Lightning Round: October 2012

A shirtless man in a cowboy hat embracing a woman holding a gun behind her back and looking straight at the viewer.Chasing Rainbows
by Victoria Lynne

I am a sucker for road romances, foul-mouthed gunslinger heroines, gambler heroes and anything set in the old west, so this scratched all my itches. It also had some fabulous, slow-burning sexual tension that more recent books just don’t seem to have the patience for anymore.

I just found the heroine almost Mary Sue-ish. She spends the bulk of the book being acted upon rather than driving her share of the action, then seems to be rewarded in the end for being such a good person before. For a heroine who was supposed to be a rough-and-tumble outlaw, she constantly needed the hero to bail her out after  she charged into things half-cocked.

I had a lot fun reading it, but it wasn’t the best book it could’ve been. C+ 

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Never Stay Past Midnight
by Mira Lyn Kelly

This author’s books are consistently enjoyable for me (Wild Fling or a Wedding Ring? even got a rare 5* review from me on Goodreads) so just seeing that she has a new book out is enough to get me to buy without so much as a glance at the blurb or the reviews.

Never Stay Past Midnight had all the elements I love this author for. The heroine’s a grown-up with an adult’s life, libido and responsibilities. The hero’s wealthy and successful, but human. Both are reluctant to commit to a relationship, but neither’s reluctance stems from blanket judgments of the other’s gender, or any high-angst disavowals of the existence of love. They just got unresolved baggage from lives that didn’t come with training wheels.

Unfortunately, the strength of that conflict and the depth of their feelings on commitment made the rushed ending unsatisfying. While their fling that became more was charming and believable, the hero’s abrupt about-face on a serious bone of contention weakened the story. B+

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Just about the clinchiest of all clinch covers. Shirtless hero with his arm around the heroine's waist, with her bodice falling down and her hair billowing in the wind. The galloping horses in the background are extra amazing.Texas Destiny
by Lorraine Heath

The heroine heads west to Texas as a mail-order bride after the Civil War destroys her home and family in Georgia. She expects to be met at the train station by her fiance, but is instead met by his younger brother. After falling from a horse and breaking his leg, her fiance couldn’t make the three-week trek each way himself. Hijnks ensue.

Starts slow with a metric fuck ton of angst over the hero’s scars, goes nuts with adjectives and flowery metaphors, but nails yearning and sexual tension like a boss. The end waffled more than an IHOP, but I was invested like whoa. B-

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Illustration of an Old West sheriff leaning against a post while a woman in a full pink skirt and white shirtwaist walks past with her back to the viewer.The Marshal And Mrs. O’Malley
by Julianne MacLean

While I enjoyed the main couple and their romance immensely – there are real obstacles to their getting together and the yearning was palpable – the suspense plot lacked, well, suspense, and the heroine’s son was the most convenient plot moppet of all time. OF ALL TIME.

Highly entertaining, but uneven and unmemorable. C

 

 

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Standard Presents cover. White cover with a red banner at top saying "Harlequin Presents." Then the author's name, followed by book title, is printed on the white background above the circular stock photo of a poorly acted out kiss between a couple.Katrakis’s Sweet Prize
by Caitlin Crews

All of the standard Presents tropes that I usually enjoy – revenge, self-made men, yachting on the Mediterranean, shitbag family drama – were accounted for in this book, but it very much did not work for me at all.

It wasn’t so silly that I stopped reading it, but pretty damn close. It was the way they treated the whole “mistress” thing, like it was a job position. It was really absurd. She not only walks up to him and says, “I had heard you were between mistresses at present. I had so hoped to be the next.” There was also this bizarre exchange:

“While I appreciate your list of rules and regulations, and will make every effort to follow them, being a mistress is much more than the ability to follow orders.” She traced the strong line of his jaw, the proud jut of his chin, with a lazy fingertip—though she felt as far from lazy as it was possible to feel. She kept on. “A good mistress must anticipate her partner’s needs. She must adapt to his moods, and follow his lead. It is like a complicated dance, is it not?”

Is this a Presents, or D/s erotica? As I told Liz, in a contemporary setting, “mistress” should be used like “pooch,” that is, only in tabloid headlines. D

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Close-up shot of a young man with shaggy, dark hair and a wrist tattoo touching the face of a young woman with long brown hair before he might kiss her.Easy
by Tammara Webber

Anyone who wanted to like Beautiful Disaster but just couldn’t hang with the deeply internalized misogyny and textbook abuser archetype hero need to read this book. Everyone else needs to read this book too, but those readers especially deserve to treat themselves. It’s well written and populated with fully-developed characters. A strong theme of respect and empowerment for women runs throughout without ever getting preachy (oh, well, never bad preachy, anyway.) The heroine is self-saving and the hero is just a beautiful person. A-

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Same Time Next Summer by Holly Jacobs

book cover showing the couple embracing on the shore of a lakeThere are things I liked about this book, and it’s a different sort of story than you generally get from Superromance, but the way it was written drove me up a goddamned wall.

In a nutshell, this is a second chance story. Sort of. Carolyn and Stephan grew up together, spending their summers as lake cottage neighbors (all women’s fiction requires a lake cottage), then hooked up for a summer fling as teenagers before going on as friends as adults. The bulk of the action takes place when they’re in their early thirties, after a severe injury to Carolyn’s young daughter brings them back together. Left by her cold ex-husband and her unsentimental parents to keep vigil alone over her comatose daughter, Stephan leaves his life in Detroit to be at her side in Cleveland.

One of the things I liked most about the story is Emma, Carolyn’s daughter. As the action opens, she’s lying in a hospital bed in a coma after a car accident. Carolyn is, of course, keeping watch and determined to see her get well, despite everyone telling her that it won’t end happily. The doctor tells her that when comatose people wake up, if they wake up, it’s not like the movies. They wake very, very slowly, and are rarely the same as they were. And what happens? Emma wakes slowly, needs extensive rehab for a long time, and isn’t the same as she once was. She’s weak on one side, has problems speaking and uses a walker for a while. And everyone’s just happy she’s alive. Imagine that. Happiness and disability *can* coexist in a romance novel. Neat.

Where it all goes pear-shaped is in the telling. I can’t really decide when the story is set, or if it’s actually a contemporary. Only the epilogue (and it’s an epilogue that takes treacle to brave new heights) is set in the book’s publication year of 2008. Most of the action is set in 1994, with lots of flashbacks to their childhood together at the lake in the mid-1970s. After the couple hooks up and declares their mutual love and gets married, the book then jumps to 1999, where their actual HEA is delayed by a disagreement over whether or not to have children together (and you already guessed how that ends.)

I found all the time-line jumping annoying and unnecessary. Rather than a single, coherent book, it read like two connected novellas. There’s the 1994 story, then there’s the 1999 sequel. As a result, I felt jerked around. They got what sure appeared to be an HEA only to have the author yank it away and yell, “psych!”

For all its faults, I did sit down and read it straight through without stopping. The characters and the drama was compelling enough, but I just wish the telling was a bit smoother. C

~70,000 words
Published August 1st 2008 by Harlequin