Another Paperback Stash Feature
Since Harlequins are about as addicting as candy and can be consumed almost as quickly, I typically go through several of these a month. Many of the ones I read are older and not even near their new-release dates. It seems silly to post a full review for some of these with their own post since it's unlikely anyone will go and hunt them down based on the review. Hence, this monthly recap was born. What is it about Harlequins that is so addicting? They are like little soap operas at your fingertips!
This month my new Harlequin Favorite, Lynne Graham, was showcased as a feature author on Harlequin.com forums :)
I posted the following question and got the following response:
Domineering Hero, Wealthy Hero, Steamy, Virginal Heroine
I actually LOVED this book. For a Harlequin it was fun, fascinating, and pretty much sums up most of my favorite Harlequin themes. The heroine was feisty but realistically flawed which added a nice touch. The hero was sexy as hell, domineering, sweet, and just awesome.
Their relationship started on misconception and chasing, fighting, all fun. It wasn't filled with sex or anything, but it was much steamier than most of the Harlequins I've been reading. There were genuinely giggle-out-loud scenes, serious sweet scenes, and just about everything else thrown in there.
To be honest the back blurb didn't make this one sound appealing to me really, but I was pleasantly surprised. It just goes to reenforce you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover OR its synopsis. I ended up going to buy several more Lynne Graham books after enjoying this one so much, and to follow recommendations from the Harlequin Presents Group on Goodreads.
Marriage of Convenience, Family Matters
The heroine had NO backbone. I didn't enjoy this one at all. It made little sense - the marriage of convenience was odd, the writing tone was distant and overly formal, and there was ZIP in the romance department. First, there was the heroine, who seemed quite ridiculous.
1. She's one of three sisters and she keeps commenting how she is too "large". Large meaning tall. She states that men are interested in her because of her appearance and her personality, but her tallness stops serious prospects of marriage. What?
2. Then there's the fact that she's a lead nurse at the local hospital and works many hours supervising others. A man she has no interest in that works there invites her to dinner, and too tired to keep resisting, she agrees. Once there he mentions wanting to see her again, and the only way she can think to get out of it is by saying she can't because she's quitting her job and going to visit Holland or wherever. She instantly regrets it as she doesn't want to quit her job. What? This has to be the most awkward reason I've ever heard for being forced to quit a job I've ever seen.
3. She has no backbone at all and won't speak up. When she does slightly she lives in fear she's not being the perfect wife. She doesn't think for herself, has no wants for her own life and feelings.
4. Where is any kind of sex? I understand some Harlequins aren't steamy but it's like they never have it until the end of the book (last page), and the only reason you suppose they may end up having it is the housekeeper talking about seeing four mincepies (whatever this is), which indicates a baby boy. The characters are "going for a walk" so I guess we're assuming they'll finally sleep together, even though they have been married for weeks and sleep in separate bedrooms. There is a total of like 3 kisses in the entire book and they are distant without any feeling.
This books dry writing tone wasn't helped by the story itself being a little dull. There's not much going on. The hero doesn't seem attractive or to hold much personality. There's no signs of this romance toward her or vice versa. Very unusual Harlequin that's a definitive FAIL.
Family Matters, Heroine involved with someone else
It was almost a 4- giving it a 3.5. Some of this was just silly as a back story and the heroine is basically unrealistic. However, she's still likeable and there was plenty of hot build-up tension. All that buildup and small details when it happens, but this seems typical with Harlequins. The hero is attractive enough and I like his joking, confident personality. He won't let the fiance part die though and harps too much on it. Personally I would have been extremely irritated with my family at the end of the book. It turns out a happy ending but I was still be angry with the outcome and how bad the interference was. It's a book without much plot but it still keeps you reading.
The writing was well done and not stuffy. An issue arose, though. At the beginning the author switched viewpoint from the heroine to the hero. I dislike that. I like when romances focus on one viewpoint and stick with it. She kept switching from heroine to hero in the same chapter and it could get confusing. Then, a few chapters later, she stays with the heroines POV for the rest of the book. Maybe she thought better of it and decided not to do it anymore? Apparently so.
Harlequin themes: Virginal Heroine, Remote seclusion, Women engaged involved with another man
Rich Hero, Virginal Heroine, Matchmaking, Revenge
The story itself isn't overly fascinating but the characters worked well. There is no instant lightning when their fingers accidentally touch or doe-eyed gazes here. The heroine realistically dislikes the hero of the story from the get-go for a blend of legitimate reasons. Her personality was written with realism and the right touch of anger and spark. I loved the intruding, scheming aunt as a small side character trying to bring the two together. Mitch didn't strike me as anyone overly attractive and alluring, but there was a hot "almost" scene and his personality was basically enjoyable.
The book blurb makes it sound like less happens than it does - there's also other hidden themes in here, such as her working for a magazine that wants her to uncover dirt on the man for an article. I found it odd too that the real reason Kelly was bothered about the part of land being sold never actually comes to light. Mitch doesn't found out the exact reason. In the end it doesn't come off mattering though.
There was an inconsistency as well - earlier in the book he mentioned maybe it's time he settled down for a wife, but later he said he has no ambitions of marriage. Make up your mind already!
You can find a cheesy or silly line that makes little sense in almost any Harlequin. This time I raised my eyebrow at this part where she's trying to figure out why she's attracted (in the beginning) to the guy she's with who turns out to be a jerk:
"Had the fact that he was a divorced man added a special spice to the relationship that was slowly developing between them?"
Really? Does divorce make people MORE attractive and make you want a relationship more with them?
Elizabeth Grahams writing style is easy to latch on to, not too stuffy and flows well, especially when in the mind and told through the POV of Kelly. She doesn't head hop but stays in third-person.
Heroine Already in Relationship
I'm trying to finish through my Leigh Michaels. Only one left to go. A pretty good one, very sweet and endearing. It doesn't hold the depth of drama and flesh-out plot as her others, not enough for a four star rating.
The writing style and tone is as enjoyable as always, even if the humor is less present. Characters are likeable but not much erotic tension. The love aspect is realistic enough, and the ending, while predictable, wraps up everything wonderfully. Not the best out there but good if you're in the mood for a simple, endearing story.
Again my Harlequin mood continues. I can't resist, the drama is calling to me. Another one I greatly enjoyed.
Two in a row I liked - woohoo!
It's not as sensual as the last but I loved the story. Vin was an alluring, mysterious hero you had to like, and Tansy's workaholic personality made perfect sense. The ending dished out a whallop of a surprise too, I never saw that coming as the reason. The ending was sweet but I would have liked her to explain more about Roger.
Maybe he already knows?
Either way highly recommended, fun Harlequin. Some steaminess, some realism, a foreign country. Sadly it only has a little humor to it.
Wealthy Hero, Pre-Existing Relationship
This one was also pretty good. If I stopped picking up good ones, then maybe I wouldn't be reading them so often.
The heroine was admirable - not overly feminist but independent, there was another love interest involved that she didn't doubt till the end, she didn't have a huge chip on her shoulder but instead a realistic one. The hero was hilarious.
Michaels is the same author who wrote the harlequin I loved, Old School Ties. Her sense of humor that comes easily to the page makes the story all the more enjoyable as the plot gets riveting and the hero had a funny personality.
I typically like a more serious type but it works completely here and with her sort of style. The ending had a bit of a surprise - one thing that kept me reading was the mystery slowly uncurling, the ending leaving you wondering about one important missing thing not yet revealed to the reader.