For the past two years, I've been totally absorbed in the melodramatic, angst-ridden world of digital romance created (mostly) by indie authors. TheirFor the past two years, I've been totally absorbed in the melodramatic, angst-ridden world of digital romance created (mostly) by indie authors. Their stories are usually written in 1st person POV and sometimes - as is the case here - in dual 1st person POV. IMO this is by far the best POV to tell a story from because the reader is privy to what is going on in the minds of both hero and heroine. It effectively does away with the "WTF moments" and thus brings a new vulnerability to the hero that, until now, was a rarity in romance novels. Male emotion - raw, honest and straight from his heart - can be the difference between a good book boyfriend and an Oh.My.God.I.LOVE.HIM! great book boyfriend...
...which brings us to this story and Evan Maxwell.
I only have one negative thing to say about this book so I'll say it now and get it over with. The packaging sucks. As a big fan of new adult romance, I am familiar with how the genre is presented. These are digital books so readers are not walking into Barnes & Noble and picking up this book or that, mulling over the back blurbs, etc., we are checking out places like Amazon where there are already hundreds of books listed under this relatively new genre. With the majority of authors being unknown at this point, the "look" of the book - the appeal of title and bookcover - has the big job of reeling the buyer in. And once we're in, well...we are all pretty much "1-click crazy". Think "new adult" romance and covers/titles like these appeal:
Champagne Toast is every bit as good as these 3 books and fits the genre perfectly, yet the cover and title scream Nora Roberts' Bridal Quartet. Not even what a new adult reader is looking for.
Fortunately for me, I came across author Molly McAdams' review of CT and saw this:
WARNING YOU NOW LADIES: You will swoon. And not just swoon...but SAAAWOON! I actually sighed out loud at one part because I love Evan so much and my husband looked like he was going to go find the guy that gave me that dopey look on my face.
Molly's idea of a swoon-worthy hero is definitely my own (hello Team Brandon) and my number one "must have" in a book, so I bought it. Soooo damn glad I did!
Kate Armour is a free-spirited, part-time college student working at a local bar to support herself. She is beautiful, flirtatious, passionate about photography and a serial cheater in relationships...if that's what you would call the superfluous hookups she repeatedly engaged in. Sex and arm candy were the staples and love wasn't even a consideration. Yet coming from a home seriously deficient in affection, it is what Kate thought she wanted from a man.
Until the day Evan Maxwell walked into the bar.
Evan was in his 3rd year at the local University, working towards a degree in marketing. He had solid goals planned for his future and no doubt that he wouldn't meet them. He epitomized "tall, dark & handsome" as though the term was created just for him; and women were always a big part of his life...though he had never been in love.
Until the day he met Kate Armour.
The attraction between Kate & Evan was instant and mutual. However, Kate had a boyfriend, so the first few weeks of working together they were basically "flirting friends". Soon, however, lines started to blur as they became consumed by desire for each other.
He places the pads of his fingers on my cheek, brushing lightly before pushing my hair behind my ear and placing my long thick hair behind my shoulder. “What are you doing?” I whisper, my pulse racing so fast I feel like I might faint. “Swooning,” Evan smiles softly as he looks me in the eyes. My heart stops. “Oh,” I reply, swallowing hard, attempting to hide my emotions and failing miserably. He knows I want him as much as he wants me. “I want to kiss you, Kate. But, I don’t think I should . . . ” his voice trails as he explores my features with his eyes. “Why?” I ask, completely under his spell. Evan caresses my face gently with his fingers and then cups my chin with his hand. “Do you still have a boyfriend?” I nod with an apologetic glance. “It’s okay, I want you to,” I say, my words betraying me. “Not my style,” he says, shaking his head with a deep frown. He leans in and kisses me gently on the cheek. “Goodnight, Kate,” he says softly before walking into the back room. I hear him saying good-bye to Bree and Vince. Slowly, I slide down the bar until I’m seated on the floor, in a complete daze. Every bit of me is on fire, my skin, my hair, my bones. I didn’t know I was capable of swooning. But, Evan Maxwell has gotten under my skin in a way I never knew was possible. So, if Kate Armour swoons, this is how she does it.
Kate & Evan succumb to their desires that night and sleep together. The next day, Kate breaks up with her boyfriend and she and Evan are immediately a couple. For the most part their relationship is great...fun and comfortable and filled with love. As in any relationship, they have problems that they normally meet head-on and deal with; however, Kate's history of cheating coupled with Evan's quick temper and apparent lack of trust culminate in an explosive "it's-not-what-it-looks-like" scene that proves too difficult to overcome. So, after two wonderful years together, Kate & Evan part ways.
OMG their breakup nearly broke my heart! The author does an excellent job of showing rather than telling, and I truly felt like I knew this couple well...like I was actually living their relationship with them. Kate & Evan have a true, deep-seated "soul-mates" type of love that is so badly shaken I was afraid the damage that had been done was beyond repair. The dual POV works so well here as we get inside Evan's head as well as Kate's and understand that he is every bit as broken as she is, although he does try to move on.
Another Saturday night. Another evening surrounded by friends who are pushing me to move on. Patrick and I are meeting some other friends at a bar. Supposedly, there’s a girl he wants me to meet. Whatever. All I really want to do is show up at Molly’s, take a seat at the bar and watch Kate work. I want to watch her run her fingers through her hair and give the customers attitude. I want to watch her pour drinks and make smart-ass comments. I want to walk in that bar like nothing ever happened. But, I can’t. Walking to my dresser, I pull open the drawer and move the stacked clothes to the side. A small box sits in the drawer. It makes my heart race just looking at it. Opening the box, I see the promise ring that Kate threw back at me last spring. My brow furrows as I put the ring in my hand, like I do every few weeks when I can’t get her out of my head. Holding the ring between my fingers, I stare at the band knowing what this ring once represented. A life with Kate. A future that I let go of way too easily.
Champagne Toast is the emotional rollercoaster that we new adult fans crave. The perfect blend of love & happiness, promises & heartbreak, discovery & hope, and awesome, toe-curling sex. Best of all, it has a believable HEA. That's a must for me and I know for most of you as well. And Evan...mmmmmmmm! What can I say? The guy is book boyfriend perfection!!! Sure we all love the rockstars, the actors, the fighters...all the bad boys that just need to find that special someone to love them. But Evan isn't a bad boy at all (well...maybe in bed...mmmmmm). Yet he is so smokin' hot I dare you to read this book and not rank him right up there with the Kellans & Travis' of book boyfriend landia!
I can't say enough good about this book and really, the only reason I complained about the cover and title is because it diminishes the powerful story inside. Champagne Toast really needs more exposure so that others can enjoy this diamond in the rough. One thing is certain...Melissa Brown knows how to tell a powerful, emotional love story. I'm looking forward to reading more from her.
**spoiler alert** What do I think? I think this is a 5-star book that was reduced to 3 stars because of one damn 4-letter word. Nate...with an exclama**spoiler alert** What do I think? I think this is a 5-star book that was reduced to 3 stars because of one damn 4-letter word. Nate...with an exclamation point. Nate! My response was also a 4-letter word...with emphasis...and multiple exclamation points Fuuuuuuuck!!! This book should have been entitled "Blindsided" because that's how it hit (me) in the end.
This was an angst-driven, page-turning, can't-put-it-down-until-it's-over story about Nate & Emi...best friends for 13 years who are looking for love in all the wrong places until they finally realize their one true love is each other. Like many indie authors, Lori Otto has a true talent for telling a heartwarming albeit heart-wrenching romantic story. Unlike many indie authors, however, she tells the story via 1st person POV of the hero exclusively. For once we are privy to know exactly what the male protagonist is thinking...what his feelings are for his partner in each of the many relationships he drifts in and out of...how he equates sex = love, and when he eventually realizes that what he feels for Emi is not merely a sisterly affection but a true, "soulmates" type of love. For once we don't have to suffer through the heroine's whiny rants and tedious he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not petal-pulling drama. Why is she mad at Nate? We don't know. Why does she have bruises on her neck? We don't know. What happened between her & Colin to cause their breakup? We don't know. And personally, I didn't care. My heart and devotion belonged to Nate and if he had an epiphany that Emi was his one true love - great - whatever made Nate happy made me happy. Which brings me to why I brought the rating down...
This is Romancelandia, so if you are an author writing a romance, there are certain laws in Romancelandia you should abide by, with one law in particular...the hero and heroine must have an HEA or at the very least a HFN. It can be a true love (where the couple rides off into the sunset), it can be semi-bittersweet (such as forgiving a cheater and starting over again); and, though rarely seen, it can be bittersweet ( with the H & h going their separate ways...readers have the option to hold out with the hope they reconcile or find someone better-suited for each of them).
This means you CANNOT kill our beloved hero off at the very end of the book and attempt to replace him with someone else in a sequel!
By presenting the story from Nate's POV, you have breathed life into him for the readers. This series may be called "Emi Lost and Found" but this story belongs to Nate. We have been put through the emotional wringer with him for 300 pages - have experienced his highs and lows, successes and failures - and ultimately his complete happiness, with Emi and with himself. And you wipe all that out simply for the shock value? Yeah, we were definitely shocked all right. But when the shock wore off we were disheartened. We felt empty...and sad. We are still sad. And it won't wear off.
3 drooping stars 1 redeeming quality...Lori Otto must have an excellent editor/proofreader as there are no grammatical errors, (punctuation, misspelled words, run-on sentences, etc) anywhere in this book....more
I thought the storyline sounded okay...42-yr-old divorced romance author hooks up with the 30-yr-old model who graces the covers of her novels. But thI thought the storyline sounded okay...42-yr-old divorced romance author hooks up with the 30-yr-old model who graces the covers of her novels. But the prudish author with very little personality pushed my willingness to suspend disbelief past the boundaries. With her 2 teenaged children staying the summer with her cheating ex and his new gf, Kelly Michaels plays the prick tease card with Derek during their stay at a romance writers' convention. Why? She has insecurities (which are understandable), she worries that Derek is only in this for a fling (and the problem with that is?) and she insists on being a June Cleaver role model for her children. Unfortunately, that lasted over half of the book and I just wasn't feeling the sexual tension that I am sure the author intended to project. When the couple finally made love, it was rather unremarkable.
The second half of the book did pick up as Kelly's inhibitions began to melt away; however, what bothered me was that Kelly, her ex, Alan, and their 2 kids together presented quite the dysfunctional family. First of all, while at the convention, Kelly learned that her 16-yo daughter, Mia, was seeing a 19-yo guy and promptly grounded her from 3000 miles away - even though Mia was staying with her father who had given his permission. In a state of rebellion, Mia slipped out of her dad's home, got drunk, had her naval pierced and promptly laid the guilt at Kelly's feet. When Alan brings the kids home & finds Derek at the house, Alan starts in with the insults about Kelly's "boy toy", Mia hurling remarks about Kelly being a hypocrite and wailing that she wants to live with "daddy". Infuriated, Kelly picks up "the first thing she can find" and throws the box of kleenex at Alan. Good thing it wasn't a paperweight. Later, Derek punches Alan when he boasted that his new gf taught him what good sex was because Kelly was such a dead lay. Alan storms over to Kelly's house to show her what "the neanderthal" did and Mia scowls at Kelly with contempt...urging her father to press charges. Kelly raises her hand to strike her ex but at the last minute refrains.
Ladies and gentlemen: June Cleaver has left the building...
...and this family needs some serious counseling! Derek, the package of total perfection...what is he willingly getting himself involved in? And, more importantly...why?
At this point, having listened to 6 hours of the 9-hr audio book and not being any more invested in the story than I was at the onset, I pitched the book into the dnf pit. Thunk!...more