This Week, I Read… (2019 #12)

41 - Just for Your

#41 – Just for You, by Rosalind James

  • Read: 3/15/19 – 3/16/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (27/100)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

Coming back to this after having read the first three full-length novels in the series, I found this to be bland. In the small space allowed, neither Reka nor Hemi really has a chance to develop much personality beyond the gently sarcastic tone that is apparently the way all Maori characters speak in James’ novels. Reka sounded exactly like all her sisters, and pretty much the entire rest of her family. Hemi did a decent job apologizing for his boorish behavior in the past, but eager-puppy-hounding-the-heroine isn’t much of a personality, and if that’s all he is, it’s not exactly a strong argument in his favor.

Honestly, I like these two much better as the happily married couple who shows up from time to time in the series. I didn’t need this back story, because it’s just not very interesting.

42 - Free Me

#42 – Free Me, by Laurelin Paige

  • Read: 3/16/19 – 3/17/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (28/100)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

There were a lot of things about this that I feel like I should have hated, and yet, I found it surprisingly difficult to stop reading.

Ice-queen, emotionally shut-down heroine. Arrogant, too-sexy-for-his-own-good hero. An arrangement to have weekly sexcapades with no dating, no bonding, no falling in love.

These aren’t my tropes. I should hate this book. Or at least dislike it strongly.

But every time these two commitment-phobic lunatics opened their mouths to speak to each other, I heard rational conversation. They fought, sure, they argued all the time, but it was practical, it was realistic, it was natural. Those were the conversations and arguments I felt like I would be having in their place, if I found myself in their bizarre situation. Even though the premise was contrived as hell, once it got going, I bought it. These characters sold it to me.

Gwen did things against her better judgment, but she did them knowingly, aware of potential consequences, which saved her from Too Stupid to Live syndrome. I warmed up to her quickly and still liked her at the end–especially because of her final decision re: the cliffhanger. I want to read the next book so I can see her happy ending, because it’s fantastic to see a woman stand her ground and know what’s best for herself.

JC, on the other hand, came off as a swanky-smooth and untrustworthy playboy at first, a desirable sex god in the middle, and a complete mess at the end. I’m not attached to him at all, he’s definitely the worst part of the book for me–even in his “falling in love” phase, when he was cute more than sexy, I was on edge because I knew his secret had to be devastating, whatever it was. And now that I know what it is, I’m not entirely sure I buy his motivation for starting this whole thing with Gwen in the first place. His life would have been infinitely easier if he’d stuck to being a bed-hopping playboy, and putting Gwen in the position he did at the end is a really, really shitty thing to do. So he’s the reason I kind of don’t want to read the next book.

Still, I probably will at some point. I devoured this in less than a day, and I do want to find out how it ends. Who knows, maybe JC grows up some more in the conclusion. Maybe I’ll like him better then.

43 - The Raging Quiet

#43 – The Raging Quiet, by Sherryl Jordan

  • Read: 3/17/19 – 3/19/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (29/100)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I enjoyed this book immensely, but a few days later, writing this review, I feel that maybe something was lacking.

I’m glad I came across this as a lost/potential YA classic. It has a good message, simply delivered. But I think that very simplicity works against it for an adult reader like myself. It lacks depth and subtlety–people are good, or they are bad. Marnie and Raven are the only two characters allowed to be a little of both, with Marnie’s stubbornness leading her to sometimes poor decisions, and Raven’s frustration at his inability to communicate leading him to lash out violently.

I was also vaguely disturbed by how quickly Marnie manages to “tame” Raven. Someone who has lived half-feral all his life, with no real socialization, doesn’t strike me as likely to turn into a fine young man in only a few months. This isn’t to say Raven isn’t or couldn’t be intelligent, teachable, and hungry to learn, all of which he’s shown to be. But Marnie remarks on his wildness, and how she doesn’t want him to lose that entirely; but he almost does, and in an unbelievably short amount of time. (This perception of mine might be exacerbated by how quickly I read the book, I admit.)

I enjoyed it, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I’d been lucky enough to get to read it when I was the target age group; I don’t think it’s quite as strong a story for adults.

44 - Ride

#44 – Ride, by Daphne Loveling

  • Read: 3/19/19 – 3/20/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (30/100)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

No one’s setting my heart on fire here.

While I’m not familiar with MC romances yet (I think I’ve only read one other,) this hardly qualifies. The hero is a club member but spends almost no time at the club, almost no time on his bike due to the injury that starts the plot, and very little time thinking about his club duties other than that he’ll give up his position if he can’t ride a bike anymore.

All his MC identity does is give him that hint of bad-boy flavor, which doesn’t even affect the plot that much–the heroine’s ex-husband is prejudiced against the hero because of his look, but the sweet old neighbor lady thinks he’s a fine young man regardless.

And he mostly is. I have a personal dislike for his name, Trig, because to me that’s always going to be shorthand for the school subject trigonometry, and that’s not an association I want in my romance reading. But that’s not the character’s fault, and he’s generally an okay guy.

But that’s the thing–he’s just okay, to the point where every other man in the novel (all two of them) have to be flagrant examples of the worst that adult maleness has to offer, just to make him look good. The heroine’s ex is a serious piece of work in an abusive, gas-lighting way, which I found believable, but the guy she goes on one date with at the beginning of the novel is so, so, so awful that he comes across as completely fake. I don’t believe that anyone says the things he says, or if they do, that someone hasn’t poisoned their Cheerios yet. It’s ridiculous.

My other major problem is that the conflict is thin and mostly one-sided. The heroine is hung up on a lie she believed in high school that prevented her and the hero from getting together. First, I can’t believe it took ten years for someone to point out to her that the third party involved might not have been trustworthy, and second, why couldn’t she realize that herself? Is she really that dumb? But even so, the narrative spends a lot of time on it, building up its importance while simultaneously having the heroine waffle about whether or not it actually is important, whether or not she should just let it go.

Trig, meanwhile, has no clue about any of this. His conflict amounts to “should I bang my physical therapist or not?”

The other brief, underdeveloped point of conflict is the ex-husband, who shows up in a blaze of anger at the last second to undermine the budding romance with threats. Trig threatens him back, and in the process promises to terminate the child-support arrangement WITHOUT THE HEROINE’S KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT. Given how she’d already reacted to Trig answering her phone once, I expected her to go ballistic. Maybe even nuclear. But she didn’t! She was completely okay with Trig instigating a change in her legal relationship regarding her husband and his money! Without her knowledge or consent! HOW IS THIS OKAY WITH HER OR ME OR ANYONE.

But, like I said, Trig’s just okay, he only looks halfway decent as a man compared to the awful dumpster fires the author offers as alternatives.

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