Tag: Law Enforcement Hero

REVIEW: Deeanne Gist’s FAIR PLAY, Or “What Did You Do At the Fair?”

When Miss Bates was a tyke, the circus regularly came to town. One spring, a world’s fair did. On Easter Sunday, wearing a white straw bonnet, accompanied by family and friends, she entered its gates. It was 1967: skirts were short; music was loud … but Miss B’s mom and friends wore white gloves and hats with their new Easter outfits. Miss B. would say that anyone whose native city hosts an event of this magnitude holds the experience as a seminal moment in her life. MissB.’s unsure that such an event would have the same impact in our world of insta-experience on the Internet. But the Internet, at least for now, is strictly visual and aural, and therefore more limited. It is in the other senses that our deepest, most visceral memories reside. Miss B. remembers the warmth of the April sun, her slightly pinch-y, round-toed, white patent-leather Mary Janes, the press of bigger bodies in the queues, the inverted triangle pavilion of her native country, the dazzle of Bohemian crystal in the Czech, the tangy mustard on the hot dog, the fuzzy-pink sweetness of cotton candy.

Miss Bates loves this cover!

It was with bittersweet nostalgia that Miss B. picked up Deanne Gist’s Fair Play, a romance novel set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and featuring an older, doctor-spinster heroine, Dr. Billy Jack Tate, and younger-man, Texas Ranger hero, Hunter Joseph Scott. Miss Bates has been to Chicago and loved it, walked along Michigan Avenue, gazed into the waters of Lake Michigan, and spent every afternoon of her few days there at the Art Institute of Chicago sobbing before some of her favourite paintings. The bronze lions, indeed the building which houses the collection, have their origins in the 1893 fair. Miss Bates was excited to read Gist’s novel. Her experience of it, however, was akin to a descending musical scale: a bombastically wonderful start, flagging middle, bathetic conclusion. Continue reading

REVIEW: Shannon Stacey’s TAKEN WITH YOU, Or Dates and Doubts

Taken_With_YouIt was enjoyable to read a romance novel comprised of meet-cutes, dates, love-making, and the occasional fight, both big and small. It felt real and its lack of drama didn’t have Miss Bates yawning, or growing restless. Miss Bates bided her time, waiting for high drama and angst to set in. She read somewhere that Taken With You was a May-to-December romance, wherein December was the heroine. The angst never set in; the age difference was handled beautifully. Here’s how hero, Matt Barnett, and heroine, Hailey Genest, banter through it: ” ‘You’re only thirty-five?’ ‘Why? Do I look older than that?’ ‘No, I just … you’re younger than me.’ He gave her a thorough looking over, enjoying the way pink spread across her cheeks. ‘Not by much.’ ‘Five freaking years,’ she muttered. ‘I don’t believe it. You should show me your license.’ She snorted. ‘Have you ever met a woman our age, or my age anyway, who lied about being forty?’ ‘It’s just a number.’ ” Hailey’s right and Matt’s righter. If the five-year age difference had seen the hero playing December, it wouldn’t have been an issue, or even worth mentioning. To give credit to Stacey’s Taken With You, it isn’t in her novel either. Well, hallelujah. This is not a novel strong on external conflict: it’s made of things any burgeoning relationship is made of: dates and doubts. “The course of true love never did run smooth,” to quote the Bard, but Hailey and Matt’s “impediments” to love and forever stem from who they are and what has shaped them. The result is an honest and funny and convivial romance. It doesn’t break any ground: it takes ordinary working folk (okay, they might be a little cuter than most) and tells of a  courtship, the “date” part, adds “impediments,” the “doubts” and “misunderstandings,” shows two good people learning to compromise and does it most enjoyably. Continue reading

REVIEW: Jeannie Lin’s THE JADE TEMPTRESS, Truth and Justice, Love and Freedom

The Jade TemptressCan you recall the experience of tasting a new dish? The ingredients somewhat familiar, the overall impression a little peculiar. You’re not used to it … but you like it. You like it! It’s fresh, interesting, new, yet, there’re things here you’ve had before. Reading Jeannie Lin’s The Jade Temptress was such an experience for Miss Bates. Romance? Check, wondrously romantic. Enemies-to-lovers-good. Murder mystery? Miss Bates read tons of those back in pre-romance days and still occasionally enjoys them. Check to an intriguing whodunit. Throw two beloved narratives into a bowl, fold in a cool, jaded courtesan and colder, hard-nosed, heart-closed-off policeman, bind them with a compelling setting, 9th-century China, and you have Jeannie Lin’s sublime, elegant, and earthy novel, The Jade Temptress. A romance/mystery narrative so mesmerizing that Miss Bates carried it to work, read through her lunch hour and every spare moment of the work day into post-dinner evening and late into the night. It’s that good. It’s not an easy read, despite its elegant, understated prose. This is a harsh, hierarchical world, difficult scenes ensue … but it is utterly fascinating and beautiful, like the “jade temptress” and her detective-lover. Continue reading


The Lawman's HonourMiss Bates reads less and less inspirational romance, especially in light of what she learned from Ros’s astute observations, as well as insightful posts from Emma Barry and Gen Turner focussing on the “conversion narrative” thread.  Nevertheless, sometimes one yearns for the sheer fantastical wholesomeness of the inspie.  That being said, Miss Bates would argue that inspirational romance is as fantastical, as unrealistic in its “world-building” as sub-genres such as SFF, UF, PNR (wherein we find critique of the ways of our world, a common feature of utopian and dystopian fiction since Swift penned Gulliver’s Travels; if one can categorize inspirational romance fiction thus, then it is of the “utopian” variety, with problematic inclusions and ethos).  The world of most inspirational fiction is populated by uniformity and bolstered by reductive theology.  That is as true of Goodnight’s The Lawman’s Honour as it is of any category inspie that Miss Bates has read.  Part of what prodded Miss Bates into reading The Lawman’s Honor was Goodnight’s name on the cover.  The Christmas ChildShe enjoyed The Christmas Child: there was great tension between hero and heroine and an interesting storyline.  Goodnight is a competent writer, smooth, assured, and adept at adding a dollop of humor.  Miss Bates forgives a lot for a well-turned phrase.  Goodnight’s The Lawman’s Honour started out well, so atmospheric and compelling, but lagged, lost tension, and fell flat by the end.  Continue reading

TBR Challenge REVIEW: Beth Kery’s LIAM’S PERFECT WOMAN On the Dunes

Liam's Perfect WomanMiss Bates loves Wendy’s TBR challenge, even though it reminds her of dreaded school deadlines.  Nevertheless, it pushes her to re-visit the TBR, cull, read, review, and re-discover the myriad titles she’s e-piled.  One of those was Beth Kery’s Liam’s Perfect Woman, second in the Home to Harbor Town series, a perfect fit to this month’s theme, “Series Catch-Up.”  Miss Bates read the first, The Hometown Hero Returns, three years ago and liked it very much.  She acquired the second, third, and fourth in the series and, to date, hadn’t read any, even though she meant to, though she knew she’d enjoy them.  THIS is why Wendy’s initiative rocks … MissB. is harvesting the TBR and reading, in this case, a good romance.  Kery’s premise for the series is what initially drew Miss Bates to it: three families, one town, one terrible accident and its repercussions on the families’ lives.  Fifteen years ago, an intoxicated Derry Kavanaugh got into a car and killed a married couple, Kassim and Shada Itani, and another woman, Miriam Reyes.  Liam’s Perfect Woman is about the sole survivor of the accident, Miriam’s daughter Nathalie, injured and bearing physical scars, and Derry’s youngest son, soon-to-be-police-chief of Harbor Town, Liam Kavanaugh.  And what is Miss Bates’s verdict?  Despite several elements that had Miss Bates cringing, she was moved by this novel and she felt for, and liked, the leads, especially the hero. Continue reading

REVIEW: Scarlet Wilson’s ENGLISH GIRL IN NEW YORK, Or Healing An “Annus Horribilis”

English Girl In New YorkWhen a novel involves a snowstorm, a stranded hero and heroine, and a baby, Miss Bates is all over it.  Well, she could take or leave the baby part … but still.  Kathleen Creighton’s One Christmas Knight started it for Miss B.: an over-the-top snowstorm in the Texas panhandle (an account of an actual!), eight-months-pregnant Mirabella Waskowitz and long-haul trucker and single dad, Jimmy Joe Starr, one of Miss Bates’s favourite romance fiction couples.  Wouldn’t you love these two just on the basis of their names?  Creighton’s category romance set the bar high and Miss Bates has had trouble finding its match since.  She likes Janice Kay Johnson’s Snowbound well enough, but finds it more sombre than Creighton’s warm-hearted little gem.  Because Scarlet Wilson’s English Girl In New York has the same beloved elements, Miss Bates had high hopes for it.  Sadly, a promising start led to a lagging middle, which led to a flat, if viable, ending; but the entirety proved to be saccharine.  (She is also annoyed at the deceptive tourist-selfie look of the cover, which bears no connection to the narrative, much less a resemblance to the protagonists.) Continue reading

READING/REVIEW: Kristen Ashley’s LAW MAN, Contemporary Cross-Class Romance

Time and again, romance readers contend with harsh verdicts aimed at the genre from non-romance readers.  It is interesting, however, that within the romance-reading community, gradations of snootiness exist as well.  Those judgements are aimed at sub-genres, or category romance, or individual authors, or books, or whatever chip a reader/reviewer carries on her shoulder.  Miss Bates herself has a certain distaste for the silliness factor of paranormal romance, indulging in a sweeping generalization and dismissal of hundreds of beloved and worthy stories.  Kristen Ashley’s novels, Miss Bates suspects, have received their share of disdain.

Law ManWhen Miss Bates read Kristen Ashley’s opening page for Law Man, she understood why Ashley’s novels come under scornful fire: sloppy writing, bizarro switches in point of view, a certain sentimentality, the hero’s machismo, heroine’s naïveté, and rugrats’ cuteness … all at the mercy of a reader’s sneering lip curls and exasperated eye-rolls.  Miss Bates too, at first note, slipped into derision mode.  However, by the end of chapter one, she was eating humble pie.  Ashley’s devil-may-care prose and not-politically-correct characterization and narrative won her.  Miss Bates discovered that Ashley wrote, in her breezy style, a contemporary cross-class romance, a perceptive portrait of class and status, a debate between nature/upbringing and individual will, between determinism and free will.

Detective Mitch Lawson is a middle-class, college-educated, no-working-beat cop.  Mara Hanover is “pink collar,” a successful retail salesperson, but nevertheless one of the vast number of women who occupy precarious service-industry positions, working mainly on commission.  Suffice to say, hero and heroine are people, as originally defined (thank you, Oxford American Dictionary) by the word “proletarian,” “having no wealth in property.”  (They certainly do not own the “means of production!”)  Fear not, Miss Bates is not doing a Marxist reading (she wouldn’t even know how), merely sharing some fascinating, to her at least, observations regarding class and status that permeate Ashley’s romance.  Her reading may be erroneous, but she’s going to plunge into it anyway. Read on, at your peril

REVIEW: Shannon Stacey’s LOVE A LITTLE SIDEWAYS, Or Lusting At Cross-Purposes

Love A Little SidewaysMiss Bates has read much lauding of Stacey’s Kowalskis and she enjoyed Snowbound With the Ceo, an unrelated novella.  When the chance to read the latest in the series came up, Miss Bates broke her personal code regarding family-linked or small-town contemporary romances: they dry up after the third.  When #4 appears, run for the hills.  This was not a “run for the hills” read, though #7, but it wasn’t satisfying either, pressing painfully on many of Miss Bates’ annoyance buttons.  There are things to enjoy about Love A Little Sideways, but overall, Miss Bates would say it suffers from the bane of the long-running series: a litany of past couples in the initial chapters and an abrupt and pat conclusion.  These can be overlooked, possibly, if the focus is on a compelling hero and heroine.  Alas for Love A Little Sideways, while apart these two are somewhat likeable, they’re not so hot together … and they’re not even that hot!  That is a serious breach in a genre which emphasizes the courtship and union of a couple.  While the writing is competent, even witty and interesting in places, a hero and heroine who aren’t much fun together is a romance-killer. Continue reading

REVIEW: Margaret Brownley’s GUNPOWDER TEA, For What Ails You

Gunpowder TeaMiss Bates is a coffee drinker, the darker the better; and, with a cup, the more likely she’ll compose a post, or stay up late reading … a romance, of course.  Late in the evening, though, when the wind howls and snow hisses against the window panes, she makes a cuppa … and reads a romance novel.  The cuppa is often gunpowder green, its furled leaves popping (hence, gunpowder) to a pleasantly aromatic, mildly-flavored brew.  Miss Bates can say the same for Margaret Brownley’s historical inspirational romance novel, Gunpowder Tea.  Brownley’s romance doesn’t break any molds, or overwhelm.  In places, it brought Saturday-afternoon childhood memories watching old black-and-white Westerns on TV, benign-and-amusing-not-the-Injuns-are-evil kind (on the other hand, this is coloured by the fog of memory ’cause the portrayal of Native Americans, until Dances With Wolves, is a problematic one in the black-and-whites, to say the least).   Continue for more of Miss Bates’s thoughts

REVIEW: Mary Jo Putney’s SOMETIMES A ROGUE, Runner, Aristo …

Sometimes A RogueUntil she read Sometimes A Rogue, Miss Bates’s only Putney novel was The Bargain, a revised version of the 1989 Would-Be Widow. It had a great premise, great first third or so … then, it all went to hell in a hand-basket. Sometimes A Rogue has its “problems,” i.e., the unique position of being peculiar and soporific. Much of it was … yes, boring. It comprises three, consecutive, not-well-executed narratives: with the same hero and heroine in strange mutations of their personalities over three contortions of the plot in one of the flattest-toned romance novels Miss Bates has ever read. Whew. More often than not, Sometimes A Rogue felt like Putney was assiduously following an outline, sketching in every scene: novel by fill-in-the-blanks, paint-by-number. Miss Bates had the same question at the end of Putney’s latest as she’d had at the end of one of her earliest: what happened here? Why did everything go so wrong in a book that had a modicum of potential? Read on; Miss Bates tries for droll