Turning It On, by Elizabeth Harmon

>> Monday, August 13, 2018

TITLE: Turning It On
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Harmon

PAGES: 248
PUBLISHER: Carina Press

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 2nd in the Red Hot Russians series

Book editor Hannah Levinson couldn't be happier. This "Nice Jewish Girl" is ready to marry the man she's longed after for half her life. When her fiancé suggests they audition for Last Fling, a steamy new reality show for engaged couples, she lets herself be swayed. Maybe she'll learn a thing or two.

Vlad Shustov's fall from a once-bright career as a competitive figure skater was swift. Now trapped by a shameful past and an uncertain future, "Vlad the Bad" strips for cash. Joining the cast of Last Fling could earn him a fortune—or at least enough to finally leave stripping. But to win the show's prize, he must seduce an engaged woman, something he can't even bear the thought of.

Hannah's not like any woman Vlad's met before. Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and relegated to the ugly-duckling role she'd worked so hard to shed, can she trust there's more to Vlad than meets the eye? With sleazy TV tactics shattering the last shreds of the contestants' confidence, they'll have to believe true happiness is not only possible...it may be looking right at them.
I bought the following 2 books in the series after reading book 1, Pairing Off. That one wasn't perfect, but there was so much potential! I loved the Russian setting and all the stuff about ice skating. Some of the characterisation and conflict weren't great, but that's the sort of thing that I thought would improve with more experience. By the way, looking back at my review now it's interesting that one of the things I criticised was that Carrie didn't seem to realise that it would create a problem for her Southern Republican politician father that she was taking up with a Russian skater and taking Russian citizenship to be able to compete. I posted my review in August 2016, and little did I know how wrong I would be proved to be!

So anyway, I pretty much bought the following books automatically, without checking the plot summaries. And when I decided to read book 2 and checked out the description I was a bit taken aback. There was nothing in the setup of what I had liked in the previous book. No ice skating, apparently a US setting. And the plot was based around a reality TV show! But ok, I thought, let's try.

Unfortunately, actually reading the book made things even worse. First of all, the reality TV show around which the plot revolves was the worst possible kind of reality TV show for me. I'm fine with reality TV that is about talented people being talented -I love Bake-Off and Masterchef, for instance. But no, this is a sleazy "relationships" reality show, sort of like The Bachelor or Love Island, and I despise that crap. It's called "The Fling". Engaged couples go on a holiday resort, and are surrounded by people they're attracted to (you know that whole thing about people getting 'a pass' to sleep with a particular celebrity if they ever get the chance? That sort of thing), who are their possible flings. The potential flings try to seduce them. If one of them succeeds, they win. If both in the couple resist temptation and stay loyal, they get a prize (designer wedding dress, etc). I found the very concept revolting.

And then there's the characters. Hannah Levinson is a quiet book editor who's just got engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Jack. She loves her job, but Jack, a lawyer, is very discontented in his. He wanted to do something in the entertainment industry, but ended up in the (to him) most boring job in the world. And then his old friend Eric shows up. Eric has become a TV producer, and is casting engaged couples for The Fling. Jack jumps at the chance, and manipulates and bullies Hannah into agreeing (putting a very likely promotion at risk, no less).

I despised Jack for being an asshole. I despised Hannah for being a spineless idiot who let Jack treat her like shit and do something that is obviously going to humiliate her. This might be victim-blaming, but so be it. I also despised their 'friend' Eric for inflicting this turd of a show onto the world and throwing his supposed friends under the bus (he promises all sorts of things to them, like that Hannah will be able to continue working, since she can't get a 10-week holiday to film and they'll film around her commitments, which he knows very well won't happen). This piece of shit is supposed to be the hero in the secondary romance, no less.

The hero, a down-on-his-luck Russian former skater now making a living as a stripper in Las Vegas, seemed ok, and I actually found him pretty interesting, but the more I read the more I wanted to slap everyone else. Literally, everyone. There's no point putting myself through that kind of aggravation, so bye bye!



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