This Week, I Read… (2017 #32)

105 - Chesapeake Blue

#105 – Chesapeake Blue, by Nora Roberts

My first Nora Roberts novel, and of course I ended up with the last book in a series instead of the first. And I even have the first two, but I picked that up from a LFL just a few months ago, so they’ll have to wait until I’ve reached the peak of Mount TBR.

What impressed me most was the strong sense of place. A lot of romances I’ve read skimp on the setting, but here, it’s deftly woven into the narrative with brief, beautiful descriptions.

The playful chemistry between the leads was charming, though I feel like their reasons for not being together were fairly one-sided. Seth was worried about the interference of his trashy bio-mom in his life, while Dru was just…against being in love? Not that wanting to maintain independence isn’t a valid reason to resist pursuing a relationship, but when one half of the equation is basically stubbornness while the other half is actual physical danger, it feels unbalanced.

And speaking of that danger, the end was plain old weird for me. To have something potentially terrible happen after Seth had stood up to his mother (and thus finished his character arc) felt strange, shoving a random explosion into what should have been the denouement.

But it was a quick, pleasant read that certainly makes me want to go back to the first books in the series and see what they’re all about.

106 - Barefoot in White

#106 – Barefoot in White, by Roxanne St. Claire

Mixed feelings about some aspects, but overall, I enjoyed this. The intense focus on Willow’s weight loss got old, though I understand why it was such a fundamental part of her character. Her mother was the worst kind of stereotype, completely over-the-top, and her father was pretty flat and uninteresting.

Nick’s partial deafness had the potential to be more interesting than it was, especially since it was magically “healed” at the end…that’s terrible representation for disabilities. I don’t know what the healing/recovery process for damaged hearing is like, but I couldn’t say how realistic this is, because the exact nature of the injury isn’t explored. So it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

I liked Nick being a struggling writer, though, who found his muse. I know the value of having an alpha reader who gives honest feedback, and I definitely sympathized with him in the scenes where Willow was reading his book and he was all pins-and-needles about it. Adorable.

I can’t say I’ll go on with the series, though, because I bet it continues with the stories of Willow’s friends/business partners who also appear in the story, but are bland as unsalted crackers. I hardly remember a thing about them, so I’m not eager to read more.

107 - The Reluctant Suitor

#107 – The Reluctant Suitor, by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

This lengthy tome, a tale of diffident romance, contains the greatest volume of unnecessary and truly purple prose I have ever had the displeasure to dive into, prose so purple it would offend Barney, prose so offensively overwritten it’s beyond purple and shading well into ultraviolet, burning invisibly in my brain as rage and fury at how very, very terrible it is.

Prose so terrible I can’t even imitate it properly for sarcastic review purposes.

I gave up after the first chapter. It was 20+ pages where almost nothing happened: a sentence or two of action followed by anywhere from two paragraphs to two pages of exposition detailing the recent history, exploits, or tremblingly fragile emotional state of the character who said the line or did the thing. Or a solid page of elaborate description of the entrance hall of the manor where it was set, because I needed to know the exact position of every vase and how much gilt was splashed around the room. Yawn.

I had two other Woodiwiss novels in the stack I pulled for ReadMoreRomance in August–I skimmed the first few pages of each and found the writing style was identical. They’ve been culled from the TBR, because I’m not subjecting myself to this again.

 

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#108 – The Prince of Midnight, by Laura Kinsale

I had the exact opposite problem with this work as I usually do with random romances by unknown-to-me authors–great writing style, boring plot.

I was pleased to discover I’d managed to pick up a historical romance that wasn’t set in Regency England–in fact, this story begins in France in the 1770’s. (It does travel back to England later, but still, it was nice after all the Regency-era stuff I’ve been reading lately.) I was even more pleased to discover the narrative was smoothly descriptive without being bogged down with excessive detail, and utterly free of head-hopping.

I never managed to connect with the characters, though. Both leads had good points, but they were both incredibly volatile–nearly every scene with the two of them together ended in one or both of them pulling an emotional one-eighty. Ping-ponging between growing intimacy and disdain/contempt/outright hatred with such frequency was taxing and unenjoyable.

So the dramatic climax–and there is a ton of well-written action in this book–lacked punch for me, because I really didn’t care by the end if the romance succeeded or not. I considered giving up a few time throughout the story, but I kept hoping it would get better.

109 - Dangerous Ground

#109 – Dangerous Ground, by Josh Lanyon

It’s rare that I level this particular criticism at a book–but this was too short.

Not because I think it was amazing and I wanted more of it, but because I see potential cut off by the lack of space to develop it. Everything is rushed, from cramming Will and Taylor’s epic-partnership backstory (they’re feds) into no space at all, to turning them into lovers with almost no ground to stand on.

Everything is told. They’re partners. They’re best friends. They’re both gay but have dated other people instead of each other. They’re best friends. They’re great partners. Oh, wait, did you forget they’re best friends?

But by setting the novella exclusively in the small segment of time when their relationship is at its breaking point, we can’t see any of that. From what I actually read, Will and Taylor don’t even seem to like each other, let alone have the potential for love.

Even though I’m not much of a mystery/suspense fan in general, I didn’t hate the non-romance plot. Sure, it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine two guys out on a camping vacation stumbling on a crashed plane from a heist case they both know about (even if they weren’t the ones working it) and recovering the money, but I’ve suspended my disbelief for greater things than that. And the action writing was quick and sharp.

But again…didn’t care much about the characters, so I’m just disappointed I didn’t get the chance to.

 

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