Okay, I love the idea of this book. And when I started reading it, it was just as charming as advertised (and who doesn’t need more Sendhil Ramamurthy in their lives?) The twists and turns are entertaining (with one very large exception that I’ll get to in a minute) and Adi Tantimedh’s inclusion of a diverse cast of characters lent for some great humor and set pieces. But towards the end of the book, it started to feel less like a novel and more like a screenplay. I kept having to envision actors adding nuance to the words with expressions, gesture and inflection. As a former actress myself, I found this very distracting because it felt less like reading for pleasure and more like reading for my former work, ironic considering the work I do now. I wanted to start scribbling in the margins as if this were a script, with questions for the writer a/o director as to motivation, interpretation etc. It all felt very thin of everything but dialog and action. Tho perhaps Her Nightly Embrace might have benefited from being a graphic novel instead, with an artist to draw panels? It certainly did not work well as just prose.
Anyway, that’s all well and good, and HNE might have just been a promising first installment of a series that definitely needs work, but then something happens in the book about a third of the way through that left me acutely uncomfortable with the rest of the novel. You find out that the guy being visited by a seeming succubus is actually being raped (with a little help from the Rohypnol he’s been prescribed by his doctor as a sleep aid) by his dead fiancee’s sister Julia, who is a sex addict who subbed in his bed while her sister Lou was dying because something nonsensical about Lou having cancer but still wanting the guy to get his rocks off. Jesus fuck, Lou, tell the idiot you don’t want to have sex because YOU HAVE CANCER. If he can’t deal with it, dump his stupid ass. Don’t have your sex addict sister fucking impersonate you! Anyway, even tho the guy forgives Julia when she’s found out, I thought it was extremely gross that she used her sex addiction as a reason to (continue to) victimize the guy once her sister died. But fine, feelings and family and forgiveness are all complicated beasts, and I would have been okay with it if it had been left at that, but then Julia fucking joins the Golden Sentinels detective agency that Ravi works for and becomes his girlfriend and I’m just all “no, hell no.” I cannot be made to root for her and their relationship because she is a rapist. Her redemption is so matter-of-course as to feel completely unearned, and godfuckingdamnit, sex addiction is not an excuse for rape. She is awful and I hated having to feel like I should care about her because what she’d done was treated like not that big a deal when, in fact, it is.
Anyway, I’m still going to read the sequel because I have to, for work, and will likely pretend that all that ^^ never happened so I can be objective about Her Beautiful Monster but oh, man, HNE was not a great book, with some really bad messaging. Plus, the Hindu gods Ravi sees are never used in an interesting manner, another thing I’m hoping improves in the sequel. I just… ugh. This should have been so much better than it was and I’m just so appalled that it wasn’t.