A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

TBR Challenge April 2020: The Last Grand Passion by Emma Darcy

The theme: whatevs.

Why this one: whatevs.


There was a time when the most emo hero ever written since this MST3K sketch might have made me laugh, but we’re all a little testy these days. From the start, this seemed an astonishingly pretentious Harlequin — perhaps that’s the Plus in Harlequin Plus? The hero appears out of nowhere, surrounded by billowing clouds of angst, quotes lines from “Pagliacci” and then sods off.

After that the ride gets a bit more interesting, because this heroine is not going to take no for an answer. (She’s already quite a bit different for HQ, because she slept with another man while the hero was gone!) She then proceeds to disregard pretty much everything the hero says he wants, all with the best of intentions of course. I don’t actually hate her — she’s in love, and she’s being screwed over, and she usually recognizes her mistakes, though that doesn’t stop her from making new ones.

If you like your Harlequins over the top, this one is reasonably fun and inoffensive — though I don’t know that I wouldn’t prefer a raging old school alphole to this sad, soggy clown.

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Art Imitates Art

I’m reading Bride of Diamonds by Emma Darcy, which centers around a mysterious painting:

“It was a strange picture, savage but fascinating. The sun was setting behind a limestone range, throwing a coral-rose stain across the sky. In the foreground was a traw-pale plain, swathed with a misty blue from which struggled the gnarled limbs of giant baobab trees. In the top left-hand corner was a woman’s face, weirdly integrated with the patterned sky, part of it, yet apart, and somehow projecting a timeless ache that could never be appeased.”

This cracks me up because it sounds exactly like an old Harlequin Presents cover. Though better if you add some doves and a bullfight.

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Possibly the Best Scanning Error Ever

“Is that why you leaked the story? Because you felt you were a woman scorned? You did it out of piquet.”


More Fun With Scanning Errors

“I don’t want to 50 with you, Diego.”

I’ll just bet you don’t.


More Fun With Scanning Errors

Reading an Open Library book can be unexpectedly entertaining. Not only is FU substituted for I’ll twice, but the hero turns the heroine to fece him and surveys her fece. There’s a new kink in Harlequin Presents!


Dialogue Tags, she listed

Author Ros Clarke and I are duking it out over dialogue tags: she claims Lynne Graham is the reigning champion and provides some compelling evidence. I say it’s at best a draw. From just the first chapter of Gold Ring of Betrayal by Michelle Reid, we have:

‘You know what happened, you evil monster!’ she seared at him.
‘Sara,’ he prompted quietly.
It was quietly spoken, almost conversationally so
‘Drink,’ he commanded.
Drink,’ he repeated. ‘You look like death,’ he added bluntly.
‘That’s better,’ he murmured,
‘Is this your doing?’ she demanded,
I hate you,’ she said
If anything happens to my baby then watch your back, Nicolas,’ she warned him.
‘Tell me what happened,’ he instructed quietly
‘Lia has been kidnapped!’ she had screamed
‘I did not take your child,’ he stated.
‘Yes, you did.’ She said it without a hint of uncertainty
‘Work on it,’ he suggested
‘God, you make me sick,’ she breathed
‘Putting on a show for the punters,’ she derided.
They are there to keep the media at bay,’ he then flatly explained.
Why, Nicolas?’ she cried in wretched despair
‘I won’t repeat this again,’ he clipped.
‘S-someone did,’ she choked
‘Come and sit down again before you drop,’ he suggested.
‘I don’t want to sit down!’ she angrily refused.
‘A-about an hour after they t-took her,’ she whispered,
You want to know if they were Sicilian,’ she choked.
‘Male or female?’ he persisted.
‘M-male,’ she breathed.
Exactly, Sara,’ he insisted
‘We h-have your ch-hild,” ’she quoted
‘What time is it?’ she asked jerkily.
‘Shush. Not yet six,’ he murmured calmingly.
‘Oh, God,’ she groaned
‘Afraid someone may recognise the voice?’ she seared at him
‘Leave it all to you, you mean,’ she surmised from that.
‘Concorde,’ he drawled—then added tauntingly,
‘Take care, wife,’ be gritted,
‘And you take care,’ she threw shakily back,
Or so help me, Nicolas,’ she vowed
My home,’ he listed
And for whose sake?’ she derided him scathingly
‘I know that,’ he answered stiltedly.
‘The child was taken because she bears my name,’ he stated coldly.
‘Oh, God,’ she choked

How things are “said” throughout the book:

“without a hint of uncertainty,” “quietly,” (4x) “accusingly,” “flatly,” “wearily,” “with a quiet confidence,” “jerkily,” “anxiously,” “tensely,” “cooly,” “grimly,” (7x) “shortly,” “in scathing disbelief,” “drily,” “gruffly,” (4x) “so affectionately,” “thickly,” (3x) “derisively,” “scathingly,” “curtly,” (2x) “with a small, bitter, wry smile,” “silkily,” “in flat-voiced refusal,” “tersely,” “determinedly,” “very softly,” “defensively,” (2x) “heavily,” “tightly,” “slyly,” “lightly,” “huskily,” (2x) “warily,” “a trifle curiously,” “softly,” (2x) “doubtfully,” “roughly,” “quite cooly,” “awkwardly,” “urgently,” “hoarsely,” “painfully,” “wryly,” “bitterly,” “tightly,” “in surprise,” “dully,” “gently,”

Random dialogue tags I found while looking up “saids” — I undoubtedly missed many:

“she flared,” “she challenged,” “he denied,” “he ordained,” “he snapped,” “she flashed,” “she spat at him,” “she hissed,” “Sara maintained,” “he sighed,” “he protested,” “he observed,” “she concluded,” “she challenged,” “he explained,” “Lia murmured,” “she prompted,” “he qualified,” “Sara suggested,” “she choked,” “he soothed quietly,” “he rasped,” “he added bleakly,” “he vowed,” “he told her somberly,” “he gritted,” “Sara put in soothingly,” “he rasped,” “she pleaded,” “he exploded,” “he bit the word out bitterly,” “she mocked,” and of course the classics, “he grated” and “he snarled.”

Perhaps the only conclusion to draw here is that Michelle Reid and Lynne Graham were both terribly fond of each other’s work. Or maybe twins.


Review: Tropical Storm by Stefanie Graham

reviewed from an e-arc

What tickled my fancy: Good angsty beginning

What ticked me off: Pretty much everything else.

Who might like it: I can’t answer this in a sincere way.

I would like to be kind to this book, because I’ve been in a dreadful reading slump and it not only sparked my interest but even held it for awhile, despite some flawed prose. But eventually the sheer ridiculosity of the characters’ behavior overwhelmed everything else.

Jessica, known as Storm, and her new husband Cairo Kane have only one interrupted night together, when she’s dragged back home by her wealthy, snobbish parents. When Cairo follows to fetch her, Storm has already been convinced to reject him for his own good. Although she regrets it immediately — even more so when she realizes she’s pregnant — it takes her  seven years to track him down.

So… having gotten the information that her husband is now a hotelier in Jamaica, does Storm contact him, explain the situation, and ask if they can try again?  Oh, good one! No, of course she takes her son there — having gotten up his adorable expectations that Cairo will be his new daddy! — and tries to seduce Cairo with her maternally-unhampered hotness, while letting him believe that she actually married someone else and had a son with him, for some neurotic reason of her own. That’s only the start of Storm’s tsunami of lying, which just gets more ludicrous by the chapter. One stupid fear-induced lie per romance novel I can live with, but when you’re caught by the person you’re trying to have a meaningful relationship with, and you then just keep on lying to him til you’re blue in the mouth, I call foul on a happy ending.

The Jamaican paradise setting made me uncomfortable too, especially given that Cairo is white and all the narrative support staff in his life is black. I’m sure this was well intentioned, but it inadvertently plays a lot into racist culture. The narrative flaws were along these lines:

Seemingly unaffected by Shane’s weight, Storm watched as strong purposeful strides brought Cairo closer.

Can you tell who is doing what in that sentence? I bet your guess is wrong. *

Cairo is a pretty typical “disappointed in love so cynical” hero/”you must marry me” secret-baby daddy. Then we got to him meeting with his erstwhile mother-in-law and demonstrating how little power she has over him now by pressing his thigh next to hers and playing with her hair. Gag!

The fake conflicts just get worse and worse; I literally only finished this because I felt I had to for grading purposes, and my reward was that it ended with an angry rape. (Okay, that answers the grading question.) That’s followed by this conversation:

“Ever since you got here all that you have done is tell a series of lies.”

“I never lied to you, Cairo.” Storm argued.

Even Captain Picard doesn’t have a facepalm big enough for that.


* Answer: Cairo is carrying Shane.

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What’s Right With this Picture???

This cover is absolutely cracking me up:

The story is one big ick-fest about a woman who was date-raped when she was 16, and had a secret baby. Now she’s dating a sweet younger man, who gets along with her kid like a house on fire. Then of course, this being Anne Mather, she discovers her boyfriend’s father is her rapist the man she loves.

So we have… rape, faux incest, a huge age difference with one party an actual teenager… a trifecta of ick, we don’t even need sex in a clown mask.

The man in question is about 35 when they first meet, 45 when they meet again. So all I can conclude from looking at that cover is that it depicts the heroine with his son.


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