Review: Too Stupid to Live — by Anne Tenino

toostupidtoliveOther Reviewers: Goodreads

The first thing that captured my eye was the cover.  A cover can usually give us an idea of the tone of the story.  For example, remember the historical romance novels of the ’80s and ’90s, with the bodice rippers?  The Scottish Laird pillages and brings back his prize.  This cover is a humorous depiction of those covers.

There is just something about this cover that made me look deeper. Although I am curious why we had to decapitate the hunk? And why would a Highlander use a katana? Hmmmm he could be The Highlander—mmmmm Duncan. But I digress.

I fell in love with Anne Tenino’s writing when I read Frat Boy and Toppy. The combination of humor, depth, and Dominance/submission was just captivating. I always found the characters relatable and the story-lines funny and entertaining. Too Stupid to Live certainly hits the mark.

Basic Plot:
This story is about a man named Sam who while working for his MFA in writing runs into love on the soccer field.  Ian finally breaks out of the closet and discovers the man he wants to be is a far cry from who he was.  He meets Sam who intrigued him, although Sam is nothing like his type.  Can these two odd individuals make a couple?

Sam:

Sam is someone that we can all connect with, and this Sam should be the most relatable because of his love of reading romance.  As romance readers, we get the character’s perspective and throughout the story he speaks of the typical points of a romance like the TGH (Tortured Gothic Hero) and Main Characters One and Two.  What is charming about Sam is that he is the heart of the story containing a light-hearted humorous tone.  We see this early on in the story:

“Commitment issues. He’d use you, Sam.  He’ll force himself to find some suitable woman and start producing children any year now, and he’ll still be fucking guys on the side.”

Sam gaped.  “Seriously?”

Jurgen rolled his eyes.  “Probably not,” he admitted, then made a face like he’d licked a toad.  “But he might.  I’ve seen  him try to do it before.  And if he does, you don’t want to be his convenient fuck on the side.”

Reformed rakes make the best husbands.  Sam managed to stop himself from blurting that out.

As a romance reader we all want to have our love story to follow the typical format, but life rarely comes out like books, eh?

Ian Cully:

At first, Ian comes off as an asshole, especially to Sam.  He is arrogant and harsh, and we come to understand that as Ian matures from his closeted life he comes to trust his instincts.  We see that Sam’s gentle influence begins to open Ian up early in the relationship:

Besides, in tortured, gothic romances it took the hero way longer than this to give in to his heart’s desires and kiss the heroine.  Therefore, Ian couldn’t be that type of character;  Sam’s proof was in the way Ian’s thumb started slowly stroking his chest, smoothing and pulling the fabric of his shirt across his sensitive skin.  He was totally giving in to his urges,  just not the ones involving his lips.

I think Ian becomes my favorite character in this book because of the level of development we get in his character.  We understand his perspective, having hid his sexuality, then denying it, and finally to have his family not accept it.  He makes the decision to be true to his inner self and makes a life changing decision.  Sexuality is something so tightly tied to our spirit, that to deny any aspect of it takes a toll.  We see in Ian a person who finally gets that final straw when he is injured on the job as a Firefighter.

Theme Summary:

The biggest concept I got out of this novel was that life is about change and evolving.  Who we were when we were 18 is not the same thing as when we are 25 or even 40.  Life and the events that make life changes us.  You either transform or wither away into a lesser form of yourself.  Some of the best writing and evolving we see in Too Stupid to Live is between Ian and his therapist Janet:

Janet was silent until he got his breathing under control and turned to her, barely able to meet her eyes.

“Ian, what you were before doesn’t have to define what you are now, or what you will be in the future.”

So, while this book is a light-hearted story, we can still get a meaningful read out of it.

Strong Points:

One of the strength of this author is her voice, through the humorous dialogue and prose.  This is some dialogue between Sam and Nik, a great secondary character:

“‘Lo?”

“Can you talk?”  Nik hissed in his ear.

Huh?  “Mom says I started right after my first birthday.  I pretty much have it down pat by now.”

Nik continued in a hushed voice, “Shut up. Ian didn’t stay?”

Same sat up.  “How did you know about Ian?”

“I knew something happened last night!  Tell.”

I also enjoyed the sex scenes, while explicit I felt that they helped to move the plot forward rather than replacing it. I always love it when the characters experiment with more than vanilla in tone and this one was done with a sense of humor.

What could be better?

There is very little to the novel that I did not like.  But I did find the “British” tone confusing at times.  The book takes place in the United States, but I can not help but feel that at time a British tone.  In the beginning of the book where Ian meets Sam is on the soccer field.  While, it does not mean we have no soccer in America, “football” is more common over seas.  Other times it was just word choices like those I have read in other novels from British authors.

This switch from American and British was distracting at time and I would have thought that the author was English writing about Americans if I did not know better.  I wonder if it was just a continuation of the Laird feel that the author was portraying with the plot-line and tone.

Conclusions:

Sometimes when you pick a book to read, it might be because of the tone, the author, or the cover.  And sometimes it is a combination.  I found this book because I am familiar with Tenino and then the cover caught my eye.  But I continued to read the book because of the story and the characters.  The combination of humor, sexy writing, and artful story writing makes for an enjoyable read.

Bea

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