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REVIEW:  Rome by Jay Crownover

REVIEW: Rome by Jay Crownover

Dear Jay Crownover:

I really find the guy on the cover attractive and I liked book 1, Rule, despite the fact that grammar was optional. Yet I couldn’t make it past the second chapter and sadly I had the same problem with Rome. Everything about this book’s package appealed to me. Aside from the cover (did I mention I like the cover), I was intrigued by the wounded warrior and the tattoo artist girlfriend.

Rome (Marked Men #3) by Jay CrownoverI even liked the opening with Cora not falling for the brooding warrior but I didn’t find Rome to be intriguing in any fashion. He was very surly and I guess I was supposed to immediately feel sorry for him because he has PTSD – it says so right in the blurb – but I needed that in the text. His point of view seemed very emo, as well, and not very well differentiated from the heroine’s POV. He notices the barkeep’s “charcoal eyes” for example. He told us that Cora’s eyes “were unique in themselves, but the fact that whatever she was feeling literally ran from one color to the next was fascinating.”

Further, if Rome really did have PTSD (and it said so in the blurb) then no one really gave him enough slack. I hadn’t seen enough of his being an asshole to anyone other than messing up some party. I know other readers enjoyed seeing Rule stand up to his brother Rome to protect Rule’s girlfriend but the asskicking came out of nowhere in its intensity. Ditto for the dressing down he got from his “sister” Shaw.

The concept of the warrior trying to reintegrate into a civilian world was a good one. Rome’s job was to be everyone’s caretaker and problem solver but his friends and family have all grown up without him. (Although how he took care of everyone since he was enlisted from the age of 18 – 28 and the book begins when he separates, I’m not sure).

The couple has unprotected sex even though both of them view this hookup as temporary. I would have thought Cora, at least, who was looking for Mr. Right would be interested in protecting herself while enjoying Mr. Wrong, physically. While it was necessary for the plot, there wasn’t a good explanation for it in the book so the two seemed stupid and foolish and given that they didn’t much like each other, the “carried away by passion” didn’t fit very well either.

Spoiler (spoiler): Show

Their nonchalant attitude toward unprotected sex seemed crazy to me particularly when Cora was looking for Mr. Right. “What if the result is a baby?” “Then we’ll dealt with it.” What is this? The nineteenth century??????!!!!!

I wished more of the story had focused on Cora and Rome. About 70 pages in Rome began to take shape for me as a character but just when I felt I was getting to know Cora and Rome, other characters from past books or future books would take center stage. This happens in the epilogue as well. The story ends rather abruptly and the epilogue is the set up for another book.

The cast in this book is really large. There’s the entire crew of Marked (Rule, Shaw, Rowdy) including Nash and his uncle who owns the shop. Nash’s book is constantly on the peripheal of this story and had zero to do with the Cora and Rome conflict. You could have eliminated that part and Rome would have read exactly the same. There’s Brite, the grizzled Marine/Bar owner, who provides pithy statements to Rome. “Grief is a hard mistress to have.” There’s Cora’s roommates – Asa, Ayden and Ayden’s boyfriend, Jet. It was hard to keep track of everyone.

Cora’s POV scenes were the best. Some of Rome’s came off to cheesy (and too similar to Cora’s) for me to enjoy entirely. Some of the reviews found Cora abrasive but I didn’t get that sense at all. She wanted to fall for the right guy who wouldn’t hurt her and she was envious of her friends pairing off. She had a confidence in herself that I don’t see a ton of in other New Adult heroines. At one point when they are about to have sex again, Cora says “Don’t be scared, Captain No-Fun, we got this.” And I laughed out loud.

There were still sentences that I had to read twice or more to make sense of because of sentence structure and odd word choices.

“When I was overseas there had been a female intelligence officer who’d been down to be friends with benefits whenever we were in the same place at the same time.”

Or “I barely finished my senior year and the damaged had a lasting effect on my GPA. I could go back and finish fairly easily but …” (If she barely finished, then she did finish)

Or “I probably outranked him in the reality of things.”

Or “However, I had promised Rule I would get it on lock, so that’s what I was going to do.”

It’s too bad that William Morrow didn’t serve this author better but I’m giving this a C because the issue of unprotected sex really, really bothered me combined with the technical issues. The story took too long to unfold and then kind of chased its way to the ending and the “I love yous” came a little early.

Best regards,

Jane

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GUEST REVIEW:  Back to You by Jessica Scott

GUEST REVIEW: Back to You by Jessica Scott

Dear Ms. Scott,

In the acknowledgments, you wrote that you have been working on this book since 2008. I can certainly see how this would be a challenging story to get right and while it’s not perfect, I am glad that you persevered. Before I go further, I have to admit that the US military is an organization and culture that is completely unfamiliar to me. When I read military romances, I sometimes wonder about the authenticity and accuracy, but because you are a career officer, I know I can trust you to get it right. That is definitely a plus.

Back to You by Jessica ScottLaura and Trent Davila have been married for more than a decade and have two children, but Trent has been absent for much of the marriage: as an army captain, he has been deployed several times, and although he told Laura that there was no choice about it, she eventually found out that this was not true, and that Trent had actually volunteered to go several times. Feeling that Trent has bailed out on their marriage and unable to trust him, Laura files for divorce.

Around the same time that Laura filed for divorce, an investigation revealed that an officer under Trent’s command had been stealing and selling sensitive items, and the officer implicates Trent in these activities. As a result, Trent is fired from his command and returns to the US to await the conclusion of the investigation and a possible court martial. On top of that, a female soldier has accused Trent of improper advances, which is both damaging to his case and very hurtful for Laura.

Back to You is set about a year after these events, in 2008. Trent has not signed the divorce papers, and realizes that his choices have wrecked his marriage. He returns to Fort Hood, where a hearing is scheduled to take place soon and decide whether his case will go to a court martial. Laura, who works on base as a family readiness liaison for the brigade, still loves Trent, but feels that their marriage is over and wants to move on. Nonetheless, when his lawyer suggests that the two pretend that their marriage is going well as a way to undermine some of the charges, Laura agrees to go along with it, although she makes it clear that she does not believe that they can salvage their marriage. I didn’t really think that the pretend-marriage was needed for the story to work (or a particularly effective legal strategy), but I went along with it.

Laura had been willing to make a lot of sacrifices as an army wife, but finding out about the voluntary deployments and the allegations against Trent crushed her, and she’s afraid of letting him back into her life. Trent is scared because he doesn’t know how to cope with civilian life, including his family, and his way of dealing with it has been to stay away – physically while on deployment and emotionally while home. But this time, he knows that if he wants to fix his relationship with Laura and be a father to his children, he will have to face his problems and somehow find a new normal.

In many romance novels, when heroes carry the sort of emotional baggage that Trent has, it’s resolved with a quick conversation or a cathartic confession. I liked that you chose otherwise and showed Trent’s incremental progress in this regard: learning to ask for help, to share his experiences with others and to rely on them doesn’t come naturally for him and there is no miraculous fix – it’s something he has to work on with Laura, with his psychiatrist and with himself. He has to learn how to be a father and how to really be there in his relationship with Laura.

What didn’t work as well for me was the way Laura and Trent’s reconciliation was portrayed. They both spend a lot of time thinking about their past, what had gone wrong, and their worries about the future – but not a lot happens between them in the present. It was past the 10% point when they saw each other again for the first time, and even after that, there would be long stretches in which there wasn’t much interaction between them. When they did get together, there would often be some major development in terms of their relationship or Trent’s relationship with the kids. Sometimes it just seemed like it was too much and too fast. I wish there had been more Laura and Trent together, rather than Laura or Trent thinking about being together, and I think that might have helped with the pacing and the emotional impact of the story.

The case against Trent isn’t very strong, but the lieutenant who implicated him has a high-ranking and well-connected father so it isn’t something that can just be dismissed. It’s probably for the best that the lieutenant doesn’t make too many appearances, since he’s pretty much a one-note villain with no redeeming characteristics. But the outcome of the investigation and Trent’s consequent choices about his life were believable, and I felt that by the end, Laura and Trent were headed in the right direction. B-.

Best regards,
Rose

Rose lives in a country where romance readers are few and far between, so discovering romance websites was a welcome development. When not busy with reading and graduate school, she can often be found online discussing romance novels or sports –occasionally both at the same time. She has no TBR pile and is forever looking to change this unfortunate fact; recommendations for historicals, romantic suspense and contemporaries (preferably of the non-small town variety) are welcome.

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