WARNING ~ SPOILERS ABOUND ~ CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK!
At The Duke’s Wedding is a collection of four novellas, all set at a grand old English estate during the week of festivities surrounding the wedding of the Duke of Wessex. Each novella has a different author.
1. That Rogue Jack by Maya Rodale. This story is incredibly, tediously stupid. Jack is a gorgeous moron who misplaces the heirloom wedding ring he picked up for the groom from a jeweler. Inexplicably, the bride-to-be requests great grand Aunt Whozis’ companion, Henrietta, to get moronic Jack to hand over the ring. They spend days sneaking around trying to find it because Jack, who is a moron, can’t remember where he put it. As they do this, they fall in love. That’s the plot.
2. I was going to stop reading after that first awful story, but decided that wasn’t fair to the other authors. Glad I continued. In P.S. I Love You (by Miranda Neville),the witty and poetic scarred-face Christian reluctantly agrees to write love letters to Rosanne for his boring but good-looking cousin Frank. Of course Chris falls in love with Rosanne because her letters are so charming, and she with him, though of course she thinks he’s Frank. When they all meet at the Duke’s place, complications ensue. Predictable, but actually good.
3. When I Met My Duchess by Caroline Linden. This story is about the Duke himself, who is not some old gross gouty fellow but young and beefcakey, and how he falls for his betrothed’s hot and unconventional sister the moment she steps down from her carriage in front of his house. Liked it.
4. How Angela Got Her Rogue Back by Katharine Ashe. This story involves time-travel, which I don’t mind at all, if it makes some kind of sense. Even a little bit of sense will do. Modern-day Angela materializes at the Duke’s party 200 years earlier after reading a weird book and falling into a Michigan river. That was OK, but less so was the convoluted blackmail scheme she thwarts to save Viscount Studmuffin’s family. What really bugs the crap out of me though is when Angela ~poof~ vanishes again for no reason. I totally lost interest in the story right there. But I finished it and read the teaser for an upcoming story, which has the Duke’s little sister finding Angela’s cell phone…
This romance novel’s title is likely a play on the TV show “Say Yes to the Dress,” and it makes sense because Tessa Dare’s book is all about convincing the reluctant Clio she should still wed whazzface even though he ran off to do mysterious work for the Crown and she’s been all abandoned and gossiped about for 8 years. Rafe, whazzface’s hunky prizefighter brother, is trying to do the convincing.
I really enjoyed this book, except for when Rafe breaks character to give Clio a totally ridic flowery speech about her looks. Otherwise, the writing is top-notch. The characters are super-interesting and complex ~ not just the protags, but also her sisters, his trainer, etc. The twists and turns kept me guessing exactly how the story would get to the HEA, and I appreciate that. The one thing about the resolution I didn’t love was a “telling not showing” of Clio’s discussion with whazzface, said convo important to her character development.
There is cake in this book. A LOT OF CAKE. Wedding cake after wedding cake. There is a completely awesome cake scene that you need to read if you love cake and sex (who doesn’t love cake?). The leitmotif (!!!) continues throughout the story. I am particularly drawn to the cake in Say Yes because I never had a proper wedding cake, the lack of which I am convinced doomed my marriages.
So, I’ve been noodling on this Safe Haven novel by the famous Nicholas Sparks. The entire concept of the book is much like a novel I read a while back called Running Wild by Linda Howard and Linda Jones (except SH was published first). Makes sense then that I’d do a compare and contrast ~ spoilers will abound, so if you’re planning to read either book and want to be surprised, you should exit now and check out some otters.
1. Basic premise. Heroine runs away from her life to escape Bad Man (abusive husband in SH and crazy stalker date in RW) and ends up in a small town in the middle of nowhere (North Carolina in SH and Wyoming in RW). She takes a job as a waitress.
2. Stolen ID. Heroine steals/fakes a new identity when she starts her life over because Bad Man is a cop who will not only find her if she resurfaces for one second under her old name but also kill her. He will also have immunity, natch, being a cop, or so she believes. She must therefore act secretive and weird, which intrigues the hero.
3. Hero has problems! In SH, Alex is trying to run his business and take care of his two kids, but the wife/mommy has died ~ oh no, now what? It is so hard doing all this alone. In RW, Zeke is trying to run his ranch and take care of his animals and workers, but his cook wants to retire ~ oh no, now what? Should he hire that secretive, sexy new waitress at the diner? Omg, decisions…
4. One slip-up. In SH, all it takes is one kind word from a neighbor to get Bad Man Kevin hot on Katie’s trail (IIRC, this is very similar to Sleeping With The Enemy). In RW, Zeke’s old cook does an internet search on Carlin, which pings Brad and lets him know that someone in WY is looking for his honey.
Here are some major differences in the novels.
5. The Bad Men. While both Kevin (SH) and Brad (RW) are horrible creeps, Sparks took the time to make Kevin an actual character you can feel some degree of sympathy for here and there. It’s interesting, in an awful way, to take that journey down to NC with him. Brad’s just a cartoon Bad Man.
6. The Good Guys. This is the opposite of the Bad Men. In SH, Alex is bland and boring; while in RW, Zeke is sexy and exciting. Alex is way too nice for a romance novel hero ~ then again, Sparks says his books aren’t RNs, but “love stories.” Gak. Okay.
7. Motivations. Sparks does a good job in laying out his protags’ motivations. Katie needs to escape the abuse; Kevin wants her back ~ and they both love each other (or did at one point) in a sick way. This is all believable. And even Alex’s sweet gentle kindness is believable, though not very sexy. The Lindas didn’t do quite as well in this area. We’re supposed to believe that Brad, a cop, went totally bonkers after a couple dates with Carlin, and began trying to kill her when she turned him down. Now I know guys can be nuts ~ I’ve been on a lot of dating sites ~ but even so.
8. Sex. Now this is weird. RW is a typical contemporary romance novel in that it contains a good amount of steamy sex between the hero and heroine. SH has none, zero, zilch. Actually SH has no sex between the hero and heroine, but what it does have are abusive sexual encounters (mostly fade to black type) between Katie and Kevin. Don’t you find this odd? Here’s a purported “love story” (not a “romance novel”) where there is no sex between the two main characters during the time of the story, yet there are descriptions of sex between other characters. It’s almost like Sparks is saying that his protags are too pure to be sexual.
Well, whatever. There’s enough room in the world for Sparks’ love stories as well as sizzling hot romances, right? It’s funny though that the Sparks’ books are respected and made into movies while romances are still best hidden away in brown paper bags. I mean, it’s perfectly fine to read Safe Haven out in the open while eating your lunch in the office despite the fact that there is a cute couple on the cover about to kiss, but I wouldn’t bring Running Wild to work with the shirtless cowboy cover since I know what all goes on in there. That’s meant to be read in secret while eating Double Stuf Oreos.
I bought a Nicholas Sparks book because I liked the cover, title, and premise. Yep, I am generally a sucker for the chick escapes crazy abusive man and starts over in bucolic small town (always as a waitress)… then meets hero With A Problem etc. I had a vague idea that Sparks was a bigshot writer dude, but didn’t realize he had written that horrible Nights in Rodanthe, the movie version of which I could not watch even though it starred Diane Lane and Richard Gere. That’s really saying something. The Notebook was okay (talking about the movie ~ didn’t read either novel).
This Safe Haven book ~ MY GOD COULD IT START ANY SLOWER!? Do we give Sparks a pass because he’s had major success? Were his other novels total yawners for the first 100 pages? These people are doing the most mundane things and having the most trivial conversations ~ gak. We get tiny hints of a Terrifying Past for our heroine until finally it all comes spilling out in backstory. And then we get Kevin the psycho’s POV (fun!). But Katie’s past is so much more interesting than her present, and her abuser (gotta say it) is scads more interesting than the hero, who is Mr. Bland. Kevin is a CHARACTER. Alex is a bowl of vanilla pudding. At least so far ~ I’m now on page 212.
But that’s not what I came here to rant about today (I’ll continue this review when I finish the book). I want to talk about grammar. What do you think of this:
[…] and while the four of them were off pointing at the fish, she’d laughed at something he’d said and he’d felt a spark of attraction, reminding him of what he had once had. [p21]
Is that awful, or is it just me? I never write past-past that way, with all those had-hads. Yucky.
K, that’s all. I’m sure you’ll be waiting with bated breath for the rest of this.
At first I didn’t remember why this image was in my media library when I searched for “ship,” but then I recalled the Roger Whittaker song “The Last Farewell,” which I featured in an SLS post. Yep, that’s where I used this pic. During my April 2021 blog refresh, I dumped tons of repetitive and/or unused images, and now I’m being much more careful to save space. Instead of grabbing a new pic every time I make a post, I try to reuse ones already in the library. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I have around 500 posts published and scheduled, yet I’ve used less than 10% of the media space allotted. At this rate, it will take decades to get close to the maximum and I’ll probably forget I even have a blog by then. Anyway, welcome to my quickie reviews of movies and/or books I’ve watched/read recently! I sometimes have spoilers, so read on at your own risk.
1. Life of Pi, 2012 adventure-drama based on the book by Yann Martel. I haven’t read the book, which may be a good thing, because I see on Wikipedia that it’s much more brutal and gross than the film. I saw the movie when it first came out, in 3D, which was an amazing experience. However, I think I was too focused on the beauty of the filmmaking itself and failed to pay close attention to the actual story. Recently, I watched it again at home with a couple friends, not in 3D, and it was more meaningful. Or maybe I’m just older and more philosophical, who knows. Well, I’m definitely older! Anyway, I highly recommend this film if you haven seen it yet. It’s about the art of telling a story, among other things, and how in the right hands an unreliable narrator can hold our attention like nothing else. My favorite stories are from unreliable narrators, but they have to be done well. This one is superb and I was left wondering wtf just happened, but in a good way. Oh, there’s a shipwreck in the story, which is why I used the pic.
2. Bayou Fire, 2017 romance novel by blogger Sharon E. Cathcart. This was different from the typical romance novel. Instead of the usual conflicts between hero and heroine, the romance between Amos and Diana proceeds smoothly with none of the clichéd misunderstandings and forced drama we so often find in these books. What the protags have to do however is figure out why they feel such an immediate and intense connection the first time they meet. Then the book dives into the supernatural, which isn’t always my cup of tea, but here it was “believable,” relatively speaking, and I was down with it. There was a chunk of narrative devoted to a flashback, but the story didn’t flip back in forth in time to an excessive degree. I really enjoyed all the local color of New Orleans and the tidbits of history Sharon included. She also gave us a taste of the dialect, which was interesting. Unfortunately, there were quite a few typos, which, as I’ve mentioned before, seem to be widely prevalent in self-published works. But overall, I enjoyed the story and gave it 4 stars.
3. The Guest List, 2020 suspense novel by Lucy Foley. This is one of those “British” books I keep picking up lately ~ KU is loaded with them, as I’ve said. They are generally written in first-person, present tense (annoying) and narrated from multiple POVs (more annoying). They also tend to leap back and forth in time to an insane degree. This story, for example, could have simply been told straight up chronologically. There was simply no need for the dizzying switches from the day before the wedding to the wedding and afterparty. That was just weird. But to their credit, in these British mysteries, the plots are generally solid and hang together with an earned ending, and the protags are interestingly flawed. TGL is in this group as well and hooked me right in. I couldn’t predict what would happen and who the victim or murderer would ultimately be. Lots of people were pissed off at lots of other people for a variety of reasons, which was great fun. Oh, and one more thing ~ there were no typos in this book. None. And guess what? It was published by a house (HarperCollins). Even so, I gave it only 3 stars because of the annoyances mentioned.
The first time I remember reading the phrase “a whore’s breakfast” was in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Are you old enough to remember when that book was a thing? Good. As I vaguely recall, some mean bastard husband said that to his wife when she and the kids were having birthday cake for breakfast.
I loved the phrase, especially because I’ve been eating cake for breakfast ever since I learned to count calories. Instead of smashing all my calories into an enormous dinner, I often save the dessert for the next day. I don’t like feeling full at bedtime, and it’s fun to look forward to cake (or pie, if you’re one of the weirdos who prefer pie to cake) in the AM.
(Sometimes I have dessert instead of dinner just to mix it up. Yes, I am a wild and crazy chick.)
Urban Dico says that a whore’s breakfast is coffee and a cigarette though. Or possibly a Coke. Hmm. Those just sound like high school breakfasts to me. Not that being in HS and being a whore have to be mutually exclusive.
I prefer to think of cake, especially birthday cake, as the true whore’s breakfast. It’s just so decadent and anti-traditional. Goes against everything your mom told you was Right & Good.
I hope my pairing of whore and cake in the same post generates a lot of strange hits.
I just finished this romance novel by Robin Kaye and gave it two stars (“it was okay”).
There were positive things about this book. I loved the way the protags interacted, grew emotionally, and changed. That was cool. But this theme Kaye is using for her series of interconnected novels about Italian studmuffins from New York who are fab at cooking and cleaning… is just weird. Yes, it’s different, so she gets credit for that. But at one point the buddies are talking about how vacuuming relaxes them or some shit, and OH COME ON.
It’s not that no men cook and clean. But to wax on about it? Bizarroland.
And something else bugged me. The hero, Rich, was this super-sharp, smart as a whip, psych professor. He was soooo in tune with everything Becca (and others) felt at all times. Rich was at the top of his game. But he completely misread why Gina dumped him at the beginning of the book. “Zomg, it’s cuz I can’t clean and cook like these other studmuffins!” I understand that this misunderstanding was necessary for the “plot” to work, but it made him look really stupid.
And does everyone have to have piles of money?
But the main things that drove me nuts about this book were the formatting and typos. I can’t understand why there were so many mistakes in a professionally published work. There would be a word italicized, and then several words after that word would be incorrectly italicized as well. Distracting. There were countless paragraph indent errors in dialog, forcing the reader to stop and figure out who was speaking. And there were constant word-split errors, such as “basket ball,” sculp ture,” etc. CONSTANT. Idk if in the dead-tree version these were hyphenated, and someone didn’t know how to reformat for Kindle, but whatever… it was awful!
And something else. I know this is fiction, but you do not ever ever ever give a cat coffee or any caffeine! FFS, it’s easy enough to google. Coffee is a poison to pets. I couldn’t get past poor little Tripod slurping up coffee every morning.
I’m not going to buy another Kaye book. She’s a decent writer as far as the actual romance goes, but there are too many other writers out there to try. And no way am I going to slog through another messily formatted, typo-ridden novel with characters poisoning their kittehs. Bleargh!
No, not the city in New York! I reviewed a couple of Neil Plakcy’s doggie mysteries in my quickie reviews, but I want to go into a bit more depth now that I’ve finished all 12 available Rochester novels. Obviously, I enjoyed them overall or I wouldn’t have read so many, but there are some negatives I want to explore too, and I think some of us can relate, especially those who self-publish. There may be spoilers mixed in, so read at your own risk.
The premise is that Steve Levitan, a divorced, childless 40ish dude, has returned to his hometown in Buck’s County, PA, where he’s inherited a townhouse from his deceased father, and creates a fresh start, but in a location he’s familiar with. Steve has had some troubles, including a stint in a prison in California, and now he desires a calm lifestyle where he can focus on putting some sort of career back together. He is bitter over the fact that his wife divorced him while he was incarcerated, has remarried, and now has a baby (she had miscarried the babies they conceived together). He is also resentful of having to report to a parole officer who tracks his computer activity, since Steve’s crime was hacking into credit bureaus to stop his ex-wife from spending money like a maniac. But a quiet life is not in the cards for our hero ever since he discovers his neighbor has been murdered, ends up adopting her golden retriever Rochester, and helps his old buddy Rick (now a cop) solve the crime. Each book has a murder that Rochester gets involved in, and by extension Steve, except for No. 8, which is a fun collection of short stories to fill in the time between other books. It’s a cool idea to do that.
I’m really glad I read these books one after the other without breaking to read different novels in between because it enabled me to pay close attention to detail. I really admire the way Plakcy created his protagonist, who has plenty of good qualities, but is also flawed, and his character develops in the stories. I’ve compared this series to Lawrence Sander’s McNally mysteries, and there are many similarities, but Archie McNally never evolves from his playboy ways, while Steve does break out of his initial gloom. He changes during the stories and gradually loses the chip on his shoulder. He stops bitching about his ex-wife and the unfairness that he was made an example of by the court system (apparently he was handed a stiffer penalty for hacking than expected, which would have been probation). But you have to read several of the books to appreciate the way Steve slowly changes over time. A huge part of his progress involves having Rochester to love and care for because the dog ownership responsibilities force him out of his constant navel-gazing. Also, knowing that he is a good dad to Rochester, and the doggie loves and trusts him in return, makes Steve feel worthy of love and trust. After a while, he begins to date again, though very cautiously. I thought this was all portrayed excellently.
But I also have some criticisms. There were a lot of typos in these books, which is a big problem with self-pub, in my opinion. We all feel we know what we’re doing and can proofread our own work, but that’s incorrect. I have cringed to find egregious errors in my own books when I glance back at them years later. What happens is that we decide to change something, a paragraph, a sentence, or just one word, and then don’t bother reading the whole page again, or we skim it too quickly. We’re so familiar with our own text that when we “proofread” our eyes glaze over the pages. That’s how mistakes end up sticking to the published work. In the old days, publishing houses had actual proofreaders, so you didn’t find mistakes of tense or grammar in printed books. We need “fresh eyes” to go over our material. Why are typos bad? Because they distract a reader from the story and anything that pulls the reader out of the action is a bad thing.
And speaking of this, Plakcy has a bizarre, annoying habit of giving side characters “funny” names. It’s absolutely a stopping point, since now that I know his names sometimes sound like actual phrases (“Ike Arumba”) I must pause and say each one aloud to see if it’s anything. WHY does he do this??? I guess it’s one of those “darlings” that an editor would have killed the first time it happened, but we no longer have editors. Honestly, it’s self-indulgent silliness and extremely irritating. That’s my biggest criticism of these books, and it is not a minor thing since it pushes the reader out of the story.
For a while, it annoyed me that Plakcy repeats so much from book to book, such as the way he describes Rochester and the humans too. But then I decided I liked it as it gave a sense of continuity. I think there are other repetitions that Plakcy does not intend, such as describing so many things as “bright green” or “bright blue” ~ again, an editor would have probably fixed this. In one of my quickie reviews, I complained about the “fade to black” regarding Steve’s sex life, but I decided that was OK too. I don’t necessarily want to read graphic descriptions of sex in a doggie detective story, but at first the fade seemed abrupt and puzzling, given the amount of detail used for everything else, including physical descriptions, scenery, and even eating a pizza. I knew Plakcy was capable of writing the romantic scenes, so I did some investigative work myself. Plakcy is gay and has written gay erotica, which imo explains everything. Just as I would have trouble writing gay sex scenes (I have done it, but they aren’t very good), Plakcy was probably all ewwww gross hetero sex. That’s my conclusion anyway, and after I figured this out, I accepted the fade.
I did enjoy the slow romance between Steve and Lili; I thought it was super well-done, considering what we know about both characters. It would have been unrealistic for this “older” couple to plunge right into commitment and declarations of forever, given their past disappointments. I find it interesting that the problems between them are not dismissed as nothingburgers, but instead explored and sometimes just left hanging. It would not surprise me if they break up somewhere down the line, even though they love each other. Often, that simply is not enough. I can imagine that Lili will have an overwhelming desire to travel again, as a single woman, and become bored with a homey, doggie lifestyle. Steve is young enough to become a father with a 30-something woman, as men do ALL THE FREAKING TIME, so it’s weird for him to keep announcing that he’s “too old.” Anyway, I can imagine that he’ll have a moment of enlightenment in the next book or so and go whoa I am not actually too old, duh. It’s clear throughout that he would really love to be a dad (or stepdad) of actual human children. There is one really bad error in the last book (or maybe it was book 11, I forget), where Plakcy screws up their ages. The series begins when Steve is 42, and Lili is a few years older. This remains consistent throughout, as it should, except in one instance where Steve mentions that she turned 40 during their relationship. WHAT?!?! Terrible mistake.
OK, so it’s pretty clear that I am way into these Rochester books, kinda like I was with the Game of Thrones TV show. I will definitely keep reading them until everyone gets burnt up to bits by a dragon, or whatever.
Photo is of my granddog Rory because she’s also a gorgeous golden like Rochester. I bet they’d get along great!
First, I’m more disappointed when a book I like annoys me than when I give up by page 10 or so. I stuck with TSBOS all the way through because I really dug the storyline and characters, but dammit why…
(Second) Why why WHY would White choose to write in “normal” third person past tense for most scenes yet inexplicably switch to first person present for the heroine’s POV? There was absolutely no reason for this. Rachel’s POV sections could easily have been written the same as the rest. It was maddening when the shifts occurred (despite being in separate scenes). Totally distracting.
(Third) Too many coinkydinks, especially those happening all at once. Just as the SHTF in one area, someone else’s wife just happens to stumble upon a pile of clues in his workshop, even though they’d been there for years. And the entire violent past incident/evidence/conviction that caused the whole mess was a series of flimsy coinkydinks piled atop a turtle and just… ugh. Yet, I suppose it illustrates how a person can be framed for a crime he didn’t commit if everyone involved manages to keep silent for years. Irritating regardless.
(Fourth) I was gonna say that the sex scenes were totally unrealistic, but I have been schooled on Facebook that some men are indeed capable of performing after getting beaten with a tire iron and left to burn in a fire, so nevermind.
(Fifth) BOMBING. Omg. Bombing. Early on, White uses the phrase “bombing down the mountain” to describe fast, reckless driving and I liked it. A cool, fresh usage. Wonderful! But then she used it again. And again. And again. For driving and bike riding and rain and whatever. It drove me insane. I would have given TSBOS four stars on Goodreads, but this knocked it down to three.
So here’s my rule: when you create a clever new turn of phrase, you get to use it once per story. ONCE. No exceptions. One bomb per book. That’s it.
OK, so in my continuing mission to read various sub-genres of romance novels, and blab about them to y’all, I recently finished an adult shape-shifter story. If you recall (and why wouldn’t you?), I previously reviewed a young adult dragon shifter story and to my surprise enjoyed it quite a bit.
Not so the case with Her Purrfect Match by Milly Taiden. Gawd, what a pile of dreckage. Where to begin?
1. Loads of errors. I realize that we can’t all afford an editing service, but it’s terribly distracting to have screw-ups throughout.
2. No attempt to explain how the tiger-peeps came to exist or how they shape-shift, what it feels like to the shifter, etc. In the dragon story, I felt the wings stretching under the skin and the emotional conflict associated with shifting. Here? Nothing. Just bam, he’s a tiger now.
3. There is nothing “tigery” or even weird about the guy when human. He is simply an Alpha male who likes a lot of hot sex in the usual ways. Why bother with tigerness at all?
4. Author uses tigerness as a lame excuse for the usual noncommittal sex men like to engage in, with the only twist being that Tigerman needs to reproduce because enemies. Again, there is no reason for him to be part tiger. He is just an ordinary jerk, until of course he is REFORMED BY LURVE.
5. The heroine is annoyingly insecure about her “curves” and also super-dumb in much of the book. Forex, she doesn’t catch on that she has actually stumbled onto the man she was shifter-matched up with even after he keeps giving tiger cues. I wanted to smack her. Duh! It’s him! The guy! TIGER MAN. Ugh.
So while I am a bit curious about the heroine’s friend who gets matched with two wolf-shifters, I think I’ll pass.