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second chances

REVIEW:  Collide by Juliana Stone

REVIEW: Collide by Juliana Stone

Dear Ms. Stone:

I tried to read, but did not finish, the first book in the Barker Triplet’s trilogy.  When the second book came along, I wanted to give this self published series another chance.  “Collide” is a re-united lover story.  The primary problem I had is that it felt melodramatic and the characters acted more like they were teenagers than adults.

Collide by Juliana StoneBobbi-Jo Barker and Shane Gallagher were high school lovers with a tempestuous relationship.  They would fight, break up, reconcile and repeat their behaviors continuously until one fight involved too many hurtful actions and they split for good.  This led Shane into a downward spiral where he ultimately ended up spending his time in “jail” for three years (actually this should be prison, jail is short term confinement).

Five years later, Shane is trying to remake a life for himself in his hometown of New Waterford, Michigan, and Bobbi-Jo is struggling with the major upheavals in her own life.  The book started out on a sour note for me. Bobbi-Jo jilts her fiancé at the altar, doesn’t contact him and runs off to a bar where she finds Shane and Shane takes her home. Throughout the book fiance Gerald is mocked for being uptight and boring.  But being boring really doesn’t deserve to be humiliated in your hometown by a) being stood up at the altar and b) having the entire town know that your wife to be went home from a bar with her high school sweetheart.

As a result of the jilting, Bobbi-Jo is fired from her “junior clerk” position at the law firm where Gerald works.  So Bobbi Jo is out of a job, out of a fiance and discovering that she still has feelings for her high school boyfriend who broke her heart.  The most logical course of action for Bobbi Jo is to fall in bed with Shane again.  Shane shows some feelings of animosity toward Bobbi Jo in the beginning but those feelings are quickly tossed aside as Shane decides that he and Bobbi Jo belong together.  The problem that haunts their new beginning is Bobbi Jo’s refusal to come clean about a big secret.

While the book deals with second chances and growing up, I didn’t feel like Bobbi Jo had come very far from her high school days.  The change in the relationship dynamic comes primarily from Shane refusing to fall prey to the emotional rages that dominated him prior to prison. I wish Bobbi Jo had undergone the same emotional transformation.  I also though the reveal of her secret  came far too late in the story, particularly given what drove them apart in the first place.  The secret brought up an issue that resonated with the same core issues of their past and the text leading up to it didn’t give me confidence that this situation could be resolved as easily as the post secret text wanted me to believe.

Shane’s reformed bad boy is an appealing archetype but he didn’t bring anything new to the genre, either.  What I did like was the healing that took place amongst Bobbi Jo and Shane’s families.  Shane had a troubled upbringing and was at odds with his stepmother but through a concerted effort on all their parts, Shane began the process of reconciliation.  Bobbi Jo’s family reconciliation started with Book 1 and her sister’s, Billie, return to Michigan.  But the third triplet, Betty, is still causing worry for the Barker family.

C

Best regards,

Jane

 

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REVIEW:  In the Heat of the Spotlight by Kate Hewitt

REVIEW: In the Heat of the Spotlight by Kate Hewitt

“Ambitious CEO Luke Bryant needs a big-name star to help launch his luxury department stores–everything hangs on its success. What he doesn’t need is washed-up pop princess and tabloid joke Aurelie Schmidt.

Faced with the sexiest, angriest man she’s ever met, Aurelie’s first comeback gig isn’t exactly going as planned. But Aurelie’s tougher than that, and she won’t let any guy, no matter how gorgeous, get beneath her skin, even if he does get between her sheets….”

Dear Ms. Hewitt,

Every now and again, I’ll dip my toe into the Harlequin Presents pool. I did so earlier with one of your other books and my good experience with it has made me a little braver. I might even swirl my lower foot around in this line now. Still, I’ll probably stick with known-to-me authors for a while. Anywho, the blurb for this one caught my eye and interest. The CEO hero doesn’t seems like he’ll be assholic and the heroine seems to have a backbone and actually be willing to use it. Well, look at that.

In-the-Heat-of-the-SpotlightI’ll be honest and say this one starts strongly then shifts into low gear for a bit. Luke makes assumptions about Aurelie but as she says herself, later on once she’s calmed down, he has every reason to based on her past behavior as an out-of-control, spiraling down rock star. But Aurelie gives as good as she gets and makes him show and prove why she should allow him back into her life once the initial gig is done. The resulting false start at sex sets the stage for what is to come – a story about two people who have been let down by those in their lives who should have been there for them and who have to learn that every relationship needs trust and involves a little loss of control.

By the second time Aurelie and Luke attempt sex only to have the moment sputter out on them again, I was losing a little patience. Luke had to be sporting the worst case of blue balls as he waits to discover what is behind Aurelie’s reaction to intimacy. She may say there was no rape or molestation but a woman just doesn’t react as she does without some Deep, Dark Past Issue. When he discovers what actually occurred, Luke realizes that his attempts to make things better actually made them worse. Huzzah – no magic-penis-which-miraculously-fixes-the-heroine’s-trauma in sight! Whoo-hoo!

Still, Luke isn’t being totally honest with Aurelie either in spite of his pronouncement that he only deals in truth. At least when his brother calls him on it, he doesn’t try to word weasel his way out of it – much. When Aurelie discovers that she’s still not quite to the trust stage needed for a relationship and leaves, it does unfortunately take a deus ex machina to head her in the right direction again but then these two actually talk about their issues and begin to work things out. Bonus points to you though for having her tell Luke that she still might “need a moment” every now and then. That she still could panic at times. And for Luke replying that he’s still not finished with his own change issues either. I’m glad I stuck with this one and the deus ex machina might just induce me to go back and try the first book in the series. B-

~Jayne

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