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

Toni-Blake

REVIEW: Holly Lane by Toni Blake

REVIEW: Holly Lane by Toni Blake

Dear Ms. Blake:

This book faltered in the beginning for me and never recovered. The female protagonist is Sue Ann, and in the previous books, Sue Ann has appeared happily married to Jeffrey. At some point between book 3 and book 4, Jeffrey fell in love with another woman and confesses his feelings for this woman to Sue Ann. Sue Ann is devastated by Jeffrey’s emotional infidelity and they ultimately divorce. Sue Ann’s emotional wounds are furthered by seeing Jeffrey swanning about town with his new love who isn’t even younger or more beautiful than Sue Ann.

Toni Blake Holly LaneSue Ann runs to an isolated cabin and there she ends up with Adam Becker, the male protagonist in the book. As if there is some romance code that all main protagonists who find themselves alone must immediately copulate, Adam and Sue Ann fall upon each other.

Interestingly, Adam admits that his wife left him because of his cheating. Sue Ann excuses his actions because his wife, according to Adam, had disparaged his manhood, and so one lonnely night, Adam succummbed to the advances of another woman. He only kisses her, though.

The exploration of the concept of cheating and physical infidelity versus emotional infidelity could have been fascinating (and is the subject of this movie where Keira Knightly character is emotionally unfaithful where her husband is physically unfaithful one evening). Unfortunately, Sue Ann shows the introspection of a gnat and immediately points out that Adam is the aggrieved party and thus his physical infidelity is excusable.

The focus on the book, though, is that everyone isn’t what they look like on the outside. From the outside, Sue Ann and Jeffrey’s marriage looked perfect and happy. Even Sue Ann thought she had a good marriage until she confronted Jeffrey about being distant. Adam is the town nice guy. He’s the image of the All American Boy Next Door. But he’s been unfaithful. He’s portrayed as short tempered. He has a difficult relationship with his ex wife and he misses his sons.

Again, this is an interesting concept yet I felt like little was done to explore it. In the end, there are no surprises. Jeffrey becomes villanous, I suppose in an effort to elevate the romance between Adam and Sue Ann as being truer and more ever lasting than any romance that the other shared with someone else previously.

The concepts and conflicts presented in this book were brought up and then discarded without much inspection. This could not have been exemplified more than by the first sex scene beetween Adam and Sue Ann. Neither of them looked at the other with any sexual interest previous to their cabin share. It’s a thoughtless action and didn’t read as if it was passion fueled. There seemed plenty of internal monologue going on, rather that two people who lost their heads in an impulsive action. I.e, right before they jump each other, Sue Ann thinks:

Not that she could really think of Adam in a sexual way. He’d been her friend for too long and she wasn’t wired to make that sort of switch.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 667-668). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Sue Ann’s conflicts consist primarily of her thinking about how sexy Adam is despite the fact that she has to enter the work force for the first time in years and must make a living wage for herself and her daughter. In sum, she has greater worries (or should have) than thinking about how sexy some guy is. That the majority of her internal monologue is given over to whether she can withstand Adam’s sexiness is a bit of a head scratcher.

Oh my God, I’m alone with Adam again. But that was okay, she told herself. You’re strong, you’re capable, and everything’s going to be fine. After all, it was a twenty minute ride back to Destiny, not wild monkey sex.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2038-2041). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

At this, though, Adam unexpectedly cast another of those slightly sheepish—albeit very sexy—looks. “Not really. If you’d been around me an hour before I delivered your tree today, you’d have run for cover.”

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2098-2099). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Get out of the truck. You have to. You can’t afford to risk your heart again this soon—you just can’t. Sure, you can tell yourself it’s just sex, but there’s really no such thing as that. Sex comes with emotions—deep ones you can’t push away.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2166-2168). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

It’s not like he’s asking you to wear his class ring and letterman jacket, for God’s sake. This is sex. Good sex. Pure and simple. Why shouldn’t you let yourself have that? “I want that,” she heard herself murmur.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2172-2174). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I’ve had sex now. Twice. I have a life again. Sort of, anyway. And maybe that was part of what took the edge off seeing Jeff tonight. Still, that sex was fraught with so many mixed emotions that she could barely keep up with the constant push/pull of it in her own mind. In some ways, she still wished she could let herself trust in Adam and consider letting this thing with him go somewhere.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2541-2545). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Maybe this book was about Sue Ann’s sexual awakening, but it seemed set up as Sue Ann becoming independent after her divorce. Instead of creating an independent woman I found her to be sex obssessed, more focused on wondering whether she should sleep with Adam than creating a life that was separate from a man.

Sue Ann and Adam do have interesting discussions on how they failed in their own marriages and agree that marriage is a work in progress where both parties have to be committed to making it work. Although I did think that this exchange between the two exemplified their relationship:

“Be careful,” she teased, smiling now, “or I might decide I need a fix-it man to whip things into shape around here and take you up on that.”

“I’d be happy to be your fix-it man, Sue Ann,” he told her smoothly, his voice going a bit deeper, his eyes once again making her feel as if he’d actually reached out to touch her—and she felt that invisible touch everywhere. Whoa.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 3943-3947). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Maybe the focus on Sue Ann’s physical feelings toward Adam would have been more appealing had she already established a life separate from her former husband. Instead, I felt the setup of “on my goodness, I’m on my own” didn’t match up with the ending which was “I’m afraid to fall in love again.” Mostly, though, I found the internal monologue dull and I had a hard time maintaining my interest. What readers may enjoy is the small town setting and the ordinary person feel. No billionaires here and no crazy hijinks that require suspension of disbelief. The rediscovery of love after a failed attempt is also an enjoyable storyline. It didn’t work for me, though. C

Best regards,

Jane

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

REVIEW: One Reckless Summer by Toni Blake

REVIEW: One Reckless Summer by Toni Blake

Dear Ms. Blake:

I love a good contemporary and this one was recommended by a friend. I can see why she recommended it. The emotional arc for the hero was different and fresh and moving. Jenny Tolliver, the heroine, however suffered from a case of serious blandness.

One Reckless Summer by Toni BlakeJenny Tolliver is back in her hometown, licking her wounds inflicted by ex husband. Apparently Jenny was too good of a girl to exude enough passion for her husband so he found it in the arms of Jenny’s 20 year old teacher’s aide.

Jenny’s not sure what she wants to do now. She quit her job and returned to the arms of her father in Destiny, Ohio. I had a hard time understanding why Jenny would quit her job and leave without any plans for the future. It wasn’t explained how she planned to provide for herself after the summer was over. This was a glaring inconsistency in Jenny’s characterization. She is described as someone who worries over small things; who muses endlessly about her guilty conscience. You’d think a thing like not knowing what she was going to do in the fall would bother her or at least be something she contemplated regularly.

Jenny’s a stargazer and the best place to look at the stars is across the river. The other side of the river was once inhabited by the bad boys of Destiny, Wayne and Mick Brody. Wayne and Mick always in trouble and at one point, Wayne was convicted for armed robbery. Mick had disappeared. Jenny is completely surprised to find Mick Brody not only living on his side of the river, but refusing her access to the top of his side of the hill.

Despite not having seen each other for years and despite Jenny believing Mick was an uncaught felon, she proceeds to have unprotected sex there in the woods with Mick. So Jenny is good and stupid but also guilt ridden. Afterwards she flagellates herself for having sex with Mick but you know she’s on the pill to regulate her period so all’s good. Her friend tries to ask her about the disease issue and Jenny replies that she’ll just get herself tested like she did after she found out her husband was cheating on her. Of course, this isn’t the only time Mick and Jenny “forget” to use a condom. I think that I was supposed to believe that the two of them were so lost in passion for each other that condoms couldn’t be part of their encounters.

This series of encounters with Mick occur again and again. Jenny tries to climb the mountain and instead gets a good rogering. Of course, at some point, you know that Jenny is crossing the lake just to get some sex. The problem is that Mick is a bad boy doing an illegal act across the lake and Jenny can’t just turn a blind eye. Even when she promises to keep a secret, she doesn’t. She tells her best friend almost immediately. I really, really got irritated with Jenny.

What makes this book palatable is Mick and the intriguing story that is told about him, his brother, and his way of life. I don’t want to give too much away because what Mick is doing in his cabin across the lake is a mystery that probably should be left for other readers to discover. He’s never been able to rely on anyone but himself. He hasn’t had a lot of softness in his life. While Jenny isn’t terribly reliable (after all she can’t keep his secret for more than 24 hours), she does represent a certain measure of steadiness and tenderness that he had never experienced.

I also like that Mick wasn’t that overbearing alpha male that predominates the genre. He’s had a hard life and he’s suffering and it’s a struggle to just put one foot in front of the other. And really, it is easy to see why the two are attracted to each other. They both represent what the other sees as a void in their lives.

One of the real challenges for me in this book was staying interested because it was pretty predictable. Mick is doing something not lawful and Jenny is the daughter of a “by the book” police chief. There is a secondary romance for the police chief which was nice but it didn’t illuminate the core romance in anyway, but rather provided an excuse for an easy resolution at the end.

Once Mick’s emotional arc had taken place and he was more focused on Jenny, the story’s emotional power waned. I didn’t have the same emotional investment in Jenny’s character arc and thus the latter part of the story held less interest for me. Because this story is so character driven versus plot driven how the reader feels about Jenny and Mick. C

Best regards,

Jane

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