Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Cider House Rules

- John Irving -

Irving's mastery at characterization is unparalleled and it is apparent in this novel, where each of the characters seem so real and consistent and ultimately, because of that consistency, frustrating.

Homer's ambivalance, Candy's fear of doing the wrong thing or hurting anyone, Melony's anger - all of these traits permeate the story and stay with the characters all way through and it ultimately becomes frustrating, particular in the case of Homer and Candy, where they appear to not know how to allow themselves to be happy or stand up for what they want.

It is an enjoyable and engrossing read - one in which you can sink into the story and characters and feel completely immersed, but I ultimately find in frustrating that there is no emotional pay off, no confrontations as Angel learns his true parentage, as Wally finally acknowledges the unspoken truths of their lives and as Candy and Homer seperate for good - it's all rushed through in the last few chapters with none of the depth of exploration of the earlier parts of the book.

I do unequivocally appreciate Irvings' portrayal of abortion in all its complexities and shades of grey: he portrays it equally as both tragic and necessary in an imperfect world, and the ambiguities are wrestled with through Homer's struggles in a very human and realistic way. Seeing Homer move beyond his black and white view of the issues to accept the more complex view is very satisfying.

Captive of Sin

- Anna Campbell-

Based on this and the other book of hers I have read (Untouched), Anna Campbell seems to specialize in tortured, psychologically decimated heroes. It is a trope I love, even if I do question, particularly in this case, whether the whole "magic of love" thing is really enough to overcome the unbearable trauma the hero lives with.

Overall, I enjoyed the book - I love the idea of Charis and Gideon both being damaged and afraid and finding peace in each other, but I really did want to see more exploration of the post traumatic stress disorder that Gideon was suffering from and a more nuanced path to some sort of healing, rather than the he's so horny he gets over it style fix that was presented her.

While I love the idea of his passion for Charis ultimately being what helps him overcome his demons, it seemed like it happened too quickly. I would have liked to see a more gradual build up, both if his desire for her, and her acclimating him to her touch and turning it into a source of comfort rather than pain.

An enjoyable read, but I felt it could have had so much more emotional weight and impact if Gideon's justifiable issues had been explored more.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lord of Pleasure

- Delilah Marvelle -

Another great new author to add to my list of must reads!

The story had a lot of humor running through it, particularly in the interactions between Charlotte and Alexander - I found myself grinning away for chunks of the story.

I really liked that Charlotte, in order to save herself from destitution or prostitution, had taken a job with a renowned courtesan's new school for gentleman, and was gradually discovering that she rather liked operating outside of societies' rules and conventions, especially given she was ruined by her late husband's actions in the eyes of society anyway, so she decided to give up trying to please them and act according to her own wants, desires and moral code.

The flip side of Charlotte's new freedom, was Alexander's determination to confine himself according to societal expectations in order to give his sisters the best possible chance for future respectability and happy marriages. Despite his family's free spirited reputation, Alexander's love and responsibility towards his sisters compels him to try and do what he believes is the right thing by leaving his "Lord of Pleasure" reputation behind.

This dedication to his family is what draws Charlotte to Alexander, beyond her physical attraction to him, and watching them come together and draw emotional as well as physical comfort from each other was such fun to read.

There are probably nits I could pick regarding the apparent lack of societal blowback any of the characters appear to face for their unconventional actions, but I enjoyed the book too much to really care.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tempted By His Kiss

- Tracey Anne Warren -

Ugh, this one started out with so much promise since I love tortured men brought back to life by determined heroine style stories, but there was major, epic fail in the form of Too Stupid To Live behaviour from the heroine, Meg, that it ended up driving me nuts.

Cade starts off all adorable and tortured, but gets distracted by a half assed suspense plot and immediately seems to forget all his mental turmoil as he works to prove the bad guy is evil.

And Meg. Seriously, Meg? You know the bad guy is guilty of evil, evil acts including torture and MURDERING INNOCENT FEMALE BYSTANDERS, and you think it's a good idea to trot off after your super spy boyfriend to "help" instead of, I don't know, enlisting the help of any one of his multiple big strong brothers, who are all on his side? She kind of deserves the hostage situation she lands in, is what I am saying.

But no worries, cause Cade's super spy mojo is back, all trauma forgotten, and he saves the day. My eyes, they are rolling.

Disappointing because the legitimate issues between Meg and Cade could have been really compelling as they overcame their back stories and how they met to fall in love but it ended up just falling flatter than a pancake.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


- Carolyn Jewel-

Hero: Gwilym, Earl of Bannalt. A notorious rake, Bannalt has reformed his ways after falling deeply in love with Sophie, wife of one of his carousing buddies.

Heroine: Sophie Mercer. Sophie was seduced into an elopement when she was barely 17 by a man who was interested primarily in her money and abandoned her more or less destitute in the country whilst he enjoyed himself in London. She is widowed now and very reluctant to tie herself to another man.

I really love the reformed rake working his butt off to prove to the lady he loves that he has changed storyline, and this was a really beautifully told example. I loved that it was Sophie who has the doubts and misgivings based on her previous relationship and her knowledge of Bannalt's prior behaviour, and he worked constantly to prove to her that he had changed and did love her.

There were a couple of threads that I wish had been explored more, ie: what is different about Sophie and why he will remain faithful to her, what Bannalt's relationship with his first wife was like as he admitted to loving her to so why did he cheat on her and will not on Sophie? I also would have liked to seen more exploration of how the death of his beloved daughter was a catalyst for the changes in Bannalt, as the hope of Sophie's love was his ultimate goal.

The only thing I really did not like about this book was the fate of Sophie's brother, John. I was very attached to the character and really did not see what happened coming, which I suppose is a sign of good storytelling, but still, sad!

Definitely picking up Carolyn Jewel's new novel asap.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Don't Tempt Me

- Loretta Chase -

Typically entertaining read, with amusing character moments, but felt like the story was a little bit underdeveloped in this one, ie:

- never got much in the way of reaction to to story surrounding Zoe's sale into slavery by one of her family's servants - her family/friends had nothing to say about this?

- seemed a bit too easy that Zoe managed to spend 12 years in a harem but remain a virgin, whilst still being skilled in all the arts of seduction. Convenient much?

- Lucien's grief over all the losses he suffered make sense, but never really explored enough, especially as related to his disinterest in business affairs etc which resulted in a bunch of servants ripping him off.

- Zoe's assimilation back into society and ease with which she developed a normal romance with Lucien seemed.... too easy? Aside from an understandable reluctance to be kept hidden away in her home, no side effects of the whole experience? Really?

I really did enjoy the story as I was reading it, but when I put it down for a moment the glaring plot holes and lack of development get more irritating.

Kill Me Twice

- Roxanne St. Claire -

Heroine: Jazz Adams, private investigator and identical twin sister of Jessica Adams, a news anchor gone missing very suddenly.

Hero: Alex Romero, Cuban American alpha male, assigned as a bodyguard to Jessica Adams and ends up guarding Jazz who has taken her sister's place.

I loved that Alex and Jazz felt like more or less equals throughout this story, with different skills they each brought to the table as they tried to solve the mystery of Jessica's disappearance. Too often in romantic thrillers it feels like one of the leads, usually the woman unfortunately, is running around making stupid moves and nonsensical decisions in order to drive the plot and it results in one or both leads coming across as too stupid to leave and basically deserving whatever the villian does to them.

Here, Alex and Jazz disagree, have different approached, but ultimately resolve most of their issues in an adult way so the action feels organic instead of manipulated.

Looking forward to the rest of this series.