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  • library addict
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    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    No Country for Old Men (2007) — Read a romance in which one or both of the lead characters is older than 40 (I know that’s not old); Read a romance set in the American west, whether an historical or contemporary.
    Love is Lovelier by Jean Brasher — heroine is 62, hero is 65:
    The heroine was the widowed mother of three of the previous books’ heroines. She and the hero had both rebelled against their mothers’ wish for them to marry decades before, each eventually marrying other people. Despite her daughters’ wishes, the heroine was ready to resume work after suffering a mild heart attack. The bad guy continued his campaign of sabotage while moping and complaining in his POV scenes. There were also POV scenes from two additional villains who came across as cartoonish. The hero was determined to help the heroine with her financial woes, but stupidly tried to keep it a secret from her. He contemplated how much he admired her business acumen one moment and wanted to wrap her in cotton wool the next. Rinse and repeat, which was extremely frustrating. Since one honest conversation would have cleared up most of the conflict he didn’t grovel nearly enough once the truth came out. Then the heroine ended up apologizing to him which was ridiculous. There were issues in the overarching suspense plot, but they can’t really be blamed on this particular book as it was more a result of the series’ structure. The heroine was supposedly a great businesswoman but we’re only told this not shown. I wish we’d seen more of her interacting with her four daughters on page, particularly her eldest. I also wish the hero’s daughter had been a more developed character. It’s a shame she wasn’t one of the later books’ heroines as I would have liked to read her story. An uneven read, but I enjoyed parts.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    I = Unmasked by Ingrid Weaver:
    The heroine was the eldest daughter of the heroine in the previous book. The ridiculous overarching suspense plot finally came to a conclusion. It had too many plot holes to take seriously and they got bigger in each of the previous books, particularly the financial aspects. While not all the fault of this particular author it nonetheless detracted from the story. We again had too many POV scenes from several of the villains, but at least most of them got their just desserts. The h/h had been high-school sweethearts, but differing life goals had driven them apart. I’ve liked the heroine since her appearance in the first book so was happy to finally read her story. The hero was extremely pushy. His behavior was obviously only for plot purposes, but it was still annoying. The resolution to the subplot about his injured hand was dubious. An uneven read, but the heroine made the book work. While I’m happy the overarching suspense plot concluded, with four books remaining in this series I’m wondering how they will connect. Overall I wanted to like this book more than I did,

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 9 down, 10 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 11 down, 8 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 11 down, 8 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 2 down, 17 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Back to the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “L”

    For the letter L, I decided to read Tempting the Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon, published in 2013. I got this at the 2014 RT book conference, so I thought it was about time I read it.

    Crickett Day’s 10 year marriage has gone on the skids, her husband telling her he doesn’t love her anymore. As a result Crickett decides to make a complete break and leave her marriage as well as her direct marketing job, even though she had been moving up in the company. The combination of ending her marriage and her job leaves Crickett devastated. So, her friend, Sadie, who is also suffering from a break-up, convinces Crickett to go out to a club and meet new people. And, that’s exactly what happens. At the club, Crickett and Sadie meet Shane August and his cousin Aiden. Shane is the CEO of a company that advises and nurtures other businesses. Although extremely successful professionally, he is not so successful in his personal life, due to issues from his childhood which have stunted his ability to commit to a relationship. Shane finds himself attracted to this emotionally fragile woman. He zones in on her need for a new job and offers a position as his personal assistant. Crickett also finds Shane attractive, but she’s not sure she’s ready for a new job. Still, she decides to interview just for the practice and ends up getting hired. In no time whatsoever, Crickett proves herself valuable to Shane, but she also tempts him in ways that are not only inappropriate as her employer, but impossible considering his inability to commit. As for Crickett, she’s growing more and more personally interested in her “all business” boss as they exchange longing looks and, eventually, a lot more. Will Crickett be able to unearth Shane’s demons and convince him to commit?

    Tempting the Billionaire is a pretty standard boss/assistant romance. I’ve read a number of these over the years. But, I must admit that I was more sensitive than ever to how inappropriate Shane and Crickett’s growing relationship would be in the real world. I tried to push that away and focus on the characters’ motivations. While I could understand why Shane was reluctant to form a permanent relationship, I actually didn’t find it as compelling as I did Crickett’s issues. She was raw from a recent devastating break-up. But, Shane? I just couldn’t buy that he had been so scarred by his father’s effects on him to the point that he could *never* move beyond it. I think I would give this book a B-.

    ******
    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 9 down, 10 to go (A, D, E, G, H, I, L, M, S …)

    The Phonics Challenge – 1 down, 18 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    E = Engaging the Enemy by Reese Ryan:
    The h/h had been bffs in grade school until he’d betrayed her to fit in with the popular crowd. He didn’t see what he’d done as a problem at the start of the story. He finally acknowledged to himself how much he’d hurt her, but took a long time to actually apologize. I wished they’d discussed that particular situation together on page as the heroine deserved so much better. The hero wanted to prove to his father he should be appointed the next CEO of the family company so was determined to buy her building as it was needed to complete a secret project. The heroine made attending a destination wedding as her fake fiancé part of the deal. While angsty at times, the story was imbued with a sense of joy. Despite my issues with the hero overall I enjoyed their romance. But it was the heroine who made the book truly shine.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 10 down, 9 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 11 down, 8 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 11 down, 8 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 2 down, 17 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Back to the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “K”

    For the letter “K”, I turned to a book that is not a typical romance and was not written by a romance writer – in fact, Kay’s other works are poetry. Liz Kay’s Monsters: A Love Story, published in 2016, is a romantically inclined novel with a bit of an edge.

    Like the author, our lead character, Stacey Lane, is a poet. She’s also thirty-something, newly widowed, and a mother of two young boys. Living in Nebraska, where her deceased husband was raised, Stacey has always felt a bit out of place. She grew up on the west coast and went to graduate school in the east, but having her sister and brother-in-law close by has been a help. Stacey has been more of a stay-at-home mom during her married life than a writer. She’s only published two books of poetry, but the latter one, Monsters in the Afterlife, a feminist take on the Frankenstein story, has gotten some traction. In fact, a Hollywood star has optioned it for adaptation, wants to produce, and invites Stacey to come out to his Caribbean vacation home to discuss the project. This invitation propels Stacey into Tommy DeMarco’s incredibly crazy life. DeMarco, in his latter 30’s, one assumes, is a charming, handsome womanizer. But he’s also smart, talented, and determined to make this book into a movie with the involvement of Stacey. Through the course of two years, not only do they work together off and on, but they carry on an affair at the same pace, falling in and out of each other’s lives, debating artistic visions, whether to have a relationship, how to deal with their children — Tommy has a young, troubled teenage daughter from a previous relationship – as well as trust and honesty. In a sense, the poetry Stacey has written almost becomes a metaphor for the type of woman Stacey tailors herself to be, i.e., either one that fits her traditional, steady, Midwest world with one man or one that fits into Tommy’s glamorous, bohemian, ego-driven, alcohol and Xanax-fueled existence.

    For a first novel, I found this story to be a popcorn popping, fast read. I honestly didn’t know how it would end nor how I wanted it to end. Did I want Stacey and Tommy to eventually make things permanent – if Tommy could ever *be* with one woman? Did I want Stacey to remain in Nebraska in the stable but less exciting arms of a doctor she begins to date at her sister’s urging? Or would it be best if they were both alone, with Stacey facing her grief and her artistic stagnation and Tommy finally growing up and getting control of his daughter. The romantic in me wanted things to work out, but it seemed an unreachable goal, since they were both damaged and not always good for each other. Be that as it may, I *can* recommend this story to romance readers, as long as you are not expecting absolute fidelity through the couple’s struggles, are not offended by profanity, and can look past all the heavy drinking without developing cirrhosis by osmosis. (In fact, I thought it amusing that Stacey was such a health-nut in terms of the food she feeds her children and eats herself, but has no problem sucking back the wine and vodka!) Anyway, if you enjoy books about artists, the artistic process, imperfect people attracted to each other and yet maybe not good for each other, you’ve found your story here! Luckily, it was right up my alley. I’d give it an A/A-.

    ******
    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 10 down, 9 to go (A, D, E, G, H, I, K, L, M, S …)

    The Phonics Challenge – 1 down, 18 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) — Read a romance where the mother has left her child in care of their father when she left
    Her Summer Lover by Marisa Carroll — hero has custody of his children after divorce:
    This was the ninth book in the Hotel Marchand series. The setting moved from the hotel in New Orleans where all of the previous books had been set to a small town a few hours away. The h/h had originally fallen in love the summer after they’d graduated high school when she came to town for a visit. But the hero believed her to be out of his league, so he’d dumped her once he went into the Army. The hero was now the chief of police. The heroine came back to town for her godmother’s funeral and to settle her estate. Unbeknownst to the h/h, her godmother and several of her friends—including the hero’s mother, grandmother, and ex-mother-in-law—were illegally smuggling their prescription drugs from Canada. The drugs were hidden in the godmother’s antique store and they wanted to retrieve them without alerting the h/h. The often light-hearted tone of this subplot was at odds with the prologue which was from the POV of a racist ancestor of the hero’s and contributed nothing to the story. The hero was very judgmental about how his ex-MIL and ex-wife dressed which made him look like a foolish jerk. The heroine was a fund-raising consultant. She wasn’t sure she could live in the small town. Things were further complicated by the fact the h/h had nearly reunited seven years prior to the start of the story. We were given some of the details but things were never made totally clear. There was also a subplot about the hero’s ex-wife. The prescriptions subplot was boring and took up too much page time for very little payoff. I would have enjoyed this book more if the romance had been the focus, but the author attempted to cram in so many subplots that the romance came off as a distant afterthought. I liked the h/h and his kids, but overall a very frustrating read.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise
    B = A Secret Life by Barbara Dunlop:
    The hero was an arrogant jerk who thought he was all that and a bag of chips. He’d fired his personal assistant for coming on to him (no mention of going to HR or documenting the incidents of her behavior). The assistant then leaked the secret identity of one of his authors which ran as a featured article in the New York Times. Instead of concern the heroine’s identity had become public he set out to charm her into not being angry so he could keep her as a client. Rather than consider her feelings he wondered how they could best capitalize on the situation. The heroine was worried that her old-fashioned family would disown her after discovering she wrote mystery books especially since her most recent release included a *gasp* bondage scene. He didn’t grovel at all and barely apologized so it was vexing that she immediately forgave him, especially since her identity had been a secret for ten years. Her family’s attitude that popular fiction was beneath them was ridiculous. It didn’t help that the heroine herself thought her books had no redeeming value. Or that she’d based her latest book on a murder/suicide of one of the local’s parents without asking and he was convinced her fictional take on the situation would help prove his father’s innocence. There was a secondary romance between the heroine’s sister and the local which I wished had been given more page time. The heroine was often wishy-washy and the hero got on my last nerve repeatedly. I loathed that events were such the heroine ended up apologizing to the hero after his crappy behavior. But I enjoyed the sister’s character arc, the mystery, and the secondary romance so was glad I continued reading rather than DNFing.

    K = A Second Chance by Kara Lennox: The hero was the whiny bad guy in the earlier story arc. He was such a cowardly jerk and many of his so-called pranks could have severely injured or killed people. While his motivation could have been understandable, his constant blaming of others for his own actions was wearisome. One of the main problems was the fact we had his POV in so many of the books. The continuing plot required his character to persist in his selfish pursuit of revenge through the first two-thirds of the series when he could so easily have come forward. So his turnaround from bad guy to “hero” did not work for me on multiple levels despite his apologies. He now ran his grandmother’s B&B in the small town. The heroine owned a bakery and was a single mother. Her husband had been killed in prison and she didn’t want her daughter around anyone with as much as a speeding ticket. The hero chose to keep his past a secret despite multiple opportunities to be honest with the heroine. I could also have done without the slut-shaming from the heroine. The plot felt very paint-by-numbers. I didn’t like the rewrite of history so the hero was now somehow the wronged party. Overall a disappointing read,

    J = The Legacy by Shirley Jump : The heroine owned a funeral home and was head of the committee to save the town’s run-down opera house. The hero was a photographer from Canada and had recently inherited it. He started off as a rude and judgmental jerk. He had issues with his parents and refused to stay in one place for long. The heroine’s intellectually disabled younger brother was treated as a plot device rather than a well-developed character in his own right. The hero eventually admitted he’d been wrong, but he was still exasperating. The heroine was often judgmental as well. A few unexpected twists, but overall a boring read. Despite issues with many of the books, I’m glad to be done with the series,

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 10 down, 9 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 11 down, 8 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 5 down, 14 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    A for athletics — Read a romance in which the heroine and/or hero is involved with sports, e.g. athlete, coach, referee, team owner, etc.
    A Touch of Magic by Carla Neggers – hero is a professional football player:
    When the heroine showed up at the hero’s parent’s door drenched and minus a contact lens the hero assumed she’d concocted an elaborate ruse to meet him. Though his name seemed vaguely familiar to her, the heroine had no clue he was a famous football player. She was trying to have a vacation before her thirtieth birthday away from the stress of her job as president and CEO of her company and chairman of the board of her family’s foundation. The meet-disaster plot wouldn’t work in this day and age of the internet, but was fun despite the hero’s arrogant assumptions and refusal to believe she was so successful and not simply out to snare him. It helped to have his POV somewhat and that he eventually apologized, but his insistence on believing she was lying grew wearisome. There was a small mystery involving her older brother that was rather convoluted. Overall I enjoyed the book because of the heroine.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    D = Delinquent Desire by Carla Neggers:
    This was another book with a successful heroine who met the hero under less than auspicious circumstances. She was a senior management consultant who spoke multiple languages. A misunderstanding led him to believe she was becoming a nun, while she thought he was being standoffish since she was spending the month as a counselor at her aunts’ summer camp for delinquent girls. He was a bigwig Hollywood agent. Thankfully the misunderstanding didn’t last long. The hero was judgmental about the girls, but that seemed to be an excuse to add conflict and he quickly came to realize the error of his mistaken prejudices. Neither wanted a summer fling so they made an effort to get to know one another before becoming involved and then worked to make the logistics of their relationship work. Published in 1984, parts of the plot haven’t aged well. But the heroine was great. I loved that she read the O.E.D. for fun. I had a number of plot quibbles, but nonetheless a likeable read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 11 down, 8 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 5 down, 14 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Back to the Phonics Challenge:

    N for name — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero’s first or last name begins with the letter S (the 19th letter of the alphabet).

    For this part of the challenge, I picked up Lauren Layne’s To Have and To Hold, published in 2016. This book is the first in a series of three, titled The Wedding Belles series, focusing on a group of women in New York City running a successful wedding planning business.

    This first book of the series centers on wedding planner, Brooke Baldwin. Brooke had been running her own growing wedding planning business in California. She also was orchestrating her own spectacular wedding to a man who turned out to be a huge con artist who was arrested at their bridal altar. After that incredibly heartbreaking and enormously embarrassment incident, Brooke takes off to New York City to work with the Wedding Belles and start a new life. Brooke’s first assignment is to plan the wedding of Maya Tyler, a young lady from an extremely wealthy hotel family — think the Hiltons. Standing in the way of all her plans is the man paying the bills, Maya’s overbearing big brother Seth Tyler, CEO of the Tyler hotel group. Seth and Maya’s beloved father had recently passed away from an illness he had kept from his son because he knew Seth would try and move heaven and earth to save his father’s life. Still feeling bitter over being kept in the dark, Seth’s need to make things right for the people he loves leads him to get involved in the details of Maya’s wedding plans — not because he wants the wedding to be perfect but because he suspects the groom is far more interested in Maya’s inheritance than in her. Subsequently, Seth confides in Brooke and asks her to keep an eye on the groom’s behavior. Of course, considering the reasons behind Brooke’s own aborted wedding, she has complicated emotions over Seth’s demands. Still broken hearted, she wants to believe in Maya’s happily ever after, but her immediate attraction to Seth, makes it difficult for her to ignore Seth’s concerns. As for Seth, since he’s well aware of the very public ending to Brooke’s wedding, it seems like she would be sympathetic to his concerns. However, he’s surprised that Brooke continues to believe in love and doesn’t agree with his interference. Additionally, Seth is starting to feel something for Brooke and soon wants to protect her as well.

    This story turned out to be kind of … average. I loved the NYC setting, but I didn’t feel the essence of the city in the story. I loved the hero because, in spite of his overbearing ways, it came from a good and understandable place. He had depth and was a more complicated, even tortured, character. Brooke, on the other hand, was a little more difficult to connect with. I wish we had an opportunity to see more of her backstory instead of being told about it because I had a hard time understanding her attitude towards love and marriage after being so burned. Everything was rather superficial with her. She was a bit of a Barbie doll, and the constant references to Sex in the City, which might have been okay three years ago, seemed a little dated. I’d give this a B-.

    ******

    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 10 down, 9 to go (A, D, E, G, H, I, K, L, M, S …)

    The Phonics Challenge – 2 down, 17 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    G = Renegade (originally published as Maverick) by Cindy Gerard:
    The heroine had inherited half a ranch. The hero’s father left half to his son and daughter and the other half to his former foreman’s daughter. The hero was often obnoxious and overbearing. Thankfully he eventually owned up to his unfair behavior, but I wished he had done so much earlier. The villains were obvious so the suspense subplot did not work for me. The book had clearly been updated for its digital release as one of the musicians referenced wasn’t around when it was originally published in 1991, yet no one had cell phones. I wish there’d been more page time for the hero’s house guest as she was my favorite character. There was some humor, but too many issues with the characters and plot made for a frustrating read.

    The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas
    Taken by Rebecca Zanetti:
    The h/h had bonded as foster kids and fallen in love, but had broken up five years earlier when they were each having trouble dealing with the death of another one of their bffs as well as various other issues. I liked that they had each received professional counseling in the interim. They were reunited during the search for the hero’s half-brother whom he’d never known about. Even with the unresolved feelings between them the h/h were still able to act as the long-time friends they were. The fact they now made an effort to communicate with one another made their reunion believable. As a bonus, this story offered insight into the hero of the next full-length book in the series. Overall a captivating romance with a good blend of humor, angst, and found family.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 5 down, 14 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    Crash (2005) — Read a romance in which one or both main characters are police officers or detectives; a romance where a main character is a victim of a crime or a potential victim; a romance set on the west coast of the U.S.; and/or a romance with characters from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds as the leads.
    Cavanaugh Cowboy by Marie Ferrarella — hero is a detective:
    The hero was a burned-out detective who went to Texas for a change of pace. One of the supporting characters was supposed to be funny with her nosiness, but I found her overbearing. The hero came across as a sexist jerk upon discovering the ranch foreman was a woman but thankfully quickly and totally owned up to the folly of his assumption. The heroine was often anti-social. Some of their forced-togetherness scenes were stilted. The characters frequently acted oddly to further the plot. When one of the ranch workers went missing, the hero investigated despite being wildly out of his jurisdiction. And that was sadly only the tip of the iceberg vis-à-vis the lack of realistic police procedure. Overall a disjointed and very disappointing read.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    Q = Tightrope by Amanda Quick:
    The heroine was a former trapeze artist-turned-hotelier. The hero was an engineer investigating the whereabouts of a cipher machine. He was also a Jones, though the Arcane Society was never actually mentioned. I enjoyed their romance even though it took a back seat to the mystery. Most of the villains were obvious but there were plenty of twists and turns. The secondary couple from the previous book had more page time which I enjoyed. One of the subplots was left unresolved (the characters discuss that fact on page) so it will be interesting to see if it will remain a background subplot for multiple books. Despite the family connection and the hero’s ability, I wouldn’t categorize this book as a paranormal as with the books in her long-running Arcane Society series. Overall a charming read filled with fun characters and the author’s customary humor.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 2 down, 17 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 13 down, 6 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 13 down, 6 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 5 down, 14 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    H = The Bride Test by Helen Hoang:
    Determined to find her youngest son a wife, the hero’s mother went to Vietnam to interview candidates. The heroine worked in housekeeping at the hotel and caught her attention. The heroine’s mother encouraged her to go in order to make a better life for herself and her young daughter plus possibly locate her father. The hero was not keen on the idea, but went along since his mother promised she would stop trying to fix him up if he allowed the heroine to stay for the summer. Their families each had significant page time which added to the story. I adored the heroine. Their romance was filled with humor and self-discovery. Without spoilers, there was one element that wasn’t addressed until the very end. Though the author added some detail in the epilogue I wished more of the immediate fallout had been on page. Nonetheless overall this was an enchanting read.

    The 20th Century Challenge
    1984 = The Venus Shoe by Carla Neggers (published July 1984):
    This book felt more old-skool than some of the author’s earlier books. The heroine was suspicious of the hero’s motives. The hero had no POV scenes which was typical for the period it was written. Sadly, so was the often dismissive and callous way the hero treated her. The heroine felt it made no sense that she so blindingly trusted the hero simply because she was attracted to him. He was keeping numerous secrets and became angry when she questioned him, yet he still refused to explain. I enjoyed the mystery and liked the heroine and her bff, But the hero’s attitude got on my last nerve and I hated something that he did (even if it was in self-defense).

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 14 down, 5 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 13 down, 6 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 5 down, 14 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) — Read a romance featuring a soldier re-adjusting to civilian life after coming home
    Wyoming Cowboy Marine by Nicole Helm — hero has recently been discharged from active duty:
    Raised off the grid, the heroine had been taught to never trust anyone. For not having been around any people other than her father for the past fifteen years, she was remarkably well-adjusted. The hero had left the Marines to start a security firm. The reasons why they needed to go undercover as a young married couple were implausible at best. The mystery plot had a few twists but was mostly lackluster and convoluted. This hero took the family feud more seriously than his siblings in the previous books. The romance felt underdeveloped. Overall I wanted to like the book more than I did.

    Spotlight (2015) — Read a romance in which one or both of the lead characters are writers or journalists; a romance set at a newspaper or magazine; a romance in which one or both leads are involved in an investigation; a romance in which either of the leads is a member of the clergy; Or, simply, read a epistolary romance.
    Killer Countdown by Amelia Autin — heroine is a reporter:
    While determined to not be in the headlines again herself, the heroine seemingly had no qualms about exposing the secrets of others. She quickly decided the hero’s medical diagnosis wasn’t news and agreed to keep his secret until he was ready to go public. When they foiled an attempt on his life as he was leaving the hospital, he decided he had no choice but to do so right away. The hero’s wife had been killed years before as had the heroine’s fiancé, so they were each determined not to become involved. Of course their resolutions were short-lived as they fell in love in spite of themselves. Even though politics wasn’t the focus of this story, the fact the hero was a US senator caused me to put off reading this book. It was far-fetched that he was an independent who always voted his conscience, but given the current reality I was relieved the politics were handled in such a Pollyannaish way. Even with a few plot quibbles and the hero’s martyr/hero-complex, I quite enjoyed the romance. They had great chemistry and for the most part acted like adults. I liked the hero, but it was the heroine who made the book.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 14 down, 5 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 12 down, 7 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 15 down, 4 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 5 down, 14 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    I for identity — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero has amnesia. Or where the heroine and/or hero is hiding their true identity, been a victim of mistaken identity, etc.
    The Bodyguard’s Bride-to-Be by Amelia Autin – heroine has amnesia:
    This h/h were introduced several books ago and anticipation of their story had been the main reason I’d stuck with this series. The heroine was an administrative assistant at the US Embassy. She suffered a severe concussion in a bombing and was placed in a medically-induced coma. When she awoke she had no memory of the previous eighteen months. In an effort to protect her, the hero pretended they were still engaged even though she’d returned his ring two weeks earlier despite the fact they were both very much in love. He was in charge of the security detail for the crown prince. The book took place in a fictional country in which women had only been recently allowed to serve in their military, etc. The hero knew he was a product of his chauvinistic upbringing but had been and continued to make the effort to reevaluate his thoughts and actions to truly treat women as equals. Since he was aware not doing so was wrong he actually did a much better job of not acting like a jerk than some of the previous heroes in this series, even those not raised in the pretend country. The domestic terrorism subplot would have been better served if the immigrants who were the purported targets of the attacks had been given more page time other than a few brief scenes for one small family. As it was they felt more like a plot device. Despite these issues, the romance made the book work. The heroine fell for the hero again even though she knew he was keeping something secret from her. The hero knew he’d screwed up before and was determined to do whatever he could to set their relationship to rights. They each had baggage to work through and it was easy sympathize with both of them. There were other plot quibbles, but overall a good balance of angst, humor, and self-discovery.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 14 down, 5 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 13 down, 6 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 15 down, 4 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 5 down, 14 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    Argo (2012) — Read a science fiction romance; read a romance involving one or more main characters who are spies; or a romance in which one or more lead characters work for any government.
    End Transmission by Robyn Bachar – science fiction romance:
    I was excited to read this final entry in the Galactic Cold War trilogy since its publication had been delayed multiple times. The hero was a doctor who owned their ship along with his sister. The heroine was an engineer and expert hacker. Their working relationship since she’d joined the crew often put them odds since he felt she never followed orders and she thought he was dismissive of her abilities. Stranded together on a smaller ship after an attack, they had to work together to survive and finally set aside their preconceived notions to truly get to know one another. It also allowed them to acknowledge the underlying attraction that had always been there and that they’d each avoided. The h/h took turns rescuing one other. It was nice that they talked through their issues. There were some brief moments to catch up with the other characters, though I wished we could have spent more time with the ensemble cast. The main story arc was somewhat resolved, but there were enough loose ends that I’m hoping for further books. Overall an enjoyable read filled with banter and adventure.

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    T for time — Read a futuristic or time-travel romance.
    Camron by Veronica Scott – futuristic:
    The hero had been recaptured by the main bad guys and sent to different secret lab. The heroine was a doctor. They were the sole survivors when the cargo ship they were on crashed on the way to yet another lab. After making a run for it, they were picked up and delivered to a new alien bad guy. Rather than a scientist, he was in charge of security on the planet and wanted to hunt the h/h as if they were big game. There were times the resolution to one of the jams the h/h found themselves in felt a bit deus ex machina. The hero was middle of the road, but I adored the heroine so enjoyed the romance. We had the first glimpse of one of the other groups since book one, so it will be interesting to see how that eventually plays out. Overall a solid read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 14 down, 5 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 14 down, 5 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 16 down, 3 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 5 down, 14 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Back to the Alphabet Variation Challenge:

    Letter “F”

    For the Letter “F”, I decided to read Avery Flynn’s The Schemer, published in 2018. This book is the third in a series that includes The Negotiator and The Charmer. (All of these book titles refer to the hero in the novel.)

    In The Schemer, Tyler Jacobson is a highly successful business consultant. His background, however, was not very illustrious. His parents were working class and not very pleasant with each other or with him. As a result, as a young boy, he spent a great deal of time at the library immersing himself in books and at friends’ houses immersing himself in loving families. Ultimately, both of these outlets, helped Tyler to win a scholarship to prep school and on to a top university, and he never looked back. Tyler has spent most of his life denying his past. He’s ridden himself of his streetwise accent, mixes with only the “right people,” and has bought himself property and possessions that are top drawer. Tyler, long ago, moved out of his old neighborhood, but still sees his old friends every so often, even though there is some tension between them due to Tyler’s purposeful absence from their lives.

    Enter Everly Ribinski. Everly has just moved into one of the buildings Tyler owns (and lives in) as well as renting retail space for an art gallery. Everly has something in common with her new landlord. She, too, is from a rough part of town. But, unlike Tyler, Everly has retained ties to her past, particularly to an ailing grandmother who helped her single mother raise her. She’s also retained her accent and her street smarts, and for the first time in a long time, something from the rougher neighborhoods in his past attracts Tyler. Everly and Tyler don’t hit it off straight away. But, shortly thereafter, their somewhat prickly attraction to each other overcomes them and they begin a frenemies with benefits relationship. In addition, Tyler learns that Everly is friends with an older, suave Italian hotel magnate with whom he desperately wants to do business. This latter situation allows Tyler to come to the realization that maybe he can be honest about himself and his past and still be accepted by his upper class friends and colleagues.

    The Schemer is a pretty straightforward, sexy, enemies to lovers romance. It took me a bit of time to get through it due to attending Book Lovers’ Con, where it seems one doesn’t tend to read books … only acquire them. 😉 That being said, I managed to put The Schemer aside to do other things, so it wasn’t a hugely compelling read. What annoyed me a bit was the hero’s unrelenting denial of his past and his refusal to accept Everly and consider her good enough for a long term relationship, and therefore, consider himself good enough, period. That being said, Everly also had a chip on her shoulder concerning her deceased mother’s affair with her wealthy boss, who then denied both mother and child once she informed him she was pregnant. I have to say, I appreciated the book’s focus on these issues surrounding class and acceptance. These are themes of which I can relate, but I thought the barrier that they raised between the couple went on far too long. (I guess if I had read the first two books in the series, I might have gotten a better appreciation of the strength of the hold Tyler’s hang ups had on him.) On the upside, the book did have a nice older adults’ romance between the Italian hotel magnate and Everly and Tyler’s mutual friend – an older socialite who has walled herself off from romance ever since her husband died. That was a nice relationship and we need more stories which include relationships between older adults. I’d give this story a B.

    ******

    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 11 down, 8 to go (A, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, S …)

    The Phonics Challenge – 2 down, 17 to go

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 1 day ago by   Sandlynn.
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise
    H = Wyoming Cowboy Sniper by Nicole Helm:
    The h/h liked trading snarky insults. She was the town mechanic; he was the town banker. They had a drunken one-night stand when his sister married her brother. Fast forward four months and the heroine told him she was pregnant. He disagreed with her plan to pretend the baby wasn’t his and for him to stay out of her and the baby’s lives. He wanted to be angry she’d waited to tell him, but realized they needed to find common ground. Before they could finish their argument, the bank was robbed and they were taken hostage. The heroine received a head injury and did not remember the past thirteen years when she first regained consciousness. The h/h each did some questionable things solely to move the plot forward which was frustrating. One of the hero’s sisters was a cop and had a significant amount of POV scenes. It was refreshing that she finally had it out with their contentious father. The hero was keeping a far-fetched secret. Plot quibbles galore, but I enjoyed the h/h together. Easily my favorite of this series.

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation
    K = The Knotted Skein by Carla Neggers:
    The heroine had recently returned but had yet to tell her family. The hero had been presumed killed the week before and her ex-sister-in-law had supposedly committed suicide. The hero didn’t want her to mention that he was alive. He started as a condescending jerk. He apologized, but continued to give her orders without any explanations. As the only daughter with seven older brothers she’d been expected to study liberal arts. Her family didn’t take her pursuit of science seriously though she’d just been accepted to a doctoral program at MIT. I loved that the heroine wouldn’t allow the hero or her eldest brother to dictate her actions. The mystery was intriguing though I had quibbles with part of the resolution. We were meant to find the hero charming, but he was smug. So overall a vexing read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 15 down, 4 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 14 down, 5 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 16 down, 3 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 6 down, 13 to go…
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