Intersection: romance novels and Flight of the Conchords

I’ve been just a wee bit Flight of the Conchords obsessed, lately.  I’ve had some random health issues and busy times at work, and when I’m stressed out and worried, I just want something funny.  So I created a playlist for my ipod that is jam packed with Eddie Izzard clips, Conchords songs, terrible amazing 90s hip hop, and cartoon themes.  The result is that I now associate penne alla arrabiatta with Darth Vader… and, of course, certain romance novels now remind me of Flight of the Conchords songs.

Cover image, Love Letters by Lori Brighton

A few weeks ago, The Dashing Duchesses listed some books that were on sale or free from the major retailers as part of a summer reading feature.  I love me some cheap books (if they’re good… or very amusing), so I was all over that list.  Love Letters is one of the items I picked up, free, and I am so glad I did.  Love Letters features two distinct novellas, The Art of Seduction and Meant for Me, as well as a preview/excerpt of To Seduce an Earl, the first book of Brighton’s newest series.  I liked Meant for Me a little better than The Art of Seduction, but both were fairly good, if a little paint-by-numbers, novellas.

Undoubtedly, my favorite part of Love Letters is the excerpt of To Seduce an Earl, in which the hero is a male prostitute.  Novelty is rare in romance novels.  There are simply a bajillion books about rakish (but heart o’ gold) lords (dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons), alpha-male heroes of all walks, gentlemen-scholars, etc.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a man-ho, and I have to admit I’m very intrigued.  The excerpt I read was almost Shakespearean with mistaken identity and intrigue aplenty.  (I love mistaken identity stories… not sure what that says about me.)  Anyway, in honor of To Seduce an Earl, here’s a video of the song that ran through my head while I read that excerpt.

Lori Brighton is a completely new author to me.  I have absolutely no idea who she is or what she normally writes, but I am 100% more likely to buy one of her books now that I’ve read a lengthy (and free) sampling of her work.  To be fair, though, she totally had me at male prostitute.  This collection shows that Brighton is a good writer whose style I enjoy, for the most part.  (I did question a few things, such as how long clay residue would remain on one’s hands once one had rubbed said hands all over someone else’s body… at some point doesn’t one run out of clay residue to spread around? Just how gunky with clay were his hands?!)  There were some editing issues that caught my attention, but it’s difficult to muster a lot of irritation for such a thing when the item in question is free.

OH MY GOD!  I thought I should explain the Darth Vader/penne alla arrabiata combo… and I found this.  I think I just had a moment of squee…

This week in reading…

I randomly “purchased” (it was free) Intentions of the Earl a few weeks ago, and this week I decided to read it.  I liked quite a lot about it, so when I finished it, I quickly purchased (for real, this time) the other two books in the series.  I skip around a lot in my reading, so it’s unusual for me to read all of the books in a series consecutively, but I’m glad I did.

Cover image, Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon

I’m going to start with a complete nitpick.  I can’t exactly explain why, but the title bugs me.  Mr. Jansson, my AP English teacher, now lives only in my head (having departed this mortal coil about a decade ago), and he’s screaming that it should be The Earl’s Intentions.  Maybe it’s weird that I have a dead English teacher shouting things in my head, but whatever, we all have issues.  Anyway, even if Intentions of the Earl is acceptable, shouldn’t Intentions have an article?  I love this creepy atmospheric rock band from the 90s called Cranes, but it really bugs me that they aren’t The Cranes… nope, they’re just Cranes.  I deal with it because Cranes are awesome (not all cranes though… I’m sure some of those birds are absolute assholes)… you see what I mean?  Nouns in English require articles to help us to determine which cranes or Cranes or Intentions we’re talking about.  Anyway… here’s Cranes:

Back to Intentions of the Earl, then.  I liked a lot of things about this book.  It was funny (intentionally).  It had a plucky heroine, and I do like those.  It had a villain who inspired a certain degree of sympathy.  It had a little bit of mystery.  It had amazing secondary characters that I wanted to know more about (hence my buying the other two books in the series…).

There were some things about the book that I found a little weird but didn’t actively dislike.  The heroine’s parents are referred to throughout the book as “Mama” and “Papa”, as though they are also the parents of the narrator or as though the narrator is Brooke (the heroine), but it isn’t.  The book is written in standard shifting-perspective third person, just like nearly every other romance novel out there.  In the other two books, Gordon referred to the parents as John and Caroline, but all the “Mama” and “Papa” references in Intentions of the Earl were a bit strange.

All right, now for the stuff that I didn’t like at all.  I had a difficult time getting a bead on Andrew, the hero.  He’s written as a totally likable guy, someone you’d want to meet up with at the pub for some beer and easy conversation, but his Intentions aren’t all that honorable, so how great a guy could he be?  When we first meet Andrew, he’s being hired by the sympathy-inducing villain to ruin one of the Banks girls and run them (the entire Banks family) out of town.  Once he accepts that task in exchange for the deed to one of his properties, it doesn’t matter how charming he is to Brooke.  I spent the first two-thirds of the book in true anxiety, hoping that Andrew wouldn’t turn out to be an asshole, and I didn’t appreciate that stress.  I was also not terribly keen on the final third of the book.  It was abrupt and choppy, and I was so busy “WTF?”ing that I didn’t even get to enjoy the mystery reveal.

But it was free, and I enjoyed enough about it that I was interested in seeing where Gordon was going to take the series.

Cover image, Liberty for Paul by Rose Gordon

There’s a theme in these covers, and I’m not sure I like it, but who really cares about e-book covers anyway?  If you’re gripping a paperback, and you’re exposing the cover for all the world to see and judge your reading tastes, then I understand wanting to read a book with a stunning cover.  But, honestly, it’s an e-book.  Who cares?!

Liberty is a real piece of work.  She’s absolutely irritating in the first book, so I wondered how she was going to carry her own book.  I actually enjoyed seeing her progression throughout the book from irritating little brat in the first chapter to interesting and engaging grown-up at the end.  I think my favorite thing about Liberty is that she’s 19 years old when you first meet her, and she actually behaves like some of the 19-year-olds I know.  She chatters, she makes hasty judgments that are based more on her own insecurity than any actual evidence, and she frequently offends people.  I loved it.  I’m so sick of reading about young characters that act like they’re already in their forties (Bella Swan, I’m looking at you).  I reveled in Liberty’s immaturity, even when it irritated me.

I liked Paul, but compared to the complexity the author gave to Liberty, he fell a little flat.  The main conflict between the two characters could have been solved by one conversation, and there really wasn’t enough of a reason given to explain why that conversation couldn’t take place.  I hate it when problems could be so easily solved but aren’t.  This odd little plot device wherein the characters were able to speak openly to one another (but without Liberty knowing it was Paul to whom she spoke… so that’s annoying…) helped to further things on, but in the end it just left a yucky taste in my mouth.  And then there was this really weird sequence at Paul’s brother’s house… I don’t know… I loved the beginning and the end of this book, and I absolutely adored the illegitimate illiterates, but the middle of the book and the story segments that bring Liberty and Paul together left much to be desired.

Cover image, To Win His Wayward Wife by Rose Gordon

I can’t fathom that anyone could read the first two books and not automatically know who the hero of the third one is, but I gathered from reading some of the reviews on Barnes and Noble that a lot of folks really were surprised by the reveal in Chapter 2.  I guessed in book 1 that it would go this way, and in book 2, I knew for sure.  But enough of my own-horn-tooting…  Anyway, to preserve the surprise for anyone who might want to read this book, I’ll avoid being a great big spoiler.

This is undoubtedly the best of the three books.  There were still a few weird things going on with it (the hero’s crazy drama at the penultimate section, for example), but it was a very satisfying read.  This book involved a bit of backstory and a few flashbacks, but I think it was all handled fairly well.  I wasn’t impatient and annoyed while reading the flashbacks (or, at least, not very), and they did help further the character development and the hero/heroine story line.

The most annoying thing about the book was the fire and how Madison responded to it.  Oh noes, the barn is on fire and escape is easily at hand if only I jump off this loft and land in my hero’s arms.  But what if he drops me? And she dithers long enough for not one but two villains to prevent her escape.  It was like watching a bad horror movie.  Is she going to get away?  Yes?  Oh, no!  She’s been grabbed by a villain!  Oh, he just jumped out the window and died.  OK, she’s going to escape.  Yes?  Oh, no!  She’s been grabbed by another villain!  Honestly… And finally the hero has to (somehow) wrap a rope around the roof so he can climb up to her rescue… WTF?!  And you know it’s totally implausible that he could have done so because the author felt the need to include the dialogue wherein Madison asks and the hero responds how he managed to effect her rescue.  Ugh.

But even though that scene annoyed me to no end, I really did enjoy Madison’s story, and I loved the hero (of course).  All right, so there’s the wrap up… the other books I read this week struck more of a chord (not always a good one, mind you) and have earned their own separate posts.

This week in reading…

I was a little bit light on reading this week.  I spent so much time writing posts and checking out other blogs (and commenting) during Armchair BEA that I didn’t read as much during the day, and I barely read at all this weekend (all that gardening!).  All told, it was a bit of an indifferent week in reading.

Cover image, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Yeah, I read it.  I don’t really get the Texas thing, but there are a butt-ton of romance novels dedicated to cowboys and/or folk from Texas.  Don’t get me wrong,Texas is A-OK with me, and I’m certainly not messing with it, I just don’t get all kinds of excited about books set in Texas.  But it was free, and I was curious.  My favorite thing about this book is the little kid, even though she totally has a trailer-park name (Sammie Jo).  The kid is 15 months old at the start of the book, and although it’s tough to track the passage of time across the length of the book, I suspect she’s about 17 months old at the end of the book.

I have a 3-year-old and a 16-month-old, so I was automatically drawn to Sammie Jo, and I really think Hestand nailed her portrayal of the toddler.  Maybe I wouldn’t have even noticed this sort of thing before I had kids, but it really bugs me when authors include kids and then get all the details wrong.  12-month-olds can’t jump.  Seriously.  Babies who are just starting to talk can’t hit final consonants and can’t properly enunciate combination consonants “br,” “sl,” etc.  Hell, my 3-year-old still can’t do any of that stuff (all combination consonants become “f” for some odd reason…).  So I was beyond thrilled to meet Sammie Jo and discover her doing things an actual 15-month-old would do.  I was also charmed by the relationship between Emma, Sammie Jo’s guardian (and the actual main character of the book…), and the little girl.  Actually, I loved everything relating to Sammie Jo in this book.  All of the characters responded to her exactly as you’d expect, from the grandpa-like older man to the ‘gonna-be-very-good-dads-one-day’ brothers of the main male character.

I didn’t like very much else about the book.  The pacing was strange, and the character development left a bit to be desired.  If the book didn’t keep on telling me how attracted the main characters were to one another, I’d never have guessed.  It annoys me when a narrator has to tell me what’s going on rather than my finding out through action or dialogue.  The ending was rushed and awkward and didn’t really tie-up all the loose ends. And, seriously, it ends at a cow birthing…  Maybe that’s totally sexy to people who get the whole Texas thing, but it just irritated me.

Awesome cover image, The Bride and the Brute by Laurel O’Donnell

Just had to show this cover full size…  I love the lightning-struck castle.  My remarks on this book require a preface: it’s a novella, and it was free.  Most of the novellas I’ve read have been terrible.  You get the idea while reading them that the author started out hoping to write a full novel and just didn’t have enough story (or time).  They don’t have to be bad (Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare was pretty great), but they usually are.  This one was pretty bad, but not for the usual reasons.  It was obvious that this book was designed from start to finish to fit within novella length, so what went wrong?  Well…

1.  In a book set in England in 1392, I was a bit surprised to encounter characters named Jayce, Reese, Nicole, Morse, and Dylan.  Jarring, that.
2.  Reese, the male character, is a prize asshole for most of the book, and I just didn’t feel like rooting for him when he finally decided to overcome his own issues and chase down his girl.  And, in a novella, it shouldn’t have felt like “finally,” but it did.
3.  Jayce, the female character, is almost completely flat.  She really only has two character traits: she’s afraid of storms, and she feels strongly about the correct way to break in difficult horses.  I am not kidding.

So why did I keep reading it?  Honestly, when you’re reading a book that’s so short, there’s no reason to DNF the thing, and usually a sick curiosity comes over me.  I want to find out what happens at the end.  The Bride and the Brute rewards you for your patience (ish… it depends on how you define reward), and that was enough to make me glad I finished it.

Cover image, One Week as Lovers by Victoria Dahl

I finished this book last Monday, and I think I’ve decided that I liked it, but I had to overcome some reservations in order to reach that conclusion.  I do recommend it as an interesting and somewhat edgy romance novel (that’s an unusual word combination right there… when was the last time ‘edgy’ was associated with the romance genre?), but it’s fairly intense and probably wouldn’t suit everyone.  I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy it when romance authors push the envelope with their characters and give them real problems to deal with.  Dahl did that with both of her characters, particularly Lancaster, the male character.  Part of the fun of the book is slowly uncovering all his issues, so I won’t go into any of that.   (I felt like a total voyeur when I was reading this book, but it was very interesting to put together the puzzle of his behavior with the knowledge of what caused it.)  Suffice it to say that both characters are lugging around a metric-ton of baggage, yet the writing doesn’t suffer from all of that emotional weight.  The characters are well-written and their choices and actions make sense given their experiences.

Anyway, the real problem I had with the book was the sex scenes.  I get it: if you have characters who have both suffered sexual trauma of some sort, you’re going to end up with somewhat messed-up sex scenes.  They make perfect sense, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoyed reading them.  There’s zero comparison between One Week as Lovers and Fifty Shades of Grey, really, but I am even less inclined to read the latter now that I’ve read the former. If I had such a strong reaction to the relatively mild stuff that happens in One Week as Lovers, there’s no way I’d be able to get through Fifty Shades of Grey.

Armchair BEA 2012 – Day 4 (catching up) – Beyond the Blog

Yesterday was a bit nuts, but I am determined to catch up today.

Yesterday was day 4 of Book Expo America, in which I am participating virtually via Armchair BEA.  Today’s (yesterday’s) writing topic asks us to look beyond the blog for opportunities or tips to expand one’s writing to other communities online or in print or to expand one’s blog to be a source of income.  “Have you done any freelance writing?  Are you monetizing your blog and how so?  How do you make connections outside the book blog community on the Internet?  If none of these apply, we’d love for you to share a fun aspect about your blog or life that may be completely separate from books!”

I write and edit all day long as part of my job, but I don’t imagine anyone would be all that thrilled to hear about the number of business letters I have occasion to write.  The editing I do is even less sexy than writing business letters.  Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy taking a whole bunch of crazy and transforming it into standard written English, but that’s me.  I’d be happy eating oatmeal every day.  I’m just one of those people.  Given that the non-blog writing that I do is generally uninteresting, that I am not monetizing my blog, and that I have few connections either within or without the book blog community on the Internet, I figured I’d tell a cautionary tale about writing, editing, and managing difficult interpersonal relationships and about how I’ve failed at all three over the years (but in a fun way).

When I was in high school, I was the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper and the sole contributor to the opinion page.  I wrote some crazy nonsense, and I still can’t believe that the school was willing to publish it every month and distribute it to all the students.  My favorite regular column was the advice column, “Dear Wildcat.”  In the first month, I couldn’t get anyone to submit questions, so, lacking patience, I decided to scrap the idea to answer real questions from students and just made up my own questions to answer.  I was 17 and writing both sides of the conversation… you can probably guess how that went.  All told, it was a great experience, but I learned that I’m best at humor writing, so a career in serious journalism was never in the cards for me.

During my stint as editor-in-chief, I also learned that I am a terrible manager.  I’m pretty much like Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I micromanage and am convinced that I can play all the roles, simultaneously, better than anyone else.  It’s a problem.  When I discovered that the other students had no talent for writing and didn’t understand even basic English grammar, my natural response was to write all of the articles myself and just give writing credit to the other students, because that was easier than trying to manage the process of editing and collecting final drafts (that were often still not quite written in standard American English…).  The students who wrote for the paper were terrible writers, for sure, but I was so much worse as a manager than they ever were as writers, sentences like, “The Akil has improve is by working harder” notwithstanding.

Even when I’m not in any way responsible for the material that gets published, it still drives me absolutely batty to come across published material that could have been written by a monkey.  About a decade ago, a guy who knows my dad purchased a community newspaper and tried his hand at publishing.  He had grand plans to transform the newspaper into a community information hub for the San Gabriel Valley area of LA County, but his newspaper was so terrible!  After the first edition, I wrote a letter to the editor requesting that he hire a copy editor.  He ignored me and proceeded to publish another edition that was full of grammatical crazy.  I wrote another letter to the editor that referenced the number of grammar and spelling (!) errors and begged him to hire a copy editor.  He ignored me and published another edition.  I, full of 22-year-old righteous indignation, took a red pen to his newspaper and mailed it back to him.  He ignored me.  I kept it up for another three months until he called my dad (!!) and asked him to tell me to stop sending him proofread copies of his newspaper.  At that point, after six months, I finally realized that he didn’t care about the quality of what he was publishing, and I was fighting an unwinnable battle.

I’m ten years older now and a lot more mellow.  Even so, it drives me wonky when I read a book, even a free one, and encounter truly stupid errors, but I no longer ride out on my steed of grammatical justice to defend the honor of the English language every time I read a book that was published without the benefit of a competent editor (every other time, maybe).  So, yeah, I’ve mellowed, but I still have a tendency to be very critical of what I read.  I suspect that the hyper-criticism that comes naturally to me could be off-putting to many (particularly authors and publishers).  But I’m not really writing a review blog here, so maybe it’s moot.

Last week in reading…

Rather than write one giant post about the 8 books I read in the last week and five days, I decided to split the post into two shorter posts.  I’ve been insanely busy for the last month and a bit, so my posting has been a tad irregular.  I am hoping to be back on schedule next week.  I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels lately, both because I really adore books from that genre and because there are a ton of free romance novels on nook.  Also, I’ve been really stressed out at work, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is think deep thoughts.  Romance novels are notoriously short on deep thoughts.

Cover image, Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee

My sister lent this book to me, and it was enjoyable, if a bit odd.  The writing was fairly decent, and the book was paced very well.  I would have thoroughly enjoyed the book if it hadn’t committed a terrible sin (in my book, ha ha).  I really hate it when one of the major elements of both character and plot development in a romance novel is that one of the characters is, for unexplained and/or unexplainable reasons, opposed to love.  It’s almost as annoying as the lovely “if only the characters would communicate, there would be no need for this book” device.  As much as the male character’s development annoyed me, however, I thought the female character was very well done and believable.

Cover image, A Scandalous Charade by Ava Stone

This book was free, but it wasn’t nearly as terrible as I expected it to be.  Like many free books, it would benefit from some careful editing–it’s way too long, contains unnecessary and confusing side plots, and there are some typographical errors–but it was better than some professionally published stuff that I’ve read.  I really enjoyed both of the main characters, and a lot of the secondary characters were also interesting and two-dimensional.  The oddest thing about this book is that one of the secondary characters dies very suddenly, and it’s so abrupt that I almost missed it.  After that death, the main character is spurred into flight and there is no discussion at all about her emotional state after such a sudden loss.  It was bizarre, jarring, unpleasant.  A few hundred pages later, there was finally some reference to her grief, but it was a bit too little, too late.  And I’m not kidding about it being a few hundred pages later… this thing was ridiculously long.

Cover image, The Duchess of Love by Sally MacKenzie

I understand that romance novel covers rarely have anything to do with the actual books themselves, but this one really takes the cake.  There are no playful little dogs in the book as far as I can remember… Anyway, this one is a novella by an author whose other books I have really enjoyed for their humor and for their distinctness.  Many authors, even ones that I enjoy, simply write the same book over and over again (I’m talking about you, Stephanie Laurens…).  Sally MacKenzie at least takes the trouble to write distinct characters with unique traits, insecurities, passions, etc. and to write plots that complement those characters.  The Duchess of Love, while quite short, was a very enjoyable read, though it does seem implausible that some of the characters could possibly fall desperately in love after one meeting…  Seriously.  If I had just met someone and talked to him for no longer than thirty minutes, I wouldn’t spend an entire afternoon bawling my head off because I heard a rumor the guy was married.  Don’t emotions take just a wee bit longer to get engaged?  Honestly…

Anyway, so those are the books I read last week.  More later on the slightly more interesting bunch from this week.

Speaking of terrible books…

I have already established that free books are often bad books, but I was faintly shocked this morning when I delved once more into nook’s free books section and discovered all the nonsense that is available.  I understand that it isn’t nice to make fun of people, but seriously, who are these people who write these books?  What in the world motivates them?  Anyway, I haven’t read any of these (yet), but it really makes me happy to ‘own’ a copy that I ‘purchased’ for free.  Besides, my sister would really get a kick out of some of the titles and covers.

I’ll start with the least bizarre and make my way down the list to the coup de grace.

Cover image, Love's Magic: Book One in the Boadicea Series by Traci Hall

I’m fairly certain I’ll actually read this book.  From the publisher’s description, it seems to be a combination of medieval romance/fantasy, and I hold a soft spot in my heart for fantasy novels.  I’m hoping for a dragon, but we’ll see.

Cover image, Undeniable by Gayle Eden

I picked this one up because it was free and because the cover image was distinctly creepy.  Doesn’t that dude kinda look like Keanu Reeves?  Isn’t it strange that his intense scowly face is superimposed over the image of the skinny chick holding an oddly demure pose?  And there was a hint of mystery involved–Barnes and Noble did not offer any information about this book except that it’s a “sensual regency romance,” whatever that means.  Even the reader reviews–usually full of delightful phrases such as “I’d read this over and over, if I could” (seriously… what’s stopping you?)–were unnaturally slim on details.  I want to read this book to find out if it’s as creepy as it appears.

Cover image, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer by Rita Hestand

And now it starts to get ridiculous.  Readers who have liked Undeniable also liked Rita Hestand’s Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.  Why?  I have no idea!  I don’t think I can stand to read this one, but the fact that it exists really makes me happy.

Cover image, Tristan's Loins by Karolyn Cairns

When the book is named Tristan’s Loins, you know it’s got to be bad good.  When the book is about an author who creates a twelfth century hero character who somehow comes alive and peppers the author with complaints about of her writing choices–why is the heroine so annoying?–it’s even worse better.  Honestly, the only reason I purchased this free nook book was so I could send it to my sister as a recommendation.  This one might just beat Truly Madly Viking for the title of  lamest most awesome romance story ever.  Well, it would win if the following book didn’t exist.  But it does.

Cover image, I Married an Alien by Emma Daniels and Ethan Somerville

Honestly, what is there to say about this?  It took two people to write this book?  What manner of crazy went into designing that cover?  Is the lead character named Broncanous? Broncaho?  So here’s my real response: WTF mate?!

Also, I Married an Alien reminds me of this:

Sometimes I read terrible books…

So for this post, I’m doing a review blog… sort of.

Lately, it seems that I mostly read terrible books.  My lately includes only the last week.  I read quickly and often, so I clear a book every day or two.  Normally I don’t read so many truly awful books, but I “bought” a bunch of free books on Barnes and Noble and, well, you get what you pay for.  Here’s a full accounting of all the books I read in the last seven days, counting backwards from today:

The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania (I hope that’s a pseudonym).  If the author is younger than 20, this book makes some sense.  I suspect it would appeal to teen girls who really enjoyed Disney’s The Parent Trap.  It doesn’t appeal so much to me.  I’m halfway through this book, and I can tell it’s about to go from bad to worse.  Here’s how I know: the hero, who is engaged to the cousin of the heroine, and the heroine have just been interrupted from a brief garden tryst by the cousin (that’s the fiancee of the hero) who has magically just received an urgent letter from the sister of the heroine, conveying the plot-moving information that the sister is deathly ill and that the heroine needs to leave London with all due haste to rush to Essex to be with her before she dies.  The heroine and cousin are at a family dinner party… how did the letter arrive?  How did the deathly ill sister write such a letter?  And I know, even though I haven’t read that far yet, that the heroine will rush off to be with her sister, and the hero will follow her, even though he’s betrothed to her cousin.  Did I mention that the hero has a twin and they do the swapping places thing several times in the book?  Yeah… it’s awesome.

Cover image, The Wary Widow by Jerrica Knight-Catania

All’s Fair in Love and Seduction by Beverley Kendall (wow, it was just shocking how awful this one was…).  In this book, the author sets up this whole dramatic (and fairly stupid) trust crisis–the hero does not trust the heroine because he suspects she has misled him, and the heroine does not trust the hero because he purposefully sets out to seduce and ruin her and does so quite spectacularly–and then just drops it when it no longer suits her purposes.  The hero finds out he was wrong, and everything just comes together as though he wasn’t a total asshole for the first two-thirds of the book… I wanted to smack the heroine character silly for being content with his sheepish, “whoops, my bad” apology.  Terrible.

Cover image, All's Fair in Love and Seduction by Beverley Kendall

Wicked Mourning by Heather Boyd.  This one was billed through Barnes and Noble as a regency historical romance, but the author’s note called it historical erotica.  It is neither, really.  It’s more like a glorified short story with a couple of really lame sex scenes and an abrupt end.  It was about 60 pages in length on my nook, and I read it in 40 minutes.  The cover… well…  I don’t even know what to say about that.  There wasn’t really a story, and that’s sort of a problem.  The first page gives a brief synopsis that I skipped, but it turns out that the one-page blurb actually gives you the information you will need in order to understand the next 60 pages of crazy.  I guess the moral of the story is: free doesn’t mean good.

Cover image, Wicked Mourning by Heather Boyd

A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare.  This book was actually really well-written and well-conceived, and I had a blast reading it.  It’s funny, on purpose!  I’ve read a lot of Dare’s books over the last few months (but not Legend of the Werestag… I’m not going there unless someone promises me it’s worth my time), but this one is my favorite.  What I love about romance novels is that they tell love stories, and they have happy endings.  I know that life isn’t like what you find in the romance novel–that’s a fantasy–but after dealing with life all day long, the last thing I want is to read something that’s going to make me feel worse about it all.  Hell, sometimes the last thing I want is to read something that’s going to make me think big thoughts.  So, yeah, romance novels are never going to give me fodder for interesting conversation at dinner parties, and they won’t lead to my being well-respected in the academic community, but they make me happy.  And this book accomplished that goal more than most by being funny as well as charming and heart-warming.

Cover image, A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I’m certainly not the only person who liked this book.  There were, of course, times that I wanted to shake Katniss like a rag doll, but on the whole I found the story to be good in all the right ways.  Did it change my life?  Nope.  Did it entertain me?  You bet your booty!  From the time I opened the book until I finished it, I was in a state of suspense, desperate to know what happened.  I haven’t felt that on-the-edge-of-my-seat about a book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Strangely, though, I feel no real urge to rush to read the other two…

Cover image, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

You might wonder why I continue to read books even after I’ve determined that they’re terrible?  I don’t, always.  I stopped reading The Charterhouse of Parma when I was about halfway through because there was a suggestion of sexuality between the hero character and his aunt, and I just couldn’t handle it, and because I just didn’t care what happened to any of the characters–zero personal investment.  But when romance novels are bad, they’re usually really funny.  So I’ll probably finish The Wary Widow even though it’s abysmally bad, because it’s bad in funny ways.  From a review that I happened to catch online while I was hunting down the cover image, I have reason to believe there’s a miraculous cure after one instance of the doctor bleeding the sister, and I can’t wait to see how the author handles it!  I don’t really know what all that says about me, except that I love a train wreck.