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REVIEW: Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells by Lisa Cach

Ever dream of being transformed into a bombshell?

Grace Cavanaugh thinks she’s in for an easy, lazy summer when she takes a job as companion to her great aunt Sophia in Pebble Beach. She’ll dab spittle from her aunt’s chin, watch ‘Animal Planet’, and work on her dissertation for her PhD in Women’s Studies.

But Sophia has other plans. With a tart tongue that would put Bette Davis to shame, Sophia sets about transforming her dumpy great-niece into a copy of the B-movie bombshell Sophia once was, and in the process teaches her a thing or two about men, sexual liberation, and power.

Caught in Sophia’s web along with Grace are Declan O’Brien, the college football star turned financial advisor, and Dr. Andrew Pritchard, Sophia’s dewy-cheeked personal physician. Declan makes Grace’s body melt, but it’s Andrew who seems to be on her same mental wavelength.

By the time the summer’s over, though, Grace isn’t going to know whether she’s a scholar or a bombshell, or maybe a little bit of both

Dear Ms. Cach,

Several of your books reside on my “I love these books!” shelf. So when I hear that you’ve got a new addition to your oeuvre, I tend to get excited. After reading “Great-Aunt Sophia’s Lessons for Bombshells,” I was more confused and “meh” than excited. Let me explain. I just wasn’t sure what this book was supposed to be and be saying. Was it Chick Lit? Or a romance? Or an erotic romance? It didn’t really end up being any of those for me and thus could be labeled – for me at least – as a disappointment. I did, however, come up with some alternate titles.

“What Not to Wear – The Bombshell Version”

“How to Win Friends and Sexily Influence People”

bombshellFirst let me say it’s hard to like a lot of the characters. There are lots of disagreeable characters and I almost quit after chapters 2 and 3. The feelings and thoughts initially revealed by Aunt Sophia will dismay or upset so many. It disparages both lesbians and feminists plus makes men seem to be cads. Aunt Sophia reveals herself as a master manipulator and she definitely has an agenda with Grace so some of this could be said just to pull Grace’s strings but I was aghast. Other characters, such as Darlene, appear and conveniently disappear at random. Andrew is cardboard cutout only there for plot reasons and turned into mess at end. Sophia didn’t see the real man? I find that hard to believe so again maybe she was using him to achieve her ultimate ends. Grace’s friend Cat is another problem child. Is she Grace’s friend who will tell it like it is when Grace needs to hear it or is she a whiney bitch out to cut Grace down? I never was sure but I was glad Cat doesn’t have a large role in the book.

The story also feels choppy as it lurches back and forth. Parts are slow, crawlingly slow, and parts whiplash especially both Declan’s realization of his feelings and the final HEA. Grace does a whirlwind turnaround at end as well – from “it’s over!” to agreeing to marry Declan. The sexing is hawt, frequent (at least by Grace’s journal entries, though we don’t actually see all of it by a long shot) but it’s more erotic than romantic. Well, maybe not much of that either since we only actually see two hawt scenes and the rest are just recorded in her journal as having occurred. So in retrospect, it’s not really that erotic overall. And there’s precious little romance to make up for the lack of erotic.

As for the “ILY” – I can see that these two have fallen (separately) in love with each other but they don’t know it until almost the very last little tippy tip of the book. In the end, I’m left wondering about Declan and Grace’s HEA. Both have changed but I’m still not entirely sure I like all the changes. At the end, Grace says love should make you want to be better – should make you better. Is she? I don’t know. Is Declan? Probably but the final change in him is too fast for me. I think I would have been happier with a HFN and “let’s see what happens” ending.

Sophia isn’t lying about how the world is full of people who manipulate to get what they want. And Grace becoming more confident, rather than truly nothing but a bombshell, and using her feminine power of allure isn’t necessarily bad. All Sophia’s lessons seem fairly cold but there are nuggets of truth there as well. I’ll have to think about this. Was Sophia acting and arranging the whole thing? I was pretty sure over course of book and this was proved at end. It was a bold move to make her so crabby and manipulating. Everything Sophia does did achieve her goal of getting Grace married off, if that was the goal – but she’s still a disagreeable old bat. I give her credit though – she is still firm in her beliefs.

The book works more as a discussion and exploration of changes/evolutions – or not – in male/female relations as seen through Sophia’s lessons vs Grace’s female studies and modern thoughts. Is either right or wrong? Have people changed that much or is it only surface stuff? Will inter/intra gender issues ever really change? And not just about sex and love but about getting what you want and how to interact with others in all social situations? By the time I’d finished I still didn’t know. But notice I didn’t say it works well as a romance or an erotic romance. D

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

10 Comments

  1. Jane
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 12:31:36

    I know you were excited to read this and the premise was interesting. Maybe it was meant for a more literary crowd?

  2. Jayne
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 12:32:46

    @Jane: I’m always up for a new Cach book. Or I have been in the past. She’s spreading her authorial wings and trying new things – which is good – but lately I have found that these new things don’t always work for me as well her older romances.

    Truly I don’t think she’s going literary here – there’s too much of an attempt for sexual tension and the two sex scenes would singe high brows. I’m still not sure what crowd she’s aiming for but it didn’t work for me.

  3. Jane
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 12:35:12

    @Jayne: Sounds like she isn’t sure what audience she is trying to reach either. It is always sad when your tastes and a favorite writer’s vision branch off into different directions.

  4. Jayne
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 16:58:20

    Cleo -I’ve only read one Lisa Cach – Have Glass Slipper, Will Travel – and I loved it.
    Sorry to hear that this one is not as good.

    I liked that one but not as much as her historical books which is what she started out writing. Since those, she’s done a number of contemporaries, some paranormal contemps and a YA last year. I should say that many of her earlier historicals feature paranormal aspects including my favorite which is the TT “The Changeling Bride.”

  5. Maili
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 17:15:24

    I think I find Cach as a contemporary writer confusing. I had similar problems with Dating Without Novocaine (chick lit? romantic comedy? erotica?), George and the Virgin (comedy or serious time travel?), A Babe in Ghostland and so on.

    It always felt as if her mood was altered after each coffee break during the writing process of a book. The mood throughout each book varied. Some parts, witty and breezy. Some other parts, serious and focused. And so on. Not sure if this makes sense.

    Anyroad, I wasn’t sure if she could ever sort that out so I gave up on her altogether. Judging by your review, looks like she still hasn’t. Shame, really.

  6. Jayne
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 17:17:23

    @Maili: Of those you list, I liked “George and the Virgin” the best but I can see what you’re saying and now that you point this out, I can remember it from that book.

  7. Courtney
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 12:42:13

    This makes me sad. Like you, I have a Lisa Cach keeper shelf and get excited when she has something new out.
    Her last few books for me though have been “meh”

  8. Jayne
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 12:48:28

    @Courtney: I get depressed when I compare her newer books to the my beloved favorites of her past. I remember how much they entertained me and made me laugh. Now? Not so much.

  9. Sunita
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 13:17:14

    Make room for me on the Disappointed bench. Like you, Jayne, I have The Changeling Bride as a favorite, and Cach’s paranormal-ish historicals are among the few with ghosts, etc. that I really like. I remember liking George and the Virgin well enough, but it wasn’t up there with the earlier books, and I’ve avoided what she’s written since then.

  10. Jayne
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 13:22:30

    @Sunita: The Incubus and Succubus books were great – “Dream of Me?” Her straight contemps (am thinking of the French Maid one) don’t work quite so well for me.

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