Thursday, 25 September 2008

After the Kiss by Suzanne Enoch

See how many chances I am giving to historical novels!

First. The cover. Is just plain weird. I mean its obvious they started with a photo of a good-looking couple. Then they seem to have photoshopped paint smudges over the photo. The effect of which is to make it look like there is strange hair growths all over the models. Over his face. So he looks scruffy. Over her clothes so they look scratchy and itchy. Very strange.

Actually. This novel is vile. Not that I dislike the main couple particularly. It is the theme that is vile. The hero is a grown man, who has fought in wars; he has friends, a good living...and he is totally obsessed with his relationship with his estranged daddy. That's twisted...and a bit babyish. The theme is class difference.

Boo hoo. The hero is the illegitimate son of a Lord...and he hates his daddy for rejecting him and taking his dead artist mommy's paintings when he was fighting in the Peninsular Wars. The heroine is of course a toff. I haven't finished the book yet but I know there will be a happy ending for the hero and heroine. But the question is. Would Sullivan have fallen in love with the heroine if she had been a servant instead of a Lady? The answer is most probably no. But it gets worse. The hero is a sortof part time criminal. (With the noblest of causes of course.) And he gets caught in the act by the heroine. In the book the heroine admits to herself pretty quickly that if the hero hadn't been so very very handsome she'd have turned him in to the authorites for hanging. How gross is that? (Class and eugenics in the same story. Ugh!)

The language in the book freqently takes the reader back to modern times. And is often highly culturally offensive. (I'm sure the Georgette Heyer stories I used to read never had that problem.) There is endless conversation about the hero's illegitimacy...often by the heroine and her friends. Phrases like 'by-blow' are used. Jeez. The guy has been in a war. But everyone is obsessed by his parentage. The question is. Why does he bother with those kind of people?

Many characters use a kind of mockney rhyming slang that didn't really come around til Victorian times. I'm sure the currency in Regency times was 'guineas' not 'quids'..which is an entirely modern word. Why would a Regency Lady ever set foot in the kitchen? I got totally confused when the heroine invites one of her beaus to eat some 'cooked biscuits.' Surely she couldn't be talking about the kind of hot biscuits cooked in pioneering times? They didn't ever ever exist in Regency England. I hate nick-names. Throughout much of the novel the heroine, Isabella, is referred to as 'Tibby' by her friends. Yuk.

The hero, Sullivan, is supposed to be a horse-breeder. On just 3 acres of land! I don't think so. I really didn't like how he loses colour when he's around his daddy's legitimate heirs. Was he some kind of pussy or what?

The book is about 350 pages long. The reader has to plod through the first 180 pages which basically detail the courtship between the main couple. Only a couple of kisses present. With lots of good conversations, inner and outer. After page 180 the story really comes to life. The frivolity disappears and some really quite serious issues are written about. Actually the novel almost gets quite sad with a hint of potential tragedy. At one point the hero acknowledges that if he cannot be with Isabel then he will remain unwed for the whole of his life. Boy. You don't read that very often.

The penultimate conclusion between the hero and his natural father was just a little too pat. Although in reality, I believe. The illegitimate son of a Lord of the Realm was often given his own title and income. It was only the main title and entailed lands that were inherited by legitimate heirs. So maybe the reconciliation scene wasn't too far-fetched after all.

I enjoyed how the heroine's family essentially support her efforts to help the hero. Even though she never gets round to actually telling them that she and her guy have got down to it a couple of times. The hero is quite a passive guy who relys a lot on his friends to help him out of a very tricky situation. Like someone who's had too many knocks in life. Maybe that's why he let himself get beaten up...too proud to run. The message comes across that yes, we like to think we determine our outcomes, but sometimes it is others around us who decide our futures. The heroine, Isabel is very easy to like. She knows what she wants and goes after it but doesn't at any point turn into even the ghost of a doormat. Like in all the best romances, falling in love opens the hero's eyes to the futility of his previous hatreds. (A similar theme formed the background to one of my favorite historicals; Dangerous by JAK.) I liked that. (Although without those hatreds, Sullivan would never have met Isabel. Would he?) I'm amazed Isabel's family didn't try to pay off the hero.

Please god, the author, at some later date, doesn't decide to make Oliver Waring, Lord Tilden, the hero of a novel in the series. In the nicest possible way, he was a truely disgusting character. After all. He spat at Sullivan when they were children. And then. Then. He tries to get the adult Sullivan hanged...because Isabel likes him. Oliver showed a true 'master-slave' mentality. There is no possible redemption for that piece of slime.

My final impression was; 'Thank goodness Sullivan was handsome and good in bed. Otherwise he'd have been dead...about 3 times over.' The book is ok though. Very readable.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

What Isabella Desires by Anne Mallory.

The blurb gives the impression that the heroine is a person who knows what she wants and goes after it with the precision of a heat-seeking missile.

I got to page 11...

Isabella fell in love with Marcus 10 years ago. But in the meantime she married someone else who has now conveniently died. A 10-year marriage. That's a lot of intercourse with a guy she admits she has few feelings about. That says a lot about Isabella's character imo. Her own parents married for why on earth didn't Isabella? And she still lets mommy guide her behaviour in public. I thought Isabella was kidding herself about her feelings. Basically she's looking to catch another mark. That's ok. but it's not romance or even love.

And the printing was too big as well.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Loose and Easy by Tara Janzen

Well. At least I finished it. And what an unpleasureable chore it was. Why any romance fan would enjoy this story is a complete mystery to me. There is no romance. In fact by page 271 there had only been one kiss and absolutely zero emotions between the main couple.

The overwhelming problem is that there are just too too many threads within the novel. Mostly about people I cared nothing about.

Apart from the Johnny and Esmee thread. There is

the Dax thread...(goes nowhere)
the Loretta thread...(irrelevant)
the general Grant thread...that was ok..brought a little excitement to the table
the Franklin Bleak thread...
the Esmee's mom thread...
the Erick Werner and shoko thread...
the Kevin and Dovey thread
the Mitch and Leroy, Baby Duce, Katherine Gray, Dom Ramos threads. Crikey! I almost forget to mention the Patsy Cline thread. Does anyone under a 100 years of age actually know who she is? Or care?

Just enumerating them all makes me want to cross my eyes and yawn. Because so many of those threads were left hanging. They were completely irrelevent. And they felt irrelevent as I was reading them. That's the problem. What should have been explained and wasn't. Was. How come Esmee's dad kept finding all those paintings stolen in WW2? Why did Esmee keep coming to rescue her dead-beat dad when he'd been an habitual gambler for years? Plus. If I'd had my skin carved up by someone, I'd have changed careers....long ago. But not Esmee. One minute she's on the academic fast-track. The next she's a gumshoe. Not even high-tech investigations. But foot-work. None of that really made sense. Another thread that did not appear was the 'contemporary political landscape.' This story was too firmly rooted in Denver..with a small diversion into the huge irrelevence that is South America. You know what else. I didn't really appreciate the local gang-bangers being made into Johnny's helpers either. That's just cloud cuckoo land for me.

Just why did Johnny visit the Locos? No idea. What was the point of the long tunnel and Johnny's fears. Other than story padding. Eventually I lost interest and fell asleep. Give me pink leeches and butterflies anyday. Franklin Bleak...the bad guy. Ha ha ha. A limp dope. My mom could put him in his place. Bring back T. Royce...or Dr Souk. Is what I say.

You know. I wanted to ask. Sure. Johnny and Esmee had a crush on each other in school. But after so many years. Why couldn't they just give each other a hug and go share a drink together at some bar? As far as I could tell. There was no justification for them going to bed with each other. Other than they'd spent too much stress time together.

Three quarters of the way into the novel and the reader is still only about an hour from the start. Where's the progression in plot and character development? In a way it was like the final chapter was just stuck on by someone else's orders.

Also. A word about Suzi Toussi. Didn't she dump Hawkins and take up with another SDF member in a previous novel? And didn't Hawkins breathe a sigh of relief when she moved on from him? And suddenly she's being built up as the drop-dead gorgeous heroine for a future novel? No thank you. I had enough problems with seeing Cody as a deserving case after she slept with half of central europe in her search for her father.

Actually. It has taken me 3 weeks of olympic perseverence to get to the end of the novel. I read the first 300 pages at my usual fast pace. Then I got so bored that I could only read about a paragraph a day for a while.

I'm still wondering. Is the new J.T story line a great big tease for the next novel? Or is it an ongoing thread that will appear in all the following novels? Just like the original thread. Whatever. The new J.T thread completely overshadowed the main plot. Jeez!!! J.T is the big deep tragedy of Steel Street. And suddenly he's alive???!!! How could Tara even mention his name and expect regular readers to be interested in Esmee and Johnny's light-weight escapades? When General Grant first showed in chapter 11, well, that's when I lost 90% interest in the main couple. I don't know about other readers. But I could do with either or both Dylan and Hawkins featuring big in another novel. I want the J.T. mystery to be solved. Right now.


Saturday, 6 September 2008

A Wicked Liaison by Christine Merrill

I so loathed that cold-hearted coward Constance. And yes. She is the heroine of the romance. Why the hero, Tony, gave her even the time of day certainly defied any reason I could muster. Constance is so horrible to him. Refusing to see him during daylight because she thinks he is beneath her social station. Yet Tony is the one who rescues her from almost certain prostitution and destitution. Constance married a man old enough to be her father because he had a title. And could not please him sufficiently to stop him taking a mistress. Even now, after her first aged husband’s death, Constance is yet again willing to wed anyone, anyone with a title, so long as they give her security and respectability. She is so horrible. How is this novel a romance? Oh. Because she gets all emotional when she’s with Tony. Actually she treats him with no respect. She acts like his pimp in many ways. Getting him to steal this and that, then hand over his money to her. She’s continually cruel and hurtful towards the hero. Even the nominal villain, Lord Jack Barton, treats her with way too much respect.

Poor Tony. Of course in the end Constance declares her love for him. But that is only because she is expecting Tony’s baby. I doubt even a single day will pass in the next 20 years when she doesn’t remind him how she married beneath her station. Poor Tony.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Wild Card by Lora Leigh

Jeez. Who'da thought that a writer of erotica would come up with a modern romance about everlasting love? Jeez.

Did I say I absolutely love this book?

Did I say I absolutely loved the things I hated in so many of the author's previous novels? The small-town politics. The southern melodrama. The screaming hysterics. Well. I absolutely loved them all in Wild Card.

But most of all I loved that 18-year old beauty Sabella could commit forever to Nathan and mean it. And vice versa. Jeez. Jeez.

I'm not saying the book is perfect. By any means. But I've always had a preference for husband and wife romances. Which unfortunately are not often written nowadays.

Hotness afficienados might say that the hotness takes a while to get going and that it's just slightly repetitive. It would have been nice if Bella had swallowed just once. (Oops. Actually she does.) Or that exactly the same phrases occur in different places in the novel. And really why on earth would the BCM want Sabella's auto repair shop. (Other than all the people in Texas small towns are completely crazy.) But that's it. That's where I stop.

This story is going straight on my recommended list. Which is only fair. Considering the amount of Lora Leigh books that I read. But I'm nervous about my decision. My experience has been that her books don't stand up well to more than one reading. (Elizabeth turned out to be one of the stupidest, criminally negligent parents I've ever come across in a novel.)

The clever thing about Wild Card is that both Bella and Nathan were young when they married. They claim they've both changed (not) and they're still committed. It's funny when Nathan is jealous of himself. But that Sienna got off much too lightly. Seeing how it was made obvious that she had repeatedly punched poor Sabella on most of her body. Sienna should have died in screaming agony after say, being bitten by a deadly rattler in the cave. As she watched Noah hold Sabella in his arms.

Some great little scenes. Of course. The chapter where Sabella lets Nathan drive his own pickup is just totally cute. I also loved every time Sabella tries to smack Nathan pretending to be Noah, and he reminds her patiently and gently that she is not allowed to do that. Imagining Sabella riding behind Nathan on the Harley in her bare legs was also somewhat awe-inspiring. (I'd never have the nerve myself.) The scene where Sabella realises Noah is Nathan is pretty good considering she could have had screaming hysterics...but she saves those for later. I completely loved Nathan's words when he admitted to Sabella he was ' ignorant fool too fucking scared to have his wife see him weak.' Poor Nathan. His poor body is actually covered in scar tissue but he never dwells on his physical injuries. He thinks they've changed his nature but they haven't. Also. It's absolutely great how Nathan is completely rooted in this small town in Texas. I loved this strange theme of how you can grow up in a place like that and not really be aware of what's going on. Nathan could have turned out looking stupid but he didn't because he had a total sense of honor and did not hesitate to put right what had gone wrong with the community.

Some readers are gonna ask why Sabella was such a wimp in the cave. That's because her main focus was on protecting the baby and keeping knowledge of the baby from that vicious bitch Sienna. Sabella never had any doubt that Nathan would rescue her. I loved the way the author had Sabella tell Nathan straight out that it was Sienna that gave her the facial bruise. Like she didn't know Sienna was dead meat from that point onwards. Personally I also enjoyed the presence of Ian and Kira and seeing their relationship towards each other.

I have to say I totally mourn the absence of the c-word. In my experience the p-word is used almost exclusively by males in their teens.

And yes. I did take the day off work to read it. And I'd do it again. So there!

Novels like Wild Card and Dangerous Secrets completely make up for all the dross I read in 2008. The shame is that even other books by the same writers will be nowhere near as entertaining.

I think I'll try the Nauti series next...

Finally. I also loved the ambiguity of the front cover...even though the author went to a great deal of trouble to show that Nathan's roots were totally Irish...Obviously she hasn't seen Bernie Mac's performance in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. tee hee.

Ok. The gushing ends. Here. And. Now.