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REVIEW:  Return of the Viking Warrior by Michelle Styles

REVIEW: Return of the Viking Warrior by Michelle Styles


The Viking Claims his Wife

Kara Olofdottar thanked the gods when she married her childhood hero Ash Hringson. But this fearless raider has been gone so long, his proud arrogance is the only memory she retains of him. Now she must remarry to protect her lands for her son.

But then, on her wedding day, the conquering warrior returns to gasps of horror and surprise! After all, Ash was supposed to be dead, though to Kara’s starved gaze he seems very much flesh and blood…and less than impressed to find his beautiful wife intent on marrying someone else!

Dear Ms. Styles,

Recently Robin mentioned a new exhibit at the British Museum about Vikings and how it confounds so much of what we think about them today. When I saw your latest book listed at Harlequin I took it as a Sign and hustled to buy and read it. I should have enjoyed this different take on life in 790s Norway. Let’s just say, I didn’t.

Ash and Kara have a lot going on. Ash headed off years ago to seek Adventure and Riches leaving his (unknown to him) pregnant bride to face life with his horrible father. But Kara survived, bore a son, defended him against those who would have exposed the weak baby and now seeks a second marriage with a steady man who will defend her and her son and protect her son’s land. Until Ash arrives just at that moment in a wedding when the question is asked, “Does anyone know why this marriage can’t take place.” Ash unloads a hell of a reason, the ceremony comes to a crashing halt and the wedding feast is hastily renamed a homecoming party.

But Ash’s Uncle wants the land and sulks offstage after uttering threats. Ash and Kara hiss at each other, grind their teeth over the situation and huff around a lot. They talk, they talk, they talk, they argue in undertones, slam their own fists together a lot and then argue in hushed tones some more. They can think a situation to death and strive to repress what they’re thinking until they’ve stood and thought about it a few more times. The plot moves at a glacial pace as these two manage to do very little over the course of the first 80% of the book. Yes, I calculated that.

Every once in a while, the evil Uncle gets a brief mention just so I don’t forget he and his threat exists but basically there’s a lot of very little actually happening to keep me awake. Until finally! Uncle makes his move and I think, “Yippee, some action.” Only there isn’t. Action that is. Just more talking. No, wait… yes a battle! Fighting with swords at last. Alas, that bit of excitement is over too soon and we’re back to Kara and Ash fussing over patching up Ash’s wounds. Sigh… The story ends with more talking and I finish it with the thought that if you’re looking for a verbose, moody Viking novel this is it. If you want some excitement though, keep going. D


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REVIEW:  Bender by Stacy Borel

REVIEW: Bender by Stacy Borel

Dear Ms. Borel:

I read this because it was on the Kindle bestseller list for a couple of weeks. I try to stay up on the market by reading up and down the Kindle list. I kind of get why the book is selling well but not entirely. There were two large problems with this book. First, the heroine was quite irritating. I think I texted a reader friend and said I’d like to reach through my screen and slap her around a bit. Second, there were a number of storylines introduced, then forgotten, only to be brought around when there was a call for drama.

bender stacy borelThe story opens with twenty year old Keegan living at home with her mother and her eight year old sister. Keegan is portrayed as world weary but loving. Her mother is constantly working and Keegan has all but raised her younger sister.  The distractions of home are causing her grades to slide and imperiling her chances of getting into nursing school. At the advice of her slutty sexually active, better looking, thinner, more outgoing best friend, Keegan searches for a roommate. Out of all the places she finds on her meager budget is a bedroom in a two story apartment rented/owned by Camden Brooks.

Camden starts out by pulling a Tate as I am now calling it. That’s where a male protagonist says something insulting about the female protagonist within the hearing of the female protagonist, usually a disparaging comment about her weight. Camden refers to Keegan as chubby.  He does this because he likes her so much. And no, Camden is not in kindergarten. He’s twenty-six.

Why he needs a roommate is never made clear. He is, after all at age twenty-six, the owner of a successful local gym. How he is successful isn’t clear either because at one point, he asks everyone in the gym to leave so he can screw Keegan. That doesn’t seem to be the actions of a successful small business owner.

The initial interaction between Camden and Keegan consist of little talk, glares, and Keegan internally bemoaning that she’s short, unattractive, and possibly overweight. Given that she wore a size ten jean and had a nice rack, the chubbiness was a tough sell for me. I get that most women are self conscious of their weight and certainly Keegan had self esteem issues but calling her chubby seemed excessive.

Surprisingly Camden is not the worst character in the book. That role belongs to Keegan. She is one of the most immature characters I’ve read in a long time and she was written in such a way that I felt she needed serious anger management therapy.

For instance, Camden discovers she is sleeping on an air mattress and buys a bedroom set. Keegan is offended by this generosity and decides to take a baseball bat to the furniture. Fortunately Camden is able to wrestle the bat away from her in time, but seriously, what the hell? “You jerk, you did something nice for me so I’m going to ruin it and cost you a shit ton more money.”

In another scene, Keegan sees Camden do something she doesn’t like and goes ballistic on his car,

I was in my own little bubble. I’d hoped that it would give me some relief, some sort of reprieve from the need to go over there and hurt him. I never said anything about what I was doing was right, but all sense of reason had left my body. When it wasn’t enough, I dropped my bag and started using my feet. … Have you ever been so angry that you saw red? His gesture repulsed me. I kicked everything that I could lay my eyes on; the bumper, the door, the hood. I was running around it like a mad woman.

A mad woman is the perfect description. Keegan continues her ridiculous behavior right up to the end of the book, each ridiculous and immature action topping the last.

Camden’s characterization as a mild dom was weird as well like unexpected anal. Whoops, was not prepared for this. Yes, I got that he liked to be in control but the way it was introduced in the bedroom came off as forced.

The story had a weird amalgamation of a bunch of different popular tropes–the big misunderstanding, the young alpha who likes to dominate in the bedroom, the downtrodden heroine who doesn’t understand how beautiful and sexy she is, the sexually active best friend, and the unattractive girl misused by the frat boy.

I didn’t understand what Keegan saw in Camden other than he was hot. I didn’t see what Camden saw in Keegan. Keegan’s mother was initially portrayed as a hard worker but absentee mother. Later the mother turns the corner into horrific neglect due to the mother’s relationship with a man. The plot lines that opened the story such as Keegan being her sister’s caretaker and the importance of nursing school is set aside for a great portion of the book, only to be trotted out at the end.

I liked that the heroine tried to date someone early on and even had a relationship with someone before hooking up with Camden. The sex scenes weren’t bad at first but I started skipping them in the latter part of the story. There was a readability about the story but by the time I reached the end, I disliked Keegan so much I felt she needed to be drop kicked into therapy. D

Best regards,




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