BODACIOUS, by Sharon Ervin
This book gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5
As a rule, I’m normally not into romance novels. They’re shallow and formulaic. However, I discovered the (unfortunately titled) BODACIOUS through a fellow reviewer on Amazon, and the reviews were so good, I decided to drop the $3.99 and read it. Though this blog focuses on YA, I’ve decided to post my review of BODACIOUS and (hopefully) give this indie writer some traffic–it’s so rare to find a gem like this buried in the pile of self-published slush, I wanted to pass it on.
Sara Loomis is kidnapped by hillbillies during a botched gas station robbery. When the matriarch of the inbred family finds out what they’ve done, she commands that Sara be “taken care of.” But stuttering Cappy can’t bring himself to do the deed, so he leaves Sara at the mercy of “Bo,” a mute, grizzled mountain man living in a one-room cabin on the fringes of society. Though Bo refuses to return Sara to civilization, he shelters, clothes, and feeds her–all without ever uttering a word. What follows is an expedition of discovery, of shedding old notions and prejudices, and finding something you never knew was lost.
This excellent novel was really mis-marketed. The title is absurd, and seems forcibly drawn from the text. The cover art does the premise of the story absolutely no justice–though the paperback at least shows mountains on it. It’s a complex tale, not a bodice-ripper (okay, well, it has enough bodice-ripping to be enjoyable for a book like this), which is what I appreciated about it. If it hadn’t been for a recommendation, there is no way on this green Earth I would have picked up this book based on the cover.
Regardless, Ervin weaves an inventive, engaging yarn. With our romance culture dominated by post-Edwards (see: perfect, beautiful, always say the right thing at the right time), I am personally pleased to see a love interest emerge on the scene who is none of those things–who is a man all his own, silent, complicated, and genuinely mysterious. The first half of this novel is remarkable: we learn along with Sara little by little about our captor Bo, who is both frightening and intriguing. Eventually, from underneath all that hair and beard and bearskin, a gentle, kind-hearted man is revealed. Soon, Sara’s captivity becomes almost voluntary–an escape from her life as a high-powered reporter, from the pressures of civilization, for a simpler existence living off the land.
Ervin’s prose is captivating: simple, fast-paced, though still sophisticated. Occasionally I found the dialogue strangely clipped and unrealistic, but I was able to get past it. The characters are whole and three-dimensional. Sara resists being a Mary Sue-type character, which I always appreciate in a novel like this. She is terrified when one would be terrified (not irrationally brave, as I find some heroines are), makes the occasional stupid decision, and certainly isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, this shifts near the end of the novel, though perhaps that was intentional. Ervin’s great feat is that she manages to write Bo into a living, breathing character without his ever uttering a word. Brilliant, to say the least, and skillful on her part.
As I mentioned, the novel falters dramatically after the halfway point. Sara has conquered some of her demons, and becomes–apparently–”perfect.” Unrealistically perfect. The coincidences that follow are many and strange. The ending is disappointingly storybook, when I’d almost come to believe that Ervin was breaking out of the mold.
Despite all that, I’m giving this novel 4 hearts: for being brave, daring, interesting, and well-written, while still independently published. Bravo.