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REVIEW:  Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire

REVIEW: Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire

Dear Ms. Maguire,

I decided to read “Making Him Sweat” because I like to try new-to-me authors at Harlequin, I hadn’t read a Blaze book for a while, and I wanted to see if a book about boxers could hold my attention. I mean no insult to boxing but it’s not a sport I follow and my feelings about it mimic those of the heroine – I tend to watch it from behind my hand and through my fingers and I’d rather not think about the impact of the punches too much. I’m happy to say that I’d try another boxing book and given the popularity of MMA, I will probably have the chance.

The conflict between Jenna and Mercer is laid out from the beginning. She’s inherited the building that houses her deceased father’s Fight Academy – a man she never really knew since he didn’t bother to stay in touch with her after her mother bailed on the marriage and left with Jenna in tow – and her plans don’t include keeping it open past the specified time mentioned in the will. Instead she wants to make it the location of Spark: Boston – the newest old fashioned matchmaking business but in a franchised format. She’s smart enough not to get huffy or rude with Mercer – a man whom her father mentored and asked to manage the club after his death – though she’s a little hurt that her father seemed to be closer to this boxer and the other fighters there than he ever tried to be with her.

making-him-sweatAt this point I was expecting the usual clashes and sparks and snits that often initially accompany the beginning of a relationship between a hero and heroine with clear cut issues from the start. But lo and behold – Mercer is polite and Jenna returns the favor. She’s also willing to listen to his plans to try and financially turn the Academy around and finds herself touched, though still a bit resentful, when the fighters with whom her father spent so much time come to the Academy and stop by to offer their condolences to her. This is also when she begins to discover just how much her father loved her as the men tell her how proud he was of her and how often he mentioned her accomplishments. Jenna also doesn’t pratfall while around the boxing rings and equipment – something that happens so much in romance novels to build tension, sexual and otherwise, between hero and heroine.

Meanwhile, Mercer is astonished to learn how badly Jenna thinks of her dad. He’s only known the man who adored his daughter though Mercer wisely doesn’t force the issue. He also takes the limited time he thinks he has left at the Academy as a challenge to turn it around rather than an opportunity to make Jenna’s life miserable. Then given the fact that he’s been staying in the apartment above the facilities and Jenna decides to move into the second bedroom to save more money for her new business, they start to know each other a lot better. I expected a quicker move to sexual intimacy since this is a Blaze book and I wasn’t mistaken but it didn’t feel too rushed since both go into it with eyes open and not expecting anything long term. They are two adults, interested in each other who decide to go for it given the sexual heat between them and sell-by date they see on the relationship.

Well the sex is smoking and pretty soon its obvious that there’s more than mere chemistry going on between them. What is going to fill out the second half of the book?, I wondered. This is where it falters a bit for me. Jenna finally discovers the truth about how her father tried to maintain their relationship which leads to a crying jag which offers Mercer the chance to show just how much he feels for her – aside from him wanting to beat up any man in the future who ever makes her upset. But then this issue is (almost too quickly) laid to rest.

The remainder of the book ambles along as we watch Jenna and her new assistant work to set up Jenna’s business and plan the opening event, Jenna bite her lip with concern when it looks like the Academy will have to be closed regardless of anything Mercer attempts, and both of them reluctantly coming to accept the end of their time together. It’s not exactly riveting and certainly not as entertaining as it was watching Mercer and Jenna get some hot sex on. A last minute event saves the day but it’s more a quiet save than a dramatic one. Though Mercer does a spiffy job of telling Jenna that he’s going to propose to her and keep on doing that until he convinces her to say yes. I just wish the entire book worked as well for me as the first half did. C+


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REVIEW:  Sumer Lovin’ by Nicole Chardenet

REVIEW: Sumer Lovin’ by Nicole Chardenet

Divorced, middle-aged Rachel Brinkerhoff, a Jewish matchmaker from New York who hopes to remarry, moved to Toronto for a fresh new start with her business and her love life. But no one told her that female-aversive Toronto was BYOB – Bring Your Own Boy. She partners with an Indian and a Muslim lady who want to help Canadians arrange marriages for their often-recalcitrant children and who secretly wonder over the beautiful matchmaker’s datelessness. But then an earthquake shakes up Toronto in more ways than one, and the next thing you know, a public fountain turns into the Fountain of Youth, an army of misfits turn up to stake the world’s weirdest Native land claim, and worst of all, a beautiful sensuous baby-hating woman is stalking Toronto’s virgin males and seducing them with horrifying consequences.

Can a drop-dead gorgeous, highly neurotic American and her friends save Toronto’s babies and virgins from certain destruction, or will they have to call in a cure that’s worse than the curse?

Dear Ms. Chardenet,

We get all kinds of author submissions to our DA site. Most are romances with the occasional odd ball pitch thrown in – which sometimes makes me wonder if people actually read our submission guidelines. When I read the blurb of your book SUMER LOVIN’ I thought, “Hmmm, that’s different. Let’s look at the excerpt.” When I’d finished reading that – and caught my breath from laughing – I knew I had to try this book. This one is certainly odd ball, but in a wonderfully weird way.

I will admit to enjoying humorous, wacky books. Not a steady diet of them but one every now and then spices up my reading list. Humor is definitely a YMMV aspect of writing but this book had me laughing out loud.

“Dave the Tarantula Guy wasn’t at all convinced speed dating was a good idea, but Dave the Beowulf Freak wanted to try it and had bribed him with a pitcher of Labatt’s Blue. It seemed a bit false to spend eight minutes talking to someone and trying to make a snap decision on whether you wanted to date her or not. Without question, neither of these two nerds had the foggiest clue what they really wanted in a woman. Dave the Tarantula Guy was from Alberta, where men were men and so were the women, and Dave the Beowulf Freak was from Newfoundland, where men were men and the sheep were nervous. The tarantula was from Brazil.”

There is lots of stereotyping going on in the story but since just about every group mentioned has shots taken at it, I’m okay with it. A city with IT guys who are often named Dave? Why not – and when I thought about it, I realized my company’s own IT department has its fare share of them. A former NYC Jewish matchmaker? Sure but then she also looks like Elizabeth Taylor and her New Yawk accent only gets pronounced when she’s stressed. Rachel’s matchmaking/marriage arranging partners are Indian and Pakistani? Yes, but here are Amita and Mahliqa starting up their own business and very much their own women, thank you. The U.S. as a nation of whack jobs? I’ve got to agree with the Toronto DJs comment “Yeah, man, who needs TV when we’ve got Americans?” And you certainly avoid the usual typecast villain by featuring a Sumerian demonic demigoddess who is beautiful enough to stop traffic and reduce men to mush. I’ll just hope that Toronto isn’t as devoid of men who are interested in women as the book suggests.

Sumer-Lovin-Front-Cover-Blue1The fantasy element of the book is distinct. If readers are tired of vampires, shifters, angels or zombies – and for the life of me, I still don’t “get” zombies – they need look no further than the Sumerian pantheon presented here, a Fountain of Youth, ancient warriors from the Underworld and ley lines. After researching a little bit about Lamashtu and Pazuzu I have to say, “Holy shit, what were those Sumerians smoking?” Or maybe they came up with those two beings after a weekend bender which resulted in the Mother of All Hangovers. Readers who are very religious might want to think twice about trying the book as Christianity, Islam and Judaism all come under the gun but then its not as if you single one out for any worse treatment then another.

There is a lot going on in the story. Lots of characters, lots of plot threads, lots of evilness that will need to be vanquished and I think you juggle all these balls pretty well. Toronto is faced with near utter destruction at the hands of an extremely vengeful, demonic demigoddess and then further threatened by the “almost as bad” cure. It’s kind of a toss up as to which god and exactly what kind of destruction they promise to unleash is worse. The characters who provide salvation are, thank goodness, not entirely deus ex machina, having been introduced early in the book. I hate one type of them as much as the next person but after her stunning triumph, I enjoyed her celebratory victory dance and (theoretical) taunting “I so kicked the skanky scorpion bitch’s ass! I rule, I rule, lalalalala!” Not enough to “high pedipalp” her but I’d certainly buy her dinner. The actions of the second set of little saviors fall under the description of “Who knew they would do that but, boy, wasn’t it handy for the story?” Thanks, but I think I’ll stick to cats as pets.

But where’s the romance? Will Dave the Virgin find a woman who doesn’t run screaming? Can Rachel get past her predilection for big, strong, manly men who ultimately turn out to be losers? Will the women of “Love Comes Later” be able to find mates for Alexis, Dave the Tarantula Guy and Dave the Beowulf Freak? Ah, it all arrives near the end but is foreshadowed from early on. Since this isn’t strictly a romance book (ya think?), I’ll accept the romantic element instead of insisting on lotsa romance. The manic hysteria and humor of the rest of the book more than made up for any lack. B


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