Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Retro Review: Million Dollar Stud (Yes, Really.)

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00HX8UR1Y/themisaofsupe-20
This review of Million Dollar Stud by Meg Lacey was first posted at The Romance Reader in 2002.  Back then I rated it 1-Heart (F Grade) with an MPAA sensuality content rating of PG-13.

+++++

As a reader nothing bothers me more than when my intelligence is being insulted. Honestly Harlequin, Million Dollar Stud?! The only logical explanation I have for this moronic title is that it was conceived during the office happy hour. However, Harlequin does have this knack for putting dopey titles on good books, so despite cringing every time I had to haul this book out in public, I kept an open mind when reading the story. Unfortunately, it’s equally as insulting.

Richard Darcy Kristof is a bored gazillionaire. Desperate for an adventure, he makes a wager with his lawyer cousin - Darcy is going to live one month, in the middle of nowhere, without any of his gazillionaire resources. Going under the assumed name of Rick Darcy, he is soon working as temporary manager of Braybourne Farms in tiny Cecil, Kentucky.

Sylvia “Silver” Braybourne is a daddy’s little girl who wants to turn the family farm around. All she’s ever wanted to do is run the farm, but Daddy just can’t get past the fact that she’s a girl. Not only does he keep trying to marry her off, but he also doesn’t take her seriously when she tries to show him that the troubled horse he won in a poker game is a sure winner. Adding insult to injury he hires Rick Darcy for the job she should rightfully have.

Where does one begin? Darcy is conceited, spoiled and an egomaniac. Women are mere playthings, and he freely admits within the first chapter that they tend to bore him to tears. Well, that is, they don’t bore him enough to make him stop wanting to seduce them - and the minute he meets Silver he’s working overtime to get into her pants.

Silver falls into the feisty heroine category. The only thing that was missing to complete the picture was her whining “But Daddy…” and stamping her feet. Not only does the reader have the read the same old “I can run the family business better than any man” claptrap, but Silver is completely spineless. So Daddy won’t let her run the farm - why doesn’t she pack her bags, and go to work for someone who does take her seriously? Instead she continues to train the troubled horse, succumb to Darcy’s busy hands, and allow Daddy to treat her like a brainless twit.

The secondary characters are all out central casting. There’s the clueless yet doting father, the steel magnolia mother, the brash local woman who runs a burger joint, and the wise, old farm hand (nicknamed Tater of all things). Add to this the I-hate-you-I-want-you relationship between Darcy and Silver and I think I actually felt my brain begin to melt.

There is a very minor bright spot towards the end of the story, which features Silver telling Darcy off big time. Unfortunately this is a romance, and there has to be a happily-ever-after. Silly me, I held out hope that she would keep on walking - I know nothing would have made me happier.

Stories with titles like Million Dollar Stud do little to improve the image of category romance. My advice is to check out some of the more favorable category reviews featured at TRR. Anything has to be better than this.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Retro Review: Can You Forget? by Melissa James

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0042JSQL0/themisaofsupe-20
This review of Can You Forget? by Melissa James was first published at The Romance Reader in 2004.  Back then I rated it 3-Hearts (C grade) and gave it an MPAA sensuality content rating of PG-13.

+++++

Dr. Tallan “Irish” O’Rierdan has spent the last several years working as search and rescue for a spy organization called the Nighthawks. It’s his job to go into war zones and save the innocent, and it is on one such mission that he nearly dies. Now with a leg that barely works right and a scarred face, he’s hiding out on a tropical island playing the role of a beach-bum pilot and ignoring persistent calls from his Nighthawk boss.

Mary-Anne Poole is Tal’s childhood sweetheart and a nurse who turned her back on medicine to become world famous singer Verity West. She too is recruited by the Nighthawks, because as Verity West she can get close to the rich, famous, and unscrupulous. She hides behind her ice princess persona, plays cat burglar when necessary – but in actuality she hasn’t left the chubby girl who so desperately loved Tal that far behind. When Tal drops out of his job as Nighthawk operative, Mary-Anne is called to bring him back into the fold and complete a dangerous mission. Seems there is a traitor in the Nighthawk camp – and it’s up to Tal and Mary-Anne to catch the bad guys.

Can You Forget? features two of the more credible themes in Romance Novel Land – friends-to-lovers and reunion. Mary-Anne and Tal are both desperately in love with each other, but circumstances have kept them apart. Even though they both were married to other people, they couldn’t seem to completely let go of each other. While they find themselves now thrown together for the sake of a mission – they both think that staying together would be impossible. After all, Verity West is an international star with paparazzi hiding around every corner, and Tal is a scarred has-been. Their past and present circumstances, along with their unresolved feelings for one another, make this a very emotional read.

Unfortunately it all gets a little lost in the technicalities. Can You Forget? is book two in the author’s Nighthawk series and reads like a book two. There is a lot of back story that just isn’t provided. For instance, I never got a good handle on exactly who the Nighthawks were. They’re super-secret, the operatives know nothing about each other, and call each other by code name. Mary-Anne and Tal are both Australian, much of the story takes place in the Mediterranean, and there is mention of an office in Virginia. So are the Nighthawks an international, U.S. or Australian organization? And how do they recruit?

It also doesn’t help matters that there are two main bad guys in this story. Bad guy #1 is obsessed with Verity West and is some sort of arms dealer. I’m assuming that bad guy #2 is a holdover from the first book in the series, Who Do You Trust? He’s mildly interested in getting at Tal, but he’s more interested in getting at the couple from that first book. The need for revenge on this earlier couple isn’t explained outside of the villain’s obsession with that earlier heroine.

It’s these unexplained details that make the book a little too crowded. When the focus is solely on romance between Tal and Mary-Anne the story really works. James has the talent to write an emotional love story, with lots of angst and tears to pull at the reader’s heartstrings. Unfortunately, Can You Forget? reads very much like a series and the technical, on-going aspects of the Nighthawk story left this first time reader at a disadvantage. If you’ve read that first book, by all means this book two is an accomplished series romance. However, curious newcomers would do well to start at the beginning.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Little Miss Crabby Pants and the Blogging Reality Check

Yes, I am well aware Dearest Bat Cave Visitors and Honored Guests that we all need another "post about blogging" like we need a hole in the head - and yet, here we are.  These days, when it comes to Little Miss Crabby Pants breaking out of her self-imposed silence it's usually not over any one thing, rather a culmination of several things that end up swirling around in my brain for...well, a while.

It all started with the fairly recent phenomenon I've seen cropping up around social media - mostly on Facebook, but I think it's been floating around on blogs, web sites and Twitter as well.  The posts that go something like I'm An Author And This Is What You, Dear Reader, Can Do To Help Support Authors/Me - and then it devolves into a list of things like posting reviews on Amazon, putting books on your various GoodReads shelves yada yada yada.  And while it's not always boldly spelled out, it's implied that we're talking Squee-Worthy This Book Is Awesome Sauce chatter only.  If you desire to post a genuine not-so-hot or this-was-blah review just ignore the Author's/Publicist's/Publisher's pleas thankyouverymuch.

Then, BEA happened.  For those that aren't aware - BEA or BookExpo America is a Big Ol' Convention for Industry Professionals.  So publishers, booksellers, librarians and in the past several years more readers and bloggers have been attending the event.  BEA is a Book Orgy. Seriously.  All kinds of books.  All reading levels.  All genres.  Book. Orgy.  Ergo, there are a ton of ARCs and it usually takes 12 hours after the event ends for people to pop up on social media to gripe about "greedy bloggers selling ARCs."  Always bloggers.  Booksellers, librarians and publishing employees never seem to get accused #shockednotshocked

I'm going to state the obvious upfront: I'm old. I've been book blogging since 2003 and I started reviewing for The Romance Reader (RIP) in 1999.  Old.  This is going to sound very Damn Kids Get Off My Lawn, but blogging truly was more pure back then because it was easier to keep it pure.  As more and more people began blogging (which, yippeee!), the industry took notice.  They saw it as a way to harness that elusive marketing tool, "word of mouth" and relationships began forming.

Now lest you all think I'm going to talk about "corruption" and how Big Publishing Ruined Blogging - bloggers couldn't run fast enough through that open door that publishers were holding open for us.  Free books?!  OMG, I can get ARCs of coveted books I'm DYING to read?!?!  Sign me up!  So what publishers and authors got, essentially, was an extension of their PR departments and all they had to do was pay us in free books.  Granted those books aren't free to the publishers.  They need to produce them.  They need to mail them out (although now that we have digital I imagine postage costs are down).  But they're not paying bloggers a salary, benefits, putting money into our 401Ks yada yada yada.  So really, it's a bargain for them.

Subconsciously, even if we didn't acknowledge this, I think bloggers realized we were working for free.  So we monetized.  Getting "paid" in free books isn't going to cover things like web hosting, postage, not to mention time and labor.  Blogging is a hobby for a good many bloggers, but it can be an expensive one.  How much blogs monetized has varied wildly.  It ranges from the larger blogs joining multiple affiliate programs and selling ad space to quirky individual bloggers who have stayed relatively ad free.

This post is my way of issuing a reality check.  To publishers, to publicists, to authors and to bloggers.  I have monetized this blog, but like most things in my life I've done it kind of half-assed.  I earn money through my blogging two ways: 1) I'm a member of Amazon's Affiliate program and 2) I blog at Heroes & Heartbreakers.  The only expenses I have are my time and energy.  I've stayed on Blogger all these years (since 2003) because it's 1) easy and 2) free.  Would I have a larger reach if I paid for web hosting and spiffed up my blog?  Sure.  But 1) easy 2) free and 3) I'm from the Midwest and bleed frugality.

In 2015 my blogging, my online "presence" if you will, earned me $683.  Granted, $683 is $683.  It's nothing to sneeze at.  But what can one do with $683?  I don't have kids - so while it doesn't come close to covering one month's rent, it would cover my grocery bills for a while.  It covers RWA conference registration and a night in the hotel.  But I'm not going to live off this money.  It's "mad money."  It would pay my electric bill for several months, but it also means that if I didn't have another source of income (hello, Day Job!), my blogging (such as it is) isn't going to keep me financially afloat.  Not by a long shot.

I can only speak for me, and granted I've never made moves to take my blog "big time."  So what I earn?  That's been my choice.  I started doing what I do because I love the romance genre, I love reading, I love the community and I want to share that love with other people.  I didn't start this gig to Get Rich Or Die Tryin' and it's not why I've kept doing it all these years.  So please do not confuse my $683 with whining.  I'm not whining.  If I wanted to make more money off my blog I probably could.  I'm also not saying it's OK for people to sell ARCs online or in their bookstores or on the local street corner either.  I'm just saying - slow your roll and let's all have a reality check.

Bloggers do what we do because we love it and yes, we truly do want to support authors - and by extension publishing as a whole.  But this is a two-way street folks.  Telling us "how you can support authors" can often smack of What Have You Done For Me Lately?  And just as authors sometimes sit behind their computer monitors, feeling isolated, pondering "Why do I do this?"  Newsflash: bloggers think that to.  We're not doing it for the money, we're doing it for the love.  But even The Collective Blogging We can feel taken for granted, discouraged, and overlooked.  You know how great you feel when you get a gushing fan letter in your e-mail?  Nothing cranks my handle more than when somebody says, "I read this book based on Wendy's recommendation and OMG IT WAS SO GOOD THE BOOK AND I ARE PLANNING ON ELOPING!!!!" 

Am I suggesting we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya?  Ha!  No.  What I am saying is that every once in a while a reality check is in order.  Bloggers love getting ARCs, we love talking about books, none of that will change.  But....two way street.  It's terribly easy to sit behind your computer monitor and rant about the latest whatever that's going on - but somehow it's not quite as easy for us to express how much we appreciate each other.  For better or worse, this is a symbiotic relationship.  I think that's worth some reflection...at least until the next brouhaha blows up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

#TBRChallenge 2016: A Little Bit Country

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B009K5LIA2/themisaofsupe-20
The Book: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

The Particulars: Young Adult Contemporary Romance, MTV Books, 2013, In Print

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Back in 2013 I judged a local RWA chapter contest.  My job was to read all the first place winners in the categories and pick the overall winner.  Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols won the YA category and while I really, really liked it - it ultimately was my runner-up to Sea Change by Karen White.  At the chapter meeting where I announced the winner, Victoria Dahl was the guest speaker.  Dahl and Echols are critique partners.  Apparently Dahl went home and told Echols all the nice things I said about her book because shortly thereafter she sent me a nice note and a couple of books (this being one of them) in the mail.

The Review:
I slapped my hands over my ears and yelled, "I would like out of this country song now.  I want out of this country song right now!"

I wasn't sure who I was praying to.  The ghost of Johnny Cash, maybe.  But nothing changed.
Bailey Wright Mayfield grew up traveling the bluegrass circuit with her parents and younger sister, Julie.  Her and Julie were the act - you know, cute kids singing harmonies wearing matching outfits while Bailey rocked out on her fiddle.  But in the past year it's all gone to hell.  A record company has come calling - interested in Julie sans Bailey.  And the record company doesn't want Bailey's existence to get out because it could "screw up" their PR machine.  The parents go along with this and basically tell Bailey to shuttle herself off to the side, which means no social media, no playing music on her own, just sit in the corner and breath quietly.  Bailey handles this as well as you'd expect an 18-year-old girl who has just been told to smile while hacking off her right arm - she rebels.  And when her rebellion goes too far?  She's sent to live with her grandfather while the parents and Julie hit the road to drum up excitement for her forthcoming debut single.

Her granddad feels sorry for her and lands her a job playing her fiddle with cheesy tribute acts at the local mall.  One day she's backing Dolly Parton, the next she's thinking of filing a sexual harassment claim against Elvis.  That's where she meets Sam, who is playing with his father, Johnny Cash.  Sam loves that Bailey has perfect pitch, the way she handles her fiddle, and asks her to join his band.  Joining a band most certainly would set her parents off, who have already threatened to not pay for her college tuition in the fall if she screws up.  But we all know where this going, right?  Of course she plays in Sam's band and that's when things get really complicated.

There's plenty of conflict and drama to go around and it keeps this YA novel humming along.  Bailey is supposed to be staying "low key" so she's not upfront with Sam about who her sister is.  Sam is ambitious, looking at every angle to achieve a music career to the point of using people.  Needless to say the band's drummer, Charlotte, is not terribly pleased to have Bailey arrive on the scene - what with her being one of Sam's many (many...) ex-girlfriends.  There's also bassist, Ace, who looks to keep everyone on an even keel.

There was a lot of good in this story.  I loved (LOVED!) the world-building, the Nashville setting, and even though I'm not big into country music, I feel hook, line and sinker into this world.  I also loved Bailey.  The girl that nobody seems to want and only notices when she acts like a typical teenager and starts rebelling.  Given how her parents steamroll over her the minute a record company blows sunshine up their butts over Julie - well let's just say I thought Bailey's reasons for acting out were fairly compelling.

What didn't work for me was the romance, specifically Sam.  Granted Sam is 18 and therefore acts how one might expect an 18-year-old guy to act.  Namely, he's selfish.  For a good long while I had a hard time believing he "cared" about Bailey.  Too often it's "what can you do for me and how can you get me what I want in the end," which needless to say once he finds out that her sister has a Big Ol' Record Contract.....I wanted to slap this boy into next Tuesday.  Is Bailey blameless?  Well, no.  She's running and hiding, licking her wounds in the corner instead of fighting.  But Sam was beyond the pale for me for a good long while and I felt strongly that he was using her.

The author starts to turn it around at the very end though.  It takes Bailey blowing up.  I mean, really blowing up.  At Sam, then her parents, and finally that spurs Sam on to declare his undying love and how he truly cares about her and yada yada yada.  It does helps, but I can't quite forget the vibe I got from him throughout the rest of the story.  That he's a user.  That he only wants what he wants and he'll use anybody he can to get what he wants. This is also the moment when Echols discloses Sam's Tragic Back-Story which smacked to me of Hey Look, I'm a Tragic 18-Year-Old Boy So It's OK To Overlook the Fact That I'm Using the Heroine for Most of the Book.  However, while Sam is a jerk, we're currently living in a genre world where authors are trying to convince readers that hardened criminals and abusers are "heroes" - so really Sam acting like a selfish 18-year-old kid is, perhaps, nit-picky of me.

So it's truly a mixed bag here.  I enjoyed it.  It's a book that will stick with me for a while.  But as a romance I found it problematic.  As an 18-year-old girl finding her voice?  It worked better.

Final Grade = C+

Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: The Blacksmith's Wife

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B017RCL96M/themisaofsupe-20
Admittedly I don't read a ton of medieval romances, but what drew me to The Blacksmith's Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes was the blacksmith hero.  Heroes in Medieval Romance Land tend to skewer heavily towards knights and warriors and warriors fighting knights.  I'm also happy to report that while our hero is the bastard son of a titled, wealthy man - it's not revealed in the end that he's some long, lost Duke or is going to inherit his father's lands.  No, he's a blacksmith and he stays a blacksmith.

After her family is wiped out by pestilence, Joanna goes to live with her uncle, a blacksmith and powerful member of the Smiths' Guild.  While he's not overtly cruel to her, let's just say Joanna is well aware that she's another mouth to feed and an added burden to her uncle's family.  So she's feeling the pressure to marry and start her own household.  She has set her sights on handsome knight, Sir Roger Danby, who intermittently travels to York for tournaments.  Joanna is convinced he's going to propose any day now, and while his forceful kisses leave her feeling a bit uncertain, she's madly in love. Isn't she? Well, she thinks she is and she thinks he is - but it soon becomes apparent Sir Roger is nothing more than a womanizing flirt with no intentions of proposing marriage to a blacksmith's niece.

Traveling with Roger, this time at least, is his bastard half-brother, Hal Danby.  Hal is in York to show his work to the Smiths' Guild, only to have the men tell him "you're not ready yet kid."  Joanna's uncle sees an opportunity though.  He suggests that if Hal marries Joanna and continues to hone his craft that maybe, just maybe, the Guild will look on him more favorably next time around.  Hal and Joanna have, naturally, already had run-ins with each other and Hal is smitten - never mind that she fancies herself in love with his brother.  Seeing the marriage as an advantageous match for his ambitions and Joanna, frankly out of options, the two get married.

There was a lot I liked about this story.  Both characters are outsiders in their respective families with much to prove.  Joanna lives with the knowledge that her uncle didn't want her, Sir Roger didn't want her, and now she's married to Hal only because it can further his career.  Hal has pride and while he married Joanna for her connections, he's determined to get into the Smiths' Guild on his own merit.  He's also smitten with her, but knowing that she loves his brother hasn't exactly instilled him with a ton of confidence.  He's hoping, over time, and with his brother always traveling for tournaments, that their marriage can be a partnership, if not an outright love match.  Although he's more than halfway there already.

Where the story started to stumble, at times, was in the conflict.  First, the good.  I loved (LOVED!) that Joanna was a romance heroine who actually thought about her virtue.  There's a scene very early on when she finds herself alone with Roger and he's putting on the full court press.  His kisses are punishing (not in a good way) and the encounter leaves Joanna feeling vaguely uneasy.  She knows that Roger is pressing her for something more, but our girl resists.  She is not "that kind of girl."  It also helps that Hal arrives on the scene shortly thereafter.  Throughout history a woman's worth has been tied to her virtue, and one of the more annoying aspects of historical romance is the ease in which some heroines just toss aside those years of ingrained fetishized (is that a word?) virginity because the hero is suitably Alpha and manly enough.  The fact that Joanna doesn't makes her a breath of fresh air as far as genre conventions go.

However, given that Joanna fancies herself in love with Roger and Hal's pride - well, a huge chunk of the conflict, especially in the second half, centers around the Big Misunderstanding and the fact that these two characters don't talk to each other.  Hal has no idea that Joanna is a marvelous sketcher (ergo she could really help him with his decorative design work!) because he doesn't ask and she doesn't tell.  He keeps secrets from her (Hal's been cleaning up Roger's messes for a while now...) and she keeps secrets from him (brought about in part when Rogers reappears on the scene....).  After a while this She Didn't Say, He Didn't Say, I Thought You Felt This Or That Way Etc. gets very tiresome.  Especially when we get towards the finish line and the couple are finally hashing everything out in the final chapter. 

So it's kind of a mixed bag.  The medieval flavor of the story is very good, I liked the characters, and I liked the general set-up of the story.  But I did find myself wearing down under the Big Misunderstanding conflict in the second half.  Still, it's a solid historical and a well-done medieval when those aren't necessarily thick on the ground.  Hobbes' has three books under her belt now (I've read, and liked, two) and I have every intention to continue following her career.

Final Grade = B-

Friday, May 13, 2016

Reminder: #TBRChallenge for May 2016

For those of you participating in the 2016 TBR Challenge, this is a reminder that your commentary is "due" on Wednesday, May 18.  This month's theme is Something Different!  This is one of my annoying exciting open-to-interpretation themes.  Whatever "different" means to you.  A sub genre you don't normally read? A different genre besides romance?  A historical set during an "unusual" time period?  A trope you don't naturally gravitate towards?  The sky's the limit!

But what if you don't want to read different?  "You'll pry this comfort read out of my cold dead hands Wendy!!!!"  Hey, no problem!  Remember - the themes are totally optional and are not required.  It's not about the themes but reading something (anything!) out of your TBR.

You can find more information about the challenge (and see the list of participants) on the Information Page

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

No Author Is Immune: Anatomy of a DNF

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0380813742/themisaofsupe-20
There are certain authors I read for very specific reasons.  I read Beverly Jenkins for her heroines.  She writes great heroines.  Smart, self-reliant, with a touch of sass.  Jenkins writes the sort of heroines who don't need a romance.  If a romance never came along, they'd be just fine.  No, they deserve a romance and as the reader you want to see them get their happy ending.

Work had Always And Forever on audio and despite my mental block of listening to romance, I thought I'd try it.  I was mostly enjoying it until...well, until the sex ruined everything.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Warning, warning! Thar Be Spoilers Ahoy!

Grace Atwood has been left at the altar.  Her mother died when she was young.  Her banker father valued that his daughter had a brain in her head and raised her to be independent.  In fact, after he passes, Grace has taken over running the bank.  Finally, at 30, she thinks she's found The One.  Only to have her groom throw her over at the altar when the wealthier woman he was pursuing agrees to marry him.  Grace then has to face the guests, return the wedding gifts, and deal with the inevitable talk that follows - but she does so with her head held high.  That said, when her cousin in Kansas asks her to coordinate finding some mail-order brides of good, quality backgrounds?  Grace goes all in.

Grace has no trouble finding the brides and decides that they will travel by wagon.  Jim Crow is now firmly entrenched and she can't risk the women traveling by train (where they would either have to travel in cattle cars, or be dumped out in the middle of nowhere by racist, unethical conductors).  It will take longer, but a wagon train seems the wiser course of action.  But she needs to hire a man to lead the wagon train and that's when she stumbles upon Jackson Blake, a Texan With a Past who is now living in a Chicago whorehouse.

This is all fairly straight forward.  Headstrong heroine, Alpha hero, wagon train heading west.  Sparks fly, banter exchanged, sexual tension you can see for miles.  Interesting characters and amusing exchanges (Grace's great-aunts are fantastic, as is a scene when secondary character Loreli Winters dispatches some bandits).  The plotting could have been tighter in some spots (Do I really care that Grace's ancestor was a pirate?  No.  No I do not.), but this was hovering somewhere around a B or B- for a good long while.

But then it happened.  The sex scene.

There actually wasn't anything wrong with the sex.  A little flowery, but again - I was listening to this on audio and I, admittedly, have a difficult time with someone reading me sex scenes.  No, it was the aftermath that landed this firmly in my I Cannot Be Bothered To Continue pile.

Jackson is all like, sure Grace I'm all for us burning up the sheets - but you'll have to marry me if you get pregnant because ain't no way I'm letting a child of mine be born without my name.  Of course they're getting all hot and heavy by this point and Grace is all like, "Whatever cowboy just do me already!!!!" and, you know, they do.  Then Jackson is all like, "Well now you have to marry me because you're carrying my child." 


That's right - they've literally just had sex.  The one time.  And Jackson, who obviously has delusions he's a Great Swami besides a cowboy, tells Grace she's now pregnant and that she will, in no uncertain terms, marry him.  Grace is naturally a little peeved by his high-handedness never mind that THEY DON'T KNOW FOR SURE IF SHE'S PREGNANT!!!!

I'm not kidding.  He pulls out and basically is all like, now we get married.  Grace resists, he threatens to wire her great-aunts, she's all like, you're a jerkface, he wires her aunts, they show up and say, "Honey you should marry that man."  Nevermind that NOBODY KNOWS IF GRACE IS EVEN PREGNANT!!!!  She hasn't even had a late period yet.  SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!?!??!

I just couldn't deal anymore.  I think the objective was to show the reader that Jackson is a good, honorable man who wouldn't use the heroine for mere sexual gratification and then dispose of her cruelly.  Never mind that he agreed to take on the wagon train because he has plans to go back to Texas to avenge his father's murder.  He's going to railroad the heroine into marriage first THEN go off to Texas to possibly get himself killed.  His demanding marriage, him just immediately knowing she MUST be pregnant, all the while he has plans to leave the heroine behind while he's off to seek revenge - well, it annoyed me no end.   

We Had Sex One Time Ergo Of Course You MUST Be Pregnant Because I Am Strong And Virile With The World's Most Amazing Super Sperm!!!!!  Mwhahahahahaha!

And while I'm at it - the guy was living in a Chicago whorehouse.  I know since the dawn of time birth control has largely been an issue women have dealt with (and Grace, while 30, is a virgin...) - but dude.  He didn't pick up any pointers at all?  Of course he's a man - he probably couldn't be bothered.

So yeah. I'm out. I don't know if Grace is really pregnant and I don't know if Jackson ends up going to Texas after all but....ugh. I'm done caring.

Final Grade = DNF