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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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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

16 Comments

  1. Ros
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 05:59:11

    Gosh, it feels like a long time since I read the Balfour books. Olivia’s was my least favourite and the only one I could not finish. I didn’t care for Clint and I found the writing laborious.

    I have just spent the weekend gobbling up the latest M&B continuity, Bad Blood, which for me knocks the Balfour series right out of the water. I think the backstory set up is much stronger and there is much more continuity between the story (I don’t know how much impact this will have on people reading them as stand alone books, but it works very well if you read the whole series). I found that while there were several Balfour books I really loved, there were a few I found mediocre and a couple I didn’t like at all. In the Bad Blood series, I found only one weak link, and really loved 7 out of the 8.

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  2. Ros
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 06:00:10

    Oh, just to add, Emily and Bella were my favourites too. I didn’t love Zoe’s book, mostly because I didn’t like Max.

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  3. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 07:12:41

    The Balfour books were kind of disposable to me. And yes, the set up was deeply distasteful. As I recall, and that isn’t much, some of the heroes did comment on the paterfamilias’s asshattery.
    I did want to write a review, especially of the Sarah Morgan contribution, which I enjoyed, but I couldn’t remember them ten minutes after I’d finished reading them, which in itself is a comment, though whether on me or the books I can’t say.
    I think my favorite series of the moment is a Desire one, and is a single author series. The Dante’s Inferno series by Day LeClaire. I’ve enjoyed every read in that series, some more than others, but in general the heroine is strong, assertive and modern. I love LeClaire’s takes on the tropes used in the books, ie a heroine confronted with the old “we have to get married” thing once she falls pregnant laughs at the hero, pointing out that she’s as rich as he is, has a great career, and probably has a better name than he does.

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  4. Jane
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 08:10:56

    @Ros When I was reading the Way book, I was struck at how many long narrative paragraphs there were from Clint and I wondered if this was an intentional style technique. I figured I hadn’t read enough of Way to make that judgment, but I totally understand what you mean when you say you found the writing “laborious.”

    I’m off to buy the Bad Blood series.

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  5. German Reader
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 11:13:39

    I also didn’t finish the Olivia book. So boring!

    I don’t remember all the other stories clearly but my Calibre Rating says Bella and Emily 4 stars.
    I also liked Mia’s story but found her entrance into the family totally confusing.

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  6. Cara
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 13:48:04

    this series thing is presented to them by someone inside Mills & Boon

    Really??? Oh my God. Pardon my utter cluelessness, but is that how the whole Harlequin Presents series works? Authors are basically given a prompt/story arc to write by someone in the company?? This would explain SO much if that’s the case.

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  7. Sunita
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 14:05:05

    @Cara: No, not every book! Just the connected series. For example, for its centenary celebrations M&B commissioned a series called Penhally Bay in the Medicals line. They began at 12 books and expanded it to 16. There are recurring characters (and one couple who apparently have to appear in each book) but the books themselves vary quite a bit.

    I read Bella and will have a review done very soon. I haven’t been that thrilled with Way’s books, but I’m kind of interested in some of the other Balfour books now.

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  8. SN
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 19:18:50

    I can't stand Margaret Way’s books because even though she’s Australian, she writes about the country like an 18th century British explorer who has heard about the place but never been there. You couldn’t get a more inaccurate depiction of the country if you tried.

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  9. Lynn Raye Harris
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 21:09:27

    @Cara: Hi, Cara — definitely not! :) Just wanted to answer that question as an author for the line. We come up with our own stories usually. Continuity series, like Karedes, Balfour, Bad Blood, etc, are editor driven. They do give us the storyline, but we do our own thing within it. Hope that clears it up!

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  10. Ros
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 04:28:36

    @Jane: I don’t know if it’s available in the US yet. It’s here on the M&B site.

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  11. Sarah_Florida
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 17:27:25

    I’m interested in the Bad Blood series but I’m in the US. Does anyone know if I was to change my Kindle registered address to my UK home, bought these, and then change the address back again to my US address, would I lose any previously purchased books? I’ve only had my kindle a few months and haven’t experimented with it yet :)

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  12. Jane
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 18:16:17

    @Sarah_Florida: You could buy them direct from Mills & Boon even in the US. I use my US cc at that site.

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  13. Jane
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 19:39:12

    @Sarah_Florida I just bought it and got immediately sucked into the Caitlin Crews story. Man, she just hits those buttons for me.

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  14. Kate Hewitt
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 20:24:39

    The Bad Blood books are also coming out in the US starting in June, as regular Presents.

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  15. Sarah_Florida
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 22:16:52

    @Jane thanks I would love to do that but I love my Kindle and I don’t know how to strip the DRM yet! My mom is visiting me from the UK in April so I may buy the paperbacks and have her bring them over. BTW love what you do here. I seem to have similar tastes to you so your reviews always increase my TBR :)

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  16. trish
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 08:54:34

    I for one did not enjoy the Balfour series, I found the stories tedious, sexiest and hypocritical.

    I am sick and tired of reading books were the woman is a virgin and the guy has slept with ‘plenty of women’ sick and tired of the blatant sexiest, hypocritical double standards that are so prevalent throughout these series and stories.

    Give me a blaze or an intrigue story anytime. The so called ‘modern’ series are a joke and are written by sexiest, hypocritical pigs. There are some authors books I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. If the the word virgin is in the title or in the description I won’t read the book and I would never buy it in a million years. If I start reading a book and it becomes apparent that the woman is a virgin, I won’t continue to read the book.

    I think it is about time the authors, editors and publishers dragged themselves (kicking and screaming if necessary) into the 21st century and stopped giving us sexiest, hypocritical drivel. They need to stop sending out the message that it is okay for the man to have sex and relationships but not okay for the woman. The blatant discrimination and sometimes derogoratary comments towards women are a disgrace.

    ReplyReply

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