Holy crap, I love this WordPress theme so much I’m going to keep it ALL YEAR LONG. No, I haven’t started drinking yet, it’s only 11:15 a.m. on a Tuesday.
Married for Christmas
- Author: Noelle Adams
- Publisher: Self-published, November 2013
- Pages: 3236
- Source: NetGalley
See the full review at Dear Author. It has a big slobbery dog named Bear and Grand Gesture Groveling. You’ll need a LOT of tissues. Trust me.
Sleigh Bells in the Snow
- Author: Sarah Morgan
- Publisher: Harlequin HQN, October 2013
- Pages: 384
- Source: NetGalley
Enjoyable, but missing the wicked chemistry and funny bits of Morgan’s Ripped (review coming soon). It’s a classic Grinch-snowbound-in-a-luxury-resort story, saved from saccharinity by Grumpy Grandfather and from predictability by the lovely pacing and wooing.
Christmas at Thornton Hall
- Author: Lynn Marie Hulsman
- Publisher: HarperImpulse, December 2013
- Pages: 386
- Source: NetGalley
Great premise, with a battle of wills between a billionaire’s house chef and a visiting celebrity caterer at an English estate. It didn’t really work, because the author tried too hard to make it a multi-layered modern Gosford Park homage with a HUGE cast of over-the-top characters. I could have loved the heroine, if not for all the obnoxious people around her.
Kissing Under the Mistletoe
- Author: Marina Adair
- Publisher: Montlake, December 2012
- Pages: 386
- Source: Purchased
The saccharine level is quite high in this enemies-to-lovers, small-town, wacky-neighbor, schmaltz-fest. And even though the series is set in a historic Napa Valley winery, there’s no sense of “place” to give it stability or warmth. However…the realistic portrait of a struggling single mother saved this from a D grade.
- Title: A Notorious Countess Confesses
- Author: Julie Anne Long
- Series: Pennyroyal Green, Book 7
- Genre(s): Historical
- Publisher: Avon, October 2012
- Source: Edelweiss ($5.99 ebook)
- Length: 384 pages
- Trope(s): Hot Vicar, Soiled Dove, Widow, Small Town, Beta Hero, Smartass Heroine
- Quick blurb: A newly widowed former courtesan asks a handsome village vicar to help her make friends.
- Quick review: A worthy addition to the series, but not one of Long’s best.
- Grade: B
Yes…yes! He felt a twinge of something! It was coming now!
I kissed her I kissed her I kissed her
As a sermon, it was a failure, but his parishioners would doubtless find it edifying.
Notorious Countess worked much better for me than the previous book in the series. (Where in the hell did those people come from and why should I care? And I didn’t care, because I don’t remember anything about it beyond the cheesy title). This one is a bit more fairy tale-ish than her other books, but Long still manages to pull off the tricky balance of broad humor and intimate yearning.
Another romance novel art that Long consistently does really, really well is showing, not telling, how her hero and heroine fall in love. It might be insta-lust or even insta-love, but by the time the first kiss happens, we know why her characters are drawn to each other.
I also appreciated that both the vicar and the courtesan did a lot of self-reflection and said some very hurtful but honest things to each other. HOWEVER…I was disappointed in how their interactions with the rest of the village were perfectly scripted to make them always come out on top of the uncomfortable situations.
And despite my recently admitted weakness for Grand Gestures, this ending was WAY too Love, Actually, with shamefaced parisioners standing up and spouting Magical Bible Verses like the LA wedding guests with hidden trumpets and trombones.
The Summoning of the Siblings bit was good, though — enough to make up for the goats and bring this up from a B- to a solid B.
[NOTE: I read an ARC, so I forced myself to ignore the dreadful editing fails. If that kind of WTFery had shown up in a published version I paid for, the grade would have been much, MUCH lower. Even so, my respect for Avon Books is diminished once again.]
“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.
WARNING: GOATS AHEAD
All Summer Long
- Title: 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*~*
Dude. Hang in there. You’ll get to the goats soon enough.
- Title: Season for Love
- Author: Marie Force
- Series: The McCarthys of Gansett Island, Book 6
- Genre(s): Contemporary
- Publisher: HTJB, Inc., June 2012
- Source: Amazon, $3.99 ebook
- Length: 296 pages
- Trope(s): Small Town, Rebound, Tragic Past, Pregnant Heroine
- Quick blurb: Musician with Tragic Past and wanderlust falls for pregnant lady who’s not divorced yet.
- Quick review: Disappointing, but I’m not ready to give up on this series yet.
- Grade: C-
I feel so guilty giving this only C-, but it just didn’t work for me. I’m so guilt-ridden that this review is more than a little rambling and more than a little spoilery….
I loved the main characters of the previous books in the Gansett Island series, but their completely sappy anecdotes in this book just interrupted the flow of the story and completely threw me out of my reading trance several times.
Anyone who hasn’t read the other books in the series will have NO clue who these people are, and it’s a waste of exposition to give us their backstories. Readers like me who have devoured the previous books already know that McCarthys & Friends have the most romantic, sex-filled marriages ever, and one book for each couple is enough.
And then we get more Tiffany and Blaine. And now Carolina and Seamus. And now Dan and Kara. And soon Jenny and whoever (probably Adam). It’s just too many couples to care about, and I don’t want to have to choose which chapters to skip.
I’m also getting very frustrated with the continuing emphasis on the “Let’s Rebound Into A New Relationship With No Downtime Whatsoever!” theme. Janey. Sydney. Laura. Tiffany. I think the tourist brochures for Gansett Island must have a tagline like “Where Fabulous Single Men Appear Out Of Nowhere Whenever A Damsel In Distress Needs One.”
Laura and Owen actually do discuss “she can’t live without a man” (a thought planted by the Evil Ex-Husband), but it’s quickly glossed over and forgotten. As a divorced single parent, I get *really* tetchy reading romances that ignore the struggle for self-esteem and self-sufficiency or treat it as an afterthought.
I’m also confused about Jenny the Lighthouse Keeper. We get an entire chapter of her sob story at the beginning, and then she’s reduced to cameo appearances in two throwaway scenes. I know it’s setting her up for her own storyline, but why include the tragic backstory here? And a “Tell Us Your Life Story” essay question might be believable for a college application, but not for a job.
I’m not ready to give up on this series yet, but I hope the next installment features more relationship building and less soap opera.