Review: Sweet Surrender by Cheryl Holt

Format: ebook
Length: 346 pages (per Amazon)
Pub Date: November 2012
Publisher: Self published via CreateSpace
FTC: Purchased myself when it was on sale at Amazon

I couldn't tell you if I have ever read anything by Cheryl Holt before. If I did, it didn't stick with me. And, to be honest, this one won't either.

The historical trappings were very, very thin here. And I say that as someone who likes "wallpaper" romances. I love what is sometimes referred to as light historical: that funny, light-hearted take on the Late Georgian or Victorian periods in English history. But this story lacked depth. It lacked setting. The characters were interesting, although they had some issues, too.  Basically, this is the cotton candy of novels. Fluffy, but dissolves upon consumption.


Romance is Not For Children: Why the Trendy Titles are a Bad Idea

I first noticed it with Kieran Kramer's stories. The cutesy titles that use popular children's book titles as a template for their own. Then it expanded further from "light historical" into the mainstream historical category. Now, they're everywhere.

This trend needs to stop. Right now. And here's why:

It's derivative. I understand that temptation to try something new. To get away from those throw away, easily forgotten titles. The titles are one of the main complaints from within the genre because they are so easily tossed aside. But copying another genre's most popular titles is not the way to show the world you can be original. It's really not. (This applies to copying other bestselling adult novels, too.)

It's infantilizing. We already contend with the snobs looking down on the romance genre as something less than refined. It's a genre written mostly by women for women. It's already marginalized. Do we really need to make it easier for the critics? Women are not children, but this trend seems to perpetuate that idea. By using patterns normally reserved for children's titles, we link romances with children. And that's bad because ...

It's creepy. The sexual content in most romances is one of the reasons  many stay away from the genre. I happen to like that part of romance novels. We're grown ups. We can handle those grown up words and actions. But using a children's book as a starting point for a title just feels skeevy. This isn't a genre for children. We're classier than this.

I'm not a PC crusader by any means. I don't have an agenda to get romance more mainstream respectability. I really don't care all that much. I like the man candy covers. I don't mind the alpha heroes. I don't even care about historical accuracy as long as they get the basics correct. But I really think that the publishing industry is being incredibly foolish to continue blithely along with this trend.

I'm not sure if this bothers romance readers who don't have this familiarity with children's books, but I'm positive it sends a negative message to those who do. And this romance reader is not buying another book, even by a favorite author, that follows this titling trend.

TBR Challenge Review: Fragile by Shiloh Walker

Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: February 2009
Publisher: Berkley
Length:346 pages
FTC: Traded through Paperback Swap
Why it was in the TBR: numerous positive recommendations on Twitter

I am a format snob. I rarely ever buy something in trade paperback format.  So it takes a barrage of recommendations to get me to acquire a trade paperback to read. And back in early 2010, this series by Shiloh Walker (Broken, Book 2) was absolutely everywhere on Twitter and the romance blog circuit. Still, cautious little me just let it sit in my Paperback Swap request backlog until one was available. It took over a year. (It's now available in mass market paperback.)

For those looking for solid romantic suspense without dimwitted heroines, paranormal woo woo or inappropriate shacking up, this is for you. Fragile is grounded in the less pretty side of real life—in the ugly truths of child molestation, neglect, and emotional abuse.  Far more of a suspense novel than a romance, the focus shifts away from the central couple quite frequently. Something I know can annoy many hardcore romance readers, but didn't bother me too much.


DNF Review: Vampire Mine by Kerrelyn Sparks

Format: Mass Market
Pub Date: April 2011
Publisher: Avon
FTC: Received at RT 11

 I have really enjoyed this series in the past. There's quite a bit of humor, the characters are well done, and the writing is usually quite good. None of that is really missing from Vampire Mine, but this book just didn't work for me at all.

I probably should have realized going in that the angel romance wasn't going to work for me. I've read angel romances that have worked, but every one of those features angels as supernatural beings rather than spiritual ones. Not so here. In this book, Marielle the angel is every bit the angel of the Christian faith.

For someone who is not in the least bit religious—me— this book was way too full of religion and faith. And it might offend those on the opposite end of the spectrum, too, with the transformation of Marielle from a heavenly to an earthly creature.  For me, the religious references were way too prevalent, burying the romance beneath page after page of "heavenly host" information. I made it about halfway through before giving up.

My Grade: DNF


Review: A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry

Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: November 1, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks
FTC: ARC courtesy of the publisher

I am not a chick lit fan. I didn't like Bridget Jones or any of the other blockbusters of the genre. I'm just not a fan of stories mainly about self discovery. Especially if those stories feature someone painfully awkward, silly  or weak--which has been the norm for most of the chick lit books I've read.

There is, admittedly, some overlap between romance and chick lit. Women's fiction and chick lit often features a love story, and romance often has the heroine experience an emotional arc. But the focus is usually skewed in one direction. Megan Mulry's novel is one of the rare few to balance the expectations of both genres successfully. It works as both chick lit and romance. As a love story and a story about discovering inner strength.