The Angel Eyes Series, Prequel
Heat Factor: Let’s fix your sexual trauma by having sex!
Character Chemistry: She literally owns him.
Plot: There’s a lot going on, and also kind of nothing at all.
Overall: Unfortunately, this book committed the cardinal sin of being not that fun.
Dystopian. Cowboy. Romance.
I never thought I would see these words together in one book description, so when I did, I couldn’t NOT read this book. It had to be bonkers, especially given that the book blurb made it sound like a gender-reversed Handmaid’s Tale set on a ranch, with a bit of the absurdism and violence of Mad Max or maybe even The Lobster thrown in for good measure. Our hero, Jake, is a literal slave, because in the new world order, the Feminazis won the gender war with their hysterical-strength* and ALL men are slaves; he is leased out to Monica, who doesn’t treat her slaves like slaves, and love ensues.
There are so many fun directions that we could go with this, if Schulz would lean in to the absurdism and fantasy of the premise. Like, this could have been dystopian cowboy BDSM, with a “Slave in the streets, Master in the sheets” thing going on. Or there could have been an adventure story, with Monica and Jake banding together to overthrow the new world order, but with horses and lariats because Jake is a cowboy.
Instead, we get what feels like a small-town romance, complete with an annoying sidekick who eggs the protagonists on and several scenes of our hero hanging out with random small children for no reason. There’s a tight-knit community of characters and many of the scenes center around activities like building a house, a community kickball game, or going fishing in the river. Also, the heroine does a lot of giggling and squealing and feeling things in her stomach, and I found all of that really irksome considering the context (reminder: she owns him, but likes to pretend that she does not hold power over him because she’s a Good Mistress, not like those OTHER Mistresses who are mean). The dystopian element doesn’t disappear – it features heavily in the way that Jake interacts with the world – but it doesn’t feel fully integrated.
All of that is to say that it felt like this book was suffering from an identity crisis. It tries to do too much, which means that it doesn’t quite succeed either as a full-fledged dystopia (too many gaps in the world-building) or as a romance (unaddressed issues around the power dynamic between the characters because of the nature of the world). It’s not really suspenseful, because while the villainess is evil and has some power over Jake, it is not clear what threat she actually poses to Monica. It doesn’t quite work as a standalone, because the last quarter of the book is setting up the characters for the main series, but it doesn’t quite work as a prequel either because there’s all this extraneous world-building around Monica’s mini-community, but that tells us nothing about the larger society (ie, the things we need to know to understand the next story).
TL;DR: Jake’s Redemption would have benefited from another round of edits and/or more discerning beta readers. There was a promising premise, but it didn’t quite come together.
*Yes, you read that correctly. Women have genetically mutated a new skill – unique to women – called hysterical-strength.
The gender politics of this book are a whole thing. The short version is that the vision of gender here is pretty regressive, but since I figured as much going in, I don’t want to spend another 500 words parsing the nuances of gender representation and what exactly the characters mean when Jake decides that he wants to “be a man” again.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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