Unicorns, Profanity, and Sexist Pirates – The Bright Side of a Bad Review

Song of the Day: Cold by Crossfade

It was bound to happen sooner or later. It was only a matter of time.

Last week, I found that I had been pirated. I’m wondering if this means I’ve made the big time now that bootlegs of Blood And Treasure are  available? So, I Googled my name. That’s when I saw it.

My first unfavorable review. ACK!

Don’t get me wrong, I knew I’d have to face the inevitable. I’m not so disillusioned to think someone wouldn’t come along and burst my shiny bubble floating around my castle in the sky and scare off my herd of magical unicorns. Even the greats like King, Roberts, and Patterson get dissed. The nerve. Fact is, as this novel made its round in the contest circuit, judges either loved it or hated it. Rarely was there an in-between. It goes without saying the same would likely hold true with reviewers.

The voices in my head warned me not to click the link. But did I listen? Hell no. I had to know how Blood And Treasure fared, especially since this was a pretty well-known review site and I hadn’t sought out their service in the first place. (The review site will remain anonymous to protect the innocent.)

So what did the critic say?

The reviewer chose not to finish reading the book. Ouch! Someone call a medic. I’ve just been hit.

Okay, okay. So, it just wasn’t her cup of rum. Got it.

She went on to say that sexist comments caused her jaw to drop and left her

Stacey & I wondering WTF. You didn't know we look like celebrities, did you?

thinking WTF. I was having my own WTF moment reading this. Then she pulled an excerpt from the book to prove her point. It’s an internal thought by the pirate hero, Captain Zane Fox.

“Possessive, helpless, maniacal, devious, selfish, any one of these words could describe a woman. They could be tender in your embrace or calculating in your bed. And never to be trusted. […] And yet, Lianna was different.”

It dawned on me, albeit slowly, that she just did something for me. She quoted my book. Cool! Still, I was bummed. Maybe I’d take up drinking heavily. Oh wait…

Moving on. Upon closer inspection of her review, I realized it wasn’t so bad. She didn’t say the story sucked wind or that a second-grader has better grammar. In fact, it seemed she had nothing else to say about the book at all. Just that I’m sexist.

Jack Sparrow - Is he politically incorrect? Do you care if he is?

I do take exception to the name calling. Or rather, Captain Fox does. I did mention he is a pirate, right? A pirate! WTF? Whoever heard of a politically correct pirate? Aside from that, let’s not forget the time period. Newsflash. Unjust as it was, women were historically viewed as either manipulative creatures looking to trap a man in her snare, a vessel to brood children, or tarts to shag. Gasp! Did I just say that? Perceptions of women didn’t fully change until recent decades. (Here, give me a hand down from this soap box, will ya.)

All in all, I don’t think my first bad review was all that bad. She is certainly entitled to her opinion, and I completely respect her appraisal. I raise another cup of rum to her and thank her for the exposure.

Do you have a bad review you’d like to share? How about a WTF contest comment? I’d love to hear from you.

32 Responses to Unicorns, Profanity, and Sexist Pirates – The Bright Side of a Bad Review

  1. Diana Layne says:

    Have men’s perception of women really changed? Oh, wait, that’s a debate for another day. 🙂 Hugs on the pirating and the wtf review. You have arrived, m’girl!


  2. jbrayweber says:

    Thanks, Diana.
    And no, in many ways men’s perception of women haven’t changed. But then neither as many women’s perception of their place among men. You’re right though. That is a blog topic for another time. I certainly don’t want to open that can of PC whoop ass right now. 🙂


  3. Kristina Gilley says:

    That the reviewer quoted what she did not only makes me wonder why Lianna is different and what makes her different from all the others described in Captain Zane’s thoughts, but it also makes me WANT TO BUY THE BOOK TO FIND OUT! (sorry for shouting)

    You’re in awesome company with the likes of King, Robertson, Patterson, and many others who have received this kind of review. Keep on writing! {{{{hugs}}}}


  4. jbrayweber says:

    *wiggles finger in ear from excessive shouting* 🙂 It took me a few moments after my initial reading of her review, but once I realized what she had done (quoting the book) I knew that her reasoning would backfire for many folks. Just as it did with you. Many thanks, Kristina. Should you do buy the book, I hope you fins it entertaining.


  5. Carly Carson says:

    I think it would be a sad day when all of our characters had to fit a PC mold. Even a main character. Furthermore, I think women can be all of those things even today. (Sorry, I guess I belong with the pirates. Hmmm, not the worst thing.) That’s what what your character thinks. People have thought worse, even in real life.

    You have the right attitude. You will never please everyone.


  6. jbrayweber says:

    I bet she didn’t like it when the hero has naughty thoughts about both Captain Fox and his quartermaster, either. I make no apologies for what I write. I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to stay true to the characters. Besides, this is the way people are. Men and women alike, in their most private thoughts, are not censored. And they shouldn’t be in fiction either.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your comments, Carly.


  7. If we tried to please everyone with politically correct writing it would be dull, lifeless and populated with cardboard characters. For what it’s worth I’ve been told if you readers on both sides of the fence of the love it/hate it line… you’re evoking strong emotions and that’s never a bad thing! 🙂
    Keep up the good work. (and btw, I bought your book last night and can’t wait to read it!)


  8. jbrayweber says:

    Oh Debora!
    Thanks so much for your support. I hope you enjoy it. FWIW, since you’ve met me in person, I don’t think you’ll be surprised my the snarky flair.

    You’re right. Who wants cardboard? I have this image in my mind of life-size cardboard people filling my office space. LOL. I’ve also been told that wild swings in reader reaction is a good thing. I certainly have had my share of contest judges burning my effigy. Likewise, I’ve had contest judges sing accolades and throw roses to my feet. Okay, I admit, I’m exaggerating. But just a little. 😉


  9. Kristen says:

    What kind of books does this person actually like? Honestly–what historical book of ANY KIND doesn’t have a ‘sexist’ bent? That’s why we READ them. Ugh.

    That’s a pretty friendly knock, though. Better than wooden characters or inept dialogue etc…

    Just be glad you have a book not a sex tape out there. 😉


  10. jbrayweber says:

    LOL! You crack me up, Kristen. And you may have hit the right nerve about reading books for the sexist bent. A yes, I agree…friendly knocking. (Sounds dirty)
    I’ll leave the sex tapes to those with more celebrity status. I’m not quite there yet. Ha!


  11. It isn’t so bad. I’ve heard bad reviews sell as many (or more) books as good reviews. Plus if it’s on a well known site with lots of traffic, that’s a lot of good publicity and exposure for your book regardless of the review. And yeah, so she thought it was sexist. Others will see him as a realistic pirate. So I’d say celebrate!


  12. jbrayweber says:

    You’re absolutely right, Vonda. It wasn’t that bad of a review. Good grief, I’ve had my heart ripped out and stomped on by some mean, nasty, (Clearly) drug-addled contest judges. This review doesn’t even register on the soul crushing scale.

    It did take me aback because of the popularity of the review site. My initial reaction had me feeling like toast. But with a little help and support from friends I saw it for what it was. Exposure. GOOD exposure. So, yes, I’m celebrating. 🙂 Thanks, Vonda!


  13. William says:

    Just remember Paul Newman, Jenn:

    “I don’t read reviews. If they’re good, you get a fat head and you’re impossible to live with for three weeks. If they’re bad, you get upset and depressed for three weeks.”

    Now, I’m guessing here, but I don’t believe you have three weeks to waste on that nonsense….:)


  14. Oh Jenn- you weren’t supposed to publish our pictures! Now all of our loyal followers will be so jealous of our movie star good looks, they’ll move on to another blog. Sigh. The payment for beauty, it’s a terrible curse to bear!

    Great article and all the comments are spot on. If it’s a historical and it doesn’t have sexists thoughts and comments- it isn’t a real historical!!! Duh. You show a picture of Johnny Depp as our favorite screen pirate- how politically correct do you think his sensibilities of women would be?

    Keep writing the terrific stuff you write! I can’t wait for your Carina press debut!!!


  15. jbrayweber says:

    My bad, Stacey. I thought therapy helped you cope with your beauty. I know it helped me, and now I’ve accepted it. HAHAHA!

    It’s absolutely the truth. Historical fiction is saturated in sexism because that is the way is was. No sugar coating it. It makes sense that historical romance would show this truth as well.

    The picture of Johnny with the two strumpets drives the point home, if anyone cared to look hard enough.

    Thanks, Stacey!


  16. Linda Regina says:

    Awesome “terrible” review! I bet it gains readers for you! LOL!


  17. jbrayweber says:

    Thanks, Linda! Maybe these readers will tell their friends about my sexists pirates.And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on…I’ll be watching my sales carefully. 😉


  18. Ruth says:

    aaah Jenn. perhaps the reviewer just ended up on the wrong side of someone that day and the words hit a cord. I’ve read things on one day and totally didn’t get it or disliked it, or couldn’t go on, but then picked it up on another day and absolutely loved it. But then again, how could someone not love anything you write on any given day.


  19. jbrayweber says:

    Have you been visiting my castle in the sky, Ruth. because I’m thinking you might have gotten caught in one of my shiny bubbles. LOL! If she finds pirates sexist, then I doubt she’ll finish the book. And she might as well forget about my Carina Press release next March. The hero is a libertine. GASP!!!!
    Thanks for your support.


  20. Suzan Harden says:

    Jenn, next you have the urge to click the button. Call someone. Stacey, Melissa, Nina, Will, me. It doesn’t matter who, but one of us will talk you down.

    I agree with Kristen. In fact, I think all the PC stuff is why sales for contemporaries fell and paranormal rose ten years ago. Who expects a werewolf or a vampire to be politically correct? Same with pirates!


  21. jbrayweber says:

    Pshaw, Suzan! You know damn good and well you’d click the link, too, knowing you didn’t send them a copy to review. Don’t lie. You know you would. LOL!
    Thanks, my favorite Zombie Lover!


  22. The reviewer obviously didn’t grasp the teeny-tiny distinction between an author’s opinion and a POV character’s opinion.


  23. jbrayweber says:

    Or how to keep her own opinions from reading the story, for the entertainment.
    Thanks, Maureen!


  24. Kristen says:

    I am jealous of your picture, Stacey. But now I get it. You and Jenn are keeping your sex tapes under wraps until you get more famous. 🙂


  25. jbrayweber says:

    Oh, you didn’t just go there, did you?! LOL!


  26. I know, the reader is always right (translation: don’t argue with one), but sometimes it’s hard. Like when they expect a pirate to be PC. Or when they presume you share your villain’s odious world view. Sometimes, they’re just mistaken. I had a reviewer note my character would have done better to keep her pants on rather than indulging her lusts. Which was a head-scratcher since this character has most decidedly NOT had sex. At least not between the covers of the book I wrote. But I chose to just shrug and move on.


  27. jbrayweber says:

    That *is* a head-scratcher, Norah. It shouldn’t be about how the reader wants the character to be. We have to accept people for who they are, even if we don’t like them. Same is true for fiction. That’s what makes them REAL.
    Thanks, Norah!


  28. HAHAHA Ohhhhh Kristen I just busted a gut!!!


  29. Melissa says:

    Ahh…the dreaded bad review. The best advice I’ve ever heard is “Don’t Read Them!” Wish I could follow that advice. LOL The one that still baffles me says my novel is boring because the location never changes. Huh? I guess I need to look up the definition of location since it changes over six times in this story. Makes you wonder if they read the same book.

    And you a sexist?? Are you sure she didn’t say sexy?? 😉


  30. jbrayweber says:

    Missy~ Six times and she didn’t catch on? Sheesh! That’s when you know to take the reviewer with a grain of salt.

    Sexy, huh? Yes, I’m sure that’s what she meant. I’m so hot, I sizzle! LOL!


  31. Tess says:


    Well, my first bad review said the book was “TOTAL CRAP” (but she seemed madder at the other reviewers than with my writing…says they were all people I knew…which was not the truth). Then for a different book another reviewer gave it a 2, but said she was buying the next one because she liked the character who’s the hero in the next book…does she expect my writing to change drastically (so I expect another bad review from her…and at least I’m prepared)? LOL.

    Wish there was a way to not read the bad reviews, but human nature just isn’t that kind…my advice is to focus on the people who like your writing, not the ones who don’t!!!


  32. jbrayweber says:

    I’ve seen some down right ugly reviews people give and it makes me wonder why. Didn’t their mommas ever teach them if they’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. There is a difference between telling the general public an opinion and being downright rude. Hope you don’t receive anymore of those types, Tess. On the flip side, the other reviewer said she’d buy your next book. Cha-ching! 🙂


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