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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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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.

18 Comments

  1. Christi Snow
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 11:06:22

    I just read this book yesterday and LOVED it! You wrote a GREAT review of it!! smiles…

    ReplyReply

  2. Jayne
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 11:15:15

    @Christi Snow: I had a lot of fun reading it. It’s great when I go into a book not really having any expectations and enjoy it so much.

    ReplyReply

  3. May
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 11:22:51

    great review!

    I didn’t love this book, and in looking back over my favorite bits (some of which were indeed AWESOME) I felt like perhaps had it been shorter I would have enjoyed it more. At 400 pages, with the plot such a simple one, I got bored at times. I too think it was for the best that a big ‘daddy scene’ was better of avoided- though I think he could have been cut altoghether. Unlike you – I wasn’t a fan of Alison and I wish we’d been shown some outside interests (aside from collecting furniture for her future marital home) that pointed to there being more to her than a woman waiting for love.

    That said the date scenes, the building chemistry between the two main characters, and the supporting characters were all awesome!!

    ReplyReply

  4. Jayne
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 11:29:13

    @May: I think you’re right that the whole “father” background could probably have just been outlined and left at that.

    ReplyReply

  5. Char
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 11:39:22

    Apropos of nothing, that may very well be the most obnoxiously “Off with their heads!” cover I have ever seen.

    ReplyReply

  6. Kim
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:11:04

    I’ve been trying to find some new-to-me contemporary authors this year to go along with Julie James and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I’ve since discovered Rachel Gibson and Carly Phillips. Then, after reading some good reviews, I purchased this book and her Black Ties and Lullabies. I haven’t had a chance to read either yet, but I’m looking forward to trying Jane Graves’ books.

    ReplyReply

  7. Jane
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:58:34

    After this review, I need to give Graves a try. For some reason, I thought her books were more women’s fiction.

    ReplyReply

  8. Jayne
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 14:32:54

    @Jane: I think she did do a series that’s more like that – with compass directions in the titles?

    ReplyReply

  9. Jayne
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 14:35:42

    @Kim:

    I’ve been trying to find some new-to-me contemporary authors this year to go along with Julie James and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

    You and me both. I need to pay more attention when Jane and Sarah do their “Saving the Contemporary” posts. I do try a lot of new category authors but when it comes to single title ones, I’m in a rut.

    ReplyReply

  10. Jayne
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 14:36:46

    @Char: Hmmm…now that you mention it…

    ReplyReply

  11. Liz Talley
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 16:06:39

    I’ve always loved Jane Graves because she writes what she knows and she does a damn fine job of it. If you can make me LOL in a book, then you’ve made a fan, and JG does this. Plus her characters are real and I can always make a connection. Always said I wanted to be Jane Graves when I grew up as a writer…and I still do. Thanks for the review.

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  12. sarah mayberry
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 16:14:41

    @Kim Have you tried Lisa Kleypas’s contemps? Sugar Daddy is a little womens-fictiony in parts, but still great, and Blue Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger are so, so good.

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  13. Kim
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 17:26:10

    @Sarah Mayberry: I should have mentioned Lisa Kleypas. I think her contemporaries are terrific. I’m looking forward to her new magical realism contemporary in 2012.

    ReplyReply

  14. KristieJ
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 19:18:50

    I’ve read quite a few of her books – including her Harlequins written as Jane Sullivan and except for one or two, I have really enjoyed her books. And this one was another one that I quite enjoyed.

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  15. Jane Graves
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 10:59:33

    Jayne, thanks so much for such a nice review. I’m just delighted that you liked the book!

    ReplyReply

  16. Review: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves | Smexy Books
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 12:56:33

    [...] Reviews: Dear Author – B The Brazen Bookworm – C Book Binge – 4.5/5 [...]

  17. Sandy Blair
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 07:24:25

    Jane Graves has been one of my auto-buy authors since her release of “Tall, Dark and Texan,” as is Lisa K. The humor and sexual tension within their tales always flows naturally, feels effortless. Deborah Smith (Sweet Hush) is another of my auto-buys for the same reason.

    ReplyReply

  18. Daily Deals: Contemporary and historical romance, chick lit, memoir and mystery
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 14:02:09

    [...] reviewed this in 2011.  <em>To me this is a very funny book. I especially love Alison’s blow by blow recounts of [...]

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