While part of a series and with characters you're clearly expected to know, I didn't feel that left out without having read the first.
I liked the ideaWhile part of a series and with characters you're clearly expected to know, I didn't feel that left out without having read the first.
I liked the idea of this story well-enough but have a hard time rating it very high now I've finished it. It was fun getting to know Alys and I enjoyed her confidence and strength. I didn't enjoy so much her insecurity about being unattractive—mostly because she let it define her so much despite having respect and acknowledgement for her skill and competence in pretty much every other way. Oh, and it's only made worse when we realize that she only thinks she's unattractive, but really lots of men turn out to be panting after her (even before they learn who she really is). Also, (view spoiler)[the truth about her past, when we find it, turns out to be so much pride, temper and stupidity that has only persisted a dozen years because the author said so. Seriously, it's almost worse that her father is so lovingly forgiving in the end because it puts the lie to all of Alys's justifications for staying away so long (making her a jerk as well as a spoiled brat). (hide spoiler)]
Reggie is more transparent but I had a hard time liking him much, either. My family has a history of alcoholism that I've mostly dodged by being faithfully Mormon all my life. So I've learned enough about the condition to fear it and maybe even understand it a little (drawing parallels to addictive behaviors I haven't successfully avoided, like, say, reading trashy novels—and yes, please, that is tongue-in-cheek), but I can't say that I enjoyed observing Reggie go through a Regency version of the 12 step program. Okay, that's a bit harsh as Putney is nowhere near so careless. Still, parts of this rang anachronistically modern (in understanding and approach to the condition by others and by Reggie's eventual methods to rise above it). Also, his stupidity in the end once he learns who Alys really is was almost unbearable. I have a strong dislike of unilateral action justified as love and Reggie takes a double helping of that particular stupidity.
Anyway, parts of this were outstanding enough that I didn't hate reading it. The side characters were lovely and an underlying thread of family and caring and acceptance were hard to discard despite problems with the main couple. So a solid three stars edging up, but not enough that I feel like rounding up.
A note about Steamy: This is only mildly steamy. There are two explicit sex scenes, but they are extremely short, with the curtain drawn quickly. Frankly, I'm not sure why they're there at all....more
This book has carry-over plot from the first in the series. The brothers have been pretty isolated throughout, however, and the plot connections are mThis book has carry-over plot from the first in the series. The brothers have been pretty isolated throughout, however, and the plot connections are mild, so you don't really need to read the other first, I don't think. It's just as well if you do, as the first is a bit better, but the option is there if you want to skip around.
As with the first, the title is stupidly irrelevant. Yeah, they spend time in Bath, but there's no blame or even mild scandal (beyond the frame story), really. Which is just as well, really, because I kind of enjoyed the story we get. Katherine is an unusual Regency Romance heroine, as she's a 30 year-old widow with a pile of money. Linden pulls off making her feel oppressed despite these advantages, but only by making her weak. Which, surprisingly, turns out not to be a bad thing. Linden does a great job depicting her as someone used to emotional abuse (on top of past physical abuse) and in a way that evokes sympathy rather than irritation at letting herself be pushed around. No small part of this is the hints of strength peeking out, even early on.
So Katherine engaged my sympathy early. Gerard much less so. He's not awful or anything. He's nice enough and I always like a steady man who gets things done. Well, mostly gets things done. Sort of. Okay, he struggles to get things done but at least he's trying, right? Yeah, I had a problem with taking him very seriously. His pursuit of the blackmailer was tepid and a bit unorganized and made little progress (because, duh, the resolution has to happen in the next book). It doesn't help that the only progress he made (view spoiler)[was from suggestions by Katherine (though I did kind of like that she was helpful and he acknowledges her contributions) (hide spoiler)]. It also didn't help that he blundered about rather a lot in his relationship with Katherine. More than once, he defaults to "the sex is good, so we must be good", and let himself be blind to her needs as a result. This was particularly bad in the last quarter of the novel and that rankled.
Which sounds worse than it really was. He wasn't callous so much as negligent and I really enjoyed their relationship as it developed. I particularly liked that he was two years younger than Katherine, as that's rare in the genre (though no big deal is made of that fact beyond Katherine adding that to her pile of insecurities). I also liked that Katherine isn't beautiful and doesn't really undergo one of those ugly-duckling make overs (beyond learning to assert herself and wear things she likes). I loved that Gerard appreciates her for who she is and brings out the best in her by encouraging her to express herself.
So the relationship worked despite Gerard being a bonehead at times. Which is all I ask for in my romances.
A note about Steamy: Sex is important to the relationship in this story. They marry early on, so there's little hesitation in getting that far. Linden shows three or so explicit sex scenes and does an excellent job showing both the intimacy it engenders and the insecurities that can result. In all, a strong aspect of the story and well-done....more
I enjoyed this immensely, though I have mild issues as well. Part of my enjoyment is how well Linden managed the character motivations and how they drI enjoyed this immensely, though I have mild issues as well. Part of my enjoyment is how well Linden managed the character motivations and how they drove the conflicts that produced such great tension throughout the story. Francesca is comfortable. She isn't rich rich, but she has everything she needs for a comfortable, even active life in her social set without needing to worry much about money or shelter or food. So she'd be all set if it weren't for her worry about a niece she has been cut off from with hints of abuse. You can see from the start that she loves her niece and can't stand not knowing where she is or how she is doing. Linden crafted circumstances such that Francesca really does have a shot at gaining custody (even in the draconian laws of the time) so having her target locked on finding the best attorney in London makes complete sense and her sense of urgency is borne up well by the things we know.
Edward is less comfortable, but his motivations are even stronger. Indeed, his having anything to do with Francesca at all is just a touch of insta-attraction overwhelming good sense. She's certainly a distraction he doesn't need. That's not a complaint, mostly because Linden shows us how dry his life has become and how much he needs someone he can't bend to his will to bring him to life. It's clear, even early on, how well they'd suit and subsequent events only reinforce that initial impression. I love how they clash, but I loved even better how well they worked together once they worked out compromises that let them be themselves with each other. I love a relationship so strongly drawn and this one kept me riveted to the story.
It's not all peaches and sunshine, though. The eventual resolution with Georgina (the aforementioned niece) was disappointing. (view spoiler)[Indeed, I can't help feeling like Linden manipulated events just to heighten tension when we learn that Georgina is not only being adequately cared for but that she's in a home where she feels loved and appreciated. The hints of abuse make pretty much zero sense in light of what we learn and hand-waving Georgina's step-mother's motivation as irrational apprehension about Francesca doesn't hold water under scrutiny—particularly with taking such drastic action as to move house in the dead of night. (hide spoiler)]
Also dragging my interest down, Francesca tolerates a lot of awful behavior from some of the men who want to be in her life (in the boudoir sense) and that didn't sit well, either. One character is openly lecherous and borders on crude in ways that were overbearing and, well, icky. Sure, he's powerful, kinda, and she wants something from him, at least to start, but I felt beslimed by his presence on the page and didn't understand Francesca's tolerance (particularly after her need for him lessened). Or capacity for ignoring slime. Even the more mild man who has been courting her since her husband died pushed the creepy vibe more than once. She keeps calling him her friend, but I failed to see anything from him that wasn't self-servingly geared towards winning a place in her bed.
Still, this is a solid 4 stars, largely on the strength of that central relationship. I love when a couple fits so well together that their differences become strengths after they work out a framework for compromise and communication. Very well done.
A note about Steamy: There are a couple explicit sex scenes, so about the middle of my steam tolerance. Unfortunately, this is another area I felt didn't work terribly well. I get the attraction and heat between them. But I didn't see Francesca being so reckless. Making their relationship publicly acknowledged before knowing Edwards actual intentions seemed out of character for her on so many different levels. Yeah, love, but still......more
I just can't read this. I'm not going to rate it because I overrode my sense that this would be tough from cover copy and reviews both. I just found aI just can't read this. I'm not going to rate it because I overrode my sense that this would be tough from cover copy and reviews both. I just found a new Nora Roberts book too tempting. I just can't get past the rape victim PoV and I completely broke on the villain PoV. I hate that at any time, but even more when it is so repugnant. Also, I'm pretty sure I already know the "twist" and have a pretty clear suspect for the villain.
Anyway, no prejudice, so no rating as it was completely my fault for going into something I had a pretty good idea I didn't want to handle....more
Based on some reviews, I had hoped that this would match, or even just approach, the stellar Everything Leads to You (both with lesbian protagonists fBased on some reviews, I had hoped that this would match, or even just approach, the stellar Everything Leads to You (both with lesbian protagonists feeling their way into a lasting relationship). Sadly, I don't think it came particularly close. And when a brick wall materialized on the train track at about the halfway point, I choose to put it down. I just can't stand the heartbreak that became inevitable, even with the promise of the genre that they'd get through it. I had half the book to go and I knew I'd be spending it anticipating the pain, then going through the pain, and the promise of the eventual reconciliation/growth wasn't enough to keep me interested.
The thing is, the whole situation has a couple of sloppy contradictions right from the beginning. Jo's dad is the more obvious (not least because Jo's internal dialogue calls him on it) as he supposedly loves and supports Jo for exactly who she is even as he asks her to "pass" for her entire senior year of High School. I'm sorry, but those are contradictory propositions. A senior in HS is mature enough to choose her own course. I could see a concerned father pointing out the difficulties and asking her to consider how "out" she wants to be. But that's not at all how he approached it. And bribing her to conform? No. Just. Hell no.
And sadly, Jo herself is as contradictory. It's clear that Jo ran with a rough, druggy, vandalizing (but gay and proud!) group who took pride in being "fringe" and "edgy" and "honest" (or, ahem, "real"). So she makes a deal to fly under the radar for the year and I was hoping to see that strain as she strives to maintain her internal honesty, even while compromising for her dad. So I completely lost all sympathy for her when (view spoiler)[Mary Carlson comes out to Jo and admits having a crush on her, and Jo outright lies to make Mary Carlson believe that Jo is just now figuring out she might be attracted to girls in response. So Jo starts this relationship where they are clearly compatible and where the amazing person she wants to be with is open and honest and taking a risk in doing so. And Jo begins with a pack of lies that are guaranteed to blow up on her in the not-so-very-distant future (hide spoiler)]. So it turns out that Jo isn't so much "honest" or "real" as she is "manipulative" and "stupid".
Anyway. When you're on the train and a convenient curve shows a wall built across the tracks, I choose to jump off before the inevitable twisted mass of burning metal becomes my new reality. I'm crazy that way....more
I just can't take these people seriously. They alternate between stupid and overwrought on a feedback loop that drops both attributes to depths unknowI just can't take these people seriously. They alternate between stupid and overwrought on a feedback loop that drops both attributes to depths unknown in nature. Jared is a CEO but he's an arrogant prick with the wit of a drunk monkey (I half expected him to respond at least once with "Oh yeah?!? Ses you!"). Madison is an actress who can't maintain a role for fifteen minutes at a time and the charm of a pigeon sucking helium.
Fortunately, I had the good sense to stop at about a quarter in. Unfortunately, that's still time of my life I'll never have back.
A note about Audible: It didn't help the book that the narrator for the audio was barely mediocre. Her reading voice was adequate and her delivery had a hint of emotion, but both on the high end of amateur without really approaching professional level quality. I could see her being known to her friends as an excellent out-loud reader but that wasn't near enough to make up for (let alone counter) the inherent weaknesses of poor characterization and nonsensical plot....more
I picked this up on sale and it's just as well because that way I don't have to regret the purchase. Not that it's awful or anything. I really liked CI picked this up on sale and it's just as well because that way I don't have to regret the purchase. Not that it's awful or anything. I really liked Cara and Nicole was incredibly well-drawn and endearing. Brad's almost a dead loss, though, and that stung. He starts out really immature (emotionally) and that persists pretty far into the story with pieces of his immaturity lingering almost to the end.
What kept me reading was the relationship between Cara and Nicole (Brad's recently uncovered five year-old daughter who necessitated his hiring Cara as a nanny). Nicole was just so sweet and their interactions were extremely well depicted. Reiss knows kids and adult caretakers and this book was at its best any time Nicole was on-page.
I also liked the sympathetic-but-realistic treatment of Hollywood A-listers as both people and parents. Cara has a front seat on the best and worst of that crowd and it's a humanizing portrayal that could easily have gone stereotyped (positive or negative). This nuanced take was another great strength of the book and part of what kept me engaged.
Still, Brad was a problem, most prevalently with his callus disregard for Cara's career. Scandal is death for a nanny in her market and he just doesn't care. And it's not like he's ignorant of this danger for her. It just doesn't affect his actions in any way that mattered. So his attraction/lust/eventual affection had a definite selfish tint to it that never really deepened.
So this was a solid three-star read (even with Brad being insensitive). And there are highlights that stood out. I particularly liked that (view spoiler)[Reiss didn't go back on Cara's infertility and give us a surprise pregnancy after their unprotected sex. I braced for that, but it didn't happen. Even the epilogue didn't back out of that and I was extremely glad to see that non-standard happy ending (hide spoiler)]. I'm pretty sure I'll be skipping future books in the series (and side-eye others by the author), but that's as much for the steamy note below as the story elements I didn't like.
A note about Steamy: There are only three or four actual explicit sex scenes but two factors drove this outside my steam tolerance. One is that both leads had lively sexual fantasy lives and we got to see that in dirty detail. Second, it felt like Reiss hired porn actors as character doubles for "intimate" scenes. Which kind of undermined any feeling of growing emotional attachment or even just expressions of intimacy. This made it particularly difficult when trials come because I didn't have any sense of them having bonded at all. And yeah, that's a very personal reaction and probably not shared by others, but it bugged me enough to give me a distaste for those scenes....more