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Margaret Way

REVIEW: Beauty and the Greek by Kim Lawrence and Olivia and the Billionaire Cattle King by Margaret Way

REVIEW: Beauty and the Greek by Kim Lawrence and Olivia and...

Dear Ms. Lawrence:

It’s not that I don’t love an ugly duckling story or that I can’t appreciate the ridiculousness that is a Harlequin Presents and I totally am on board for the nice alpha male.   But I cannot stand a dumb effacing heroine.

Elizabeth Farley has been the efficient secretary of Andreas Kyriakis for three years and she harbors what she thinks is a secret yen for him.   When he announces that he needs her help picking out an engagement ring, the ordinarily efficient and unflappable Beth falls apart.   Theo, Andreas’ older brother, finds Beth in tears and Andreas in a clinch with his new love, Arianna.   Arianna happens to be Theo’s former fiance, who cuckholded him years ago.   Theo harbors no flame for Arianna but does want to prevent his brother from marrying the faithless whore (my words, not Theo’s but you know he is thinking them).

Theo looks at Beth and sees an opportunity.   He’ll remake her, pretend that they are lovers and Andreas will come running after Beth. Beth dresses like a frump because her grandmother raised to dress in this manner.   But with the right hair cut and the right clothes, Beth’s a woman that even Theo has a hard time not chasing after. (and not that I don’t think this can’t happen as I watch What Not to Wear and am amazed at the transformations).

There are some attempts at providing depth to both characters (Beth’s endless devotion to her grandmother and Theo’s interest in art that was subsumed by the family business when his eldest brother died) but those were never fully fleshed out and therefore seemed unnecessary. What really became just incredibly irritating was Beth’s constant putting herself down even in the face of Theo’s matter of fact declarations that she was gorgeous and sexy.   By the fourth or fifth time, I wanted to pound my Kindle and scream ‘yes, we get it! you are a self effacing martyr!’

Additionally the two go to plotting against Andreas to “I love yous” in such a rapid fashion that I felt like I was watching sprinters hopped up on HGH at the 100 meter dash.   C-*

Best regards,

Jane

*Fans of the ugly duckling might like this because even if Beth is irritating (and she is), Theo is a pretty decent guy.

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Dear Ms. Way:

I can’t believe there are still more Balfour sisters’ stories to write.   Let me just start with something I think none of the books really came out and said. Oscar Balfour, the father of 8 girls with at least three different women, is an asshole of the greatest proportions. I am not sure what the series outline said for these books, but that he wasn’t excoriated and humiliated in some fashion is a friggin’ tragedy.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Oscar Balfour couldn’t keep his dick in his pants, has been married several times, cheated on his wives and the end result is 8 daughters to whom he generally abandoned in the pursuit of building a bigger fortune than the one he already possessed.   During the 100th Balfour Ball, the Balfour girls engage in behavior that results in a scandal (or a greater scandal than already existed).   Self righteously Oscar dispatches his girls to the ends of the earth   to learn to uphold the “Balfour Family Rules, a code of conduct that had been passed down from generation to generation within the Balfour family”, generally with the help of some very wealthy man.   Misogyny alert.   If a reader can get past that distasteful setup (for which I know none of the authors are responsible as this series thing is presented to them by someone inside Mills & Boon), this whole Balfour series has been a pretty good read.

Olivia Balfour is the oldest of the Balfour sisters.   Since the death of her mother, Olivia has been part mother, part hostess, all dutiful daughter.   She’s lived the life of moral rectitude while her twin sister, Bella, lives the glamorous life with the platoon of slavering men following after Bella.   Olivia has had two tepid love affairs.   To hear that her father is disappointed in her and that she needs to learn humility is lowering but Olivia has spent her whole life trying to achieve her father’s approval and this is just another task to achieve toward fulfillment of that goal.

Oscar sends Olivia to Clint MacAlpine, a cattle baron who lives in Darwin, Australia, whose sole interaction with Olivia was at a couple of parties where he says she needs to be taken down a peg or two, for her own good.

This book, in part, is an ode to Darwin and the wild beauty of the land and the open heart of the people that live there.   Clint acts as guide for Olivia throughout the territory and, at times, I did feel as if I was reading a travelogue of sorts. I also resented Clint for being a know it all.   Yes, he was glorious, magnetic, amazing but also super insightful (per the text).

He was looking at her steadily, openly challenging her, but she could only feign a nonchalant shrug. "You must have defective reasoning powers if you think I'm lonely or insecure." It seemed imperative to get back to her old form.

He appeared to acknowledge just that. "Olivia, I don't want you to feel threatened by anything I say. I'm merely pointing out you spend a lot of time protecting your image. Be yourself. That's my advice.”

Clint is responsible for Olivia’s remaking, unfortunately.   I felt like he walked around with a perpetually mocking and amused gaze.   But I did like Olivia, her earnestness to better herself whether it is to be a better daughter or a better person.   She recognized her repressiveness and opened herself up to the possibility of love.   Her story arc fit the setting.   Darwin was a land that was a pioneer outpost that flourished into a modern city that was decimated by a cyclone in the 70s and rebuilt.   There was a nice symmetry between Darwin, the city, and Olivia’s growth, but I could have lived without the mystical overtones.   The prose was a bit obvious and melodramatic at times but perhaps that was to reflect Clint, the more overtly emotional of the two? I couldn’t be sure.   In all, I enjoyed the Balfour girls’ books and was glad I read all eight. ** C

Maybe if we had matched Olivia with Theo, I would have come away more satisfied.

Best regards,

Jane

**I liked Emily and the Notorious Prince by India Grey, Zoe and the Tormented Tycoon by Kate Hewitt, and Bella and the Merciless Sheikh by Sarah Morgan the best.

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Dear Author

REVIEW: Cattle Baron: Nanny Needed by Margaret Way

Dear Ms. Way,

I had heard your name mentioned when Australian writers were being discussed. And with “Paperback Hero” fresh on my brain, I decided to try “Cattle Baron: Nanny Needed” when I saw it at the eharlequin site.

Amber Wyatt knows she’s going to cause a scene when she shows up at her ex-fiance’s wedding to the granddaughter of the filthy rich Sir Clive Erskine. In fact, she’s planning on it. But despite what the bride’s mother, in her awful hat, might think, Amber has something tasteful in mind to remind Sean of how he jilted and publicly humiliated her.

But Rosemary Erskine hauls out the big guns and has her nephew, Cal MacFarlane step in. The result is Cal taking Amber out of commission, but in a kind way that takes the feelings of all parties into account. Cal’s fear is that his powerful relatives will retaliate against Amber, which is indeed what happens.

Now out of her broadcasting job, Amber decides to take Cal up on his offer to fly back to his Outback cattle station, Jingala, and spend some time doing what she’s always wanted to do, write.

When they arrive, it’s to discover that Cal’s uncle and young wife are having marital problems with their infant son smack in the middle of it. Amber quickly steps in to try and soothe things. But will she only make matters worse or is there hope for her budding romance with Cal?

Since I’ve never read one of your books, I decided to read the excerpt chapter before buying. I was psyched by it and by how your heroine and hero are introduced.

I loved the first third of the novel. Amber’s plan at the wedding to show her fiance what she thinks of his actions was classy, IMO. And Cal handled her and the situation beautifully with tact and sensitivity to both Amber and his family. His instincts for them to be seen on the town that evening were great and his offer to have Amber back at his station to work on her book after his grandfather pulled the strings to get Amber fired, which Cal warned Amber would probably happen, was sincere and well intentioned. So I was looking forward to seeing what would happen once they got back to Jingala.

What happened was a third of the book worth of WTF.

Finally I turned one aspect of it into a drinking game. If I took a swig of beer each time you had Amber mentally think of Cal as the “Cattle Baron,” I’d be stinking drunk by the end of the book. Instead I drank water and ended up heading to the loo a lot.

I like background information about books with settings that are new to me but damn, did the middle section of the book have to turn into a field guide/nature book for the Australian Outback? Way TMI here. Plus the information that’s included as “later she (Amber) found out….” seems awkwardly inserted. If I want to learn that much information about Australian wildlife, I prefer to watch Sir David Attenborough.

Amber becomes Earth Mother/baby prozac. I mean, really? Kid’s been screaming his head off for months, no one can calm or soothe him then suddenly Magic Amber arrives and he immediately pipes right down? As for Amber’s psych 101/Earth Mother evaluation of Jan, at first I can go along with her suggestions and questions. But after she’s been at the station for weeks and is still trying her counseling I say, look at the writing on the wall, Amber and trust that Cal and Elliot and the whole damn household have tried everything and nothing’s worked. Amber’s also supposed to be a journalist who’s done some expose pieces on troubled youth so her amazed reaction to Cal’s statement that mothers abandon their children makes me think less of her intelligence.

I wasn’t nearly as happy with Cal once he got back to the Outback. What happened to Mr. Nice Guy? Cal can have a nasty streak and I don’t mean about Jan. He’s snide and snappish to Amber whenever the discussions turn to his ex-fiancee, Brooke, but he sure feels like he can comment and grill her about Sean. And he tells Amber he’s not going to push her into anything then pushes her into kissing him. Even after she declines and says “no” more than once.

And enough! about Amber’s luscious skin. Just…enough already.

I had hoped that after the Australian travelogue, the last third of the book would perk up. Alas, “Descending into melodrama – sounds like a daytime soap.” is what I wrote in my notes. Jan is such a two dimensional bitch. No shading, no subtlety at all. But I give you points for the fact that when Brooke, with her perky breasts, made her inevitable appearance, she wasn’t a bitch.

Here are two incidents that had me shaking my head: Jan is shaking the baby and going off the rails yet Cal and Amber stop on their way to defuse the situation to discuss her new silk robe from Japan. (o-0)
Amber is falling down the stairs after being pushed but she’s more worried about the chance that the MacFarlane name will be blackened by the scandal because of who pushed her? WTF?

Oh, the soap opera drama. Lots of !!!! Too many !!! And every superlative adjective from the thesaurus to describe the MacFarlane station, house, horses, food, clothes….

I’ve said before and will say it again, epilogues aren’t my thing. But at least this one is short as well as a hoot – it’s so bad. The use of the word “dynasty” was a nice OTT touch. I just wonder what the family reunions will be like between Amber and the rat who dumped her. B for the first third of the book but a D for the rest.

~Jayne

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.