Category Archives: Not so Hot Romance Novel

Take a Look at Me Now

Take a Look at me nowTake a Look at Me Now
by Miranda Dickinson
Published by AVON
416 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

When Nell Sullivan is called into the office of  her boyfriend – and coworker  – she thinks he’s going to pop the question. Sure, they haven’t been getting on all that fabulously lately, but it’s time. They’ve been dating for several years, albeit on and off, but it’s time, isn’t it?

Well, imagine her shock when Aidan not only does not propose, he fires her.

Nell is outraged. Furious. Vengeful.

And a tiny, teensy bit relieved.

She has long harbored a desire to open her own diner, and if this isn’t Fate delivering opportunity, then what on earth is it. She decides to toss reason to the wind and hops a plane to visit a cousin in San Francisco, intending to stay six weeks. Recharge the batteries, get ideas for the diner, and then worry about jobs and paychecks and paying bills.

It doesn’t take long for Nell to realize that this will be more than what she planned. First, there is her love affair with Annie’s, a Haight-Ashbury diner that serves up the most delicious combinations of French toast. Then there is a certain intriguing attraction with a man named Max. He’s tall, dark, handsome, and a good kisser.

In other words, he’s a fantasy come true.

The problem with fantasies is that eventually they recede and reality sets upon us. For Nell, that reality brings a painful lesson and no small amount of questions. Can she start the diner? Can she remain true to her vision? And what about Max?

This is a fun book, if not the most compelling. It’s occasionally frustrating in its transparency. There was one plot twist that I didn’t fully see coming – I wondered if it might be the case but dismissed it – but for the most part, I knew what would happen. Nell herself is not always likable. When she finds out something about Max that she isn’t sure she likes, she does not give him the opportunity to explain himself. We all know that there is more to this situation than she realizes, but she willfully chooses to ignore reason and instead allow her hurt feelings to prevail.

Still, though, it’s cute. Don’t go looking for anything hot, though. There is no headboard rocking, I am sad to report. There is a sweet romance (more than one, actually), and there are delicious descriptions of food.

San Francisco is one of my favorite places to visit. Thanks to Miranda Dickinson, I might have to plan a return trip real soon.

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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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His Heart’s Obsession

His Heart’s Obsession
Alex Beecroft
Published by Carina Press
Available on Amazon Kindle
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
4 / 5 cupcakes

Before we commence with the review, let’s look at that cover for a moment, shall we? Is it just me, or does the dude on the left look like Ryan Seacrest? It’s probably just me. I swear, though, it looks just like him. Hmmmm ….

Okay, so. The path to true love never runs smoothly. We know that, right? Well, imagine, if you will, what the path to true gay love, circa 1752, and on a ship. For Robert  Hughes, the challenge is even more fraught with tension and frustration because Hal Morgan, the man he loves, is in love with another man. As crewmen on a ship, the two are closeted, to say the least, but Robert knows of Hal’s infatuation with William. Hal, on the other hand, has no idea that Robert is gay; he assumes Robert is in love with a woman.

One night, fueled by the giddy taste of possibility, Robert confesses all to Hal: I love you, William doesn’t, give us a chance.

Hal’s response and the ensuing drama verge on the emotionally fulfilling and the emotionally devastating. For such a slight book, Alex Beecroft draws her characters very well, causing us to care about and understand them. We  can see why Hal feels so strongly about his fidelity to William; we feel Robert’s frustration and sadness. When Robert makes his move, we are nervous with anticipation:

Robert ached for Hal with a fierce, hot pain, He put a carefully casual hand on Hal’s knee, feeling the roughness of the heavy linen. The warmth of Hal’s flesh, seeping through it, travelled up his arm like a flame eating along a fuse. So far, so good, and yet Hal had been about to tell him something. after all these years of being at arm’s length, he had been about to confide in Robert as though he considered Robert a true friend.

While this romance may not be typical in that it features two men, it certainly rings true in its sense of hope and loss.

My only complaint, though – and I think it’s a biggie – is that there is no rocking of the headboard. Or at least there is no detailed rocking of the headboard. There are a couple of love scenes, but they are so vaguely written that you are left unsatisfied (no pun intended).

Even so, this is a sweet little read. Just don’t go into it expecting hot sexy times.

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The King’s Pleasure

The King’s Pleasure
Heather Graham, writing as Shannon Drake (website)
Published by Open Road
Available on Amazon Kindle
382 pages
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
3 / 5 cupcakes

Well. I did not love this one. In fact, I struggled with it a LOT. I must have put it down three or four times, and had to force myself to pick it back up. It isn’t that this is a bad book, it’s just that I didn’t like the way it was written.

Let’s start with the pros:

  • You get a lot of English and French medieval history, which actually is rather interesting. Heather Graham, writing here as Shannon Drake, writes the Social Studies portion of the festivities in an entertaining fashion, not dry or dull at all.
  • Adrien MacLachlan is a hunka hunka burnin’ love, girls. Big, brawny, ultra masculine. Hair on the chest and a brogue to match. He loves his woman and will protect her – even from herself – at all costs.
  • Danielle D’Aville, our plucky heroine, is plucky indeed. And she’s very pretty. 
  • It’s fast-paced.
And that’s about it for the good stuff. 
Now we get to the negatives, and they are legion:
  • In the majority of sex scenes, Adrien all but rapes Danielle. For reals, people. He forces himself on her time and again. Now, we do see that she responds, but you’d have to be a box of rocks not to respond to him. She pushes against him, she pulls him to her. But for all of her robust responsiveness, she nonetheless refuses him, and he does not respect that. Look, I’m all for a feisty minx givin’ ‘er to her big man, but Danielle’s repeated resistance became kind of awkward and uncomfortable. 
  • The battle scenes got soooooo redundant. I felt like I read the same scene over and over again. After those times when I put the book down, I’d have to double and triple check to make sure I hadn’t misplaced my bookmark, because I would have SWORN I’d read some of that stuff beforehand.
  • The supporting characters are straight out of Central Casting. There is not an original one in the bunch, from the men who covet Danielle to the woman who wants Adrien. Can you believe they plot against our happy couple? I know! I’m shocked too.
  • The non-rape sex scenes are tepid. Yes, there is some hotness there, but not enough to keep you hooked. While we know that these two can rock that headboard right into next week, their couplings are pretty standard fare. Oh! There is a brief episode of spanky panky, so yet again, I can drag Christian Grey’s name into this review. Hey, Christian!
  • It’s just kind of … boring. 
Here is a little snippet:

He clenched and unclenched a fist, trying to ease some of the tension from his body. She had matured from a beautiful girl into a voluptuous and stunning woman. She was more fiercely independent than ever, as prickly as a wild rose, but in her he could still see the passion of the girl he had known with the healing hands, proud spirit, and undying courage.

Healing hands? Proud spirit? Undying courage? Um, okay.

If you dig history, then you might want to give this a try. In fact, history buffs might be all over it, maybe to fact check Ms. Graham / Drake’s assertions. But if you’re looking for a hot historical romance novel, this isn’t your best bet.

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Deadly Secrets, Loving Lies

The title of this book is the best part about it.

There. Now you know. I’m going to go ahead and write the hell out of this review, because I love the sound of my own voice (praise Christian [Grey] someone does). But if you’re in a hurry and want a quickie, you can forget about this one.

I get the feeling Deadly Secrets, Loving Lies (which sounds like the title of a Tori Spelling movie) is part of a series, but I can’t find its predecessors. It seems as if it must be, because as you read the book, you feel like you’re coming in the middle of a conversation. So much happened before this book starts that, even though Cynthia Cooke provides some flashbacks, you sense that if you knew more about what occurred before Genie Marsters survives a kidnapping attempt, you might enjoy this book better.

So Genie. She lives in what one character describes as a “mushroom” house, but she says it’s a tree house. It’s in the desert, and one day, after a visit from the UPS man (whom she greets with a Glock revolver tucked in the waistband of her pants), she sees a fleet of black SUVs roll up. This can only be bad news, so she races to the roof of her house, where she is rescued by her former lover, Kyle. Naturally, Kyle is tall, dark, handsome, and built like a brick house. He’s bitter, because she abandoned him (he thinks) after a warehouse explosion. But Genie had good reasons for doing so (of COURSE she did), which she eventually gets around to telling him. In fact, Genie likes to abandon Kyle. Like, a lot.

Kyle and Genie quickly discover that danger lurks within Genie’s family, particularly where the other two of her triplet sisters are concerned. (Kyle didn’t know she had siblings, and he has a problem with that. Shouldn’t people who love each other tell them about family? Evidently not.) The dynamic (ha ha) duo sets out to rescue Genie’s family, all the while growing closer. How close? Naked close. During their first assignation, Genie is so hot for Kyle that she utters the sweet nothings that every man longs to hear: “Give it to me!” She does add a “please.”

Cynthia Cooke’s sex scenes are okay. Not great, but okay. The problem is that they sound like every other sex scene you’ve read.

As he moved, tears of pleasure and intense need sprang to her eyes. He rocked harder, taking her closer to that place of urgent, urgent hunger. That place of ultimate joy that she only seemed to find with him. Damn him. A place of warm intimacy where she felt truly loved and safe. A feeling she only had while lying in his arms, a feeling she’d missed too much.

Kyle thrusts fast and violently, Genie screams – she has a triple orgasm, natch – and finally Kyle “finds his release.”

And our happy couple is reunited.

It isn’t that this is a bad book – I’ve certainly read better – it’s just that the title makes you think there will be some Hot Romance. And there is, but not much of it. Instead, there is some kind of mystery / conspiracy / spy intrigue going on here. Fine, but if you’re going to call a book Deadly Secrets, Loving Lies let’s have a little more loving, okay?

I guess if you’re in the mood to read something with a smattering of headboard rocking, then this is your thing. It just wasn’t mine.

 Published by Entangled Publishing and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.

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