In Lando’s debut novel, a former porn star tries to escape her sordid past, but she can’t seem to shake the violence and political intrigue that follow in her wake.
The trauma of an abortion drives a jilted teenager toward the porn industry in Los Angeles, where she falls under the purview of a powerful, violent operator who dabbles in human trafficking. Meanwhile, a charismatic congressman is on his way to becoming the nation’s second black, first independent-party president, with the help of his beautiful, cutthroat advisor. Eventually, the storylines intersect. Throughout the novel, parallels are made between the porn industry and politics: both are industries in which things are accomplished through manipulation. There’s plenty of action, with satisfying amounts of sex, violence and suspense. Most of the characters are colorful and well developed, even the minor ones like a Mexican gangster or a righteous, busybody next-door neighbor in a small Midwestern town. The craving for love or acceptance that underpins all the characters’ actions makes them engaging and sympathetic. However, the book is prevented from truly taking off by its fatal tendency to indulge in excessive exposition. In church, main character Cristal Caprice (trying to live a new life as Bianca Nubreze), thinks to herself: “Do I have on too much makeup? Is my dress too revealing?” Then, the narration sticks in a clunky passage of telling, not showing: “It was a huge step for Bianca to show up in church, so everything, including how she dressed, turned into an internal struggle.” Later, an angry, lovelorn secondary character named Solae attacks and holds Cristal at gunpoint. Exasperatingly, the narration feels compelled to slow down what would be a high-drama scene by unnecessarily summarizing everything that just happened: “It was the hardest thing Solae had ever done—to attack Cristal and hold her at gunpoint.” If the author were to trim away the redundant, overly long explanations that bloat many paragraphs, then this tight, fast-paced thriller could hold its own against anything sold in mainstream bookstores.
A sexy, energetic page-turner just one heavy edit away from mass-market appeal.