Monday, July 14, 2008

Tilly Bagshawe: Showdown

Showdown: F
Milly Lockwood Groves & Bobby Cameron

The Horse Whisperer and National Velvet meet Jackie Collins behind the barn in this libidinous fly-on-the-stall peek at horse racing and California real estate chicanery, just in time for beach read season. Irresistible Bobby Cameron, 23, and already one of the most skilled horse breakers and trainers in the world, inherits Highwood, his father's 3,000-acre California ranch, but not the money to keep it out of foreclosure.

He takes a job training two horses on a highly regarded racing stud farm in Newmarket, England, where he falls for the farm owner's 17-year-old daughter, Milly Lockwood Groves. Milly is a frustrated rider forced by her family to give up her career after a neck injury, and she's living in the shadow of her neighbor and rival, Rachel Delaney, a sexy and successful pro rider. Milly's dad has a minor stroke and finally agrees to let her return to riding and to train with Bobby at Highwood. While Milly grows closer to her dream of professional riding—and outshining Rachel—na├»ve Bobby takes on a sleazy partner with big bucks and an ulterior motive. (amazon)

A quite unsatisfying read… in that I wanted to throw it against the wall and curse aloud. Oh wait, I did do that. Huh..

There are several things I’d like to say about the novel and I will try my best to do it in a manner that doesn’t give away spoilers and isn’t quite so offensive. I would also add in the fact this story would probably not be classified as a romance. Probably a novel with a love story type thing.

start vent

Bobby is twenty three and Milly is seventeen. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘Aw, a story about first loves! Puppy love! How adorable!’ That most definitely is not the case. They’re young and obnoxious, and not in the least bit cute. I’m pretty sure seventeen and twenty-three years olds aren’t the smartest kids on the block, and Milly and Bobby show that very well by being superbly immature. They really do act their age. The rivalry that Milly has with neighboring rider, Rachel is so childish, it’s a little amusing. I’d expect kids in middle school to have grudges against one another as Milly and Rachel do. Oh, and the things they do to blatantly show each other they hate each other… I hope I wasn’t like that in high school.

So, the first quarter of the book is of Milly and Bobby getting acquainted with each other and introduces the reader to the world of horse racing. It also sets the groundwork for some romance. Now you might be thinking, ‘Ooh romance!’ That is also not the case. Milly and Bobby might be loving each other secretly, but they have a really funny way of showing it. Funny as in they refuse to communicate properly and have tons and tons of miscommunications.

“But Alice, 99% of romances are like that!” you might be thinking. I agree, most romances are riddled with conflict and miscommunications. However, it’s not like Showdown, where the miscommunications cause Milly to actually hook-up with another person, spurn Bobby, have their conflict last for a freaking year and a half, and have all of that shown to you in explicit detail. Are ya kidding me? Where’s the happiness? Where’s the love? Where’s the romance? Definitely not here.

Three fourths of the book was of how miserable Milly and Bobby were, not only because of their miscommunications with each other but because of the hardballs life threw at them. As Milly refused Bobby’s advice and went on to further her horse riding career, Bobby feels the repercussions of being a impulsive, rash twenty-three year old attempting to manage his father’s ranch. Milly’s career soars while Bobby’s falls. His ranch is in deep help. And it doesn’t help that Milly’s new boyfriend is the one causing Bobby tons and tons of shit. Milly, of course, is unaware, but then again, she loses herself in the world of anorexic celebrities and of Hollywood. She has great sex with her boyfriend (as does Bobby with other people), and they tell each other that they hate each other, when it’s clear that they don’t.

Realistic, yes, but agonizing to read about.

So this “little” miscommunication goes on for a good three hundred pages. And when Bagshawe has their lives fall apart, it really falls apart. It’s painful to read.

I kept reading thinking that from despair, their love will be born with even stronger fervor and passion and… no, not really.

The ending stays true to a romance in that the hero and heroine end up together. But even to the last ten pages of the book, they’re still riddled with conflict and confusion. It’s in the last three pages (literally, three) of the book that they’re together. And they love each other. (For crying out loud, they don’t even sleep together. That’s how rushed it was).

It was a magical ending, for sure, because somehow, everything came together in the worst of ways. Completely unbelievable and totally absurd. After reading three hundred pages of booze, sleazy sex, backstabbers, and mistakes, the author could have at least made their reunion great. BUT SHE DIDN’T! Agh, it killed me! Three pages? Seriously?!

I will say that it is a book that depicted Hollywood and the “fast life” pretty reasonably (or so reasonable, it seems). Then again, I’m no Britney Spears so I have no clue if people really act in the way they do in the book. All I’m saying is, if I was Milly, I’d feel pretty pissed for not having a proper get-together with my fated beloved. Grr…


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lisa Kleypas: Sugar Daddy

Sugar Daddy: A
Liberty Jones & Gage Travis

I wasn’t too tempted to read this one, but when I saw Trollop giving it praises over at The Book Bitches, I was piqued… and good thing too, because this read was so totally worth it. I keep on doing that thing where I tell myself that I’m only going to read for thirty minutes before bed, and end up staying up all night to finish the book. So the next morning, I’m in that tingly mood from having finished a good love story, but also look like shit because I got no sleep.

This novel is written in first person and tells of the life of Liberty Jones, a poor girl from a small city in Texas. (Interjection: what kind of a name is Liberty…?) She and her mom live in a trailer park where she meets endearing friends and falls in love with a boy named Hardy Cates. It tells of her first experience with makeup, the multiple boyfriends her mother had, and the relationships Liberty went through in high school. It tells of how she raises her younger sister, born when Liberty was fifteen (?), and how after their mother’s death, Liberty fights to support herself and young Carrington.

Eventually, Liberty moves to Houston to work as a hairdresser at a swanky salon where she catches the eye of bajillionaire and much older man, Churchill Travis.

At this point in the book, I was totally praying she would NOT hook up with Churchill. Liberty is approximately twenty-four years old and Churchill is fifty-something. That would have been icky.

However, Liberty and Churchill develop a very caring relationship, and when Churchill asks Liberty and Carrington to move into his house, she consents after long consideration. They continue their father-daughter relationship.

It isn’t until Liberty meets Churchill’s eldest son, Gage Travis, that sparks start to fly. (Interjection 2: And the name Gage? Kinda like, ‘I want to gage the temperature of this thermometer… that kind of gage? …weird.) He assumes she is one of his father’s “side thing,” and is a total douchebag to her. She tries to ignore him, his rudeness, and his completely dark-tall-and-handsomeness.

May I add in here that I absolutely loved the scene where Gage realizes how soft-hearted and kind Liberty is? It reminds me of Paradise when Meredith goes over to Matt’s farmhouse and he’s dying from sickness. (Note to self: if hot boy is ever dying from sickness and is in need of assistance, go over to his house ASAP. Romances indicate something poignant and amazing will happen.)

So Gage and Liberty are mightily attracted to each other, do the I-like-you tango, and have some awesome bedroom moments… when Hardy Cates shows up in his blue-eyed splendor. He is now a self-made millionaire and ten times more potent than when he was seventeen.

Liberty is confused.

Gage is pissed.

Hardy? Hardy is hot.

What to do what to do?! Which drop-dead gorgeous super-rich hunk will she pick? OH man, if only my name was Liberty Jones…

This was such a powerful read, though I wanted to read Gage’s perspectives too. What was he thinking? Was he totally drooling over beautiful Liberty? When did he really start loving her? The chemistry between Liberty and Gage is to die for and will give you shivers…

My two complaints: I wish more pages of the book were devoted to Liberty and Gage’s romance, not so much of Liberty-growing-up, even though her background helped me to understand what kind of person she was. And even though I really liked the HEA, I disliked the epilogue.


Come on, Lisa Kleypas! Liberty just spent eight or nine years raising her younger sister, who basically was Liberty’s very own baby. Why did the book have to end with Liberty getting pregnant? Doesn’t she want a freakin’ break? I would, even if it is Gage’s baby!

*End spoiler*

With that said, I heartily recommend this book. Fo’sho, it’s a satisfying (and drool-inducing) read. No kidding!

Why all the fuss?

If it won't offend, I'd like to take this time to say some mean things.

Why, oh why, is Janet Evanovich so freakin' popular?
I just don't get it.

I slugged through three-and-a-quarter of those blasted Plum books and finally put the third down down 25% of the way, thinking, 'My gosh, I can't get through this.'

I guess Plum is cute in a really pathetic kind of way. Like, as a bounty hunter, she's useless, but entertaining. Right? Kind of like Britney Spears on-stage in a bikini with her belly fat hanging out. Cute (-ish.......) in a pathetic way, but a little entertaining.

Evanovich has written fourteen of those blasted books... and on the NY Times website, her 14th is currently a hardback bestseller. I don't get it. I just don't get it.

Maybe I'm quick to drop things once I get bored. I stopped reading Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series when I didn't feel like finishing Talon's (Tamon? Taren? Tarin? Oh, what was his name from the fifth book???) book. I stopped reading the In Death series after the ninth or so book.

But at least with those books, I can attest to the fact that they're half-decently written. I feel that Evanovich's writing is less than impressive. It's dry in an unfunny way and though Ranger and Morelli sound delicious, it sounds as if she goes back and forth between both the men later on in the series. C'mon, woman! Pick one and stick with him, yeah? Please?

Don't the books get repetitive after a while?

I don't know.
I just don't get it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Susan Carroll: The Dark Queen

The Dark Queen: A
Ariane Cheney & Justice Deauville, Comte de Renard
Dark Queen Series 1

Susan Carroll starts her Dark Queen series with the introduction of the eldest of the Cheney sisters, Ariane Cheney.

Ariane Cheney is slightly spinsterish, as most responsible, eldest siblings in romances tend to be. She is a Daughter of the Earth, a healer or a witch, but in the nicest sense of the word. Her mother was Faire Isle’s legendary healer and Ariane is struggling to fill her mother’s shoes while raising her younger sisters, dealing with a stubborn suitor, and battling the all-powerful queen of France, Catherine de Medici.

Justice Deauville is the Comte de Renard and has decided on marrying Ariane. She isn’t interested since she wants to marry for love, but he continuously pursues her as she tries to figure out the mystery surrounding the injuries of a wounded captain of the Navarre army. Renard backs off, only if Ariane accepts a ring that he gives her; he tells her that the ring will let him know should Ariane ever need him. If she succeeds in calling for him three times, she must marry him.

Ariane agrees, and goes back to trying to figure out if Catherine de Medici has surreptitiously killed Captain Remy’s queen, Jeanne of Navarre. As Ariane investigates the situation, Catherine sends witch-hunters onto the island after Ariane and other wise women.

Will Renard get Ariane? (yes, he will; it's a romance...remember??) What will happen to Captain Remy? And evil Catherine de Medici?

Read and you’ll find out. Renard is lovable – who doesn’t love a man who knows what he wants and pursues it? Ariane is sensible and when she realizes Renard might be that man for him…

An intriguing start to the series, The Dark Queen is a very fast read with compelling characters.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lisa Kleypas: Blue-Eyed Devil

Blue-Eyed Devil: A+

Haven Travis & Hardy Cates
Sequel to Sugar Daddy

Scenes of domestic abuse and the journey to recovery make Kleypas's modern romance anything but fluff. A Wellesley grad and daughter of a Houston energy baron, Haven Travis is an unlikely romantic heroine until her brief but ardent encounter with a man who turns out to be Hardy Cates, the East Texas roughneck from Sugar Daddy who worked his way up from poverty and then outmaneuvered the Travis clan in a business deal.

Haven's engaged to Nick Tanner—a man her dad thinks is unfit for her—and though she and Hardy have a charged interaction, she elopes with Nick, and her father cuts her off. Nick turns out to be a bad guy, and a beaten and bruised Haven returns to Houston, where Hardy's still at odds with her family. Their passion proves as fervent as ever, but demons from Haven's recent past—as well as strife with her family and troubles at work and in bed—stand in the way. Kleypas isn't a literary stylist, but she delivers a page-turning, formula-breaking romance that takes on social issues and escalates passion to new heights. (amazon)

Ohhhhhh my goodness, I am so in love with Gage Travis and Hardy Cates. It’s unbelievable. Even though both men are in the oil industry, I forgive them for it.

Haven is the only daughter of the Travis family, younger sister to Gage, Jack, Joe (I could be wrong about this particular Travis. He is still very obscure to me). The book starts out at Liberty
and Gage’s wedding. Sugar Daddy was also a very satisfying read (but one whose ending I did not like) and I loved seeing them again in BED.

It is at their wedding that Haven first meets Hardy Cates. Tall, weathered, tanned, and broad-shouldered, he is what dreams are made of. And who can forget those electric blue eyes? Hardy is at the wedding, but is uninvited, due to the debacle that happened at the end of Sugar Daddy. Haven is attracted to Hardy (though honestly, who wouldn’t be?) but she has a boyfriend whom she is in love with, and one her family disapproves of. Feeling that Nick is the man of her dreams, they marry… and Haven’s life is changed forever.

She is domestically abused and returns to her family when she divorces Nick. It’s then that Hardy reappears in her life – tanned eyes, blue eyes all. Haven is thrown into a funk when she is unable to tamp down the attraction she feels for Hardy and struggling to put her past behind her. It’s even harder when Nick refuses to disappear from her life, and she is plagued with a jerk boss at work.

To tell you the truth, I thought Hardy was a douchebag when Sugar Daddy ended. But readers, do not fear. Hardy fully redeems himself in Blue-Eyed Devil. Not only is he an amazing kisser and smoking hot, he is with Haven as she battles her sexual insecurities and memories of her ex-husband. He saves her life and in turn she saves his. The love that they experience is fast-paced, but the tale is so engrossing, you can’t help but to believe that what they’re experiencing is true.

The book is in first-person, so I still don’t really know what Haven looks like. And I don’t know what Hardy really thinks of her, as you would know in a regular third-person story. But really, that’s not important because you get a wholly satisfying story with a very delicious hero. I love Hardy! I love Gage! I love this book!

I keep striking gold with Lisa Kleypas… and I’m so glad. I hear that the next contemporary is going to be Jack Travis’s story. I’m psyched for it – it’ll be an auto-read (and maybe auto-buy, depending on the state of my back account) for me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Karen Robards: Nobody's Angel

Nobody's Angel: A++
Susannah Redmon & Ian Connelly

...The titillating story, set in 1769 in the Carolinas, of a minister's daughter who falls in love with the indentured servant whom she's purchased. Susannah Redmon, a 26-year-old spinster who's spent the last dozen years acting as a mother to her three younger sisters and helping her widowed father run the family farm, decides to buy an indentured servant at a public auction. Her choice falls on Ian Connelly--filthy, starving, and suffering from repeated beatings; before he can work, Susannah must nurse him back to health. As she does, she discovers, of course, that he's devilishly handsome. Soon the formerly prim minister's daughter--in an engaging Lady Chatterley-like situation--is romping about with her bound man in a most unseemly fashion

Um, let me tell you how much I love this book.

Since I first read it, around eight years ago, I’ve re-read it at least twenty times, at least twice a
year. When I’m feeling gloomy, I pop open this book. When I’m feeling sad, I pop open this book. When I’m feeling moody, I pop open this book. When I’m feeling happy, I pop open this book.

Plot-wise, I realize that it is very shallow. The ending is rather rushed. In fact, the entire book is two-hundred sixty pages. If a new reader were to read this book for the first time, I’d think that she would be wholly unsatisfied at the lack of description in many of the scenes.

However, I’ve reread this book so many times that the scenery, the characters and their attitudes have come to life for me. More than anything, I love love this book because I relate to the heroine so intensely. When Susannah reacts to a situation in a certain manner, I wholly relate and can completely imagine myself doing what she did.

Susannah buys an indentured servant, a bound man, to help out at her family’s farm. Her father is a pastor, and she is the eldest of three younger sisters. Because her mother passed away when she was fourteen, she grew up overnight, and assumed the position as the head of the household, as her father was preoccupied with his congregation.

Now, she is a spinster at age twenty-six, and is the town’s angel. She cares for others and takes on their worries. To her dismay, she falls in love with her too-handsome indentured servant. She is unaware of Ian’s past life and chooses him anyway.

I love that Ian is able to look past Susannah’s looks and spinsterish attitude and loves her for her very huge and soft heart, and I love that Susannah is such a strong character. She’s in your face and is able to take command when she needs to – she’s the glue that holds everything together, and she does it in a fabulous manner.

I have a feeling that I will be a minority in obsession over this book, but I love how the characters are so real to me. A keeper on my bookshelf, forever.