Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Heated Moments by Phyllis Bourne

I've been listening to the Girl, Have You Read podcast and I picked this book up so I could read-along with the ladies. I went into this book not knowing anything about it,  I thought it would be kind of soapy (as categories are want to do) but it's actually a cute romantic comedy.

When model Lola Gray is replaced as the face of her late mother's cosmetic company, Espresso Cosmetics, she sets out to find the next big thing for herself. But on her drive to New York City she ends up in the small town of Cooper's Place, Ohio where a misunderstanding with a small town rookie cop puts her on trial...and in the arms of police chief Dylan Cooper and they have a few...heated moments.

This book is just a sweet romance and it fits right into my genre kryptonite of small town romances. Bourne really  brought the town alive. I thought the hero and heroine had great chemistry and Dylan was a great hero who understood what Lola needed. That said everything felt really rushed.

The only things that kind of bothered me was that  one of the reasons Espresso Cosmetics  lets Lola go is because they are replacing her with  a drag queen. It's a recurring joke in the book and the whole female model being replaced by a “man in a wig” started to feel really unfunny. Also the ending...I didn’t buy it. At all.

Also I’m going to gripe abut the cover. Now listen, I’m new here, but you cannot tell this is a romantic comedy from the cover. I think it should have something like a Julie James' audiobook covers. Or you know what...I’m going to say it; bring back the illustrated covers. I liked some of those ! I’m just sayin’....Although I do think they chose this one because it has a pool and there is a big scene with a pool.


I had to look into this drag queen as cosmetic company spokesperson, because to me it legit seems like a good idea and it turns out RuPaul was a spokesperson for MAC cosmetics for a while. 

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (Old West Series #1)

This is my first Beverly Jenkins novel and going in all I really knew is that Jenkins is the Queen Bee of Black historical romance.This new series starts off with Eddy Carmichael, a young cook who heads west with nothing but her cooktop and dreams of owning a restaurant.

She gets almost there  by legit relying on "The kindness of strangers" until one of those strangers leaves her stranded in the desert.

Eddy is rescued by a White republican and well known saloon owner, Rhine Fontaine. Rhine has been good to the black community of Virginia City but what no one knows is that Rhine Fontaine is a former slave, passing as white.

I think it goes without saying the real star of this book is Jenkin's version of 1870's Virginia City, NV a small town filled with a colorful cast of characters.

Virginia City is far from a romancelandia-utopia when it comes to post-Civil War race relations. The struggle is actually real for Rhine. While he gains the dignity and power he coveted when he was his father's slave, he begins to realize he has lost the ability to have a real community and family. He can't fully participate in black life and he feels like an outsider in the white world. Honestly one of the reason I kept reading this book because I was wondering how an HEA could work when Rhine has so much against him. I found the ending bittersweet in a way.

I think I would have wanted to see more courtship between characters which I imagine was a challenge considering the big wall between them. The steamy scenes felt like they were thrown in because it's a romance and were not well incorporated in the story. I don't generally read American Historical but something about this reminded of the mid 1800's historicals I read as a kid. You know about the good ol' days when oranges were a BFD.

Speaking of oranges, this book is also about food and what good food can do for people. Eddy enchants the town with her cooking and there is a wonderful sense of community whenever people are gathered to eat. I think it's interesting to note that while Rhine is passing he can't sit down and eat with Eddy. I think Jenkins uses this to set the tone the novel.

Also, it turns out Rhine first appeared in Jenkins 1998 book Through The Storm which explains a lot when people from that story pop up. I would love more insights on the other characters in this book; am I going to have to wait 18 years ? *ARC received from Edelweiss

Side Note
I kept having a hard time picturing Rhine because that cover model's hair is nothing like Rhine's. But K.C told me about Wentworth Miller, a mixed-race actor who stared in  Prison Break as a white character. His green eyes and dark hair make him a good picsipration for Rhine.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Branded by Tori Carrington

This is the first of the 46 Harlequin Series romances  K.E  and I are reviewing for a feature called The Romance Brown Bag Challenge. I bought a bag of random category romance at a library book sale and we plan to read and review every single one.

 Honestly I'm not sure how to review series romances because of how. . . trope specific they can be. I've read and book buffeted a few , most of which were Presents that I heavily side eyed. So that was my litmus test with this.  How much side-eyeing could be done ?

What I found is that there is something more down to earth about the Blaze categories. I guess they are supposed to be steamy but this one seemed pretty tame to me.

 Branded is a contemporary home on the range cowboy story. It is one of those post 9/11 stories about an ex-Marine who returns to rural Texas after leaving Iraq and becomes a ranch hand. This by the way is our heroine Jo Ellen Athcinson
Our hero is  ranch owner Trace Armstrong . Can I just say our hero and heroine have the most country music star names ever ? Trace is pretty bland but is described as having  12 pack abs. . . I Googled it. It's actually kind of scary looking. Also you have to WORK for that. There's no way you just get that being a rancher. 

Since Jo has been back she's having a hard time facing  her mother who is battling morbid obesity and her enabling father. Trace has his brother (Also a Marine and from a different series) coming home to take over the ranch.  Trace doesn't like him for. . . reasons. IDK I mean I gathered  he ruined Trace's chance at joining the Marines by injuring him or something ?  Trace just seemed whiny, I think I need to read the brother's book to figure out their deal

Anywho, one night Jo decides to go hit on the boss and they start having a fling which isn't the most interesting part of the book. Honestly, the romance of this book felt like such a minor plot compared to the character's individual stories.  So much so that the last scene in this book doesn't even feature the couple but focuses more on the relationship between the brothers. I think the writers realized this because they threw in a serial rapist to serve as an extra plot point (and sequel bait . . . don't ask)
I started with this book because of the female Marine aspect, I mean that's an interesting topic but the gender dynamics of women in the military never comes up. I'm not convinced Carrington gave the female Marine angle much thought because at one point Trace says to Jo ;

 "You're a Marine. You know how to [fight] on the battlefield."

 And I was like---I'm pretty sure women aren't allowed in combat.

I also have another anecdata nitpick---  I'm not sure Carrington uses the word barbecue right or that is to say they use it in every which way possible. It's used as an adjective and noun all over this book. That just seems odd to me, I think calling a get together with grilled meat a  "barbecue" is a West coast thing.

Also, At one point in the book  Jo is wearing red cowboy boot and all I could think was.  

I liked this book, I didn't have any reason to side eye it (except for Alma the ambiguous-but-probably-a-brown- person housekeeper who is in like one paragraph)  so for me this book is recommendable.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Romance Brown Bag Challenge

Last Fall I  stopped by a library book sale and didn't really see anything that sparked my attention. Then under a table I noticed a brown paper bags filled with Harlequin series (or category) romances. The entire bag was on sale for three dollars.

1 brown bag. 46 romances. 3 dollars.
Since we do have a romance blog and the sale was almost ending I thought. . . why not ? So, I bought a brown bag of 46 Harlequin categories. Now I'm challenging myself to read and review all 46 books on this blog !

See the list of books here

Before I started this challenge I decided to learn more about series romances. From what I understand series romances are shorter romances usually written to specific guidelines and tropes; billionaires, cowboys, secret baby etc. has info on  what editors look for and what readers can expect in each series line.

Just in time for this post, Harlequin just  released this fun infographic that lets you know how much each of their categories sizzles !

Friday, January 1, 2016

Romance and Sensibility By The Numbers 2015

It's the beginning of a new year and we wanted to take the time to go back and look at what we've reviewed here on Romance and Sensibility in fun infographic form !