The ‘Oh Crap It’s Only A Week Until Christmas’ Holiday Book Binge, Part 2

I did a LOT of reading last weekend. My house is a complete disaster and I DON’T CARE. Santa and his stupid Naughty List can just bite my big ol’ you-know-what.

Unless he’s bringing me stuff from my wish list. I might even actually fold all the laundry on the couch AND put it away for one of those books.

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Naughty and Nice: Three Holiday Treats (Anthology)

Naughty & Nice: Three Holiday Treats anthology

  • Title: Naughty and Nice: Three Holiday Treats
  • Authors: Ruthie Knox, Molly O’Keefe and Stefanie Sloane
  • Series: Crooked Creek Ranch, Book 2.5 (O’Keeffe)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Historical
  • Publisher: Loveswept/Random House, November 2012
  • Source: NetGalley ($1.99 ebook)
  • Length: 210 pages
  • Trope(s): Grand Gesture, Family Drama, Small Town Guilt, Recalcitrant Farm Animals (thankfully not a goat this time)
  • Quick blurb: An homage to It’s a Wonderful Life, an HFN contemporary prequel, and a boring and silly historical.
  • Quick review: It’s all about Room at the Inn.
  • Grade: B

Room at the Inn by Ruthie Knox

Mother of God, he had great hands.

Carson Vance can put those hands on me anytime. I have a major Author Crush on Ruthie Knox because she knows exactly how to Push My Buttons. Including the Gloriously Groveling Grand Gesture. She makes me use Initial Caps.

All I Want for Christmas Is You by Molly O’Keeffe

“Any promise you make…half of the promise is commitment and the other half is faith. Faith that your commitment is enough.”

This was my first by O’Keefe — I was disappointed in the story as an happy-for-now prequel, but there was enough honest emotion and realistic angst to keep her Crooked Creek Ranch series in my TBR queue.

One Perfect Christmas by Stephanie Sloane

Blast that word, “if.” Two letters, without which there was no hope.

Also a first for Sloane — unfortunately, nothing about this impressed me. I’m a sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope and the MCs were likeable, but the story was oh-so-predictable and I found some of the smexing to be awkward instead of sexy.

Any Regency has to be very, very different to stand out among the hundreds of others out there, and this one was just too cookie-cutter to be memorable.

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Twelve Days by Ros Clarke

Twelve Days by Ros Clarke

  • Title: Twelve Days
  • Author: Ros Clarke
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Provided by the author (99¢ ebook)
  • Length: 35 pages
  • Trope(s): Big Misunderstanding (Big. HUGE.), Family Drama, Reunited, Flash Mob
  • Quick blurb: A public marriage proposal doesn’t go quite as planned.
  • Quick review: Sad-cry + happy-cry = *happysigh* (all in only 35 pages!)
  • Grade: B+

The singers had already reached the three French hens verse, and on cue a chicken ran across the road.

For anyone who cringed at the grand gesture in Room at the Inn, read this. Trust me.

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Wish List by Sylvia Day

Wish List by Sylvia Day

  • Title: Wish List
  • Author: Sylvia Day
  • Series: White Hot Holidays
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2005 (originally published January 2005 by Ellora’s Cave)
  • Source: Amazon, $2.51 ebook
  • Length: 40 pages
  • Trope(s): Lawyers, Secret Santa, Secret [NO SPOILERS!]
  • Quick blurb: Law firm Secret Santa gift exchange gives attorney the opportunity to fulfill his colleague’s no-longer-secret wish list.
  • Quick review: Hero goes from Alpha to Beta in only 40 pages. I love it when that happens.
  • Grade: B+

“This isn’t about getting laid,” he insisted hoarsely.

“I know.” Her hands clung to his straining, sweating back.

“This isn’t temporary.”

“I – I…”

This is another author first (I know, I know), but I shall remedy that soon.

World Series of Romance: Going for It by Elle Kennedy

Going For It by Elle Kennedy

  • Title: Going For It
  • Author:  Elle Kennedy
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Samhain Publishing, November 2008
  • Source: Amazon ($2.10 ebook)
  • Length: 62 pages
  • Trope(s): Athlete, Friends-to-Lovers
  • Quick blurb: Struggling bar owner seduces retired ballplayer before she’s forced to sell her business.
  • Quick review: Nothing to recommend about this predictable novella – and a few annoyances that almost ruined it.
  • Grade: C-

Starting new would be good for her. She hoped. But she had no intention of leaving town with regrets, and not jumping Riley’s bones would be the biggest regret of all.

The heroine has lost her family-legacy business and her apartment, forcing her impending move across the country to live in her sister’s basement. But no big deal — her most important priority is to get laid by a jock.

While I didn’t have much respect for the heroine or the hero (no spoilers!), the friends-to-lovers romance was realistic and kind of sweet, I loved that the heroine did the seducing, and the grand gesture HEA was really good.

This would have been a solid C, but a few “Oh, FFS” moments kicked me out of my reading trance:

  • No-condom sex with a self-admitted manwhore. Twice. But it’s OK, because she’s on the Pill.
  • The irrelevant and unnecessary inclusion of the heroine’s BFFs — their Sex and the City drunken tell-alls were pretty eye-rolling.
  • The hero mentally describes the heroine as “saucy.” I added that adjective to to my List of Patronizing Ways to Describe Your Heroine. I haven’t decided if “saucy” is better or worse than “sassy.”
  • The heroine feels “waves of pleasure in her womb.” Let’s review: Womb ≠ Vagina. Womb =  UTERUS.
  • The hero’s only defining traits as a former pro athlete are his swagger (he swaggers a LOT) and his preference for “the three B’s…blonde hair, blue eyes and big tits.”

This was one of Kennedy’s early efforts, and reviews of her recent books have been much more positive, so I’m not going to let this short “meh” scare me off this author yet.

One-Quote Review: Heart Murmurs by Suleikha Synder

Let the Sunday of Squee commence!
Heart Murmurs by Suleikha Snyder

  • Title: Heart Murmurs
  • Author: Suleikha Snyder
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Wild Rose Press, August 2012
  • Source: Amazon, 99¢
  • Length: 34 pages
  • Trope(s): Alpha Male, Smart/Smartass Heroine, Age Difference, Lust in the Workplace
  • Quick blurb: Hospital heartthrob finds a challenge in a smart and prickly surgical resident.
  • Quick review: I’m having withdrawal symptoms. I think I need a sequel.
  • Grade: A

He was a prick, and Anu wanted him so bad she could taste it: sharp and hot, like his smile. It was sheer insanity. Having a crush on an attending – on a department chief, at that – was right up there with hallucinating leprechauns.

It took me 45 minutes to choose just one quote from the dozens of smartass and swoon-worthy lines I highlighted. This short story is pretty close to perfect, and I want MORE MORE MORE.

One-Quote Review: Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet by Kimberly Lang

  • Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet by Kimberly LangTitle: Redemption of a Hollywood Starlet
  • Author: Kimberly Lang
  • Series: The Marshalls, Book 3
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher:  Harlequin (Presents Extra), June 2012
  • Source: Free from the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook, $4.99 MMPB)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Trope(s): Movie Stars, Parental Pressure, Manwhore, Slut Shaming, Misogyny
  • Quick blurb: Slut-shamed Hollywood princess attempts a comeback in a film produced by the ex who led her down the path of wickedness.
  • Quick review: Promising premise, but the execution was a huge missed opportunity.
  • Grade: D

“I think we’ve proved that you can raise hell and people will still respect you, but I can’t. It’s a horrible double standard, so I’ve worked very, very hard to clean up my act.”

The set-up for the oh-so-promising premise was there, but the story never even came close to being the “redemption” I was looking for. The HERO was the one who needed to get his head out of his ass, not the titular Hollywood Starlet. Exalted Manwhore + Slut-Shaming = Misogyny Wins Again.

Series Review: Brook Street Trilogy by Ava March

  • Brook Street trilogy by Ava MarchTitle(s): Thief; Fortune Hunter; Rogues
  • Author: Ava March
  • Series: Brook Street, Books 1-3
  • Genre(s): Historical, M/M
  • Publisher: Carina Press, March-May 2012
  • Source: Thief: Free from publisher via NetGalley; Fortune Hunter: Amazon, $3.03; Rogues: Amazon, $3.03
  • Trope(s): In the Closet. Regency England
  • Quick blurb: Mayfair men and the men they love.
  • Quick review: Despite a sanitized setting, the focus on passionate relationships makes this series work.
  • Grade: B (Thief: B, Fortune Hunter: A-, Rogues: C+)

Regency London – where polite manners and spotless reputations reign supreme. Yet behind the closed doors of three elegant town houses along Brook Street, passion and lust reign as gentlemen dare to risk scandal by falling in love…

During my first reading of Ava March’s Brook Street novellas, I found her Regency Mayfair world to be sanitized and idealistic – especially compared to the claustrophobic atmosphere of secrecy and urgency and impending doom that characterizes many other M/M historicals.

All six main characters in this trilogy accept being gay without hesitation.* In Thief, the first novella in the series, youngest son Benjamin simply makes up his mind and never falters with his decision:

Before the not-so-subtle nudges from his brothers and sisters started anew to find a wife among the bevies of young ladies, he would know the truth about himself. And either way, he would accept it.

None of the Brook Street heroes are asked to deal with the pressure for an heir, nor do they confront threats of being disinherited or shunned. All are estranged, or nearly so, from their families for reasons other than their homosexuality, which feels like an easy cop-out avoid external conflicts. For these heroes, there’s no emotional trauma – or even angst – about the risks of loving another man in 19th-century England:

“Discretion is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.”

However, as I was reading more closely a second time for reviewing, I realized that by focusing on relationships rather than societal pressures, March gives her historical gay characters not only the happy endings they deserve, but the dignity they deserve as well. In the Brook Street world, we’re allowed a more intimate view of the heroes’ day-to-day lives, especially the importance of friendship in establishing and sustaining the “confirmed bachelor” façade.

Grading the stories individually….. Continue reading

Galley Proof by Eric Arvin

  • Galley Proof by Eric ArvinTitle: Galley Proof
  • Author: Eric Arvin
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, M/M
  • Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, January 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC via NetGalley ($5.38 on Amazon)
  • Trope(s): Angst, Family Drama, Commitment Issues, Fictional Author
  • Quick blurb: Cranky reclusive writer gets the hots for his new editor and goes on Roman Holiday.
  • Quick review: Great premise, entertaining first half, cracked second half.
  • Grade: C-

I was hooked by the title, cover and blurb, and had it on my wish list for months, so when I saw it on my first cruise through NetGalley I kinda geeked out a little bit.

It’s nice that I can still be optimistic about a new book, but sometimes it can come back and bite me in the ass. (NO comments or editorializing, please. Thank you.) Galley Proof  has some really good writing, but it was overshadowed by numerous distractions that kicked me out of my reading trance again and again and again.

It’s two different stories: The angsty, romantic Budding Relationship in the first half and the campy, shallow Shame Spiral in Scenic Surroundings in the second half. And I didn’t like the hero in either environment.

The blurb:

Fiction writer Logan Brandish is perfectly happy in his peaceful small-town routine with his best friend, his cat, and his boyfriend—until he meets the editor of his next book, the handsome Brock Kimble, and the lazy quiet of everyday living goes flying out the window….

Our heroes are Logan and Brock. The frat-boy/soap opera names should have been a red flag.

Continue reading