The Duchess War and A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

The Duchess War

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

  • Title: The Duchess War
  • Author:  Courtney Milan
  • Series: Brothers Sinister, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Historical (Victorian)
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($3.99 ebook)
  • Length: ??? pages (5068 Kindle locations)
  • Trope(s): Tragic Past, Parental Issues, In Disguise, Virgin Hero, Smartass Heroine, Blundering Hero
  • Quick blurb: Progressive but guilt-ridden duke brings unwanted attention to heroine who’s desperate to remain an overlooked wallflower.
  • Quick review: A lot I really liked and a few things that just didn’t work.
  • Grade: B-

Favorite quotes:

  1. “I’m winning,” he announced. “You can’t bore me into a surrender.”
  2. “Don’t tell me to look up. Don’t ask me to want. If I do, I’ll never survive.”
  3. “I’ve always found that the quickest way to make someone relent in his foolish edicts is to take every command literally and to perform it with flagrant obedience.”
  4. “A paste emergency!” she huffed. “A paste assault, that’s what we had.”
  5. It wasn’t fair that he could rob her heart of anger and her lungs of air with just one word.
  6. “The male of the human species has a fundamental flaw. At the moment when we most want to say something clever and impressive, all the blood rushes from our brains.”
  7. His voice was rough when he spoke again. “So beat me to flinders,” he said. “Win. Overmatch me, Minnie. And when we’re alone…” His fingers touched her chin lightly. “When we’re alone,” he whispered, “look up.”
  8. She was a shard of stained glass, casting colors about the room, and yet capable of slicing everything she touched.
  9. “No,” Minnie said bitterly. “I earned this, fair and square.” Well, maybe it hadn’t been fair. And maybe it hadn’t been precisely square. Still, she’d earned it legally. Legally and…rectangularly. That would have to do.
  10. It was messy and slippery and wrong, and it felt so, so damned right.

Stuff I liked:

  1. Heroine named Minerva. I am a complete sucker for this.
  2. Hero who’s an anti-Duke.
  3. Heroine who isn’t a TSTL doormat.
  4. Victorian NON-LONDON, NON-COUNTRY-HOUSE-PARTY setting.
  5. Relationship between Robert and his illegitimate half-brother Oliver (“…because he chose me first”).
  6. Robert struggling with his loyalties between Minnie and Oliver.
  7. Severe anxiety issue that doesn’t evaporate with a Magical Orgasm Cure.
  8. Awkward wedding night with Robert shutting his eyes and thinking of England and Minnie unashamedly taking matters into her own hands (literally).
  9. Dowager Duchess swooping in à la Lady Catherine de Bourgh and then acknowledging the literary reference herself.
  10. The non-threatening reason for the “Brothers Sinister” name of the series.

Stuff that didn’t work for me:

  1. Repetitive angstifying (on both sides) after the meet-cute and before the Paste Incident. I really struggled with the book until I got past the halfway point.
  2. Needlessly blatant telegraphing of yet another upcoming round of angst (“…a blood-red portent of things to come”).
  3. The over-the-topness of the Dowager Duchess (except for the incident mentioned above) with a complete personality overhaul in the schmaltzy epilogue as she turns into the perfect grandparent.
  4. The goat rampage. Yes, I was warned, but sheesh. Was that really necessary? I think NOT.
  5. On the whole, I found it surprisingly earnest and heavy-handed, without Milan’s trademark dark humor that sets her writing apart.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

A Kiss for Midwinter

A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

  • Title: A Kiss for Midwinter
  • Author:  Courtney Milan
  • Series: Brothers Sinister, Book 1.5
  • Genre(s): Historical (Victorian)
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Amazon (99¢ ebook)
  • Length: 121 pages
  • Trope(s): Ruined by a Rake Predator, Parental Issues, Blundering Hero, Non-Euphemistic References to Naughty Bits
  • Quick blurb: Eleventh prettiest girl in Leicester rebuffs wooing of doctor who knows her secret.
  • Quick review: I loved this one almost as much as A Governess Affair.
  • Grade: A-

Favorite quotes:

  1. “Work your way on to number twelve,” she snapped. “Number eleven wants nothing more to do with you.”
  2. But it was too late. Miss Lydia Charingford wasn’t just on the list. She was the list, and he hoped God would have mercy on his soul.
  3. She leaned in and whispered. “Let me tell you a secret. I’m not stupid.”
  4. “Well,” she finally said, “you’re doing it wrong.”
  5. Even if she swooned at whatever poetic nonsense he managed to spout, she would only be disappointed once they grew comfortable with each other and he went back to making jokes about death and gonorrhea.
  6. “Maybe,” he said, “I’m thinking that the days are dark and long, that midwinter is approaching. Maybe, Miss Charingford, all I really want is a kiss.”
  7. “I believe,” he said, “that there is a special place in hell for those who steal truth. And that man—whoever he is—I hope he is burning there.”
  8. “Once you speak,” he said, “you have no equal.”
  9. “Sometimes,” she said, “it feels like there are some hurts that can only be cured by this. By warmth. And touch.”
  10. “I suppose it’s too much to hope that you have a question about gonorrhea. Those questions are so much easier to answer.”
  11. There was the mistletoe piled on a market table, a poisonous, parasitic reminder that kisses could lie.
  12. Even the way he talked to her. It was outrageous. It was blunt. It was impossible. And it was…precisely what she needed, the truth boned and filleted without garnish or flourish, placed in front of her for her decision. He made her wants seem ordinary instead of dark and dangerous.
  13. “The truth isn’t a gift,” she told him. “It’s a terror. And every time I look at you, I feel it.
  14. He’d never noticed before how much a breath could say. It seemed more than the transportation of air to lungs. The act of breathing with another person—of accepting silence together, of simply living in tune with the rhythm of someone else’s existence—was deeply intimate. They said more to each other with quiet respiration than they’d managed in sixteen months of bickering. [*SWOON*]
  15. I only said I would stop talking to you, he’d written. I never promised to stop loving you. [O.M.G. *~*~*SWOON*~*~* <thud>]

(Yes, I know that was longer than the list for the longer novel. Just shut up and keep reading.)

Stuff I loved:

  1. Blundering hero who knows when to just shut up and listen.
  2. Troubled heroine who finally learns to start talking.
  3. Lydia’s quiet but loving-no-matter-what relationship with her parents, especially her father.
  4. Jonas struggling with love for and utter frustration with his aging father, and no Magic Grandchild Cure in the epilogue.
  5. Jokes about gonorrhea. This novella had all the dark humor the novel was missing.
  6. The sense of equality between Lydia and Jonas, as a romantic couple and as equally important characters who are never shoved to the sidelines for the sake of the plot.
  7. The achingly lovely intimate moments with no dialogue.
  8. Use of the word “ensorcellment.”
  9. Non-kissy references to mistletoe. Yes, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m bitter and cranky and I haven’t started drinking yet. Shut up.
  10. Fascinating history without gratuitous info-dumping. I love it when authors are bigger nerds than I am.

Stuff I didn’t love:

  1. The premise seemed a bit too similar to A Governess Affair, with a gruff but sensitive hero overcoming the fears of a ruined heroine.
  2. See item #1. Other than that, I got nothing.

The Spy Who Saved Christmas by Dana Marton

The Spy Who Saved Christmas by Dana Marton

  • Title: The Spy Who Saved Christmas
  • Author: Dana Marton
  • Series/Category: Intrigue
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense
  • Publisher: Harlequin, October 2010
  • Source: Amazon, $3.82
  • Length: 219 pages
  • Trope(s): Virgin Heroine, Angsty Spy, Plot Moppets (x2), Secret Baby (x2), AWOL Underwear, Unauthorized Use of Prep Table
  • Quick blurb: Lady Butcher has Secret Babies with Fake-Dead Biker Baker Black Ops Guy. Also, it’s Christmas.
  • Quick review: A quick and goofy holiday read, but not quite as much gleeful fun as Black Sheep Sheik.
  • Grade: B
  1. kelly_instalove
    Spy Who Saved Christmas, chapter 1 – heroine has already kneed hero in the nads and head-butted him. Bring it ON.
  2. kelly_instalove
    Spy Who Saved Xmas, ch 2: “What was it with them and food preparation surfaces?”
  3. kelly_instalove
    “Is that why, instead of staying at a safe house…you insisted on coming with me to steal a deadly virus from a bunch of terrorists?”
  4. kelly_instalove
    “Tonight. Five minutes to midnight. Down by the river at the foot of the old railroad bridge.” !!! (hold me)
  5. kelly_instalove
    “She looked like she was trying to decide whether to cry or strangle him. Since she wasn’t the weepy kind, things didn’t look good for him.”
  6. kelly_instalove
    “…not only would she have been happy to see his ten-point buck, she would have gutted, skinned and chopped it all up for him. (1/2)
  7. kelly_instalove
    (2/2) “She was a helluva woman by his standards.” [Heroine is a 6-ft-tall butcher, in case you were wondering]
  8. kelly_instalove
    Hero is Biker Black Ops kind of guy who also bakes. His crusty roll recipe is coveted, especially since his fake death in bakery fire.
  9. Fibrobabe
    @kelly_instalove A black ops biker with a heart of pastry dough.
  10. kelly_instalove
    @Fibrobabe I’m kind of disappointed he doesn’t call heroine “sugar”
  11. kelly_instalove
    @Fibrobabe they’re in Pennsylvania, so maybe “my sweet funnel cake” instead
  12. Fibrobabe
    @kelly_instalove If it’s a Christmas story, “my fruity Weihnachtsstollen.”
  13. kelly_instalove
    @Fibrobabe I hope they’re not Swedish, because lutefisk and lefse would ruin the mood.
  14. Fibrobabe
    @kelly_instalove I’m not sure how I’d feel about being called a “darling rugelach” if he’s Jewish.
  15. kelly_instalove
    She: “You can’t have bad aim and wield a cleaver for a living.” He: “Hand-eye coordination is a beautiful thing.”
  16. WARNING: Random and gratuitous inclusion of Fake SyFy monsters ahead!
  17. kelly_instalove
    @oddmonstr I’m feeling the need to do a Storify mashup of my book snark and your movie pics
  18. oddmonstr
    @kelly_instalove I think that would rock! Do you need more sand sharks? Because there’s like 4 now and they’re chasing Brooke Hogan
  19. Oh, sorry…. Where were we?
  20. kelly_instalove
    He: “To get those boys back, you would have teamed up with the devil.” She: “Maybe I did.” (Boys = Secret Babies) (Twins, of course. Duh.)
  21. kelly_instalove
    Lady Butcher is OK with blood and innards, but scared of bugs. Especially spiders in outhouses.
  22. ann_somerville
    @kelly_instalove ah, so female stereotyping not entirely absent, even if ridiculous
  23. kelly_instalove
    @ann_somerville Hero’s partner’s girlfriend wants their next deer hunting trip to be catch-and-release
  24. kelly_instalove
    “It was like walking into a fantasy. A centerfold operating heavy machinery.” (Hero recalling Lady Butcher using industrial meat grinder)
  25. kelly_instalove
    He: “I always thought you looked not in a hairnet.” She: “You were probably distracted by all the machinery I was operating.”
  26. ann_somerville
    @kelly_instalove has this author ever been in a butcher’s shop? smell of raw meat is not enticing
  27. kelly_instalove
    Crap, that last one should have been HOT in a hairnet. Also, auto-correct options for “hairnet” are quite entertaining.
  28. Autocorrect options for “hairnet” include “garnet” and “bairns”
  29. kelly_instalove
    “Hot in a Hairnet” would be a fantastic book title. Someone should write that.
  30. ann_somerville
    @kelly_instalove sequels. ‘Warm in a Wig’. ‘Snug in a Snood’. ‘Bootilicious in a booblehat’ 🙂
  31. kelly_instalove
    @ann_somerville “Snug in a snood” made my lady parts squirmy, and not in a good way.
  32. kelly_instalove
    @ann_somerville yeah, like a bedazzled hairnet. But I think it was the “snug” part that got me o.0
  33. kelly_instalove
    @sean__kennedy The fez thing is way too Doctor Who *shudder* and I must admit I had to look up trilby *shameface* @ann_somerville
  34. kelly_instalove
    “The next thing he knew, her bra was AWOL.” (His hands are on a humanitarian mission.)
  35. ReaderLas
    @kelly_instalove now I’m tempted to break my rule and read a Christmas story.
  36. We now interrupt this live-tweet for some much-needed sleep….
  37. kelly_instalove
    Live-tweeting of “The Spy Who Saved Christmas” will resume shortly. I know you’re all anxious about the Rendezvous at the Railroad Bridge.
  38. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN I’ll be Storifying. Hero is a Biker Baker Black Ops kind of spy. Heroine is a 6-ft-tall butcher. Yes, really.
  39. JenniferRNN
    @kelly_instalove A biker baker black ops dude??? This sounds awesomely cracktastic.
  40. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN The last discussion before I went to bed was alternate titles for “Hot in a Hairnet.”
  41. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN It was 2 a.m., so “discussion” wasn’t exactly high-brow. And then @oddmonstr kept throwing in SyFy “Sand Shark” pics.
  42. kelly_instalove
    Live-tweeting of “The Spy Who Saved Christmas” is about to resume – for realz this time. I actually had to *work* at the day job today 😛
  43. kelly_instalove
    Chapter 8 – let’s just say the Rendezvous at the Railroad Bridge did not go well. Mostly because the heroine can’t follow directions.
  44. kelly_instalove
    “They probably weren’t used to people begging to be kidnapped…. This was why you didn’t bring a civilian to a hostage exchange, dammit.”
  45. kelly_instalove
    “He was pretty cool during missions. Someone had once compared him to the iceberg that sank the Titanic.”
  46. kelly_instalove
    “She was a woman, falling in love with the man who was the father of her children.” Also, she’s a Cleaver-Wielding 6-Ft-Tall Lady Butcher.
  47. kelly_instalove
    Hero’s newly-married ex-partner: “So anyway, I told her about the twins. And you know how pregnant women are. *OUCH!*.”
  48. kelly_instalove
    “Look, you obviously don’t know anything about intelligence work, lady. It’s an X-K-Red-27 technique.”
  49. kelly_instalove
    “..I know perfectly well that you don’t keep the general public informed when you are “debriefing KGB defectors in a safe house.”
  50. JenniferRNN
    @kelly_instalove I am so going to have to read this. I can see it in my future.
  51. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN Hee – those last two were from A Fish Called Wanda 🙂
  52. kelly_instalove
    I’m throwing in marginally relevant movie quotes to liven things up on the long drive to Slaughterhouse Road for the Secret Baby Swap.
  53. ViolettaVane
    @kelly_instalove your description of the ransom gone wrong reminds me of the one in The Big Lebowski where Walter jumps out of the car
  54. kelly_instalove
    @ann_somerville No, but a slaughterhouse is a vertiable treasure trove of weapons for a Lady Butcher who lost her gun.
  55. kelly_instalove
    Success! “We kicked terrorist butt, didn’t we?”
  56. kelly_instalove
    Biker Baker Baby Daddy can tell twins apart after spending 15 minutes of quality time with them in the back of an ambulance.
  57. ann_somerville
    @kelly_instalove of *course* he can. Because he used a marker pen to put a sekrit symbol on one of their ears 🙂
  58. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN I’m waiting for the scene where he hides his coveted Crusty Roll Recipe inside a diaper @ann_somerville
  59. kelly_instalove
    “Our second time and you’re already bringing up variety? A lesser man could develop a complex.” (1st time was baby making in the bakery)
  60. kelly_instalove
    “Because the first time, on a flour-dusted table, I didn’t know you were a virgin.”
  61. kelly_instalove
    @GrowlyCub 1st time was deflowering on flour-dusted table in bakery. 2nd time 2 years later. In between, he fake-died in bakery fire.
  62. kelly_instalove
    Nookie Night in a cheap motel is apparently really good therapy for recently wounded hips and shoulders.
  63. kelly_instalove
    “The twins were quiet, happy as clams, thanks to their complimentary candy canes.”
  64. kelly_instalove
    “…narrow lips tilted up in an evil smile. Every instinct she had told her that he wasn’t here to do his last-minute Christmas shopping.”

  65. kelly_instalove
    “The way he scurried forward reminded her of a rat running from a sinking ship. Which gave her a really, really bad feeling.”
  66. kelly_instalove
    Chasing a bad guy through a crowded mall is difficult, but even more so when you’re pushing a double-wide baby stroller.
  67. kelly_instalove
    FBI Suit: “You’re here to provide intelligence only… There’ll be no rogue missions here.” Pfffft. AS. IF. It’s a Harlequin Intrigue.
  68. The_Book_Slayer
    @kelly_instalove lol. Who doesn’t love a man in a suit with the added bonus of a badge & gun?!
  69. kelly_instalove
    “Extra attention from a deranged terrorist was the last thing she wanted. Not unless they were one-on-one and she had a cleaver handy.”
  70. kelly_instalove
    “And she was willing to bet a year’s supply of filet mignon….” I personally would only bet six month’s worth of pork chops.
  71. kelly_instalove
    “Blue wire or red wire?” If this was a Bond movie, Q would saunter over and calmly flip the power switch to off.
  72. kelly_instalove
    “The perfect time for swearing his heart out, but he was a father now and just yesterday he had promised himself to let go of that habit.”
  73. kelly_instalove
    “‘Fudge cookies,’ he said instead, with feeling. Then cringed. If his SDDU buddies could hear him now…” THIS is why I love @danamarton.
  74. kelly_instalove
    ““I’ll go home with you for a while. The bread needs time to rise.’ Something between them clearly didn’t.”
  75. kelly_instalove
    He: “We should visit our old friend the dough-kneading table.” She: “The last time you said that, you got me pregnant. Again.”
  76. The_Book_Slayer
    @kelly_instalove This conversation sounds like one I have had with my husband. 0.0 *snickers*
  77. kelly_instalove
    “She had her own life, her own challenges, her own wonderful family. Her very own spymaster who was about to save Christmas. Again.”
  78. ros_clarke
    @kelly_instalove Why don’t I have my very own spymaster to save Christmas again? I’ve always had to share my spymasters.
  79. kelly_instalove
    @ros_clarke You need to move to Hopeville, Pennsylvania. The spies have taken over an entire strip mall.
  80. Best epilogue EVER:

    “Due to the economy, a lot of stores had gone out of business in the small strip mall. And every time one did, the top-secret unit Reid worked for bought the place. They put a man behind the counter as a front. Business continued as usual. But in the sizable attic that stretched above the row of stores, a super high-tech mission center had been sneakily built. Reid had found a way to do his job and still keep them safe. The strip mall’s security—although invisible to the untrained eye—rivaled that of the White House. And since Reid was the coordinator, he rarely left on missions; he arranged for background support when needed, utilizing his considerable knowledge of the field. Oddly, business also began doing better than ever before. The strip mall was gaining steadily in popularity, especially with the ladies. The men on Reid’s team, handsome hunks to the last, didn’t escape notice.”

  81. kelly_instalove
    The End. Happy Holidays! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Medieval Mania: Hugh and Bess: A Love Story by Susan Higginbotham

Hugh and Bess: A Love Story by Susan Higginbotham

  • Title: Hugh and Bess: A Love Story
  • Author: Susan Higginbotham
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark, August 2009
  • Source: Public library ($9.99 ebook)
  • Length: 273 pages
  • Trope(s): Child Bride, Treason, Courtly Love, Reunited
  • Quick blurb: Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of traitors, and his teenage bride Elizabeth Montacute face court intrigue, war and plague
  • Quick review: A welcome informal tone and a great historical couple, but uneven storytelling.
  • Grade: C

“Why can’t Joan marry him? Her father was beheaded too. They would have had much more to talk about.”

Higginbotham is a new-to-me author, but I’ve had her on my wishlist for while. She  chooses some really fascinating lesser-known historical figures and settings, so I was really looking forward to this. But Higginbotham was doomed to a comparison to my other favorite historical fiction authors, particularly Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick (reviews for both coming soon!).

Hugh and Bess was an easy read with enjoyable dialogue and some good historical detail, but it was very superficial — the storytelling was noticeably episodic, with some backstory filler between major life events.

My biggest disappointment was the lack of emotional depth and character development. Other than dealing with their significant age difference, neither Hugh nor Bess change or grow at all throughout the story — Hugh especially is presented as a saintly warrior who can do no wrong. I think that’s partly because Hugh and Bess are separated for much of the story, and it would be difficult for any author to sustain the romance throughout wars, executions, epidemics and god knows what else these two had to overcome.

I have two more by Higginbotham in my TBR and a few others are available at my library, so it’ll be interesting to see how her Margaret of Anjou, Katharine Woodville and Frances Grey measure up.

Status Updates: Read With Me Vicariously

  • 17%: This has a much lighter tone than I was expecting, and I’m enjoying the author’s “voice” as a 13-year-old bride-to-be. The minor characters are a little hard to keep track of, especially considering the similarity of their names. If I wasn’t already a little familiar with the historical figures and chain of events, I’d probably find it really confusing.
  • 30%: The time-jumping is starting to annoy me – the dual storylines aren’t parallel chronologically, and there have been several flashbacks within flashbacks.  But I am loving the unusual “voice” — informal, smarmy and often sarcastic. Definitely not the usual medieval-speak.
  • 80% : Now that the info-dumping backstory is out of the way, the pace has picked up – but there still isn’t much emotional involvement.

Catching Up: Men of Smithfield, Books 2-4 by L.B. Gregg

Men of Smithfield series by L.B. Gregg

  • Title(s): Seth & David, Max & Finn, Adam & Holden
  • Author: L.B. Gregg
  • Series: Men of Smithfield, Books 2- 4
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, GLBTQ, Suspense
  • Publisher: Carina Press, September-November 2012
  • Source: NetGalley (Seth & David, Adam & Holden), Amazon ($3.39 ebook)
  • Length: 89/108/150 pages
  • Trope(s): Age Difference, Beta Heroes, Asshole Heroes, Uncontrollable Penises, Insta-Lust, Virgin,
  • Quick blurb: More m/m stories from small-town Connecticut.
  • Quick review: A downhill slide from the humorous angst of Book 1, with an emphasis on skeeviness and shallow suspense.
  • Grade: C, C-, D

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Men of Smithfield: Seth & David (Book 2)Book 2: Seth & David

Uptight guardian of six-year-old niece gets the hots for his hippie-esque new massage therapist.

He was everything I had never ever wanted.

I didn’t really connect with Seth — I would have loved to read the story from David’s POV. And the “meet-cute” was NOT cute or humorous AT ALL.

Grade: C-

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Men of Smithfield: Max & Finn (Book 3) by L.B. GreggBook 3: Max & Finn

Prep-school teacher and security expert reunited when they must protect a celebrity student from a stalker.

I stumbled along as best as I could, channeling Scout in her ham costume á la To Kill a Mockingbird.

I had to pick that quote because I just watched To Kill a Mockingbird last night, and I like to be reminded of Gregory Peck whenever possible. ANYWAY, I read Max & Finn right after Mark & Tony (Book 1), and I was not expecting the suspense elements — this one is long on plot and less on character.

Grade: C

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Book 4: Adam & HoldenMen of Smithfield: Adam & Holden (Book 4) by L.B. Gregg

House-bound writer finally gets to meet his sexy new landscaper when a dead body turns up in the garden.

But this was right. I felt reborn. Renewed. I felt free with him – as if the future was finally at hand and I could at long last set into the light of day. All the pain and the fear of two years had somehow brought him to me…and he was worth everything.

Asperger’s (Adam) + Agoraphobia (Holden) = Magical Orgasm Cure². Yay!

Grade: D (“yay” = /sarcasm/)

World Series of Romance: Just a Little Faith by Amy J. Norris

Just a Little Faith by Amy J. Norris

  • Title(s): Just a Little Faith
  • Author: Amy J. Norris
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Inspirational
  • Publisher: Astraea Press, May 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 237 pages
  • Trope(s):  Celebrity & Commoner, Halo Heroine, Magical Bible Verse, You’re Not Worthy Enough For My Love Until You’re As Godly As Me
  • Quick blurb: Jaded ballplayer Sebastian finds personal and spiritual renewal when he meets Paxson, a shy but intriguing non-profit organizer.
  • Quick review: Promising first half, blah/blech/oh-NO second half.
  • Grade: C

Once again, I get the squee bucket ready, and then…. Never mind. *~*SIGH*~*

The completely believable set-up, likeable characters, and low-key spiritual themes carried me through the first half. I came >thatclose< to giving this a B- because it’s definitely memorable, and I loved the meet-cute and early relationship-building.

Maybe she was boring him to tears? Was this his standard behavior? If so, his looks must be what attracted others to him, because as far as Pax could tell, his conversation skills were clearly lacking.

Sebastian turns out to be a good beta hero, and Pax even has some fun with her internal prayers:

“And also, give me the strength not to kill Sebastian when this is over. I don’t think the team would appreciate him not being there this season.”

But then the tragedy and the angst and the drama went into overdrive, and the “oh no, please please please don’t go there” moments became more frequent. The tone of the story completely changed from an intimate character study to a generic sermonizing soap opera.

It was a precarious path she was treading down. How do I show Seb Your love for him without entangling myself into a web of emotions I might never escape?

Somehow showing Seb the distinction between going to church for her, and going with the intent of worshipping God could be difficult.

QUESTION: How will she know when this transformation takes place? Will God send her a text message?

More than that, she needed to decide if waiting on Seb to change was worth the turmoil raging in her heart.

[emphasis mine]

When the heroine started polishing that holier-than-thou halo, I almost quit reading, but I managed to make it to the end. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a good thing, because I hate the “Magical Bible Verse” trope, and this was a particularly cringe-worthy example in the form of a page-long speech by the newly-FULLY-repentant hero, who is FINALLY God-ified enough for Her Holiness the Heroine.

I’m finding that the “You’re Not Worthy Enough For My Love Until You’re As Godly As Me” trope — which I detest even more than the Magical Bible Verse — is much more prevalent in contemporary inspirationals than historicals, which makes me very reluctant to try new inspie authors.

I read inspirationals because I love stories of faith and doubt and trust and redemption. But those elements need to happen on both sides of the h/h relationship to make it worth reading about in the pages of a novel.

[NOTE: I gave a little extra credit for that lovely cover.]

One-Quote Review: Portside by Elyan Smith

  • Title: Portside
  • Portside by Elyan SmithAuthor: Elyan Smith
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): GLBTQ
  • Publisher:  Riptide Publishing,  June 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 35 pages
  • Trope(s): Virgin, Sex-for-Hire
  • Quick blurb: Lonely and reclusive Iwan briefly escapes his dreary coastal town to find self-acceptance with a London rentboy.
  • Quick review: I have no effin’ clue how to review this HFN novella.
  • Grade: B

“Have a good night,” he said, when he wanted to add something like “stay” and “let’s make it out” and suddenly find all his romantic feelings on his sleeve for someone that fucking perfect.

Dark and distant and desperate, but in a good way. And yes, I know that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it’s going to take me a few re-reads to figure out how to describe where this story took me.

One-Quote Review: Skybound by Aleksandr Voinov

  • Skybound by Aleksandr VoinovTitle: Skybound
  • Author: Aleksandr Voinov
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): M/M, Historical (WW2)
  • Publisher:  Riptide Publishing,  August 2012
  • Source: Provided by the publisher via NetGalley ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 44 pages
  • Trope(s): Military,Virgin, Beta Hero, Unrequited Love
  • Quick blurb: German plane mechanic longs and lusts for his unit’s ace fighter pilot.
  • Quick review: Despite the setting, this novella  somehow manages to be quiet, intimate and very, very romantic.
  • Grade: A-

We stand there and just kiss, and with every touch, we seem to explain and apologise, and bridge that gap that yawned between us.

I love it when I can just sink in and wallow in the language, and let it take me along wherever the author wants to go. And so far, I’m willing to follow Voinov wherever he’s heading.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I lied….

This will be more of a Six-Quote Review.

…Everything stops existing when he takes off, as if he takes it all with him when he goes up there, to places I’ll never see again.

…I can’t exactly run after him, so I tighten my fingers around the bullet. It felt like I owned it when I pulled it from his seat, like that one polished stone amidst a million on a beach that catches your attention and feels like it’s meant for you alone.

…If the world ends tomorrow, how will I go? Without ever having risked anything, or having done the one thing I can’t stop thinking about?

…We race towards something so amazing and precious it strikes me dumb with its immenseness. I lose every sense of myself, every thought; there’s just emotion and utter fulfillment.

…”I’m not going anywhere. Not while you’re still hurt. Not ever, if I can help it.”

It took me an hour to finish this pathetic excuse for a rave recommendation because I had to keep re-reading my notes and highlights.