Category Archives: boring heroine

Review: An American Girl in Italy

american girl in italy

American Girl in Italy

by Aubrie Dionne
Published by HarperImpulse
182 pages
Genre: romance, women’s fiction
2.5 / 5


An Italian paradise is the last thing she wants… but the one thing she needs!

Surely any girl would kill for the chance to tour Italy’s most famous cities for the summer? To experience the warmth of the Tuscan sun, the culinary delights of the pizzerias and cafés and to stroll along the cobbled streets of the City of Love itself…

Any girl apart from ambitious oboist Carly Davis that is! For her, the Easthampton Civic Symphony’s latest European tour is one massive inconvenience. She can’t even put her smartphone down long enough to snap a picture of the Coliseum.

Only, there’s one Italian attraction that Carly hadn’t quite expected to be a part of the tourist route…

Tour guide Michelangelo is as dark and delicious as Carly’s morning espresso. And when she needs a few lessons in the language of love to land her an important gig, he’s a more than capable tutor.

But with her promising career back in Boston, can Carly really afford to lose her heart in Italy?

My Review:

Well ….

The good news is that it is a short, quick read. And Dionne peppers the book with references to Italian culture and food and that sort of thing. Oh, and Michelangelo is gorgeous and swarthy, just like I like my Hot Heroes to be.

It’s just that Carly is so insipid that I ceased caring about whether or not she was happy, and I even started hoping that Michelangelo would find someone else. She worries, for a bit, that he did, but in truth Michelangelo is distracted by some family financial problems, the existence of which leads him to the tour guide job in the first place.

I did enjoy reading about the orchestra and Carly’s playing, and of course I enjoyed reading about Michelangelo. The rest of the book sort of fell flat for me. Maybe it’s because I really really wanted it to be good. I tend to enjoy books set in Italy, and I was looking forward to this one. I wanted my Hot Hero to have some Hot Headboard Rockin’, and I wanted to like the heroine.

I read this book a few weeks ago, and I can’t remember if there is any Hot Headboard Rockin’, so that ought to tell you something right there.

Still, though, it’s a cute, quick read. Not my particular flavor, but it has its merits.


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Prada & Prejudice

prada & prejudicePrada & Prejudice
by Katie Oliver
Published by Carina Press
Genre: chick lit, romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
2 / 5

I’m all for happy endings. Really. I love them. I am a hopeless romantic who believes that fairy tales come true.

Make of that what you will.

But when a happy ending seems so utterly and transparently manufactured, when it comes so easily that it wrecks the story, I lose that love.

Such is the case with this book.

Well, one of the cases. The other one is that Prada & Prejudice can’t quite decide what book it is. Cheesy romance novel? Homage to Jane Austen? Rip off of Bridget Jones? Money grab?

The plot, such as it is, is simple: Natalie Dashwood (see: Sense & Sensibility), a rich, spoiled heiress (see: Emma) to a department store scion, is faced with the unfortunate fact that her family’s store is leaking money like a BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Her grandfather brings in the cold, supercilious, enigmatic Rhys Gordon (see: Pride & Prejudice) to fix things. One of the things that must be fixed is Natalie herself; her spending habits are ridiculously silly and need rehabilitating.

Quicker than you can say “Netherfield Ball,” the two develop an interest in each other that extends beyond spreadsheets. We can see why she’s attracted to him, but Natalie is drawn as so flighty and self-involved that we cannot figure out why he’s attracted to her. He sort of explains it in one scene – she’s some kind of light blah blah blah – but it truly makes no sense.

In addition to their stories, there are a couple of subplots, one involving Rhys’ father. That one signs out with a thud. It’s sort of mysterious past – mysterious past – mysterious past – BOOM, over. We don’t even know why what happened happened. Katie Oliver completely misjudges this one, and it is to the detriment of the novel. (I blame her editor: surely someone saw how problematic this story line is.)

Another subplot involves the family of one of the senior managers of the store. Again, why? Why are these people cluttering up the tale? Is it to have the Wickham-esque story in there somewhere? At least George Wickham was entertaining. There is no entertainment in this story line at all. Much like Rhys’ father, we’re left scratching our heads, wondering why this is in there.

The third subplot, centered around the husband of one of Natalie’s friends, is equally as ridiculous. For one thing, it requires such a leap of faith to play along with what’s at play here, and we take it, just because we need to trust the writer. But it is so tidily resolved that we feel cheated.

The only worthy story, then, is the central one, between Natalie and Rhys. Where this goes wrong is in its attempt to mirror Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet’s character flaw is that she thinks she is always right – that her insight into other characters has no defects. As she discovers, time and again, how wrong she is, she has engendered enough sympathy in us that we want to pull her to us and comfort her. Natalie Dashwood, on the other hand, is so flighty and dingy that I kept hoping Rhys would tell her to stuff it.

As for Rhys, he is the most interesting character in the novel, which says a lot because he is woefully underwritten. The thing with his father? Please explain. And his brother? And his attraction to Natalie?

By about the 2/3 mark of this book, I started skimming. I had lost all interest in it, save for how Katie Oliver would wrap up her story. It wasn’t worth it.

There could be a good book here. That’s the bothersome part. With a stronger editor, this could be something better than it is.

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Filed under a good idea that goes nowhere, boring heroine, chick lit, needs some hot headboard rockin', sometimes a book doesn't know what it wants to be, sometimes the book just isn't good

Ruined by Rumor

Ruined by Rumor
Alyssa Everett
Publisher: Carina Press
218 pages
Available on
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

This is one of those books in which I cared a LOT more about the hero than the heroine. In fact, I kind of wanted the heroine to be miserable, lonely and left shriveled like a heap of wet towels. The only reason I cared one toenail about her happiness was if it made the hero happy. And since it did, I had to give a fiddler’s fart about her scrawny ass.

Roxana is engaged to George Whitby, who basically is a cad and a scoundrel, only she’s too stupid to see it. WE see it. Boy, do we. We know that he will break her heart, one way or another, and by golly, he does. They have been engaged for five years, during which she waited patiently for him to return from war. A few weeks after their engagement ball, he dumps her.

We aren’t too sad about this, though, because (a) Roxana feels nothing – not one tiny flutter – when he kisses her (in fact, it could be argued that she feels revulsion) and (b) George’s absence means Alex Ayersley has a chance. And Alex Ayersley, people, can KISS. When he (finally) kisses Roxana, she “grew so breathless she was sure she would faint. The whole world seemed to spin and tilt around her.”

Alex, you see, has loved Roxana forever. He even tells her that he loves a woman, has loved her for years, and that she is the most beautiful, desirable woman he’s ever met. Dumb Roxana doesn’t realize he means HER, mostly because Alex is kind of socially constipated. He doesn’t know how to make small talk, and he’s perfectly content to sit in silence. In fact, prior to the kiss, the only thing that seems to stir his emotions is when he discusses politics and the law, specifically the time he witnessed an execution:

Ayersley, passionate? The incongruity of the thought almost made her laugh. A more mild-mannered man had never walked the earth – the dull dog, George called him. Yet Ayersley’s tightly contained outrage just now had been unmistakable.

Shortly after the aborted engagement, Roxana’s virtue is questioned by some who witnessed her rousing game of tonsil hockey with Alex. He proposes a solution to her wrecked reputation: let’s get hitched.

Alas, Alex cannot figure out how to tell her the truth about his feelings for her, and Roxana is so stupid that she can’t suss it out on her own. She puts herself into situations that cause him pain, and even though it’s innocent (for the most part), and even though she does feel a little guilty, she can’t be honest with him. Until, that is, Alex decides he can’t take it any more and unleashes his frustration on her. Oh, faithful readers, it is a delightful castigation, and I cheered him on most happily.

Now, about the hotness. There are some decent sexy times scenes. Alex knows how to rock the headboard. Oh, yes, he does. He may seem restrained and polite, but underneath that dutiful exterior lies a dutiful exterior, if you know what I mean. And I hope you do. He knows how to please a woman, bless him. Not that Roxana deserves it, but whatever. There are not many sex scenes, which is unfortunate, because I’d love to know the full extent of Alex’s prowess, but what’s there is good. Not scorching, but good. All in all, this is a predictable romance featuring a hero you can cheer for.

Read this book, for Alex’s sake. He deserves to be loved.

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