Disclaimer: This is a review, and as such will contain opinions, spoilers and (often) general shit talking. (If you talk about what you don’t like about a work, you learn a lot. When you think through a work with the stakes presented to you by the creator, by the context of the work, you learn a lot. I review things, not because I love to dislike things, but because dislike contains rich and vital information for the process of experiencing something, but I cannot access it without interrogating it.) So, if you don’t want to have this thing spoiled for you, or don’t know how to behave when a person on the internet, that you don’t know, has opinions that don’t line up with yours, this review is not for you. It’s also not for the author/creator of the work. Please and thank you.

I read this when I was deep into reading thieves and heists (mostly fantasy like Locke Lamora) and was curious to see the other side of the coin. But I don’t think I was any happier for having picked up this one.

I’m iffy with contemporary in general, but contemporary romance heist was just too much for me.

I thought the title — Shimmy, Bang, Sparkle —was cute but the story failed to shimmy, bang or sparkle. Long-winded description slows the pace right out of the gate.

Reading the first chapter, MC didn’t sound like a guy covered in tattoos and recently out of jail, more like a romanticised version of that (which he is, duh), but it does make me think that romanticising things is a slippery slope (as we saw with Darkness Embraced by Tillie Cole or many biker romances that actually play out as grooming).

Using fiction to explore taboo subjects and romanticising things like abuse, crime or a life shaped by crime, are very different things. And this book isn’t trying to explore a taboo subject through fiction, but that’s a whole other conversation.

This book’s also full of clichés (should have been obvious when the blurb said, “But when two thieves have this much chemistry, it’s only a matter of time before somebody’s heart gets stolen”) and I was rolling my eyes form the start.

Like, when the FMC says that she shouldn’t have had fries for lunch, and the sales lady “pats her slightly pudgy stomach” and agrees, that felt like a fat shaming moment, because even if I’d agree to a statement like that, fat as I am, I would NOT pat my stomach. Especially, not in front of strangers.

To me that just came off as a very middle-aged guy with a beer gut Santa belly-pat, but that’s a whole other cliché.

I felt like a lot of the small side characters were very stereotypical. They were just there to populate the world for the main characters, which made them feel like cardboard cutouts.

Even though the first chapter is from MCs POV, I feel like it’s a poorly disguised attempt at setting the reader up to really like the FMC Stella (which it didn’t do for me). The part in Stella’s POV where she goes to visit the old man endeared me more to her, before that she just felt annoying despite MC seeing her as so amazing.

There were things that just straight up bugged me in the beginning, though. I’ve done a fair bit of research into professional thieves, and while I think most readers will find the initial chapters cute, if Stella was a professional thief (as MMC guesses), she would have aborted her initial mission when he walked into the shop.

And yes, I get it that it doesn’t make for a good narrative and that this is their meet cute, but it just bugged me. FMC is a petty thief, so stop making the MC try to convince me otherwise (it just eats at his credibility as a career criminal that he doesn’t see that).

FMC getting the “assorted random shit” in exchange for pawning the diamond ring was funny, but I wish she’d have described the lamp instead of told me it was weird. Then again the “tell, don’t show” seems to be a theme in this book, and the older I get, the more tiring I find lazy writing.

I don’t want everything explained to me. As a reader, I want to be more than just a passive spectator who feels like my presence as a reader is just making me the third wheel in a story that doesn’t need me.

And him having a tattoo marking him as a thief, that’s not something professional thieves do.

Why give the police an easy reason to book you? Professional career thieves, which are extinct as an underground culture in today’s world, were a loose network of individual players. There was often no love lost between them, but there was a professional respect and they abhorred amateurs.

Listening to the story about how MC got into stealing cars, got me thinking that car theft doesn’t translate back in history. Back in the day, if somebody had a nice car, you couldn’t have stolen it because it would have been bespoke.

And if it was bespoke you couldn’t fence it, because everyone knew who it belonged to.

So you’d either have to take it really far away to fence it, where nobody knew who owned it, or theft was probably more focused on smaller items or consumable goods that were more mass-produced and so less traceable.

And, yes, I’m aware she didn’t write this book because she has a fascination with thieves and thief culture, like yours truly, but because she needed set dressing and plot fodder for a quick, easy book that isn’t supposed to mean much to you after you close the back cover.

Clichés that had me rolling my eyes included but were not limited to the pair doing an “Eskimo kiss”, the thieves’ tattoo thing, the cookie-cutter side characters and the Ghost referencing safe cracking scene — if you’re gonna do that, at least make it memorable in a good way (such as they did on Community).

Speaking of stereotypes…

All the Arabs are suuuper stereotypical, even racist.

The author also made the mark (person who gets robbed) so, so dumb, which tells me you don’t need to be very smart to rob him. I have to wonder if that was an intentional adjustment to say that Stella just isn’t that good of a thief? Unlikely. Sadly, it’s more likely that this is just the “move fast, break things” type of writing that doesn’t care if it uses stereotypical or racist tropes.

And like, why not catfish the bajillionaire instead? She had him dangling on a hook, why go through all that trouble just to then do an in-person heist?

The whole maid shtick the main characters played out would have been more fun if it had been in the hotel, with real stakes, genuine rivalry between thieves, rather than simple role-playing in the safety of her home.

Just more excuses to get them to fuck. But even that would haven been so much better had it happened at the hotel during the real thing.

But this is another theme in the book. The first blow job was going so well, and then they ruin it by taking the whole thing to bed. A whole book of these two fucking and gushing over each other is just boring.

Uuuggghhh, and then the token feminism with he His & Hers cushions. Bleurgh. But I shouldn’t be surprised, since everything else seems to be token only, too.

Did I enjoy it?

Nah. These are hours of my life I’m never getting back.

FMC is a magical genius, the events are magical geniuses, the whole book is like an idealised date, described in detail, and I don’t read books because I want to go on dates or build the ideal life.

I read books because I wanna experience things I don’t get to in every day life.

This book bored me so much, because there’s nothing interesting in reading about the perfect relationship.

At one point, it even turned into Pretty Woman, but with FMC toting around a fully-grown Dachshund in a shoulder bag. Those things are big! And dogs should walk for themselves.

Also, was there a last curveball when FMC became the token lesbian in this book?

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