May 8, 2013

Review: A Prior Engagement by Karina Bliss

Source: review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

I’ve said before that Karina Bliss is one of the best current Contemporary Romance authors, and this book is yet another proof of that. As is the case with all her novels, A Prior Engagement was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I’m happy to say that it lived up to all my expectations.

The book is the culmination in a series of not-so-loosely related book. It’s the fourth and final story, and although all the books stand alone well, you should perhaps read the previous one, Bring Him Home, first just to get a bit of background on the characters and their situation.

Juliet and Lee had a serious case of opposites attract: she was reserved, wary and somewhat uptight; he was impulsive and a bit careless. So it was only a surprise to Jules when, after a short courtship, he proposed. However, Jules was too afraid to make a mistake and rejected him. But soon after, Lee was killed in action, so when his friends and fellow team members, also dealing with their grief and the consequences of the attack, found the engagement ring and gave it to Jules, she took it without saying what happened. For months she dealt with her loss and developed a serious case of guilt when she became close friends with these men who welcomed her as part of the family.

Things get tricky when they discover that Lee wasn’t dead but had been kidnapped, and he’s finally free and coming home. He immediately realizes Jules’ deception, and in the confusion and anger decides to fake amnesia to teach her a lesson. At first he fools her, but once she realizes the truth, they must decide if they can give each other a second opportunity and if they are willing to rely on each other for help.

All the books in the series have been quite emotional in their portrayal of serious issues such as death, PTSD and cancer. The premise of this book takes it a bit further into far-fetched territory, but Ms. Bliss makes it work by showing the consequences of such a terrible ordeal, and for making the characters work at getting better. By doing that, she makes the story authentic and organic instead of manipulative, which is a fine line to walk, but she never crosses it. Also, no magical sexual healing, which, let’s face it, would happen in 99% of any other similar books out there.

Lee is a big part of the book, but it’s Jules’ story as much as his. Her journey is about emotional growth while grief and fear take over her life. Her issues with commitment, family and stability remain, but she’s forced to confront them under unique and incredibly stressful circumstances. I liked her very much, both as an individual and as part of a couple.

The first half of the book is very intense, because the focus is on Lee’s anger. And he is very angry. He remains that way throughout the book, but the recipients of that anger change, and so does the tone of the story. The second half is about Lee dealing with the physical and emotional consequences of his captivity. And throughout both halves we get a love story that’s about forgiveness and support.

The two clearly distinct parts of the book are mismatched. One is very angsty and filled with tension, whereas the other is milder in intensity, yet equally emotional, albeit for different reasons. And after such an emotional high, the final part, riveting in its own merits, ended up being anticlimactic. I would have liked to see the tension better distributed.

Previous characters have integral roles in the story and help move the plot forward. It makes perfect sense considering that Lee is the one character that brings closure to all of them. The one thing that I didn’t like is that at the end there was the reunion scene where all the characters had the opportunity to show just how happy they were, and I must say that I could have done without such a silly, unnecessary scene. It was completely out of place and way over the top; like a baby-less-logue; if that makes sense.

It’s not a perfect read, but I loved every angsty minute of it it. I highly recommend it to everyone, especially to those who like Romance high on the tension. Ms. Bliss can do gut-wrenching emotion like no one else out there, and if you haven’t read her books, you’re missing out.

Review by Brie
Grade: 4
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon (Currently priced at $3.82, which I think it's a great price)

He's back from the dead, on a new mission…because two can play her game!After two years as a POW presumed dead, SAS soldier Lee Davis is finally going home. Back to his family, friends and fiancée? He doesn't have a fiancée…the night before his last deployment, Juliet Browne rejected his proposal. That makes the sight of her playing the grieving almost-wife beyond infuriating. Feigning amnesia, Lee decides to put Juliet's "commitment" to the test. 
Yet tormenting her conscience isn't as easy as Lee thought it would be. Juliet's still the woman whose memory got him through the worst of his captivity and her actions now prove she cares—a lot. And despite her betrayal, he needs her more than ever. Because Lee is beginning to realize that for him, Juliet is home.
A Prior Engagement (Harlequin Superromance) by Karina Bliss
Harlequin. May 7, 2013


  1. I'm reading this right now and struggling a bit with the characters. While I totally understand and "get" why they are the way they are - they're both kinda asshats LOL. Jules for not being upfront with Lee after he returns from the dead and Lee for refusing to stop for two seconds and think about what it must have been like for Jules (she rejects him and then *poof* he's presumed dead - yeah that wouldn't mess with a girl's mind AT ALL!)

    But, I'm zipping right along in it and certainly the angst level is OMG OFF THE CHARTS (angst ho that I am). I'm hoping that things smooth out a bit more for me in the second half and I can stop waffling on how I'm going to grade it. It's teetering around C+/B- territory for me at the moment - just because I want to smack both characters so badly :)

  2. Heh! I know exactly what you mean, but I've been there, well, not *there* there, but I know all about having the guilt of what you did battle against the guilt of not saying what you did, and being unable to find the courage to just communicate and stop being a jerk. So, yeah, their actions didn't bother me at all. And also, I was too blinded by the delicious, insane angst to pay closer attention to their actions ;-)

    I don't know how far along you are, but things change in the second half, so maybe your opinion of Jules will improve. Lee... well, he's so, so angry, that dealing with it takes the whole book, but that's also why I liked the story so much; it felt realistic. I'm curious to see how you feel at the end, so let me know!

  3. Sounds interesting. I've read Ms Bliss before, but for some reasons, as much as she writes good book, she doesn't reach the auto-buy level for me. Actually, I haven't really been following her books at all :(


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