Review: Something Less Than Love

Something Less Than Love Something Less Than Love by Daphne Clair
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

WARNING: F-Bombs abound

Bam SMASH! Arrrrgh, this book made me so mad but I devoured it like pizza and finished it in one gulp. I don't even really know how to describe the relationship of Thad and Vanessa… a carnival funhouse version of a Master/slave relationship, perhaps? Not even close. No matter what punishment or harshness the Master doles out on his slave, there's always respect and trust going both ways. That's the important distinction. Afterward, the Master also takes care and cherishes his slave. (NOTE: I AM STRICTLY talking about BDSM here, don't get it twisted; what I describe is an act of love between two CONSENTING adults.) Thad treats Vanessa like some nasty thing he stepped on while jogging and now he has to scrape it off from the bottom off his trainers against the side of a curb. Thad is an abusive, jealous dickbag who tends to lash out when he's pissed and Vanessa is his favourite target. He's an insecure, self-pitying, embittered man because his wife dared to have a life while he was languishing away in the hospital, the wounded hero who risked his life for his lady love, when she should have been at his side where she belonged.

And what did the bitch do? Carried on with another man while he sat in his hospital bed, trapped in his broken body, a small window his only view of the outside world. He almost died protecting her and she DARED do this to him? Once he gets his hands on the little harlot, he'll strangle her, then maybe kiss her, beat her within an inch of her life...and maybe soothe all the bruises afterwards. He didn't know for sure what he would do once he's out of the hospital, but he knew one thing: the little bitch was going to pay in blood, sweat, and tears. And “little bitch” is Thad’s favourite endearment for her (to his credit, I don't think he ever outright calls her a whore or a slut , not even once).

Oh, and Thad is a stupid name. It's sillier and dopier than Chad, which is on my list of male names I can't stand. I may inadvertently refer to Thad as Chad. Or douchebag. Or asshole.

Thad and Vanessa grew up in the same neighborhood together, but Vanessa, who had recently experienced a rash of after-school-special type of drama plus a recent bout with the law on the charge of drunk driving, is determined to stay on the straight and narrow path and chooses instead to go around with Thad’s eldest brother, whom she deems safe and a good role model. For Vanessa, Thad is a little too charming, a little too handsome, and a little too good at getting with any girl he wants because they practically throw themselves at him. In that respect, Thad reminds her of the man who broke her heart when she was eighteen and ruined her reputation with half the town by telling anyone who'd listen that she's a loosey-goosey type of girl. She is now just getting her life back together and doing a fine job at it, when Thad decides to ramp up his game of seduction after his older brother gets engaged with somebody who is not Vanessa.

Thad and Vanessa begin to see each other with Thad promising he won't be impatient and the pace of their relationship would be entirely dependent on Vanessa. It certainly starts out that way--Thad doesn’t seem to expect anything more than hand-holding or a quick kiss on the lips at her parents’ doorstep at the end of each date. But Vanessa can sense the tension in him. She knows he won’t be satisfied with the chaste stuff for too long. One night, while she and Thad are sitting in his car, Thad kisses her and Vanessa immediately begins to feel that burst of passion and need which were what got her in trouble in the first place. Ross had wanted to go a little further than Vanessa was comfortable with and when Vanessa refused, Ross got very angry and left her. Before she knew it, there were rumors going around about her that she’s a fast girl who’d go around with any boy and give him an all-access pass. She pushes Thad away and he gets very frustrated. He starts acting like… a dick and basically accuses her of being a dick-tease. RED FLAG #1, Vanessa, jeez! You poor, naive child. Vanessa tells Thad she never wants to see him ever again and he says FINE! But then he comes back and tells her he loves her and wants to marry her. She finds it hard to believe that a guy as good-looking and popular as Thad would want an ordinary girl like her, but she’s also fallen in love with him…

And they just both want to do it so bad. Seriously, I think these dumb kids got married because they wanted to have sex with each other and they didn’t want to deal with the whole fornicators go to hell thing or something. Or that only sluts and tramps have sex outside of marriage. See, parents? This is what happens when you don’t sit your children down and talk to them properly about sex, responsibilities, and consequences. [Hell, maybe it WAS their parents who told them that only sluts and tramps have sex outside of marriage… *shudder*]

Vanessa and Thad buy a little house together, get married, and go off in connubial bliss for two weeks, indulging and slaking their lusts in each other (I’m so tired, I can’t even think of a really off-putting simile right now… something about otters maybe? No, otters are cute). It was great, filmable times all around. On their way back from their honeymoon, tragedy strikes in the form of another car slamming into theirs and Thad’s first instinct is to throw himself across Vanessa’s body so that he would take most of the damage. And he does. Before they can even truly live together as man and wife, Thad’s severe injuries get him hospitalized for several months and separated from his bride. At first, things were all right: he had a private room, Vanessa visited him every day and stayed for as long as the nurses would let her, and they were able to… express their affection for each other in private. Thad was cool with that. It wasn't perfect, but the occasional hand-job was better than nothing.

Then money starts to get tight and Vanessa is forced to find a job (to Thad’s dismay) and Thad is transferred to a room with three other guys because it's all they can afford anymore. Thad is a proud, stubborn guy, so he refuses financial help from his parents, and he and Vanessa have to make do with the money she makes at the bank. Since Vanessa is a working woman now, she doesn't have as much time to spend with Thad (who I keep wanting to call Todd) or the energy to cheer him up and pretend that everything is awesome all the time and this begins to bum Thad out. Not only does he not see his wife as often as he likes anymore, he can't even get anything spicier than a quick peck on the lips, let alone a hand-job, with three other assholes looking on. Thad becomes depressed, sexually frustrated, and slightly resentful of Vanessa’s freedom, so when he starts to receive anonymous letters telling him that while he's laid out in the hospital, his wife--that lying, cheating cheater who cheats--is boning her boss, who happens to be her ex-lover. Thad--who refuses to believe the letters at first--becomes more suspicious and embittered as each day passes.

Poor Vanessa, of course, has absolutely zero idea that any of this is even brewing in Thad’s mind, so when the day comes for her to pick him up to take him home, Vanessa is flabbergasted at Thad’s distant and seemingly angry behavior. She tells herself that he just needs time to adjust to his new surroundings and once he acknowledges their house as his home, things could go back to normal. When Thad rejects her sexual overtures, she figures it's because he is ashamed that his once beautiful face and body are now marred with ugly scars from the accident. But Thad, Vanessa wants to cry out, I find your scars beautiful because you're honorable and brave and you got them for saving my life! And kiss every inch of his body. When she finally gets Thad to respond to her advances, he shoves her away after a moment and says the line that made me want to reach inside the book and strangle him: “My, my. You really are a sex-starved little bitch, aren't you? Can't you even wait until we've eaten [dinner]?” And on their first night together in a home they bought as man and wife, our hero decides to drink three-quarters of a bottle of whiskey and pass out on the couch. Die in a fire, Chad.

“Why have you been so cold with me?”

“You mean, why don't I make love to you?” he said flatly. “Perhaps because I no longer find you attractive--maybe 2 weeks was enough. You're beautiful, but there are lots of beautiful girls.”

When Vanessa threatens to make him take it back--

“I wouldn't,” he warned softly. “You might get a whole lot more than what you bargained for.”

Is Thad threatening to a) beat her or b) rape her? He certainly is a bargain. Ugh, you douchebag! Eat a whole bag of salty, poisoned rat dicks and choke on them.

They visit his parents’ house and when he is not ignoring her, he is openly pawing her and obscenely kissing her in front of family members in an effort to embarrass her. In a particularly rough “playing around” in the swimming pool, Chad-Thad almost drowns her then kisses her before she can take a full breath of air. When the asshole’s older brother, the one Vanessa used to date notices Chad-Thad’s odd behavior and pulls Vanessa aside, the spoiled brat notices and grabs Vanessa, accusing her of flirting with his brother. After an awkward dinner, Thad decides he wants to go back to the pool and makes Vanessa go with him. It’s dark and the two of them are alone now. Vanessa figures that a swim might cool Thad off. Before she even knows what’s happening, Thad is jumping into the pool stark-naked and demands that Vanessa join him. When they get out of the pool, he kisses her and mauls her roughly, demanding immediate sex. Vanessa demurs because she’s afraid someone will walk in on them and Chad-Thad says, well, you’re the one who’s complaining about me not making love to you. Vanessa relents and the asshole takes her roughly next to the swimming pool, washes in the pool afterward as though Vanessa is dirty, and walks away, leaving her there. Vanessa looks after him, thinking, whatever the hell that was, it was something less than love. OH REALLY YOU THINK?!

Not that Vanessa is entirely blameless in this whole thing. After all, the job she has at the bank? Well, her boss is the ex-lover who had crumpled her maiden’s reputation and wiped his ass on it like it was toilet paper. He tells her he was sorry, he was just really upset because he was super in love with her and was distraught when she turned him down, so he talks to one friend about her and that one friend is the one who spread a bunch of lies about her. Let’s say I believe him for a second---WHAT EXACTLY DID HE TELL THAT ONE FRIEND? “Yeah, so this chick-- man, she was all over me… She was like the reigning Queen of Slutsville, New Zealand.” He apologizes to her and says he can get her a job at the bank that he manages, no strings attached, in a show of good faith, since he knows she’s been having money issues. And everything is cool until he gets drunk at the company Christmas party, drives Vanessa home (wait, what?), and she invites him in for coffee. Of course he assaults her. OF COURSE HE DOES. He’s the villain, you fool! He apologizes profusely and says it will never happen again and Vanessa forgives him and continues to work at the bank. To be fair, she and Thad needed the money. But this continues! She knows that Thad is mad-crazy-jealous over this guy and yet she allows him to drive her to and from work. One afternoon as Snidely Whiplash (Ross the boss) drops her off, he suddenly grabs her and basically assaults her again--she shoves him away and he says she’ll be sorry. Just like he told her last time when she refused his advances when she was a young girl and what happened? She was basically run out of her village for being a scarlet woman.

AND OF COURSE THAD SAW THE WHOLE THING from the window and misinterpreted it. *forehead-slap* He doesn’t tell her he saw, by the way. He just continues to act like an asshole… so business as usual.

Vanessa returns to work (????) with every intention of quitting (schyeah, right), but when Snidely Whiplash acts normal and treats her like he hadn’t tried to shove his tongue down her throat and play silly-putty with her boobs the day before, Vanessa’s thinking goes like this, “Well, maybe it’s all right. Maybe he’s embarrassed and realized he made a mistake and he won’t try again and we can go on as before.” JESUS TAP-DANCING CHRIST, Vanessa, what is wrong with you?!

Oh and here's the the whipped topping on Vanessa’s shit-cake: while out to lunch one day, she overhears a bunch of gossiping old men talking about Snidely Whiplash undeservedly getting a promotion meant for a more qualified colleague. As it turns out, the head office received an anonymous letter about said colleague being a little too handsy with the young female employees, so he got fired instead. An anonymous letter… (Flashback to Thad getting all defensive about Vanessa’s handling of the mail he had received while he was in the hospital) Vanessa shrugs it off. “Gossiping old men: what’s it got to do with me?”

Earlier in the story, Thad discovers that he’s actually some kind of sculpting genius and he can make awesome things with clay. While he was at the hospital with nothing to do, the nurses gave him clay to mess around with as part of his physical therapy and he found himself making little animals and people--good enough to be sold! He and Vanessa set up the guest room to be his little studio and Thad starts producing stuff that’s good enough to be exhibited. And makes pretty darn good money at it (ah! now he can be the breadwinner again. all's right with the world). Along the way, he meets this gorgeous, free-spirited artist who becomes his mentor as well as really good friend and I think she was written in to make Vanessa jealous, but she was just so...awesome. I couldn’t hate her. Even Vanessa couldn’t hate her. When Vanessa tries to be all judgmental about Celine’s supposed open relationship with her merchant marine husband to Thad, Thad freaks the fuck out and starts ranting about fidelity and honor which Celine has and Vanessa doesn’t and how Vanessa isn’t even fit to lick Celine’s boots. And what the fuck does Vanessa know about being faithful? Nice.

Anyway, no matter how awful Thad seems to think Vanessa is, he can’t keep himself away from her and his mind can’t reconcile the kind, generous, loving human being that he sees with the scheming, lying, cheating cheater who cheats that he knows her to be. Thad has a tiny epiphany and becomes sort of decent to her for a few days. While out with Celine and her husband, Thad pulls her aside and they have this delightful conversation (I’m paraphrasing):

Thad: Do you believe that once a person saves another person, the life of the person saved now belongs to the savior?
Vanessa: I belonged with you, anyway.
Thad: I belonged with you, too. We belonged to each other. Do you love me?
Vanessa (breathlessly): Yes.
[they kiss passionately and make out, rubbing each other’s sensitive parts and whatnot]
Thad: Then prove it. Make love to me in this semi-public park area.
Vanessa: But Thad, someone might see…
Thad: Do you care?
Vanessa: No…

And then of course he catches her kissing Snidely Whiplash in his car in the rain and he goes HULK-CRAZY. He goes to his studio and sculpts this crazy thing of Vanessa looking like a cartoony harlot with big boobs and a horny look on her face. Then he tells Vanessa he’s leaving for the weekend to be with Celine on an art exhibit.

SPOILER: THIS IS WHY I CAN’T FORGIVE CHAD-THAD. While he’s out of the house, Snidely Whiplash pushes his way into their house (Vanessa, you dingbat, why would you let him in?) with every intention of raping the lovely lady. He gets very rough with her: smacks her around, twists her arm, shoves her… and it’s obvious he’s very drunk. He even threatens to break her arm. Vanessa thinks fast and realizes if she could calm him down, he could listen to reason, so she offers to make him coffee. While giving him his coffee, Snidely Whiplash yanks her down onto his lap and… Our Conquering Hero smashes through the door and saves the day. Only he doesn’t. He tells Ross to get the hell out and instead of treating his wife like a traumatized victim, he yells at her and accuses her of all kinds of things. Then he says he’s leaving for the bar before he does something he really regrets, like… kill her or something, I don’t know. Vanessa asks him not to leave. Thad asks her if she knew the consequences of his staying. Vanessa says she does.

“Then wait for me in the bedroom.” <~~~ FUCKING CREEPY.

UGH!! From one rapist to another. After he realizes what an utter shitheel and waste of human space he’d been, he doesn’t grovel and beg for her forgiveness. He just says, “I told myself that if you decided to walk out on me, I would let you go. That would be right thing to do after all I’ve done to you.” JUMP IN A VAT OF ACID, CHAD-THAD. No huge epiphany, no huge discoveries, and he doesn’t beat Snidely Whiplash to a pulp for trying to rape his wife AND sending him those shitty letters that started all this mess to begin with. It just occurs to him, “Oh, right, the Vanessa I fell in love with and married would never fuck me over and betray me in this manner. How could I ever think she would do such a thing otherwise? Silly, silly Thad,” just like it might occur to you to pick up some yogurt while you’re already standing in line at the checkout of your grocery store.

Vanessa, Vanessa, Vanessa… what can we do with you? You stay married to a guy who practically rapes you every night because it’s the only affection you get from him, you work for a guy who tries to assault you a couple of times, and OH! almost ruined your life once before and is obsessed with you… it’s like you knowingly stick yourself into these situations that you know will turn to shit and yet when it does turn to shit, you look around innocently like you don’t know what’s going on and ask, “What happened?” Ugh. She does tell Thad in the end she’s going to leave him and stay with her parents for a bit, but then Thad was like, “Look, my bad, I should have believed you. I’m sorry.” (ONLY HE DOESN’T EVEN REALLY SAY HE’S SORRY) and Vanessa is suddenly throwing off her luggage and flinging herself back into his arms. Before you know it, they’re bantering about sex and giggling. THE END. THIS IS NOT HOW IT SHOULD HAVE ENDED.

Vanessa should have been like, “No, Thad. Sorry doesn’t cut it. You thought the worst of me and I’ve given you no reason to. I was a devoted wife to you and worked my fingers to the bone so I could pay for your hospital bills. I never complained, not once. I have never given you cause to think I would ever cheat on you, and yet you get a couple of silly little letters saying I’m a whore and you believe them over me? Fuck you. No, seriously, Thad. Die in a fire.”

“Vanessa, I’m sorry, I was feeling insecure and scared… and I don’t think I’m the man I once was and I’m practically blind in one eye, so I can’t even get a real job anymore and I think you deserve better than a piece of shit like me. I was scared you’d leave me and I lashed out at you. Please, forgive me. Give me another chance.”

“Thad, the only reason I’m giving you another chance is because you once almost died protecting me and yeah, call me crazy, but I’m in love with you. However I will no longer stand for your shit and I’m insisting that we go to marriage counseling.”

“Anything you want, babe. I’ll spend the rest of my life proving to you that you didn’t make a mistake marrying a man like me. I love you, Vanessa.”

BOOM! THE END.

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