Ruthless Women – Melanie Blake

Today is my stop on the Midas PR Blog Tour for Melanie Blake’s Ruthless Women. This came out yesterday from Head of Zeus and according to the marketing copy it is “a glamorous revenge-filled thriller”. This of course made me curious and I was looking forward to delving into a fun and compelling story about the various women at the set of a soap opera. But while I always try to write positive reviews for blog tours, Ruthless Women sadly falls into some unforgivable traps – I am truly sorry to have to write a negative review.

You can find the book on Goodreads here, and on Waterstones here.

Thank you to Midas PR and Head of Zeus for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

SUMMARY: On a beautiful private island off the coast of the UK, the cast and crew of glamorous TV show Falcon Bay are at breaking point.

Ratings are falling, and their new boss is inventing ever more dramatic – and impossible – storylines to get Falcon Bay back into the number 1 slot.

Director Farrah, lead actress Catherine and producer Amanda are the passionate, ambitious women holding the show together. With so much at stake, they will stop at nothing to stay in the jobs they love and on the island they call home.

Can these women team up to bring down their rivals? Or will scandal, betrayal and ambition tear them apart? (from Head of Zeus)

OPINIONS: So the first 75-80% of Ruthless Women are pretty decent. It is just what it says on the tin, fluffy, overly dramatic soap opera actors and producers and their petty problems with each other, relationships and the show. It is entertaining, if nothing special to write about. But around the eighty-percent mark of the book (and this will include potential spoilers), it all goes to hell. One of the women gets outed for being trans. And not only has she previously been introduced as a sort of villain, but her transness is used as a weapon against her. It is a punchline and blackmail material. And while that alone already had me in a rage while reading, the fact that she gets killed in the most ridiculous way at the end of the book and it is considered ‘just punishment’ by the remaining ruthless women in the book made it infinitely worse. This is 2021, and the queer community has been fighting for representation and recognition for DECADES at this point, and the ‘kill your gays’ trope has been well and truly called out. There is no reason to introduce a trans character only to twist their transness against them and then kill them shortly after. Especially in this case, where there simply needs to be some kind of secret to use against the woman in question, there are so many easier and less hurtful ways to plot the story. Have a damn lovechild or fake identity or something without hurting one of the most marginalised communities. And considering the current climate in the UK and the struggle against TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists), having a supposedly feminist book treat its only trans character in such a way is certainly a choice. There is enough shit in the world that we don’t need to pile more on to trans people (or any other marginalised group). I cannot possibly recommend this book considering the harm that it does, which supersedes any merit it might have.

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