Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Sting of the Scorpio by Monique Domovitch

Back in September last year, I won a copy of Monique Domovitch’s novel, Scorpio Rising. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down and I’d finished it in a day. I really enjoyed the book, the to-the-point style, the characters’ quirks and the way they battled through the tough hand life dealt them. I can’t say that I read all that many indie books last year as I was reading on my PC at the time and it would kill my eyes for a day or two afterwards, but Scorpio Rising was my favourite. It just really spoke to me.

So when Monique gifted me the second book, I was over the moon! I was really excited to find out just how life would treat Alex and Brigitte as they embarked on their life together in the States. Let’s just say that it was nothing like what I expected.

Presentation: E-book. First one I read on my darling boyfriend’s X-mas gift of a Kindle!

Story: Alex and Brigitte, newlyweds, have moved to New York to start their life together. Alex is determined to be the sole provider for his new family - despite current difficulties in the field of architecture - and when his wife - through a chance meeting with a former Hollywood actress - is graced with a potential lucrative career as an artist, he is far from impressed.

Alex, always striving for the next, bigger, goal, is ruthless in his quest to become one of the biggest names in architecture, not caring who he tramples over on the way. What’s more, it isn’t long before he starts to view his marriage as a trap while Brigitte is ready to drop everything if only it will make Alex love her.

Thoughts and impressions: Before I start with the actual review, I’m going to point out one very important thing about me: I view fidelity in marriage as being of utmost importance. I do not tolerate infidelity and if you read my recent review of Secrets by Freya North, you’ll be aware that this affects my enjoyment of books as well. Now, I’m not religious, so this isn’t something I take from any religious text, it is simply part of my moral code. I could ramble on about how we, as humans, are not really meant to enter such long-term monogamous relationships scientifically speaking, but that’s neither here nor there right now. What is important is that a character incapable of fidelity never sits well with me.

Coming back to the book, I’ve mentioned this because Alex is simply incapable of keeping his dick in his pants. He resents being trapped by marriage, which is ironic as he’s the one who so doggedly pursued Brigitte in the first place, insisting that they marry. This leads to him having a string of affairs, which he doesn’t even bother to hide very well, while treating Brigitte like she’s below him. Scumbag. This extends to his treatment of her in all aspects of their life together, often speaking down to her.

Brigitte, meanwhile, does all she can to make Alex happy. She bends over backwards for this guy and it’s never enough. I kept hoping that she’d grow a backbone and stand up for herself. In the long run, that would probably have been more effective; it certainly worked the first time around in Paris! But she just put up with his antics, even when they spread to the treatment of her son.

Speaking of David, though he is mentioned fairly frequently, he doesn’t actually appear in the story until a third of the way in. I missed him during this time and would have liked to have watched him growing up and adapting to life in the USA.

There’s that old fable of the scorpion and the frog. I forget who supposedly told it, but the story goes along the lines of: the frog agrees to carry the scorpion across the water if the scorpion agrees not to sting him. The scorpion promises that he won’t but half way across, he stings the frog anyway. When asked why he did it, he says that he couldn’t help himself, it’s just in his nature.

Really, I suppose I could have guessed this from the title of the book. I think I was expecting Alex and Brigitte to work as a team against whoever was trying to ‘sabotage’ Alex’s work, and that would be the sting, but I was far off the mark. Kudos to the author for weaving this retelling of the tale, though!

Alex, a Scorpio, is the scorpion and Brigitte, a Frenchie, is the frog. At least, that’s how I saw it. I’m not actually sure whether Brigitte’s nationality was chosen on purpose, but I’m tempted to say it was. The whole thing was ingenious, anyway! Alex, as such, cannot help himself and stings everyone that he comes into contact with. Whereas in the first book, Alex was driven but still a relatable character that the reader could root for, in this book I steadily slipped further and further into a state of hatred for him. I’m fairly sure that I was meant to feel this way too, as Alex does not present any redeeming or sympathetic qualities. He destroys everything of importance that he touches and I was torn because as the reader, I no longer knew what I wanted for either of the characters. Alex had gone from being the hero to being the villain and I wasn’t sure how to readapt my focus on the character.

In less deft hands, I believe that this story would have repulsed me, but as it is, Monique Domovitch instilled a sort of morbid fascination in me. Even though I was repulsed by the events in the story, I was also so caught up in them that I had to know what would come next.

The one other thing that really surprised me was that Anne, who swore revenge on Alex at the end of Scorpio Rising, waited decades before actually acting on her promise. It was good reading when she did, though!

(N.B. Time moves quickly in this novel: months, even years, can pass in the jump of a paragraph.)

Style: Monique Domovitch has a strong, blunt voice that really appeals to me. She’s not afraid to tell things as they are. The one part of the style that didn’t work for me was the incorporation of one or two scenes from the first book in the first chapter. I didn’t feel that they were necessary.

Final verdict: I loved the story of two young people trying to survive in a dog eat dog world that was Scorpio Rising. Despite Alex becoming the bad guy (easy to see how his character would evolve in that direction, mind), this book was still a very good portrayal of how greed and the drive to always reach new heights will only hurt everyone else around you if that is the only thing that you put your time and energy into. That said, my dislike of Alex tampered with my like of the book: while I enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one. 4 stars

Extra notes: Aimed at adult readers. Sex and infidelity present.

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