A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Review by Ticky Dogge-Hare
Before I start, I have to declare a bit of an interest. I know Kate Lace—she’s a darling, by the way—and I absolutely begged her for a review copy of Cox the moment I knew it even existed. However, I wouldn’t have reviewed it even then if I didn’t think it was any good. So you can trust my judgement on this, at least, as far as you would trust it anyway.
Cox is a big fat glossy book full of drama and sex and plot twists, with a bulging crotch on the cover. And the thing about big fat glossy books full of drama and sex and plot twists (with or without crotch) is that they always, always get compared to Jilly Cooper. This is true of Cox, as you’ll see if you have a quick Google at the reviews, and it’s actually quite unfair. Must absolutely every bonkbuster published in the UK—and this is a bonkbuster, no mistake—inevitably bear the mark of Jilly?
Not that Jilly isn’t great of course, in her way; and you could definitely argue that Cox does tick a few of the appropriate boxes. It even has an arrogant blond sporting god as romantic antihero, quite a lot of drinking (and drunken sex) and one really outrageous posh houseparty. But Kate Lace is quite a different prospect, as bonkbusting authors go: her social spectrum is broader, her language less pun-tastic and her plot is a hell of a lot more relatable. Because, let’s be honest here, there’s always something a bit wrong in every one of Jilly’s books: weird at best (Rannaldini, all those fox puppets, that bizarre habit her heroines have of shoving leaves up themselves after al fresco sex), horribly disturbing at worst (Rannaldini again, anything non-consensual or underaged, domestic violence). Lace’s characters might be less than ideal, they might act selfishly or be dishonest or horny or a bit stupid, but nobody infringes anybody else’s basic human rights. This is about sex and relationships—and jealousy, and betrayal, and conflict—as actual people might experience them, assuming those actual people are terribly driven and competitive and a little bit overdramatic. It’s just the right degree of OTT, and the Olympic theme ups the stakes wonderfully.
This is a very thoroughly-researched book, and I know very little about rowing and care even less, so I must admit that the degree of technical detail made for a slow read at times; I find the usual horsey stuff a lot more interesting. But I still finished it in a couple of sittings and about a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, give or take a couple of glasses, because Kate Lace is a bloody good writer who knows how to keep the readers hooked. Even as they’re inwardly shouting at the heroine for being a total numpty. (You’ll see what I mean.)
What else can I tell you, really? If you do like a good bonkbuster (and Cox is definitely not for prudes: it opens with a blowjob and goes on from there), then you’ll probably like this one. It’s quite different from Lace’s Little Black Dress books—less sweet, more steamy—but just as enjoyable. Very much to be recommended.
Arrow, 544 pp, ISBN: 978-0099570820