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

rags-to-riches

REVIEW: Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery

REVIEW: Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery

Almost Perfect by Susan MalleryDear Ms. Mallery:

As you might have guessed, I have a love/hate relationship with your books.   My favorite is Simply Irresistible and I don't know if I could pinpoint exactly why but it is a contemporary I recommend with some regularity.   (I tried to give it to some reporter for NBC at the RWA in San Francisco but I can't remember if she took it or not).   The problem I had with the first book in the series is that I felt that the premise didn't match up with the way the story played out. Luckily I had no such problems with Almost Perfect. (As an aside, if you don't want to read my review, read natuschan because her review reflects most of my feelings about this book).

Almost Perfect is an amalgamation of popular contemporary romance tropes.   It has the secret baby.   The small town girl from the wrong side of the tracks making it big and coming home to win the heart of the town's golden boy.   The small town ostracizing the bad girl and then coming around to protect her.

Liz Sutton was a pretty girl whose mom is the town bicycle and because of her looks, her mother's promiscuity, and their poverty, Liz is targeted in high school as a slut.   She isn't, though, and doesn't give up her virginity until she falls for Ethan Hendrix, back from college.   Ethan is the son of one of the town's founding families.   He urges her to keep their relationship secret. One day she overhears him being asked if he is seeing her and he denies it and denies ever wanting someone like her.

Liz is crushed and runs away only to discover she is pregnant.   She returns to Fool's Gold   but finds Ethan in bed in his tiny apartment above his parent's garage with another girl, a girl who was mean and horrible to Liz in high school.   Liz runs away again.   Five years later she returns, feeling guilty about having kept their son a secret.   Only Ethan isn't there and he is married so Liz tells Ethan's wife about the son and in return receives a letter from Ethan telling her he wants nothing to do with her or her son.

Fast forward 6 years.   Liz is now a successful mystery writer but returns home to Fool's Gold when she discovers her nieces have been abandoned by their stepmother after their father (and her brother) was sent to prison.

Everyone in town treats her like she pariah.   They never thought much of her before and they despise her even more for keeping Ethan's son away from him.   In turn, Liz can't wait to shake the dust of Fool's Gold off her feet fast enough.

Like Nat, I thought the kids were realistically portrayed in the book.   Liz was a great parent and her son, Tyler, is really well adjusted but finding out who his dad was throws a wrench in things and suddenly Tyler thinks he loves his dad more, maybe even wants to live with his dad.   Then there are her two nieces.   Liz hasn't been much of an aunt before and these two girls are very gunshy when it comes to parenting adults.   They don't welcome Liz wholeheartedly.

I also appreciated the showing of how difficult parenting is, particularly when Ethan is forced to realize it isn't all pizza parties and take out.

I was a little disappointed at how quickly Liz fell back into bed with Ethan.   I recognize she had been alone for a long time and that despite the way Ethan had failed to be there for her, repeatedly, throughout the years, that she had a lot of feeling for him.   But more importantly, they did not use a condom.   WHAT THE HELL!   She had gotten pregnant with Tyler being with Ethan in high school and had to raise the kid by herself for 11 years.   She never once thought to use a condom?   I guess it was to show how swept away by passion they were, but seriously?

I liked Evan less than I did Liz.   Like Nat, I felt he was incredibly selfish and rarely thought about anyone else's feelings but his own.   He had a strong code of honor yet it was never employed for the benefit of Liz.   In fact, throughout the book, he continually acted in a manner that seemed unconsciously designed to hurt Liz.   Eventually he comes around and makes a grand gesture, but I never quite felt like he loved Liz like she was his one true love.   He seemed like   one of those guys who just wants to be in a relationship and so long as that relationship provided him with a comfortable life, he would be satisfied.   I wondered whether he knew himself.

Still, I did understand Liz's attraction for Ethan.   He represented all that she never had: safety, security and respect.   Add in that she was sexually attracted to him; he was her first love and the father of her child; and it all made sense why she was with Ethan.     There was a weird suspense plot at the very end which I think served to distract from the coalescing of the romance than further it.     It came out of nowhere and I don't think it was needed to propel the characters to the end point.

In the end, though, I agree with Nat that Liz is what makes this book.   She refuses to be intimidated, she accepts responsibility for her actions, and she stands up to her critics whether it is Ethan's mom, the town or even Ethan himself.     B-

Best regards,

Jane

Book Link | Kindle | Amazon | nook | BN | Borders
| Sony | BooksonBoard |

REVIEW: The Notorious Scoundrel by Alexandra Benedict

REVIEW: The Notorious Scoundrel by Alexandra Benedict

Note: I am so sorry for this posting and the not posting. I have a problem of prescheduling and then not paying attention to what is prescheduled.

The Notorious Scoundrel by Alexandra BenedictDear Ms. Benedict:

This is my first book of yours and while I liked that the characters were from the non landed class, I felt like you didn’t take advantage of the potential for an original setting. Instead the characters looked and sounded as if they were part of the ton, perhaps to evoke a sensibility in the reader unnecessarily.

Edmund Hawkins is the middle brother of the infamous Hawkins brothers. Their sister married the “Duke of Rogues” and so the Hawkins brothers are tangentially part of society. As Edmund describes it, “The haunte monde wasn’t interested in befriending the Hawkins brothers. The haute monde was interested in drawing the brothers out of their gilded cage, gawking at them, gossiping about them behind their backs.”

One bored night, Edmund goes to what is described to him as “the most wicked” whorehouse in London where he is entranced by a veiled dancer. The veiled dancer is Amy Peel. Amy, the heroine, provides one of the most contradictory form in the book.

Let’s examine Amy. Amy is an erotic dancer but she is a virgin and her employer ,”Her Highness, Queen Rafaramanjaka” wants to keep Amy a virgin. Yes, the purported former monarch from Madagascar runs the most wicked whorehouse in London but Amy is just hired to stir up the fires in the groin, not put them out.

How Amy kept her virginity, having lived in the slums for ten years (age six to sixteen) prior to being found by Queen Rafaramanjaka, is unknown and unexplained. Amy has a mysterious past. She was not slum born. The origins of her birth unexplained. Yet, Amy who grew up in the streets, flash houses, and rookeries speaks with the diction of the well educated. In an early exchange with Edmund who she believes to, Amy says “An educated thief. I’m impressed.” Her monologues match those of a learned individual (this is particularly noticeable given that Amy can’t read).

She looked back at Quincy. A good thing he was a gossip, for she'd learn little about their unique family dynamic from the surly Edmund. For instance, she'd discovered there was a significant age difference between the brothers, stemming from the fact that their father had been away at sea for more than a decade, pressed into naval service. Upon his return, the family had expanded, and so had their maritime ventures with the acquisition of the Bonny Meg , their ancestral ship.

Amy also is supposedly saving every penny she can to get away from her wretched life under Queen Rafaramanjaka. She plans to save enough money to live out the rest of her life in comfort. Yet she buys gilt hand mirrors, perfumes, damask window treatments, a croquet set, brass candlestick holders, and boxes and boxes of gloves.

I understand that you were trying to show us that Amy was a misfit and allude to some mystery of Amy’s past life, but not only was it heavy handed but it wasn’t consistent with the way in which she purportedly lived her life. It sounded like she was a spendthrift.

Edmund saves Amy from a kidnapping attempt, suffers amnesia and Amy houses him for his safety. Edmund chafes at Amy’s chosen profession. Rails at her choice and urges her to quit (and do what, Edmund?). Conveniently Edmund recovers from amnesia and whisks Amy off to his home, hoping to train her to become a lady’s maid or companion. Edmund is convinced that no one will discover her because no one pays attention to his home (but see infra the reference regarding how the haute monde likes to gossip about the Hawkins brothers? Who cares about internal consistency when forwarding the plot, right?)

Edmund has to fight for the right to house Amy when his older brother tries to suggest that it isn’t appropriate. Edmund doesn’t want to let Amy out of his sight and his brother, Quincy, addicted to opium, needs help as well. Edmund feels like he is always being treated as a child by his older brother and wants to prove that he isn’t the derelict bounder that he has been labeled.

When the true origins of Amy’s past are discovered, Edmund is beset with new insecurities while Amy tries to be happy with the life she thought she always wanted.

I felt like we had one trite storyline after another. First, the rags to riches portrayal of Amy. Then, the amnesia plotline followed by the Henry Higgins/Eliza Doolittle storyline. It is capped off by the lost heir, the unwanted forced marriage and the convenient virgin. The ending was a surprise though.

I did appreciate that Edmund and his brothers didn’t totally have a lovefest but that Edmund strained against his place as the middle and irrresponsible child. Amy was a fairly weak character and the romance between the two was flat. C-

Best regards,

Jane

Book Link | Kindle | Amazon | nook | BN | Borders
| Sony | Kobo |

This is a mass market published by Avon, a member of the Agency 5. Pricing is set by Avon for the digital books.