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Brie's Corner

Supervillain book reviewer. Lover of secret pains and purple proses. I review over at Romance Around the Corner.

via Ridley: The email Goodreads sent me

Reblogged from Ridley's Reign of Terror:

I've seen a number of people wondering how the review and shelf deletions went down, so here's a couple screenshots of the notice Goodreads sent me on Friday afternoon.

 

Source: http://ridley.booklikes.com/post/221254/the-email-goodreads-sent-me

Her Favorite Temptation

Her Favorite Temptation - Sarah Mayberry This book had a very strong first half and a super cute, socially-awkward heroine. It falls apart a bit during the second half, but it's still a strong book. This one was more entertaining than the companion full-length novel, [b:Her Favorite Rival|17570285|Her Favorite Rival|Sarah Mayberry|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1370214330s/17570285.jpg|23850967]which I found compelling but somewhat dull and nowhere near as strong as [b:The Other Side of Us|15803208|The Other Side of Us|Sarah Mayberry|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1349082152s/15803208.jpg|21526622], a book that has some similarities. I'll be reviewing HFR next month (if my blogging mojo comes back). Both are solid reads, but Ms. Mayberry can do much better.

If You Stay (Beautifully Broken, #1)

If You Stay - Courtney Cole This book opens with the hero getting a blow job from a woman. In the middle of the bj he stops to give her drugs (and to take some) and then shoves her head down (but she opens her mouth willingly because that’s what you do when someone shoves his dick in your mouth) and then he says: “this is most definitely not against her will. She wants to be here”. This guy is so swoony I can’t even. Something tells me that when your hero has to explicitly say that he’s definitely not raping someone, he’s probably raping someone. Then he comes in her mouth, forces her to swallow and goes: “'Thank you', I say, still polite”. STILL?! LOLThen he gives her money to “'Get yourself something to eat', I tell her. 'You’re too skinny'”. And proceeds to kick her out.See? Swoony!
Cake - Lauren Dane Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerSource: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalleyCake is Lauren Dane’s contribution to the Cosmo Red-Hot Reads collection. These books are a partnership between Cosmopolitan magazine and Harlequin, so that’s where the “Cosmo” part comes from. Unfortunately, this one didn’t include ridiculous sex advice.Wren is an art student who works as a messenger in order to pay the bills. She often delivers packages to tormented artist, Gregori Ivanov, and they have developed an easy friendship. She also has a massive crush on him because he has tattoos, a Mohawk, an accent and lots of attitude (and now you know what made me read the book). But his evil ex-wife left him traumatized and afraid of commitment, which means that it’s up to Wren to get what she wants because this dude is too busy being predictable to do much else.This is my first Lauren Dane book and I didn’t know what to expect, but I found it quite enjoyable. It’s a quick read --only 100 pages of so-- and the heroine has enough freshness to balance the whiny hero and the cartoonish ex. In fact, she pretty much keeps the book from being an unremarkable collection of clichés.As I said before, Wren is the one who relentlessly pursues Gregori. Once she decides she wants him, she goes for it. Next to such a reluctant guy, she comes across as a bit too pushy, but it fits the story well and it’s always a joy to get a heroine who isn’t a blushing virgin.I was not a fan of Gregori, mostly because there wasn’t much to be a fan of. His character is underdeveloped and reads like the stereotype of a Romance hero: hot, talented, cocky, afraid of commitment, and has an evil ex to top it all off. It’s hard to believe someone so confident would be so insecure, which is not surprising because his insecurity is a gimmick to create conflict and to force the most awkward grand gesture.Would I recommend the book? No, but not because I didn’t like it, but because it’s expensive. $3.99* for a 100-page novella seems excessive considering the product you would be getting. I mean, for the same price you could get any Blaze book, which are more than twice longer and very similar in tone. But I guess we’re also paying for the Cosmo brand. I liked the book and maybe the partnership will work as a getaway to introduce new readers to the genre, but I’m not impressed enough to invest time and money in the other stories.*$3.99 is the digital list price, but it’s a bit cheaper on Kindle and Books-A-Million.

His Uptown Girl (Harlequin Super Romance Series #1854)

His Uptown Girl - Liz Talley Originally posted at Romance Around the Corner3.5 StarsAfter reading Wendy's review, the first thing I did was buy the book. The way she described both the story and her reaction to it, made it impossible for me to resist reading it. The novel turned out to be as good as she said, and although there were some things I didn’t love, I’m glad I read it.Eleanor is a 39-year-old widow struggling to put her life back together. Her cheating husband was murdered by his mistress (who then committed suicide) leaving Eleanor immerse in a political scandal. Her daughter is almost out of control and her judgmental mother-in-law is a constant headache. But at least she has her store. The problem is that a club is about to open in her neighborhood and she’s worried that it will bring nothing but constant trouble and annoyances, which is why Eleanor is actively trying to prevent the club from ever opening. So it’s quite humiliating when the hunky stranger she awkwardly tries to seduce turns out to be the owner of the club.Dez is a successful musician who left New Orleans (and his career) behind after Hurricane Katrina. He tried to build a life outside the city, but after many unhappy years and an unsuccessful engagement, he realized that happiness was back home.When Dez and Eleanor meet, he’s very attracted to her, but she’s too concerned with the fact that she’s almost ten years older than he is. So between their professional enmity and her baggage, a relationship between them is more than a little complicated.The romance in this book is fantastic. Eleanor and Dez are mature, self-aware people who have been deeply hurt, yet they use those past experiences and hurts for their personal growth instead of as excuses to justify being emotionally stunted. Dez in particular kept surprising me with his straightforward and honest attitude. Eleanor had some issues to work with, but their pairing worked and made absolute sense to me.The dialogue was wonderful and filled with emotion. I loved every interaction between the leads and how each conversation moved the plot and the romance forward. The book had the right amount of angst to make it poignant without feeling manipulative, and I was involved in the story from beginning to end.That been said, there are two issues that keep the book from being a 5-star read. The first one is that Eleanor kept referring to Dez as her “Aztec prince”:"The man resembled an Aztec prince. Like his honeyed skin should be twined in gold and turquoise, bedecked in a feathered headdress. And a loincloth. He’d be breathtaking in a loincloth."Later on:'The Aztec sex god turned his head and nodded toward the car. “You gonna move?”'And around the middle mark:"With close-cropped dark hair, smooth honey skin and deep gray eyes. Broad shoulders, lean hips and not a wrinkle on him anywhere. Her Aztec prince."Those parts were jarring and problematic. Race, class and their age difference are issues that Eleanor must deal with, and she seemed to be a conscious person, so it was disturbing to see her exoticize (and fetishize) the hero’s looks. Nothing in the narrative dispels the idea that doing this is wrong. In fact, she does it again near the end of the book:"Again, she was reminded of an Aztec warrior, golden and splendid."I had mixed feelings about the secondary character, Tre. He’s a young black man living in poverty and struggling to take care of his brother and niece (who is a toddler with developmental issues due to neglect). He’s a talented musician who gave up his dream in order to take care of his family and now works as a delivery boy in Eleanor’s store. Just when the possibility of joining a gang begins to tempt him, he gets saved by Eleanor and Dez who recognize his talent and offers him a job at the club. Dez is of mixed race, so it’s not entirely a “white character saves the black character” type of resolution, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. However, he does have an important role in the story, his character is fully developed and he even gets a love interest. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I can’t ignore my reaction. I would like to know other readers’ opinions on the subject, though.As much as I enjoyed the romance, the story has problematic aspects that I can’t ignore, so although I do recommend the book, I do it with trepidation, because some parts are, or could be, potentially offensive.

Tampa

Tampa - Alissa Nutting It mostly consists of lots of disturbing sex scenes with a minor designed to shock readers, and a bland, cartoonish and underdeveloped main character(s). I guess this is supposed to be a character study, but it’s hard to do that when you’re too busy writing sex scenes instead of developing the characters. Basically, it’s a book that uses its controversial subject to distract readers from how bad the whole thing is. So there, I read it so you don’t have to.
Masked Cowboy (Men of the White Sandy, #2) - Sarah M. Anderson Hero's name is Jacob Plenty Holes = Romance.Heroine's name is Janice Plenty Holes = Porn.

The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister)

The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan There are a lot of glowing reviews that would beg to differ with me, but as much as I adored the heroine, I couldn’t get past the weak conflict and the almost nonexistent tension. Ms. Milan writes outstanding novellas, but her full-length novels are average, even if the ideas and characters are remarkable.

Gone Girl: A Novel

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn I managed to avoid spoilers for this one, so I knew nothing about it besides the fact that the story was filled with twists and turns. I found the book to be highly readable and engrossing. The use of unreliable narrators is also key and well done. However, it’s a problematic story and has some unforgivable execution issues. The character that makes interesting points about feminism and gender roles ends up being a sociopath with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and after constant reminders of how clever and smart she is, she falls for the most stupid trick ever, which made no sense. Ultimately, this is the story of a privileged rich couple complaining about their first world problems and being awful about it. They are insufferable and unlikeable, although at one point I felt sorry for the husband (and then I immediately felt dirty and wrong because ICK!) So I guess I should give kudos to the author for that.So yes, readable and engrossing, but overrated and flawed.

Glitterland

Glitterland - Alexis Hall Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerSource: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.Alexis Hall is a debut author whose book has been getting a lot of publicity and critical acclaim, which made me curious to read it and see if the reviews were right. Unfortunately, the book didn't live up to the expectations.Our main character and narrator is Ash, a bipolar, clinically depressed writer who is struggling with his illness and his career.Ash meets Darian at a friend’s bachelor party. He manages to be equally drawn and repulsed by Darian who, with his thick accent and flamboyant appearance, embodies the stereotype of the Essex boy. But we know these two are meant to be together, because after they have sex Ash feels calm and is able to sleep, something he hasn’t felt or been able to do in a while. But other than that, Ash continues to judge and make fun of Darian even when the latter is clearly hurt by it. But this is a Romance, so we know they will eventually make it work, even if it is just because the rules of the genre say they must.The writing style is overly embellished and forced. It’s hard to separate the author’s voice from the character’s, but even if it’s all Ash, the writing is either trying too hard to be beautiful or incredibly pretentious. Unfortunately, it only succeeds at being purple.“His skin was as smooth as the hidden interior of a shell and as supple as velvet as it flowed over the taut muscles of his back.”“I flipped onto my stomach, and he covered me like sunlight in a rush of warm skin.”“And then I remembered: the sharp silver nothing of the knife as it glided down my forearm like a tall ship with a scarlet wake.”“My skin, at least, remembered the softness. Like a kiss from a ghost.”Those are all random quotes, and they do fit the character, so, distracting as it was, it gets a few points for effort.The book is also a character study, so Ash is front and center all the time. The use of the first person narrator is incredibly effective and perfectly conveys Ash’s state of mind. He isn't a likeable character, but he is certainly complex and layered, which makes him interesting. I'm not equipped to speak about its authenticity, but the portrayal of Ash's mental health felt raw and real. Also, his mental illness isn't used to excuse his attitude, and finding love doesn't automatically cure him. I wasn't surprised by any of this because the attention and care put into making Ash a nuanced character was obvious.I had a lot of issues with the treatment and portrayal of Darian. This guy is over the top from the way he talks to the way he dresses. Everything about him is designed to be judged and found lacking. And that’s exactly what Ash does. It’s not enough to use him for sex and then discard him, but when they get together again, Ash keeps reducing Darian to the traits he finds more offensive and refuses to call him by his name and instead refers to him as Essex. But this is somewhat excusable because Ash isn't a good person, and the class issues run deep between the two of them. But by making Darian perfect (his default moods are either incredibly cheery or somewhat hurt, and he’s kind, open, sincere and possesses a childlike innocence that is more than a little disturbing) his appearance and accent become his only negative traits. It’s not just Ash who sees something wrong in Darian, the narrative sees it too. Not only that, but by making the accent so exaggerated and hard to read, the text forces the reader to judge and be annoyed by it.Ash and Darian are opposites who (for some reason I can’t fathom, because Ash doesn't have that many redeeming qualities) are attracted to each other and ultimately fall in love. There’s a social and cultural barrier separating them, and crossing it is the way to their HEA. This is a story about finding value within a person despite what they look like. But considering that Darian’s accent and clothes are cultural and social expressions and an integral part of who he is, finding value despite those things sounds like a shitty message. It should be finding value in those aspects, and about not being so judgmental and classist. I didn't feel like the class issues were properly addressed, thus making it impossible for me to believe in their happy ending.The secondary characters are another mixed bag. Niall is Ash’s best friend. They are occasional lovers and it’s made clear that Niall is only with Ash out of heartbreak (because the love of his life is about to marry someone else) and out of guilt (because Ash once tried to kill himself). It’s a complicated relationship that had uncomfortable undertones, because it’s fairly obvious that what’s keeping Niall from leaving are pity, worry and guilt. I actually thought this was the most compelling relationship in the book.Amy is Ash’s editor and the woman Niall’s ex is about to marry. She is so very, very nice, that she will even tell you:“It’s, well, it’s about Niall. I mean, trying to shag Max on his stag night was kind of not okay with me. But, equally, I know you guys all go way back, and I don’t want to be some kind of evil-bitch, straight-girl stereotype.”We know M/M Romance has issues with its portrayal of women, so what better way to show self-awareness than by making a joke about it, right? And in the meantime, let’s strip the most prominent female character of any personality traits that aren't being extremely nice and understanding, even when someone else tries to fuck her fiancé at his bachelor party.The one thing these characters have in common is that they have a condescending attitude toward Ash because of his mental illness. They are patronizing and let him get away with a lot of crap and bad attitude because he is bipolar. There was a lot of pity and not enough love. I wold have liked to at least see all these relationship more developed and explored, because as they were they felt frustrating and wrong.The book had its moments of almost brilliancy in which the author’s talent and potential shined through. But it was also a distracting, overwritten mess. And in case someone was wondering, the word “glitter” (including variations like “glittering” and “glittered”) appears 34 times.

To Have and To Hold

To Have and To Hold - Patricia Gaffney Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerEarlier this year it was announced that Penguin would reissue Gaffney’s Wickerley trilogy through InterMix, their electronic-only Romance imprint. These books are a beloved and memorable part of the genre, yet I had not read them before. I confess that I was mildly intrigued by To Have and To Hold, the second book in the series, but unlike the rest of Romanceland, I was not eager to read them. But enthusiasm is catching and after my friends started talking about reviews, discussions and book clubs, I ended up buying the book on re-release day. After reading the book, I feel compelled to join the conversation now that I clearly understand why the book is so popular, even though my ultimate reading experience wasn't as successful as I was expecting it to be.To Have and To Hold tells the story of Sebastian, the most bored, jaded and debauched hero ever. And when I say jaded, I mean that he’s done and had everything and anything money can buy. So when fate lands Rachel, a widow who spent ten years in prison for murdering her husband, on his lap, he seizes the opportunity to have some unique enjoyment. That is, her complete hopelessness, inability to make even the simplest decision, and her absolute and utter vulnerability, make him want to torment and push her until the breaking point. It doesn't take long for him to realize that she’s way past her breaking point, which only makes him even more horny and rapey.Rachel, on the other hand, has been released from a prison that broke her. She doesn't know what to do, can’t look people directly to the face, and can’t even express herself properly because there’s almost no herself left. The one thing she has clear, though, is that she won’t go back to jail, and if she does, she will take her own life. When Sebastian avoids her return to jail and offers her a position as a housekeeper of his derelict state, Rachel accepts because even if his not-so-good intentions are obvious, so what? Been there, done that, have the t-shirt to prove it.I mentioned before that I wasn't eager to read the book, the reason being that I was expecting an angst-fest of memorable proportions, and it’s been a while since I've been up to such levels of drama. Surprisingly, the story does have all the necessary ingredients to make an epic melodrama, yet the end result is organic and even realistic --albeit over the top-- pain and suffering. This was due to the character dispensing the pain and suffering being completely unapologetic about it (and the narrative doesn't apologize for him either) and the character on the receiving end just taking it as if it were the most natural thing, perhaps because for one third of her life it was the natural thing. This doesn't make the story more palatable, but it dramatically changes the reading experience from one of emotional involvement, to that of a voyeuristic detachment. I couldn't look away, even if I really wanted to.I’m glad I kept reading, because Rachel’s progressive but subtle journey to reclaim herself is quite impressive, even if not entirely satisfying. And I say this because she never truly gets a choice or the freedom to decide what to do with her life, which makes it hard not to feel like she got the less dirty end of a really shitty stick. But then again, I’m pretty sure she would end up choosing Sebastian, so I guess her end of the stick was cleaner than it looked. Much like the whole book, the HEA is uncomfortable, but I can get on board with the “happy” part of it.Sebastian was an interesting character that made me question my idea of heroism, perhaps because it seems to question Romance’s collective idea of what makes a hero. When he first meets Rachel, he’s attracted to how broken and hopeless she is, not as a savior, but as a man amused and aroused by the challenge of breaking her even more. He enjoys teasing her and can’t wait to seduce her once he realizes there’s some fight left in her. He’s intrigued and eager to know what horrors she faced during her marriage and time in jail, but he doesn't force her to talk about it. It may look like he’s doing it out of some hidden kindness, but in truth, he just enjoys waiting, stalking and wearing her as the helpless prey she is.The one thing Sebastian can’t wait to do is to seduce her; something he does repeatedly and by force. He is a rapist, even if he doesn't admit to it. But Rachel, the reader and more importantly, the text, clearly acknowledges and makes no apologies for him. That’s why when he thinks that pleasure equals seduction and says things like this (emphasis mine): “Relax, Mrs. Wade,” he whispered. “Don’t make it a rape.” He opened one of her closed hands and pressed it against his chest, slid it across his nipple. “If I . . .” It came out the barest sigh, possibly not words at all. “If you . . . ?” he prompted, brushing her hair with his lips. How could he ever have disliked her hair? “If I begged you . . .” “If you begged me to what?” “Stop,” she gasped, at the moment he slid her rigid palm down to his stomach. He soothed her by holding still, not moving her hand lower, where he wanted it. “There are many things I look forward to hearing you beg me for,” he murmured against her forehead. “But do you know, stopping isn’t one of them.”We know he’s been disingenuous.The clear and unapologetic way in which his actions are presented as nothing but pure self-indulgence and cruelty is what keeps the book from becoming a disgusting, unreadable mess. There’s not even a secret pain or a terrible childhood to justify his actions. He is inexcusable.But can he be redeemed? I’m not sure. Halfway through the book I was willing to wait and see. The problem for me was that Sebastian’s breaking point turned Rachel’s suffering into collateral damage effectively making it all about him instead of her. This guy was truly committed to his selfishness, which meant that the second half of the story felt anticlimactic and made his change and newfound love hard to believe. Not to mention that it concluded with a misunderstanding, because apparently the inner conflict wasn't enough.I didn't enjoy the book, but I liked it. It takes some of the oldest tropes and themes (forced seduction, the rake, etc.) and strips them of their romanticism forcing us to look at them under a different, less forgiving light. I’m glad I read it, although I doubt I’ll ever revisit it.

Uncommon Passion

Uncommon Passion - Anne Calhoun Originally posted at Romance Around the Corner4.5 StarsSource: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.This is going to be long, so I’m skipping the introduction and going straight to the book.Uncommon Passion tells the story of Rachel, a woman who recently left the constrictions of a closed religious community to experience life on her own terms. She works at a farm and dreams of becoming a veterinary technician. Sex and dating are some of the experiences she wants to build in order to re-shape her life and gain power and control over it. But she’s not interested in anything serious; all she wants is to lose her virginity. That’s how she ends at a bachelor auction paying a stranger to go out on a date with her. The only reason she bids for him is because she senses something in him (and by “senses something” I mean that he gives her the Sex Eye, which is like the Evil Eye but hornier). Needless to say, they go out on a date, have sex, have sex, have sex, have sex (this is a 320-page Erotic Romance, after all) some emotional stuff happens and then live happily ever after.Except that it’s nowhere near as easy.Yes, this is a book about a sheltered virgin who finds a random promiscuous hunk to have sex with her. Yes, said promiscuous hunk is afraid of commitment but agrees to be her no-strings-attached sex teacher for as long as she wants. And yes, they end up falling in love because of course. Sounds awful, I know. Let’s face it, the “virgin who falls for the sex god she used to get rid of her v-card” is one of the Four Horsemen of the Tropecalypse (the other three are: Love Triangle of Anguish, Secret Baby of Doom and Amnesia of Despair). But Ms. Calhoun’s previous full-length book was so good that I was willing to read anything by her even if it had a dodgy premise (or a potential cured-by-threesome scene*). I’m glad I read the book, because it kept surprising me.The first surprise came (pun totally intended, and you’re about to see why) when during their first time having sex she failed to have an orgasm. Now, this is common for most virgins, but when was the last time a Romance heroine didn't have an orgasm with the hero? That's how I knew all bets were off.Even if the book forces us to rearrange our expectations, what makes it worth reading is its wonderful heroine. Just going by the description, one would expect a naïve and innocent woman who needs a strong man to guide her through life, but it’s the opposite. She’s smart, self-aware, mature and knows exactly what she wants. Her inexperience is just that, inexperience, and she never crosses the line into naïve and innocent. More importantly, when confronted with a damaged man, her kindness allows her compassion and patience, but doesn't make her want to cure or change him. And when it’s time to choose between an unhealthy relationship with a man she loves and her own emotional well-being, she chooses herself.The hero (also known as Ben) was harder to like and understand. It’s clear from the beginning that this guy has a lot of issues. Most of them are somewhat justified, but there is a lot of immaturity and inability to communicate as well. He is the one who needs guidance, and as emotionally closed-off as he was, Ben was the emotional center of the story.Ben and Rachel were complete opposites in terms of sexual experience and emotional maturity, and that contrast was interesting and created great conflict and tension, because everything they had in common was used to highlight their differences.The most prominent secondary character is Ben’s twin brother. There’s a certain connection between the two that flirts with extrasensory/paranormal elements enough to make it grating, but not enough to completely pull me out of the story. And it was perhaps a too convenient way to show just how close these two guys were, which played into the story and Ben’s main conflict, but wasn't necessary. Also worth mentioning is how much I enjoyed a secondary character that was gay but instead of being a stereotypical sidekick had an actual subplot and a life that didn't revolve around the main character.As I hinted at before, there’s a lot of sex in the book. Almost every scene advances the plot and serves the character development. Rachel and Ben’s relationship is sexual and slowly develops into something more, which mirrors their individual transformations. And Ben mostly communicates through sex. So yes, there is a lot of it. And although the sex scenes are hot and inventive, by the end of the book I was skimming through all of them.That’s it. This is one of my favorite books of the year. It’s not perfect, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ms. Calhoun managed to take one of the worse tropes and, if not reinvent it, at least refresh and infuse it with new life.* Uncommon Passion is loosely related to the two novellas in Uncommon Pleasure, but this one doesn’t have a ménage scene, because I guess Ben had enough that one time (that’s actually how the three stories are connected so there’s no need to read them in order or at all).
Carolina Girl - Virginia Kantra Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerI’m a long-time fan of Ms. Kantra’s books. Last year, the first book in the series, Carolina Home, was one of my favorite books, and I was anxiously waiting to read the next one. I’m happy to say that it was just as good as expected.This is a pretty standard book with a pretty standard set of tropes.First we have our heroine, Meg. She grew up in a loving home and had dreams too big for the small island. She was in love with her older brother’s best friend; a guy who broke her heart the day he took her virginity and left. Eighteen years later, she’s incredibly successful, lives in New York and shares her life with a long-time boyfriend who is clearly all wrong for her because 1. He’s never asked her to marry him and 2. He doesn’t console her after she loses her job. So she decides to go back home to put her life in order, figure out what to do and in the meantime help take care of her mother who was recently in an accident.Then we have Sam, the hero. Unlike Meg, his family was a mess. His mother abandoned him when he was a kid, leaving him with a rich father more concerned with women than with taking care of his son. When Meg’s family moved back to the island, he found the love and warmth he craved, which is why he panicked when he had drunken sex with Meg. But unlike the usual tormented-by-a-loveless-upbringing, poor-little-rich hero, Sam is quite committed to proving himself, doesn’t hold irrational grudges against his father, and is pretty quick to realize that Meg is the one.The setting is fairly predictable and trite, but as is the case with similar stories, the execution is everything, and the book delivers a romance that may not be particularly refreshing, but it was sweet, entertaining and reminded me of the reason why I love Contemporary Romance.Meg is an ambitious and career-driven heroine; something we know isn’t usually compatible with the genre. Similar heroines tend to be dissatisfied with their work and welcoming of the magical wang that shows them how their life would be better outside the office and inside the kitchen. This book doesn’t entirely go there, although it had me worried for a second, and instead uses the rare compromise that still leaves the heroine in charge and in love with her job (but away from evil New York and directly into the idyllic small town, because what else?). I won’t lie, though, I would love to see a hero give up or make considerable changes to his career jut to be with the heroine. I’m aware that this is another unfair extreme, but it would be quite something. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for books like Carolina Girl, in which that option is considered, but only goes as far as becoming a convenient grand gesture. Sam was an adorable, charming hero. His main attribute was being the one who decided to risk his heart once he realized the extent of his feelings. I also enjoyed reading about a guy who had so many generic traits but managed to make them his own by the force of his personality alone. As with everything else about this book, there was nothing new about him, but it just worked.This series reminds me of Nora Roberts’ older Contemporaries (the Chesapeake Bay books in particular). There’s even a little kid that has a secondary role throughout each book (fortunately, she’s not one of those cutesy, precocious little kids). If you liked those books, you will feel like Ms. Kantra wrote this series just for you.There you have it. This is a small-town-ish series (without the annoying townsfolk) that revolves around a tight family that has realistic issues. None of the characters are cartoons defined by a couple of ridiculous traits, and the book is far from one of those mass-produced small-town Contemporaries that completely blend in together. Carolina Girl is a memorable book that pretty much proves that quality over quantity is always best, even if it means having to wait one year to find out how it all ends.

One Tiny Lie

One Tiny Lie - K.A. Tucker Warning: ALL THE SPOILERS AHEAD.I usually take time to talk about how and why I decided to read the book, but today I’m feeling lazy, so I’m skipping everything and jumping right into the review.The blurb should give you an idea what the book is about:Livie has always been the stable one of the two Cleary sisters, handling her parents' tragic death and Kacey's self-destructive phase with strength and maturity. But underneath that exterior is a little girl hanging onto the last words her father ever spoke to her. “Make me proud,” he had said. She promised she would...and she’s done her best over the past seven years with every choice, with every word, with every action. Livie walks into Princeton with a solid plan, and she’s dead set on delivering on it: Rock her classes, set herself up for medical school, and meet a good, respectable guy that she’s going to someday marry. What isn’t part of her plan are Jell-O shots, a lovable, party animal roommate she can’t say ‘no’ to, and Ashton, the gorgeous captain of the men’s rowing team. Definitely him. He’s an arrogant ass who makes Livie’s usually non-existent temper flare and everything she doesn’t want in a guy. Worse, he’s best friends and roommates with Connor, who happens to fits Livie’s criteria perfectly. So why does she keep thinking about Ashton? As Livie finds herself facing mediocre grades, career aspirations she no longer thinks she can handle, and feelings for Ashton that she shouldn’t have, she’s forced to let go of her last promise to her father and, with it, the only identity that she knows.This book was one entertaining mess. The heroine is instantly attracted to the bad-boy hero, but she decides to start a relationship with this other guy who is just as hot, but also nice, which instantly makes him the safe, but wrong choice. She’s still lusting after the hero, though, even when he turns out to 1. Have a girlfriend and 2. Be her boyfriend’s best friend and roommate. But who can resist a bad boy, right? She’s also kind of disgusted by the hero constantly cheating on his girlfriend (even after spending the night with the heroine*, so double rainbow cheating all the way!), but she’s not that disgusted not to cheat on her boyfriend with the hero who apparently was only sleeping around to forget her. This is a thing that happened.Fast forward a bunch of chapters later and the hero and heroine finally have sex. The morning after, her boyfriend comes into the bedroom desperate because he can’t find her anywhere. You see, in order for the heroine no to feel that guilty for cheating on him, he gets drunk, forgets that he used to be nice, and becomes quite aggressive and rude, so he is now the villain and it’s OK to cheat on him. Anyway, going back to the morning after, the heroine is hiding in the bathroom so the boyfriend doesn't see that she just slept with his best friend. While in there, she’s all stressed and worried, but not worried enough not to start thinking about having sex with the bad-boy hero. This is another thing that happened.After that, things got really complicated (including the bad-boy hero getting engaged….. to someone else!), but the heroine’s creepy therapist ended up saving the day. I would tell you how, but I've already wasted enough time.I will give the book props for one thing, though, the hilarious plot and awful characters made a very compelling train wreck, so I pretty much read the whole thing in one sitting waiting to see what would happen next.*They don’t have sex, but do wake up naked in the same bed; this the night after their meet-cute when he forcibly kissed her.1 1/2 Stars rounded up to 2 stars just because of all the entertainment.

Ghost Planet

Ghost Planet - Sharon Lynn Fisher Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerWarning: This review contains lots of spoilers.Ghost Planet was my impulsive buy of last week. Its appealing blurb made me put all the other books on hold in order to read this one, but alas, we were not meant to be. Here’s why.Elizabeth is a psychologist who just moved to a new planet that’s been colonized by humans. Life in the planet would be pretty awesome if not for one tiny detail: the local aliens* take on the form of a person’s dead loved one and must remain close to them at all time. Not only do these ghosts look exactly like a dead person, but they retain their memories and personalities, which make things really awkward and creepy. Killing the ghosts is pointless because they just regenerate again and again, so the humans have established a protocol to deal with these aliens by completely ignoring them.When the book starts, Elizabeth is fresh out of the transport that took her to the planet. She meets Murphy, her new supervisor, and during the few minutes that their first interaction lasts, a certain attraction forms between them. The next thing they know, though, is that Elizabeth’s transport crashed killing everyone in it, so all this time she’s been Murphy’s new ghost.This book had a wonderful premise that promised angst and perhaps even a clever, surprising resolution. Unfortunately, the execution was all wrong.Here’s a list of things that happen to Elizabeth in the first chapter: 1. She moves to a new planet; 2. She dies; 3. She meets a talk, dark, stranger named Murphy (okay, not really a stranger since he’s her new boss); 4. She feels an immediate connection to this man (or so the text would like us to think); 5. She discovers she died and that the new Elizabeth is Murphy’s new alien-ghost (even if it’s been established that ghosts only take on the form of a loved one, but hey, how else are we supposed to figure out that these two belong together?); 6. Suddenly no one speaks to her, because that’s how humans deal with the aliens.I don’t have an issue with any of the things I just listed. There’s angst, impossible love, great conflict, and the promise of intense emotion. What’s not to love, right? Except that she gets over all the shocking revelations and life-changing events in about one day. At this point I was somewhat disappointed and my suspension of disbelief started wavering, but I kept reading because I remained intrigued.A few more chapters into the novel, some of the mysteries and workings of the world started unfolding. It looks like the planet needs humans to develop some type of symbiotic relationship with them, and appearing as loved ones is their misguided attempt at guaranteeing their acceptance. The planet also changes to resemble Earth, so it’s a desperate transformation to please the humans. This is a disturbing take on colonization; one in which the natives welcome the invasion and do everything in their power to convince the settlers to stay because they need them. I stopped reading halfway through the book, so I’m not sure if this is exactly what happens, but what I read until that point was enough to make me want to stop. I didn’t, though. And then I got to the part where the hero is forced to seduce and get the heroine pregnant or else! And that was it for me. The romance was already weak, and I wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters, as a result, a revelation that should have been terrifying, became equal parts ridiculous and infuriating.It’s incredibly disappointing when a book that shows so much promise and potential thoroughly fails to deliver. Perhaps I was a victim of my own enthusiasm, but the biggest offenders were the uneven world-building with its strange message, the inconsistent characterization, the bad plot developments, and the weak romance.*Are they still considered aliens even when they are the local species?

Flirting with Disaster (Camelot, #3)

Flirting with Disaster (Camelot, #3) - Ruthie Knox Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerSource: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.Flirting with Disaster is the third book in the Camelot series, and it brings closure and a happy ending to Katie, the last Clark sibling. The previous book was a bit of a mixed bag, but this new installment worked much better for me, even if some of the same issues remained.Katie is a people pleaser. She followed her husband to Alaska so that he could make his dreams come true, and in the process she lost herself and put her life on hold. So when her husband left her with nothing, she came back to her hometown completely defeated. Her brother gave her a job, which helped her get her life back on track, but she remains a work in progress.Sean is back in town to sort his recently deceased mother’s affairs. It’s a deceivingly easy task, because although all he has to do is get rid of her clothes and sell her house, he’s also forced to confront the bad memories of a mother who was less-than stellar. He’s really bad at dealing with his baggage, though, and really good at ignoring them and hoping they will go away, which is why he’s staying in town far longer than planned.That’s how Sean ends up helping Katie’s brother and partnering with her in an assignment that involves protecting a famous singer.But wait, there’s more! Sean was in love with Katie during the time they were in high school together, and has been (mostly) pining after her. The problem is that he has a stutter that, after years of therapy, is somewhat under control. But he fears that the stress of being in town, plus the stress of being with Katie, will bring back the stutter, so he doesn't speak to her. Ever. So of course she thinks he hates her.The conflict is mostly internal and not particularly epic (because Sean and Katie have issues, both as individuals and as a potential couple), which is perfectly fine. These are two people who must decide if they want and can make it work. In Sean’s case, he’s in denial of his need to find closure, but by having a relationship with Katie, all those things that need closure become front and center, and unfortunately for him, it’s impossible to get the girl without first dealing with the baggage. Katie, on the other hand, needs to learn how to hold on to her newfound sense of self. She finally learned how to put herself first, and now she must keep doing it. These are personal journeys that aren't entirely compatible with a committed relationship that demands negotiation, compromises, and sacrifices.As was the case in the previous book, Flirting with Disaster comes equipped with its very own subplot and a secondary character that features prominently in the story. And just like in the previous book, the subplot felt unnecessary and intrusive. This character was quite charming, and I spent half the time thinking he was outshining the main couple, while the rest of the time I felt like he was invading the main romance. Worse, the suspense part was predictable and boring.However, all the characters were full of life and personality. It’s impossible not to be immersed in their stories and invested in their happiness. It’s what Ms. Knox does best and the main reason why I keep coming back for more. Flirting with Disaster is not her best, but it is a good book.3.5 Stars