Meg Maguire (Cara McKenna) is getting stronger and stronger as a writer. Awesome sentences and emotionally complicated descriptions abound in this boo...moreMeg Maguire (Cara McKenna) is getting stronger and stronger as a writer. Awesome sentences and emotionally complicated descriptions abound in this book. I selfishly hope for contemporary romance to have a prose stylist as fabulous as historical romance's current best (Cecilia Grant and Sherry Thomas), and I'm betting my money on Maguire.
However, I wasn't an ideal reader for this story. I don't care for stories of privileged white people going to an "exotic" country where they realize what's important in life, against a backdrop of service-industry locals who are the only characters whose dialogue is rendered in non-"proper"-English -- this story isn't the worst offender, but it's not a framework I enjoy reading. I also didn't care for the external conflict/plot (who sold Leigh's story to the tabloids? spoiler alert: the hero finds the culprit grinning over his stacks of money, like some cartoon villain); compared to the more subtle emotional work done in the relationship between the characters, the tedious lack of subtlety in the external conflict unfortunately stood out in contrast.(less)
My first venture into the Harlequin Medical line was quite satisfying. On the downside, the book was a quick read (I was surprised by how short it was...moreMy first venture into the Harlequin Medical line was quite satisfying. On the downside, the book was a quick read (I was surprised by how short it was!), the conflict was a bit eyeroll-y at times, and I have limited tolerance for plots involving pregnancy and babies. Given this limited tolerance, I have some definite reservations as to whether this is the right line for me, seeing the preponderance of babies involved in the titles, covers, and blurbs, but I still want to give this line a try!
And I'm glad I started with this book, because I did enjoy watching the mutual respect unfold between Maggie and Nash, and then seeing that respect transition to love. That's what's important to me in a romance, and this book, short as it was, delivered. The sex scenes were nicely assertive and warm, and despite this plot not being the sort of plot I seek out to read, I left the book believing these two would make their relationship, and their family, work.(less)
Midway through this book, I wasn't sure I'd finish it. The mistaken assumptions and refusals to communicate were just too frustrating. I know, I know,...moreMidway through this book, I wasn't sure I'd finish it. The mistaken assumptions and refusals to communicate were just too frustrating. I know, I know, and believe me, I knew what I was getting into, reading a Harlequin Presents. I had liked the beginning, the gothic-y feel of the hero and heroine meeting in a cemetery, the heroine running away from her own wedding during a rainstorm and finding herself drawn to the expansive estate of the brooding, mysterious hero. Their initial interactions were passionately heated and enjoyable to read, and Grey's writing style was elegantly smooth. But then the plot plodded along with contrived conflict, poor communication, and stock tropes. The story did eventually take an upward turn, rewarding the reader with memorably cinematic scenes, and I finished the book believing these characters did indeed find a happy ending. All in all, the story was worth pushing through the tiresome parts.(less)
Wildly and breath-catchingly romantic at times, but it suffers from the single point-of-view. As much as I loved a lot of the interactions between Car...moreWildly and breath-catchingly romantic at times, but it suffers from the single point-of-view. As much as I loved a lot of the interactions between Carrie and Brian, and as beautiful as some of the writing was, I was always losing my footing between the fantasy aspects and the grounded reality that the book swung between, violently. I was unreasonably hostile about Carrie appropriating Brian's "story" for her own (even if it's all just metaphors--and maybe I find that unrelatable, talking about relationships in metaphors--it just put my hackles up to not have Brian's POV when the title/concept/premise was about Brian and his story being the brightly highlighted parts in Carrie's own life) and her objectification of him as caretaker. If the book had Brian's POV, there'd at least be more to his character than what was filtered through Carrie's metaphor-y gaze. This was just not a romance where the first-person, single POV benefited the story.
I'm glad to have novels addressing caretaking of family members as a major part of people's lives, and all the mixed emotions that come with it. And I'm really glad that, despite the barrier of Carrie's POV, Brian's nuanced feelings and experiences were still expressed. However. This wasn't the worst portrayal of disability in romance, but neither was Stacy more than a plot prop. Romance (and, granted, fiction in general) has a really fucking low bar to overcome when "caretaker respects the expressed desired hair length of the character with a disability" is the best example of a character with a disability being treated well, treated as a person, in a romance novel. (less)
A classic, satisfying romance. I was left without a single complaint, just the comfort of having read a sweet, well-written story. I'm certifiably rel...moreA classic, satisfying romance. I was left without a single complaint, just the comfort of having read a sweet, well-written story. I'm certifiably reluctant about babies and about cowboys, as previous reviews can attest. However, this book delivered two strong (though never overbearing) protagonists who recognized each other's strength, who supported each other, who communicated, who acted like mature adults, who saw themselves in each other, who strived to be better people because of their relationship, and who could be playful, sweet, and serious together. I had no doubt that they'd continue to be a good couple and a good family.(less)
I'd heard so many good things about Kristan Higgins, and now I can report back and say THEY'RE ALL TRUE. Her writing is clear and steady, her characte...moreI'd heard so many good things about Kristan Higgins, and now I can report back and say THEY'RE ALL TRUE. Her writing is clear and steady, her characters are vivid, and best of all: she's FUNNY. You have to be able to withstand humiliation-by-proxy (because oh, does Maggie go through some terribly embarrassing situations!) but watching her persevere, stand up for herself, and make good come out of awfulness is rewarding.
I would've have liked to know more about Malone; he's an enigma to be sure, and like Maggie, I'm intrigued, but I would have wanted a little more reassurance that the two of them will be able to make it together and communicate fully and honestly in the future.(less)
Lots of elements that are just different from other romances: the hero is a baker who bakes and frosts cakes (and there's not one swipe at his masculi...moreLots of elements that are just different from other romances: the hero is a baker who bakes and frosts cakes (and there's not one swipe at his masculinity the entire book!), the heroine asks the hero to help her commit a crime--for good reasons--and they proceed to commit the crime in a fairly funny scene, and the hero may have been the heroine's brothers' best friend growing up but their childhood/teenage relationship was NOT one of secretly pining after one another. More like annoying one another and misreading one another all the time out of impatience and not out of suppressed lust. But now that they're grown up, and their lives are what they expected them to be? Their history is now something they use to create some unexpected intimacy. It was a fun dynamic, and there was so much fresh and vivid in their interactions.
On the other hand, I was a bit "ugh, too much angst" about the hero. He had too much going on in such a short space of text and time that it got to be a bit too stressful being in his head sometimes. It didn't always flow so well with the sparky chemistry he had with the heroine. (That, and after all the stuff that you don't have in your average romance, one of the most ridiculous romance tropes (view spoiler)[a secret baby! (hide spoiler)] is trotted out. It harshed my buzz.) ["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A light, sweet read, but I probably picked this up too soon after reading Catch of the Day, as this didn't live up to the expectations I had. The fami...moreA light, sweet read, but I probably picked this up too soon after reading Catch of the Day, as this didn't live up to the expectations I had. The familiar tropes seemed to be a shadowed imitation of what I enjoyed in the first book. I found myself less sympathetic to this heroine; as much as I love her hockey-stick wielding ways, her Civil War obsession, and her yapppy dog, she was just too immature. Spending the entire book with someone so ready with the lies and so repressive of feelings isn't really appealing for me. I also found the hero of this book too muddled.
However, this was still a funny, and sometimes even HILARIOUS, read. Grace's wacky family, in particular, was fun to read about. However, I left entertained by unsatisfied by the main characters. I've deemed Higgins to be "Crusie-lite": the madcap humor, the sisterly relationships, the crazy family hijinks, and even some of the scenes felt like a Jennifer Crusie romance. Higgins' mother characters are, refreshingly, much more well-rounded and sympathetic than Crusie's are, and in Too Good to be True, Grace isn't as assertive or ballsy enough to be a true Crusie heroine, and these aren't knockoffs by any means, but I think Higgins' books hold some of the same appeal as Crusie's do.(less)
I found this to be a sweet, slim read, with a romance between grown-ups who (gasp!) acted like grown-ups. The humor was spot on, and Elizabeth was a g...moreI found this to be a sweet, slim read, with a romance between grown-ups who (gasp!) acted like grown-ups. The humor was spot on, and Elizabeth was a good-humored, competent mother and assistant, which I always love to see. The children were not annoying (often a pitfall for me) and struck me as realistic. However, I wanted more about the friendship between Elizabeth and Chessie, the clever and friendly fairy godmother of Second Chance Bridal, and I kept thinking, "If this was a Nora Roberts book, we'd get more of that." So, yeah: the romance was better than average, but I was more interested about the female friendships and had wanted more of that (and I think that would have assisted Elizabeth in her growth more than just the romance).(less)
I'm a sucker for a good wedding planner romance, and I enjoyed the heroine in this one. Anne is smart, warm, and confident. The narrative shows her an...moreI'm a sucker for a good wedding planner romance, and I enjoyed the heroine in this one. Anne is smart, warm, and confident. The narrative shows her analytical and people skills at work: she reads other people well, and she responds accordingly. She's a good businesswoman and a good friend, and I really believed in the romance whenever the hero, George, recognized and admired these traits in her.
The various miscommunications and incidents of untruthfulness used as plot devices to create conflict were annoying (particularly the final incident, in the last chapters of the book; if a conflict can be solved by one party actually explaining what the other party misunderstood, I consider the conflict pretty contrived, which this final incident was), but I appreciated that Anne and George sincerely struggled with the plot's initial deception and with the consequences of potential deceptions. Their faith is at the forefront of each step in their emotional journeys, and well-integrated in the lessons they learn. The plot, however, was bogged down with annoying miscommunications and contrivances, and extended too long. I was also uncomfortable that the only character identified as black (Mama Ketty) read to me as a Mammystereotype.
The writing, however, was strong, clear, and enjoyable, and it's always a treat to read a mature, adult heroine who wants--and works for--a mature, adult relationship. It makes for a solid (if not particularly heated) romance, and with the extra trappings and sweetness of the weddings throughout the novel, there's a lot to "Awww" over.
Note: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.(less)
Having enjoyed Lead Me On, I looked forward to reading Crazy for Love, and I wasn't disappointed: the characters were unique and their struggles were...moreHaving enjoyed Lead Me On, I looked forward to reading Crazy for Love, and I wasn't disappointed: the characters were unique and their struggles were sincere and moving. Plus, no one writes hot and funny quite like Dahl. Protagonists Chloe and Max connect (and spark!) when she sees through his carefully cultivated persona, and the lure of truly seeing someone and loving them thoroughly (craziness and all!) is what drives Chloe and Max's connection. It's a lot of fun to read and watch unfold. The sex scenes are wickedly hot and full of character, which I'm starting to understand is a Victoria Dahl trademark.
I did have some reservations: the media frenzy surrounding Chloe seemed hard to believe and might have tipped the story's believable craziness over into unreality, and the time devoted to Jenn fretting over her secret but without divulging it to the reader was very, very annoying. However, I did find Jenn's relationship with Elliott sweet and charming, and just the right amount of space in the story was devoted to this secondary romance.
This was a satisfying summer read.
Note: I received a review copy from Harlequin through NetGalley.(less)
A warm read. I liked a lot of the "snowbound and stuck together" aspects, I found the students' holiday celebration was awfully (and memorably) sweet,...moreA warm read. I liked a lot of the "snowbound and stuck together" aspects, I found the students' holiday celebration was awfully (and memorably) sweet, and I enjoyed Chris telling the students the story of "Chase and Juliet." I also liked the grandfather aspect of the plot. But I felt Chris was too imperious about forcing Jayne to remember, and there just wasn't a lot of depth to Jayne. She has no real history so depth is hard to achieve, but she could have had more personality instead of just stock reactions. There just wasn't enough here to convince me that Chris and Jayne were actually in love, were ready for a long-haul relationship, and not just swept up by their emotional reunion.(less)
This is one of Harlequin's free reads, and I don't normally go looking for cowboys, but I decided to give this book a try. I'm glad I did, because the...moreThis is one of Harlequin's free reads, and I don't normally go looking for cowboys, but I decided to give this book a try. I'm glad I did, because the story is emotional (a lot more emotionally complex than I was expecting from the American Romance line, which I do like but find too trite at times) and moving. The hero and the heroine are both kick-ass and complicated, and they're both, quite refreshingly, adults. There was one moment of stupidity that made me roll my eyes and a time when a "twist" made me go, "Seriously? Where's the set-up for that?", but overall, this was a surprisingly satisfying read. Between the humor, the strong lead characters, and the emotionally complex relationships, it was a very enjoyable (and quick!) read.(less)