MINI-REVIEW: Christine Rimmer’s MS. BRAVO AND THE BOSS

ms_bravo_and_the_bossMiss Bates is looking at a very busy few weeks, so her reviews will be especially “mini” and impressionistic. She restlessly DNF-ed several titles … too trite, too much tell, *shudder* insta-lust … before settling on Christine Rimmer’s Ms. Bravo and the Boss, an author she enjoyed with her first foray into the Bravo-Word, a series whose novels run in the double-digits!

Ms. Bravo and the Boss tells of the meet-near-fail, burgeoning sympathy, eventual courtship, betrayal, and reconciliation of two likeable characters, the eponymous “Ms”, Elise Bravo, and reclusive Justice Creek, Colorado-resident thriller writer, Jed Walsh. When the novel opens, Elise’s life is a shambles: her business burnt to the ground, her best friend off to Seattle, her relationship with her family a tad estranged, working two menial jobs (on the humiliating generosity of two Bravo sisters), living above a donut shop, eating too many of the sweet-rounds and not quite fitting into her clothes. Jed too is in a pickle: he has trouble keeping an assistant and is working on a tight deadline. Jed needs to find the right person to help him with his “process”: dictating his novels to a silent, fast typist while he either throws knives, or cleans guns. His gruff ways and beastly temper chased every assistant away. Since his grandmotherly typist, Anna, left to live with her grandchildren, he’s blocked. Until Nell, Elise’s sister, suggests that Elise take the job.  
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REVIEW: Laura K. Curtis’s MIND GAMES

Mind_GamesWhen Miss Bates returned to reading romance oh-around-’07, her choices were either historical romance, or romantic suspense. Of the latter, she vividly remembers reading Cherry Adair’s Kiss and Tell, pulling an all-nighter to finish the story of operative Jake, heroine Marnie, a snow storm, bad guys, and Marnie’s need for life-saving coumadin. Maybe because it was a first, maybe because it’s good, the book stayed with her. She went on to Brockmann’s Troubleshooters (yet to be completed) and fell in love with Pamela Clare’s and Lisa Marie Rice’s romantic suspense novels. Since then, Miss Bates hasn’t really found a romantic suspense writer to keep her up tense for the end, and cheering for a sympathetic hero and heroine – until Laura K. Curtis’s Mind Games! Heroine Dr. Jane Evans works for Clive Handler’s Applied Human Intelligence agency, developing psychiatric medications. Jane is a workaholic, living without partner or friends, research her sole focus. Walking to her lab from a NYC subway one morning, thugs attempt to abduct her, but a blond giant rescues her – a blond hunk of giant who looks awfully familiar. He’s Eric Sorensen, the fellow student she tutored in university. Eric is not there by accident. He’s been hired by AHI’s head to protect Jane. *Someone* wants Jane for her Mensa-mind and the life-changing drugs she can create. Despite Eric and Harp Security’s best efforts, Jane is kidnapped and brought to a Mexican secret-laboratory location. She and her lab partner, Daniela, are forced to work on developing  a drug that will create conscienceless super-soldiers. Eric and his team follow the cartel’s trail and stage a daring rescue – but Eric and Jane’s HEA-road remains danger-riddled. Continue reading

MINI-REVIEW: Karina Bliss’s WOO ME

Woo_MeKarina Bliss’s Woo Me is one-third of a unique three-part novella series. Its events occur concurrently with those in Joan Kilby’s Win Me and Sarah Mayberry’s Wait For Me. The novellas recount the story of three friends, “sisters-of-the-heart,” attending a traditional Bachelor and Spinster Ball in the Australian outback. Ellie, Jen, and Beth forged friendships in a girls boarding school, seeing each other through farce and tragedy. Now, at 28, they’re in various stages of heartbreak. They congregate at Ellie’s father’s cattle station and resolve to heal their broken, neglected hearts by romping through the bacchanalian shenanigans at the local Bachelor and Spinster Ball. Bliss’s Woo Me is Jen Tremaine’s story. Jen was dumped by her slick ex-boyfriend, the one who re-fell-in-love with his ex-wife. While drowning heart-sorrows with drinkie-poos, Jen accepts Ellie and Beth’s dare to wear Ellie’s “Clarabelle” cow costume at the B&S ball. With Dave’s betrayal fresh, Jen isn’t looking to mend her heart with a fling. She’s going to support Ellie in her unrequited love pursuit of her father’s wrangler, Rick, and heal her newly-divorced, fragile friend, Beth. One sexy, funny, and loving security guard later, Jen re-assesses her “man-ban”.
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TINY-REVIEW: HelenKay Dimon’s CHAIN OF COMMAND

Chain_Of_CommandHelenKay Dimon’s first in the Greenway Range series, Chain Of Command, was easy to pick up in the spirit of nostalgia. When Miss Bates started reading romance eight or so years ago, contemporary romance was rife with military heroes. Dimon was writing some delightful Hawaiian-set romance with protective cops and ex-military-type heroes: they were sexy and fun. Reading Chain Of Command about ex-Marine hero, Sawyer Cain, and heroine, Hailey Thorne, was all about getting those feelings back. But Miss Bates is not the reader she used to be when any romance, as long as it was romance, would do. Tastes change and trends that were attractive eight years ago are no longer. Reading Chain Of Command felt, well, tired. Sawyer Cain and his coterie of ex-military buddies, Jason, Marcus, and Marcus’s SEAL lover, Will (that WAS a nice touch) and sister, Molly, converge on an area north of San Diego to start a business. It is especially important to Sawyer, who carries guilt from their time in Afghanistan and is haunted by the soldiers lost there, to keep everyone together, provide them with viable work and create a safe haven. He wants to acquire the land his deceased buddy, Rob Turner, intended him to have and use it to establish a firing range business. The land, however, was left to Rob’s adopted daughter, heroine Hailey, and her coterie of friends are involved in it too: one of them is Rob’s fiancée, Kat, and their friend, Jessie, who lives with Hailey because of her abusive ex-husband, Pete. Continue reading

REVIEW: Marguerite Kaye’s THE SOLDIER’S DARK SECRET, Or Exorcising Demons and Resting Ghosts

Soldier's_Dark_SecretMiss Bates doesn’t read as much histrom as she used to, but it is her first romance-reading love. A new-to-her-author, Marguerite Kaye, is someone she’s been curious about since Kaye’s sheikh books were published by Harlequin, Innocent In the Sheikh’s Harem especially looked intriguing. As Miss B’s leery of sheikhs, she took a chance on her first Kaye read in the Regency romance The Soldier’s Dark Secret. It contains some of Miss Bates’ favourite romance conventions: hero and heroine solve a mystery; multiple locations, including continental ones; and, the plot is centred on working together to overcome instead of bickering to make it to the bedroom. Kaye’s protagonists don’t squabble, they converse in heated, or humorous tones … and still manage to be sexy as heck.

Waterloo veteran, former Lieutenant-Colonel Jack Trestain struggles with PTSD at his brother’s, Sir Charles’, estate. Enter Parisian heroine Celeste Marmion, commissioned by Charles to paint Trestain Manor’s grounds before his wife’s, Eleanor’s, planned renovations begin. Celeste, however, has another reason for being in England: she seeks the truth of her mother’s mysterious death, “to find some answers and close an unhappy chapter in her life.” Continue reading

REVIEW: Laura Florand’s ALL FOR YOU And Heaven Too …

All_For_YouMiss Bates loves chocolate: she likes it with sea salt; she likes it dark; she likes it Lindt; and, she likes it with almonds too. Laura Florand’s novels are an original bar in contemporary romance: Paris-set in the world of the chocolatiers, hot romance, soft-heart-hard-abs alpha heroes, and heroines who hold their own, asserting their identity and independence before the hero’s uber-protectiveness. With the help of one of the most beautiful cities in the world and best cultivated national palates, Florand builds a unique world in contemporary romance. Her latest, the first in the Paris Hearts series, All For You is a title – in light of the hero’s sacrifices – most fitting. A character’s chocolate palate (in this case, the hero’s) serves as a means of identifying and communicating with him – because he is one hard-headed fella. His love’s honey-hibiscus chocolate creation is her way of saying this-is-me “if anyone knew how to properly taste her.” 😉 The chocolatière, heroine Célie Clément, is chief chocolate-creator for Dominique Richard, hero of The Chocolate Touch; the hero, Josselin “Joss” Castel, five-year veteran of the French Foreign Legion. It was lovely to see Dom with his girlfriend, Jaime, soon to be wife if only he were worthy of being her husband. With this notion enters a major theme in this latest novel: to be worthy of the other, deserving of love and trust, to overcome fears of inferiority and abandonment. So much angst and so much sexy in one succinct chocolate-filled soupçon of a delightful novel. Continue reading

REVIEW: Donna Alward’s TREASURE ON LILAC LANE, Or Letting Your Light Shine

Treasure_On-Lilac_LaneIn her most recent Donna Alward review, Miss Bates declared Alward the “queen of domestic romance” in reference to her category novels. The first novel in her Jewell Cove series, The House On Blackberry Hill, written under a different publisher, introduced new elements to Alward’s winning category themes: a certain mysticism, a woo-woo-ness and preciousness that didn’t sit thoroughly well. Miss Bates is an Alward fan (from the moment she closed the final, sopping-Kleenex page of The Cowboy Who Loved Her, one of Miss Bates’ favourite category romances and one she’s often suggested to successfully turn readers onto the genre); she was ready to like Blackberry Hill. Treasure On Lilac Lane, however, turned out even better. Alward tempered the woo-woo with a gentle inspirational element, whisper-thin but moving nonetheless, cranked up the fleshiness, and re-introduced her signature working-class, or lower-middle-class hero and heroine, battered by life, struggling to find their way and waylaid by attraction, desire, and love. Continue reading

MOSTLY A READING, Bit of a Review: Rose Lerner’s SWEET DISORDER “Does More Bewitch”

MedSweetDisorderReading Rose Lerner’s Sweet Disorder, first in her Regency-Era-set Lively St. Lemeston series, Miss Bates recognized Lerner’s connection to Georgette Heyer and what Miss Bates calls the “nouvelle vague” of romance writers, such as Emma Barry: educated, erudite, both entrenched in the romance tradition and bringing new elements to it. Like Heyer, to whose influence Lerner admits in her author bio, she writes a combination of adventure with touches of farcical comedy, also glimmers of pathos, in an ensemble cast, with nuanced villains and – mai oui – a central couple’s romance. (Sweet Disorder feels like a departure from the sombre tone of Lerner’s previous novel, A Lily Among Thorns, and this lighter touch suits her. Miss Bates hopes she keeps it.) Like Barry’s latest series, The Easy Part, Lerner unfolds the romance couple’s relationship in a political arena. The day’s politics inform the hero and heroine’s courtship, bringing them together, setting them apart. They serve as coalescence and disruption. Sweet Disorder, set in the West Sussex riding of Lively St. Lemeston in an election year, 1812, sees hero’s, Nick Dymond’s, brother, Tony, struggle to beat the Tory candidate. The stakes are high for the Whig Dymonds, as they are, it turns out, for their loyal voters, the Knight family, one of whom, writer of sensational tales for Girl’s Companion, Phoebe, now the widow Sparks, is our heroine. (It’s safe to keep reading, Miss Bates has gone out of her way to avoid spoilers. Sweet Disorder‘s plot is vulnerable to them, so there’s not much summary either.) Continue reading

REVIEW: Kate Noble’s THE GAME AND THE GOVERNESS, Standing in Someone Else’s Shoes

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Run-of-the-mill cover for a unique romance novel!

Lessons are learned in Kate Noble’s historical romance, The Game and the Governess. One article led Miss B. to reading it: Jessica’s Book Riot recommendation and one made her think about it, Robin Reader’s DA essay on “Romance and the ‘Meaning of Life’.”  Robin Reader’s questions about romance’s reluctance to engage in existential speculation, which centred, in the discussion, on inspirational romance, raised interesting ideas. Miss Bates thinks that romance is even more enjoyable when it implies an ideological basis. And really, is there any way to escape the ideological, even when an author purports that she’s just telling a good romantic story? That, however, is not the job of the author, but the critic, which is why, with Northrop Frye, Miss Bates would agree that criticism can be as “creative” an act as fiction-weaving. Miss B. digresses, as is her wont. Suffice to say for her purpose here that Noble’s romance novel is, like Jane Austen to whom she has been compared (see Jessica’s review), a novel of ideas, interesting, reader-chewable ideas of privilege, class, merit, and personality.

Noble begins with an interesting premise, years before she brings her hero, “Lucky Ned” Granville, Earl of Ashby, and heroine, governess Phoebe Baker, together. Her premise is “fortunes falling, fortunes rising.” When Ned was twelve, living modestly with his mother in Hollyhock, Leicestershire, his uncle, the then earl, sent him to school, grooming him to be the future earl. Ned never saw his mother again. When we meet him, Ned is a careless, carefree, amoral aristocrat; he’s not a charming rake, hiding his kindness and consideration. It’s not his dissipation that is important, but his attitude towards others and self-importance. When Phoebe was seventeen, she, because of her father’s bad investments, lost her place in the world: from soon-to-be débutante to orphaned governess (and unlike Jane Eyre, whom Miss B. couldn’t help but think of, no fortune lurks in the shadows to make her palatable to an aristocratic husband). In the midst of her loss of fortune is a fraudster, Mr. Sharp, who also milked the then young earl, Ned. Phoebe’s rage, at the time, led her to writing two hate-filled letters to the young man who had the power and privilege to put an end to Mr. Sharp and did not, though he too had been defrauded by him. When we meet her five years later, Phoebe has wrested equanimity from her situation; she makes the best of her governess role, loving her charges, the delightful Rose and Henry, daughter and son to Sir Nathan and Lady Widcoate, and reveling in her teaching role. Her misfortune has given her, if not passion, then contentment and occasionally delight. Phoebe remains a model of hard work and positive attitude: a lesson that Nat needs to learn if his life is to have purpose. Continue reading

MINI-REVIEW: Trish Milburn’s THE TEXAN’S COWGIRL BRIDE

Texan's_Cowgirl_BrideMiss Bates is always interested in a romance novel portraying an ill hero, or heroine (though it’s interesting that she has yet to read an ill hero). As Fitzgerald’s narrator, Nick Carraway, said in The Great Gatsby, ” … there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.” This has made for some great romance novels; in both cases, the heroine is ill, or recovering from a life-threatening illness: Donna Alward’s How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart and Karina Bliss’ Here Comes the Groom. Indeed, how a romance writer treats the topic (sorry for the pun) makes for compelling reading, especially the hero and heroine’s navigation of their relationship in mortality’s crosshairs. It’s the only reason Miss Bates made it through the sole J. R. Ward Blackdagger Brotherhood novel she ever read, Lover Eternal. (She quite liked it, but one was enough, thank you.) Trish Milburn’s The Texan’s Cowgirl Bride, a mouthful of a title, held that promise for Miss Bates. She really, really wanted to like the story of Savannah Baron, peach-pie-baker par excellence and store-owner, faced with a life-threatening illness, and soldier-turned-private-investigator, widowed hero, Travis Shepard. Milburn’s romance novel is set up with interesting premises: its problems lie in their execution. Continue reading