Saturday, April 20, 2019

Review: The Captains' Vegas Vows

I won't tell you how long I've had an ARC of The Captains' Vegas Vows by Caro Carson languishing on my Kindle. Suffice it to say, awhile. Unfortunately, I tend to not hear the plaintive pleas from really good books once they're buried in my TBR Pile of Doom.  No, I simply need to wait until I stumble across them in a fit of dumb luck while haphazardly clicking and hoping, "Please God let this one not suck."  Reader, this one most definitely did not suck.

Captain Helen Pallas' divorce from her no-good husband Russell is finally final and she has orders to report to Fort Hood in Texas.  The ink barely dry on her divorce decree, she's driving from Seattle, why not take a slight detour for some post-divorce fun in Las Vegas?  Of course she didn't expect to end up married, to the most gorgeous hunk she's ever laid eyes on, oh and with no memory of how or why she got married.  I mean, SHE JUST GOT DIVORCED!

Captain Tom Cross met Helen in a Las Vegas casino at 11:00AM and they were married by 1:30AM the next day.  It was whirlwind. It was love at first sight.  He's head of heels, completely ga-ga, a total goner.  Then his blushing bride wakes up in a panic, declares she has no clue who he is, and can't get out the door fast enough.  Not exactly what he expected the morning after his marriage and some of the best sex he's ever had.

What happens next is coincidence, but this is a romance - so roll with it.  Turns out Tom is also stationed at Fort Hood.  So Helen keeping the whole embarrassing affair quiet until she can quietly investigate a divorce or annulment is out of the question.  Turns out that in Texas there's a cooling off period of six months and the commanding officer, once he finds out about the marriage, orders that the two will live together in Tom's quarters and attend marriage counselling sessions.  Helen is furious, mostly because she's a woman in the Army and after getting out from under Russell Fort Hood was supposed to be her fresh start, her new beginning.  Instead she ran off and eloped with a complete stranger.

As much as I love romance, there's been a trend the last few years for books to be ALL ABOUT THE FEELZ!!!!  Look, I love feels.  Who doesn't love feels?  But feels alone does not a book make.  You know what makes a book?  When an author is firing on all cylinders and the book reads like they gave a flying fig.  What we have here, ladies and gents, is a book with some actual craft to it. 

I've often said that there's magic in a really well-done category romance.  The shorter format, the hyper-aware, nearly claustrophobic emphasis on the romance, I won't come up for air between starting page one and finishing the epilogue.  A well-done category romance will literally keep you reading.  You can't stop.  Carson hits all her beats, pours in all the feels, and paces her romance to  emotional-wringing perfection.

Is this perfect?  Well, no.  There were things that annoyed me a tinch.  It's a surprise amnesia book, which there's really no indication of that by reading the back cover blurb.  I don't dislike amnesia books per se, but's a surprise.  Actually the whole back cover blurb is a mess (Tom Cross doesn't believe in love?! Whoever wrote the cover copy DID THEY READ THE BOOK?!?!) so just take my advice and ignore it. 

Also, I'm not entirely sure I buy the reason behind Helen's amnesia, but I'm also not about to research the heck out of it either - and well, stranger things and all that.  Also, Helen is...well, not always terribly nice to Tom.  She requires an empathetic reader.  Her divorce decree was literally just finalized two days prior.  Our girl is still reeling.  Russell did a number on her self-esteem and she doesn't have closure.  And now she finds herself married to a guy and no understanding of WHY she hastily married him.

Tom is a man with serious Daddy issues, although he has a big brother figure in his life.  He desperately wants to be loved and now he's got a wife he does love, who loved him enough to marry him, but has no memory of why she married him and can't seem to divorce him fast enough.  The whole thing is like pining for his father's approval all over again.

The storytelling arc in and of itself is quite clever.  It starts the morning after in the Vegas hotel room and goes to Fort Hood where our couple needs to learn to be a couple, even though they're already married.  It's like a slightly different spin on a mail-order bride or a marriage of convenience trope.

Yes, I had quibbles but it's so well written, and so well executed well...who cares about quibbles?  Now to find what other Caro Carson books may be languishing in my TBR.

Final Grade = A-


azteclady said...

I can hear your happy book noises all the way over here, Miz Wendy!

Wendy said...

AL: So many happy book noises! Like I said, it wasn't perfect - but it was one of those books where I felt like I was in the hands of a pro.

willaful said...

I didn't love it as much as you did, but I did enjoy the structure.

Wendy said...

Willaful: Yeah, I saw your toot about it. I often think the success of a category romance novel hinges on how much preposterous the reader will buy into. This one had it's fair share and yet I gulped it down whole.