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REVIEW: What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss

Dear Ms. Bliss:

What the Librarian Did by Karina BlissI hope that is your real name. I love it.   Miss Bliss.   Has a very naughty sound to it.   In any event, it wasn’t your name that prompted me to pick up this title. Instead it was a combination of things.   First, an excerpt of your book, Mr. Imperfect appeared at the end of one of the other Superromances I had read, maybe by Molly O’Keefe, maybe by Helen Brenna. I can’t recall as I type up this review.   I enjoyed the excerpt and bought the book and had fun reading the book but you had only a few digital backlist titles and I read them and promptly forgot your name.   Until I saw a blog post at Wendy’s about this librarian book.   I recalled your   name and decided I had to read this librarian story.

I knew right away I was going to enjoy it.   It opened with the heroine and librarian, Rachel Robinson, tending the university library.   If she’s a stereotypical librarian, I wouldn’t know.   I’m not even sure what the librarian stereotypes are.   But if funny, smart mouthed, kind, with a love for vintage clothes are typical librarians, I need to hang out with them more.

A student, dressed in purple boots and looking big, masculine and a little wild shows up in her library. Rachel has no idea who the latest student is.   She knows that he is older and appears arrogant and looks at her as “as if she were part of a female buffet. She got the impression he was already very full but might possibly squeeze in dessert-’if it was handed to him on a plate.”    She soon finds out that he is someone famous, a guitarist in a band that “did well”.

Devin Freedman had been lead guitarist and song writer for one of the most popular rock bands of the last couple of decades.   Almost two years ago, Devin collapsed on stage due to drug usage.   His doctor has told Devin that his current lifestyle was going to kill him.   Devin had had enough. Enough of his brother, the lead singer of the band, enough of the band lifestyle, enough of trying to hold the band together when his brother was doing everything to tear it apart and nothing to help Devin stay alive. So Devin walked away and the band dissolved.

Devin is arrogant. He has, as Beyonce would sing, a big ego and he has good reason for it.   He has lived as if he were at the center of a small universe where everyone and everything existed to revolve around him.   It would be hard not to have a big ego, but at the point in his life, he is a curious and fascinating mix of self assuredness and bravado.

"Your mouth doesn't fit your profession," he explained. "It's like seeing something X-rated on the cartoon network."

He didn't think to censor himself because he'd been a rock star for seventeen years and never had to. And got a sharp reminder he was no longer in that world when she shut the door in his face.

"Lucky the librarian fantasy never made my top ten," he told the door.

Rachel has not been living a pale shadow of a life, sleeping in a cold virginal bed awaiting her prince charming. She has a successful and rewarding career, friendships and, yes, even boyfriends. But her life isn’t perfect. Rachel made a hard decision early in her life to give up her baby for adoption when she was a pregnant teen.   It was the one decision that Rachel is sure was right despite the lasting emotional scarring that it has had on her psyche.   The rightness of this decision comes into question when Rachel discovers that her baby is now a teen and enrolled at her college.

This is no coincidence. Mark came to this college with the express intent of looking for his birth mother.   He knows that she is 34 years of age and is a faculty member.   He never once considers Rachel because she doesn’t look thirty four.   Most people mistake her for someone much younger.   This gives Rachel an opportunity to get to know Mark and have him get to know her without mucking it up with the adoption issue.   It’s not the best decision Rachel makes.   In fact, the situation readily spirals out of her control.

Rachel is all about control. In fact, her position as a librarian makes perfect sense.  She likes things orderly. She likes to be the one to put them in order, control their outcome and arrangement. She doesn’t have that control with Devin, nor does she have that control with her son. And giving up control, losing herself in someone else, might just be beyond her capability.

She chooses men who she cannot possibly love to have relationships with, knowing that they will inevitably end.   Devin, after a run in with Rachel’s latest ex-boyfriend, calls Rachel “Heartbreaker” and it becomes his nickname for her throughout the book.   But the nickname is more than just an affectionate term.   The term becomes almost a gauge of the health of their relationship. At first, Rachel wants nothing to do with Devin. He’s too arrogant, too full of himself. Devin finds Rachel and her x-rated mouth a well needed distraction in his life. And she’s the one person that seems to look at Devin “without deference or sympathy.”

Rachel and Devin’s relationship is so authentic. Devin’s past is part of the conflict in a real way but does not overshadow the story. He feels like he is not a good risk, not strong enough to be relied upon. But when met with the most important challenge of his life, he rises up to meet it. While it might be a slight spoiler, I had to share a quote from the book that I found incredibly romantic.

All his trials had been preparation, strengthening him to become a man capable of loving a woman who so deserved to be loved-’and who might always hold something back.

This is a nuanced romance and Rachel and Devin are vibrant characters. It is easy to see how the two of them fit together as puzzle pieces; both quirky and individual, both with their weaknesses and fears; both with the strong capacity for love. It’s a bit of a tear jerker toward the end, but the emotional aspects of it are well balanced with humor and strong dialogue. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. A-

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon
(affiliate link), Kindle (non affiliate), eHarlequin in print (non affiliate link), and eHarlequin in ebook (non affiliate link) or other retailers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

51 Comments

  1. Babs
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 04:08:25

    Ohhhhh, will have to go buy this! As a librarian how can I not?!?!

    As for control and having things in order…we almost had t-shirts made in grad school (aka ‘library school’) that said: DOES ANAL RETENTIVE HAVE A HYPHEN?

    8-)

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  2. Kristie J
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 07:08:39

    I saw this one on Wendy’s blog too and was intrigued enough by the storyline to want to read it. It came in the mail yesterday!!

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  3. Sayuri
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 07:19:38

    Bought it. read it. Loved it.

    I am now on a Karina Bliss glom. I am pretty sure I already have one of hers. Nalini Singh recommended it on her blog, if that one is as good as this one the glom is on!

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  4. tricia
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 07:31:39

    Jane, I’m glad you found Karina Bliss. I read her first trilogy and loved it, and didn’t know this one existed. I’m off to order it NOW.

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  5. Dana
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 08:56:53

    I loved this book too. This was my first book by Karina Bliss, and I admit that I only bought it because of the title, and because it didn’t have a baby/pregnancy plot.
     
    Your review summed up what I loved about this book:

    This is a nuanced romance and Rachel and Devin are vibrant characters. It is easy to see how the two of them fit together as puzzle pieces; both quirky and individual, both with their weaknesses and fears; both with the strong capacity for love.

     
    I also really enjoyed the humor throughout the story. Especially the scene with Devin’s mom finding him tied to his bed. :)

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  6. Wendy
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 09:33:40

    Can you believe I still haven’t ordered this one yet? I’m blaming that fact on the current work-related reading I’ve had to get through. But soon. I am ordering this soon. Like within the next week. Promise.

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  7. SarahT
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 10:09:14

    Thanks for the review. I liked the sound of this book when Wendy blogged about it and I have it on order. I’m usually wary of Harlequin SuperRomances because I associate them with babies/kids.

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  8. Elyssa Papa
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 10:31:57

    I think this blog is the kick in the pants I needed to read this book. Even though I started it, I put it down because it was so good and I didn’t want it to end.

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  9. Melanie
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 12:18:11

    I wanted to buy this, based on the title alone, when I saw it on the eHarlequin site. Your review clinches it: I have to read this book! And yes, speaking as a member of the profession, many of the librarians I know have a fondness for vintage clothes.

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  10. Michelle
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 12:29:35

    Thank you for reviewing this. I’ve loved H. Superromance in the past but have been a little disappointed with the shorter ones and have not been reading as many. I’ll definitely get this one. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read any KB books. I love finding new authors to enjoy.

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  11. MaryK
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 13:18:37

    Already ordered it.

    Jane, your twitter stream is the enemy of TBR piles everywhere.

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  12. Robin
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 14:26:12

    For me this book had the same combination of cleverness and poignancy as the old Tom and Sharon Curtis categories I love so much. It was such a smart book, IMO, but not in that ‘let me show you how much I have researched or know about my characters’ kind of way. It was smart in a ‘let the reader understand all the nice connections and nuances of these characters’ kind of way, and I sooooo appreciated and savored that while I was reading.

    A smart book that presupposes smart readers. Also, the emotional depth was really accessible but not maudlin or schmaltzy.

    I’m currently reading Mr. Unforgettable, and while it’s not blowing my socks off as much as WTLD, it’s still a lovely read, with realistically drawn characters doing realistically rendered things. These are characters you just so want to root for, because of the ease with which you’re drawn into the world Bliss creates around and through them.

    Now, would someone please digitize the rest of her backlist, including the title before Mr. Unforgettable, which is number 3 in a series?

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  13. sarah mayberry
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 15:33:09

    Karina Bliss is a fantastic writer. I love her work and am thrilled to bits that she’s got such a fab review from DA. Can’t wait to read this one myself – like everyone above, the title alone makes me drool a little.

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  14. Amy
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 16:12:41

    I’ve never read Karina Bliss (probably because I haven’t looked at a H Super Romance in ages). After reading this review I’ve added the ebook copy to my shopping cart at eHarlequin.

    Off topic: I only recently discovered that eHarlequin’s print books section gives you an “Read Excerpt” section with a really good size excerpt. I usually don’t shop on the print side but clicked onto that page by accident the other day. Reading the excerpts helped me find another book to add to my cart this week. It was a book I otherwise would have missed (because I really dislike some of the silly Harlequin titles and often bypass them based on the title alone unless I was familiar with the author). I wish eHarlequin would add an excerpt onto the eBook side of of the website as well. It is a great tool for shoppers online; it makes me feel like I am browsing through books in a *real* brick and mortar store. For now, I’ll have to go back and forth on the two sites.

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  15. Sandra Hyatt
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 17:20:43

    I love Karina’s books. They’re always emotional and funny and as someone said earlier subtly nuanced. Can’t wait to read WTLD. It’s at the top of my pile, and a great motivation for plowing through some of the work on my desk so I can start it.

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  16. Maree Anderson
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 19:38:38

    I don’t read a lot of category — I’m more your paranormal romance or urban fantasy type of gal — but I love the subtle humor Karina brings to her stories, a wonderful counterpoint to the tear-your-heart-out emotional scenes she writes.

    BTW: I know Karina personally. She’s a really lovely lady and it’s no surprise to me that she’s doing so very well as an author. She deserves to!

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  17. Christine M.
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 20:34:54

    You totally sold me this book. I ordered it a couple of hours ago and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

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  18. Diana
    Feb 18, 2010 @ 22:29:04

    This sounds like a great book. Can’t wait to read it. I’m currently reading my first Harlequin Super Romance, Home for the Holidays by Sarah Mayberry, and am enjoying it so far.

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  19. Rosario
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 02:17:58

    Jane, I bought this after reading your tweets about it and loved it. I’ve gone on a Karina Bliss glom now.

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  20. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:31:41

    @Rosario Yeah! Like Robin, I await the digitization of Book 2 in the Mr. series. Both Book 1 and 3 were enjoyable. Loved the hero made teary eyed by funerals.

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  21. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:31:46

    @Diana Love Mayberry. Have you read her Harlequin Blaze books?

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  22. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:34:30

    @Christine M. Let me know what you think. There are so many great lines in the story. I think it has a little for everyone.

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  23. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:35:56

    @Amy I agree. I wish the two sides of the Harlequin store were better integrated. I also am not in love with the tiny box that they put the excerpt in.

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  24. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:37:55

    @MaryK Ha! You are only emboldening me.

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  25. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:39:01

    @Michelle I am a newcomer to HSR. I’ve begun to find some real gems. Have you tried Molly O’Keefe?

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  26. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:39:30

    @Melanie You’ll have to let us know if you think the author got the librarian feel right.

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  27. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:40:44

    @Wendy No, I can’t believe it. You have far more willpower than I. Can’t wait to read your thoughts.

    ReplyReply

  28. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 09:55:50

    @Dana That scene with Devin’s mom is awesome.

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  29. Holly
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 11:19:05

    It sounds entertaining, but when I first started reading the plot synopsis, it sounded like Tommy Lee goes to university (remember the reality TV show?). I guess the book was better than the tv show.

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  30. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 11:20:13

    @Holly This is where my ignorance of pop culture benefits. I never saw (or even heard of) the reality TV show with Tommy Lee.

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  31. Holly
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 11:25:37

    yup – check it out
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Lee_Goes_to_College

    But you’ve made me curious – I might have to read this book. Especially since I’m a librarian. LOL

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  32. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 11:29:26

    @Holly Ahhh. This book is nothing like the show. The rock star is very low key. He wants to leave that behind him because it represented a time in his life during which he wasn’t very responsible. He can’t deny that he loved living the life at the time, but it still shames him to a certain extent.

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  33. Sayuri_x
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 11:49:57

    Just wanted to point out to all that WTLD is currently no.4 in the eHarlequin ebook chart! First time I have seen a Super romance there. YAY to blog power!

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  34. Jane
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 11:54:41

    @Sayuri_x Oh, that’s exciting. But I think it’s because it is such a good book that as people read it and love it, they tell more people. But still, it is exciting. Thanks for mentioning it.

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  35. Elyssa Papa
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 13:32:43

    Finished reading. Loved it. Will be glomming. Agree 100% w/ Robin’s comparison to Sharon and Tom Curtis.

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  36. Michelle
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 15:30:25

    @Jane I have read and really enjoyed some of the Molly O’Keefe books. She seems to have a more modern voice – more relatable to this 30-something professional urban dweller.

    I still really like some of the HSR authors who I loved 10 years or so ago such as Janice Kay Johnson, Kathryn Shay and Tara Taylor Quinn.

    Any other favorite HSR authors? I know you guys have mentioned it before, but it can sometimes be hard to find good contemporary romance. I may have a prissy streak that makes it hard for me to relate to the Blaze-type heroine – (even though I’ve read and enjoyed some of Kathleen O’Reilly’s books) but at the same time, I have an equally hard time relating to the contemporary heroines who feel like an ideal type from the 1950′s who must live in an idealized small town setting. (e.g. Catherine Anderson).

    I really like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jenny Crusie and some of Rachel Gibson – after that, it seems like slim pickings. HSR could fill that void at times though.

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  37. MaryK
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 16:13:37

    @Elyssa Papa:

    Agree 100% w/ Robin's comparison to Sharon and Tom Curtis.

    Cool! I love their books.

    My copy is still in transit. :(

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  38. Diana
    Feb 19, 2010 @ 17:59:16

    Jane, I’ve read a lot of Sarah Mayberry’s Blaze books. That’s how I first discovered her. She’s one of my favorite authors.

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  39. Miki S
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 03:12:09

    @Babs: Babs, I saw that on a sweatshirt in a catalog once.

    When I read it, I didn’t get it. “Does anal retentive have a hyphen?”

    And my thought was: “Well, yes, but only if it modifies a noun.”

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  40. Tracy
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 08:30:01

    @Holly:
    Hmmm… And I totally had Charlie Pace (from Lost) pop into my head during the description of Devin’s past.

    Devin Freedman had been lead guitarist and song writer for one of the most popular rock bands of the last couple of decades. Almost two years ago, Devin collapsed on stage due to drug usage…. His doctor has told Devin that his current lifestyle was going to kill him. Devin had had enough. Enough of his brother, the lead singer of the band, enough of the band lifestyle, enough of trying to hold the band together when his brother was doing everything to tear it apart and nothing to help Devin stay alive…

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  41. Ros
    Feb 27, 2010 @ 18:43:03

    I bought this on the strength of this review and I have just finished it. There is, I will admit, a little tear in the corner of my eye. It’s a great book, with lovely characters, real wit and humour, and an emotional depth. Thanks so much for the recommendation – I would never have gone looking for SuperRomances to read.

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  42. Jane
    Feb 27, 2010 @ 21:19:08

    @Ros That’s great to hear. I think Molly O’Keefe, Ellen Hartman are really talented Superromance authors. I’ve also enjoyed books by Helen Brenna.

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  43. Dear Author Recommends for March | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Mar 02, 2010 @ 12:03:36

    [...] What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss. Recommended by Jane and Janet [...]

  44. Michelle
    Mar 09, 2010 @ 15:48:19

    Like Ros, I bought this book because of this review. I read it yesterday, and it was so charming, so fun and so moving. I loved it. I just went on Amazon and bought all the backlist books I could find for my Kindle. Given my affection for superromance, I’m not sure how I missed her before now. Thanks for bringing Bliss to my attention.

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  45. Jane
    Mar 09, 2010 @ 15:50:16

    @Michelle: Woo hoo! In fairness, I thought this was the best Bliss title. Her others were decent but not as complete as this one. I think the author really found her voice in this story.

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  46. Kay Sisk
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 13:51:14

    Thanks so much for the recommendation of this book. It combines two of the things I love to read and write about the most: rock stars and snappy (I hope I write snappy!) dialogue.

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  47. Caty
    Mar 23, 2010 @ 07:23:57

    I ordered the book after reading this review, and I loved it. Thanks!

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  48. Jane
    Mar 23, 2010 @ 07:31:18

    @Caty Yeah! I am so glad you enjoyed it.

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  49. sarah_florida
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 23:54:03

    I’ve just bought the ebook of this from Sony and am looking forward to reading it after all these great reviews.

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  50. Anita
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 07:40:18

    LOVED this book!!! an A from me! What a delight it is to read a good, straightforward contemporary romance.

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  51. Karina Bliss: What the Librarian Did | Purple Prose Review
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 19:21:06

    [...] it work as a romance? We certainly are not effusive in praise as Dear Author was. On the positive, we did manage to finish reading it but we could not suspense the disbelief [...]

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