Welcome to Romancelandia

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----------I quit posting reviews for lots of reasons, but I'll leave these up for now.----

For no reason really I'm going to log my romance reading. I began this journey on April 6, 2013. I'll post some reviews (like these Saucy Tweets) and link them as I go. Rating system:

  • The story and writing: Bee's Knees. 5 BKs should melt my cold, bitter heart.
  • The sexy times: Weak Knees. 5 WKs should make you, to quote my grandmother, want to "roll over and wake up your husband."

Along Came Trouble, Ruthie Knox (Camelot Bk 1)          5 BKs / 5 WKs

This is the first contemporary romance I've read, and I have a similar kind of affection for it that I have for my first love. When I read a handful of romances as a teenager, I don't remember them switching narrative point of view; they were all third person through the eyes of the female protag. What I love about the contemporaries is we get the male voice as well. I'm not sure how accurate the male internal monologues are in some of these books, but who cares? Yummo. The sex is so much better this way. And, Caleb is a great hero to dig into the mind of. Seriously.

I loved this book more than I've loved any piece of 'serious literature' of the last decade. I am the kind of reader who, though I can appreciate technique and style and all that bull-honky I studied in grad school, I really just like to enjoy reading. This book was perfectly enjoyable. I loved all the characters and felt like the whole cast was well-developed. I'm super-excited for the other books in this series to come out this summer.

Maybe the biggest compliment I can give it is that after I read the last word I flipped back to chapter one and began again.
"Her thoughts kept whirling around, a tornado that flung little bits of verbal flotsam toward her mouth, words like no and what? and stop and fuck and help." 
"She was a pervert. Only a pervert would get turned on by forearms at a time like this."  
"Why did misery always come in such attractive packages? " 
"The job would be going better if the women he was supposed to be taking care of were more compliant. Actually, that was true of his entire life. Between his mother, Katie, Ellen, and Carly, he was a sheep dog trying to round up kangaroos." 
How to MisbehaveRuthie Knox (Camelot Bk 2)          4 BKs / 4.5 WKs
"It was a trap, being good. You trapped yourself, and then even when you unlocked the door and walked out of the cage, you still felt trapped."
Big BoyRuthie Knox       3.5 BKs / 3.5 WKs

My main issue with this one is that it was novella length and I wanted more. It's one of the only contemp romances I've read where we don't get the male perspective and I really wanted that. The characters were perfectly lovable and the sex was fine, especially if you like role playing stuff. I did enjoy how nerdy both protags were, but I didn't really feel invested in their story.

Six Naughty Nights, Serenity Woods (there are more in this series)        4.5 BKs / 5 WKs

Ride with MeRuthie Knox        5 BKs / 5 WKs (This is my favorite book so far. I'll do a review after I re-read it.)

On the Steamy Side, Louisa Edwards (Bk 2, Recipe for Love)      3.5 BKs for the main love interest and 4.5 BKs for the subplots. 4 WKs.

Making Him Sweat, Meg Maguire      4.5 BKs / 4.5 WKs
“Just leading with my strengths. I’d kiss you so good, you wouldn’t even notice what a cheap restaurant I took you to.” 
"Loyalty knew no logic or pride, and what he felt for Jenna went far beyond loyalty. It had to be love. Nothing made a man this stupid except love."
About Last NightRuthie Knox      4.5 BKs / 4.5 WKs

I really liked Nev and Cath and their story was unique (in a good way). This is an excellent read, despite what I'll say next, which is mostly about my personal preferences. I'm never a fan of pretending to be coupled/married/engaged (as I'm always waiting uncomfortably for it to unravel), though the deceit in this novel is resolved pretty quickly. I am definitely not a fan of the grand gesture resolution though, which is ultimately what prevented me from giving this book 5 BKs.

Bad Boys Do, Victoria Dahl (Bk 2 of Donovan Brothers)     4.5 BKs / 4 WKs
"That charm felt like magic dust being sprinkled over her skin, and she wanted everyone to see the glow....She'd wash the magic off later and everything would be fine" (38).
"She drinks my beer" (45).
"But there was something so bright and pure about him. Something that said he still enjoyed being in the world, unlike the rest of the miserable population just making their way through" (63).
Can't Stand The HeatLouisa Edwards (Bk 1, Recipe for Love)      3.5 BKs for the main love interest and 4.5 BKs for Frankie & Jess. 4 WKs.

Just One TasteLouisa Edwards (Book 3, Recipe for Love)       4 BKs for the main love interest and 4.5 BKs for Frankie & Jess (love!). 4 WKs

I really liked the mains, Wes and Rosemary, but their plot didn't ring true and I can't put my finger on why. Beyond that, my main complaint is that I feel like we didn't get to know Rosemary enough, and Wes's deception was shame-driven, but confusing all the same. They felt really unresolved at the end.

Getting Rid of BradleyJennifer Cruise      3.5 BKs / 3 WKs

This was recommended to me by a friend who called Cruise PG-13. To me, it reads much more PG, which probably means I've been reading too much smut  There was a mystery sub-plot that was okay, and a crazy ex who prohibited my full enjoyment (I guess I should have taken the blurb seriously), but I did like the dogs. At first I was indifferent to the mains, but they really grew on me and I liked their coupling. I appreciated that their big conflict happened in act 2 and the rest of the book was spent resolving the mystery instead of their relationship.

Good Girls Don'tVictoria Dahl (Book 2 of Donovan Brothers)      4.5 BKs / 4.5 WKs

I need to spend some time thinking about the moment a novel clicks for me. When I start reading a book, the characters are just characters, but if the book is good, at some point the characters become real people. I'm not sure when that is, but Tessa and Luke were very real to me by the end of the book. I really liked the final scenes as well, and I often write-off a book's ending because it's hard to end a book well.
"She probably had no idea the kinds of filthy things men fantasized about" (54).
"The various emotions careering through is body left him feeling vaguely ill" (71). 
When Tessa asks Luke about his teenage fantasies, he says, "Aw, hell, Tessa. I was in the ninth grade. By the time I got to the part where I imagined a girl without her panties on, it was all over" (262).
"But Luke felt so guilty that his body didn't seem to fit inside his skin" (281). 
"But they'd loved each other, and they'd loved their kids, and that was more than some people ever got" 331.
Also, I like starting sentences with "but" and Victoria Dahl seems to as well.


Real Men WillVictoria Dahl (Book 3 of Donovan Brothers)      4.5 BKs / 5 WKs

Although this book tends to be reviewed a bit lower than the first two in the series by other readers, I think I enjoyed it more. It was the darkest of the three, and both protagonists are struggling through different kinds of shame. Shame I understand, so maybe I over-identified because of that. However, any writer who can make Eric Donovan sympathetic and lovable in novel three, after the first two books make him look like an uptight jerk wad, is a good writer. I believed his story.
"The hallway was too small . . . . His shoulders were so wide, and her memories too big, and the space just kept getting tighter and tighter" (20).  
"Yet she made him feel alive. That had to be a tale as old as time, but here he was telling it again" (107). 
"That smile was more than charming; it promised things. Filthy things" (230).

Coming Undone, Lauren Dane                 Unfinished; 1 BKs / 2 WKs

This is the first contemporary I haven't been able to finish. The plot seems promising at first and the protags have potential, but the writing is terrible. Maybe it's just boring. Or, maybe it's trying too hard. Frankly, I'm surprised Dane is such a best seller, because this narrative doesn't have any energy. The descriptions ring false and the style is stilted. The pace is s.l.o.w. even though "things" are happening. I quit reading at page 63. The sex was just as stilted as the rest of the writing, and clumsy, but not in a cute way. One of the real problems here is we get Brody and Elise's perspectives without getting to know them at all. I couldn't pick these two out of a line up even through Dane goes overboard with the descriptors. The voice is distant even when we're in the head of the protags. There was one redeeming moment, but I like honey/bee/hive references, so this appealed to me: "Time slowed like honey when he met her eyes..." (37). It goes downhill from there.


Exclusively YoursShannon Stacy               2 BKs  / 2 WKs           

I wanted to like this book. I want to like books that people I love like. However, I barely made it through this book. I only kept reading it because I quit reading the last one and I felt like I needed to give this book a real chance. So, what's wrong with it? First, Joe calls Keri "babe," which is phenomenally annoying. Neither of the protags is particularly sympathetic, so I wasn't emotionally invested in their story. I never felt them move from characters to people; they remained characters and the things that happened to them were plot points. The writing was lackluster. It was certainly readable (unlike Coming Undone), but it wasn't interesting. Every cliche camping scene you can think of was smashed into this one book and none of them were funny--yes, we know how to make a s'more. It felt like a lifetime movie, and not one you get sucked into but one your great-aunt makes you watch while petting her cat.


The Wedding Fling Him SweatMeg Maguire      3.5 BKs / 3. 5 WKs

After these last couple of books, it was a treat to dive into something well written. Meg Maguire is clearly a talent. This may be one of those books that stays with me a while and I might like it better later. I liked the protags as characters, but the run-away-bride premise always prevents my full engagement, as does the celebrity thing. (I hated that movie, too, by the way, even though I like Julia Roberts and cast.) The end had a grand gesture, but it also felt small and simple, so I didn't take too much away from my dislike of that plot point. I sort of enjoyed Will's disbelief at the end. Ultimately, I think Will and Leigh are good together so it worked. Some good humorous banter, too.
“...you can earn [the bribe] back if you'll dance with me properly" (57)
"What they call 'proper' dancing around this place will get you pregnant" (57).

The Theory of AttractionDelphine Dryden I have no effing idea what to rate this.

This is one of those books I can't rate. I can say the writing is excellent and that Dryden is clearly a talent. But BDSM is just not my thing. I'm sure this book is pretty tame in terms of BDSM, but it's well beyond my comfort zone. I can understand some of the psychology/physiology of it, but I am not attracted to this kind of intimacy at all. I supposed I should have known better than to read it but I just adore. Del.

Cami and Ivan are odd eggs. I never felt like we ever really understood why Ivan ticks the way he does, which is probably true of Ivan-types in real life as well, but in a literary sense it's unsatisfying. Cami seemed dumb. She made weird choices and fell way too hard for Ivan. She was submissive inside and outside of the bedroom, and that's a losing combo. I think she may be delusional. Ivan has tons of 'issues' and the HFN resolution is a disaster waiting to happen. Since we only get Cami's side of the story, I wonder how reliable she is as a narrator. In some ways, I don't think of Ivan as the romantic hero but rather the antagonist, and in his role, he doesn't push Cami to a new level of anything.

The way I really feel about this book is just like I felt in college when I was assigned to read a book b/c it was 'good literature' but I felt like I was in trouble the whole time.
“Two arguing geeks were stoppable. Three arguing geeks created an infinite argument vortex of doom that sucked time down like a black hole” (loc 279-280). 
“Like most geeks, Ivan was probably more taken with the idea of preparing for the imminent zombie apocalypse than for an actual emergency; still, I was impressed at his foresight” (loc 2150-2152).


Crash Into Me, Jill Sorenson           4 BKs / 3 WKs

Why do I keep picking books with mysteries? The blurb clearly defines this as a suspense and yet I dove into it anyway. I hate suspense because I have so much anxiety about resolution, I read all 449 pages in one sitting and stayed up way too late. Of course, as usually, I pick out the killer or suss out the twist way too early, but still need to see it through. Suspense requires a commitment other books don’t. Maybe that’s my problem.

That said, this book is a solid four. Ben and Sonny as the main protags were plenty likable and their storyline was plenty enjoyable, but Carly, James and Stephen were where it was at for me. I adored the first love between Carly and James with all it’s sexual weirdness. The impotence both Stephen and James felt with their dad was so real and tortured. I speak the language of shame, so when the male characters can barely function they are so broken with shame, I’m all in.

Jill Sorenson is a solid writer. There were a handful of clich├ęs I stumbled over, but she is deft with plot and far more talented that the majority of writers in this genre.
“With parents like these, who needed enemies? Taking risks was in Carly’s genes” (65).
 “Her face was pinched with sadness. For the first time ever, she didn’t look beautiful. and he loved her so much he was drowning in it” (342).
 “He felt the burn of tears behind his eyes. He’d cried a little last night, but it had been a painful, awkward release, as if his heart wanted to keep the agony locked away inside, holding him prisoner. Now, in front of the one person he wanted to be strong for, he was breaking down like a baby” (387).

Sweet As HoneyCaitlyn Robertson (The Seven Sisters) 3 BKs / 2 WKs

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Sweet and chaste. The sex is post-marital and not until the end of the book. Enjoyable read, but nothing terribly moving here. If you like a smooth story with cute happy ending, you may enjoy this. The siblings were kind of fun, and they will each be featured in their own books forthcoming.


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