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second chance at love

REVIEW:  Burned by Sarah Morgan

REVIEW: Burned by Sarah Morgan

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Dear Ms. Morgan:

I enjoyed the novella Ripped, but found it leaned more towards chick-lit than I like, with its humor based on the narrator’s humiliation. The sequel Burned gets the balance just about right, combining many of the usual elements of contemporary romance with a fun, fresh voice and an emphasis on being loved for who you are.

Rosie’s boyfriend has picked the worst possible time to break up with her. It’s not like she’s in love with him — “do I look stupid?” she asks rhetorically — but her job as a physical trainer has been threatened by a buy-out, and her sister’s recent happiness has made her more aware than usual of how lackluster her own love-life is. “It wasn’t as if I thought Brian was my happily-ever-after. But happy to the end of dessert would have been nice.”

But the hits have just started coming: as Brian finishes telling her how unfeminine and threatening she is, Rosie realizes that the man listening at the next table is Hunter Black.

 

Hunter, the first guy I’d ever dated. The first guy I’d slept with. The man who had taught me that a broken heart was more painful than a broken bone.
My nemesis.

If you’ve read more than five contemporary romances, you know the rest: Hunter is, of course, the new owner of her fitness club. And he obviously still has strong feelings for Rosie — and she for him. But Rosie isn’t just fearful about being hurt again; she’s disgusted by the person she was when she was with Hunter:

It embarrassed me to remember how pathetic I’d been. The memory was so humiliating I tried not to think about it. I tried not to think about him. Deep down I knew he’d done the right thing to break it off — although I don’t think he needed to have been quite so brutal in the execution. I’d been so clingy, so dependent, so good at leaning on him I’d forgotten how to stand upright by myself.

Despite the bad break-up, Hunter genuinely cares for Rosie, and he’s just about perfect for her. He loves martial arts as much as she does, and he’s proud of her strength and skill, not threatened by it. But Rosie is scared to let herself depend on anyone again:

‘I fight my own battles. I comfort myself when I’m low. I have a secret stash of chocolate for that purpose.’
The corners of his mouth flickered. ‘Being able to do those things for yourself doesn’t stop someone else doing them alongside you.

I really liked Rosie’s voice; it’s wry, funny, and vulnerable. I also liked how much was packed into this short novella — it’s definitely focused on the romance, but Rosie’s relationship with her sister is very important to her, as is her job and her love of martial arts. There’s a nice sense of place, and the ending, featuring the London Eye, was swoon-worthy.

I was less crazy about the constant emphasis on how incredibly hot Hunter is, and the way Rosie’s descriptions of their physical interactions sometimes felt like she was talking about it more than feeling it. This is a pretty typical current romance style, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I also found myself thinking of Liz Mc2′s criticism of Ripped:

“And much as I enjoyed this book I found myself wondering if the novel didn’t do to Hayley a bit of what her nasty ex Charlie did: belittle her, and deny her skills. She’s an engineer (of some vague kind): isn’t the size of a dress in relation to the size of one’s breasts, and the strength of its seams, basically an engineering problem? I could accept that her pride made Hayley agree to be bridesmaid for her ex and the friend he dumped her for, but does that pride have to extend to not insisting her puke-yellow condom dress is the right size?… Do we have to go as far as exposing the heroine’s breasts in public so she can be rescued by hot hero Nico?

It’s interesting that Burned does precisely the same thing. Although Rosie is a skilled martial artist and excellent at self-defense, she still winds up in a dangerous situation too big for her to handle and has to be rescued by Hunter. It’s like the books are saying, it’s okay to be smart and strong, and some man will love you for it… as long as he’s smarter and stronger.

Despite those complaints, this was a lot of fun; I think it’s a standout in its “short sexy reads” genre. B

Sincerely,

Willaful

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REVIEW:  Return of the Viking Warrior by Michelle Styles

REVIEW: Return of the Viking Warrior by Michelle Styles

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The Viking Claims his Wife

Kara Olofdottar thanked the gods when she married her childhood hero Ash Hringson. But this fearless raider has been gone so long, his proud arrogance is the only memory she retains of him. Now she must remarry to protect her lands for her son.

But then, on her wedding day, the conquering warrior returns to gasps of horror and surprise! After all, Ash was supposed to be dead, though to Kara’s starved gaze he seems very much flesh and blood…and less than impressed to find his beautiful wife intent on marrying someone else!

Dear Ms. Styles,

Recently Robin mentioned a new exhibit at the British Museum about Vikings and how it confounds so much of what we think about them today. When I saw your latest book listed at Harlequin I took it as a Sign and hustled to buy and read it. I should have enjoyed this different take on life in 790s Norway. Let’s just say, I didn’t.

Ash and Kara have a lot going on. Ash headed off years ago to seek Adventure and Riches leaving his (unknown to him) pregnant bride to face life with his horrible father. But Kara survived, bore a son, defended him against those who would have exposed the weak baby and now seeks a second marriage with a steady man who will defend her and her son and protect her son’s land. Until Ash arrives just at that moment in a wedding when the question is asked, “Does anyone know why this marriage can’t take place.” Ash unloads a hell of a reason, the ceremony comes to a crashing halt and the wedding feast is hastily renamed a homecoming party.

But Ash’s Uncle wants the land and sulks offstage after uttering threats. Ash and Kara hiss at each other, grind their teeth over the situation and huff around a lot. They talk, they talk, they talk, they argue in undertones, slam their own fists together a lot and then argue in hushed tones some more. They can think a situation to death and strive to repress what they’re thinking until they’ve stood and thought about it a few more times. The plot moves at a glacial pace as these two manage to do very little over the course of the first 80% of the book. Yes, I calculated that.

Every once in a while, the evil Uncle gets a brief mention just so I don’t forget he and his threat exists but basically there’s a lot of very little actually happening to keep me awake. Until finally! Uncle makes his move and I think, “Yippee, some action.” Only there isn’t. Action that is. Just more talking. No, wait… yes a battle! Fighting with swords at last. Alas, that bit of excitement is over too soon and we’re back to Kara and Ash fussing over patching up Ash’s wounds. Sigh… The story ends with more talking and I finish it with the thought that if you’re looking for a verbose, moody Viking novel this is it. If you want some excitement though, keep going. D

~Jayne

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