A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

More Precious Than a Crown by Carol Marinelli

 

CW: Mentions of rape, family abuse, domestic violence and miscarriage

 

I enjoyed Protecting the Desert Princess, an offbeat mix of “Roman Holiday” and “It Happened One Night” that may be the only Harlequin Presents that could be described as “rollicking.” This is is the previous book in the series, and though it also has a wild child heroine, some humor, and some very unexpected themes, it’s much darker.

I certainly never expected an HP to give us a heroine who was not only raped and impregnated by a family member (by marriage), but whose parents insist on “smoothing over” what happened and continue to invite him to family events. Unsurprisingly, she has a reputation for being uncontrolled and difficult, and she finds it very hard to open up to anyone. I thought the story handled this really well: Trinity’s behavior is all too relatable, and her hero Zahid is just about perfect. He accepts her — even before knowing why she acts out — and once he learns the truth, makes her well being and safety his top priority. In the end, she is free to choose exactly how she wants to handle it going forward, with him as back up.

I also liked the the darkness of the story is relieved by some goofiness between the two that made even a surprise old skool spanking scene, of all things, pretty funny. [Trinity is enjoying the spanking, to be clear.]

“You do not lie to me,” he said, as his hand went to come down again and then stilled. Zahid halted, barely able to breathe as he looked down at her red bottom and realised for the first time he was out of control. “Trinity…” His hand was in mid-air and he waited for her to shout, to tell him what a sick bastard he was, and then he heard her voice.

“One more, Captain.”

This could be a terrific trail-blazer — for Trinity’s story, not the spanking! — if it weren’t kind of… terrible. Marinelli’s writing often veers to the wrong side of effortlessly casual, and in this case, it went right over the cliff. I wanted to scream, “Go home commas, you’re drunk!” They’re all over the place, except where they should be.

The book shows not only lack of editing, but of the most basic proofreading. This paragraph completely baffled me:

Layla was happily late. Besotted with Trinity and when she should be meeting her father and brother, she smiled widely when Trinity knocked and Jamila, Layla’s handmaiden let Trinity into her room.

If the book was trying to imitate the error-filled style of “all the feels” self-published authors, it did a great job. It’s a shame no one seems to have been aiming to make it the best HP it could be, because it might have been fantastic.

 

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A is for Archangel’s Blade aka W is for Wangsty

NOTICE: I currently have a concussion, which might have affected my reading and/or writing about this book. Please apply copious grains of salt.

Feeling the need for a little more structure when choosing my reading, I’m stealing from joining Miss Bates in her alphabet project, and if I ever catch up to her (she’s on E) we will coordinate thereafter.

Miss Bates started with A is for Archer. I considered beginning Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, but decided it would be better to work on a continuing series than to begin a new one.  Right now, I’m not sure I’ll be continuing with this series by Nalini Singh. After liking the first two very much, on audio, I didn’t care much for the third. I thought it was my fatigue with the continuing couple, but in this fourth book, I was really noticing weirdnesses with the writing. Some examples:

Happy? She didn’t know what happiness was anymore. Maybe she’d never know, though she thought she’d learned something of it by watching the biological children in the foster homes she’d been shuttled around after she left the orphanage at five.

Dimitri’s gaze had made it clear he appreciated her curves, that he had no problem with that fact that her natural body shape was too much of an hourglass than was currently fashionable.

It’s not the concussion, right? — these are legit hard to follow. I have no clue what “biological children” means in that sentence.

Grammar and word choice aside, I just didn’t like this book. The vaguely mysterious plotline is a complete mcguffin, just there to keep the characters mildly occupied when they’re not flashing back to the terrible, terrible events of their past. I did like that vampire hero Dimitri is the same fairly nasty character he was in the previous books, with no whitewashing, but oh did I get sick of him going over and over his angst. This is pretty much his life:

“Good morning, sir.” How can any morning be good after the horrible things I’ve done?

“Dimitri, we’re going to get some coffee, wanna come?” Oh, my beautiful wife will never drink coffee again because of those monsters.

ad nauseum.

But everyone else in the world loved this book, so don’t mind me.

 

 

 

 

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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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