Once upon a time, I read this book without having read the first one. I reviewed it fairly well at the time, but upon finally reading the first book, it made me think that I needed to reread this book. And hoo boy, would I write this review differently had I done that. I usually don't say this, but since I seem to be in an experimental/long-winded phase of writing book reviews these days, what the hell. So I'm going to write this review a second time, from a different perspective.
First off...this second go at this review goes below the spoiler cut for spoiling the ending of book one! Man, I had no idea that I'd done that (though I guess reading the book's back cover would do that as well). I foolishly assumed that the big spoiler dropped early on was something that readers of the first book would have been aware of!
Many years ago, I read the book that came after this one, A Tangled Web. I didn't know a first book existed at the time, and didn't stumble across the first book until oh, pretty recently. Upon reading Deceptions, damn, I think I need to rewrite that review over again. I definitely would have written it differently had I but known I was massively spoiling the ending of the last one! Ergo, I'm going to rewrite the original review in that light and then repost it.
Anyhoo: it's the 80's, and Sabrina and Stephanie are hot 32-year-old redheaded twins who grew up all over the world because their daddy was a diplomat. They went to school in Europe, are experts in antiques, furniture and home decor, and can hang around the international jet set with ease. Sabrina was always the "shinier" twin, which eventually irritated Stephanie enough to decide to go to college in America instead. In America, she married Garth and had two kids, Penny and Cliff. Garth is a diehard, dedicated professor and they live in Evanston, Illinois, where Garth is being recruited for the private sector. Stephanie had a business that failed, and she currently types for a living. She is bored to death, especially with her husband.
Sabrina is leading the jet-set life. She married a viscount and is now "Lady Sabrina Longworth," even after she eventually got divorced because her husband Denton was a cheater and generally not as shiny as he appeared. She started her own business in antiques, which she named Ambassadors. Sabrina is dating some foreign bigwig named Antonio, who is pushing her to marry him and give up her business. Sabrina has no intention of doing either, but...is kinda stalling on telling him so. She's bored of the jet set life by now. Oh yeah, and she's just a touch worried about finding out that one of the guys that sells to her is selling fakes. Ruh-roh.
The twins go on a trip to China, where they get the bright idea to switch places for a week, just for a change. Oh, don't worry about Antonio, you can push him off for a week. Oh, don't worry about Garth, we're kind of sick of each other and we hardly ever have sex any more. The ladies do almost entirely flawlessly at impersonating each other's lives, with people ignoring their flubs and the twins somehow channeling each other's...whatever's needed, as twins do. Stephanie has a pretty easy job of being an international star in the antiques business, especially since she does know that stuff. Sabrina, amazingly, manages to slip into dealing with a family without totally having a meltdown. Both of them...could get used to this.
And then Sabrina gets hit by a car and gets a concussion and breaks her arm, which forces the ruse to go six weeks longer than planned. As those weeks go on, Stephanie does a good job of problem solving Sabrina's life by such smooth moves as accidentally breaking a faked sculpture, and beautifully telling off a few folks who need it, and eventually having to turn down Antonio. Instead, she starts a flaming affair with Max Stuyvesant, a fellow Sabrina knew and wasn't impressed with back in the day when he was running a swingers' cruise. Sabrina, on the other hand, starts falling in love with being a mom, tells off a teacher and some snobby women who totally deserve it*....and she finds herself falling in love with the decentness of Garth. She even gets interested in his life and career, which Stephanie has long since gotten bored with. Pretty soon, Garth actually wants to sleep with his wife, and....y'know, things happen. Except Stephanie's so hot for boinking Max that when the cast is off, she wants one more romantic cruise on Max's boat before going back. Sabrina's fine with that....
* I did really enjoy the various telling-off scenes.
You might have noticed that the authors (a husband and wife team) have really super written themselves into a corner with this one. What with the husband and children issue, there is just...no freaking way that this gets resolved in a good way, is there? Well, except....
And then.... Well, how the authors deal with it is going to go below the spoiler cut. What I can say without spoiling is that the authors take...well, the one way they can think of to resolve the issue.
Overall, this is a fairly well done book. For parts 1 and 2, the authors do a good job of balancing the heroines' dilemma, switching back and forth between them. I give them credit for making Sabrina's new family issues as interesting as Stephanie finally living the life of the rich and snobby, even though eventually you realize that they've got a preference going on (see spoiler cut). You do get why Sabrina would fall for Garth overall, and how she gets into family life. I think it might come TOO easy for her to deal with two children and a husband after having dealt with no such thing ever, but overall it didn't flag me as being super fake, just a little too convenient. Both women start coming into their own more, and they also have a good number of scenes with their respective women friends that I enjoyed. I'm not sure if any of them passed the Bechdel test, but you do feel the bonding between them, which transfers from twin to twin without people noticing. The kids are okay-- they mildly stood out to me, mostly in that they were relatively easy to deal with--but they're nice enough. Not brats, but not perfect ether. You do feel sorry for them, not having a clue as to what is really going on but feeling like something is weird in their world anyway.
As for Garth himself....well. On the one hand, he's all for hiring women at his college and encouraging such, and reporting a bigwig when he denies tenure to a female professor that Garth is (just) friends with. I totally loved him for that. And then a female student walks in and offers him sex for a better grade, and Garth just starts foaming at the mouth with rage and calling her a whore to her face. OH YEAH, THAT'S NOT GONNA CAUSE A PROBLEM FOR YOU LATER ON OR ANYTHING. A fair amount of the plot in the latter half of the book is Garth's university drama as he deal with having to defend himself from charges. Again, Sabrina-phie comes through with flying colors as to how handle things, which I enjoyed. Overall, I think Garth is a good egg, but that "whore" moment was a really creepy moment that totally screwed with me. Not that I don't agree with Garth that it's irritating that a girl wants to sell herself for a grade when good female professors are just trying to get tenure and not have their entire lives seen through the prism of a vagina or whatever, but I wouldn't throw around words like "whore" and "cunt" to a student's face, even in the 80's. Never a good idea, Garth.
Overall, I'm going to give this four stars--it's a compelling read, what with the crazy problems two bored twins brought on themselves and all. But hoo boy, book two....
This is the first of two reviews I'm going to write about Jane Eyre adaptations, which I bought and read at about the same time. This one takes place in the modern era.
Disclaimer: since most people know the plot of Jane Eyre, I am going to
be spoilery throughout the entire review. Mostly because I
want to talk about the changes she made in the story and how they were
executed, and that's a pain in the butt to do behind the spoiler cut. Especially since well, you can probably guess a lot of how it's going to go here!
Jane Moore has always been awkward and disliked. Her parents weren't terribly thrilled with her, and her brother and sister are just complete wastes of space and air as human beings. But even with her awful family, Jane is...a girl out of time, I'd say. She's not exactly super social or into modern things, and is just generally awkward around other people. Her main interest in life is painting. She goes to Sarah Lawrence for college, but after her parents die and she's pretty much disinherited, she can't afford it any more and has to drop out and get a job.
Jane ends up getting a job as nanny to the daughter of Nico Rathburn, a famous (one of those legend types who hasn't been as prominent in recent years and is about to have a comeback--he's clearly modeled after Springsteen and the author confirms it at the end) guitar player and singer. She primarily gets the job because Jane is so out of touch with the rest of the world that she barely knows that the man exists, and primarily does because her brother played one of the man's albums incessantly. Jane likes the one album, but isn't so into the rest of his music at first. At any rate, she's an unlikely candidate to become a drooling fangirl and have that interfere with her work.
Well, you'd assume that, anyway. But Nico is taken with Jane despite her being poor and plain and generally quiet. Because she tells him what's what, she's honest, she's firm, and she can both give him respect and take him down a peg when he needs it. Despite her youth and awkwardness, they're a good match when they're having conversations. Buuuuuuut....the dude has a secret that will bust up their happy union.
What's good about this one:
We skipped through the school/Poor Harriet stuff in this one, which I was totally fine with. Jane's uninterested parents and shitty siblings are enough of a bad deal to have to live with, especially when they apparently ended up with all of the money.
I really like the idea of having "Rochester" be a rock star. It works really well for this time period and is just fun to read about. It especially adds needed contrast and status issues to the scenario, plus there's always that fascination that a lot of us have with musicians. The character works well in this dynamic, big time.
I liked how the "compare myself to the beauty of the other woman" scene was handled here, since Jane's an artist.
I liked the women who tried to befriend Jane, and wish they had succeeded. Didn't mind the "makeover" scene either.
Sex happens! The way it does with modern adults! Woo!
Actually explaining that Nico's wife has schizophrenia--and that he blames himself for her condition because he didn't know it ran in her family AND he introduced her to a metric fuckton of drugs that probably brought it on--really worked with the story. We even see Bibi in a moment of non-total-rage-crazy, which makes it more believable that Nico would still care about her enough to keep her safe. And Jane can't help but realize that if Bibi would take her medication, she could very well come back to him in some way enough for them to be together romantically again. That's a nice thing to see in this story, which is usually about how Rochester was forced into marrying this crazy bitch he doesn't care about and really, isn't he entitled to get someone else he wants even if he's still trapped with this one?
The "St. John" period is handled pretty well. This Jane only flees as far as New Haven, where she's taken in by the Rivers siblings--who in this story, aren't her long-lost relatives, nor does she come into any inheritance. Which is more plausible, so I'm fine with it. Apparently she manages to get a job without showing any ID (how is that happening now?! I guess Sinclair got her a pass there?), but other than that she sounds like she's staying off the grid and avoiding listening to the radio/TV and shopping at a co-op so she doesn't see tabloids. Note to self: should I ever break up with a famous musician and I need to stick my head in the sand so as to not know what happened to him, co-op shopping is totally the way to go! The only person that pegs her right off is a mentally ill homeless woman that the cops don't believe, so...it's a bit of a stretch, but I guess it works that Jane isn't noticed in plain sight, especially since she wasn't with Nico publicly for long.
Sinclair (St. John) is...pretty much the annoying modern version of the original. Though I do like that he admits to being socially awkward and not really good with small talk and making people feel comfortable.
The supernatural aspect of the story is completely replaced with a modern equivalent of a "sign"-- Jane finally hearing Nico's new song for her on the radio and being directed to see a documentary that was just made about him. While I've always liked the supernatural voices scene in the book, this worked well, even if the documentary seemed a little overly emphasized on Jane more than it seemed plausible.
Nico's hand being injured...yup, terrible for a guitar player. His sight was left alone, which was also just fine by me since that was always pretty weirdly implausible in the original (and the book I'll mention tomorrow).
I liked the ending, which fit just fine to me and wasn't all "babies ever after" for a 19-year-old. I like how Jane came into her own with some authority. Plus how Nico wondered if he was on some kind of drug trip when he saw her, hah.
What's not so good about this one:
One does wonder that the paparazzi/tabloids never bothered to
find out there was no divorce. That's...less believable in 2010. I've seen enough "so-and-so is now officially divorced" notices in magazines/online to think that someone would have kept track of that shit now.
Why the hell would Jane even give a shit about checking on her siblings, who make it clear that they have no use for her unless she can do something for them or give them money even though she's broke? I know she's nice and all, and it happened in the original, but she's not stupid. Other things got thrown out in this adaptation, so why not this bit?
Jane is...an odd character, I have to say. She's just so formal and from another world that it's hard to relate to her in some respects. It's like she sprung forth from Zeus's head or something, with little or no relation to how 19-year-olds operate in our culture. Or for that matter, how humans operate. I felt sorry for the folks who were trying to befriend her, but she's just too awkward or whatever to go for it. She's a nice enough girl, I suppose, but not exactly secretly brimming with the passion and will that the original girl had either. She's almost all wallflower, rather than being a passionate girl hiding in the closet about it. She has her moments, but I wasn't super attached to her, I guess. I was more attached to Nico.
Overall, I'm going to give it three and a half stars. Not bad for what it's going for.
Howard Barr is a werebear. He's from Alaska, an island called the Paw filled with werebears, he loves bear claws (and donuts in general) and pic-a-nic baskets, and he used to play for the Chicago Bears. I hate to say it, but damn, I love the sheer number of bear jokes that go on in this one. It was just fun. Anyhoo. while Howard is out of town, the folks he bodyguards are moving out of one home and into another. Boss lady Shanna's son Tino tells her about Howard's "adult videos" featuring "two guys and a girl" and "Big Al and the Hammer" and she's....unsurprisingly concerned. No worries--turns out Howard's got a crush on one of the stars of Home Wreckers International, a remodeling TV show. No, the crush isn't on Big Al(istair), thought that would have been funny. The crush is on the female star, Elsa, i.e. "Amazon Ellie." Shanna needs a house remodeled anyway, and decides to play matchmaker by getting the house on the show. However, she has a few weird caveats for the show folks, such as "My husband and I aren't around at all during the day and we can't be on camera" and "Don't mention that there's a school near here," which seems a little odd. Howard is put in charge of the whole operation, much to his delight. And Elsa's interested right back. They pretty much hit it off immediately and adorably.
However, when Howard touches Elsa for the first time, the weird claw-shaped birthmark she has on her shoulder burns like hell. This is something that Elsa's been told by the aunt that raised her is a Bad Thing. Turns out that Elsa and her aunts are guardians of water, sky, and forest--her aunts never bothered to tell her she's the girl who can talk to woodland creatures. And her aunts are BEYOND TERRIFIED of berserkers. What do I mean with regards to berserkers? Well, the original forest guardian was the one who created werewolves and werebears, but there was some weird vague/confusing betrayal going on, and a curse was thrown down. Supposedly the werewolves and werebears just became total rabid slaughtering machines (hence "berserker") and Elsa's aunts are pretty well convinced that Elsa's grandmother was killed by a werebear. They are also very convinced that now that Elsa has met a weredude, he will lose control and totally fucking slaughter her. They immediately get their butts to New York state and bring TONS AND TONS OF GUNS and follow Elsa to the house site daily generally scare the living shit out of Elsa every time she talks to them. It doesn't help either that Elsa keeps having dreams of having sex with a werebear, and then he starts to kill her.
So basically Elsa and Howard are going back and forth like a ping-pong game between "Awww, he's so sweet and adorable and perfect AWWWWWWWW" and "OMG HE MAY KILL ME." For pretty much the entire book.
Now, I know you gotta have a plot, you need a reason to not be together for awhile, etc. And "we're mutually cursed against each other for reasons that neither of us is entirely clear on because it's been so long since the original drama happened" is, I suppose, at least somewhat of a good reason. It's a little frustrating that both sides really don't know exactly what went down or who betrayed who and it's way too far back in the past to find that out for the most part. But after awhile, the berserker fear gets kind of ridiculous because Howard is a freaking teddy bear of a human being. He's spent his entire life not going nutterpants on the football field and not going nutterpants at work. Hell, he works at a school and babysits small children on a regular basis. When Elsa sees him as a bear, he doesn't go all "Mmm, lunch," he just noses her a bit. It's pretty obvious that the fears are totally unwarranted, and after awhile you just want to be all, "Okay, let's move on from the OMG BERSERKER thing and have her aunts get to know him already and calm the hell down." If there's one flaw in this book, that needed to happen sooner. And by the time "oh, btw, Howard probably killed his girlfriend" is brought up, I was just like, "Oh, come on already...."
I haven't mentioned the other main plotline of the book yet. Howard has an archnemesis named Rhett, who is head of all of the werewolves in Alaska. Howard trounced Rhett's ass quite a lot when they played football against each other, which as far as Rhett was concerned was enough to have a lifelong grudge against Howard. And to kill Howard's girlfriend and get him banished from Alaska for 20 years. Howard is currently conducting a quiet campaign against Rhett, with his best friend from the old hometowne (a reporter) writing exposes of Rhett's behavior. Howard is oddly circumspect on talking about this, and actually tries his best to NOT mention the dead girlfriend as a motivation for going after this dude. I honestly don't get why the hell he would go out of his way to not mention it to his friends and new girlfriend--it just eventually kicks in as yet another reason to hound Elsa into thinking Howard is a mouth-foaming killer, because Howard hasn't told her himself the whole story. Not a great move there.
I should probably dock this book by about half a star or so about the dragging on of the "Howard's a killer" thing. But...it was a really enjoyable book otherwise. I was saying "Awwwww!" a lot. The two of them are adorable together. Especially in scenes involving a pic-a-nic basket (I can't resist). It was a lot of fun to read about their courtship, and they're just good eggs to spend time with. This book is a keeper.
(Starred remarks will continue after the spoiler cut.)
Simon Malone was obsessed with looking for werewolves--which made his name mud in academia and got him killed. Now his widow, Diana, has become a cryptozoologist, looking for the weird animals to prove that he was right. She gets hired to look for a werewolf, which is supposedly running around the swamps of New Orleans. New Orleans isn't supposed to have wolves. However, there sure seems to be at least one running around somewhere. And people are getting killed and coming back from the dead--well, that's New Orleans for you, I guess. Diana makes friends with the local voodoo priestess, Cassandra--who's probably the best character in the book for being not what you'd expect and being surprisingly down to earth.
There's also a random hot dude, Adam Ruelle, who also hangs around the swamp and his rundown family estate. The Ruelles are rumored to be cursed--nobody ever has any daughters, and the last couple of generations before Adam killed themselves. Adam and Diana pretty much fall into bed immediately and there is tons and tons of hot sexxoring. If you're down with books in which there's paranormal species and lots of sexing, this book will be great for you. However.... as an actual relationship, this pretty much kinda bombs.
Adam is a weird character. He says next to nothing. He'll just walk off or drive off when he doesn't feel like talking. He refuses to answer much of anything, but is clearly leaving some weird kind of life where he seems to....sorta live in the swamp? Or someone else? How does the man have any money? He sure as hell doesn't seem to be employed at anything, and mostly just seems to...camp out. We're told that he was SUPER SEEKRIT SPECIAL FORCES, so top secret that everything's classified, and that he has Man Pain from teh horrorz he saw there--but yeah, we don't actually get into that. And he and Diana don't exactly seem to have a lot of conversations or find that they have things in common outside of the sack or anything. Frankly, it sounds like Dana and her dead husband actually like, had things in common and I'd be more inclined to root for him even though he's dead.
The whole plot of the book is basically waiting and waiting and waiting and waaaaaaaaaaiting to find out whether Adam is a werewolf or not.* And frankly, if not for the part where this is obviously supposed to be a book about werewolves, I'd think this dude was some other kind of paranormal creature. Like an incubus, because all he ever does is show up at night, call Diana "cher" a billion times (in annoyingly written out Cajun accent), screw her silly, and then stomp out before daylight. Again: great for sexing, not great for actually having me give a shit as to whether or not their love is so true and whether or not they have a future.** And it takes over 250 pages (out of 338 total) for us to actually goddamned find out the answer to that.* Which is far too long.
Look, some books can throw in surprises at the end, but when you very obviously advertise that this book is about werewolves or vampires--like, in the title--and then takes over half the book to get to the point of "oh, hey, there is definitely a vampire/werewolf in this," I just get annoyed and feel like I've been wasting my time. I thought about chucking this book a la How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire (referenced here), but decided that I'd try to drag through and finish this so I could make fun of it. (Note: Upon telling my boss about how this book takes so long to get to the point, and about how long it took Millionaire Vampire to do the same, she busted out laughting.)
And I haven't even gotten into the logic that the werewolf is supposedly cursed on the crescent moon rather than the full one. Why? Because (a) we're in the Crescent City, of course--seriously, that's the logic we're told--and (b) omg, that means the werewolf will have to transform TWICE in a month! OMG! ...Yeah....
Buuuuuuut...this is a rare book that starts out middling to not great and actually improves at the end. Which is to say that once they get to the Big Revelation, some actual plot gets going, THANK GOD. I'm inclined to say that it needed to get going by about page 150, though. That would have improved the book a lot. And the ending...well, it's kind of open ended and has a cloud over their heads. http://www.theromancereader.com/handeland-crescent.html This may bother some people. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but I guess if this is a regular series and they're going to bring these two back in later books--well, I guess I'm relatively okay with that.
So, what kept me going through this? Well, Diana is a personable character, and I enjoyed her narration. And Cassandra, when she shows up, is also fun. The voodoo aspects of the world are handled well. And yeah, there's lots of sexing. But as a romance, it's so-so, and as a mystery plot, it could be way better. Two and a half stars.
Note: This takes place in the same world as the Bridgerton novels (features LadyDanbury), and is the sequel to To Catch An Heiress, which I have not read. I've never been as amused with other books of this author's as I was of the Bridgerton series, but this isn't bad.
After her parents died, Elizabeth Hotchkiss was stuck with the care and feeding of her three younger siblings. While she's employed as companion to Lady Danbury, that's not exactly enough to live on, and her inheritance is running out. Of course, this being a Regency novel, that means the only way Elizabeth can provide for her siblings is to get married. But she hasn't the faintest idea as to how to do it, and it's not like there's any single dudes in her vicinity except one total creeper. So when she finds the book "How to Marry a Marquis" in her employer's library, she's desperate enough to read it.
And let me tell you, this is totally spoofing "The Rules." When the first edicts you read are the Regency equivalent to "Be a creature unlike any other" and "don't talk to him for longer than five minutes," well.... Since I hate "The Rules," I suddenly perked up at this book. Elizabeth isn't terribly thrilled with what she's reading, but hell, it's not like she's got anyone else to talk to about this. She decides that she might as well practice this stuff on the new estate manager, who is cute but presumably not rolling in it either.
As for the estate manager...James Sidwell, Marquis of Riverdale, is the nephew of Lady Danbury and an ex-spy. She summons him to help her with a problem--someone has sent her a couple of blackmail notes. Posing as her estate manager and using a fake last name (Siddons), James starts snooping. However, there's really only one likely suspsect--Elizabeth, who James sees peering at a red book in his house. (She got summoned to look for him and had a moment of panic when she saw a book with a similar copy to her own. It was Bacon's essays.) Of course they start chatting and flirting--though the "Rules" tricks go out the window in a hurry, as any sensible folk should do. Eventually James finds out why Elizabeth needs to marry, flips through the book and is all, "oh, COME ON, this woman clearly didn't talk to any men about this." Followed by, ""Suddenly that explains a lot about every woman who ever comes on to me in society." He declares that the only two things Elizabeth needs to know in pursuit of guys is how to kiss and how to punch if the kissing goes wrong. The only punching of dudes that she ever gets to do, however, is of James himself. So that went well.
Stuff I wasn't too thrilled with:
I hate the "clumsy heroine" thing and that's going on here. Ugh. Fuck the clumsy.
Speaking of punching lessons, there is a sudden near-rape scene that gives James a chance to be all He-Man and pull out his pistol and get threatening--which to be fair, gives Elizabeth her first clue that James has more to him than just estate management---but well, comes out of the blue. And much to my disappointment, Elizabeth never even gets a punch in, so what's the point of that? The only thing I really liked about that scene was Lady Danbury's cranky cat Malcolm both alerts James to the raping and then tries to comfort Elizabeth afterwards. Awwww.
James says he'll help Elizabeth find a marquis--but uh, at this point it just becomes awkward that he doesn't say, "Hey, look, I actually have a title and cash and could totally marry you." The author doesn't even really try to justify that--it has to be dragged out for stupid dramatic accidental revelations, which was annoyingly predictable.
James suddenly develops a poetic bent that really comes out of the blue towards the end, to the point where I wondered if some other dude had taken over his body. I know, I know, Twue Wuv and all that, but it just didn't seem right for the previously established character.
Stuff I did like:
Lady Danbury, of course. She's still cranky and yet surprisingly sweet. I love that about her.
The coupling in this one works well, overall.
The author takes care to put in a lot of amusing moments.
Bringing back Blake and Caroline from the previous book (and putting in a comment about how Blake says he should write a book about their courtship, but nobody would believe it...but he'd call it something about to catch an heiress) works well to give Elizabeth an adult voice to talk to in a crisis.
In the tradition of "Julia Quinn writes characters with tragic parental backstories well," I especially liked hearing about how James's dad was an abusive ass and he was rescued by Lady Danbury after his mother died. Yay Lady D!
The mystery of the blackmail letters peters out, but...well, let's just say that's to be expected, so I had no issue with that.
The ending followup to "How to Marry a Marquis" that Elizabeth writes is a darned good response. With commentary attached.
Overall, I'm going to give it three stars. A fun enough story overall, just had some off issues that got to me.
Fiona Bristow is a dog trainer living on an island in Washington. She has 3 dogs trained in search and rescue techniques. She gets involved with a new client, wood artist Simon Doyle. Simon got gifted with a new puppy--dubbed "Jaws" for good reason-- and he needs help. Fiona takes him on as a client and starts dating him. He's a naturally cranky dude, and god knows he isn't super sensitive. But he's all right as a guy, and Fiona is a tough lady, so it works.
When she was 20 years old, Fiona was targeted and attacked by a serial killer who liked to go after college girl runners. However, Fiona always traveled with a pocketknife in her shorts and managed to get herself free, cut the dude, grab his car and get away. Unfortunately, the "Red Scarf Killer," Perry, made her pay for that by killing her cop fiance and his service dog. However, that kill got him caught and put away for life. But Perry has trained a protege in prison, and that new guy is out killing women with scarves again. Fiona's going to be the prize target. But as Fiona points out, giving her warning was a bad idea, and she's still not gonna get caught.
That's...about it, really. Nice scenes of Fiona in love and/or doing dog training, interspersed with the killer stuff, and an annoying-as-hell reporter who pretty much stalks Fiona herself, and well, pays for it. It's an entertaining enough read in the moment, with well done characters and all that...but not massively memorable after reading it either. Three and a half stars.
I tend to like "exes reunite" sorts of books in general. This is a combination of that and Romeo and Juliet, except with less deadly consequences.
Lyra Dore, amber tuner (specializing in amethyst rocks and custom tuning to a person's individual wavelengths) and independent prospector, was dating a fellow named Cruz Marlowe for three months. It was going very well until he turned out to actually be Cruz Sweetwater, scion of the big-deal Sweetwaters of Amber Inc. When Lyra found an awesome amethyst ruin in the catacombs below the city, Cruz promptly poached the thing in a hostile takeover. Lyra sued and lost big time. Naturally, she's ticked as all hell. This is also pretty similar to what happened between his grandfather and hers after Big Jack Sweetwater ended up with Granddaddy Dore's claim in a poker game (not to mention, made off with his girlfriend). There's a lot of feuding here, and Lyra's had to take up meditation classes to calm her ass down. A secret admirer keeps sending her orchids, but she's not in the mood to go for it.
Cruz, for his part, has some kind of psychic "this is the one" thing going on in his gene pool, and he knows Lyra is "the one." Well, you know, if she wasn't so pissed at him. So he's been well, sulking around as the entire family makes comments about how she broke his heart. But he has an excuse to contact her after five people get trapped in the ruin. Lyra would love to let him hanging on this one, but she won't let innocent people die, so she rescues them. She and Cruz start hanging around and dating again, despite her rage and a lot of Sweetwater vs. Dore cracks on both their parts. There's a weird case going on that uh...to be honest, I was kind of losing interest in once it came to a head, but it seems to be involving framing Lyra for something.
As usual...it's kind of same old, same old in this series. Not much ever really stands out about the case or the romance. As another reviewer said, if it wasn't drummed into our heads about Cruz's broken heart, you couldn't tell. Lyra is feisty, but after awhile shit gets repetitive. "So, you're the woman who broke Cruz's heart" gets reaaaaally old, for more than just Lyra. I appreciated her finally having a giant outburst about it when the last straw was dropped for her. There were a few moments that stood out here and there for one reason or another, but mostly it's just another bland romance with pretty rocks, psychic powers, and dust bunnies. And we all know by now I'm here for the dust bunnies.
At one point Lyra says, "That has never happened before. Not unless I used a small personal care appliance." BWAHAHAHAH. Who talks like that? She's not a grown-ass enough woman to say vibrator? (Or "ain't had nothing betwixt my nethers weren't run on batteries.")
I was amused as all hell that the bad guy turned out to be...well, look below the spoiler space.*
As per my love of dust bunnies, there is one in this book. Lyra's little buddy Vincent is an artist and loves to paint--canvas optional. Lyra and her gallery owner BFF Nancy are selling Vincent's works under the name "Chimera." I found this plotline to be very amusing.**
This is book 3 in the series, book 5 is already reviewed here.
Emma Wallace is part of the CIA's Stake-Out Team, an anti-vampire group dedicated to offing all vamps. It's run by a fellow with a massive grudge against the species--especially since his daughter married and got impregnated(!) by one. Emma has a similar grudge after vampires murdered her parents. So she goes around slaying vampires, with personalized stakes marked "Mum" and "Dad."
In these books, we have the "bad vampires" (Malcontents/True Ones) and the "good vampires" (which, as is pointed out in this book, don't have a cute team name of their own). The good vampires notice that there's a slayer around, and (a) fear for this person's life since they are going up against bad guys while still human, (b) they'd rather the slayer be a bit more discriminatory as to who they slay, and (c) the bad vampire coven* will think the good guys are in league with the slayer and that will cause more trouble. So head security vampire Angus MacKay figures out who the slayer is--gets the hots for her at first sight of her picture--and goes in personally to talk her out of this. It takes awhile. Because even though Emma and Angus are immediately smack dab in love and hormones at first sight/at first snark (they start making jokes and talking dirty right off, even if she's plotting on killing him!), it's a slow process to convince her of good vampires. And then that leads to, y'know, some awkwardness with regards to her work.
* their definition of coven...I dunno, I don't think they're actually practicing magic here. I still don't get why coven = "has a harem" either.
The current co-heads of the bad vampire coven are two women who um...seem kinda dumb and bimbo-y...and one of them is Angus's ex-girlfriend. When she hears that the head evil vampire is after her, she swears she'll catch the slayer and Angus and off them both. Eventually she does, leading the two of them into captivity and the dilemmas that come from being locked up with a hungry vampire deprived of his bottles of blood. Sexy, yet awkward! And possibly life-threatening!
This is pretty fun fluff. Even though I kind of felt like Angus and Emma's relationship moved at the speed of monorail to the point of being too fast, they work together well and have great banter. There's the occasional "oh, noes, we can't be together!" moment brought up on both sides, and then they promptly ignore that silliness altogether. I enjoyed the introduction of Phineas, a newly vamped fellow who's happy to move out of the bad vampire group, and the handling of Shanna's dad's feelings was done pretty well. I also liked how the book ended, which was fitting to the characters. On the other hand, I still find the handling of the bad vamps to be pretty uninteresting, and I was not thrilled that every female other than Emma and Shanna and Darcy (y'know, the other heroines in the series) was a dumb bimbo either.
Note: this is book 5 in the series. Book 3 is reviewed here.
A few years ago, I read "How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire," the
first book in this series. It's not reviewed here because I didn't
finish it. The book featured a human dentist who is recruited to fix up a
vamp after his fang breaks and it has to be fixed before he goes to bed
for the day. (I would also like to point out that the millionaire
scientist genius vamp is also a former monk who has a live-in harem. A
HAREM. What the FUCK in a romance novel?) I already wasn't terribly into
the book the more it went on, what with those kind of plot details that
came off as fucking silly, but it hit wallbanger status when I reached
200 pages and the heroine had yet to find or figure out that vampires
exist. 200 pages was over the halfway point of this book--a vampire
book--and she still doesn't know? I declared the book stupid and gave up
Cut to last week or so, when I picked up Interview With The Vampire
and this book at the same time. Not paying attention to who the author
was, I thought it would be funny to review these books in a row, plus
this is an actual holiday book being reviewed around the holidays. Then
as I picked it up, I thought, "Oh, crap, this is THAT author who can't
be arsed to reveal vampires after 200 pages, the dumb one. Argh."
I am happy to report that this book is a lot better than the one I didn't finish. Huzzah.
Ian MacPhie is a 400+ year old Scottish vampire/security agent. He
got vamped to save his life when he was 15 years old, so much like
Claudia in Interview, he's spent his immortal life having problems with
having a young bod in an old brain. People didn't tend to take him
seriously or offer him promotions, he never could successfully woo the
lady vampires, and the only way he could get laid/fed with human ladies
was to mind control them into thinking he wasn't jailbait. But luckily
for Ian, Roman (from the other book) has created a drug: It lets a
vampire stay awake all day long, at the cost of aging him or her one
year. Ian took it for twelve days and aged himself up to 27. I gather it
was a painful process, what with the rapid puberty and all. But now he
looks adult and he's ready to find twue wuv. Preferably with a lady
vamp, because he's sick of lying and wants to be honest about who and
what he is. A friend of his writes him the world's juiciest dating
profile (mentioning his buckets of money and castle, apparently) and he
is constantly called and harassed and come on to by ladies and a few
gents for the rest of the book. Ian finds this very awkward.
Toni Davis has a huge problem. Her best friend and roommate Sabrina
got attacked by vampires, and got locked away in a mental hospital for
it. Toni figures that if she can find proof vampires exist, she can
discreetly show it to a legal or medical professional (who she thinks
would be bound by client confidentiality--er, I dunno about this) and
get Sabrina let go. To this end, she put herself out as bait on a dark
night, got attacked, mind controlled, and bit up the wazoo; and was
rescued by another Scottish vampire from Ian's security company. That
fellow ended up offering Toni a job as a daytime/mortal guard for
vampires, which Toni took so she could get proof. Even though as part of
the job, she had to swear to not hurt the vamps under her care. To her
credit, she doesn't intend to, though one might reasonably think she
needs to think her plan through a wee bit more. As the story goes on,
the "proof of vamps" thing pretty much erodes away once Toni and her
neighbor Carlos find/figure out that Sabrina's aunt and uncle plan on
hospitalizing her for life so they can get ahold of Sabrina's
inheritance, which she can get once she graduates from college. It'll
take some supernatural intervention to break that girl out of jail.
Anyhoo, Toni and Ian meet at work, she finds out he's a vamp right
off, and they hit it off rather adorably. There's the
required-but-semi-lame plot contrivances keeping them apart--Ian's
"vamps only" policy (though since Toni knows what he is right off, come
on) and Toni's "no dating coworkers" job rule, combined with "when you
quit, you get a memory wipe of this vampire stuff" thing. None of this
ever strikes the reader as much of a real scary threat, and indeed, it's
not that big of a deal.
As for the actual plot of this book, it
revolves around the Malcontents, i.e. vamps who like to attack people
and refuse to live off True Blood
the blood substitute Roman invented for nice vampires to drink.
(Amusingly enough, there are blood-infused liquors for folks. Blissky
and Bleer, anyone?) The head bad guy dude finds out about the Stay Awake
drug, which they'd like so they can slaughter their enemies in their
sleep. Ian is fairly quickly outed because of the aging + having the
biggest hit dating profile ever ever ever, so they want him to come up
with the drug.
Things I liked about this:
Ian and Toni's relationship is cute, sweet, and plausible.
the "gay best friend"/neighbor, is pretty funny. You figure out he has a
secret about halfway through--and it's easily guessed what-- but what
comes after the revelation is pretty amusing and even fits with the
plot. I deeply enjoyed Toni's jokes about it, and what she found out
about her boss as well. It seemed weird that he was declared to be straight in this book, though. Uh, hard to tell....
Sabrina reasonably takes awhile to get used to the whole vampire community thing.
Toni and Sabrina's life goal is a pretty sweet one, and in some ways could tie into the paranormal lifestyle.
Even though I wasn't overly fond of Shanna in the first book, she comes off well in this one.
was amused by the few lines that the TV news anchor, "Stone Cauffyn,"
has in this book. At one point the bad guy has him and in total disgust,
is all, "This man is boring. I can't even sense any fear from him. Let
him go." Stone's response is, "I must say, that is rather good news."
Then he gets annoyed at people finding him boring. HAH.
author actually *gasp* uses clinical terminology for genitalia and
sexual related acts, which I deeply appreciate because if anyone writes
"cum" or cute little words for the clitoris, I start gagging. I laughed
my head off at one sex scene in particular for making an "oops" scenario
work so well.
The ending is a nice compromise scenario for a vampire novel.
Stuff that was a wee bit weak:
Every time someone tries to write out Scottish vernacular, I...am never quite sure how it comes off.
"free Sabrina" plan was, well, a bit weak in places plausibility-wise.
Didn't seem like she thought it through enough. But it was not nearly as
bad as the previous book's lack of plausibility, so okay, I'll live.
constant hordes of screaming girls thing gets old. Especially since both the human and vamp ones are all super bimbo dumb. There are no viable candidates from
vampland to be a rival to Toni? Seriously, as far as I can tell, the entire female vampire population in this book are all vain and dumb or at least super self-involved. Vanda (the writer of the ad) comes off the best, but it's still not great. Since the human women seem to be the only smart ones around in the big city, it makes me wonder if getting vamped somehow lowers the IQ points of the ladies. Okay, so maybe the ones in the harem were picked for their stupidity, but still, ugh.
While on the one hand, I deeply enjoyed Toni's
frustration at taking Ian's phone calls and messages throughout the
day--and how this led her to write "Hot Hot Studmuffin, For A Good Time
Call Travis" on his shirt while he slept-- is that a super good idea to
do when you are on employment probation and know you are on video at all
times? Oddly enough, this isn't even mentioned as a little tacky to do
to a guy who's technically your client.
I tended to forget about the bad-guys-after-the-drug plot quite a lot. It wasn't nearly as interesting as the rest of the book.
appreciate that our main featured vamps in this book are such good guys
that they literally all dress up as Santa and deliver toys to the good
poor girls and boys. (Yes, really. For all of the people who were all,
"Oh noes Twilight vamps baseball!," I'm pretty sure this must top it.)
It's a holiday novel as well. However, it does seem pretty easy for
these former predator types to ah, not have much/any issues with holding
back the bloodlust and remaining good guys.
Overall, I'm giving it three and a half stars. It's a little weak in spots, but overall it was an enjoyable read.