Miss Bates was uncertain about Karina Bliss’s “rock star” series. Miss B. was more madrigal-girl than black-kohl-rimmed-eyes rocker-chick in her teen years. The world of Bliss’s series didn’t appeal. Nevertheless, given that Bliss’s A Prior Engagement is one of her favourite category romances, she was willing to take on the raucous. What she found, instead, was a moving and funny romance, believable characterization, and engaging, trope-twisting genre-bending. At first, Fall is harmless enough. Picking up from the riff Bliss set up in Rise, she moves the action from rocker-millionaire-bad-boy Zander Freedman to his PA, Dimity Graham, and drummer, Seth Curran. While Zander is happy with his love, Elizabeth, the band’s fortunes and future are awry and Dimity is in full powerhouse damage-control mode. Zander’s reputation in tatters and recent throat surgery has put the band at risk of ever “rising” again. Dimity finds herself at the local watering-hole near Zander’s LA mansion with Seth, still mourning the loss of his high school sweetheart to another man, the news of Mel’s engagement putting the heart-broken icing on the proverbial non-wedding-cake for him. They drink too much, he cries on Dimity’s shoulder, and – yada yada yada – they do the beast with two backs. Dimity offers to play pretend-girlfriend when they return to New Zealand to help Seth get Mel back (while Dimity also machinates to save Zander’s career and their band, Rage). Continue reading
Miss Bates knows Nalini Singh as a popular PNR author. Miss Bates doesn’t read PNR – not since she was traumatized by one Blackdagger Brotherhood title she picked up “impulsively” – but Singh’s Slave To Sensation was on AAR’s Top 100 Romance Reads and that left her curious. When it was cheaply available on audio, Miss Bates listened to it in fits and starts – because it bored her silly. The overwrought growly hero and tough-as-nails-but-really-vulnerable heroine – why must PNR heroines sound so pugnacious? – and keeping track of the various groups/packs and other growly males was tedious; she got through it, but doesn’t care to repeat the experience. As a result, she was wary of Singh contemporary romance “Rock Kiss” series, but wanted to give Singh one last try.
Singh’s Rock Hard is light on plot and primarily focussed on the relationship between Gabriel Bishop, former NZ rugby star, and office clerk, though soon promoted to PA, Charlotte Baird. Gabriel is brought in as CEO to save the luxury good store chain Charlotte works for. Gabriel’s specialty is to swoop in and ruthlessly but fairly, bolster failing companies and render them competitive and profitable. He recognizes Charlotte’s superior abilities under her diffident, bespectacled, mousy appearance and ensures she has the company position she fulfilled all along – doing others’ work. As he cuts a swathe through the company, rewarding loyalty, work ethic, and smarts, Charlotte guides and assists him. His attraction to her and hers to him is, of course, immediate and powerful. He recognizes her qualities, but also her “bitable” lips and soft blonde curls. her “pocket Venus” of a bod and beautiful smile. She’s smitten with him as well: his steel-grey eyes, broad shoulders, and sheer hugeness draw her. But something is very wrong in the city of Aukland (which, BTW, sounds magnificent): it’s obvious Charlotte was once hurt and is still traumatized, inspiring Gabriel’s protective instincts. He wants her to open up to him because he’s ready to ensure her safety and love her body and soul. Continue reading
Reading Karina Bliss’s A Prior Engagement was a long time coming for Miss Bates. She’s hoarded this romance novel since it came out in 2013. She read and loved the three previous titles in the Special Forces series, Here Comes the Groom, Stand-In Wife, and Bring Him Home. They’re about soldiers returning home from war in Afghanistan, after a horrific roadside attack, and the loved ones who waited for them. With this being the fourth title, and sensing that Bliss is thoughtful but not prolific, Miss Bates indulged in a title-hoard … you know, those romances you allow to linger in the Tottering TBR because “some day” you might have a bitch-day at work, or a fight with the BFF/partner, and YOU’LL NEED IT. Heck, Bliss’s romance novel, sublime as it is, has plenty of cringe-worthy scenes, they’re just not your cringe-worthy scenes and that makes the wait all the more worthwhile. Bliss’s New Zealand-set series is one of the best romance treatments of the effects of our recent wars that Miss Bates has read. As a Canadian, the news of Afghani roadside attacks were sadly familiar. Bliss’s series, however, describes what happens to the survivors, the soldiers, yes, but the family, friends, and lovers as well. Or, as Leonard Cohen sings in “Democracy,” “for the grace of God in the desert here and the desert far away.” Continue reading