You know what sucks? Ass holes. Ass holes suck. You know what sucks worse than ass holes? Ass holes who never learn to wipe the shit from their own sp...more
You know what sucks? Ass holes. Ass holes suck. You know what sucks worse than ass holes? Ass holes who never learn to wipe the shit from their own sphincters. Can ya tell I'm angry? 'Cause I'm fuck-tons angry. "Why the rage-face, Jacquie?" Oh I'll tell ya. But, before I vomit my rant-words all over the place, let me set the scene for ya.
Any Man Of Mine by Rachel Gibson. Quick run down: Hero dude hokey player Sam sees tall curvy redhead heroine Autumn in a Vegas bar, the two get drunk, bump uglies, have a quicky impromptu wedding, hero dude Sam bails, heroine chick Autumn ends up preggers, Sam orders a paternity test and a divorce, fast forward six years, and Mr. Jack Ass decides he wants a do-over. Best synopsis ever. Also fuck you, Sam.
Surprise, surprise I hate this book, and isn't that just shocking? Normally I have indepth analytical chunky word bits to throw at you for explaining WHY I hate-face on a book. This time around, nope. This book sucks all of the ass and their subsequent turds for one reason and one reason only: the hero is a majestic prancing trout-faced cockstorm piss experiment! Sam LeClaire is a full-on, ass-flaps engaged, douche nozzle and there aren't enough words in the all the languages in all the world to convey to you my hatred of this character.
Any Man of Mine is basically a second-chance-together/reformed-bad-boy story set up, and I'm okay with that. What sick bastard doesn't love a reunion story, with a kid thrown in? No one, that's who. But! When your story features a hero whose only notable characteristic is, AND I QUOTE: "...a good-looking son of a bitch." When your story has a plot-muppet in place of a human child. When your story literally has your hero getting all ass-hurt because "OH MY GOD how dare Autumn not forgive me for me for abandoning her six years ago" then ugh!
While I hate this character to colossal levels, it's noteworthy that, hey, he doesn't stalk our heroine. He pays his child support. And he shows up to be a dad. Sometimes. Okay, so fine, he's not an Edward Cullen psycho-ass. But when faced with no other insights into him as a human being, when denied all context but a some half-assed sad backstory and, "Hey, me like Hockey!" what the hell else am I supposed to do with this guy? Throw in the fact that our author never once really redeemed this dude by the end of the book, and just no.
"But Jacquie!" you're ranting at your computer screen, "Shut up about the hero! What else about the book?! Plot? Heroine? Writing? Pacing? Dialogue? Setting? ANYTHING!" Well, um...I got nothing. See, realistically everything else with this book was okay...until. The heroine was relateably likeable...until the very end for taking back a jerk who apparently stopped being a jerk but ya could've fooled me. The writing was brisk and lively...until the middle where it lulled and dragged like a damn tank in the ocean. The pacing was even keeled and slow building....until it jumped spastic, choppy, and rushed in the last 100 pages. Hell even the plot-style couldn't make up its mind whether it wanted to be just a slow-burning emotionally driven reunion story or a Penthouse Forum Special.
So, at the end of the day, if I hated this thing so much then why the hell did I do this to myself? Well, mostly because Rachel Gibson tricked me and I'm mad about it. I spent 317 pages with this book, convinced by the tone that, before I got to page 373, hero-guy was gonna do something to demonstrate this magical love he suddenly felt for our heroine. Or, somehow we as the reader were going to witness SOMETHING in the way of why the hell these two love each other. Did that ever happen? Nope. But, as bad as the hero was, and as boring as the courtship and romance turned out to be, the heroine was all of the awesome!
Yes, Autumn pulled a few TSTL moments, but throughout the story she was interesting and dynamic and strong and likeable. Our heroine owned her own business and rocked it, she was believable as a mother and friend, as a woman and an individual. But, as fun as she was, her counterpart sucked. This suckage wrecked the novel and destroyed any happy feels I might have experienced.
There book had instalove without grounding, an asshole hero without redemption, and a told-not-shown love story that hurt my brain. Rachel Gibson tricked my ass and somebody better invent a fictional-character-to-IRL machine quick, 'cause I wanna punch Sam LeClaire in the face.
No wonder it took me a damn month to finish this damn thing.(less)
Seriously. Shut up and know all ye THIS BOOK IS FUCKING FAN-DAMN-TASTIC!
Well, so, yes, I might have just secured my one way ticket to the pillowed...more
Seriously. Shut up and know all ye THIS BOOK IS FUCKING FAN-DAMN-TASTIC!
Well, so, yes, I might have just secured my one way ticket to the pillowed-wall room complete with self-hugging jackets for that crazy-sauce outburst, but it was so worth being committed over. Alas, lock me away Johnny, for I have recently come to the sad conclusion that books are not healthy for you. In fact, they're a bit dangerous to your well being, and unquestionably no-good for your sanity. Books like No Good Duke Goes Unpunished make it very, VERY difficultimpossible emotionally traumatizing to separate fiction from reality. Why? Well!
When a book kicks much ass, you want that thing to be real, dammit. And, let's face it, we're all secretly convinced that Temple and Mara are walking-talking people. Those two characters are the epitome of a huge honkin' bowl of Awesome sprinkled with a sugary goodness pile of Emotional Agency. Yes, yes, our characters are believable, they're likable, they're strong; they're all of that. But, far, *far* more importantly, their back-stories, their personal identities, AND their personal growth, both independently as well as a couple over the course of novel, brings these two fictional peeps into a hot, zesty fiesta of damned good reading.
Oh, and that's not even broaching the topic of the plot! This story is just damned good; all of it. DAMNED GOOD I SAY! The conflict is nuanced and layered, operating as an external crisis driven by internal emotional pain. The progressing of plot points is so well executed in sensical construction that even the most ADHD spasmodic, "Oh-Look-Something-Shiny!" reading attention span would remain hooked throughout every friggin' chapter. The smexy smokin' sensual chemistry (yay for alliterations!) that sparks in every scene between our hero and heroine is, in my obnoxiously unimportant opinion, serious justification for making this Book-Crack-level worthy.
Not good enough for ya to be convinced to read this glorious collection of words? Well, fine! Then how about a story chock full of piss-your-pants-roller-coaster-ing emotional hits within the plot? Temple's Mr. Angsty-Angst man from Angstville level of mistakenly misplaced self-hate? Or Mara's I'm-Apparently-The-Most-Bravely-Bad-Ass, Most-Independently-Self-Reliant-Vagina-Owner moniker holder in Romance Land? Still not convinced? FINE! Throw in some amaze-balls beautimous writing, some burn-this-mother-down hot sex scenes, AND majestic perpetual plot momentum! Because, ya know, as great effing books do. SO HOW? ABOUT? NOW?!
I really do.
Post Review Postscript:
Dear Sarah MacLean: You're birthed in win, and your DNA is basically the equivalent of diamonds dipped in liquid gold. This has long been acceptable scientific truth for you, for your books up until No Good Duke Goes Unpunished have proven as much. Here I must put it to you, though, that you are a mastery of awesomeness. That itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny way you just SHOCKED THE EVER LOVIN' CRAP-LOVE out of your readership with those last two lines of the epilogue about a CERTAIN surprise you've been harboring over the course of three novels? Well. You are officially Queen of Romance. Here's your well deserved fist bump, good woman.
You wanna what I love? Bad-ass heroines who rock capability and personal agency like it's a Def Leppard farewell tour. You know what I really, really...moreYou wanna what I love? Bad-ass heroines who rock capability and personal agency like it's a Def Leppard farewell tour. You know what I really, really love? Independent and confident female characters that save their own damn selves when stuck in a hopeless situation all while maintaining personal identity. You know what I love more than all that; said supposedly anachronistic heroine in an historical romance.
Artemis Greaves is my favorite non-person person, not the least of which is because life has screwed her blue, and yet she survives. This character is well written, fascinating, interesting, bold, and does things in Duke of Midnight that make me stand up and hug her on a perpetual basis. Her counterpart, Maximus? Not so much.
This novel rocks it with character development and an elegantly simplistic plot...but kind of sucks mammalian testicles when it comes to hero-tastic awesomeness. Maximus is believable, yep, and he's got legit internal conflicts, double-yep, but he's kind of one dimensional. He's sort of just there, believably so indeed, but unquestionably more of the supporting actor to Artemis' lead. Who knows what the frickity-frack reason for this is, really? Maybe it's the seemingly surplus of scenes told from our heroine's POV? Maybe it's the plot which, while heavily focused on Maxi-boy, doesn't really seem all that prominent in the final analysis. Maybe it's Maybelline?
Yeah, okay, so that was admittedly a bit pretentious sounding, and so vague it probably gave you a headache, BUT! Such brain-vomit is relevant because while our hero is second to our heroine, he's still viably written. We see him feel his feels and make an impact on the story and do all sorts of other awesome stuff. Oh! Speaking of the story...
(...you like that segway? I worked on it all week.) You remember back in the good old days of two paragraphs ago, when I said the plot was elegantly simplistic? Well, it was, but more to the point, and largely the only reason why this novel doesn't get a Woot-Woot 5 Star ranking...but honestly the entire St. Giles subplot could have been completely removed from the book with little to no real consequence. After altering the hero's internal conflict only just a smidgen, the whole big swashbuckling-meets-vengeful-hero-of-the-night not only felt a bit forced and random in the dynamic of the plot, but it was boring.
There's a whole giant subplot about our hero's family and St. Giles and a bunch of other stuff that my brain just kind of went "Doooooooooon't caaaaaaare" every time the book jumped back to That Topic. Luckily these scenes weren't all that frequent, but they were there and thus, yeah, not a fan. Still! As somewhat weird as that subplot felt, the romance in this romance novel kicked all of the ass!...Well, mostly. At the end of the day, I totally bought the Artemis+Maximus ship, and I'm glad it sailed because dat heat doe!
These two had chemistry that sparked all of the smexy, and they believably needed one another, both in and out of bed. But (and that's a big damn) but I felt by their This Is Our Culmination End-Of-The-Book Scene that...well...how to put this lightly?...Basically their love story felt rushed. It went from, "Let's resist! Now let's bang! NOW let's avoid each other for a hot minute! NOW LET'S LOVE DAMMIT!"
Which is good and all, but by that point I was just like, "Yay" instead of "OH MY GOD YES YOU TWO ADORABLE BASTARDS...YESSSSS!" which is actually the reaction I prefer.
Not sure what the hell all that means, but hey I like the book and I loved the heroine and I loved me some of that romance.
So! Screw my above bitching, and read this thing dammit! READ IT NOW BECAUSE I'M SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS, OKAY?!
You know that feeling when you grab a gallon of ice cream, wolf the thing down in one sitting with the initial thought that, "This is a GENIUS freakin...more
You know that feeling when you grab a gallon of ice cream, wolf the thing down in one sitting with the initial thought that, "This is a GENIUS freakin' plan!" and then later when your stomach's trying to bitch-slap your brain you realize you're an idiot, but you still regret nothing? Well, surprise surprise, that's an analogy for my experience with The Autumn Bride. I read the first three chapters on day one of starting the thing, waited four days to come back to it, and then proceeded to glom the bastard in one sitting. AND I REGRET NOTHING, DAMMIT!
...No regrets, but definite consequences. At the end of the day, this book was likable; not great, not terrible. Character wise, it's fair to say our author kicked lots of ass in this department; just not necessarily with our two leads. Abby was an enjoyable enough little lady, and our hero was smexy fascination as per usual for a hero. But, the surrounding cast? So much better, especially since Abby and Max, while nice enough are admittedly and completely forgettable. The novel held entertaining sexual tension and the plot's conflict, while VERY thin, was seriously in line with the "I As A Reader Am Curious As To How This Crap's Gonna Play Out" way of book drama. The writing was strong, for you did believe in the validity of Abby and Max as people, just, um, they weren't...well they didn't...oh fine, dammit, their romance sucked!
"Girl, what you smokin' to proclaim this novel is likable if the conflict was minimal, the characters merely okay, and the romance be shittastic?" I know. Logic isn't my strong suit, but bare with me for a hot minute. At the end of the day, this book's biggest problem lies in the fact that the conflict resolution, one which centered on the romance of our leads, was hella rushed; like a hooker's makeup, rushed. Up until the climax and conclusion of the novel the story predominately focused on a will-they/won't-they theme, with the emotional and sexual tension being All Of The High. When we finally get the, "D'aww, lovey feels" at the literal end, it falls ass-first flat. The tension made the book read awesomely quick, but such was a disaster in the final analysis as a romance because it's glaringly apparent Hero and Heroine know jack squat about one another.
"Seriously, WHY DO YOU LIKE THIS NOVEL?!" I know, I know, nonexistent review reader, I'm guano. So, the book's other greatest strength is how enjoyable the exchanges are between Abby and Max, which is also it's greatest weakness because not much else attention is paid to different elements. Issues such as the emotion building, or internal POV exploration of the characters' growing sentiments for one another, are just not a thing with this story. One minute, they're all "I shouldn't want her/him," the next they're "LET ME HAVE/MAKE YOUR BABY!"
Which, at the end of the day, is why this novel is theme-park fun. Yes, the two lead characters are kind of forgettable two milliseconds after finishing the epilogue, but the supporting cast are rich with diversity and interesting characters. Yes, the plot's conflict is painfully thin and almost irrelevant, but the low angst provides for a refreshing book pallet cleanser. Yes, the hero seems to spontaneously decide he's in love with Abby, and vice versa, but we all sometimes love the Jane Austen-ing of a romance story. And, lastly, yes, the book started too slow and ended too hurriedly, but much like that aforementioned gallon of ice cream, it might not sit well upon rumination and completion, but damned if it wasn't enjoyable on the way down.
So, read it, you might enjoy it; don't read it, and you're not missing out. Either way, it's a book, and it was nice, and hell I might even explore other Anne Gracie titles, who knows?
But, one thing IS a certainty, and that is I now want ice cream, dammit.
You know that moment after finishing a book, when your brain zig-zags like an in-play Ping Pong ball because you can't figure out how you feel about w...more
You know that moment after finishing a book, when your brain zig-zags like an in-play Ping Pong ball because you can't figure out how you feel about what you have just read? Well, welcome to my world. Firstly, let me put this out there, because I feel like if I don't I'm sacrificing virgins on the alter, or something equally heinous; A Rogue By Any Other Name is worth reading. It is, put simply, a good book. Despite my following complaining screed, it's fun to read. But...
...There are some problems.
The synopsis is pretty in-your-face-like-whoa simplistic; boy wants revenge, girl harbors means for revenge, annnnnd...marriage. While there is obviously a bit more to the structure of the story, that oversimplification is the meat-and-taters of the thing. As far as plot goes, there isn't too terribly much happening in the background lives of Penelope and Michael. This is sad, because I think if there were other motivating elements to the story, the thing would have bazooka-ed on up as a better read. As is, we've got Penny and Bourne circling each other in a very off-beat dance of "What's Going On With The Two Of Us, Yo?"
As far as characters are concerned, I'm thinking Penelope was a lot more fleshed out as a person than Lord Bourne (or Michael, he's a tad crazy-sauce Bipolar with his name for some inexplicable yet obvious reason.) The nature of the story grants us a significant amount of time inside Penny's head at the onset of every chapter, which is good like a sunny day at the beach, and bad like the subsequent sunburn. I, personally, believed her motivations, her actions and goals within the book, I just didn't like 'em. Too often, I felt like screaming...
...In the singular form, of course. Essentially, Penelope took so long to develop her backbone to Michael that I grew more irritated with her than I did with the hero's occasional Ass Hat #3 moves. It was such a relief towards the end of the story when she began showing some spirited spunk for herself, but by that point, I felt it was too late for me to truly appreciate her attitude. The above sunny day/sunburn analogy comes into play here, for the doorway, the one in which we're granted access to this chick's identity, is solely streamlined through letters to a dude (Michael) who's ignored her for years. Add that to the fact that she's all Mrs. Droopy-Eyed Pup about her new hubbie, and I wanted to just, well...
Michael gets the same treatment, too, of course, but to a lesser extent. Yeah, yeah, that's probably sexist, but at least his motivations came from a bit more believable context. However! Despite the bad character aspects, and the occasionally forced plot-points that just didn't flow well, the story read surprisingly well! From my review I'm sure it seems otherwise, but, since I have no problem DNF-ing a book in a split second if the thing becomes unreadable, that's not the case. A Rogue By Any Other Name reads well, predominately because of the fact that, despite having occasionally shit-tastic character motivations, Sarah MacLean makes you care about Penelope and Michael, as well making you wish for their HEA.
But, that in and of itself is the problem. You like Michael, you like Penelope, but rather quickly upon seeing them finally find one another emotionally, the two are easily forgotten. If anything, this book is prime sequel-bait, because if for no other reason it's hooked me like a Diabetic to a chocolate fountain; I want Pippa and Cross' book! The final scene of this novel makes you go uber-gushy; I admit it. I mean, c'mon, a nerdy girl in Victorian England paired with a tall intellectual ginger? Yeah. I'm all over that.
Wow. *Sigh.* This novella is just...oh, God. Talk about one comfortable read! Overall, I'm not a big-honkin' fan of the short story, predominately bec...more
Wow. *Sigh.* This novella is just...oh, God. Talk about one comfortable read! Overall, I'm not a big-honkin' fan of the short story, predominately because I'm frequently of the mindset that they suck. More often than not, a writer bombs shorts because it's hardcore hard to cram a compelling, interesting story within the span of one hundred pages, or less. But, oy, Milan rocked this one out of the stadium. A Kiss For Midwinter is one snuggable and fun read that just works.
(Yes, the above one-word scream is vital.) Do not, at all, under any circumstances read this novella without having first read The Duchess War. I mean it, dude; don't. With absolute certainty, your face will explode if you don't follow my instructions. Well, okay, granted, there exist no continuity confusion-issues without first reading Book One, and a reader won't be all what-the-hell with the plot, this is all true. However, the story will not be nearly as appreciated without first having met the characters of Lydia and Jonas, who are background-fun in The Duchess War.
So! A story that focuses entirely on two characters both of which must arrive on-scene emotionally prepared to drive a story entirely on their own merit? A story that does not utilize any external conflict whatsoever to move the plot along? A story that goes to some pretty intense and emotionally dark places? A story that utilizes the "Christmas time trope" without ever once tutoring the reader? A story that makes you care about two people immediately upon the start of the novella, with vastly limited exposition time? It's almost like Mrs. Milan looked at her publisher, and went balls-to-the-wall...
The story has excellent pacing, which is damned necessary when it comes to writing truncated stories. The characters are likable, dynamic, and engagingly believable. But, there does exist one teensy-weensy problem; the hero. Oh, don't get your knickers in a wad, you Beta-male HR haters, it's not what you think. Jonas is absolutely adorable as a male lead. I like him, I love him, I want more of him; but! There's one thing I didn't like, and that's the fact that Milan basically wrote the Perfect Hero, and had him go nowhere.
The entirety of the plot, indeed, the sole basis of the story is Jonas traipsing after Lydia in trying to make her "see" him; and hey, considering the background these two characters have, I'm okay with that aspect. Rather, a perfect story has lots of Must Meet This Criteria To Be Awesomesauce, and one of those is growing your characters. Lydia morphs from a seed to a rose, which makes sense and fits when considering the emotional baggage of her back-story. In order for her and Jonas to wrap up their HEA, she's got to get from Point A "I-Gots-Shiznit-I-Need-To-Deal-With" to Point B "Hey!-Hey!-I'm-Okay!" This cool-beans transitional growth, though, never happens for Jonas, 'cause he basically arrives on scene with a lot of possible issues for internal conflict that go nowhere faster than Mother Teresa in a whore house.
THIS. IS. WHY. I. HATE. SHORT. STORIES! (Also, yay John Green GIF!) ... A Kiss For Midwinter had a lot of happy-places where I felt wonderful, and I did enjoy the story, so much. I love what it made me feel, I love the characters and the writing, but even as excellently structured as the story was, I felt that had it instead been a full-length novel, both characters could have had evolved equally as well during the span of the story, not just Lydia.
Any story that can go from here...
"Also, he had decided it would be best not to mention his main reason for wanting to marry - that he thought it expedient to procure a regular source of sexual intercourse without risking syphilis." ...
"'I only said I would stop talking to you,' he'd written. 'I never promised to stop loving you.'"