Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Mary Jones

As a reader who’s old enough to know better and young enough to not care, I’ve breezed through the gamut of everything books have to offer. As a child, I used to spend summer days happily ensconced in one of the Philadelphia public libraries, reading everything and anything I could get my hands on, thanks to the love and support of my parents and aunts – teachers, mothers and/or librarians all. One aunt started me with Nancy Drew books (whose pages are worn from hundreds of re-reads) while another thought I needed introduced to C.S. Lewis’s land of Narnia. By the time I was 8, I’d read everything the library’s children’s section had to offer and had “graduated” to the adult room downstairs. Fortunately for my very supportive parents’ sanity, I didn’t discover romances until college. My days are currently spent working in law enforcement (dispatchers unite!), working with first responders, and trying to dig my writer/editor/reviewer husband out from his latest pile of books. I’m a devoted fan of all manner of romance (though I prefer my romance to have a hint of laughter and self-awareness), mysteries, and urban fantasy.

Posts by Mary Jones:

REVIEW:  In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

REVIEW: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

In Your Dreams Kristan Higgins

Dear Ms. Higgins:

Ok, I admit it, any book that begins with a strong heroine almost getting to use her Taser automatically has an edge with me. Add in the fact that the female protagonist is in law enforcement, is a firm believer in the use and abuse of common sense, and loves dogs? I’m hooked. I’m right there with you. It’s all the best parts of contemporary romance wrapped up in a neat little package.

Emmaline Neal is a small town girl living and working as a deputy in the tiny New York hamlet where she spent her high school – and happiest years. Jack Holland is a multi-generational vintner and has always been the town’s golden boy, but that reputation skyrockets when he saves some of the town’s teen boys from drowning in a freezing lake on a cold winter’s night. For years, they’ve orbited each other, moving in the same social circle, but never moving together. Well, until Em gets the invitation for her former fiance’s wedding.

Em needs a date – fast. And Jack wants out of the limelight – and away from the ex-wife from hell. It’s a match made in heaven – right?

With wit and some surprising passion, you managed to make me fall in love with both characters. Not only did I want to BE Em, I wanted to hug her. I wanted to beat her ex about the head and shoulders with his own stupidity (though, to say that he got what was coming to him is putting it SO mildly. I somehow got the sneaking suspicion that you’re not a Jillian Michaels fan). I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that you let us into Em’s head and let us feel right along with both her and Jack as they took their literal and metaphorical journeys.

And that brings me to the part of the book that absolutely blew me away and made me fall in love with your writing all over again. When you took me deep into Jack’s psyche and introduced me to the ghosts that haunted this gorgeous, intelligent, amazing man – I broke, just a little. You handled his psychological journey with compassion and an amazing amount of wisdom. The fact that Jack was able to save all but one of the boys (though that one was still alive, just in a coma) made what he did seem more realistic. Anyone in the first responder field – from law enforcement to EMS to firefighters – has learned the hardest lesson of all: Not everyone will come out of a traumatic event and make a quick recovery. And the second hardest lesson is that every time a first responder works a traumatic call, they leave a little piece of themselves behind. I’ve found that some romance authors have a difficult time with balancing an accurate portrayal of human response to crisis situations with the romantic storyline. You handled this with such poise and dignity, I wanted to grab a hundred copies of the book and hand them out to everyone I know, yelling “THIS! Someone did it right!”

Now, lest you think everything is 100% positive… I have to take just a couple points off for The Bitter Betrayed Book Club and Em’s wishy-washiness. While I love the idea of the Bitter Betrayeds, the ladies came across as a little too stereotypical, a little too bitter and just a touch too…much overall. And Em, while generally strong, really seemed to struggle a little too much over her fiance’s defection. Of course, the way he did it, I’m not surprised she had issues. But she just seemed too waffle-ish for me, especially about her appearance. Some might say she had good reason, but on the other hand, at some point, a woman just has to suck it up and love herself for who she is.

Overall? I loved the book. The wedding from hell was…wow. I’ve heard of destination and theme weddings before, but forcing guests to stay at an all-vegan, all-healthy, super-high-energy-workout resort? Well, let’s just say that Dante called. He’s adding another circle just for the resorts where Snickers bars make the staff go into Richard Simmons’ paroxysms of panic. A-

Still Shuddering over the Brown Rice Cake with Prunes,

Mary Kate

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REVIEW:  Songbird’s Seduction by Connie Brockway

REVIEW: Songbird’s Seduction by Connie Brockway

The Songbird's Seduction by Connie Brockway

Dear Ms. Brockway,

I’ll say it right from the beginning – you got me with The Songbird’s Seduction. The teaser intrigued me quite a bit, and when I started reading it, I was absolutely and completely drawn in. It’s rare that I find a historical romance that’s not set in or near the Regency period or the American west. To have one set comfortably in the Edwardian era, with a heroine who doesn’t exactly come across as a proper young woman is surprisingly daring – and wonderfully delicious. I won’t say that it was a book I couldn’t put down – I couldn’t quite read it straight through. But it was a book I was quite happy to go back to.

Lucille Eastlake, Lucy to her friends and admirers, is a young woman who, as a child, was orphaned and given into the care of two genteel maiden great-aunts after bouncing from one relative to the next. Each of those relatives taught her something different – none of it exactly proper, or legal. Lavinia and Beatrice, the great aunts who took Lucy in, rounded out her education with everything that a proper young woman should know. The only problem they have is money – they have none. What little Lucy brings in is thanks to her work as a chanteuse of the stage – one whose face graces collectible cards. And it’s money on everyone’s mind when Aunt Lavinia learns that she is to soon have a share in a small fortune of rubies – if only she, Bernice and Lucy can get to a small town in France where everyone is supposed to meet. Enter Professor Ptolomy Archibald Grant – whom Lucy promptly nicknames Archie. He’s the grandson of the man who loved – and left – Lavinia. What follows is an almost farcial comedy of errors that makes Gilligan’s Island look like one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces.

The characterization all through the book was absolutely wonderful. I adored the little peeks into Lucy’s mind contrasting with Archie’s (usually) more structured thought patterns. The story is, quite simply, what happens when you mix an absolutely repressed gentleman with a volatile imp of a woman who has little to no thought for propriety – and is a mischief-making mastermind. Mix the two, shake once or twice, then sit back and watch the fireworks blossom across the sky. The resulting show is quite impressive. Lavinia and Bernice were the perfect sweet little ladies who very much needed to get out of their quiet little world. And who better to escort them in Lucy’s absence than her friend Margery – a man who makes a quite lucrative living on the stage as a female impersonator. How could the old dears deny Lucy’s bosom friend and fellow entertainer, Mrs. Marjorie Martin? Every time Margery / Marjorie appeared on screen, as it were, I could hear Nathan Lane’s voice in my head and visualize the body movements.

I have to quibble just a little with the length of time Archie and Lucy spend together getting into (and out of) scrapes. It felt a little bit like they kept bouncing from one bad situation to another with little regard to plausibility. No matter what the situation, actress Lucy had an answer for everything and a way to get them on to the next leg of what seemed like an impossible journey. There were times I wanted to take a rolled up newspaper to both of them for the sheer and utter idiocy of their decisions – which, well, was most likely your whole point.

I really enjoyed the refreshing view of a slightly different period of time. It was a breath of fresh air, different from the norm, as it were. The madcap pacing and oftentimes absurd situations both brought a grin to my face and frustrated me to no end. It was a little difficult, at first, to connect with things – but once I gave it a couple chapters, the story drew me in and kept me all the way to the end. B-

Eagerly Looking for More,

Mary Kate

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