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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:  Winning Ruby Heart by Jennifer Lohmann

REVIEW: Winning Ruby Heart by Jennifer Lohmann

Winning

It’s a race to their beginning…
Exposing world-class athlete Ruby Heart’s cheating scandal five years ago made reporter Micah Blackwell’s career. Falling in love with her now could end it. Yet watching her determination to return to the top, he can’t resist the woman she has become.

Working with Ruby to tell America her story, Micah falls deeper under her spell. But at a crucial moment, his feelings for her conflict with his job—the very thing that once saved him. Now he must choose between his skyrocketing career and the unlikely love of a good woman….

Dear Ms. Lohmann,

I’d been wanting to read one of your novels for a while, ever since they started getting good reviews at DA. Yeah, it sometimes takes me awhile to make good on my best intentions but this one was meant to be. As I read your intro to the book and what inspired you to create the character of Ruby, it felt like fate since I had just that day finished watching a documentary on Lance Armstrong.

I started the book wondering just what Ruby had done to cheat and what her response to being revealed as one would be. What she did is – to me – slightly more unpleasant than taking steroids but I wondered that her coach would have talked her into receiving a transfusion of someone else’s blood rather than the usual of reinfusing her own. That’s what it seems like most of the cyclists did. Her initial response and public shaming on air reveal a woman totally out of touch with doing her own thinking and hint at the twisted parental influences that up until then had made her simply give in and do what she was told.

Now five years after her downfall from the pinnacle of public adulation to the depths of public scorn, Ruby finally is ready to take control of her life and prove – if only to herself – that she’s still got her talent and can do the thing she loves, the only thing she’s good at. It takes a sharp eyed news reporter to finally get Ruby to admit she wants more than just finishing a marathon or ultramarathon; she wants to win again. And in this, Micah Blackwell sees his way to getting what he wants most – an anchor seat and what might be the story of his career.

Due to the interview Micah did with Ruby five years ago, the two start out poles apart. Ruby can’t understand why this man who she feels publicly humiliated her thinks she’ll give him a chance to do it again but Micah is good at what he does and knows the public would salivate at the opportunity to see if Ruby has changed. Ruby’s harsh pronouncement that the public will forgive men who fall from grace while never doing so for women, especially one who used to be “America’s Darling,” finally registers with Micah when he sees the Internet vitriol that has been directed at Ruby for years.

But these two have a bit more in common than they initially think. Both are former athletic darlings who in different ways have been cut off from the sports they loved. They’re also used to people looking at something about them rather than all of them – parts instead of the entirety. They’ve struggled to move past what used to define them and make a future in their new reality. The main difference is that Micah’s made the transition while Ruby is just getting started and still has a lot to learn.

Honestly, I’m not sure about how real to life Micah’s disability is. Of course I’m trying to judge it as an abled person and I did try to read it with a critical eye. I don’t think his position there was totally to validate Ruby yet that is, to some extent, what the plot required but it would have been the same plot had he been able to walk. As much as he worked – in the capacity of his job – to get help her back into running and rehab’d in the public eye, she also worked on him – getting him to see her as a person who had learned, was repentant and finally understood the enormity of what she’d done instead of being merely a fantastic opportunity for a sports broadcasting series.

The chapter when she finally gets her agency with her parents is wonderful. So, okay it was a little “Hollywood feel good movie scripted” but damn, it was nice to see her stand tall, say her peace, not back down and almost grow 10 feet taller on the page. She also faces down Micah’s objections – on the grounds of her safety – to using her own name for race entries. She’s done with hiding and will face what her fellow racers have to say to her.

When Ruby and Micah’s personal conflict comes to a head, Ruby apologizes for still thinking of herself first even after what happens to Micah. True he had an equal amount to do with it as she did but I didn’t truly sense that they reached an understanding or had worked through this before they got back together.

I was kind of surprised at the twist at the very end. Sure the guy was a sleaze but I didn’t see the need for this “tacked on last second” conflict unless it was just to quickly finish off Micah’s redemption in the eyes of the network as the page count was running down. The end of the book and the future for Ruby and Micah, while complete, also came at a breakneck pace and suddenly, wham!, we’re done here. I even tried flipping to the next page on my ereader because it seemed too abrupt and unfinished.

My final feelings about the book are conflicted. I liked that Ruby didn’t get a do-over which wiped her initial sin clean – she screwed up and finally took responsibility for it but she found a way to forge a new life that includes running (which is shown as integral to her life) and stay within the bounds of her probation. I appreciated seeing Micah accepted as a top notch sports reporter and not as a top notch crippled news reporter. I loved Dotty the Dalmatian who the perfect dog for Ruby. But the issues which I felt weren’t completely resolved and the abrupt end lower the grade to a C+

~Jayne

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