Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sweet Laurel Falls

Sweet Laurel Falls
by RaeAnne Thayne
Published by Harlequin
384 pages
Genre: romance; chick list
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

One thing is for certain: this book is very sweet. So sweet, in fact, that it might induce a diabetic coma.

Maura McKnight’s life at the moment is dark and sad. Her youngest daughter, Layla, passed away in a car accident, and her oldest daughter, Sage, is away at college. The girls have two different fathers; Layla’s is Maura’s ex-husband, and Sage’s is Maura’s first love, Jackson Lange. The two men have something in common other than Maura in that neither is around. Chris travels with his rock band, and Jackson bolted from their small Colorado hometown of Hope’s Crossing shortly after he graduated from high school.

Jackson left more than Maura behind. She was pregnant, but did not know it when he went away. She tried to get in touch with him, but he didn’t return her calls. Over the twenty ensuing years, Maura has gotten accustomed to life without Jackson, believing he will never return.

But he does show up … as a visiting speaker to one of Sage’s college classes. The two have a chat, and in the course of their conversation discover that they share some DNA. Neither is happy with Maura’s refusal to disclose Jackson’s parentage, but when Jackson returns to town, he manages to forget his ire when he comes face to face with Maura. Old attraction, it appears, does not die, it just lies in wait for a reunion.

The two must come to terms with their lingering love for each other, and Jackson has some fences to mend with his cranky old father. Sage is a soothing restorative, but she has secrets of her own and needs her parents to help her find solution and solace.

The romance between Maura and Jackson unfolds slowly, as they come to rediscover their feelings for each other. This is very much a G-rated romance, so no fear of any hot headboard rocking. Even the kissing scenes are chaste.

Fortunately, what saves this from complete sugar overload are Maura and Jackson. These are two flawed adults. She is too raw with hurt over Layla’s death, fear over possibly losing Sage to Jackson, and heartbroken over Jackson leaving in the first place. He, on the other hand, is angry with her for not disclosing that he is a father, and he’s also bitter over his father’s past manipulation. They have to get past those barriers before they can come together.

The setting is as much a character as the humans, and just as charming. You will find yourself wanting to visit this tiny ski village in hopes of dining at the cafes and visiting Maura’s bookstore. RaeAnne Thayne does an excellent job of showing us Hope’s Crossing and its effect on its residents.

Thayne tells the story slowly (sometimes too slowly) and gently, if not occasionally repetitively. I felt like I read the same scene more than once, and the “shocking news” that Sage delivers is not all that shocking. As a means to bring Jackson’s father closer to his family, it works, if not predictably so.

Sweet and gentle: that’s the best summary of this book I can give.

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Filed under chick lit, sweet romance

Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets
by Robin Wells
Published by Forever
400 pages
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5 cupcakes

Schadenfreude. My favorite word. Oh, how I derive joy from the misery of others. And by ‘misery,’ I mean the “you brought this on yourself, you horny bastard” variety, not poverty or hunger.

So I looked forward to reading this book, because it offers an element of schadenfreude. Emma Jamison is a butler. She owns her own temporary butler business providing butler services to those who need it. Hired to work one weekend at a New Orleans mansion whose owners are out of town, she watches as the guest coming to visit is the President-elect. He does not come alone. With him is a lady-for-hire, whose services are provided with such gusto that the man is left dead. Literally.

Unfortunately for Emma, the press believes she is the woman providing the sexy times, and Emma’s life is, effectively, ruined. Her reputation is down the toilet, she loses her business, and she loses considerable sums of money in an attempt to prove that another woman was present.

She winds up in a small Louisiana town, where she works as a housekeeping director at the “retirement home” where her grandmother lives. Grams meets Harold, a hot octogenarian with Alzheimer’s, and the two strike up a (very … wink wink) close friendship. Emma, meanwhile, meets Harold’s grandson Max, who is running for District Attorney. The last thing Max needs during an election year is getting linked to Emma Jamison, the woman who supposedly killed a President.

Emma and Max like each other. A LOT. But she is leery of getting too close, mostly out of fear of ruining his reputation, and he is leery of not getting close enough. He wants to be with her, even if it means losing the election.

The story here is cute and entertaining, and it does give you an idea of what it must be like for those who wind up in the midst of scandal. The pervasive paparazzi, the tabloids, the half truths and complete untruths. I felt badly for Emma that she could not clear her name, no matter how hard she tried, and when she breaks down in sobs over yet another injustice done to her, it’s difficult not to sympathize. In Emma’s case, the bad luck brought on her was not of her own doing at all, but rather because some people thought it better to blame her than a call girl.

There are a couple of sex scenes, and neither is terribly hot or explicit. One, in fact, is more humorous than erotic. The love stories are sweet, and the characters enjoyable. My only quibble – and it’s a big one – is the story’s predictability. You know exactly what will happen before it happens, and that throws water on the fire.

As fun reads go, this is a good one. I still engage in schadenfreude, but not at Emma’s expense.

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Filed under chick lit, romance

Lip Service

Lip Service
by M. J. Rose
Published by Piatkus Books
320 pages
Genre: adult literature
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5 cupcakes

If you are trapped in a staid, sexless marriage, how do you cope? How do you adapt? What if you don’t realize how staid and sexless it is until your eyes are opened by fate’s whimsy?

Julia Sterling has a fairly content marriage to her psychiatrist husband Paul. She is stepmother to his college freshman son, hostess at his fundraising parties, and provides him with the comfort he needs … outside of the bedroom. They rarely, if ever, have sex, something Paul does not appear to miss (he takes that in hand, so to speak). While Julia would like more intimacy, she convinces herself that she is if not happy, then at least comfortable.

At a dinner party one night, she meets Sam Butterfield, director of the eponymous Institute that specializes in sex therapy. One of the treatments offered patients is phone sex. When Sam asks Julia if she would like to write a book detailing the efficacy of phone sex, she agrees, much to Paul’s disapproval. Paul attempts to psychoanalyze her out of this decision, just as he attempts to psychoanalyze her throughout their relationship. But Julia is determined, so determined that she begins working as a phone sex operator so that she will understand what the job entails.

Further complicating Julia’s marriage is her longstanding friendship with Jack, a man she met in college. Julia suffered a breakdown in school, and Jack found and took care of her. They are attracted to each other, but have not allowed that attraction to destroy their friendship. As Julia immerses herself in phone sex, Jack’s reaction surprises her. In fact, Jack himself begins to surprise her.

Julia’s reactions, you see, are quite intense. Sometimes during a call, she pleasures herself physically while pleasuring her client vocally. The loss of sex in her marriage begins to eclipse what she and Paul do share, and his increasing attention to her in a doctor-patient sense frustrates her, as do his attempts to minimize her feelings. ‘Sterling’ is a good name for these people; in Paul’s case, the sterling is tarnished and warped, while in Julia’s, a true reflection begins to form.

Some intrigue is introduced relating to one of Julia’s clients, and Jack comes to town to visit her. She is forced to confront what she has missed seeing reflected back at her, both professionally and personally.

This is a fantastic, taut book that will keep you turning the pages. You may not always like Julia – she certainly can cause her own problems to some degree – but you do want what’s best for her. Despite being about phone sex, there is not much actual sex in this book. What little appears is fairly tame, although the language is graphic. I read somewhere that this book has been compared to Fear of Flying and the Fifth Shades series. Comparisons to the former insult Erica Jong, while comparisons to the latter insult M. J. Rose. Lip Service is neither. Rather, it is an interesting look into the dynamics of marriage and friendship. The phone sex is just a means toward that end.

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Filed under adult, not erotica no matter what you've read to the contrary

Sleeping with Dogs and Other Lovers: A Second Acts Novel

Sleeping with Dogs and Other Lovers
by Julia Dumont
Published by BroadLit
254 pages
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
2 / 5 cupcakes

My first thought upon finishing this book: what in the hell was this book about?

My second thought: thank goodness that’s over.

Here is your basic plot: Cynthia has started a matchmaking business, determined to use her time honed skills of sussing out who’s right for whom to help out the lovelorn. An ex boyfriend shows up to test her limits, and she has to decide whether she wants to try again with him.

Oh, and dogs. There are dogs here too. One of Cynthia’s clients owns some dogs, one of whom seems to be telepathic and other worldly.

Emphasis on “seems to be,” because we never really know. In fact, the vast quantities of things we never really know could make up a book in themselves.

Parts of this are funny and entertaining. Cynthia has a somewhat predictable relationship with her mother – there is nothing new here, and you will feel as if you’ve read it before – and her first client, Lolita, is unique.

But not enough is interesting. It’s as if you are reading synopses of previously published books, because this feels like you’ve read it before. And that, my little book loving friends, is not a good sign for a novel. Even the sex scenes are a snooze-fest.

The good news: it’s a quick read.

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Filed under blah romance, chick lit, sometimes the book just flat out sucks

Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster
by Jamie McGuire
Published by Atria Books
432 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5 cupcakes

What we have here is a perfect example of synecdoche, in which the title tells you everything you need to know about the book itself.

Abby Abernathy wants you to think she is a Good Girl. She adorns herself with preppy cardigans, sticks close to her best friend, and avoids Bad Boys. When she winds up in an underground fight club-type place, she locks eyes with the victorious fighter, Travis Maddox. She is intrigued.

The cousin of her best friend’s boyfriend (I know, I had the same eye roll), Travis is straight out of Central Casting for “Bad Boys,” down to the tattoos and the penchant for one night stands. He never met an emotional attachment that he cared to make, other than with his family. And when he sees Abby, he is intrigued.

Abby’s first move is brilliant: she acts completely unimpressed. And she is, to some degree. Yes, she is attracted to him, but she refuses to be another notch on his scarred belt. She dresses down, she is rude and sarcastic, and she tells him that he has no chance with her. When they spend the night together, they actually SLEEP together. No hanky panky occurs. Travis, for all of his overflowing testosterone, likes Abby; he genuinely enjoys her company and is determined to not mess up this friendship.

We know, however, that he will mess it up, and Abby will as well. It is just a matter of pages until they wind up romantically linked, especially when Abby loses a bet and has to move in with Travis for a month. What is good about their first encounter is that Abby makes the decision to be with him. Travis empowers her in that sense, and it’s nice to read some YA lit that does not have the girl swooning uncontrollably over her hard-to-read love interest.

And that’s where the “disaster” portion of this book comes into play. Travis! What in the world happens to you? What fresh hell does Jamie McGuire do to you?

Here is one answer: she takes a strong, interesting character and turns him into one that is veritably emasculated, dull, and insipid. Travis becomes the girl; he cries and screams and begs. He ditches his boxes of condoms along with his dignity, and we lose interest in him just as quickly. The man who oozed masculinity and dominance now simpers along, weak and uninspired. We are meant to see that Abby changed him from Bad Boy to Boy Worth Loving, but instead he comes across as utterly unappealing.

Don’t even get me started on the ending. Not only does it defy all logic, it appears to defy its characters. We are led to believe certain things about Abby and Travis, yet McGuire ends in it a way that is so unfaithful to them that you wonder if there was a publishing error in which another book’s ending was cut and pasted onto this one.

The first half of this book is ‘beautiful.’ Abby, Travis and their friends are created with care and creativity. We like them. We are interested in them. We care about them. And then comes the ‘disaster,’ and you will want to shout in frustration.

This could have been so good. But it just is not.

One word of warning: while this is Young Adult lit, the emphasis is on “adult.” There are fairly detailed sexual situations, as well as alcohol usage.

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Filed under file this under 'What Could Have Been', sometimes the book just isn't good, YA

Against His Will

Against His Will
by Trish Jensen
Published by Bell Bridge Books
230 pages
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5 cupcakes

Okay, it’s cute. Cute story, cute characters, cute cute cute. There is even a cute bulldog named Muffin. Cuteness overload.

But is it hot?

Weeelllllll …..

Jake Donnelly is an FBI agent who inherited some money and property, including a beloved mountain cabin, from his Aunt Sophie. Actually, Jake didn’t inherit anything. Muffin, an overindulged bulldog accustomed to spending two weeks of his summer vacation at a dog spa, inherited the whole thing. When Jake learns that he is muffin’s designated caretaker, he also discovers that the mountain cabin can be his – provided he takes exemplary care of Muffin. So it is that Jake winds up at the dog spa with Muffin, where he encounters comely dog psychiatrist LeAnne Crosby. He views her with suspicion and disdain, suspecting that she might have tried to fleece his aunt. And a pet psychiatrist? Seriously?

LeAnne realizes that Jake is suspicious of her, but that does nothing to dampen her desire for him. Or his for her. They sniff around each other (GET IT?), pushing and pulling against their attraction. And then a witness Jake and his FBI partner are protecting shows up, and some bad guys show up, and we have a different chase on our hands.

The subplot is just a ridiculous farce. It’s almost as if Trish Jensen knew it was silly, but she couldn’t stop herself from including it. The reason for it becomes quickly apparent (let’s just say that it might involve that cabin in the woods), but you can’t help but think that there would have been a more plausible way to make that magic happen.

Oh, yeah. The magic. The sex scenes are … cute. A lot more cute than hot, let’s just say. After all the teasing, I wanted a bigger payoff. The sexy times definitely fit in with the rest of the cuteness of the book, though, so if that pulls your engine cord, then you will love this book.

A word about the cover: what is up with THAT? An apple with a bite out of it? I don’t recall apples being a central motif of this thing, nor is there an Adam-and-Eve theme going on. That cover is a head-scratcher.

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Filed under cute romance, Not so Hot Romance Novel

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Caroline F. for winning the
Naughty or Nice Giveaway Hop!

Thank you to all who visited my blog and supported this giveaway.
I appreciate you taking the time to stop by, comment and follow.

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Filed under giveaway, Naughty or Nice Giveaway Hop