Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review Dump

I know I haven't posted anything in a while, so I'm just doing a review dump for all the books I've reviewed in the past month.

5 stars

My high rating of Unlawful Contact is seriously boosted by the sex scenes between Marc and Sophie. This book gets seriously spicy.

The opening to the novel is when Marc (then known as Hunt) and Sophie first speak at a graduation party. He’s two years older, attractive and very popular. Sophie has just lost her parents, is alone and teased. Of course, Hunt sees past that all. The scene where she loses her virginity to him is one of the most romantic love scenes I’ve ever read. I think this is what really sold me on the book. It’s every girl’s fantasy. Almost every woman can remember wanting that “perfect” guy to notice you. There is something cathartic about having Sophie getting to live that fantasy.

The suspense aspect of the novel plays out well. There are more twists and turns in Marc’s past and the conspiracy against him and his sister than I can count. It was also great that Sophie didn’t immediately fall for him again when they see each other. She’s pissed and she should be. It made her character seem more real and made it more interesting to watch them fall for each other a second time. While the first chapter was hot, the sex scenes in the book become more erotic.

Some moments in the plot did seem to drag, especially when it came to progress in their investigation or Sophie’s job as a reporter. Nothing was ever slow or dull enough for me to want to put it down though. The only thing which did get under my skin a little was the complete care bear ending. Every character got everything they wanted. Within months all the good guys got of scot free while the bad guys got put away for life (not that it isn’t a good thing, just not very realistic based on how trials go). It just got a bit to warm and fuzzy for me.

I’d recommend this for anyone who likes romantic suspense and is looking for something that sizzles.

5 stars

During the first few chapters, I came very close to setting this book down and never picking it up again. Lady Irene Wyngate is determined not to marry, and insists on making this clear to everyone. It’s great that she’s an independent heroine, but I just couldn’t envision some woman talking to the ton at a ball and spouting out why she would never marry. While I liked that she was a modern, independent thinker, her talking openly about it didn’t jive with her deire to be considered proper.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the book. Her not wanting to marry (and the reasons she doesn’t want to marry) set up for good tension between her and Gideon. I loved their sparring. It brought both characters to life. And there were several wonderful, sensual love scenes.

At first I didn’t know what to make of the plot since it focuses on the fact Gideon was kidnapped as a child and grew up in the slums of London. It’s a somewhat odd plot, but it provided enough twists and surprises to keep everything moving.

While this is not one of my favorite romances overall, I came to really like both the hero and heroine.

4 stars

Overall I enjoyed Knight of Desire. It definitely passed the put-down pick-up test. Most of the story is told from William, our hero’s point of view. I enjoyed watching his feelings and understanding of Katherine evolve. While there is a lot of action, William and Katherine’s relationship changes very slowly. The main conflict in their relationship is their lack of trust, so the book is rife with misunderstandings. They weren’t the wall-banger, TSTL types of misunderstandings but I did start to find them tiresome. William spent most of the book either confused or oblivious, but is never an overbearing ass-hat hero. I found Kate’s character more off-putting. She is clearly a strong woman able to endure a lot of hardship, but she didn’t seem active in making her and William’s relationship work until way into the book.

I was a bit hesitant about this book since it’s my first medieval romance, but I’m glad I got it. I think my decision may have been influenced by its gorgeous cover and the rave reviews it received a few months ago. There wasn’t too much detail and realism about the time period, but this worked for me since I find too much realism distracts me from the story. It was a fun read and I’m really excited for the next book in the series, Knight of Pleasure. The hero, Stephan, is introduced in this book and became my favorite character, so I’m thrilled he gets his own story.

3 stars

When I saw this was one of the harelquin freebies, I just had to get it. I mean really, have you taken a good look at that cover? It cracks me up! I don't know if I should start with the two fat, oblivious babies... or the way he's holding them like two wiggling footballs he scooped up off the ground while gazing optimistically into the horizon... or the strange jaw buldge that suggets a jaw tumor. I mean it looks like some oddball in a suit picked up some kids at the supermarket and brought them home to his wife. "Hey honey, I'm home. And look what I brought with me- two pudge identical tots! Now I can go one and fufill my dream of being the best baby collector in America..."

Ok, I'm done, but you still got to admit it's a truly snark worthy cover. As a book it was better than I expected, which isn't saying much since I expected it to be similar to the cover. It read more like a Harelquin Presents than a Silhouette Desire. That's were the most the secret baby and I-must-punish-you-for-lying-to-me plots come out. However, Nick Falco wasn't nearly as much as an asshat than Harlequin usually makes there hero's, so that was a pleasant surprise. Jenna, however, really got on my nerves. She was intent on martyring herself for her children, because her life could never be complete without them! To say the least, no depth.

Despite all it's shortcomings, this book was a freebie, so there's no harm in downloading it, if only to look at the cover some more.

Secret Fantasies and the Asshat Hero

From early romance with Fabio covers to today’s Harlequin Presents, the uber-alpha male is a staple of the romance genre. We’re all familiar with the symptoms: brooding, possessive aggression, a dark past, and controlling the heroine’s life for her own good. For many readers, this is enough to send the book flying across the room. Many feminists are enraged by the use of forced seduction. Many readers are disgusted by the emotionally abusive relationships between virgins and their Greek billionaire tycoons. But one thing is for sure, these books are still selling strong and aren’t going anywhere for quite some time.

I personally fall into the disgusted and enraged category. The last time I read a Harlequin Presents was months ago, and mainly because I was in the mood to write a particularly snarky review. My loathing of these heroes has nothing to do with this post though. What is relevant is my curiosity as to why women love these books, despite all the abuse the heroine is stuck with. After months of thinking and meeting women who love these books, here is my conclusion:

These alpha-males aren’t just assholes and pricks, but a reflection of a secret fantasy. Thinking about yourself and your friends, how many women do you know who have ended up in a relationship with the perpetual bachelor? The controlling prick? The over possessive asshole? The guy who blows hot and cold?

The list of these stereotypes is endless. So is the list of friends of mine who have ended up with one of these men, and still tried to make it work despite those traits. And guess what- they ended up getting hurt.

I’m going to start with the controversial book Twilight. People are all over the place when it comes to Twilight, from screaming fangirls to people who scream if the books get anywhere near them. I ended up going to the midnight release of New Moon with a friend of mine and her guy friend. We leave the theater and she starts to wax poetically about Edward and his love for Bella. In my mind I begin listing all the reasons I can’t stand him. 1) He doesn’t let Bella decide for herself 2) he always insists he’s right 3) he stalks her… I look up to see her with her guy friend, or more specifically the guy she’s sleeping with but 1) won’t date her because he knows she’s still in love with her ex 2) he insists she be more healthy (for her own good) 3) he’s cheating on her…

And it clicks. She loves Edward because the men in her life have the same abusive traits as him. What could be a better fantasy than having a man act that way because he loves you!

I don’t think most women take stories such as Twilight as seriously as she does. I don’t think all the women who read and love Harlequin Presents and The Flame and the Flower are in emotionally abusive relationships. Chances are though that men like this have been in your life at some point. We know these men aren’t going to change, but isn’t it a wonderful fantasy that they act that way because of a strong, compelling and selfless emotion?