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B- Reviews

GUEST REVIEW:  Back to You by Jessica Scott

GUEST REVIEW: Back to You by Jessica Scott

Dear Ms. Scott,

In the acknowledgments, you wrote that you have been working on this book since 2008. I can certainly see how this would be a challenging story to get right and while it’s not perfect, I am glad that you persevered. Before I go further, I have to admit that the US military is an organization and culture that is completely unfamiliar to me. When I read military romances, I sometimes wonder about the authenticity and accuracy, but because you are a career officer, I know I can trust you to get it right. That is definitely a plus.

Back to You by Jessica ScottLaura and Trent Davila have been married for more than a decade and have two children, but Trent has been absent for much of the marriage: as an army captain, he has been deployed several times, and although he told Laura that there was no choice about it, she eventually found out that this was not true, and that Trent had actually volunteered to go several times. Feeling that Trent has bailed out on their marriage and unable to trust him, Laura files for divorce.

Around the same time that Laura filed for divorce, an investigation revealed that an officer under Trent’s command had been stealing and selling sensitive items, and the officer implicates Trent in these activities. As a result, Trent is fired from his command and returns to the US to await the conclusion of the investigation and a possible court martial. On top of that, a female soldier has accused Trent of improper advances, which is both damaging to his case and very hurtful for Laura.

Back to You is set about a year after these events, in 2008. Trent has not signed the divorce papers, and realizes that his choices have wrecked his marriage. He returns to Fort Hood, where a hearing is scheduled to take place soon and decide whether his case will go to a court martial. Laura, who works on base as a family readiness liaison for the brigade, still loves Trent, but feels that their marriage is over and wants to move on. Nonetheless, when his lawyer suggests that the two pretend that their marriage is going well as a way to undermine some of the charges, Laura agrees to go along with it, although she makes it clear that she does not believe that they can salvage their marriage. I didn’t really think that the pretend-marriage was needed for the story to work (or a particularly effective legal strategy), but I went along with it.

Laura had been willing to make a lot of sacrifices as an army wife, but finding out about the voluntary deployments and the allegations against Trent crushed her, and she’s afraid of letting him back into her life. Trent is scared because he doesn’t know how to cope with civilian life, including his family, and his way of dealing with it has been to stay away – physically while on deployment and emotionally while home. But this time, he knows that if he wants to fix his relationship with Laura and be a father to his children, he will have to face his problems and somehow find a new normal.

In many romance novels, when heroes carry the sort of emotional baggage that Trent has, it’s resolved with a quick conversation or a cathartic confession. I liked that you chose otherwise and showed Trent’s incremental progress in this regard: learning to ask for help, to share his experiences with others and to rely on them doesn’t come naturally for him and there is no miraculous fix – it’s something he has to work on with Laura, with his psychiatrist and with himself. He has to learn how to be a father and how to really be there in his relationship with Laura.

What didn’t work as well for me was the way Laura and Trent’s reconciliation was portrayed. They both spend a lot of time thinking about their past, what had gone wrong, and their worries about the future – but not a lot happens between them in the present. It was past the 10% point when they saw each other again for the first time, and even after that, there would be long stretches in which there wasn’t much interaction between them. When they did get together, there would often be some major development in terms of their relationship or Trent’s relationship with the kids. Sometimes it just seemed like it was too much and too fast. I wish there had been more Laura and Trent together, rather than Laura or Trent thinking about being together, and I think that might have helped with the pacing and the emotional impact of the story.

The case against Trent isn’t very strong, but the lieutenant who implicated him has a high-ranking and well-connected father so it isn’t something that can just be dismissed. It’s probably for the best that the lieutenant doesn’t make too many appearances, since he’s pretty much a one-note villain with no redeeming characteristics. But the outcome of the investigation and Trent’s consequent choices about his life were believable, and I felt that by the end, Laura and Trent were headed in the right direction. B-.

Best regards,
Rose

Rose lives in a country where romance readers are few and far between, so discovering romance websites was a welcome development. When not busy with reading and graduate school, she can often be found online discussing romance novels or sports –occasionally both at the same time. She has no TBR pile and is forever looking to change this unfortunate fact; recommendations for historicals, romantic suspense and contemporaries (preferably of the non-small town variety) are welcome.

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REVIEW:  Full Throttle by Erin McCarthy

REVIEW: Full Throttle by Erin McCarthy

Dear Ms. McCarthy:

In the Fast Track series, boosk 1 through 3 were my favorite. There was just the right balance of sexy fun for me. The middle of the series veered away from what drew me in but I felt Full Throttle returned in tempo and tone to those original books.

Shawn Hamby has been friends with Eve Monroe-Ford, a stock car driver, since they were kids. As adults they participate in a book club which is really a front for four friends to get together and do crazy stuff. This time they visit a fetish club in Charlotte where she gets invited to dance by a confident and sexy man named “Rhett.” Shawn thinks his name is made up and tells him that she’s Scarlett. The two have a connection but Shawn is drawn away by one of her book club friends. Outside the club an embarrassed Eve confesses that Shawn was dancing with Eve’s younger brother in law.

“Nolan’s little brother, Rhett.”

“That guy’s name is really Rhett?” she asked in amazement. Now she felt like a jerk for doubting it. “I thought he was making that up!”

“No, it’s really his name. He’s twenty-five years old and he’s in a sex club. Oh, my God, how am I going to look him in the face?”

“Twenty-five?” Shawn squawked, horrified. “Good Lord, he’s a fetus!” Who she had been contemplating pursuing so she could get a serious look at him naked. Her cheeks burned. “He looked older than twenty-five. He looked too hot to be that young. And I thought Nolan’s little brother was well, little. It never, ever occurred to me that the fake Rhett could be the real Rhett. You always talk about him like he’s seventeen.”

“To me, he might as well be. He’s Nolan’s little brother! What the hell was he doing there?” Eve asked, pulling out of the parking lot.

Oh, Shawn had a funny feeling she knew exactly what he was looking for. She might not be particularly knowledgeable about the lifestyle, but she could pick up on a clue or two. “I think he was a Dom looking for a submissive,” she said, not at all sure how she felt about any of this.

“What?” Eve said, moaning. “Oh, shit, I’m going to die. I do not want to picture that. God!”

Erin McCarthy Full ThrottleThe setup is clear. Rhett (his real name) is interested in Shawn, an older woman. Giving him a BDSM interest makes perfect sense in the book because it explains one of the reasons that he’s attracted to Shawn. Younger woman are often scared off by his seriousness. Rhett works on Eve’s pit crew and is interested in dirt track racing. Conveniently Shawn owns a classic racing track.  The problem is that she’ll lose ownership of the race track if she doesn’t marry. Yes, this is a *will* book and usually I hate these. Fortunately I felt like it was handled in the best way possible. The marriage of convenience places the couple together in close proximity but they agree to have sex because, well, they are attracted to each other.

I thought making Rhett the serious soul who enjoyed a less mainstream sexual lifestyle was smart when pairing him up with Shawn. The difference in their ages (she is thirty-two to his twenty-five) shrank because of his seriousness and his command in the bedroom. Rhett had no problem dropping that role outside the bedroom and was, in fact, written to be more comfortable at some of the domestic arrangements than Shawn which was a nice role reversal.  Shawn was more impulsive, deciding on a whim to propose to Rhett or suggesting that her book club go to a fetish club. And she was also more attracted to the absurd. The pairing worked for me.

And there was something very normal about their interaction. The first morning after, Shawn felt very uncomfortable and wasn’t at all unhappy Rhett had to leave to go to work even though the night before had been incredible. When his mom shows up, she immediately goes toward Shawn’s petite blonde friend and says “Oh, you’re just too cute. Exactly Rhett’s type” and when the mother is pointed toward Shawn quips “Of course, he didn’t marry any of those girls, did he?”

There is almost too little conflict in the story and what was there was easily resolved.  Shawn is the one that tries keeps Rhett at arm’s length and the story focuses a great deal on their relationship inside the bedroom as much as outside. Still, it was a sexy, normal adult romance with really smoking hot love scenes. I appreciated the humor and I liked both Shawn and Rhett.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

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