Wednesday, June 17, 2020

#TBRChallenge 2020: Blissful Summer

The Book: Blissful Summer by Cheris Hodges and Lisa Marie Perry

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Kimani Romance, 2015, Out of Print, Not Available in Digital

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: My print copy looks brand new, but it's not autographed and I went almost exclusively digital with Harlequin well before 2015. Best guess is that I snagged it in a conference goody room.  I'm at conference + Harlequin not tied down = of course I grabbed it.

The Review: This month's optional theme is Getaway, and I decided to interpret that as "vacation destination."  Make You Mine Again by Cheris Hodges kicks off this anthology with a reunion romance set in Atlanta, New York, Paris and Jamaica.

Jansen Douglas is an in-demand supermodel who is preparing for the next phase of her career.  She's not getting any younger, and realizing the shelf-life for models, has visions of opening up her own agency.  But first she needs to attend her BFF's wedding in Paris.  The fly in the ointment?  Her BFF's brother, Bradley Stephens, is the one that got away.  Well, more like she showed him the door.  She supported Bradley's dreams and ambitions, but when she told him she wanted to kick-start a career in modelling - well, it didn't go well.  She left him, and neither one has gotten over it.

This story only clocks in at 100 pages, and the couple doesn't actually land on page together until the halfway point.  Which, I know this is a reunion romance, but it's still a problem.  So what's happening in the first 50 pages?  A lot of info-dumping, setting up a Big Misunderstanding and secondary character introductions that felt like series filler to me.  But then I can't find any mention online that this is actually a series?  So that means it felt like a series idea that the author cut back to fit a 100 page novella and it just didn't work for me.  There's too much here for a novella. Also, to be perfectly blunt, I completely understood why Jansen walked away from Bradley all those years ago and I'm wholly unconvinced he's "changed" and seen the light.  Jansen is a fierce heroine and gurl, you could do so much better.  

Grade = C

There's a bit of plot absurdity in Unraveled by Lisa Marie Perry but there are some nice moments in this novella.  Ona Tracy was a scholarship kid at her prestigious Philadelphia performing arts school with Most Likely to Succeed written all over her - but life has not spun out as planned.  She gave up Broadway dreams for a worthless man, then her career in advertising took a hit when she fell for a double-crossing colleague.  She's at a low ebb, but has managed to convince her former high school that she's the event planner who can tackle the Glee Club's 10-year reunion.  She's got big plans to seduce her high school crush who has turned out to be Mr. Successful Stability. She just needs it all to go off without a hitch and survive her Mean Girl Nemesis.  But trouble starts brewing right away when the ship she booked turns out to be an "erotic cruise" to the Bahamas.  But our gal is determined to make lemonade out of lemons, and no sooner does she start exploring the ship than she makes the steamy acquaintance of ex-Marine, Riker Ewan.  Sparks fly immediately with this working class bartender from Boston, but wouldn't you know?  There's more to Riker than meets the eye.

I'm a bit of a sucker for high school reunion stories, and Perry does some interesting things with her cast of secondary characters.  The high school crush who didn't notice Ona back in the day, the propositioning jerk that Ona has to smack down repeatedly, but it's the Mean Girl Nemesis that's really interesting.  She's uppity and prickly to Ona's pure sassy goodness.  The scenes between these two are great, especially at the end when insecurities come pouring out.  The chemistry with Riker is also good, and I'm a sucker for a blue-collar hero paired with a polished heroine like Ona.  Ona's life might not be great at the moment, but she's a never let 'em see you sweat sort - again, extremely attractive in a romance heroine.

The issue is conflict. Ona's conflict, the high school reunion cast, the botched cruise booking - more than enough to power a 100 page novella.  Riker really could have just been a guy going on a cruise after getting stood up by a woman.  But no.  Riker has a Big Secret and he's on the cruise for other half-baked reasons entirely - which of course means family baggage. It's too much. The Riker baggage feels completely unnecessary - Ona's is more than enough to carry the show.  Still, a fun read and frankly a bloody shame that Perry doesn't seem to be writing anymore.  If anyone can tell me otherwise, I'd love to hear it.

Grade = B-

While I wasn't madly in love with this short anthology, it did the trick of kick-starting my flagging reading mojo.  Presumably it's not available anymore because rights have reverted back to the authors.  I'd like to see what Hodges could do with her characters if she spun them out into an entire family series and the Perry story has some fun moments.  Hopefully digital reprints are on the horizon.

Overall Final Grade = C+


Dorine said...

Good to see you getting another one read, Wendy! I had a couple books picked out, but never got to them. Maybe July will be my magic month? I can't believe I've lost my reading/reviewing mojo for so long. Yikes. I need an intervention. LOL

Jill said...

I read "After the Wedding" by Courtney Milan. This one didn't quite fit the "getaway" theme but I wish I could have found something that did. This was more "runaway" than getaway b/c the heroine, Camilla, ran away from her family at a young age.
I really wanted this to work me b/c I usually really love everything Courtney Milan writes. Honestly, this one just felt like too much external conflict. Adrian, the hero, is on a secret mission,and he accidentally gets caught in a compromising position with Camilla, who has fallen down in the world till she is a very mistreated servant. They're forced into a shotgun marriage b/c of "reasons."
Both of the characters both liked each other and were attracted to each other right off the bat. And they just both kept saying "but we can't start a relationship this way" and lot of the conflict involved paperwork and people who weren't the main characters doing things.
I finished it, but it was a C read for me. Fingers crossed the next one is better.

Wendy said...

Dorine: Patience and don't be too hard on yourself. I'm a slow reader anyway but this year has been a dreadful slog.

Jill: Bummer. I've been stuck with a string of C or low B- reads of late but luckily a few of them have featured a little "something" to keep me motivated. I'm in desperate need of a OMG This Is Amazing! read and keep diving into the TBR hoping for the best. So far 2020 has been pretty lackluster reading-wise. Bother.