This Week, I Read… (2017 #10)

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#35 – Symphony, by Charles Grant

DNF @ page 100. I had high hopes from the X-Files comparison on the cover–that show was my jam back in the day–but the first hundred pages of this novel were weird and disjointed, pretentiously high-concept but without any meat to back it up. I was put off by the huge cast of cardboard small-town archetype characters; and the mysterious woman in the white car who popped up to collect lost souls for a page or two at the beginning of each section of the book (in one hundred pages, I read two parts and started the third, they seemed awfully short) wasn’t intriguing enough to keep me hooked, though that was clearly her purpose. It just didn’t work on me.

Sadly, the most interesting thing about this book is the cover, which is gorgeous.

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I intend to cut out the horses and put them in my art journal. I mean, you already know I deface books to make the journals in the first place, so why not scavenge cover art too?

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#36 – Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

Once upon a time, I thought I was going to be a scientist. This book eloquently tells the story of why that didn’t work out for me, by telling the story of someone it did work out for, and everything she did to get there.

I do miss the lab some days, but I was never particularly good at lab work. I did better tramping through the mud and counting wildflowers in each quadrant of a string grid on the forest floor–but that’s another story.

Hope Jahren’s memoir is poignant in every sense of the word. Each chapter of her own life is prefaced by a short segment on science, detailing how trees sprout, grow, and survive harsh winters, and the thrust of each segment matches the story she tells of her own experiences. It could have been a hackneyed framing device, but I found it perfectly suited to what she had to say.

And she has a lot. She touches on the constant stress of finding funding, the ole-boy sexism of the scientific community (which reached a fever pitch at her pregnancy,) mental illness, deep friendship, and love and family. All through the lens of science, which is the central principle of her life.

I find all science fascinating, and long after I’ve left school I’m still reading scientific papers online and watching the various Crash Course series and let me just tell you how much I love Planet Earth and Blue Planet and any other nature documentaries I can get my hands on. But I wasn’t actually very good at science. Yeah, I passed my classes, but I never seemed to find the big questions to ask, or even the little ones. Every time I thought of something I wanted to know, turns out someone else had gotten there first. I never had the type of mind to push the boundaries of knowledge outward.

For a long time, I felt like that was a failing. After all, I thought I was going to be a scientist, and I’m not. But after reading this, and seeing what I “missed,” it’s not the life I was suited for, not at all. Science continues to fascinate me and it always will, but reading this book helped me finally accept that my interest in it would never have sustained me as a career, and that I’m happier reading about other people being scientists, especially when they write about it so damn well.

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#37 – The Gunslinger, by Stephen King

This is a reread, first read in 2015. The first time through, this story was like being doped on some hallucinogenic and dropped into a world that might or might not be a post-apocalyptic version of our known, without a map or any idea where I was going.

The second time, it made more sense, but not by much. It’s still trippy and dream-like. It’s still not clear if this world is ours or not, even though some things (religion and some music) point to it being a future version of ours, while others (Jake, mostly) point to it definitively not being ours. (Don’t spoil it for me, I’ve got six books to work through the confusion.)

As much as I enjoy it, though, I can’t give it that fifth star. It feels woefully incomplete and underdeveloped. When I mentioned on Tumblr in January that one of my goals this year was to read the complete Dark Tower series, several people actually advised me to either start with book 2 and go back to read The Gunslinger as a prequel, or to skip it entirely. (They didn’t know I’d already read it once, but I see their point.) Compared to much of what I’ve read of King’s other work, whether it was later or not (The Shining came before it, for example,) this seems positively sophomoric in style, adverb-heavy, full of pointless word repetition, and with a meandering plot that doesn’t feel polished. The flashbacks/backstory are some of my favorite parts, developing Roland himself into an interesting figure–but if those are the standouts, that makes this book little more than a character study, and his motivations for the pursuit of the “man in black” are unclear at best. (I thought I had a handle on who the man was and why Roland was after him, only to discover when they finally meet that I was dead wrong. I honestly don’t think I missed a clue about his identity, because Roland apparently thought he was someone else, too–the same person I did. Which was a let down.)

So I’m still interested in continuing the series, a) because I’ve heard it gets much better, and b) because I already have the rest of it, all acquired secondhand on the cheap over the last year and a half. Here’s hoping The Drawing of the Three pays of my patience.

This Week, I Read… (2017 #9)

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#30 – Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

I always tell myself I shouldn’t read classics just for the sake of their classic-ness, which is why I avoided this for so long, even though I’d heard great things about it. I mean, I heard great things about all sorts of classics I ended up hating.

But I do find myself strangely attracted to sprawling, Gothic fiction, both horror and romance, and Rebecca recalls that period with adeptness. Everything about the prose is ominous, from the framing of seemingly beautiful landscapes and environs as places of dread, to the stiff formality of the characters, reinforcing the themes of misunderstanding and isolation.

And speaking of misunderstandings–I thought I had the plot figured out early on. (This is a classic that had not actually been spoiled for me.) Given the familiar trappings I’ve seen used in later works, I expected certain things from this book, and was pleasantly shocked when I WAS COMPLETELY WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING. Nothing turned out the way I envisioned, every twist I saw coming happened, but went in a direction I didn’t foresee. It was like driving down a road I’d been down a dozen times before, only someone had moved all the signposts, bringing me to an entirely new destination at journey’s end.

I loved it. Okay, by modern standards, the prose is wordy and drags a bit, but Gothic, people, Gothic sensibilities. They didn’t write tight little action pieces, they wrote atmospheric works pervaded by horrible beauty. You need a lot of words to do that properly.

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#31 – True Love, by Jude Deveraux

DNF @ page 103. In that hundred pages, I was subjected to:

  1. Two female characters constantly weight-shaming each other even though they both spent almost all of their time together eating;
  2. The overly-sly, “look how clever I am” introduction of a family ghost;
  3. Three-hundred-some years of convoluted family history;
  4. Way more about architecture than I ever wanted to know;
  5. And finally, almost a quarter of the way through the book, the two romantic leads finally meet, and zero sparks fly. None. At all. They’re not even kissing by this point, they’re cleaning fish together.

I was too bored to go any farther, despite also having picked up #2 in the series. I donated them both back to the library sale I got them from–maybe somebody else will have more patience than I did.

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#32 – Falcon Saga, by Francis Ray

An omnibus of three African-American romances (a subgenre I’ve never read before), I’m going to talk about each one individually, because my experience with each varied so widely.

Only Hers: A good introduction to Ray’s easy, flowing style. I never felt confused about the action or the plot, though partly that was due to there being very little conflict beyond the central one, which was reiterated constantly, to the point where it got annoying. Still, the characters were likeable and I enjoyed the light read. 3 stars.

Heart of the Falcon: OH MY GOD HOW DID THE SAME PERSON WRITE THIS BOOK. The male lead is the worst kind of controlling, arrogant alpha-asshole and I hated him, he didn’t have any redeemable personality. Oh, and how about an unplanned pregnancy? Because that must be the only thing that would make the female lead try to stick to this man, he’s so bad, but we’re supposed to believe this baby he doesn’t even believe at first is his (@#$^$#$@#@#!@!!) thaws him out to the point where he’ll give up his Mr. Bachelor Forever club membership. No, thank you. 1 star? Zero stars? It’s gross.

Break Every Rule: OH MY GOD HOW DID THE SAME PERSON WRITE THIS BOOK? If HotF had the worst romantic hero, BER has the best. Trent is amazing, he’s constantly demonstrating how caring he is, the central conflict between him and his lady-love is believable and better yet, understandable, and OH MY GOD I WANT TO HUG HIM FOREVER. It still lacks much in the way of subplot, but a solid four stars.

The three together felt like a rollercoaster, because if I had randomly picked up Heart of the Falcon first as an individual title, I never would have touched a Francis Ray work again. I might in the future, but not without vetting them first.

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#33 – Beyond Ruin, by Kit Rocha

My least favorite entry in the Beyond series so far. While I was intrigued by the idea of a m/m/f/f foursome romance (which all things about these characters in previous books had been leading to) the reality disappointed me.

The best scenes in this were when some two of the four were having a one-on-one moment, whether that involved conversation, sex, or both. When all four of them were in the room together, things got messy. And I’m not talking just about muddy interpersonal relationships, though there was plenty of that–I got hung up on the much simpler matter of pronouns.

How can I be into a scene if I can’t even figure out who’s touching whom? With two he‘s and two she‘s in the same place, I honestly got confused about the ownership of body parts and had to backtrack, something a reader should never have to do.

And one book of a standard romance length doesn’t really have the space to deal with main, continuing plot (which it does) and SIX different interpersonal pairings. Adding that fourth person doubles the number of individual relationships from a threesome, which was handled successfully back in book 4 of the series. It’s even acknowledged in the narrative that some of those six pairings don’t have the same depth or weight as the others, but it still feels woefully unbalanced. I’m not saying no one has ever or could ever pull off a well-developed foursome novel, but I don’t think I read one here.

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#34 – The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

It’s no secret I’m a fast reader when I want to be, and I was hard-pressed to put down The Secret History. I devoured it.

At first, I thought maybe I was drawn in by the setting and the characters. After all, I went to a Midwestern liberal arts college not entirely unlike the fictional, Vermont-based Hampden; I knew people very like the characters, both the truly well-off who cared little about how they spent their money, and the truly well-off who cared a great deal, and those (like myself and Richard) who were on financial aid and had to worry about our dollars and cents. I was particularly impressed by Richard’s over-winter ordeal of near-hypothermia, having stayed in town one winter when my job meant I couldn’t really go home for break for any reasonable amount of time. I did have a roof over my head, at least, but I’ve experienced the strange, surreal isolation of being in a town that basically shuts down when the college does: you can go days without seeing anyone, nothing stays open past noon, snow everywhere, wind whistling through the trees, not enough lights on in the darkness, and yes, it is almost always dark.

That connection I felt wouldn’t have carried me through the whole story, though, not when everyone seemed to drink their own body weight in alcohol on a nightly basis and do more hard drugs, more casually, than in anything else I’ve ever read. (Not that I don’t know these things go on at colleges, but that wasn’t my scene. I kept reminding myself that this was written in the early ’90s, and the ’80s were dominated by serious, serious drug problems, to put something so outside my own experience into perspective.)

As much as the characters reminded me in some ways of people I’d known, they were also horrible, horrible people with deep flaws that should have made them unsympathetic, and yet, I was fascinated. No, I didn’t like Bunny, and later on I found in myself some pretty intense distaste for Henry and Charles as well, but by then, reading this novel was like watching a fifteen-car pileup on the interstate–it’s terrible and you know you should look away, but you can’t stop yourself, because you want or even need to see what happens. Bunny’s death is announced in the prologue and you spent half the book in agonized anticipation of finding out how it comes about, but the second half? It’s all up in the air, and I just knew someone else wasn’t going to make it. But until it happened, I didn’t know who.

I look forward to rereading this and picking up all the foreshadowing and maneuvering I undoubtedly missed the first time around–this is definitely a book that rewards careful examination.

The End of the Month Wrap-Up: February 2017!

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This month marked the first time I missed a day of writing completely. I’d hoped I would make it longer than a month and a half, but life gets in the way despite our best intentions sometimes. To wit: I’m recovering from oral surgery and this is the first time I’ve touched my keyboard in three days.

(I’m fine, thank you. I just didn’t have the spoons to write or blog or anything, really.)

My February writing stats:

  • 94,747 words written/edited (/59,000 goal)
  • Highest words/day: 4,146
  • Lowest words/day: 0
  • Average words/day: 1,916
  • Yearly goal completed: 25%

As you can see, editing goes a bit faster than writing. I’m eager to get back to it.

As for reading, well, this is my best month yet in terms of the raw number of books I read: 18! I decided to make February the month of romance, trying several new authors from my massive to-read pile and clearing quite a few of those off my shelves when they turned out poorly–of those eighteen, six got two-star ratings and five got one-star. Still, I read some truly excellent books as well, more on that tomorrow when I review the second five-star romance of the month.

As for exercising, I took advantage of some of the unseasonably warm days to take long walks (especially to and from the library!) and the journaling is still going well, if more slowly than before–I’m still doing a page most days.

My goal for March is to finish editing What We Need to Rebuild and to get promotional materials ready for my second year of #readselfpublished in April!

This Week, I Read… (2017 #8)

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#25 – Rocked, by Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

I don’t think this book had an editor. It’s so full of flaws that should have been caught.

The easy stuff: numerous missing or misplaced commas and hyphens. Odd verb choices and frequent butchering of common phrases and metaphors.

The terrible stuff: One of the main characters has a brother who is introduced, in person, in her first scene. It’s established they’re both on the same rock tour together–her as a chef with the catering company, him as tech crew. THE BROTHER IS MENTIONED ONCE IN PASSING AND LITERALLY NEVER SEEN AGAIN.

What the hell, authors? Why does she even have a brother if he’s so unnecessary to the story? We see much more of Harper’s “uncle,” a friend of her father’s who is also a chef and also on this tour with her. Stretching my willing disbelief a little, here.

As for the actual plot of this book, the sex scenes are hot, I’ll grant them that, but there’s too many of them, and the “romance” never really gets deeper than sex. There’s little emotional bonding because Harper and Deacon are too busy banging like rabbits, and the rest of the time they’re repeating ad nauseam how great the other one smells. Physical detail about characters is great, and smell is often the ignored sense in writing–but seriously, you don’t have to remind me what they smell like every time they run into each other. I remember, okay? I have an attention span longer than your average fruit fly.

This book is over 500 pages long, and just cutting back the extraneous sex scenes would probably lower that by a hundred pages, which would still make this long for your average romance novel (especially in the contemporary genre) but it would be far more palatable.

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#26 – Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin

My gut and heart gave this one star because cheating is a deal-breaker for me. I have never cheated, I would never cheat, and I don’t forgive people who do, no matter what their reasons. I realize that’s a black-and-white view of relationships, but it’s served me well in my life.

When this book opened with the narrator sleeping with a man who is both a long-standing friend of hers as well as her best friend’s fiancé, well, I knew I was going to be in for a bumpy ride.

People make mistakes. A drunken one-night stand, yeah, I can see that happening. I tried to be open-minded and not hate the characters for making that mistake.

But oh, look, they keep making it sober. They have an affair.

The narrator’s best friend is portrayed throughout the book as a self-centered bitch, as if that makes it okay for them to be going behind her back. The narrator realizes she’s been in love with this guy the whole time but never pursued him because she didn’t feel good enough about herself, and surprise, it’s because Ms. Bitch Friend is hyper-competitive and been putting the narrator down her whole life.

Sorry, that still doesn’t make having an affair okay with me, and I don’t like the guy any better for not breaking off the wedding until damn close to the last minute, as if he’s keeping both his options open.

Oh, and of course, it turns out in the end that Ms. Bitch Friend was cheating, too, having a fling with the same guy she was trying to set the narrator up with. And they’re pregnant, which basically makes everyone’s choices for them. Lame cop-out ending.

The book earned back that second star for two reasons: one, because the writing style is clean, open, and engaging, or I would have put the book down instead of finishing it, despite its subject matter; and two, not everyone has the same clear-cut view of cheating that I do, and other people might connect with this book in ways I can’t.

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#27 – Twisted, by Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott

This book is a mashup of every angsty trope I can think of. Let’s see how many things I think were poorly handled in this story:

  1. Drug addiction and rehab
  2. Adoption and the foster care system
  3. Friends-to-Lovers
  4. “Almost rape” as a past plot device for character development
  5. Female characters being lazy about birth control…
  6. …with the inevitable unplanned pregnancy that resolves everything
  7. Professionalism on the job
  8. Gross stupidity about money and second/third chances

In fact, just the only thing I thought was handled well was the response to this pairing by the woman’s (brief) former lover and current bandmate, one of the guys I was harping on being a raging mysogynist in the first book. He actually both approves of and helps along the budding relationship, accepting that he’s not the guy for her. It’s remarkably mature for him to the point of being out of character, and hopefully that is a milestone on his journey to having a happy ending with someone in a future book in the series.

One that I won’t be reading of course, because I have absolutely lost my patience with how bad this series is.

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#28 – Bridge of Dreams, by Anne Bishop

DNF @ page 102.

I read the first book in this series, Sebastien, several years ago. It was light and fluffy for all of its “dark” characters, including the hero, and it used some strange and wonderful worldbuilding to draw you into the fantasy.

The second book, Belladonna, didn’t expand on that worldbuilding as much as it repeated it. The “rules” of the way the world worked were so complicated that we the reader constantly had to be reminded of them, to understand why the plot happened the way it did. But there was a charming love story threaded through all that weirdness, so I still enjoyed it, though not as much as Sebastien.

This story continues to repeat the same convoluted worldbuilding that (ideally) we should all understand by now, but we don’t, because goddamn it’s complicated and the plot always hinges on how it works to keep characters isolated from each other. This was a mess, and the new elements that were added didn’t seem necessary to me–a demon race that is three people in one body that actually manifests different physical aspects? I couldn’t tell if that was supposed to be a magical version of Multiple Personality Disorder or not, especially given that the main character is imprisoned in what is essentially an insane asylum when he meets her/them. (All three are female, hence the “her”–and even though I didn’t read that far, it’s obvious that one of the three is going to be his love interest for the romance plot. Which is just weird to me, and not in a fantastical way, but a creepy one.)

I ran out of steam, basically. This just wasn’t interesting enough to keep wading through the repetitive bullshit.

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#29 – Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, by Julia Quinn

I grabbed this from the library when I saw they had it, as I enjoyed The Lost Duke of Wyndham much more than I’d expected to and wanted to find out how the displaced duke still found his romance after all the drama.

Too bad this doesn’t take place after the first book, but is a retelling of the same story from the POVs of the other couple.

That’s not at all obvious from the blurb, though, which I reread carefully after realizing what I held in my hands, and that’s why I’m so disappointed. It’s not that the writing is bad–the same wry humor still pervades it, and I’m such a sucker for that–and Amelia, whom we see very little of in the first book, is actually a completely charming heroine with unexpected depths.

But I can’t help feeling their romance would have been much more interesting if it had taken place after Cavendish’s dispossession, instead of during. And it would mean the plot wouldn’t be so damn predictable, since I just read it last week!

Editing Notes: Multiple Accepted Spellings

Some words, I simply don’t know how to spell. I have to look up “maneuver” every time, I don’t know why I can’t remember that.

Some words I swear I know how to spell until the spellchecker in whatever program I’m kicks it back. OpenOffice Writer doesn’t recognize “consciousness.” Dude, OOW, that’s the correct spelling.

But then, during the editing and proofreading stages, I run into prickly words and phrases. Does “upside-down” need the hyphen, or not? Is it “duffle bag” or “duffel bag”?

Right now, as I’m typing this post, WordPress thinks both spellings of that particular type of bag are incorrect. Turns out, they’re both accepted–it was easy to find both spellings in real-world environments, ie, I checked retail sites to see how their products were spelled.

So if they’re both technically correct (the best kind of correct), which one do you use?

Let me introduce you to Google Ngram Viewer.

You type in the words/phrases you want to compare, separated by commas, and the program checks the incidences of the word from the selected corpus of books and graphs them by frequency over time.

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In my luggage example, “duffel” is more common since 1940, but in recent years it’s suffering a decline while “duffle” rises. The former is still more common overall, but it seems there’s a shift going on.

In this case, I’ve chosen in my current manuscript to use “duffel” both because it’s the prevalent spelling and because I like the way it looks better. When both are acceptable, that’s a good enough reason, but I like to have prevalent usage on my side when possible.

So what about upside-down? My gut (ie, my childhood school experience) says the hyphen stays, but what form is actually prevalent?

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I am outmatched–the unhyphenated version wins.

I hope you enjoy another tool for your inner editor to play with!

From My Art Journal, #8

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That’s how I’ve been feeling about my art lately. It’s fun, it relaxes me, and sometimes, like this page, it’s fabulous.

By the end of January, I’d finished my first art journal, in which I lovingly repurposed The Girl on the Train. A few more of my favorite pages from it:

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So then, it was on to a new altered-book journal. I’ve got plans for this one.

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I made it from The Sunlit Night (which I was not fond of at all) and glued an envelope to the inside front cover where I could store a self-made list of prompts gleaned from several inspirational sources. Whenever I want to “art” and I don’t already have an idea, I can pull out the list and try something that sounds like fun. It’s working well so far, and I think I’ll be doing this in all my journals from now on, art or otherwise–because there’s no reason I couldn’t use a list of regular journal prompts too in my personal journal!

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The first page needed an artist’s quote, of course.

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As I’d hoped, the text of The Sunlit Night is proving to be fun for found poetry.

That’s all for this installment–I had trouble choosing my favorites, I could have easily included twice as many pages–so until sometime next month for the next batch, stay creative!

 

This Week, I Read… (2017 #7)

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#20 – The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook

This has, hands down, some of the best worldbuilding I’ve seen in a fantasy work. Anyone with even the most basic grasp of the steampunk ethos will understand the details of this particular world without trouble, as the fantastical elements are introduced smoothly as part of the story, at a pace that won’t overwhelm.

There’s very little in the way of exposition-dumping, either for the worldbuilding or for the political elements of the story. Granted, on the latter count that means I didn’t jump to the same conclusions about motivations as the characters did, but the maneuvering will undoubtedly be easier to follow on a second read.

The romance was nicely balanced with the mystery/thriller/action plot (and boy, is some of the action slick) and I found I liked Rhys more than I usually do a typical Alpha Male Badass. That stereotype generally doesn’t have much in the way of flaws, or they have the One Serious Flaw that the love of the heroine will “cure.” Rhys, on the other hand, has quite a few issues, and Mina’s love doesn’t solve or erase any of them–just gives him the will to do better on his own terms. Which is awesome. I mean, an AMB who can both admit he’s wrong and ask for forgiveness? Not something I’m used to seeing.

Speaking of Mina, hey, look, a heroine who’s great at her job and WE GET TO SEE IT IN ACTION. She is not composed of informed traits handed to the reader by other characters. She is a complex knot comprised of family, ethical, and sociopolitical tensions, with a wicked sense of humor and an uncompromising view of her duties and responsibilities. I think I might be a little in love with her myself…

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#21 – Seduced, by Cari Quinn and Taryn Elliot

I’m all for romances with alternate structures or surprising turns, and this might have qualified, with the two male POV characters from the same rock band who each carry on their own “romance.”

On the other hand, calling this work a romance at all is really stretching the genre. There’s no Happily Ever After/Happy For Now ending for either lead. Both of them are rampant mysogynists who treat pretty much every woman in their sphere like shit, and no, neither of them show any signs of growing out of that by the end of the book.

What the book really is, is setup for the rest of the series, and it shows. I have the next two books, as I purchased them all on sale way back in 2015 (hence them being part of the BtB challenge, I’m trying to clean up even my digital TBR pile) and I know from the blurbs that the next book features what appears to be an actual romance plot with a third member of the band, so that’s something, at least.

But this is just marking time on the romance end of things so that the band’s rise to fame can be told from the beginning, which strikes me as sloppy and unsatisfying. I wanted and expected romance, and I got so-so smut featuring two men who don’t even seem to like women, let alone love them.

If I didn’t already have the next two books and plan to read them as part of the challenge, I would not be continuing this series.

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#22 – Mina Wentworth and the Invisible City, by Meljean Brook

A quick, enjoyable novella that caps off Rhys and Mina’s love story with a short new mystery and some welcome insight into how their marriage turns out. While I have a beef with novels that end in cliffhangers to be resolved with novellas (grrrrrrr) that isn’t the case here: The Iron Duke had a true ending to both its main plot and its romance. This is just a bonus, giving us a peek into how they go on with each other, like an extended epilogue.

I docked it a star because it actually seemed a little rushed–the new mystery couldn’t be nearly as complex, given the space constraints, and I think it would have benefited from being longer and a bit better-developed.

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#24 – Finding Destiny, by Christa Simpson

Firstly, setting this book around Valentine’s Day turned out to be nothing more than a pretext to introduce the female lead as being tired of men and uninterested in dating. Yawn. Nothing else about the story has the slightest thing to do with the holiday, to my disappointment.

Secondly, despite this introduction, she falls into bed with the first cute guy she meets after less than twenty-four hours of knowing him. So much for being tired of men, am I right? Because he’s just that hot, I guess.

Thirdly, there’s zero character development. Personality traits are shallow and unchanging. Dialogue is stilted and semi-ridiculous. The female lead doesn’t seem to give two shits about her friends, despite one of them being injured, and in her internal monologue she calls her other friend a “slut” for jumping into bed with the male lead’s brother right away.

Well, honey, she only beat you doing the same thing by about twelve hours, so what does that make you?

This story is basically a bare-bones Snowed In trope, where pretty people have sex with each other because they’re stuck together and might as well do something.

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#24 – The Lost Duke of Wyndham, by Julia Quinn

My previous dislike of historical romances, years past, has mostly stemmed from a distaste for either the fussy formality of them, or the blandness that type of society seems to press upon the characters.

Here, Jack Audley, former highwayman and then presumed Duke, is an absolute charmer with genuine warmth and a sly sense of humor that informs the tone of the entire narrative. I fell for him just as fast as the heroine Grace did.

That being said, their relationship only dips its toes past the shoreline of the InstaLove trope that so many romances fall prey to. It does make sense, given the urgency of determining Jack’s legitimacy of succession, that the main plot would feel hurried, but the romance suffers for it, stirring everyone (not just the couple) into fevered heights of emotion that throw the family into turmoil.

But Jack is determined to make his own Happily Ever After, and he does. Which is satisfying in one sense, of course–we romance readers do love HEAs after all–but given how quickly it comes about, it seems to easy.

Bonus points to Quinn, though, for abandoning the typical pain-and-blood narrative associating with a woman losing her virginity. Actually, in hindsight, I’m not even sure the word “virginity” was ever used, which is nice to see.