Review: Down With Love

I have read Kate Meader before, and the book I read before wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t love it. I felt like it was middle of the road as far as romance goes. (Flirting With Fire, Hot in Chicago series 1) I rated it 3 stars, which means that it was just “okay”. I went ahead and requested this one because I love a good enemies-to-lovers and the premise sounded interesting. But this book told me quickly what kind of book it is, and I was not a fan.

Immediately, near the end of chapter one, I get this line:

My curiosity rears up like a punch. If it looks like her, it’s my type.

Excuse me? IT?! He’s talking about a human being here. A woman he completely objectifies. I’d like to say that this is just a one-off, throwaway line that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the book, but alas.

The book repeatedly tries to characterize Max (the real winner I quoted above, who is the male main character of this romance) as a feminist (?) but falls completely flat. We get lines such as:

His grin tells me he knows it was, and hey, isn’t this fun how we’re all in the know? Again, I’m struck that maybe there’s more to Max than he’s chosen to present.


But I’m not some old-school guy who thinks women have their place. Hell, I’m downright encouraging of the women in my life being all that they can be.

But he constantly objectifies her, and slut shames women. He even references his brother’s matrimonial happiness as being a “girl” thing. (“…my goal is to ensure he gets everything he’s ever dreamed of since he was a little girl.”)

Even the third act conflict that drives a wedge between the main characters is contrived and a little stupid. Their initial conflict (wedding planner vs. divorce attorney) is never explored in a satisfactory way, Max ends up just getting swept up in the romance of it all and everyone lives happily ever after. There’s no stakes, no real character development, and Max is a huge jerk. The book was readable, it didn’t take me too long to get through it, but it nearly turned into a hate read because I do not abide slut-shaming jerks who think they are “woke” when they are anything but.

Free book provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Review: One and Only

I’m not going to lie. Part of the reason that I loved this book so much was because it was set in Canada, and referenced a lot of Canadian things and used Canadian ways of speaking. It was like going home to a place you love after a long time away. (Literally, in my case.)

Jane is in the wedding party of her dear friend Elise, who is driving them all a little insane with her Pinterest-perfect wedding plans. So of course, it’s defcon-1 when Elise realizes that her future brother-in-law is unexpectedly coming home after abruptly being discharged from the Canadian military, she decides he needs a babysitter to make sure that he doesn’t cause drama. And who else to do it but Reliable Jane?  Continue reading

Review: Love Game

tl;dr: sexy banter but what is the hero thinking?!

The Story:

I read a lot of sports romances, but I’m not sure this one entirely counts as one. The hero and heroine are two coaches for teams that aren’t connected except for the university they both belong to, and the entire story takes place during the off-season of both sports. Kate coaches the women’s championship winning basketball team, and is a celebrated sports star in her own right, felled by an injury that led her to coaching at Wolcott. Danny has fallen from grace, a former coach for a high ranking college team who got caught in a recruitment scandal that cost him his job, his reputation, and his girlfriend, who jumped ship and married his younger brother.

Fresh off of Kate’s team’s latest championship win, she’s blindsided when she finds out that not only did the school hire a new football coach with a sordid past, but they also offered him double what they are paying her. She’s frustrated and angry, but she can’t deny the sparks that fly when she spars with her newest coworker. Her friend Millie, who also happens to be the publicist for the university, is egging on the rivalry because it gets lots of page views and clicks since it’s obvious that they have raging chemistry.

Continue reading

Review: While The Duke Was Sleeping

tl;dr: sexier than the movie it’s based on, but consent is iffy

The Story:

This book is literally the very first historical romance novel that I’ve ever read. I don’t enjoy historical anything. I don’t watch period dramas. I don’t get the appeal of Mr. Darcy. Fancy dresses with breeches or corsets or petticoats and layers of whatnot does not appeal to me. My preferred romances feature lots of angst, sex, and pain (with a HEA!). I like a romance that makes me feel deeply, where I get invested in the characters and their misery, and feel elated when everything turns out in the end. The harder the fight to the HEA, the better. And I don’t want any thees and thous and “I dare says” getting in the way.

And I probably chose the wrong book for my first historical, because  I can’t muster up more than an underwhelmed “meh” about this one. I was excited about the idea because it’s a play on one of my favorite romantic comedies, While You Were Sleeping. The story is not identical, and I think a lot of the changes were good choices for the genre, but in general, I wasn’t a huge fan of the setting.

Poppy Fairchurch has admired the Duke of Autenberry from afar for a very long time. She works as a shopgirl in a flower shop, one that the Duke frequents quite a bit. Poppy isn’t stupid, she knows that he’s sending flowers to loads of different women, and he still seems dashing and sentimental regardless. But when she sees him get into a street brawl with another man, she dashes out of the shop to try and protect him, which seems a little misguided and rash. Anyway, it turns out that the other man is his half-brother and they do not get along because Struan Mackenzie reminds the Duke that his father was actually a pretty horrible person. Punches are thrown and then Poppy shoves the Duke out of the way of an errant carriage, which ends up with a bump to his head that knocks him out cold.

As with the movie, someone overhears Poppy lamenting jokingly that she and the Duke were supposed to be married, and they all take it at face value, except Struan and Lord Strickland, who happens to be the Duke’s best friend. Poppy is about to tell everyone the truth, but Lord Strickland asks her to wait, to keep the family’s spirits up. Struan makes it his goal to seduce Poppy, and they get up to some very not-PG-like activities in the meantime that definitely were missing from the movie.

Technical Elements:

Overall, the writing was fine. I feel like I can’t judge this sub-genre very well since I don’t read historical. There didn’t appear to be any sort of time frame that this story landed in, and I’m not even sure I know what country they were in. Struan was Scottish or Irish or something other, and they were somewhere else, presumably England. I felt like the sexual tension was pretty well drawn out, and the smutty scenes were pretty hot, although I’m a little meh on the dubious consent. Contemporary romances have a lot more free reign to be sex-positive since that’s the culture that we live in. (At least, women losing their virginity isn’t publicly referred to as ruination, although that may still be the secret belief.)

I should probably explain the consent portion. I don’t know if that’s the way with historical romances, if it’s a given that the heroine will say no no no but mean yes yes yes (which is awful and makes me cringe), but that’s essentially what kept happening here. And the hero frequently thinks about how he just needs to ‘have her’ once, get this lust out of his system, so he can discard her and move on with his life. And any time they start to get sexy together, he pushes her beyond what she says she wants although her body ‘responds’ to him. I just really didn’t like that aspect. He does kind of pull back and doesn’t completely go through with ‘ruining’ her until she begs him to, but I can’t help feeling that if he’d listened to her before she was too aroused to think straight, she may have made another decision? Is this the type of romance people want to read?

Final Thoughts:

As far as romances go, this one was pretty light. There are several other stories in the series, and I believe the next book picks up with Lord Strickland and the Dowager Duchess (the Duke’s stepmother), but honestly, I don’t think I can read any more about comely maidens or carriages.

Find it at your local library! I can’t recommend another historical romance because I haven’t read any others, but I’ve got some enemies-to-lovers to recommend!

First, Act Like It was phenomenal, and one of the best of the trope in my opinion. I also highly enjoyed The Love Potion despite its silliness, or you can always go old school with Pride and Prejudice.

Review: The Love Potion

tl;dr: chemist accidentally drugs her childhood nemesis with a love potion, sexy hijinks ensue

The Story:

Nothing makes me happier than a completely ridiculous but fun storyline in a romance novel, and this book delivers. The book opens on Sylvie Fontaine, a chemist for a pharmaceutical company, who believes she may have developed the world’s first love-inducing drug (not just lust, it also creates emotional bonds). She’s testing on rats, but she thinks it is ready for human testing, and has created some love potion-laced jelly beans with her enzymes, hoping to lure her employer in because she’s tired of slacker jerks. Luc LeDeux, her childhood mortal enemy and now a roguish lawyer, waltzes into her lab and demands that she test some water samples that he believes implicate a giant oil company of toxic dumping. Her enzyme-filled jelly beans are sitting right there on the table, and wouldn’t you know who has a sweet tooth when her back is turned?

This sets up the rest of the novel, where Sylvie and Luc attempt to fight off their growing attraction to each other, which only grows stronger as they get to know each other better, beyond the misconceptions they’ve had of each other. The reason that they disliked each other so much makes sense–Sylvie thought that he an obnoxious and arrogant womanizer, and Luc thought that Sylvie looked down on him for being poor and dirty as a kid. Over time, they both realize that they were wrong; eventually, they give in to the desire between them.

Continue reading

Review: Act Like It

tl;dr: enemies-to-lovers trope perfected on a London stage

The story:

When you keep hearing good things about a book from many different places, it’s usually a good sign that the book is a winner. I first heard about this title from Sarah MacLean’s romance novel recommendations list, which I’ve been burned by. (Made for You by Lauren Layne was seriously awful.) But it kept coming up in discussions, and I knew it was an enemies-to-lovers romance which is one (of many) of my favorite tropes. And happily, it delivered everything I was hoping for.

Richard Troy and Lanie Graham are an unlikely pair, mostly because Richard has a giant self-important stick up his arse and Lanie is a nearly angelic. The Powers That Be are worried that Richard’s tantrums and general bad behavior are going to sink their entire production. (Oh, did I mention they are London theater actors? LOVE IT!) So, they lump him in with Lanie, hoping some of her cherubic identity will rub off. She doesn’t want to do it at first, but she grudgingly agrees, and then ends up having a grouchy man by her side at several charity functions that she devotes her free time to. Things start to change when Lanie gives Richard a few sharp words about not being a total prick when it comes to supporting a children’s charity, words that he evidently takes to heart.

Continue reading

Review: See Jane Score

This book was one of those mediocre books that capture your attention just enough to keep going although the technical aspects aren’t so great. There were some weird choices in wording, strange repetitions, and the plot kind of rushed forward then stalled out a bunch of times. The characters were really great, though, even if the romance itself didn’t seem to be very believable.

Okay, I take that back. Everyone but the heroine was believable. I didn’t understand her motivations or her behavior at all, and I think that is the major shortcoming of the book. There’s a lot of her friend just telling her how she is about relationships, but that doesn’t really make it true to the character. Her development wasn’t very well done. Luc and the rest of the hockey players were great though, I enjoyed them, and I found Luc’s storyline fairly believable and true to an arc. I also loved his interactions with his sister, and how their relationship changes through the book. Jane was too plain.

Review: Bet Me

I really wanted to like this book. It was on so many lists of great romance novels, and was even mentioned on a podcast that I enjoy, but it just didn’t live up to the hype.

Aside from the really bizarre character names, the whole thing reads like a rough first draft. Turns out, this was Crusie’s first novel after she read 100 romance novels for her dissertation. The bones of the story are good and have a lot of potential, but the descriptions are bad and the characters flat. I had a really hard time picturing almost everything. I can’t for the life of me conjure an image of those bridesmaids dresses. The side plot with David and Cynthie was exasperating and way too mustache-twirly. When I start rewriting scenes in my head as I’m
going, that’s not promising to me.

Despite my inability to imagine anything going on, the book was a fast read and the plot moved along at a pretty good pace. There were some points that I was thinking “oh, just get on with it”, but those were few. It just needed to be heavily massaged by a good editor. Considering that she has gone on to write many more books, I hope that her craft has improved, but I don’t know if I’ll be checking out more of her books.