MINI-REVIEW: Nicole Helm’s COWBOY SEAL REDEMPTION

Cowboy_SEAL_RedemptionNicole Helm’s Navy SEAL Cowboys series builds a world of hope and love for broken people. It is no wonder that its geographic setting, fictional “Blue Valley” Montana, is a land of sky, mountain, and range, a world the noise of urban life, or the bombs of deserts far away haven’t touched. Except they have. By war and those who’ve returned from it, broken in spirit and body. Helm’s heroes are men who served in Afghanistan and were injured externally and internally, when one of the them, the ghost who stands sentry to their worst memories and their best (because they cared so much for one another), Geiger. But they are now in Montana, Alex Maguire, Jack Armstrong, and Gabe Cortez, to bring renewed life and hope to broken vets at their aptly-named Revival Ranch. Helm’s heroines are often survivors of domestic wars, now grown women who knew a childhood of abuse, fear, and neglect. Helm brings the broken man and woman together so they can build a new life. Sex doesn’t have the answers (though there’s that too and it’s good), romance doesn’t (though candles are lit and flowers are bought), but healing comes through therapy, talking to each other, striving for understanding, and being honest with, and true to, oneself. Like her obvious professional buddy Maisey Yates, Helm writes to her own tune of redemptive love, through confession (secular and personal), connection, and creating bonds with others, rather than breaking or avoiding them. To reach this point, however, hero and heroine must go through an agon of being broken open and exposed.  
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REVIEW: Marion Lennox’s SAVING MADDIE’S BABY

Saving_Maddie's_BabyMarion Lennox sure knows how to put her heroes and heroines in a dangerous pickle. The last Lennox Miss Bates reviewed had a heroine dangling over a ravine. The hero rode in on an SUV to rescue her. In Lennox’s latest, the puerile-ly-titled Saving Maddie’s Baby, Dr. Maddie Haddon, eight months pregnant, is trapped in a mine shaft with an injured miner. She went harrying in to help, with no thought to mine collapses or massive baby belly. It would appear that Lennox, at least on the basis of her last two efforts, does love a TSTL heroine, except the heroine acknowledges she’s TSTL:

Heroes and heroines don’t choose to be brave, Maddie decided. Mostly they have bravery thrust upon them. In her particular case, a heroine was created when vast chunks of rock trapped one doctor in an underground mine, a mine she should never have been near in the first place. This heroine wasn’t brave. This heroine was stupid.

And with that rueful opening, Miss Bates had to forgive the TSTL heroine because she was thoroughly engaged in Lennox’s re-united-husband-and-wife medical romance.
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MOSTLY A READING, Bit of a Review: Rose Lerner’s SWEET DISORDER “Does More Bewitch”

MedSweetDisorderReading Rose Lerner’s Sweet Disorder, first in her Regency-Era-set Lively St. Lemeston series, Miss Bates recognized Lerner’s connection to Georgette Heyer and what Miss Bates calls the “nouvelle vague” of romance writers, such as Emma Barry: educated, erudite, both entrenched in the romance tradition and bringing new elements to it. Like Heyer, to whose influence Lerner admits in her author bio, she writes a combination of adventure with touches of farcical comedy, also glimmers of pathos, in an ensemble cast, with nuanced villains and – mai oui – a central couple’s romance. (Sweet Disorder feels like a departure from the sombre tone of Lerner’s previous novel, A Lily Among Thorns, and this lighter touch suits her. Miss Bates hopes she keeps it.) Like Barry’s latest series, The Easy Part, Lerner unfolds the romance couple’s relationship in a political arena. The day’s politics inform the hero and heroine’s courtship, bringing them together, setting them apart. They serve as coalescence and disruption. Sweet Disorder, set in the West Sussex riding of Lively St. Lemeston in an election year, 1812, sees hero’s, Nick Dymond’s, brother, Tony, struggle to beat the Tory candidate. The stakes are high for the Whig Dymonds, as they are, it turns out, for their loyal voters, the Knight family, one of whom, writer of sensational tales for Girl’s Companion, Phoebe, now the widow Sparks, is our heroine. (It’s safe to keep reading, Miss Bates has gone out of her way to avoid spoilers. Sweet Disorder‘s plot is vulnerable to them, so there’s not much summary either.) Continue reading

REVIEW: Donna Alward’s HER RANCHER RESCUER, Or Knight In A Stetson

Her Rancher RescuerMiss Bates anticipates, welcomes, and relishes a Donna Alward category romance.  Alward has given us some great romance fiction: Honeymoon With the Rancher, How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart, and The Rebel Rancher are among Miss Bates’s favourites.  (Indeed, How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart may be one of her favourite categories, akin to Sarah Mayberry’s She’s Got It Bad.)  Clean air, horses, complex characters, thorny, believable issues, deeply-felt love, desire, need, and burgeoning friendship between hero and heroine are a winning combination.  Thus, Miss Bates was eager to read Her Rancher Rescuer.  Miss Bates loves how Alward takes her characters, especially her heroes, and twists them up and spins them every which way in the name of love and the heroine.  She loves how her heroines are the stronger emotionally, grow to be self-assured and decisive, yet never lose their soft touch, or tenderness.  Though Her Rancher Rescuer did not grab Miss Bates immediately and there are reasons for that, it grew on her.  She liked it  … a lot.  It didn’t reduce her to a sniveling, Kleenex-sodden mess, as did How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart, but the heartstrings were pulled taut. Continue reading