This book makes me sad. But not for any of the obvious reasons. I liked the main characters immensely. And the pacing is good, the setting tremendousThis book makes me sad. But not for any of the obvious reasons. I liked the main characters immensely. And the pacing is good, the setting tremendous (I can't think of anybody who does Southern small town as well as Roberts), and the side characters fantastic. Let me elaborate on the good before I get to the sad, because I want to give this book its due.
Shelby and Griff were fantastic. I loved them both, both individually and what they became together. Their interactions skirted the ideal a bit, but I enjoyed them so much I was glad to be along for the ride.
I particularly like Roberts' hand with the Southern small-town. She depicts both the good and the bad of living so much in the neighbors' pockets. The gossip is entertaining, but with the malicious side evident, even coming from characters we otherwise like and admire. You can see how adapting to that environment has to be conscious, at least to an extent. And how it takes fortitude and forgiveness in equal measure. Shelby is almost an ideal narrator for this as she's a native returning after a long absence—making her aware and making it natural that her voice would make explicit observations the readers need to know that would otherwise be nearly subconscious.
Okay, so why so sad, then? The antagonists of this story were predictable grotesques and that made the plot almost dreary. If it weren't for attaching to the characters and coming to like Shelby so much, this would have been a tedious read. As it was, it was merely exasperating. This is potentially spoilery, but only in the sense that I'm going to confirm what most readers will suspect from the start. I'm not sure what's going on here, but I expected better from Roberts. Indeed, the only reason I hadn't already written the ending in my head at page 10 is because I believed Roberts was better than that. She certainly has been in the past. Not so here, though. (view spoiler)[When the "dead" husband showed up, finally, I heaved an actual sigh and thought "well, now for the stupid hostage situation the heroine will solve with her gumption and determination just in time to fall into the hero's arms." Gotta give her credit, though, as at least Roberts had Shelby get herself out of trouble rather than merely waiting for rescue. That said, I want to know what phone she is using where you can text without looking. Does she have some old hold-out with actual keys? How 2000s can you be?!? How . . . convenient... (hide spoiler)]
And the middle-book tension provided by Melody? That was just stupid. The psychotic bitch antagonist just doesn't work in that small-town environment. Such a feud may exist and persist, but it should have been either more open with all parties (particularly grandmothers) involved, or it should have been better sublimated and more subtle. Melody was a caricature, is what I'm saying, and that stood out in a book with so many other well-fleshed-out characters.
So predictable. In the worst ways. Ouch.
So anyway. I liked it well enough. It was entertaining in the way I expect from a Roberts romance. But it was a shadow of what I feel it might have been with only a little extra effort. Indeed, (view spoiler)[I half expected the twist at the end to be that Richard had died on that boat but had been killed by one of his partners. You'd have had to dance around a motive for having them pester Shelby after that, though. Still, it would have been a nice twist and one not so very, boringly predictable! (hide spoiler)]
A note about Audible: I almost bumped this a star just for the narrator. January LaVoy has a rich alto voice and I'm easy prey for a Southern accent. The two combined (rich alto in a Southern accent) was killer. Plus, she did each character distinctly and with personality in ways that the best actors make seem effortless. Indeed, I knew who was speaking well before we got to the "said" tag in almost every case. It was an outstanding performance.
A note about Steamy: Roberts standard. So my personal mid-range with two explicit scenes that fit the story well and served the emotional arc.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Gigi is likeable enough, but I really didn't connect with her. I think it's because she was so passive with the creepy Marty. I don't get being suscepGigi is likeable enough, but I really didn't connect with her. I think it's because she was so passive with the creepy Marty. I don't get being susceptible to being "nice guyed". Possibly, that's because I'm not really a girl. Still, it seems to me that a "get out of my face you incompetent, creepy jackwagon" would have short-circuited about half the story. In a good way. And left room for things that were more interesting. Also, Gigi was a little slow on the uptake occasionally. Not enough so that I was yelling at the novel, or anything, but still.
But what dropped this almost into two-star territory was the revision of Ophelia's character. Or what I felt was a revision of Ophelia's character. I always found her creepy, but basically understandable in a cool Machiavellian way. She makes no sense at all in this story. I can't get into details without spoilers, so suffice to say that I'm not a fan of the developments there, even if the knock-on effects may be entertaining later......more
Awkward. Everything about this is awkward. The characters do things that make no sense, the plot is elusive (when not nonsensical), the author shiftsAwkward. Everything about this is awkward. The characters do things that make no sense, the plot is elusive (when not nonsensical), the author shifts PoV at whim, but what kept smacking me in the face was the nearly constant withholding of information by overly convenient interruption. If it wasn't "it's not my place to explain" it was some dramatic stupidiocy by someone else that'd get in the way of actual information exchange.
I could have dealt with the drip/skip of information if the characters had made sense. But you have Lydia going from casually disarming an opponent to being stabbed by the knife she carried while conveniently off-screen. It was stupid even before we got to the wound ramping up to suddenly life-threatening with a hand-wavy "it must be internal bleeding" excuse. My last straw was when Lydia pulled an "I'll save you from saving me by hiding." stunt. That's at 14% in. Oh, and just because I'm picking on Lydia don't think Kira isn't as inconsistently stupid, too, and it was a rare moment when Octavion stayed consistent for two pages in a row. What a mess......more
Maybe it helped that I went into it with low expectations, but I ended up at least mildly entertained, so that's a win. It is awful short and that meaMaybe it helped that I went into it with low expectations, but I ended up at least mildly entertained, so that's a win. It is awful short and that means there wasn't much in the way of character development. It tried for character development, including what should have been a pivotal, even life-changing, moment, but it didn't really pull it off.
And I have to admit that at least some of my favorable reaction is that these are my people as the heroine is the proprietor of a gaming store and her friends are all of that same tribe. So I felt immediately comfortable there, as the author gets that feel just about right.
Still, there's no denying it's a touch shallow and the short length doesn't help that at all. I wish she had put this into a bigger story and not so much the one-off it comes across as......more
I don't read a lot of short stories. And paying a buck for something I'll consume in a half hour seems a bit much. But I couldn't help myself. I wanteI don't read a lot of short stories. And paying a buck for something I'll consume in a half hour seems a bit much. But I couldn't help myself. I wanted to see their first official date and I have to say, it didn't disappoint. This was loads of fun and one of the best dollars I've ever spent.
Do I have to say read the book first? Really?...more
I wanted to like this, but found my discontent growing with each new chapter. I finally quit about three quarters in and can't help feeling relieved tI wanted to like this, but found my discontent growing with each new chapter. I finally quit about three quarters in and can't help feeling relieved to just let it go.
The writing is solid and the protagonist is interesting and I definitely wanted more of the world, but I just couldn't buy the plot. It doesn't help that the story jumps between modern day and fifteenth century France. That breaks up the narrative flow as much as you'd expect, but more, it provides the reader information that Nathan doesn't have and that became increasingly frustrating. Further, knowing that the villain in the past exists (and has prospered) in the present tells you that pretty much everything in the past is essentially meaningless—there'll be no defeat of the (very) bad guy and you know Nathan is eventually going to progress from there to his current amnesiac state, so what's the point?
But more than that, the past parts highlight a problem the hero has of wearing authorium armor—no matter how stupid he is or what idiot plans he makes, you know he's going to make it through because author! This is a trivial spoiler with pretty much zero effect on plot or story: (view spoiler)[A castle with a powerful bad guy, werewolf soldiers and captives in a prison/dungeon, we don't know where, exactly? No worries, we'll just break in during cover of night (by boring a hole through the wall, I think, was the plan) and we'll take it from there. Don't worry, I'm a sorcerer! Better, I'm the protagonist and I still exist in 600 years so what can happen?!? (hide spoiler)]
Or, and this is a far more serious spoiler: (view spoiler)[Impervious, unstoppable killing machine has my girlfriend (or, at least, a girlfriend/sex buddy). I can't touch him, or stop him from doing whatever he wants, and he demands an in-person meeting. I know he wants files I don't remember stealing or hiding and he wants the girl I've hidden. I know he's ruthless, probably crazy, definitely violent, and pretty much evil incarnate. Sounds good, I'll just go see what he wants. No demands. No precautions. But the author is a friend, so I know evil bad guy is not going to just nab me and torture the crap out of me, possibly using the friend I care about as leverage to pry everything else loose. He'll do some convoluted thing with a deadline and then leave me alone (not even have me followed!?!) to go do it. There is just so much wrong with this!!! Evil bad guy has been established as an evil sexual predator. He threatens to rape your friend to death in this little meeting. Yet Nathan not only leaves his friend alone with him for the 24 hour deadline, but he doesn't even bother saying "hey, no raping my friend not-to-death in the meantime, huh?" It's completely untenable with the motivations of both the protagonist and antagonist completely opaque. I don't understand any of these people or what they are doing because to me, that bad guy has no reason to hold off and Nathan has no motivation for doing anything he says. Nathan even says, explicitly, that he knows the bad guy is going to kill him and his ladyfriend if he delivers the girl and files. And yet he spends his 24 hours actually looking for the jacking files! Why?!? There's nothing good that can come from those files! Even looking for them is a danger because bad guy has tons of surveillance access and if he's even half-awake he'd have Nathan monitored! Only he doesn't because obviously authorium has immense stealth technology built in and Nathan has a suit of the stuff sewn into his skin. (hide spoiler)]
And that's just the plot. The author also plays coy games with the readers. This is a spoiler so trivial I'm not going to bother flagging it. Skip the paragraph if you want to avoid even small spoilers. At one point, an informant gives Nathan a file on himself that might help him with the whole identity crisis he's been having for ten years. She actually stops him perusing it during their little meeting because, well, reasons. Of course their cozy meeting is interrupted by the evil bad guy killing machine. Fight ensues. Woman says "hey, don't lose those files, huh? It was the very devil smuggling those out and you need them." Nathan, of course, loses the files. Not because of anything the bad guy does, really. He just drops them while dodging something. I almost stopped reading right there. I kind of wish I had.
I wanted to like this. I struggled trying to justify giving it more stars. But even the two-star "it was okay" just doesn't fit the very shaky plot and motivational shenanigans I just couldn't get past...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
If you've read the first book (read the first book), you know what to expect. Plus, it's Max and you want to know her story from the first time we meeIf you've read the first book (read the first book), you know what to expect. Plus, it's Max and you want to know her story from the first time we meet her in Party Girl. These are true "coming of age" stories, even if the protagonists are a little old for that (Max is 25). Hollis is fantastic at putting her characters together in such a way that it all fits, though.
This one isn't quite the clear win that Party Girl was. There's a scene I didn't think quite fit (and it's kind of a pivotal scene, really), and Hollis is a little coy about details of Max's deeper emotional pain, leaving the reader to find out when she finally reveals it to someone else. That breaks the intimacy of the narrative voice (which is otherwise firmly in Max's viewpoint) and was a mistake, I think. It would have been tricky to keep the pace up with the weight of the eventual discovery in place, but I think Hollis could have pulled it off.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the minor misses didn't tempt me to drop below four stars. A solid four stars, at that.
A note about Steamy: No steam. Like the first book. It bears a mention as I'm tagging this New Adult and there's a sexy-times expectation with that genre....more
As kids visiting the beach in California, we used to make these sand castles. Only not really. You might call them drip castles. You make them by takiAs kids visiting the beach in California, we used to make these sand castles. Only not really. You might call them drip castles. You make them by taking water-soaked sand and squeezing it so it drips sand-laden water. If you do it right, you can make spires and turrets and in our minds that was very fine.
I feel like this book took a bunch of story-sand, soaked it in water, and tried to build a castle by squeezing a lot and hoping things landed right. Most of the story elements are there and if you squint, you can kind of see that there's something there. There's characters and a plot and the borrowed Pathfinder world doesn't disappoint (this is a tie-in novel). But the main character is a bit bland (and very weak and sometimes conveniently stupid). And the story is predictable. If there was an obvious path, the author took it every time. Indeed, I very nearly put the book down when (view spoiler)[the MC took off to spy on the bad guys on her own and was subsequently captured by them—just as she was warned would happen (by everyone who has ever seen a movie, ever, as well as by her companions) (hide spoiler)].
Now that I ask myself, I'm not really sure why I finished it. I'm trying to train myself out of sticking with books I don't like. Only. I didn't actually dislike it when all is said. It was just . . . bland. I suppose if it had actively disappointed me more than the once, I might have stopped. As it was, it was adequate, if only just.
So "it was okay" is accurate. And thus two stars. But it isn't quite as bad as most of the two stars books I review.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
My favorite story so far, I think. Some of that is time spent in my favorite city (New Orleans)—a good quarter of the book is Tell and Orrin bumblingMy favorite story so far, I think. Some of that is time spent in my favorite city (New Orleans)—a good quarter of the book is Tell and Orrin bumbling about in the French Quarter. Some of it is this being the first one I actually remember bits of from my young reading days. But most of it is a great story with a solid through-line upon which to hang the now-familiar characters.
This actually broke down in the last fifth of the book, or so (which is why I can't quite bring myself to five stars). At that stage, you'd pretty much run out of suspects so the final culprit was dead obvious. Tell not figuring it out before facing him over the inevitable show-down-shoot-out was more than a little contrived. Not only was he the last possible suspect, but Tell conveniently forgot where he'd seen his tracks before, and where he'd heard his voice before, he couldn't be bothered to ask Nell what the culprit looked like (because she'd run him off in a direct confrontation), and did I mention he was literally the last possible suspect? L'Amour tried to muddy it some because there were two potentials about but (view spoiler)[a) Hippo Swan had already been revealed as not-a-woodsman and kind of stupid and b) Philip, while revealed to be bloodthirsty and all, was described as slight and wouldn't have the heft for the tracks Tell found. Every other suspect could be eliminated on the grounds they couldn't be plausibly involved twenty years ago. (hide spoiler)]
So not a mystery writer, our Louis L'Amour.
Still, a great tale and probably why Tell is my favorite Sackett (even if he can't keep a woman from one book to the next). I'm really hoping things work out with Nell. That's the romantic in me. Only two books to go, so can even L'Amour screw it up this time?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Oh good grief! Could L'Amour not be bothered to keep any sense of continuity at all? What, he couldn't find a copy of The Sky-Liners and lookup that FOh good grief! Could L'Amour not be bothered to keep any sense of continuity at all? What, he couldn't find a copy of The Sky-Liners and lookup that Flagan already had a girlfriend? Yeah, Judith ain't much, but you have two brothers right there! He couldn't throw Galloway a bone and have this one be about him?
And that's another thing! Who writes a book, names it Galloway, and then has the entire story be all about Flagan? Yeah, Flagan is an even dumber name than Galloway for a book, but he couldn't name it something like, I dunno, "blue-sky country" or something? Seriously, Galloway was barely more than background and had less screen time than Logan.
It doesn't help that the story is flat and the through-line rocky. Or that the pacing felt ragged and the characters thrown in from all over the Sackett-verse all higgledy-piggledy. Or that he resorted to completely unnecessary PoV shifts to the bad-guy camp. In short, this felt like a rush-job.
Frankly, it doesn't really deserve a full three stars. Call it two and a half with really generous rounding......more