Category Archives: needs some hot headboard rockin’

Echoes of the Heart

Echoes of the HeartEchoes of the Heart
by Alyssa Montgomery
Published by Harlequin Australia – Escape
154 pages
Genre: Romance; chick lit 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5


How can two people possibly be more wrong about each other?

Not FOR each other. ABOUT each other.

Amanda and Jake were in love and hot for each other, but then it went horribly wrong, thanks largely to completely misunderstanding each other. They each got married, but now she’s widowed, he’s divorced, and he’s determined to get her out of his mind. To do that, he stalks and somewhat blackmails her into being his courtesan of sorts. One month, and she’ll get paid. Amanda, you see, needs the cash.

It doesn’t take a great leap to know that Jake and Amanda will realize the extent of their misunderstandings, and as convoluted as they get – and believe me, they get convoluted – you can’t help but want our lovebirds happily together.

There is some mild headboard rockin’, and I’m left thinking that this book needed more of that and fewer convolutions of plot.

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City of Jasmine

city of jasmineCity of Jasmine
by Deanna Raybourn
Published by Harlequin MIRA
368 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; historical 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

As a fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series, I look forward to her novels. I thought my passion for Nicholas Brisbane was high until I discovered Andrei Dragulescu in The Dead Travel Fast. Raybourn always does a fantastic job of creating evocative moods in her novels.

Do you sense a “but” coming? Because there is one.

But … this book. I just couldn’t.

The plot is as convoluted as they come. Our heroine, Evangeline Starke, is a “famed aviatrix,” which means she goes barnstorming and barrel rolling around Europe. Currently on an aerial tour of the seven seas of antiquity, she finds herself enjoying a brief pit stop with her elderly Aunt Dove when the two come across representatives from a group of archaeologists who are digging for … something … in Damascus.

Evangeline becomes interested in them, largely because she has received a photo of her husband Gabriel on a Damascus dig. The photo strikes her as curious because Gabriel died on the Lusitania five years before the photo was taken.

Didn’t he?

And so Evangeline heads for Damascus, where she immerses herself in local history, local Bedouins, and the search for what really happened to Gabriel.

Maybe that doesn’t sound so convoluted, but trust me, IT IS. There are different factions searching for the same artifact, different agendas driving those people, and Evangeline wondering what is the truth about Gabriel.

I was, dare I say it, bored.

Yes, bored. BORED by a Deanna Raybourn book.

I didn’t particularly care for Evangeline, who seemed alternately supercilious and super silly. Whatever happened to Gabriel, I’m sure his reasons for faking his death were valid. Perhaps boredom was one of them …

If you are interested in a historical treatise on the peoples in Arabia, this is the book for you. There is occasional mystery, occasional – or should I say, frustratingly infrequent – romance, and a whole lot of history.

I’m giving it three stars because when it’s good – such as the sub plot with the German doctor and the mystery surrounding Gabriel – it’s interesting and fun. There just isn’t enough of that.

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English Girl in New York

english girl in NYEnglish Girl in New York
by Scarlet Wilson
Published by Harlequin
256 pages
Genre: chick lit, romance 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

Carrie McKenzie has had a bad year.

No, really. Hers truly was bad, in a very sad, heartbreaking way.

So when her boss offers her the opportunity to spend a year in New York, she takes it. Perhaps what she needs is a change of scenery?

She lives in a cute brownstone and is surrounded, for the most part, by elderly dwellers. Except for that one good looking dude who doesn’t give her the time of day.

Thanks to a freak October snowstorm and a baby abandoned on the doorstep, though, Carrie meets this man and discovers that he’s a police officer. And that he isn’t just good looking, he’s HOT.

For his part, Dan Cooper is one of those “I serve the citizens of New York” kind of guys who’s too busy to spend quality time with the ladies. His idea of a relationship is breakfast the morning after. So when Carrie shows up with that abandoned baby, he is none too thrilled.

All it takes, though, is a few days of forced living together to bring these two crazy lovebirds together.

As Cute Romance Novels go, this one is fairly standard. Both Carrie and Dan have what you’d call tortured histories, and of course their broken souls are drawn to each other. In Cute Romance Novel fashion, they have a wizened helper (not to mention a newborn infant), and it doesn’t take long for them to wonder if perhaps they shouldn’t take each other more seriously, romance-wise.

There isn’t much to this, other than its cuteness. The ending is quite tidy and convenient, but hey. It’s a Harlequin romance with nearly zero hot headboard rockin’, so, you know. It is what it is.

Cute, quick read.

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Island Promises: Hawaiian Holiday / Hawaiian Reunion / Hawaiian Getaway

Island PromisesIsland Promises: Hawaiian Holiday / Hawaiian Reunion / Hawaiian Getaway
by Raeanne Thayne, Marie Ferrarella, Leanne Banks
Published by Harlequin Anthologies
320 pages
Genre: chick lit, romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5 overall
Here we have three novellas, all centered around the same Hawaiian destination wedding, and of the three, one is pretty good, another okay, and the third weak.

We’ll begin with “Hawaiian Holiday,” which turns out to be the strongest of the bunch. Megan has agreed to fly from Chicago with her two seven-year-old twin daughters to her ex-husband’s wedding. Before you raise an eyebrow, Megan and Nick were not well suited for one another. Theirs was a shotgun wedding, and they extracted themselves without any collateral damage. Their twin girls are adorable, and the whole thing just seems precious.

Megan wonders, though, if she will ever find the love that Nick now shares with his new wife Cara. Before she can ask twice, in comes Shane, one of Nick’s fellow firefighters. Shane is every woman’s fantasy for a hot firefighter, and he does not disappoint. They circle each other, but Shane is reluctant to do more than play kissy kissy. He recalls his childhood with shudders and does not want to have children. Megan, of course, comes with two.

It’s a cute, predictable story, and you can’t help but smile as you read it. Megan is enjoyable and Shane is hot. So it’s good.

“Hawaiian Getaway” falls off a little. Nick’s sister Gabi shows up for the wedding feeling professionally stressed. She’s trying to prove herself to her father, and it causes her to focus nearly solely on work. Fortunately, Finn the surf instructor is around to take her mind off of her day job. But he’s a surf instructor, and she’s a professionally-driven cosmetics executive. What future do they have?

This one is also sweet – there is a cute kid involved – but just not as magnetic as the Holiday story. I don’t know if I had Hawaiian fatigue at this point (this is the last of the three), but I had a difficult time sustaining interest. Of the three, this is the only one that comes close to hot headboard rockin’, although even then, you get no details.

Finally, there is the second story. The titular reunion is between Amy and Devlin, a couple in the beginning stages of divorce. There is nothing – and I mean nothing – credible in this story, aside from Devlin being adorable. Amy is a wench, and the cause of their marital friction just does not work effectively. There are too many holes here, and that makes for a weak story.

I’ll say this much for these novellas: they are a Kauai Chamber of Commerce dream, because you will want to high tail it to Hawaii. I mean, if these three women can find some island lovin’, why couldn’t we?

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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

Her Hard to Resist Husband

her hard to resist husbandHer Hard to Resist Husband
by Tina Beckett
Published by Harlequin
147 pages
Genre: romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5


So that title. You would wonder, would you not, if perhaps an editor could come up with something – oh, I don’t know – pithier? Something not so obvious?

The good news is that the novel is better than its title. The bad news, for those of you looking for a straightforward romance, is that the novel is educational.

Tracy and Ben are doctors, currently serving in Brazil. They specialize in different sorts of diseases; Tracy focuses more on general health, whereas Ben is into the freaky stuff (0h, if only – although there are hints that he’s into the GOOD sort of freak … a la All He Wants or Bared to You). They are also married, although they haven’t seen or been together in four years.

But when Tracy comes up against a vicious communicable outbreak in the village in which she’s working, she turns to the one person she knows can help her and the villagers: Ben.

These two still love each other. They still desire each other. So why aren’t they together? They are IDIOTS. That’s why.

See, Tracy can’t stay put in one place too long, and because she takes that Hippocratic Oath to heart with unbearable intensity, Ben thinks that Tracy’s need to help some sick folks caused her to lose their baby. He also thinks that she puts everyone else ahead of them – and their unborn child. It isn’t that she is ambitious so much as she just needs to help people.

Ben, for his part, is controlling, so much so that Tracy can’t quite forgive him for sicking the government on her.

So they have issues.

As they work together, though, sparks ignite. As we knew – or at least hoped – they would.

Along the way, you get quite the earful (or eyeful, as the case may be) about disease and sterilization and healthcare and poverty and all that stuff. Not quite what you’d hope for a Hot Romance Novel.

There is some hotness, although not nearly enough. Not nearly. For every scene involving illness and masks and gloves, it would have been nice to have some sexy times. There were moments when I felt like the book was over-reaching. It’s a ROMANCE NOVEL, for goodness sakes. Not a treatise on third world healthcare.

I’m giving it 3½ stars because of Ben. I liked the guy. He’s noble but not in an off-putting way, and when we finally do get Ben naked, it’s worth it. I just wanted more. MORE, I tell you.

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Plus One is a Lucky Number

Plus One is a Lucky Number
by Teresa F. Morgan
Published by HarperCollins U.K., Harper Impulse
Genre: romance; chick lit
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5./ 5

Weddings bring out the best or worst in people. There really is no in between. You either are impressed by someone or completely turned off.

Even more insufferable are those occasions when you are a guest at a wedding – a solo guest. You know that “plus one” on the invitation? Isn’t it far more comforting and satisfying to pen in the name of your plus one than it is to leave it blank?

Sophie agrees. When invited to her cousin’s wedding, Sophie dreads returning home single, without a plus one. So she checks the box and hopes for the best. With just a few days to go, however, Sophie realizes she either needs a miracle or needs to not show up.

Fortunately, the former obliges in the comely form of Adam, a coworker who also happens to be quite the heartbreaker.

Adam agrees to accompany Sophie not out of any great kinship or kindness but rather because he’s guilted into it by a mutual friend of theirs. He hardly knows Sophie, and even though it turns out that the low key look she sports at work does not reflect the gorgeous woman she is, Adam nonetheless is a little nervous. The more time he spends with her, the more he likes her. The same goes for Sophie, who’s heard the rumors about Adam. But he’s nice to her, he plays the game in front of her friends and family, and on those occasions he “has” to kiss her? Those are quite, quite nice.

Adam and Sophie are far more alike than they would care to admit. Both of them are focused on work, both move about life avoiding romantic entanglements, and both protect their hearts. Which means they clearly are made for each other.

You can tell that this is one of those Cute Romance Novels, can’t you? It’s all cute, from Sophie to Adam to their families and friends. They’re both so darn likable that you almost need an insulin shot. In fact, that’s perhaps my biggest complaint: I needed a little something to cut the sugar, and by “a little something,” I mean a hot sex scene.

For a while there, it looks like you’re going to get one. Or more. But just as the action heats up, there is either coitus interruptus or the curtain comes down.

Still, for all its predictability and cuteness overload, it’s a fun, quick read.

Just don’t expect anything hot.

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