REVIEW: Karina Bliss’s RESURRECTION

ResurrectionNo matter the claims to originality, no matter how new and fresh the voice, 99.9% of romances follow the narrative pattern of encounter, attraction, obstacles, false Eden, betrayal/estrangement, and resolution/HEA, and all centring solely, exclusively on the central couple, their conflict, their feelings, and their between-the-sheets time. But Bliss always manages to surprise me, always twists that old familiar, comfortable pattern to make me stand up and notice. In historical romance, only Rose Lerner has managed to do the same (see especially my review of True Pretenses). I’ve loved each of Bliss’s Rock Star romances. She delighted, moved, and surprised me in each one, but her fourth, Resurrection, might be the best one yet. Surprisingly, its quota of romantic tension is near-zero. The hero and heroine’s feelings are so apparent and easy that all the while, Bliss sneaks in other interesting things, themes and ideas, and still, in the end, makes me sigh with the perfection of her HEA (I also ugly-cried, but the scrunched-up faced Miss Bates is a thing best left unimagined).

Resurrection starts out mundanely enough: former rock arm-candy Stormy Hagen has remade herself as Lily Stuart, nanny to a lovely aristocratic British family and making her way to an online degree in Early Childhood Education. Her past, however, returns with a vengeance when a sex tape she once privately made with a rock-star lover is pirated and uploaded. In swoops her white-lady-knight best friend Dimity Graham. Lily finds sanctuary with Dimity and the rock band she manages, of which her sweetheart of a boyfriend Seth Curran is a member. The other members of T-Minus 6 are Jared Walker (with wife Kayla and precocious kids in tow, Maddie and dumpling Rocco), and Lily’s secret crush, lead singer Moss McFadden.

If Lily carries a little candlelight of liking and attraction for Moss, Moss carries a great big torch for her. But Moss is the king of horn-dog cool, a night prowler, a man of the streets who keeps his heart under lock and key. What I loved about Bliss’s romance the most is that you would think this is sufficient to build and ho-hum play out this will-they-or-won’t-they-you-know-they-will romance between Moss and Lily. What Bliss does is so much more interesting: she makes the romance a given, not secondary but essential to Moss and Lily’s growth. Bliss works out a premise for Moss and Lily to stay together beyond the band and Dimity’s house-sharing. Moss understands that it’s important for Lily to maintain her dignity by earning her keep and being useful: he hires her as his driver. Lily has a place and purpose while the sex tape debacle tapers out … until Moss is thrown a huge, life-altering loop and he has to ask Lily to stay on. 

Resurrection‘s first half tilts more towards Lily and what she’s about, only hinting at the reasons behind Moss’s darkness and torment. Lily is easy to read: she was arm-candy, but it was never what she was about. It was how her mother wanted her to be and she played to type. A break-up with Zander Freedman (Rise‘s hero), bad decisions, humiliation, and deep sense of shame at not being true to herself saw Lily bring about her own “make-under”: she removed implants, gave up collagen, stripped her hair back to its natural brown and gave up contact lenses for tortoise-shell frames. More importantly, she got her GED, became a nanny, and is studying for her Early Childhood Education degree. Lily is kind, loving, and giving. She loves soft, hurt things and she loves hard, hurt things and in this novel, she nurtures both. She knows what she wants: a home, a family, and a man who is faithful, loving, and committed. I loved her: she was funny, true, ethical, and kind, but never a pushover.

Moss is one of the walking wounded: talented and aloof, he doesn’t stand a chance against his Lily-crush. He’s a goner, though he holds out against his Lily-love in the worst possible ways. Moss doesn’t think he deserves or is capable of love. And because this is a trope we see too much of in contemporary romance heroes, you’d think it’d be trite. Not in Bliss’s hands. Moss is real: a man who wants love and comfort, friendship and commitment, but whose life has left him adrift as to how he can have these things. Bliss’s phrase, “If darkness was his friend, hope was his bitterest foe” describes him perfectly.

With two protagonists who’ve had their share of wild oats in the form of an overabundance of between-the-sheets clocking-in, Bliss cleverly keeps the loves scenes to very late and very few. The importance is to build up the yearning and affection, the care, tenderness, the love, so that these two experienced souls are awkward and helpless: ” ‘I’m nervous,’ he admitted. ‘I want you so much, but I have no experience of intimacy … how to make love.’ ‘That’s okay,’ she reassured him. ‘I don’t know how to be made love to.’ ” Isn’t that beautiful?: how the arm-candy and “pick-up king” are like gauche teen-agers before their first time making love and yet so aware and adult of what this means.

From the way I’ve described it, you’d think this is what there is of “resurrection” for Lily and Moss. Nope. Like my favourite of Bliss’s Superromances, A Prior Engagement, Bliss has curveballs, so curvy they defy physics. Moss’s “resurrection” is a long, difficult, emotionally wrenching road: all the while, love in the form of friends, support, care, and joy are right there, if only he would take them for himself, if only he would recognize his own worth. I think Bliss has penned one of the best romances out this year and I hope it gets the readership it deserves, just as Moss does in his and Lily’s HEA. With Miss Austen, we can agree that in Bliss’s Resurrection, “there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.

Karina Bliss’s Resurrection is self-published. It was released on June 17th and may be found at your preferred vendor. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from the author.

12 thoughts on “REVIEW: Karina Bliss’s RESURRECTION

  1. What a great review. I was so looking forward to this book and she did not disappoint. I’m also glad she got the rights back to her old Harlequins and is reissuing them with covers that are not hideous. She’s a fabulous author and Harlequin really dropped the ball by not giving her a contract for single titles.

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    • Oh! Thank you!!! I had a hard time not writing a spoiler, so I’m glad it captures the novel. It was absolutely fabulous, loved every second it and loved the characters so much. I really cared about them.

      As for Harlequin, they dropped the ball on quite a few of their most fabulous authors: Sarah Mayberry is another one and now, with the end of Superromance, Janice Kay Johnson. Some, like Mayberry, don’t even write romance any more. It’s so disappointing that Harlequin has fewer and fewer authors I care to read. Another loss is Jessica Hart. I just hope that Marion Lennox is still going to write for them, I’d hate to see her go as well.

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  2. I really enjoyed this series a lot (even if I could never figure out what kind of rockers these guys were – punk/alt/indie/heavy metal/thrash/grunge, etc.).

    Bliss is really good at creating characters who feel like adults and reacted in adult ways to each other. And I loved Stormy and liked Moss. But I found the last section of the book a bit over the top. It’s important that Moss learns that he is indeed someone who can love and who can be trusted to take care of others, but I thought that final act felt a bit rushed and underdeveloped and the denouement in the courthouse felt unrealistic and snapped me out of the story. So I’m not quite as positive about this book as you were, but I still recommend it. I can’t wait to see what Bliss does next.

    Sarah Mayberry is still writing romances. She has one coming out in August — The Cowboy Meets His Match. It’s being published by Tule Publishing (which is an ebook publisher that is publishing lots of ex-Harlequin authors and even a couple of current Harlequin ones). Last year Mayberry co-wrote a novel, “Temporary”, with Sarina Bowen. It was published under Mayberrry’s own self-publishing imprint Small Cow productions I believe.

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    • As I *whispers* almost never listen to music, except for occasionally the all-day classical station … I assume that all rock bands are like The Rolling Stones, but not geriatric. LOL!!!

      I totally see your point about the ending, I kept hitting the Kindle pages thinking the romance was over and something else would pop up. But, yes, my love for the Bliss prose and Stormy/Lily and Moss (didn’t you love that very tiny memory of his mother calling him Aiden?) over-rode all. Plus, I was on a book high, coming off of TWO DNFs.

      I was glad to see Mayberry back in the romance writing game, really glad. Her new stuff doesn’t appeal terribly much. I’m not a fan of rodeo romances in particular. The self-pubbed Her Best Worst Mistake from eons ago is great, though. Have you read that one?

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      • I do like a lot of what Tule is doing, but I’m not a big fan of the cowboy/rodeo thing either. I’m from a small town and I know real cowboys and do not in any way find them romantic! And small town romances…meh. Sarah Mayberry has other irons in the fire now, unlike when she was under contract with Harlequin and pumping out at least 4 good books a year and I miss her stories. All They Need held the top spot of all the books (not just Sarah’s books) for me for a long time and I miss looking forward to her next release. As far as Harlequin dropping the ball on many of their excellent authors, I must say that I loved Sarah Morgan’s Presents but am less engaged with her single titles. I DNF’d the first one, not because it was bad, but I think it just wasn’t holding my interest and I found something more engaging. The rest are languishing in the TBR pile. I may be wrong about this, but it seems some authors who are used to being under contract with firm deadlines struggle with meeting self imposed deadlines when they are switching over to self publishing, particularly if they’ve had a strong relationship with an editor.

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        • I agree on All They Need, it was a terrific book. I also have incredible love for Within Reach, Suddenly You, and particularly, The Other Side Of Us, which doens’t get the reader-lover as much. You know who else I miss? I miss Donna Alward’s categories, and Molly O’Keefe wrote some terrific ones. I mourn Janice Kay Johnson, Kathy Altman, and Liz Talley. They’re all still writing, as Mayberry is, but I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head. There were some great, silent, and plugging away at making books better editors out there. And the self-pubbed work really shows. I hope they, like the authors, were able to find editing work elsewhere.

          Sometimes I think that romance’s ideal length is the category and that’s why the longer especially small-town contemporaries don’t work as well. But, despite my opinion, I read fewer categories because Harq. just lost a lot of good authors and went off in directions I’m not interested in, like the Dare line. Not my cuppa.

          I think Morgan as a category writer was supremely good and none of her longer contemporaries will ever measure up (unlike O’Keefe’s Crooked Creek series, which is the BEST romance trilogy, IMHO). I don’t know if you’ve read Morgan’s Playing By the Greek’s Rules, but it is, by far, my favourite HP and one of my favourite romances ever.

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          • Yes, Playing by the Greek’s Rules is one of my favorites as well. Another author I love is Kelly Hunter and I believe she is doing quite a bit of editing work for Tule and writing some cowboy/rodeo books, too. Her Presents “With this Fling” is one of my top 10 favorite books, I reread it often and construct epilogue scenes in my head while walking my dogs. Two more Mayberry books you haven’t mentioned that are my favorites are Her Secret Fling and More than One Night. And I just went on a huge SM bender and read the Hot Island Nights/Her Best Worst Mistake duet and The Last Goodbye/One Good Reason, which are now also tagged as The Adamson Brothers, and the two Brothers Ink books. And Karina Bliss re-released her Mr. books…this is why my storage room is still a mess. I just need all my favorite books to stop calling my name for re-reads and get back on my “I must put this place in order” track.

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            • Oh, Kelly Hunter! I’ve read Wife For A Week and Bedded For Diamonds and loved them both. I have With This Fling in the Doomsday TBR.

              Oh, how could I forget them! I loved Her Secret Fling and even reviewed More Than One Night: so good, subtle and great leads. I have the “mister” books in the TBR as well … SIGH.

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      • Oh I love all sorts of music from classical to jazz to singer/songwriter to funk, but I wouldn’t claim to be an expert. Just a magpie, happily listening to what I like without worrying about the details.

        And I also started out thinking of Rage/T-6 as being like the Stones as well — except that to be playing that type of rock and to be as big as the old Rage was supposed to have been, Zander would have had to be as old as the Stones. But I have found this is a problem with a lot of the music star romances that I’ve read — the descriptions about the music and environment/culture (e.g., types of fans, the places these bands are playing, types of songs played, instruments played by musicians) don’t always match up into a coherent believable music scene. Good thing that I’m usually reading romances for the characters and their emotional journey. All I ask is for a veneer of believablity when it comes to situation and plot.

        And I’ve read (and own) all of Sarah Mayberry’s books (and all of Sarah Morgan’s for good measure). I enjoyed Mayberry’s first 3 Tule books (Almost a Bride, Make-Believe Wedding, and Bound to the Bachelor). They actually felt quite a bit like her old Harlequin Blaze books (e.g., Anything for You, Her Secret Fling). Although they are set in small-town Montana, they didn’t feature cowboys and they weren’t small-town annoyingly cutesy.

        Mayberry’s co-authored book done with Sarina Bowen (Temporary) turned out to be better than I thought it would be. Bowen is really hit or miss (and mostly misses I have found) so I was leery going in, but in the end I found the book fun.

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        • My only musical day’s accompaniment is a leftover from a music appreciation course that I took in liberal arts. So, truth be told, I do like to have some Baroque in the background. But my main listening pleasures these days is in podcasts. I have a feed of about 70 and am always up for more!

          I have all of the two Sarahs too and am hoarding them like crazy. I have some unread Morgans, but alas, no unread Mayberrys.

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  3. Miss Bates, my TBR pile is becoming increasingly unwieldy because I keep reading reviews on your site that intrigue me so I buy another book to read.
    However despite the state of my TBR pile, I enjoyed your discussion with Kim about authors you like and which are their best books because it not only suggests authors to try but which of their books are the best examples of their work and thus a good starting point.
    Would you consider reworking your exchange with Kim as a blog post with a view to starting a discussion about some of the Harlequin/ exHarlequin / category authors, their backlist and what they are writing now.
    I have previously told you of my enjoyment of Janice Kay Johnson’s books and I would love to hear from you and others of recommendations along the lines of “ If you enjoyed JKJ, you may enjoy…….”
    Now I have to go buy a Karina Bliss to add to the pile…….

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    • Thank you for your kind comment! That is the beauty of the TBR: watching it rise and rise and rise … and dreaming of uninterrupted reading time!

      I’ll see if I can rustle up some rec from Twitter and write that blog post. It’s a great idea to our defunct favourite categories and authors!

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