I was disappointed in the first book of Balogh's Survivor's Club series -- it was uneven, and spent so much time setting up the series that the two le...moreI was disappointed in the first book of Balogh's Survivor's Club series -- it was uneven, and spent so much time setting up the series that the two leads got short shrift. This is a much stronger entry -- the leads here are just plain likeable, incredibly sweet, and I would happily read another 300+ pages of them setting up house because they are just so engaging together on the page. There was very little of the "oh, woe is me, will he/she ever love me as I love him/her?" angst, and I was grateful because it was making me far too happy to simply read about them being happy.
Unfortunately, where in The Proposal Balogh simply descended to didactic speechifying on the nature of trauma and recovery, here I felt she was almost offensive in her handling of Vincent's blindness. In scene after scene she hammered home how he wasn't letting his disability limit him, or affect his outlook, which is all well and good, except for the ". . . like all those other disabled people" that seemed implied after every sentence. In that context, the focus on Vincent's good nature seemed to veer too far towards "inspiration porn" for my taste.(less)
The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh, the penultimate novel in Stephanie Laurens' massive twenty-two novel Cynster series, is immensely satisfying, both for...moreThe Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh, the penultimate novel in Stephanie Laurens' massive twenty-two novel Cynster series, is immensely satisfying, both for itself and for the way it concludes the series. Laurens has her formula, as all prolific romance authors do - strong-willed men with a strong protective streak matched with strong-willed women adept at wielding the power appropriate to their station and gender, engaging in courtship that is as much battle as dance - and that formula is on fine display here. It is overly long in the middle and her descriptions are (in my opinion) too flowery and poetic, but those failings are also common to Laurens' style. What was surprising about this book was how dark the resolution to the B-plot was - though murder attempts on the principle couple are fairly common in both this series and the Regency romance genre in general, the emotional impact of who the villain was and how the villain was dealt with surprised me, and made the final sex scene feel just a bit off. But the epilogue, which brought back the entire Cynster clan for their annual family reunion, hammered home (heavy-handedly, but in a good way) the way that the series has always joyfully embraced the idea of families being more than the sum of their parts. It is a deeply optimistic series, and reading this novel just made me want to go back and reread the first (Devil's Bride) again.(less)
One Night for Love and A Summer to Remember are two of my favorite romance novels, so when I heard that Balogh was writing a romance for Gwendoline --...moreOne Night for Love and A Summer to Remember are two of my favorite romance novels, so when I heard that Balogh was writing a romance for Gwendoline -- a minor character in those two novels -- I was excited. Unfortunately, Gwen's romance disappoints. Balogh chose to make this the starting point for a new series, surrounding six people who call themselves the Survivors' Club because all were traumatized by the Napoleonic Wars. Unfortunately, that meant a significant chunk of this novel was spent setting the groundwork for the forthcoming five -- the hero of this novel is a member of the Club, but she spent so much time introducing the other five members of the Club that I felt the hero himself got short shrift. Gwen didn't get much development either, and the main obstacle to their romance -- his middle-class birth and subsequent dislike of the aristocracy -- never seemed very convincing to me. (Balogh handled the cross-class romance much better in her novella A Matter of Class.) And in addition to not-very-interesting leads given not enough screen time, Balogh also got rather didactic for my taste, all the characters breaking into monologues about the nature of trauma and recovery at the drop of a hat. All in all, one of Balogh's weaker works.(less)