Masquerade (Swept Away #2.5) by J.S. Cooper
If you like your escapist fantasies to star really wealthy douchecanoes with no redeeming qualities using others as pawns in their grand plans, then you’ll enjoy this one.
If you like your escapist fantasies to star really wealthy douchecanoes with no redeeming qualities using others as pawns in their grand plans, then you’ll enjoy this one. If you, like myself, want those people to get their asses handed to them in some sort of cosmic justice, then this one will bother you. I am hopeful there is character development in the other pieces of this work, because hooooo buddy is there none in here.
Masquerade opens with Jakob Bradley getting blown by a girl referred to throughout the first chapter as “the blonde”, as he cannot remember or is seemingly interested in her name. She is a mouth attached to a body, there to get him off and provide some variety from his hand and absolutely nothing else. He is clearly emotionally ruthless and insanely wealthy.
Things we learn about Jakob Bradley over the ensuing pages: he is a serious mama’s boy, he’s a bastard son of a maid and a wealthy oligarch, he finds it completely acceptable to have his half-brother’s girlfriend go down on him at a masquerade ball, he made his millions through real estate ventures and no help from his father and he owns a private island somewhere in the Caribbean – scratch that, two islands. He’s also vaguely obsessed with Bianca London, the daughter of a former employee who he spends this novella attempting to get close to in order to prevent her from destroying the company.
The “abduction” tag comes into this story, by the way, because Jakob and the half-brother are planning to abduct Bianca to that private island. The abduction doesn’t take place in the novella, but there is a lot of talking about and planning it and such, so I wanted to add the tag for anyone into abduction stories so they could track the progress of this series.
Going back to the serious mama issues Jakob has, we meet his mom entirely through flashbacks. We learn that she was a maid in the house of Jeremiah Bradley, but was desperately in love with one of his company partners who happens to be Bianca’s father. After some sort of scuffle with the Londons, Jakob’s mom was paid off to go away quietly and then spent the money on Jakob’s education. We also learn that she’s a bit manipulative, constantly telling Jakob that he’ll never love anyone as much as he loves her, that she is the most important woman in his life – things that raised my “really?” radar. If she’s Jakob’s motivating factor in life, it explains a lot about him. I am not into slut shaming, every woman gets to make her own sexual choices and sleep with whoever she wants, but I am super into people taking responsibility for those choices. Mama spends these flashbacks blaming other people for her lot in life and letting Jakob know he can do the same. Not exactly a recipie for emotional stability and goes a long way to demonstrate why Jakob sees women as sexual objects and exploits instead of as humans.
For example, we get a description of Bianca’s body before we ever get any character details about her; we know she has an “ample bosom” before we know she is a history postgraduate student. Jakob has a vivid sex dream about her that is almost entirely about his pleasure, even though he thinks he values hers. Bringing her to orgasm would not be an act of love or generosity, but instead one of power. Things which are not sexy to me; men getting off on feeling they have control over my orgasms.
I am completely aware that I may be missing HUGE pieces of the narrative arc, but I can only review what is in front of me and there is no indication in the introduction of the novella that reading the preceding books is mandatory for understanding. If a novella only works as connected to other pieces, I think that should be indicated. I do not hate serialized stories at all, but I do hate serialized stories masquerading as stand-alones.
If I am missing things, I deeply apologize and I am open to being corrected by people in the comments. If you’ve read this series, let me know if Jakob has any depth to him, will ya?