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REVIEW: Knight of Hearts by Suzie Quint

Dear Ms. Quint:

Thank you for sending me your book for review.  The blurb and excerpt you sent signaled a cute contemporary romance with a storyline that I had not read recently.  Mac is recently divorced and trying to enter the dating scene but he is inept.  Inept is actually a kind word for Mac’s skills with the ladies.  Mac uses more dated lines than are tossed around at a Tucker Max convention ( “Hey, Sexy! Wanna get naked with me?”  ).  Rachel agrees to tutor him in handling the current social scene if he agrees to accompany her to her brother’s upcoming wedding.

Mac’s confident in some areas like poker playing and hanging out with the guys, but put him next to a pretty woman and his tongue is tied in knots and his confidence plummets.

Mac envied how comfortable they looked. He casually slung his arm across the back of the couch the way Jake had told him to. They talked poker for a while, but when the conversation shifted to other things, Mac fell silent, afraid to risk opening his mouth and have something stupid fall out.

Knight of HeartsEverything about this book screams cute and in the first half it is.  There’s limited sexual tension between the characters as Mac goes out on dates with other women, but it gives the relationship between Mac and Rachel time to develop slowly.  The second half of the book, however, is  weighed down by the treatment of the character’s issues. Rachel, in particular, has a steamerful as her best friend, Claudia says in the book when warning her brother Mac to not fall for Rachel.  Rachel’s problem is that she was raped as a teenager and has never been able to have successful intercourse since then. Of course despite her desire to be in an intimate relationship, get married, and have babies; she refuses to do anything that might move her forward like, oh, talk to a counselor.  She is so innocent that she doesn’t know the difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis.

I was always bothered by the timeline in this book. Mac is only eight months out of his divorce and already he is looking to get hitched up again.  I’ve read somewhere that 80% of men are remarried within 2 years of death or divorce and so this might be true to life, but I wondered whether he was really ready for another long term commitment.  In making sure the reader was convinced that Mac was hero material, he was the victim of his marriage’s dissolution.  He was faithful, loved his wife, treated her family well.  She was the heartbreaker because she did not want to have kids.

“Neither of us was ready when we got married.” His voice was emotionless, as though he was looking back at people he barely knew. “It took a while to realize that when Gloria said she didn’t want kids, she meant ever. I don’t know. Maybe I thought she’d change her mind. Most likely, it just didn’t seem that important to me then.”

“Maybe she knew she couldn’t have children,” Rachel offered tentatively. “I worry about that sometimes.”

“Gloria could conceive.”

And then it spirals downhill from there. Gloria is the terrible evil bitch who aborts children.

How could Gloria have thrown away what Rachel would give anything to have? Sleep was a million miles away now. “Why didn’t you stop her, Mac? How could you let her do that?”

Rachel’s innocence, her sexual healing at the hands of Mac, and their ultimate HEA never worked for me. The emotional tension was created through the unwillingness of each character to talk about their feelings.  Mac continued to pursue other women while still sleeping with Rachel.  All the cute and fun in the beginning of the book was eroded after Rachel’s reveal.

Complicating this was the sequel baiting. I believe there are 13 siblings and every one of them has to have a scene in the book.  The book felt overlong to me due to what seemed like a number of superfluous scenes, as if there was a checklist of events that needed to be included in order for all the future books to be set up appropriately and to reassure any readers of past books that the happy ever afters were continuing.  The tender and intimate moment between Rachel and her sister in law to be before the wedding despite the two having not been good friends before the wedding. I.e., where was the bride’s close friends or family at this moment? The catching of the groom surreptitiously fingering his bride in front of the entire wedding party so that we could be assured that the newly married couple was truly happy. The cornering of the Mac in the men’s room by Rachel’s brothers where they tell him that no means no.  I didn’t understand what that was about at all.

What this book did well was sell me on the socially awkward male being made over by a more confident female.  That’s a romance trope twist.  What didn’t work so well is that the heroine was portrayed as emotionally inaccessible and sexually damaged and she’s healed, of course, through the mighty wang of the hero.  That trope is as tired and old as Mac’s come ons.  Further, the way it played out with Mac dating other women but also trying to heal the heroine of her sexual fears, only heightened my nervousness about Mac’s readiness for a long term commitment.   C-

Best regards,

Jane

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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

17 Comments

  1. Darlynne
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 10:14:22

    I bet there’s a story here, somewhere.

  2. Dabney
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:46:18

    13 siblings! That alone is a bit much for me.

  3. cbackson
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:46:25

    I want to propose a challenge: can anybody identify a romance in which a female character’s decision (doesn’t have to be the heroine) to have an abortion is *not* treated as a sign of poor moral character?

    I have no desire to start debate on a controversial issue, but the degree to which abortion is used as shorthand for “terrible, unfeminine woman who doesn’t want to be a mother ever” in romancelandia REALLY bothers me.

  4. LG
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 14:53:03

    It sounds like the first half of the book would have been right up my alley, although the cover doesn’t exactly say “cute” to me. The darker stuff with Rachel would have put me off a little, but wouldn’t necessarily have been a dealbreaker. The “heartless woman who doesn’t want a child” is definitely a dealbreaker. I can put up with it if it turns up as a surprise in a book I’ve picked up, but I don’t actively seek out books like that. I’m really tired of “doesn’t want children” = “terrible person.”

  5. Melissa
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 15:47:41

    @LG: I also find myself exasperated by books that conflate maternal behavior with innate goodness.

    And as for this line:
    “It took a while to realize that when Gloria said she didn’t want kids, she meant ever.”
    I know that there are people in real life who get married without thinking this through–but those dim bulbs are not romance hero/heroine material.

  6. Dabney
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 16:05:00

  7. cbackson
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 16:28:07

    @Dabney: I am amazed/impressed that the recs seem to be category romance (which, I’ll admit, I usually don’t touch). I’m definitely checking some of these out – it’s an issue that really pushes a lot of my buttons, especially given how common surprise!pregnancy is in romance.

  8. Dabney
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 16:40:04

    @cbackson: I think abortion, just like pregnancy, is one of those choices many are faced with at some point in their lives. It’s always distressed me that American entertainment has such a hard time acknowledging that. I remember seeing the BBC’s Prime Suspect years ago in with Jane Tennyson (I want to be Helen Mirren when I grow up) finds out she’s pregnant, has an abortion and gets on with her life. It was so much like the experience of many women I knew, and yet I realized I’d never seen it before on TV.

  9. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 17:05:08

    About circumcised vs. not, I can believe an inexperienced woman wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, especially when the guy is erect. It’s really not that obvious.

  10. Dabney
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 17:18:21

    @Jill Sorenson: Inexplicably, I now have the giggles.

  11. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 17:28:53

    Should I keep going? Erect! Penis! Foreskin!

  12. Jenny Lyn
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 20:17:15

    Sequel baiting doesn’t really bother me as much as it seems to bother others because honestly, unless you completely surround your H/h with total assholes (which I don’t think any writer is going to do if they want someone to like their book), the door is always left open for a sequel or five. Having said that though, 13 is just confusing and overkill. How do you make them all distinct in the readers mind? You don’t, unless they’re taking notes. IMO it’s a waste of time and page space because they’re only going to be forgotten by the time the fourth or fifth “future” H/h pops up.

  13. Ducky
    Apr 06, 2012 @ 21:39:31

    @Dabney:
    Nods. I don’t think I have ever read an American romance where the woman gets pregnant either at the wrong time in her life or just doesn’t want to have a child period, has an abortion and gets to move on without trauma or without somehow being “punished” for her choice.

    I miss the days when Jenny Crusie wrote romances – some of her heroines were allowed to be child-free by choice.

    And I am sick and tired of the ex or the other woman in romance always being an evil hag. That’s such lazy writing.

  14. DS
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 08:12:35

    @Jenny Lyn: I don’t attach the term sequel bait to every book that has characters who may appear later in other books. For instance I love Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg books that focused over the time between the colonial period to World War II on a couple of families with ties to England and the US. Each of the characters was interesting in his or her own right and their appearances were necessary to the story in each book where they appeared.

    A gaggle of siblings or friends who appear to exist only to star in his or her own book later are what I consider sequel bait.

  15. Rei
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 08:49:09

    It took a while to realize that when Gloria said she didn’t want kids, she meant ever. I don’t know. Maybe I thought she’d change her mind.

    My God! His ex-wife made her own feelings about children perfectly clear in anticipation of the marriage and then totally and utterly failed to change her mind? Even though the hero thought she would? What a horrible person she is. I bet she tramples on puppies at the weekends.

    I would dearly love to find a romance novel in which the heroine doesn’t want children and this is treated like any other facet of her personality. I know that lots of women want children, but there also exist a fair number who do not, or who would be happy either way. Even more annoying than the “my ex didn’t want children so clearly he/she is evil” thing is the all-too-common bit where the heroine had previously never wanted children, but decides upon meeting the hero and falling in True True Love that actually she does, as long as they’re his children.

    And don’t get me started on abortion. In most of the books/TV shows that I have seen, when a character gets pregnant the possibility that they might have an abortion is barely even acknowledged, let alone taken seriously as a valid choice for a woman to make. It drives me freaking insane.

  16. LisaCharlotte
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 13:19:02

    Okay, nobody mention the “fingering the bride in front of the wedding party”! O_o

  17. LG
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 14:28:50

    @LisaCharlotte: Lol, somehow I missed that bit. Could he not have waited until later? I mean, seriously.

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