Sort-Of A Review: Courtney Milan’s TRADE ME

Trade_MeMiss Bates doesn’t know how to write about a good book she disliked, not hated, not DNF-headed, not snark-inspiring, but a desultory slog, like eating a flavourless oatmeal biscuit. Partly, she attributes her response to the unappealing conventions of the New Adult romance sub-genre: the college scene, protagonists’ callowness, first-person narration, and HFN. New adult romance elements Miss Bates’ reader-self dislikes. Nay, avoids. She wasn’t well disposed to Milan’s Trade Me from the first solipsistic notes of “I” and “my”, but the issues were engaging, questions of wealth and privilege, the pressures on immigrants’ children versus good ole wealthy established American families. 

Trade Me is, at least initially, a romance of economic realities. Californian heroine Tina Chen, computer science and chemistry college student, second-generation Chinese-American, struggles to get through school, pay rent, groceries, and help her parents out financially. Her mom succours persecuted Falun Gong members seeking asylum in the US, her dad’s on work disability and sister, with ADHD, requires pricey medication. Tina is poor: she can’t afford to do anything but survive on a shoe-string budget, working part-time and studying the rest. Hero Blake Reynolds is the only child of one of the wealthiest, most influential men in the US, owner of an innovative tech company, Cyclone. Unlike Tina, who has eleven dollars to her name, Blake is worth billions. During economics class, Blake makes privileged, ignorant remarks about people on food stamps. Tina retorts with hard truths about poverty that point to Blake’s cluelessness and presumptions. Blake is chastened and apologetic. He’s also nicer and more down-to-earth than Tina expected. He has the hots for her and she for him. He proposes a “trade,” to learn something about each other: swap lives. He lives in her unheated converted-garage apartment on her budget and she gets his Tesla, condo, and a hefty allowance. For Blake, he gets to be close to Tina while anonymity helps him figure out a “problem” plaguing him. Tina reciprocates the attraction, but also sees an opportunity to help her family. Continue reading

REVIEW: Robin York’s HARDER, From Surviving To Thriving

HarderMiss Bates loved Robin York’s Deeper. Highly anticipated Harder is the second part of Caroline Piasecki and West Leavitt’s story, in Ruthie Knox’s second incarnation as a writer of New Adult romance. It doesn’t feel as New Adult as the first, though. West and Caroline are grown up; they’ve made decisions and are living with the consequences. Their characters are set, though West must let go of the past to have a future with Caroline. The reader knows that, in ten or fifteen years, she would recognize them as the hero and heroine of Harder. If York wrote Caroline and West’s story twenty years down the line, Miss Bates’d be happy to read it. Caroline and West are just that likable. And why not? Knox/York was successful with Amber and Tony from How To Misbehave to ten-years-later Making It Last

Though York tends to lean to the thematically didactic, her characters are consistently engaging and her writing inspired, skirting the edgy; in places, overwrought, but there is no doubt she is a stylist. Moreover, whether her vision is congenial to the reader or not, it’s undeniable that she writes with purpose and ideas. A character in Harder describes visual art as, ” … the purpose of art is to make you feel or think, and a lot of the time both.” York does both as well in Harder as she did in Deeper. Miss Bates read Harder with as much pleasure and interest as she did Deeper: she read through the day and she read through the night. And she loved near every moment of it. Continue reading

REVIEW: Robin York’s DEEPER, Or “Like A Drumbeat”

DeeperPhillip 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

MINI-REVIEWS For Mini-Narratives: Theresa Weir’s “Geek With the Cat Tattoo” and Denise Hunter’s “A December Bride”

Miss Bates reiterates that she’s not a fan of romance novellas.  They’re often used as a means of “hooking” a reader into a series.  Miss Bates dislikes that publishing ploy.  However, the two novellas she read amidst merry-making and writing her year-end post were enjoyable, not heart-stoppingly memorable, but a pleasant way to wile away an hour.  She didn’t feel manipulated by them; they were genuine.  The authors wanted to tell these stories, enjoyed telling them.  Weir’s “Geek With the Cat Tattoo” was initially alienating, with its first-person Sam-the-Cat narrator and immature protagonists, but she warmed to it.  Denise Hunter’s inspirational, “A December Bride,” caught Miss Bates unawares.  She expects inspirational romances to be preachy and smarmy, but it wasn’t.  Though truncated and possessed of caricaturish secondary characters, it was kinda sexy.  Who’d have thunk it! Continue reading