Saturday, February 5, 2011

Winners!!!


Congrats to Bridget Locke, the winner of Kismet by Monica Burns!

and to

Terri (comment #41), the winner of The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton!

Ladies, please contact me at marykate317 at verizon dot net with your mailing address.

Thank you also to Monica and Jaci for visiting Katidom!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks - A Review (-ish)

I used to really adore Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters series. I broke up with it after Sam and Alyssa's book mostly because I couldn't take the multiple storylines, including a WWII one that I always skimmed, and being strung along by one couple over multiple books. In The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks, I remembered why it is I enjoy paramilitary romance novels.

Ethan Kelly is in mourning. His wife, Rachel, died last year while on a mercy mission in South America. She left with harsh words between them, and Ethan has been guilt ridden that he was never the husband she needed, and that he let her leave without letting her know that he'd screwed up, taken her for granted, or how much he really, truly loved her. On the one year anniversary of her death, he stumbles out of bed and heads to the cemetery to lay flowers on her grave. As he's leaving, the FedEx man is leaving a package on his porch. Ethan, grief-stricken, barely notices. But when he gets back, he opens the package to find overwhelming evidence that Rachel is in fact, alive. At first, Ethan thinks it might be a sick joke. But the more he reads, the more he realizes that no, this must be the truth.

Ethan is former military, as are his brothers Sam, Donovan and Garrett. His brothers run a successful company called Kelly Group International, which offers military-type services. Quickly the brothers organize a rescue mission. When they get to South America they find and extract Rachel quickly. But she's not as she was when she left. The kidnappers, who are drug dealers, have addicted her to drugs, and brutalized her unimaginably. She remembers very little of her life before the kidnapping, and is justifiably terrified of everything. But she knows Ethan, and she remembers him. In a lot of cases, he was the only thing helping her hold on to the tiny bit of sanity she had left.

When Rachel arrives home, she's been through the worst of detox, but she's still incredibly damaged. She does not remember her place as a cherished member of Ethan's family. She does not remember her home. She's lost weight, and doesn't fit in anything at her house. She just wants to sleep, but is haunted by nightmares of Ethan yelling at her and scaring her. She feels little to no connection to anyone but Ethan, and his brother Garrett, who she knows instinctively she was good friends with. But she's trying. She slowly reconnects with Ethan, who is very gentle and patient with her. She begins dipping her toe in her husband's giant family. She sees a therapist. And slowly, she begins to come back to life, and her memories return. Including the reasons behind her nightmare of Ethan yelling at her. Will she and Ethan be able to move on from their previous problems? Or will they have to end things in order to move on?

I love, love, love romances that feature a couple with a past. Especially this kind, where the conflict is such that the couple is together from the beginning and continue to be. I adored the dynamic between Ethan and Rachel. Probably because I'm a total sucker for a caregiving alpha, which Ethan is in spades. He tries so hard to take care of Rachel and to shelter her from everything. But he can't shelter her from the memories of what happened before she left for South America. For her part, Rachel is brave, and honest, and trusting. She's a bit like Bambi, kind of unsteady on her pins, with everyone babying and sheltering her. Which would be annoying, except that when it's time for Rachel to man-up, she does. Also, that Bambi quality certainly showcases this family of big, burly soldiers that Maya Banks has created.

There is sequel bait a-plenty here. But it didn't detract from the story for me. I've already identified which Kelly brother I want to have an HEA most (I won't say because with my luck, it will be the last book she writes in the series!). While no new territory is crossed here, the series is compellingly written, compulsively readable, action-packed and hot enough to warm even the chilliest reader up. I'll definitely be reading the next book in the KGI series, No Place to Run. If you need an action packed, hot romance with sexy military heroes, looks like the KGI Series fits the bill perfectly.

Final grade: B

DON'T FORGET TO CLICK BELOW FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A COPY OF THE PERFECT PLAY BY JACI BURTON!
THE CONTEST IS OPEN UNTIL FEBRUARY 4TH!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In Which Kati Interrogates Jaci Burton about The Perfect Play

1- It seems that the first question has to be about football! You wrote to lovingly and knowledgably about football, you must be a fan. So, college ball? Pro ball? Who are your teams?

I am a fan, of both college and pro ball. For college it’s the Oklahoma Sooners (Boomer Sooner!), and for the pros it’s the St. Louis Rams, mainly because I’m from St. Louis, and also because former Sooner Sam Bradford was drafted as the Rams quarterback. How cool is that?

2- The Perfect Play features one delicious hero! Mick Riley is a quarterback, and has never really had any trouble getting women. What makes Tara Lincoln so intriguing to him, do you think?

She intrigues him because she doesn’t immediately fall all over him. She recognizes him, but unlike most women, doesn’t rush to be with him. She has her own life and her job and that’s her number one priority. The fact she isn’t immediately fascinated with him is what fascinates him about her.

3- Your heroes tend to have strong personalities. Are they informed by the men in your life?

I love a man with a strong personality, one who’s sure about himself and who he is as a man. I find self confidence to be incredibly sexy. And yes, those character traits are very much drawn from certain men in my life.

4- When creating a “pretend” professional football team, did you have to take any particular liberties with the creation of the team?

I used my imagination to a certain extent, of course, especially with team names and used a few liberties here and there but didn’t want to change the game. Football is football and the game is the game. I didn’t want to change how the game is played.

5- I have a thing about kids in romance, so many of them can distract from the storyline, but Nathan read so realistically to me. Especially when he gets into trouble and Mick has to bail him out. Do you have experience with teenage boys? And if so, did you model Nathan on anyone in particular?

I know a lot of readers don’t want to read about kids, especially in an erotic romance. Of course Nathan is fifteen, and I wanted my heroine to realize that she could be a single mother with a sex life, just like all single mothers can have a rich, fulfilling sex life.

And yeah, I know teenage boys. Raised two of them. Attitude and all. Love them more than life itself. And no, I didn’t model Nathan on anyone in particular, just teenagers in general.

6- One of the trademarks of a Jaci Burton book is lush sensuality, and The Perfect Play is no exception. How have the love scenes that you write now evolved since you first became an author?

Ooh thank you for the wonderful compliment!

I think every author grows as she writes each book. I’ve changed so much in the ten years I’ve been writing. The experience is different for me now than it was back then. And each character and story is different, as is the approach I take to every story. I’d like to think I’m a better writer with each new book I take on, that I learn from every book, from every edit, so I take away new knowledge from the experience.

7- Another aspect of the story that got me excited was the fact that Tara is an event planner. Given that that’s what I do professionally, I was really impressed with how right you got it. What kind of research did you do? Or did you make it up off the top of your head?

Oh, thank you so much! It’s wonderful to know I got the research right.

I do love to research a character’s profession (wish I had known you when I created Tara!). Of course, thank God for the Internet, because it’s a wonderful writer’s tool. When I can, I’ll talk to people who are active in a profession and can give me tips and tools of the trade. Otherwise, I Google! And some things I just create on my own.

8- One of the things that most intrigued me about this book is that you’ve set up the next heroine to be, well, a bit of a bitch. I’m fascinated to see how you redeem her in the reader’s eyes. What’s more fun to write a bad boy? Or a bad girl?

Yes, I’m very interested to see how readers react to my redemption of Elizabeth in Changing The Game, the second book of the series. She’s such a bitch in The Perfect Play. I had so much fun writing her in the first, and the second book.

And bad boys and bad girls are so much fun to write. And to redeem. * grin *

9- OK, it has to be said, the cover of The Perfect Play might one of the most memorable I’ve seen in romance in forever! How much, if any say do you get into the covers? And, please, please tell me that guy exists in real life! J

I nearly died when I got the cover to The Perfect Play. Hands down my favorite cover ever. Kudos to the Berkley art department for that one.

I do cover conference with my editor and she asks me what I’d like to see on the cover. For The Perfect Play I said…give me a hot guy on the cover. I think she hit that on out of the ballpark, don’t you?

And Jed Hill is the guy on the cover. He’s a real guy. Honest. Rawrrrrr.

10- What do you have in store for Jaci Burton fans this year? What’s next?

Changing The Game, the second book in my Play-By-Play series, will release in August of this year. I’m also releasing the first book in my new romantic suspense series with MIRA this year—Heart of a Killer will release in November and I’m so excited about it!


KATI: Thanks so much, Jaci for visiting! I loved The Perfect Play and seriously can't wait for Changing The Game!

GIVEAWAY ALERT * GIVEAWAY ALERT

One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Perfect Play! You must comment to win, and this contest is open to US commenters only.

Contest open until midnight, EST, February 4, 2011

THE CONTEST IS CLOSED. THANKS FOR COMMENTING!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton - A Review(-ish)

You might think that I'm reviewing this book just for its cover. And frankly, that would be a fair accusation, I mean, look at it. It's ridiculous. Who IS that guy??

But no, really, I'm reviewing The Perfect Play because I adore professional football. And even more than that, I love books about professional football players.

Mick Riley is the starting quarterback for the San Francisco Sabers. He's gorgeous, single, and considered an elite QB in the NFL. After practice one day, he meets a woman who is looking for the executive offices in the practice facility. He points her in the right direction, and then enjoys the view as she takes off in a hurry. Later, he's delighted to find that the woman, Tara Lincoln, is the event planner for a party the team is throwing for its players. They strike up a conversation and a spark between them as well.

Tara knows Mick by reputation. She knows he's generally seen with Hollywood starlets and hot models. So why the heck is he talking to her? But she finds herself really enjoying every moment of the conversation, and when he invites her up to his hotel room for a nightcap, she agrees. Sure enough, one thing leads to another, and soon she and Mick are having monkey sex in his room. But when Mick awakens the next day, there's no sign of Tara. He's surprised how disappointed he is that she's left and asks his agent, Elizabeth, to track Tara down.

For her part, Tara is just trying to move on from a night of mind blowing sex she had with Mick. She has a business that is just getting off it's feet and important responsibilities at home. Namely, her fourteen year old son, Nathan. So imagine her shock when Mick shows up at her office and insists on taking her out. She really has no interest in being a groupie or a hanger on, but agrees because Mick makes her laugh, and is easy to talk to. And, well, they have excellent sex.

Next thing she knows, Tara is introducing Mick to Nathan, who is star struck and thrilled to meet Mick. Mick is generous with his time, and shows a real interest in Nathan. Since Tara got pregnant in high school and is estranged from her parents, Mick is the first male influence that Nathan has had in his life. Fortunately, Mick has plenty of experience being a role model, and he is good to Nathan, both patient and kind. But Mick's lifestyle is very high profile and fancy, and Tara just isn't that girl. She's not accustomed to going to movie premieres, or jetting off to an exotic locale for the weekend. She's just not sure that a relationship is a good idea. She thinks this is probably just an off season fling for Mick, and she doesn't want to let her heart get caught up and she needs to protect her son. What will she does when she finds out that Mick is in it to win it, and will not give up until he's won the prize -- Tara?

Man, I *love* a good contemporary romance. And Jaci Burton? She gives good romance. The story has a bit of a Cinderella feel to it, as Mick is loaded and able to whisk Tara away to exotic locations and take her to swank parties. But at heart, he's a good man, one who falls for her almost immediately. And he's bound and determined to make Tara see that she and Nathan belong with him. While Mick has a past, he doesn't hide it from Tara, and he's open and honest with her about what's happened in his life. Honestly? He's one of those heroes that will go to the top of my Favorite Heroes of 2011 list. Why? He's my favorite kind -- the Caregiving Alpha. Plus, added bonus? He makes with the dirty talk. And y'all know I love me a dirty talking hero! :wink:

Tara is a little tougher to warm up to. She's got very good reasons for pushing Mick away, and it's not that they're not disclosed to the reader completely. There aren't any secrets here. It's just that, I was rooting so hard for Mick, and he was so patient and gentle with her. I had a hard time understanding how she could keep erecting barriers between them. But in the end, I understood that she's just more of a hedgehog than I am -- prickly on the outside, soft underbelly. She had her reasons, I just wish she hadn't waited so long to give over to the love that she so clearly felt.

Other notes: While there is clearly a sequel coming to this book (it's called the Play-by-Play series), Burton doesn't hit you over the head with it. You get little tastes here and there, and I'm in fact really interested to see whether she'll be able to redeem the next heroine in my eyes. Also, I appreciated that Nathan wasn't written as a cutout teenager. He read very real to me, at times sullen and cranky, other times, loving and sweet. Which I appreciated.

I also really loved the way football was written in this book. I can tell by reading it that Jaci Burton is, in fact, a football fan. She writes knowledgeably about the sport, including the training, study time and work that players put into the game. The game scenes read very realistically. Which, as a diehard football fan I really appreciated. If I had any quibble, it's that Mick spends *a lot* of time thinking in football metaphors, which mostly made me chuckle, but a few of them were a little silly sounding to me.

The Perfect Play has got everything I like in a contemporary romance: hot hero, interesting setting, realistic issues between the couple and a very satisfying ending. If you are looking for a spicy, fresh erotic romance, The Perfect Play is a perfect fit.

Final grade: A-

NOTE: An ARC of this book was provided by Ms. Burton. Thanks, Jaci!

ANNOUNCEMENT!
Jaci Burton visits Katidom tomorrow!
Comment then to win your very own copy of The Perfect Play!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Big Doings at Katidom!


This morning, I went with Scott's sister, Helen Marie, to get my nails done. While I was there, Scott called me to ask whether we might like to go to lunch. I said yes, and he indicated that he'd meet up with us. Little did I know, he'd stopped at the jewelry store to pick up this. He met us at the salon, and asked me whether I agreed that it wasn't the "where" it was the "what". I agreed, thinking he was talking about where we'd get our lunch. He pulled the ring out, dropped to one knee, and told me he loved me, and that he wanted to spend the rest of my his life with me, and asked if I'd do him the honor of being his wife.

Unsurprisingly, I burst into tears and said yes about five times.

We're looking at getting married next summer.

I couldn't be happier or more honored to be marrying the love of my life and the very best man I know.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Kissed An Earl by Julie Anne Long - A Review(-ish)

Violet Redmond can fairly be called a hoyden. Coming from one of England's oldest and most respected families, and being fairly described as a beauty, Violet is easily bored. And a bored Violet spells trouble for everyone. She's famous for her scrapes. No matter how much trouble she gets into, Society still adores her. So she's intrigued at a ball one night when she hears that there is a man named "Lavay" at the ball.

You see, not too long ago, on a lark, Violet had a gypsy read her palm. And during that reading, the gypsy predicted that Violet would go on a long journey over the sea with a man named Lavay. Lord Lavay is at the ball with the newly styled Earl of Ardmay, Captain Asher Flint. Flint is also called the "savage" Earl, as he's both part Native American and a bastard. For all intents and purposes, Flint received the title for some heroic deed (it's never really specified what), but really, he earned the title because the King wants the Earl and his crew of men aboard The Fortuna to capture and do away with the scourge of the seas, Le Chat, a pirate who has been systematically pillaging and sinking British trade ships. Flint is more than willing to do it, as the last ship Le Chat sunk was captained by a man who saved Flint's life, and whom he considered family. Violet is introduced to Lord Lavay, and shares a pleasant dance with him. But things really get interesting when she is dancing with the Earl. You see, he spies Violet's brother, and practically freezes. It seems that Jonathon, Violet's brother, bears a striking resemblance to a Mr. Hardesty, another merchant sailor, widely believed to be Le Chat. It is then that Violet begins to put together the pieces.

Violet's oldest brother, Lyon (Le Chat - get it?) has disappeared after a confrontation with the love of his life, Olivia Eversea. Le Chat's ship is called The Olivia. Coincidence? Violet thinks not. When she speaks to her brother, Jonathon about what she's put together, he laughs it off.

It is then that Violet contrives to stow away on Captain Flint's ship. She is quite sure that her information is correct, and she is bound and determined to find and warn Lyon before Captain Flint can capture him, or worse, kill him.

Needless to say, Flint is not happy to find Violet on his ship. She's much wilier than he had originally thought, and he finds himself grudgingly respecting her fortitude and smarts. She manages to trick him out of staying in his cabin by beating him at chess. She ingratiates herself with his crew, mostly by just being beautiful. She shows bravery in the face of his very strong displeasure, and she's intrepid. And more than anything, she shows an incredible love for her family. Her loyalty to them is the thing that Flint most admires as he's really never had anyone to love.

As Flint and Violet's adventure continues, their attraction grows and it's harder and harder for the two of them not to connect. The light has begun to dawn with Violet that despite Flint's strong attraction to her, he will not be swayed from his mission. It's not just about revenge, but he's almost out of money, and has a responsibility to his men. And most of her feminine wiles do not work on him. As they race to find Lyon, will Flint's growing attraction to Violet be enough to sway him from what the King has asked him to do? Or will he be compelled by his feelings to let Le Chat off the hook?

In a word, this book is an absolute delight. I smiled and laughed all the way through it. Julie Anne Long excels at inner monologue, creating a depth of emotion and wit within each character as we read their thoughts. Her dialogue absolutely jumps off the page with humor. Her books are some of the best times I've ever had reading historical romance. She writes strong, smart, wily heroines and dreamy, thoughtful heroes, who don't just muscle their way into a situation and take charge. Flint in particular was a revelation, as a hero who is strong and steadfast, but not afraid in the slightest to use subterfuge and secrecy to get what he wants. That being said, he absolutely respects Violet's smarts. He rarely underestimates her, and that is what makes the sparks fly. On top of it all, Long has a really deft hand at creating and maintaining sexual tension between her characters, and once the payoff comes, it's almost a relief.

There is very little that I wouldn't recommend about this book. It's definitely part of a series (the Pennyroyal Green series), but it wasn't hard at all to pick up the pieces. If you feel strongly about reading a series in order, do so, but those who start here will not be lost. Overall, I Kissed an Earl is the best time I've had reading a historical romance in a long time. Julie Anne Long is swiftly becoming an absolute favorite voice among historical romance authors.

Final grade: A

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guest Post: Monica Burns on Perception....and Bald Heads!

KATI: As always, I'm thrilled to have Monica Burns visiting. She's one of my very favorite guest bloggers and authors. Monica writes incredibly sensual romances, and Pleasure Me, her March release is her most romantic yet! Monica is running a wonderful blog series all month called, Pleasure Me with Romance at her blog. She's featuring MAJOR authors and giveaways. If you haven't stopped by, please do! Everyone, please help me welcome Monica Burns!

**********************************************************

Hi everyone, I’m so glad to be back here at Katidom. I think very highly of Kati (see doll, I remembered; no E!) and her opinions about romance books. In fact, that’s how we met. We met through another blog where we chatted romance.

Chatting is something I’m good at. I can talk your ear off. So it’s not surprising that all sorts of topics come to mind when I’m talking with romance readers. For instance, recently I was talking with readers about what we find attractive about men. For me it’s all about perspective. I said I loved a man with a bald or shaved head. I wasn’t really sure why until I started thinking about it. After some thought, I decided that it’s because a man with a smooth head indicates the man possesses self-confidence.

Let’s face it; there are a lot of men out there who don’t own their baldness. They take this one long strand of hair and sweep it forward and use it as if it’s actually going to cover up the fact that they’re going bald. I like a man’s ability to own his lack of hair. It sends a message that he’s strong, confident and there’s nothing sexier than a man who’s got it all together. Some examples of bald/shaved heads that I love are Telly Savalas, Bruce Willis, Jason Stratham, Yul Brynner and Vin Diesel.

If you’ve ever seen any of Brynner’s movies where he’s bald, West World, Rogers and Hammerstein’s the King and I, etc., you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I say the man is as masterful as they come. Brynner had a magnetism that was further emphasized when he was bald. Strong, powerful, and just outright dominating. His image was that of a man who reaches out and takes what he wants. Damn sexy if you ask me.

Then there’s Vin Diesel. When I look at this guy, I’m overwhelmed by his beauty. The raw, almost tangible, power he projects. If Vin had hair, I don’t think he would be anywhere near as heart-stopping gorgeous as he is. And yes, in my mind he’s gorgeous. His muscular body looks rock hard and says he’s strong enough even to pick up even my hefty butt.

His sleek head cries out “Go ahead. Touch me. You know you want too.” That smooth head matches the rest of him. What do you think would happen if you actually touched the god’s smooth scalp? Well, if you’re that close do you really think that’s all you’d be touching? LOL Envision yourself wrapped in those hard, sinewy arms with his mouth nibbling at your neck while your hand is curved around that deliciously smooth head. Can we just say that’s one hell of a fantasy? Because if the man’s beautiful in just a pair of jeans, he’s GOT to be beautiful everywhere else! *waggling eyebrows*

Now not everyone will agree with me when it comes to bald men and how sexy they are, which is peachy keen. It just goes to show that there are different tastes for everyone, and that perceptions are individual by nature of the beast. So what does all of this have to do with my upcoming release Pleasure Me?

Perception is the key word here. In Pleasure Me, my hero is a younger man interested in an older woman. Not only that, but he’s a virgin. Garrick isn’t bald, but he is beautiful. At least Ruth and I see him as beautiful, and I hope readers do as well. But Garrick has the perception that his deformity ensures no woman would want to come to his bed. Naturally, it’s the wrong perception as far as Ruth is concerned because she finds Garrick far more attractive than she believes she should. Of course her perception is that she’s too old for Garrick. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Heroes and heroines all come into a story with preconceived perceptions about themselves and other people. The perceptions are referred to as inner conflict and baggage by authors, but in my mind they’re the same thing. Everyone, real or fictional characters, have preconceived notions about everything in life, from what’s sexy to what’s not, from what’s young and what’s old. But in a book, it’s the author’s job to make not only the characters change their perceptions of their world, but change the reader’s perception as well (that’s generally called suspension of disbelief). In Pleasure Me, I think I succeeded in making Ruth and Garrick change their perceptions of who they are, and who they are with each other. As for perceptions about bald men, let me just say that when you put a man with a smooth head together with a sinfully dark chocolate voice, I’m ready for dessert.

So what’s your perspective? Do you find bald/shaved heads sexy??

Sidenote: Internet usage at the day job is being tracked, so I might not be here until later in the day, but I WILL be here and answer all comments.
**********************
Do me a favor, go READ the excerpt, and then, PRE-ORDER the book by clicking the link of your choice below!

Book Depository (International Readers/Free Shipping)
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
Borders

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monica Burns Visits Katidom Thursday!

I've had the PLEASURE.
Believe me when I tell you, it will knock your socks right off!
Join us, won't you?

Read an excerpt here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dare She Date the Dreamy Doc by Sarah Morgan - A Review(-ish)

Jenna Richards is newly divorced, out of money, humiliated by her ex-husband's cheating ways, and toting a snotty teenager with an attitude when she shows up on the fictional island of Glenmore in Scotland to become a nurse in the small medical practice which services the island. Jenna's confidence is in tatters, and she's desperately worried about her 15 year old daughter Lexi who is upset about the divorce and even more upset at her mother for dragging her away from her friends and home and everything she knows to spend the summer on this little island in the middle of nowhere.

Jenna is even more unhappy when she's met by Dr. Ryan McKinley, one of two doctors at the clinic, and she feels the immediate spark of attraction. She certainly has no interest in any kind of a romantic relationship, it's been less than a year since her divorce was final. For his part, Ryan is just fine ignoring the chemistry between the two of them. He's been hurt too and has no interest in getting involved with anyone, let alone this adorable, pretty woman whose hair curls in such an intriguing fashion.

As Jenna and Lexi settle in, Jenna learns slowly to let go of the tight reins she'd been holding Lexi with, and also learns to be more herself. She stops avoiding things she hadn't done in the past because her ex didn't like it. Like eating fish, and having a dog, and wearing comfortable night clothes. She finds that she enjoys the work she is doing for the surgery. And she loves watching Lexi go from hostile, nasty child into one who is easy going and happy. And while her attraction to Ryan puts her off her food, she can't help but admire how hard he works and continue to be attracted as she learns more about him. She's unsure how Ryan feels, but is determined that a relationship between the two of them is NOT a good idea, for a lot of really good reasons. So imagine her surprise when Ryan makes a move. Will Jenna's insecurities allow her to fall for Ryan? Or will she continue to hold back?

OK. I read this book because Sunita counted it among her favorite reads of 2010, and I love small town stories. And one with a hot doctor? I'm in! What I found was a heroine who was a bit too dithery for my taste, a teenage girl who needed a serious SPANKING, and a hero whose baggage just...didn't seem all that baggy for me. But I loved the setting, and the townsfolk were really cute and funny. So I'm on the fence about how I feel about the story. The heroine aggravated me with all of her "Should I? Shouldn't I? I don't know. What about the children??" and the hero who was all kinds of pissed off at his ex-wife, who yes, did him wrong, but frankly it was at least two years ago, and I wanted him to move on from the issues. Also, Jenna's child, Lexi? She needed a serious swat on the behind. I know of no teenager who is permitted to be as overtly shitty to her mother. But then again, maybe I've just been lucky with the teens I know. Also, the title? Atrociously bad. I mean, really, really bad. What were they thinking??

Overall, the book was one that just didn't work all that well for me. But I think it would work well for readers who love doctor/nurse stories, and enjoy the small town trope. I did enjoy Sarah Morgan's writing style and would gladly try one of her books again.

Final grade: C+


Monday, January 24, 2011

Here Comes The Groom by Karina Bliss - A Review(-ish)

One of my very favorite romance themes is the best friends to lovers one. Here Comes the Groom puts a delightful twist on the storyline, making it a unique entry into this well worn trope.

Jo and Dan have known each other and been best friends almost their entire lives. Jo runs a successful newspaper, and Dan is a soldier. Just before Dan is to be deployed to Afghanistan, Jo, drunk as a lord, makes a pass at him. He's shocked and angry with her for changing the playing field between them, especially just as he's leaving for war. Jo is completely humiliated by the failed pass and wishes that they'd never speak of it again.

But now Dan is back from war, and strangely, people keep congratulating Jo on her impending marriage to him. At first she thinks it's a joke, and laughs it off. But as she finds out that Dan has booked the reception location, is picking out tuxes, and has sent out the invitations, she begins to wonder what the heck is going on. When she confronts Dan about it, she is shocked to be reminded that indeed, on another night, in another drunken haze of heartbreak, they'd agreed (on a bar coaster, no less) to marry each other if they didn't find anyone else. Jo is appalled. She wasn't serious. And clearly, neither was Dan, as he rejected her advances before he left of Afghanistan. She doesn't love him as more than a friend, and frankly, has very good reasons for not marrying him. She cannot for the life of her understand why it is that he's pushing so hard. This is going to ruin everything.

This is a book of secrets and baggage. Dan is back from the horrors of war, much worse for the wear. He's experienced trauma and horror, and is determined to move on with him civilian life. This means marrying Jo, even if she doesn't love him. For her part, Jo is also a changed person since she made that pass. She has secrets too awful to tell Dan. And will absolutely not be marrying him for any reason whatsoever.

Once again Karina Bliss has created two interesting, flawed, headstrong characters in Here Comes the Groom. The book, set in New Zealand features nuanced characters who make interesting decisions. Not always good ones, but they learn and grow as they make them. There are a host of compelling secondary characters, including Jo's grandmother, and Dan's parents, themselves going through a terribly rough patch. But it is Jo and Dan who anchor the story. What I found interesting is, as I was reading, I started off really not liking Jo. I thought she was abrasive and combative. But as the reader begins to understand what she's been through, we soften towards her, and the light dawns. She has good reasons for not wanting to marry Dan, just as he has good and serious reasons for wanting to marry her. It's a fascinating tension that is beautifully portrayed by Karina Bliss. The book misses an A grade with me because there is a section with Dan in the outback that I thought was somewhat meandering and could have been tightened up. That being said, if you are looking for a strongly written book with realistic characters with very real issues, Here Comes the Groom is the book for you.

Final grade: B+