Winter Mini-Reviews 2: Romance

I am trying to wrap up my 2014 reviews by posting some mini-reviews for things I neglected to review in full.  This is the romance novel edition.


Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins writes fun, cute, breezy romance novels.  In this one, we have Posey, who has always been a bit of a wallflower, and Liam, the boy she had a crush on all through high school.  Liam has recently moved back to town, a fairly recent widower with a teenage daughter in tow.  Liam was a total bad boy in high school and builds motorcycles for a living.  He’s grown up, but is still gorgeous with a bit of an edge– with the exception of his overprotectiveness when it comes to his daughter.  Posey is skinny and boyish and makes her living scavenging old homes for her architectural resale business.  She’s adopted and her family is crazy, but in a loving way.  Liam and Posey are attracted to one another, but their complicated past gets between them.

What I liked: the ridiculous side characters– for example, Posey’s brother is a surgeon obsessed with amputations and her cousin hosts a cooking show called The Barefoot Fraulein, the animals (always a plus in Higgins)
What I felt meh about: Posey and Liam as a couple– too much baggage, too many differences between them for me to really buy their romance, Liam’s overprotectiveness– men obsessed with their daughters’ virtue drive me crazy
All in all: I will read Kristan Higgins again, I’m sure, but wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re better at suspending your disbelief than I am.


Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe

Monica has returned to her hometown in Bishop, Arkansas (holy cow, a book set in Arkansas) to begin writing her next tell-all book, this time about the night her mother shot her drunken, abusive father in self-defense.  Monica is a bit of a wreck, having survived an incredibly unstable childhood and a wild, drug-fueled adolescence, much of it televised on a reality TV show her fame-whore of a mother landed them on.

Jackson is the mayor of Bishop and feels completely shackled by the responsibility on his shoulders– an economically failing town and the teenage sister he is rearing.  He dreams of freedom, namely in the form of random sexual encounters with women, and getting the heck out of Dodge.

Jackson lands Bishop a spot on a reality TV show, competing as the best town to house a new cookie factory.  Monica’s notoriety can only help his cause.  The two get involved with one another– both in saving Bishop and in a romantic way.  But the buckets and buckets of emotional issues make theirs a bumpy road to falling in love.

What I liked: the love story between two pretty messed up people, O’Keefe pushes the boundaries of the romance genre- flipping some tropes around on us, the small town setting
What I felt meh about: I mostly really liked this one, but I don’t think there was anything tipping the scales into omg awesome for me
All in all: I have already checked out another book by O’Keefe from the library.  This is smart genre romance and that’s something I can’t get enough of.

Believe by Erin McCarthy

Robin is a college student who parties.  Hard.  That is, until she wakes up after a night of drinking to find she slept with her roommate’s boyfriend.  She swears off drinking and partying, not liking the kind of person she becomes when she does.  Phoenix is fresh out of jail, broke, and sleeping on his cousins’ couch.  Robin and he meet at the cousins’ house and find one another really refreshing to be around.  There’s no judgment, no expectations, no pressure.  They quickly fall in love with one another with their past indiscretions lurking in the background, ready to make things difficult.

What I liked: Erin McCarthy’s writing, that the characters were getting second chances
What I felt meh about: Phoenix and Robin declare their love way too soon, especially since they are both supposed to be so damaged by their pasts; Phoenix seems far too nice to have the anger management problem he supposedly has; Phoenix tattoos Robin’s face onto his body after knowing her for a month- INSANE
All in all: Enh.  I liked it enough to read it, but it was silly and cliched.  This author is really hit and miss for me.  Not sure I want to keep trying with her any more.

Fall Mini-Reviews

It happened again.  I get on such a roll with my reading that I completely neglect writing reviews and so… mini-reviews!  These were both books I thought were ok, but you know, they didn’t leave strong, lasting impressions…

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

I found this at my library book sale and having enjoyed Sedgwick’s writing in the past, decided to give it a try.  Sig lives in early 20th century Sweden up in the Arctic frontier, where they is iron mining going on.  His dad dies under mysterious circumstances and when his stepmother and sister go to town to get someone to take care of Sig’s father’s body, Sig stays home in his isolated cabin alone.  And then a mysterious and frightening stranger comes to the door.  With a gun.

What I liked: Sedgwick’s writing, the unusual setting, the low page count
What I felt meh about: pretty much everything else, it should be a tense book as there is a gun pointed at someone for nearly the whole thing, but really I wasn’t that interested in the plot or the characters, it was boring
All in all: I keep hoping I will find a Sedgwick book that really clicks for me.  This wasn’t it.


All Lined Up by Cora Carmack

Dallas Cole is a dancer and freshman in college.  Oh, and her dad is the football coach at her Texas college.  One night at a party, she falls into the arms (literally) of Carson McClain.  The two hit it off immediately.  But Carson is a football player.  And a walk-on at that.  He doesn’t have time to get distracted by romance.  Especially a romance with the coach’s daughter.  Dallas has no interest in repeating her past experiences and wants to stay as far away from football and football players as she can.  But she and Carson start to casually hang out.  And things slowly heat up between them.

What I liked: super cute romance, set in Texas, felt like a truthful portrayal of being a coach’s daughter and the college freshman experience, FOOTBALL
What I was meh on: less steamy than I expected based on my previous experience with this author’s work (though it was appropriate to the characters)
All in all: Cute football romance.  Cora Carmack is great at this New Adult stuff.


Boomerang- Noelle August

Mia and Ethan get hired on to be interns at the newest endeavor of a young tech multimillionaire, a dating website for casual encounters called Boomerang.  The catch is only one will get a full-time paid job offer at the end of the summer.  Mia is a film student and daughter of a very famous photographer.  Mia (confusingly) needs this job to get an in with the media mogul in hopes that he’ll fund her pet project, a film about her grandmother who is slowly dying from dementia.  Ethan is a recent college graduate with vague notions of law school on his mind.  Basically he needs the job because he’s broke.  But the cut-throat competition for the job is complicated by the fact that Mia and Ethan are REALLY attracted to one another and have already had a one-night stand prior to starting the job.  And it’s against Boomerang company policy to date coworkers.  And the Boomerang CEO likes to send his unpaid interns on dates to test out the service.

This was a fun, better-than-average romance, but not really the most amazing thing I’ve ever read.  The better-than-average part was the characters.  Mia and Ethan were both interesting and well-drawn, with their own insecurities about the future and their romance and all that young adult stuff.  What was enh for me was that this hit on a lot of romance genre tropes: every last character is going to find the love of their life by the end of this series, people making serious money in ridiculous career fields, a silly and arbitrarily constructed obstacle to the relationship.  While all of that is fun and par for the course in romance, I think had this been toned down and made more realistic, with its great characters it could have been OMG AWESOME.

That said, I’ll probably read the other books in the series when they come out.  I like New Adult romance a lot more than I do Young Adult romance and I think these authors (Noelle August is pseudonym for two people) will create characters that wow me enough to keep going.

Faking It- Cora Carmack

Max has a different hair color every week, is tattooed from top to bottom, dreams of making it as a musician, and has a string of bad boy boyfriends.  Her parents, straight-laced, conservative Oklahomans, arrive in town on a surprise visit, asking to meet Max’s latest boyfriend.  Mace, her actual boyfriend, is not really parent-meeting material, so Max strikes up a deal with a nice-looking boy she finds at a coffee shop.  Cade will pretend to be her boyfriend in exchange for an actual date with Max.  Though Cade is as nice as Max is bad, the two start hitting it off almost immediately.  And when Mace shows himself to be the complete tool that he actually is, things between Max and Cade begin to heat up.  But Max believes she is too toxic to be with Cade.  And Cade doesn’t fight for what he wants when Max up and leaves him because she’s scared.  The two have some emotional issues to work through before they can truly accept one another and themselves and be together.

I don’t think I have read any New Adult novels before and saw this one on ebook at my library, so thought I’d give it a shot.  I liked the premise of a fake relationship and a bad girl+good guy story.  So, first thing, this book kind of exemplifies what I’ve heard about New Adult: a Young Adult romance, but with sex.  There’s a lot of angst.  There’s the young adult theme of coming to accept yourself and become independent.  And then there was some sex.  I’m not complaining.  I probably preferred this to Young Adult romance because, well, there were sexy times to balance out the angsty times.

I hate to say I grade books on a curve, but I totally do.  This was good for what it was.  A sort of fluffy, yet gritty romance (can something be fluffy and gritty at the same time?) with enough steaminess and serious issues to keep it from going into boring or saccharine territory.  Max was a pretty unusual romance novel heroine, in that she is the bad girl– hard-edged, closed-off, and kinda bitchy.  It was nice to see the female in that role, instead of the usual stereotype of the good girl taming the bad boy.  But, at the end of the day, this is a romance novel where the big obstacle holding up the relationship is the couple’s inability or unwillingness to open up and communicate with one another.  So… not an especially original plot.  But, all in all, this book kept me entertained without leaving me much to complain about.  I will definitely stick my toe back into the New Adult waters when I am looking for a steamy romance to read.