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.


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.


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.)

The setting….

Red Rock, Texas, and a few scenes in Atlanta. Much of the book (and the series) centers around a small-town airport where the townies cross paths with the rich business people who charter planes.

The storytelling…..

A typical rich-girl/poor-boy premise, but with some charming and affecting scenes. The “Black Moment” that drives Emily and Max apart is especially good, because we get just enough of their backstories to understand their motivations and reactions.

The baby drama was necessary to the plot, and the author played their conflicting situations well. It was a little melodramatic, but it didn’t quite go over the top with sperm bank mix-ups or other such idiocy.

The romance….

Entirely believable relationship-building (although a little rushed), with both characters initially resisting the attraction because of their business relationship (no, really) and eventually overcoming the differences in their wealth and career status.

I usually hate the “pampered princess” trope, but Emily turned out to be a smart and flawed heroine. Max started out as a grumpy, determined-to-redeem-himself stoic, but the picnic scene clinched him as a decent beta hero.

The recommendation….

A likeable couple and some sexy times made it an enjoyable read – but it wasn’t enough to get me to invest time with the rest of the series, and I doubt I’ll ever read it again.


Bet on a Cowboy by Julie Benson

  • Bet on a Cowboy by Julie BensonTitle: Bet on a Cowboy
  • Author: Julie Benson
  • Series/Category: American Romance (sequel to Big City Cowboy)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, June 2012
  • Source: Digital ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 217 pages
  • Trope(s): Beta Hero, Cowboy, Plain Jane
  • Quick blurb: Frumpy TV producer gets the hots for the cowboy she casts in her Bachelor-esque reality show.
  • Quick review: Decent ending almost made it rise above the cheesy and predictable premise, but the borderline misogyny stuff dragged it back down.
  • Grade: C-

“I hear women like grand romantic gestures,” he continued, and flashed her a to-die-for smile.

The happy couple….

Maggie Sullivan is a lonely, overworked TV producer who’s resorted to a sperm bank because she’ll forever be a spinster. Griffin McAlister is a former rodeo star sidelined by injury who is desperate to earn money for his mother’s cancer treatments.

The setting….

You’ve seen it on TV! Network-furnished Bachelor and Bimbo mansions in Las Vegas, with an on-location jaunt to the ailing matriarch’s ranch for the finale.

The storytelling….

Nothing about the writing really impressed me. The TV-inspired premise meant the plot pretty much wrote itself, and every type of stock character was represented.

Our hero describes his sister-in-law (heroine of a previous book) as “a little dynamo in a knockout package.” He also says stuff like “Why would I order the same meal every day when I haven’t sampled the whole menu?” Wondering what he looks like? He has ocean-blue eyes, a crooked smile, bulging biceps and rock-hard abs. Puh-leeze.

The romance….

The much-loved “frumpy career girl learns her true beauty through the love of a sexy cowboy” trope. I was being sarcastic about the “much-loved” thing.

Griffin wasn’t an asshole, and Maggie wasn’t a doormat, but I got soooo sick of being hit over the head with all the incessant references to her “angular features” and “severe ponytail” and “baggy cardigans.”

The one thing redeeming this romance was the predictable-yet-satisfying Declaration of Love, and it had some SERIOUS work to do to overcome a LOT of female-bashing crap – much of it coming from THE HEROINE.

“I can’t believe she gave you her phone number. That’s so tacky. Every dating book I’ve read says women need to be careful not to be too aggressive.”

Um…she lives in Los Angeles and works in the entertainment industry, and she’s appalled by a female making the first move? Really?

Her brothers always chided her for expecting life to be like a romance novel, where the hero swept into a woman’s life, recognized her for how wonderful she was on the inside, and declared he couldn’t live without her.

Um…isn’t that EXACTLY WHAT THIS BOOK IS? But wait, there’s one that tops that:

If Griffin decided to go into politics he’d win by a landslide on the women’s votes alone, and he wouldn’t have to say a word.

Gee, thanks. I love it when a romance novel heroine demeans all women as brainless, slobbering idiots.

The recommendation….

So after all the eye-rolling and ranting, I probably should have given this a D, but I went with the higher grade because I did like the slow-but-steady relationship building and the behind-the-camera look inside a dating show. And yeah, the HEA was good. But I have a low tolerance for predictability and clichés, and I’m overly sensitive to the misogyny stuff, so this book was not a good fit for me.

One thought on “More Harlequin Categories: Intrigue, Special Edition and American Romance

  1. I think I read one of the Fortune books a couple of years ago. It made little impression, but I don’t remember it being offensive. Sounds like the one you read was cut from the same cloth.

    Also, ugh on that last book. I think the inconsistency in the world-building bothers me more than the slut-shaming, and that bothers me a lot. But really? Women in Hollywood are aggressive and aggressively sexual to get what they want? *clutches pearls* Say it isn’t so!

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