Cease & Desist
Stephen David Hurley
Published by Stephen David Hurley
Available October 10, 2016
Cease de Menich joins the cast of a cutting-edge TV reality-drama as Jeanne d’Arc. Her acting gift isn’t just talent. It’s a kind of genetic gift passed down through her family line. But as Cease wrestles with how to remain true to her saint character in the face of overwhelming pressure to have sex with cast members as part of the show, she realizes her brother desperately wanted to tell her something before he died. As Cease searches for clues in the notes he left, she realizes that his message may be the only way she can win the contest within the TV show and finish the season with her soul intact.
I have some really mixed feelings about this story. First, I have to say that there were moments in which the writing really stood out to me as excellent. Cease had a unique voice and a really powerful way of communicating. I loved that. Sometimes, though, there would be these vague references to things that either were still a mystery or I was supposed to already know about or were maybe supposed to be clearer on their own? I don’t know. Several times I got lost trying to figure out what was going on while the story moved on and left me confused.
Another thing that was weird to me was the way that so many of the scenes felt sexualized. No mistake, there’s some sexual content in the story, and Cease thinks about sex in several scenes besides that. But those aren’t what I mean. I felt like even in scenes without any overt sexual tension or purpose, there was often at least a sensual undertone. I found it a bit odd in a story with a virgin central character.
The reality TV drama definitely hooked me as a concept, though. It reminded me of Hunger Games meets The Bachelor or something. I think it the storytelling had been smoother, I think I would have enjoyed this part more. There were times I just had a hard time following what was happening. See below for additional content information.
Characters appear to be white except for Craig, one of the boys in the reality TV show with Cease, who is Hispanic.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used frequently. Crude speech about sex also occurs pretty regularly.
Cease plays a virgin in a TV show in which characters ratings seem to go sky high if they have sex with other show characters. Cease wonders if she’ll have to give up her virginity in order to stand as part of the final couple and win the series. Her attitude about this widely varies. Sometimes she seems almost eager to “become a woman” by having sex with one of the male characters. At other times she seems to resent being put in a position where she has to make this choice. Because she’s cast as Jeanne d’Arc, she feels a certain responsibility to preserve the authenticity of her character, who was martyred as a virgin. That said, she does nearly have sex with a man in his apartment, and she’s not shy about kissing the boys on the show set.
Cease struggles with the knowledge that her mother and brother had a sexual relationship. Both have died before the story begins, but she revisits that issue a couple of times, once in a brief flashback to when she discovered them together. Cease and her brother had an odd relationship, too. She often refers to him as her Romeo, and talks about how they played roles together and hated returning to reality. They also shared a bed together, much to their guardian’s dismay.
Before her brother died, some friends staged a “coming out party” for him, but then tricked him into making out with another boy on film.
Many of the scenes in the book, even some which don’t have an overt sexual context, feel sexualized. Often a conversation morphs into a brief make-out session with Cease wondering if she’s willing to have sex with the boy she’s kissing. At one point Cease’s aunt helps her bathe, and even that had a bit of a sensual vibe to it.
Cease doesn’t believe in God, but she prays to the real Joan of Arc in her dark moments. When someone begins responding to her prayers via email, identifying herself as none other than the saint herself, Cease isn’t sure what to believe. She questions Joan about how she kept her faith through trials and torture. The answers seem to encourage her to have some kind of hope, though they don’t appear to alter her spiritual beliefs.
Characters in the show battle with swords, axes, daggers and other weapons for the right to one on one scenes with the boys. Some deaths occur in the filming of the show.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.