Rant, Review

Review: Four Seconds to Lose by K.A. Tucker (2014)

Ten Tiny Breaths, Book 3

Heat Factor: Sex is frequent but not super detailed; we get only the cursory information of what bits are naked and in contact. 

Character Chemistry: Girl with daddy issues + older man with white knight syndrome

Plot: Charlie needs money to disappear so she gets a job as a stripper and starts a thing with her boss. Also she’s reluctantly running heroin.

Overall: The purity overtones were unreal.

I admit, when I read the blurb for this book, my first reaction was, “This is gonna be a hot mess of garbage.” Since I was on a beach vacation and didn’t want to bring my kindle to the beach itself, I read it anyway. My low expectations were not only met, but exceeded.

Here’s what we have. 

Cain has a lot of guilt and also money, so he opens a strip club to save the strippers from themselves. He’ll do everything he can to get them out of sex work while also providing a safe place for them to do sex work (ie where they won’t be pressured into prostitution). When two strippers have repeated conflict, to the point where they catfight on the floor, he doesn’t fire the instigator, because she needs his help more, and if he doesn’t save her, she’ll end up at a gross strip club prostituting herself. (The woman who does get fired is stripping to pay for college, so I guess she’ll, I don’t know, drop out? Seems like a good outcome.)

Charlie is not like other strippers. She needs lots of money fast, and though the thought of taking off her clothes for a bunch of men gives her the heebie-jeebies, she already knows how to pole dance, so why not? Unlike the other strippers, who choose the work because of low self-esteem, daddy issues, and a desire for attention. 

Charlie also happens to be in Miami with a fake identity, working as a heroin courier for her stepfather. As an extremely hot young woman (more on her looks in a minute) who is doing bigger and bigger drops, this role is putting her at increasing risk. Plus her stepdad, who raised her—one might even say, doted on her—after the death of her mom, now scares the crap out of her. Hence her desire for lots of cash so she can escape. Charlie definitely doesn’t have low self-esteem or daddy issues. No sir. 

Anyway, so the setup is kinda gross. This is not a book to read for a nuanced portrayal of sex workers. But the whole package of objectification plus purity culture plus predatory age gap dynamics made this book extra gross. 

So, as I mentioned before, Charlie is extremely hot. She has an exceptional body that’s trim and muscled with perfect breasts. They are round and perky. Every single man she meets checks out her cleavage. Every. Single. One. Not just the sleazebags, but also the large supporting cast of good guys (some of whom are partnered off with hot strippers from previous books in the series)—they all check out her rack. It was striking, how normalized objectification was by the text. Not necessarily in the club (where it’s the point—the women are the product), but between the characters at work or at barbecues or just in day-to-day life. The scene where everyone’s at a barbecue and the mens are playing video games and the womens are in the kitchen and Charlie comes into the game room wearing her bikini and carrying a plate of snacks was something else. I’m not saying people don’t look, because they do; it was more how blatant, normalized, and one-sided the looking was.

How can a book about sex workers also reinforce purity culture? I would be happy to tell you! Beyond the whole strippers are miserable sex workers who have to be saved from themselves dynamic undergirding Cain’s whole deal, there’s also the relationship between Cain and Charlie. As I mentioned before, Charlie is not like other strippers. And Cain, as a classic romance novel hero, is the most desirable among men—all the strippers want nothing more than to become his one true love. But Charlie is the only one who can catch his eye, because she’s innocent and therefore desirable. When she’s hired, she lies about her experience to get the job, but Cain can tell she’s never actually worked private rooms before. Of course, the fact that she’s never given a lap dance—and now that she’s working for him, never will—makes Cain very excited. 

And let’s not forget the age gap here. Charlie is barely 18, but has a fake ID that says she’s in her early 20s (thanks, drug lord dad!). Cain is in his mid-30s. The age gap in and of itself isn’t gross. There are plenty of sexy ways to play with age gaps in romance! But the interactions between Cain and Charlie kinda were. (Gross, not sexy.) Cain pursues Charlie aggressively, pushing her boundaries every time she tries to draw one—remember, she’s trying to earn money to escape from her evil druglord stepdad, so letting people get close to her is not really part of her plan. For example, Cain moves her out of her apartment and into a building that he owns so he can watch over her. Does that sound romantic to you? It sounds fucking creepy to me. The owner of a strip club owning the apartment building where he forces all the strippers to live *for their own good* is a control measure, so he can police what they do in their off time. 

(Plus there’s the whole dead long-lost love thing which this review covers in great—and very entertaining—detail.)

Look, this was fun to hate-read on vacation. 

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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