Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

FBI

REVIEW:  It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

REVIEW: It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

it-happened-one-wedding

“SHE KNOWS BETTER THAN TO SAY “I DO”

After a humiliating end to her engagement, investment banker Sidney Sinclair is done with commitment-phobic men. But when her sister winds up engaged after a whirlwind courtship, Sidney is thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of sexy playboy she wants to avoid—the gorgeous best man. She’s stuck with him, for better or worse, until her sister walks down the aisle, but that doesn’t mean she has to give in to his smooth advances, no matter how tempting they are…

BUT HE MAKES IT HARD TO SAY “I DON’T”

Special agent Vaughn Roberts always gets his man on the job and his woman in bed. So Sidney’s refusal to fall for his charms only makes him more determined to win over the cool and confident redhead. Only what starts out as a battle of wills ends up as a serious play for her heart. Because the one woman who refuses to be caught may be the only one Vaughn can’t live without…”

Dear Ms. James,

This has almost become a Spring ritual. The flowers start blooming, the trees start dumping chartreuse colored pollen on my car and I get to read the next book in your continuing FBI series. I’ll leave you to guess which 2 of those events I actually look forward to.

This book has a great beginning, a pretty good body and a wonderful finish which was more than I was expecting given the wedding theme, which is often a signal that the heroine is going to be embarrassed over the course of the story by well meaning people asking “So when are you getting married?” or she’ll be engaged in some frantic treasure hunt of an effort to snag a date for the big day. But even though Sidney actually is looking for a date for the date, it never felt like a pratfall to me as it was obvious that 1. Sidney’s got agency and 2. Vaughn was going to end up being The One and he was actually helping Sidney with Man-Speak. More on that later.

Sidney and Vaughn initially come together in a definitely not-meet-cute. Vaughn – in his guise of a bad-ass FBI agent who notices all – sees a hot woman on an obvious first date with a guy Vaughn soon pegs as an blowhard idiot. Later, when he tries to move in and ask Sidney out, she busts his balls. Sidney enjoys busting Vaughn’s balls and does so regularly and with great finesse which annoys yet intrigues him.

Sidney and Vaughn part ways thinking never to see each other again but of course we know better. Soon they know better too as they discover they are the siblings of the engaged couple of the title. Isabelle and Simon are just the most darling two people in love, so much so that, as Vaughn says, he almost expects singing birds and happy woodland animals to show up whenever those two are together. The set up that this allows, a wedding planner pressure cooker of three months, thus throws the best man and the maid of honor together all the time. Whenever anyone mistakes Sidney and Vaughn for a couple, the two recoil in horror and send out “wave off, wave off!!” signals. Since neither is looking to hook up with the other, they’re free to get to know each other in a way they never would have otherwise.

As they continue to talk along the way to helping get the whirlwind wedding off the ground, they don’t even realize that they’re beginning to share what’s most important to them such as Vaughn’s difficult early FBI assignments and the fact that doing those investigations was more professionally satisfying to him or Sidney revealing all the messy details on her father’s marital issues. And then Vaughn’ll do something nice like ask Sidney to tell him about her mother and what traits Sidney inherited from her. Plus he’s always available to interpret the texts and emails Sidney gets as she dates her way through Chicago’s single men. I enjoyed Sidney’s Man-Speak interrogations of Vaughn as he cracks the code men use to play women. His eye usually twitches when he does. I love that Sidney catches his giveaway mannerism fairly quickly and teases him about it all book long.

Yet still these two insist they’re not in love, no siree bob, not us, no way. Everyone around them senses something but Vaughn still swears that he’s not interested in giving up his fun bachelor lifestyle and Sidney won’t consider him since he fails her 34 Rules for knowing if a guy is worth bothering about for a long term relationship. Since I’m having so much fun watching them together I didn’t mind it taking them a while before the penny dropped and each realized that the other is the person they want to see after a sucky day at work, or just anytime for that matter. Not only did I like listening to their conversations but I loved watching them actually change and grow to be the people who are ready when Vaughn starts to talk about forever. B+

“So, I have a question.” She looked Vaughn right in the

eyes, for once not trying to hide her vulnerability. “What does

it mean when a guy who has spent years avoiding commitment

says he’s suddenly changed his mind? Is it a fluke thing he’s

going to regret in a couple of months, or is it the real deal?”

His hand caressed her cheek, his voice husky with emo-

tion. “It means he’s found the one woman who makes him

want to be a happily- ever- after type. So bring on the damn

singing birds and woodland animals.”

~Jayne

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

REVIEW:  Far Gone by Laura Griffin

REVIEW: Far Gone by Laura Griffin

far goneDear Ms. Griffin,

When your books work for me, they’re a great blend of romance and suspense. When they’re not, they tend to be okay but forgettable reads. Unfortunately, Far Gone falls in the latter category.

Andrea Finch is an Austin police detective currently on leave after a shooting incident that left a young man dead. When her younger brother Gavin asks for a two thousand dollar loan and ends up at Lost Creek Ranch in West Texas, Andrea sets out to investigate and to get her brother out of what looks like a very dangerous situation. Jon North is part of a small team of undercover FBI agents investigating Shay Hardin, the owner of the ranch. Jon suspects that Hardin may have been behind the murder of a federal judge several years earlier and is now involved in even worse. While their agendas don’t quite overlap, Andrea and Jon work together to investigate what Hardin is up to and how exactly Gavin is involved.

It’s often considered a good idea to drop the reader directly into the action, but in this case I felt that it just went too far. The book starts with a terrorist bombing (from the perpetrator’s point of view), Andrea’s shooting incident, the situation with her brother and Jon’s investigation, without offering any good reason for me to care about any of the people involved. I can’t say that I came to know or care much more about anyone as the narrative progressed. While I did enjoy some of the action parts, I couldn’t get any real sense of who the characters were and why the lead couple should be together.

Jon is an FBI agent, he’s good-looking, and he’s a workaholic at the expense of personal relationships. That’s about it in terms of characterization, and it’s not enough. Andrea is somewhat better drawn and less conventional. She had a difficult childhood which left her very close to her brother  but with difficulty forming relationships otherwise. She’s a dedicated cop and very good at what she does, and she can be resourceful and assertive when it’s called for. Andrea’s background and characterization are more in line with heroes rather than heroines in the genre, which was interesting. With multiple points of view and the suspense storyline to juggle, however, I felt that the development of her romance with Jon suffered – too much tell and not enough show. Far Gone would have also benefited from fewer points of view and better characterization, not just of Jon but also most of the secondary characters: Shay Hardin is a stock villain, there’s a senator who’s pretty much a stereotype, and Jon’s colleague Jimmy Torres doesn’t get much to do. I’d have liked more insight as to why and how Andrea’s brother Gavin made some of his initial choices and his later decisions; it’s not really clear how he was so easily drawn in by Hardin.

Far Gone is linked to your Tracers series and some characters from previous books make an appearance, though mostly in minor roles (the exception being FBI agent Elizabeth LeBlanc, who should really get her own book). Your novels tend to work better for me when the main characters are introduced and developed before being given a starring role. In that sense, it works better as a series and not as much when looking for standalone novels.

While I’ve mostly been critical in writing this, I can’t say that I truly disliked Far Gone, and I’ve certainly come across far worse in my romantic suspense reading. But there just wasn’t enough to make it stand out in any way, and I’ll probably remember little of it a week from now. That’s pretty much the definition of a C read for me: not bad, but not memorable in any way.

Best regards,
Rose

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle