Sunday, July 28, 2013

How to Date a Henchman (e-novella) by Mari Fee

How to Date a Henchman is a mix of romance and superhero fantasy. It's published by Carina Press and is 26,000 words long. I bought it after reading a review of it on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

This review contains some spoilers.

Synopsis:

Gina is a college dropout who's bored with her dead-end job. It seems like everyone at EnClo Corp. but her has access to the mysterious B2, the basement level where all the important stuff happens.

Things get a little more exciting when Mr. Sparks, the owner of EnClo Corp., visits. Mr. Sparks makes Gina a little uncomfortable, but Burke, his tough-looking assistant, is kind of hot. Gina is excited when Burke asks her out to dinner, but their date is cut short when Glimmer, a superhero, arrives. That's when Gina learns the truth about her employer: Mr. Sparks is actually Static, a supervillain, and Burke is his henchman.

Review:

Let's face it: “superheroes and supervillains as regular folks who happen to have superpowers” is no longer an original idea. That said, I still enjoy this setup. In the world of this novella, superheroes and supervillains exist and tend to cause a lot of damage. In America, superheroes are considered perfectly legal and even get corporate sponsorships. In Canada, superheroes are few and far between because their activities are generally considered to be in violation of anti-vigilante laws.

Even if it wasn't very original, I enjoyed this novella's concept. I just wish there had been more time for Fee to explore it. This was like getting a couple spoonfuls of a dessert – nice, but ultimately not satisfying. Burke talked a little about what his childhood was like and why he became a henchman. He grew up in America, where being a superhero or supervillain was more of a possibility. Gina was excited at the thought of America's superheroes, but surely superpowered individuals existed in Canada, too? What would someone like Burke's life have been like if he'd grown up in Canada instead?

I was intrigued by both Static and Burke. I'd gladly read something else starring them – in fact, a romance starring Static, who delighted in pushing others' buttons, could be a lot of fun. Gina did not interest me as much. She spent a good deal of the story wishing her job was more interesting, wishing she weren't the only person at EnClo Corp. without access to B2, wondering if maybe she should move to a bigger city, where she'd have a chance at finding a better and more fulfilling job.

While I totally understood her frustration, I raised an eyebrow when, by the end of the story, she basically promoted herself to head of Static's (non-existent) marketing department. Granted, any marketing plan she came up with would probably be better than Static's plan to kidnap a bunch of millionaires and force them to invest in his company, but still: she hadn't really proven herself, professionally. She'd never managed to get her marketing degree, her primary work experience was as a receptionist, she seemed to spend most of her work-time surfing the Internet, and she was one of the reasons why Glimmer was able to pinpoint Static's location. I couldn't really see how hiring her would be better than, say, hiring someone with actual marketing experience. The main thing she had going for her was that she could blackmail Static if he chose not to hire her for the job.

The romance between Burke and Gina was nice but, again, not very satisfying. They were attracted to each other, and they had some cute conversations, but they only ever got as far as one date, which was interrupted almost as soon as it began. There's a lot of potential for a longer sequel, but this novella only showed the beginnings of a romance.

All in all, this was a quick, fun read, but it needed...more. More romance, more development of the world, more excitement. That said, I'd still recommend it to anyone looking for decent, fluffy superhero romance.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Enchanted, Inc. (book) by Shanna Swendson - This is the first book in a series. The main character, Kate, is an ordinary woman who is hired by Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., a company that caters to a secret magical community. Although there's definitely some romance (there's a shy, hot, magically-powerful R&D department head), this is more chick lit than romance. Still, it might appeal to those looking for another "ordinary woman who still manages to be important in magical circumstances" story.
  • Rising Stars (graphic novel) by J. Michael Straczynski and more - This series is way darker than Fee's book, but those who'd like another take on the "realistic superheroes" idea might want to give it a try.
  • Agnes and the Hitman (book) by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer - Sweet tough-guy Burke made me think of Shane, the romantic hero in this book. Those looking for another fun romance with several "morally ambiguous" characters might want to give this a try.
  • Megamind (CGI animated movie) - Those who'd like something else with romance and a villain protagonist might want to give this a try. Although I saw this movie and remember enjoying it, it looks like I never got around to writing about it.

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