Writing her first DNF round-up post was cathartic for Miss Bates. She didn’t exactly enjoy discarding some TBR titles. But she didn’t want to “dismiss” them either. She just didn’t think she’d be back with another so soon. Articulating why a book left her cold, as she wrote in her previous DNF post, is as revealing, hopefully, and interesting, as why it did. Here are some more romance novels that didn’t work for Miss Bates and reasons why not. Every time Miss Bates writes one of these posts (and they are sorta fun to write), she feels like she should break out into an Adele song, setting fire to rain …
Miss Bates admits to a certain superficial aesthetic weakness for alliteration and a pretty cover. Caroline Mortimer’s Darian Hunter: Duke of Desire had both and Miss B. went for it. A certain trepidation set in when she read that Mortimer has written over 150 romance novels … surely, one can’t sustain excellence with that level of production? (On the other hand, her beloved Betty Neels wrote over a hundred; even The Divine Bets had her clunkers, though.) Miss Bates thought this prejudicial of her and plunged in … to meh. She supposes Mortimer’s romance perfectly serviceable and run-of-the-mill: indeed, if a reader wants tried and true imperious duke and feisty, older-woman (there’s one thing original about this romance), then Darian Hunter might do to while away a few hours. But two hours and thirty-eight-minutes worth of reading time were too much for Miss Bates. Darian Hunter, duked too young, carries the responsibility of his deceased father’s estates, guardianship of his younger brother, Anthony, and SEEKRET espionage missions for the crown in Napoleonic France. When Anthony falls for the promiscuous widow, Mariah Beecham, Countess of Carlisle, though laid up by an only-days-old bullet wound, Darian returns to London to save his baby brother from her clutches. Mariah, at five feet, had a lot going for her in Miss B’s universe: she was diminutive and that’s sure to keep Miss B. reading. Sadly, Mariah was diminutive, yes, but only seemingly promiscuous … she hides her virtue to ensure that fortune-hunters stay away and, as cover for her own SEEKRET espionage work for the crown! Miss Bates can forgive this “unlikely coincidence,” but she has a lot of trouble with the pounding-over-the-head virtue of a heroine and an overbearing hero. Actually, overbearing may be okay, but downright physically intimidating ain’t. In their first confrontation, Darian Hunter, Duke of Desire, gets in Mariah’s space, like intimidating-pushy-like. Miss B., who herself only stands at a bare five feet, was claustrophobic and wanted to smack distasteful Darian, Duke of Bleh. Add an info dump in chapter two and some copy errors (“amount of times” in place of “number of times”… eek!) and Miss Bates, spinster-grammar-geek and proud of it, was taken right out of this romance novel. (Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley. Darian‘s still around if you want to read him, at the usual vendors.)
The first chapter of Lucy Monroe’s A Virgin For His Prize near-had Miss Bates running for the hills. It was convoluted and silly and there was too much telling over showing, as any good English schoolmarm would know. Maxwell Black, tycoon, wants heiress (not terribly rich heiress, as her alcoholic dad eroded the family fortune) Romi Greyson. They were together a year ago, but she broke it off when she realized he wasn’t willing to commit to her. She’s a virgin and holding out for marriage. But she’s no puritanical miss, rather, discerning and still in love with Maxwell. Maxwell, on his part, wants Romi more than any other woman he’s known and machinates an elaborate blackmailing scheme involving getting her father into rehab, saving the Greyson company, and threatening Romi’s BFF’s fortune, all fairly benignly, unless she marry him. What bothered Miss Bates? It was sordid, not fun and clever, but distasteful. What kept her reading to nearly 70% before she gave up? There was something fresh and fun in Maxwell and Romi’s banter. Miss Bates liked Romi, the way she stood up to Maxwell and yet didn’t deny her feelings, or desire for him. She also didn’t give in to his blackmail, but counter-offered with a night of love-making and three days to think about it. It’s that love-making night that finally threw Miss Bates out of this tottering narrative. It went from funny and defiant on Romi’s part to growly and smoulder-y on Maxwell’s to LUDICROUS. It turns out that Maxwell received “lessons” in perfecting his love-making technique, with absurd passages such as Max saying to Romi:
“I studied the pressure points of the body with a master of Dim Mak who made it his life’s work to also discover the unexpected areas of the body that could give the most pleasure … Naturally, my teacher also trained me in traditional kung fu.” No wonder his body was so buff. “It was part of your exercise regimen then.” Even so, it was a little mind-boggling that Max had made a study of sex.
Um, “mind-boggling” is the word. There’s much crying out throes of passion and all, but the image of pressure points, kung fu, and quaint phrasing in “pleasuring” (Grasshopper!) had Miss Bates snort-guffawing. A Virgin For His Prize was unsavory to start, held great promise to turn out campy and fun … and then laughable and not-fun-at-all. (Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin Books, via Netgalley. This Prize Virgin is still around if you want to read her, at the usual vendors.)
Carol Marinelli’s Playing the Playboy’s Sweetheart turned Miss Bates right off from the get-go. Forget turning her off, it gave her reader-whiplash: details and backstory and insta-something and telling-not-showing came at her with a speed that could have been a virtuoso writing feat … if not for its abysmal failures. Miss Bates was taken by this baby because, let’s face it, she’d do anything to find another doctor/nurse Betty Neels universe. What she usually discovers is that La Belle Betts is the non-pareil. Without taking a breath, see if you, dear reader, can take all of this in: Emily Jackson is theatre nurse to junior surgeon and heartbreaking, womanising heartthrob, Hugh Linton. Except, as Emily tells us early on, no one breaks her heart; she’s guarding it because blah blah her parents’ divorce, REASONS. They work at The Royal, a London hospital: while life-saving surgeries occur on pallets and things, nurses weep over Hugh’s heartbreaking ways in the background, usually the cafeteria, where nurses go to cry. There are abrupt changes in POV, alternating Emily and Hugh. Suddenly, Hugh is talking to Emily about his sister’s post-natal depression and this sends Emily into a spiral of memories about her own twin half-brothers and cruel, now ex-step-mother, forbidding her to see them. She be saintly and determined to protect her heart by finding a nice staid man, Emily assures us again, out of the blue. Pronto, we’re transported to the hospital Christmas party where Hugh wants to save Emily from being driven home by the hospital nurse-drunk, Gina. Emily is internally resisting her overwhelming attraction to Hugh and determines to leave with Gina. Hugh must stop her: he grabs her and plunges his tongue down her throat. All of this, folks: In. The. Prologue. (The first chapter begins two years later.) Other than the whirlwind of events and back-stories, Marinelli’s diction carries some peculiar, unappealing, idiosyncrasies. Here’s the phrasing that sent Miss Bates running, “Never, in all her twenty-three years had a man detonated her the way Hugh had.” Detonated? Plunk went the Kindle cover. (Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley. Playboy and Sweetheart are still around if you want to read them, at the usual vendors.)