CW: mention of rape.
I didn’t need to badly circle my card squares, because I filled every space! I addressed my concentration problem in a somewhat different way this month, with some short stories and nonfiction. Also, I gave up playing “plants vs. zombies 2”; that helped a lot.
Recurring themes of the month: Athletes, sometimes using drugs. Athletes discussing how to woo the ladies. Fat/chubby heroines. Shakespeare. Sweltering summer days. Fairs. Titled heroes forced to give up scholarly pursuits. Commitment-phobe heroes whose estranged parents get back together. Characters described as lions. Enemies to lovers. Starchy heroines. Reckless heroes. Heroes explaining sports to heroines. Plots to drive people away. Carving initials. Texas. Dogs. Family members with awful significant others. Upstairs/downstairs neighbors.
Suite: An Enticing Debt to Pay by Annie West. (Harlequin Presents. Blackmail/Punishment.) He forces her to be his housekeeper; en suites are no doubt involved, because they always are in Harlequin Presents.
I’m having a run of books with reproductive pet peeves. This was on the meh side for me; it couldn’t seem to make up its mind what story it wanted to tell. But at the end, my general indifference turned into hulksmash hate.
Independence: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. (Nonfiction. American History. Black History. Space.) I confess to being very tempted to put this book in “the Black Moment,” but that seemed like the wrong spirit. Independence, on the other hand, is doubly appropriate for the story of these brilliant black women.
Terribly Sad: Past Loving by Penny Jordan. (Harlequin Presents. Reunited lovers. Sexy beta. Heroes behaving badly.) Books in which the hero left for greener pastures are always gut-twisters.
Hero who left the heroine years before returns. A more emotionally plausible Jordan than usual. I thought it needed more remorse from the hero — he snipes at her for not accepting his apology before he even made it! The heroine was extremely wet, but I had to love how she talks to her plants.
Dancing: All Lined Up by Cora Cormack. (New Adult. Audiobook. Athletes. Sexy beta.) Heroine is a dancer, struggling because her father refuses to let her pursue her dream.
Knock Three Times: To Dream Again by Laura Lee Guhrke. (Historical romance. Victorian era. Widow.) Inventor hero lives upstairs from the emotionally distant heroine and no doubt sings this 1970s classic to himself.
Hero/ine: Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career by Carla Kelly. My TBR challenge read. The square seems appropriate for this masquerade story.
March: Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen. (Contemporary romance. Audiobook. Athletes. Suspense element.)
“March, man. Fucking March.”
Glass Madonna: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins. (Young adult. Short stories.) In one story, innocent people are imprisoned within mirrors.
An Elegant Madness: Devil’s Luck by Carolyn Crane. (Paranormal romance. Novella. Series.) The heroine is persuaded to appreciate the hero’s tempting of fate.
Ready and Willing: May the Best Man Win by Mira Lyn Kelly. (Contemporary romance. First in series.) Former friends turned enemies who discover they may not exactly be willing, but they’re always ready.
A little as if someone wrote a romance for Bobby from Sondheim’s “Company.” Set over the course of a year, with a large cast, it was occasionally confusing but a solid “his friend made a move first” romance.
It’s All Greek to me: Exquisite Revenge by Abby Green. (Category romance. Trope reversal.) Greek island.
Started out well with a trope reversal — the heroine kidnaps the hero, takes him to an island and buys him a wardrobe full of fancy clothes! But it was so repetitious! Every scene on the island starts with one or both of them fresh out of the shower and the heroine always looks delicate and vulnerable. I wanted to break her neck like a twig.
Bodily Fluid: Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren. (Contemporary romance. New Adult. Series beginning. Fanfic.) This is one of those easy squares to fill, but I had to go with this book because of Rebekah Weatherspoon’s pithy comments in her Goodreads review:
“Bennett fucks Miss. Mills in a white dress. he comes inside of her. he takes her underwear. she never cleans her crotch up and goes back to work. ill let you think about that. i know i did.”
An Ill Wind: Housebroken by Laurie Notaro. (Nonfiction. Personal essays. Domestic Humor.)
Funny personal stories. The book goes downhill towards the end, perhaps explained by the story about a giant tree falling on her house while she was writing it.
The Black Moment: Wires and Nerve by Melissa Meyer. Illustrated by Doug Holgate. (Graphic novel. Series continuation.) Although Iko is less fragile than a human, she does have mechanical vulnerabilities and loses her vision.
I expected this graphic novel to be a retelling of the Lunar Chronicles, but it’s actually a continuation, focusing on Iko the android. (Yay!) It’s the start of a good story (there’s a cliffhanger) though the art is not particularly inspired.
Bear Witness: The Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance edited by Trisha Telep. (Paranormal romance.) Ghosts, death, untold stories.
Pretty standard anthology covering many romance subgenres, with a few standouts and a few stinkers. All manage to find true love for their characters, though not always in the most ethical manner. Warning: stereotypical gay villain alert.
Pretty: Beautiful Bitch by Christina Lauren. (Contemporary Romance. Couple Follow-up. Series. Novella.) The title says it all.
Sex, flashback, sex, sex, fight, flashback, sex, sex, fight, sex.
Tropical Orchid: The Gentle Prisoner by Sara Seale. (Category romance. Beauty and the Beast. Large age difference.) The heroine marries a distant man who loves collecting beautiful things; she feels stifled and more like a part of his collection than a wife.
Valency’s post about comfort reads had me seeking out Sara Seale. I did not regret it.
Redundant: Midnight Run by Lisa Marie Rice. (Erotic romance. Second in series. Cop hero.)
Rice doing what Rice does, but not her best. The plot meanders, and though there’s an interesting conflict — heroine was overprotected/smothered by her wealthy father and is angry that hero treats her like a child — it isn’t resolved satisfactorily.
Comfort: The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller. (Nonfiction — literature, memoir.) The author goes out of his comfort zone to tackle difficult books.
This is less about the books Miller read then about his views of books, reading, masculinity, fatherhood, and writing. Although he comes off as snobby, pretentious, and indulgent at times — and embraces it — a lot of what he wrote resonated with me, as a reader who has in some ways forgotten how to read, and as someone who blogs about reading. I might have enjoyed the book more if we had anything like the same taste in books — I’d never even heard of many of his choices, a lot of which are apparently “cult” books. But it was funny enough and insightful enough that I wanted to keep reading it.
Father Figure: All Broke Down by Cora Cormack. (Audiobook. New Adult. Book two in series.College students. Athlete hero. Heroine was adopted.) Hero is basically parentless, getting adult guidance from his coach.
Kind: Tell Me Something Good by Jamie Wesley. (Contemporary romance. Series beginning. Workplace romance. Opposites attract.) The relationship expert heroine is very giving of her time and attention to her radio show listeners.
Love Thy Neighbor: The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen. (New adult. Fourth in series. College students. ) Neighbors have been secretly crushing on each other.
I was a bit iffy coming into this one, because Bella’s previous appearance showed her as sexually aggressive to the point of being creepy and because I’m sick of books where the “wild” girl gets punished. She’s toned down a bit here — still assertive, but no longer making me wonder if she’s got any restraining orders. And though she does have an understandably bad reaction to what happens to her — not rape, but bad enough — her natural enthusiasm for sex isn’t dimmed for long.
Buff: The Wingman by Natasha Anders. (Contemporary romance. South Africa. Fake relationship.) Another square almost any romance could fill — but this hero was an underwear model!
(This was a Netgalley arc.)
Kissed by Moonlight by Dorothy Vernon. (Category romance. Convenient marriage. Reunited. Age difference. Bickerfest.)
Young woman marries older guy she fell for and had been rejected by years ago… just cause, I guess? It all happens very fast, to make sure there’s plenty of time for them to bicker and misunderstand each other. Had a certain sparkle to it, but the ending was such a letdown.
Patience: The Hook-Up by Kristen Callihan. (New adult. College students. Athlete. Insecure heroine.) The heroine is determined to protect herself from emotional involvement and refuses to even let the hero kiss her while they’re having hot sex. He actually puts up with this shit for quite a long time.
45: The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. (Gothic mystery with romantic element. Inspired by another source. First person.)
“we must have been doing forty-five.”
Clever story with an excellent heroine.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (Nonfiction. History. Black history. Science.)
A fascinating true story, but I read it slowly and the loan expired. Basically, the book was too broad and epic for me. I wasn’t that interested in the details of every person involved in Henrietta’s life or in the author’s research.
Blue Notes by Carrie Lofty. (New Adult. College student and CEO. Musician.)
I’ve never been so incredibly turned off by a romance hero. And I read old Brenda Joyce! I skimmed through the book, hoping it would turn out he was her big mistake and she met someone good.