Tag Archives: romance novels

Two for Tuesday ~ Cold Hearts

1. Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag. I read 8 chapters (117 pages) of this suspense novel before giving up. I think that’s a fair shot. And the thing is, I don’t really have anything bad to say about the book. It’s well-written, very suspenseful, gory, and exciting. I could have easily continued on to watch poor messed up Dana emerge from her confused mental state following her horrific ordeal at the hands of a madman. I could have hung on for the ride as Dana figured out exactly what the hell went on 7 years ago with her best friend Casey and that handsome tormented soldier turned pizza guy who of course will turn out to be some kinda hero there in the small town in Indiana. Dana has to return to said ‘burb as she recovers from the madman attack in order to be cared for by her sweet mom and her creepy rich politician stepdad, who just has to be some kind of nogoodnik, right?

But I just don’t care. That’s the thing, I guess. In those 117 pages Hoag has not made me care about Dana enough to plow on through her physical therapy and nightmares and stuff. That’s all a lot of work for me, the reader, and I suppose I’m a bit lazy these days. You gotta make me care about the protag if I’m gonna slog to her doctor’s appointments and deal with her anxiety attacks. Hoag has Dana freaking out at every shadow and that gets tiring really fast. See, Dana was this super pretty blonde high school girl who hung around with this super pretty brunette Casey yada yada and then … something happened to Casey, we don’t know what yet, maybe she’s dead, we’re not sure, but Dana went on to college and began her perky journalism career in Minnesota until the madman attack. But so? Why should I care? What about Dana is compelling here? Why should I hold her hand as she struggles for words and freaks out at every little trigger? Some of it is so gory that it’s triggering for me and I am not invested emotionally enough in the protagonist to bear with the story.

That’s what a writer needs to do. Make us care. If this were a movie, I might stick with it because it would be filmed dramatically with voices, expressions, music, etc., and it would engage me in a more visceral way. But reading is a different experience. Scenes play in my mind, with some input from me to fill out the descriptions, and the writer needs to engage me emotionally by making me identify with the protag, in order for me to want to turn those pages. I probably would have cared more about Dana if she’d been an ordinary high school girl instead of a popular perfect girl who never struggled. I’m supposed to relate to a cheerleader? Meh. And Dana does nothing remarkable during her career to make me root for her during her recovery. There was a hint she may have done a heartwarming story about an animal shelter… now that could have grabbed me. Make Dana an animal rescuer, yeah! But… nothin’. Just a pretty pretty princess. Feh.

(Obviously I’m in the minority here because this book has racked up loads of fab reviews.)

2. Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas. Ah, now this one I loved! This was a traditional hot old-fashioned romance novel, set in London in… idk, whenever they were messing up the tenant farmers’ way of life by ripping up the land with railroads (1850s?). Our hero Devon inherits an earl’s title and some lands plus a decrepit castle, and before he sees any of it has already decided to sell off the lot because he doesn’t want to be bothered with any earlish nonsense. His younger drunken brother agrees with this plan and both gents are totes hilarious, as one would expect from well-educated snotty Brits. Lisa doesn’t make me care about these two at the start ~ they’re obnoxious after all ~ but I’m drawn in regardless because they’re so funny and I want to see what happens.

Next we meet Kathleen, the late earl’s widow, who’s a total icy bitch. Now, CHR gets a lot of bad reviews because readers dislike how Devon treats Kathleen at the start, but hello he is a COLD-HEARTED RAKE, remember? And he’s not treating some sweet little miss to his cold-hearted rakishness and causing her to have an anxiety attack ~ he’s being rakish to someone who can take it, freeze it over, and fling it right back in his snarky face. A match made in heaven! I enjoyed their witty banter so much. I loved the supporting cast too: brother Weston, as mentioned, the late earl’s sisters, the servants, the tenants, etc. Lisa took great care to give all her characters distinct and interesting traits. I know there will be more novels coming with some of the other characters in starring roles and I hope to read those as well.

Lisa drew me in by first creating interesting characters, though they certainly didn’t seem like nice people. That’s not necessarily important (many of us were riveted to Tony Soprano’s antics week after week and he was an asshole). Devon and Kathleen were complex. I wanted to figure out what made them tick; I wanted to see what they’d do next. And the story itself was interesting ~ it seemed impossible that the castle and lands could be saved. How would they get the money? As D&K worked on the estate, their personal relationship deepened, and they changed. They began to care more about each other, and then about things beyond themselves. I know, I know, some of you think romance novels are soooo shallow. But the good ones are not.

This was one of the good ones.

Advertisements

Romance, Realistic and Otterwise

So, I went to B&N the other day and checked out the romance novel section. As usual, the emphasis was on cowboys, dukes, and vampires. Just look at these guys ~ aren’t they to die for?

20150719_143730

I think I’ve made it clear how I feel about vampire romances (puke) and I have similar sentiments toward the cowboy subgenre.

20150719_143504

I remember a time when it was a thing to feature a Native American hero, but I don’t see much of that anymore. Often he’d be half-white, so he could float back into society and pass as an English gentleman or wotever. Probably that’s all way too racist now, so writers stay away from it.

However the duke will always be with us! Not a fat, gouty, nasty old man, but a young handsome studmuffin. Often, he’ll pose as a pirate or highwayman for some convoluted reason and end up kidnapping our heroine by mistake. But it’ll get sorted out after loads of misunderstandings, no worries. I confess that I am partial to the ducal romances.

20150719_143550

Hey, how’d that viscount sneak in there?

Here’s a new thing ~ the Realistic Romance section. What could that possibly mean? Well, let’s check it out…

20150719_142818

Ah, these would be the firemen, bikers, and billionaires. Much more realistic. I mean, vampires don’t even exist, ffs, but firemen sure do. And also 30 year old billionaires, natch. Who wouldn’t want to nab one of those ruthless dudes and his Lamborghini too? And motorcycle gang members, yummy. Just like on Sons of Anarchy, except with a happy ending.

For whatever reason, I’ve been gravitating more to mysteries lately. And poetry. But it was fun to cruise the romance aisle for old time’s sake.

Coinkydinks in Fiction

Jackpot

Not a fan of ’em. Which is why I’ve had a love/hate relationship with romance novels all along, I guess. The “plots” normally hinge on a series of ridiculous coinkydinks. In my view, the fact that the protags meet at all for the first time (cute or otterwise) is ENOUGH. Just the one. One per story. But that’s not what we get, of course, or there’d be no story. And I’ve done the same in mine too. Really you have to have a meet and meet-again (at the least). Or else what? And that doesn’t even begin to address the myriad other against-the-odds stuffs embedded throughout.

I was up early today (like crazy early) and watched a movie. I have found that if I wake in the middle of the night with a headache and go back to sleep, I will be guaranteed a migraine at 6AM, but if I get up, take aspirin, drink water or cola, I can sometimes get rid of it. Naturally I’ll be exhausted mid-afternoon, oh well. The movie I watched was In Lieu of Flowers, sort of a rom-com, but mostly about the grief process after a romantic partner has died or whatever.

The protags, Eric and Rachel, meet at a grief-support group. OK. But then it turns out Eric’s doctor is Rachel’s father. This is totally unnecessary. But even worse is when E&R encounter each other in the waiting room. Think about that. How many doctors there are and how many patients each doctor has. The odds, IN NEW YORK CITY, of you and your romantic interest having the same doc. Then the odds of you both having appts on the same day about the same time. Boggle.

Of course there’s the usual stupid thing of having people with ordinary jobs in NYC somehow managing to live in fabulous places. I suppose Rachel, a second grade teacher, has doctor-dad subsidizing her BEACH HOUSE, but we never get the scoop on Eric’s financial sitch. Whatever. It was just a fluff movie. For a supposedly broken person, Rachel always manages to look continually gorgeous and smile at every strange man, even a drunk on the subway.

I understand that everything can’t be a masterpiece. It’s fine. I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately. Or should I say starting them. I don’t finish most. I did get to the end of In Lieu because I had nothing else to do.

Writing fiction? Seems unfathomable to me these days, like chasing a blow-up raft that’s floated out to sea. I sort of still see it bobbing out there, but it’s so far away, and I’m tired. I write some poetry though because that’s all language and emotion. I don’t have to grind out sentences and dialog and worry about where it’s going and the point of it all.

No point.

On Sex and Poetry

Here’s a weird thing that I may have discussed before, but I don’t recall because Alzheimers, so we will go through it again.

Me and my two commenters, that is. (Rude.)

When I began writing a suspense novel, no one asked me if I’d ever committed a murder or had one attempted on me. No one asked if there had been any murder incidences among close friends or family members. People assumed the story was fictional, which of course it was. (BWAHAHAHA fools.)

But when I write a romance/erotica story I invariably get someone going uh duh is that YOU? Are you writing from experience heh heh heh? Gah, so annoying. At least when I wrote the crazy dragon thing no one asked that. But why not? I don’t understand why no one asked if I’d had sex with a dragon or at least an alligator. Weirddd.

But I write a threesome and it’s all BAM… did you do that??? Like I have enough imagination to write about a freaking dragon but not two chicks getting it on with some dude. Nope nope. I must have been one of them.

And poetry… geez, give me a break. Poems can be totally fictional, hello! Mine mostly are, though I do sometimes eat avocados.

Mmm avocado…

It’s all lies and guacamole around here, my peeps. Trust me, I’m a liar.

SL&G

Not So Purrfect

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 geez it’s awfully distracting to have screw-ups throughout. (Plus Taiden is a very popular Amazon author, with 363 reviews on HPM alone, so you would think… )

2. No attempt at explaining how the tiger-peeps came to exist or how they shape-shift, what it feels like to the shifter, how an observer experiences it, 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 was nothing “tigery” or even weird about the guy when human. He was simply an Alpha male who liked a lot of hot sex in the usual ways. So, 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 that Tigerman needs to reproduce because enemies, or whatever thing. 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 actually stumbled onto the man she’d been shifter-matched up with even after he keeps giving tiger cues. I wanted to smack her. Duh! It’s him! The guy! TIGER DUDE.Ugh.

So, while I am a tiny bit curious about the heroine’s friend who gets matched with two wolf-shifters, I think I’ll pass.

(TWO WOLVES! Polywolfism. Is that a thing?)

Tiger snadwich

Novelist Fail

This is an interesting piece about someone who tried really hard to market a romance novel and totally failed. We hear so much about the successes (such as the one mentioned in the article), which I am not always sure are 100% true. Like did someone really make a fortune writing about dino sex? Super hard to believe. Regardless, the pieces on supposedly astronomical sales of some crazy thing are published regularly because people like to read them. Some of us get inspired by them.

But it’s also true that misery loves company, so when I read Jowita’s account of how she had a completed RN, maybe not perfectly following the formula but close enough, designed a cover, promoted herself on Twitter, etc., and sold only $8 worth of books… I felt better. After all, I don’t nearly promote my writing as much as Jowita did and I’ve made a lot more than that.

Still, $30/month is hardly worth spending a gazillion more hours writing my RN’s in progress. I kinda like the idea that I could just stop now and do something else. OTOH, I may finish anything I’ve started because OCD.

In the eternal battle between the impetus to inertia and the compulsion to line up All The Things, the smart money is on… ?

Say Yes to the Marquess

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 don’t think I need to say any more about that, do I?

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 totes appreciate that. The one thing about the resolution I didn’t like so much 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.

Cake: it’s what’s for breakfast.

PWC

Chasing Amish

In my continuing mission to read a variety of romance subgenres (cowboys and dragons done and dusted), I have now turned to the Amish. Apparently this is quite a big fu… fudgy deal. Justine McDaniel gives a nice overview of the bonnet ripper phenom, which is what inspired me to check it out myself.

The other day, I downloaded four Amish romances for my Kindle (free in Kindle Unlimited, natch ~ you didn’t think I would actually pay for these, right?) and got started.

First book: Fruitful Love by Michelle Eastwood. This is possibly the worst thing I’ve ever read. There was absolutely no plot, no conflict, nothing interesting in any way, shape, or form happening in this story. The characters were boring and had zero personality, no quirks, no flaws, no shiny spots, nothing. Girl meets boy, girl gets boy, the end. WTF? Saving grace: it was super-short.

Second book: An Amish Choice by Diana Morgan. OK, here we have a real story. I liked many things about this book. The protags were surprisingly real and flawed. They were extremely relatable and could have been any religion. The hero is a good man, but speaks impulsively and hurts people’s feelings. This is a problem for him throughout. The heroine is also a good person, but sometimes bitchy and irrational. Both of them are confused and have a hard time figuring out what they really want. Just like it is, you know?

Problems with AAC include POV shifting, typos, and annoying rando paragraph indents. Writers! Use block formatting for Kindle! Indenting looks like crap, and sometimes the uploading process double indents, or otherwise screws things up. Yucky. (I may not have fixed all mine yet, so shhhh.) But these could be (and are) issues with any books and have nothing do do with Amishness.

So, I had one good experience and one bad… and I bailed on the last two. I kinda get the idea now: a lot of baking, a lot of buggying, and a smattering of German.

Danke.

Sexy Amish

Rachel’s Review

Hey everyone! Anna Fondant has Rachel’s Review on free promo today. Get your book now and please write a review on Amazon.

Rachel cover

Thanks! 🙂

Sugar Kisses

Sweet Addiction by J. Daniels

OK, I admit it: I bought this book for its title and cover (pic of sugared lips).

Also, it had a lot of baking/bakery/cake/frosting stuff going on.

So, I began reading and was immediately disappointed because the narrative was first person, which I hate for a romance, unless it’s going to be a dark, crazy, deep romance, which this was not. It was typical fluff. Hot fluff, but fluff nonetheless.

How can I explain? If a story is meaningless fluff, then I want more than one POV. I want to know what the idiot hero is thinking along with the vapid heroine. I want to jump into the mind of the evil villain/ness who schemes to destroy the relationship. That’s the best I can do here.

And not only was it first person, but it was unbelievably stupid. I mean, stupider than the typical chick lit whining about moms and cramps stupid. How can that be? Well, it was. Trust me.

First, not only were the two protags the most absolutely physically stunning people you could possibly imagine, but all their friends were, too! What a coinkydink, and in Chicago of all places (meow). We had the heroine, a 26 year old bakery owner (no mention of where she got the capital), with a fabulous body even though she sampled bakery stuffs all day. This is because she went on a run every morning, and as any ful kno, that half hour of exercise will burn up thousands of pastry calories. And we had the hero, a 32 year old CPA, with the body of Adonis. In fact, the whole CPA firm was stuffed with Greek gods like a freaking studded gyro. [See wut I did there?]

Second, there was the gay best friend. My god, that’s soooo original. Who would think of putting a gay best friend in a romance novel?! He was unbearably handsome, natch, and happily hooking up with every other hot gay guy in the city, as you do, until he falls in lurve. Because like the gun on the table, once you introduce a horribly tired cliché, you must use it to its foregone conclusion.

Third, Daniels had the “plot” turn on a misconstrued half-overheard comment, which we haven’t seen since the last 87 thousand romance novels.

Why did I read it to the very end, you ask? Good question!

It was for the sex. The sex scenes were so incredibly hot, I skimmed through for the next one… and the next one… etc.

Yes, I’m ashamed of myself. I will have to atone somehow. I know! I’ll read another romance novel.