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REVIEW:  Losing Streak (The Lane #2) by Kristine Wyllys

REVIEW: Losing Streak (The Lane #2) by Kristine Wyllys

Losing Streak (The Lane #2) by Kristine Wyllys

Dear Ms. Wyllys:

This is the second in The Lane series and really enjoyed the first one, Wild Ones. The second features Rosemary Young, the sister of the bartender who appears in Wild Ones. If you’ve read the first book, you know that Rosemary gets caught up with mob boss Joshua King, doing things for him even though she doesn’t want to.

Losing Streak opens chronologically some period of time before the Wild Ones. Rosemary’s mother is very sick and Rosemary is trying to find the money for medical bills. Brandon Williams comes into her life in a battered leather jacket and not much money in his wallet but in a short time becomes vital to her. He makes a living gambling and like many gamblers, he wins just enough times to make himself believe it’s a legit path forward. Unfortunately for both of them, his debts become onerous. He’s given a choice by his debtor, Joshua King, (although we aren’t completely privy to all the terms) and he’s shipped to Canada for nearly three years.

In the meantime, Rosemary is approached by Joshua King. Do things for him and he’ll take of her mother, he won’t prosecute her brother for stealing liquor from King’s bar, and Brandon gets to stay alive.  She acquiesces. At about the 40% mark, the story fast forwards thirty-three months.

One of my biggest problems in the book wasn’t just as Mandi noted in her review–the lack of interaction between Brandon and Rosemary–but the vagueness. Why did Joshua want Rosemary? He wants an “assistant” and coerces her into that position. And it’s not a secretarial position for Rose. Instead, she essentially becomes Joshua’s standard bearer in the lane but for all that she verbally blusters, we never see much follow through.

Rose describes what she began to do for Joshua “I was just an assistant, possibly the best-paid assistant in existence. I dropped off and picked up dry cleaning, scheduled deliveries to the bars, picked up the deposits in the mornings…Things started to bleed over…Minor stuff that really didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Have someone pick up the guest list for the next fight from the Tap Room. Drop off a package to Fury. Pick one up for Jeff. Take this call but don’t talk about it later.”

So why is she scary? Why does Joshua use Rose instead of something else? Why doesn’t Rose leave as time goes on? Why do Rose and Brandon maintain their love when it consists of a few furtive sexual meetings when he returns from Canada a few times a year?

There was a lot about Joshua–how he did both good and bad. He got rid of an abusive boyfriend, but demanded protection payments from all the businesses.  One woman said this “Joshua saved everyone I love in some way…But I would not lose even a little sleep if he dropped dead tomorrow.”

We knew more–and felt more–about the evil King than we did about anyone else in the story…except the justification behind his actions. That seemed un-organic. The ending seemed un-organic. The things that happened–I kept thinking, why not earlier? Why wait so long to free yourself?

I guess the explanation would be that it took time for Rose to come to the breaking point and that it wasn’t until all was threatened or that she tired of being under King’s thumb that she found the courage to fight for herself. But I needed on the page justification because most of the time I was speculating about character motivations but didn’t see any text to support my suppositions. In the end I was just disappointed. C-

Best regards,

Jane

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Reading List by Sunita for September

Reading List by Sunita for September

While perusing Netgalley as well as recommendations from trusted sources, I discovered that a few of the books I was interested in were the second, third, or even later installments of a series. Then my list got longer when Carina Press put a slew of their mystery series’ first volumes on sale at $ .99. Being someone who likes to read in order, I went back to the beginning, and I had a great time.

 

Cornick Lady and LairdThe Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick

I reviewed and recommended one of Cornick’s other historical romances at the beginning of the year, and I finally got around to the first in her newest series. I’m mostly not reading Historical Romance for reasons I’ve written about elsewhere, but Cornick often works for me, especially her early 19thC-set books. This series revolves around the MacMorlan sisters, with the first installment featuring a marriage of convenience story. Lady Lucy MacMorlan finds herself blackmailed into marriage by Robert, Marquis of Methven, who needs a wife and an heir within a short period of time if he is to keep his inheritance intact. Both Lucy and Robert are scarred by tragedies in their past, and despite their long-ago attraction to each other, neither wants to marry. But marry they do, and the second half of the story has them learning to trust each other enough to love, facing the fears born of their pasts, and vanquishing a villain. Cornick does a terrific job of bringing to life a Scotland we see all too infrequently in Historical Romance: don’t be fooled by the tartan on the cover, this isn’t Ochlassieland, it’s Scotland. I liked both Lucy and Methven, although both do a couple of things that seem plot-driven and out of character with their otherwise intelligent portrayals, and the misunderstanding that stretches out the last third of the story is briefer and more organic than in the last book. Grade: B

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Claverton Binary WitnessBinary Witness by Rosie Claverton

I saw a cover on Netgalley that really grabbed my interest, but when I read the blurb I realized it was the second in a series. Mulling it over, I checked out the first book and discovered it was only $ .99. I downloaded it, started reading, and was hooked. Amy Lane is a computer whiz who helps the Cardiff, Wales police force in their investigations. She is agoraphobic, so her sister arranges for her to have a cleaning service. Jason Carr shows up to clean her house, she reluctantly lets him in and a tentative friendship begins. Jason is an ex-con who needs a job and Amy needs both a clean apartment and a leg man. When women start disappearing, Amy and Jason combine forces to investigate, using Amy’s computer skills and Jason’s knowledge of Cardiff. The style is occasionally bumpy; it reads like a debut novel. I’m not a big fan of serial killer or women-in-jeopardy plots and this one took a long time to unspool. But I liked Amy and Jason so much I didn’t care. There is no romance between them, but it doesn’t seem out of the question for the future, so I hold out hope! Claverton is a hospital psychiatrist and both the Cardiff setting and Amy’s condition seemed very well done to me. I’m really looking forward to the next book, Code Runner. Grade: B-

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Murder-by-the-Seaside lindseyMurder by the Seaside by Julie Anne Lindsey

This is another first in a series from Carina, also $ .99, and it is most definitely a cozy mystery. Patience Price is a Human Resources professional who has been laid off from her job at the FBI. She comes home to Chincoteague Island, where her hippie parents still live, to set up a psychology practice. Her arrival coincides with a murder and her high-school flame is the most obvious suspect. Despite still being furious with him for the way he left town after graduation, Patience agrees to help find out what happened. This puts her in constant danger but it also integrates her back into the town. The writing is smooth and assured, and Patience has a very enjoyable voice. There are not one but two romantic possibilities, each different from the other, and Patience’s parents and friends, as well as the townspeople, are sketched deftly and with humor. This is not a city-awful, small-town-wonderful book; Patience goes back because she’s broke, and there are both good and bad people to deal with. I don’t know that I could read a ton of these types of light cozy mysteries in a row; there an awful lot of eccentric people and crazy events. But I enjoyed this one and have already added the next installment to my TBR. Grade: B-

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Wells Presumed DeadPresumed Dead by Shirley Wells

This is the third of my Carina $ .99 specials for the month (just call me Pavlov’s dog). This was written back in 2010 and is the first of the Dylan Scott mystery series. Scott is a policeman who lost his job for using excessive force on a suspect and went to prison for it. His wife has thrown him out of the house and seems ready to make it permanent, his mother has moved into his tiny new flat, but at least his son still loves him and he suddenly has a job offer to find out what happened to a woman who went missing thirteen years ago. I found Dylan really annoying in the first few pages, as he mentally insulted women drivers and talked about his wife as if she were a stereotype rather than a person he knew intimately and loved. I almost didn’t keep going, but I liked Wells’s voice, and Dylan improved immensely. He’s a bit of a clueless type when it comes to women, but he respects them more than I initially thought. The mystery itself is interesting and the missing woman comes to life as a sympathetic person over the course of the book. Dylan’s impromptu partnership with a retired policeman was enjoyable, and I especially liked his relationship with his son (despite their love of Arsenal). Both Dylan’s mother and wife are revealed (to the reader and to Dylan) to be complex and layered by the end, and the door is open for a reconciliation. The Lancashire setting was well depicted, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series. Grade: B-

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The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

I bought this book because I couldn’t resist Jane’s money-back guarantee, especially given how many of my other DA and Twitter buddies had raved about it. I thought that if any NA book could work for me, this one would. And to some extent it did. I can see what readers have loved about it so much. Corey and Hartley are completely appealing, and Corey’s matter-of-fact approach to her disability is a refreshing change from genre fiction’s standard treatment of such issues. I agree that for someone who was injured so recently and whose life was turned upside down, her equanimity seems a bit overdone, but I’d rather have that than the angst-fests and appropriation I more often see. The depiction of the unnamed Ivy League institution is very well done, as is the general feel and rhythm of college life. I’m glad I read the book, but I’m not going on to the next in the series. One reason is that I grew tired of the narrator’s voice even though I didn’t get tired of her, if that makes sense. There is an artlessness to the writing that made it almost monotonous to read. I rarely find myself wishing for more complex prose in genre fiction, but here I did. The second reason is not about the book, it’s about me. As a college professor, it feels voyeuristic to read about the personal lives of students who are all too similar to the ones I see every day, and I can’t get them fully out of my head when I should be immersed in the story. That said, it feels like a very good example of the genre. Grade: B

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