I was hoping for something more emotionally wrenching, like Neurosurgeon...and Mum!. Not much emotional conflict here, not much need for emotional groI was hoping for something more emotionally wrenching, like Neurosurgeon...and Mum!. Not much emotional conflict here, not much need for emotional growth from either character, but a lot of medical filler (I know, that's what this line IS; it feels like its purpose is to demonstrate the protagonists' competence, but it comes across as boring exposition and lectures about good health habits) and a lot of travelogue-ish stuff (which, don't get me wrong, I kind of love that and Hardy is very good at it, but in this book, at least, it didn't have a real or specific impact on developing the characters or their relationship).
So. A going-through-the-medical-romance-motions book. Bland and not compelling, but at least I didn't want to wring the character's necks because they were mature and professional. Just not at all interesting enough to make the book worth it.
Oh, yeah. Also, the book didn't feel very contemporary. The characters are young, but their idea of personal ads for an online dating site felt like something out of the 80s newspaper ads. A big fuss was made about the hero not telling the heroine when he'd return from a trip--telling her a day later, instead--in case his flight was delayed (the delayed flight being very specifically the detail the hero focused on, not any other part of his travel plans that could conceivably be delayed), because he didn't want to worry her--can't she just look up your flight number on the Internet, dude, and know when to expect you, then? It was just contrived and didn't feel like actual young professionals in 2015....more
Thinly developed and sometimes clunky, but I loved the characters. I'm so into when a hero can describe the heroine to his friend like so:
Thinly developed and sometimes clunky, but I loved the characters. I'm so into when a hero can describe the heroine to his friend like so:
"...she's kind of a dick and she cuts deep. Even when we're in a scene she talks so much shit."
"And you love it."
"Fuuuuck. I do. What is wrong with me?"
I thought Weatherspoon did a good job of paring down the story to its essential scenes, but I would have loved to have read a longer version of this story, because Nailah's and Armando's emotional journeys often seemed telegraphed in broad strokes rather than explored in complex, textured ways....more
I loved Smith's voice, and I loved the interactions between Reese and Michael (and, also, I want to eat at Michael's restaurant omg), but I really didI loved Smith's voice, and I loved the interactions between Reese and Michael (and, also, I want to eat at Michael's restaurant omg), but I really didn't understand the purpose of including cheating in this book. It was clear Reese didn't love her boyfriend or thought of them having a partnership at all, and the conflict this instilled between her and Michael wasn't something I found compelling....more
"This marriage is not all my fault. You stood in front of that Elvis impersonator with me."
I love a good Desire (lower levels of dickishness than Pres"This marriage is not all my fault. You stood in front of that Elvis impersonator with me."
I love a good Desire (lower levels of dickishness than Presents, but still with a good amount of drama and emotional turbulence, and lots of negotiation regarding boundaries and relationships), and this one was a delight. And it's a contemporary marriage of convenience that makes sense! Okay, so the initial reason for their Las Vegas quickie marriage two years ago was one of the silliest things I've ever read in a romance (they made a Grown-Up Pact...no, seriously, that's what they called it), but since I didn't have to suffer through a tedious prologue or any actual scenes of their Las Vegas hijinks, I forgave Cantrell that. And lucky me, because Cantrell has a great, humorous voice, and the story was so engaging. Corporate espionage at high-end fashion houses! Hitting the beats of a good MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE story but twisting them as well! It never descended into the stereotypical depths of manipulation and antagonism it could have, which was pleasing. I really enjoyed the give-and-take between the two protagonists, who tended toward solid cooperativeness, even when their insecurities got in the way....more
Fantastic use of first-person. Arden has a witty voice, and she has nuanced relationships and is capable of reactive, nuanced perspectives on other chFantastic use of first-person. Arden has a witty voice, and she has nuanced relationships and is capable of reactive, nuanced perspectives on other characters; I really didn't feel like I was missing out by not having Gabriel's persepctive--and I'm a hard-sell on first-person (and on having only one POV in a romance novel). I wasn't sold on the mid-apocalypse setting, both as a matter of personal taste (I guess I'd have preferred a straight-up stereotypical snowbound-together-in-a-remote-cabin romance instead; I don't like apocalyptic or possibly-apocalyptic stress in my romance novels, it turns out), and how uneven the treatment of that background was. The uncertainty in the character's lives and the wider context--as realistic as it would be under these circumstances--translated to a less than vivid, less than stable footing for the book itself, as well as a less than even tone/approach for the book overall. Like, the opening scene is ACTION and PERIL and BADDIES and that's not reflective of the more emotional, more sedate scenes that comprise the rest of the book--at least up until the climactic scene, where there's ACTION and PERIL and BADDIES. And I didn't like the climactic scene at all (or the opening, for that matter), a tangle of awful and complicated stuff that I didn't really want in a romance novel and that didn't feel developed nearly enough to make me think it was handled well.
So I loved the voice (like, seriously, some of the best first-person I've read, especially in romance), I liked the relationship, I was meh about the story and its lack of cohesion, and I learned more about my reading preferences. I'll stick to no-apocalypse or at least very-post-apocalypse in my romances from now on, probs....more
A pleasant, sweet romance. I wished for more depth of character and sometimes less exposition-y treatment of changes in feelings, but for the most parA pleasant, sweet romance. I wished for more depth of character and sometimes less exposition-y treatment of changes in feelings, but for the most part, this was a nice read, with a fade-to-black romance and a few interesting nuances.
Shweta and Nikhil have known each other since childhood. They weren't friends, but they weren't utter enemies, either, even though he teased her quite a bit. Their most lasting impact on each other was the scar left on rebellious Nikhil's forehead from when hot-tempered "good girl" (and truly, I liked how these two traits were combined) Shweta threw a blackboard eraser at him. After an accumulation of offenses, he was expelled from school before graduation, and though he's since become a successful owner of an events planning company (and that's pretty cool; being an events planner is a pretty popular occupation in Romancelandia, but I think this was the first time I've seen a male protagonist doing it), he hasn't completely shaken off his own internalized shame and unrest about being an illegitimate child and having a complicated family situation.
And, yeah, it is quite the complicated situation. Nikhil's family is something I haven't seen in a romance before: he was raised by his father, his father's wife, and his biological mother (his father's mistress), all in one household. He's always been closest to his father's wife, Veena, who was his primary caretaker throughout childhood. But now that his family has moved to another city, where his father and his biological mother are passing as a married couple and Veena portrays herself as a family cousin, Nikhil is upset at how Veena has been pushed out of her marriage. His family secrets are actually more complicated than he knows (and more complicated than he shares with other people), and he has to learn to overcome his shame before he can trust that Shweta--herself having only slowly begun to stand up to the upright, somewhat controlling, conservative single father who raised her, and who is now struggling to believe that mingles-with-celebrities Nikhil can truly love someone as ordinary as she is--loves him and isn't ashamed of his family.
What I loved best about this book was how Shweta and Nikhil's shared background gave nuance to their present, developing relationship. They each have such respect for the people they've each grown up to be, primarily because they know each other's backgrounds and because they know how far they've each come since childhood. This made me trust that their relationship could be successful, because they had that trust, respect, and understanding. One of my favorite background details was that Shweta, when she was a blunt and practical little girl, was the first person to make Nikhil realize how unusual his family situation was:
"I resented you for a long time, you know," he said quietly after handing her the glass. "That's why I used to give you a hard time. You were the first person who made me realise there was something wrong with my family."
"Me?" Shweta's voice was incredulous. "What did I do?"
"You asked me who my real mother was," he said. "I told you that both of them were my moms, but you said, 'Whose tummy did you live in before you were born?' Until then I think I'd believed implicitly in the 'babies are a gift from God' story. So it was a revelation in more ways than one."
"I don't even remember," Shweta said remorsefully. "But I can quite imagine myself saying that. I went around once telling the whole class that Santa Claus didn't exist--some of the kids actually started crying."
"Now, that I don't remember," he said, and the smile was back in his voice. "Maybe I got off lightly, then."
"I thought it was very unfair," she said after a brief pause.
Nikhil raised his eyebrows. "What was? No Santa Claus?"
"You having two moms when I didn't have even one," she said.
The romantic arc is a straightforward and conventional one, and I did long for some more emotional complexity to both Shweta and Nikhil, but in such a short book, Narayanan did manage to find ways to make Shweta, Nikhil, and their love unique....more
Further adventures in confusion at how in the world Kate Hardy's books are categorized. And at least this is a Harlequin Presents Extra and not a straFurther adventures in confusion at how in the world Kate Hardy's books are categorized. And at least this is a Harlequin Presents Extra and not a straight-up Harlequin Presents! But until the characters slept with each other (which was fairly late in the book), I thought this could have been from the Harlequin Romance line, it was that sweet & light and veered far from dramatically emotional tension. Also, the title is super ridiculous for this book; the British title of Breakfast at Giovanni's at least matches the story's upbeat, flirtier tone.
My main problem with this book was that far too much of the relationship arc relied on not being honest with how they felt, that the sudden reversal/fix of this at the end didn't strike me as trustworthy/believable. I mean, granted, a beautiful rendition of "This Nearly Was Mine" is probably the closest thing to magic that exists in the real world, seriously, so mad props for that, but I didn't buy that suddenly these two would be communicating 100% with each other.
The family stuff, especially Gio's, was also just Not-For-Me. The fantasy of being accepted and immediately loved by a giant, close-knit, always-in-each-other's-business loving family doesn't appeal to me, and I'm skeptical of its rosy portrayal in romance novels, and I worry for the person marrying into that. I found the treatment of Fran's family strange, too. Okay, so she suffered low self-esteem comparing herself to them and she's not close to them, but in the final pages, we find out that they all love her so much and they're Stepford-ly wholesome and now she knows they've all loved her all along and all it took was her boyfriend forcing her to take him to visit them? Ummmmmm. Nah. No, thanks.
I did enjoy the characters and their banter, and I think Hardy does such a good job with grounding the seduction-y and sexy scenes very specifically in who the characters are....more
I find a lot of comfort in Farrah Rochon's romances. Her protagonists tend to genuinely like and respect each other, and their attraction to each otheI find a lot of comfort in Farrah Rochon's romances. Her protagonists tend to genuinely like and respect each other, and their attraction to each other builds upon that rather than act as the prime motivator for them spending time together--but Rochon does this without sacrificing sexiness. I also like how she uses familiar tropes but instead of simply employing them as romance shorthand (like, in this book, shy and overlooked Vicki gets a chic makeover, and suddenly everyone, including Jordan, notices her), Rochon pays patient attention to developing them to make them fit her characters and their arcs (Vicki's makeover was an externalization of her commitment to taking care of herself first, of being brave, and that commitment and her further externalizations of it propel most of the plot). And I liked both protagonists and their arcs equally; Jordan struggling with doubting himself--professionally and in his attraction to Vicki--was well-depicted.
Anyway, I was still in the first chapter of the book when I went, "I like this so much, she always does the best character development, why did I wait two months to read it, doesn't she have a new book out, I should buy that right now." And I did....more
I needed a break from the bleak drama of Elena Ferrante's Naples, and I was craving something like an HP: something focused, something with an HEA. II needed a break from the bleak drama of Elena Ferrante's Naples, and I was craving something like an HP: something focused, something with an HEA. I loved this book's sweetness and emotional tension, though I admit I kept rechecking the front of the book because it really struck me as a Harlequin Presents Extra, not a straight-up Harlequin Presents--but I guess since it was originally an M&B Modern Heat, that possibly explains why the relationship between the protagonists focused a lot of developing their chemistry.
There's A LOT of focus on equality between Lydia and Jacob in this book, and it was something they both clearly valued, which I thought was kind of amazing for an HP. Whether it was about both of them contributing financially to aspects of their trip and gifts to people they visit, or about Lydia also wanting to be on top in bed at one point, or the negotiation of vulnerably sharing truths about themselves, it was important to both of them that they felt like, and treated each other as, equal partners in their affair. They talked explicitly about their need for equality, and usually in a very non-dramatic, non-confrontational way. The sex scenes were ridiculously good, full of character development and very specific to the individual characters. There's no way you could lift out the Lydia-sketches-Jacob scene and substitute any other characters or any other emotional arc. I really liked the way that the book demonstrated Lydia's and Jacob's intelligence (and that they were, going back to the book's obsession, each other's intellectual equals).
Also, an HP set in Norway? This is like a rare unicorn sighting! It was definitely tourist-by-proxy, which was fun, as I totally want to visit Norway but I hate the cold too much.
Also also, Jacob says "I love you" as part of a normal exchange with his mother in the second chapter. I was, like, I'm sorry, a) I love this, but b) seriously how did they let you be an HP hero?? (Jacob has a functional relationship with his family but still has some emotional angst with them, which was, y'know, refreshingly normal. Lydia has an upsetting relationship with her family. I didn't completely buy the level to which Lydia recovered from her family issues by the book's end, but I also felt she had been carrying that burden for far too long and was happy that she shed it.)
And also x3, there are some pretty serious issues that get addressed over the course of this book, some of them Things Romance Readers Prefer Being Warned About: (view spoiler)[cancer, infertility, IVF failure, discovering that one of your parents is not your biological parent. I wouldn't consider the baby in the epilogue to be a miracle baby, unless you want to talk about science and successful IVF being a miracle. The way Jacob and Lydia, in the end, felt about, and discussed, a possible recurrence of Jacob's cancer was extremely practical and even kind of morbid (but I like morbid; basically, they visited Lydia's biological dad's grave and Lydia talked to him, and Lydia and Jacob discussed how about whichever one of them died first, the surviving one and any of their children would be doing this, too). (hide spoiler)]
It did get a bit too melodramatic at times, particularly at the end, and the book was bursting at its word count seams, unfortunately. There was tons of emotional stuff being worked out as well as the whole Norway travelogue, and while it came together satisfyingly, some important emotional changes that could have been scenes of their own were left to be summarized in dialogue rather than witnessed. And often I felt like transitional scene-setting sentences were missing, which lent a bit of a jerking feeling to the narrative at times. And even though the cold-rational-Norwegians geographic stereotyping is the opposite of what's usually being demographically stereotyped in HPs, those kind of geographic/demographic stereotypes are still pretty obnoxious (though I know that asking for HPs to not be predicated on outdated outlandish demographic stereotypes is like asking water not to be wet).
But overall, I really, really liked this book, and I loved Lydia and Jacob.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
My other favorite read in my recent Delphine Dryden binge. I loved the sweetness and the easiness (and also the ballet!) in this one, though there wasMy other favorite read in my recent Delphine Dryden binge. I loved the sweetness and the easiness (and also the ballet!) in this one, though there wasn't enough space to really develop the relationship, unfortunately....more
Lots of interesting pieces, but there was zero consistency in tone, and I really, really, really dislike the "family-in-law pressures a woman into staLots of interesting pieces, but there was zero consistency in tone, and I really, really, really dislike the "family-in-law pressures a woman into staying with a guy" angle....more
So regretful this languished in my TBR for so long (though admittedly I've been pretty meh about the Dryden books I've read previously, didn't like thSo regretful this languished in my TBR for so long (though admittedly I've been pretty meh about the Dryden books I've read previously, didn't like the Carina series). There was great integration of the emotional and the sexual parts of both the narrative and the characters' relationship, I laughed out loud a couple times, and while the ending was a bit too "this is what is needed in order to end a romance narrative"-ish, I loved how the relationship itself was developed on the characters' own terms and based in their own personalities. So good....more
Ignore the hand-cuffs on the cover; they don't reflect either the sexual content or the relationship dynamic in the actual book. This is a solid conteIgnore the hand-cuffs on the cover; they don't reflect either the sexual content or the relationship dynamic in the actual book. This is a solid contemporary, with a good back-and-forth dynamic between the protagonists. I shamelessly enjoy renditions of the "somewhat antagonistic co-workers are forced to work together on a project; they learn to respect each other and also they fall in love!" plot, which is why I read this, and I wasn't disappointed on that front. It doesn't play with any tropes and the individual character development could have been fleshed out more, but it was a satisfying romance nonetheless....more
Kinda ridiculous at times, even for a Tamara Morgan romance--and I say that lovingly--and the hero's dickishness seemed too magically cured (I didn'tKinda ridiculous at times, even for a Tamara Morgan romance--and I say that lovingly--and the hero's dickishness seemed too magically cured (I didn't mind the dickishness itself, really), but I loved the heroine, and if you don't mind some serious meanness and bickering between protagonists, it was a good enough read....more
Tremendously, ridiculously, unapologetically Christmas-y. And that's my kind of thing. Liked this soooo much more than Morgan's category romances I'veTremendously, ridiculously, unapologetically Christmas-y. And that's my kind of thing. Liked this soooo much more than Morgan's category romances I've read; characters were sharp and interesting, the romantic arc was boldly/firmly followed but was driven by said characters' personalities, and also there was a poodle....more