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  • library addict
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    Post count: 221

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    N = Cowboy SEAL Homecoming by Nicole Helm:
    The h/h were step-siblings, but had only met on a handful of occasions as the hero had been off serving in the Navy and had only come home twice in the ten years the heroine’s mother was married to his father. The now twenty-five year old heroine considered his father hers as well. They both kept telling themselves they couldn’t be attracted to one other for that reason. I found it odd there was no mention if the hero had kept in touch with his father while gone (phone calls? email? did they not speak to one another?) The heroine had been sick as a child so I understood why she had no close friends as isolated as she was, but it was also odd that she didn’t have any online friends or at least acquaintances. The heroine’s mother defined overprotective so it was nice to see the heroine finally take her own advice and stand up for herself. The guys had supposedly been through mandatory counseling, but their therapist(s) must have been extremely inept as they each had such a dim and distorted view of therapy. The first half of the book focused more on the heroine’s issues, the second half more on the hero’s, so at times it felt uneven. The book started very slow and there was sequel bait for the next two books. A lot of subplots were packed into the story some of which I wished had gotten more page time. The heroine was a bit too perfect, but I liked her. Despite all of this I really enjoyed the book overall. I adored the h/h both individually and as a couple. A good blend of angst and humor.

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
    Midnight Kiss by Jenny Schwartz:
    The heiress heroine managed her father’s estate, but played ghost hunter by night. The hero was the “spare” who had retired from the navy after his older brother’s death. They met when she snuck into his castle to sketch the rumored ghost. The hero’s behaved poorly at their first meeting, but redeemed himself. After the heroine ran away the story morphed into more of a traditional Regency-lite. Despite the blurb, the ghost barely appeared in the story. A fun premise, but overall an uneven read.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 5 down, 13 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 7 down, 11 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 4 down, 14 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 92

    Hallelujah! The board’s back!

    Starting, for a change, with The Rights and Responsibilities Challenge:

    8) Sue someone: Read a romance involving characters in the legal field: lawyers, judges, police officers, detectives. Or read a romance in which one major character is suing another or threatening a law suit or legal action.

     
    For this particular right that a newly-minted 18 year old earns, I read a book that was selected by my book group: Mary Burton’s The Last Move, published in 2017. This story was reviewed last year by AAR. It is well described here: https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/last-move-mary-burton/, and I pretty much agree with the reviewer’s grade of B.

    I have to say, straight off, that I’m not the biggest fan of romantic suspense, mostly because so many of them focus on the torture and killing of women, children or animals. So, I don’t find that particularly pleasurable to read about. This book includes some of that, but at least it also includes a bad-ass heroine who is realistically capable at her job, but is also vulnerable. The heroine, Kate Hayden, is an FBI agent who is known for her ability to track down serial killers using her particular knowledge of language and communication. Ironically, though, because of a horrific incident during her teenage years, she isn’t very good at communicating with her family or with anyone outside of her job. Of course, her current case, brings her very close to home and allows her to make familial connections she’s been avoiding. She also teams up with a San Antonio detective, who, unlike Kate, is trying desperately to keep communications open with his young daughter who has been moved to the area from Chicago, by her mother. On top of these personal issues, Kate and Theo are tasked with tracking down a killer who appears to be mimicking the various cases Kate has solved in the past, while also keeping abreast of another case Kate had been trying to solve before being pulled off that job.

    I have to say Burton did a very good job of making something that seemed very straight-forward, at first, into an interesting thriller. I was genuinely surprised at a couple of the twists (although I wondered whether my inability to put two and two together was more because, I just wanted to speed through the uncomfortable bits, rather than think about them more in order to figure out who was responsible for what! Ha!) For those of us, who are more into romance than suspense, the story is pretty light on the former. Kate and Theo are definitely attracted to each other, but it seemed more of a meeting of the minds rather than something romantic or even physical. They do share “some time” together, but it’s not a big part of the story. Still, I’m not sorry I read it, since it was definitely well done, and I get the impression Burton’s other novels might be more romantic than this – or at least that’s what the AAR reviewer implied. Maybe I’ll try out another one … maybe.

    ******



    The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 10 down, 8 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E …)

    Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 1 down, 17 to go

    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 92

    Continuing with The Rights and Responsibilities Challenge:

    25) Sign a lease. Sign a contract: Read a romance in which at least a portion of the story is told in the style of an epistolary novel. Or read a romance in which one or both lead characters is a reporter, editor, author or works in the publishing field. Or read a romance in which the two lead protagonists enter into any type of contract with each other, including a marriage contract or some other “understanding”.

    For this part of the challenge, I’ve read a book I’ve had for a while that I bought secondhand: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, published in 2008.

    Happily, this book was also reviewed by AAR in 2009. (https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/the-guernsey-literary-and-potato-peel-pie-society/) The reviewer gave it an A- and, frankly, I’d do away with the minus and just give it an A! Granted, the romance is very, very low key, as the review points out, but the story is so charming and, at times, harrowing and heartbreaking, that I didn’t care. Just be assured, there is an HEA to be had.

    What’s not mentioned in the review — and was wonderful for my purposes — is that the entire story is told through letters, telegrams, and personal notes. And it works, especially since some of the topics discussed are the books being read by the characters.

    As the AAR reviewer describes, the plot involves a 30 to 32 year old woman who has lived through WWII in London, writing a humorous news paper column that kept up the spirits of her readers. At the end of the war, the columns were compiled into a successful book and now the writer is looking for a new subject — one not so light and humorous. Just at that time, she receives a letter from Guernsey, apart of the Channel Islands off of France that is actually a part of the U.K. and which was under occupation by the Germans during the war. Through those letters, Juliet, our heroine, learns not only how the islanders coped, but she learns of the horrors that befell them, especially to a young woman who seems very similar to Juliet in spirit. Eventually, Juliet travels to the island and becomes very close to the inhabitants, including a little girl, whose mother was arrested by the Germans, and a local farmer, who initially wrote to her.

    This book is a fast read — only 274 pages. On the surface, it’s charming and delightful, but underneath is the sad and harrowing subplot of the German occupation and the repercussions of that experience. I have to admit, I knew nothing of the story of Guernsey and the war, which I believe is real, and I was fascinated by it. I definitely wanted to learn more and will make the effort. I’m grateful to this story for teaching me something new, while entertaining me with these wonderful, touching fictional characters.

    ******


    The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 10 down, 8 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E …)

    Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 2 down, 16 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    E = Enveloping Shadows by Lauren DM Smith:
    The heroine was a knight and head bodyguard for a princess. When the princess was kidnapped she set off to rescue her. The hero was after the man who had kidnapped the princess. He had the ability to communicate with and manipulate shadows. The world building was intriguing. The romance was slow to develop and the ending felt rushed, but overall an entertaining read.

    J = Jadrian by Veronica Scott: The heroine had severe PTSD after being held captive in an alien lab. The fact she remembered her name but not much else about herself complicated matters. She trusted only the hero. He could be overbearing, but wanted to help her learn to cope since he’d been extensively tortured himself as a teenager. The h/h were both new characters and the plot had a them-against-everyone-else vibe that was at odds with what we’ve come to know of the various other characters in the two previous books of this spin-off series. The book improved once the heroine regained her memories, but overall an uneven read.

    R = Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts: The h/h and many of the secondary characters were present for a mass shooting at a mall. The hero, in college at the time, decided to become a cop. The heroine, who was in high school, eventually became an artist. The book started with the shooting and the immediate aftermath. After a time jump, the story then focused on each of their lives separately for a long while before the h/h finally actually met. Since we knew the identity of the villain early on, this fell more on the psychological thriller/procedural end of the romantic suspense spectrum rather than the mystery end. Lots of twists and turns in the middle, though the ending seemed anticlimactic. I loved the focus on the various friendships and other relationships in addition to the romance and wish the heroine’s family and BFF had had more page time. The relationship between the hero and policewoman who was first on scene was actually my favorite part of the book.

    The Catchphrase Challenge
    “Up your nose with a rubber hose!” (Welcome Back, Kotter) – Read a book with a teacher or where the h/h work in a school or work with kids in some way or read a book where the h/h has to go home.
    The Captain’s Baby Bargain by Merline Lovelace – hero is a history teacher/heroine returns home:
    The h/h had been childhood sweethearts, married straight after college, and joined the USAF together, but divorced after six years when the hero had issued an ultimatum forcing the heroine to choose between him and her career. They’d each made mistakes and regretted that their relationship had ended. After what they each briefly thought could be a reunion, they went their separate ways again until she discovered she was pregnant (not a spoiler as in the blurb). The hero had left the Air Force and was now a high school teacher and their hometown’s mayor. Though they reconciled quickly, it took some time for them to work through their issues as they each knew how to press the other’s buttons. The hero tended to overreact, but I ended up liking him. It was the heroine who made the book shine. I had a few quibbles with part of the ending, but overall an enjoyable reunion romance.

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
    The Good Luck Sister by Jill Shalvis:
    Though the first book in this series was released in June of last year, in book time an entire decade had passed. Eight multi-page flashbacks in this novella were word-for-word repeats directly from the first book, but could just as easily have been summed up with internal monologues or in dialogue. The hero had left the heroine right after graduating from high school and didn’t speak to her for eight years. The heroine was justifiably angry and hurt at the start. It was ridiculous that he never called, texted, or emailed, but of course it was for her own good. I wish the page time taken up with the repeated flashbacks had been spent with them talking. I liked both characters, but didn’t care for the plot. They deserved better.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 10 down, 8 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    K = The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang:
    The ‘heroine hired a male escort to teach her about sex’ plot was not something I usually read, but I really enjoyed this author’s debut book. The h/h each had baggage and felt the other couldn’t possibly see them as worthy. Conflicts which could be easily solved with an honest conversation are almost impossible to pull off convincingly, but worked well in the context of this story. The h/h each made mistakes but quickly owned up to them. I wish we’d had more page time with the heroine’s parents. Overall there was a wonderful balance of angst, family drama, self-discovery, humor, and joy. A delightful read.

    The Shoe Challenge
    Crocs – a summer shoe. Read a book that takes place in summer.
    Jilted by Kelly Jamieson – set in June:
    I’d started this book over a dozen times since it was released in 2013 and could never get past the first few chapters. I had a hard time believing the hero would have agreed to marry the heroine’s best friend for his family’s sake or that the bff/fiancée would really expect the heroine to be happy about the wedding seeing that the heroine had only recently broken up with the hero. Then the fiancée jilted the hero at the altar to run off with her ex-boyfriend. The author had the heroine agree to help the hero look for her, but only because of a hidden motive. So no one came off looking good at the beginning of this series set-up. She could have just been honest about her ulterior motive as it did not make a very believable conflict. Once the h/h finally started talking to each other the book improved. I just wished it hadn’t taken so long. There was a big-city-equals-bad/small-town-equals-good vibe I could have done without. The hero’s attitude problem was ridiculous, especially since he’s been the one prepared to marry someone else. He needed to do more groveling as his apology was half-hearted at best. I wished the heroine had been able to keep her big city dreams, I didn’t buy it wasn’t what she truly wanted. Overall a disappointing read.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 11 down, 7 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 5 down, 13 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
    G for gourmet — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is a chef, baker, caterer, etc, or owns a restaurant, diner, bakery, etc.
    Bolted by Meg Benjamin – heroine is a chef:
    Through a bizarre set of circumstances the heroine took a job as chef at a dilapidated hotel after rescuing the archeologist hero. She’d always felt she was the family screw-up so was hiding out from her mother temporarily. Though her mother knew herself to be overly judgmental, she didn’t actually apologize to her daughter. The romance was rushed, but the h/h discussed that fact on page. Overall a fun romance filled with quirky supporting characters.

    The Catchphrase Challenge
    “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!” – Popeye (Popeye the Sailor) – Read a book where the h/h are at rock bottom or in a desperate situation or a novel where the h/h is recouping from a lost job, lost career, major scandal etc.
    Busted by Sydney Somers – hero can no longer play professional hockey due to an injury:
    The ex-hockey star hero was upset the heroine didn’t immediately forgive him when he not only didn’t remember her at first but assumed he’d taken her on a date in high school when she was actually one of his friend’s twin sister. His sense of entitlement was annoying. Thankfully he realized he was being self-absorbed and made an effort to change, but sadly kept having relapses into jerksville. The heroine had been branded a trouble-maker in high school, but was now a police detective. They agreed to attend his bff’s wedding together so he could avoid questions and she could avoid her ex. They then kept extending their temporary relationship, each wanting more but reluctant to say so. There were a number of subplots, some of which needed more page time, some less. An uneven but still likable read.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    H = Hitched by Erin Nicholas:
    The final book in this multi-author series focused on the bride who had jilted her fiancé at the altar in book one. The heroine had been living her life to please her father and trying to live up to her mother’s memory, She enjoyed being a martyr. The hero interrupted the wedding and he and the heroine took off for Alaska. The abysmal way the heroine had treated her bff was too easily glossed over (They came back to town temporarily, laughed about how crazy the situation was, and presto everything was forgiven). The hero had left town to turn his life around. He was now a veterinarian and additionally worked with polar bears so moving back to their small town wasn’t really in the cards. There were a few parts I liked, but overall a frustrating and disappointing read.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 12 down, 6 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 92

    Continuing with The Rights and Responsibilities Challenge:

    12) Be a stripper or go to a strip club.
    Read a romance in which one or both of the protagonists is considered to have an “unsavory” profession, pursuit, or lifestyle for their time … or any time. For instance, an actress in the 1800’s, a bootlegger in the 1920’s, a mistress or gigolo, a jewel thief or con artist, a muckraker or gossip columnist. It’s all relative!

    For this requirement of the challenge, my romance book group helped out by choosing to read Cat Sebastian’s The Ruin of a Rake, published in 2017. This book features a M/M romance set in the regency period.

    Ruin of a Rake is a book that’s part of a series, which becomes somewhat obvious to the reader as there are characters that clearly have an interesting backstory which we don’t learn a lot about in this novel. In any event, this book focuses on a business-minded, financially successful member of the ton, who grew up in India but who has returned to England with his sister. Neither of the pair seems entirely happy with the decision. Julian’s sister Eleanor is escaping what appears to be an unsuccessful marriage and Julian is hoping the weather in England will cure him of his debilitating, chronic illness. While both of these reasons are real, they are only partially true, That being said, Julian does find something else that interests him upon his return. For one, he has become an expert at working British society, ingratiating himself into it despite his business background and lack of title and, for another, his sister introduces him to the notorious rake, Lord Courtenay, who needs Julian’s help. Courtenay, an equal opportunity seducer, wants to gain the respect of his peers in order to allow him the company of his young nephew — the son of the sister he loved and lost — who is under the guardianship of his sister’s widowed husband. With Julian’s knowledge of the ton and his business smarts, Courtenay hopes to seek his help in gaining back enough of the respect of his circle, as well as some of his inheritance, to once again be a part of his nephew’s life. As for Julian, Courtenay is not totally unknown to him. The man has fascinated him from afar, and now, with their conspiring to help Courtenay, Julian is getting to know him in a way he never dreamed.

    As I mentioned, this story has a number of supporting characters that, to the author’s credit, are equally interesting. Although the relationship between Julian and Courtenay is certainly worthy, we are given only hints of the one between Julian’s sister and her husband, which teases the reader. Plus, it’s pretty clear that some of the other characters have stories which probably have been told in other books, and are only suggested at here — which is fine, but honestly it seemed like the author could’ve filled in the blanks a little bit more, especially since the book is only 295 pages. In any event, I would’ve appreciated knowing more about Julian’s sister’s story, at least. Furthermore, although Courtenay reveals himself to be a fundamentally decent person who eventually gets control of his life with the help of Julian, it annoyed me how passive he was in righting his situation, and how much he relied on Julian. It seemed a little strange that he was a titled man, with property, and a seat in Parliament and yet he let people just walk all over him. I enjoyed this story, but I think I wanted a bit more context regarding some of the other characters and a bit more backbone from one of our heroes. I would give this story a B/B+.

    ******
    The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 10 down, 8 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E …)
    Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 3 down, 15 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    O = Ocean Light by Nalini Singh:
    I’ve wanted this hero’s story since he was introduced in book 6 of the original series. His fate was left in dire straits in the previous book. Things started slowly and meandered a lot with most of the action packed into the final quarter of the book, but this pacing worked well for the story. There were a number of fun twists and a few genuine surprises. We were introduced to a bunch of new characters. Appearances by previous characters not directly related to the plot were limited to a select few. The quibbles I had with the story were more about what was left out than the plot or characters. Most of the book was set with the water changelings which I enjoyed, but I wanted to read more about the Human Alliance and learn about the hero’s friends. I also wished we’d had more page time with the heroine’s cousin and her mate (I’m hoping for a later novella!). There were some major advances in the overall story arc, but the heart of this book was the romance. The h/h had wonderful chemistry together. A very enjoyable read and another compelling entry in the series.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 13 down, 5 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    B = Deadly Sins by Kylie Brant:
    The hero was a former FBI agent and founder of the company that serves as the basis for this series. He’d been tortured before the start of the series so walked with a limp and was missing one eye. Originally this book was to be the last in the series (though the author self-published additional books a few years later). It was nice to finally learn more of the hero’s background. He had broken up with the heroine years before for her “own good.” He regretted it, but was convinced he’d done the right thing. The heroine had secrets of her own. I loved the fact she’d come into her own in the intervening years. I also loved that we got more page time with the hero’s second-in-command and to explore their friendship somewhat. The main villain was regrettably obvious. The case was intriguing, but the villain setting the hero up as a suspect relied on a multitude of coincidences. This was the point, but often felt too convoluted. I enjoyed the glimpses of humor. I loved the h/h, but wish there had been more focus on their romance as the suspense plot far outweighed the romance.

    The Catchphrase Challenge
    “Oh, my God! They killed Kenny!” Stan and Kyle, (South Park) – Read a romance that revolves around a murder.
    Chasing Evil by Kylie Brant – h/h are investigating a serial killer:

    “Danger, Will Robinson!” Robot, (Lost in Space) – Read an action/adventure romance or romantic suspense novel.
    Touching Evil by Kylie Brant – romantic suspense:

    “Would have got away if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!” (Most Scooby-Doo villains, Scooby-Doo) – Read a book where the h/h help catch a villain or bring about justice.
    Facing Evil by Kylie Brant – conclusion of the Circle of Evil trilogy featuring a forensic psychologist heroine and a DCI agent hero:

    Since the serial killers case plot spanned the entire trilogy, I decided to read these books back-to-back and combine my comments. The h/h’s working relationship started off strained due to their breakup after a brief affair. We learned the details in flashbacks throughout the first book. Despite feeling they had nothing in common outside of work, the hero wanted more. The plot of each book was a behind-the-scenes look at a methodical task-force investigation, including how the characters dealt with the office politics involved with multiple law enforcement agencies and bosses more interested in positive press than anything else. Each book had a logical ending and neither of the first two books ended on a cliffhanger, but the overarching mystery plot and lack of resolution between the h/h meant these books would not work well as stand-alones. The subplot regarding a former undercover op of the hero’s seemed out of place in the first book. It served a purpose through each book but the resolution was off page so felt unnecessary. I suspected the main baddie from book three when the character was introduced in book one, so it seemed very odd the über-observant heroine didn’t. The romance in the first book was limited to the flashback scenes so I was happy the h/h were the main protagonists of all three books as their relationship definitely needed more page time. I had issues with two of the main plot points in book two (can’t say more without major spoilers). One of the supporting characters seemed to have magical healing abilities given how fast he recovered from being shot multiple times. I liked the hero’s partner and wish we’d seen more of her. The cases were dark, but balanced with humor. Overall, I enjoyed the main romance as well as both secondary romances, though each was underdeveloped.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 14 down, 4 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The Catchphrase Challenge
    “Oh, Goody!” Herman Munster, (Munsters) – Read a paranormal romance.
    Heart of Crystal by Lauren DM Smith:
    The heroine had the ability to manipulate crystal. She had searched for years for her enslaved family. The hero was the emperor’s chief magus. They reluctantly teamed up to continue her search. Posing as married tea merchants they journeyed to the neighboring kingdom. While not precisely enemies-to-lovers, the story was about them learning to trust each other and combine their divergent but complimentary skillsets. The plot bogged down in details at times—such as descriptions of the clothing, etc—and I had issues with some aspects (trying not to be spoilery). But I liked the h/h, both individually and as a couple. Their slow-burn romance was sweet and filled with humor despite the often dark tones of the plot.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    L = Killing Me Softly by Leisl Leighton:
    The rock star hero didn’t care about the producer heroine’s wants or needs and insisted she had to work with his band. She’d guarded her anonymity as she had a stalker (even if she kept that a secret from her friends and staff at least she’d told police). She’d also just brought her catatonic twin sister home after a decade in a mental institution. I understood the heroine had to make enough funds to purchase the isolated property and then fix it up to create a suitable place for her sister, but a lot of the timing of the sister’s medical status seemed odd (like why wasn’t she given more help in the eleven years between her attack and when the heroine took her out of the asylum?). The hero had an evil ex-wife who had sold him out to the tabloids and this supposedly excused him from treating his bandmates and others like crap as well as invading the heroine’s privacy (I miss the eye-rolling smilie). He was such a selfish prick. He knew he was acting like a jerk, but blamed the heroine for his behavior. Once he’d had her secretly investigated he decided it was okay to give into their attraction. Ugh! His behavior improved somewhat in the latter half of the book and he admitted to being in the wrong but he continued to think he knew best. The hero did not grovel anywhere close to enough. The villain was too obvious. While the romance did not work at all for me, I liked the relationship between the sisters and most of the supporting characters despite the fact the plot called on them to behave too foolish for words at times. Despite the numerous issues with this particular book I would try this author again.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 9 down, 9 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
    G for goal — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is involved with sports, e.g. athlete, coach, team owner, etc.
    All the Right Moves by Linda Raye – heroine is a referee, hero is a basketball coach:
    This book was published in 1986. Despite the often dated ‘battle of the sexes’ vibes, the 80s/90s were the heyday of category romances to me. The h/h both taught high school and worked part-time as referees. In addition, the hero coached the school’s women’s team. He wanted to coach professionally and believed there was no reason that woman’s professional basketball would not soon reach the same levels of popularity as men’s. The heroine was still dealing with the emotional wounds from her divorce years earlier and had just moved to the area. Their whirlwind romance was only complicated by miscommunications which were usually quickly cleared up until they found themselves on opposite sides of a strict “no pass/no play” law. They actually agreed about the situation more than disagreed and each had valuable points about the drawbacks and benefits. The actions causing their big break up toward the end seemed more plot-driven than character-driven. A few plot quibbles, but overall a fun read.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 6 down, 12 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 92

    Back with the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “H” for The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

    Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, published in 2018, has been getting a lot of attention in romance reader circles. And, mostly, it lives up to its advance notices.

    The story focuses on the relationship between a heroine who is autistic and a very successful econometrician, and a hero who works in his family’s dry cleaning business by day, while, once a week, he sells his services as an escort who’s available for a lot more than escorting. An unusual pair, the hero and heroine switch up the “Pretty Woman” dynamic, as our heroine, Stella Lane, hires, our hero, Michael Phan Larsen to be her practice sex partner, and then “boyfriend”. Stella, who’s been pushed by her parents to be more open to dating and potential marriage, has had a number of unsatisfying and unpleasant encounters with dates, which Stella blames on herself because of her autism. With the help of Michael — who has his own issues, as well as talents as a fashion designer that he’s been putting on hold — Stella hopes to overcome her sexual issues in order to pursue a colleague who her family finds to be an acceptable partner. But, what happens when Stella and Michael come to find each other more appealing than they find their individual goals? Stella needs sexual practice and confidence, but Michael needs money, desperately, to help his mother. Can those issues be overcome?

    I found Hoang’s book to be a fresh and interesting romance, especially the gender switch up. The only downside for me was that I found Michael’s constant focus on his father and his father’s influence on his character to be overdone. Michael keeps mentioning his father’s horrific actions without spelling them out until very late in the game. At that point, when Michael reveals his father’s behavior, I was less than horrified and more annoyed that this smart, talented man let his bad egg of a father control him so much. I also thought the ending was a little over the top in terms of the characters’ individual achievements. Only four months after Michael resumes his career, he is going to open three shops?! Really? Oh, and Stella gives up her entire trust fund to help Michael’s mother. Her *entire* trust fund, which certainly wasn’t necessary. I think that I’d give this book a B+ to an A-. Good book, but some things were a little unnecessarily dramatic.

    ******

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation – 12 down, 6 to go (R, D, L, J, A, G, N, B, C, E, F, H …)

    Rights & Responsibilities Challenge – 3 down, 15 to go

    library addict
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    Post count: 221

    Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas
    Slip Point by Karalynn Lee:
    We first met the h/h as children. They grew up on a homesteader planet each longing to become pilots and explore. The heroine discovered her long-thought-dead father was really a notorious space pirate when her application to join the Space Corps was denied. Flash forward ten years and she was now a notorious pirate herself. I thought it was ridiculous that she was angry and upset upon meeting the hero again because he was angry she’d abandoned him without a word. Their secret mission paired them temporarily. The world building was intriguing, but none of the multiple subplots were developed enough even though this was a long novella. I wanted to like the story more than I ultimately did. Each subplot felt glossed over as did the romance.

    The Shoe Challenge
    Flip flops – The ultimate casual, contemporary shoe. Read a contemporary romance.
    Love Me Not by Reese Ryan:
    This was the second book in this series, though chronologically it takes place earlier. We knew a few of the plot points from the previous book. The heroine was a bartender and artist. The hero was an ad exec who’d just relocated to Cleveland. The heroine had thankfully had professional counseling, but still had self-esteem issues. She was reluctant to trust and only dated guys she knew were losers. So though their attraction was immediate, the romance between the h/h was very slow to develop. Some of the television shows the characters talked about made the book feel dated even though it was just published in 2013. The hero had POV scenes, but the emphasis was much more on the heroine’s journey. I had issues with the subplot regarding the heroine’s biological mother. (Not the fact she needed closure, but with the idea people were advising her that she must allow the woman back into her life.). A lot of angst, but overall an enjoyable romance.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 7 down, 11 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 10 down, 8 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 7 down, 11 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
    N for news — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with the news industry, e.g. reporter, anchor, newspaper editor, etc.
    Medium Rare by Meg Benjamin – hero is an investigative journalist:
    The heroine was a research librarian. She’d discovered she was from a family of mediums when she inherited her maternal grandmother’s house and resident ghost. The hero was an investigative journalist famous for debunking fake psychics. He hired her as his temporary research assistant while he investigated a TV medium. The hero was a cynic and I wished he’d groveled more for his actions when he discovered the truth. Several plot threads were left dangling at the end and the heroine’s mother’s subplot needed more page time. I was meh on the mystery, but overall a likeable romance. And I loved the heroine’s dog.

    The Catchphrase Challenge
    “Missed me by that much.” Maxwell Smart (Get Smart) – Have a book that comes close to one of these categories but doesn’t quite make the cut? Read that book.
    Raven’s Prey by Stephanie James – hero is deceived by his clients (almost fit House, but not quite) :
    The heroine was hiding in Mexico after witnessing a crime. The hero was hired to retrieve her after being told she was neurotic and spoiled and just after attention. Like in many early 80s romances, the casual way the hero thought and talked about beating her and the way the townspeople just accepted that he would have every right to do so was disturbing. To give JAK credit, the love scenes all made the heroine’s consent clear, but the hero behaved like an entitled jerk too often. Every time I started to think the hero could be redeemed, he returned to jerksville and usually blamed the heroine for him losing his temper. The heroine stood up for herself but would then capitulate. There was some of the author’s trademark humor, but even though the hero came to understand how wrong he was and apologized for his behavior, the fact that the heroine made so many excuses for him was irksome. A very disappointing read.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 7 down, 11 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 11 down, 7 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 11 down, 7 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 7 down, 11 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 221

    The Shoe Challenge
    Platforms – A stage is a fancy platform. Read a book where the h/h are actors or performers (singers, magicians, musicians etc.) of some kind.
    Cut and Run by Carla Neggers – heroine is a concert pianist:
    The heroine was tired of her touring and recording schedule as a classical pianist so “moonlighted” in disguise at a jazz club. The hero was an award-winning journalist and Vietnam vet now working for a DC tabloid. The mystery involved a four-hundred-year-old uncut diamond, a corrupt senator, his blackmailer, murder, and secrets from the heroine’s family’s past during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. My favorite relationship was the reluctant friendship between the hero and his editor. I wish she’d had more page time. I also liked the heroine’s aunt. The romance took place mostly in the background with the mystery as the focus. The idea that so many villains would believe in the existence of the diamond with no proof seemed far-fetched. There were parts I enjoyed, but overall a middle-of-the-road read.

    The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge
    T for time — Read a futuristic or time-travel romance.
    Darik by Veronica Scott – futuristic:
    The overarching plot of this series took an even darker turn with the introduction of a different, secret lab and the cruel scientist in charge. The multiple sets of alien bad guys were the usual proverbial mustache-twirling evil, but there were some interesting twists and turns and we learned quite a bit about them. The resolution to one of the major subplots occurred off page (we’re literally only told about it). The h/h were well-matched though their romance felt rushed. But overall a solid entry in the series.

    • Easy Eighteen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 7 down, 11 to go…
    • The 18 in 18 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 6 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation : 15 down, 3 to go…
    • The Catchphrase Challenge: 11 down, 7 to go…
    • The Shoe Challenge: 8 down, 10 to go…
    • The 21st Century Challenge : completed!
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