Jennifer Hayward’s Claiming the Royal Innocent starts in run-of-the-mill HP romance fashion. Miss Bates was clipping along, enjoying the ride, when something happened a third of the way in: run-of-the-mill turned extraordinary, pleasant -enough became keeper-shelf-worthy. Miss Bates loved Hayward’s The Italian’s Deal For I Do, but she’s persnickety because Claiming gains on it. Following the fine but not-rocking-world Carrying the King’s Pride, Claiming tells the story of that royal hero’s illegitimate, recently-revealed sister Aleksandra Dimitriou and Aristos Nicolades, the casino-owning billionaire whom the king puts in charge of her safety when Akathinia is threatened by war with neighbouring Carnelia.
The novel falls into two thematic parts: the first half is very much about Aleksandra coming to grips with her new-found identity and second, which moves geographically away from the palace and onto Aristos’s private casino island, with Aristos’s struggle to come to terms with his past, a past which leaves him emotionally closed off and jaded. In Miss Bates’s review notes, she found the following scribble: “the first half deals with Alex’s mess and the second with Aristos’s.” In the romance novel’s course, Hayward plays all the delicious notes the HP reader expects: glamor, money, exotic locale, and sexy times. And, in this case, her own quippy, witty brand of It Happened One Night banter. These are but the trappings of any superlative HP, however: the rest is made of the hero and heroine’s believable struggle to relinquish psychic patterns preventing them from achieving connection, commitment, and love. Continue reading
Charming cover: check out Tammy’s flipflops!
Miss Bates is content to return to her neglected TBR Challenge! Check it out chez Wendy here. This month’s theme was to read a nominated, or winning Rita title. Because Miss Bates is pathetically slumping along to Ros’s Summer Big Fat Book read-a-long, she chose a category romance. They’re short and she’s already behind the BFB, and summer reading piles litter her apartment and slow down two e-readers. (Way too much time on Twitter for Miss B.; also lolling, gazing at sunbeams, and sleeping in. It’s a feline life.) Reading Rita winners was one way Miss Bates segued into romance: their annual nominated and winning title lists provided tried and true romance reading as Miss B. figured out what she liked and didn’t in the genre. (Shudder PNR.) It was with nostalgia for her early romance reading days that she looked at titles she’d added to the TBR from these romance reading baby steps. Marion Lennox’s Her Royal Baby won the 2004 Best Traditional Romance. Woot! thought Miss B., category, baby, Rita winner, and an author that she’s wanted to read for ages thanks to some nifty reviews over at Dear Author lauding Lennox’s more recent category novels. The whole royalty thing is not to Miss B.’s taste, no blood is blue she says, but she liked the cover. Miss Bates doesn’t regret her choice, but boy oh boy, was this ever a flawed and floundering effort. Continue reading
It must be tedious to hear Miss Bates say how much she loves an HP, a kick-off-your-shoes-sip-your-tea and get-lost-in-it read. So, she won’t. What she will say is that sometimes the tried-and-true formula that we forgive may, given the writer’s style and purpose, surprise us. And those are the best kind of HPs: where you forget what you’re forgiving for your reading-drug of choice and are lost in it. That’s exactly what Maisey Yates’ Pretender To the Throne is: a thoroughly emotionally engaging romance novel, no pretense, no writing-to-type-and-formula … it takes you by the heart and squeezes from the opening page to the last. Miss Bates read it in one sitting, with a snowstorm raging outside her spinster’s lair, stopping only for a walk to the window to stretch the legs. She surmises that, if you’re an HP aficionado as she is, you’ll love it too. It has its outlandish HP flaws and Miss Bates has every intention of pointing them out, but it’s an unstoppable reading force for raw, honest emotion. Continue reading
Miss Bates is not a fan of the Disney princess, nor did she ever deck her five-year-old self in pink tulle and trailing strands of costume jewelry to play dress-up princess. Mostly, she reads a lot of romance fiction and plays at Emma‘s Miss Bates, a definite not-princess. She was taken in, however, by Rachel Hauck’s Princess Ever After cover, with its hint of frivolity, beautiful dress, and promise of happily-ever-after. Because what Miss Bates loves is Roman-Holiday Audrey Hepburn and all things Grace Kelly, so the idea of an American girl living her dream restoring vintage cars who finds herself the princess of a fictional duchy is a pretty attractive premise. What she found instead is a novel light on the romance and heavy on the inspirational element, a story more about identity, heritage, and destiny than finding love and wearing pretty princess clothes. An uneven read, Princess Ever After has strong passages to recommend it and is competently written, but it’s slow (could have been told in half the length) and contains one too many peculiar woo-hoo moments for Miss Bates’s taste. Miss Bates’s was foiled in her pursuit of a flaky little read for something more serious, albeit told with a light touch but, in the end, less appealing. Continue reading