Tag Archives: romance

Review of The Woman Left Behind (GO-Team #2), by Linda Howard

I won a paperback copy of Linda Howard‘s The Woman Left Behind through Goodreads. However, it’s audiobooks I’ve been going through lately. So, I borrowed an audio version from Hoopla instead.

Description from Goodreads:

Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it. She likes the money, she likes the coolness factor—and it was very cool, even for Washington, DC. She liked being able to kick terrorist butts without ever leaving the climate-controlled comfort of the control room.

But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit. The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly, and in order to be fit for the field, she has to learn how to run and swim for miles, jump out of a plane, shoot a gun…or else be out of a job.

Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina–who he dubbed Babe as soon as he heard her raspy, sexy voice–making it through the rigors of training. The last thing he needs is some tech geek holding them back from completing a dangerous, covert operation. In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Babe, who hates to sweat, begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates. What’s even more surprising is that the usually very disciplined GO-team leader can’t stop thinking about kissing her smart, stubborn mouth…or the building chemistry and tension between them.

Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria. While the rest of the operatives set off on their mission, Jina remains at the base to control the surveillance drone, when the base is suddenly attacked with explosives. Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time before they’re exfiltrated out of the country.

But Levi never leaves a soldier behind, especially the brave woman he’s fallen for. He’s bringing back the woman they left behind, dead or alive.

Review:

This was a perfectly fine contemporary romance, I suppose. Certainly the writing is fine and the narrator (Saskia Maarleveld) did a good job. But what constitutes a satisfying story and happy ending apparently differs for the author and I. 

Literally half the book is Babe in training. So exactly half the book that I suspect there was a plot outline that demarcated two halves of the book. And I was bored with all of it. It felt very much like those YA, fantasy novels where you think you’re getting an exciting adventure but you get pages and pages of potions classes instead. 

But even once she finishes the endless training there is no real spark between the main characters and very little happens. The event of the blurb, which is made out to be the plot of the book, doesn’t happen until like 80% and it’s a nothing of an event (one night of running through the night to catch a flight, that she makes). It was a super let down. Certainly not the plot, just one thing that happens. 

But what really irritated me came as a result of that. After the whole book bing intensely focused on how determined Babe is to not be a quitter, and overcoming all her challenges, she quits. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that women have to be like men in a book. But what author would write her badass male character as willing to give up just because she had one bad mission? (Certainly none of the male Go-team menses are quitting.) It felt intensely like a girl not being able to hack it with the men. And I hate that. What’s more, the ‘romance’ was contingent on her quitting. So, you knew all along that she was going to eventually. Which made everything that came before irrelevant, even as you read it. 

None of this was helped by the fact the characters have sex for the first time after she quits. And it’s angry sex with no foreplay. So, it too was a let down. Certainly not worthy of being the only real one in the book. 

All in all, though this might be a fine book objectively, I’d give it a one star based on my own enjoyment. I disliked so very much about it. 

Review of Homecoming by Marian Snowe & Ruby Grandin

I received and Audible code for Homecoming by Marian Snowe and Ruby Grandin.

Description from Goodreads:

Scarlett McKennon’s life in the big city is a big flop. 

Her cupcake bakery went under, her roommate at her expensive apartment left her high and dry, and her girlfriend just reacted to “I love you” with “No thanks.” Her sophisticated metropolitan dream has crumbled all around her, and the only thing left to do is pull up stakes and return to the small town where she grew up. 

What could be worse than limping home in defeat? The minute she steps off the train, Scarlett finds out: her first love, Joan, is waiting there to drive her into town, looking like the picture of sexy confidence. Joan was once a scared, self-conscious girl; now she’s come into her own as a mechanic and soccer coach, and Scarlett can’t help but wonder what might have been. 

Carrying on a secret high-school romance in a conservative town was brutal, and Joan hadn’t been able to take the pressure. She broke Scarlett’s heart in exchange for a “normal” life that was doomed from the beginning. Now that Joan’s divorced, fate keeps putting Scarlett in her path. They may have tried to forget each other, but their chemistry is still undeniable. 

Both women start to wonder if they might be right for each other after all… But is the spark they both feel enough, or will their shared past prove too painful to overcome?

Review:

Not bad, but also not a huge winner for me. I just never felt any spark between the characters. The whole thing kind of hinges on their past. But all we’re really told from the past is about Joan insisting on staying hidden and then breaking up with Scarlet. You don’t get any of the passion. Then, in the present, it’s more of the same until Joan suddenly decides to change. I understood her fears and felt angst, but no passion at all. 

None of this is helped by the writing being heavy on the exposition. We’re told almost everything and shown very little. So, there is always a distance from the characters that keeps them feeling flat…and passionless. 

The writing itself seems fine and Deuchler did a fine job with the narration. But I’d call this a solid middle-of-the-road read.

On a side note, I think this needs a much more hipster cover. The characters make fun of lesbians in flannel, after all; and one is described in retro dresses (needing victory curls) and the other wears two braids and greasy jeans, with boots. The little Mary Sue on the cover doesn’t match the vibe of the book, IMO.

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.