Romance novella's are tricky to pull off. There's just not a lot of room for two people to meet and fall in love in so short a space. This novel has t...moreRomance novella's are tricky to pull off. There's just not a lot of room for two people to meet and fall in love in so short a space. This novel has that weakness, but I found that I just didn't care. Scarlett is fun and Mitch fits her so well that I just ignored how short a time they knew each other and went with the flow.
This is even more surprising given the rocky start with them meeting in a bordello where Scarlett, desperate to get home quickly, is trying to convince herself that sex for money isn't that big a deal. Mitch's reason for being there is as, or more, lame. Steamy, but lame.
But recover from it they did, and came out not even terribly scathed... Morey does a yeoman's job moving them right along so well that I just let it go and enjoyed the rest of the ride.
A note about Steamy: A decent showing for so short a work. Two explicit scenes and some explicit playtime put this at the high end, though it wasn't enough to overwhelm the story.(less)
A fun read with excellent characters. Further, Fforde manages both wit and charm in her characters and that made the whole thing shine.
Two things keep...moreA fun read with excellent characters. Further, Fforde manages both wit and charm in her characters and that made the whole thing shine.
Two things keep this from being an all-out win. First, Anna's fixation on Max went on way too long. It was clear that she liked him for her imagination more than anything real and her self-delusion became kind of tiresome when the much more delectable Rob was right there—and Rob was so much better in pretty much every way.
The second needs spoilers as it happens right near the end. (view spoiler)[Rob's blowup at the end is not just unexpected, it felt completely out of character. I'm with Anna that the fact he could make those accusations says really, truly bad things about him and, more importantly, about his understanding of, and relationship to, Anna. I don't care that he hadn't seen her for a week or two, he should have known better, end of story. And that blowup broke him for me. Yeah, he pulls off something of a recoup with his massive apology, but even then, I wanted more groveling. Everybody can have a bad day, so I'm not willing to go absolute on this one, but seriously, I disconnected from him hard, there, and I didn't get enough afterwards to feel confident in letting him back in. (hide spoiler)]
So it's an excellent romance, with a couple flaws. It's a solid 3.5 stars, but I laughed out loud enough (and was simply charmed off my socks enough) that I'm rounding it to a 4. Yeah, even that ending didn't completely disillusion me.
A note about Steamy: What? No steamy tag? Yeah, there's no steam here. Sex happens, but it's all off screen with only enough after-reference to get the tone.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
What a marvelous Regency romance! Though Carla Kelly blends a touch of the gothic into the story with attendant drama and emotional tides—at least in...moreWhat a marvelous Regency romance! Though Carla Kelly blends a touch of the gothic into the story with attendant drama and emotional tides—at least in this one. I generally have to be in the right mood to enjoy such stories. Fortunately, I found myself in exactly such a mood and this hit the spot, marvelously.
Which is fortunate, because as much as I liked Onyx and rooted for her and Jack to come together, she was a little stubbornly self-sacrificing for my normal tolerance. It helped, of course, that she had courage and fortitude in spades and that Jack was so very patiently charming. It helped, too, that the story carefully wedged Onyx into situations where her courage was important and she could begin finding the independence and self-discovery that she deeply needed.
Also helpful were the surrounding characters, servants, family, foils, and prosey noseys Kelly layers throughout. They provide contrast and illustrative episodes that gave the story a depth that I really appreciated. You could see the respect Jack had among his people, for example, the devotion. And the love that Onyx earned through her heroic (though quiet) service.
I was a little surprised, when I finished, to discover that this was originally written 25 years ago. I like Kelly's later works and had no idea she had such quality in her backlog. I'm happy some of that is finding a new life through eBooks—not least because the accompanying price is a true bargain. I'll have to make a note to look for a Kelly backlog rerelease the next time this particular mood hits...(less)
Another Pathfinder tie-in novel. I picked it up because I quite liked those by Tim Pratt I've read so far. It didn't disappoint. In this one, Alaeron...moreAnother Pathfinder tie-in novel. I picked it up because I quite liked those by Tim Pratt I've read so far. It didn't disappoint. In this one, Alaeron heads back into the Technic League to see if he can't take care of his assassin problem at the source. And no, not by killing people to convince them to stop. The plan is to bribe them and it's a mostly good plan, too.
The story is a bit rambly as things happen and then more things. Pratt never entirely loses touch with the point of it all, though, (and neither does Alaeron), so it's not as bad as all that. Plus, Alaeron and Skiver are a good deal of fun.
What I particularly like is how Alaeron and Skiver work as a team, each making up deficiencies in the other and working together for their mutual satisfaction. I also like how they incorporate others as needed (view spoiler)[including a brief cameo by Jaya (hide spoiler)] and work with them as smoothly as they'll let them.
I don't typically appreciate sci-fi getting in my fantasy, but again, Pratt does a really good job giving it just enough wonder without getting caught up in the weird.
So overall a good story, though without a consistent antagonist to keep things focused. That may be a feature of the tie-in sub-genre, but it still hampers me from pulling a full five stars.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm so glad I found this one (and not just because it was free)! The biggest surprise was that, for once, the business aspects that entered the novel...moreI'm so glad I found this one (and not just because it was free)! The biggest surprise was that, for once, the business aspects that entered the novel (and don't worry, it wasn't many) all made sense. That's vanishingly rare, and even rarer that those aspects weren't really anything more than the background plot. Yeah, some of the action was driven by the business stuff, but nothing esoteric or boring.
Alex's character was the hardest to swallow. Self-made billionaires exist, sure, but they aren't typically young(ish), good-looking, and well-muscled. The drive to thrive in that kind of cut-throat mode tends to lock out other aspects of life, and that's doubly true when you are driven by something like vengeance. If you can take the background for simply granted, the rest slots neatly into place, however. I particularly enjoyed his growth in the novel, though if I were Natalie (and not in his head as we readers were), I might have waffled a bit more—or at least taken a more tentative wait-and-see line than she did at the end.
Speaking of Natalie, I think she's what really drew me into the story. She's sweet and strong, and has rock-solid integrity throughout. There's a lot of emotional turmoil she has to go through, and some of it is a bit piled-on, but she weathers it with grace and only the occasional (well-earned) melt-down. But more than anything, I like her strong moral compass. When she talks about vengeance and forgiveness and integrity, you sense that she speaks from knowledge and compassion rather than theory or judgment. I really liked that.
So the story was strong, the characters interesting, and Lee got a lot of details right that many don't. That's a lot of personal sweet-spots that may not be as important to others so interpret carefully.
A note about Steamy: on my high side, though not for quantity. Much of the first half of the novel is a long build to them coming together and when they do, that scene is a full chapter or so. There were a few explicit scenes after that first, but they were all short (a page or less), so it's mostly just the one that raised it so close to my tolerance. Beyond the steam, one of the true weaknesses of the novel is Natalie's physical responses to Alex and the degree she bends in the face of his aggressive intimacy. "Overruled by passion" is one of my least-favorite tropes. It was an odd weakness for a character otherwise very morally strong and felt a little off.(less)
Enjoyable, but not my favorite by Trisha Ashley. Sophy and Seth spend so much time completely clueless about each other that I had a hard time simply...moreEnjoyable, but not my favorite by Trisha Ashley. Sophy and Seth spend so much time completely clueless about each other that I had a hard time simply enjoying the rest of the story. And the rest of the cast is more mundane than I'm used to in her books—less magical, but also less wacky or (lovably) goofy. Seth is brooding (which prompts a hilarious reference to Cold Comfort Farm but is otherwise simply . . . broody). Sophy is determined. Yes, you see them enjoy themselves together, mostly bickering (though in the way that breeds intimacy and compromise as a team), but you also see them not talking about the important stuff for most of the book. Which is probably my main difficulty in giving this a higher rating: you could cut three quarters of the book out if they'd all sat down and had a bit of a talk.
So like I said. Enjoyable. A reasonable 3.5 but without enough oomph to encourage rounding up.
Small note about publishing/reading order: Ashley is one of those authors who interleaves her books with each other. You'll see a magazine started in one book pop up in another, for example. This book sets a decent amount of ground work for Chocolate Wishes. The town and Winter's End features, if not prominently, then at least frequently in it. That threw me a bit as I read the later book first so had the odd flashes of deja skew because things started out in this book in a very different place than they were presented there. Which means I already knew some of the changes coming, just not how they got there. This didn't spoil anything, and may even have enhanced the reading a bit as I watched to see how things would drift. Still, it felt a little weird.(less)
This was a fun character story without a lot of surprises, but with enough charm to make it very enjoyable. Ashley does a good job with small-town Bri...moreThis was a fun character story without a lot of surprises, but with enough charm to make it very enjoyable. Ashley does a good job with small-town British life, bringing both the central family and surrounding neighbors to life in a way that's organic and yet still serves the story.
This is only my second of her books, and already I sense a pattern. Witches and vicars and good friends and goofy families and solidly middle-aged women who think they're past their romance years. So far, those are merely common elements, though, and not really anything so rigid as a formula. And so far, I'm still eager for more. I think the key draw, for me, is that her heroines are so charming in their brave, yet understated way. They have gumption, even if they're used to burying it much of the time. And I like her way with past loves come calling in the most interesting ways.
Still, to be honest, there's not a lot that's ground-breaking, here. There's not a lot of drama and heartbreaks are pretty firmly in the past. And, as I said above, there aren't a lot of twists that you can't see coming miles away. Indeed, this was a solid 3.5 stars or so throughout. But I'm bumping to a four if only because I had such a hard time putting it down last night and stayed up way, way too late to finish it—to me, that's a sign I enjoyed it more than I want to let on (even to myself).
Oh! Plus bonus points for prominent mentions of my own favorite books and movies (including the marvelous Bride and Prejudice)...(less)