Thursday, October 22, 2020

#TBRChallenge 2020: Lawman on the Hunt

The Book: Lawman on the Hunt by Cindi Myers

The Particulars: Romantic Suspense, Harlequin Intrigue #1649, 2016, part of series, out of print, available digitally

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR: My catalog notes on this book were non-existent, but I have an autographed print copy which means I more than likely picked this up at a conference - probably RWA 2016 (San Diego). 

The Review: I will die on the hill that Harlequin Intrigue is the hardest category romance line to pull off successfully.  They're in the ballpark of 240 pages and the author has to pull off both the romance and suspense. But when Intrigues are done well?  Oh, they're heaven. Fast-paced, exciting, back when I was traveling I called them the perfect "airplane reads."  Unfortunately while Lawman on the Hunt had it's moments, there were elements of the romance and the suspense that annoyed me.

Special Agent Travis Steadman is part of an FBI task force tracking down a known terrorist, Duane Braeswood.  It's his job, but it's also personal.  Duane's lady love is Leah Carlisle, who used to be engaged to Travis before she left him for Braeswood, leaving behind a Dear John letter and dropping off the map (quit her job, moved out of her apartment, disconnected her cell phone etc.).  The FBI moves in to infiltrate the compound but naturally it all goes sideways.  A shoot-out goes down, Travis arrests Leah, and they take off into the surrounding wilderness with the bad guys in hot pursuit.

Leah did not leave Travis willingly - Braeswood targeted her. He threatened both the lives of her sister and Travis.  When Sis ends up dead, Leah does everything the man says.  Quits her job working for a Senator, signs over her assets (her dead parents left her financially well-off), and lives the life of a hostage.  Now she just has to convince Travis that she's a victim and not a willing accomplice.

This is a cat-and-mouse style Intrigue with our couple on the run in the Colorado wilderness by the second chapter.  I love man vs. elements story lines, where the couple has to forage for food, boil water so it's safe to drink, travel over rough terrain all while evading the bad guys.

Blessedly Travis realizing that Leah is a victim and not a femme fatale is sorted out fairly quickly. Unfortunately I was less enamored with the moments in the story where Leah is reassuring Travis over his hurt feelings. Look, I get he's had a hard time - but girlfriend is the victim here, being held hostage by a man who forced himself on on her and murdered her sister.  I'm a heck of lot less concerned about Travis's man fee-fees than I am with Leah's ordeal.

The plot is exciting and fast-paced although it gets a little absurd at the end when Braeswood catches up with our couple.  Also the whole thing was a bit too loosey-goosey for me and I'm assuming some of this stuff is ironed out in the other books in the series.  I get that Leah worked for a Senator, but WHY exactly did Braeswood think she was a good target?  What exactly is Braeswood's motive and end-goal.  I mean, yeah a terrorist and I get that some men just want to "watch the world burn" but terrorist organizations tend to have some sort of ideology.  It all comes down to motive for me - I want motive in suspense stories and this just wasn't fleshed out enough for me in this book.  But like I said, maybe in the other books in the series.

So yeah.  This was fine, and it was a quick easy read - but there were things that bugged me and it didn't light a fire under me to continue on with the series.  I'd probably try another book by this author though.

Final Grade = C-

Friday, October 16, 2020

#TBRChallenge Reminder + Looking for 2021 Theme Ideas!

A reminder that #TBRChallenge day is Wednesday, October 21.  This month's (always optional) theme is Danger.

One of the more "open to interpretation" themes.  Danger could mean anything from serial killers to heroes afraid of commitment to the heroine who doesn't want to repeat her mother's mistakes.  Just run with it!

However, if you're suffering from Pandemic Brain (aren't we all?) and this is too much to ponder during The Longest Year Ever, that's OK!  Remember, the themes are always optional.  The goal is to read something out of your TBR pile 😁

Also, if you haven't looked at the calendar lately - it's somehow October.  I know.  Which means it's time to look ahead to the 2021 TBR Challenge!  I'm looking for theme suggestions and if you're so inclined to volunteer some - I've got a handy Google Form you can fill out.  You can provide up to 5 suggestions and I promise on my Librarian Secret Decoder Ring that I am not harvesting email addresses.  It's not how I roll y'all.

More information about the 2021 TBR Challenge coming soon (uh, probably early December? Let's go with that....)

Friday, October 9, 2020

Review: Conveniently Wed to the Viking

Conveniently Wed to the Viking Book Cover
One of the more contrarian aspects to my reading personality is that while I'm militant about reading mystery series in order, I'll hopscotch all over the damn place when it comes to romance.  So naturally I started Harlequin's multi-author Sons of Sigurd series with the third book, Conveniently Wed to the Viking by Michelle Styles.  Because of course I did. And I'm not going to lie, it took me a couple chapters to get my sea legs. I read the prologue and the first two chapters, went back and reread the prologue to make sure I had a firm grasp on "the series stuff" and then it was off to the races.

Sandulf is the youngest of five, always seen as the tag-along, always trying to measure up to his four older brothers who cast long shadows.  On his brother Brandt's wedding day it's Sandulf who is charged with looking after his new sister-in-law, who is also very pregnant.  By the end of it all their father is dead, as is Brandt's wife and unborn child - Sandulf failing to protect her.  He's sent away to Constantinople, but swearing an oath to avenge his sister-in-law's murder, he returns to track down the mercenary with a distinctive star-shaped scar on his face. Things get complicated though when his Scottish guide takes off with the partial payment he gave him and his path crosses that of runaway heiress, Lady Ceanna.

Ceanna hired the same guide to take her, conveniently enough, to the same monastery where Sandulf is heading.  Ceanna's aunt (her mother's sister) is the abbess and she's hoping to convince her that she's had a holy vision and is destined to take the veil.  Ceanna doesn't have a burning desire to wed herself to Christ, but she is very interested in staying alive.  Her father hastily remarried a younger woman after Ceanna's mother died tragically.  Her father is now, conveniently, lying on his death bed and step-mommy is looking to wed Ceanna to the head of her father's guards who just so happens to be step-mommy's lover.  Oh what a tangled web!  Now her guide has disappeared from the scene and she's not sure who she can trust.  She had been counting on the guide's loyalty to her father, but that's looking less certain and now she's got this Viking lurking about.  Northmen do not exactly have sterling reputations.  But there's no way for it.  She can't stay, she has to go. And the best way to insure her safety to take along Sandulf who has vowed he will do everything within his power to protect her.

There's a lot to recommend this story and it just so happens to have some of my favorite flavors of romance catnip.  Ceanna is a smart, resourceful heroine paired with my absolute favorite sort of romance hero - the younger hero living in the shadow of older "better" men who he idolizes.  Oh, and it's a marriage of convenience (eventually) coupled with a road romance.  80% of this story takes place while the couple is traveling.  I also appreciated that these two got to know each other (it makes the "falling in love" stuff more believable - in my humble opinion), they talked, they verbally sparred at moments, there was attraction and a couple of stolen kisses but it wasn't lust at first sight, let's scurry off into the woods to get it on within mere moments after locking eyes on each other.

That being said, some "not like other girls" nonsense does creep in - mostly in the form of how practical and thoughtful Ceanna is - not driven to flights of fancy nor hysterics compared to "other women."  This sort of thing is tedious on a good day, and while I've read far worse in other romances, it was still annoying.  Also the author doesn't do a ton of hand-holding on the "Viking stuff"- I mean, I got the gist of it all but this period in history is a weak area for me and certain terms, geographical names etc. threw me on occasion just because I didn't know. Reader mileage will vary on that, of course.

Given this is a multi-author series there's an overarching plot that isn't resolved in this book - namely the murder of Sandulf's father.  But Ceanna's evil stepmother, the assassin with the star-shaped scar are dispatched and Sandulf is reunited with his brothers.  

This was a good, solid read and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I'm pretty darn sure I have all the other books in the series in my TBR and the plan is to get to them in short order.

Final Grade = B

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Library Loot Reviews: DNF Edition

Mexican Gothic Book Cover
Despite having a stupid amount of ARCs languishing on my Kindle, I can't seem to stop myself from checking out books from The Day Job.  Occupational hazard as it were.  Sometimes I read amazing books from work and sometimes - well, we get DNFs.  It's the joy of the library.  Trying books risk free y'all.  

First up is Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which I've seen many raves about and that I had on my "get to it eventually" list.  But I decided to move it up the queue when I found an ARC on the bookshelf we have in our staff break room.  Set in 1950s Mexico, our heroine Noemi is pretty, popular (our girl likes to attend parties), without a steady boyfriend but with plenty of young men willing to escort her to said parties. She's interested in continuing her education in anthropology, but of course this being the 1950s, her father is thinking she needs to settle down. But first he's sending Noemi to visit her recently married cousin, who has sent a troubling letter.  As in, unhinged sounding she may need to be treated in a sanitarium.  So Noemi heads off to the country, a creepy old house, her cousin who is "ill" and her cousin's creepy AF in-laws.

I've had to accept that it's not ethical to clone Simone St. James - and in my hunt for more Gothics I've read some dismal ones in recent memory.  This book isn't dismal - but it wasn't holding my attention.  It's slow. Really slow.  I got to page 120, another library hold came in, so I picked that up - it did hold my attention - and then I moved on to another book and well...there Mexican Gothic sat on my dining room table for a month still with the bookmark stuck on page 120.  And Wendy with no desire to pick it back up again.

I think this might be a It's Not You, It's Me thing.  Also I suspect this might work better for me on audio - so I've put myself on the long waitlist for that edition from work.  We'll see how I feel when my turn comes up in the queue.  I can't easily go back to books I've DNF'ed at a later date because by then they have the DNF Stink on the them and....well, we'll see.

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly had a cover that caught my eye and I decided it was time for another audiobook and wow, this book was not for me.  It's a timeslip novel, with one part of the story taking place in the 1920s about the wealthy Parrish and Collier families, who are basically in each others' pocket. The second timeline is set in the early 1960s and Joanna Collier has moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with her husband and two small children.  They live in the giant family home with her mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.  

I'll be honest, I was so not in the mood to read a book about snooty, privileged white people.  The 1920s storyline features characters with insipid nicknames like Sassy and Chap.  Then when the author starts to set up a love quadrangle between the two bothers of the Collier clan with the two sisters of the Parrish clan - well, I was done.  It's spoiled early on that Chap ends up dying young and I'm sure it's all terribly tragic and angsty but ugh - I don't care about Biff and Buffy or frankly what family secrets will come to light in the 1960s storyline.  

The other issue I had was that this is basically a wallpaper historical.  The only reason I know the early 1960s storyline takes place in the 1960s is because the author told me.  There's some mention of old-timey cars in the 1920s storyline and a passing mention of World War I - but other than that I got nothing.  The whole thing could have been taking place on the moon and read the same.

I got to the 40% mark and called it quits.  So long, farewell, bon voyage Biff and Buffy.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Unusual Historical Bonanza for September 2020

Publishing is a fickle mistress. Some months I’m scraping the depths of the Interwebs to find a handful of unusual historical titles and other months it’s an explosion of confetti being shot out of an air cannon. Since September is an air cannon month, I’ll stop blathering on so we can get to the goodness. 

A well-bred lady and lowly street hustler team up in a historical murder mystery set during China's glittering Tang Dynasty. Part of the best-selling Lotus Palace series. 

Impetuous and well-educated, young Lady Bai has always been the forgotten daughter between two favored sons. However, when Wei-wei's older brother is tasked with investigating a high-profile assassination, he turns to his clever younger sister for assistance. 

Gao is a street-wise scoundrel with a checkered past and a shady reputation. He knows better than to set his sights on the high-born Lady Bai, but when she asks for his help, he can't refuse. 

As the unlikely pair chase down a conspiracy that reaches from the gutters of the capital to the imperial palace, Wei-wei is intent on seeing justice done, while Gao is determined to solve the mystery just for her – even if the attraction between them can never be more than a moment's longing. 
OK, so this was a very late release in August that I missed with last month’s column, but no way in heck was I not going to highlight a new Jeannie Lin historical. This is the fourth story in her Lotus Palace series, the highly anticipated romance featuring Wei-Wei and Gao. 

New York City, 1924 

Once their paths cross, their worlds will never be the same. 

Danny Moore and his crew only meant to rob the hotel suites of rich guests. He wasn’t supposed to find himself in gangster Ricky il Sacchi’s room. And il Sacchi wasn’t supposed to wind up dead. Now Danny has the attention of another notorious gangster. 

Carmine Battaglia is intrigued by the Irish thieves who would have made off with a huge score if not for il Sacchi’s death. They’re cunning, careful, and exactly what he needs for his rum running operation. But Danny’s already lost two brothers to the violence between New York’s Irish and Sicilian gangs, and he’s not about to sell his soul to Carmine. 

With a gangster’s blood on his hands, Danny needs protection, whether he likes it or not. And that’s to say nothing of the generous pay, which promises to pull him and his crew—not to mention their families—out of destitution. 

Working together brings Danny and Carmine to a détente, then to something so intense neither can ignore it. Something nearly enough to make them both forget the brutal tensions between their countrymen. 

But the death of Ricky il Sacchi hasn’t been forgotten. And someone is determined to make Danny bleed for it. 
Criminals as romantic protagonists is always a dicey proposition for me, but it can (and often does) work for me in the Prohibition era. Plus I’d be flat-out lying if I didn’t say the prospect of an Italian mobster and an Irish thief didn’t intrigue the heck out of me. 

When Mrs. Laura Farnsworth discovers the blood-stained body of a man wearing the distinctive red coat of the British army, her first instinct is to let dead dogs lie. It has, after all, been just two days since the Battle of Plattsburgh, and the disposition of enemy corpses is hardly her purview. But then the man proves himself to be very much alive by grabbing her ankle and mumbling incoherently. 

After almost twenty-five years in His Majesty’s service, Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Langston never expected to wake up in heaven, much less being tended by an angel. But when he regains consciousness in the presence of a beautiful, dark-haired woman and with no memory of how he came to be there, what else can he think? Except it’s rather odd for an angel to have an American accent.  

As the long-widowed Laura nurses the wounded Geoffrey back to health, the attraction between them heats from a simmer to a boil. Bound by his oath to the British crown, Geoffrey should be working to find his way back to his regiment and from there, to England. Instead, he’s sleeping with the enemy…and thereby committing the crime of desertion if not treason. But then, who’s going to find out? 

If only Geoffrey didn’t have a family back home who refuse to take “missing in action” for an answer. 
The fourth book in Barbosa’s Lords of Lancashire series opens up just a few days after the Battle of Plattsburgh, a decisive victory for the Americans during the War of 1812. This era is criminally underrepresented in historical romance, and we’ve got a literal enemy-to-lovers romance with some amnesia thrown in for good measure. 

A man who has lost his honor has nothing . . . 

London, 1816. As a Royal Navy officer, Lucas Mandeville, Lord Foxton, has fought his share of battles on the high seas, followed by long years of imprisonment. But on this night, he’d rather be on the burning deck of a ship than in a ballroom, where it is just a matter of time before someone challenges him because of what happened on the Continent. 

A woman who has lost her reputation is nothing . . . 

When dark-haired beauty Kendra Douglas arrives, a whisper of scandal ripples through the ton. The disgraced divorcee’s entrance is an act of daring. Which is exactly why Lucas asks her to dance . . . 

A couple who stands together has everything . . . 

Unexpectedly, Lucas offers Kendra his aid in finding the evidence to regain her good name—and her beloved young son. Together they investigate the wicked conspiracy that destroyed her life, and in the midst of danger, find a deep love that will redeem them both—if only they can live long enough to build a future together. 
Dude. The heroine is wearing pants and boots on the cover. This fifth book in Putney’s Rogue’s Redeemed series features quite possibly my favorite trope EVER in romance - the heroine of dubious reputation. OMG, and she’s divorced. Just inject this one right into my eyeballs. 

Sin Incarnate Book CoverSin Incarnate by Isobel Carr (Kindle Unlimited) 
Six Nights Of Pleasure… 

Georgianna Exley's passionate nature has always been her undoing—and for this reason the beautiful young widow allows her lovers only a single night in her bed. No man will ever have the right to dictate to her; to presume he owns her. 

But Ivo Dauntry has at last come home to England, and for he'll settle for nothing less than one night for every year he’s given up for her...and soon, his daring seduction becomes a sensual contest of wills Georgianna is all too willing to lose. 

But the long-ago duel that bound them forever has repercussions neither of them could ever have foreseen, and once again, Ivo must risk everything, this time to save the woman he loves… 
Originally published as Lord Sin under the name Kalen Hughes, Carr graces us with self-published editions of her lusty Georgian romances (Scandal Incarnate is also available this month). Like the War of 1812, Georgians are harder to find in the historical romance universe, a crying shame in my opinion because if Prince taught us anything it’s that men in heels can be damn sexy. 

An unexpected encounter… 

Will change everything! 

Self-made gentleman and widower Grayson Maddox has devoted himself to his children and business, leaving no time for pleasure. Until he has an impulsive, thrillingly sensual encounter with lady’s companion Miss Constance Grant! Their passion gives Grayson hope of a happiness he never thought he’d feel again. But there’s still much in both their pasts to confront before they can turn their forbidden liaison into a new beginning… 
Kaye’s latest takes place in 1822 Edinburgh at the height of preparations for King George IV’s historic visit. The Highland Clearances also play a role in the story - the school teacher heroine now out of a job and homeless when her village is wiped out to make room for sheep. That’s all very interesting, but wait for it - there’s more. Both the protagonists are in their 40s. That’s right. No foolin’. Please for the love of all that is holy buy this on principle at the very least. 

He’s sworn celibacy… 

Until he gets vengeance! 

Danr Sigurdsson is indebted to the captivating, mysterious healer living alone in the wilderness who carefully tends his wounds. Consumed with anguish over the massacre that killed his family, Danr has sworn not to touch another woman until he finds those responsible. So resisting Sissa should be easy, but as they search for the truth, fighting their mutual attraction becomes the hardest battle… 
Harlequin is rolling along with the Sons of Sigurd series, with Fletcher contributing this fourth book. A hero who takes a vow of celibacy until he fulfills his mission of vengeance? And of course our lovely heroine gets thrown into his path? Gah! Sign me up! 

A convenient marriage 

An inconvenient passion… 

His parents’ loveless relationship has left silk merchant Jonathan Harcourt suspicious of marriage. But in order to expand his mill and have an heir, he must marry his neighbour Aurelia Upford. Even more surprising than finding himself with a clever, beautiful society wife is the unexpected passion that flares between them, and the unsettling emotions it leads to. Sharing a bed was part of their arrangement, but can Jonathan risk sharing his heart, too? 
Hobbes takes a break from medievals to give readers an early Victorian set romance between a silk merchant (a tradesman!) entering into a marriage of convenience with a proper society heroine. I’ve enjoyed Hobbes’ medievals and can’t wait to see what she does in a very different time period. 

With this ring… 

They’re temporarily wed! 

Heiress Jane Dryer will do anything to escape her controlling father and the life of domestic drudgery he decrees—even elope with the handsome stranger she meets in a speakeasy! Wealthy railroad owner David Albright needs a temporary wife and Jane needs her independence, so the plan is to marry, then walk away. Only very soon, their fake marriage feels seductively real! 
Sister #3 in Robinson’s Sisters of the Roaring Twenties series is up to bat - and our heiress heroine elopes with a stranger who turns out to be a wealthy railroad owner. I just, where do I sign up for these kinds of problems? I’m here for it. 

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to?

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: The Rebel Heiress and the Knight

The Rebel Heiress and the Knight Book Cover
The Rebel Heiress and the Knight by Melissa Oliver is her debut novel, having gotten "the call" as part of Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write initiative. It was on my to-read list for all the unusual historical reasons, but when the Romantic Novelists' Association awarded Oliver with their Joan Hessayon Award (for new writers), I moved it up the queue.

Hugh de Villiers, a knight in service to King John (yes, the Magna Carta / Robin Hood King John...) is at Tallany Castle to deliver a message from the King to the widowed Lady Eleanor and the woman has kept him waiting for three days.  He's got better things to do than wait around, listening to one cockamamie excuse after another delivered by her steward on why she cannot see him.  But he's a knight, loyal to his King, and if the King wants this message delivered to Lady Eleanor, there's nothing for it.  Hugh waits.

Lady Eleanor survived a disastrous first marriage that was, naturally, arranged by the King and has successfully avoided court since her odious husband died of dysentery.  She's not exactly eager to receive some knight, loyal to an odious King, who is delivering a message for said odious King.  But she realizes that she can't will him to go away, so she bites the bullet and receives him.  Only to open the message and learn that the King expects her and this knight to be wed.  Well, bother!

Hugh is just as shocked as Eleanor.  He isn't exactly all that keen to marry - but Lady Eleanor is obviously the King's way for thanking him - Hugh having saved his majesty's life on the battlefield.  Eleanor is about as eager for this union as getting all her teeth pulled but there's no defying a King's order.  This marriage is going to happen and Hugh recognizes his bride-to-be is less than enthralled by the prospect.  So he does what all good romance heroes do - he sets out to woo her and win her over.

Eleanor is a woman recovering from an abusive first marriage that left her both physically and emotionally scarred, but with a fighting spirit still intact.  She's an heiress whose lands are to the north, and strategically it is logical that John - who is having a devil of a time with the Rebel Barons - would marry her off to a man who is loyal to him.  The other reason for the union?  There are outlaws running amok in the area, stealing taxes meant for the King.  Hugh, an accomplished knight is meant to track them down.  Of course little does he realize that his new wife is aiding and abetting said outlaws.

What I like about medievals is that there is often high stakes conflict centered around loyalty.  If you place your bet on the wrong horse - loyalty could, in fact, get you very dead.  King John is a suitably villainous villain, and Hugh - while loyal to a King who hardly deserves it - is an honorable, worthy romance hero who holds no illusions as to what kind of King John is.

Eleanor is haunted, vulnerable and feisty all at the same time.  She's the kind of heroine who verbally spars with the hero, and yet is scared that she may have pushed too far - given her first husband's cruel abuse.  It's Hugh's job to woo her - to show her he's an honorable, decent man and that not all men are like her first husband, who Hugh knew and had no admiration for.  This is all well and good - but Eleanor seems a little too superhuman.  The fiery spirit doesn't always mesh well with the haunted vulnerability.  She's scarred from her first marriage yet somehow seems amazingly well-adjusted. She pushes back with the outlaws, she pushes back with Hugh - sometimes secretively (which makes sense) and sometimes brazenly out in the open (which, does not).

The other problem is the outlaw storyline.  Naturally Hugh eventually learns the truth about his wife's role - and he's angry.  I get this.  But his anger comes and goes - he's incandescent with rage, at first, but then the edges smooth out, and then he's back to anger again once he finally confronts her.  Hugh's not a fool. He knows King John is an asshole - but the asshole is his boss.  And Eleanor, a woman in 13th century England with very limited power (yeah, she's an heiress but STILL!) has put him in a very precarious position.  On one hand he's got his boss who can execute him with a snap of his fingers and on the other he's got his wife, who he has sworn to protect and who he has fallen in love with.  I mean, consistent anger and hurt isn't too much to expect here.  I get he's a nice, decent man but dude - she's put you in a very difficult position!

It's a good, solid debut that loses a little footing for me with a heroine who seems to be great at everything despite all she has endured and the wrap-up of the outlaw subplot.  Not perfect, but I was entertained, intrigued, happily engrossed, and Oliver creates an interesting world while laying groundwork for a second book (featuring Hugh's friend Will) that I will readily pick up.  

Final Grade = B-

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

#TBRChallenge 2020: Terms of Surrender

Terms of Surrender Book Cover
The Book: Terms of Surrender by Leslie Kelly

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Harlequin Blaze #616, 2011, Out of print, Available digitally

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I have an autographed print copy and my cataloging notes indicate I got it at RWA 2011.  Yes, I'm aware that was 9 years ago.  It was also Wendy's Librarian of the Year year!  Anyway, Wendy at a conference, category romances being given out like Halloween candy, of course this was buried in the depths of my TBR.

The Review: For this month's Dress for Success theme I was thinking of going with a glitzy Harlequin Presents, but as I was randomly grabbing at books in my Harlequin TBR pile (yes, I have my own cabinet just for the Harlequins because of course I do....) I randomly picked up this book featuring a Navy pilot hero who has ambitions to become an astronaut.  A man in uniform?  Well that certainly applies to this month's theme!  And he's quite the hero!  Too bad I wanted to smack the heroine into next Tuesday.

Marissa Marshall has a newly minted PhD in psychology and needs a job. She wrote two successful humorous self-help books thanks to her dating blog Mad-Mari.com but the money is running out and a girl's gotta pay rent, eat, you know important stuff.  She's on her way to a job interview at the Naval Academy where she'd be a civilian contractor, teaching cadets. Her PhD was on the the effect a military life can have on relationships and families - so she ends up getting the job.  She also ends up finding Mr. Perfect.

Mr. Perfect is Danny Wilkes, Navy pilot.  But when Mari meets him he's dressed like a mechanic and that's what she takes him for.  They spend time together, sparks fly, sexy times occur, and it's all going great guns until Danny arrives outside her classroom (for reasons) wearing his dress whites (needing to make a good impression and needing to apologize to Mari for reasons).  Crap - he's a Navy man?!  Because apparently meeting him at the Naval Academy and him mentioning his "dress whites" in passing wasn't enough to clue her in.  This will not do.  Yes the sex was fantastic, yes he's got a dream personality, yes he's hot enough to peel wallpaper - but Mari has sworn to never, ever get involved with a man in uniform because - you guessed it - Mommy and Daddy.  Daddy who was career military and couldn't keep it in his pants.  Mommy who melted down, had her own affair, then promptly left Daddy and abandoned her three children.  Mari, being the oldest, raised her two younger siblings - because while Daddy could provide he wasn't a demonstrative father.

So we all know where this is going right?  Danny is literally Dreamboat Hero material but Mari tars and feathers him because of her childhood. Never mind that Danny does absolutely nothing over the course of this story to make anyone with two brain cells to rub together think that he is anything REMOTELY like Dear Old Dad.  When this guy screws up, he apologizes, he explains, he's contrite.  And his screw-ups are of the variety of "oh crap I dropped my phone in the harbor and lost your phone number" not "oh crap my penis fell into a 21-year-old I met at the bar."

A series of circumstances soon find Danny and Mari spending time together - they genuinely like each other, the sex is great, their feelings are growing stronger and then we get to the end.  When Mari stomps all over Danny's heart on the night he gets REALLY BIG NEWS and she scurries off because of Dear Old Dad and Abandonment Mommy.  Even though Danny is LITERALLY PERFECT! I JUST CAN'T WITH THIS CHILD!

Anyway, the one saving grace here is that Danny fires back with both barrels, calls her a coward, and gives a speech that distilled down to it's essence is basically, "I'm done."  Now this would be the part of the story where most readers with taste would want Mari to go running back to Danny, in bare feet over broken glass, to grovel mightily.  No.  Instead she types it up on her blog that she's a frickin' moron, Danny reads it, and then HE goes to HER!  And then they live happily ever after and I want to punch someone in the face.

Sigh.

Also, there's a lot of pop culture references a la 2011 that just aren't going to age well the longer time marches on (Britney Spears, Dancing with the Stars, Twilight, the heroine making money off her blog....).  Authors and editors seem to think this makes a story more hip and "relatable," especially to the coveted younger reading demographic and really?  All it does is age a contemporary story at a rapid, exponential pace.  A peeve of mine - maybe not for everybody.

Gif: How do you do, fellow kids?

But it is fast and breezy with a lot of banter.  I read it in one sitting which is a dang miracle right now.  But this heroine y'all.  I just couldn't with this child. 

Final Grade = D