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REVIEW:  Coming in from the Cold by Sarina Bowen

REVIEW: Coming in from the Cold by Sarina Bowen

Coming in from the Cold Sarina Bowen

Dear Ms. Bowen:

I loved the three New Adult books you wrote and was desperate to read more Bowen romances so I was giddy when I learned that there were already two adult contemporaries available.

The hero Dane “Danger” Hollister is like the lead in Viscount Who Loved Me. He has a family illness that is likely to kill him before he’s forty and it’s a terrible disease. He doesn’t do relationships. He hooks up and has pursued his dream of being an  Olympic skier. This doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like something more permanent but rather that he foresees that death is imminent and you can’t have a relationship with anyone when your life has an early expiration date.

He gets trapped in a snowstorm with the heroine Willow Reade, who’s moved to Vermont, abandoning her doctorate in Clinical Psychology to move in with her boyfriend. Then her boyfriend takes off with someone else, leaving her with an underwater mortgage, gourmet chickens and no money. Why Willow doesn’t abandon the house, allow it to be foreclosed up and go back to pursue her degree wasn’t clear but that was only one of the incomprehensible behaviors of the characters in the book.

In the trapped vehicle, the two can’t stop the hormones and they have sex. He reminds her it is only a one time thing and at one point he says he doesn’t have a condom. She reassures him that it’s okay because she’s on the pill. When he does the disappearing act that he promised he would do, she’s disappointed because she’s not ready to let go.

I’m okay with both Willow and Dane at this point. They hooked up, had risky sex, and neither are emotionally okay with how things were left but that’s just how life is sometimes. It’s what happens next that had me banging on the screen of my kindle and sending angry texts. I told Sarah on SmartBitches during a podcast that I felt like the book turned me into a momentary Men’s Rights Activist and that made me even angrier.

Something happens to Willow and this causes them both more emotional trauma that is only resolved when something else happens to Dane. I know this is vaguey mcvaguerston but rather than spoil it outright, I’ll just say that I wasn’t sold on the characters’ actions and reactions. Willow does something that affects both their lives and then doesn’t really take responsibility for it. Dane is rude and cruel. Neither of them really recovered for me as characters and I had a hard time getting excited for their HEA particularly when Dane’s issues could have readily been solved earlier.

There’s not so much character growth as there is a change in circumstance. If the circumstances hadn’t changed, I couldn’t foresee an HEA between the two. I ended up not liking either character much. C-

Spoiler (spoiler rant): Show

Willow gets pregnant because she had allowed her prescription to lapse and thought she could skate by. She lied to Dane about her birth control situation and never fesses up to this. There’s no repercussions and it’s just a small confession to her friend who is like, well, okay then.

What the hell? SHE LIED ABOUT HER BIRTH CONTROL. How angry would we be at the male character if he poked holes in a condom and told a woman that he was protecting her? Very.

I felt this situation was worsened when she’s angered and hurt that he tells her to get an abortion. Yes, he calls her a “fuck up”. That’s rude and cruel, but the focus of the remainder of the book isn’t that he called her a fuck up but that he told her to get an abortion. Telling her that he didn’t want the baby, that he believed she should get an abortion is not cruel. To me this felt like an unnecessary vilification of abortion as an option.  She considers being a welfare mom and adoption, but abortion is cruel and unfeeling I know romance doesn’t want to go there, ever, but I don’t have to be happy with how the choice issue is played out.

That Dane doesn’t tell her why he believes it is vital for her to get an abortion is stupid but somewhat ameliorated because he fears that if it got out, it would affect his standing as an Olympic hopeful.  But Dane is just as stupid as Willow because he never gets tested. That makes sense if he’s going to pretend he doesn’t have the disease, but Dane lives and assumes as if he does. Why not just find out? Why he wouldn’t want to be sure when his driving motivation is the belief it is true baffled me the entire book. I get that it is necessary to keep the conflict between the couple.

I felt her lying to him when he was so adamant about using protection, not having children, was a really shitty thing to do and trumped him calling her a fuck up. I know that this a complicated moral issue, but the book brought it up and didn’t deal with it well. Of course since he doesn’t have the disease, it’s all sunshine and roses at the end. Urgh.

Best regards

Jane

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REVIEW:  The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears

REVIEW: The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears

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Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a roommate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty bucks until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbor from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—’even her country.

Dear Ms. Mears,

I hate to say but the start of this book is rather pedestrian. Put-upon heroine Gwen has a job she likes working for a boss from hell she loathes. Her boyfriend is a shit – which is obvious to all even Gwen – but she puts up with him anyway making me want to shake her numerous times. She is in debt to her eyeballs, and gets rained on both literally and figuratively. So far it’s not much different from countless romance (Chick Lit) novels we’ve all read.

Then Gwen suffers a horrible accident at her workplace and, after dragging herself into the bowels of the building, drinks something and is eventually found and taken to hospital. Slowly, very, very slowly, she begins to experience the growth of her new powers while still not understanding how she got them or what to do with them.

Meanwhile, she becomes better acquainted with a neighbor who is apparently working for Scottish independence and keeps running afoul of some mysterious bully boys and girls who want to silence him at any cost. From the blurb, I knew that the Independence vote was important but this thread is tenuously woven through the opening half of the novel to the point where it almost disappears besides Gwen’s haplessness. Where’s the AYE! I wondered?

I know that Gwen’s initial description and background is supposed to mimic the typical mild-mannered superhero but it also cuts too close to the downtrodden romance heroine trope that I loathe – Dump shit on her head until lurve saves her.

There are also some editorial continuity issues I was surprised to encounter in a Harlequin book. While I dislike visiting Ochlassieland, I noticed a curious lack of UK/Scottish slang/words/terms here except for every once in a while when someone might utter an “och, aye.” A little more might have helped me feel the setting better.

Gwen’s boyfriend is a annoying twat. He’s self absorbed, answers for Gwen and thinks he’s entitled. Thankfully, there’s another male character I can root for in Taog – and thanks for including a pronunciation guide to his name early so I didn’t spend half the book thinking is name vaguely rhymed with bog.

Roommate Magda is delightful too – though she veers between roommate and flatmate. With Magda’s fashion savvy and skills, when Gwen finally goes out to fight evil, she’s dressed for success – even if the stretchy material of the tights does give her a wedgie.

As for the mystery of Gwen’s un-looked-for skills, the explanation makes a weird kind of sense or at least it’s enough for me to play along from home. As for the villain, she’s a piece of work, though the other reason for her actions remains elusive for a long, long time.

Finally, the plot gets down to business and the explanations come thick and fast though often in expository, “let me stand here and tell you everything” fashion. Part of the book’s charm is how clueless Gwen can be as she works to master her powers and understand the evil intentions of the villains. However this same cluelessness, continued on for chapter after chapter, ended up frustrating me and causing me to start to skim to the finish.

This book was a bit darker than I thought it would be – bodies litter the ground by the end – and Gwen’s crime fighting more haphazard. It also dragged, a lot. The outcome was positive though the cost was dear. From what I can tell, there is a sequel planned for Gwen and Co. What it will be about is something I can’t guess. Honestly I’m torn as to whether I want to continue since I found large amounts of this story unsatisfying and am grading it at a C-.

~Jayne

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