Friday, January 4, 2013
Review: Baby, You're Cold Inside
Baby, You're Cold Inside by Ivy Bateman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"Baby, You're Cold Inside" retells Charles Dickens's classic Christmas Carol with several fresh twists. From the beginning, I was intrigued by how Ivy Bateman would pull this off, since her viewpoint character is Lily Sinclair, a female, sexier version of Scrooge, who is quite unlikeable and unsympathetic. The story is a fairy tale, and as a result, suspension of disbelief and acceptance of surrealism are required of the reader.
I bought this book largely because of Victoria Miller's fantastic cover art. Not relevant to my review of the story, I suppose, but the art is so good that this point must be noted somewhere.
Ultimately, "Baby, You're Cold Inside" didn't quite work for me. Strong positives and strong negatives balanced into a three-star rating. In order to discuss them in detail, I'll be including spoilers from here on out. Be warned.
- This retelling is a true example of what a remix should be. It doesn't slavishly follow the base narrative or do a simple conversion. It twists and reworks Dickens's tale, taking a well-known plot and making it mean something entirely different.
- Lily Sinclair is a complicated and interesting character. I kept wanting to know about her, and therefore kept reading despite the negatives discussed below.
- The romantic hero, Phillip, is more than a match for her. He is interesting, powerful, and also complicated. I bought the connection between the two of them.
- Sex scenes scattered throughout are varied and exciting. They will appeal particularly to those who like humiliation with their kink.
- The author's voice is lively and vibrant, filled with vivid description.
- I try not to ding books based on copy editing issues, because I know that's not necessarily the author's fault. That said, distracting grammar and punctuation errors abounded and nearly prevented me from finishing the book. In particular, comma use seemed consistently off, a few words were used incorrectly every time they appeared, many sentences seemed to be missing words, and run-on sentences occurred all too commonly. Zingers fill Lily's internal monologue and dialogue, but, unfortunately, these problems stood out to me the most in those passages. This meant that sections of the book that should have sparkled instead frustrated me.
- Bateman, as I noted above, created a complex character in Lily Sinclair, and kudos to her for circumventing the self-righteous moralization that could easily have stemmed from her source material. However, some inconsistencies really detracted from what Bateman was trying to do. Lily gives a key speech toward the end of the book in which she embraces herself as cold and bitchy and refuses to change. I liked where Bateman was going with that, but just couldn't buy some of the claims Lily made in the course of her argument. She says, for example, that men could behave the way she does and be praised for it. However, her behavior at the beginning of the book is so negligent that I couldn't believe this. No businessman would be praised for ignoring his business. I understand that some of the beginning scenes are played for laughs, but in this case the comedy undermines what Bateman seems to have intended as the message at the heart of the story. To compound matters, the big reveal, when Lily explains that many of her actions have been misinterpreted and taken the wrong way, didn't feel correctly paced. It happened too quickly and seemed out of step with the very vivid and cruel picture Bateman painted of her heroine at the beginning.
Food for Thought:
- Lily Sinclair seems like she would be a very exciting top for someone who was into humiliation. I was a bit disappointed Bateman didn't make better use of this quality. Her cruelty to her employees could be redeemed a great deal by consent.
- Much of Lily's behavior is clearly sexual harassment of her employees, and this is a bit of an uncomfortable thing for me. In a book so heavy on humiliation and manipulation, I wish the description would give a bit more warning. As a smaller point in relation to this, Lily claims she can get away with this behavior because her employees sign a "contract" consenting to it. I've encountered the evil contract trope before, and it always stretches my credulity. I could only deal with it in this story by reminding myself of the general surreality.
"Baby, You're Cold Inside" gave me a lot to think about. Often, when I'm not sure if I like a book, I end up taking more time with it, trying to identify what my issues are. This book had a fresh, creative quality that would bring me back to try more of the author's work in the future. I would worry, however, about being frustrated by problems similar to what I've highlighted in my list of negatives.
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