Friday, April 24, 2020

Library Loot Mini-Reviews: Sexy Times and Gothic Gone Wrong

I realize this is going to sound silly coming from someone who has a TBR pile that can be seen from space, but I miss being able to just casually wander into public spaces where books congregate.  Never mind that I don't read a ton in print these days - I miss the ability to walk into a bookstore or library just to browse.  COVID-19 has had a way of making me appreciate life's small joys.

I find myself spending a lot of time at The Day Job right now trolling through our digital collections and naturally, I find myself putting my own name on some holds lists.  Since all my holds seem to be coming in at once? I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my recent library borrowing with mini-reviews.

I'm always game when Harlequin launches a new line but to be honest none of the blurbs on the early Dare books sparked my imagination.  There's been a few recently however, and Hotter On Ice by Rebecca Hunter is the most recent.  How do I want to phrase this?  How about meh.  My issue so far with the Dare line (or at least the books in the Dare line I've read...) has been that while the sex is hot, the books lack what drives me to read romance in the first place - all the angsty emotional messiness that can lurk between the pages.  There's just not a ton of emotional oomph and I LOVE emotional oomph.  That being said, my sample size so far on the line is ridiculously small so it could just be I haven't found the right book yet.

This is book four in a series about a bunch of guys who work at a security agency.  Our hero in this book is former law enforcement who was injured in a drug raid gone wrong and he's now the computer surveillance guy for this agency.  Anyway, the heroine is a model who's ex-boyfriend turned out to be a stalker douchebag.  He hasn't been bothering her for a while, but she's also been keeping a lower profile.  She's landed a modeling gig in Sweden (at an ice hotel) and her former bodyguard just married her younger sister - so she needs a new bodyguard.  Enter our hero.  There's some slow burn angst in the backstory (he was monitoring her security cameras prior to them meeting in the flesh) and it's got a Beauty and the Beast vibe.  Liked that the douchebag ex stays firmly off-page and that the heroine stands up for herself in the end but the romance felt very "surface" to me - again, because the lack of emotional oomph.  But it's a quick read and this is very much a YMMV sort of critique.  My final grade is waffling between a B- and C+

 Book Cover
I heard about The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni at the PLA (Public Library Association) conference and the magic word was used: "Gothic."  My Pavlovian response kicked in and the rest is a whole mountain of regrets.  Warning: THERE SHALL BE SPOILERS!

The heroine, an only child, whose marriage is on the skids and whose grandparents AND parents are all gone - finds out she's the heir to a frickin' castle in a remote mountainous area of Italy.  She goes to said crumbling castle which is home to a few creepy servants, a great-aunt by marriage and whoa-ho! Her creepy great-grandmother.  Her grandfather fled Italy right after the war - why?  Creepiness, of course!

The book starts out in classic Gothic horror fashion. The great-grandmother is painted as a monster, there are shenanigans afoot and then whamo! Turns out there's a secret tribe of lost people living in the mountains (painted as genetic ancestor-like throwbacks) that Dear Old Granny has been taking care of.  The heroine runs off to the mountains to live with them and it's part white savior narrative, part Dances With Wolves rip-off.  All that Gothic horror stuff in the first half?  Completely out the window.  Now it's all genetics and how the heroine's great-great whatever douchebag lived with the tribe and felt the only way for them to survive was for them to mate with regular ol' people like himself - but instead it all kind of goes sideways.

I just - what the heck even is this?!  And why did I keep listening to this audiobook?!  Especially when evil monster great-granny turns out to be some misunderstood white savior looking after these poor ol' tribal folk who can't take care of themselves?  Honestly, it's all kind of gross and SOOOOOO disappointing.  Stupid Pavlovian response. Regrets, I haz them.  Final Grade = D-

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