A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Reading, July 2017

on August 1, 2017

Recurring themes of the month: The 4th of July (coincidence.) Older women with younger men. Women attacked by groups of men in bars. (Don’t worry, they’re tough.) Macys. Mermaid decorations. Heroes with dead siblings and/or survivor’s guilt and/or seeking revenge. Professionally inappropriate/unlawful relationships. Degenerative neurological conditions. Napoleonic wars. Jane Eyre. Beowulf. Dead loves named Peter. Sex on the stairs (and I didn’t even reread Black Silk.) The cultural practice of bacha posh. Disabilities caused by accidents. Intense YA.

The Bad Assassin by S. Doyle (Contemporary. Romantic suspense. Alaska)

Fun book, if you don’t mind amoral characters and violence. Could have used more editing. Cool point: the hero mentions anal sex several times, the heroine always adamantly refuses… and there is no anal sex.

Kiss Me Deadly by Shannon Stacey. (Contemporary. Paranormal. Shifter. Novella. Heroine is an abuse survivor.)

Hero is cursed to kill randomly, but his touch doesn’t kill his target. Kind of same-old, but the characters are sweet.

Going Nowhere Fast by Kati Wilde. (Contemporary. New Adult. First person present tense. Heroine POV only. Road Trip. Enemies to Lovers. Starchy hero. Gazillionaire. A Matter of Class. Uxorious hero.)

A Pride and Prejudice-ish enemies-to-lovers story, which I inhaled. Aspen is sharp, loyal, and relatable, and the single point of view narrative is very effective: you can see how much she’s driving Bram crazy, so it works when he melts into a great dirty talker. The more Cinderella aspects of Bram being a perfect former bad boy — he can give you everything you want AND ride a motorcycle! —  didn’t mesh as well; I’m reminded of “Gilmore Girls,” when Rory starts hanging with the rich kids and everything becomes weird-as-fuck. Still, the serious character issues underneath the flying sparks and wish-fulfillment keep it somewhat grounded, and I loved Aspen’s close relationship with her mom. And there’s some great angst. The dark moment was so vicariously painful, I reread it several ties.

The Way of the Tyrant by Anne Hampson. (Contemporary. Category. Harlequin Presents. Heroine pov only. Masquerade. Reunited. Heroes behaving badly.)

The beginning of this book was intensely familiar, but I couldn’t find any record of having previously read it. I’ve concluded that I probably started it, decided “this is bullshit,” and tossed it. Because it pretty much is bullshit. The heroine spurns a proposal because her boyfriend isn’t man enough for her — i.e. bossy and a player — then runs into him again while pretending to be married to her own brother*. She finds him hard, cynical, and no longer remotely interested in marriage, and is all remorseful — while falling in love with his nasty new persona.

This had an issue I find common in Hampson, which is the hero being very threatening towards the heroine and then the threat just fizzling out… until it happens again. It’s frustratingly dull.

*I was thinking it was nice that this particular plotline has died out, and then ran into it in an HP from 2009.

The Hawk and the Dove by Anne Hampson. (Contemporary. Category. Harlequin Presents. Heroine pov only. Convenient marriage. Heroes behaving badly.)

I don’t know why I went from a crappy Anne Hampson to another Anne Hampson, but it didn’t work out too badly. My thoughts here.

The Love Charm by Pamela Morsi. Lovely book! It’s going to be an upcoming TBR challenge read, so I’ll link later. (I’ve been preparing my summer TBR challenge posts early, because of travel plans.)

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. (Fantasy Romance. Series.)

I don’t really know what to say about this one. Cryoburn was much harder to read. After that… okay, whatever.

I did like it as a look at marriage, and how people outside of it, even the children of the marriage, can never really know what’s going on inside. And as a romance featuring older people. But it continues Cordelia as a frequently obnoxious Mary Sue character — whenever she tried to analyze other people’s sexual attraction, I want to hide my face in a pillow — and I deeply miss the Cordelia of Shards of Honor and Barrayar. I feel a reluctant agreement with the many reviewers who say this is basically Cordelia fanfic.

Bujold’s bisexual representation was gawdawful in previous books –Beta and Betans were retconned a fair bit in the series — and I’m not sure it’s all that much better here, because there’s never a clear distinction made between “bisexual” and “polyamorous.” I’ve also seen other reviewers complain of queer baiting, which makes sense.

It’s Bujold, so it was sometimes funny and sometimes thoughtful, but not her best.

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup. (Nonfiction. Science and history.)

I read this for a nonfiction challenge, the Christie tie being the draw. It discusses the history — scientific and personal — of a number of poisons Christie used in her books, and the accuracy of her depictions. The chemistry aspects were dull at times, but the historical anecdotes were often fascinating.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. (Young Adult. Romance. Contemporary. Family.)

Not sure what to write about this, because reading it was kind of like being slapped in the face by my own past. Certain parts were simply excruciating to read. The hero is adorable,  and I related a lot to the narrator’s concerns as a fat girl wanting love.

To Steal a Heart by K.C. Bateman. (Historical romance.  Adventure. Napoleon era France. Spies. )

This was recommended as being similar to Joanna Bourne’s books, which I guess is true enough, but the romance elements were extremely old hat. I seem to be the only person who felt this way.

By Her Touch by Adriana Anders. (Contemporary romance/Romantic suspense. Second in series. Unlawful/unethical love. Violence. Doctor/patient. Cop.)

Underneath way too much mental lusting, IMO, is an interesting story about a man who is not only suffering from PTSD, but tremendous identity confusion and guilt after years deep undercover. Clay goes to Blackwood Virginia because, like Uma in the wonderful first book, he’s both in hiding and desperately needs tattoo removal done. (How George can keep her dermatology practice going in a small town, where she seems to do mainly pro-bono work, is not clear. I guess paying customers travel for her specialty.) Clay is waiting to testify against the biker gang that caught on to his deception and almost killed him, sure they’ll come after him. (He’s right.) His mental state is extremely unstable

George also has problems besides the urge to caress her patient. She’s lonely, and just about to try to get pregnant using her dead husband’s frozen sperm.

I was less bothered by the doctor/patient relationship than by the fact that Clay is clearly mentally unstable and George pushes him to have sex with her right after he had an intense flashback. And there were a lot of loose ends. I’ll still read the third book, because the first was so great.

First to Burn by Anna Richland. (Contemporary/Paranormal/Romantic Suspense. Immortals. Unlawful/unethical love. Soldiers. Doctor. Disability caused by an accident.)

Enjoyable, but on the long side.

Mother to the Millionaire by Alison Fraser. (Contemporary. Category. Harlequin Presents. Secret baby. Bickerfest.)

An odd book. The heroine seems to think she’s in an old skool HP and never notices that the hero is actually a decent guy. There’s no justification whatsoever for her keeping her pregnancy and child a secret — and even putting that aside, I had no idea what he saw in her.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho. (Historical. Short story. London. 1920s. Interracial romance. First person. Heroine pov only. Writer.)

An adorable story in diary format, reminiscent of Jean Webster’s books or of Fraulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther by Elizabeth von Arnim. Jade’s voice is lively and intimate; here she describes herself at a party,

“…trying as hard as I could to look inscrutable and aloof but feeling scrutable and loof as anything.”

It doesn’t have enough hero presence to be considered a true genre romance, but there is a happy ending.

The Mathematics of Love by Hannah Fry. (Nonfiction. Mathematics. Relationships.)

A quick, fun read about applying mathematical equations to real-life situations.

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs. (Urban fantasy. Same-couple series. First and third person pov. Alternativ pov.)

Exciting entry in the series. Repetitious at times, and a little Mary Sue-ish when other people are talking about Mercy. (Not when she’s narrating herself.)

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford. (Young Adult. First person. Friendship. Twins. Made me cry.)

This reminded me of the movie “Radio Flyer,” in that it’s realistic yet also somewhat fantastical. It could be considered an ace love story, because it’s about a very intense love that isn’t remotely physical — though it’s equally likely that Jonah is just too traumatized/angry to be sexual towards anyone. It’s also a very unhealthy relationship, so certainly not the best representation… and the disability rep. is iffy too. I have mixed feelings overall, but the narrator’s voice is very striking, and it was deeply touching.

Dangerous Enchantment by Anne Mather. (Contemporary. Category. Harlequin Presents. Good girl/bad boy. Celebrity. Kisses only.)

A very dated story about a “good girl” who falls for a man who would never marry her.

I should do this as a Harlequin Read, since it’s #41, but frankly it just wasn’t interesting enough to write much about.

Echoes in the Dark by Gayle Wilson. (Contemporary. Category. Harlequin Intrigue. Romantic Suspense. Amnesia. Hero is blind.)

What a disappointment! Most of this book was excellent suspense, very tautly plotted, but then there were loose ends, no satisfying resolution of the suspense, and worst of all, no apology or anything from the hero after the heroine had to keep chasing after him for the whole book.

The Italian’s Deal for I Do by Jennifer Haywood. (Contemporary. Category. Harlequin Presents. Multi-author series. Tycoon. Model/dress designer. Fake engagement.)

This started as one of those incredibly illogical HP plots, with the hero wanting a fake engagement, to show how stable he is, with the woman he thinks was his grandfather’s gold-digging lover. Because that could never come back to bite him on the ass! But then it turns into more of a Sandra Marton kind of story, with a pleasing growth from enemies to lovers.

Heart of the Outback by Emma Darcy (Contemporary. Category. Harlequin Presents. Secret Baby. Reunited. Single father. Single mother. All the disability cliches.)

It didn’t age well at all, but I still enjoyed this one. The heroine is pretty awful — yelling dark secrets to the hero’s thirteen year old daughter! — but she does realize it and works on doing better.

When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. (Magical realism. Young adult. Romance. Interracial romance. Transgender hero.)

I’m not usually into magical realism, but this was just so gorgeous. And I loved the way it used both reality and metaphor to write about issues around identity. I was so happy when I read reviews by transgender writers who loved it, because I would have been deeply sad if it turned out the representation was shit.

Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang. (Contemporary romance. Second in series. Doctor. Hockey player. Hero is a mountain. Sexy beta.)

I had to give myself a little time after When the Moon Was Ours to read another book, but thankfully the reading hangover didn’t ruin this one for me. It’s a funny, thoughtful romance with appealing characters and a strong voice. I really liked that Adam is only an average hockey player and hasn’t built up tons of money and fame — very unusual in sport romance — so now he’s getting older, he has to figure out the rest of his life. And he’s an absolute sweetheart. Helen has a tough journey too, because she’s a neurologist with a very personal, painful interest in brain injuries. After DNFing the first book in the series, I’m so glad I gave this one a try.


Dirty by Kylie Scott. (Contemporary. First person. Runaway bride.)

Really not my cuppa.

Jacob’s Faith by Lora Leigh.

Trying to catch up before Cassie’s story is published, but not sure I’m going to make it through.

Beach House #9 by Christie Ridgway

Just wasn’t working for me. Too cute.

Beach House Beginnings by Christie Ridgway

I guess this series just isn’t for me.

Wicked Abyss by Kresley Cole. (Paranormal romance. Series. Inspired by fairy tales. Fated to be Mated. Betrayal.)

I seem to dislike every other IAD book these days. (Though I haven’t had a chance to read Shadow’s Seduction, which might break the trend.) This should be my catnip, with the angry, betrayed hero wanting to punish his mate, but I found the writing very prosaic and aimless.

7 responses to “Reading, July 2017

  1. KeiraSoleore says:

    I’m going to look into the Zen Cho and the magical realism YA book. Salman Rushdie makes magical realism palatable, so I’m curious how this YA author does it. I always find something to read in your list.

    Is the YA book appropriate only for older teens?

  2. azteclady says:

    I perked up when you mentioned the poisons book (I loved chemistry, what can I say?)

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