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REVIEW: Stranded with Her Ex by Jill Sorenson

Dear Ms. Sorenson,

It is with regret that I write this DNF review. The blurb of “Stranded with Her Ex” sounded so interesting. Two divorced wildlife researchers – a seal researcher and a shark expert, stuck together out on a remote island, find each other again. But as I’ve sometimes found, blurbs that caught my eye don’t always work out for me when I’m when presented with the total product.

Stranded with Her Ex by Jill SorensonSomehow I got a wrong impression about the tone of book. When Jane emailed me the info, I must have completely missed the part about it being a Silhouette Suspense novel and I kept waiting for the light, frothy comedy I was expecting but found angst galore. It’s certainly not your fault but I had to do 180 mental turn just as the book is beginning which irritated me, again more at myself, for misreading what I was getting myself into. Note to self: always double check category of book before starting.

Daniella is a special snowflake. In the first few chapters I get told over and over how fragile she is, how likely to mentally collapse, how worried her ex is about whether or not she’ll be able to do her job and not go into complete meltdown. It’s wearing to be around people like this – and I’ve worked with a few – and wearing to repeatedly read about how close they and everyone around them thinks they are to a breakdown.

Sean is hunky, hunky, hunky. I get it. But he’s also Mr. Secret Emo Sensitive who was crushed when his attempts to reach out to Daniella following their tragic loss were rejected. He’s worried enough about Daniella’s mental status to almost order her off the island. At the point I stopped reading, that irked me more than made me say “aaah, he cares.”

I’m not a fan of mental lusting and, oh boy, there are tons of this. Literally ‘coming to a halt and staring’ mental lusting. ML to the point that everyone around them notices it and sometimes smirks about it. Sean is turned on by the heroine’s toothpaste aroma. Right.

These are animal researchers on a preserve island. At one point Daniella thinks that this kind of work is not for the faint of heart. It’s not. I applaud you for being realistic about this survival of the fittest. It’s elemental survival. It’s also gory and described – sometimes in detail. I am a bleeding heart when it comes to animals and though I realize in my head that carnivores must eat meat to survive, I don’t want to read about the way the remains of a seal look after the initial strike of a shark. I don’t want that mental image in my head. I respect your talents as an author to describe it so realistically that I have this mental image but I don’t want the image. Then there was the scene of the baby seal with the plastic around his neck, who is obviously doomed, and the ongoing threat of whoever mutilated another seal corpse which I just didn’t want to read anything more about.

Certain aspects of the story get bogged down. There’s lots of detail about the different species of birds on the island. Needed? I don’t think so. That is followed by more information about the early people to live there – which I found myself skimming. And then there is lots of info about surfing, wanting to surf, surfing conditions, surfboards – which I found boring.

So delicate snowflake heroine + emo yet also sorta controlling seeming hero + way too much mental lusting + gory nature stuff + slightly boring parts = DNF.

~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.

38 Comments

  1. SarahT
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 04:37:59

    Wow! I gave this one a B+. I found the setting fascinating, and I enjoyed seeing Daniella and Sean rekindle their relationship. It’s definitely a suspense, though, so I can understand your surprise if you were expecting a comedy.

  2. Jill
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 06:31:30

    Hey Jayne,
    I haven’t read her, but maybe you would like Nikki Logan? I know she has some books about animal researchers and she writes Harlequin Romance/RIVA. Of course, HRs can have a lot of mental lusting too. I actually enjoy that though! :-)

  3. JenD
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 06:41:07

    DNFs are so frustrating for a reader. All that potential, wiped out. As a reader of a review/er- I like them. Spoiler-free review- what’s not to love?

    Personally, I think I’m going to pick this up. I like wounded heroines who turn out to be stronger than they think. Plus, uhm- science nerd so I’m all about reading about Animal Chow Time. I hope the heroine ends up being strong- that’s a sticking point for me; having troubles and dealing with them in the end with strength. Crossing my fingers that’s the case here.

  4. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 07:05:28

    @SarahT: Had I seen the cover before I started – we were sent an electronic arc – I would have known what I was getting into. Again this is totally my fault for not realizing. I’m not throwing bricks at any author for my stupidity.

    On a more positive note – I love that cover! Can’t you just hear the music from “Jaws?”

  5. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 07:06:49

    @Jill: Ooh, I like the Romance line. Thanks for the lead and I’ll look into her books.

  6. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 07:09:30

    @JenD: LOL, I think the review is spoiler free by default! Perhaps Sarah can answer the question about the heroine’s strength or lack thereof. The Animal Chow scenes start fairly early in the book so you can get an idea of what you’re probably in for.

  7. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 07:11:30

    Looking at the tags for the review, I realize that I didn’t mention in the body of the text that the heroine is Latina (she’s originally from Mexico). Readers looking for a multiculteral romance take note.

  8. Jill
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 07:39:49

    Just to clarify, I’m not the Jill that wrote this book!

  9. Nifty
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 08:09:21

    @Jill

    It was gonna be okay with me if you WERE the Jill that wrote the book. When I read your comment, I silently applauded the author for showing such class in the face of a DNF review. :-)

    The synopsis of this story reminds me a bit of Chained Lightning (is that the title) by Elizabeth Lowell. Y’all remember that book? Heroine is a marine biologist who had a horrible accident that created a deep phobia of the water; hero is the nephew of her boss, and a guy the heroine has secretly lusted over from afar for weeks. Meddling aunt arranges for heroine to crash hero’s vacation at the Great Barrier Reef, which makes him Not Happy. He’s even less happy when he realizes that the heroine is a scaredy-cat freak who has a panic-attack on the flight over and can barely look at the water. (Hello! They’re on an island!) But he begins to fall for her as she determinedly faces her fears…. Oh, okay. Maybe they don’t sound all that much alike apart from the island-and-water. And the hero is hunky.

  10. SarahT
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 08:13:55

    @Jayne: Yes! I’ve been terrified of sharks ever since I saw that film. The sharks in the water are the scariest part of the book, IMO.

    @JenD: “Personally, I think I'm going to pick this up. I like wounded heroines who turn out to be stronger than they think.” This pretty much sums up my reaction to Daniella. She’s jumpy for a reason which I won’t get into as it’s a spoiler, but it explains her trepidation at the start of the story. The unusual setting — including the sharks — made the book particularly appealing. Although I wouldn’t want to go to the North Pole, climb Everest, or visit the Farallon Islands, I’ve always loved books set in cold, inhospitable environments.

  11. SarahT
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 08:16:43

    @Nifty: I’m so looking up that Lowell book. Thanks for mentioning it!

  12. Nifty
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 08:28:33

    SarahT, I just looked it up. It’s called “Chain Lightning,” from 1988. It reads like a category from the 80s, too, so just be prepared for that. (I have a love-hate relationship with EL’s early categories. Well…her romances in general, I guess. I find her heroes to be INSUFFERABLE — bold font, exclamation point — but to me, those books are the original crack. They’re terrible, but I can’t resist them! Every few years I haunt my local UBS looking for cheap copies for a re-read, berating myself the entire time because they are so bad. But I started reading romances in the mid-80s, so maybe that’s my attraction to them: nostalgia. That, plus…I think Lowell is The Bomb! when it comes to writing sexual tension, which is a lost art in today’s age of insta-sex and an increasing page count devoted to the wham-bam.)

  13. Joy
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 09:01:02

    As a reviewer, how do you make the decision to just not finish a book? So bad you would rather poke your eyes out with a spork than finish? So boring you would rather sleep than finish? Just so obviously not your cup of tea you would rather spend your time doing other things? (sounds like this book falls there).

    The only time I DNF a book is if I lose interest to the point I start skimming, or I decide I’d rather not read than spend any more time with these characters. And even then sometimes I force myself to finish (usually if it’s bad rather than boring–because sometimes books are bad in a way that lends itself to interesting analysis). I don’t review a book I don’t finish, though–I don’t think I can say much that’s helpful about it without having finished it.

  14. Las
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 09:36:18

    I don’t know about this one. The plot sounds interesting but the way you describe the characters gives me pause…not a fan of “fragile” unless it’s in a flashback. I’m always happy to see heroes/heroines of color, but I have to ask…how much does the heroine’s culture play into the story, and is in done well? I’m a bit wary of white authors (assuming Sorenson is white; forgive me if I’m wrong) writing POC characters. I’m not against it, but I often feel the same way many do about written dialects, or how history buffs feel about wallpaper historicals. I know too much and the subject is too personal for me to be able to shrug off inaccuracies.

    I think I’ll stop by B&N after work and read the first chapter before making a decision.

  15. LEW
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 09:44:01

    I’m all for more science in romances, so I’ll have to put this on my TBR list. My first passion was shark research, though somewhere in junior high I turned to dinosaurs, so I think it’d be fun to read about a hunky hunky marine biologist! I feed dead birds to dermestid beetles then cut up the bones, so I’m ok with the gore. ;)

  16. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 10:26:23

    Thanks for giving it a try, Jayne! Sorry it didn’t work for you.

    @Las: The heroine’s culture plays only a small role in the story. I live in San Diego and am pretty familiar with Mexico/Spanish. You can read the first chapter/excerpt on my web site.

    @Joy: I think this review is very helpful for readers who are deciding to buy.

  17. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 10:27:17

    @LEW: Well, Sean and his fellow surfing researcher love their sharks so you should be in seventh heaven.

  18. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 10:30:52

    @Joy:

    As a reviewer, how do you make the decision to just not finish a book? So bad you would rather poke your eyes out with a spork than finish? So boring you would rather sleep than finish? Just so obviously not your cup of tea you would rather spend your time doing other things? (sounds like this book falls there).

    In this case it was bored and annoyed more than that I thought the writing was bad. When I have to force myself to pick a book back up and start reading more, it’s A Sign.

  19. kerry
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 10:35:23

    I find that of all the reviewers on DA, my taste most closely matches Jayne’s. I’ve read a bunch of books based on her reviews that I’ve loved.

    But I also sometimes read reviews where the reviewer didn’t like the book but gave enough info about it to know that it would appeal to me (sometimes for precisely the reasons the reviewer didn’t like it). Romantic suspense, sharks, researchers, wounded heroines, mental lusting – sounds good to me. I’m interested enough to pick up the book, so the DNF review still works for me.

  20. Jane
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 10:44:16

    @Joy I encouraged Jayne to write the review because she ordinarily doesn’t do DNFs. There is a lot of debate about whether DNFs are appropriate and Janine wrote more about that here.

  21. jayhjay
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 11:55:35

    @Jane: I like having both DNF and F grades make sense. F to me is “this book is just plain bad”. While a DNF could mean, “so bad I couldn’t even finish it,” it can also mean “didn’t work for me, but may work for someone else”. It sounds like in this case it is the latter.

  22. SarahT
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 12:20:33

    I’ve written a few DNF reviews. I think it’s a legitimate response to a book, and worth sharing with other readers. Sometimes the writing is so bad I want to scream, or the setup is ludicrous and presses all my hot buttons. Other DNF books are ones which aren’t to my taste, but may very well work for other readers.

    The only time I object to DNFs is when the reviewer makes assumptions about what happens in the part of the book she hasn’t read. This is not the case in Jayne’s review.

  23. kardis
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 12:24:09

    De-lurking to thank DA for publishing this review. The book sounds like it is a perfect read for me and I guarantee I would not have known about it if it weren’t for Jayne’s review. Thanks, Jayne!

  24. Cori
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 12:31:05

    I finished this book in one ravenous sitting. The same elements that didn’t work for the reviewer, such as the mental lusting and vivid descriptions of nature, just drew me in further.

    The hero and heroine have an extremely complicated past and their emotions run deep from page one. I think the author did an amazing job repairing their destroyed relationship and leaving me with the hope that they are destined for a bright future. And as for suspense, I wanted to leave a light on after finishing this book at one a.m. When I woke this morning, the hero and heroine’s poignant story of love and loss and redemption was still with me. What more could I ask for? :)

  25. Las
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 13:02:27

    @Jill Sorenson: Thanks, Jill. The excerpt convinced me to buy they book.

  26. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 13:14:18

    @Jane: Yeah, it’s Jane’s fault! That’s my story. ;)

  27. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 13:16:10

    @kardis: You’re welcome. I hope you enjoy it.

  28. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 13:18:15

    @kerry: I’m so glad to hear some of my reviews have worked for you and steered you to books you’ve liked. I hope that will be the case here too.

  29. Janine
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 14:30:05

    @Joy: I write DNF reviews as well, though not very often. The reason I don’t write them often is that it’s rare for me to read far enough into a book to give readers an idea of what it’s about, and still not finish. Usually I ditch books in the first or second chapter.

    However, the reason I write DNF reviews when I’ve read at least a hundred pages or so is that if I didn’t write them, almost all my reviews would be positive, and then readers wouldn’t have a good idea of what doesn’t work for me in a book. I think readers need to understand that to know how their taste matches up with a reviewer’s.

  30. Janine
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 14:36:17

    @Jayne: Re. mental lusting, I think the problem with mental lusting is that it’s been done in so many books that it’s hard to keep it fresh or write it in an original way. However, there have been times when it’s really worked for me, such as for example in Crusie’s Bet Me, or in last year’s Loretta Chase book about Olivia and Peregrine where it was used for humor.

    I was thinking about that when I read Sorenson’s The Edge of Night which I reviewed in the next post (and enjoyed a whole lot more than you enjoyed Stranded with her Ex). I thought some of the mental lusting in that book was clever and original, but other examples of mental lusting in it were a lot less so, and were part of what made me feel that Noah and April’s relationship wasn’t that deep. It’s definitely tricky terrain for writers, at least where I’m concerned.

  31. MB
    Mar 24, 2011 @ 17:13:53

    Hmmm…

    Plot premise: I have a problem with the idea that a wildlife researcher, i.e. a biologist with advanced degrees??? is a special snowflake ready to emotionally break down, on the job. How does this happen? How does she get into field work or whatever it’s called? The premise bothers me as either I don’t know enough about wildlife researchers IRL, OR the author has come up with a plot idea without really thinking how it would work in the real world.

    Or is it just something traumatic that happened so recently that she is still in situ?

    My common sense and in-built skepticism really interrupt my romance reading sometimes!

    Thanks for the review, Jayne. I love informative DNF reviews.

  32. Jayne
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 04:34:55

    @MB: She had survived a traumatic event in her life about (sorry, I’m guessing here) 3-4 years before the start of the book. It’s what had come between the hero and heroine and caused their marriage to end.

  33. Sami
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 07:31:12

    Actually this sounds interesting to me. I love books set in or around the ocean, and stories about reunited lovers.

    DNF reviews I find helpful because they still give me a good idea of the plot elements and tone of the story. Even though this wasn’t a positive review it hasn’t turned me off the book.

  34. kreads
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 20:37:46

    I find DNF reviews helpful because I get a better sense of the reviewers likes and dislikes which in turn helps me to figure out whether I am likely to agree with them. DNF reviews may not tell me much about the book but they do tell me more about the reviewer.

  35. Nicolette
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 19:12:58

    Thank you for the review. I ended up buying the ebook based on the review and comments and enjoyed it. I don’t typically go for romantic suspense (other than Suzanne Brockmann who is my crack candy addiction) because I just can’t get over a lot of the tropes. Even though this book did have one of those tropes – the villain who goes over the edge nutty and loses all rationality after behaving quite rationally, if mildly evilly up until then – I still managed to consume it all in one go. I enjoyed the nature descriptions, shark fins and all.

  36. Jayne
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 19:16:23

    @Nicolette: The other reviewers here and I often say that we don’t start a book hoping to hate, or DNF, it. So I’m glad that my review of a book that didn’t work for me actually helped you to find a book you did enjoy.

  37. Jamie Michele
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 13:47:03

    I’m late to the party. Sorry!

    I’m a big animal nerd and have been looking forward to this one, but it sounds like the main suspense plot is that someone is mutilating seals? That’s…not going to work for me. I’m at peace with the inherent gore created by animals in the wild (and in zoos), but once humans start hurting animals, I’m out.

  38. Guest Post & Giveaway with Jill Sorenson | The Book Pushers | Book Reviews | Book Chatter
    Mar 26, 2012 @ 16:38:00

    [...] review tweets. About a year ago, Dear Author posted a DNF review of one of my category novels. I retweeted it for a couple of reasons. First, I was one of their [...]

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