I enjoyed the first in Roni Loren’s series “The Ones Who Got Away”, centred on a group of school-shooting survivors as they heal from the past and find love, twelve years after the shooting. I thought the first was great and looked forward to the second, the here named The One You Can’t Forget. Though heroine Rebecca Lindt is the high school shooting survivor, the hero is a survivor of a sort too: from loss, financial ruin, divorce, and alcoholism. Between the two of them, you’d think Loren’s novel’d be a misery-fest. While it’s a serious novel about serious things, it’s also funny, hopeful, and sexy.
We met Rebecca Lindt in the series début, The Ones Who Got Away, as the stiff, cool prom queen to the heroine’s sexy wild child persona. But Rebecca was Liv Arias’s great love’s prom date: Finn may have put Rebecca on his arm, but he was kissing Liv in the supply closet … when tragedy struck. In the first book, Finn and Liv are reunited lovers and Rebecca is the rejected girl next door. Loren more than makes up for Rebecca’s losses by giving her Wes Garrett, tattooed chef extraordinaire. I thought, from Loren’s spectacular start, that I would love The One You Can’t Forget more than The Ones Who Got Away … but nope, the latter still edges out the former, but the former came very very close. Part of that was thanks to a spectacular “meet-cute”, which wasn’t so cute, but definitely memorable.
Miss Bates reveled in reading Maisey Yates’ Shoulda Been A Cowboy like a piglet in her sty. She loved reading and reviewing Laurie R. King’s Dreaming Spies, but it felt good to put on her romance-reading slippers and settle into her favourite genre. She had a moue of disappointment when she noticed that Yates’ story was a novella – not enough, dammit. But she was also glad to see Yates charm her all over again, after a one-too-many sheikh-set duds. Though only a soupçon of romance reading, Shoulda Been A Cowboy delivered a bad-boy-good-girl-unresolved-HS-attraction-prodigal-son-return romance, all beloved romance tropes. Hero Jake Caldwell returns to his home town, Copper Ridge, Oregon, after a fifteen-year absence, to sell his inheritance, a run-down ranch and a few dilapidated buildings. One of those buildings has been given new life by leasee heroine, Cassie Ventimiglia, who runs a coffee shop on the premises, The Grind, and lives in one of the apartments. Jake and Cassie share a history beyond being from the same town. Cassie tutored Jake when they were in high school together, when he was resident heart-throb and bad boy, his Johnny “Wild One” to her “Kathie.” Continue reading
Marin Thomas’s A Cowboy Of Her Own is the final volume in her Cash Brothers series and it shows. There are plenty of brothers, wives, and babies peopling the narrative, though the first half focuses near-exclusively on the hero, baby brother Porter, and heroine, Wendy Chin. Thomas is a new-to-Miss-Bates category author and she was loathe to read this romance: she’s not keen on entering a series at the end and, frankly, she’s tired of cowboys. Cowboys seem to have taken over from the military, or ex-military heroes that were de rigueur in contemporary romance. (Now that our countries are once again embroiled in various Middle East conflicts, they should reappear.) Nevertheless, there were other deviations from the norm in Thomas’s romance that proved most interesting.
Though it’s a frequently-used trope, opposites-attract is one of Miss B.’s favourites for its potential banter-conflict. In Thomas’s hero and heroine, we have a bad-boy/good-girl pairing; with a Chinese-American heroine, the appeal turned out more original than your generic white-middle-class female protagonist. Thomas manages a nice set-up in the first chapter: “He was more interested in partying and working only when he needed money to fill the gas tank or treat a buckle bunny to a night on the town. Wendy was Porter’s polar opposite. She was a go-getter and a staylater at the job” and “As an only child and a daughter, she felt the weight of her parents’ high expectations of her. The constant pressure to climb the proverbial career ladder was overwhelming.” Add a romance-unusual profession for heroine, insurance adjuster, and a hero who transports cattle from rodeo to rodeo; add a mystery plot involving disappearing valuable cattle and you have a nice combination of narrative threads. When Wendy’s boss asks her to ride-along with Porter to unmask the cattle-rustling culprit, we have, in turn, a road romance. Continue reading
If Miss Bates as romance reader has a romance writing twin, it’s Jessica Hart. Hart pushes all of Miss B’s romance-loving buttons: her books are a perfect balance of realism and fairy tale, emotional intelligence and ideas. (Miss Bates is indebted to Emily J.H., a Twitter friend, for inspiring this post, and hopes inspiration is with her.) All of this wondrous goodness is in Miss Bates’ latest Hart read, Christmas-inspired of course, the 2009 Harlequin Romance, Under the Boss’s Mistletoe. Miss Bates suspects that Hart’s writing is both intuitive and conscious (as the best writing is), aware of craft and led by muses and the unconscious. In Under the Boss’s Mistletoe, Hart offers a classic romance narrative arc, as defined, always for Miss B., by Pamela Regis’s A Natural History of the Romance Novel (social context defined – meeting – barrier – attraction – declaration/realization – point of “ritual death,” what Miss B calls “darkest before dawn” or “dark night of couple-soul” – recognition/overcoming of barrier(s) – betrothal/marriage/baby-filled epilogue, preferably all three!). In this case, Hart frames the narrative most beautifully with a prologue and epilogue set where hero and heroine first meet, reconciling past to present. Under the Boss’s Mistletoe isn’t quite re-united lovers, or second-chance at love, but it does bring together one wild youthful kiss shared by antagonists into their present, now ten-years-later, meeting. Let’s get the review part of this post out of the way first by quoting Audrey Hepburn to Cary Grant in one of Miss B’s favourite films, Charade. “You know what’s wrong with you?” says Audrey to Cary. He shakes his head. “Absolutely nothing.” (All right, it lags a tad in the middle; and the dialogue sounds contrived there too as Jake and Cassie debate what makes a good marriage. But Miss B. quibbles.)
Other than the virtuoso handling of the romance narrative, what fascinated Miss Bates about this novel and, in general, novels deemed “sweet,” or “fade to black,” is how, when they’re as good as Hart’s, they portray as passionate and interesting a “take” on physical attraction and desire as more explicit ones. Miss Bates examines how the masterful Hart does so in this delightful novel. Be warned, dear reader, Miss Bates quotes the novel at length. Mixed up in these quotations are maybe-spoilers, though the joy of the novel lies in language and characterization, not plot. Continue reading
The Rolling Stones sang you “can’t get no” and Mayberry’s latest says take it for yourself. That’s the gist of Mayberry’s sexy new novel, Satisfaction; the pleasure of it is in the myriad ways our hero and heroine discover how to lead full lives in and beyond the bedroom. Miss Bates read Satisfaction with reader avarice for the only romance author she’s ever glommed without losing patience, or enjoyment. Because Mayberry’s one of Miss Bates’s favourite romance writers, a new book is scrutinized in consideration of the impressive body of work and slotted into a place in Miss Bates’s hierarchy of beloved Mayberry novels. This can’t only be a review of Satisfaction, but an assessment of how good Satisfaction is in light of the reader purrs other Mayberry novels have coaxed from Miss B. Moreover, one of the coolest things about being familiar with an author’s work is being aware of her preferred storylines, characters, and themes … if an author is re-inventing and not repeating them, this is sheer pleasure. Satisfaction accomplishes both: to be familiar and tell a fresh story. Continue reading, there’s more
Phillip Phillips’ “Gone Gone Gone,” made the rounds in Miss Bates’ head as she read Robin York’s, aka Ruthie Knox, Deeper. The song’s lively beat and Phillips’ glowingly adorable looks, despite the sentimentality of its “everything I do, I do it for you” ethos (more in keeping with Miss Bates’ youth 😉 ) are irresistible and an echo (“When life leaves you high and dry/I”ll be at your door tonight/If you need help … I’ll lie, cheat, I’ll beg and bride/To make you well”) of York’s début New Adult romance series. York captures youth’s passions, its ignorance and sensitivity, and its resilience, in a story that is as much coming-of-age as romantic. Miss Bates, especially in light of this post at Vacuous Minx about what is and isn’t a romance, would say this isn’t, lacking, as it does, the de rigueur HEA. On the other hand, York subtitles Deeper with the caveat Caroline and West, Part I, so the possibility of an HEA is open to later volumes. Be warned, however, that Deeper‘s end was a cryfest for Miss B. Continue reading
Miranda Neville’s latest, The Ruin Of A Rogue, second in the Georgian-set series that opened with the disappointing Importance of Being Wicked, was, contrariwise, delightful. Along with Grant’s A Woman Entangled, it is one of the best historical romances Miss Bates read this year. What a relief it was for her, after some recent duds, to sink into the replete reader immersion that a romance well-told and well-felt brings. Neville’s novel is adeptly written, witty, poignant, and utterly charming, as are her rogue and his beloved, Marcus Lithgow and Anne Brotherton. If you’ve read the less successful Importance, you’ll recall the scoundrel who indulged in certain shenanigans concerning the heroine’s, Caro’s, Titian and her geek heiress-cousin with the obsessive interest in antiquities. If you haven’t read Importance, you need not read it to enjoy this romance, though mysteries set up in the first are resolved in the second. Read on, for the whys and wherefores you should read this historical romance