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
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
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.'"
Courtney Milan has written the very definition of the perfect-effing-novel. Seriously. When it comes to romance, and God kn
Yeah. It's just like that.
Courtney Milan has written the very definition of the perfect-effing-novel. Seriously. When it comes to romance, and God knows I've read enough, there are so many authors who know how to suck-it so bad. Cliches become transparent, characters are a joke, and the plot is a dead squirrel hidden in the anus of Hitler. So not so for The Duchess War! As is, I'm currently holy-effing-wow-amazingly-awesome-I-CAN'T-BELIEVE-HOW-MUCH-THIS-BOOK-ROCKS! (And, yes, the exclamation marks were needed.)
First and foremost, this book is just geniusly well constructed. Most novels' writing, romance or otherwise, come off as being a men-in-tights scenario; you think it's okay initially, but after a while, you kind of want to just barf. Milan knows her business. Her structure of sentences, her pacing, her detail and description, it's all perfectly perfect perfection! Additionally, her historical writing is phenomenal, with believable detail that's just perpetual enough to allow for total immersion in setting, but not so much that I want to off-myself with the nearest Soup Spoon. The Duchess War is not a book, it's a time-travel machine; I visited Victorian Leicester England.
Speaking of Leicester England...I want to bang a Beta, right now. Okay, okay, so those two thoughts weren't exactly cohesive, but holy-crap-on-crap, Milan has entirely redefined the definition of "Romance Hero." Robert (think Downton Abbey's Lord Crawley, but even hotter, if that's physically possible) is absolutely the most respectable, most considerate, most thoughtful fictional dude I've ever read. (By the by, Robert's a virgin, and lemme just say this virgin made some HOT-HOT-HOT monkey-lovin' scenes!) And, yes, he's tortured. Hey, you Alpha-A-Holes, think you've got a monopoly on tortured? Pfft. Incidentally, Mr. Alpha-Ass...
...Think again, because Ms. Milan proved conclusively that a character can be created who's not Mr. Rapey-Rape Man, who struggles with the idea of love, and who doesn't turn into a walking douche box. I'm angry at you, Alpha-A-Hole, because you dominate a market on romance novels and you shouldn't, because Robert pwns you, almost in the same way Minnie pwns romance heroines. Incidentally you romance heroines, I'm tired of you being all "I've got problems," when in actuality you just come off as being redonkerous. I don't believe you. I do, however, believe Minnie. Oh, sure, she does some things I don't like, but I BELIEVE her crappy acts. I buy her as a person, fleshed out and whole. Minnie is absolutely someone I can see talking to IRL, someone to take out for a drink just for the hell of it.
You know that moment when your Kindle reaches out and grabs your face, yanking it through the screen like your gravity's bitch? Well, the plot's kind of just like that, except even more so. Throughout the entire reading of The Duchess War, I was so drawn in by the story that I forgot I was, in fact, reading a frakkin' story. On the one hand, it's an external conflict narrative, and on the other, it's internally driven. I don't even recall the diminutive details because hot-diggity, reality ditched my consciousness, entirely.
The Duchess War also deals with a some pretty heavy non-love-story elements, as well. Social class, working conditions for the poor, the role of government in the lives of its citizens; who said romance novels weren't "smart reading?!" This novel goes to some pretty dark places, both within the elements of the book, as well as the lead characters. There are moments when I just want to reach out and bear-hug both Robert, and Minnie. Each character has some pretty hardcore excrement from their pasts to deal with, and both do so with such believable emotion that the reader can't help but get entrenched in their emotional state. The plot aids this along at times, as well as the character's internal dialogues. Put simply, there are times I want to repeatedly slam my head in the refrigerator door because EMOTION! I do NOT cry, dammit, okay? I don't effing cry! (<--Lies.)
Wait, wait, wait, WAIT?! Are you telling me that I just read a hella grand novel, and the author actually THANKS HER READERS (capitalization necessary, yes) in the Acknowledgments? And, she also takes time to go into some of the historical points she addresses within the context of her book?
Yeaaah. My heart totally had a happy as a result of the above. So, in summary? This novel totally made me have Good Book Noise, and it's gonna be stuck in my brain's Fiction Reply data bank for quite some time. Dammit, I need more Courtney Milan, otherwise I'm going to asphyxiate for no logical reason!
So, you know that moment when you're flying through a book like a great acid trip, and then WHAM-O... devastatio
This book? Yes, yes, yes, and then NO!
So, you know that moment when you're flying through a book like a great acid trip, and then WHAM-O... devastation? And, I'm not talking Katrina or Mt Kilimanjaro level of Mother Nature Be Crazy, I'm talking Japanese Tsunami, batten-down-the-hatches-'cause-shit-just-got-real level. Take that overdone analogy, and apply it to The Earl's Inconvenient Wife.
"But, Jacqueline!" as I'm sure you're not thinking, "...You rated this book 3 stars; a like! Surely you're not raging that bad?" And, dear reader, you'd be right. This novel takes the very special place in my Highly Qualified Reading Perspective of "yes-but-no." See, the characters? Oh, man, you talk about some believable-ass characters! If Claire was any sweeter, I'd pass out from a diabetic sugar-induced coma. If Nate was any more Beta-But-Alpha-But-Beta, I'd be throwing my panties off quicker than a Rihanna relationship about-face.
(GIF was vital, I promise.) These characters had believable written all over their actions, and their response to their personal situations was both logical, and driven. The plot of the book actually aids in this endeavor, forcing these two together, creating butt-loads of tension and conflict, which in turn make for a GREAT story...until the second act of the novel.
No, no, gentle reader, you read that correctly. This book pwns good conflict and tension backed by likable, interesting characters until about the 75% mark. Annnnnnd, then? The book falls on its ass harder than PSY's music career. Granted, that's a pretty hard insult I'm dishing out, I know, but it's warranted. The novel has one central point of conflict, and while it's the Big Mis trope, it still works. The problem results from the base fact that Ms. Nordin seemed to be trotting along with her writing and conflict, then suddenly decided, "Nah, it's all good now." Rushed resolutions and random character realizations for no logical apparent reason? Check.
Ironically, though, despite having one hell of a let down, the classic "All's well that ends because it ends!" climaxes, I still would recommend this to a friend. (Gokce, hon, I'm looking at you!) It's worth the time as long as the reader knows going into it there's great buildup with mediocre to lackluster climax and resolution. Granted, that's definitely sucky, but it doesn't negate the readability of the story, because fundamentally the characters are likable, if at times a bit underdeveloped. There is a level of depth without delving into the psyche. There's a level of plot without drowning in story.
Not exactly a sterling recommendation, but certainly enjoyable for a light read, or maybe as a break from the typical HR angst.
I'm of the firm opinion Shakespeare was a master at creating some of the most unlikable characters in the history of English literature. The differencI'm of the firm opinion Shakespeare was a master at creating some of the most unlikable characters in the history of English literature. The difference, of course, as far as the play Romeo and Juliet is concerned, is that such was most likely done on purpose. It's redundant or unnecessary to say that I enjoyed the story, because I doubt very much it's possible not to enjoy the experience of reading Shakespeare. However, the fact that I so hated the immature idiocy of both Romeo, and Juliet, made the story that much more ironically satisfying.
It might be a bit sadistic to say that I loved seeing two morons off themselves, but to be fair, I'm pretty certain the entire point of the play was to demonstrate the fallacy in obsession and uninformed emotion. Thus, it stands to reason that I'm supposed to enjoy seeing the two lead characters die, since not only were such suicides poignant of the consequences from being emotionally irresponsible, but they were also demonstrative of humanistic bad decision making. I find it innately fascinating that, in modern society, Romeo and Juliet are painted as two tragic yet romantic characters. In Hollywood, and various other outlets, these two people are seen as unfortunate souls, when in reality, it's patently obvious such characterizations were the antithesis of Shakespeare's most probable intent.
Aside from the more obvious example of Juliet's thirteen year age, which some may argue isn't so shockingly young, considering the era of story, there exist other indications of this play's intended tone. Romeo is too rash with his emotions, opening the play with his emotional romantic turmoil over someone NOT Juliet; that is to say, Rosaline. How quickly Romeo sheds his tortured grief the moment he spots Juliet confirms, in ways few examples could, the nonsensical state of his emotional radar. This aspect, too, is experienced by not just the hero of the play, for Juliet is guilty of such too, though, being young, her fault is marginally more understandable.
Interestingly, the theme of brash emotionalism is evident in other characters and plot elements, such as Nurse's sentimental hyperbole, as well as her flip-flop in voucher for Romeo. The feud between the Montague and Capulet houses, even, is a perfect exemplification of this story elemental message, for its fundamental existence underscores the dangers of high strung, ill advised immaturity. This theme is even seen in other, more gritty plot points, such as the death of Paris, Mercutio, and Tybalt. All three deaths resulted from emotion without consideration. Even the climatic moment of the play, the deaths of both lead characters illuminated this theme in the most dramatic and elemental way possible.
Aside from the messages peppered throughout this work of literature, the most amazing aspect to the play is its conceptualization. To say Shakespeare was a "good writer" is such a wilted praise that it's almost indubitably unnecessary. And, yet, Romeo and Juliet was the first work I had ever read that granted me the realization I need not like the characters, nor enjoy the plot points, to garner entertainment and appreciation for the work as a whole. It may sound corny, but the writing, the technical construction of the words in poetic format, the stress in the iambic pentameter, and the overall quality proves that a story need not be "good" to be a good story....more
This book is complicated, not so much in its essence, but more in my reflection. Overall, I liked the book ((Smuttastic Coven Group Read: August 2012)
This book is complicated, not so much in its essence, but more in my reflection. Overall, I liked the book (I think)...but holy crap on a cracker, it has some problems.
The novel's plot was pretty cut-and-paste of most standard fiction tropes; crazy powerful bad guy hunting down the innocent heroine. The antagonist of the story, ironically, shared a lot in common with the protagonists...Shocking, right? This statement finds itself more along the lines of Author's Fault rather than the actual development of the story. Frankly, while the book was decent, it was painfully obvious that absolutely no character development took place over the course of Crux...with ANY of the characters.
Jackson was likable. Mackenzie was likable. All the secondary cast of characters were likable. Sadly, that's the problem. From Prologue to Epilogue nothing stronger than outside influences affected the characters. There was, truly, almost a poignant lack of internal conflict, both with the characters independently of one another, as well as in the context of being a couple. Neither character experienced growth, nor loss, nor difficulty. This, I feel, is largely why the climax of the book felt so disappointing. So much buildup and drama was established in Getting The Bad Guy that, when said scene arrived, it very much felt as a Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma'am deal.
Ironically, while both the plot and characters were mediocre in their quality, the pacing of the novel was very well executed. At no time did any particular scene feel exasperatedly drawn out, even when considering the book's story-type parameters. The writing was tight and fluid, and this made for true reading enjoyment. When an author can utilize good technical skills in making a story flow well, even in spite of some tremendous pitfalls to their work of fiction, color me impressed.
Lastly, my final complaint against this book deals more towards its romantic elements, and yet still circulates back to my original Big Problem with Crux. As noted before, this novel bites big ass in character development, as well as characterization. Sadly, while there was nothing specifically wrong with Jackson and Mackenzie, their lack of on-page presence and personality made them, sadly, very unimpressive to read. These two were easily forgettable, and this could be why I found their romance to be uninteresting, and a total failure in being believable. I doubt very much if ever there was a literary couple with as little chemistry and fire as Jackson and Mackenzie. In truth, I found more heat and spark between Mackenzie and another minor character of Crux than I did with the hero...and this is saying something, since I'm betting said minor character wasn't even heterosexual!
However...the book wasn't a total loss. Overall, I have to say I'm wavering perpetually between a 2 and 3 star ranking. (I've even changed it three times back and forth since writing this review.) On the one hand, I sailed right through the book, and found myself engrossed in the story. On the other hand, that engrossment did not achieve a good payoff, since frankly, the book is easily forgettable. I both liked it, and thought it was okay....more