Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

Content Warning: Mentions of sexual abuse of a teen

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 7 hours 8 minutes | Historical Romance | Avon | 8/13/2019
26-year-old Lady Penelope Campion has successfully avoided her season for a decade by sequestering herself in her home and committing to the care of abandoned animals. But her family has finally had enough! No one in her family thinks she can turn her social life around but it’s a wager this wallflower is ready to take. Luckily, her new neighbor, notorious businessman Gabriel Duke (heh, get it ? Duke), has an interest in helping to keep her in the London. 

We’ve reviewed quite a few of Dare's books on this blog and after binging the first two books in the Girl Meets Duke series last year I was super excited for this one. The Wallflower Wager has all of Dare’s signature Regency rom-com sensibilities and while I enjoyed listening to it something just didn’t hit the same for me. I think it was just a little too wacky for my taste?

I think part of my barrier to entry is that I am not an animal person so I was immune to all the animal shenans and cutsie-ness. The audiobook narrator Mary Jane Wells also chose a very young sounding voice for Penelope so she came off as kind of immature and infantilized for most of the book.

My media sweet spot is anything with a core friend group that gets built out ith each book. The bantering between our previous heroes was fun and they felt like they fit naturally into the narrative instead of like Easter Egg cameos. I also thought it was clever that Gabriel’s last name is Duke so he’s not a literal duke. As the world of romance writing is shifting I’m noticing many of the top historical authors are going beyond the Dukes, Earls and Marquess’ for potential hero material.

I also don’t know if this is the best way to say this, but there is a #MeToo plot that shows up in the last ⅓ of the books that I think may turn off some readers who aren’t expecting that in their romance. On the other hand, I think some might find as a type of catharsis in the way justice is dolled out

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Fluffy by Julia Kent

Rating: | 7 hours 4 minutes | Contemporary Romance | Prosaic Press | 4/30/2019
I heard the beginning of Fluffy on The Story Bites podcast --a podcast that plays and discusses audiobook snippets. In the Fluffy snippet Mallory, a recently unemployed house stager, is answering a Craigslist ad for a fluffer--assuming they mean a house fluffer. There is sort of a comedy of errors as she misinterprets everything the client is saying over the phone and the clip ended with her heading to the job. I thought the narration was good and I wanted to see where it went so I was super excited to pick it up and….Whooo, this book left a bad taste in my mouth. 

I’ll start with the two things I liked; the cover and the narration. This series uses some of my favorite romance cover motifs. The models are realistic and standing in a real-world environment, the handwritten font is fun and I like the addition of the feather on the cover. I did this on audio and narrator Erin Mallon is fantastic. I enjoyed her delivery, she really goes all-in on her characters.

Unfortunately, absolutely nothing else in this book worked for me. I could spend paragraphs complaining about it but I won't. Every scene in this book felt like it went on for way too long, the  entire plot is nonsensical, Mallory is oblivious about things for longer than seems realistic, and the hero--Mallory’s high school crush who sweeps into shut down the unsanctioned porn shoot-- has the personality of a piece of white bread in a suit.

And then there are my nitpicks. I think it was extremely tone deaf for Kent to make all of the characters of color either service workers (one who even has gang tattoos because of course) or pornstar grotesques. The book goes out of its way to remind us twice that Mallory was scarred by seeing Saw 3 when she was six. BUT THIS BOOK EXPLICITLY TAKES PLACE IN 2019 AND SHE IS EXPLICITLY 28 SO SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN 15 in 2006 when Saw III came out!!! How did Kent not fact check that ?

A lot of the extended scenes in this book involve Mallory and her friends giggling and asking random people if they know what a fluffer is and I'll admit I didn't actually know the term until I saw that episode of New Girl.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Six Fall Romances To Cozy Up With By The Fire

Fall is the perfect time of year to settle into a romance novel! These heart-racing, steamy and opulent romances will be the perfect companion for any pumpkin spice latte.

The Spitfire by Christi Caldwell (Sept. 17)
A former courtesan and madame strikes out on her own and stumbles across as Earl.

Lush Money by Angelina M. Lopez (Oct. 14 )
A Mexican-American billionaire businesswoman strikes a baby-making deal with a prince in need of money. This book seems to take all your favorite romance tropes and flips them on their heads!

Awaken The Dragon by AC Arthur (Nov. 4th)
A royal dragon shifter teams up with an African woman who must face an unknown danger.  I've read some of this author's contemporary romance and I can't wait to see what she does with paranormal.

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Nov. 19)
When Chloe Brown decides it's time to go out and "get a life" she recruits a motorcycled, tattooed handyman to help her out.

Back To September by Melissa Brayden (Nov. 1)
A down-on-her-luck introverted bookstore owner needs the help of a world-famous romance novelist to save her bookshop.

My Fake Rake (Nov. 26)
First book in Eva Leigh's new Union Of The Rakes series inspired by classic 80's movies. Each book follows a group of heroes who met in detention. In this one, Weird Science gets s Regency twist when a scientist turns a man into her fake suitor.

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Tropes and Sensibility: Fake Relationships

Welcome to a new feature where we talk about and give romance recommendations based on a much-loved a romance trope.
I love a good fake relationship because it adds a dose of dramatic irony to the story and leaves room for some Three's Company style hijinks! Fake Relationships work best for me when there are real stakes involved with the deception-- which usually means money.  Here are some of my favorite fake relationship books:

 Paid Companion by Nia Forrester
A $10,000 payout to be the fake date for a socialite's family vacation is an opportunity to good for struggling artist Lia to pass up. This is a fun subversion on the fake relationship trope because the man our heroine agrees to be in the fake relationship with isn't the hero--it's his brother!

Mr. Trouble by Nana Malone
Playboy heir Jarred Maloney needs a suitable fiancĂ©e to prove to his father he’s responsible enough for his trust fund. Graduate student Kinsley Wells needs money to buy her apartment that is being turned into a condo. The two decide to play engaged and when Jarred gets his trust fund he'll give Kinsley the down payment for her condo. I thought this one was interesting because Kinsley and Jarred knew of each other but didn't catch feelings until they were really pretending.

Full Throttle by Erin McCarthy
This book probably has a real loose-goosey excuse for a fake marriage but I think the story McCarthy tells is so good. According to her grandfather's will 32-year-old Shawn Hamby can't inherit her family dirt racing track unless she’s married. So she arranges to marry her best friend's 25-year-old brother-in-law. What I really like about this book is that it reckons with the character guilt involved with lying about a fake relationship. Also, mild spoiler alert: At the end of the book her lawyer is just like "lol, you know we can't really enforce that marriage thing."

Let me know some of your favorite fake relationship books below!