One-Quote Reviews: Strangers on a Train

I’d go with an “All Aboard!” intro, but that would be too cheesy even for me. Beware of CAPSLOCK OF RAGE and FANGIRL SQUEE (not in the same story, thank god.)

<whining>

Before we get to the good stuff, a brief plea to Samhain Publishing: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, FIX YOUR EBOOK FORMATTING. The default 6pt font and forced sans serif is beyond annoying — it makes me cringe every time I open a recent Samhain title. I’m willing to put up with it for trusted authors, but it is a definite barrier to trying new ones.

</whining>

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Back on Track by Donna Cummings

Back on Track by Donna Cummings

  • Title: Back on Track
  • Author: Donna Cummings
  • Series: Strangers on a Train
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Samhain, April 2013
  • Source: Review copy provided by author ($2.10 ebook)
  • Length: 67 pages
  • Trope(s): Working Girl, Celebrity/Commoner, Athlete
  • Quick blurb: “Two Truths and a Lie” icebreaker leads to a mini-Big-Misunderstanding between a marketing exec and a pro baseball player.
  • Quick review: Not bad, but not memorable.
  • Grade: C

“Does he wear mismatched socks that haven’t been washed in months? To keep a winning streak alive?”

She shook her head, biting back a smile.

“Really?”

“No, he wore smiley-face footie socks. With a tiny pompon in the back.”

Cummings is a new-to-me author, and I didn’t find much of a “voice” in her writing, especially compared to her veteran co-authors. I was put off on the first page by the BFF “patting her perfect blonde hair into place,” the h/h chemistry felt superficial, and I was disappointed that the “wine train” premise wasn’t woven into the story.

Also, the cover is a little eye-rolling — very few (if any) major league pitchers are built like NFL linebackers.

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Tight Quarters by Samantha Hunter

Tight Quarters by Samantha Hunter

  • Title: Tight Quarters
  • Author: Samantha Hunter
  • Series: Strangers on a Train
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Samhain, April 2013
  • Source: Review copy provided by author ($2.66 ebook)
  • Length: 77 pages
  • Trope(s): Mental Illness, PTSD, Magical Orgasm Cure, Worst Therapist EVER
  • Quick blurb: Claustrophobic writer and retired cop find themselves booked into the same sleeper cabin.
  • Quick review: This story PISSED ME OFF. A LOT.
  • Grade: D (very, very close to being a DNF)

He wanted to tell her he was sorry for being so cavalier about her phobia. Anyone who had lived through that hell would end up with some kind of damage, and she was fighting it.

Lesson learned from this story: The only phobias and anxieties worthy of sympathy are those triggered by tragedy and trauma. All others are fair game for shame and ridicule.

In other words, a big FUCK YOU to readers like me who don’t have a heart-wrenching backstory to blame for their irrational fears and panic attacks.

The writing was good — really good. But HELL FUCKING NO on the Magical Orgasm Cure. I’ll save the rest of my CAPSLOCK OF RAGE for my upcoming (someday) theme on mental illness, but here’s a teaser: If a crippling fear disappears in the presence of testosterone, it’s not a “phobia.” IT DOESN”T WORK THAT WAY.

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Ticket Home by Serena Bell

Ticket Home by Serena Bell

  • Title: Ticket Home
  • Author: Serena Bell
  • Series: Strangers on a Train
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Samhain, April 2013
  • Source: Review copy provided by author ($2.66 ebook)
  • Length: 77 pages
  • Trope(s): Workaholism, Reunited, Daddy Issues
  • Quick blurb: Workaholic entrpreneur tries to woo his ex back home.
  • Quick review: Adding this to my Swoon-Worthy Grand Gestures list.
  • Grade: B+

“So is that why you ran away?”

“I ran away, she said through gritted teeth, “because you were an asshole.”

I was floored when I learned this was Bell’s first published title. More like this, and she’ll be on my auto-buy list.

The only thing that kept this story from an “A” grade was the bit with the daddy issues — it felt like a too-much-thought-out attempt to give the heroine an angsty backstory to explain away her reluctance. The hero was an asshole, and his bringing up her manipulative father was just as manipulative.

I wavered on the final grade a bit…. Use of the phrase “ate his mouth like a starving woman” was groan-inspiring, but then I had to give bonus points for Big Brooklyn Guy’s one-liner at the end.

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Thank You For Riding by Meg Maguire

Thank You For Riding

  • Title: Thank You For Riding
  • Author: Meg Maguire
  • Series: Strangers on a Train
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Samhain, April 2013
  • Source: Review copy provided by author ($2.66 ebook)
  • Length: 72 pages
  • Trope(s): Trapped in a Subway Station, Smartass Heroine, Book-Reading-Glasses-Wearing Hero
  • Quick blurb: Platelet-donating, library-card-carrying man and recently-dumped accountant take advantage of being trapped in a subway station.
  • Quick review: A combination of perfect setting, characters and tone make this a truly sexy and romantic story.
  • Grade: A

Did I mention I live alone with a cat? Just got dumped, workaholic and occasionnally eats half a bag of shredded mozzarella cheese for dinner? With chopsticks? Get on this hot mess with your man-broom before someone else sweeps me up!

Everything about this story worked for me, especially the heroine’s stream-of-consciousness internal monologuing. Using chopsticks to eat shredded cheese out of the bag is BRILLIANT.

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Big Boy by Ruthie Knox

Big Boy by Ruthie Knox

  • Title: Big Boy
  • Author: Ruthie Knox
  • Series: Strangers on a Train
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Samhain, April 2013
  • Source: Review copy provided by author ($2.10 ebook)
  • Length: 72 pages
  • Trope(s): In Disguise, Role Play, Museum Sex,
  • Quick blurb: Once-a-month role-playing encounters turn into something more for a struggling single mother.
  • Quick review: Dear Ms. Knox: Wow. Love, Kelly.
  • Grade: A

Tonight, I want a sliver of honesty to pierce the illusion. A splinter of reality to carry in my pocket all month, to cherish with my fingertips, thinking of him.

Here comes the FANGIRL SQUEE, and you knew it was coming because I haven’t been shy about my author crush on Knox.

Every time I read her, something new and different knocks me over, and sometimes I can’t even figure out exactly what or why. With Big Boy, it’s the atmosphere. The dark, uneasy, secretive, lonely atmosphere. And she pulled it off in first person present tense. As my tweenager would say: “Mind. Blown.” (You’ll have to just imagine the required hand gestures.)

And with every Knox story, it’s her authorial voice. Distinct and memorable, but different every time. Knox inhabits her characters — and that’s something that will always keep me reading.

Hmm… That was a lot of italics. The next Knox book will have me using HOT PINK BOLD ITALIC ALLCAPS, and she’ll have only herself to blame.

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