I really loved this at times (grief and unexpected sisterhood and falling into family was ALL GOOD, and the final reconciliation between Shannon and M...moreI really loved this at times (grief and unexpected sisterhood and falling into family was ALL GOOD, and the final reconciliation between Shannon and Murphy was SO GOOD), but there's a weird passage about the American civil war and slavery that was unnecessary and souring. Set after the characters sing a song about James Connolly, American Shannon comments:
"It's an odd culture that writes lovely songs about an execution."
"We don't forget our heroes," Maggie said with a snap in her voice. "Isn't it true that in your country they have tourist attractions on fields of battle? Your Gettysburg and such?"
Shannon eyed Maggie coolly, nodded. "Touché."
"And most of us like to pretend we'd have fought for the South," Gray put in.
"For slavery." Maggie sneered. "We know more about slavery than you could begin to imagine."
"Not for slavery." Pleased a debate was in the offing, Gray shifted toward her. "For a way of life."
So all these characters are white, Maggie is Irish, Shannon and Gray are both Americans, and they're all in Ireland in the mid '90s. The action and dialogue move away at this point, and there's no narrative approval of Gray's opinions, but their inclusion made my jaw drop and threw me out of the story. I was irritated both by Gray's racist envisioning of the Civil War and by how a white Irishwoman making a living as an artist is presuming to have personal knowledge about slavery (though, yes, I'm glad she pushed back against Gray). Yes, I know that plenty of Americans do spend a lot of time frolicking in revisionistland about the civil war, but it's racist and unnecessary. (And, c'mon, wouldn't bringing up "John Brown's Body"/"Battle Hymn of the Republic" be a more appropriate comparison? It's about a decaying body after a martyr's been executed, I think it sounds lovely, and it's anti-racist, pro-freedom!)
The inclusion of these comments is just the gazillionth-and-one reminder of just how white (and/or racist) the romance audience is assumed to be, where one of the protagonists--he's the hero of the previous book--can say that most Americans like fantasizing about fighting in favor of slavery and justify it as "a way of life." FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK THAT.(less)
Great voice and great characters, as per usual with Charlotte Stein, but I didn't quite buy the mix of wildly romantic fantasy with the serious issues...moreGreat voice and great characters, as per usual with Charlotte Stein, but I didn't quite buy the mix of wildly romantic fantasy with the serious issues that could have benefited from expansion and more of a practical treatment.(less)
I enjoyed the characters and liked a lot about their relationship, but I was misled by the cover copy. I love, love, love that trapped-alone-together-...moreI enjoyed the characters and liked a lot about their relationship, but I was misled by the cover copy. I love, love, love that trapped-alone-together-with-increasing-sexual-tension story that the blurb promises, but that took up only a TINY part of the book. The situation had barely any emotional or sexual traction. I know complaining about incorrect Harlequin summaries is the very definition of quixotic, but I LOVE that trope, and the book didn't deliver. :(
The depiction of the relationship was uneven to me; the book seemed to focus on the times the characters had doubts and didn't get along easily, rather than when the characters were connecting with one another. Melissa states that their sexual connection was when they got along best, but the book didn't linger for a moment on that connection. I don't mind closed-door or no-sex romances AT ALL. But my objection here is that we're told that this was the best part of their relationship (according to Melissa), but this is basically how the book depicts that sexual relationship: "But he did remember carrying her to bed and undressing her. And drinking in the sight of her near perfect body spread out on the bed before making wild, passionate love to her all night long." i.e. in blink-and-you'll-miss-it bland-and-sometimes-bad prose.(less)
A strong erotic romance. It's a tricky subgenre, but Taking Him is a terrific example of how it can be done well: the sex is full of character develop...moreA strong erotic romance. It's a tricky subgenre, but Taking Him is a terrific example of how it can be done well: the sex is full of character development, and the romance is still emotionally engaging. Of course, I read the book's summary and recognized that it had my name written alllll over it, and I was still surprised to find just how good it was.
I could have done without the overprotective-older-brother trope, and I wished for a stronger sense of the main characters' lives outside their relationship and for the secondary characters to have some depth, but the book certainly focused on its more interesting aspects in its limited space.
The book does deal with teenage sexual assault (by a family member) and depicts self-harm (kindly, though I was sometimes twitching about how unhygienic the character's clean-up process was--don't just grab a rag that's nearby omg).(less)
I've struggled to get into some of Florand's other books, but this romance was a winner, and its elements pushed my buttons: survivors of abuse and as...moreI've struggled to get into some of Florand's other books, but this romance was a winner, and its elements pushed my buttons: survivors of abuse and assault determined to preserve, and use, their own strengths; an amusingly sulky but sweet hero; an understanding and respect of boundaries; a heroine both practical and idealistic; food and eating and healing as love; and one of the ultimate rare unicorn sightings in Romancelandia...protagonists in therapy!(less)
Condescending about disability, and the hero's a jerk to the heroine for most of the book. I really, really, really loved the heroine Tessa's interact...moreCondescending about disability, and the hero's a jerk to the heroine for most of the book. I really, really, really loved the heroine Tessa's interactions with Oscar and Anthea, though, and would have loved this as a coming-of-age and opera-awesomeness tale, had the romance not been dreadful.(less)
So I finally like a New Adult romance. Okay, so Dear Rockstar features elements that I really dislike about this subgenre, namely instalust and broody...moreSo I finally like a New Adult romance. Okay, so Dear Rockstar features elements that I really dislike about this subgenre, namely instalust and broody new guy and relationship ~draaaama~ and "let's not talk about it" emotional trauma in the heroine's and hero's histories. But I kept reading because there was also:
- a strong voice! the heroine does not narrate to the reader about how she looks within the first couple of pages! this is so unusual for NA, I can't tell you! - a really interesting setting in the form of an semi-remodeled elementary school repurposed as an alternative high school for older students needing more time to get their diploma or GED - a relationship to pop culture that was used well to further the story and to flesh out characters - A BELIEVABLE, ACTUAL FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THE PROTAGONIST AND HER BEST FRIEND OMG I WAS SO HAPPY WITH IT - a likeable heroine AND hero - a heroine and hero who are BOTH artistic and who are both shown working at their craft - the heroine is sexually experienced and she and the hero build up their sexual relationship as partners, not as object-subject - a sensitive portrayal of a character with an eating disorder (the character's BFF); the character is anorexic-bulimic and struggling with recovery, but none of this is appropriated, belittled, manipulated, or used as part of the heroine's storyline; it's just something that's going on in her life - the presence of queer girls--and who are not antiseptically unsexualized (it's only briefly mentioned and they seem to be closeted, but sparkly-gay-bff is such a gagworthy stereotypical trope in this subgenre, it was nice to see this instead, where two of the heroine's girlfriends are queer)
There was still a lot of the ~draaaama~ that I dislike in this subgenre, but goodness, I enjoyed this book.(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)
Extremely low-conflict, but I appreciated the male protagonist's bottomless well of reasonableness and level-headedness, as well as how the characters...moreExtremely low-conflict, but I appreciated the male protagonist's bottomless well of reasonableness and level-headedness, as well as how the characters enjoyed each other's company, even when on one another's turf.
It's a sweet story with a fairly stock romantic dynamic, and it's well-written, and I enjoyed the characters and felt they had sufficient and interesting nuance, but I was wishing for something edgier from Meg Maguire. I think the initiation-into-the-world-of-men-hitting-one-another-for-fun story was done better in Willing Victim, and this book suffered in comparison because it resolutely swerved away from the dark and uncomfortable stuff that this author can write really, really well.
It's a satisfying Blaze, and this has my favorite ending of any of Maguire/McKenna's books, but I think I wanted something different than what this sweet, low-conflict book offers.(less)
Paige is a popular culture reviewer on a newspaper's blog; Torrian is a football player publishing a celebrity memoir/cookbook prior to the opening of...morePaige is a popular culture reviewer on a newspaper's blog; Torrian is a football player publishing a celebrity memoir/cookbook prior to the opening of his sister's restaurant. They clash over a negative review she writes of his book, and a local television station decides to exploit that clash by hosting the pair in an on-air cooking competition.
Huddle With Me Tonight is a buoyant, enthusiastic romance. The sex scenes include laughter, which is always a positive in my book. The characters are grown-ups who may act foolishly--namely, in the set-up, in which they get wrapped up in a battle of ill-advised Internet comments--but who realize when those actions are beneath them, and they work hard to be better and to take care of one another. The title's apt because it's once the two characters get over their initial, shallow conflict, they're super-cooperative, intent on mutual success, and are on one another's "team."
The ending was too rote for my tastes (a misunderstanding and refusal-to-communicate leads to separation leads to realizing they can't live without one another leads to groveling and reunion, etc.; a lack of motivation for a sudden antagonist), but it still gets four stars for how I kept rereading some of the scenes where the two characters are kind and caring to one another.
Fans of the earlier Julie James books might like some of the dynamics here: an assertive and professional heroine, a sweet and famous hero, a showdown between the two, and depiction of good friendships outside that relationship.(less)
Not the strongest of romances, but Mayberry's strengths (thoughtful demonstration and development of flawed characters, enjoyable dialogue, interestin...moreNot the strongest of romances, but Mayberry's strengths (thoughtful demonstration and development of flawed characters, enjoyable dialogue, interesting family dynamics, emotional precision) are all present. The pacing didn't work so well for me, and I felt the (view spoiler)[public proposal that I was so certain Charlie would (and kinda should) say no to (hide spoiler)] pigeonholed both Charlie and Rhys into some sort of stock romance and undermined all the work the book had done to have the two main characters building their relationship THEIR WAY.
However, I had to put the book aside at one point because I was crying over Charlie's best friend reaching out to reconstruct Charlie's long damaged sense of self-worth. I think the pacing of the book and the ending of the book didn't work so well for me because I was so wrapped up in Charlie's character development, and how she was going to gain self-esteem and worth in her love and trust in being loved, that I was annoyed by interference from category romance restraints (hence, what I saw as pacing glitches and unoriginal grand gestures).["br"]>["br"]>(less)