One of my favourite contemporary romance authors debuts with Harlequin Desire this month! Karen manages to push all of my "like" buttons every time ouOne of my favourite contemporary romance authors debuts with Harlequin Desire this month! Karen manages to push all of my "like" buttons every time out, and her latest effort, "One Night with the CEO" is no exception. (Copy of the book provided by the author in exchange for a honest review)
To summarize: Melanie Costello is working her butt off to keep her small PR firm going. No small feat, after her business (and romantic partner) defected with one of their clients. When telecom mogul Roger Langford retains her to repair his playboy son's image after his latest tabloid scandal, she comes face to face with her best-kept secret: her one-night stand with Adam Langford.
Adam is gorgeous, interested, and still out of reach - now more so than ever. Can Melanie keep a professional distance from Adam? If she can it will make her career. If she can't, more than her firm is on the line. Her heart is at risk as well.
So here's the thing. I am so excited for Karen - she was with Ellora's Cave, did three books with a small-press, re-released her old stuff herself, and this is her debut with Harlequin. So cool! The only drawback to a Harlequin is that an author is constrained by the company's guidelines, and I believe that includes the length of the book. I would have loved to see more of both characters, and as I know how good she is at character development, it's hard not to feel a bit like she was just able to scratch the surface with Melanie and Adam's story.
(And I also need to say this: BEST. COVER. Whew!)
That being said, Adam Langford is a hard-working, custom suit-wearing, stubble-bearing, swoon-worthy Hero, well worthy of all of Melanie's efforts. Melanie is a heroine we can all relate to: burned once, she has trouble believing Adam could be as into her as she is him. With snappy banter, sizzling chemistry and a sigh-worthy happily-ever-after, "One Night with the CEO" is a worthy companion to a cold drink and a lounge chair in the summer sun.
P.S. Check out Karen's backlist -- this is just a taste of what she can do.
Sometimes you can just have too much of a good thing.
I believe one of my GR friends called this book an "exhausting melodramatic hot mess." (Thanks,Sometimes you can just have too much of a good thing.
I believe one of my GR friends called this book an "exhausting melodramatic hot mess." (Thanks, Amy!) After having stayed awake until 3:00am to try to push through said mess, I would have to agree.
I really wanted to love this book. When I read Fifty Shades of Grey I was mesmerized - I'd never read anything like it. The story stuck with me for days, and I immediately bought the second book and it was much the same thing. There were little hints of things that bothered me in the second book - I have a pretty visceral reaction to people in a relationship using the words "let" (as in "he let me go out") and the second book was peppered with these. In the first book, Christian was a Dom, and I expected that from him. In the second book Christian had ostensibly let go of that life, and was struggling to let go of his issues with control. In this book, he seemed to me to be just an insecure overbearing asshole, who used sex to distract Ana and get her to do what he wanted. You know how in some cultures they say they put women on a pedestal, which amounts to stripping them of the ability to express an opinion, to have a say, to be told what's going on and eventually they can't leave the house? That's what Christian reminded me of. "Oh, I'm so worried about you, I love you so much, I can't bear to have you out of my sight, don't go to work, it's because I love you so much, you are my whole world, and if you do I'll buy the company and bankrupt it so you won't have a job to go to. But it's because I love you so much and I'm so afraid something will happen to you." Shudders. I just wasn't ok with it in this book.
(eta: And the hickey thing when they were on their honeymoon???? Juvenile, petty, mean, vindictive. I hated it. I would have fucking killed him.)
Fifty's possessiveness, aggressiveness and control issues were getting pretty old by the middle of this story. Watching Ana run around constantly trying to discern if he was angry with her, and changing her behaviour to fit his moods was much worse in this book than the second -- what was vaguely unsettling in Fifty Shades Darker became downright disturbing in Fifty Shades Freed. I should do a Kindle search for "please don't be mad at me". Together with "Holy Fuck" and "I love this man" they make up a good portion of the book.
And Ana didn't sit much better with me this time around, either. Her voice as narrator, which resonated so much with me in the first 2 books, grated on me this time. Other reviews complained of how immature she sounds; I finally agree. Frankly, I got tired of hearing how much she "loved this man", this "beautiful man", her husband, her Fifty. It seemed to me that after 2 books of hearing how she can't believe someone that physically beautiful could love her that it would be toned down a bit. To me, it seemed to have been cranked up even higher in this book. She doesn't say it to herself as much as she did, but her actions and her words and even the way she thinks of Christian screams it.
("Ohferchrissakes," I remember thinking. "You let him shave your snatch but you won't PEE in front of him? How do you ever expect to build a marriage with him?")
It all seemed so over the top, almost hokey, all surface declarations of this all-consuming passionate love and I wasn't really buying it this time around. They both seemed desperate, and for each step they took forward, they slid backwards twice as far.
The epilogue and the HEA were nice, but I felt like it could easily have been an add-on to the second book and we could have skipped this one entirely.
Damn, this could easily turn into a rant. Me stop now.
Barely 3 stars -- the cover rounded up the 2.5 I would have given it otherwise. ...more
The POV. I rarely like first person, but this -- well. For some reason I lovedSo here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
What I liked about it:
The POV. I rarely like first person, but this -- well. For some reason I loved Ana's voice. I must have identified with her quite strongly, because I even found her "inner goddess" amusing. She seemed very real to me (with the exception of her complete sexual inexperience. I found that to be a bit of a stretch), and I liked her very much.
What I LOVED about it:
The smouldering tension throughout the entire book. It kept me sitting in one spot virtually all day long. Well, sometimes I was squirming, but that was only during the really hot parts. That's a pretty impressive feat for an author. The keeping me in one spot reading all day, not the squirming. :) James set the tone right from the get-go and didn't let up for a second.
Those EMAILS. Sigh. I once had a very intense love affair that began with notes passed back and forth at work (alas, it was before email) and I was reminded of that when I read this. I loved them. And it is so much easier to say things in writing that you are much too afraid to say to someone you care about in person. I loved that Ana was able to be so saucy to Grey, and that he was able to show a more light-hearted version of himself, 'twitchy palmed' CEO that he was.
Referring to each other as Miss Steele and Mr. Grey. More of the same saucy flirting as in their emails. Sigh.
It goes without saying that I fell like a rock for Christian Grey. He had me from the beginning; the elevator scene sealed the deal. He has all my favourite romance hero traits rolled up into one gorgeous gazillionaire package: the stuffed shirt, the alpha, the bossy bastard, the tortured, the gamma. You name him, he's in there.
Ms. James has created some electrically compelling characters in Ana and Christian. I loved them both, I identified with them, I cared about them. They were so, so good together - so good for each other without their even realizing it. And the chemistry between them was palpable - another testament to how well James was able to create and maintain that tension I talked about throughout.
I'm not going to talk about the smoking hot parts of the book other than to say that James very definitely delivers on the chemistry and tension she set up from their first meeting. I believe this book is marketed as erotica/romantica and imo it very definitely is.
What I noticed about it:
I could tell right from the first page that the author is British. Frankly, I wondered why she'd set her book in Seattle when it could have quite easily been set in London. Both main characters (but especially Christian) used words, expressions and turns of phrase that would only be used by a Brit. It also showed up in the prose. I'm not complaining - I simply put the American settings in the background and pretended everyone was from England - but I did notice, and until I adjusted it pulled me out of the story a bit.
From time to time throughout the book I noticed little things with the writing - a GR friend referred to it, I think, as "unpolished", and I would agree. However, the story James was telling and the characters she has created far, far outweighed any issues I had. So much so, in fact, that all I can remember now is that there was something - but not actually what it was.
What I DIDN'T notice about it:
When reading GR reviews of this book I kept coming across references to Twilight fanfiction, and that this had previously been on the internet under another title (which I haven't read).
Now, I don't know anything about fanfiction, and even less about Twilight fanfiction, but how you could call this story derivative of that one is completely beyond me. I've read Twilight, and for the record thought it was silly, over-rated crap. I suppose you could draw a really long bow and say Christian was similar to Edward in that he was older and possessive and domineering and that Ana is similar to Bella in that she is quite young and inexperienced (but not nearly as vapid and shallow as I found Bella to be) but really? Should you have to work that hard when you're reading? Most romances are similar in characterizations, archetypes and storylines - there are only so many ways to shake them up. If you want to look for romances with character types similar to those twits from Twilight you'd be hard pressed to find one that didn't.
And if the author started this book as an homage to Twilight, well, whatever floats your boat, I guess. The fact that it's now unrecognizable as such (to someone like me, anyway, thank God) can only be a good thing for Ms. James. For every squealing Twilight fan, there's at least one like me who doesn't get the appeal.
Would I recommend it?
If you love steamy, steamy stories with a strong romance and can handle a little bit of naughty sex, then YES, YES, YES!
(In terms of naughty sex: there wasn't anything really extreme in here, more the suggestion of it. Nothing worse than a couple of spankings actually happens. And it's all quite tastefully done.)
One of my favourite things in romance novels is when the hero has some kind of special nickname for the heroine. Not some sappy thing like "bees kneesOne of my favourite things in romance novels is when the hero has some kind of special nickname for the heroine. Not some sappy thing like "bees knees", but something witty. Some inside joke between the two of them, something sexy that he would say to her in a particular tone of voice reserved just for her. This book has it.
The Honourable Miss Annalise Kempton has fallen upon hard times. She is unmarried, almost 30 and virtually penniless. Her pedigree does not allow her to work for a living and so she spends her life "visiting" one family after another. Her latest visit is to the Chipples where she will guide young Hetty through her first season and help her to find a suitable husband. Hetty, of course, is headstrong and spoiled and has caught the eye of Christian Montcalm, a scoundrel of the first water.
On her first day Miss Annalise intercepts Hetty on her way to a secret assignation in the park with Christian Montcalm. She comes face to face with Christian and tells him in no uncertain terms what her duties are: "I'm someone who is going to make your designs on Miss Chipple impossible to carry out. So cast your lures elsewhere." Christian considers it a challenge and is intrigued by the woman his friend describes as "a dragon. And a bit long in the tooth. Not your type at all."
"You may be sure we'll meet again, dragon." he said, and for some reason the term sounded more affectionate than insulting. "
Ah, there it is. The nickname.
And away we go.
The story hooked me from the beginning. Christian calls her "dragon" through the entire book - who knew that word could be so romantic? He is fascinated by her in spite of himself , she is wildly attracted to him (again, in spite of HERself).
Their verbal sparring is engaging - you cheer for Miss Annalise from beginning to end. The sexual tension between the two is palpable and when they finally get together it is beautifully done. Christian is a completely unscrupulous rake but you love him anyway. He redeems himself by the end as most heroes do and the epilogue is a perfect finale to the HEA.
There are also the requisite villians, nefarious plots and a minor misunderstanding. Oh, and a fairly comic resolution to Hetty Chipple's search for a husband.
A very entertaining story from start to end. I loved it!
I'd have been more impressed with Dark of the Moon but for a couple of things 1) cheap paper, dark ink - almost gave me seizures trying to focus on thI'd have been more impressed with Dark of the Moon but for a couple of things 1) cheap paper, dark ink - almost gave me seizures trying to focus on the words; and 2) had Lover Unbound sitting on my nightstand waiting. Will probably have to revisit this one after getting Vishous out of my system. ;)...more