Despite having one of the most uninspired titles I've seen lately (that immediately made me think of Snoopy, sitting on top of his doghouse with his tDespite having one of the most uninspired titles I've seen lately (that immediately made me think of Snoopy, sitting on top of his doghouse with his typewriter) this Anne Stuart Harlequin kept me entertained all the way through.
It read like a typical AS kitchen sink category romance - so much going on it was hard to keep track of the tropes: a hurricane, a windswept cliff with a big stone house, a matronly housekeeper so sweet and thoughtful she could only be purely evil, the requisite slow-in-the-head son of the said evil housekeeper, standing 6 1/2 feet tall, with superhuman strength, no brains to speak of and a malevolent streak a mile wide, the mysterious reclusive O'Neal, Irish ghosts, a seal, smugglers, Irish accents, red hair, "I hate you I hate you no wait I think I want you", (from a virginal spinsterish heroine, no less!) lots of bickering and snotty remarks and a cellar full of treasure. And, because it's an Anne Stuart, a treacly sweet epilogue.
A couple of parts were a little bit OTT and the lead up to the Hero's big secret almost made me laugh, but like I said I was pretty well-entertained and was eagerly turning pages all the way to the end.
The back cover said, "No doubt about it, he was really the one."
Ah, yes. The love at first sight Harlequin Romance. And the cover says it hits her likThe back cover said, "No doubt about it, he was really the one."
Ah, yes. The love at first sight Harlequin Romance. And the cover says it hits her like a thunderbolt!
Here is the story in a nutshell: Valerie is a beautiful, independently wealthy reporter who works for her uncle's newspaper. She is fast on her way to a Pulitzer when her uncle sends her off to Kentucky to cover the Egyptian Arabian horse show. She hates horses, so her uncle figures she'll have a different perspective on the whole scene.
Through a series of clunky misunderstandings she meets and falls in love (and remember, it hits her like a thunderbolt!) with the Hero, a reclusive gazillionaire entrepreneur with a big-time hate on for the press. He pretends to be his own employee, she pretends to be the lover of his horse trainer, she gathers material for an expose on him, he gets a dossier on her, they fight, then they f**k. The inevitable big mis happens (including a ridiculous "moment" between Valerie and his horse) lots of tears are shed, everyone acts like they are in high school and then they all live happily ever after.
This book had some great moments -- the Hero smoked (YAY! You never see that anymore) and was a sexist jerk who seemed to think she was a whore the whole time he was falling in love with her. Issues, much, dude?
Anyhow, the bright spots at the beginning got bogged down in some ham-handed plot mechanics and, I'm sorry, but the heroine was a freaking moron. Perhaps after I've read a few more of these I'll get used to no one having any common sense in Harleyland, but for now it's hard to take.
Onwards and upwards, as they say - I'm hoping the next one is better. If not, this could be a really long month.
Rich, titled (a Comte, no less!), urbane, sophisticated, alpha, alpha, alpha. Attracted to very young,Now THIS is an HP the way I remember them!
Rich, titled (a Comte, no less!), urbane, sophisticated, alpha, alpha, alpha. Attracted to very young, sheltered, virginal, CLUELESS, timid orphan with no self-esteem to speak of and a level of gullibility I haven't seen in years.
Poor homeless orphan, on her own since she was a teenager, working and living in hotels. Engaged to the slick hotel manager, she meets (and detests) Philippe immediately.
Heroine catches slick fiance with another hotel guest, Hero fabricates a compromising position so she can marry him instead and dump the hotel manager to save her pride. Conveniently enough, said Hero needs a wife himself - he says because the woman he loves is with another man and he needs to show her he doesn't care. (Savvy readers will recognize immediately that he uses this as an excuse; he really wants to get into her panties.)
So the heroine exchanges one engagement ring for another, and trots off to France with her new husband. She is SHOCKED, APPALLED, and FURIOUS to discover that he's not just a successful businessman, he is a Comte, with a castle and a reticule of servants and assorted family members living there. She is to be a Comtesse - and is convinced she is completely unable to live there.
"You tricked me!" she flung, flushing at his insult. Why weren't you honest about everything? You never mentioned the fact that you lived in a damned great castle..."
"Sarconne is not a castle," he drawled coldly. It is a chateau, a fortified house, if you like." He slapped her suddenly, without violence, a friendly slap. "Stop quarrelling with me on your first day in Sarconne. Get changed and come and look at it with me. It is to be your home, after all."
"You're joking," she said bitterly. "One look from your family and I knew I was an outsider."
Assorted big misunderstandings occur, especially with the Comte's hopelessly sad brother and his bitch of a wife. Sister-in-law, it seems (because it doesn't occur to our clueless heroine to ask!), is the woman Philippe loved and she makes no bones about her displeasure with the new bride.
Heroine spends lots of time navel-gazing and having ridiculously fabulous sex with her husband, but they just can't seem to get past that time-honoured obstacle to an HEA: THE NEED TO SPEAK TO EACH OTHER.
Oh well, this is Harleyland circa 1983, after all, and all the misunderstandings and angst are wrapped up tidily in about 185 pages. I'm starting to understand the appeal these books had for my Grandma, who read 'em by the truckload.
4 stars. I'd actually read this one again without a gun being held to my head. :)
All right, so it's not the 1700s and I'm not a man, but I'm sure this was the look on my face as I read this book.
This is the only book I've ever read
All right, so it's not the 1700s and I'm not a man, but I'm sure this was the look on my face as I read this book.
This is the only book I've ever read where the heroine should really have been the villain. I was cheering for her underage sister to get the Hero by half-way through the book. Clare was a repressed, uptight, bossy British bitch. I was looking for her to be hit by a lorry, dismembered and stuffed in the boot of her car, scalded to death by the steam from her tea kettle or at least strangled by her sense of superiority.
Somehow, in the way that only ever happens in a old British Harlequin, SHE GETS THE HERO! I won't tell you how, and I won't tell you why, but then neither does the author. Wait, yes she does - she tells us, rather than shows us, and it's after a completely what-the-fuckety-fuck twist that (view spoiler)[had me fearing for the Hero's life, doubting the heroine's sanity and wondering if my Harlequin romance was going to veer off into "Saw" territory. Frankly, I was disappointed that it didn't. (hide spoiler)]
HERE'S MY SUMMARY: She meets him. She hates him. She is suspicious of him. She's a complete bitch to him. She thinks he's sucking the life out of her friend. Anyone who does this for a man deserves a slap, she thinks. He tries to be polite to her. Oooh, now she really hates him. Her sister is gaga over him. Hate, hate, hate. They meet to talk about renovations. Shout, shout, shout. Uptight British bitch spring winds tighter. He rents her house and wears black satin pyjamas. Hate, hate, repressed lust. Now her sister is the one who looks pale. Could be because heroine is bossy, overbearing and pushy, but probably because Hero is sucking the life out of her too. Hate, hate, fear, fear, panties become moist. Spring winds tighter. Dream a little vampire dream, all blowing curtains and bare necks and biting. Spring winds tighter still. Torments her uptight self with constant thoughts of how much she hates him. Hate, hate, pretends to have a boyfriend to shoo him away. Must keep sister away, plot, plot, plot. Dream another vampire dream only this time SHE'S sucking his blood. She passes him in the street, runs away. Run, run, run. Hate, lust, panties even moister. Sister has a screen test! Jealous, frantic hate, crazy plan involving sending her sister on a trip and other stuff even more fucked up, if possible.
INSERT REALLY FUCKED UP PLOT DEVELOPMENT HERE.
I literally shook my head to clear my (middle-age) vision and read it again to make sure I had it right. I'm not even going to say what happens, except this: remember that uptight British bitch spring wound really tight???
It's a complete mystery to me how there was an HEA. I'm sure she only sees him three times through the whole book. We barely hear from him - he's there, but only as this peripheral maybe-bad guy and mostly as referred to by the women in the book. He was strangely absent to me. This show was strictly the Crazy-Bitch Clare Hour, with some pretty hot sex for a Harlequin thrown in for good measure. I think. I was skimming by this point, clicking my kindle as fast my speed-reading eyes could take me. There might have been some really deep confessions of tewwible childhood twauma by the Hero and that spring that "spronged" so loudly and explosively earlier somehow turned Clare into a kinder, gentler version of her previously psycho self but I'm not certain. I just wanted to be finished, before the perplexed look I knew I was wearing (see the top of my review) froze on my face and I was stuck with it.
It was one of the strangest Harlequin reading experiences I've ever had, and another one I can't rate just yet.
ETA rating: 4 stars, with an explanation: I've been thinking about this for 2 days now, trying to decide how to rate this. I hated the heroine, the HEA was ridiculous, the dialogue juvenile, the character development non-existent, the characters themselves two-dimensional...BUT. The same things that made me not like the book work in its favour. I was invested, I couldn't put it down (mostly because I couldn't fucking believe it, but whatever works). I'll never forget it. And the hero wore black satin pyjamas. :["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
If there was such a place as The Rosemary Rogers School of Plot Development their award for Book of the Year would look like this:
and this book wouldIf there was such a place as The Rosemary Rogers School of Plot Development their award for Book of the Year would look like this:
and this book would win, hands down.
This little tome would not only win that award, but it has set a number of personal records for me: • The longest time to read the shortest book: 6 days to read 253 pages. • The best/worst jaw-droppingly fucking awesomely ridiculous crockpot of what-the-fuckery I've ever picked up. • And, last but definitely not least, quite possibly the STUPIDEST romance novel I have ever read.
It's a pretty straightforward category romantic/suspense on the face of it: Friend dies mysteriously at the factory where she worked, intrepid heroine, gunning for a promotion to investigative reporter at work, goes "undercover" to discover who was responsible for her death. Along the way she falls for the reclusive, millionaire factory owner.
Except that Stuart threw in all kinds of fucked up stuff. Like this:
The factory where the friend worked? It's a PUPPET factory. Thinly disguised Muppets. My "this is going to be stupid" alarm started going off as soon as I read this part.
The Hero? A reclusive, millionaire PUPPETEER. I dunno about you guys, but it seems to me that creative-genius-puppeteer-types aren't usually the strong, silent, dangerous-hero types. But, what do I know?
None of these dudes look especially dangerous to me. (Nor do they look especially heterosexual, but that's a whole other book.)
The heroine is an independently wealthy Bryn Mawr graduate who looks and dresses like Grace Kelly. Except that she can fix small appliances, pick locks and maintain her 1957 gull-wing Mercedes. She's the only person in the book who knows how to splice a VCR tape or fix a light switch, AND, she can talk about air conditioners ("oh, a Roberts 450? I can fix it. I've worked on a 150, this can't be much different.") the way most guys talk about cars. Um, okay. I've never been to Bryn Mawr, but I don't expect there are any shop classes on the curriculum. Oh! And in a spectacularly convenient revelation at the end of the book we find out that she also used to be a gymnast! Oh! Here's another one - she speaks THREE LANGUAGES! (Okay, that might have actually been courtesy of Bryn Mawr.)
The story started out innocuously enough, until AS threw in some of those suspenseful cutaways to the bad guy muttering about whores and sinners and saving the Hero and punishing the heroine, all while wearing a green puppet suit, and malevolent puppet posters and the Hero telling the heroine all the sexy things he wants to do to her by having his puppet talk to her. (I gotta say she ALMOST pulled that one off, but in the end it was just squicky.)
Loose ends (can anyone tell me what the deal was with the creepy secretary, Bessie?), red herrings, Keystone Kops, no face time between the H/h, split personalities, Nazis (yes, you heard right, Nazis), murderers wearing puppet suits, characters undergoing implausible personality changes to help with the HEA, and, my favourite, how the heroine just so happens to have also been a gymnast, which she has to have been in order to escape from Nazi-ish/puppet-suit-wearing/split personality villain. Can you say deus ex machina?? And if someone like ME notices it, it's gotta be clumsily done!
I made a throwaway remark on one of my updates about catching schizophrenia from a book, but really, that's what this felt like - I thought I was going to get whiplash from all the pov changes and the what-the-fuck stuff made me feel like I was reading two books at the same time. Maybe that's what AS did -- took the book she'd written (the standard rom/susp) and mashed it with the suggestions from the publisher (make it trendier! make it fresher! make it different!). Or maybe she just took a whole binful of story ideas and threw them at the wall to see what would stick. Sometimes it works, and the results are beautiful:
but, most of the time it doesn't, and the results look like this:
I just don't even know how to rate this book -- it was that gloriously terrible. I saw glimmers of Anne Stuart's writing in here, but I still can't figure out what the fuck she was thinking when she threw this together. I think everyone should read this, just because it is so ridiculous.
And a big thanks to my friend Karla, who dared me to read this one. I heart you, Karla (Mossy Love Grotto)!!!!!
eta: December 2/11: I've been waiting for GR to add a 0 star "this was un-fucking-believably horrible" rating but I suspect it is not forthcoming. So I'll give it a 1, 'cause that's as low as GR allows me to go....more
You know when you eat something really super sweet and it makes you want to spit, and spit and spit the yucky taste out of your mouth?
No more Debbie MYou know when you eat something really super sweet and it makes you want to spit, and spit and spit the yucky taste out of your mouth?
No more Debbie Macomber for me.
I can handle fluffy, happy, light or feel-good romances, but when you throw in saccharine sweet, cloying and silly writing, with no character development, a goofy story (where the most believable character is a magic wedding dress) and NO SEX I can't take it. The characters are bland, boring and forgettable, and the novellas were much the same.
I could stand the second story a little better than the first - there was at least a bit of conflict in it, but I could tell from about 5 pages in that this author is simply not for me.