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

Harlequin Super Romance

REVIEW: The Son He Never Knew by Kristi Gold

REVIEW: The Son He Never Knew by Kristi Gold

Dear Ms. Gold:

I probably should have stopped reading at the first chapter when I figured out that the male protagonist of the story would not figure out he had a son until said son was 10 years old, but I didn’t. Unfortunately, the story never got any better.

The Son He Never Knew Kristi GoldJessica Keller and Chase Reed are supposed to be platonic friends. Jessica has been dating Dalton Wainwright on and off for years. Chase learns that Dalton has proposed and the night before Chase ships out for Afghanistan, Chase heads over to Jessica’s dorm room to say goodbye and tell her not to marry Dalton. That night, Jessica and Chase comfort each other in a physical manner.  Two weeks later, Jessica marries Dalton.

Jessica, lord where do I start. She appears to marry Dalton because “he can take care of her.”

He nailed her with a serious stare. “Are you going to marry him, Jess?”

She’d asked herself that question many times during the month she and Dalton had been apart. So far, no solid answer. “I could do worse.”

“You could do better.”

“He’s going to take good care of me, Chase. He’ll make sure I have a great life.”

I had to check to make sure I was reading a modern romance. Jessica’s marriage to Dalton so soon after her physical encounter with Chase places the parentage of her child in question. We are suppose to believe that Dalton was suspicious of Danny’s paternity due to how poorly Dalton treats Danny.

Fast forward 10 years and Chase is back from the war, having served several tours, and is now a deputy sheriff and Jessica is a school teacher.    A domestic dispute emergency call was placed and Chase responds knowing that the address is that of Jessica Wainwright nee Keller. When he arrives, Dalton Wainwright is lying unconscious with blood pooling around his head. Chase knows immediately that Jessica cannot have done anything and even suggests that when she does give her statement, she shade the truth.

While CSI isn’t know if its accuracy either, even rudimentary familiarity with forensics would have led Jessica as well as Chase, not to mention Chase’s father the current Sheriff, to the conclusion that the angle of the blow on the head of Dalton would indicate the height of the wielder of the weapon. But simple logic escapes every one here. As for actual investigating of this crime, it consists of taking two statements, one from Jess and one from Dalton.

Despite Jessica being a suspect, Chase takes her to his home and then finds a place for her to live.  Jessica’s best friend is Dalton’s sister and even she seems unconcerned that Jessica may have bashed his head in.  Dalton’s father, the wealthiest man in the county, is determined to see Jessica pay for her wrongdoing.

Let’s just throw out the whole plot and concentrate on the romance. Jess spent five years married to an asshole who treated her kid like dirt. All the while she thinks that maybe her kid is Chase’s and not Dalton’s. She never gets any paternity test done and she never really even questions that perhaps Chase deserves to know, particularly after the divorce.

But putting aside this part, is the romance between Jess and Chase a beautiful and wondrous thing? No, unfortunately not.  It’s tepid at best.  Chase is constantly saying he would make a bad father and mate for someone while at the same time getting a cabin for Jessica, fixing up said cabin, connecting with her son, and generally acting like a concerned father and husband.  I suppose Chase’s protestations are there so the reader can find some sympathy in Jessica’s actions.  It might be reasonable for Jessica to have never pursued paternity while Dalton and she were married but given the systemic verbal abuse her child suffered, I wasn’t convinced of her decision making process as time went on.

Jessica did not appear to have grown in the ten years apart from Chase and she didn’t grow in the book. She was one who was always needing to be taken care of. I guess it’s a good thing that there were men around who wanted to take care of her.  But the emotional fall out from the secret baby reveal was given short shrift  as was the manner in which Jessica revealed the truth. No pesky tests for her.  She just knows.  It’s a mother’s instinct, you know.  C-

Best regards,

Jane

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

REVIEW: A Risk Worth Taking by Zana Bell

REVIEW: A Risk Worth Taking by Zana Bell

“Any red-blooded American male would be all over Cressa Curtis. She’s gorgeous, she’s wild and clearly she’s open for a no-strings-attached adventure. But Adam Walker’s been there, done that. And now he wants more for himself. Even with his history, Adam still believes in love and family and marriage and the whole white picket fence—hardly what Cressa is offering.

Besides, everything about the crazy Kiwi spells danger and distraction—two things Adam can’t afford to risk with his sights set on medical school. He’s only in New Zealand for a month. Surely he can resist Cressa’s advances that long….”

Dear Ms. Bell,

A Risk Worth Taking by Zana BellI enjoyed your other book, “Tempting the Negotiator,” and have been waiting to see what you’d write about next. “A Risk Worth Taking” starts where that book left off, and peripherally continues the series first in New Zealand and then in Texas. But where that book was focused and centered, this one veered all over the place, plotwise, and ended up not working so well for me.

There is a lot going on here. A lot, a lot, a lot. Adam has his issues with his failed first marriage, the loss of his daughter in his life then – at the last minute – getting Stella back into his life, his feelings of inferiority, being a bastard, not knowing his father’s name or anything about him, his other brother being in jail, his mother as an alcoholic and how he feels about not tripping up her recovery, studying for the MCAT and, oh yes, his relationship with Cressa.

Cressa has her issues with marriage in general, her aborted first attempt at it, motherhood, the loss of her child – and this part is really papered over until the very end – her feelings about wanting to be footloose and fancy free, the relationship with her family – good but tempestuous at times, her jobs and – almost forgot – her growing love for Adam. You also include a tiny bit from Adam’s mother’s point of view. I can only hope that perhaps she’ll end up being a future heroine of her own novel or else this was totally wasted.

The bit about Adam finding out anything regarding his father is swept under the rug. There’s a touch about him reconnecting with his daughter then that’s gone. Cressa has one realization scene of losing her child then we get told about how she sobbed on the phone with others but there’s just not enough room for all this angst, and emotion and past events finally catching up with them. As for Alicia – sorry but I don’t get the feeling that this woman is an alcoholic. I also didn’t truly get that Adam burns to be a surgeon. I’m told this but I don’t see it that much. He could be studying for any major college entrance type exam.

Sweet baby Jesus these characters have a lot of edges and depths but enough is enough. Half of these issues would have done just fine and made a wonderful book but all of it together ends up like a huge group therapy session that’s totally out of control. The book just isn’t long enough to contain it all and get me to feel that justice has been done to it all.

Yet parts of this story remind me of what I liked about the first book. There is lots of stuff about NZ – how cold it is in winter, how the bay looks, the local flora and fauna – but I feel you worked it into the storyline well. It doesn’t come off as a travelogue or like a pamphlet from the Chamber of Commerce. The book definitely takes place here and doesn’t read like a generic location. The phosphorescence on the island under the crushed shells is especially cool. I also enjoyed the bits about Cressa seeing the US and Texas for the first time. Yeah, it is big. And humid around Houston.

With few issues for all around I think I would have really enjoyed this book but no sooner did something get introduced then something else would come along and push it out of the way, rinse and repeat. The resolution of the HEA took almost to the last page. I mean, smoking down to the wire with no resolution of the conflict between them being resolved in sight. There are unresolved things here which I’m guessing are to be continued in further books? But it leaves a sense of too little time spent on them in this book and a rushed tying up of some loose strings and a too quick HEA. C-

~Jayne

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo