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Jane Graves

REVIEW:  Baby, It’s You by Jane Graves

REVIEW: Baby, It’s You by Jane Graves

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With only the wedding dress on her back and her honeymoon luggage in the car, Kari Worthington is running away. Determined to put her controlling father, her rigidly structured life, and the uptight groom she left at the altar in her rearview mirror, she escapes to the Texas Hill country . . . and lands on a tall, dark, and gorgeous winery owner’s doorstep. All she needs is a job and a place to live until she can get back on her feet. So why is she fantasizing about losing herself in his powerful arms?

For Marc Cordero, freedom is so close he can taste it. He’s devoted his life to managing the family business and being a single dad. Now with his daughter away at college and his brother taking over the winery, Marc is ready to hop on his Harley for parts unknown-until a runaway bride bursts onto the scene. Free-spirited and tantalizingly sexy, Kari excites him like no other woman has before. But when irresistible passion turns into something more, will Marc give up his future to take a chance on love?

Dear Ms. Graves,

The blurb and what it brought to mind grabbed my attention when this book was offered to us for possible review. The idea of a runaway bride in her wedding dress made me think of “Smoky and the Bandit” with Sally Fields ending up in a car with Burt Reynolds while peeling off her wedding dress as they roar down the back roads of 4 southern states with Sheriff Buford T. Justice hot in pursuit. Okay so the book ended up having almost nothing more in common with the film but it did make me want to read it.

Well the actual book starts off great. I loved the humor, I loved the heroine, I loved the hero’s laconic way of speaking and acting which brings Kari up short – when pressed to help her out of her mud caked wedding dress with its millions of small buttons down the back Marc thinks a second and then replies that no …, no he really doesn’t have to. I loved the pet themed B&B Marc leaves Kari at and I adored Gus, the proprietor who is obviously storing up the whole encounter for the next day’s gossip sessions in this small town. I was floating on a happy cloud.

Then the cloud started raining just a little as things slow down a mite. Two one note villains appear – and really all the bad guys in the story are fairly one dimensional – but thankfully disappear soon after and never bother us again. Kari struggles to fit into a job she’s not suited for and while Marc begins to show more of his responsible side in helping her out, getting a plan for her life and dealing with her blistered feet, he’s not quite as funny to me as he goes about it. Then comes a scene that should clue in advanced Romance readers of a plot point to come. There’s a lot of talking going on among these people but not much listening.

Things then get really messy with everyone coming home to roost at various times which makes for life altering changes and seeing dreams/promises in a new light. I got mad at some of these characters. Well, I got mad at most of them but then I realized that the emotions and reactions are so realistic that my reaction is belief in what’s happening on the page rather than eye rolling. Real, strong emotions can get messy. Life is messy. Not everyone behaves well when things don’t go as they’d like, expect or think they want. So, this is good. Exasperating at times but still good.

The plot snarls get untangled quickly with the page count running out but it’s done in believable ways – Angela’s junior college plan, Daniel’s happiness at Marc finally acknowledging faith and pride in his IT accomplishments, Marc figuring out that the open road can be lonely and it’s nice to live around friendly faces who know him and whom he knows and that he’s excited about the future because he’s good at what’s about to come. Kari realizing she doesn’t want to leave Rainbow Valley – well, she’d kind of already realized that earlier. It’s a good lesson in what we think we want may not always be what we need or – even what we really want. After the book took a turn from the fantastic opening, I wasn’t sure I’d like the change but the story ended up being deeper and more realistic than it would have otherwise been. B

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves

REVIEW: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves

Dear Ms. Graves,

Lately I’ve been trying to read more new-to-me authors and when your latest book, “Heartstrings and Diamond Rings” landed in my arc pile, it was fate. I had heard you have a good reputation for humor and this story certainly backs that up. That plus good hero/heroine snappy dialogue are what makes the book for me.

Heartstrings and Diamond Rings	Jane GravesAfter her latest long term relationship disaster, Alison Carter ends venting and crying to her best friend Heather. Where have all the good men gone and why can’t she find one? Alison isn’t really asking for much – just a decent guy who wants to settle down, raise a family or at least a date who won’t ask her if she’s interested in a threesome. Heather urges Alison to try a matchmaker – not just Match.com but a real, live, old fashioned matchmaker and then offers the clincher that the woman had matched one of Heather’s coworkers who will now be headed down the aisle in a month or so.

With nothing to lose except – hopefully – bad dates Alison makes the call then arrives for her appointment to discover that Rochelle died two weeks ago and her grandson Brandon Scott is taking over the business. A little shocked at first – because what guy knows anything about romance or what a woman wants – Alison lets herself get talked into taking the $1500 plunge for five matches. But despite all he tells her, little does she know that Brandon has no interest in love, romance or matchmaking. Instead he sees this as his chance to earn the quick cash that he needs to enter a real estate partnership after which it’s adios to Dallas.

Yet as Brandon attempts to do what he’s being paid for in order to keep being paid, he starts to fall for Alison and her trusting nature. Is there any way he can keep from breaking her heart since he’s never pictured himself as the “9-5 with a family” kind of guy? Or when he’s earned what he needs, will he head on down the road?

To me this is a very funny book. I especially love Alison’s blow by blow recounts of her dates to Brandon. Yeah, they might be exaggerations – at least I hope no woman has gone through these for book research purposes – but the ways in which these men are so awful as dates is wickedly inventive fun. My favorite is the Pharmaceutical rep with bonus points to you for getting the police involved on the date.

I also love the kittehs in the story. I grew up with Siamese and can testify to their rwonks! Lucy, Ethel and Ricky are lucky to have found such a good home and loving cat slave who’ll accept their early morning drag races down the hall.

Alison is lost at times in the glory that is Brandon without his shirt on as he tries to fix his broken AC but she isn’t tongue tied around him for long nor does she fall over things or engage in other twatish nonsense to show how hotly she lusts for his bod. It’s also nice that though she physically doesn’t change at all, and Brandon doesn’t initially think she’s more than just a nice girl who’s okay to look at, by the end of the book he’s totally fallen for her – he’s smitten and wanting the best for her. He wonders – as he’s still trying to set her up – if there’s any man out there who’s good enough for her. Then after he decides he’s too in love with her to ever leave, he makes the supreme sacrifice and does something just because he knows she’ll love it. This is what I like to see from a hero – that he’s a man who’s either noticed what his heroine likes or he’s willing to do something that he thinks he’ll hate just for her.

You did surprise me by not bringing a certain character from Brandon’s past back into the story for which I thank you. Brandon also doesn’t use this person or his childhood to have “sworn off romance for all times!!” No, he just doesn’t think he’s cut out for staying in one place for long, that’s all. This is such a nice change from what I’ve come to expect from not just historical but also some contemporary heroes.

The secondary characters are great in the story from Heather and her husband Tony to Alison’s dad – whom I loved for his plain spoken bluntness and the pistol packing Bea. This is Texas after all. And it’s not just Alison and Brandon who are funny together but all these people. This works as an ensemble piece.

Another thing I like is that Alison ends up helping Brandon almost as much if not more than he helps her by using her marketing skills. When I had mentioned at DA that I was reading this book, a reader questioned whether or not Alison comes off as pathetic because she wants to be married so badly. Her competency here is part of the reason that, to me, she didn’t. Beyond her job skills though, you give Alison a background from which it makes sense that she wants marriage and a family: her best friend is happily married and Alison’s suffered some family losses that would lead her to want to establish her own.

The changes in Brandon are gradual, begin at the halfway point and the HEA doesn’t depend on some last minute change of heart that I’ll find too quick. But he’s not all RomanceLand hero – he does his share of smoothly checking out the neckline of Alison’s little black dress, her slutty pink shoes and he takes a lot of pleasure in watching her position herself for a pool shot.

I love a book that amuses me as it entertains me and if this is the typical style you write, I think I’m going to enjoy seeing what else out there you’ve got. B

~Jayne

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