One-Quote Review: Bound to Be a Bride by Megan Mulry

Bound to Be a Bride by Megan Mulry

  • Title: Bound to Be a Bride
  • Author: Megan Mulry
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, April 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 87 pages
  • Trope(s): Runaway Bride, In Disguise, Kidnapped, Bondage, Mistorical, TSTL
  • Quick blurb: Runaway bride kidnapped by fiancé she’s never met.
  • Quick review: Not painful, but more than a little ridiculous.
  • Grade: D+

She had proved quite amenable, showing admirable equestrian and culinary skills and generally not making a nuisance of herself.

This story was all over the place, especially the wildly inconsistent, nearly-TSTL heroine and her education at the Convent of Handy Outdoor Survival Techniques.

One-Quote Review: Hold Me Down Hard by Cathryn Fox

Hold Me Down Hard by Cathryn Fox

  • Title: Hold Me Down Hard
  • Author: Cathryn Fox
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Entangled (Flirt), May 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 51 pages
  • Trope(s): Small-Town Girl in the Big City, Sexy Cop
  • Quick blurb: Actress gets sexy cop neighbor to “run lines” so she can nail (wink, wink) an upcoming role.
  • Quick review: Too short for Full Snark. Almost DNFed it.
  • Grade: D

“Actually, these lines seem a bit cheesy.”

I had to choose that quote. How could I not choose that quote? I requested this solely for the “naive Iowa farm girl” bit in the blurb, and the nicest thing I have to say is that it’s exactly what I expected.

This short story (a very strange choice for Entangled’s Flirt line) is one erotica cliché after another (except a billionaire CEO), with some eye-rolling attempts at ridiculously superficial characterization.

One-Quote Review: After Hours by Cara McKenna

After Hours by Cara McKenna

  • Title: After Hours
  • Author: Cara McKenna
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Penguin/Intermix, April 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 281 pages
  • Trope(s): Loners, Annoying Siblings, Tragic Pasts
  • Quick blurb: A rookie psychiatric nurse gets involved – very reluctantly – with her enigmatic coworker.
  • Quick review: Just add me to all the other “holy shit wow” reviews.
  • Grade: A-

“What we have between us is strong and stupid.”

When I beg for “something different,” THIS is what I mean. Difficult, dark characters in a desperate, almost desolate setting, and McKenna makes it all subversively romantic.

Naughty Norsemen: Going a-Viking in Romancelandia – Part 1

We’ll subtitle this post….

The maiden voyage

As part of my Haul of Half-Off Harlequins, I wound up with two Viking romances, chosen primarily for the snark value. Unfortunately, both were actually pretty good.

But, of course, these books kicked off a Viking-theme book binge, which dredged up one ridiculously fun PNR mashup, several “meh” examples, and one so-called “classic” that left me cringing.

Cute Viking

Before we set sail, I must admit I know fuck-all about actual Vikings or Norse mythology. I did learn that the proper homage to Thor for a successful pillage was a goat sacrifice, and you know how I feel about goats.

ANYWAY, it’s time to put on our pointy-horned hats and go raiding.

Continue reading

One-Quote Review: How to Misbehave by Ruthie Knox

How to Misbehave by Ruthie Knox

  • Title: How to Misbehave
  • Author: Ruthie Knox
  • Series: Camelot, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Loveswept, January 2013
  • Source: NetGalley (99¢ ebook)
  • Length: 121 pages
  • Trope(s): Inexperienced Heroine, Angsty Hero, Trapped by a Storm
  • Quick blurb: Quiet community center director makes the most of an unexpected entrapment with a  local construction contractor.
  • Quick review: An amazing amount of characterization in only 100 pages. Also, hot storm sex.
  • Grade: A

Not like a cudgel at all. Like…wanting, if it had a shape.

Yes, I’m giving Knox YET ANOTHER “A” GRADE. I’m a fangirl. Just shut up and read this, it’s wonderful.

One-Quote Review: Selling Out by Amber Lin

Selling Out by Amber Lin

  • Title: Selling Out
  • Author: Amber Lin
  • Series: Lost Girls, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense
  • Publisher: Loose Id, February 2013
  • Source: Review copy provided by author ($7.99 ebook)
  • Length: 315 pages
  • Trope(s): Crusty Cop, Hooker with a Heart of Gold, Family Drama
  • Quick blurb:  A jaded call girl feels compelled to save a naive young runaway — and an enigmatic cop is trying to protect them both.
  • Quick review: The frenetic opening almost left me behind, but when I finally caught up, the intense atmosphere and complex characters had me hooked.
  • Grade: B

He was more deserving of love than anybody I had ever known, but it wasn’t even relevant to how I felt about him. Love wasn’t a choice, it was an accident. Not a climb, but a fall. I had slipped somewhere along my prickly path and down, down to the murky depths, hurtling ever farther, ever faster, and the only question was whether he would meet me at the bottom.

I probably should have read the first book in the series again before starting this one, because I felt more than a little bewildered during the first few chapters. But then Officer Luke showed up, and GOOD LORD.

And just as Lin captured the despair and hope of a struggling single mother in Giving It Up, the call girl main character here is anything but cookie-cutter. Shelly is bitchy and vulnerable and probably the most complex prostitute I’ve ever read in a contemporary.

One-Quote Review: The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry

  • The Other Side of Us by Sarah MayberryTitle: The Other Side of Us
  • Author: Sarah Mayberry
  • Series/Category: SuperRomance
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, January 2013
  • Source: Harlequin.com (currently free on Amazon)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Trope(s): Rebound/Starting Over, Obnoxious Exes, Beta Hero
  • Quick blurb:  TV producer recovering from horrific accident clashes and clinches with her soon-to-be-divorced new neighbor.
  • Quick review: Loved the mature characters, but over all it’s too tepid for a re-read — and I had to take points off for misuse of canine characters.
  • Grade: C

“So be afraid. Be angry. Be jealous. Be possessive. Be whatever you need to be. But please, let me come along for the ride.”

I suppose I was expecting something more vibrant like Her Best Worst Mistake, so this was kind of a letdown — and I have yet to find a Harlequin SuperRomance with any sort of “wow” factor.

While I loved that both main characters were in their late 30s, the arc of the relationship-building never really grabbed me. Oliver’s crucial episode of irrational jealousy, and Mackenzie’s reaction, were realistic and just angsty enough without being overwrought — but then the utterly useless epilogue threw me out of my short-lived happy place.

Also…what in the hell was the deal with the “haha, oops, puppies!” plot device? Is spaying and neutering not recommended in Australia as it is in the U.S.? The hero doesn’t remember that his beloved schnauzer spent quality time with a Doberman? And the workaholic heroine is going to breed her dog because “wire-haired dachshunds are really hard to come by…”? I need a few more question marks here — ?????

Maybe I’m overly sensitive because I’m still grieving for my shelter dog, but the irresponsible breeding is probably the one thing I will remember most about this book — and I doubt that’s what the author or the publisher intended.

One-Quote Review: Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire

Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire

  • Title: Making Him Sweat
  • Author: Meg Maguire
  • Series/Category: Wilinski’s, Book 1 (Blaze)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, February 2013
  • Source: NetGalley ($3.82 ebook)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Trope(s): Lust in the Workplace, Sweaty Beta Hero, Heroine with Father Issues
  • Quick blurb: Aspiring matchmaker inherits estranged father’s boxing/MMA gym
  • Quick review: Likeable all the way around, pretty much what I expected for a Harlequin Blaze
  • Grade: B

Ten minutes? Ten minutes wasn’t nearly enough time to decide what to do. Then again, ten minutes was plenty of time to change into cuter underwear, and wasn’t that her answer, right there?

It seems like all the contemps I’ve chosen for this binge feature Lust in the Workplace, with the obligatory “This is such a bad idea” pre-sex banter. Fortunately, Maguire is really good at all the out-of-bed banter too, and she threw in some realistic conflict, so this one fulfilled all my expectations of a light and sexy Harlequin Blaze.

And I’m pretty sure I’ll read Prince Richard’s book.

One-Quote Review: Seven-Night Stand by Nicole Helm

Seven-Night Stand by Nicole Helm

  • Title: Seven-Night Stand
  • Author: Nicole Helm
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Entangled, February 2013
  • Source: NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 217 pages
  • Trope(s): Lust in the Workplace, Brooding Hero, Emotionally Uninvolved Heroine
  • Quick blurb: Reclusive pilot tries to keep reality TV scout out of his flawed family’s business
  • Quick review: A little iffy in the beginning, but the heroine’s panic attack saved the story
  • Grade: B-

“Don’t look at me like that!” She wanted to slap him away. She wanted to hold on to him and cling. She wanted a million things her mind couldn’t find the words for.

“Like what?”

Like you care. Like you want to care.

During the first few chapters, I was in the throes of an “OMG, what if I don’t like this, the author is a Twitter friend and I’ll feel so guilty and she’ll stop tweeting pictures of half-naked baseball players for meeee” flail. Then the heroine had her own flaming panic attack which made me like her much more and my Book Anxiety calmed to a tolerable level. But the heroine’s panic attack was induced by a brain-melting Storage Closet Sex Orgasm, which has never happened to me, so I’m still a little bitter about that.

ANYWAY. I found it really hard to connect with the first half of the story because heroine Vivvy is so purposefully “cool and detached” that I wasn’t feeling the romantic or sexual chemistry at all. But when she starts opening up after the panic attack and lets all the feelings in, she’s a much more compelling character.

Plus, you know, a brooding hottie pilot and Storage Closet Sex.

One-Quote Review: Playing the Maestro by Aubrie Dionne

Playing the Maestro by Aubrie Dionne

  • Title: Playing the Maestro
  • Author: Aubrie Dionne
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Entangled, February 2013
  • Source: NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 190 pages
  • Trope(s): Lust in the Workplace, Supermodel Ex-Girlfriend, Big Misunderstanding, Plot Moppets
  • Quick blurb: Professional flutist gets the hots for her community orchestra’s new guest conductor.
  • Quick review: Good start, but flattened into a predictable and superficial soap opera.
  • Grade: C-

Too bad he has a baton up his ass….

I am a classical music geek (you’re not surprised), so I figured this book would either win me over or piss me off. It wound up being somewhere in between, landing in the “well, I finished it…” category.

I was pleasantly surprised with the first few chapters because the author (a professional musician) actually addresses the touchy ethics of workplace romances. But when the first Total Drama Moment (heroine gets mugged in the alley behind the concert hall) led into some Now? Really??? lusting (she’s in pain from a possible concussion one minute, then Thinking Dirty Thoughts the next), my eyes started rolling.

Add in the superfluous Sick Child(ren) Plot Moppet(s) and the off-the-shelf Weasely Ex-Boyfriend and Supermodel Ex-Girlfriend rom-com stock characters, and the Sequined Showdown at the Donors’ Gala crisis, and this book wound up having about as much emotional depth as a John Tesh concert.

However…. Give sidekick Carly the Smartass Oboe Player a sequel with a Shy But Loyal Tuba Player and I AM THERE. I don’t care who writes it.