One-Quote Review: Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

Trust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

  • Title: Trust Me on This
  • Author: Jennifer Crusie
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Bantam, October 2010 (originally published June 1997 by Loveswept)
  • Source: Public library
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Trope(s): Battle of the Sexes, Mistaken Identity, Slimy Villain, Bimbo Sidekick, Mature Couple
  • Quick blurb: Fraud investigator mistakes a reporter for a con man’s shill.
  • Quick review: Fast, funny and pure fluff, but definitely worth reading.
  • Grade: B

“A million guys in this city, and I have to hit a bleeder.”

I got this from the library on a whim after wishlisting all the If You Like Mature Romance recs at Dear Author. Crusie pulls off the farce really well, zinging back and forth between the older and younger couples with great one-liners and a surprising amount of romantic and sexual tension. It’s a fun and memorable one-night read.

Book Anxiety, Part 2: Untamed by Anna Cowan

Untamed by Anna Cowan

  • Title: Untamed
  • Author: Anna Cowan
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Australia, May 2013
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 432 pages
  • Trope(s): Heroine Who Says the F-Word, Hero Who’s Prettier Than The Heroine, Evil Gambling Father, Tragic Pasts, Sibling/Parent Issues, Deceit & Manipulation
  • Quick blurb: A dandy in disguise changes the lives of a disgraced and debt-ridden family.
  • Quick review: Again with the Book Anxiety, but a better outcome this time.
  • Grade: C+

“I will write a book of bad ideas,” she said, pulling viciously at the buttons on her sleeve, “and the final chapter will be dedicated to this epic, gravity-defying feat of stupidity. And in a hundred years a celebrated English wordsmith will come across it and write a poetic tribute to the very bad idea that malformed in the brain of one demented duke. His work will run to eleven volumes before his vocabulary has even begun to do justice to how extremely bad this idea is.”

Oy. I need to quit whining for new and different, because more like this is going to kill me.

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Backlist Binge: Sophia James

This took me longer than I thought, because I wound up doing a full re-read of one, and I had to buy and read the newest because it finished off a series.

So… Here are the highs and lows of Harlequin Historical author Sophia James, presented in chronological order (minus the anthologies). Cover images link to Goodreads.

In summary: James is on the dark and angsty edge of Harlequin Historicals — her characters are complex and conflicted, and when she stays away from rakes and pirates, her storytelling skills are memorable. But it’s hit or miss whether all the pieces and parts coalesce enough to suck me into a full-on book trance.

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One-Quote Review: Lady with the Devil’s Scar by Sophia James

Yes, I’m still here. I have a boatload of reviews in the backlog, so be prepared for a influx of One-Quote Wonders.

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  • Lady with the Devil's Scar by Sophia JamesTitle: Lady with the Devil’s Scar
  • Author: Sophia James
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Harlequin, August 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($4.61 ebook)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Scarred Heroine, Illegitimate Loner Hero, Vengeful King
  • Quick blurb: Daughter of infamous Highland rebel fights and flirts with French mercenary sent to destroy her castle.
  • Quick review: Strong characters and good historical world-building, but not something I’ll read again.
  • Grade: B-

He kissed like a warrior would, taking what he needed without discourse to the properness of society, her timid answer pushed away into sheer and blazing want.

Sophia James, along with Julia Justiss and Elizabeth Rolls, was one of my “gateway” Harlequin Historical authors – I glommed her entire backlist when I first got my Kindle.

James is one of those authors that I enjoy, but not enough to rave about, and Lady With the Devil’s Scar fits right in that middle territory – I liked it, but not enough to displace any of my favorites.

Coming up next: The Sophia James Backlist Binge….

Naughty Norsemen: Kiss of Pride by Sandra Hill

Kiss of Pride by Sandra Hill

  • Title: Kiss of Pride
  • Author: Sandra Hill
  • Series: Deadly Angels, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, PNR
  • Publisher: Avon, April 2012
  • Source: Public library ($4.74 ebook)
  • Length: 309 pages
  • Trope(s): Vikings!
  • Quick blurb: Vikings! Vampires! Angels! Time Travel! Satan’s Minions Host a Sin Cruise! Home Improvement!
  • Quick review: An utterly goofy and stupidly entertaining read.
  • Grade: A-

“Oh my God! It has a halo.”

He jerked to a sitting position and glanced down to his cockstand, which resembled a fat standing candle sitting in a circle of light. Breathing a sigh of relief…he said, “That’s not a halo. It’s just the moon hitting off that round mirror over there and reflecting back here.”

“If you say so.” She was clearly unconvinced. “I think it’s kind of cute, that you would have a halo around your penis.”

Cute? A man does not want his cock to be cute. “It is not a halo.”

She leaned forward to study it closer. “Let’s see if you taste holy.”

HOLY CRAP, this was fun. ALL CAPS FUN, I TELL YOU.

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One-Quote Review: Unrivaled by Siri Mitchell

  • Unrivaled by Siri MitchellTitle: Unrivaled
  • Author: Siri Mitchell
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical (1910 U.S.)
  • Publisher: Bethany House, March 2013
  • Source: NetGalley ($9.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Family Drama, Reluctant Debutante, Reluctant Heir
  • Quick blurb:  St. Louis debutante tries desperately to save her ailing father’s beloved candy company, but struggles with her feelings for their rival’s son.
  • Quick review: Fun historical premise and setting, memorable characters and complex conflicts — but not my favorite by Mitchell
  • Grade: B

“I’ve always thought a meringue is a thing like hope, buoyed as they they are plenty of hot air. A bit pretentious at the start, don’t you think?” He settled his hands on his chest. “But that let that hope wait, let that resolve harden for a while…. Leave the oven door closed, and something wonderful happens. You just have to be willing to wait for it.”

I’d recommend this book for the historical world-building alone. Mitchell combines the early 1900s time period with the drama of rival family businesses to create a unique atmosphere that’s light-hearted and restless and constantly evolving — just like her main characters.

The one thing this book was lacking was a cohesive faith message. I love the low-key and understated spirituality in all of Mitchell’s books, but concentrating all of it in one secondary character — especially one who talks in circles — made it seem like an afterthought instead of an integral part of the story.

One-Quote Review: Bewitching the Duke by Christie Kelley

  • Bewitching the Duke by Christie KelleyTitle: Bewitching the Duke
  • Author: Christie Kelley
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Kensington, December 2012
  • Source: NetGalley ($1.99 ebook promo, regular $5.99)
  • Length: 290 pages
  • Trope(s): Fiesty/Sassy/Saucy/Etc. Heroine, Angsty Grumpy Duke, Tragic Past, Big Misunderstanding(s), I Hate You Except When We Kiss
  • Quick blurb: Duke tries to evict local healer/midwife because of painful memories and unwanted erections.
  • Quick review: The title and blurbed worried me, and it just didn’t measure up to the fun of her previous books.
  • Grade: DNF

Dammit! This little hoyden had disturbed his thought process.

I struggled to reach my 33% decision point, and there just wasn’t anything different about this Regency to keep me reading. The dialogue was repetitive, the plot had yet to move forward in any meaningful way, and I never connected with either of the main characters.

Also: Important secondary characters are twins named Mia and Tia. That’s not a good way to encourage me to keep reading or, god forbid, buy their sequels.

However, I can recommend nearly all of Kelley’s backlist — her Spinster Club series has the smart heroines and swoony heroes and chemistry and romance and just-unpredictable-enough plots that Bewitching is lacking.

World Series of Romance: Cutters vs. Jocks and Binding Arbitration by Elizabeth Marx

Cutters vs Jocks and Binding Arbitration by Elizabeth Marx

  • Title(s): Cutters vs. Jocks (prequel novella) and Binding Arbitration (full-length novel)
  • Author: Elizabeth Marx
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Self-Published (CreateSpace), December 2011
  • Source: Amazon ($2.99 novel, free novella)
  • Length: 396 pages (novel), 65 pages (novella)
  • Trope(s): Baseball, Single Mother, Big Misunderstanding(s), International Intrigue, Crime Lords (no, not TIME Lords, CRIME Lords), Secret Baby, Plot Moppet, Angstifyingly Angsty Angst (did I mention THE ANGST?), Celebutante with Purse Dog, Lawyers, Snotty Sibling, More Lawyers, Hummer (the automotive kind, you pervs), Love Handcuffs (the glittery kind), Visitations from the Beyond
  • Quick blurb: Libby and Aidan’s unexpected and intense college friendship ends abruptly after a drunken night of passion – but their relationship is reluctantly renewed seven years later when Libby is forced to reveal a long-kept secret.
  • Quick review: The novella was AMAZING. The novel started out REALLY, REALLY GOOD, but turned into Bad Lifetime Movie with a Side Order of Extra Cheezy Melodrama.
  • Grade (averaged): C

I’ll start with the good stuff, to better demonstrate my frustration with the bad. Also, my bitterness. My LINGERING, FESTERING BITTERNESS.

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Cutters vs. Jocks: A Prequel Novella

What I had done, I had chosen to do.  But expecting more than what it was would be fruitless, so I snaked off into the cold morning light, leaving him to his dreams that didn’t include me.

Cutters vs. Jocks by Elizabeth MarxThe set-up:

Aidan is, big surprise, the Jock – a college baseball star being scouted for the majors. He’s also a self-centered, rich-kid frat boy with all the usual bimbos flinging themselves into his bed.

Libby is the “Cutter” – a local girl who makes it across the big campus divide.  But Libby insists on keeping her academic and personal lives strictly separate, for reasons she refuses to share with anyone.

(NOTE: According to the author, “cutter” is the equivalent of “townie” in Bloomington, Indiana, where our heroine and hero attend Indiana University. “Cutter” derives from the local stone-cutting industry, NOT the emo kind.)

When Aidan and Libby meet up at a local bar over a game of pool, he assumes she’s free for the taking…

I would find a way to make her interested. I mean, I was a stud on campus. And yeah, she’s smoking hot, but she’s a cutter, a townie. They usually roll around at my feet like practice balls.

…but she shuts him down with a few choice multi-syllable words and some non-verbal communication…

I took hold of her hand and stroked her palm; it drove almost every girl I’d ever touched crazy. “You have the prettiest hands. You talk with them.” I’d learned that girls loved modest compliments and observations.

But not this snooty cutter. She flipped me off and strode away.

…but only to mask her terror at the brain-melting attraction between them:

Now that I’d met Aidan, I had a glimmer of understanding of what Jeanne felt for my father. Love is a kind of madness — and crazy runs in my family.

The hits:

The level of story-telling and world-building and emotional intensity in these 65 pages is unbelievable. The short chapters of alternating POV work perfectly as a narrative structure, and the chapter titles and epigraphs are spot-on.

The characterization is driven by equal parts dialogue (smartass banter, my *favorite*) and internal monologuing in which the characters actually reveal important things instead of rehashing what just happened. I know, right???

Libby and Aidan are anything but cardboard college clichés – “prickly” doesn’t even begin to describe Libby’s hands-off vibe, and we learn quickly that Aidan’s super-stud reputation is a pretty brittle façade.

Also, the chemistry. Did I mention THE CHEMISTRY? Holy. Shit. (*fans self*)

“What exactly are you trying to win?”

Your heart. I swear to God, I thought it, wondering where that was coming from. I’d never have the guts to say it. So I did what most guys would do. “Your body for a night.”

Her crestfallen expression lasted all of three seconds, before she came back with more confidence than I would have expected. “I assure you, just one night would not be enough.”

She stared directly at me, defying me to respond.

Now I was having a hard time swallowing. When I threw up my hands in mock defeat, she deftly changed the direction of the conversation to more neutral topics.

I never analyzed what happened that lazy afternoon until it was too late. Something between us changed. We had crossed some invisible barrier we built up brick by brick the semester before. She knew I wanted her, but she had known that from the first moment I met her. But now, I knew that she wasn’t as immune to my charms as I thought.

She had thrown down the gauntlet. It lay at my feet. If I had been wise, I would have left it there, but she had issued the challenge. I had no other choice than to pick it up and aim it right for her heart

I threw it at her with all my might, but I was the one bleeding, a drop at a time and ever since, because she had pierced me with those simple words. “Just one night.”

That was just the verbal foreplay, for crying out loud.

The misses:

A few minor editing glitches were a little distracting, but the story and characters sucked me in so much I chose to ignore the errors.

Yes, I actually just said “I IGNORED THE EDITING ERRORS.” Yes, I’m a hypocrite. Get over it.

But, ultimately, that story-telling trance also set my expectations for the full novel much too high.

The final score: A-

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One-Quote Review: The Harder They Fall by Trish Jensen

  • The Harder They Fall by Trish JensenTitle:  The Harder They Fall
  • Author:  Trish Jensen
  • Series/Category: Previously published in Harlequin’s Love & Laughter series
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher:  Bell Bridge Books, June 2012 (originally published June 1997 by Harlequin)
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($4.99 ebook)
  • Length: 202 pages
  • Trope(s): Insta-Lust, Lust in the Workplace, I Hate You Except When We Kiss
  • Quick blurb: Klutzy MBA disguised as a waitress tries to prevent her father from selling family restaurant chain to Studly Millionaire.
  • Quick review: An un-funny rom-com that shows its 1990s origins.
  • Grade: DNF

She switched tactics. Smiling, she batted her eyelashes. “Can’t we be friends?” she asked sweetly.

Made it about 20% and didn’t see any hope of ever liking the annoying heroine.