One-Quote Reviews: Four Harlequin Love-Inspired Historicals

Falling for the Teacher by Dorothy Clark

  • Falling for the Teacher by Dorothy ClarkTitle: Falling for the Teacher
  • Author: Dorothy Clark
  • Series: Pinewood Weddings
  • Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical (1841 Upstate New York)
  • Publisher: Harlequin, September 2013
  • Category: Love Inspired Historical
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Tragic Past, Small Town, Extreme Self-Doubt
  • Quick blurb: Schoolteacher returns home to care for her ailing grandparents and finds the brother of her rapist managing the family business.
  • Quick review: Really annoyed with the heroine in the beginning, but chemistry and character development turned this into an unexpectedly emotional read.
  • Grade: B

He rose and looked down into her eyes. “Sadie….”

“Yes?”

Her name was a gruff plea from his constricted throat – her answer a barely heard whisper. Time was lost in his need to comfort her, to protect her, to love her forever. He sucked in a breath, fighting his heart with every bit of strength he possessed and hating himself for winning the battle. “I’ll see you safe to the house.”

I struggled with Sadie’s overwrought, baseless accusations in the first third of the book, but as Cole slowly wins her over, we get the backstory details we need to root for their HEA.

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Lady Outlaw by Stacy Henrie

Lady Outlaw by Stacy Henrie (Harlequin)

  • Title: Lady Outlaw
  • Author: Stacy Henrie
  • Series/Category: Love Inspired Historical
  • Genre(s): Historical (Western), Inspirational
  • Publisher: Harlequin, September 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($3.82 ebook)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Cowgirl in Peril, Beta Hero with Tragic Past, Evil Banker, Bad Guys in Salooons
  • Quick blurb: Desperate rancheress rethinks her dangerous ways of acquiring money when she hires an ex-bounty hunter with a tragic past as her new cowhand.
  • Quick review: Good — but recommended only for dedicated inspie readers.
  • Grade: B-

“Is that what this is about? Making sacrifices?” He leaned forward. “A sacrifice is only worth something if it’s right. Sacrificing your integrity, your happiness, your freedom — that won’t bring you anything but misery. I know, because I tried.”

A strong-but-vulnerable heroine, an honorable beta hero with a believable tragic past, and a great set-up for the spot-on faith messages. But compared to my last read, Henrie’s storytelling and voice sagged. This was her debut novel, and I’d be willing to try her second.

Tripleheader: Fool’s Gold Summer (x3) by Susan Mallery

“This is Fool’s Gold. You can’t mess with one of the women and then act as if it didn’t happen.”

I’m going to present these in descending series order, because Book 7 is an epic Mess O’ Crazy. With goats. But not enough goats.

Goat Warning

WARNING: GOATS AHEAD

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All Summer Long

  • All Summer Long by Susan MalleryTitle: All Summer Long
  • Author(s): Susan Mallery
  • Series: Fool’s Gold, Book 9
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin HQN, July 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($5.99 ebook)
  • Length: 376 pages
  • Trope(s): Small Town, Misfits, Friends with Benefits, Angst, Kick-Ass Heroine
  • Quick blurb: Former underwear model helps small-town firefighter overcome her fear of men.
  • Quick review: Great balance of fun, angst and hotness, with perfectly matched hero and heroine.
  • Grade: A-

“Lesson one,” he told her.

“How many are there?”

“As many as it takes. This is going to be a full service seduction.”

Damn, that was fun – especially considering where I started with this series. And the grand gesture? OH. MY. GOD. Second only to Nev’s in About Last Night. *~*swoon*~*

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More Goat

Dude. Hang in there. You’ll get to the goats soon enough.

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Cowboy’s Triplet Trouble by Carla Cassidy

  • The Cowboy's Triplet Trouble by Carla CassidyTitle: Cowboy’s Triplet Trouble
  • Author: Carla Cassidy
  • Category/Series: Romantic Suspense, Top Secret Deliveries
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense (???)
  • Publisher:  Harlequin,  October 2011
  • Source: Amazon, $3.82 ebook
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Trope(s): Cowboy, Single Mother, Plot Moppets (x3!!!), Beta Hero, Sibling Drama, One-Night Stand, Secret Babies (x3!!!)
  • Quick blurb: Single mother of triplets tracks down Baby Daddy to Oklahoma ranch, where she mistakes his identical triplet brother (yes, really) as her one-night stand.
  • Quick review: I am clearly MUCH too cynical to enjoy books like this.
  • Grade: D+

The only thing he knew for sure was that a man brandishing a gun shouldn’t be inside Grace’s house.

Full disclosure….

The reason I chose this book was because there are triplets in my family. I’ve seen and experienced first-hand what it takes to survive parenting multiples. I knew there would be numerous “oh, NUH-UH” moments that I could giggle over and share with snarky glee.

And those expectations were fulfilled in oh so many wonderful ways – primarily because THESE BABIES ARE CYBORGS. They are mini robots programmed to be the Perfect Plot Moppets:

  • They are named alphabetically (Abby, Bonnie, Casey).
  • They wear color-coded outfits.
  • They fall asleep and wake at the exact same time, without a whimper.
  • They sit quietly on the floor and play with toys.
  • They wait patiently for meals and baths.
  • They nap peacefully in their car seats during long road trips.

But wait – there’s more! These babies NEVER CRY. Ever. Except when tears and wailing are useful to the plot in the second-to-last chapter.

Example:

Hero and heroine take triplets out for dinner and have long, intimate, soul-baring conversation. While the babies eat spaghetti.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

These babies are so Stepford perfect that at TEN MONTHS their SINGLE MOTHER is completely comfortable driving them to their UNKNOWN BABY DADDY’S HOUSE hours away and STAYING IN A MOTEL. But then, having magically-appearing baby gear and a car bewitched with an Undetectable Extension Charm like Hermione’s purse or Mary Poppins’ carpet bag probably helps.

Example:

The three car seats can be easily removed from Grace’s car and installed in (a) bench seat of a king-cab pickup AND (b) backseat of a cop car. Within minutes. With no swearing.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

So, now for the not-funny parts….

I recently read another Carla Cassidy book, and while it wasn’t mind-blowing, I did enjoy the suspense and the characters. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen at all with this book.

I found it boring because the cardboard protagonists never change. From start to finish, he’s the Stoic Cowboy with a Heart of Gold and she’s the Perfectly Perfect Schoolteacher (except for that one-night moment of drunken weakness, of course). These two have a very noticeable lack of personality.

Even worse, the internal angstifying was unbearably repetitive:

She wasn’t expecting instant happiness from Justin, but what she was hoping for was some sort of acceptance of the situation and the happiness would come later.

By the end of the first chapter, WE KNOW that she’s not after money or marriage. But we’re still confronted with her thoughts on it over and over and over. The hero’s inner drama is just as numbing:

He’d spent most of his life shouldering responsibilities to make life easier on everyone else around him. Now what he wanted more than anything was just to be left alone.

How often are we reminded of this? The word “alone” appears in the book FORTY-FOUR (44) times. My god, we get it already, all right?

I have a few other Carla Cassidy books on my “maybe” shelf and most are rated highly, so I’m hoping this one was just an anomaly.

One-Quote Review: Complete Faith by Sue Brown

  • Complete Faith by Sue BrownTitle: Complete Faith
  • Author: Sue Brown
  • Series: Morning Report, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, M/M
  • Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, April 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($5.38 ebook)
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Trope(s): Coming Out, Cowboys, Virgin
  • Quick blurb: Preacher inspires young ranch hand to come out of the closet.
  • Quick review: Not a lot of emotional depth considering the race and religion themes.
  • Grade: C

The pastor of St. Mark’s was a walking wet dream as far as Tommy was concerned: smooth chocolate skin that fascinated him, and huge dark eyes that seemed to know everything there was to know about him.

I LOVED that one of the heroes was a gay black preacher, but the characters and storytelling seemed really simplistic and superficial, and even the sex was perfunctory. I was expecting a lot more emotion, both romantically and spiritually – Marie Sexton’s Between Sinners and Saints set my expectations, and Complete Faith just felt completely lackluster in comparison.

More Harlequin Categories: Intrigue, Special Edition and American Romance

In which I reference an Alfred Hitchcock movie and fuss about more misogyny-disguised-as-romance.

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Wrangled by B.J. Daniels

  • Wrangled by B.J. DanielsTitle: Wrangled
  • Author: B.J. Daniels
  • Category/Series: Intrigue; Whitehorse, MT: Chisholm Cattle Co., Book 6
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 217 pages
  • Trope(s): Cowboys, Kidnapping, Serial Killer, Friends-to-Lovers, In Disguise
  • Quick blurb: Something involving a cowboy and a cowgirl, with some wacky not-really-suspenseful crime stuff.
  • Quick review: If this finale book had this much Chock-Full-Of-Crazy, I don’t think I’d survive the entire series.
  • Grade: C

“But that kiss? I was just fulfilling a promise I made you before you moved to New Mexico. Remember?”

The happy couple….

Dakota Lansing is an orphaned cowgirl playing host to her Surprise Step-Sister. Zach Chisholm is a cowboy who…um…I don’t really remember, but he’s definitely a cowboy because his last name is Chisholm and he drives a pickup.

The setting….

The 8,000,000-acre  (approx.) Chisholm Ranch near Whitehorse, Montana, which conveniently features a mysterious graveyard, numerous villain-proof hidey-holes and a water cistern that becomes vitally important to the plot.

The storytelling….

Yowza. In-Disguise Serial Killer Out for Revenge, with bonus Prison-Escapee Minions.  Surprise Step-Sister coerced into doing something illegal that never really made sense. Heroine and Hero identify Surprise Step-Sister’s birth mother with two phone calls and one brief road trip. Surprise Step-Sister and Heroine abducted by Serial Killer. Last-Second Rescue aided by an Airplane Chase, a la North by Northwest:

North by Northwest plane scene

Kinda like this. But not really.

It’s all very exciting. And when I say “all,” I mean there’s a LOT of shit going down on the Old Chisholm Homestead.

Even without reading the previous five books in the series, the identity of the Disguised Serial Killer is blindingly obvious – but really, who the hell cares, because it gives us plenty of fun “Hey, yoohoo, the villain is RIGHT THERE, dumbass!” moments.

The romance….

Hmm…let me think for a moment…. I believe there was some smooching and maybe some under-the-clothes touching at some point, but then The Crazy took over.

The recommendation….

I went with a C grade because this book fulfilled most of my expectations of an over-the-top Harlequin Intrigue suspense plot, but the romance got lost in the dust.

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Fortune’s Perfect Match by Allison Leigh

  • Fortune's Perfect Match by Allison LeighTitle: Fortune’s Perfect Match
  • Author: Allison Leigh
  • Series/Category: Special Edition; The Fortunes of Texas, Book 954 (approx.)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 218 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Secret Baby (kind of)
  • Quick blurb: Sophisticated city girl and scruffy small-town guy, with some baby drama
  • Quick review: Nothing spectacular, but I enjoyed it.
  • Grade: B-

“Problem is—” his fingers slowly inched upward, “I usually make a habit of doing things that aren’t smart.”

The happy couple….

Emily Fortune is the VP of advertising for her father’s telecom company, and she’s desperate to become a mother like her sisters. Max Allen is a brooding airport manager and pilot-in-training who had to give up the Secret Baby That Wasn’t Really His. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler.)

Continue reading

RITA Reader Challenge: Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist

  • Love on the Line by Deeanne GistTitle: Love on the Line
  • Author: Deeanne Gist
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical, Inspirational
  • Publisher: Bethany House, October 2011
  • Source: Amazon, $8.54
  • Trope(s): Virgins, Alpha Males, Cowboys
  • Quick blurb: Undercover lawman gets unexpected help – and more – from a spinster switchboard operator.
  • Quick review: The sexy times may be “clean,” but whoo-whee, Gist knows how to write kissing scenes.
  • Grade: A

Cupping her neck, he ran a thumb from the tip of her chin to the indentation between her collarbones.

She opened her eyes. “Now I know why cats purr.”

If you shy away from inspirational romances – or even if you actively avoid them – get off your high horse and read some Deeanne Gist. Start with Maid to Match, and then read this.

Read the full review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

The Cowboy’s Princess Wife by Mysty McPartland

  • The Cowboy's Princess Wife by Mysty McPartlandTitle: The Cowboy’s Princess Wife
  • Author: Mysty McPartland
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing, January 2012
  • Source: Amazon, $4.99
  • Trope(s): Virgins, Alpha Males, Cowboys, Mystery Marriage, I Hate You Except When We Kiss
  • Quick blurb: Scottish Princess shows up on doorstep of Cowboy Earl claiming proxy marriage.
  • Quick review: I can’t decide which was worse – the bad history or the bad editing.
  • Grade: F

In the interests of fairness, and to prove that I’m an Equal Opportunity Crank, I decided to try out another title from the publishing house that signed Sable “Hell Yeah!” Hunter.

I chose The Cowboy’s Princess Wife because of the bodice-ripping title, the author’s stripper-rific first name and the blurb:

Even though she made a promise to her dying grandfather, Carlin only intends to deliver the letter to the Earl and leave. When he refuses to let her go she takes time to contemplate the situation and being attracted to him decides to give their marriage a chance.  Her husband was so annoying at times she re-thinks her situation and once again makes plans to leave.

Surprised at finding two beautiful women in his parlor Haydon cannot deny the overwhelming attraction he feels towards one of them. He is shocked senseless when he finds out his father has married him to the woman he desires. Bound by duty and honor he can never let her go. However, it doesn’t take him long to become irritated with her and all the crap she fill his house with. What makes him furious though was all the deception.

Can Haydon keep his princess wife safe? Can their love for one another over come all the obstacles?

Verb tense disagreement, missing commas and a house full of crap in the blurb? Wheee, let’s get started!

But before we get carried away….

Let’s take a look at the dedication page:

Author Dedication page - The Cowboy's Princess Wife

Reason #1 Why Secret Cravings Publishing Is Collectively Smoking Crack

The opening scene….

With her heart beating wildly in her chest, her stomach twisted in a knot of nervous tension, Carlin thought she just might be sick.

Oooh, barfing in the first sentence! But if this is a historical, shouldn’t she be casting up her accounts?

Her eyes wide open, she kept sweeping the area with fearful apprehension. Dear Lord, what had her sweet grandfather forced her into she silently asked?

All righty. So that’s the way it’s going to be. Thanks for the early warning.

Lord, she didn’t want to do this, did not want to be here, well she couldn’t do anything about it now since she already arrived, she despondently told herself.

I’m silently telling myself despondently that I don’t really want to read this but I paid $5 for it because I’m trying to prove a point so I’m damn well going to finish it.

“Och, Carlin, it dinna look too bad.” Layla tried to reassure her cousin….

Fake Scottish brogue and historically improbable character names. The WTF list is growing and we’re only on the fourth paragraph.

She definitely could feel herself becoming annoyed.

Well, we wouldn’t want her to waffle about it, so it’s a good thing she’s definitely definite.

Continue reading

Badass by Sable Hunter – The Full Review

Badass by Sable Hunter

  • Title: Badass
  • Author: Sable Hunter
  • Series: Hell Yeah! Book 4
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Self-Published, March 2012
  • Purchase: I don’t want to link to it, but I suppose I should: Amazon, $4.99 (courtesy of Jane at DearAuthor.com)
  • Tropes: Unrequited Love, Virgin Heroine, Cowboy Alpha Male, Simile Sex, Misogyny
  • Quick blurb: Preacher’s daughter undergoes self-imposed slutification to earn the love of a biker cowboy Dom.
  • Quick review: Not nearly as painful as the last one, but demeaning treatment of female characters is stomach-turning.
  • Grade: D-

All right, so I may have gone overboard with the length of my last review. Smarminess levels were appropriate, but I freely admit I have difficulty shutting myself up sometimes.

To avoid a repeat of that tl:dr trauma, and because I am a Geek and a Nerd and a Dork with NO LIFE, I decided take the opportunity to use a social media site I’ve been dying to try:

Live-Tweeting and Storifying Isaac & Avery’s Story (Hell Yeah! Book 4)

Prologue and Chapter 1
In which preacher’s daughter runs away to Shady Lady Ranch in Nevada for Self-Imposed Slutification under the tutelage of mentors Destiny, Desiree, Roxy and Claret.

Chapter 2
In which Avery Rose and her pink Miss Kitty luggage and sleeping bag arrive back in Kerrville on Harley Sportster. Bar fight, blow job in hotel room, ecstasy, he leaves.

Chapter 3
In which our heroine displays her Shady Lady Stripper Skillz, news of Slutification hits local headlines, deflowering occurs and Isaac shows his true colors as a Manwhore McCoy.

Chapter 4
In which the heroine outs herself as an erotica writer named SABLE HUNTER and then gets a microphone stuck in her mouth.

Chapter 5
In which we enjoy granny panties, Braveheart, bacon and glitter.

Chapter 6
In which we meet villain-bait stock characters, enter our hero’s Secret Basement Sex Dungeon Playroom, push up through the Valley of Delight, rejoice in our heroine’s expanded vocabulary, and get called up to the Big Leagues of Sex. Also, plot moppet puts Sub collar on family dog.

Chapters 7 & 8
In which I attempt to distract myself politics with a hermaphrodite, sex on a mechanical bull, ooey-gooey pumpkin butter cake, some unexpected and inexplicably good writing (!) which segues into abrupt POV change to family dog, yet another kidnapping but this time foiled by family dog, and swelling organs during HEA.

First impressions:

I didn’t hate it. I even LIKED parts of it. I’m in Book Purgatory, actually considering a C- grade. But what if my enthusiasm is merely disguised relief that it wasn’t a CESSPOOL OF CRAP like the last book? I need to think about this.  My worldview has been disrupted. My personal paradigm has shifted. I might need a sabbatical in Kerrville, Texas, to reconnect with my Inner Bitch Goddess.

If my doctor does recommend Cowboy Immersion Therapy, my first shrine of worship will be Hardbodies Bar. If they don’t have Isaac’s black leather Dom hood with the Tebow Rockin’ T ranch brand embossed on the forehead on display, I’m going to be REALLY disappointed.

[Oh, sorry - that was a spoiler. I keep forgetting to despoilerize. You know, because of all the suspense.]

Also, I’m 99 percent sure that me and the mechanical bull should stay far, far apart. But what’s a mental health sabbatical without a visit to the emergency room?

Let’s make it a road trip. You know you want to come with me. No, wait, a bus trip. That way we can drink heavily and let someone else do the driving.

Read the full review at DearAuthor.com

Her Magic Touch by Sable Hunter – The Full Review

  • Her Magic Touch by Sable HunterTitle: Her Magic Touch
  • Author: Sable Hunter
  • Series: Hell Yeah! Book 3
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Self-Published, October 2011
  • Purchase: Amazon, $4.99 (YES, I paid $ for it)
  • Tropes:  Insta-Love, Virgin Heroine, Cowboy Alpha Male, TSTL, Simile Sex
  • Quick blurb:Misogynistic daredevil asshole, paralyzed in a motocross accident, hires ugly voodoo priestess, who doesn’t know she’s really a guardian angel, to restore his manhood. Also, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse makes a cameo appearance.
  • Quick review: Continuing Adventures in Epic Assholery and Virgin Sacrifice: In Which Sable Hunter Mistakes Misogyny for Romance
  • Grade: F

NOTE: I’m deleting the separate posts with my “read along” status updates because I was lazy and copy/pasted them into the full review…. And because I figured I should try to contain all the bitchiness within a smaller blogographical area. I’m leaving the Bad Sex roundup intact.

At the end of the Hell Yeah! Book 2 review, I mentioned that a few glimpses of the main characters of Book 3 made me cautiously optimistic that we would finally get a grown-up female worthy of being called a “heroine.”

I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

I also bitched and whined about the misogyny in the previous book, but Oh. Dear. God.

This was worse.

Therefore, I’m subtitling this review:

Continuing Adventures In Epic Assholery And Virgin Sacrifice: A Misogyny Manifesto

NOTE: For the purposes of this review, I’m defining “misogyny” as:

  • Infantilizing or otherwise demeaning and marginalizing women;
  • Inferring or stating outright that life without a man is not worth living;
  • Demonstrating double standards regarding male and female sexuality (e.g., manwhores rewarded with virgins);
  • Depicting assertive female characters as sluts;
  • Referring to female characters as “fresh meat”;
  • Repeatedly comparing female characters to abused or abandoned animals; AND/OR
  • Depicting a woman in premature labor serving coffee and doughnuts to lazy-ass men who are perfectly capable of getting the fucking coffee themselves.

It can be a little confusing, so here’s a handy dandy flowchart. Also available in printer-friendly PDF. It’s even color-coded for extra impressiveness! (Yes, I have a day job. Shut up and keep reading, and stop picking on me because I worked really hard on this and now you’re hurting my feelings.)

But wait, there’s more! In addition to the character inconsistencies, eye-rolling “coincidences” and inane detail we’ve come to expect, we also get a whole muddle of unnecessary paranormal nonsense – all of which completely distracted me from the Bad Sex. And of course that just sucked all the fun right out of this, officially making it the Absolute Worst Book I Have Ever Read.

(No, I have not read The Book That Shall Not Be Named, because I refuse to pay $10 for a crappy self-pubbed ebook. I only budget $5 for that sort of thing.)

Let’s get this over with – I need to cleanse my brain with… Something. Anything.

WARNING: This review/diatribe contains irrelevant analogies, bad sports metaphors, gratuitous musical interludes, self-indulgent run-on sentences (heh) and buckets of righteous indignation (it’s a manifesto, duh), with definite overtones of Mean Girl. It’s also very long, so I hope you brought snacks.

Read the full review at DearAuthor.com >>