4 Following

To Be Determined

I read. Mostly Romance. I like to talk about books. The end.
A Dream Defiant - Susanna Fraser Too short for the plot. So much potential conflict was skipped over.

The Seduction Hypothesis

The Seduction Hypothesis - Delphine Dryden I told myself I wasn't going to read any more m/f BDSM that featured a male dom/female sub but 1)I wanted to try audio and this was the first sample I thought I could listen to for several hours, and 2)the dom is introduced to the lifestyle in this story. I decided to go for it, and I'm glad I did. BDSM is something Ben and Lindsey have to learn, and it's both hot and adorable to see it happen. The reason I'm tired of stories with male doms is that the ultra-confident alpha is just so boring. Ben comes across as a real person, and watching him figure out this new world--watching him be unsure of himself sometimes and make mistakes--was sexy as hell and incredibly romantic.

To Have and To Hold

To Have and To Hold - Patricia Gaffney You know how, in many historicals, there's this bad guy who the heroine is forced to be in close contact with? Maybe her guardian, or the man her family is pushing her to marry, or her employer--whoever he is, he wants her, and takes advantage of the fact that she's under his control. The hero has to rescue the heroine, because this guy can't be reasoned with. That guy? He's the hero of To Have and to Hold. Look, I like morally ambiguous characters as much as the next person, but there's nothing ambiguous about Sebastien. This man gets off on hurting Rachel, and offers her a job with the intention of raping her. He loves to fuck with her head and keep her on a terrifying edge at all times. He'll occasionally realize that he's behavior is fucked up but he continues on, because his daddy ignored him and his mommy and big sister are whores. Or something. His redemption consists of being compared to people who are even worse than he is and not being mean to Rachel anymore. He still thinks of her as his possession, doesn't respect a single decision she makes that goes against what he wants, but he gets her a puppy and makes her orgasm, so it's all good.
Proof of Their Sin (Harlequin Presents) - Dani Collins Heroine who makes a conscious effort throughout the story to stop being a doormat and a vulnerable hero with some asshole moments who acknowledges and feels bad about being an asshole. Add some adorable flirty dialogue as a relief from the angst, like:"Since when are gowns deadly?" [...] "Shoes are regular serial killers, but dresses are harmless," she teased.He couldn't help the twitch of humor at the corner of his mouth. "I've seen dresses short enough to take a man down. Whiplash is a common occurrence."Her smile grew. "I nearly died of embarrassment in a bathing suit once. True story."This Presents just worked for me. I won't go into the plot, except to say that it's mostly typical HP fare. What makes this one great is that hero and heroine are so recognizably human in their reactions to the drama they're mired in, and that so many HP staples are turned on their heads. Lauren is aware that her timidity and willingness to be walked over are a problem, and we get to see her changing step by step, with a few backslides along the way. Her dead husband was, conveniently, a cheating jackass, but--and this is truly miraculous for this type of story--she was sexually satisfied with him despite being otherwise unhappy. She even says once that with her husband away so much she sometimes wished she were the type to cheat. A heroine with a libido independent of true love's aphrodisiac properties? How in the world did this get published? Paolo is never allowed to be a jerk without an explanation, and his behavior never crosses the line into unforgivable. The man want Lauren and is seriously terrified of getting hurt. And he's a rich banker who actually has to work hard, and doesn't have the freedom to just live as he pleases without consequences. This story is what I hope for every time I open an HP--soapy, over-the-top plot with characters that talk and act like real people.

The Story Guy (Novella)

The Story Guy - Mary Ann Rivers I went back and forth between a 2 and 3 with this one. Ultimately, lovely writing and an enjoyable premise couldn't make up for the plot and what I felt were weak character motivations. The more I thought about the story, the more those things bothered me. Carrie is a 30-something single woman who's feeling a bit low emotionally at the start of the story. She has a good life--loving parents, friends, nothing really to complain about, but loneliness has started to set in. One night as she was perusing the personal ads on a craig's list-like site for laughs, she came across an ad by a man looking for someone for kissing only on Wednesday afternoons. Intrigued, she answers the ad, and after an IM conversation she and Brian decide to meet. The attraction is instant an mutual, the kissing fantastic, and Carrie almost immediately decides she want more. And that's where the story starts to lose me. After two make out sessions, a few flirty IM conversations, and seriously hot phone sex, Carrie feels entitled to Brian's emotions. She insists on crossing boundaries that he very clearly delineated from the start. I couldn't get past this, and it colored how I viewed every one of their interactions from then on. Brian is a lawyer in a job he hates. He's been his sister's sole caretaker since he finished law school. Stacy suffered severe brain damage when she was 17 due to a car accident. Their mother couldn't/wouldn't care for Stacey well, and left the state as soon as Brian took over her care. Having no one other than home health aides and an adult day care facility to help him, he's completely consumed by his caretaker role, and doesn't see room in his life for anything else. Every decision he's made in his adult life has been based on how best to accommodate his sister's need, and his Wednesday kissing sessions is a way for him to find some relief without risking emotional involvement. He's so attracted to Carrie that he goes ahead and makes the leap, but I never really believed that he was ready to do that.The first person POV does Brian a huge disservice. Because while he tells Carrie about his negative feelings about his life, she has such a romanticized view of his caretaker role that we never see him being anything less than perfect. The writing gets a bit overwrought and frankly sappy at this point of the story. Stacey is used as a tool to show us how great Brian is, and because Carrie is so smitten we never see the reality of how difficult things can be. Carrie tells us, sure, but because she sees it all as evidence of what a wonderful man Brian is, I don't get the sense that she really sees Brian and Stacey is actual, complex individuals that exist outside of her feelings for him. Like when Carrie gives Stacey a bed bath:I whisper to Stacy all the things I loved about her brother, and asked if it would be okay if we shared him. I told her she would always be his little sister, but that I'd like to hang out with him too.And when they tour a residential facility :This is, of course, the privilege of love, to bear witness to a strong man's grief over the little sister he could never save, as much as he tried to, with every moment of life. And this:To live with that fear, and never have any confirmation that anything you did was the right thing? It's astonishing, every kiss he's ever given me. And that completely unsubtle language makes up the entire final third of the story. It felt very melodramatic in some points. In the end, I was unsure of Brian and Carrie's feelings for each other. Did Carrie cling to the first good man she lusted over to end her loneliness? After the all-consuming role of sole caretaker, could Brian really be able to adjust to an equal partnership so easily? I can't tell.

Devil's Cub

Devil's Cub - Georgette Heyer Closer to 3.5 stars. This book is my first Heyer. I've been reading Romance for 20+ years, but never had any interest in Heyer (I decided early on that anything labeled "traditional Regency" must be boring) until twitter. There seems to be a lively Heyer discussion at least once a month, and the description of Devil's Cub interested me enough that I decided to take the plunge. I'm glad I did.Devil's Cub is unemotionally written. It didn't feel like an author crafting a story; it was more like a reporter diligently recording everything said and done without any commentary, letting me come to my own conclusions. That's not a criticism. It was weird at first, but once I got used to all the dialogue I found I liked having to judge the characters by nothing but their words and actions. There's only a few instances where I felt I was in a character's head at all, and while that's not something I'd want to read all the time, it made the story seem more real, somehow. It's one thing when you know what the characters are thinking and feeling no matter what they're saying, but we don't have that outside of fiction, and not having that knowledge in this novel reminded me how much risk and faith is involved in love and relationships. Because of that distance, however, I never felt emotionally invested. I was thoroughly entertained, I wanted to know what happens next, but I didn't really care about Dominic and Mary. I was interested in them because they just happened to be the protagonists of this story, but if they hadn't ended up together, well, that would have been because that's what happened. No point in complaining about the facts, you know? Devil's Cub doesn't feel like a romance; Dominic and Mary don't actually spend much time together on the page, and Heyer doesn't spend any time on their feelings. Mary falls in love in the space of one sentence, and while we do get some glimpses of Dominic's changing feelings, it wasn't enough for me to consider this book a love story. That said, I can see why Heyer is considered the mother of historical romance. Everything felt so familiar. I instantly recognized Dominic--the rich, titled rake, a crack shot who wins every duel and always comes out on top when gambling. Unlike most "bad boy" heroes, though, he's actually shown to do bad things without any justifications to make his actions palatable to readers. The guy's an asshole in many ways, and with his money and upbringing and enabling mother, what else could he be? He's not a caricature, though. He does have his good points, it's just that Heyer doesn't try to bullshit us with a "bad boy with a heart of gold" plot. Mary was also familiar to me as the only level-headed member of a family made up of an ambitious mother and twit of a sister, who sacrifices herself for her sister. She's not a martyr, however. Most of her actions come from a sense of bone-deep practicality. There's definitely an alphahole tamed by love vibe, which is ubiquitous in the genre. It's not so much that Dominic changes because he's in love, it's that he's with a woman who isn't weak, which makes his behavior tolerable. Take this exchange between Mary, Dominic, and his father:'You will be married,' said his grace, 'in Paris, at the Embassy.''But sir-''A little coffee, my lord?' said Miss Challoner.'I never touch it. Sir-''If his grace wishes you to me married at the Embassy, my lord, I won't be married anywhere else,' stated Miss Challoner calmly.Mary clearly won't be putting up with any of his nonsense. There's so many other hints of common Romance tropes and characters and Devil's Cub felt almost satirical near the end. I kept smiling, thinking, "So this is how that got started." I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.
Marriage Made on Paper - Maisey Yates I liked how it began, with the heroine breaking a contract because the hero offered more money. Bold move for an HP, or any romance, really. The heroine--a successful public relations consultant--is a 27 year old virgin, which normally would be fine in an HP (I know what I'm signing up for), but not with a heroine with her background and lifestyle. And then the hero turns out to be a really wonderful rich womanizer who does all these great things but doesn't want anyone to know about them even thought he's spending a ton of money to make sure who looks good to the public. Yeah. And then they decide to fake an engagement for a really flimsy reason. My TBR is too bloated for this.


Aftershock (Hqn) - Jill Sorenson Really gripping plot but the romance fell short for me. The "I love yous" came way too soon and that became a distraction.


Aftershock (Hqn) - Jill Sorenson Really gripping plot but the romance fell short for me. The "I love yous" came way too soon and that became a distraction.


Aftershock (Hqn) - Jill Sorenson Really gripping plot but the romance fell short for me. The "I love yous" came way too soon and that became a distraction.

An Invitation to Sin (Harlequin Presents Series #3146)

An Invitation to Sin - Sarah Morgan Now that's my kind of "bad boy" hero. Luca Corretti is fun. He's rich, good looking, has everything going for him, and while he does have some issues from his childhood there's no big sob story to explain away his choices. He sleeps around and behaves in irresponsible ways simply because he can, which is just what I'd expect from a man of his background. He doesn't brood, because he has no reason to. Life is good and he's enjoying the hell out of it. Taylor Carmichael has been an actress since she was an infant. She's starting work in a film produced by Luca's cousin--a comeback for her, since she's been out of the business for several years do to various scandals (dropped her overbearing mother as her manager when she was 17, got romantically involved with a much older director, had several people betray her to the press...). She wants to put her past behind her and be taken seriously as an actress, which means not doing anything that would create tabloid headlines. She keeps herself under strict control at all times. Taylor and Luca fake an engagement after getting caught in a compromising position. Luca wants to be taken seriously by super conservative board members, and Taylor's under pressure with the movie's producer and director, since they don't want and scandal attached to their film. And that's my only problem with this book--the motivations don't make much sense. I found it hard to believe that a movie producer would fire an actress because of a "scandal." And there's a threat hanging over Taylor's head throughout the story, which had me going, "That's it?!" when it was revealed near the end. Too much angst and drama over something fairly benign, by Hollywood standards. Despite that, I really enjoyed reading how Taylor and Luca interact. They snipe at each other, not in a mean way but like two people with strong personalities who enjoy getting each other to react. He tries to get her to relax and be herself, and she gradually gets him to lower his guard. You could see them growing to like each other and then fall in love, without becoming different people. I could totally see them spending their lives taking turns driving the Ferrari too fast and generally having a blast.
Heart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling, #12) - Nalini Singh I reveal the main characters identities, so if you want to remain unspoiled on that stop here.Like with most books in the Psy/Changeling series, I had multiple ratings in mind for Heart of Obsidian, each for different aspects of the story. Overall I'd give it a bit less than 4 stars. The romance between Kaleb and Sahara was the best part of this book. It was mostly just the two of them for the first half, with very little interaction with others. I got to know them; their intimacy felt organic, especially compared to Hawke/Sienna (yeah, I'm still bitter about that pairing)and Riaz/Adria--I never really got those couples. I did have some issues, though, mostly with Kaleb. Kaleb is a former Councilor, and like all Councilors, has committed all kinds of immoral acts to get ahead. Authors typically go one of two ways here--either a full on redemption, atone for past sins story, or a "but s/he had perfectly legitimate reasons for doing those evil things so it's okay" story. Unfortunately, Singh chose the latter, and it felt like a cop-out. To be fair, I go back and forth with that type of character and with redemption stories in general; chances are good I wouldn't have been completely satisfied with the first option, either. While I need true redemption when it comes individual relationships, when it comes to characters who do bad things on a larger scale I'm more ambivalent. I don't want every bad guy to turn completely good (and it's not like Kaleb's ends up a boyscout), even when the bad guy becomes the hero. Though I have no idea if such a hero could actually work, so...my feelings on this are complicated, is what I'm saying.(A tangent to illustrate the point--I adore the character of Nikita. At the start of the series she was a perfectly Silent Councilor and unfeeling mother to Sasha, and the way things have evolved we now know that she's done a lot to protect her daughter over the years. She's also gone against Psy rules to help others when it aligns with her interests. That's enough good for me. I worry that she's going to be completely whitewashed by the end of the series, when what I love about her is that she's smart and ruthless and does things--good and evil--for personal gain without being a complete monster. I don't want all characters to be so morally ambiguous, but Nikita still is and that's what Kaleb should have been at the end of this story.)The overall plot was a mixed bag. Kaleb and Sahara are both Psy, which is great for two reason: 1)No mating drama--and after they way things went down in the last two books, I really needed a break from that. I've never been a fan of the concept, but KoS and ToN officially made it dead-to-me. 2)We got a much closer look at the going-ons of the PsyNet and the ongoing civil war. I've always found the Psy to be the most interesting of the three races, so that was a big plus.The problem with the Psy/Psy pairing is how little we see of the other races. While I didn't miss anyone per se, seeing the Psy, Changelings, and Humans strategize and deal with each other--the complexity of those relationships--is a highlight of the the series for me. Their absence for most of the book may have led to a stronger romance, but Singh's world-building throughout the series is excellent, and I read it primarily for that reason. (This wouldn't have bothered me if HoO were book #4 instead of #12--it's more about my expectations than anything wrong with the storytelling.) This book isn't the end of the series or the current story arc, though I'm at a loss as to where the story can go from here. I do think there's more story for Kaleb, since he ends up taking over the Net as a sort of benevolent dictator, which, if we're talking true freedom for the Psy, isn't exactly ideal. Democracy, anyone? It'd be interesting to explore that, but I didn't see any hint of it. Of course, there are still plenty of characters to write about and pretty major hinting about who the next book will focus on, but the major conflicts that the series has been dealing with feel mostly complete.
Never Too Late - Amara Royce DNF. I thought the relationship and emotions started too quickly. The hero was supposed to be spying on her from the beginning, but because of the instant attraction it hadn't gone anywhere by page 100, which is where I gave up. There was nothing at all bad about this story, but it just didn't work for me. The author has a lovely voice and I'll be checking out her future books.

The Rebound Girl

The Rebound Girl - Tamara Morgan Super sweet kindergarten teacher hero and bold, brash and cynical plastic surgeon heroine--this is an opposites attract + gender-role reversal love story, and it works. If The Rebound Girl were comprised entirely of scenes of Matt/Whitney interacting and falling in love, I would have easily rated this book a 4 or even 5 stars, but the plot. Good god, the plot. Whitney--along with her friends Kendra and John--has moved to Pleasant Park to open a medical spa. Twelve years ago, Whitney, a student nurse at the time, decided to become a plastic surgeon after her plastic surgeon boyfriend, Jared, cheated on her while they were in Guatemala with an Operation Smile-like organization. Whitney, Jared, Kendra, and John were all best friends at the time, and the medical spa had been a shared dream. When Jared ruined that relationship, Whitney decided she'd take over as the surgeon of the group. And that's where the problem starts for me. Whitney was a 22 year old student in a 2-year relationship with Jared, a renowned plastic surgeon even though he was in his mid-to-late 20's at the time. Unless he started med school at 8, that just doesn't fly. The fact that Whitney is supposed to be a great surgeon at 34 doesn't make sense either, since she didn't decide on surgery until she was 22, which means she would have had to take the MCAT, apply and get accepted to med school, and then finish school, internship, residency, and fellowship in 12 years, then immediately go into private practice as the sole plastic surgeon. I might have been able to ignore all that, but it was constantly brought up in one way or the other, forcing me to do the math. Matt is almost too good to be true. He's a genuinely good person, recently divorced after his wife had an affair. And that's where "too good" comes in--he can't let go of his ex. He's not in love with Laura, and he acknowledges that part of the problem with his marriage was that he didn't care enough, but he's too committed to being a good, non-angry person to draw some boundaries. While I like that he's not bitter about his marriage and gets along with Laura, going to her house every week to check on her and help with the house was too much. There's a fine line between being nice and being a sucker, and he was sometimes so far over that line that I wanted Whitney to run for the hills. Whitney is charmed by Matt's sweetness, so different from her own personality and that of every other man she knows. She's loud, cynical, has zero impulse control, is brutally pragmatic, and Matt--while not a fan of her outlook--likes her that way. As Whitney puts it:"She'd never met a man so attracted to and repulsed by her at the same time."When discussing her profession and her reasons for choosing plastic surgery (money):"Matt blinked. The things she was saying--they were cruel words, harsh words. But she was being neither cruel nor harsh. Whitney was matter-of-fact and decisive...and proud."Whitney is a person who's completely confident in who she is, and so is Matt. As nice as he is, he's no pushover, which makes his behavior towards his ex especially baffling. Whitney might be pushy, but it's always clear to me and to Whitney that when he goes along with Whitney's decisions, it's because that happens to be what he wants, too. He has no problem calling her out when she's wrong and setting boundaries with her, even going so far as instituting a no intercourse rule during their affair because they're not officially dating (which I found incredibly juvenile, honestly, as if PIV sex is the only type that counts). His relationship with Laura is a constant source of friction with Whitney...as a victim of a cheating partner herself, she can't understand his willingness to be Laura's savior; Matt gets angry that in spite of Whitney's insistence that what they have be nothing more than a rebound fling, she tries to set rules for him outside of their deal. He wants more, but he's not going to roll over to get it. She realizes this, and apologizes because even though she's not ready to get seriously involved, she doesn't want to lose him. I love seeing the back and forth between them, they genuinely like and enjoy each other, and when one of them messes up, there's always a call out followed an apology and attempt to understand. And then Jared shows up. The medical spa is in trouble before even opening because--and this is another problem I have with this story--the townspeople don't approve of Whitney's behavior. There's a reason I avoid small town romances like the plague, and nosy neighbors with bunched-up panties over shit that's none of their business is it. Those people are also part of the reason why Matt is so protective of Laura--the town essentially shunned her over her affair. Whitney's mother contacts Jared, hoping that he could help save the business, world-renowned paragon that he is. He arrives, smarmy as hell, Whitney pitches a fit, her friends take Jared's side, and what follows is some rage-inducing justifications. I understand that it provided closure for Whitney, but after reading about Matt and Laura's past, I wasn't thrilled with the implication throughout the story that all cheating has some deeper cause--usually the fault of the person cheated on--and not just on the cheater being an entitled asshole. (I smell a sequel with Jared as the hero. No thanks. I can deal with a hero who cheated on an ex over a decade ago, but not with that kind of set up.) Jared--through no fault of his own--is also the cause of a final big misunderstanding between Matt and Whitney. It was cliched, and the resolution was over-the-top. It could have worked for a different type of story, with different characters, but it was out of place here. Plot issues aside, it was lovely seeing a relationship develop between such different people who liked each other exactly as they are. This isn't a "redemption through love" story. No one becomes a better, kinder, more humble version of themselves because of love. This is a story of two adult individuals each with their own personality and experiences and faults, who fall in love and make the necessary adjustments to make their relationship work. I like that.
The Tycoon's Convenient Wife - Ros Clarke I hadn't realized that this was an unrequited love story when I picked it up. That trope rarely works for me, and the heroine had been in love with the hero for 15 years, whom she hadn't seen in all that time, so this one never stood a chance.I had a few other problems with this story. The reason for the marriage/engagement of convenience was weak. There was an evil ex-wife used to make the heroine look better in the hero's eyes. And in the end, I didn't believe he loved he, really. He went from liking that the sex (all fade to black, btw) was good and she was good with his kids and she took care of him to the leap that he was in love, though I never saw that development on the page.
Wait For Me - Elisabeth Naughton 3.5 stars. This story started out strong--an over-the-top plot that worked because of human, grounded characters. Dramatic in the very best way, with high emotion and edge of your seat suspense. And then it just fizzled out near the end. The explanation for it all just didn't fit for such a big mystery--the motivation wasn't strong enough and that lead to some significant inconsistencies. I was left with too many unanswered questions.