A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

More BINGO!

I got the best prize for winning, incidentally — I got to name a square on the next card! See if you can guess which one when it comes out. ūüôā

My second (top across) BINGO.

7 Deadly Sins: Crosstown Crush by Cara McKenna. I had mixed feelings about this one. It’s very good at explaining a complex kink, and especially the effect of that kink on the unkinked partner. Also — TMI time here — I found¬†it extremely hot. But there’s very little in the way of characterization — couldn’t help comparing it McKenna’s¬†much meatier Unbound — and the ending didn’t satisfy me at all. Seemed like everyone got shafted in some way, and not the good kind.

Heart in Your Throat: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs. Had a very, very scary scene. I didn’t like some of the previous books all that much, but Briggs is settling into a good couples continuation groove here.

Laughter: Act Like It by Lucy Parker. In my previous BINGO.

OIIA Party Dance: Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh. Has a huge celebration for a previous couple. I really liked what she did what the fated mates thing here!

You Read a Spoiler, A Fairy Died: Through the Storm by Beverly Jenkins. Not too bad a spoiler really, because it didn’t happen the way I expected.

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B.I.N.G.OOOOOOOOOOO!

When we do this at camp, everyone hugs¬†when we get to OOOOOOO. It’s adorable.

So anyway, there’s a reader bingo game going on and I just got bingo!

My books:

Laughter: Act Like It by Lucy Parker. Very funny, British style.

Red: Carved in Stone by Kathleen Eagle. Red shirt on the cover. And you could say the heroine’s depictions of Indians in her historical fiction made the hero see red. Oh crap, I just¬†realized this was a choice chock full of potential racist¬†faux pas. I swear¬†that didn’t occur to me until just now.

As You Wish: More Than A Convenient Marriage by Dani Collins. A free space for a book I kind of regret wasting my time on. Good plot, but very claustrophobic and naval-gazey.

Hero/ine: Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh. I like how both characters are very powerful, in their own ways.

Mnom Mnom Mnom : Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. Not because it’s about two hot guys. Because it’s about purple skittles. Sadly, I didn’t love this.

 

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Broadening my Harlequin Horizons

wow

I’ve been glomming Carol Marinelli’s Kolovsky series — it’s pretty strongly linked, unlike most Harlequin series. Interestingly, it was published in the U.K. in more than one line: the second and third books are in the “Harlequin Medical” line, the rest are “Modern.” They all wound up as Harlequin Presents in the U.S. — I don’t think we have any other place to put Medical romances, even though they don’t fit.

I was intrigued by how the author changed styles for the different lines, yet also managed to not make the contrasts too sharp. The Moderns I’ve read (I’m about the start the last one) have the usual HP elements — playboys, obscene wealth — yet also have some grounding elements. (In The Last Kolovsky Playboy, the heroine is a single mother, and the impact her fake relationship with her boss would have on her young daughter is given far more attention than it usually would be. She’s also apparently genuinely fat, not just “curvy.”) The Medicals are much more real world, and Knight on the Children’s Ward gives a significant character arc to the heroine, which I liked a lot.

A running theme in all the books is the lingering effects of being part of the very messed-up Kolovsky family, and this is more powerfully drawn than usual in HPs. It’s especially strong in Knight, where it narratively fits with the medical environment: the pediatrician hero is giving a talk on spotting small signs of emotional abuse in children, and comes to realize why the woman he loves is so withdrawn and passive.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Medical romances, because I usually don’t get into the more realistic Harlequin lines . (Excepting Sarah Mayberry, who almost always manages to keep it interesting.) I’m not sure if that’s because of the connection to the series or if I’d enjoy the line in general.

Anyway, the series has its share of problems¬† — Knight, especially, has some othering of the part Romany hero, and also some weird editing issues.¬† This paragraph…

“I’ll come with you.” Ross went with her.

But the author has some flair to her writing that made me more forgiving of times when it was hard to parse what was going on. (I was also stuck for a minute on “They ate cold roast beef and hot mustard sandwiches…”) It was also interesting that her style seemed to come out more and more as the series went along, as if it became less necessary for her to try to sound like every other HP writer. The third and fourth books impressed me much more than the first and second. On to book five, and may the trend continue!

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Semi-Reviews: Somehow I Kept Listening to These Audiobooks edition

The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards. Audiobook.

What tickled me: The ending delivered.

What ticked me off: 2 pounds of plot in a 10 pound sack

Who might like it: Anyone hooked by the crazy-sauce of the first book.

The second in the Charlotte Stone series, this reads as if the author cut and pasted huge chunks from the first book over and over. She wants him, she knows she can’t have him, she makes him go away, she prays for him come back, she throws up… over and over. In the background of her angst, there’s a serial killer thing going on. Charlie is also an exceptionally unlikeable heroine, acting in a cruel and insensitive way towards the guy who obviously adores her, for no discernible reason. Yet I’m still hooked, waiting for the third book.

Losing It by Cara MacCormack

What tickled me: I now get the joke about the pet octopus from Tousle Me.

What ticked me off: Spent the first half wondering, “why am I still listening to this? Oh well, I guess it’s something to do while I play candy crush.”

Who might like it: People who like quintessential NA, I guess.

I don’t feel like I can reasonably say much about this, because it’s so far out of the realm of the sort of book I enjoy, I have no idea what it does well or badly.¬† V card? Hoo-hoo? I’m supposed to take this character seriously? The audiobook narrator’s voice does full justice to the youthful idiocy of the book’s narrator — the fact that she sounds about 14 makes the already icky teacher/student situation even ickier.¬† The hero’s British accent sounds less than authentic. I kept listening mainly out of inertia, though there was a pretty good dark moment in the second half and I actually got somewhat interested in the story.

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Semi Reviews: Not a Happy Reader Edition

The Mediterranean Billionaire’s Blackmail Bargain by Abby Green.

What tickled me: Had some angst going on.

What ticked me off: Got there in utterly ridiculous ways.

Who might like it: Readers simply wanting an intense read.

My goodness, mood is everything. I noticed this on my old GoodReads wishlist and borrowed it from the library, forgetting about the whole “GoodReads shelving is totally fukakta” thing. As I read I started to think it was somewhat familiar, as well as utterly terrible. Not only had I read it before, I gave it 3 1/2 stars that time. On this read, I’m thinking 1 1/2. The implausibilities were almost impressive.

Chaser by Rick Reed.

My thoughts as I read:

Describing characters by comparing them to celebrities — never a good sign.

This writing style is so shallow‚Ķ but how often do I see a fat hero in a romance? I’ll skim.

So‚Ķ naturally Kevin lost weight while Caden is away and is all buff now. And Caden isn’t sure he’s still attracted to him. Well, I’m bummed that he didn’t stay fat — typical! — but that could still be an interesting story. I’ll keep skimming.

WTF is this fairy tale villain doing in here? So instead of actually working out what happened between them, they’ve got this other stupid, contrived conflict to deal with. Whoopee. Deleting this sucker.

The Billionaire by Juliette Jones

What tickled me: Crazy hero knows he’s crazy.

What ticked me off: Mary Sue heroine could not be more Mary Sue

Who might like it: Not going there.

This was one of the most mind boggling books I’ve ever read. It started out as a pretty straightforward “Fifty Shades” rip-off, but then seemed as if it wanted to actually get real about obsession and possessiveness. Unfortunately, this was all completely undone by the end — the heroine decides that it’s perfectly okay that the hero locked her up, because Issues. And he’s just trying to protect her. And she can no longer live without all the rich goodies he provides. I wish I were exaggerating.

There was also something uncomfortably porny about the sex… literally everyone in the world, male or female, wants this woman, and they keep sneaking their way in on the action. At the same time the book keeps trying to make this powerful love/monogamy statement. Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Also, the heroine’s beautiful youth is constantly being worshiped. If Alex hasn’t killed her by the third book in the series, he’ll probably have dumped her for getting wrinkles.

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Semi-Reviews: Who Reads Short-Shorts Edition

Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh

What tickled me: Not hyper realistic, but a very believable sort of story.

What ticked me off: I kinda didn’t like the way the conflict went, but it pulled it together in the end.

Who might like it: Readers who like reunion stories.

A woman runs into her workaholic ex while snowbound in Chicago, and they wonder if they can give it another try. This is a fairly conventional contemporary romance novella, but it had a sweetness to it that appealed to me (not a euphemism, it’s quite steamy.) Though it’s slightly on the too-good-to-be-true side, it felt like the sort of thing that might really happen to people.

The Bridge by Rebecca Rogers Maher.

This novella was much loved by my online reading peeps, and it’s unquestionably beautifully written… I would have to give it a high rating. But it perturbed me so much, I kinda hate it. Just cut too close to the bone, I guess.

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This n That

I have a review of Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Temptation over at Dear Author. This was the hard review I mentioned previously, and I have a terrible feeling that my earnest efforts will probably wind up just pissing everyone off.

Hub and I watched “Somewhere in Time” last night, a movie he remembers fondly from his childhood. Record players, typewriters, going to the library to research someone… it truly is a time-travel movie. And quite lovely… I was interested by how I noticed romance cliches yet found them completely appropriate and effective. I would’ve missed them if they weren’t there.¬† I disliked the ending; I think I’m just too old now to find it romantic.

I also noticed how much Reeve physically overpowers Seymour in their scenes, which I’m not sure I’ve ever been conscious of in a movie before. He’s so much taller and the way he crowds in and sort of takes her over… it didn’t bother me exactly, but I can see how it could feel intimidating.

I’m now wondering if there’s a t.v. trope for “the loveable stalker.” Another example: “An American in Paris.” No, they have stalking as love but I think this is a specific subset.

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Semi-Reviews: Back on that Horse edition

I’m still reading quite slowly and scatteredly, but am managing to finish a few things. Am one-tenth of the way into The Warmth of Other Suns. Good God, the segregation! I had no idea of the lengths it went to. A black person had to wait for a white person to offer a handshake. Black drivers had to yield to white drivers and couldn’t pass them! It strikes me that most of the general knowledge about segregation — I’m assuming that’s what I’ve had — supports the “separate but equal” lie, while the stuff that quite obviously didn’t doesn’t get talked about.

The Last Victim by Karen Robards. Romantic Suspense/Paranormal/Continuing Series. Format: audiobook

What tickled my fancy: kept me guessing — and I often guessed wrong!

What ticked me off: I have my own stomach issues, I don’t need to read about yours.

Who might like it: Fans of bad boys.

Profiler of serial killers… also sees dead people… yadda yadda yadda I don’t feel like writing a synopsis. Also, I knew nothing about the book going in and it was kind of fun being off-balance and surprised. (Though not so much fun when the ending is a @$!$#! cliffhanger.) I get the feeling that Robards was cocking a bit of a snoot here at readers who’ve rejected the bad boy alphole hero she specializes in.

The narration is… adequate. The accents are actually well done and the sex scenes are hot. Perhaps the problem was less the narrator than what she had to work with. Endless descriptions of the protagonist’s upset tummy issues — not only does she see dead people, but it makes her all queasy — and her ruminations about how hot and forbidden another character is, yawn.

Still, it hooked me and I’m going back for more.

Pregnant By Morning by Kat Cantrell. Contemporary/Category Romance.

What tickled my fancy: Hero’s mom refers to him being “unstarched.” I’ve made the big time!

What ticked me off: Least favorite romance shorthand ever.

Who might like it: Hurt/comfort fans, readers who enjoy a sexually aggressive heroine (still pretty rare in Harlequins, or at least the kind I read)

I found this book kind of disconcerting because I kept, well, expecting someone to get pregnant. The whole point of these dumbass Harlequin titles is you know what you’re getting, right? Pages just kept turning, and the heroine just kept not being pregnant.¬† It’s not that I even wanted to read about a pregnancy, but since I knew it was going to happen, it was really distracting when it didn’t. Which is a shame, because I think the author was deliberately trying to write a different kind of surprise pregnancy story, one in which it brings up serious, realistic issues. I don’t think she succeeded anyway, but the title didn’t help.

Hero’s angst: dead wife.¬† This was a little odd, because first it seemed like he’d been married forever, then it turned out to have been a relatively short time. Heroine’s angst: incompetent surgery destroyed her vocal cords ruining her singing career. Both characters think of themselves as “damaged.”¬† Heroine is self-righteously horrified at the suggestion that she might not keep the baby. (KILL IT WITH FIRE!) The ending had some promise around the couple’s serious conflicts, but they are solved very easily and — surprise! — at the heroine’s expense. Although she does get a new career, the whole happy housewife ending was incredibly improbable and didn’t fit with the rest of the book.

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Review Vacation Roundup

With review books piling up to the metaphorical ceiling, I decided I just needed to get away from them entirely. For the past week, I’ve been catching up on books that have been lying around forever in my “really absolutely must read next” section. It would have been against the spirit of the review vacation to review any of them, but here are some thoughts from notes I made:

The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville. B-
Why it was on my TBR: Recommended by many romance readers friends.
What tickled my fancy: Socially awkward virgin hero! Heartbreak and betrayal and revenge!
What ticked me off:  What I call a “love to hate you” book — an epic roller coaster relationship.
Who might like it: Readers who enjoy traditional historical romances with fresh voices.

Reckless Night by Lisa Marie Rice. Short short story. D
Why it was on my TBR: It’s a short epilogue to Dangerous Passion, my favorite book by Rice.
What tickled my fancy: The descriptions of the heroine’s creative presents were cool.
What ticked me off:  It was just kind of dull.
Who might like it:  Eh. Someone who likes these things more than I do.

A Gift for a Princess by Miranda Neville. C

Why it was on my TBR:  I’m a completionist

What tickled my fancy:  The hero and heroine are ordinary people, not titled.
What ticked me off:  Nothing in particular. Not high in conflict.
Who might like it:  Fans of Courtney Milan

Where’s You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. B

Why it was on my TBR: I adore epistolary novels

What tickled my fancy: Very funny and offbeat; lovely mother/daughter relationship.
What ticked me off:  Kind of trails off at the end, with a lot of unanswered questions.
Who might like it:  Fans of unusual but accessible narratives.

Heaven Sent by Pamela Morsi. B

Why it was on my TBR: I enjoy Pamela Morsi 
What tickled my fancy: Good storytelling. Consistently interesting. Immersive.
What ticked me off:  A teaser… lots and lots of interrupted consummations.
Who might like it: Anyone who enjoys a good Americana story. Fans of reformed bad boys.

Low Pressure by Sandra Brown. Audiobook. C

Why it was on my TBR: I ran out of Brown books narrated by Viktor Slezak 
What tickled my fancy: For someone who isn’t Viktor Slezak, the narration was pretty good.
What ticked me off:  Lots of fake-outs. I guessed the villain very easily. Anticlimactic ending.
Who might like it: Fans.

Addicted by Charlotte Stein. B

Why it was on my TBR: Duh, Charlotte Stein! 
What tickled my fancy: Went to an unexpected, clever place. Very funny.
What ticked me off:  I might have liked it better if I hadn’t read Run to You first, because there was some overlap. (Although also many differences.) The ending kind of fell apart, as Stein’s endings tend to do.
Who might like it: Erotic romance readers who enjoy laughing and thinking while they’re burning their knickers.

Get Lucky by Suzanne Brockmann. B

Why it was on my TBR:  The last one of this series I hadn’t read. 
What tickled my fancy: Really good storytelling. Good opposites attract chemistry.  This series has been hit or miss for me and this was definitely one of the hits.
What ticked me off:  The attitudes towards women and rape felt kind of dated. I suspect she might write it differently today.
Who might like it: Anyone who enjoys a good romantic suspense story heavy on the romance.

Reasons I Fell for the Funny Fat Friend by Cassie Mae and Becca Ann. DNF

Why it was on my TBR:  Fat heroine.
What tickled my fancy: Narrated entirely by the hero.
What ticked me off:  Narrated entirely by the hero, who constantly drops his gs. I don’t mind it in dialogue, but can’t stand it in narrative. Also, the heroine’s incessant low self-esteem got on my nerves.
Who might like it: People who like to see the fat girl get the guy.

Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox. B

Why it was on my TBR:  Highly recommended by many people.
What tickled my fancy: Unusual plotline of the characters biking across country — fresh and atmospheric.  As often with Knox’s books, some very funny sex scenes.
What ticked me off:  Last minute idiotic heroine hissy-fit.  And she trusts him enough not to use condoms, but freaks out when he wants to take her on a different route?!
Who might like it: Readers looking for something new in contemporary romance.

More than Words by Karla Doyle. C

Why it was on my TBR:  Recommended by the aforementioned Ruthie Knox, IIRC.
What tickled my fancy:  Lovers meet online playing silly scrabble games. 
What ticked me off:  Instalove and total devotion from the hero — felt too much like a fantasy for my tastes. And the sex scenes just went on and on and on…
Who might like it: Fans of Shannon McKenna.

Legend of the Werestag by Tessa Dare. Novella. B

Why it was on my TBR:  Recommended, and I really like Dare’s earlier books.
What tickled my fancy:  The chummy relationships between in the characters in the house-party setting had an unusual feel to it — more like a book set in the Twenties than a Regency. Some good angst.  A bit heavy on the pining, but the heroine makes up for it by getting tough and interesting. Thematically satisfying.
What ticked me off:  Oh the hero is such an asshole!
Who might like it: Fans of angsty reunion romances.

 

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