Strong lead characters and an interesting plot that involved medical ethics and blackmail and maybe being an accessory to a crime. I don't think the pStrong lead characters and an interesting plot that involved medical ethics and blackmail and maybe being an accessory to a crime. I don't think the plot wrapped up completely, and there just felt like a good handful of loose ends. I was also very irritated that "illegals" was used as a synonym (by the protagonists and by an antagonist) for undocumented immigrant workers and that "Hispanics" was often conflated with the latter. I did really like the characters, though; their realizations about themselves felt believable, and their conflict with one another was interesting and often resolved in unexpected ways.
This is the first book in the Heartwarming line (apparently Harlequin's new-ish clean-and-sweet-but-not-necessarily-inspie line) that I've read; the type of plot and scope reminded me of a SuperRomance, but the physical attraction between the protagonists was minimally mentioned and the language was super squeaky clean (and the dialogue too often hokey) and there were a handful of references to praying. So: wholesome but with a more electric and edgy plot than one might expect from such a sweet line....more
I really loved this at times (grief and unexpected sisterhood and falling into family was ALL GOOD, and the final reconciliation between Shannon and MI 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....more
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 issuesGreat 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....more
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-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-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....more
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 developA 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)....more
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 asI'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!...more
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 interactCondescending 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....more
So I finally like a New Adult romance. Okay, so Dear Rockstar features elements that I really dislike about this subgenre, namely instalust and broodySo 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....more
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 CarWildly 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. ...more