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REVIEW: Destined to Meet by Devon Archer

Dear Mr. Archer

book review Thank you for sending your book to us to read. You may, however, regret this decision if you read the review. I suggest not reading it. Reviews are for readers and in this case, that maxim is doubly true.

Summary of the story is that Lloyd Vance, a detective from Alaska has moved to Lake Barri, Colorado. He meets Courtney Hudson, a widow of 3 years and middle grade author of middle grade bestselling books, at a bar. They hit it off but before a relationship can start, Courtney’s cousin, Pilar, is killed in a hit and run. Lloyd and Courtney must face several impediments to their fledling relationship such as Courtney’s widowhood, Lloyd’s deadbeat father, Courtney’s critical mother, and a slow resolution to the hit and run.

Sadly, the best thing about this book is that I got it for free. The writing simply didn’t suit my taste nor did the characters.

Lloyd and Courtney meet in a bar and after exchanging names, occupations and one spectacularly bad pick up line and decide to go home together and have sex.

"Maybe the stars aligned on this night, and destiny shone down on us to get together."

Courtney and Lloyd "make love" (Courtney’s words not mine) and from this amazing sexual experience, the two feel like there might be the basis for a serious relationship.

I am not against one night stands nor do I believe that the one night stand cannot develop into a meaningful relationship. The problem is that the one night stand comes as a complete surprise and with very little forethought. Why is Courtney going home with this guy she just picked up at a bar. Is she generally like that? Is he generally like that? Courtney was a young widow whose husband died just three years ago. Is that why she is picking up some stranger in the bar?

The story relied on celebrity names for physical characteristics so now I am imagining the hookup between Will Smith and Alicia Keys. Likewise, the writing itself rests on cliche after cliche:

  • I think we should also check out the local watering holes
  • Like a runaway freight train, neither could possibly change the direction they were headed, blissfully blazing a path to ultimate fulfillment.
  • Lloyd took some solace in those words, though the proof was in the pudding,
  • But they can’t take the place of your own flesh and blood.
  • Their loss can definitely be our gain.
  • Their bodies contoured perfectly as the fire between them became an all out inferno.
  • We’re two fish out of water, if I’m reading you correctly.

The story that you are telling doesn’t seem consistent with the behavior exhibited by the characters. For example, after the hit and run, Lloyd wonders how this will affect his relationship but then says he is more focused on finding the perpetrator.

"He wasn’t sure how this might impact his relationship with Courtney. Right now Lloyd was more focused on ensuring the hit and run driver was brought into custody to answer for ending a life prematurely."

But for all his focus on the hit and run, it turns back to the relationship.

"I want this case, Steven."

"I’ve already given it to Martinez."

"So reassign it to me."

Steven gazed across the desk at him. "Okay, what aren’t you telling me?"

"I knew the victim-’Pilar Kendall. We hung out a bit when I first got here."

"I see."

"No, you don’t. I just happened to meet her cousin, Courtney, at the club last night. And we made a connection."

"Oh, and so now you feel obligated to make things right by finding this driver and making the arrest?"

"Something like that."

I don’t find that either Courtney nor Lloyd are intentionally unreliable narrators but that is how they appear. Another example is that you want us to buy into the idea that Lloyd is this super great guy and not a player. But looking at his relationship with Courtney’s cousin:

Pilar Kendall. They had gone out on a couple of dates, if you could call them that, but the chemistry just wasn’t there.

to

She was a fun girl, if not someone he could imagine falling for in a serious way.

Or in talking about the death of Courtney’s cousin:

"No, she didn’t." Lloyd bit down on his lip. I hope her death doesn’t come between us.

and

Lloyd met Courtney’s hard eyes. Uh oh, he thought, looks like Pilar’s digging a hole for me even from the grave.

I was frequently confused by the writing as well:

Lloyd realized he had overreacted. Of course they would find the culprit in reasonably short order. The evidence pointed in that direction, even if a person of interest had yet to be identified. Or was he missing something?

They have no eye witnesses but a set of tire tracks, paint scrapings, and broken glass and he thinks that an arrest is in the offing?

Lloyd took some solace in those words, though the proof was in the pudding, as the cliché went. So long as the person remained at large there could be no letting up. If not for his sake, then for Courtney’s.

Again, I don’t understand what this sentence means. What proof is in the pudding? That there was no evidence? Or that the arrest was soon to be made? That they were devoted to finding the killer?

The dialogue is stilted and formal and replete with dialogue tags:

Lloyd: "It must take some real talent to be able to write for today’s kids, many of whom have the attention span of about five seconds at a time."

The sex scenes also contain oddly formal words and also strange descriptions:

"That’s what they all say," she kidded.

"And desirable as hell."

"Is that why your eyes are ballooning?"

"Yes, just as my taste buds are going crazy. I want you."

I have to confess this is the first time that I’ve read about taste buds getting aroused outside an episode of Top Chef. Then there is the strange juxtaposition of different animal species in another sex scene:

They made love lasciviously, experimenting in new, ero!ic, passionate ways and returning to previous tried and true ones, pleasuring each other to dizzying heights.

Courtney’s voice purred as she galloped atop him . .

Purring and galloping? Or the seemingly physically impossible bedroom activities:

The kiss began as nibbling around the outer edges of Lloyd’s mouth before Courtney went for the gusto, sucking on his lower then upper lip, and both at once. She put her tongue inside his mouth and Lloyd took the lead, tasting and sucking it. They gave themselves to each other again with passionate intimacy.

Is it possible to suck on both lips at once? Needless to say, this book was simply not my cup of tea. D

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

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

24 Comments

  1. Keishon
    May 28, 2008 @ 16:56:54

    I am against one night stands nor do I believe that the one night stand cannot develop into a meaningful relationship.

    This sentence reads like it’s missing a word in there. [g]

    I don’t necessarily care for relationships that start off with one night stands but if the author can pull it off, hat tip.

    Also, I hate to kick a dog when it’s down but (hopefully the author will heed your advice and not read this review but I found this part:

    I have to confess this is the first time that I've read about taste buds getting aroused outside an episode of Top Chef

    interesting as well. My first time hearing about aroused taste buds as well and ballooning eyeballs. I think I like your D/F/DNF reviews best. Very entertaining.

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  2. Jennie
    May 28, 2008 @ 17:35:23

    I’m a bit alarmed by the ballooning eyeballs, as well. That sounds like it could be indicative of a serious health problem.

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  3. GrowlyCub
    May 28, 2008 @ 17:36:38

    I went to eharlequin.com and read the author’s bio because I had never heard of him and wondered about the appellation, since my first thought was that Devon is a name for a female.

    One thing I noticed and not in a good way was the following statement:

    “I’m thrilled as a male author to successfully make the jump into romance fiction, joining such esteemed male romance authors as Robert Waller, Nicholas Sparks and Harlequin’s own K. N. Casper,” he says proudly.

    On the one hand, I can understand that he would compare himself to other male authors of the romance genre, seeing how they are fairly unusual, and maybe I’m just too easily annoyed, but on the other hand that statement just really rubs me the wrong way. Probably because I’ve never heard of Casper and Waller and because I don’t consider Sparks a very good example of genre romance. Matter of fact I would question whether his books really are romance (at least the ones I read).

    I’d have been more impressed if Archer had been proud to be among the likes of Nora Roberts or Debbie Macomber just to name two examples of romance authors who’ve consistently made the bestseller lists for years.

    I also find this statement vaguely irritating:
    “Not content to rest on his laurels, this prolific author has added romance fiction to his repertoire.”

    Repertoire? That to me sounds insulting to the many authors who have honed their craft for years by concentrating on romance, and seems to imply that it’s no big deal to dash off a romance among all the other distinguished non-fiction and mystery books.

    Maybe I’m overly critical, but I’m not very tempted to try his books and the excerpts in the review do not tempt me either.

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  4. Keishon
    May 28, 2008 @ 17:56:35

    Courtney's voice purred as she galloped atop him

    Giddy up. Whoops. Ok enough. I didn’t know this was a guy who wrote this novel. I guess that explains a lot. I don’t care for the author’s inspiration for romance but to each his own. I do know who Waller is and I enjoyed The Bridges of Madison County when I read it and Oprah pimped that book for all that it was worth at the time.

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  5. GrowlyCub
    May 28, 2008 @ 18:13:53

    Keishon, thanks for linking Waller and BoMC. I would not consider Bridges a romance because it doesn’t have a HEA. I’d call it a love story, but as far as I’m concerned the label ‘romance’ should go only on books that have a happy ending.

    And since we know Oprah would never consider anything with a happy ending it’s clear a real romance will never get pimped on her show. Too bad!

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  6. Janet/Robin
    May 28, 2008 @ 18:27:18

    I didn't know this was a guy who wrote this novel. I guess that explains a lot.

    I admire the fact that he hasn’t tried to hide it, exactly, because I do think that female readers can have a bias against men trying to write genre Romance. But damn if I can rid myself totally of that bias myself when I read those quotes Jane posted. At the very least, the one night stand makes a little more sense to me, lol, because it sure doesn’t seem to fit with the way the book is described here.

    Where’s Tom Curtis when we need him? If I were a male author aspiring to write Romance, I’d be reading the Curtises way before the likes of Nicholas Sparks.

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  7. GrowlyCub
    May 28, 2008 @ 18:37:43

    The only example I can give from personal experience is reading Leigh Greenwood and while I enjoyed the books, I always felt something was missing or not quite right, but I could never really articulate what it was. I’m not sure if finding out after the fact that Leigh is male shows negative bias, or whether my example proves the opposite. :)

    I’ve only read a few books that were written openly by male authors but they all were bittersweet to pretty damn depressing (Sparks, Evan Maxwell).

    I’d think that has more to do with male writer bias against HEA and with males not wanting to be known for having written something ‘sappy’ with a happy ending.

    In that way, I do have a bias against male writers, but more from the fact that I learned the hard way that they don’t seem to write the kind of stories I want to read even if the label ‘romance’ is affixed to the book.

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  8. Stephanie
    May 28, 2008 @ 19:03:26

    Interesting. I just read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Afterword in her Miles in Love anthology, and she’s got some insightful things to say about the different ways men and women write romance. Men tend to write love stories that conclude with the woman lost or dead, and the man free to love or at least have sex again. Whereas women write love stories in which the hero and heroine are alive, together, and turning to “the work of their world” in the end. I know which I prefer, but to each his own.

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  9. Janet/Robin
    May 28, 2008 @ 19:07:58

    The only example I can give from personal experience is reading Leigh Greenwood and while I enjoyed the books, I always felt something was missing or not quite right, but I could never really articulate what it was. I'm not sure if finding out after the fact that Leigh is male shows negative bias, or whether my example proves the opposite. :)

    To me this brings up the whole issue of whether/how the male POV in Romance is written by women for the most part. Is Romance, in other words, a particularly female genre, and what does that mean if it is? Is it that women don’t want to read the *real* male POV, or are some of the men writing in the genre trying to mimic the way the female writers work the male POV, thus not giving us an authentic POV themselves? I tend not to be of the belief that a woman cannot write a man’s POV and vice versa, but Romance does seem to be intrinsically related to the expectations of women.

    I think one of the reasons I love the Curtis books is that because they are a team, a married couple at that, you get a blending of the male and female voices. I know that the Tori Carrington books, which I haven’t read, are written by a couple, and, so, I think, are the Ilona Andrews books. Are there others?

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  10. Janet/Robin
    May 28, 2008 @ 19:08:59

    Men tend to write love stories that conclude with the woman lost or dead, and the man free to love or at least have sex again.

    I am working so hard to suppress a snarky comment here, lol.

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  11. Stephanie
    May 28, 2008 @ 19:36:04

    Janet/Robin: Why suppress it? Snark away. I had some less than charitable thoughts myself on the subject–like, male wish fulfillment, anyone?

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  12. GrowlyCub
    May 28, 2008 @ 19:42:39

    Stephanie, I guess I’ll have to give in and buy the compilation even though I already own all the books. The afterword sounds very intriguing and very spot on. Yeah, I know which type of story I prefer, too. :)

    Robin, I can’t think of any other teams than the ones you have listed, although I’m sure there must be more. I was going to say Laura London, but that’s the Curtises.

    I’ve seen people (usually severe critics of the genre and more often than not women) mention how un-real men in romance novels are. How their behavior and language is inauthentic. One memorable critic said Asaro’s heroes are all just women with dicks.

    After thinking about it, I do feel that romance novel males probably talk more (about their feelings and just in general) than their real life brethren. Then I remembered the review of the Jes Battis’ UF review and the technical infodumping complaint. So, I guess we could hypothesize that women focus on dialogue and men on techno babble.

    Slightly tangential, when my parents were here they ran out of reading material and I dug up some of my German books (translated romance was all I had to offer :). My dad read Sandra Brown’s Mirror Image and seems to have enjoyed it. I didn’t question him in detail about it, so I don’t know how authentic he found the males in this book and even if I did, I’m not sure he’d have much to say, a la Ned as seen in the video review post here on DA (‘but what did you THINK’?).

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  13. DS
    May 28, 2008 @ 20:16:12

    Actually, I think some of the Elizabeth Lowell books are written by Elizabeth Lowell (is she really Ann Maxwell? Can’t remember) and her husband. I’m not sure about when this started and ended or if it ended, but I have to admit the books I read by her as Elizabeth Lowell from the 80′s had some bizarre women/relationships in them.

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  14. Janet/Robin
    May 28, 2008 @ 20:34:06

    Janet/Robin: Why suppress it? Snark away. I had some less than charitable thoughts myself on the subject-like, male wish fulfillment, anyone?

    Yeah, I was going to say that it must be the male fantasy.

    Of course it’s not simply fantasy, is it, when you look at the infidelity and divorce statistics.

    I've seen people (usually severe critics of the genre and more often than not women) mention how un-real men in romance novels are. How their behavior and language is inauthentic. One memorable critic said Asaro's heroes are all just women with dicks.

    Well, I find a lot of the female characters pretty unrealistic, too, so I don’t think it’s just a gender thing. Ultimately, think a talented writer can mimic any voice, male or female. But I do think that Romance caters a bit to what is *perceived* to be a female fantasy, which probably shapes the portrayal of some male characters. Then again, SF/F have types, too, as do mysteries, crime novels, etc.

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  15. Marianne McA
    May 29, 2008 @ 02:27:40

    Are there others?

    Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees write together. Perhaps more chick-lit than romance, though the one I read had a romantic HEA.
    Long time since I read it, and I only read the one – which may not be typical of their writing style – but I seem to remember he wrote the male pov, and she wrote the female pov. I could be mistaken about that.

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  16. Lorelie
    May 29, 2008 @ 08:37:28

    Is it possible to suck on both lips at once?

    I am here to report that yes, it unfortunately is possible. Ex-boyfriend. ‘Nuff said.

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  17. B
    May 29, 2008 @ 09:15:44

    I am here to report that yes, it unfortunately is possible. Ex-boyfriend. ‘Nuff said.

    Oh, so you had one of those boyfriends who had this amazing knack for getting his whole mouth over yours and doing this sort of kiss/suck thing while still managing to drool copiously on you, too?

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  18. Jill A
    May 29, 2008 @ 09:48:02

    Is it possible to suck on both lips at once?

    I am here to report that yes, it unfortunately is possible. Ex-boyfriend. ‘Nuff said.

    I’m glad I wasn’t drinking my coffee when I saw this, as I would’ve spit it out. That quote also made me think of some…shall we say…unfortunate kissers from high school (probably not the age group the author is going for).

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  19. Cathy
    May 29, 2008 @ 13:53:27

    galloped?

    I think if I had accidentally come across that in a book, I would’ve died laughing.

    Also, balloning eyes != sexy. If I was with someone whose eyes started “balloning” I would rush them to the emergency room.

    I’m curious – this book seems pretty crappy. I know there are crappy books by female authors, too, but is a less-than-stellar romance book by a man more likely to get published, because it’s by a man? I guess I’m wondering if publishers think the novelty of a male author will compensate for any shortcomings that are present.

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  20. Janine
    May 29, 2008 @ 21:12:26

    I think one of the reasons I love the Curtis books is that because they are a team, a married couple at that, you get a blending of the male and female voices. I know that the Tori Carrington books, which I haven't read, are written by a couple, and, so, I think, are the Ilona Andrews books. Are there others?

    Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, of course.

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  21. Janine
    May 29, 2008 @ 21:15:54

    The only example I can give from personal experience is reading Leigh Greenwood and while I enjoyed the books, I always felt something was missing or not quite right, but I could never really articulate what it was. I'm not sure if finding out after the fact that Leigh is male shows negative bias, or whether my example proves the opposite. :)

    Many years ago I enjoyed Jennifer Wilde’s Once More, Miranda. I was astonished to find out later that Wilde was really the male author Tom Huff. My feeling at the time was that he did an excellent job writing in the female POV, but as I have not reread the book in several years I can’t be sure I would feel the same way now. I remember trying others of his books. I liked The Slipper but was unable to get into the Marietta trilogy.

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  22. Keishon
    May 29, 2008 @ 22:15:13

    There’s Madeline Brent, a pen name for a male author. I’ve never read Brent’s books but I have collected quite a few titles over the years. Some men do very well writing from a female perspective (David Payne). I loved David Payne’s southern novel, Early From the Dance that had at it’s core a love triangle of sorts and the pov is dominated from by the male lead and a few chapters from the female pov. Sorry for the tangent.

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  23. Keri M
    May 30, 2008 @ 13:33:18

    J.A. Konrath is a male author who writes about a female cop character. His Jaq Daniels character is extremely funny at times and true to female form for the most part, if you don’t mind mixing murder and mirth together in one tight book. I can tell sometimes where Jonathan’s maleness overruns her female traits, but he does keep a tight reign :-) I couldn’t resist with the galloping comment made earlier* on it. He has a lot of input from his wife and various other females in his life and Jaqueline does have a steady boyfriend, although after being kidnapped three different times by three different bad guys in three different books, he might not be feeling the love from Jaq. Since the book isn’t a romance, the love scenes have been light, but meaningful.

    Sorry I got off subject, I too read Jennifer Wilde’s book and knew it was wrote by a male and a few others throughout the years. None of them that are writing true straight romance has made an impact enough on me to even remember them really.

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  24. Devon Vaughn Archer
    Jun 06, 2008 @ 09:22:35

    Good day:

    As the author of, DESTINED TO MEET, I always like to see what people think of my books, good or bad.

    In the interest of balance for those readers who may still have an open mind, may I suggest you check out the more favorable reviews of DESTINED TO MEET from Romantic Times, The Romance Readers Connection, Genre Go Round Reviews, Night Owl Reviews, and Harriet Klausner.

    Moreover, just this week, DESTINED TO MEET placed #5 on the Harlequin Top Ten Books About Love:

    Top 10 Books About Love
    1. Falling for the M.D. by Marie Ferrarella
    2. Nobody Does It Better by Jennifer LaBrecque
    3. Moonlight and Roses by Jackie Braun
    4. Loving Evangeline by Linda Howard
    5. Destined to Meet by Devon Vaughn Archer
    6. On the Wings of Love by Elizabeth Lane
    7. Moonstruck by Susan Grant
    8. A Perfect Stranger by Terry McLaughlin
    9. The Man Next Door by Gina Wilkins
    10. The Padova Pearls by Lee Wilkinson

    This should say something about the quality of the read.

    Have a nice day.

    Devon Vaughn Archer

    ReplyReply

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