What possible novelty could there be in seducing his wife?
Jake McCabe separated from his wife, Isobel, convinced that the daughter she gave birth to was not his. Insistent that Emily was Jake’s child, Isobel struggled on as a single mother.
But now Jake finds himself in Isobel’s life once more–and caught up again by the same heated desire that held him tight when they were first married. Seducing Isobel can only add to the list of their sins, and it won’t change the truth of her betrayal…or will it?
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Book – Sinful Truths by Anne Mather
Sinful Truths by Anne Mather, if done right, could have been a good read. But it was bogged down by too many unlikeable characters except one innocent child at the center who deserved better adults in her life.
The Jerks and Their Story
The hero separated from his wife when he caught her in bed with his best friend. He didn’t believe the baby she carried was his. However, he never divorced her.
Ten years later, he wants to marry a shallow model, but somehow can’t ask for a divorce because he suddenly realizes he’s still in lust with his wife.
The hero is an asshat who never heard of DNA testing. The stupid heroine never took any initiative in her life. The poor, miserable daughter just wants a daddy. The selfish grandmother just cares about her money and family manor. Jerky characters all around.
But oddly, I didn’t hate it. Maybe lately I’ve been reading too many boring books that make me feel absolutely nothing. For all its stupid premise, Sinful Truths kept me involved in the story.
This review is of Texas Treasure, book #1 in the “The Cowboy and the Lady” series by Victoria Thompson.
The book begins in Rainbow, Texas, where Priscilla Bedford, the heroine, has come to be the schoolteacher for the town’s children. Picking her up from the stagecoach which brought her to Rainbow is Phillip Alexander “Dusty” Rhoades, the hero of the book. He is foreman of the Steele Ranch.
From the moment they meet, Priscilla and Dusty have chemistry, even as he is playing a joke on her by not immediately acknowledging her; she gives as good as she gets.
As the book goes on, Priscilla and Dusty become more attracted to each other but also do a lot of “he/she loves me, he/she loves me not”, which also leads to them intentionally and unintentionally hurting each other.
Dusty and Priscilla become lovers, which creates its own set of issues. While Priscilla and Dusty play “are we/aren’t we a couple?”, other stories are taking place. One involves Jason Vance, a Virginia native who was on the same stagecoach as Priscilla. He has come to Texas seeking a cache of gold that legend says is buried in Rainbow. Another denizen of Rainbow is Rita Jordan, owner of the town saloon, and a woman with bad blood toward Dusty.
Later, Priscilla secretly buys a ranch. The significance of this is that the ranch belonged to Dusty’s family in the past. At first, Dusty is very angry, but he comes around and he and Priscilla get married.
However, Rita and Vance become threats to their marriage: Vance for the gold buried on the ranch Priscilla now owns, and Rita due to being rejected by Dusty years ago. Vance and Rita hold Priscilla hostage to force Dusty to tell Vance where the gold is. Two violent confrontations ensue, one between Dusty and Vance, the other between Priscilla and Rita. Vance assaults Dusty and escapes. Rita is shot and killed when the two women fight over a gun.
Priscilla and Dusty have their Happily Ever After, and the gold has yet to be found…
Priscilla and Dusty are fairly interesting characters. It is highly unusual in my experience to see a book where the hero’s emotions are on display as they are in Texas Treasure.
This, however, is not always a good thing. This book is the definition of T.M.I. Ms. Thompson exposes her readers to every emotion Priscilla and Dusty feel.
Every. Single. Emotion.
The book is way too long at 494 pages for the print version I own (average approximately 30 pages per chapter, with many longer than that, around 50-60 pages), which is difficult for time-challenged readers like myself. The Vance/Rita storyline is basically there to make the book longer, and neither they nor Priscilla and Dusty are the type of characters whose actions will be remembered after reading the book.
The love scenes–between Priscilla and Dusty and between Rita and Vance–are okay at best.
After Priscilla disciplines one of her male students, he tries to rape her; she is saved by Dusty. Vance shoots and later kills the former owner of Priscilla’s ranch. We learn that Rita is a serial murderess, who had a very traumatic childhood. I described the end of the book violence above.
Victoria Thompson’s Texas Treasure is not a bad book, but it is also not a dynamic one, with too many issues to keep it from being a very good book.
Melting Ice by Rosalie Ash is a hard little book to find in its original form. It was released by Mills & Boon in 1989 but only published as a special edition for Harlequin Romance subscribers. The book was #55 of that line.
The author has rewritten and “updated” Melting Ice as part of a trilogy, so the modern e-book version vastly differs from the original print copy.
This review refers only to the Mill & Boon/ Special Harlequin Romance edition of Melting Ice.
The Characters and Plot
Victoria Francis is an airy-fairy young woman living in the English countryside. The story begins as she’s walking on her hands outside and meets the hero while she’s upside-down. It’s a good metaphor for demonstrating Victoria and Julius’s opposite perspectives about life.
Julius Korda is a cold and calculating icicle. He is an avaricious businessman who wears power suits and ties. Julius works in the fast-paced world of… antiques.
(Wait a minute, that can’t be right. Let me double-check that. Nope, that’s correct.)
Julius Korda is a big deal in the throat-cutting world of old-time estates and furniture sales.
(I can see why Ash decided to give this book a rewrite. The hero’s occupation bugged the hell out of me. That did not fit his described persona. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying and selling antiques. But buying and selling stocks would have made in line with how Ash wrote Julius to be.)
Despite their decade-and-a-half age gap, the innocent Victoria and the money-hungry Julius form a connection. Victoria finds herself falling for him. In a surprising turn of events, the buttoned-down Julius has a moment of weakness, and he and Victoria make love. Victoria was a virgin, and a confused Julius leaves her.
Years pass. When they meet next, it will be under different circumstances. And Victoria will have a surprise in store for Julius.
(Sigh) Yes, this is a secret baby plot. Yada, yada, yada, you get the deal. Julius and Victoria reconnect and form a new relationship. Passion reignites. Julius learns that there are things in life more precious than gold–or 19th-century golden candelabras.
Final Analysis of Melting Ice
I liked the idea of this book more than the execution. Generally, plots with uptight heroes paired with free-spirited heroines are a joy to experience. There were good elements here. However, they were wasted.
I shouldn’t be so shallow, but I couldn’t mesh Julius’ career with the identity the author had created for him. Antique dealing is a step above being a beautician in terms of macho jobs for a hero (See my review of Easy Lovin‘. I wasn’t overly fond of that hero’s profession as a hairdresser.)
The secret baby surprise came out of left field. Victoria was too young and childish; it didn’t seem right for her to become a single mother abandoned by her one-night stand. And where the heck was Julius for all that time? Polishing his silverware?
Melting Ice started out quite charming. However, I couldn’t get over a few issues, making this an average reading experience. Maybe the updated version is better, but I’m not curious enough to check it out. I’d give this 2.95 stars.
Whenever I see an “Award of Excellence” ribbon on a Harlequin-published romance, I know I’m in for a mediocre read. I think they handed those accolades out simply to massage the egos of their big-name authors. It was never about the quality of the story.
Penny Jordan is an HP writer who’s all over the place for me. One book can be great, another full of crazy sauce, and others on the blah side. Sadly, her Lover’s Touch is kind of blah. The two protagonists are kept apart by big misunderstandings and lack of communication, which is never fun.
Lady Eleonor de Tressail–or Nell as she is called–inherits a huge, impoverished estate. It’s a home she cherishes. Unfortunately, she has no money for the upkeep. But it must remain in the family. Selling it is out of the question. What is she to do?
Enter Joss Wycliffe. Joss was a working-class boy who grew up near the de Tressail estate. He had great aspirations of wealth. So he built himself from the bottom up to become a wealthy millionaire.
Before his passing, Nell’s grandfather devised an arrangement to keep the family’s home: a marriage between Nell and Joss.
Nell has harbored feelings for Joss for years. However, she is painfully shy, which Joss mistakes for haughtiness. He brutally informs Nell that he’s only marrying her for her family name and status. Of course, any romance reader worth his or her salt knows this frank declaration means Joss is in love with Nell. Silly Nelly, with her insecurities, takes him at his word.
A couple of “other women” characters vie for Joss’s attention, and he doesn’t seem to be pushing them away. If only that silly Nelly would open her eyes!
Nell is not a bad person, though she’s sort of self-centered. She’s not very empathetic, spending much time wallowing in her own misery. Joss is contemptuous of her, lashing out cruelly at her. Nell shallowly believes that he resents her because of their class differences. But although she is very reserved, Nell can steel her will. She always keeps her dignity intact, giving as good as she gets, especially to the nasty other women.
Nell spends time preparing for her wedding, finding a way to do it using her limited budget. Pride demands she not depend upon Joss’ charity. Joss thinks his bride-to-be is attempting to belittle him by refusing his money. More misunderstandings ensue.
The two get married, and their good sexual chemistry is incredible. Despite this, their lack of communication and internal insecurities keep them apart.
Somehow, the misunderstandings prove useful in the end. Nell believes that Joss’ business is going under. He needs funds to put him into the black. Nell would do anything for the man she loves, so she’s willing to sell her estate to help him out.
That is when Joss realizes they’ve both been fools. He reveals his true feelings to Nell, and she melts in his arms, happy and loving.
Final Analysis of Lover’s Touch
Penny Jordan’s heroines tend to have these irrational insecurities that cause them never to speak up and express the truth. This leads to major misunderstandings, which drive the plots. If the plot is chock full of nuttiness, I don’t mind. When it’s a simple lack of communication in a basic story that could be resolved in under 100 pages, I feel like throttling the characters.
In Lover’s Touch, both the hero and the heroine are tight-lipped about their true feelings, making it doubly frustrating.
This wasn’t one of Jordan’s worst books. Despite my complaints, it had some interesting attributes. Nor was this one of her best.
Lover’s Touch is middling fare, meant to be read over a couple of hours and then forgotten. 2.5 stars
Raven by Shana Carrol (aka Christina Savage, aka Mr. Kerry Newcomb & Mr. Frank Schaeffer) is a riveting bodice-ripper. It’s a pirate adventure that features a kickass, resilient heroine whom I adore. It also stars a hero who isn’t worthy to lick the underside of her shoes. This is one of those books I both hate and love and wavered for a long time what rating to give it.
Raven is the 2nd entry in the Paxton family series, although I’m not exactly sure where it fits in, as it’s the only one from the series I’ve read thus far.
The book begins in the Caribbean, in the early 1700s, where a young Marie Celeste Ravenne lives on an island called Mystere with her father. He is a reformed pirate, and she lives to hear his tales of past adventures. One day the island is raided by Spaniards, and they kill her father. Before dying, he urges his daughter to survive however she can.
Marie and the women are taken as prisoners. But destiny has other intentions for Marie Celeste. A storm capsizes the ship, and she is the only survivor. She is saved by a passing English ship. Marie will spend the following years of her life working in a Duke’s household as his prized French servant.
The Duke realizes Marie’s beauty and plans to use her as a trap to ensnare his enemies. He has her educated, adorned in beautiful gowns, and taught unique skills, such as fencing.
Enter Jason Brand, who seeks to keep peace among the Jacobite Scots and the new Hanoverian King. He’s also embroiled in a lusty dalliance with the Duke’s wife. Meanwhile, the Duke’s son has his eyes on Marie. He attempts to rape her, but Jason steps in and stops him. The two fight a duel of honor, and the Duke’s son is killed.
Jason’s plans to appeal to the King are in tatters, and he is arrested by the Duke’s men to be hanged. For weeks he is tortured. Marie has developed an infatuation for Jason brings him food when she can. They engage in an affair (And by an affair, I mean affair. We later learn Jason was married. His wife dies sometime afterward.).
Jason manipulates Marie into helping him escape, promising to return. Marie drugs the guard then Jason flees. Months go by, but Jason doesn’t return.
In vain, Marie waits for him, knowing that danger awaits. A jealous servant informs the Duke that Marie helped Jason make his getaway. In a rage, the Duke dismisses his fancy plans for Marie. He gives her to the evil Captain Gregory, who rapes her.
As punishment, Gregory takes Marie on his ship headed for the colonies. Also aboard are men to be used as indentured servants. The crew members are vile, but the prisoners are an assorted bunch of primarily decent men. Over time, they learn to respect Marie.
A handsome officer named Pulham is kind to her. He promises to help her, and indeed, he does try. Pulham and Marie become lovers. Marie wonders if he will backstab her as Jason did. Unfortunately, despite having honor, Pulham is a coward, afraid of Captain Gregory’s wrath. So like Jason Brand, he betrays Raven.
Seeing that no man will be her savior, Raven decides to be her own hero. Remembering her father’s words to survive at all costs, she rallies her fellow captives. They battle with the English sailors and take over the ship.
Marie is now their captain. The men follow her as she becomes a daring pirate.
Here would have been an excellent opportunity for Marie to meet a new man, one worthy of her strength and courage. Alas, when Raven and her crew settle on an island, who is there, but Jason Brand?
Jason now has a jealous native mistress, whom he treats abominably. He uses her for sex while he pursues Marie. And Marie, that fool, despite her best intentions, falls for Jason all over again. Ugh.
More adventures are in store, with villains plotting revenge against our brave heroine.
Raven’s first half built Marie up as a wonderful character who learned from her experiences to grow into a super capable woman. Her fatal flaw was that she thought foolishly with her heart instead of her head.
I love, love, love books with female pirates who kick ass! Marie was amazing, but Jason was the worst.
I’m a reasonably forgiving reader. With bodice rippers, I can accept a lot of cruelty from a hero: forced seduction, indifference, vengeance, betrayal, etc. However, I hate promiscuous cheaters. I don’t like them in real life and detest them in romance. Maybe I can go with it if the story is ridiculously over-the-top or written with a male protagonist who shows remorse. Jason made no apologies for being an STD-muffin, which was not cool.
He should have died a miserable death so Marie could have found a genuine man who deserved her.
Final Analysis of Raven
This book was my first “Shana Carrol” experience, although I had previously read “Christina Savage’s” American Revolution-era Hearts of Fire. I enjoyed that book, not so much for the romance, but the action & adventure. That’s about where I stand with Raven. In this case, I adored the heroine. Marie was awesome.
As for Jason, I wish the Duke’s men had hanged him. What an awful, callous, man-slut he was! He cared nothing for the feelings of any woman he toyed with.
If I view Raven as a tale of the heroine’s journey, it’s a high four-star rating. Jason drags the story down. Marie was such a capable woman. I didn’t appreciate that she needed Jason to save her in the end.
I’ll skip the Jason parts and just read about Marie if I ever feel the need to relive her adventures. As a romance, Raven has significant flaws. It did put me through an emotional wringer, though, so I can’t say I had a bad time with it. 3.49 stars
This review is of Colorado Jewel, a standalone by Cate Brandt. (Zebra Heartfire, April 1989).
Heroine: Magheen Fitzgerald. Red hair, emerald eyes.
Hero: Daniel Calcord. Black hair, blue eyes. Businessman/lawyer.
The book opens in Colorado, early September 1878. Daniel Calcord, the hero of the book and a businessman with his fingers in many pies, is heading toward one of his enterprises, a silver mine in the town of Leadville. His trip is delayed, however, as Daniel helps to rescue Magheen Fitzgerald, the heroine of the book, from a stagecoach accident. He nurses her back to health and they face many perils, one of which is their attraction to each other.
When one of Maggie’s brothers, Patrick, a priest, catches them in a compromising position, they are compelled to marry. Their engagement doesn’t go well.
Maggie and Daniel do eventually marry. Sexually, they’re compatible; in other ways, not so much. Things don’t improve when the workers in Leadville’s mines protest working conditions, leading to violence between the miners and the mine owners, with Maggie in the middle.
Later, Daniel’s mother, Mayse, shows up and causes problems for both Daniel and Maggie. Those problems endanger Maggie’s life.
In the end, Maggie and Daniel reconcile, have a child, and their Happily Ever After.
Aside from finishing the book… Maggie is a fairly nice character.
Daniel, who is a hot-and-cold blowing bastard.
First, he wants Maggie. Then, he doesn’t want her. This goes on for the entire book. He talks at Maggie, not with her, which creates almost all of their issues. Daniel is self-centered, egotistical, condescending, demeaning, and insulting to her. He accuses her of things that are not true. By the way, he never apologizes. There is no actual romance or character development, and the storylines, such as they are, zip back and forth without actually reaching a destination.
A few love scenes between Maggie and Daniel that don’t generate a lot of heat.
Assault, battery and one shooting take place “off-screen.”
Bottom Line for Colorado Jewel
Maggie is a nice heroine. She definitely needed an actual hero. She’s the only thing saving Colorado Jewel from a lower than 1-star rating. 1.11 stars.
Miranda Lee’s “Hearts of Fire” series for the Harlequin Presents line was an epic six-book series that focused on the lives of two warring families in the glittering Sydney social set. While each book had its own romance, the over-arching storyline was that of the sexually-damaged Nathan and his much younger and innocent wife, Gemma. I seem to be one of the few readers who enjoyed the series.
As for Hearts of Fire, a full-length romantic suspense novel… Well, it was a disappointing conclusion to the Australian “Hearts of Fire” series, if only because the series was so good and this book is rather anticlimactic.
Readers may recall that Nathan, the hero of the original series, had a daughter from his first marriage, Kirsty. Kirsty has loved Ryan since he saved her from a kidnapping when she was a teenager. But Ryan was married, so nothing came out of it.
Years later, there are threats against Kirsty. Nathan hires Ryan to protect his daughter…and bang her. Yup, Daddy dearest hires a bodyguard to help Kirsty loosen up, and take her virginity once and for all! Creepy!
Secrets from the past come to light as Kirsty and Ryan work together to find out who’s behind the threats. They also draw closer together as Ryan can no longer hide his attraction to Kirsty.
Shallow quibble: why did Kirsty dye her beautiful red hair blonde? I know she wanted anonymity after being kidnapped as a teenager, but I always imagined Kirsty looking a certain way, and that wasn’t it.
Ryan is an ok hero, although a bit of a man-slut like Kirsty’s dad was. He’s also a bit oblivious as a bodyguard, unable to piece together who the stalker is almost before it’s too late.
Meanwhile, Nathan is taking his wife Gemma on a romantic cruise. His marriage with Gemma has been on the rocks lately since he had a vasectomy without her knowledge. Gemma had wanted a houseful of children, but Nathan was content with two sons. So, controlling man that he is, Nathan took matters into his own hands without consulting Gemma.
Things look rough for the original “Hearts of Fire” pair. Will Gemma ever forgive Nathan? Will Nathan find consolation in another woman’s arms?
Big spoiler here: I hate the fact that Nathan has a secret daughter from a previous, horrible relationship. A much, much older woman (a good friend of his mother’s) basically sexually abused/raped him when he was sixteen and orphaned. I didn’t see the need for Mimi’s character at all.
The villain was predictable, and I hated Nathan’s lies to Gemma.
Still, it’s a Miranda Lee book. It was filled with the requisite sensuality found in her previous works. Even her “bad” books aren’t that bad! This was a good read, but not great or excellent as her previous installments in the “Hearts of Fire” were.
Romance readers, are you tired of heroes who never speak their minds; those enigmatic, steely-gazed men who make heroines tremor with just one harshly uttered word?
Does it bother you when an author writes an inscrutable male protagonist whose emotions are a mystery until the very end?
Do you miss out on not experiencing every single brainfart that whiffs through the hero’s cavernous head?
Book – Surviving Raine by Shay Savage
In Shay Savage’s Surviving Raine, Bastian, a bad boy with lots of baggage, finds himself adrift in the ocean with Raine, a young woman with lots of heart. You won’t have to worry about him keeping his card close to his chest! This is first-person, introspective, bellybutton-lint-picking on a level never endured before! (By me, at least!)
See it all in full-color Hero-Vision!
Sigh in delight as we get these priceless nuggets of gold:
Toss her overboard or stick my tongue down her throat? I couldn’t decide, and it fucking ticked me off.
(I understand Frank Reynolds and Mac had the same problem on “It’s Always Sun in Philadelphia” when they got stuck on a life raft. Thank God they found the rum ham.)
Feel the chills when you read the cutesy reference to the title:
I was pretty confident I could survive in a life raft for quite some time, but survive Raine without my cock jumping straight out of my shorts like a divining rod? Not sure.
Witness the horrors as Bastian recounts the brutality of his tough life as he spends weeks adrift at sea in a life raft with a sexy girl who wants to heal his soul! Like, the toughest life anyone’s ever lived. On a scale of 1-10, this is how fucked up Bastian is:
That fucking bad.
Don’t believe it? Hear it directly from Bastian’s mouth how broken he is:
“Do you think I’m a fucking idiot? “No [Bastian], I think you’re sick.” “Sick.” I laughed and shook my head at her. “You think I’m sick? Baby, you have no idea all the sick twisted shit I’ve done. The number of people I’ve slaughtered, the number of women I’ve fucked. Shit–I don’t even remember how many!”
More Question To Ponder
Readers, do you prefer your romance heroines to be a totally blank slate? Do you think she should be little more than a knock-out bod’ that the hero wants to fuck?
Do you often ask yourself why the heroine in a romance novel should have any discernable qualities other than being a hot, sweet, orphaned quasi-virgin (yeah, she’s, had sex, but no ‘gasms) who saves unwanted doggies and one unwanted, unlovable man?
Do you hate it when romances have a heroine who’s smart, inventive, quick thinking, conflicted, tormented, or even the slightest bit interesting?
If so, THIS is your book!
Act Fast; Supplies Are Limited
While the author uses a literary device called a “plot,” the plot is just there to get these two disparate people together. Bastian and Raine are lost at sea and then stranded on an island with only their wits (not much on Raine’s part) for survival. Man vs. Nature is just the backdrop. Surviving Raine is about one unwanted, tortured, neglected, abused, unlovable, misguided, self-hating, angry, sad, bitter man in need of the one woman who will heal him with her gentle, bland, boring personality and–oh yes–true love.
But wait! THERE’S MORE!
Read now, and you’ll get these extras:
Hero was abused by his biological family, who then callously abandoned him in a bar when he was a toddler. Nightmares haunt him.
Hero was tossed around from foster family to foster family because he is unlovable… Just like this guy:
(Ladies out there, are any of you ovulating out of pity yet? No? Not even a little? What, are your hearts made of cold iron?)
Bastian ended up in juvie as a kid where he had a tragic relationship with a woman he used sexually and is now tormented by her brutal death. The nightmares haunt him still.
There’s some borrowing from other more successful books. There’s an unbelievable “Hunger Games” back story where the hero used to engage in fight-to-the-death challenges in arenas worldwide while criminal billionaires bet on which one of the many combatants would survive. Of course, our hero Bastian was the champion, “playing” for years, winning every match (duh) and raking in millions! But still, he is plagued by the battles and killings. The nightmares haunt him still.
Bastian changes his name and starts a new anonymous life at sea. He leaves the past behind and only screws who-ores. The nightmares haunt him still.
To forget it all, our hero is an alcoholic. a major, major alcoholic. So bad he goes through extreme withdrawal, coming close to death. This was another reason why a rum ham in the life raft was required! Bastian was as sick as these guys:
And only poor, hapless Raine can save him!
If you’re a fertile female and not yet releasing ova perhaps this final fact might do the trick.
Even though Bastian uses a huge variety of curse words in almost every paragraph, he’s no troglodyte. He knows his fucking poetry. He’s an educated brute!
Hey, if this guy can get his Legal Degree from the University of American Samoa’s correspondence school:
There’s no reason why Bastian can’t get his master’s degree in English Literature! He can quote the English bard whenever the Savage apparently feels it’s necessary to add some class to Bastian’s ass.
Bastian is really nothing more than a pathetic, unwanted puppy dog who needs gentleness and affection. Raine is constantly comparing him to Mr. Fluffy, a pit bull she saved from a dog-fighting ring. See? Mr. Fluffy was a misunderstood sweetie-pie forced into cruel underground fight-to-the-death matches, just like Bastian. With Raine’s love, Mr. Fluffy was healed and saved. (By the way, the heroine is very young and starting college. What happened to Mr. Fluffy?)
Oh, I get the allure of these books. The intense need to love a man who’s hurting and heal him with your love, because you and only you can! I get the whole “I want to absolve you bad boy of all your sins and vice-versa.” As a teen, I would sigh over the lyrics of just about every Depeche Mode song.
There’ll be times When my crimes Will seem almost unforgivable… …Will you take the pain I will give to you Again and again…
STRANGELOVE – DEPECHE MODE
Things on your chest You need to confess I will deliver You know I’m a forgiver
PERSONAL JESUS – DEPECHE MODE
Listening to Dave Gahan and Martin Gore sing about being wicked, evil men who wanted to find release in the love of a good woman (or drugs, or whatever) sent shivers up my spine as a teen (and still does to this day). So I understand the attraction for this kind of romance. Unfortunately for me, there were no shivers here.
It was just emotional crap piled on and on and on! There’s way too much of Bastian and not enough of Raine. Sadly, I don’t think changing that would have made this any better as both characters sucked. Everything’s so overwrought.
More of My Opinion
All the dramas and traumas were hilarious. I love a book that make me feel so intensely I cry, but this took the pain and suffering beyond ludicrous speed. It went plaid.
Hey, I’m the wrong audience for this book, I understand. Savage fooled me with Transcendence. I loved that one! Transcendence was a hero’s POV story about another caveman, but a real one who couldn’t speak.
Surviving Raine takes a caveman, puts him in the early 21st century with access to plenty of poon and booze then gives him the power of curse words. And Bastian loves using them! I noted while reading that the “F” word and its variants are used about 750 times here.
I’m mentioning this, not because I found it offensive—fuck no, but because: 1) It was cuter in Transcendence when all the hero could do was say “Uggh” and “Beh.” 2) It cemented my preference for non-contemporary heroes who are full-grown adults and can express themselves with a bit of eloquence or charm.
Bastian is 29 but acts 15. I’ve come to a point in my life where a man on the “good side” of 20 no longer appeals, no matter how rock-hard his abs are. (I never gave much of a care for abs anyway. A little beer belly is not a turn-off. I was always an arms/shoulders/chest kind of woman.)
My Final Opinion, I Swear
Now where was I?
Yeah, this book. I know I filled my review with a bunch of references to pop culture stuff that amuses me, and that’s not my typical review style. I threw so much crap in here that it might not make much sense, but hey, that was my experience reading Surviving Raine, and I simply wanted to share the feeling.
Maybe I’ll take a page out of Bastian and the Gang’s book and do what they do best to forget this disaster:
I gave the stupid book a generous 2 stars for the laughs. But the joke’s on me because I bought the sequel to this piece of crap long before reading the first book…
So ha, ha, ha! You got me, Shay Savage. You got me.
Suzanne Forster was an author I’d read before Unfinished Business. This book arrived in one of my monthly subscriptions to category romances. Receiving it was a pleasant surprise, as I’d enjoyed Foster’s previous works. Sucks for me that this one was not as fun as what I’d read before.
Back in the early 2000s I briefly subscribed to Harlequin’s Blaze imprint (they don’t publish those anymore, do they?). To my disappointment, I was not too impressed with most of them. I think I DNFed half that I started. The romances either were all about sex with little plot or mildly sexy stories with lots of suspense, better suited to Harlequin’s Intrigue or Romantic Suspense lines.
Blazes were the replacement for the Temptation imprint, which I preferred as they ranged from run-of-the-mill romances to paranormals with just about anything else in between, and enough steam to satisfy. In the new millennium, romance novels were less euphemistic than in the past with more erotic scenes. Harlequin’s Blaze line was supposed to cash in on that.
In my eyes, I thought the authors were trying too hard to be kinky. Most love scenes read the same: vanilla BDSM, being tied up, light spanking, use of toys… Sure the sex was there, but the love stories lacked heart.
A while back, Melissa had a one-night stand in Cancun. She awoke in a hung-over daze with a ring on her finger. Had she just marry some random stranger? Before her hunk’s sleep can be disturbed, Melissa flees and leaves Mexico behind her.
In the ensuing years she becomes a wildly successful author. Her books? Well, they’re about sex, of course! She details all all the naughty ways to make love. Melissa uses her “marriage” for her credentials. In truth, Melissa has no love life at all, just what’s in her memories and imagination. But she’s a great faker and the media makes her a sensation.
To Melissa’s shock, after she’s interviewed on a talk show, who should return to her life, but Tony the very man she “married.” Tony wants answers as to why she left him behind. Moreover, why is she pretending they’re still together?
Melissa makes lame excuses and is perturbed by her intense attraction to him. Tony pursues her, accompanying her while she advertises her book. He becomes part of the promotional campaign. The pair pretend to be deeply in love. Pretense turns into reality as Melissa and Tony spend more and more time together.
Later on, Melissa and Tony appear on a 24-hour reality show and have rather boring sex under the covers while the cameras are on.
He also shaves her legs with a straightedge razor. Was that’s supposed to be erotic? When my legs are hairy, I do not want my man touching them, even if it’s to help groom.
I remember being really disappointed by the lackluster love scenes in this one. The plot was rom-com cute, but poorly executed. (I could swear a Lifetime flick starring Laura Prepon from “That ’70s Show” ripped off this plot, or at least part of it [Note: It did! The movie was called “Romancing The Bride” and was only loosely based on Unfinished Business]).
So what were the highlights?
The story was mildly funny, as Suzanne Forster has a good sense of humor, so that was a positive.
Lamentably, the erotic scenes failed to titillate. For example, Melissa and Tony engaged in lots of finger-licking, which is fine for Cheeto-dusted fingers. When it comes to bedroom foreplay, that’s gross. Hey, I believe in different strokes and all that, but do people really get turned on by having their fingers sucked? Like, what if the woman has pointed, acrylic nails or the guy hasn’t watched his hands after going to the bathroom? That’s as sexy as licking the inside of somebody’s stinky, lint-filled belly button.
All in all, however, this was a mediocre read, as it lacked that sexy over-the-top oomph I was expecting.
The opening chapter of Kerrigan Byrne’s The Highwayman had me hooked. It has a lovely, heartbreaking beginning. Two lonely orphans in a child-care facility fall in love & “marry.” There’s a nice quote from the beginning where 8-year-old Farah teaches 11-year-old Dougan to read…and love.
“Love is quite like reading, I expect. Once you know how, you can’t ever imagine not doing it.”
Young Farah tells Dougan before the pair are cruelly separated.
Fast forward 17 years, the heroine’s an independent, progressive yet virginal widow working for Scotland Yard & the hero’s an underworld king. Farah doesn’t recognize Dougan, but he does her, is furious she broke their vow to marry another man, so he kidnaps her and brings her to Scotland.
Then what started so beautifully took a turn into anachronistic historical. Eh, par for the course. Still, it was good. Or at least it was better than most modern historical romances I’ve read. So far.
But Farah was DUMB. She couldn’t guess who Dorian truly was? Same age, same coloring, & how did he get a scar on his eye just like Dougan did? Sharp as butter knife she is.
Dougan’s intriguing, yet while his attitude of “I don’t like touching because I was raped in prison” makes sense (and gave me shades of the film Buffalo ’66: “No touching! I don’t like to be touched!”) but his “So just stand there and I’ll just ogle you while I bathe & masturbate” came off as pervy, not sexy. Damaged heroes=meh.
At 35% through listening to this book on Audible, however, I decided to return it. The narration was very good, but the story was getting way too repetitive. After a promising start, I found the heroine was both incomprehensibly modern & stupid at the same time. The hero…a douche, but nothing unforgiveable. Although his “Woe is me, you don’t know how much I’ve suffered” attitude was getting on my nerves.
So I returned the audiobook, and read the DTB version.
Alas, it was not to be. The angst was too overwrought, even for me, who adores an angst-ridden romance. And the mindsets were all wrong, far too modern. If I want contemporary attitudes in a romance, I’ll read a contemporary romance. This romance couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, which is fitting, as I couldn’t decide whether it was worth my time or not.
After realizing that all the romance novels I read are at least 20 years old, I decided to give something newer a try. Mary Wine’s 2010 Scottish historical romance In the Warrior’s Bed is not a bad book, but it lacks that extra something that makes it memorable.
Actually it’s memorable for one thing: they didn’t get the cover right! If you’re anal-retentive like me, this will bother you. As much as I find them dehumanizing, a headless torso cover would have been preferable. The heroine is supposed to be blond yet the cover depicts a black-haired woman. And let’s not talk about the inaccurate plaid (grumble, grumble).
You can’t blame cover artist James Griffin because the heroine’s name is Bronwyn and most Bronwyns in Romancelandia have black hair, LOL. Plus the author doesn’t give a physical description of her heroine until page 69 of this trade issue book, and then it’s only to briefly describe her honey-colored hair. If one is writing a romance novel, there is no shame in giving a physical description of your character by page 10.
Book – In the Warrior’s Bed
Anyhoo, onto the actual book. We’ve seen this plot before: two Scottish clans are feuding, and the hero abducts the heroine, schtupps her silly and they fall in love, while the evil-doers do their bad thing and try to separate them/kill them.
In the Warrior’s Bed falters when the main characters Bronwyn and Cullen are not together, so fortunately, they’re together a lot. Cullen McJames is a sexy, masculine hero, but I couldn’t really understand Bronwyn. Her loyalty to her family is noble, although not reasonable. They treat her like a slave, humiliate her, and want her dead. Here’s this hunk with a brogue who wants to treat her like a lady, take her away from her violent clan, and give her lots of orgasms. But of course, she just has to fight him every step of the way.
As this is a modern Brava romance there will be no mention of manhoods, manroots, or members, however c***s will be constantly stirring in kilts. For the first half of the book, Cullen is in a constant state of priapism, even when the heroine is nowhere to be found. I thought the guy should have contacted his doctor because we’ve all heard what those commercials say about 4 hour erections.
Opinion of In the Warrior’s Bed
Although the romance here is a bit lacking, the love scenes are quite sensual. The good guys are good and the bad guys are eeevilll! Plus, there’s lots of blood and killing, which is fun in fiction. In the Warrior’s Bed ends nice and violently, so that’s a positive.
This is the second novel in a series of three books, so one day I may pick up the others out of curiosity because Ms. Wine’s writing style is to be admired. Still, it took me two weeks to finish this 277 page romance, as I kept putting it down and reading something else. I’d give it 3 stars, which is not bad, but not a keeper.
“My darling Lucy.” He panted against her ear, and then his teeth scraped her earlobe. “I love you,” he whispered. “Don’t ever leave me.”
THE SERPENT PRINCE
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Book – The Serpent Prince
I’ve only read the first seven of Elizabeth Hoyt’s historical romances, but The Serpent Prince is far and away my favorite. And it’s all due to Viscount Simon Iddesleigh. This is third and final installment in her “Princes” trilogy, and what a way to end the series!
A Great Hero and Heroine
A dandy’s dandy, Simon dresses like a Georgian fop in full wig, red heeled-shoes and lots of lace. He falls madly for Lucy, a commoner with an over-protective father. Lucy saves Simon’s life after he’s found seemingly lifeless in the river and nurses him back to health.
Simon and Lucy are instantly attracted to one another, but they have social and emotional differences that are obstacles for them being together. Love wins out, though, and against Lucy’s father’s judgment, they get married. However, it’s not easy sailing for Lucy and Simon, as Simon has secrets that haunt him. He’s such a multi-faceted hero, and Lucy is a strong heroine with fortitude and dignity.
Simon’s foppish ways hide a tortured soul; he’s a deadly swordsman who seeks revenge against those who killed his brother. Only Lucy’s love and a decent friend are his only salvation.
When I thought of Simon looking like this:
…It really hit all my right buttons!
Also a plus in this historical romance is that the relationship is consummated AFTER the wedding. In contemporaries I don’t care when it takes place, but in a historical I like that old-fashioned type of stuff.
A Favorite Romance
Many reader prefer the first two book in the series, The Raven Prince and The Leopard Princeto this one. As always, I’m a contrarian. They were good, however in my eyes they never reached the emotional highs of The Serpent Prince, which takes a spot on my all-time-favorite-romances list.
Seriously? I loved this book. I can’t believe it, though! This is Twilight fan-fiction about a time traveling teen finding love with a caveman who acts like a protective puppy dog. I cried like a baby reading it. Must have been my time of the month.
My Frankensteinian Review Patched Together From Reading Notes
Shay Savage’s Transcendence is no great work of literature. It’s one of those pulled-to-pub Fan-fiction stories loosely based on Twilight. I have never read any of the Twilight books, nor read a sample, nor seen the films. I’ve never had a desire to do so, yet despite that, I know more about the series than I care to. If the names weren’t Ehd = Edward and Beh = Bella, I never would have caught on. Other than the hair colors and the fact that the hero is *OMG* so possessive, I don’t see any similarity between the series. There are no feuding groups, no love triangles, no baseball games, no battles.
80% of the book is just Beh and Ehd alone, dealing with the harsh environment with almost zero spoken dialogue throughout. It’s a primal love story between a young, frightened girl and a young, frightened male both trying to survive in a brutal world.
Although I’m not proud, I truly adored this book. It was written on a sixth grade reading level with the terms baby, mate or put a baby in my mate showing up on every single page! Transcendence was incredibly repetitive, simplistic, with a minimal plot, but it had its charms. I suppose it appealed to my inner 12-year-old, a being a I did not know was still in existence. Or, more likely, it reminded me of the film that I consider to be the most romantic movie with a happy ending: “Quest for Fire.”
In a caveman romance it makes sense that the hero is all “You my woman. I am your man. We are mated. I protect you and throw you over my shoulder so we make lots of babies.” That usually doesn’t work for me in contemporary romance or whatever genre. But here it works; it makes sense.
I’m seeing that many readers labeled Ehd an alpha male, but he came off totally beta to me. Maybe my definition of alpha male isn’t jiving with the accepted definition of the word. He wasn’t an independent type, he was always wanting to be with Beh. Ehd’s constantly thinking: “I want to protect my mate. I can never let my mate out of my sight. I will growl at anyone who comes at my mate. My penis is hard.”
He reminded me of my dearly loved and long departed American Eskimo dog. He was poofy, insanely loyal, hated being alone, loved to cuddle, barked at all strangers, and had constant erections when he was happy.
Some readers have assumed that Ehd is a Neanderthal, with a sloping forehead, and mouth full of huge teeth. But in her introduction to her book, Shay Savage states he is part of the early “Homo-Sapien” species, it’s just that he lacks the ability to speak. Artistic license and all that.
So rather than looking like this:
Ehd looks more like this:
Transcendence was a rare experience for me as it was told from the male 1st person POV, which worked to add a sense of confusion. A young girl is propelled back in time and we have to put the pieces together to figure out what’s going on.
As much as I loved this book, I hope there is no sequel or one of those alternate POV sequels. The story finishes rather definitively. There are some hanging questions, but for me the ending was an ending. It was both a sad and happy ending, and one of the best endings I’ve read in a long time.
What can I say? Sometimes a story appeals beyond all rationalization and reason. I loved this one.
Spoiler Alert: Do NOT Read This Unless You Really, Truly Want To
After many years, children and grandchildren together, Beh dies of old-age and illness while Ehd holds her in his arms, lets the fire in the cave burn out and dies heartbroken. Just like a loyal doggie would.
I’ve not kept up with Romance genre trends, so I don’t know who the popular authors in the Current Year are. A few years back, everybody was gushing about Kristen Ashley. For all I know, they still are. Optimistically, I purchased about a half dozen of her e-books and gave her a shot. First, I read Lacybourne Manor although I didn’t really care for the writing style, nor the screwball, immature-in-mind-but-not-in-years heroine. But you all know what they say about falling off a horse. Plus, if I don’t like something the first time, I’ll give it a second just to make sure the dissatisfaction wasn’t a one-off thing.
I Couldn’t Even Finish It!
In vain I attempted to complete Kristen Ashley’s Rock Chick Regret. I read as much as I could tolerate, then noped out of that book at 50%. Kristen Ashley is just not my cuppa. I don’t rate DNF books unless I get at least halfway through. Since I passed that mark, I can with a clear conscience give this book a big thumbs down.
I cannot relate to the people and world Ashley creates. Her characters are vapid, shallow, and immature at best, and cardboard cutouts and stereotypes at worst.
To any Ashley fans, I mean no offense with my words. Everybody has different tastes and that has no bearing on the kind of person one is. There are people who genuinely like Anisette liqueur and black licorice and I will never understand why.
Then again, I despise mayonnaise, ketchup, and tomatoes. That’s pretty weird.
I have low standards when it comes to entertainment. All I ask is that it provides me with some form of enjoyment. It need not be highbrow, popular with audiences, or critically lauded. My 2nd favorite Star Wars film is unironically Attack of the Clones.
The Book – Rock Chick Regret
There’s no handling this with kid gloves; I hated Rock Chick Regret. I know it’s kind of stupid to jump into book 7 of a series, but I’d gotten the impression from reviews that this was the best of the bunch. If you’ve read the novel, you know the plot. Briefly, the daughter of a crime boss is raped and goes to the “Hot Bunch” (a security team) for protection, especially seeking out “the guy-who-could-have-been” Hector. Hector used to work for Sadie’s dad and now is fiercely protective of her after her tragedy.
Yada, yada, yada, Sadie and Hector’s romance unfolds as “The Hot Bunch,” Hector, and Sadie plan to get the bad guys.
These people are in their thirties and forties and refer to themselves as the “Rock Chicks” and “Hot Bunch.” I know 30 is the new 21, and even I at the decrepit age of 43, still enjoy a bit of the bohemian life. However, these adults in their 30s carry on like teenagers, posing like “cool kids,” partying, and being overall vapid as can be. All they care about are clothes, and not just any clothes, but designer brands, described in painstaking detail that would have GRR Martin or Bertrice Small (RIP) say: “Hold on, there, don’t you think that’s a bit too much clothes porn?”
Mean Girls and Stale Clichés
The Rock Chicks are utter cows, the catty, cliquey types who make me happy that, other than my many sisters, my relationships with female friends are on a one-on-one basis. First, they’re bitchy to Sadie, then after they find out about her tragic rape, they turn around and are suddenly BFFs for life, shouting to all and sundry about Sadie’s violation.
The characters are just reduced down to superficial basics: Hector, the Hispanic hottie who calls Sadie his Mamacita (look, I’m Latina and I know that Mami & Papi are used as terms of affection between lovers, but that’s always been a no-no in my family. My man is my man, not my Daddy); the gay cuddly BFFs that are used as “purse puppies” to show how open and cool Sadie is (hat-tip to Ya Boi Zack for that term); cut-out villains that are evil because good is dumb; Sadie, the icy cold blonde princess, who’s really not icy at all, no matter how many times we’re told that; the super, awesome girlfriends; and their uber-alpha, buff, ultra-possessive men.
There’s a scene where Sadie’s friend Buddy introduces her to his “lesbian friend, Bex.” Who does that?
“Hi, this is my bi-polar friend Sal, my vegan friend Polly, and my Indigenous Peoples friend Joaquin.” People aren’t people in this book, they’re distilled to traits.
This book was so bad, it made me question myself. Was I that much of a hoity-toity snob that I couldn’t appreciate a little bit of check-your-brains-at-the-door-fun-&-just-enjoy-the-ride romance? Me, hoity-toity about reading tastes? Me, the anti-censorship stalwart, the staunch defender of un-PC 70s-80s bodice rippers, a reader of really crappy Zebra, Pinnacle, and Playboy Press pulps?
Reading this book made me feel like Homer Simpson, the iconic cartoon schlub, in that episode where he moves to the boonies and the local yokels accuse him of putting on airs:
Farmer 1: Well, well. Look at the city slicker pulling up in his fancy German car. Homer: This car was made in Guatemala. Farmer 2: Well, pardon us, Mr. Gucci loafers. Homer: I bought these shoes from a hobo. Farmer 1: Well, la-de-da, Mr. Park Avenue manicure. Homer: I’m sorry, I believe in good grooming.
There’s a lot of popular stuff out there I don’t like. Fortunately, those authors have legions of fans to buy their books and provide adulation, so a peon like me writing a bad review is no biggie. It’s a big world with plenty of stories, and hopefully, we can all agree that while not everything is for everybody, there are some things out there for everyone.