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: The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry

  • The Other Side of Us by Sarah MayberryTitle: The Other Side of Us
  • Author: Sarah Mayberry
  • Series/Category: SuperRomance
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, January 2013
  • Source: Harlequin.com (currently free on Amazon)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Trope(s): Rebound/Starting Over, Obnoxious Exes, Beta Hero
  • Quick blurb:  TV producer recovering from horrific accident clashes and clinches with her soon-to-be-divorced new neighbor.
  • Quick review: Loved the mature characters, but over all it’s too tepid for a re-read — and I had to take points off for misuse of canine characters.
  • Grade: C

“So be afraid. Be angry. Be jealous. Be possessive. Be whatever you need to be. But please, let me come along for the ride.”

I suppose I was expecting something more vibrant like Her Best Worst Mistake, so this was kind of a letdown — and I have yet to find a Harlequin SuperRomance with any sort of “wow” factor.

While I loved that both main characters were in their late 30s, the arc of the relationship-building never really grabbed me. Oliver’s crucial episode of irrational jealousy, and Mackenzie’s reaction, were realistic and just angsty enough without being overwrought — but then the utterly useless epilogue threw me out of my short-lived happy place.

Also…what in the hell was the deal with the “haha, oops, puppies!” plot device? Is spaying and neutering not recommended in Australia as it is in the U.S.? The hero doesn’t remember that his beloved schnauzer spent quality time with a Doberman? And the workaholic heroine is going to breed her dog because “wire-haired dachshunds are really hard to come by…”? I need a few more question marks here — ?????

Maybe I’m overly sensitive because I’m still grieving for my shelter dog, but the irresponsible breeding is probably the one thing I will remember most about this book — and I doubt that’s what the author or the publisher intended.

One-Quote Review: Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire

Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire

  • Title: Making Him Sweat
  • Author: Meg Maguire
  • Series/Category: Wilinski’s, Book 1 (Blaze)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Harlequin, February 2013
  • Source: NetGalley ($3.82 ebook)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Trope(s): Lust in the Workplace, Sweaty Beta Hero, Heroine with Father Issues
  • Quick blurb: Aspiring matchmaker inherits estranged father’s boxing/MMA gym
  • Quick review: Likeable all the way around, pretty much what I expected for a Harlequin Blaze
  • Grade: B

Ten minutes? Ten minutes wasn’t nearly enough time to decide what to do. Then again, ten minutes was plenty of time to change into cuter underwear, and wasn’t that her answer, right there?

It seems like all the contemps I’ve chosen for this binge feature Lust in the Workplace, with the obligatory “This is such a bad idea” pre-sex banter. Fortunately, Maguire is really good at all the out-of-bed banter too, and she threw in some realistic conflict, so this one fulfilled all my expectations of a light and sexy Harlequin Blaze.

And I’m pretty sure I’ll read Prince Richard’s book.

One-Quote Review: Seven-Night Stand by Nicole Helm

Seven-Night Stand by Nicole Helm

  • Title: Seven-Night Stand
  • Author: Nicole Helm
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Entangled, February 2013
  • Source: NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 217 pages
  • Trope(s): Lust in the Workplace, Brooding Hero, Emotionally Uninvolved Heroine
  • Quick blurb: Reclusive pilot tries to keep reality TV scout out of his flawed family’s business
  • Quick review: A little iffy in the beginning, but the heroine’s panic attack saved the story
  • Grade: B-

“Don’t look at me like that!” She wanted to slap him away. She wanted to hold on to him and cling. She wanted a million things her mind couldn’t find the words for.

“Like what?”

Like you care. Like you want to care.

During the first few chapters, I was in the throes of an “OMG, what if I don’t like this, the author is a Twitter friend and I’ll feel so guilty and she’ll stop tweeting pictures of half-naked baseball players for meeee” flail. Then the heroine had her own flaming panic attack which made me like her much more and my Book Anxiety calmed to a tolerable level. But the heroine’s panic attack was induced by a brain-melting Storage Closet Sex Orgasm, which has never happened to me, so I’m still a little bitter about that.

ANYWAY. I found it really hard to connect with the first half of the story because heroine Vivvy is so purposefully “cool and detached” that I wasn’t feeling the romantic or sexual chemistry at all. But when she starts opening up after the panic attack and lets all the feelings in, she’s a much more compelling character.

Plus, you know, a brooding hottie pilot and Storage Closet Sex.

One-Quote Review: Playing the Maestro by Aubrie Dionne

Playing the Maestro by Aubrie Dionne

  • Title: Playing the Maestro
  • Author: Aubrie Dionne
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Entangled, February 2013
  • Source: NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 190 pages
  • Trope(s): Lust in the Workplace, Supermodel Ex-Girlfriend, Big Misunderstanding, Plot Moppets
  • Quick blurb: Professional flutist gets the hots for her community orchestra’s new guest conductor.
  • Quick review: Good start, but flattened into a predictable and superficial soap opera.
  • Grade: C-

Too bad he has a baton up his ass….

I am a classical music geek (you’re not surprised), so I figured this book would either win me over or piss me off. It wound up being somewhere in between, landing in the “well, I finished it…” category.

I was pleasantly surprised with the first few chapters because the author (a professional musician) actually addresses the touchy ethics of workplace romances. But when the first Total Drama Moment (heroine gets mugged in the alley behind the concert hall) led into some Now? Really??? lusting (she’s in pain from a possible concussion one minute, then Thinking Dirty Thoughts the next), my eyes started rolling.

Add in the superfluous Sick Child(ren) Plot Moppet(s) and the off-the-shelf Weasely Ex-Boyfriend and Supermodel Ex-Girlfriend rom-com stock characters, and the Sequined Showdown at the Donors’ Gala crisis, and this book wound up having about as much emotional depth as a John Tesh concert.

However…. Give sidekick Carly the Smartass Oboe Player a sequel with a Shy But Loyal Tuba Player and I AM THERE. I don’t care who writes it.

Backlist Binge: Julia Justiss

As promised, the highs and lows of Harlequin Historical author Julia Justiss, presented in chronological order (minus the anthologies). Cover images link to Goodreads.

In summary: Justiss does widows, courtesans and angsty heroes really, really well. Her debutantes and rakes, however, are generally just wallpaper.

A word of warning: You can’t have Hal Waterman. He’s MINE.

Continue reading

One-Quote Review: The Rake to Ruin Her by Julia Justiss

The Rake To Ruin Her by Julia Justiss

  • Title: The Rake to Ruin Her
  • Author: Julia Justiss
  • Series/Category: Ransleigh Rogues, Book 1 (Harlequin Historical)
  • Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
  • Publisher: Harlequin, February 2013
  • Source: NetGalley($4.61 ebook)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Trope(s): Horse-Mad Hoyden, Disgraced Nobleman, Marriage of Convenience
  • Quick blurb: Spinster recruits disgraced diplomat to ruin her reputation to avoid unwanted marriage.
  • Quick review: An unobjectionable but predictable read.
  • Grade: C

“Let me see if I understand you correctly. You wish to be found in a compromising situation with me, then have me refuse to marry you, so you would be ruined, which would prevent any honourable gentleman but your friend Harry from ever seeking your hand in wedlock?”

She nodded approvingly, as if he’d just worked out a particularly difficult proof in geometry. “Exactly.”

Julia Justiss was another one of my “gateway” romance authors, but this latest book won’t be on my favorites list. I was concerned by the title and the “Rogues” in the series name, and unfortunately it lived down to my lowered expectations by being a rather run-of-the-mill Regency.

I did, however, indulge in an extensive bit of comfort re-reading prior to diving into this one, so up next will be an overview of my Julia Justiss Backlist Binge.