Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Delicious

This is the first book of the Buchannan series, and features the oldest brother, Cal. Cal needs to hire a top chef to save his ailing family business. The best one he can find just happens to be his ex-wife Penny.

Cal and Penny have been divorced for three years. After Penny had a miscarriage, Cal revealed to her that he didn't want to have children. Unable to accept this, Penny finally left him. With her biological clock ticking, and no man on the horizon, Penny decides to have IVF in order to have a child.

"Penny Jackson knew that it was probably wrong to be so excited to see her ex-husband come crawling back, but we was willing to live with the character flaw."
When I read this opening line, I thought I'd love the heroine and the book. She sounds refreshingly fun yet realistic. I was wrong. There was a lot of potential but I just couldn't believe how easily Penny falls for Cal. She keeps emphasising the fact that they have been divorced for three years, and that she is therefore completely over him. Considering he broke her heart and lied to her, I find it very hard to believe that she has absolutely no anger or bitterness towards him, even if she is still attracted to him.

Cal admits to Penny that he never really loved her, and that though he was not exactly happy about the miscarriage, he was relieved when it happened. Yes, there is a fine distinction between the two, but the bottom line is that he didn't really want the baby. His nasty grandmother reveals various secrets Cal kept from Penny which also negatively impacted their marriage. After all this, for some bizarre reason Penny thinks she can now get back together with him and things will be different this time. I have no idea what she bases this on considering Cal still hasn't told her that he loves her, and he wasn't the one who told her his secrets.

There are also a few side stories which I suppose are used to set up Cal's siblings for their own books. Again, I found the characters somewhat unbelievable. Cal's sister Dani discovers her husband cheating on her. He had an accident when they were still dating, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. She loved him so much that she still married him, and has supported him financially and emotionally for the past six years. Yet when her marriage breaks up, she claims that she no longer loved him anyway and it is mainly her pride that is hurt not her heart. All I could think was, "How convenient."

There are other examples I could give, but basically what ruined this book for me were the unrealistic characters and their relationships. I wasn't looking for a lot of angst, but I couldn't believe the lack of bitterness all around. I don't know if I'll bother reading the rest of this series.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mommy for Rent

Kelly Rosholt married when she was 19. Two years later she finds out that she is barren. Her husband divorces her and remarries shortly after. She now runs a successful business, Mommies for Rent, which hires out women to help with whatever tasks mothers do (baby sitting, housework, organising stuff etc). One day seven year old Dani tries to hire a mommy because she feels different from the other kids in town who all have mommies. Kelly meets Dani's father, former pro baseball player Scott Delgado. Kelly agrees to babysit Dani until a full-time nanny is found. Kelly and Scott's relationship moves along in a predictable manner, until Scott shares his dream of having a large family. Kelly runs away, and only returns to Scott when she finds out that he was adopted and is a strong proponent of adoption (something her former husband would not even consider).

This was a nice read but I found the resolution of Kelly and Scott's relationship somewhat disappointing. I didn't like Kelly's presumption that Scott wouldn't want her if he found out she is barren, and I didn't like the fact that she never really had to grow a spine and risk his rejection; she only returns to him after she realises that he won't mind adoption.

His Convenient Marriage

Chressie Lloyd lost everything when her father was convicted for fraud and died of a heart-attack whilst on remand. Successful thriller author Miles Hunter purchases her house and offers to allow Chressie to rent the housekeeper's flat in return for being his housekeeper cum secretary. One day out of the blue two years later, Miles asks Chressie out to dinner and proposes to her. He suggests a "business arrangement" type of marriage with the possibility of it developing into a "real" marriage in the future. At the same time, Chressie's old beau arrives back in town expecting her to fall into his arms in gratitude.

I was really shocked to see this book was published in 2004. It has the kind of bland characters I expected to see in a much older book. In a word, this was boring. Boring characters, boring plot. No reason is ever given for Miles' proposal. He asks Chressie if she is wondering about his "lack of amorous advances" but never goes on to explain it. Why couldn't he court her normally? Chressie's former boyfriend Alistair turns out to be a sleaze (which was fairly apparent from his introduction) who has been sleeping with his step-mother Linnet. It's meant to be a secret relationship, but they make out in the parking lot of a pub; I'm not sure why they thought that was discreet. Alistair's father had a stroke when he found out about his wife's liaison with his son, so now Alistair hopes to pull the wool over Daddy's eyes again by marrying Chressie whom he will approve of. Meanwhile, Miles has a limp after being injured by a land mine when he was working as a journalist years ago. Sandie, his girlfriend/almost fiancée at the time, dumped him after seeing his scars for the first time. Chressie thinks Miles is still in love with Sandie while Miles thinks Chressie is in love with Alistair. Miles makes frequent trips to London, where Chressie assumes he has innumerable lovers, on the basis that he is an attractive man and doesn't seem to want to have sex with her. She calls his London flat one day and hears a woman's voice, so she jumps to the conclusion that it must be Sandie. What really bugs me, is that it actually was Sandie. There are so many reasons why a woman could be answering the phone at Miles' apartment, and it annoys me that Chressie's jealous assumptions would be even partially correct. Miles' explanation still leaves a lot to be desired though. He claims that Sandie was having marital problems, so she stayed there to think about things while he stayed with other friends. This is the woman he loved, who walked out on him because he was injured. Even if he's moved on now and doesn't hate her, I can't picture them being that good friends that she would have the effrontery to ask to stay at his apartment.

Anyway, feel comfortable to give this book wide berth. You won't be missing out on anything and your brain may even thank you for not feeding it more trash.

A Heartless Marriage

Leigh Wilson left her husband Raoul de Chevnair five years ago after walking into her bedroom and finding a naked woman on the bed and Raoul coming out of the bathroom similarly unclothed. Now he's back and has coerced her into agreeing to spend the next three months with him before granting her a divorce.

It's immediately obvious to the reader that Raoul was innocent; Leigh did not find him in bed, but coming out of the bathroom after a shower. The naked woman happened to be Miranda, a guest staying with them with her husband. That's right, with the full knowledge that both couples were in the house, Miranda decided to seduce her host. She is either incredibly stupid, or secretly wanted to be caught, but this is never addressed. The question I asked, which Leigh never did, was if Raoul really was cheating on her, why would he be dumb enough to do it in his own home where he'd obviously be caught? Anyway, Leigh never gave him the opportunity to explain, and just screamed and ranted at him before setting fire to all her clothes and running off.

Raoul's excuse for the past five years is that among the things Leigh had yelled at him, was the accusation that he was stifling her and making her feel trapped. He decided magnanimously to let her go and spread her wings, knowing that her love for him would act as a chastity belt (please note I'm being sarcastic here). Too bad he never told her what really happened with Miranda or how he actually felt about her. It wasn't possible to give her freedom without breaking her heart? It wasn't possible to love her without stifling her? It wasn't possible to force her to listen to him tell her he was never unfaithful?

As for Leigh, she's pretty determined to believe the worst about Raoul because he's attractive and she's plain. Her father was attractive and repeatedly cheated on her mother until finally leaving them a few weeks after her birth. I understand this was unpleasant, but considering she never knew her father I can't see how this excuses her skewed view of Raoul. She jumps to the assumption that he has been cheating on her all along with multiple partners and that the many times she has seen him turn down women (in fact he always turns down women who try to make moves on him) is just a front to fool her. She doesn't even remember saying that she felt stifled and needed freedom. So all this stuff just came bursting out of her from nowhere? It just doesn't gel.

Finally, after hearing strangers at a party discussing Raoul's lack of interest in women, Leigh decided to give him a hearing. He explains what happened with Miranda and she believes him. Unfortunately the next day she sees him kissing Miranda. Ugh. Where do I start? The fact that Leigh wouldn't listen to Raoul until she heard strangers gossiping about him is simply ludicrous. It really doesn't say much about her, and doesn't give me any confidence in their relationship working out later. Raoul tells Leigh that he hadn't seen Miranda since that fateful night. She showed up that morning to apologise and offer to explain the truth to Leigh, and Raoul was kissing her in thanks. Huh? Why isn't he angry with Miranda? Even if he and Leigh are back together, even if he decided to allow Miranda through the front door and listen to what she has to say after what she did, I can't believe that he'd feel friendly enough to kiss her after her apology. Forgiving her and being friends with her again are totally different things.

I found this book very mediocre. It got great reviews at Amazon, I guess primarily because Raoul was faithful to Leigh all along (and during their five year separation), which is very rare among category romance heros. I complain every time we have heros who aren't faithful, and though I appreciate Raoul's fidelity, it doesn't save the book. His decision to leave Leigh alone for five years for her own good seems pretty high-handed and dumb to me. Let's not even get into how stupid Leigh is. I finished off agreeing with all the other women in the book who felt that Leigh didn't deserve Raoul, but I didn't like Raoul enough to care whether or not he got a happily ever after.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The You-Can't-Make-Me Bride

Jenna Anderson has sacrificed her personal life for her career and is now the assistant commonwealth attorney. After breaking her ankle in a basketball match, she is treated at the hospital by the hot Dr. Stanley Michaels who just happens to be the bully who tormented her in school. Actually, they were friends until he had a growth spurt and decided teasing the girls was more fun than playing with them.

This is the final book in the How to Catch a Princess series. It's not bad, but neither this or the previous one, The Troublemaker Bride, lived up to the standard set in the first novel, The Five-Minute Bride.

Stan has always gone for casual relationships with bimbos. The death of a close friend made him re-evalutate his life, and he has returned to his hometown looking for more to life than he's had. Jenna has been too focused on her career to have much time for men, and tells herself that if she gets one it will be someone she can control, which of course Stan isn't. The truth is, she has always been fairly self-conscious and insecure about her body which is only compounded when she attends a function with Stan only to hear that no one expects the relationship to last since she is so different from his usual "fluffy women". Nevertheless they persevere with their relationship and all looks good until Stan's birthday. Jenna organises a surprise party for him at his apartment. Just before he arrives, a sexy blonde emerges from his bedroom wearing nothing but a silky robe, having obviously just woken up. Turns out she is one of Stan's exes who has breezed into town to look him up uninvited. Jenna believes Stan when he tells her this, but it unfortunately brings up all of her old insecurities.

I found the explanations for the blonde a bit lacking. If Stan didn't invite her, how did she know where he lives and more importantly, how did she get into the apartment? I doubt she snuck in unnoticed with the rest of the guests and went to his bedroom, undressed and went to bed. I guess details like this don't bother some readers, but I find they really disrupt the story flow. This isn't a bad novel, but like it's predecessor it's really nothing special.

The Troublemaker Bride

After years of being in a relationship with her never there musician boyfriend/fiancé, Maddie Palmer finds herself single and pregnant. Stuck in a traffic jam while in labour, Maddie leaves her car to try and find some other way to the hospital. She spots a truck with a motorbike in the back, and her water breaks while she is asking the driver to take her to the hospital. The truck/motorbike owner happens to be studly single dad, Joshua Blackwell, who coincidentally owns a horse stud farm. Anyway, he gets her to hospital on time and is with her through the birth of her son David.

This is the second novel of the How to Catch a Princess series and is quite different from the previous one, The Five-Minute Bride. Joshua is a calm, stoic farmer, and his and Maddie's relationship progresses sweetly along with no major dramas until the fateful day when he comments to her how great it is that she doesn't want to get married. Huh? Where did that come from? I guess he assumes it since she was content to be in a long-term relationship with her previous guy without getting married and doesn't seem too bitter about being a single mother. Nevertheless, it's bizarre and totally out of the blue for Joshua to say something like that, and it gives the impression that it was solely done to provide conflict to the story line. Joshua hasn't been in a relationship since his wife, Gail, died 12 years ago; he's been concentrating on being a good single dad. There's never any indication that he never wants to marry again now that he's involved with Maddie. Maddie of course freaks out at Joshua saying he doesn't want to marry, because she doesn't want to settle for any thing less again. Naturally all is sorted out eventually and they get married to live happily ever after. This was a nice book (even with the stiff formulaic "conflict") but nothing special.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Five Minute Bride

Emily St. Clair has live her life doing what others have expected of her. When she finds out just prior to her wedding that her fiancé has another girlfriend/mistress, she leaves him at the altar and drives away. She ends up in Ruxton, North Carolina: a small town where nobody knows her. For the first time, Emily finds herself free from expectations and takes this opportunity to find herself. She also finds Beau Ramsey, the studly bachelor sheriff of said town.

This is the first book of the How to Catch a Princess series and is just plain fun. Both Emily and Beau are wary of trusting Emily's feelings as she was just about to marry someone else. Is this just a rebound thing? Will she eventually want to move back to the excitement of the big(ger) city? (She's from Roanoke which is not exactly big city.) Beau has three elder sisters who are constantly trying to "improve" him. I guess all this loving interference has put him off long-term relationships with women. So far he has preferred casual sex and currently has "an arrangement" with local business woman Donna who has been around the block a few times. He's stunned when Emily makes it clear that she doesn't feel the need to change him or his home.

There were a couple of things I did find somewhat odd. Emily shows up in town in her wedding dress after having just run out on her own wedding. When Beau's sister sees it her, she immediately recognises the dress as a Dior. Okay, I guess these small town ladies could be more sophisticated than I'd expect and happen to really know their fashion. No way would I recognise a Dior wedding dress just by sight (yes, I'd probably realise it was a high quality designer/couture dress, but I wouldn't know which designer). Anyway, these fashion conscious women are then not sophisticated enough to understand that Emily doesn't want to wear the dress again at her next wedding; they're totally shocked by it. Now I get that it's beautiful and extremely expensive, but really, what woman would want to get married in the same dress she wore to her previous failed wedding where she was jilted? Granted, Emily wasn't actually the one left standing at the altar, but still... And then there's the whole Donna thing. Beau doesn't have "relations" with Donna after meeting Emily, but not for lack of trying. Donna wants him, he doesn't want her though, which he finds frustrating because he wants to want her. It's not an unusual scenario, but I didn't like it. While Beau is making moves on Joanna, he also wants to (want to) sleep with Donna. As for Donna, she is fairly aggressive about wanting Beau and tells Joanna that she wants to keep their "arrangement".

Putting aside my small complaints, this book was just a joyful romp. The dialogue is fun and I found myself smiling through most of it. For example, when Emily was getting married to Mr. Sleaze, when the time came for her to say, "I do," she instead says, "I don't believe I will. Thank you very much." Loved it. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series if this is any indication of what they'll be like.

A Wedding to Remember

Joanna married Rory Grayson against her mother's wishes when she was 19. After supporting him financially for seven years, Rory is accused of impregnating one of his employees. Joanna leaves him and returns home to her mother. Three years on, Joanna has been dating her boss, Brad, who has proposed to her. She decides to see Rory one last time before making up her mind. Passion flairs between Rory and Joanna once again and she agrees to spending a dirty weekend in his apartment with him (while deciding mentally that she can't marry Brad after all).

I really wasn't sure how I felt about this book. It started off great, but became far too realistic for me towards the end. It is finally revealed that Rory was innocent of infidelity all along, but Joanna's willingness to believe the other woman's claim was due to existing problems in their relationship. These problems are never addressed. Rory and Joanna end up reconciling with her family and getting married, but is this really their happily ever after? Rory never tells Joanna that he loves her; I guess his actions are supposed to be enough, but it's really below the par for a romance novel hero. I never really got the sense that Rory and Joanna have sorted out the past and really committed themselves to the future. It just felt like they have a big fancy wedding and that's pretty much it.

Rory admits to Joanna that he's had women since their divorce. I know it's unrealistic to think that he wouldn't but I just don't like seeing this in romance novels. In a way it wasn't too bad here since Joanna herself has been sleeping with Brad (I hate it when the heroine is celibate because she's been pining away for the hero for years, but he happily plays the field with all and sundry). What I didn't like was that Joanna knew about his other women because he gives her a bathrobe to use which he keeps in his apartment for his women. That's just tacky. Not only that, but Rory created Joanna's dream home to live in, and that's where he's had these other women. It just doesn't gel that he'd have sex with other women in her dream home before he's even brought her there.

Joanna assumes that Rory's employee Monique is his lover. This is based on the fact that she shows up unexpectedly during their dirty weekend, she's familiar with Rory's bedroom and sleeping habits, she automatically acts as hostess in Rory's home, offering drinks to people etc, and finally when Joanna shows up unexpectedly one morning, Monique is there in her pajamas. All these things are explained of course, but the explanations don't really make sense to me. Turns out Monique is happily married and lives next door to Rory. Her husband made a painting that Rory bought and hung in his bedroom (which apparently explains to Joanna why Monique is familiar with the bedroom, but doesn't explain things to me at all). The morning she was there in her pajamas, her husband was also there, because they were having breakfast with Rory. Do people really normally have breakfast with their neighbours in their pajamas? Not in my world. Even if you were to go to your neighbour's place for breakfast, I would expect you to get dressed first. Oh, and showing up during the dirty weekend - apparently she arrived with champagne to congratulate Rory and Joanna on their reconciliation. What kind of "friend" would show up at a time like that? Most people would realise that the couple in question would want privacy. Anyway, the whole Monique thing was just weird to me. Obviously she was put there to give Joanna someone to be insanely jealous about thus angering Rory for not trusting him. I agree that Joanna is a little unreasonable, but I've got to say Monique's behaviour was hardly normal.

Brad turns out to be rather self-serving and unlovable. He wants a wife who will be able to help his career. He isn't in love with Joanna, and she isn't in love with him, so the reader doesn't mind when they break up. The author obviously wanted him to get a happily ever after anyway, and he ends up marrying Joanna's friend Poppy. Poppy is such a close friend of Joanna's that when Joanna decides to leave home and needs somewhere to stay, Poppy happily takes her in on the spot. Even so, when Joanna leaves her she doesn't even keep in touch beyond sending a letter to invite her to her wedding. So good friends don't deserve phone calls? Well, since Poppy is happy to marry Brad, knowing that he's been in a long term sexual relationship with Joanna, maybe she doesn't feel that close to Joanna either. At any rate, it seems pretty poor form to marry off Poppy to a guy who doesn't love her. Rory concludes that by the time they have their second child, Brad will probably come to appreciate all that Poppy will have done for him. Huh? Not much of a happily ever after.

Overall I guess the ending of this book made me feel quite ambivalent. I didn't hate it, but I definitely didn't like it either.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To the Ends of the Earth

A rewrite of The Danvers Touch

Cat Cochran is a photographer struggling to make ends meet. She is hired to photograph Travis Danvers and his ship the Wind Warrior.

This was an amazing book. I absolutely loved it. There's lots of angst but Cat is a strong heroine and Travis finishes the story beautifully.

Cat was born into a rich family and married an even richer man, Billy Nelson, when she was 19, just after her father died. Billy turns out to be truly awful, to the point that Cat eventually ends ups diving naked off his ship and swimming into the ocean for over two miles in the middle of the night to escape being raped by him and his friends. She decides that rich men aren't capable of loving anything but themselves.

Travis is rich. He married Tina when he was 20. She deliberately got pregnant to catch him, then had an abortion two weeks after their wedding and told him she had a miscarriage. Travis decided that he would never trust a woman with less money than himself. Since then he has only had "relationships" with women that he can buy.

So we have this conundrum. Cat hates rich men, and Travis is rich. Travis only wants women he can buy, and Cat won't be bought. Their passion finally overcomes both their reserves, and they enter into an uneasy relationship. Cat works herself to the bone trying to earn enough money to support her family. Now this was the part I found somewhat questionable. Since her father died, her family hasn't had any money and she has been supporting them. Her mother is completely clueless as to finances, and still lives like she is rich. She is actually engaged to a marry a rich man in a couple months, and has just spent a small fortune on her trousseau (funded by Cat). Furthermore, Cat's twin siblings are in medical school and she needs to pay their fees too. On one hand, I understand Cat needing to support her family and not wanting to burden her mother, but it gets somewhat ridiculous towards the end. Why did she let her mother have the money for frivolous things like her trousseau when she is so desperate for money that she can't even afford to go to hospital when her doctor tells her to? As for Travis, I don't think his background story is severe enough to excuse his absolute distrust and hatred of women and the brutally cruel way he ends up treating Cat when he thinks she has lied to him. Still, for all these faults, this was a brilliant story with no cheese at all. Yes, Cat and Travis end up together but not without a lot of pain first. Their happily ever after is well earned and I shed a lot of tears along the way.

Nowhere to Hide



Suzanne Swenson discovers her fiancé having sex in her bed with her flatmate one day. Heartbroken, she flies off to Denver for a business meeting. As the flight is overbooked, she ends up being upgraded to first class and ends up in the seat of Alyssa Humphrey who hasn't shown up. The plane crashes killing nearly everyone on board, but Suzanne survives with severe facial injuries and total amnesia. She wakes to be told that she is Alyssa Humphrey, currently engaged to US senator Matthew Bradford.

Yes, this is yet another ammesia story, but the difference here is that the reader knows from the beginning that Suzanne is not Alyssa. I hate it when it's obvious the character is someone else but the reader is forced to pretend they are too stupid to realise (like in The Other Laura). The reader knows that Matthew Bradford is up to no good, and the engagement with Alyssa Humphrey is a political decision, not a love-match, but Suzanne doesn't know any of this. Jasmine Cresswell takes the reader through various twists as we learn with Suzanne what is really going on and who each of the players in the story are. I really enjoyed this book, and am keen to find more by the same author. Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate more of her books, as this one was published in 1992.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Bed with the Boss

Kalera has been a widow for two years. Her boss, Duncan Royal, has been in love with her for a long time but knows that she hasn't been ready for a new relationship. Suddenly, Kalera announces her engagement to his business rival whom she has been secretly dating. Can Duncan persuade her that Stephen is not the man for her?

The blurb for this book is completely misleading, making it seem like some sleazy rich man and his mistress secretary type of deal. It's not. This is actually a really sweet book with likeable characters. Kalera is a very normal woman. I don't know how else to describe it. She's trying to get on with her life. She has no deep seated hang-ups or insecurities. Six months after the death of her husband, on what would have been their sixth wedding anniversary, Kalera ends up turning to Duncan in her grief and sleeping with him. Knowing that she is still grieving and was merely using him as a substitute, Duncan suggests they pretend the night never happened, and they get on with their lives. Kalera continues to wear her wedding and engagement rings, so Duncan accepts that she still isn't ready to move on.

We find out at the end that Duncan was already in love with Kalera when she was married, and that her husband, Harry, knew about it. Apparently he trusted Kalera's love to such a degree that he knew Duncan never had a chance, and became his friend out of pity. Seems somewhat far-fetched to me, but I like that Duncan never tried to steal Kalera away from Harry, and even after Harry passed away, he didn't try to move in on her. It really shows his character and genuine love for her. On Kalera's side, she is obviously attracted to Duncan but finds him too strong and alive. She chooses Stephen because he is "safe". I think it's clear that she still wasn't really ready to move on from Harry yet, and wanted someone who wouldn't challenge her heart or stir up her passion and make her feel guilty for being alive. Indeed, she continues to wear her wedding and engagement rings until Stephen proposes to her. Unfortunately, Stephen turns out to be psychotically jealous and controlling. I guess this is to make it really obvious that he's the wrong man for Kalera, and so the reader doesn't feel bad about them breaking up so she can be with Duncan at the end, but I found it a little convenient. Kalera had a great marriage, so why would she choose so badly the second time around? She says things like, "He'll be different once we're married". Those are words I expect to hear from someone young, inexperienced and needy, not from someone who is confident and was happily married for almost six years.

My main complaint about this book was the ending which I feel really let it down. Throughout the book you see Duncan's attempts at both getting Kalera to see himself as more than a friend, and also to see Stephen's true character, whilst not wanting to hurt her. He is tender and passionate, and Kalera's tension and confusion builds steadily. Eventually she sees the truth about Stephen, and the next thing you know she is jumping into bed with Duncan and confessing her love for him. It's just so sudden and abrupt. You never really get the feeling that she really fell in love with him at any stage, although she obviously wants him physically. The ending was very rushed. It would have been more believable and less jarring if she had thought about it and come to the conclusion that she was in love with Duncan. Instead, she gets mad at him one day, realises he's got an erection, jumps him and confesses her love. If you can overlook the ending, this is still an enjoyable book but not one of Susan Napier's best efforts.

The Scorsolini Marriage Bargain

Therese knows that she was chosen as the wife of Principe Claudio Scorsolini because of her suitability to marry a crown prince. She agreed to the arranged marriage because she loves him, and so far they have been happy. The time has come for her to conceive an heir, but she discovers that she has endemetriosis and is infertile. How can she stay married to the crown prince if she cannot provide him with children?

This is the third book of the Scorsolini Princes (or Royal Brides) series, and is the best so far. Unfortunately that's not saying much because the previous books were pretty terrible.

Ok, let's get this infertility thing out of the way. I really hate how so many category romance characters interpret low infertility as infertility. Therese discovers that she only has a 10% chance of conceiving naturally, and a 70% chance of conceiving through IVF. She interprets this as her being infertile, and rather than tell her husband what is wrong, she tells him they have to get divorced. Claudio has noticed his wife pulling away from him, and jumps to the conclusion that she must be cheating on her which is confirmed in his mind when she asks for a divorce. She tries to explain to him why they need to break up, but he doesn't want to listen because he doesn't want to hear her tell him about her lover. This whole cheating/divorce thing was ridiculous, and I think it was only done to give Claudio a reason to be truly nasty and say very cruel things to Therese. Therese has been rejecting him sexually because it's physically painful for her. She doesn't have a problem with saying no to him, but she does have a problem with telling him why? Huh? I get that they don't have a loving relationship, but they've been happily married for three years, so it's pretty ridiculous that she can't even tell him that it's painful for her. She needs to have an operation (which doesn't even require an overnight hospital stay) but she doesn't want to arrange it because... well, I really don't know why. Considering it's only a day procedure, I don't see why she couldn't have organised to have it done secretly like all her other medical stuff. I wasn't impressed with Therese at all. She doesn't try to fight to save her marriage. She just sits around and decides a 70% chance of conceiving through IVF is not enough, so she'll have to leave. Considering money is no problem, I'd say 70% chance is acceptable. They could at least try it a couple times before giving up. Anyway, once he finds out the truth, Claudio shines. He doesn't want to let go of Therese, and he is determined to make her realise how much he loves her. He basically manages to save the story, and of course we end up with a "miracle" pregnancy with Therese conceiving on their first go at IVF.

After reading The Greek's Christmas Baby and Blackmailed into Marriage, two brilliant books, I have been on a Lucy Monroe marathon. After the last few duds I have read of hers, I think I'm going to move on to another author now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

His Royal Love-Child

Danette Michael's has been Principe Marcello Scorsolini's secret lover for six months. They agreed to keep their relationship secret in order to avoid the paparazzi, but now it's not enough for her. Marcello makes it clear that he doesn't want to marry anyone again after his wife died several years ago. That all changes when Danette discovers she is pregnant, but she doesn't want to be married simply for the sake of her baby.

This is the second book in Lucy Monroe's Scorsolini Princes (or Royal Brides) series. It's marginally better than The Prince's Virgin Wife, but not much. Danette is supposed to be a smart woman, but she sure thinks like an idiot. Marcello forgets to use condoms half the time, and she excuses this by deciding that he wouldn't mind if she gets pregnant, ergo he wouldn't mind marrying her, ergo he must secretly love her, or at least care deeply for her. What? It's pretty clear to me that if a guy doesn't bother using condoms even though you are not in a long-term relationship, he just doesn't really care about you and he's pretty irresponsible.

Marcello is a jerk. He discovered years ago that he has a low sperm count, and his wife never got pregnant. He assumes that this makes him sterile, but the reader of course knows he's going to get Danette pregnant. As soon as characters interpret low fertility as being infertility, you know there's going to be a surprise "miracle" pregnancy. Although I understand his reasons for keeping his relationship with Danette secret, it doesn't explain Marcello flirting with other women. He claims that he has to keep up his playboy image so that people won't question his sexuality and pry too hard into his private life. Seems more like a very flimsy excuse to play around, to me. I wasn't impressed to say the least.

In the end Marcello and Danette manage to convince each other that they love each other and live happily ever after. They both annoyed me so much that I really didn't care.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Prince's Virgin Wife

Maggie Thomson worked as Tom Prince's housekeeper six years ago. She fell in love with him but they parted ways after he decided to marry the beautiful Liana. Unbeknownst to Maggie, Tom Prince is actually Principe Tomasso Scorsolini, the second son of a royal family. Tomasso comes to regret his marriage to Liana who turns out to be shallow and selfish. After she dies, he remembers Maggie who made his home calm and comfortable. He decides to hire her as his nanny to see if she is still as he remembers her. If she is, he wants to marry her.

This is the first book of Lucy Monroe's Scorsolini Princes (or Royal Brides) series. It was horrible.

Tomasso is cold-hearted, arrogant and selfish. Six years ago he almost had sex with Maggie, but she ends up changing her mind because she doesn't want a one-night stand with him. He knows that she is a virgin, but still gets so mad at her rejection that less than a week later he brings home Liana. Maggie had decided to sleep with him after all, and goes to his bed to wait for him, when he shows up undressing and making out with Liana. She leaves his room in shame, and he goes ahead and has sex with Liana. Then in the morning he has breakfast with Maggie and doesn't understand what she is so upset about. Six years later he still doesn't know why she was so upset. He tells Maggie that he was in love with her six years ago and treasured her friendship, but got swept away in lust by Liana. He thought by having Liana and keeping Maggie's friendship he could "have the best of both worlds". So in other words, just having Maggie isn't enough. He repeatedly makes it clear that he doesn't think Maggie is beautiful, telling her that he had decided he is no longer interested in outer beauty. Sure, outer beauty isn't everything, but does he have to make it so obvious that Maggie can't compete physically? It bothers her, but she still let's him bully her into marrying him. Maggie was basically a total pushover. She's fine with being chosen for what she herself terms her "Girl Scout" attributes. She's fine with being mother to Liana's children. Tomasso gets mad at her for rejecting their friendship after he rejected her, and she accepts that.

Overall, I've got to say, yuck yuck yuck. Tomasso is a selfish insensitive jerk and Maggie doesn't mind.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Sicilian's Marriage Arrangement

Hope Bishop is a shy, quiet girl with a rich but distant grandfather who wants to make her happy. He notices that she is attracted to Luciano di Valerio and blackmails him into marrying Hope. Although suspicious of Luciano's sudden interest in her, Hope is thrilled to marry him and doesn't realise that he has been coerced into it. For his part, Luciano realises that Hope doesn't know about the blackmail, and decides to make the best of a bad situation and seeks to have a good marriage whilst secretly plotting to destroy her grandfather financially. They are happily married for a few weeks when Luciano overhears a conversation between Hope and her grandfather which convinces him that Hope knew about the blackmail all along. He decides to make Hope think that he is having an affair with his ex-girlfriend in order to make her want to break up with him. Hope finds out about the affair (as planned) as well as the blackmail and is devastated. Luciano finds out the Hope was innocent all along, and confesses his love and so on, and they live happily ever after.

This story had potential but I ended up not liking it all that much. Hope makes a nice heroine. She is sweet and shy, but as is pointed out many times, she is not stupid. She doesn't just fall into Luciano's arms when he shows up claiming to want to marry her after ignoring her for 6 months. Luciano's fake affair is stupid, but I guess he gets kudos for not actually having a real affair. His anger over being manipulated and his need for vengeance is understandable, and he does decide that he loves Hope even before finding out that she was unaware of the blackmail. Still, I felt Hope forgave him far too quickly. Her willingness to believe his innocence and protestations of love just didn't gel, and is what ultimately let the story down for me. The resolution was just too quick to be believed, and left me feeling very unsatisfied. It's still worth reading, but definitely not one of the best I've read.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Blackmailed into Marriage

Lia has never had much of a relationship with her spanish grandfather, especially after eloping to the US with her high school boyfriend when she was 18. She finds out that her daughter Kaylee has a hole in the heart and requires life-saving surgery which she cannot afford. Lia's grandfather agrees to give her the money for the operation, but only if she agrees to marry his business associate Damien Marquez. Damien is illegitimate and wants to marry Lia for the sake of her grandfather's title. Unbeknownst to him, Lia has vaginismus which makes her unable to have penetrative sex.

Lia is very bitter towards both her grandfather and Damien for using her daughter's life to blackmail her into marriage. She doesn't realise that Damien didn't know about this. An even bigger obstacle in their marriage is her feelings regarding her inability to have sex which caused a lot of problems in her first marriage. Damien deals with both these things as only a romance hero can. He is incredibly gentle, loving and understanding with Lia, eventually gaining her trust and her love. Lia's grandfather eventually realises the error of his ways and makes up with her, apologising for using Kaylee's health to manipulate her.

I loved this book. It was heart-wrenchingly beautiful. I was going to say the characters are realistic, but as I write this review I realise that Damien is really too good to be true. Plus, they sort out their sexual problems much to quickly and easily to be believed. Nevertheless, it was a great story and I'll definitely be reading more of Lucy Monroe's books.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Greek's Christmas Baby

Eden and Aristide Kouros survive a head-on collision, but Aristide awakes from a 3 day coma with no memory of Eden or her pregnancy. She has been unhappy in their marriage due largely to his neglect as well as the manipulations of his personal assistant Kassandra, who is determined to break the marriage up.

Aristide is your typically obtuse alpha hero. He thinks Eden's absence from his side whilst he was in a coma is a sign of her lack of love, even when she tells him that she herself has been bedridden in the hospital (in a different room). He feels that she should at the very least have arranged to be moved into a bed in the same room as his. Personally I found this whole thing quite strange. First of all, why didn't it occur to her, or at least his family, to move her into his room? Plus, it would have been a very simple thing to verify with the hospital doctor that it was under his instructions that she was unable to be by Aristide's side. Even though Kassandra boldly lied to Aristide about Eden, why didn't his own family tell him that she was in another room and unable to be with him? Even if they didn't know exactly what was wrong with her, they must have been informed that she was unable to leave her bed. Then when his mother admits to Aristide that his marriage was not what it should have been, he immediately assumes it's because Eden is a lousy wife. Conceited much? Anyway, his family eventually sets him right on that, to his great shock. I didn't like Aristide much at all, but he redeems himself admirably towards the end by firing Kassandra and loving his wife.

I really liked Eden. She occasionally does stupid things, but realises immediately afterwards when she has handled things badly (usually due to over-stretched emotions, rather than blatant idiocy). Overall she deals with Aristide and Kassandra with dignity, never whining or begging, but just taking a solid stance. She doesn't like the way Aristide behaves and let's him know, but also doesn't try to change or manipulate him. Eventually Aristide realises the kind of loving woman she is, by observing not only her, but also her relationship with his family. Once he realises that Kassandra has been lying, and he acknowledges his own love for Eden, he acts decisively to fix their relationship.

Overall this was a fantastic book. Kassandra, as the Evil Other Woman, is somewhat over-the-top, and I can't help wondering if Aristide would still have figured her out if she hadn't over-played her hand. Plus, what is with these heroes who have no problem keeping their ex-lovers around? Am I just not modern and sophisticated enough to think it's bad form to make your wife associate regularly with your ex-lovers?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Captive in the Millionaire's Castle

Michael Denver is a successful author in need of a personal assistant. Coincidentally, Jenny Mansell is a fabulous PA in need of a job. Destiny. Oh, and Michael also happens to own a castle, though they don't stay there and he certainly doesn't keep Jenny captive there despite the title.

Michael spends the first half of the books being annoyingly suspicious of Jenny. Apparently he is hot stuff with hordes of manipulative women throwing themselves at him continuously. His ex-wife, Claire, was pretty free with her affections and he keeps expecting Jenny to be like her (eating like a bird, vain, critical, and bored by quiet country living). This gets tedious fast. Very fast. He keeps wondering if Jenny is cleverly pretending to not be interested in him in some complex nefarious scheme to snag his attention, because he is after all, an irresistible stud. Conceited much? It is completely inconceivable to him that a woman would not try to manipulate her way into his very presence, not to mention his bed.

Jenny on the other hand has had her share of disillusionment when she caught her fiancé doing the nasty with another woman. She's lovely at first, but all it takes for her to believe the worst in Michael and run away is for his ex-wife to visit unexpectedly. By this stage, Michael has already told her that Claire took it upon herself to inform the press of their supposed reconciliation, but he himself has no intention of ever getting back together with her. Claire tells Jenny that she is visiting uninvited. Yet what does Jenny do? She immediately jumps to the conclusion that Michael is in love with Claire, is planning on re-marrying her, and has been lying to her about their relationship all along.

This could have been a sweet story but both Michael and Jenny's insecurities are over the top. Rather than feeling sympathetic towards them I was just annoyed. Couple this with a cloyingly sweet "destiny" back story, and I give it a thumbs down.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Italian's Suitable Wife

This book begins with Enrico DiRinaldi in a coma after coming to the rescue of a woman who was being mugged, and ending up shot and hit by a car. Gianna Lakewood has loved him since she was a child but he has always treated her as a little sister. Rico wakes from his coma to discover that he is paralysed from the waist down, with an uncertain prognosis. He shortly dumps his sexy model fiancée and bullies Gianna into a quickie marriage.

Rico's paralysis makes him impotent, which is highly unusual in a category romance hero. Of course the reader knows he will have a happy ending and will eventually be restored to full functionality, but we have some unique love scenes including a digital deflowering. I can't help but think the author has little knowledge (and performed no research) on lower body paralysis and rehabilitation. Rico seems to have no trouble getting changed, bathing, and hopping in and out of bed even though he is paralysed. He uses a rowing machine as part of his rehabilitation; I can't even begin to picture how you're supposed to use a rowing machine when you can't use your lower body. It's not important, but missed details like this were a little jarring.

The other thing that makes this story different is that both the hero and heroine know from the start that she is in love with him. Gianna is willing to lose her job and home because she loves Rico. She doesn't follow the usual, and inexplicable, reaction of most category romance heroines of trying to protect herself and deny her feelings. It's quite refreshing.

My main complaint was Rico's feelings. I just didn't really get the feeling that he really does love Gianna. He claims that he heard her telling him she loved him while he was in a coma, and that is what convinced him that he needed her to be his wife, rather than his fiancée Chiara. Well, I can certainly see that he was disillusioned by Chiara and decided he wanted a doting supportive wife who loves him, which he would get in Gianna. I couldn't believe that he actually loves her though, and is anything but selfish in his reasons for marrying her. He gets what he wants, and he supposes she will be happy because she gets him. He does admit this at the end and feels guilty about it, but I still wasn't convinced that he really loves Gianna. Nevertheless, this was a lovely story and I highly recommend it.

The Marriage Solution

Carlton Reef offers to save Katie White's father from bankruptcy if she marries him.

This plot is so clichéd, yet Helen Brooks pulls it off beautifully. The characters are likeable and believable. Even the Big Misunderstanding is not that far-fetched, as we know of Katie's insecurity. The only part I didn't understand is Carlton's confusion over why Katie doesn't like or trust him. During their first meeting (on the phone) and subsequent confrontation he is rude and threatening. It really should come as no surprise that she is somewhat ambivalent towards him. Putting that aside, he's actually quite a nice guy, unlike the aggressive alpha males we normally see in this plot device. Don't get me wrong, he's still very much an alpha, but he's confident not arrogant and overbearing. This was my first book by Helen Brooks and I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Virgin Secretary's Impossible Boss

The story begins just after the deaths of Andrea Buttonfield's fiancé and father in a car accident. Andrea is forced to sell her family home to Linus Harrison who offers to hire her as his personal assistant and allow her mother to live in a smaller house on the property. We then skip ahead a year, and Andi and Linus have become friends. We know this because he is now allowed to call her Andi (with an i - how can you tell when you are speaking?). He wants them to go on a business trip to his native Scotland, thus setting the scene for romantic hijinks. This is where things start to fall apart.

Andi has now had time to get over her dead fiancé, and has started to notice that Linus is hot stuff. On the other hand, Linus has always known that Andi is hot, but she's also the best PA he has ever had, and he doesn't mess around with his employees. They get caught in a snow storm and have seek shelter in the first building they find. This happens to be a pub whose owners graciously allow Andi and Linus to rent their daughter's bedroom for a couple of nights. Andi is unbelievably rude and paranoid about sharing a room with Linus. She blames it all on the attraction she feels for him, but I just can't picture anyone speaking to their boss the way she does. He does find it insulting, but he accepts a lot more than I can imagine anyone taking from an employee. They have a few passionate moments, culminating in them doing the nasty on a kitchen table. She runs away to "think", he realises he loves her and they get married and live happily ever after.

This book had potential, but I really didn't enjoy it. The whole relationship just didn't gel for me, from the moment Linus pressures Andi to work for him (which is never explained), to Andi's weird behaviour, through to Linus' sudden and abrupt proposal.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bartaldi's Bride


While driving to her godmother's home, Clare picks up Paola, a 17 year old heiress who is running away from home to elope with her older boyfriend, Fabio. The story sounds very suspicious, so Clare goes to confront the man in question but instead meets Guido Bartaldi, Paola's guardian and fiancé, who assumes Clare is in cahoots with Fabio and has kidnapped Paola. Eventually the misunderstanding is cleared up, and Guido employs Clare to be Paola's companion. Her job is to not only prevent Paola from running away again, but also to help prepare her for marriage to Guido.

The story had potential, but Guido's deception was just silly. I understand that there needed to be some deception initially to get Clare to agree to moving into his house. I think it's quite understandable that she didn't want anything to do with Guido or Paola after being arrested for kidnapping. However once it becomes clear that she's got the hots for Guido but doesn't want to be involved with a man planning on marrying someone else, it is surely time for Guido to 'fess up and admit he doesn't intend to marry Paola. Instead, he gets mad at Clare for thinking he is the type of man who would keep a mistress on the side. When she confronts him about his woman in Siena, he admits there is one, but refuses to explain, again getting mad that she would think him capable of keeping mistresses whilst planning to marry his teenage bride. When the truth about his lady in Siena came out, I couldn't see why he couldn't have been upfront with Clare about it from the start. Clare on the other hand, has this whole background angst story about how her first lover married a rich girl but wanted to keep her on as his mistress. For some reason she needs this to explain why she doesn't want to get involved with a man who is busy planning his marriage to someone else.

Eventually we discover that Guido pretended that he was going to marry Paola to keep her safe from gold diggers, but Paola is actually not an heiress at all because her father gambled away all the family money. Wouldn't the fact that Paola has no money be enough to keep away the gold diggers? And why was Guido courting Paola, buying her little presents and so on?

This book pretty much sums up my addiction with trashy paperback romances. The plot is tissue thin and full of holes, yet somehow I couldn't put it down.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Greek Tycoon's Inherited Bride

Phoebe agreed to an arranged marriage with Dimitri Petronides four years ago, but has decided to call it off because she is in love with his brother Spiros. At the same time, Dimitri has been blackmailed by his grandfather into going ahead with the marriage without further delay, and Phoebe is informed by her father that the family business will be destroyed if she doesn't also agree to the marriage.

We first met Phoebe, Spiros and Dimitri in The Billionaire's Pregnant Mistress and already know that Dimitri will end up marrying Xandra and Spiros will elope with Phoebe. It's still fun seeing how it all comes about from Phoebe's perspective though. Spiros is really torn between his genuine love for Phoebe, not just as a lover but as her best friend, and his love and respect for his brother. He knows Dimitri is a good man and believes he will be a good husband, but he also wants Phoebe to be happy. I love his anger when he finds out Dimitri has not been acting the dutiful fiancée and there's a wonderful scene when he punches him in the face. I've got to say, he had it coming. One big question was why Phoebe couldn't just marry Spiros, since that would still achieve the goal of joining the two families. Various reasons are given for this, but none of them really hold much weight. Whilst this story lacked the passion that was in the Dimitri and Xandra's story, it was a really nice read.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Marriage Truce

Jenna and Ross Grantham have been divorced for two years. After she had a miscarriage, he had an affair. Now Jenna is the matron of honour for her cousin's wedding, and Ross is the best man.

I normally like stories involving broken marriages being reconciled, but this was awful. Jenna finds out that Ross only slept with the other woman once, and that's enough for her to forgive him, accept all the blame on herself, and agree to marry him again. Yuck. Ross' excuse for sleeping with another woman? She was kind to him. Jenna also finds out that Ross slept with her flatmate Natasha. His excuse for that one? "I found her in my room, stretched across the bed without a stitch on. She looked spectacular, and it seemed - churlish to disappoint her... When it was over I called the cab and she disappeared."

Double yuck. Don't bother reading this one.

The Other Laura

Laura Hudson miraculously survives a murder attempt but has total amnesia. She doesn't know who she is or what happened to her and has memories of a life that doesn't fit what she has been told about herself. Ryder can't believe the personality change that his wife has undergone, but loves the woman she has become. But what happened the day Laura was shot? Will finding out the truth destroy the happiness they have found?

I was curious to read this story after seeing the reviews for it. It seemed similar to Winter's Edge - a woman wakes after an accident with amnesia to find everyone, including the husband she doesn't remember, hates her.

Well, The Other Laura begins with Teresa Gallagher, Ryder's personal assistant, fantasising about having sex with him. Then we meet Ryder, and he is fantasizing about having sex with Teresa, though he knows he would never be unfaithful to his wife, Laura. Though they haven't actually done anything but think about it, this just gave me a foul taste in my mouth and was obviously the set up for Teresa and Ryder hooking up later. I hate hate hate adultery, and I hate how many romance novels excuse it. Laura is a bitch. Yeah, I get that, and to be fair, the author has given her a horrible abusive background to explain it. That still doesn't make it all right for her husband to fantasize about his assistant or vice versa.

As you continue through the book, it becomes clearer and clearer that the "new" Laura is actually Teresa, and that foul taste in my mouth got stronger and stronger. Eventually there is a big Mexican stand off with a few startling revelations. Finally, we discover that the real Laura is actually dead, and Teresa and Ryder can ride off into the sunset together. So technically I guess there was no adultery, because by the time they actually got physical with each other, Laura was already dead. Furthermore, they didn't realise at the time that Teresa wasn't Laura, so they weren't knowingly cheating on anyone. For many readers this would have made their relationship fine, and they would have enjoyed the book. For myself, the introductory scenes just ruined it all for me. If they hadn't fantasized about each other at all, and had just been colleagues or friends, I might have been able to stomach the rest of the book. As it was, I could barely finish reading it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Billionaire's Pregnant Mistress

French model Xandra Fortune and greek tycoon Dimitri Petronides have been lovers for a year when Dimitri's grandfather has a heart attack. He blackmails Dimitri into accepting an arranged marriage with a childhood friend. Meanwhile Xandra has discovered that she is pregnant. Dimitri tells Xandra he is getting married, she tells him she's pregnant and ugliness ensues, resulting in him throwing her out of their apartment. Dimitri really comes across as a real jerk, but he spends the rest of the book feeling guilty and trying to win back Xandra whilst accepting that he has probably lost her love forever. This guilt went a long way to redeeming him in my eyes, and by the end I think I actually liked him. Of course he has a background angst story to explain his lack of belief in love, but it's silly and not really much of an excuse (like most romance heroes' so-called "terrible" pasts).

Xandra and Dimitri's reunion is surprisingly free of bitterness. There are some disagreements, but overall I found Xandra to be unbelievably mellow towards Dimitri. I kept expecting her to take him to task for the way he threw her out, and just when I was coming to terms with this being a fluffy feel-good story with no ugly scenes (apart from the initial break up) there was a nice big confrontation. Turns out she had just been bottling it up. I was pretty relieved when we finally reached this scene because it made them seem a lot more realistic.

The final resolution and accompanying long awaited confessions of love were a little abrupt, and there's a cheesy sort of epilogue. Nevertheless I really enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to reading The Greek Tycoon's Inherited Bride which tells the story of Dimitri's jilted fiancée who ends up marrying his brother Spiros. You didn't really think that there would be any lose ends with anyone not getting their happy ever after, did you?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Proud Revenge, Passionate Wedlock

Six months ago Allegra was involved in a car accident which resulted in the death of her 1 month old daughter. Her husband Miguel believes that she had the accident while leaving him for another man and that she has been on holiday with her lover since then (not even bothering to attend their daughter's funeral). The truth is, Allegra was seriously injured in the accident and has been in hospital.

I approached this book with trepidation, sure that I would hate it based on the reviews I read on Amazon. I believe the negative reviews were all based on a line said by Miguel. When Allegra asks him if he brings his women to her beach house he replies, "Occasionally." I'm not convinced that he was cheating on her though. It's clear that he was angry at her question, and was trying to hurt her. Later on in the novel he makes it clear to the reader that he has never broken his vow of fidelity to Allegra, though he feels he has failed to keep his vows to love and protect her. In fact we only have 1 confirmed lover which was a relationship that ended years before their marriage. I guess the question is whether or not he would still considered himself married after he thought Allegra had been unfaithful to him. The question is never resolved, and I would have liked it if he had admitted to lying to her about the women. Still, this alleged infidelity was not a deal breaker for me, because I'm not convinced it actually happened.

Putting aside the question of infidelity, I'm still not sure whether I liked this book. Miguel's mother and Allegra's uncle deliberately lie to them in an effort to break up the marriage. Interfering relatives is one thing, but to be so obviously malicious is hard to believe. Miguel himself was not particularly likeable. He is somewhat redeemed in my eyes by his own admission of guilt with regards to his neglect of Allegra during her pregnancy, but he pretty much spends the whole book trying to deny his feelings for her and keep her at arm's length, only to suddenly declare his love for her at the end. His declaration was so out of the blue, it just wasn't believable. It seemed like the author suddenly realised she was running out of pages and it was time for the big confession to make everything all right.

Finally, a big thumbs down from me for the cheesy pregnancy epilogue. As soon as I read that Allegra couldn't have children, I feared this happening. You know this is going to happen as soon as you see phrases like "highly unlikely to ever have children" instead of the heroine being straight out infertile.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Second best husband

Sara has been in love with her boss Ian for the past 10 years, but he has just announced his engagement. She quits her job (after a fairly nasty scene with Ian's fiancée, Anna) and goes back to her parents' home to lick her wounds. Before she goes, her friend Margaret has a frank talk with her, encouraging her to look at the possibility of marrying someone she likes and respects, rather than waiting to fall in love (with possibly another jerk like Ian). Sara starts seriously thinking about this, and meets her parents' new neighbour Stuart Delaney, who is, of course, gorgeous and perfect in every way.

This was a lovely book, but a trifle boring. Sara herself is quite a boring character, with no real hobbies, interests or much of anything to give her personality. Maybe this was the only type of character the author could envision being open to marriage without passion. Still, it was a nice read and I quite enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Santangeli Marriage

Marisa is coerced into marrying Lorenzo Santangeli to provide him with an heir. Although he is pressured by his family into the marriage, he enters it quite willingly. She on the other hand, is bitter, angry and resentful. After a disastrous honeymoon, they separate for 8 months, living in different countries. Now Lorenzo is determined to bring Marisa home and make their marriage work.

During their separation, Lorenzo has an affair with a married woman. Normally this would totally ruin the story for me, but in this case is was somehow made palatable. I think it was a combination of things - the reader finds out about the infidelity early in the story, so it's not a sudden shock at the end. Perhaps more importantly, Lorenzo admits to himself that it was wrong and he should never have had the affair. Unfortunately he never really apologises to Marisa for it, and doesn't give her space to deal with it. He gets her straight into bed immediately after she finds out, and is angry when she doesn't give him immediate forgiveness (which he didn't actually ask for). He expects her to implicitly trust his assurance that the affair is over without giving her any reason to. Putting that aside, I like the fact that his infidelity is acknowledged as being wrong, and not just blamed on his wife's neglect, as is done in so many other novels.

I liked this book, and I didn't expect to. It left me feeling good. The ending was pretty cheese-free. No miraculous pregnancy. We don't even find out that Lorenzo purchased the Casa Adriana for Marisa, which I kept expecting from the moment we hear about it. Just a nice happy ending without a whole heap of Deus Ex machina. It's books like these which keep me coming back to Sara Craven even after the horrible stuff she often produces. I'll be reading this one again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

You can love a stranger



Maddie is a late night radio host. Her boss, Con Osbourne, is currently separated from his wife Jill, whom he believes has left him for his half-brother Zachary Nash. Maddie falls for Zachary Nash, and though it becomes clear that Jill is in love with Con, not Zachary, Maddie believes that Zachary is in love with Jill. Meanwhile, Zachary believes that Maddie is in love with Con. It's all a bunch of silly misunderstandings and people making assumptions and not communicating.

The book opens with Maddie on a dinner date with Con. I naturally assumed that this was the hero, and was horrified by the description of him. He is 5'7" with hazel eyes, heavy black brows and blond hair. The reader is assured that he has sex appeal and a vibrant personality, but he just doesn't sound like a romantic hero to me! Imagine my relief upon discovering that the hero is actually his half brother.

On a side note, I don't think we ever actually find out what Maddie's last name is...

This was a nice book. Not particularly passionate or exciting, but it was nice. No annoyingly stupid heroine or needlessly arrogant hero. No angst or over the top jealousy. Just a nice, pleasant read to pass the time.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Forced Bride


Emily Blake agreed to an arranged marriage with Count Rafael di Salis when she was 18, with the understanding that it would not be consummated (due to her age) and would be dissolved when she reached 21. The story begins 3 months before her 21st birthday, with Emily and Rafael about to get a divorce. She decides that she wants an annulment rather than a divorce, so that she can marry her childhood sweetheart in her local parish church; the vicar will not agree to the wedding if she has been divorced. This sets the stage for Rafael to show up and force Emily to consummate their marriage.

Sara Craven likes her rape fantasies. She has written a number of very good romances that don't have coercion or rape, but it's something you need to be aware of when picking up one of her books. I have seen a number of negative reviews and strong reactions to The Forced Bride due to the whole rape issue. Personally, I think Rafael's actions are closer to coercion than rape. After the first time they have sex, Emily admits to herself that if she really didn't want to do it, she could have tried harder to stop it because Rafael would never use violence to make her have sex with him. Now, I won't get into the whole issue of whether or not violence is necessary for something to be rape - certainly coercion is not pretty, but remember this is romantic fantasy not reality.

Emily was ... odd. A big deal is made of her youth and unreadiness for a physical relationship, which I find pretty absurd. She's not that young. Emily's fiancé is Simon, a flaky jerk who is obviously just using her. She is not particularly broken hearted when faced with his betrayal, and admits that she probably always knew what he was really like but didn't want to admit it to herself. Does that make her seem any less stupid to the reader? Not really. She finally concedes that she has been in love with Rafael since she was 17, and that is what has made her freeze him out and reject him all these years. What? Did that even begin to make sense? I've noticed that many category romance heroines follow up the realisation that they are in love with the hero, with the immediate decision that he must never know (again, "What the...?") but this is taking it to absurd levels. Not only that, she repeatedly feels degraded by Rafael for the strangest things. On the morning after their wedding night (which they didn't consummate) he gives her a ring which is traditionally given to brides in his family as a thank you after the wedding night. Although they both know the marriage hasn't been consummated, he understandably would rather not have everyone else know. She finds the ring degrading. Why? It's meant to be given by husbands to their wives on their honeymoon. How is that degrading?

When they meet up again, Rafael tells Emily that he is also thinking of re-marrying (she assumes he is talking about the Evil Other Woman, Valentina Colona, but the reader knows he means Emily). He tells her that the man who loves her would never have sex with another woman because she would "fill his heart to the exclusion of all others". He assures her that he will keep his wedding vows to the woman he marries and that "there will be no other - ever". Oh, such lovely words that gave me the hope it would be revealed at the end of the book that he has indeed been faithful for Emily for the last 3 years. Alas, the hopes were dashed. During the big loving resolution of the story, he admits that he did indeed have sex with Valentina and this is what led her to telling lies and trying to break up his marriage with Emily. Then he has the gall to be mad that Emily believes the hurtful things said by Valentina over his own profession of innocence. Sigh. Heroes that rape (or coerce) really need even more redeeming qualities than other heroes, and fidelity would certainly have helped soften me towards Rafael.

The bottom line is the forced sex didn't really turn me off, but the story is not particularly engaging. Emily is just too stupid for words, and Rafael is very average. If you have a problem with forced sex story lines, don't bother reading this one.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Expecting the Boss's Baby

Kate Adams has worked as Michael Hawkins' assistant for 3 years. 2 1/2 months ago they gave had a night of loving, followed by a morning of regret and back-pedalling on Michael's part. Kate discovers she is pregnant and tries to find out Michael's feelings for her by telling him that she has fallen for him (without informing him of the pregnancy). He tells her he doesn't believe in love, so she quits her job and leaves. Michael eventually guesses that Kate may be pregnant, so he confronts her and she admits it. He never had a father, and his mother died when he was 6 years old, leaving him to be raised in foster care and an orphanage. Naturally, he feels strongly about illegitimate children and single mothers, and is determined to marry Kate and give her and their child financial security and his name.

I didn't really like Kate very much. I understand that she doesn't want Michael to marry her just because she is pregnant, but she really is stuck in her romantic idylls. Once she learns of his childhood, she acknowledges that he doesn't really understand how a family should behave, but she doesn't do much about helping him. I can't help but think she would have been miserable even if she had a "normal" courtship and marriage. She expects Michael to know what she wants without telling him, even though she knows he has never experienced the type of family life she expects. Even if she had married someone with a strong family background, they wouldn't have "just known" what she wants - everyone's family is different. Oh, and the trite marital advice her parents give them on their wedding day. "You have to give 110%." Yes, yes, we all know that. It was just so cheesy and pointless.

Talking about cheese... 3 weeks before her due date date, Kate decides to climb up a ladder to hang Christmas decorations. It's not an emergency. It's not even that she's alone and has no one else to climb the ladder. Now, most women I know at that stage of pregnancy have enough trouble getting off a sofa, let alone climbing ladders. Of course, this is all done so that she will fall and end up rushed to hospital, and Michael will be shocked into realising how empty his life would be without her, and admitting that he loves her and their baby. Cheese alert! He has demonstrated over and over how much he cares. He has already admitted to himself (even before he found out about the pregnancy) that Kate is his best friend, and that he doesn't want to lose her. There must have been a more elegant way to resolve their feelings for each other.

Oh and the whole pregnancy thing. Kate really seems to spend her first trimester, if not the whole pregnancy, in denial about it. She doesn't want to tell Michael. She doesn't want her parents to know. She doesn't want his friends to know. Um, I think everyone kinda figured it out, honey.

Ok, ok, I know I'm giving the impression that I didn't like this book very much, but it was actually all right. This is the problem with most category romances - they just don't bear much scrutiny. It was a nice light read and an easy way to pass the time, but certainly not a book I'd be returning to time and again.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Winter's Edge

Molly Winters wakes up one day in hospital with total amnesia. She doesn't know who she is, where she is, or why she's there. She is informed that she was in a car accident, and has been waking up with varying degrees of amnesia. A man who had been strangled to death was found in the car with her, along with $350,000. The police don't believe she killed the man, but they do believe that she is involved in his murder. Apparently she has been refusing to tell the police anything, so no one believes her convenient (and late onset) amnesia. To top it all off, she is married to an older man who hates her, and can't be bothered to pick her up from the hospital to take her home.

I really enjoyed this book until the end when everything is resolved. The resolution was sloppy and unsatisfying, leaving many points unanswered.

  1. The police are useless. Molly was hit on the back of her head and had a concussion. Surely it would have occurred to someone that she may have been knocked out prior to being placed in the car. I expect it is highly unusual for the driver to be hit on the back of the head in a car crash.
  2. Throughout the book, people keep commenting on how improbable Molly's amnesia is. "That only happens in romance novels, not real life," seems to be a common response. It's as if the author thinks that if you acknowledge how trite and clichéd the whole amnesia plot device is, no one will notice. I believe it's called "hanging a lantern on it".
  3. Molly has no friends. She has lived in there for 7 years, and has absolutely no friends. Patrick (her husband) tells her nobody likes her because of the way she treats him (the implication being that every body likes him). I find this hard to believe when we discover that she's lived there since she was 16. So she had no friends in school? Romance novels do tend to isolate the heroine, and I suppose this books already has a lot of characters without the added complication of giving Molly friends, but it's fairly unbelievable.
  4. Lisa Canning is the Evil Other Woman, yet another romance genre cliché. The woman who pretends to be the heroine's friend whilst secretly plotting to steal her man. She invariably does this by giving the heroine bad dress advice. The question of course, is why does Molly follow her advice? We find out that Lisa taunted Molly about her affair with Patrick on their wedding day, thus setting in motion the ruin of their marriage before it even started. It's obvious that Lisa is no friend, so why does Molly take her advice on fashion and home redecorating? Maybe those things were done prior to her wedding day, but it doesn't really sound like they were. Molly and Patrick got married soon after she came into her money, so there wouldn't have been time for her to redecorate her room and purchase a new wardrobe prior to marriage.
  5. Patrick admits that he has indeed "given in to temptation" with Lisa Canning several times. Yet he obviously has no problem with keeping her around and making Molly eat and shop with her. He has no problem with the fact that everyone assumes he is going to marry her as soon as he is divorced from Molly. Does he do this just to get back at Molly for her supposed infidelities? We will never know, because it's never addressed.
  6. Finally, we come to the crux of the matter. The wedding night. Why does Patrick not go to Molly? She never asks, and we never find out. This whole issue is just never resolved at all, and really is the cause of their marital problems. His continued rejection made Molly pretend to have a slew of lovers (when in true romance genre fashion she was a virgin - yet another cliché!). Well, what did he think was going to happen when he never even kissed her, but kept his sometime lover hanging around?
Oh, and I haven't even brought up the whole mystery whodunnit part. The less said about that the better.

As I said earlier, I did start out enjoying this book. It certainly had potential, and I generally like Anne Stuart's writing. The loose ends just ruined it for me, and the fact the Patrick is just not much of a hero.