Black Widow and the Sandman by L.L. Reaper

When a mysterious disease strikes Cuba – an affliction that causes a slow, painful death – Jeanette and Roman (two assassins who aren’t used to working with partners) have to team up to find the source of this new evil – even if it means their possible deaths (but probably not).

So… I didn’t know Black Widow and the Sandman was a romance book when I got it. You have to admit, the official blurb for it didn’t sound very romance-y – just read it for yourself!

Children in Cuba are suffering an agonizing death. The cause-a toxin released by a terrorist organization hell-bent on genocide. The scientific community is at a loss, and the Cuban government can no longer hide the truth from its citizens. Cuba’s only chance lies in the capable hands of a reclusive scientist from the country that is believed to be behind this terrorist attack-the United States of America. Roman “The Sandman” Tate is the most sought-after mercenary in the world. When he is ordered to protect scientist Jeanette “Black Widow” Mason, he finds she is much more than scientific equations. The two join forces to create an antidote and stop those responsible for the mysterious illness before more children die and Cuba follows through on its promise to retaliate.

See? There’s nothing in there about the two main characters falling in love/lust! I call foul, book. I call foul.

The reason I mention this is because, well… I don’t read romance novels. Ever (unless you count the Star Wars: X-Wing books where everyone wants to sleep with each other. But I don’t). So this review is going to be a sort of first for me. I’ve never covered any romance novels before, and while I am going to keep the genre of the novel in mind while I discuss it – well, bare with me here, guys.

First off, I suppose I’ll touch on the story a bit. As I mentioned before, two assassins – with Jeanette being more of a scientist-type and Roman the big, tough mercenary (seeing subtle sexist insinuations there? Yeah.) – as the pair tries to unravel who’s behind a disease that’s beginning to ravage Cuba as well as attempting to find a cure at the same time. Sounds somewhat promising, right? Well, it may be – if they devoted enough attention to the plot to make you care at all about it instead of constantly focusing on the romance. When attention was devoted to it, issues and problems the characters came across were so easily solved – more on that later – that you never feel any urgency at all as far as what’s going on. It had potential to be the actual suspense-filled plot that was promised with Black Widow and the Sandman at its basic, basic core. It never reached that point because everything was solved with a quick snap of the fingers (like magic! Except that there was no magic involved in this book. Boo).

This all brings me to the next important line of discussion: The characters. The main ones, of course, were Jeanette and Roman, so they’ll be the only ones I really discuss in this review (the supporting cast was too minor to warrant that much attention). How do I describe these guys… Hmmm. Well, they’re blatant – and when I say blatant, I mean “slap you in the face with a dead fish” blatant – Mary Sue and Gary Stue’s. And don’t go giving me the excuse that “all main characters of anything are always a little overpowered” – no. That crap isn’t gonna fly here. This time around, it was just utterly shameless. Remember when I mentioned how you never feel any real urgency to the plot because everything is fixed so quickly? Well, here’s the reason: Jeanette and Roman. I’m pretty sure these two are ninja Jedi pirates, because they can do anything and everything perfectly – all at the same time gripping with the biggest problem of all, their new, passionate loooooove for each other and how to deal with that. They weren’t necessarily terrible characters I was constantly raging against with death wishes, but just very generic and “awesome”. Not particularly awesome in a good way, either.

Of course, with that, I have to discuss the romance in Black Widow and the Sandman. I should have known I couldn’t put it off forever, but… you can’t blame me for trying. You just… you can’t. *sighs* All right… Time to get this over with.

The romance subplot is about as cheesy and unrealistic as you would expect in any average novel of this genre; it’s over-the-top, very forced and contrived at times, etc. Despite the fact that all signs point to Jeanette and Roman just realllllly wanting to sleep with each other, the book immediately jumps to the conclusion that they are, in fact, in love. They basically fall for each other because they have to fall for each other – the story dictates so! That’s not to say that there aren’t worse romances out there – I can think of a couple off the top of my head pretty easily that are more cringe-worthy, even if I won’t name specific ones because, well, the joke is really old at this point but suffice it to say that it actually could have been worse. Plus, there’s the fact that the two main characters actually ended up not getting into an official relationship ultimately (even if it’s obvious that they will in the future books of the series… yay for shameless sequel-baiting!) – I suppose that’s one slightly less cliché thing to worry about.

The writing was… Well, it was extremely average. Short answer: I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse. Like I mentioned before, things like the actual plot of the book (because there was supposed to be more than the romance plot, guys) are skimmed over an incredible amount, leaving a lot to be desired on that front, and the actual prose isn’t that much better. It’s basic, to the point, and not really all that artistic (though maybe, even if a slightly artistic way of writing is always nice, too much of it would’ve been way out of place for Black Widow and the Sandman; while not utter trash, this was never intended to be Shakespeare, either).

While I’ve mostly pointed out the negative things about this novel, remember, as I said before, romance books simply aren’t my thing, so if you’re one of the people who do like these types of books, and have learned to look past the consistent Mary-Sues of the genre, then sure, pick this up – I can tell that if I was more into these sorts of books, I may have liked this a relative amount, since some of the characters were sometimes sort of entertaining to read about and there was an interesting story that served as the background for things. Plus, another good point in Black Widow and the Sandman‘s favor is that it’s super easy reading; clocking in at about 275 pages with big text, you’re likely to finish this one in about two days (even less if you’re super speedy).

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours for the novel

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