Saturday, 26 May 2007

Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Kyrian of Thrace and Amanda. Fucking rubbish. Can't get into this novel at all. Not that it's particularly bad. Just the same ol' same ol' from Kenyon. In this story too much exposition about Dark-Hunters gets in the way of the plot momentum and the heroine Amanda seems overly impressed by the size of the Dark-Hunter wallet. Yuk.

I probably won't be buying anymore of Kenyon's novels. I'm sick of her shoddy plotting. For instance. At the beginning of Night Pleasures, Amanda's former boyfriend is a straight-laced person who ditched her because he saw her sisters cooking magical potions and stalking vampires. Then suddenly towards the end of the book the reader is told he was in fact a half-Apollite who's only purpose was to awaken Amanda's sorceress powers and get her to use them for the Daimon cause. But if that were true he wouldn't have been disgusted by Amanda's crazy family in the first place! How does that make any kind of sense?

Increasingly I think that ALL the successful series paranormals are written by an editorial committee rather than a single author who so obviously runs out of ideas after the first couple of novels. (The exception being Nora Roberts) Plus. I've never liked the fact that all Kenyon's heroes have to be blindingly handsome whilst it's so obvious that many of the heroines are chubby dogs. (Zarek and Astrid being the exception that proves the rule of course.)

I bought this book at Waterstone's. They won't be getting my custom again. I asked the sales assistant if the paranormal romance category books were in amongst the general fiction. She looked at me like I'd spoken Armenian and said yes. But actually all the Sherrilyn Kenyon books were in the horror section whilst the J R Ward novels were in general fiction. And Vivi Anna and Lara Adrian weren't even on their database. But the shop was choc-a-bloc with shitty fiction from the likes of Janet Street-Porter. I didn't even bother to ask about black ghetto girl stories. Hope they go broke.

Sarah's Child by Linda Howard

One of the most vilified romances of modern times. I loved everything about it.

The plot device is so deliciously reprehensible. What sort of author engineers the horrible death of a wife and two young children as the event to bring two people together? Shame on Linda.

The cover art of the red version was superb. Glamor, money and looks personified. Rapped knuckes for the publishers for not giving the artist a credit.

And the invention of the 16 yo man-child Derek was a stroke of genius. A hundred times better than Joe Mackenzie. Although Derek's own series romance was totally pussy.

That Rome. What a completely wonderful over-sexed bastard he is. One moment he's mourning the family he lost, the next second he admits that if Sarah had shown any interest in him during his eight-year first marriage he would have bitten the apple, so to speak. That is the person Sarah has loved for about 10 years!

Rome emotes. He cries. He hands out orders and advice. Typical alpha-male. Of course Sarah knows when to ignore his words. And what she gets in return is a wonderful relationship and home with the man she loves. How does that make her a doormat? She's a risk taker thats all. She had the courage to say 'No' when he made that unreasonable demand even though she was in danger of repeating the pattern of her own parents loveless marriage. Plus. In the mid 80s it wasn't the contentious issue it is now.

A man who is ambivalent about wanting children is not most romance writers or reviewers idea of a hero. Maybe thats the problem so many people have. Personally I find it weird when romance heroes implore their wives of 5 mins to 'have my baby.' Or maybe people dislike the idea of a 33 yo virgin. Nowadays its completely acceptable for romance heroines to, ahem, 'gain experience' or have children out of wedlock. What seems to be unacceptable is for a romance heroine 'to say no' until she meets the love of her life.

Another thing I like about this novel is that the reader spends a lot of time with Rome and Sarah. More than a year. The scene with Rome and Missy was astoundingly emotional. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.

And the shirt-tail sequels show they have a lasting HEA. (Yes, there is more than one)
DONT LISTEN TO THE DETRACTORS MS HOWARD! You wrote a modern masterpiece.

Genre; contemporary romance. Movie rating PG13; grown-up themes.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

A Fragile Beauty by Lucy Gordon

What a pleasure to return to reading an issue-free series romance.

And this one has so many familiar features.

The heroine who switches fiances in the very first chapter. She marries a man who she does not love and has only met a week before the wedding. Of course he is very rich. And she spends the whole of the first half of the book thinking about her previous fiance. At one horrendous point in her wedding the heroine, Vicky, actually turns towards her original fiance rather than the man she is going to marry. Delicious. At least Vicky knows she's being an absolute tart and feels some guilt.

And what ties Vicky to her new husband? Why the pleasure he gives her in bed of course. How wonderful. Like I said. A proper deep series romance. Sublime in its simplicity.

Vicky is also cold-bloodedly clear-sighted. By page 88 she acknowledges she doesn't love her husband. Even though she's sleeping with him regularly. I almost feel sympathy for the hero. Except of course, he was the person who advocated a marriage with a woman he didn't know. And who was engaged to his younger brother. Like so many of this author's heroes, Maurizio is prone to over introspections. Not that we ever read any of the novel from his POV. One day one of these female series romance authors might actually get a hero to somehow justify forcing a woman he's just met into a marriage.

I liked Vicky. Not least because she enjoyed living in her husband's home and was not in a mad rush to return to working. (She didn't really have a career) Unusually for a series romance heroine, Vicky is actually a very kind person. Also she's not afraid to admit that she makes mistakes in her relationship with her husband.

Towards the end of the novel Vicky makes one big effort to behave like a typical series romance idiot. Fortunately the hero thwarts her in the nicest possible way! He's a bit strange for a romance hero. A very gentle macho man.

As I read towards the end of the novel I found myself getting nervous. What madness would the author invent to cause a Big Misunderstanding between the loving couple? Happily she resisted the temptation. All the issues were played out by the parallel couple in the novel. Which is a device that I wish other romance authors would also use. Since it leaves the main couple in peace to explore their feelings for one another.

This is a strange but lovely romance. Only spoilt by the setting; Italy. I would have preferred the hero to have been as English as the heroine. Maurizio is a stupid name for a hero.

Genre; contemporary romance. Movie rating; PG13; no relationship violence; totally consensual sex; unusually the heroine is also allowed a few nights without intercourse; one initially non love-based marriage.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

No Reprieve by Susan Napier

This is a well-written issue novel. Unfortunately there is too little of the romance. And the issue around which the novel is based was dealt with too tritely.

The issue is 'child abduction.' Delivered to the reader purely for entertainment purposes. Because how can such a crime be dealt with seriously in a Harlequin romance? I have to say that I didn't approve of the outcome of the crime. I accept that in a Harlequin nothing nasty must happen to the child. However the idea that the birth father blithely allows the once childless couple to legally adopt his abducted child because she is happy in her new family is offensive and just wrong. Presumably Jake did this deed because he wanted to spare his abducted daughter further trauma. But as she grows up she could easily view his act as evidence of a lack of love. Also I don't believe that the daughter's original abduction by the druggie couple left her as mentally unscarred as the novel would have the reader believe. And why should the second couple who participated in an obvious black-market adoption be allowed to keep Jake's daughter? Totally wrong.

Apart from that the hero and heroine are fairly interesting people. However I did almost get bored during the first half of the book while Jake and Seven build their relationship because basically they just meet sporadically. One day he spends some time with Seven the rest of the week he's away working. There is one quite weird scene. The heroine who is psychic is taken over by the spirit of the hero's abducted daughter. And in front of the hero she behaves like a child. The next minute the heroine is herself again and the hero is making love to her. Just a bit dodgy. But its too weak to be really offensive.

Personally I prefer a flawed romance like 'Disturbing Stranger' to this story. Because the hero and heroine, Seven and Jake are such reasonable people. They don't allow misunderstandings to get in the way of their relationship nor do they behave in stupid manners. Both have suffered but do not allowed their difficult life experiences to warp their outlook on life. I wouldn't say they were boring...just too reasonable.

btw this is actually another romance where the virginal heroine feels no pain the first time she makes love with the hero. Basically because she's more than made up her mind much earlier in the story that she wants to experience intercourse with the hero. Which is how it should be imo.

The author is a talented writer. But I wish she'd set her stories somewhere other than New Zealand. And she should try to move away from being published by Harlequin.

Genre; contemporary romance. Movie rating PG13; mysticism, child abduction,

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Lover Awakened v2 by J R Ward

This book is a total scam. It is billed as a paranormal erotic between scary vampire Zsadist and aristocratic Bella. Crap! Of the fifty chapters only about 5 cover the romance.

And who gets married because their girlfriend is pregnant nowadays? That is so 1980s crappy series romance junk! But it happens to the hero and heroine in this novel. Amazing.

Also Zsadist is not the hero! He does not even rescue Bella. He would never have rescued Bella if he’d searched for a million years. Because his methods were useless…he just came across as stupid and violent when he should have been using some brain power (which he doesn’t have anyway). He doesn’t even avenge Bella’s captivity effectively. Zsadist is a weak useless pussy. There is nothing scary about him except his looks. Except that facial disfigurement is not a reason for someone to be seen as frightening in the 21st century. One of many nasty assumptions apparent in this novel.

The person responsible for rescuing Bella is Bella! She is the person who was brave enough to free the captive vampire so that he could tell others of her location. Knowing full well she was placing her life in terrible danger. But that’s just glossed over in the novel. Bella’s also intelligent enough to recognise what Zsadist’s problem is. And she even has to place herself in danger again to rescue Zsadist from Mr O. It’s like the author suddenly decided to make the hero into a weakling just to have a bit more interaction between the main couple. Because oh dear. There’s far too few chapters about them together.

Unfortunately Bella is also a drug-dealer’s sister who lives off the money he makes selling the product. Please don’t tell me she couldn’t see how her brother makes his money. And don’t tell me she also doesn’t know he killed their father. If Bella chooses to remain wilfully ignorant of these facts that’s ok. But it cuts her out of the heroine role.

And Bella’s brother is the subject of a trick the author plays on the reader. For most of the novel he is written about as 2 separate people. So that the reader also remains ignorant of his drug-dealing activities until almost the last chapter. Like the author understands full well that it would diminish the glamour of the wonderful Bella.

What is the remainder of the book about? Well, basically the reader gets a load of inconsequentialities about minor members of the story. And build up for the next novel in the series. All 40 chapters.

Crap. Crap. Well written crap. But I have seen the light and am through being duped. The next novel is the Vishous story. Already I resent that the author had to make him into a pervert in order to extricate him from his friendship with Butch.

Plus. A few comments on the ‘bonding’ phenomenon within the series. Essentially this is a device which takes away sexual choice. The women lose their freedom to say no if a male ‘bonds’ with them. It’s gross. How is this acceptable to modern female readers? They’re probably nearly all in the 16-20 age group. That’s the only explanation. My other theory is that each of the novels in this series is put together and/or written by a committee rather than a single author.

Genre; paranormal erotic; movie rating 18; murder, male and female torture and mutilation, extreme violence, profanities, male rape, pre-marital and oral sex, use of hookers, profound psycho-sexual issues, substance abuse, use of knives.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Intimate by Donna Huxley

One of the few romances to feature a heroine who actually says no to her boss. An action which has seriously bad consequences for her job and life. Set in Chicago btw.

Another impressive thing about this novel is the amount of plot the author packs into 188 pages. And it all flows together perfectly. Yes. An excellent 2 hours worth of reading.

The heroine is called Anna. She turns down the dirty proposition of her new boss Porter who then gets her falsely accused of industrial espionage and consequently fired. He then doctors her references so that Anna will never find work again in the same field, and even then pursues her with his disgusting attentions. All of which Anna continues to disrespectfully decline.

But during all this Anna gains the attention of another suitor, Marsh, a handsome successful lawyer. Ok, she conveniently falls in love with the rich Marsh but the author deals with that issue. How? By introducing more misery into Anna's life. Within about a month of meeting Anna and Marsh get married and seem to be settling to a happy life. Then Marsh investigates the reason why Anna can't get a job and he sees the reference from her former employers. Anna does tell him that it is all lies but she is also angry that he chooses to believe that she married him because of his income and status. Both Marsh and Anna have just cause. The nice thing is they still live together and make love. In fact making love to each other is what holds the marriage together. I liked that. Not many series romance authors would dare do that. But neither Anna nor Marsh communicate much. It wasn't really clear why Anna didn't leave Marsh. Maybe she loved him. But maybe it was because he took over the payment of her sister's tuition fees. It seems she's waiting for him to tell her to go.

Thanks to Marsh, Anna now knows why she can't get another job within her chosen industry. So instead she gets a job in the restaurant trade. And regains her confidence. Her marriage to Marsh is really strange. It's obvious they like each other. But I suppose there is not much trust. Anyway at a party one night Anna sees Marsh talking to a very pretty lady and is jealous. What she doesn't know is that the lady, May, is a mole for Marsh working undercover at her old firm to flush out the truth of Anna's description of her old boss. Which she does in due course.

There are no 'hot' scenes in this novel although some pages are highly sensuous when read in the right frame of mind. Make no mistake. The bad guy, Porter, is an evil evil bastard. Not just for how he harasses the heroine but, as the author makes clear, because he has succeeded with one of Anna's friends. And she is actually a lot more miserable than Anna despite giving into his sexual bullying. She's still got her stupid job. But in the end Anna wins out. And it is Porter who loses his job. But he should have DIED horribly for all the misery he caused.

Let's talk cynics for a moment. Marsh was absolutely correct. Anna married him for some complex reasons. One of which was that he represented safety and security at a time when she was vulnerable. On the other hand. He very much ran after her in the courtship. And Marsh should have told Anna he was investigating Porter. But. Why on earth did Anna get pregnant if she knew her marriage was shakey and that her sister was depending on her for tuition fees? Hmm. This made me realise that this novel is just a very subtle version of the very popular 'heroine marries money' theme. With the obligatory 'big misunderstanding' to add some conflict. But at least the main couple spend lots of the novel together. The real pleasure in this story is that Anna, having said no to the lecherous Porter, could easily have also rejected Marsh. But he had more social skills in addition to the higher income. Let that be a lesson to all concerned when courting women.

Both Anna and Marsh will have to work at their HEA but I'm sure their marriage will last. A really enjoyable read about relatively minor issues. Final comment; terrible title for a good interesting book.

Genre; contemporary romance. movie rating; PG13 grown-up issues, sexual harassment, trust within marriage, one scene of marital abuse.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier

Not a bad romance but not good either. The author has written much better novels. 5 mins after reading this romance I'd forgotten the name of the heroine. Says it all really.

The courtship of 26 yo pa Harriet (ie secretary) and her uber-boss Marcus. The heroine wasn't a virgin but should have been.

I think (hope) that 90% of the hero's dialogue was meant to be tongue in cheek as he tried to prevent barmy Harriet from descending into slapperdom. Because no hero could be THAT po-faced as the woman he cared about attempted to turn herself into a ho as an expression of freedom.

This was what might be called a 'sparkling' romance until about the final two chapters when it just becomes sordid. The author plays a trick on the reader here. The 'reckless conduct' refers not to the heroine's efforts to change her appearance and behaviour as written about in the novel but to the off-novel one-night stand she had with the hero at the New Year's party. She was passed out drunk and he was dog-tired. Neither used any contraception. And she couldn't even remember the incident. But this is not revealed until towards the end of the novel. That's right. They get married when she finds out she's pregnant.

The shame of it was. The heroine actually had quite an interesting and sad back story but again that was on the whole not much written about in the novel. I could never really figure out why the hero felt attracted to the heroine. The novel was published in 1996. No-one gets married to a one-night stand falling pregnant by then. On the other hand the romance is set in New Zealand and maybe culturally they are behind the times of the rest of western mores.

The way the story reads is that the heroine is tired of being a dull, dependable brunette. So decides to bleach her hair blonde, wear mini-skirts to work and accept dates from unsuitable but exciting men. She is the highly paid pa to a corporation's finance director but her metamorphosis catches the eye of the ceo himself and he takes her under his wing.

In the space of two short years the poor heroine has suffered the death of her beloved dare-devil brother, both her parents, her cherished aged pet and been ditched by a fiance who resented the time she was spending caring for her dying father. On top of all that she never took a single extra day off work. So naturally she's feeling a complete emotional wreck. Anywhere else but New Zealand she'd have had a nervous breakdown and probably ended up a drug-addict and homeless.

Having inherited plenty of money from her relatives, including death insurance, she decides to live for the day. She dyes her hair ash blonde, buys skimpy frivolous clothes and moves to a modern apartment in an upcoming area of the city with the aim of making new exciting friends. Of course underneath she's still a well-brought up young lady and Marcus surreptiously talks her out of her more wilder dating ambitions. He also doesn't fire her since despite the fact that she turns up for work looking like a hooker.

Harriet and Marcus do not get it together until page 135 of a romance of 188 pages. But why did the author have to make their big romantic scene so sordid? Basically Harriet asks Marcus to treat her like a one-night hooker...and he does. And on top of all that the author keeps the reader out of the bedroom so we only experience the shame of the experience for the heroine.

Like I said. I didn't really see where the love came from in this story. What's even weirder is that Marcus does discuss safe sex with Harriet and uses a condom. But it's too late. She's already pregnant with his child. Maybe the author is trying to show he's usually a responsible sex partner.

I feel I ought to mention one bit of weirdness displayed by the hero. He has a telescope in his office that he uses to...well, judge for yourself. Let's just say it tarnishes his glamour somewhat. And someone explain this. The hero is dark-haired, the heroine is brunette but their 4 yo children are blonde! See. New Zealanditis strikes again.

Anyway. After their second night of love Harriet decides she loves Marcus. Throughout the novel it is obvious that Marcus cares about Harriet. It is also obvious that Harriet doesn't give a fig about Marcus...other than he's her interfering boss. In some ways he's also her daddy substitute...after all he's the father of a teenager. It really is not obvious why they fall in love. On the other hand what can I expect from a churned out 200 page romance. Frankly the author ran out of pages.

The author has written better romances. The Lonely Season, Sweet As My Revenge spring to mind. This one is just average..but could have been so much better. Quite enjoyable.

Genre; contemporary romance in a backward culture; movie rating PG13; discussion of safe sex, pre-marital sex, sex while drunk, loose morals.