Well, dear readers, here we are again: with Miss Bates’ accumulated DNFs. Her tolerance is low as she chases the sigh-worthy romance read. Sometimes, as evident in this latest DNF post, she ventures outre-genre; it’s much much harder to please her when her preferred narrative arc is missing. The rest, romances that didn’t work for her. She’s also tapped into a few “it-was-okay” reads lately: she’s a tad disheartened, but will persist. The next winner is around the corner …
Before Miss Bates returned to reading romance after a 35-year! hiatus, she read murder mysteries, the majority of them cozies. Miss Bates is squeamish and violence resulted in insta-DNF, even if she’d read far into the novel. Once in a while, she’s nostalgic for the mystery genre and dips her toes into its waters. There’ve been successful forays, such as Amanda Flower’s Appleseed Creek cozy series. Her latest venture, the ninth volume in Rita Mae Brown’s foxhunting-set mystery series, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, was disappointing. Brown’s series is perfectly satisfactory to its readers: it’s adeptly written and fulfills their expectations of the genre. Miss Bates abandoned this mystery novel, though she recognized its qualities, because she was bored. Maybe she came to it too late: after nine books, there might be series fatigue. What put Miss Bates off were introductory pages upon pages: several summarizing the characters; some describing and naming the foxhounds; several naming and describing the horses; and, more naming and describing foxes, birds, and house pets! THEN, TO FOLLOW: TEN PAGES OF FOXHUNTING GLOSSARY. To give credit where it’s due, Brown’s protagonists are in their 70s and the hint of romance is inter-racial: all of which Miss Bates thought pretty cool. But she was still bored. She’d say that in this case, it’s a matter of “It’s me, not you;” her relationship with the long-running cozy mystery series may be over … though she’d welcome another of Flower’s Appleseed Creek novels, maybe because the romance thread is so strong and appealing. Who knows? Miss Bates, like most readers, can be maddeningly fickle. (Rita Mae Brown’s Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, published by Ballantine Books, is available in your preferred formats, at your favourite vendors. Miss Bates, ungrateful wretch that she is, received an e-ARC, from Ballantine Books, via Netgalley.)
Miss Bates gives inspirational romance a wide berth (and narrow one to PNR; we all have our quirks). Every inspirational romance title she picks up may contain that perfect combination of love, ritual, romance, desire, and faith-commitment. Could her expectations be too high? Certainly, Robin Lee Hatcher’s Love Without End left much to be desired. In concept, there was a lot to like: interwoven historical and contemporary narratives, a divorced, single-dad hero, widowed, single-mother heroine, and a setting in the beautiful mountains of Washington state. Chet Leonard, horse breeder, father of two (and the tragic loss of one) meets Kimberley Welch, when she moves to the community of Kings Meadow with her teen-age daughter, Tara. Tara has been gifted a horse and Kimberley wants her to keep it and learn to ride, but can’t afford either. She appeals to Chet; and Chet, to save Kimberley’s pride, asks Tara to work at the ranch in return for the horse’s keep and riding lessons. Woven into Chet and Kimberley’s present-day story is the 1944 and thereafter story of Anna McKenna who, escaping an abusive cousin after her parents’ deaths, brought the first breeding horse to Chet’s grandfather’s ranch when his grandparents sheltered her. Anna is moral arbiter and set up to guide Chet, Kimberley, and everyone around her to love of each other and the Lord. There was potential here, but Miss Bates couldn’t warm to the stilted narrative. The dialogue was stiff and unnatural: everyone sounded so darn virtuous! These were not flesh-and-blood people – and they certainly didn’t have much going in their nether regions – but one-dimensional cut-outs who sounded like they belonged to Leave It To, Beaver. The characters’ saintliness left Miss Bates indifferent; the writing, so frightened of any deviation from some mistaken notion of white-bread perfection, couldn’t rise above to take any risks … in characterization, or themes. Except for Chet’s ex-wife, who stereotypically was the Evil Witch-Mother who abandoned her children and grieving husband. She certainly doesn’t get to tell her story. The horses seemed interesting though and no glossaries were provided. (Robin Lee Hatcher’s Love Without End, published by Thomas Nelson, is available in your preferred formats, at your favourite vendors. Miss Bates sheepishly admits to receiving an e-ARC from Thomas Nelson, via Netgalley.)
Miss Bates is a whiny-poopy mess in these DNF posts and certainly more so in this penultimate quibble. THERE IS TOO MUCH BASEBALL in Karen Rock’s A League Of Her Own … which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, especially if you like baseball. But Miss Bates is Canadian: give her Rachel Gibson … the sound of skates swishing over ice, handsome missing-toothed brawlers, shimmy in back yards, street hockey, poetry on ice, folks, deep dark hatred of rivalries among the Original Six (can you name the Original Six?), but baseball, that most lackadaisical of sports, all that green and where are they running to/from? This is NOT a good reason to DNF Rock’s contemporary closed-bedroom-door romance, but Miss Bates skimmed the baseball/softball bits and grew wearier and wearier. If the characters, their attraction and conflict, had held her attention better, then she would’ve stuck with it. But Rock’s A League Of Her Own suffers from what Miss Bates calls woe-is-me syndrome: in this case, hero and heroine possess such a litany of badnesses in their back-stories that it’s difficult to believe any one person can be so hard done by. Heather Gadway returns to North Carolina to manage her father’s Triple-A Minor League (hey, Miss Bates takes notes) baseball team when he suffers a heart attack. She finds an economically depressed town and a team about to be sold off, unless she can salvage it. Her pitcher, Garrett Wolf, may be her best chance to do so, if not for certain reasons behind his comeback that can return him to a bad place. Woe-Is-Me-Heather comes complete with a father for whom she can never live up to his ideals, a pill-addicted-mom she hasn’t seen in years, the same mom who nearly killed her in a car accident when she was 13, a woman trying to manage a man’s team in a man’s world … and, if all of that isn’t enough, a speech impediment. Garrett Wolf ‘s version of Woe-Is-Me comes with an addiction to the bottle and a hard-won, but tottering sobriety, a promising career down the tubes, his last chance to make it to the minors at 27 … and, if that isn’t enough, a sad sad back-story as a foster child. (Garrett turned Miss Bates right off from the get-go because he’s a prig who shames come-on girls in a bar. He sees Heather, on the other hand, as a fresh-faced “good girl.”) Nevertheless, Rock can rock some prose, though her dialogue is stiff. If Garrett didn’t have a stick up his butt, but sported a hockey stick, Miss Bates might have stuck with this baby. (Karen Rock’s A League Of Her Own, published by Harlequin, in their Heartwarming line, is available in your preferred formats, at your favourite vendors. Miss Bates, Her-Name-Is-Mud, received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.)
Miss Bates is a sucker for a bad-girl gone good (even more so for a good girl gone bad, but you take what you can get). That led her to Abby Green’s Fonseca’s Fury. It’s standard HP fare plot-wise and Miss B’s all about suspension of disbelief when it comes to the overwrought fantasy-world and heightened emotions of this category. There’s nothing new in Fonseca’s Fury: bad-girl-party-girl Serena dePiero was dancing up a storm with her sinuous limbs when she apparently planted drugs on Luca Fonseca, which saw him arrested and jailed. A year later, she appears as an aid worker in Luca’s Brazilian company, Rosecca Industries and Philanthropic Foundation. ‘Cause nothing says alpha-taming ahead than capitalism with a heart. Serena’s family, on the other hand, hails from some super-old money: “their vast family fortune stretched back to medieval times.” ‘Cause only a feudal heroine can foil this bazillionaire hero.
Miss Bates takes HPs in good fun, but Green’s novel ended at chapter two for her because the writing put her off. There was excessive “spurting” and not where it counts. When Serena saw Luca again after their drug misunderstanding: ” … she felt a spurt of panic” … oops, thought Miss B. Sometimes, “spurts” are slow-moving: “For a big man, he moved with innate grace [not learned, folks] … incredible quality of self-containment oozed from every pore.” “Spurts” also come (sorry!) in the form of “spats”: “he spun around and spat out tersely,” “He’d spat out, ‘Damn you, Serena.’ ” There’s adjective overload: “he stood out … by dint of that preternatural stillness and the incredible forcefield of charismatic magnetism.” Not just any magnetic forcefield, but the charismatic kind. Redundancies run amok: “Serena had been stupefied. Transfixed with shock.” She may be catatonic. Some sentences are bizarre, “The woman in front of him now looked pale, and as if she was going for an interview in an insurance office.” What?! There’s pointy-end imagery: “Serena knew well that there was enough truth behind the headlines to make her feel that ever-present prick of shame” and Luca too gets his own arrow, “The fact that she had gone paler [she’s translucent at this point] was something that Luca didn’t like to acknowledge that he’d noticed. Or his very bizarre dart of concern.” The spurts, by chapter one’s end, have increased intensity: “her soft mouth yielding to his forceful kiss, exploded into his consciousness and within a nano-second he was battling a surge of blood to his groin” (yuck); also, blood “flow” results in ALL of Luca “hardening”: “Luca had felt the blood flow through his body, hardening it, and he drawled softly.” Hard-Body-Soft-Drawl Hero Syndrome. Incurable. Also, it may explain his “preternatural stillness,” he can’t move. (Abby Green’s Fonseca’s Fury, published by Harlequin, is available in your preferred formats, at the usual vendors. Miss Bates, Hides-Her-Shame-Under-A-Reader-Rock, received an e-ARC from Harlequin, via Netgalley.)