa and Robbie and Breanne and Caedmon, their first kisses were expected. They didn’t feel forced or added in. This kiss between Hartley and Alethea, though, seems ill-fit.

And that’s just the kiss.

The sex is even more awkwardly written – clunky and strange and very much of the realm of poorly written fanfiction.

“A squeak escaped her when he grabbed her, picked her up, and carried her to bed. Surprise stole her breath when he tossed her down on it. When he sprawled on top of her, she feared she would never regain that much-needed breath. A heady warmth flowed through her as his hard, strong body pressed against hers …

‘What do you think you are doing?’ she asked, unable to keep all of her sudden breathlessness out of her voice.

‘I am about to show you why you cannot leave.'” p.149

You know, just rereading this to type it is making me giggle. And it just keeps going!

“Hartley removed her shift and caught his breath so quickly he nearly choked. He had suspected that Alethea dressed in a way that disguised most of her curves, but his imagination had not come close to the reality. Her breasts were full and round, almost too much for her otherwise slim shape to hold, and they were tipped with large, dark rose aureoles, her nipples already hard and inviting. Her hips flared out …” p.150

The description of Alethea’s body literally goes on and on, crossing over to the next page. It’s a little much. Not in for it being explicit, but for it being unbelievable.

We’re supposed to believe this seducer is so taken that he chokes on his own breath? I mean, we’ve seen the guys be ‘startled’ but that sentence makes him sound wimpy. And the rest of the description is just poor – ‘his imagination had not come close to reality’? Pardon me while I roll my eyes.

The actual act of sex itself is at this same, poorly written level.

“Hartley kissed her as he began to join their bodies, her tight heat making him so eager and hungry that he had to grit his teeth to stop himself from moving too quickly. The moment he reached her maidenhead, he grasped her by the hips and thrust home. He groaned with relief to discover the shield of her innocence was a thin one, easily breeched, and eliciting inky one soft gasp from her. She quickly arched her body up toward his, helping him to sink even deeper into her heat.” p.153

In the last sexy sex post (sexy sex is a phrase I picked up from Black Books – I mention that because, funny enough, when Fran is having this conversation with her landlord, her landlord is played by the same actor who plays Krook in Bleak House – but that’s a tangent) – anyway, in the last sexy sex post, I talked a lot about the dialogue that this genre seems to create with the reader. A dialogue or discourse of pornography.

But, when I read this scene, I could not find that same connection. I felt put off by Howell’s use of language – he ‘thrust home’? – and her pacing. Notice how long it takes to get to the actual act of sex from the description of Alethea’s naked body: 3 pages. I mean, it’s not that long but it’s separated by pages just filled with incredibly purple prose. The pace of the dialogue is thrown off, the reader is interrupted, and by the time that ‘the moment’ comes, it’s a let down – not only in the way it’s written, but in the way it is presented.

It’s why I can’t stop laughing. Sure, during the previous too books I chuckled, but reading Howell’s novel, I’ve come to appreciate their talents more – I never thought about the pacing of one of these scenes and how critical it could really be, and how easily it is ruined.

So – pacing is something that’s going to come into play now in these sexy sex posts (now the official name of this type of serial post).

But, to make up for all of that – here’s some fantastic prose from Gaskell – god, I am adoring North and South.

“[Thornton] shook hands with Margaret. He knew it was the first time their hands had met, though she was perfectly unconscious of the fact.” p.214

Gah! Just that once sentence is amazing.

And because we always need a little MGoode and Mr. Whishaw in our lives:

So the movie was kinda sucky - but I'll watch it for the actors. The above is pretty good pacing, I'd say.

I think I just feel so bad for subjecting everyone to the above scenes from If He’s Wild. I’m going .gif crazy. Okay. Tomorrow: probably something to do with sentimentality but I haven’t completely decided. Be surprised.



Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.

Howell, Hannah. If He’s Wild. New York: Zebra Books, 2010.


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