“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” ― Winston Churchill
Book serials are currently popular even as the television daytime soap dies a long, protracted death. I tried the H.M. Ward serial but the typos, spelling errors and lack of basic punctuation skills threw me out of the first installment. So I decided to try this one.
I'm happy to report that in this serial kick-off, the writing mechanics are more polished, even if homophone confusion occasionally sets in (psst: the word meaning someone is using discretion is "discreet." "Discrete" means individual and separate) and there are repeated instances of "I do not think this word means what the author think it means" (this was most jarring when the heroine's breasts were referred to as "cloying." While yes, cloying means sweet, it's a pejorative - sweet in an overly saccharine, disgusting way. NOT a word usually used in reference to sexytimes. Just sayin').
However, for all the basic ignorance of the rules of written English on display in the H.M. Ward installment, at least it had conflict between the two characters upon which to hang a story that might be worth the $56736.89 or so spent in acquiring its apparently never ending parts. Unfortunately, when it comes to this first installment of Just One Night: there's no there there (with apologies to Gertrude Stein).
Jennifer No Last Name is a thirty-five year old real estate agent (mental age: eighteen) living in a generic, unnamed US city. Her boyfriend/boss dumped her for a real younger women, not one who just acts much younger, and Jennifer decides the best way to get on with her life is to have a hot one night stand with a stranger from the internet because, reasons. Even though her previous one night stands have ended in tears. Even though her boyfriend destroyed her faith in all males. No, a one night stand will bring perfect bliss and restore her trust in men - because one can perfectly predict glorious no-strings sex from an ad on the internet and one phone screener. Whatevs, just go with it.
Jennifer takes great care to protect her identity, using a post office box and a pay as you go throw-away phone so she can't be tracked down by people who might misinterpret her actions. Let us hope Jennifer never writes a book review on the internet, however, as taking the same precautions to protect her identity online apparently makes her a bully.
William Stratford (bet his middle name is Shakespeare) is a newly arrived British transplant to generic, unnamed US city. He says he doesn't come from privilege, but he's the new CEO and son of the company's founder, so you do the math (also? I am always so happy when American writers decide to take on the British class system. *grabs popcorn*). Since the story is told in alternating first person POV, we are privy to the working of his mind, which is oddly stuck in the 1950s with references to gossiping secretaries and objectifying every woman he meets (when he needs to think unsexy thoughts, he conjures up old women with beards and warts, instead of, oh, say, cricket scores). His inner voice is full of stilted diction which I guess is supposed to indicate he is British but only comes across as if he has a major stick up his arse.
William is apparently a serious workaholic but at the same time Daddy has to hire his assistants for him, which begs the question of just how effective William is as a manager. And his assistant is a doozy, who takes it upon herself to set her boss up with internet dates. Not only that, but she can't use IM properly. William wants to fire her for all the wrong reasons and keep her for all the wrong reasons. But then, he believes that implementing IM in the office is a mark of how cutting edge he is, when IM has been a staple of office life since the last decade. In other words, I do not buy him as someone capable of running a shoeshine stand, much less a multinational conglomerate. But whatevs, go with it.
We know William is British because he says things like cheerio, loo, totty and cuppa, even if the slang feels like someone bought a book entitled, "The Wacky Things What English People Speak" and sprinkled them here and there. He also narrates things like, "My nostrils slowly extend to either side as my color rises. This is how a British gentleman expresses his extreme distaste," as if we all refer to ourselves by our nationality when in our own heads (I make the side eyes at the book. This is how an American female expresses, well, side eyes). My favorite is when William, TWICE, explains where he is from: "Hammersmith, part of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, west of Charming Cross" (says no Londoner, EVER. Or I'll demand that HM Revenue & Customs pay me back all the taxes I've given them over the years). And even if people announced their council/borough in conversations with strangers, what makes William think Jennifer has any idea where Charing Cross is? But whatevs, go with it.
William doesn't need an assistant chosen by Daddy to pull women for him, of course, but he does need some eye candy on his arm at an upcoming charity ball because that makes it easier to network, supposedly. Even though once they are at the ball, Jennifer is whisked away to wife-and-girlfriend-land and isn't involved with the menfolk business at all. The bird-brained assistant included Jennifer's "one night stand only" proposition in her pile of potential internet dates and the rest is history. Well, by history I mean they meet, some Pretty Woman-esque sequences take place but without the ethically squicky prostitution angle (or is there, if a man buys you a $2000 dress with the anticipation being you'll have sex with him at the end of the night?), they have glorious missionary position sex, she gets dressed and leaves. Done.
It's a perfectly...okay...short romance story, with some nicely hot sequences. The problem, and it's a huge honking one, is that there is NO conflict. There is no reason why Jennifer and William can't be together, especially once they meet and decide the other is their favorite flavor of sex on a stick. There is some lip service paid to William's workaholic habits and Jennifer's mistrust of men, but these obstacles are more flimsy than one-ply toilet paper in the rain and already easily discarded in the course of this installment. Jennifer's insistence on a one night stand is arbitrary and artificial and there's no reason to stick to it, except, gee, how can one make lots of money off gullible readers without writing more installments?!
No thanks. I can get a professionally edited book with conflict, character goals and motivation - and that understands the difference between discreet and discrete, not the mention the meaning of cloying - for under $8. If I'm going to spend that money on a book, you'll find me looking for a name publisher on the spine, where my hard-earned cash buys me a vetted story (not to mention one with a definite end in sight).