Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
By the description, this had all the potential to be like Vicki Lewis Thompson's Nerds series. Unfortunately, it fell victim to the need to shove an alpha hero mold onto its potential beta, thereby watering down a lot of character development that could've been so much more interesting.
Amy Stewart is a buttoned-up financial analyst when her daughter talks her into trying out a virtual reality pirate game. There, Amy meets Black Corbin, who's really PC Monroe, the game's creator. Not that she realizes it, at first. She takes him for just another computer character, and she's unimpressed. She beats him at a swordfighting, and he's smitten. Then they both realize they're locked in to their virtual reality headsets, thanks to a virus written in by an irate ex-employee. They need to work together to figure out which character the saboteur is hiding in, and stop his plans, if only they can quit boinking long enough to get to it.
The plot is fairly simple, though it has Amy running all over Corbin's creation to stall her progress. It takes no time for Amy and Corbin to wind up in bed together, and an embarrassingly short time for him to start spouting the L word. Even if their perception of time wasn't warped by the game, it would still be premature.
And Corbin's characterization has such potential. Instead, the game gives him the confidence to act the part of the alpha male jerk, who decides he wants Amy and can do whatever he wants to get her. And of course it feels so good she's swooning in no time. Interesting leaps in VR technology, there.
The concept of this book is interesting, but it is, at its core, romance. And, because I don't buy the romance between these two characters, especially not the way it unfolds, I wasn't on board with the rest of it. There are only two characters populating the world Corbin and Amy inhabit; the rest are constructs of the program. And yet, even the "real" people feel just as flat as the NPCs Amy interacts with. Corbin's best friend is only there to push Corbin and Amy together that much faster, and the bad guy is pure cardboard.
This story had potential, and maybe a more thoughtful author not determined to shoehorn her male love interest into an alpha male role and to hurry along the romance might've been up to the task. Overall, though, this was a disappointing read.
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