The Complete Reading List by Author

Hammered Series: Manaconda by Taryn Elliott and Cari QuinnShort Version: 

Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, this is a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list
So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romanceand here are
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started

Long Version:

I have some lists  –
Author Commentary & Tallies Shameful 2012 – 2016
Consistent Themes in Authors’ Works.
Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels
Things That Occur to Me While Reading Contemporary Romance Novels

On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

I buy everything these writers publish. Click on their name to be taken to a summary of their catalogue: Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now, so not an autobuy, but still an autoread)Laura Florand; Lisa Kleypas; Julie Anne Long; Sarah MacLean; Courtney Milan (Milan is The. Very. Best.)

-A-
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Ashley, Jennifer Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Mac/Isabella)
Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Cameron/Ainsley) – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Hart/Eleanor)
Ashley, Jennifer Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart)
Ashley, Jennifer The Seduction of Elliott McBride (Elliott/Juliana)
Ashley, Jennifer The Untamed Mackenzie novella (Lloyd/Louisa)
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Daniel/Violet)
Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess novella (Steven/Rose)
Ashley, Jennifer Rules for a Proper Governess (Sinclair/Roberta “Bertie”)
Ashley, Jennifer A Mackenzie Clan Gathering (Ian/Beth)
Ashley, Jennifer Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound) novella (Ronan/Elizabeth)

The list has gotten SO VERY LONG, please click on the jump.

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Author Commentary & Tallies Shameful

Shortcuts:    

My Autobuy List (Links That Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)

Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now, so not an autobuy, but still an autoread)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Sarah MacLean
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

2016 READING LISTS:

Recommended books are in bold.

The (Shamefree) Tally 2016

Last year, this list had only one book and it was an Outlander graphic novel. I am proud of that, although I do have two glorious historical costume books to read and review.

The (Shameful) Tally 2016

  1. Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
  2. Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
  3. Ashley, Jennifer A Mackenzie Clan Gathering (Ian/Beth)
  4. Balogh, Mary Only a Kiss (Percy/Imogen)
  5. Balogh, Mary Only Beloved (George/Dora)
  6. Blake, Jennifer The Tuscan’s Revenge Wedding (Nico/Amanda)
  7. Bowen, Kelly Duke of My Heart (Max/Ivory)
  8. Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Us (Wes/Jamie)
  9. Bowen, Sarina Bittersweet (Griff/Audrey)
  10. Bryce, Megan To Catch a Spinster (Nathaniel/Olivia)
  11. Bryce, Megan To Tame a Dragon (Jameson/Amelia)
  12. Bryce, Megan To Tempt the Saint (George/Honora)
  13. Bryce, Megan  Some Like It Charming (Ethan/Mackenzie)
  14. Callihan, Kristen Idol (Killian/Libby)
  15. Charles, K.J. A Seditious Affair (Silas/Dominic)
  16. Chase, Loretta Dukes Prefer Blondes (Oliver “Raven”/Clara)
  17. Dee, Bonnie/Devon, Summer The Merchant and the Clergyman (James/Declan)
  18. Dee, Cara Noah (Noah/Julian)
  19. Elliott, Taryn and Cari Quinn Manaconda (Hunter/Kennedy)
  20. Florand, Laura Sun-Kissed (Mack/Anne, plus guest stars)
  21. Florand, Laura Chase Me (Chase/Violette)
  22. Frank, Ella Finley (Sunset Cove Series Book 1) (Brantley/Finn)
  23. Frost, Sosie Once Upon a Half-Time (Lachlan/Elle)
  24. Frost, Sosie Bad Boy’s Bridesmaid (Nate/Mandy)
  25. Garvis Graves, Tracey Heart-Shaped Hack (Ian/Kate) – Worst of the Year 2016
  26. Gray, Juliana The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match (Olympia/Penelope)
  27. Grey, R.S. The Summer Games: Settling the Score (Freddie/Andie)
  28. Harber, Cristin Sweet Girl (Cash/Nicola)
  29. Heyer, Georgette Venetia (Dameral/Venetia)
  30. Ivy, Alyssa Rose The Hazards of Skinny Dipping (Reed/Juliet)
  31. Jacobs, Mara In Too Deep (Lucas/Lily)
  32. James, Julie Suddenly One Summer (Ford/Victoria)
  33. Jordan, Lucia In Too Deep  (Crasher/Rayne)
  34. Kelly, Carla Beau Crusoe (James/Susannah)
  35. Kennedy, Elle The Score (Dean/Allie)
  36. Kennedy, Elle and Vivian Arend All Fired Up (Parker/Lynn)
  37. Kleypas, Lisa Marrying Winterbourne (Rhys/Helen)
  38. Lauren, Christina Wicked Sexy Liar (Luke/London)
  39. Lauren, Christina A Not-Joe Not-So-Short Short (Not-Joe/Perry)
  40. Lauren, Christina Beautiful Boss (Will/Hanna)
  41. Leigh, Eva Forever Your Earl (Daniel/Eleanor)
  42. Leigh, Eva Scandal Takes the Stage (Cam/Maggie)
  43. Lin, Jeannie My Fair Concubine (Fei Long/Yan Ling)
  44. McCoy, Katie Play Me (Jake/Ella)
  45. MacLean, Sarah The Rogue Not Taken (King/Sophie)
  46. McQuiston, Jennifer Her Highland Fling (William/Penelope)
  47. Milan, Courtney Her Every Wish (Crash/Daisy)
  48. Milan, Courtney A Right Honorable Gentleman – short story (Edward/Catherine)
  49. Novark, Anna Marie The Doctor Wears a Stetson (Cameron/Jessie)
  50. Parker, Lucy Act Like It (Richard/Lainie)
  51. Reid, Penny Ninja at First Sight (Greg/Fiona)
  52. Reid, Penny Happily Ever Ninja (Greg/Fiona)
  53. Reid, Penny Grin and Beard It (Jethro/Sienna)
  54. Richland, Anna His Road Home novella (Rey/Grace)
  55. Riley, Sierra Guardian (Titus/Alex)
  56. Roberts, Holly S. Play: New Adult Sports Romance (Killian/Rebecca)
  57. Schurig, Rachel Ransom (Daltrey/Daisy)
  58. Shay, Kathryn In Too Deep (Gabe/Rachel)
  59. Stewart, Nicole Home for Three (Selwyn/Jack/Kess)
  60. Stone, Juliana Offside (The Barker Triplets Book 1) (Logan/Billie)
  61. Valente, Lili Magnificent Bastard (Sebastian/Penny) BEST TITLE EVER?
  62. Verge, Lisa Ann Heaven in His Arms (Andre/Genevieve)
  63. Ward, Tracy Rookie Mistake  (Trey/Sloane)

Reviews of Pre-2016 Reads (More to Come)

  1. Lilley, R.K. In Flight (James/Bianca)
  2. Bryce, Megan To Wed the Widow (George/Elinor)

Name Tally June 27, 2015: Simon (9); Alec/Alex (8); James (8); Michael (8); Sebastian (7); William (7); Robert (6); Daniel (5); Jack (5); Benedict, Charles, Colin, Duncan, Edward, Gareth, Harry, Ian, John (4); Andrew, Blake, Gabriel, Jackson, Julian, Lucien, Marcus, Phillip, Phin/Finn, Rhys, Richard, Stephen, Tristan (3); and only one David.

Author Commentary and Reading Lists for 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 (416 books between February 2012 and January 2, 2016)…

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Hammered Series: Manaconda by Taryn Elliott and Cari Quinn

I took great delight in telling people I had just bought/read a book called Manaconda. My husband very nearly injured himself with his frequent and violent eye rolling.

Contemporary romance characters often have supposedly glamourous professions and this Taryn Elliott and Cari Quinn series features rock stars which, it should be noted, is not the same as being musicians. Other occupations standing in for all those dukes and earls from historical romance include:

  1. successful actors
  2. professional football players
  3. professional hockey players
  4. billionaire business men (always non-specific and not particularly busy)
  5. former military elite force members (SEALs and the like)
  6. billionaire former military elite force member business men

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Hunter Jordan is the lead singer of a quickly climbing rock band called Hammered. Recently, he was interviewed and featured in Rolling Stone magazine. (Sidebar: Do you suppose the rest of the band was irked not to be included?) In the cover photo, Hunter’s jeans and pose conspired to reveal that he is in possession very impressive wedding tackle and is receiving a lot of attention for it. His record label is thrilled and has added an extra PR person, Kennedy, to his band’s support team.

Manaconda got off to a pretty good start with excellent sizzle between the leads and a playful use of the heightened reality in romances. Hunter and Kennedy are enormously attracted to each other, but she is career focused and doesn’t want to get involved. Hunter has his charms, mostly related to his efficacious use of the aforementioned prodigious reproductive organ and his work with animal shelters, and Kennedy succumbs to them. This good start was undercut by a repetitive structure finding them having an amazing night, things falling  apart, another amazing encounter, things falling apart, and Hunter desperately trying to win Kennedy back.  I have no objection to the spark and conflagration approach to romance, but I thought it showed a lack of effort to have Kennedy and Hunter come together and apart in exactly the same way twice.

Most significantly, Manaconda lost what I saw as an opportunity for wry social commentary. Hunter is mortified by the attention his mascupython is garnering, but at no point does he acknowledge that this is the kind of attention women get and have been told to take as flattering for (likely) the entirety of recorded history. Pity the financially secure, powerful, successful, good-looking rock star having to endure a few weeks of teasing for something every other aspect of the book, and culture, rewards him for.

This book inspired my list of Romance Novel Tropes That Need to Be Put Out of Their Misery  and contains four of them. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Romance Novel Tropes That Need to Be Put Out of Their Misery

Romance novels are all I read and while I have no objection to the limited character types and story lines, there are recurring elements that I really could do with out…

The notion that the hero “gives” the heroine orgasms as though this is some fantastical ability she is on the receiving end of instead of a participant in.

While we’re on the subject, the kind of toxic masculinity in which the hero announces he is going to and then takes great pride in “giving” the heroine many, many orgasms in one night. This leads to –

The heroine’s private parts being sore the next day because the sex was so good.

Bigger is not necessarily better. It’s  just a start.

Calling the heroine “Babe” or “Cherry”.

Nonsensically condensed timelines.

Lashing out, violent outbursts,  and/or over-the-top jealousy as a sign of affection.

Experiments in prostitution.

The hero creating a new nickname out of the heroine’s name and persisting in using it even when she tells him not to.

The heroine who is allowed to have sex, even hooking up with the hero on the night they meet, but not those ______-bunnies over there. Those spurious bitches of questionable value and intent  don’t benefit from the same feminist perspective.

The Pig Becomes a Person is the contemporary romance’s version of the Reformation of a Rake and it’s more than a little icky to bang EVERYTHING that moves until you meet the magical uterus-bearer who can hypnotize the hero’s wedding tackle into submission.

Self-slutshaming heroines have got to go.

Shopping sprees and makeovers to remake the heroine into someone more attractive.

Billionaires heroes.

Heroes who are powerful in their every day life and then a dominant in their sex lives as well. That’s just megalomania.

I’ll add more as they occur to me.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

 

Once Upon a Half-Time: A Sports Romance and Bad Boy’s Bridesmaid by Sosie Frost

I have peered into a new corner of the contemporary romance genre with these two novels, one known as “secret baby”. Once Upon a Half-Time and Bad Boy’s Bridesmaid both feature a player and a sensible woman whose precipitous actions lead to an absolutely conventional conclusion.  These Sosie Frost books also happen to have an African-American heroine and a Caucasian-American hero. HUZZAH! for diversity, especially when it means that a romance novel looks more like the real world. The race issue is not particularly highlighted in Once Upon a Half-Time and Bad Boy’s Bridesmaid; in fact, it can be summarized by these exchanges in each novel:

Because I’m… and your…
She’s a… and your…

Typing that gave me a pain behind my eye. Could no one have caught it in either book?

I want to move on to the secret baby trope. It was the point of my reading selection and will give me a chance to shake my head in disappointment at the kids today who need to get off on my lawn.

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Once Upon a Half-Time – Lachlan and Elle

Lachlan and Elle spent an incendiary weekend in a hotel room when they met at an NFL scouting event in Las Vegas. As team photographer, Elle keeps her distance from Lachlan when he’s drafted by her employer and becomes a conflict of interest. He wants more from her and while Elle is very attracted to him, she feels it would be unprofessional and detrimental to her emotional health to become involved. Getting caught still naked by the entire team after an ill-advised locker room hookup, Lachlan reveals to all and sundry that the Las Vegas adventure was by way of a honeymoon as they had eloped at a local wedding chapel. He is mad for her. Elle remembers none of this, but agrees to go on three dates with Lachlan to give their relationship a chance. It’s an excellent beginning and I do so love a marriage of convenience plot.

Elle looked great when she was pissed. That was good for me. I was pretty sure she planned to pluck off my balls, grate them into dust, and spoon feed the remains to me.

Elle flicked her towel at me. “You take nothing seriously in this world except family.”
“I know, right? I’m so charmingly full of contradictions.”

The violet material caressed her with an almost vulgar modesty.
(I don’t know what that means, but I like it.)

Once Upon a Half-Time got off to a really fun start with snappy banter and a light tone. There were subplot machinations causing everyone stress and for which one could almost understand why Elle and Lachlan did not have that simple, revelatory conversation that could shorten the novel considerably. Almost. They both had secrets to keep, but being direct would have helped everyone involved.

I would have liked Once Upon a Half-Time a lot more if it weren’t for the whole “secret baby” genre niche. Lachlan and Elle have unprotected sex on one of their dates and she becomes pregnant, but keeps it secret; hence the trope. First of all, Elle doesn’t figure out she is knocked up, another woman points the signs to her. Secondly, I don’t care if Elle is on the pill, I refuse to believe that a sexually active young woman wouldn’t notice that she was pregnant, especially if she was vomiting frequently. Part of being a sexually active, non-menopausal woman is always being aware of the possibility of pregnancy, and the intestinal distress is certainly a giant red flag.

Lachlan and Elle work out their issues, resolve the machinations, and move forward together as committed, expectant parents in their early twenties. I hate this idea. They are  young and financially secure. They could travel. They could play. They could chase each other around the house naked. Why on earth would they want to tie themselves down? It’s all so safe. Live a little!  Make a pair bond, hold off on the nuclear family.

Speaking of the “we’re starting our family young” trope, I took this line from the next book to be Sosie Frost’s theme as a writer: “We’re men. We like to protect our woman and our families. What better way than to live with you, stay with you, take care of you?” I understand that the prosaic goal of building a happy home life as a family unit is an attainable escapism, but why move on to the next phase so soon?

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Bad Boy’s Bridesmaid – Nate and Mandy

Nate and Mandy have known each other all of their lives and, after one night of scorching hot sex, her status as the best lover he’s ever had, convinces Nate they should be together, at the very least, bodily. The reader knows she is Nate’s favourite because he mentions it constantly as though it is an important honour Mandy needs to know has been bestowed upon her.  I just hope she has a speech prepared and a suitable place to display her “NATE’S GREATEST LAY” trophy.

Mandy didn’t understand that she was the only woman who ever made
me want more. My cock had a mind of its own, and somehow, it
convinced the rest of me that it was a good idea to pursue her.

Nate’s a successful business owner, a brew pub which is so very au courant, and the estranged son of the local minister. Nate isn’t really a “bad boy” as the title suggests – they never are – he’s actually very responsible, he’s just sexually indiscriminate.

The rest of us? We had our fun, fucked our way through a relationship,
and then cut when the girl left her toothbrush overnight.

Against the background of Mandy’s intense morning sickness, her sister is getting married and giving bridezillas a bad name. It’s so over-the-top, I worried she had a chemical imbalance, but that would have been a different book entirely. Mandy’s parents are estranged and arguing about wedding costs, so our sweet heroine is just trying to hold everything together until after the nuptials when she can tell Nate about the baby. He’s hard for her to resist and they find themselves having mind-blowing encounters. To Mandy, I would like to give some wisdom from Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck:

Amy: You want to stay with the best [sex] you’ve ever had guy.
Kim: No you don’t. That’s a creepy guy. Best sex you’ve ever had guy is in jail.

It’s funny because it’s true, but Mandy didn’t listen to me, she just went on being a fictional character created at some point in the past and ended up with Nate and her now non-secret baby as they build a family together and, for some inexplicable reason, stay in contact with her genuinely awful relatives. They should have run to California like Nate had planned before giving everything up to do the minivan and kids thing.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author orAuthor Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

Home for Three by Nicole Stewart

Prurience isn’t the best reason to read a romance novel featuring two men and a woman, but I willingly admit it was a key one for me in this case. The fact that Home for Three was free also contributed, as salaciousness for its own sake should always be a bargain. This contemporary romance features an established gay couple who meet the woman of their dreams.  Can the three of them find a way to create a family?

Home for Three is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy with a woman and coitus. Earning prurience demerits, the sex wasn’t particularly enjoyable; moreover, the writing included some odd choices, and, even for an escapist novel, the whole thing read like a silly female fantasy about cliched gay men who are only as gay as they need to be to fill your fashion and culture needs, but still want to have sex with you.

Gay Selwyn* and bisexual Jack have been together for a year. When they need a realtor, Kess enters their lives and they both find themselves overwhelmingly attracted to her and she to them. After the usual romance novel kink trope – a “Mother May I?” phase for Kess –  the three become romantically involved. How could she possibly resist these stereotypical men who are attracted to men? “You’ve got two men with disposable income and creative flair, taking you to exclusive art shows and private poetry readings.”  Selwyn is a costume designer who makes snide comments about Kess’s wardrobe before treating her like a living doll and creating an entirely new one for her including admonishing her to wear matching bras and panties, while Jack is a successful sculptor who introduces her to the sophisticated world of high culture.  For a genre I love built on tropes and limited story lines, this was too much even for me. Kess gets to have it both ways and it’s poppycock.

Having been distracted by the especially implausible plotting, I’d like to move on to savouring writing choices made by Nicole Stewart.

Jack sighed as he slid his arms into a deep purple watered silk blouse.
(Note: He’s not cross-dressing.)

…Kess, with interest and apprehension, studied the two men sitting on the artisanal sofa.
(That’s a mic drop, that one is.)

There was a flautist improvising a score to accompany the poem , and Mitch tapped a drum with his fingertips.
(See? CULTURE!)

And you’ve hurt me, too. I am a guileless lover.
(He’s also a recalcitrant dishwasher and a gormless automechanic.)

LGBT romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

*Selwyn is a person of colour which I mention because diversity in romance is welcome and needs to encouraged.

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In Too Deep by Mara Jacobs, and Kathryn Shay, and Tracey Alvarez, and Lucia Jordan

There are at least fifteen kissing books called In Too Deep on Amazon and it seemed to me that my ones of readers deserved to know how they stacked up. My criteria were simple. First, the title, second, it had to be gratis. With these rigorous investigational standards, I was able to acquire four In Too Deeps in three minutes.

The Freshman Roommates Series: In Too Deep by Mara Jacobs – Young adult contemporary

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Lily is a college freshman giving swimming lessons to local children when she meets Lucas. He has custody of his young brother, a criminal past, and is a recovering addict. Lily and Lucas fall in love as she is starting her life and he is trying to rebuild his. Things go sideways when he does something stupid and her privileged connections help save him. They recover and move forward with their relationship (as her parents, no doubt, have fits in the background).

This In Too Deep wins for most appropriate use of the phrase as Lily is almost unfathomably out of her depth in Lucas’s world. He’s a nice enough young man, but simultaneously extremely mature for his age and too young for what he has been asked to handle.  One of my reading notes simply said, “18.” I could say that I have learned Lily’s age is my line in the sand for the new adult genre because, as a Woman of a Certain Age,  18 is a child to me, but I have read really good romances with heroines that young (never the hero, I note),  so it all comes down to believable and interesting characters. This In Too Deep is not that book.

For the benefit of the doubt and what I assume is the target audience, I suppose that the plot was meant to appeal to the good girl/bad boy combination in which the hero’s ill-advised behavior is actually mostly in the past and adds a veneer of danger, but Lily is incredibly sheltered and a recovering addict charged with the care of his younger brother is a lot to believe she could cope with. Old enough to be her mother, I was horrified at the suggestion she would become involved with this young man, no matter how conscientious he was. Lily has neither the sand nor maturity to deal with the situation and Lucas’s sh*t is insufficiently together for him to be a good choice for her.

America’s Bravest Book 1: In Too Deep by Kathryn Shay – Adult contemporary novella

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Amazon: Kathryn Shay spent five years riding fire trucks with a large city fire department, eating in their firehouses and interviewing hundreds of America’s Bravest. Read the novellas that resulted from her intense relationship with firefighters!

The research may have been excellent, but this In Too Deep was a non-event. The Captain and one of his firefighters have the hots for each other, they fight the attraction to maintain professionalism, and then they get it on while trapped in a rubble filled basement.  I repeat: After a cave in and while stuck in debris and running out of oxygen, they make sweet, sweet love. Sure. Afterward, they pretend nothing happened, try to go on with their lives, but cannot fight what they had been repressing. It’s a non-problem and easily solved. More of a gesture than a novella, there was so little going on and so little at stake, even when they were going to die, that I didn’t understand the point of the book.

For a subplot, this In Too Deep has a local reporter trying to influence budget cuts by reporting on the firefighters on- and off-duty activities like some overzealous Hall Monitor. The firefighters respond by starting their own blog to highlight how hard they work, instead of, you know, ignoring her completely. Would the town they work for not have more oversight and influence than an ambitious reporter?

Since it’s not clear from what I wrote and that cover with only one person on it, this is a M/F romance, so I don’t even get to make any “firefighters and their hoses” jokes, or only half as many as I might have hoped to.

In Too Deep by Lucia Gordon

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Not a standalone novel, but a teaser volume, this In Too Deep was ridiculous. Rayne — her name is RAYNE, not “Rain” because that’s not quirky enough –, is tasked by her loathsome new corporate boss to attend a costume party for which he provides an obscene French maid costume, including undergarments, which she actually agrees to wear because that is the way large, successful companies treat their employees. Never mind ridiculous plotting, the former administrative professional in me rolled her eyes so hard, I sprained my optic nerve. If the rest of this review is erratic, blame the eye patch.

Bored at the party she has been obliged to attend dressed like a “whore”, Rayne meets a mysterious man, she calls him Crasher (my eye!) and the romance commences. Of course, by “romance”, I mean they get busy and, as is so often the case in contemporary, post 50 Shades of Grey books, he’s immediately very dominant and she loves every minute of it. So I have to ask for the umpteenth time: Doesn’t this kind of relationship require some kind of negotiation before one of you starts giving orders, slapping the other’s tushie, pulling hair, and biting? Moreover, why do all these billionaire corporate types (SPOILER) want power in the bedroom? Is being a rich, white, privileged guy at the top of the entitled heap not enough for these men? Why is it never the “this world was made for me” guy who wants to be slapped around and humiliated? Can you imagine what an enormous asshat he must be to crave more dominance? What absolute twaddle.

If you are still with me at this point in my TL:DR review and you feel compelled to read an In Too Deep, this next one is what I would recommend.

Due South Series Book 1: In Too Deep: A New Zealand Enemies to Lovers Second Chances Romance by Tracey Alvarez

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What a lovely cover!

In Too Deep had an exotic setting, unusual leads, and a reunion plot. Piper Harland has taken a break from her kick ass job as a police rescue diver and returned to her remote, island hometown in New Zealand to help out with her brother’s boat charter and diving business. She strikes a bargain to work at her ex-boyfriend’s family restaurant in exchange for his help with the charters. Ryan “West” Westlake is the man she left behind when she went to the mainland to become a police officer.

In addition to the love story, this In Too Deep is about life in a small New Zealand town which was, for me, a unusual location and while people are people everywhere you go, the setting counted to me as romantic. West and Piper both live for their time on and in the water, he is a competitive free diver, but while she loves it, her own personal trauma is making it hard for her to continue. Unbeknownst to her family and West, her work triggers memories of a personal loss that both inspired her choice of profession and complicates it.  The story struck a good balance between the heightened reality of a love story and the down-to-earth elements of their island life.  West and Piper (two great names) have to get over their past relationship mistakes and their own issues to find a way to move forward together. I liked the novel, but not enough to continue the series.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

 

 

 

The Seattle Sullivans: The Way You Look Tonight by Bella Andre

Is this what is known as a beach read in that it is something disposable you can follow easily whilst also making sure your toddler doesn’t drown? Bella Andre’s contemporary romance The Way You Look Tonight is easily one of the most obvious, pedestrian, and stereotypically bad novels I have ever read. Book one of a series, The Seattle Sullivans, that I will not only not be reading, it is one I would gladly use volumes of for a campfire.

Rafe Sullivan is a physically attractive private detective whose successful business investigating cheaters has left him disillusioned. When his realtor sister shows up telling him he needs to take a vacation and buy back his family’s lake house, he agrees. Arriving at the house the next evening, he runs into his old neighbour, Brooke, who just happens to be, HOMG, so hot. They knew each other as children and last saw one another when she was 8 and he was 14. Brooke is a bubbly and bright chocolatier living in the lake house she inherited from her grandparents. As Rafe’s new home is in sad shape, Brooke invites him to stay with her while he fixes it up. The entire story takes place over five days. Some commentary, including notes I made while reading:

Trite and is that a commercial kitchen?

“He couldn’t lie to her, couldn’t pretend he didn’t want her more than he’d ever wanted another woman in his life.” It’s been TWENTY-FOUR HOURS!

FFS (Rafe had just placed his hands around his brother’s throat for commenting on Brooke’s attractiveness.)

“There was no point trying to deny that what they were doing had turned into so much more than sex.” THREE DAYS!

He could hear the shower running, and knew he should leave her to finish washing up alone, especially after the way he’d taken her last night – hard enough that she might be sore.” a. That is not how good sex works and b. Could I get a volunteer to take this trope out behind the woodshed and put it out of its misery?

He installed kitchen cabinets alone?

But how could you possibly justify running a background check on me?” But how could you possibly get access to all of her personal financial records in the space of 12 hours or, you know, AT ALL?

“Don’t you know me at all after the past week? Or how about after we practically grew up together.” It’s been FOUR DAYS and you were EIGHT and he was FOURTEEN the last time you saw each other. Yours is not a reunion of twin souls.

“You really do love my brother, don’t you?” “…I always have.” Again: You were EIGHT YEARS OLD. You were not in love with him. You hadn’t started puberty yet. You probably still wanted to marry your cat.

“I wanted to believe we could make this work, that we could love each through the rough patches, but—” “We can, we will. Let me start by loving you right, Brooke.”  FIVE DAYS

“Although Rafe now had a newly renovated and furnished home, a home that had once been filled with the love and laughter…” Have I stressed this enough? FIVE DAYS! He cleaned out, ripped up all the linoleum, laid flooring, installed appliances, found an old family photo in the attic of a house that had been a rental for almost two decades because of course he did, painted, and furnished a house unfit for human habitation in FIVE DAYS!

She wasn’t just in his arms a moment later…she was finally home.” This book is so bad. When will it be over so I can stop reading it? It’s a soap opera’s notion of romance.

The Way You Look Tonight was trite, banal, hackneyed, hokey, cliched, facile, and mashed itself into what was, even for this genre, the most nonsensically condensed timeline I have ever read. Henceforth, I will be avoiding all Bella Andre books like the plague and thanking my lucky stars that this one was free.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by authoror Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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The Ravenel Series: Marrying Winterbourne by Lisa Kleypas

Marrying Winterbourne is the second book in the current Lisa Kleypas historical romance Ravenel series, and, while it is better than its predecessor, Cold-Hearted Rake, it still not up to the standard of her classics or even her stronger books.  Spending insufficient time with the love story, though plenty with the smolder, it started with a wallflower and a rake, Kleypas’s forte, and swiftly landed in Big Misunderstanding territory – which experienced romance readers will tell you means the leads’ problems could be solved with one honest conversation.

Possessing several Kleypas aspects I adore, this is what Marrying Winterbourne has going for it: Rhys Winterbourne is a gorgeous, self-made man, a sardonic and magnificently self-possessed hero who calls the heroine sweetheart in that Kleypas way, and in Welsh no less, and is poleaxed by his adoration of his beloved. So far, so good. Lady Helen Ravenel is a profoundly shy, seemingly delicate woman with a backbone of steel and the willingness to step outside of herself to pursue what she wants. Excellent! Unfortunately, all of that is taken care of by Chapter Two when Rhys and Helen reach an understanding and then spend the rest of the novel trying to get to the altar. The challenge was that the stumbling blocks took precedence over the relationship building. The problem was that some elements Kleypas includes are, at best, dated and diminished the reading experience for me.

INDIGNATION FOLLOWS:

On more than one occasion, Rhys manhandles Helen.

“Rhys grasped her chin and compelled her to look at him.”

“She hated the way he guided her with his hand clasped on the back of her neck, as if she were a helpless kitten being carried by the scruff.”

“Rhys pushed from the desk and reached her with stunning quickness, caging her body with his and slamming the sides of his fists against the wall.”

Caging a woman with his body is something Rhys did to the heroine of Cold-Hearted Rake as well, though then he was also sexually aggressive. His character needed some rehabilitation and while he shows remorse, apologises to the woman he threatened, and Kleypas drops a building on him early-ish in the book, his aggressive behavior toward Helen made me uncomfortable. Is he abusing Helen? Perish the thought. Does it represent the heightened reality often found in books of this genre? I don’t care.  Is he asserting physical dominance potentially consistent with the Victorian era? Perhaps, but Marrying Winterbourne is a romance novel, not a historical document and I don’t appreciate these rough elements. Were I the woman involved, especially in the last example, I have every faith I would burst into terrified tears. In the justifiably beloved Kleypas classic The Devil in Winter, the hero is horrified when he moves too quickly and the heroine flinches. In Marrying Winterbourne, the hero takes advantage of his superior size to intimidate Helen and control her movements. If it were ever properly addressed, I could overlook it, but since I doubt Kleypas is going to drop another building on Rhys in the next book in the series, The Devil in Spring (which I will still buy), Marrying Winterbourne is going in my disappointment pile.

A complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue, with recommendations (two classics and one of my personal favourites), can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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