Guys, this book has EVERYTHING. Some of the tropes included in this bonanza include (some spoilers):
(view spoiler)[• tiny blond twin switcheroo shenanGuys, this book has EVERYTHING. Some of the tropes included in this bonanza include (some spoilers):
(view spoiler)[• tiny blond twin switcheroo shenanigans, a la Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield
• kidnapping • looking down on the Irish • dudes fighting • fleeing while in pursuit of the bad guys • bad guys with accents • boat caught in a squall while trying to cross the sea • ...and the inevitable shipwreck • plot convenience/contrivance (Rob and Sarah JUST HAPPEN to crash their boat on the shores of Rob's ancestral home after navigating the Irish sea in a tiny boat) • evil relatives • peer who doesn't want to be a peer • a secret baby • estate planning/living extravagantly despite being broke • a not-quite-marriage of convenience • a pony!
• bad guys show up at worst possible time, but are kind of stupid and easily defeated • rocks fall and everybody dies (if by "everybody" you mean the bad guys) • happy ending! (hide spoiler)]
On the con side: the pacing in this book is very strange, with lots of time spent on the boring estate-related nonsense once Rob takes over his family home, but not much time spent on other things that would have been more interesting/had more emotional resonance.
On the plus side: I can't think of another romance plot that unfurled quite this way. Rob and Sarah have adventures and definitely like and respect each other, but when Rob proposes, his reasons for marriage are practical. Sarah goes along because she can't imagine marrying anybody else. There's some hay made about the fact that Sarah and Rob are not in love at their wedding. But it's not really a marriage-of-convenience plot either. Their love grows after the wedding as they spend more time together. So that was interesting and different and probably more in keeping with the time period. (Although these two find PLENTY of ways to flaunt societal convention without consequence otherwise. Not a euphemism!)
So I enjoyed the ride, but this was a strange, crazy book. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
What a great heroine! A Yankees fan, a Lord of the Rings nerd, a woman with a successful career. She's movedOh, happy sigh. I <3 Kristan Higgins.
What a great heroine! A Yankees fan, a Lord of the Rings nerd, a woman with a successful career. She's moved back to her home town to take a job (and also with the hopes of settling down). What follows is a very funny comedy of errors in which Chastity dates guys, including a sexy doctor, while still being in love with her childhood friend/crush and brief college affair Trevor, and though you know Chastity and Trevor will end up together, the book doesn't follow the standard romance novel narrative, so it's not predictable. There are actually a few story lines that didn't turn out how I expected them to.
But I'm a sucker for a friends-to-lovers plot and I like to laugh, so this book was right up my alley, basically.
My one complaint is that Chastity and Trevor see each other a lot but are hardly ever alone, and I felt like we were one emotional conversation short of a fully believable happy ending, like there was something missing between when Chastity confesses her feelings and Trevor declares his. Trevor says a few things earlier in the book that seem like dropped threads that I think are supposed to lead us to what he says at the end of the book but which don't quite all fit together for me.
I'm so happy when books live up to the hype. A lot of people whose taste I trust really liked this book, and I agree and want Book 2 immediately. ForI'm so happy when books live up to the hype. A lot of people whose taste I trust really liked this book, and I agree and want Book 2 immediately. For me, it took a little bit to get going, but once I got into the story I had to finish the rest in one sitting and thus was up until 1:30am last night finishing it and I'm a little bleary-eyed now.
I haven't read a lot of Amish romances. I read a traditional one for my book club in which the non-Amish hero converted and I read a gay Amish romance a zillion years ago in which the Amish were portrayed as close-minded villains, and I think I have developed an expectation based on that for what Amish romances could be. Happily, this book is neither.
What this book does have is a conflict without an easy solution: Isaac and David love each other but also love their families and their community, and because of the church's teachings, it is certain that if they get caught together, they will be shunned. Andrews does an excellent job showing the community and how it doles out the consequences for, let's say, nonconformist or rebellious behavior. That's what makes the narrative compelling; I kept reading because I couldn't see a resolution to the conflict and wanted to know how they could work out how to be together.
So, solid conflict, lots of showing instead of telling, a sympathetic portrayal of the Amish world and its beliefs, a strong emotional punch, and this book definitely lived up to expectations. Recommended!...more
A virgin duke with severe social anxiety is enough in the hole financially due to a bad winter that his steward suggests finding a wealthy woman to maA virgin duke with severe social anxiety is enough in the hole financially due to a bad winter that his steward suggests finding a wealthy woman to marry so that her dowry might pay off his debts. So he's off to London, where he runs into a woman he kissed once and still harbors some feelings for, though now she is a wealthy widowed countess. The countess has grown accustomed to having control over her own life and has no desire to let a man control her again, so she's sworn off marriage but decides it will make her feel useful to find the duke a bride. I bet you can guess where this is going.
I particularly enjoyed the gender role reversal here. Caroline has a number of regular lovers and enjoys the freedom that being a wealthy widow has afforded her. Michael, meanwhile, feels bound by the obligations of his title, marrying because he is convinced it's the only way to secure his financial future.
The book takes a little while to get going, but was ultimately worth the read. Recommended. ...more
This is one of the better historical romances I've read in a while. I thought the traumas both characters suffered were portrayed well and I liked thaThis is one of the better historical romances I've read in a while. I thought the traumas both characters suffered were portrayed well and I liked that their ways of coping were different and complemented each other. Both characters are tremendously appealing, and there's some great witty dialogue, but there's also a lot of heart and emotion here. I really enjoyed it immensely and heartily recommend it, especially if you're a fan of angsty historicals. ...more
I broke my Kristen Ashley cherry with this book that came home with me from RT.
Here's the thing: I think the pages of this book are woven with actualI broke my Kristen Ashley cherry with this book that came home with me from RT.
Here's the thing: I think the pages of this book are woven with actual narcotic substances, because there's a lot here that, in theory, should have really bothered me, but I could not put this book down.
Example: Shy is exactly the sort of alpha hero that does not appeal to me. He's bossy. He's all, "You are my woman, other women are bitches, I do things my way or I don't do them at all," and so on.
But what's interesting is that Tabby decides early on that she's not going to take Shy's overbearing ways, so a lot of the negotiation of their relationship involves Tabby standing up for herself and letting Shy know when she's not going to put up with his crap. I liked that—Tabby is certainly no doormat and ends up being a really appealing heroine.
The pacing is a little strange for a romance novel—Tabby and Shy get together for good about halfway through the book and spend the rest of the pages resolving conflicts introduced in the early chapters—but I was still riveted. Crack embedded in the pages, I'm telling you.
I'm on the fence about whether I'll read more Kristen Ashley—these really aren't my sorts of books, but I was curious about the motorcycle club romance phenomenon—but I'm open to it should another book fall into my lap. ...more
First, can we talk about this first line: "Merry Patricia Wilding was sitting on a cobblestone wall, sketching three rutabagas and daydreaming about tFirst, can we talk about this first line: "Merry Patricia Wilding was sitting on a cobblestone wall, sketching three rutabagas and daydreaming about the unicorn."
Genius, right? How can you not want to read what happens next?
Look, I'll be honest: this book goes to some crazy places. There are pirates, half of whom are secretly English lords, there is swashbuckling, there is kidnapping, and espionage, and a pig named Dennis. It's overwritten, the prose frequently going quite lavender in its descriptions of everything from Devon's overwhelming good looks to the flora on the Caribbean island where Merry recuperates from malaria. There are POV changes galore, switching paragraph to paragraph, between Merry and Devon and the secondary pirates. It's not a perfect book, not by any means.
And yet it all kind of works. I enjoyed the hell out of reading it. Considering its lineage, it impresses me that, though this is a captive narrative, there's no forced seduction. Merry has a strange combination of naivete and willfulness, which means she won't allow herself to be corrupted, at least not sexually. Devon comes off, to me at least, as more heroic for respecting that. So when Merry and Devon do finally come together, it's the moment the whole book has been building up to, and there's no need for the reader to justify oafish behavior, if you get what I'm saying. It's an old skool romance in its sensibilities, but it doesn't have the usual trappings of old skool romances that make it feel sexist and dated. Quite the contrary, actually.
Narratively, Devon starts off as a pirate and becomes more of a gentleman as the book progresses, and we're made to understand that his love for Merry has affected this change, but it's interesting, too, that his behavior is more gentlemanly in the end—(view spoiler)[they don't sleep together until after they're married (hide spoiler)]—and Merry meanwhile, becomes a little more wild—I kept thinking her last name was a little too on the nose. In the end, they meet in the middle, standing on equal footing, and the happy ending is all the better for it.
So the plot is overcomplicated, the prose is overadorned, Merry is kind of a Mary Sue, but I still had a lot of fun reading it.
Incidentally, I have mentally written fanfic in which Morgan and Cat retire to Morgan's Caribbean villa and live happily ever after. I mean, the text is not exactly coy about suggesting they've been sleeping together. The scene in which Cat is just sitting around in his dressing gown in Morgan's cabin and exchanging witty repartee (or talking about Merry, because that's basically all anyone in this book does once they've met her) read to me like a scene between old lovers. Generally, I found the loose sexuality of the pirates fascinating. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book had me at Vivaldi—and clearly I love Vivaldi way more than Darren does!—but turned out to be such a treat. Where it particularly succeeds isThis book had me at Vivaldi—and clearly I love Vivaldi way more than Darren does!—but turned out to be such a treat. Where it particularly succeeds is in the portrayal of Darren's depression. The descriptions of how he feels are vivid and evocative. Jayden is a good antidote, both for Darren and for the reader; I think if Jayden and his parents had not been portrayed so positively, the book would have sank, but instead, Jayden supplies a lightness that makes the book feel balanced even in its darkest emotional moments—he keeps the scales from being tipped too far toward melodramatic. (That said, Jayden doesn't cure Darren and there's no implication that he will; the book ends with some acknowledgement that, though events in the book have changed his life in a way that he doesn't feel the claws of his depression pressing into him quite so deeply, it's definitely still there and the potential for "bad days" still exists. This is, I think, a realistic depiction of depression—she says, as someone who has not experienced it like this first-hand—and is not a "love heals all wounds" sort of story.) It's a really lovely read. ...more
So, I've gone on a category binge, reading through some of those books that have been in the TBR pile for a while, and it has been quite fun. Here's wSo, I've gone on a category binge, reading through some of those books that have been in the TBR pile for a while, and it has been quite fun. Here's what I like about categories: they are short, they have crazy plots, you kind of know what to expect. A good author can take an old trope and spin it to make it fun and engaging, so that you sit up and go, "Oh, good, this trope!" and not "Ugh, this again."
This book is Trope Soup. Our hero and heroine knew each other as children. The hero is, in fact, the heroine's BFF's brother, which allows the heroine and BFF to have the obligatory awkward conversation about sex. But the big gun here is a marriage of convenience plot, and yeah, we all know where this is going, because it's a romance novel and both characters are thinking about how hot the other is as they're saying, "I hate you, it's just business!" and signing the contract. Probably there are a hundred Harlequin Presents books with this same plot.
But here's where this one succeeds: It's well-written Trope Soup. It's a little longer than a Presents, so everything actually feels fully developed. This is not the typical Alpha/Doormat dynamic: Nick is kind of an asshole at first, and he's a cold, calculating businessman, but he's not really an alpha in the classic sense. He never really tries to make Alexa do anything outside of the scope of their agreement. Alexa is definitely not a doormat; what I found most admirable about her was that she refused to take Nick's money to further her own goals. So in the end, I really enjoyed the book and bought the happy ending.
(Side note: I don't really understand the comparisons to Fifty Shades everyone is making in their reviews. Fifty Shades shares some DNA with old skool categories, but I think The Marriage Bargain is a direct descendant. I like old Harlequins, so this isn't an issue for me, but I think the sorts of things people found salacious and intriguing about Fifty Shades are not going to be found in this book. The sex scenes are hot but not kinky. Nick offers to buy Alexa things a few times but otherwise doesn't really throw his money around. As a couple, they've got each other's number and feel on equal footing, power-wise—each needs something from the other person, even when their arrangement is purely a business one. Very different from Fifty Shades, IMHO.)...more
You know? Both of these stories were just plain fun. Midnight Special is one of those books that you can't think about too hard or the plot falls aparYou know? Both of these stories were just plain fun. Midnight Special is one of those books that you can't think about too hard or the plot falls apart—why did Hunter never run a background check on Marni? Some hot shot FBI agent he is!—but it's a really enjoyable ride. (...heh.) I wish more had been done with the noir train setting, but otherwise, if you just go along with what the story is telling you is happening, it's fun. Coming on Strong was more plausible, plot-wise, although Mitch is a more difficult hero to like at first. Worth the read, if only for the way Belle keeps mangling idioms, a running gag that amused me every time. ...more