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REVIEW:  Offside by Shay Savage

REVIEW: Offside by Shay Savage

Offside by Shay SavageDear Ms. Savage:

It’s been a while so I’m not sure why I picked this book to read. It could have been selling well on the top 100 list of Amazon or it could have been recommended to me. I can’t recall.

This book has stuck with me though. I refer to it as the negging book. Thomas Malone is a super star high school soccer player who is being scouted by professional teams. He’s also a terrible person. He treats the girls around him like tissue to be used for one use and then discarded. He makes fun of most everyone except for a select few and even his “close friends” aren’t immune from his sharp tongue.

It’s an angst-driven high school based romance with all the drama of Cruel Intentions and all the melodrama of an after school special. I eat these stories up probably because the shenanigans are something so different (and unlikely) than I had experienced.

What set this book apart for me, however, is that Thomas’ character was actually a little more layered than most of the manwhores. He treats people poorly because he’s in a cycle of abuse. His father is abusive towards him and Thomas strikes out –albeit not physically–against those around him. But you see the hand of his father in nearly everything he does even though you, as the reader, and Thomas despise the father.

In some subtle subconscious ways, Thomas understands that he’s influenced by his father’s actions more than he’d like. You see him both as the arrogant man child at school yet the vulnerable scared boy at home. Part of Thomas wants to lead a quiet life but his need to please his father wins out and that need is manifested in fairly objectionable ways.

Nicole Skye has moved to town to live with her father, the town sheriff, because of something that happened in her past. It’s kept a secret for some part of the book and it’s part of why Thomas is intrigued with her…that and she’s really good at soccer. Nicole is a placeholder heroine. She has little personality. I know from the text that she’s good at soccer and fairly good at shutting out Thomas’ negging but that’s about it. Her lack of color is contributed to by the fact that the story is told from Ryan’s POV but the story could have been so much stronger if Nicole was more interesting. 

As Thomas falls for Nicole, his father becomes concerned and soon Thomas has to lie about everything relating to Nicole. He can’t even practice with her without his father questioning it. His father tells him to bang Nicole and be done with it. He has to pretend that he’s hitting every random girl in order to turn his father’s attention away from Nicole.  But he can’t stay away from her and all his secrets (and hers) eventually face a reckoning. Thomas’ struggle to be with Nicole and hide it away from his father provided some intense suspense at times.

There’s a big twist in the end–the melodrama. It worked for me because Thomas was already changing and struggling against the person his father was shaping him up to be even before the dark moment. However the dark moment had a big impact on Thomas in an exaggerated fashion. The way that the post dark moments were handled was interesting but I wondered if it would be offensive to others.

Spoiler (BIG SPOILER): Show

Thomas becomes paralyzed after an incident with his father.

Some of my favorite scenes in the book weren’t between Thomas and Nicole but Thomas and Nicole’s father who shares pizza with Thomas, intuits that there’s something wrong with Thomas’ homelife, and offers an escape for Thomas at the Skye household.

According to the reviews, this is a fan fiction based on Twilight. I can vaguely see the resemblance, particularly in the lackluster characterization of Nicole. The author also has Thomas  love Shakespeare and he includes quotes at the end of each chapter. This felt affected and simultaneously served the role of being pretentious and completely superfluous. Thomas’ predilection for quoting Shakespeare was not well incorporated into the story.

This is a story of exaggeration. Thomas is an over the top, ridiculously awful manwhore with a ridiculously awful home life. He’s a dirty talker at the age of eighteen and has sexxed up more high school girls than Casanova. Nicole is the down to earth, kind but smart mouthed opposite. Even their fathers are on the complete opposite end of the parenting spectrum with Thomas’ dad being evil incarnate and Nicole’s father being wholly understanding about everything including Thomas needing a place to sleep other than his own home.

But for all its exaggeration, the dubious origins, and the typical manwhore hero, I enjoyed the book and remember it even though it was one I read weeks ago. It’s an over the top story with a lot of over the top occurrences but it’s larger than life storyline has stuck with me. C+

Best regards,

Jane

 

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REVIEW:  Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

REVIEW: Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

Rules for a Proper Governess Jennifer Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley:

As many readers here know, I’ve really struggled with the historical romance genre in the past few years despite it being my favorite genre in romance. And it’s not that I haven’t been trying to read it, but it’s been hard to lose myself in the books.

I was chatting with another reader and mentioned that I didn’t think historicals were as raw and earthy as I would like (because my tastes were changing as a reader). Despite the title, the story in Rules isn’t rigid and uptight. It’s a story about a small time grifter, a barrister with secrets, and two children who need more love in their lives.

The heroine is Roberta “Bertie” Frasier, a small time thief. A friend of hers is being tried for murder whom she knows is set up to take the fall for Bertie’s would be suitor’s brother. As she watches from the gallery, Bertie is convinced that she’s watching the verbal lynching of her innocent friend by barrister Sinclair “Basher” McBride. When McBride turns the tables and gets her friend off, Bertie tumbles half in love.

Her father and the suitor, however, aren’t as pleased. Her father sends her to steal something from McBride, just to get a little of their own back. She does so because the threat of being beat is a good motivator and, truthfully, she wouldn’t mind getting closer to McBride. The theft of the watch leads to McBride chasing her into a trap but Bertie doesn’t want to see McBride hurt so she helps him escape, but not before she steals a kiss from him.

McBride would have let about anything go, but not the watch. It was given to him by his long deceased wife and he treasures it. After Bertie saves him from a beating and kisses him senseless, he returns home with a sense of emptiness.

Bertie is intrigued by McBride and semi stalks him. This stalking leads her to be in the right place, at the right time, when the governess for the McBride family basically quits on an outing with Sinclair’s two children. The boy is a terror and the girl is a silent wraith. Bertie takes them to a pastry and tea shop, enjoys the heady experiences of being part of the moneyed class.

Andrew ate most of the cakes. Bertie managed to eat her fill in spite of that, and she lingered over her last scone. This was like a wonderful dream—a warm shop, clotted cream, smooth tea, and no need for money. What a fine world Mr. McBride lived in.

I love that Bertie is the instigator. She’s the one to kiss McBride, more than once. She inserts herself into his life and readily accepts his offer as governess. And she becomes instantly protective of not only McBride, but his children and his household. In some ways, the script if flipped here. Bertie is the stalker. Bertie is the aggressor. Bertie is the possessive one. But she does it in such an easy, nice way that you can’t help but love her.

She’s a creature of instinct. Every action she takes is of instinct and very little forethought. Fortunately she doesn’t come off as headstrong and stupid but rather entertaining, fun, and engaging. I read a lot of her scenes with a smile on my face.

McBride is a little harder to warm up to. He still has strong feelings for his dead wife and he’s not a particularly good father, something the story really doesn’t acknowledge. But because Bertie finds McBride fascinating and desirable and I like Bertie, I root for their inevitable pairing. There’s a surprise in McBride’s past that I really, really enjoyed. It made his relationship with Bertie all the more believable and helped soften his sometimes priggish edges.

If there’s a strong character arc change in either one, I didn’t see it. Yes, McBride falls for Bertie but Bertie is the same cheerful, sweet, impulsive woman at the end as she was in the beginning. Perhaps the changes were subtle. The most obvious changes occur in McBride as he lets go of his past and with his children as they both become more settled under Bertie’s direction. (She plays the most perfect governess, knowing when lessons should be had and when fun should be had. That might be irritating to some)

The romantic tension simmers on low for a while and I was glad for that because I wasn’t ready for the two to consummate their relationship in part because I wanted to see McBride be fully into Bertie when the physical relationship commenced.

An underlying suspense thread wends through the book as someone threatens to reveal McBride’s secrets and there are many returning characters, some that I remembered and some that I did not. Hart is still stern and stuffy and Ian is still mysterious. If Bertie was a bit too perfect, I didn’t mind but I do wish McBride was a more vibrant character. B-

Best regards,

Jane

As a side note, this book takes place before Daniel’s book.

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