Sunday, December 2, 2018

Mini-Review Round-Up: Hurricane Hottie, Mostly Sunny, Weddings and Scrooge

Sometimes I feel like I have a lot to say about the books I read, and other times?  I just can't be arsed.  I've been on stretch of the latter lately, coupled with blogging ennui - which makes for a particularly deadly cocktail.  Plus, I just sort of feel like I've been very meh about everything I'm reading lately, but a girl's gotta prop up the flagging mojo, so it's time for a round of patented Wendy mini-reviews.

The Bridesmaid and the Hurricane by Kelly Maher - First the disclaimer that the author is a friend, we've presented together at conferences, and I beta read 2 (?) early versions of this book.  The hero is one of those impossibly good-looking men that women lose their minds over, but he's genuinely a very nice guy who only has eyes for the heroine.  The problem?  They had a one-night stand months ago and now they're working together.  She's been burned before by an office romance so is not keen to mix business with pleasure again.  Another added complication is that the heroine's boss is an evil piece-of-work.

The conflict of the heroine's Evil (and naturally, female) Boss is one I'm not a big fan of, but Maher chooses a wise course of action by creating a large cast of sympathetic and interesting secondary players living in the hero's and heroine's orbits.  In other words, while there are two women who put aggressive moves on the hero in this story, they're outnumbered by female characters who do not.  Also, it was just so nice to read about a hero who wasn't a massive Alpha jerk with a whole bunch of Mommy Didn't Love Me baggage.  Bonus points for a well-drawn Washington D.C. setting that doesn't rely on political shenanigans (because, Lord - I just can't right now).  Hard for me to grade given my relationship with the author - but taking that out of the equation?  Probably somewhere around a B-.

Mostly Sunny by Jamie Pope ended up being a DNF around the 40% mark.  It starts out great.  Abandoned by her mentally ill mother, Sunny was raised in the New York City foster care system.  She's now a social worker working on the official adoption of a young girl when the birth mother makes contact with the foster family.  She's afraid the mother will throw a wrench in the works, and goes to the hero who is a lawyer.  He doesn't have experience in the type of law she needs, but she won't take no (or excellent referrals) for an answer so...yeah.

The connection between the heroine and the young girl relies on an amazing coincidence that, I'm sorry, I ain't buying when the book is set in NEW YORK CITY!  The heroine propositioning the hero to try and get her way struck me as wildly out of character and the hero is a jerk.  He doesn't believe in love, proposes to his older, savvy businesswomen girlfriend like it's a business proposition, and she turns him down flat.  Naturally this makes the girlfriend "the problem" while the heroine is then painted with a "not like other girls" brush.  Yeah, I didn't like her, the plot strains, and I wanted him to burn in a pit of fire.  Life's too short and my TBR is too mammoth.

Best Man for the Wedding Planner by Donna Alward features my second least favorite bit of conflict after Fated Mates.  The heroine breaks up with her college sweetheart after she gets cancer that renders her infertile - and he's from this Big Family, naturally everyone is always talking about babies, and instead of talking to him she cuts him off so he won't stand by her only to end up resenting her.  They reunite some years later when she's the wedding planner for a wedding where he's the best man.

I have issues with "I can't give him his OWN children" plot lines for various and sundry reasons, but this is how much of a pro Alward is - I inhaled this book in one sitting.  Yes, it features all the crap about this conflict that I hate, but the heroine's Big Secret is out of the bag before the 50% mark, and the emotional fall-out of the second half gutted me in parts.  Also, I liked that the author actually addresses issues that so many authors ignore with conflict like this - namely that you don't need to squeeze a kid out of your birth canal to be maternal, that family is what you make it, and that just because you lack the lady parts doesn't make you less of a woman.  This is Alward's return to Harlequin Romance and it's like she took no time away at all.  It's very much not my thing, but I recognize that there's very good elements at work here.  My personal grade is probably somewhere in the C range - but readers who dig this sort of conflict will likely grade higher.  Also, something to note: there is definitely NO Miracle Baby Epilogue here.  The heroine no longer has a uterus - so, yeah.

Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge by Laura Levine is the 16th book in the Jaine Austen cozy mystery series.  I used to devour these books, but much like Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, the repetition of the various gags have become stale and I found the last book so offensive that I toyed with the idea of quitting cold turkey.  But, a series you've been invested in for 15 books is not a habit that's easy to break, and I got an ARC for this one so...

This time out Jaine and Lance are Christmas house-sitting in fabulous Bel Air, next door to a sour, cheap-skate former child star who turns up dead.  There's no lack of suspects, but the cops seem to be zeroing in on Jaine.  While the gags have grown stale, Levine returns to form with this book crafting a good mystery with plenty of suspects to choose from.  There's a backhanded slap to the romance genre here (because, of course there is - what the actual hell?!) that annoyed me and the ending is pretty abrupt, but it didn't make me frothing at the mouth angry like the last book, so win?  I guess?  Also, the final chapter is extremely intriguing but my gut tells me Levine will self-destruct the development off page when the next book comes out.  Which, mores the pity.  If she sees it through it may spice up the next entry past the usual, quickly growing tired, gags.  For fans only.  I'm waffling between a C+ and B-.

2 comments:

azteclady said...

It is SO HARD to break up with a series when you've invested so much emotion on the characters, isn't it? Reader loyalty is not only mobs of screeching fangirls deployed to destroy anyone who dares criticize their darling, but the quiet support of continuing to buy those books, release after release, even as one puts off reading them for fear of disappointment.

Wendy said...

AL: Lord, yes! I've enjoyed more than I've disliked in this series but the last book was such an offensive clunker. Luckily it's a series I didn't start reading until my early 20s. Mystery series I started as a teenager? Nostalgia is a powerful drug. I won't tell you how long I hung on to Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series. It took her basically publishing a nonsensical outline of a book before I finally decided enough was enough - and that was after I had stopped buying the books in the series (8 books previously) and started putting myself on the wait list at work.