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REVIEW:  Seducing the Enemy by Noelle Adams

REVIEW: Seducing the Enemy by Noelle Adams

seducing

Dear Ms. Adams:

I think this may be my first read from the Entangled Indulgence imprint, which gives readers of category romance another option besides Harlequin.  Seducing the Enemy seems to be going for the dramatic category feel, which for me is Not A Problem. Our heroine Etta is a twenty-five-year-old virgin looking to start experiencing life; when she meets Harrison, his air of power and authority entices her and she spends the night with him. She’s later horrified to discover that he’s Harrison Damon — part of the powerful family her grandfather is suing over an accident that killed her sister, and left Etta partially paralyzed for thirteen years.

As a rich and powerful hero, Harrison naturally has a bad experience with a deceitful woman under his belt. He assumes that their night together was a planned seduction and goes all Harlequin Presents on Etta’s ass:

“Ms. Edwards,” he bit out, still gripping her wrist. He refused to think of her as Etta. “Tell me why you’re here.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” she spit at him. “One taste of your irresistible self — your alluring charm and unbridled sexiness — just wasn’t enough. I’m here to throw myself on your mercy and beg you to take me back.”
Harrison lashed out at her venom with the only means he had available.
He kissed her — hard, deep, and punishing.

Ah, our old friend, the punishing kiss.

The scene continues:

Her free hand flew to him as her passion transformed to rage.
He caught it and held both wrists against the wall, trapping her completely.
He stared down at her. They were both flushed and painting, but her quaking had intensified. In addition to the anger, tears glistened in her eyes.
In a rush, he realized she was scared and helpless. And he gripped her wrists so hard, they’d probably bruise.
He has no idea what had come over him. He’s never been so unrestrained. He lived his life by certain rules. He was physically stronger than Marietta. She was a guest in his house. And no matter what the provocation, he didn’t treat women this way.

This is the kinder, gentler, modern category hero — that is, he still thinks the heroine is a gold-digger and gets abusive with her, but he’s horrified with himself about it.

Thwarted passion, misunderstanding, and hurt make for an enjoyable jolt of feeling. There’s also a protective, comforting element to their relationship: Etta has a severe phobia about beer and is prone to panic attacks, and Harrison is on hand to rescue her. These familiar components give a good emotional charge to the story.

But the rest felt somewhat flat. Etta’s meekly respectful interactions with Harrison’s uncle make her seem dull and cowed, and there are many scenes of her and Harrison laughing together which just aren’t particularly funny. And though story takes place in Monte Carlo, Aix (Etta’s hometown) and England, there’s very little in the way of local color or sense of place.

Etta’s backstory also never felt real to me. Here’s what she thinks about her past:

No more living a quiet, sheltered life. Maybe it was natural — she’d been in a wheelchair for thirteen years after a car accident when she was a child, and she’d only started walking again two years ago. With the lawsuit against the Damons settled, it was time to go out and have fun, like other women her age.

I can’t believe someone who was disabled for thirteen years would really think this way — surely she would have come to terms with it and started living her life? And a high school boyfriend is mentioned at one point, which contradicts this grim picture. There’s no depth to the portrayal, so Etta’s former disability comes off as just a manipulative plot point and a discomforting excuse for her virginity.

This is the first Adams (or Claire Kent) book I’ve read that wasn’t self-published, and though it has fewer proofreading errors, I don’t think it reached the compelling intensity of the previous stories.  But although some of it feels bare bones, the relationship has enough passion to make this an entertaining, easy read for those who enjoy category romance conventions. C

Sincerely,

Willaful

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REVIEW:  Dead Man and the Restless Spirits by Lou Harper

REVIEW: Dead Man and the Restless Spirits by Lou Harper

dead man 

Dying sucks hairy monkey balls, even when you’re not the stiff.

Denton Mills has a secret: he can see dead people. Or rather, how they died. It’s quite a drag in a city like Chicago, teeming with the echoes of the no-longer living. Rather than whine about it, Denton has learned to live with his troublesome talent. His adaptability comes in handy when he meets his enigmatic new neighbor.

Bran Maurell catches Denton’s eye right away, but unfortunately Mr. Tall, Dark, and Mysterious is as standoffish as he is alluring. However, after an unexpected introduction from Bran’s cat brings the two men together, Denton discovers they have a mutual interest in the spirit world. Herbalist by day, Bran moonlights as a witch, performing house cleansings for a fee.

From Bran, Denton learns that his knack for interacting with the dead qualifies him as a necromancer. It makes good business sense for them to team up and rid Chicago of its pesky spirits one grateful client at a time. Amongst ghostly adventures the attraction between the men is impossible to ignore. They seem like perfect partners—unless Bran’s not-so-little secret comes between them.

Warning: men loving men, ghosts with attitudes, and a portly feline with hidden talents.

Note: Denton also plays a small but important role in Spirit Sanguine.

Dear Lou Harper.

I usually enjoy your books quite a bit. And Jamie from your novelette/novella “Academic Pursuits” brought something unique to m/m genre, in my opinion. He was the guy who enjoyed having a lot of sex with different guys and did not do it because he had any psychological issues.

I really loved “Spirit Sanguine”, the first book in this series, so of course I was eager to read this book. This book is structured similarly to “Spirit Sanguine” – it has three stories with Denton and Bran dealing with different situations, different cases, but their relationship is shown in continuity. It progresses a little with every novelette. Unfortunately this book did not work for me as well as the first one.

As the blurb tells us, Denton appeared briefly in “Spirit Sanguine”. I was so curious to find out what hidden depths his character might have in this story. Sadly, I did not think that in this book any depth was added to his character. In fact besides him finding love I was not sure what new things we learned about his character. And that’s despite the fact that Denton was the third person narrator in this novel. We did learn that he is funny, but I could see that even from his appearance in the first book.

The humor in this book worked very well for me. I did not smile or chuckle as often as I did when I was reading “Spirit Sanguine”, but when I did, it was perfect and I thought it was very appropriate.

Denton and Bran were very good together and I thought that we learned much more about Bran than we did about Denton. I thought the author did a lovely job invoking the association with Professor Severus Snape from “Harry Potter” when she was writing about Bran. No, Bran is not a rewritten Snape at all, he is just tall, dark and snarky and as blurb tells you he is a witch and a herbalist. But if you read “Potter” just once, you won’t miss such association. I was obsessed with Potterverse for years so I did not have to look very hard.  I was a little disappointed though that the story felt the need to call Bran “Snape” once. Seriously, there was no need for it, let’s trust the readers that they will see it IMO. I will leave it to you to find couple other less obvious references to Potterverse in the book. I thought that Bran’s reasons to be standoffish were very well done and those reasons were original enough, or at least I have not seen the particular plot twist as it was done here in any other paranormal story that I have read. Despite the fact that I did not feel that I got to know Denton much better than I did during his brief appearance in the first book (this is my main reason for the grading the book the way I did), I still loved the chemistry between the guys. I also have to note that while the story does not have many sex scenes, what we did get was very hot in the best sense of the word IMO.

I also have to say that I was also disappointed with the twist involving Bran’s mother. I was disappointed not for the reasons you may think. Bran’s mother is a very likeable and funny character, and in the brief time she appeared on the page I really liked her. However, one of her actions, although it was not evil, disappointed me a lot [spoiler] basically she cast a spell for Bran to attract his perfect soul mate. I thought that the book was the story of natural progression of feelings between the guys and I really liked how during their interactions they seem to like each other more and more. I was disappointed that spell brought them together instead of them just meeting accidentally as potential roommates. Granted Bran’s mother said that no magic would hold them together if they did not like each other, but I was disappointed simply by the fact that the spell was cast no matter how unusual it was.[/spoiler] Grade : C.

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