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REVIEW:  A Home for Her Heart by Janet Lee Barton

REVIEW: A Home for Her Heart by Janet Lee Barton

A-Home-for-Her-Heart

Love on Assignment

Magazine writer Elizabeth Anderson has sparred with newspaper reporter John Talbot for years. Though they cover similar stories, John thinks Elizabeth’s writing is trivial, and she finds him too boastful. So when they must work together to investigate New York City’s worst tenement houses, they’re surprised by the great team they make.

Despite their professional rivalry, John and Elizabeth begin to trust each other as they grow from competitors, to friends, to something more. But then John makes a startling discovery that would break the story—and Elizabeth’s heart—wide-open. John’s always been driven by his career—can he give up one dream for another?

Dear Ms. Barton,

I enjoy reading the Love Inspired Historicals mainly for the unusual times and settings which are featured in them. There are only so many Dukes I care to read about and even Western gunslingers/sheriffs get too familiar after a while. After watching the PBS series on NYC which mentioned Jacob Riis’s 1890 book “How the Other Half Lives,” it was the tenement investigation in the blurb that caught my attention and made me decide to give this one a try.

While I had hopes for some hard-hitting journalism, the center and focus of the book was mainly on the life at the boarding house where Elizabeth and John both live. It’s a loving, almost family environment with a kindly owner and several very nice but ultimately mainly forgettable tenants. Mrs. Heaton does have her rules and PDAs are mainly limited to engaged couples and exuberance at baseball games while female residents aren’t supposed to be out at night alone.

The details about life there, in NYC and in the tenements are numerous and obviously well researched but there is a lot of repetition. Meals are described in detail, the heat, trolley transport and dinner, and nattering conversation. Some of this was pertinent to the plot while some, alas, was mere filler that I often skimmed.

Elizabeth and John have both had bad past romantic experiences. John got fired from his newspaper job due to the boss’s daughter leading him on while Elizabeth’s fiancé turned out to only want her for her family’s money rather than herself. Both now shy away from romance and have vowed to never risk their hearts again. Lest we forget that, this is mentioned in almost every chapter.

Since this is the second book in this Boarding House Betrothal series, the characters of another of your books are secondary ones here. As such, I expected some background information which I think, for the most part, is sparingly done. Readers who are new to this world, as I was, can start here and not be lost.

The investigative reporting is much more low key than I was hoping for mainly consisting of Elizabeth and John wandering around some tenement buildings, taking some pictures, talking once or twice with people there and then telling each other about searching for information at City Hall. John has one short dust-up with a manager and that’s pretty much all. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in this. It did serve as a contrast to Elizabeth’s life of wealth but since she’d ditched all that in order to live her life on her own terms, even this part of the plot was dulled instead of hard edged. Eventually the investigation touched closer to home but the brief flare up of emotion and tension soon fizzled out as well.

So mainly this story just sort of drifts along at a leisurely pace. Two perfectly nice people finally really notice each other, begin to get along, have their momentary doubts and then happily fall in love. Some of the tenements are cleaned up, true love is found and lots of good meals are eaten at the boarding house over pleasant conversation. There’s nothing really bad about the book but it’s one I think won’t stick in my mind for long. C

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  One Night of Scandal by Elle Kennedy

REVIEW: One Night of Scandal by Elle Kennedy

ONSDear Ms. Kennedy:

I’ve read and really enjoyed some of your work, so when Jane featured One Night of Scandal as a Daily Deal, it was a no brainer for me to pick it up.

Reed Miller is in a quandary. He’s been attracted to his best friend, AJ’s girlfriend since they started dating. Darcy is everything he wants. She’s gorgeous and smart and passionate about her work as a teacher. She’s the kind of woman you settle down with. Despite Reed’s reputation as a lady’s man, he’s starting to feel like it’s time to calm down his wild social life and begin to build a future with a woman. He’d love for that woman to be Darcy, but of course, she’s AJ’s girl, and there’s no chance there. He’s got a great life as a former MMA fighter. He owns a successful night club with his two best friends, but they’ve just uncovered a problem with a drug dealer that seems to be selling Ecstasy from their club. Reed decides to track down the dealer.

One night while casing the competition, looking for possible links to the mysterious dealer, Reed spies Darcy in a way too short to be legal dress. She seems to be trolling for guys. Incensed, Reed marches over to haul Darcy away from the action. He’s shocked when Darcy tells him that she and AJ have broken up and she’s looking to move on with her life. Reed can’t believe it. This should be his chance, but Darcy is AJ’s ex, and as a former girlfriend of a good friend, she’s completely off limits. Reed insists on taking Darcy home. Of course, he ends up landing the hottest kiss either of them have ever experienced on her, but they agree that neither can betray AJ and that despite their attraction, things can go no further.

Reed resolves to confess what happened with Darcy to AJ immediately, but the opportunity passes and somehow he doesn’t tell him. And when AJ asks Reed to stand in at a self-defense class that AJ was supposed to teach, but now feels it would be awkward to do it with Darcy, Reed can’t say no. Of course, being in such close proximity to Darcy means fighting their incendiary attraction even harder. Soon Reed and Darcy are making love.

For Reed, despite his guilt over AJ, it’s everything he dreamed of. He knows Darcy is The One. Darcy knows Reed’s history and has no interest in having her heart broken. She tells Reed that their hook up is just that, a hook up. There will be no flowers and candy — strictly sex. Reed is unhappy, but of course, won’t stop seeing Darcy in the hopes that it will grow to something more. But will Darcy begin to think of Reed as more than a secret hook up? What will AJ say when he finds out?

I’m sorry to say that this book didn’t work all that well for me. There seemed to be a lot of short hand and cliche being employed to try to raise the emotional stakes in the story. There’s the drug dealer storyline, which allows Reed and Darcy to be thrown together for a moment. There’s the AJ storyline, which ended up mostly being a tempest in a teapot. There’s the Reed teaching self-defense storyline that employed plot moppets. There’s the final Big Misunderstanding which seemed too silly to even be serious, and then there was the hero acting like a giant jackass to scare off the heroine gambit.

I almost felt like there was a big bowl of romance tropes that you were drawing out of a bowl and throwing into the story. While I have no particular objection to any of the above referenced storylines, none were fully fleshed out, so in combination, they felt like a hodge-podge of tropes without a truly cohesive, fully realized story. I’m disappointed, because I generally find you to be a really reliable author whose work I consistently enjoy. But this one was a miss for me. Final grade: C.

Kind regards,

Kati

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