Happy Hogmanay!

Quickie Review: A Most Scandalous Proposal by Ashlyn Macamara

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: March 2013
Publisher: Ballantine (Random House)
Length: 325 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received at RT, no idea where or when.

I'm not 100% certain this is a debut novel, but I *think* it is. If so, it's a fairly good one. A slightly better than average historical romance with strong, if entirely conventional, characters. I guess the title should have clued me in, since it's a throwaway one, but...eh.

Normally, I'm ALL ABOUT friends to lovers stories. Those are my catnip. Seriously. But this one just didn't really click for me. I really wanted more emotion, especially considering the two main characters have known each other forever. With that kind of shared history, there should be shared emotion, shared jokes, etc.

The "villain" isn't very villainous, just a dick, and there's a lot of confusing stuff about a $5000 bet/debt thing that I really just didn't understand. It could definitely have been more clear. There's a secondary romance, too, which felt like it took up far too much page time that could have been spent fleshing out the relationship between our hero and heroine.

There's a lot of potential here. The characters are mostly decent, the plot is ok. The writing is ok. What's missing is a strong voice, atmosphere, and emotion. Hopefully those will come with time.

The Blurb:
After watching her beloved sister Sophia pine over the ton’s Golden Boy for years, Miss Julia St. Claire has foresworn love and put herself firmly on the shelf. Unfortunately, her social-climbing mother and debt-ridden father have other ideas, and jump at the chance to marry Julia off to the newly-named Earl of Clivesden…the man of Sophia’s dreams.

Since resigning his Cavalry commission, Benedict Revelstoke has spent his time in London avoiding the marriage mart. But when he discovers that the Earl of Clivesden has set Julia in his sights, Benedict tries to protect his childhood best friend from the man’s advances—only to discover more than friendship driving his desire to defend her. He surprises them both with the force of his feelings, but when she refuses him and her father announces her betrothal, he fears he’s lost her forever—until Julia approaches him with a shocking scheme that will ruin her for all respectable society…

…and lead them into an exquisite world of forbidden pleasures


Ending the Malevolent Year on a Sour Note

I'm not sure 2017 will be any better than 2016, but I really haven't had the best year. Not only the horrible election results and massive loss of childhood idols, but just everything. Even this blog was neglected for months at a time while I dealt with real life obligations.

I was hopeful to end on a high note, but alas: news this week that Simon and Schuster is not only publishing a horrific internet troll, but also giving him a nice advance. There are calls for boycotting S&S and calls for not buying his specific book, but (as you'll notice by my not naming him) I think all that's doing is giving him publicity. And we all know that any publicity is good publicity. Or so it seems. So while I appreciate the outrage and sentiment, I won't be joining in the boycott. It will only hurt S&S authors, some of whom are Own Voices authors or have messages directly countering the crapfest that book is going to be. Rest assured, however, that our community of book people aren't the target audience for that hate filled garbage anyway, so we wouldn't be buying it. My only guess is that S&S are counting on the Trump voters to buy it. The only boycott I would like to see is one by bookstores refusing to carry it so he never earns out his advance and isn't offered another contract.

 Oh, and All Romance ebooks is closing with next to no notice, taking many readers' libraries and authors' royalties with it. This is a site that most people really liked and trusted. To see them steal from readers and authors like this is just so disheartening. I'm far too lazy to be anything but an Amazon girl, but this has reminded me that I really do need to figure out how to save my library somewhere. Although, truth be told, I've moved back to print for all but e-exclusives or novellas etc. I refuse to pay full print price for most of the Big 5 books, which, yes, was their strategy by pricing that way, but ... oh well.

The only bright spot for me is that I finally found a firm, confirmed release date for Elizabeth Peters's final book (finished by her friend, Joan Hess, after Peters passed away during revisions).  The Painted Queen comes out in hardcover and ebook on July 25th. I've heard rumblings that this takes place between Falcon at the Portal and He Shall Thunder in the Sky, but I haven't been able to confirm that. If so, it's an exciting choice, as those years are some of the most emotionally fraught of the series. If you haven't read the Amelia Peabody series yet, it begins with the Crocodile on the Sandbank. The books are pricey, but it's from the late 70s. There are plenty of used copies floating out there.

On an even more optimistic note *knocks on wood* it appears that I've reclaimed the lost blogging mojo at least temporarily. This post should bring me level with last year's post total, and I still have two more posts to go! Woohoo! I've missed this little blog, even when I just couldn't find anything to say.

Review: The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries (2015)

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: August 2015
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 373 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received for free at RT16 Convention

The Art of Sinning takes place within the expanded circle of characters from Jeffries' last series of novels, but is delightfully different. The hero is an American, an artist, and a widower—although that last part is a bit of a secret to all of his distant English relatives. The heroine is extremely tall, aristocratic, outspoken, and collects street cant for her slang dictionaries.

 The set up is a bit unusual, too, because there are multiple motivations going on: Jeremy Keane wants Yvette to model for his new painting. Yvette's brother wants a portrait done to help "sell" his sister's charms to potential suitors. Keane doesn't usually paint portraits, which leads to him scheming with Yvette to do TWO paintings (keeping the second a secret) in exchange for helping her with a potentially dangerous quest of her own. Complicated...and that's just the first few chapters.


Review: Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: March 2006
Publisher: Berkley Sensation (Penguin)
Length: 280 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: No idea, although my copy is used. Likely from a library book sale.

I'm not sure why I've never glommed Loretta Chase's books, but it just never happened. So, consequently, there's still a lot of backlist to explore. Digging (literally) through my piles of books in search of something to read, I discovered this slender novel. The spine was partially ripped, the pages yellowed. I had, somehow, never read it. I didn't even realize I owned it.

I'm on the 'love' side of the Lord of Scoundrels debate. I adore that book. Others  I've read by Chase were more forgettable. This kind of falls in the middle: cute, well done, but not amazing.


Review: Wicked in Your Arms by Sophie Jordan

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: August 2011
Publisher: Avon
Length: 355 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received from the author at an RT convention (no idea which one)

I will be the first to say that this book should not work. It should be the silliest thing on the darn planet. It's a ridiculous fairy tale with a ridiculous plot that's not very suspenseful at all. But darn it, I read the entire thing in one sitting. I'm still not sure what happened.


Review: Flirting with Fire by Kate Meader

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: April 2015
Publisher: Pocket (Simon and Schuster)
Length: 376 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: won as a prize at RT15 (free courtesy of the author)

My mission for the latter half of 2016 was to a) get back to reading and b) get back to blogging while c) reading books mostly from my TBR. While I managed to read, my blogging has been a bit lackluster. I'm happy to report, though, that I've mostly been able to stick with books that are already in my house (except for a few, rare auto-buy authors). My husband is ecstatic to see the pile get whittled even a little bit.

I'm a character-centric reader rather than a plot driven one, but one thing that I've been missing, that's been lost as imprints and publishers have consolidated over the last few years, is a wide variety of strong, distinct voices in romance. In many, many cases, *cough Avon cough* authors are "house-styled" into all sounding the same. Not the case with Kate Meader. Wowza does she have a strong, edgy voice...and this series is the perfect vehicle for it. Chicago firemen. A big, rowdy family. Enthusiastic sex. I broke my own rule for this series and bought the 3rd book (in e, so Hubs didn't see it)  that wasn't in my TBR so I could finish it out. It's that good.


Review: The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

Format: mass market
Pub Date: October 2016
Publisher: Avon
Length: 361 pages
POV: 3rd
FTC: Purchased myself

The Trouble with Mistletoe is very much a holiday novel, both in the outward trappings of Christmas as well as the notion of forgiveness and an open heart.

For those unfamiliar with Jill Shalvis, she writes funny, sexy contemporaries that are packaged a bit like Debbie Macomber or Silhouette Special Editions, but are in no way similar. Don't be fooled. Her men (and women) are very much contemporary, so expect some bad language and steam. (Not really fond of her covers, although these are better than the headless torsos with random animals... Anyhoo...moving on.)


Review: Wild Darkness by Lauren Dane

Format: Mass Market paperback
Pub Date: November 2013
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Length: 277 plus glossary
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received for free at an RT Convention.

Given my current head space post-election, this was probably THE WORST book to read. Really. It's a paranormal romance, sorta, set in the middle of a political war where the US government is considering trying to strip anyone with paranormal characteristics of their citizenship and shipping them off to camps or exterminating them. Hate crimes and bigotry abound.

Yeah. Definitely the wrong book for right now, but I finished it anyway.

This is apparently part of a series, and although I've read plenty of other Lauren Dane books, I hadn't stumbled across these before. The series part is a tad important, because this book drops you pretty much in the middle of everything: political and civil unrest, relationships, etc. The backstory is pretty thin, so it feels like you've missed a bunch of set up. Because you have.

Another weird thing about the book is that the romance is secondary and almost-but-not-quite-fated-mate fast. I mean, we're told the two main characters have known each other awhile, but there is so little page time devoted to the relationship that it just feels odd. Also, the conflict is completely external in the book, so the relationship goes from zero to married by midway through the book. Which is, well, weird.


Review: The Seduction of Scandal by Cathy Maxwell

Format: mass market paperback
Pub Date: Sept 2011
Publisher: Avon
Length: 375 pages
POV: 3rd
FTC: Not sure if I paid for it or not, but from RT12 and signed by the author

I used to read Cathy Maxwell all of the time, but she's fallen off of my reading radar in the last several years.

This is a book that could have been excellent. I'd have loved it to either have a grittier take on the highwayman or a humorous take on the whole highwayman/reverend dichotomy. Alas, it does neither, and leaves itself to dwell in the land of Avon Homogeneity.


TBR Challenge Review: Baby, It's Cold Outside

Format: mass market
Pub Date: November 2014
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 534 pages
POV: Various (including 1 first, past and 1 first, present)
FTC: Received for free from an RT convention

I'm finally digging into my RT Convention TBR again, and this time, I pulled out a holiday book just in time for...the holidays (and the TBR challenge)! (This never happens).

This one is a BIG anthology filled with contemporary romance novellas. Some by authors I've read before, some by new-to-me authors. And as with most anthologies, some were better than others.

Baby, It's Cold Outside  has five stories by five different authors: Jennifer Probst, Emma Chase, Kristen Proby, Melody Anne, and Kate Meader. Of those, I've only ever read Kate Meader before.


Review: Under the Lights by Shannon Stacey

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: June 2015
Publisher: Jove/Penguin Random House
Length: 278 pages
POV: 3rd
FTC: Received at an RT Convention

First, let me say that I've been a fan of Shannon Stacy for awhile. At least back to her first title with Carina way back when. 6 years ago? more? I can't remember. Second, I'm not a sports fan. At. All. I'm not bragging about it, just making it clear that I'm reading this book as a non-sports person, so any errors or inside jokes are completely lost on me.

As for Under the Lights? Well...it's short. Almost category length, or at least it felt that way. Which, of course, limits what you're going to see on-page. We get a lot of time in the hero's head. A lot of introspection. We get less time with the heroine, and I'm not really sure if she ever felt fully fleshed out. She's divorced, was cheated on, and now works as a cop in the small town she grew up in. But I never really felt like we got inside her head.

There are a whole host of secondary characters here, some we get significant time with and some we really don't. I know there is sequel bait sprinkled everywhere, but many of the secondary characters were just...boring. I wasn't interested in learning their stories.

Also, to whoever decided that fund-raiser is hyphenated: NO. STOP IT ALREADY. I know Merriam has it hyphenated, but out in the real world, that compound word has no hyphen. NONE. I can't express how much that bugged me. And since the book's premise is based on a fundraiser, it was EVERYWHERE. /end shouting.

Overall, this was a sweet story about a quirky, run down small town, that is quick to read. It's not going to move you greatly, but it might entertain you for a couple of hours.  I've read far better, more emotional books by this author.

My Grade: C+

The Blurb:
They were the golden boys of fall: Stewart Mills High School’s legendary championship winning football team. Fourteen years later, they’re back to relive their glory, save the team—and find themselves again…

Chase Sanders’s life has taken a lot of crazy turns lately. But returning to his hometown to help his old coach keep his high school football team afloat might be the craziest thing to happen to him yet. That is, until he starts falling for the last person he should—Coach’s gorgeous daughter…

Kelly McDonnell learned the hard way that cocky, charming men are nothing but trouble, so she knows Chase is bad news. Still, she can’t resist his smile—or the rest of him. But when his loyalty to her father conflicts with their growing attraction, any hope for a relationship might be blocked before it can even begin…