After the death of her cheating husband, journalist Cait returns to her tiny Scottish hometown, where she stumbles across a reclusive actor (a Mr. DarAfter the death of her cheating husband, journalist Cait returns to her tiny Scottish hometown, where she stumbles across a reclusive actor (a Mr. Darcy, no less) and considers selling out his secrets in order to save her career or some stupid motivation like that.
I liked this, overall, but there was a lot of ridiculousness. Like, the the extent to which Cait continued to want to write an expose that'd ruin life-as-we-know-it for a celebrity, his family, and their village. That plot was strung out unbelievably, ridiculously long. And it was unbelievable that a) Cait would not have known that Graham was from the same village--he was the father of someone whom she babysat when she was younger!, and b) the secret of where Graham was from, and where he went to hide from the media, could be kept! First of all, he's positioned as a mega celebrity, and I mean, well, do public records not exist? When he went to drama school, did he just never tell his classmates where he was from? Everyone in the village was in on the conspiracy to keep their golden boy a secret, which was kind of cute, but also required a huge suspension of disbelief. And of course there's that strong vein of Celtic fetishism that runs hard through romance in general, and then there a handful of dumb genre-y conventions like miscommunication and Cait literally running away from highly emotional moments, multiple times.
BUT were was also a lot of interesting things going on. I really enjoyed how this book straddled the line between romance and women's fiction, in a way that reminded me of Kristan Higgins. It allowed the tone of the book to range from some sharp comedy to sexiness to tearjerking plot developments. (Speaking of Higgins, Griffin commits the same venial sin (romance edition) that Higgins did in her debut. (view spoiler)[THE ELDERLY DOG DIES. And that's not even the most devastating plot point!! (hide spoiler)]) And Griffin traveled that range quite skillfully, weaving in various relationships and general cozy heartwarming small town comfort fluff. She turned some pretty good phrases every once in a while, and I found this an enjoyable read, when I wasn't rolling my eyes hard.
In particular, I was impressed at how she how Griffin tucked in a small amount of attention to Cait's relationship with God/the church/religion. This isn't an inspirational romance, and I didn't find it one iota preachy, but it was one of the little things that fleshed out Cait's interior life. Griffin was attentive, simply, to Cait shifting how she thought about her relationship to those things, the role they played in her life, in life in general, and in her community.
ETA: And another thing I enjoyed, that I almost forgot about! The first sex scene between Cait and Graham is a they-almost-have-sex scene, because it goes wrong, emotionally. I love when romance novels include bad sex between the hero & heroine, or things-go-wrong sex, because it can bring a lot of nuance into the emotional landscape between the protagonists. The intimacy that grows from these kind of scenes is intense and dynamic, nothing perfunctory, and I liked how Griffin handled it....more
I'm expanding my love of the "snowbound together" trope to include a less cold variation: "shipwrecked on an isolated, private island with an opulentI'm expanding my love of the "snowbound together" trope to include a less cold variation: "shipwrecked on an isolated, private island with an opulent mansion owned by a millionaire, though not with said fussy millionaire but instead hosted by the mansion's caretaker." Because I loved that part of this story. The royalty stuff, not so much. Especially the monarch's disdain of basic security practices--so extraordinarily unbelievable, even more so than the fantasy fluff dictated by the romance plot. But shipwrecked in luxury? Yep, that's now a fave. I love how lively and sharp-tongued Lennox's heroines are, and how their arcs develop, and Claire was no exception....more
Farrah Rochon writing about reunited lovers and Cajun food--what's not to like? It's a straightforward and fairly uncomplicated story, and the novellaFarrah Rochon writing about reunited lovers and Cajun food--what's not to like? It's a straightforward and fairly uncomplicated story, and the novella was just emotional enough and the characters crafted just sharply enough to be quite satisfying....more
I liked Their Christmas Family Miracle, so I thought I could overlook the relatively low star rating (2.75, before my own rating's been calOh hell no.
I liked Their Christmas Family Miracle, so I thought I could overlook the relatively low star rating (2.75, before my own rating's been calculated in) for this 2001 reissue and hopefully enjoy another heartwarming Christmas read from Anderson. Ha ha ha, not what happened!
This book needs an anti-recommendation on record, so here I am. It's the kind of romance where I wish the heroine knew how to recognize signs of emotional manipulation and emotional abuse in her partner, or knew to listen to and respect her doubts instead of the author treating them as one last obstacle to the romance. David is arrogant and pushy and commandeering, doesn't respect her boundaries. He'd fit in as a Presents hero: not just because of his personality, but in consideration of some of his worst actions, like "affectionately" calling the heroine a silly girl and also accusing her of leading him on. I expect more realism from the Medical line, and usually more sweetness, too, and David's personality and actions don't reflect the practical/realistic and often heartwarming sensibility I expect from good Medicals.
And, okay, here's their "breakup" scene, where after they've finally slept together (post-traumatic experience comfort sex), David tells Julia that he loves her, and she panics, because they weren't supposed to fall in love and blah blah blah (her previous marriage was terrible, she has a five-year-old daughter to protect, all good reasons to not turn their friendship into a romance), and she tries to tell him it was just sex. Instead of talking this through like grown-ups, or even trying to process the fact that she might not be ready to say ILU back, David instead throws Julia's insecure comments about her body back at her. So we've got manipulative bodyshaming that reads pretty abusively to me.
"Really?" he said, and his voice was hard and cold. "Surely, if it was just sex I'd go for a nubile, pert eighteen-year-old, not a widowed mother of nearly thirty who's got droopy boobs and a sagging stomach and stretch marks."
She recoiled, her hand flying up to cover her mouth, and he shook his head in disgust.
"Your words, not mine," he said, jabbing a finger at her. "But you might want to think about it."
"You bastard," she whispered, pain ripping through her, tearing her apart. It was Andrew all over again, pouring scorn on her body, shredding her confidence, using her--
"No, I'm not the bastard," he said, his voice still harsh, but he let out his breath on a ragged sigh. "I'm not here for sex, Julia, I'm here for love, because I love you, not your body--not that there's anything wrong with your body--"
"Liar," she cut in savagely. "Don't backtrack. You said what you meant."
"No, I said what you said. And anyway, it's irrelevant. Whatever your body might or might not be like, did you notice me having trouble finding you attractive last night? Or again this morning?"
So many warning bells. Don't stay with a guy who memorizes the negative things you say about yourself in order to throw them back at you. Don't stay with a guy who quotes you to yourself and makes you into the bad guy. Don't stay with a guy who deflects blame for this.
It doesn't get better.
She sank down onto the edge of the bath, the horror of what they'd done washing over her again and again. "I didn't want this," she said in a strangled whisper. "I knew it was wrong. I knew this would happen."
David flung the towel at the rail and turned to her, hands on hips, his beautiful body rigid with tension. "You should have thought of that before, then, instead of encouraging it and leading me on and allowing it to happen," he said savagely. "You're not the only one that can get hurt, you know. I'm vulnerable too--just like anyone else."
His eyes were locked with hers, the anger in them terrifying her. She felt tears spill down her cheeks, and dashed them away. "I never meant to do this," she said brokenly. "I really didn't."
"No," he said, his voice deadly quiet, "nor did I. It's a pity I didn't listen to you--a pity we ever met--but don't worry. The lesson's well learnt."
This shit from a guy who pushed her boundaries and came on to her over and over? Listen to his words, Julia: this is a man who doesn't take responsibility! He "takes charge" in situations--including in their reconciliation, where he decides and then insists that she and her recently kidnapped daughter (don't ask, melodrama unconnected to the rest of the book's plot) can't be alone and need to go to his family's for Christmas--and Julia meekly goes along with it and eventually decides that he's right, but it looks like he'll turn around and blame her if his feelings get hurt. He'll apologize, but based on his behavior, the two of them are going to need a lot of couples therapy before they'll be functional (or before I'd find them romantic).
Anyway. Ugh. Harlequin's re-releases of Medicals have been hit or miss, and this is a definite miss: it's not one of the more heartwarming, realistic, modern ones. Don't be like me and get swayed by the promise of Christmas-ness. (I still have another Anderson Christmas-related romance to read, and I hope it's more aligned with the lovely Their Christmas Family Miracle.)...more
Loved this so much. It was low in conflict between the two leads, but it was so enjoyably intricate in terms of Sandra and Isaiah both coming to termsLoved this so much. It was low in conflict between the two leads, but it was so enjoyably intricate in terms of Sandra and Isaiah both coming to terms with & strengthening their own senses of self and who they wanted to be. It was a joy seeing them fit each other into their lives and cheer each other on.
It was also perfect seasonal timing, as the book covered Halloween/U.S. election season/Thanksgiving. And despite the stressful nature of those things, it was still an excellent comfort read....more
Intensely Christmas-y, in a way that most Christmas-is-the-hook Harlequins fail to achieve--so I enjoyed it on that account, especially, and also I crIntensely Christmas-y, in a way that most Christmas-is-the-hook Harlequins fail to achieve--so I enjoyed it on that account, especially, and also I cried a bunch, but the state of the world and my emotional management is requiring that I subsist on a reading diet of mostly romance novels at the moment, so take that into account. Dog spoilers: (view spoiler)[The dog has a stroke near the end of the book, but he recovers and is the attendant at the wedding at the book's denouement, so. (hide spoiler)]...more
I liked the main characters--and I love finding romances between two similar characters instead of the pervasive opposite-attracts--and Bourne is so gI liked the main characters--and I love finding romances between two similar characters instead of the pervasive opposite-attracts--and Bourne is so great with the little details that make her characters and worldbuilding feel dynamic. On the downside, the way the drag queen character was used for humor and mockery was kind of shitty....more
The terrible thing about this book is that, at one point, the characters have the possibility to eat cinnamon rolls, and I was looking forward to thatThe terrible thing about this book is that, at one point, the characters have the possibility to eat cinnamon rolls, and I was looking forward to that, BUT THEN THEY DON'T.
Everything else about this book was wonderful: the romance was nuanced and hot, the story was fun and unique, and the characters were engaging all the way through. Bourne brought a lot of thoughtfulness to standard tropes and archetypes.
The cinnamon rolls though. IDC that Tia makes up for it later by eating everything in sight (LIKE, ALMOST LITERALLY) while at an amusement park. I wanted to live vicariously through their enjoyment of those cinnamon rolls. :(...more