Tag Archives: contemporary romance

Review of Troublemaker (GO-Team #1), by Linda Howard

I won a paperback copy of Linda Howard‘s Toublemaker. I actually read it a few days ago (before Bless Your Heart), but somehow posting the review got missed. I’m correcting my error.

Description from Goodreads:

For Morgan Yancy, an operative and team leader in a paramilitary group, nothing comes before his job. But when he’s ambushed and almost killed, his supervisor is determined to find out who’s after the members of his elite squad—and why. Due to worries that this unknown enemy will strike again, Morgan is sent to a remote location and told to lay low and stay vigilant. But between a tempting housemate he’s determined to protect and a deadly threat waiting in the shadows, keeping under the radar is proving to be his most dangerous mission yet.

The part-time police chief of a small West Virginian mountain town, Isabeau “Bo” Maran finally has her life figured out. She’s got friends, a dog, and a little money in the bank. Then Morgan Yancy shows up on her doorstep. Bo doesn’t need a mysterious man in her life—especially a troublemaker as enticing and secretive as Morgan.

The harder they fight the intense heat between them, the closer Morgan and Bo become, even though she knows he’s hiding from something. But discovering the truth could cost Bo more than she’s willing to give. And when Morgan’s cover is blown, it might just cost her life. 

Review:

This was ok, I guess. It’s hard for me to truly judge, because I’m not a huge fan of contemporary romances (or romantic thrillers, which this might qualify as). But the writing wasn’t bad and I was engaged enough to finish. 

I had serious a problem with the bait and switch the book presents though. The blurb says that Bo (the female lead) is the police chief, which sets the reader up with certain expectations. But in fact, ‘police chief’ is a purely administrative position, with no expectations of actual law enforcement involved and no police training required. She’s basically just there to do the paperwork the ‘real’ policemen don’t want to be bothered with. At one point someone shoots in her direction (anything more specific would be a spoiler) and she has to be carried away, princess style, almost in a swoon. This is not at all what a reader expects after being told a female character is the police chief! So, from the get go I had one serious disappointment. I liked her well enough, but she wasn’t the female lead I was promised. 

On a more positive note, while Morgan was all alpha-male and cliched macho man who can’t eat a salad, drink skim milk or read girly books, he was pleasantly un-asshole like. There were lots of consent moments, overt and subtle, and he was self-aware when his protective propensities countered with what Bo wanted. He never undermined her autonomy or forced her to do something ‘for her own good.’

Then there was the true main character of the book, Tricks, the dog. She was cute and she lent a needed thread to the narrative. But I thought there was too much Tricks. I got tired of her being fawned over and made the center of attention. Plus, as a dog owner (with a pretty brainy canine) I thought a lot of the ways Tricks was accommodated was bad dog parenting. When they have to take a different car because otherwise Tricks would have to sit in the backseat, there is a problem. She is still A DOG. 

All in all, I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if I hadn’t won it. But I wasn’t disgusted at having read it either.

Review of Stranded with the Navy SEAL (Team Twelve #1), by Susan Cliff

I won a paperback copy of Stranded with the Navy Seal, by Susan Cliff.

Description from Goodreads:

For one navy SEAL, danger and passion are brewing in paradise 

Working on a cruise ship was supposed to be the perfect distraction for chef Cady Crenshaw. Instead, it made her the perfect target. Abducted and thrown overboard into foreign waters, she has only one shot at survival…and it comes at the hands of an irresistible ally. 

Navy SEAL Logan Starke’s protective instincts were locked and loaded the moment he met Cady at the ship’s bar. When a violent struggle to take down her captors leaves Logan and Cady stranded on a deserted island, he leaps into rescue mode. But the hot sand and the even hotter attraction between them can’t be denied…and temptation could be the deadliest threat yet.

Review:

I’m going to add a proviso before I review this book. I enjoy romance novels. However, I generally need romance AND something else. I like fantasy romance, sci-fi romance, regency or historical romance (sometimes). But standard contemporary romances usually bore me. And while this is listed an romantic suspense, and there is quite a lot dedicated to surviving on a deserted island, it’s still basically just a contemporary romance. For 99.9999999% of the book there are only the two characters and the end goal is still the couple falling in love, accepting each other, getting married and having babies. (Must not forget the babies.) It’s all very formulaic and not my jam.

I say all this so that those who truly enjoy contemporary romance can take my limp review with the grain of salt it deserves. I read this book because I won it and wanted to honor the gift with a review. I wouldn’t have picked the book up otherwise.

Having said all that, I thought this book was fine. Cliff presented some realistic challenges to surviving on a deserted island, gave both characters some mild past trauma that effects their beliefs and behaviors, and both characters were likable. He wasn’t an alpha a-hole and she wasn’t there just to be saved (even if she was saved a lot). The sex was hot, but not gratuitous and both characters respected each other for and during it. For a book without the genre garnish I usually prefer, I can’t complain.

Review of Building Forever, by Kelly Jensen

I received a copy of Kelly Jensenh‘s Building Forever through Netgalley.

Description:

Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor—the guy next door. But everything’s just fine. 

Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore. 

But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania to reconcile, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie fears that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. Despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.

Review:

I finished this sitting in the waiting room of the ophthalmologist, hoping no one noticed I was getting teary. It was very sweet and they were tears of joy. I thought the author got a little didactic at times, at one point going so far as to have a character look up the definition of pansexual to ensure the reader knew it. But I also found so very much relatable in this book. The whole messy and contradictory idea that you can love your life and the people in it, but still mourn the life not lived is one that struck me dead centre. I also very much appreciated that there were no misunderstandings or pointlessly kept secrets. There were several times Jensen could have taken this over-trod path and instead opted to have a character be brave, honest and upfront. Similarly, Charlie didn’t agonize over his newly embraced identity. He was open and honest with himself and everyone else about it. I loved that and the characters for it. All in all, I call this a success. And considering romance without a trace of sci-fi or fantasy in it isn’t wholly my jam is really saying something.