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    • dick
      Participant
      Post count: 3

      I should have done this, I guess before that last post . Better late than never?

      I just finished Goodman’s “A Touch of Frost.” It’s typical Goodman far, although not a tour de force by any means. The movement through the growing attraction between the hero Remington Frost and the heroine, Phoebe Apple (a bit cute for the name, IMO, but Goodman’s prerogative) is almost too smooth for a Goodman romance. The secondary romance between her sister (former actress) and Thaddeus Frost , Remington’s father, retains the typical kinds of trouble faced by Goodman’s pairs–suspicion, attempted infidelity, and other equally questionable urges. And in addition, problem exist between step-momma and stepson. Still, the dialogue sparkles, more than I recall occurring in prior Goodman books. Her dialogue is always good, but this dialogue has an added verve to it. Most will enjoy reading it, I think.

    • dick
      Participant
      Post count: 3

      The other book I finished recently was Lisa Black’s “You May Kiss the Bride.” This book had a pretty good, if rather standard premise, but the author didn’t do as good a job with it as she could have. And as the book continued, it became more and more difficult to continue reading. By the end the author was so unwilling to end the book that there must be about four sections of what should be epilogue. I kept thinking, for god’s sake shut it down!

    • Kay
      Participant
      Post count: 40

      Dick your comment about the author not able to wrap up the ending to her book made me laugh. I have definitely felt that way before. Kristin Ashley is another example of long endings. I got the sample for Jo Goodman’s book but am wondering if there is one that comes before it that I should read first?

      I just finished Grace Burrowes new book, His Lordship’s True Lady. The story sucked me in but I felt a little lost with all of the characters involved in the story, some from past books that I had forgotten about. The story has Hessian (his name made me think of boots) who is a widow that inherits a girl from neighbors along with her brothers. Hessian decides to marry again so they have a mother. The story focused a lot on Daisy, the girl, but barely mentioned the boys. There is a mystery to unravel involving the h, Lily. I enjoyed this story and it makes me want to go back and reread The Heir.

    • Blackjack
      Participant
      Post count: 48

      A Touch of Frost, Jo Goodman (B-) – I enjoyed the first half of this book quite a bit but felt that the second half really lost steam. It lost so much steam for me, in fact, that it took me weeks to read what should have been days, hence the lower grade. That is unusual for a Jo Goodman book.

      In the first half, Phoebe is a likeable young woman traveling on a train from New York City to Colorado to visit her sister who is newly married to a much older man. Phoebe realizes en route that a very attractive man on the train appears to be watching her, but she is intrigued more than worried. However, before readers can wonder if the story is about a man stalking a single woman traveling alone, everything abruptly switches gear as the train comes to a screeching halt and is hijacked by bandits. I like that Goodman keeps throwing the readers off balance and this is a novel where in medias res works well to keep us guessing about the plot. By the end of the first half, it would seem almost as if Act I had been wrapped up. Remington Frost (what a name!), the incognito man, is a hero rather than stalker, and he manages to save the heroine, who did, alas, need saving despite her resourcefulness. The two banter their way to Phoebe’s sister’s ranch, where Remington is coincidentally also heading. It turns out that Remington is the son of the older man and had been on an appointed mission to see Phoebe to safety.

      The second half of the novel felt far less coherent. The bandits are still on the loose, but who are they and why did they want to kidnap Phoebe? The answer was surprisingly disappointing and even a bit uninteresting. Fiona and Thaddeus present a potentially interesting secondary romance though I would have liked to have seen more from them to explain how they ended up together. Ffiona is withholding a huge secret that also did not satisfy me and felt distracting. My biggest disappointment with the second half though is due largely to the lack of a deep romance between Phoebe and Remington. Their banter is fun but I felt that they jumped from banter to love far too quickly. Too much of the novel is mired in the bandits’ back story, Fiona’s secrets, the housekeeper’s secrets, and then Phoebe’s secret past life.

      I will add too that the theme of rape felt so odd in this book. Phoebe reveals early in the novel to Remington that she is a surviving rape victim. And she was not raped just once but multiple times from different men! The situations that led to her rape are never really explained or relevant to the current plot, and this plot is quickly discarded after Remington expresses horror and sadness and they hug it out. Then Phoebe moves on to enjoy a healthy sexual relationship with her new lover. That did not ring true for me, and it surprised me in a Goodman book as she is an author who does not shy away from exploring trauma in depth. Why was it even here?

      Overall, a fairly mediocre read for me.

    • JaneO
      Participant
      Post count: 3

      One of the things I like about Jo Goodman’s books, including A Touch of Frost, is the heroes. They are strong and protective without being smothering. They want the heroines to be strong, and they encourage that strength. They don’t confuse the miseries that were inflicted on the heroines with the heroines themselves, and they have enough faith in the heroines to believe they will not just survive but overcome those miseries.

      That said, I also like her recent westerns in part because they aren’t quite as dark as the regencies, like the Compass Club series, were.

    • Blackjack
      Participant
      Post count: 48

      I like Goodman’s heroes very much too and find her to be an author very sensitive to how men and women function as a couple.

      I agree too that her westerns are not as “dark” as her regency novels. However, the theme of rape in A Touch of Frost felt weird to me. Why was it there at all if she wasn’t going to develop it or show how it impacts the heroine. How was Phoebe able to survive multiple rapes without any repercussions, including in her ability to thrive in a new and exciting sexual relationship? Usually, Goodman develops these themes well, but in this book, it felt tacked on so that she could include her trademark sexual trauma plot without doing the hard work of developing it. It didn’t work for me here in this one.

    • JaneO
      Participant
      Post count: 3

      Still on A TOUCH OF FROST, I think it’s the fact that Phoebe was prepared to kill the second rapist the next time he came near her that made me think she wasn’t destroyed by the experience. She didn’t have to kill him because he had died anyway, but she was ready to fight back. I think that’s important—she isn’t a victim because she doesn’t think of herself s a victim. She’s done a lot to heal herself before she ever sets out on her journey west.
      She possesses sophrosyne, and the rapists cannot truly touch her. I hope I’m not sounding pretentious here, but what is done to her body cannot truly touch her essence. I think this is a theme in any of Goodman’s books.

      • Blackjack
        Participant
        Post count: 48

        Yeah, I agree that Phoebe’s a strong person and her past has not destroyed her. What didn’t ring quite true for me is how quickly she was able to be happily sexual with Remington without any issues emerging at all. Sexual trauma is a repetitive theme in Goodman’s writing and she usually spends significant time on the issue in her books, whereas here it popped up and then vanished just as quickly. I actually kept waiting for it to be discussed and explained more right to the end.

    • Blackjack
      Participant
      Post count: 48

      Beauty and the Mustache, Penny Reid (A) Although Beauty and the Mustache does not displace Dating-ish as my favorite book in the Knitting in the City series, it is right up there. It’s also quite different from the others in tone and setting, but like all the others, Reid constructs an organic story that feels unique and perfectly suited for the two main characters here.

      Ashley Winston has built a very nice life for herself as a pediatric nurse in Chicago that includes close friends who have become her chosen family after having abandoned her biological family in Tennessee many years early. As the story begins, Ashley is reluctantly arriving back in her small hometown to see her mother after learning that she has been suddenly hospitalized. She receives a lukewarm reception from her six brothers who, we quickly learn, have missed her but have also felt hurt by her failure to return for visits over the years. Very early into the novel, Ashley discovers that her mother is dying of cervical cancer. The fact that she is only 47 was a particularly sobering moment for me. Much of the first half of the novel revolves around her mother’s dying and Ashley’s caretaking, and having lost my mother at a young age, I admit to tearing up frequently. The mother-daughter bonding scenes are poignant and lovely and terribly sad to read. Despite their physical separation over the past ten years, it turns out that Ashley and her mother spoke daily on the phone, and very importantly to the plot of this novel, that the mother extolled her pride in her “Ash” by talking her up frequently to a beloved family friend, Drew Runous. Much to Drew’s chagrin, he has become caught up in the stories of the wonderful “Ash” without ever once realizing that this person is actually a woman. The realization for him provides some early funny moments, but they also provide some deeply romantic ones as Drew struggles to temper his long-held admiration and respect for this missing figure in his life with his strong attraction to the young beauty. “Ash” as an imaginary man was an enigmatic figure who Drew just knew would become an instant friend and important person in his life, therefore the return of Ash, the former beauty queen, is enormously unsettling for him. I have to admit that I really liked this particular storyline because it creates much complexity to the instant love/attraction more typical in romances. It also bemuses Ashley that Drew seems to know her and understand her despite having just met her.

      Drew is, I think, meant to be another eccentric Reid character, but he felt very clear to me. He is on the surface a grumpy hero, which I tend to love. Underneath his quietness and at times persnickety-ness, as Ashley calls it, he is quite deep. He’s highly educated and prone to being a deep reader and thinker. He eschews casual sex and superficiality of all kinds in life, but he also decides very early that he needs to keep his feelings for Ashley somewhat submerged. It’s impossible to read this story without appreciating greatly just how worthy Drew is for his selflessness and willingness to be there for Ashley in any way that she needs. He understands fully that the loss of her mother is devastating and he decides quickly that he will be her rock.

      Drew’s much-needed strength and support for Ashley leads to the other emotional storyline that turned me into quite a teary reader. Ashley has debilitating self-esteem issues from her childhood in a small town where she is the daughter of a low-life rake. Her father abandoned the entire family when she was a teenager, but not before wreaking havoc on all of them in different ways. With Ashley, the havoc is of a sexual nature and some of the scenes where Ashley is recalling how much she has allowed herself to accept views of herself as a “pretty face” and “disposable piece of ass” for men really affected me. So many young women imbibe sexist images and perspectives, and Ashley’s childhood stories hit a nerve.

      The romance here is a lovely one. I could find small details that didn’t work as well as I wanted, but I’m not going to bother because the overall story here is a powerful one and I loved it. Added bonus for the introduction of the Winston bros and their separate and wonderful series of books.

    • Kay
      Participant
      Post count: 40

      I recently read Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean. I agree with Caz’s review and comments about this book. The story of Malcolm and Sera was like a soap opera, definitely over the top. In the Rogue Not Taken (Sophie’s story) we see Malcolm in a compromising position and in The Day of the Duchess their story is told. I don’t know if I recommend this one unless a reader likes a lot of angst. I thought it was a little repetitive and there was always some obstacle that kept them from talking to each other but I was hooked into the story.

      I also read a novel, Chemistry, by Weike Wang. I love science so I could really relate to the thoughtful science trivia interspersed through the story. It is a shorter book written in an unusually format with short sentences and paragraphs. I even found myself laughing out loud in a few places. I just realized the main character is not given a name! When the story begins she is a Chemistry graduate student working in a lab and living with a wonderful guy, Eric who proposes to her. She has a dog, best friend with a baby and also struggles with her relationship with her parents who are Chinese immigrants. She falls apart and rediscovers herself. I saw it recommended in Entertainment Weekly. This reminded of an older book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

      What are you reading?

    • Blackjack
      Participant
      Post count: 48

      I have Day of the Duchess on my list of books to read this month. I read Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake a few years ago and did not like it at all. I still want to give Sarah Maclean another chance and this one sounded good. Generally, I like angst in romances, and so I’m hoping I like it.

    • msaggie
      Participant
      Post count: 4

      Over the summer I read the second and third books of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, White Hot and Wildfire. Both were excellent. I would recommend them highly – but start with the first book Burn For Me, as this series is best read chronologically. I am a great fan and have read all her books. These books read like an action movie romance, with sarcastic rejoinders and there are some laugh out loud moments. The world is a parallel of our own, except that their society is shaped by families with magical power. It is set in Houston, and with the recent Hurricane Harvey, one of the scenes in the third book is particularly evocative. The book was written before the hurricane though, and one wishes there was such magic to tone down the destruction. Ilona Andrews has said in her blog that there will be at least another book – if they don’t get another contract for the continuation of the series, they aim to publish it themselves.

    • Kay
      Participant
      Post count: 40

      This week the new Kirsten Ashley came out, The Time in Between, with Coert and Cady. Cady moves to a light house in Maine where her old flame, Coert is the sheriff. I thought it was sweeter than her usual. I was about 70% through when I wondered what could be left in the story because it seemed all wrapped up. I should have known it had a mega epilogue even tying into the Rock Chick books.

      I also read the new Eric Watts Royals book, Fallen Heir, which is about Easton, now a senior in high school and alcoholic. It ends with a huge cliffhanger and we have to wait until January 2018 for closure (Cracked Kingdom). I’m not big on cliffhangers and I liked When Its Real better (not part of the Royal series).

      Tessa Dare’s, The Duchess Deal was enjoyable. I liked the wounded war hero and Emma the seamstress and vicar’s daughter that was estranged from her father.

      I read Emma Chase’s new one Royally Endowed and laughed. I really like her humor. This series is about some princes from a make believe country. Royally Endowed is about a bodyguard and sister of a princess. I had not read the book before it in the series and I thought it stood alone pretty well. Now I’m going back to read Royally Matched which is a take-off of the Bachelor Realty Show.

      A while back I read Too Scot to Handle by Grace Burrowes. Colin is a retired Captain and younger brother to a Duke who helps Anwen, a Windham daughter with funding for a foundling home. I enjoyed the first part of the story but then I lost interest as family members from previous books started appearing all over the place.

      I’m wondering what everyone’s favorite books are so far this year? I’m starting to put my list together.

    • Blackjack
      Participant
      Post count: 48

      It’s already September and there are only a few months left for 2017 new releases! Of the books that came out this year that I’ve read, Penny Reid’s Dating-ish is still my favorite. Lucy Parker’s Pretty Face is a close runner up and then Meredith Duran’s A Lady’s Code of Conduct.

      Before the end of the year, I still plan to read Sherry Thomas’s A Conspiracy in Belgravia which is getting stellar reviews everywhere, Alisha Rai’s Hate To Want You, Loretta Chase’s A Duke in Shining Armor, Penny Reid’s Nobody Looks Good in Leather Pants, and Courtney Milan’s After the Wedding (woefully past its due date now).

      • Kay
        Participant
        Post count: 40

        I see Goodreads has started their voting for the year’s best books. I wrote in Dating-ish. There are only two days left to vote in this round. It always amazes me how many books I have never heard of in their polls. It is fun to get new ideas of books to read so I’m looking forward to seeing the results after this round.

    • Blackjack
      Participant
      Post count: 48

      I wrote in Dating-ish too on the Goodreads poll!

    • Amanda
      Participant
      Post count: 12

      I was torn about what to vote for Best Romance. White Hot is absolutely one of my favorite books this year, but I consider Ilona Andrews’ books more ‘fiction with romance elements.’ Having said that, White Hot is the most…romance-y of that series. So I can see classifying it as romance. I ended up voting for it since it was genuinely one of my favorites this year and I have become a diehard Ilona Andrews devotee over the past few months. I debated possibly writing in another book (possibly Take the Lead by Alexis Daria because I loved the hero so much and it was so unique?), but I couldn’t make up my mind.

    • msaggie
      Participant
      Post count: 4

      I just read a lovely romance with mild fantasy elements (telekinesis), The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which was recommended initially by The Book Smugglers. It’s a bit like a regency romance with its rules and stilted manners, but the families (and names) are more reminiscent of aristocratic colonial France. The villain is full of spite but is also pitiful. The hero and heroine are very human in their insecurities, but their journey through love, though at times painful, is very worthwhile to follow. It is beautifully written, and I recommend it highly.

    • stl-reader
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      Okay, it’s fall, but I don’t want to start a new thread just for the remainder of 2017…

      I’m halfway through Joanna Shupe’s A Daring Arrangement. I hope the second half is better than the first half, because I’m really disappointed with the characters and the plot so far! The heroine is 20 but acts more like she’s 15. The hero, age 30, sees the heroine’s immaturity/impulsiveness/rashness (which almost leads to them both being seriously injured or worse) as “courageous” and “brave.” The “daring arrangement” that drives the novel seems a little wishy-washy (or maybe the word is “clumsy”) in its execution.

      It’s been a really tedious read so far, but hopefully the author will turn it around. I really loved her book Baron.

      • Kay
        Participant
        Post count: 40

        Maybe we can start one that just says Recently Read and skip the seasons:)

        I read the new Kristen Ashley, Complicated, about a sheriff in NE and a hairdresser/lounge singer. I would rate it up near the top of her books. I have been reading some anthologies because I am shorter on time and it gets harder to enjoy a novel when I can only read short chunks at a time. No standouts in the anthologies. I read my first John Green book, Turtles all the way Down for book club about a teen learning to manage OCD as well as solve a missing persons mystery. Its a meaty book with lots to discuss.

    • stl-reader
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      Okay, so I finished Joanna Shupe’s A Daring Arrangement. Sadly, it remained a hot mess for me right up to the end. If you asked me to grade it, I’d give it a C, I suppose.

      I really liked the setting of the book–New York City during the late 19th century. But everything else (the plot, the characters, the writing), I found annoying and boring and unoriginal. YMMV

    • Kay
      Participant
      Post count: 40

      STL I had to look up what YMMV meant, Your Mileage May Vary. That sounds very fitting.

      • Kay
        Participant
        Post count: 40

        I am happy to share I read some awesome books this week. First, a new historical by Grace Burrowes, No Other Duke Will Do. I hadn’t heard anything about it and the other Windham books in the series didn’t grab me but this one did and I also am excited for the next one in the series, A Rogue of Her Own, March 2018. No Other DWD takes place at a house party at Julian St. David, Duke of Haverford’s castle. He is heavily in debt to his neighbor and is trying to marry off his sister. his sister is trying to marry off Julian. There are some great secondary characters and some good twists. I am very excited for the next in this series.

        Another nice story was the new Mary Balogh, Someone to Wed. The h has a port stain birthmark and the H needs funds. They come to an agreement and I liked it more than I thought I would. The H is sweet and they have a classic Balogh waltz scene. I am really looking forward to the next one in this series, Someone to Care, coming out May 1st, that has an older couple.

    • Blackjack
      Participant
      Post count: 48

      I won an advanced reading copy of Deanna Raybourn’s third Veronica Speedwell historical mystery/romance, A Treacherous Curse, due out in January. Getting close to the end and really enjoying it. It’s a good old-fashioned mummy curse mystery and has been the perfect holiday book this weekend. I was a big fan of Raybourn’s Lady Julia mystery/romance books and am enjoying her new Veronica Speedwell series just as much.

      • Kay
        Participant
        Post count: 40

        Blackjack, The mummy curse mystery sounds quite fun. I look forward to it.
        A duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase was my fun read this week. It’s a road trip adventure with Lady Olympia, a runaway bride, and Ripley, best friend of the groom. I am a huge fan of Loretta Chase’s books so this was like an early Christmas present. I liked both lead characters and the humor. I look forward to the next book in the series, especially the Duke of Blackwood’s story, with Ripley’s sister. They are already married but appear to be having trouble. I don’t know if Ms. Chase has done a marriage in trouble story before.

    • Blackjack
      Participant
      Post count: 48

      I’m reading the Loretta Chase book right now and really like it. I don’t think Chase has done a marriage-in-trouble book before and so like you I’m excited to see her branch out. She doesn’t generally write angsty books, but I’m certain she could do this well. I too am looking forward to Blackwood’s book. Fingers crossed it comes out in 2018!

    • Sandlynn
      Participant
      Post count: 92

      Just finished Rowena MacDonald’s The Threat Level Remains Severe, published in 2017. The book is not a romance, although the first third of the book does fool one into thinking we are going to be following a romantic relationship, albeit one between two people who may not be totally likable.

      Threat Level reminds me slightly of Barbara Pym’s Quartet in Autumn, only not all the characters are towards the end of their work life or are even working in the same office. Instead, in MacDonald’s story, we first begin to follow three people who are all committee staff for two different committees in the House of Lords and the House of Commons in the U.K. Parliament. They are basically functionaries assisting MPs and Lords in their daily business. (And, as someone who works in Washington, I related a great deal to their feelings about their work and their sense of never-ending tedium beneath the alleged “excitement” of politics.) The majority of time is spent with Grace Ambrose a 30 year old who staffs the Commons’ Economic Scrutiny Committee. She’s been at this job for years, which has lost all its luster, and is stuck in its boring comfort. Late twenties, Brett Beamish, arrives to work for the Committee and shakes things up with his work ethic, ambition, and calculated upbeat attitude. Beamish, originally from Australia, has been making his way, one stepping stone at a time, gaining experience and hoping for that ultimate position of power and money. In the first third of the book we see him shake up Grace’s office and watch them circle each other.

      Added to this situation is a third character. Grace hasn’t been in a relationship for some time and longs for a man with an artist’s heart, someone as far from a functionary or a political go-getter as possible. Lo and behold, she begins receiving anonymous emails from a man who has been admiring her. Someone who says he, too, works for Parliament. He seems to be exactly what she’s looking for. He’s an aspiring musician, who writes poetry. Eventually, he reveals his name: Reuben Swift, and Grace and he finally plan to meet — despite the fact that Brett Beamish has started to become less of an annoyance and more of a distraction for her.

      The second third of the book focuses on Grace’s email-sending admirer. We learn who he really is, where he works, and what his life is actually like. We also see his side of the conversation that he begins with Grace and how he responds to her increasing curiosity.

      The last third of the book reveals the truth to all, and deals with the unexpectedly serious fall-out of Grace’s interactions with both Beamish and her admirer. As I said, this is not a romance but everyone does get an ending that is — for them — happy, although I did think Grace’s came a bit out of nowhere.

      For those of you looking for something a bit different to read, as a palate-cleanser, this book might be the thing for you.

    • stl-reader
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      I recently read The Lady in Red by Kelly Bowen. For a novella–a genre that usually doesn’t work for me–it was very good. I’d give it a B. It would be B+, but the author did something with the heroine at the end that knocked off the + part of the rating.

      There is a small spoiler in here, for those who want to avoid them. Not sure if I can use an html spoiler tag, so I’ll warn you now.

      What I liked:

      –The interesting plot. Lady Charlotte Beaumont is determined to be a painter, and a painter who paints more than just the demure little paintings of roses and such that society would confine a lady to painting. This novella tells how she achieves her artistic aims by disguising herself as a man. (That’s not a spoiler–it’s in the publicity blurb.) I thought the “woman disguised as a man” trope was successful in this instance, and the story, overall, worked from beginning to end. I never lost interest.

      –The heroine, who I think is in her early 20s, is determined, confident in her art, and pretty unruffled and low-key for a great deal of the story. She is refreshingly different from so many of your usual historical romance heroines.

      What I did not like:

      –Once the jig is up, and Flynn (the hero) realizes that “Charlie” is a woman, insta-love rears its ugly head. And for a short while the love story veers off into by-the-numbers territory. Fortunately, the story gets back on track before long, as far as the overall adventure goes.

      –Near the end of the novella, Charlie laments that she failed to reinvent and redeem herself as she had hoped to. Oh, sure, her masterful artwork was a success. She has another assignment and no doubt a bright future. But see, she is a failure because her relationship with Flynn failed. Flynn dumped her due to a lie she told (or rather, a withholding of some information on her part), but which she was totally justified in telling!

      At least, that’s my interpretation of why she felt she was a failure. Did I misunderstand why Charlie ended up so down on herself? Was it because of something other than her failed relationship?

      Anyway, that is why I knocked the plus sign off my rating for this book. (It was going to be B+.) Charlie’s sudden willingness to base her self-worth, her sense of her value, on a man’s opinion of her did not fit with the woman we came to know earlier. Plus, it was really Flynn’s own shortcomings that forced Charlie to withhold a bit of information about herself. It’s problematical as to whether they would have been able to successfully complete their assignment, had Charlie revealed the withheld information.

      TBH, Bowen just about ruined the novella for me by turning Charlotte from a strong, courageous woman into your run-of-the-mill “I’m nothing without a man” heroine. Still the rest of the story was worth a B rating. YMMV

    • stl-reader
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      Just finished The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles. Here are my initial impressions, though I might revise them after thinking about the book a little more.

      Let me start by saying that I love Charles’ Society of Gentleman series. I’ve reread the quartet of books–the quadrilogy?–numerous times. A Gentleman’s Position was my favorite read for 2017. Possibly this decade.

      But I did not really much like The Magpie Lord. Just generally, the world building seemed a little too on-the-fly, with new powers and explanations appearing as the plot demanded (the same gripe I had with Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series, where I finally gave up trying to understand the paranormal aspect). A lot of events, some unneeded (dying horses, anyone?) were thrown into a little over 200 pages. Could have done with tighter editing, in that respect.

      My main problem, though, was that I felt like I was reading an adult-teen relationship, not a relationship between two grown men. Moreover, while the “adult” was attractive and elegant, the teen wasn’t even particularly attractive or healthy looking. I was uncomfortable with this relationship and could not understand Crane’s quickly developed attraction to Day. Unless Crane likes teen-age boys, I guess, since IMO, that’s what Stephen basically looks like.

      Now, Crane is in his mid-30s. 37, maybe? And while Stephen Day tells us he is 28 (and at one point they are kissing and “stubble scraped against stubble,” so we know he grows some sort of beard), look at the other descriptions of Stephen throughout this book:

      • “Short, for one thing, barely five feet tall, narrow shouldered, significantly underweight, hollow-cheeked. He had reddish-brown hair cut unfashionably close…”
      • “Crane stroked his fingers possessively over the small chin. “You really do. Lovely boy.”” (This is when Stephen tells him, and the reader, “I’m twenty-eight.”)
      • “…starveling frame, his thin, pale, worried face and horribly short hair…”
      • “He looked very young, sleep smoothing out the worry lines round his eyes. He also looked very small and ver thin. He resembled a schoolboy, not a magician or a protector.”

      What healthy 30-something man wants to have sex with someone who looks like a starving child?

      I imagine KJ Charles would be aghast that anyone would see the relationship this way, as I don’t think this is what she had in mind at all. After all, she ensures that we know that Stephen is 28. Plus, he’s a magician with weird powers–one step away from being a supernatural being, perhaps, right? In which case, he could theoretically look like a sprite or a leprechaun or an elf and be strangely attractive to an average human like Crane. This would not be the first paranormal romance where that happened.

      But for me, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then I’m going to think of it as a duck. So the romance did not work for me.

      I will say one thing about other posts I’ve read that decry the book on the grounds that Crane is engaging in sexual activities with Day presumably against the smaller man’s will. I disagree completely. It’s made very clear in the book–including during conversations between Crane and Day–that Stephen Day could easily overcome any manhandling by Crane any time he wanted to, using his practitioner powers. He could harm Crane if he chose to. So there is no imbalance of power here, as some posters claim. The thing is, Day wants to be dominated, and Crane knows it, and Day loves that Crane “gets” him, that is, that Crane can see that Day loves being overpowered, that it arouses him. At no time did I feel that there was any real non-consent. That’s just my opinion.

      As always, YMMV

    • stl-reader
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      Has anyone read Christine Feehan’s latest–Judgment Road? It’s the first Feehan book I’ve read (I know she has a huge following), and it may be my last. If you love ultra-damaged uber-alpha motorcycle club member-and-also-spy males, this might be your catnip. Me, I would rate this book, at best, C-.

      The story involves a super-controlling alpha male (“Reaper”) and a female doormat (“Anya”). Anya gets tangled up with Reaper’s club, Torpedo Ink, and specifically with Reaper. The club members, almost all incredibly damaged characters who all protect each other and consider themselves a family, initially mistrust Anya but eventually embrace her. Anya, who had her own effed-up childhood and is currently trying to evade potential trouble from an outside source, is attracted to the idea of having a family, even if that family is a motorcycle club full of questionable characters.

      Reaper is almost immediately super attracted to Anya. She also finds him really hot. They get into a relationship right away. He completely controls her in the relationship and she allows it. Reaper loves that he can “take” Anya whenever he feels like, and he wants tattoos of his fingerprints around her wrists, to show his ownership. Strangely, I did not find the latter as charming as Anya did.

      Not surprisingly, Reaper speaks Caveman, a language I first ran across in the book Motorcycle Man. His verbal interactions with Anya consist primarily of things like “You’re f***ing beautiful” (his go-to statement),”This relationship ends when I say it ends” and “You shouldn’t wear a bra. You shouldn’t wear anything.” You know, insightful stuff like that.

      Anya, for all that she occasionally talks tough when Reaper oversteps, is basically an ever-forgiving doormat, letting Reaper use her however he wants because, well, he *is* super hot and gives her fantastic orgasms, plus he had that very sad, very bad childhood…

      I get that some readers enjoy super-alpha males. I do too, sometimes. But this book was way too extreme for me. And while I enjoy hot sex in a book, I felt like this bordered on porn. To each his own, of course. But come on, you’ve got a plot that–as far as I can tell–wants us to believe that the damaged alpha male will truly be on the road to healing if only he can manage to *allow* his girlfriend give him a thorough blow job without his going all psycho on her. Bwahaha, really? Really? As gruesome as some of the backstory is for these characters, I just could not help rolling my eyes at the uber-ness and ridiculousness of it all.

      Judgment Road does kind of have a plot to hold the “romance”–and I use the word loosely–together. And TBH, I’m curious to see if there is going to be an Alena/Pierce story. So, yeah, I’d give it a C- (or 2 stars out of 5, if you’re into the star system).

    • stl-reader
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      Marriage of Inconvenience by Penny Reid

      I read the first book in the Knitting in the City series–“meh” for me–and also the highly touted Dating-ish, which I ranked with 3 out of 5 stars on Good reads.

      But compared to this latest offering, those two books are positively scintillating.

      TBH, I cannot help but think that the only readers who will really enjoy it are those who have faithfully followed the series and have been waiting for Dan and Kat’s story. (And even halfway through MoI, you will feel like you are still waiting for it…).

      As far as the romance goes, I found it to be in short supply. Big no-no for this romance reader! And then the heroine, Kat, has so many issues, and, well, couple that with a bunch of ongoing external obstacles, and it takes forever to get the H/h together. And even then I wasn’t wowed by their relationship. Any less romance, and I’d almost be tempted to call this “women’s fiction.”

      I’ve also noticed that Reid’s characters seem to have a similar (hip) voice. I had this same problem with Lucy Parker’s books, which I liked but, yeah, the character voices seemed very similar/interchangeable.

      For those of you who love the Knitting in the City series, I’ll be curious to see your take on Marriage of Inconvenience.

      • Blackjack
        Participant
        Post count: 48

        I have mixed feelings about Marriage of Inconvenience, and I say this as a huge Penny Reid fan. I am a reader who waited a long time for Kat & Dan’s story, and so the anticipation probably affected my view of the book. I did like it, and I think the reason for my enjoyment largely boils down to Dan. He is such a great character. I do agree though with stl-reader that Reid’s heroines are somewhat interchangeable. I consider them self-deprecating and socially awkward. My two favorite heroines though, Marie and Fiona, do not seem interchangeable or fall into the self-deprecating/awkward role. But for many others, I find them harder to differentiate. Kat from MoI lacked some character development and I struggled to visualize her. Plus, she is different in this book than the shy wallflower from the series, and that annoyed me a bit. Reid creates incredible heroes though and so many of them are just my favorite male characters in romance writing.

        I did like the romance in MoI but I thought that the story got weighted down with too many obstacles and themes and ideas. It’s a big, sprawling book that could have benefited from tighter organization. I wish the theme of Kat’s self-esteem could have been the main idea outside of the romance. The addition of a venal cousin trying to institutionalize her took the story into a strange new direction. Then, Dan’s brother and his former gang activities came into play. Then there is the issue of mental health and schizophrenia and Kat’s mother’s health and Kat’s fears of becoming her mother. Then there is the marriage itself and the fake relationship issue to sort through..

        There are two inconsistencies that bother me about this book and I am still pondering them. One is the issue of polyamory, which seemed added on to this book to explain Dan’s abandonment of Kat in Vegas. I always assumed he left her hotel room because he thought she was telling him she wasn’t into a relationship with him, and that belief hurt him. By allowing the story to become one about polyamory, I felt it shifted the book away too much from Kat’s negative self-esteem. Also, instead of focusing on Kat’s negative self-esteem, the book then becomes about Kat’s sexual dysfunction and reliance upon drugs and alcohol to be sexual. I never really did get this issue for her or why she felt unable to enjoy sex. Finally. and this is a big one for me — Dan is unable to understand his feelings for Kat and calls them a “shitty feeling in his chest.” That seemed unlikely for him. Of all the male characters Reid has created, Dan O’Malley struck me as completely besotted with Kat and self-aware. But when the time comes to share feelings, he’s suddenly unsure? I still have trouble with this issue.

        Having said all of that, I read the book quickly and enjoyed and have come back to scenes since to reread. I adore Dating-ish and a couple of others from the Knitting series. I like the Winstons, though perhaps just slightly less, except Beard Science, which is just so wonderfully weird and amazing.

    • Kay
      Participant
      Post count: 40

      Marriage of Inconvenience by Reid is a dnf for me so far. I will try and pick it up again, maybe this summer. I loved Dating-ish. Also, I like the Beard series better than the Knitting series.

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