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Azteclady reviews, Maya Banks' Colters' Woman

Colters’ Woman, by Maya Banks

So it has taken me years but I finally got around to grabbing a copy of this earlier title of Ms Banks’ (the version in my hands is the extended version, published in 2010—the original publication date is October 2006).

Before the review—or indeed, the blurb—a warning: this is an erotic novel, with very graphic sex scenes. Not only that, but it involves a ménage à quatre. If you are a minor or have problems with sex and unconventional relationships, do everyone a favor and read no further.

So, on to the review.

This is one of those novels that baffle me—or rather, it’s my reaction to them that baffles me. I enjoy reading them and fairly inhale them, yet simultaneously I latch onto things that, were it a different book, could conceivably be deal breakers. I tend to think that it is a matter of author voice *waving to SLWendy* because I can’t find any other explanation.

Let’s start with the back cover blurb:

Holly Bardwell is running from her past mistakes. Straight into the arms of the Colter brothers.

Adam, Ethan and Ryan aren’t looking for women. They’re looking for a woman. One woman they know will share their lives and their beds. They’re losing hope they’ll find her, that is until Adam discovers Holly lying in the snow just yards from their cabin.

Adam knows she’s the one the minute he holds her in his arms, and as soon as his brothers see her, they know it too.  The only problem is convincing Holly of that fact—and protecting her from the danger of her past.

So it’s a ménage à quatre that involves three brothers. Can we say incest? Yes, yes, we can—and we hate it with the hatred of a thousand suns.

And yet, in this particular book, as the relationship is written by Ms Banks, I don’t feel squicked.

Skeptical at times—and I don’t mean the obvious suspension of disbelief: three men absolutely in love and focused on one single woman at the same time (though I was a bit skeptical that there is absolutely sexual contact between the brothers while all three are having sex with Holly, at the same time.¹) But more on that later on.

On the three men/one woman aspect of the story, I started the book having already suspended my disbelief. First, because I had already read and enjoyed Be With Me, another ménage à quatre by Ms Banks (having trust in the author helps a lot with any fantasy), and second because, as I’ve said before, it’s an enjoyable fantasy for me.

While I think that Colters’ Woman very much deserves its status as a favorite for many of Ms Banks’ readers, I confess that, as much as I read it in one sitting and with enjoyment, it doesn’t hold up for me—particularly when compared to Be With Me.

First, the length. At 229 in its extended form, Colters’ Woman is fully half as long as Be With Me—there isn’t enough space to delve into proper characterizations. The internal conflict that I so enjoyed in the latter is barely hinted at in the former. Yes, Holly does agonize some (and there is some repetition in her internal dialogue, which annoys me some) over whether or not she should take more time before even considering give a relationship with the Colter brothers a try, but even her conflict feels…superficial. At no time I really felt that she was thinking, “Well, I should live on my own for a while, see who I am, by myself, before venturing again into relationship-land.” So much for all the hand-wringing.

Of the three Colters, Adam is the one whose point of view we see most of, and his characterization is more show than tell. Adam is the one who finds Holly, he is the eldest and, as far as we can see, the one whose vote/opinion hold most weight for the brothers. So while we get to know Adam some, both Ryan and Ethan are more two dimensional. In fact, Ryan totally got the shaft, because while he has plenty of screen time, we have next to no internal dialogue from him. What we think we know about him comes from conversations between Ethan and Adam, and their internal dialogue about him.

The suspense thread is very, very thin: Holly is running from her new husband, who is not only abusive but criminal—and everyone knows this. His presence—or rather the threat to Holly he embodies—come across quite a lot as ‘necessary plot device’ and not so much as natural flow of the story.

The sexual content, on the other hand, is quite well written—and I think anyone who has tried his/her hand at writing sex knows it’s not easy, just as anyone who has read less than successful efforts knows how wince-worthy they can be. Even with this, I have quibbles with this aspect of the novel.

For example, the skepticism I mentioned earlier stems from the fact that Holly was a virgin. And not just any old young 20s virgin, but we are told that she had lived a fairly sheltered life—orphaned in her teens, under the supervision of close relatives until turning 21, whereupon she entered a chaste but monogamous relationship with the bastard new husband.

And yet in a matter of two days, give or take a few hours, she’s having sex with three men at the same time.

Huhuh.

Oh and the anal sex (because you can’t have three men and three orifices and not have anal sex, can you? it’s wasteful, I tell you *cough* where was I? ah, yes…) It takes only three sexual encounters to go from virgin to enjoying anal sex—and no more than a few minutes of preparation/stretching to boot.

….yeah, my disbelief didn’t stretch that far (really, didn’t intend the pun there).

All this leaves me conflicted. I enjoyed Colters’ Woman, quite a bit, yet I see its flaws quite clearly—how do I rate this book?

As objectively as I can, that’s how. Colters’ Woman gets a 6.75 out of 10. Buy the print  or digital versions via amazon here or via Barnes and Noble here.

 

 

 

¹ I think this is one of those rare occasions in which watching pr0n helps—there’s plenty of multiple male w/one female ², wherein the males are obviously and absolutely focused on the female.

² Yes, I’ve watched this, but only in the interest of research *adjusts halo*

11 Comments »

  • I really liked this book, it was actually the book that led me to Maya Banks. Years after reading this though, it’s interesting to note how Ms Banks’ heroines have matured. I love how her writing overall has evolved too. Holly wasn’t the greatest heroine ever, but the brothers were great. I think it might have been the first ménage book that I ever read. Or perhaps it was the first that involved so many men at once!

    I read the updated version, and although technically, it was a much cleaner story, I think it lost something in the re- telling. Could be just me though.

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  • I find that with the right author, my squick can be transmuted into fascination. For example, hate hate hate incest themes, even psuedo/faux incest, but loved Cassandra Clare’s “Mortal Instruments” series.

    Thanks for taking one for the team with all the menage pr0n! What would we do without you to handle that for us?

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  • @Willaful: Cassandra Clare: I have not read anything by her–coincidentally, my reluctance stems from the accusations of plagiarism that follow her around.

    And re: ménage pr0n…I know it’s a dirty job but someone had to do it, right?

    …right?

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  • Jeannie S.
    April 25
    7:18 pm

    Please don’t tell anyone that I read this book…or that I liked it…or that I read the hotel room scene twice (Okay! Six times)….

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  • @Jeannie S.: What hotel room scene? I don’t remember them ever being in a hotel!

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  • Jeannie S.
    April 25
    7:32 pm

    When they went to a city (not sure which one) to speak to the lawyer about her estranged husband. It starts in the elevator…..

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  • I actually do not recall that scene… at all. Mind you, I have a habit of skipping sex scenes in books, after the third or fourth scene, it all gets a bit shampoo, rinse, and repeat.

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  • Jeannie S.
    April 25
    8:41 pm

    I feel it is my responsibility to read every word in the books I read. (Unless they are my DNFs for me). If that includes sex scenes, well, I will struggle through somehow.

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  • I feel it is my responsibility to read every word in the books I read. (Unless they are my DNFs for me). If that includes sex scenes, well, I will struggle through somehow.

    @Jeannie S.: Lolol.

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  • @Jeannie S.: Totally won’t blame you for that.

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  • Jeannie S.
    April 26
    1:21 pm

    @Karen Scott:
    Frankly, in this book, I skimmed through the story and read the sex scenes lol.

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