I have been an inconsistent blogger, but I have been a steady reader. Here are some thoughts on a few recent reads.
Source: Not all the books are review copies, but let’s assume they are.
This novella is a very good blend of Chick-Lit and a Harlequin Presents. It’s told from the heroine’s POV; a heroine who is a bit goofy and socially awkward, but instead of being an insecure mess, she’s a confident rocket scientist whose dresses have the misfortune of ripping open in front of people. The hero is an intense Italian hunk all brooding and disapproving, but not entirely overbearing. See? Chick-Lit + Harlequin Presents. It may not sound appealing, but the result is a charming and funny story that I highly recommend, even if I my issues with the price remain.
Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
We already know Ms. Morgan is good with novellas and category romance, but what about full-length novels? I’m glad to say that her single-title transition was as smooth as it gets.
I’m not a fan of holiday novels, but this one worked for me on every level. Not only that, but it made me feel like small-town contemporaries can be fresh and interesting when the author actually puts effort into her characters and doesn’t let the town and secondary characters overtake the story with their nauseating sugary cuteness.
There’s also a bit of a role reversal in that the heroine is the one who doesn’t want to commit, and the hero is the one who has to convince to take a chance on their relationship. Small-town heroines tend to be so sunny and happy, especially when we add Christmas to the mix, but this one was the opposite. Thank God!
My one complaint is that the hero gets into “I know what’s best for you” territory, which made me pause, but fortunately, his asshole ways didn't last long.
This is the new series to watch, and I know a few authors who could learn a thing or two from what Sarah Morgan does here.
Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh
The Guild Hunter series isn’t my favorite, and I thought Elena and Raphael had overstayed their welcome after book two, so I wasn’t eager to revisit them and the only reason why I read the book was because I’m invested in the world building.
I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the character grow Elena and Raphael showed both as individuals and as a couple, which made the reading experience quite pleasant.
Unfortunately, by the end of the book the humanization of Raphael took a step backwards. PNR has a power problem; its heroes tend to be infallible and indestructible, especially when they are old, something that makes them hot, but boring. And that is an issue I’ve always had with Raphael. But his relationship with Elena made him vulnerable and put him in touch with his long-forgotten humanity, which is perhaps the most interesting aspect of their romance and the one thing that made us fear for his life and safety. But the way the book ended, he now has a tool that makes him super powerful yet again, and although Elena remains his vulnerable spot, I’m no longer interested in his journey. The good news is that this series was never about him.
Kinked by Thea Harrison
After a wonderful debut, this series turned into a mixed bag. However, I must give kudos to Ms. Harrison, because all her heroines have been quite traditional and weaker than her heroes, so I never thought that Aryal, the most powerful and vicious female character in the series, would ever get her own book, but she did! Kudos, indeed.
I loved that the heroine was aggressive and powerful, and that these two traits were never downplayed to please an equally dominant hero. The conflict was not about a power struggle between them and he was very much attracted to her power. The problem was that beyond the physical attraction, that at times was more need than anything else, there was nothing really binding them together, and so I found the romance lacking.
The heroine is great, though.
Dragos Takes a Holiday by Thea Harrison
That awkward moment when you read a book where the baby has a POV and you like it! It’s all about fan service, but it was kind of fun. Don’t judge. And don’t read it unless you’re a fan of the series.
Striking Distance by Pamela Clare
This one didn’t have a baby’s POV, but at the rate Ms. Clare’s heroines give birth, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had one (or several). She has received criticism for that, though, and in a way, I felt like this book was the author responding to her critics. Needless to say, this heroine doesn’t quit her job in order to become a baby-making machine. In fact, it goes to (spoilery) places seldom seen in Romance.
It tells the story of a journalist who spends two years kidnapped by the Taliban and the Navy SEAL who rescues and loves her.
The bad news are that the main couple had no chemistry whatsoever, and that the evil Taliban women were really evil and no one in the book cared about them or their fate.
The book could have been good, but I kept seeing the authorial hand manipulating me, and the whole thing felt contrived and slightly off.
And when is Holy going to get her HEA? The sexually forward character has been present since book one, but she never gets her own book. At this point we have run out of pure, innocent, sexually-abused virgins, so it’s time for Holy to shine.
The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins
The heroine talks to her ovaries... and they talk back. That is all.*
*No it isn’t. There’s also slut-shaming. I should know better.
Unbound by Cara McKenna
Cara McKenna is one of my favorite authors, and in fact, her April release, After Hours, made it to my “Best of” list of the year. But I couldn’t finish Unbound for a couple reasons, the main one being that the heroine’s friends were jealous bitches. Sounds like a weird reason to DNF, but stay with me and you will (hopefully) understand.
The heroine, Merry, lost a lot of weight. A lot. And apparently she only had fat friends who remained fat and were unhappy about it. They disguise their unhappiness with the excuse that Merry because obnoxious after losing weight, but it’s clear that they are unhappy and envious. Because fat people are so miserable that they can’t stand their friends becoming thin. I can’t even.
The interaction with the friends is a minor occurrence in the book, but it left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. If we add a hero whose issues can’t possibly be resolved with just the help of the heroine, the result is a book I can’t finish.
A Righteous Kill by Kerrigan Byrne
Oh, the lure of the $0.99 sale. Most of the time is a deadly trap filled with terrible books.
The book is about a cranky FBI agent investigating a serial killer. When the killer’s latest victim turns out to be alive (because the dumb, fat police officer didn’t use his Fat Fingers of Diabetic Doom to properly check for a pulse) our hero has to pose as her lover in order to protect her.
The fat-shaming wasn’t the only reason why I stopped reading, there’s also insta-love that strikes when the poor heroine is naked and bleeding out (emphasis mine):
“Hey. Hey… shhhhh.” Luca gently grasped her slim wrists. “I know this hurts. But we have to stop the bleeding.” He positioned himself into her line of vision, hoping to block out all the chaos and faces and flashing lights. ”Look at me, sweetheart,” he crooned as her wide green gaze locked on his face.
She blinked rapidly, but stopped sobbing. She just trembled and stared, her tears mingling with the rain. The surrounding chaos immediately receded into darkness. Luca shivered again, but not because of the rain plastering his thin dress shirt to his body. As their eyes locked, some kind of cosmic puzzle piece snapped into place. The sensation that seized his chest with the force of an iron vice had words like fate and destiny chiseled into it.You can't make this shit up.
Luca is (rightly) annoyed when someone calls him a Mexican, because not all Latinos are Mexican and our hero is “half Euro-Brazilian, half Puerto Rican” (unlike Latinos, Europeans are all the same). But then he goes and uses the word “chingau” which I’m assuming is a misspelled “chinga” or “chingada”, a Mexican swear word, so I’m all confused.
Then we have the sequel-bait characters, all members of the heroine’s family. They are a bunch of overachievers that include a Navy SEAL and an Assistant District Attorney, not to mention her parents (or maybe grandparents): a Russian spy and an IRA terrorist.
And this is only the first chapter.
Sensuality: I don’t know.