I Blame You: Books You Made Me Buy This Week

I have little control over my book spending. But it’s not my fault. It’s yours.

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1. I wasn’t going to buy the new Loretta Chase historical romance. I haven’t read one of hers in a while, and none in this Dressmakers series. And I have an aversion to ballgown covers. But Nicola had to write,

If you need a plot-driven, fast-paced, action-oriented story, this might not be for you. But if you are interested in an exploration of character,  in watching attraction bloom gradually, with a bit of social commentary as a backdrop, there is no better author to bring that to you than Loretta Chase.

And then Caz at All About Romance wrote,

above all, it’s the interactions between the hero and heroine that make this book such a delight. I was utterly captivated by the brilliance of the dialogue, which is witty and frequently displays a depth of feeling and insight that is rarely found in the genre.

Sadly, I won’t get it for a few weeks, but I added the professional narration for less than $4. Winning!

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2. Admittedly, I was always going to buy the second book in Sarah Morgan’s contemporary romance series, Suddenly Last Summer, because I so enjoyed the first. But not until the third one came out. See, I really wanted the other brother to get his story first. But then Sunita went and reviewed it at Dear Author:

The first half of the novel is basically Sean and Élise throwing themselves at each other but swearing nothing more can ever, ever, happen between them. Buttons fly as shirts are ripped off, lovely dresses get drenched in the rain, and the Snow Crystal forest sees a lot of hot and heavy action.

I’m a sucker for this “this can never ever happen again” relationship.

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3. On Audio, Barrayar, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Yes, this means I actually finished listening to Shards of Honor, after trying to read it in paper for the past three years. I’m still confused half the time. I still can’t figure out who is who and what they want, but the characters Cordelia and Aral are enough. I can’t blame anybody in particular for this one, but several of you have told me how great the books are, and have prasied the audio in particular. So I blame everyone.

 

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4. In paper, The Ivy Tree, by Mary Stewart. For this one I blame Tasha, who wrote a Book Riot Reading Pathways post about Stewart. I’ve been wanting to read Stewart forever since so many romance friends started with her. For some reason the mistaken identity plot of this one grabbed me:

I’m a sucker for stories about mistaken identity and doubles, so it’s no wonder this is the Stewart novel I’ve reread the most. In fact, it’s probably the most reread book on my shelves. Stewart cleverly keeps the reader guessing as to whether Mary is who she says she is, or if she’s actually Annabel. And what happened to Annabel, anyway? Mystery! I also love the romance element in this novel because it’s so subtle and well-played.

And that’s it!

 

Thoughts on Kristen Ashley’s The Gamble

I finally made it through a Kristen Ashley book! The online romance community has really embraced Ashley, a self-published and very prolific romance writer. I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

Here’s the Blurb:

Nina Sheridan desperately needs a timeout vacation. With a fiancé who can’t even remember how she takes her coffee, Nina wants some distance to rethink her engagement. Flying halfway around the world from England to a mountain town in Colorado should do the trick. But when she finds a gorgeous man at her rental cabin, Nina’s cold, lonely adventure suddenly heats up.

The owner of the house, Holden “Max” Maxwell is surprised by the beautiful woman who turns up at his door. But when Nina becomes ill, Max spends days nursing her back to health. A private man with a broken heart, Max finds himself drawn to the strong-willed woman. Soon it becomes impossible for Nina and Max to deny their growing attraction to one another. Yet even as these two wounded lovebirds think about taking a chance on a relationship, a dangerous secret from Max’s past emerges-and threatens to end their love for good.

The Gamble, like most of Ashley’s books, is long. Very long. 670 pages long. I’ve been reading romance very regularly for about seven years now, and I’ve come to expect a certain length from single title contemporaries, which is about 300 pages, give or take. I was really curious why The Gamble, which has a very familiar plot, should be so long.

After reading it, I think the length is down to four things:

Small-Gamble

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Review: Flying, by Megan Hart

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Flying is the story of a divorced Pennsylvania woman, Stella, who lives with her teenage son Tristan. Her ex-husband, remarried and still an active co-parent, is the CEO of a small airline. Stella negotiated free flights in the settlement, and uses them on her “off duty” weekends to play dress up (wigs, garters), pick up men in airport bars, have steamy consensual sex with them, and return home before Tristan does. Once a flight attendant, she now works as a photo finisher, has a couple of friends at her “far from terrific” job, and, except for a serious pre-divorce flirtation with a local guy named Craig, has been single since her marriage ended.

Stella’s compulsion to “fly” as she calls it, is not just natural excess sexual energy, or a lark, but a flight from unfinished emotional business after a personal tragedy:

Something’s cold in her. And broken. But it’s her own fault, she supposes, for picking men she knows are already damaged because it feels easier to justify breaking them.

The sexual interludes are described in detail (this is erotic fiction), but mostly to establish Stella’s emotional state. In this way, Flying reminds me a bit of Broken, an earlier novel by Hart, in which the male protagonist, Joe, has a series of random sexual encounters, the point of which is ultimately to develop his character. In erotic fiction, you can’t remove the sex without removing important chunks of the story, and while I think that’s true in Flying, I have to admit that Stella’s particular way of dealing with her demons felt more like an interesting hook than something organically arising out of her personality or life experiences.

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