I honestly don’t know where to begin with Ashley’s Dream Maker. About a quarter of the way through, I was looking forward to a snarky review, but having slogged through it (not an easy feat), I’m too tired for snark. This romance has much good to say about tossing off the bad and embracing the good (I can get behind the themes), but it says it so badly. If romance had manga, Ashley’s would be it: caricatured characters, thoroughly one-dimensional. Her characters remind me of those Hallowe’en suits, like a Superman one, you “blow up” and get puffy muscles. There’s a kind of breezy, down-to-earth, working-class tone to the novel and characters I found entertaining maybe for ten pages and then, the repetition, the language (woman are “bitches”, “shit” is always going down) and everyone speaks like wound-up comic-book characters. Maybe this novel turns some readers’ crank, but it is NOT a romance aesthetic I enjoyed. To start, plot-non-existent: hundreds of characters, all interchangeable, all men with their chicks, or bitches … and one of them, Lottie, I think, sets up our heroine, Evan “Evie” Gardiner with one of her “boys”, Danny Magnusson. These “boys” seem to run some kind of security firm, not sure what it was, but the room they worked in had a lot of monitors, so what else could it be? It’s insta-lust and like and love for Danny and Evan, so poof, that’s taken care of. Sadly, Evan has a TERRIBLE family and she sacrifices and sacrifices and sacrifices for them: her deadbeat brother in jail, her shrew of a mother, and it goes on. Thanks to the family’s nefarious activities, Evie is embroiled in a drug heist and some gun-running, all for the sake of saving her brother’s sorry behind. Bingo, this means Danny can go totally he-man protective on Evie and have her move in with him. Continue reading
Miss Bates side-eyed Sarah M. Anderson’s Falling For Her Fake Fiancé: 5th in the Beaumont Heirs series … how tired can that get? She wasn’t keen on #3, A Beaumont Christmas Wedding (didn’t read #4). Miss Bates is a lover of pie, particularly humble pie, and especially when she has to eat her words. 😉 She had to read Falling For Her Fake Fiancé because alliteration and near-marriage-of-convenience, two elements irresistible to Miss B. She went in doubtful and emerged glowing with reader satisfaction. Hero Ethan Logan is CEO of Beaumont Brewery, dealing with redundancy, raising the “bottom line.” He takes sick companies and makes them well; then, on to the next corporate patient. Nothing’s working for him at Beaumont and his fixer pride smarts: employees wage a calling-in-sick campaign and production is down, thanks to their loyalty for former owners, the Beaumont clan. Enter stunner Beaumont sister, Frances, with cleavage and charm, sharp-tongued, armed with donuts. In a heartbeat, the employees are eating donuts and out of her hand. Ethan’s savvy businessman’s pragmatism, not his raging attraction to Frances, no, not that, finds him verbally sparring, lusting, and proposing a marriage-of-convenience. With this connection to the Beaumonts, employees will co-operate, Ethan does the job, and gets the hell out of Dodge, well, Denver. What’s in it for Frances? She is used to men’s adulation and attention, but her professional life, an online art gallery, went bust. At 30, she lives at home, feels like a failure, and wants her family’s place in the sun back. If not that, then, a little coy revenge would go a long way to assuage hurt pride. What she doesn’t count on? How nice Ethan is and how he makes her want things she never considered.
Miss Bates wended a weary way through Renée Ryan’s The Marriage Agreement. Sometimes, the world is “too much with us” and even a romance can’t carry us away from daily worries. Miss Bates can say with certainty the slow pacing and preciousness of inspirational romance make the immersive reader experience elusive. Ryan’s novel is of that ilk of eye-rolling premises calling for reader tolerance and suspension of chagrin.
Ryan’s inspirational romance opens in 1896 Denver, at the Hotel Dupree, with handsome, aloof owner, Jonathan Hawkins, and his pretty, blonde guest services manager, Fanny Mitchell. It’s obvious to the reader Fanny and Jonathan carry a whiff of notoriety. Fanny rejected a suitor, a fiancé actually, at the last minute, a man her parents, family, and friends thought ideal. She held out, rejecting a man she didn’t love who didn’t love her; her reputation, the price. Alas, it looks like scandal dogs her in Denver, possibly, according to Ryan’s rendition, the most supremely puritanical “upright” Christian town ever conceived. A broken engagement and Fanny might as well slap a J on her dress for Jezebel. Jonathan fares no better: though a successful, wealthy, caring man, who runs his businesses with employees who would otherwise be on the street, prostitutes and their children, he carries the stigma of illegitimacy and a prostitute mother. He and Fanny share friendship, affection, and an affable working relationship at the hotel. When a charity ball finds them NOT fighting (horrors! 😮 ) their attraction by sharing a kiss and caught by a gossiping silly puss of a girl, well, Jonathan, to save a woman he’s come to care deeply about, offers marriage. Continue reading
Miss Bates is peeved by the claim, and many readers make it sheepishly eyes downcast, that romance fiction is “a comfort read.” It may very well be, and she’s happy if enjoyed as such, but it’s often used to diminish the genre. She applauds rom writers, like Molly O’Keefe, who make reading romance anything but, who make the reader work to earn that HEA (and why O’Keefe runs the risk of making it meh-anti-climactic). It’s great that romance can be visceral and uncomfortable and we have O’Keefe, and others in her company (Cecilia Grant, Victoria Dahl are two who come to mind) who offer this reader experience couched in the “pretty and titillating” many readers who don’t read romance accuse the genre of being. Convincing them otherwise? That ship sailed with the Pinta and Santa Maria for Miss Bates. Second in the Into the Wild historical romance series, Tempted, like its predecessor, Seduced, proves a fine punch to the reader-gut, tackling how the horrors of war inflict psychic wounds on men and women, obstructing and obscuring intimacy and love. Continue reading
Sarah M. Anderson wrote two wonderful category romances, the first two in the series “Lawyers In Love,” A Man Of Distinction and A Man of Privilege. Miss Bates is not a lawyer as heroine, or hero fan, not even Julie James charms her. Anderson, however, did not exactly charm, but convince her with terrific characterization and believable conflict. Anderson didn’t pander to Native American or cowboy stereotypes, nor glamorize the lawyer-corporate world. She centred her characters in issues of identity and confronted them with ethical dilemmas about self-interest and “doing the right thing.” With so much goodness preceding Miss B’s reading of Sarah M. Anderson’s latest category romance, A Beaumont Christmas Wedding, Miss B. was surprised at how … well … flummoxed some of the novel left her.
It had a few points against it going in: third in a Denver-set wealthy-family saga, truth be told, Miss Bates is no fan of the “rich-family saga,” too much Dynasty in her youth. The hero, Matthew Beaumont, is chief marketing officer for Percheron Drafts Beer, the family business of a family that already has too much money and expends most of its energy on outlandish shenanigans. Just the word “marketing” is enough to put Miss B. off: but Matthew is also the “good son” who puts out fires of notoriety and scandal. He’s squeaky-clean and successful, nothing goes wrong on his watch; he’s in PR charge of his brother’s, Phillip’s, wedding to Jo Spears. Into Matthew’s well-orchestrated Christmas Eve wedding fairy tale walks heroine, Whitney Maddox, aka Whitney Wildz, former child star and disorderly teen of the scandal sheets, and Jo’s maid of honour. The chip on Matthew’s shoulder grows into a log … Continue reading