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REVIEW:  One More Valentine by Anne Stuart

REVIEW: One More Valentine by Anne Stuart

When Chicago gangster James Sheridan Rafferty died in the famed St. Valentine’s Day massacre, he had no idea that Cupid’s wicked angels would give him a second chance…more than 60 years later! All he had to do was fall madly in love within 48 hours. But could a real Chicago gangster with a good heart, but a big chip on his shoulder, truly fall in love?

As far as Rafferty was concerned, lawyer Helen Emerson only complicated matters. Rafferty didn’t have time to save a damsel in distress, even if she was easy on the eyes. No doubt Helen would make a fabulous lover, but she was no gun moll. Still, with time running out, she was Rafferty’s only hope.

Dear Ms. Stuart,

I’d heard of this book years ago along with several of your other categories that seemed to break the mold of “standard Harlequin contemporaries.” But unfortunately, I got back into reading romances after they were initially released and finding these books – now remember this was in the mid 90s and it wasn’t as easy to find paper books online and ebooks were just a gleam in someone’s eye – was a crapshoot. “One More Valentine” was one I never managed to track down. Fast forward to ebooks and Harlequin reissues – and God bless reissues – and it’s an easy online purchase and download.

One More Valentine by Anne StuartWhen we had our recent discussion on unusual historicals, this book came to mind. Not because it’s really a historical – it’s not – or a time travel – because again it’s not – but because the hero comes back to corporeal being for 2 days each year after he was gunned down during the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre. It’s also not set in the Romancelandia Small Town America but in Chicago so it scores points for that too.

It has a way cool premise – even if a few details gets smudged around the edges and some things aren’t explained very well. The heroine is a smart and respected lawyer while the hero is a “rough around the edges” former gangster. Had I read this back in the day, there’s no doubt in my mind I would probably have loved it for these reasons. But now…well let me explain why now I have problems with it.

The book opens with a cool, cynical, menacing hero who can stop any questions just by his intimidating presence. At first Helen is equal to him. She’s calm under pressure, and appears to know, enjoy and do her job well. Some of the mechanics and reasoning behind what happens each year on February 13 and 14th is glossed over but I’m still enjoying the Idea of it and Rafferty’s observations of how life has changed over the decades. So far, so good.

That is until Helen’s hormones and virginity get in the way. Then she turns almost TSTL. Someone’s out to kill her, she actually believes that even if she’s still wary of what Jamey has told her about himself but when faced with a gun barrel her first thought isn’t that she won’t see her family or she’s too young to die or any normal thing. Oh no, her first thought is “I’m gonna die a virgin!” Then she gets saved and still acts like a ninny. I joined with Jamey in his frustration at her thoughts and actions.

Then there’s the ‘push him to have sex with me’ for various reasons and his noble resistance and her puppy dog “he doesn’t love me enough” or “he doesn’t want me enough, boo-hoo” scenes. Just shut up Helen. She’s definitely in the category of heroine who’s time has passed and thankfully so.

Meanwhile Jamey goes all noble over and over and I can almost hear the “Romeo and Juliet” overture as he once again puts Helen and her needy clinginess aside for her own good because he’s just not good enough for her. Oh just fuck her already Jamey. He’s seen the late 60s, the free-for-all sex of the 70s – just do her so she’ll stop whining!

And how does he get half the Chicago police force to leave him alone with her after they’ve hauled off the body of someone they saw trying to kill her? Really?? I actually enjoyed reading the gooey sweet epilogue if only because we were past all these things.

I wanted to like all of this book. I still do like the idea behind it and the first half of it. But the second half jumps the tracks and the whole balances out as a C-


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REVIEW:  The Virgin’s Revenge by Dee Tenorio

REVIEW: The Virgin’s Revenge by Dee Tenorio

Dear Ms. Tenorio:

Thank you for sending your book for review. I liked the premise and the story had a lot of promise. My struggle with understanding the hero’s motivations, however, diminished my overall appreciation for the story and the strongest character on the page wasn’t the hero, but the heroine’s older brother.

The Virgin's Revenge Dee TenorioAmanda Jackman has six overbearing brothers and she has felt like the direction of her life has been dictated by them. No man or boy in her hometown of Rancho Del Cielo has been brave enough to ask her out for fear of her brothers’ retribution. In a bid for independence, Amanda moves out of the family home and buys her own tiny house. This movement signals to Locke, her eldest brother, that Amanda must be ready to have her own family and he tells a family friend, Cole Engstrand that he has the green light to pursue and win Amanda.

Unfortunately, Amanda overhears this and her fragile self esteem is crushed. She’s always had a thing for Cole yet he’s never returned her interest. Hearing him and her brother Locke engage in a some kind of medieval transaction that would see her married off is hurtful and frustrating. Amanda decides that part of her emancipation will include the seduction of Cole.

Cole Engstrom was taken up by the Jackman brothers in high school. He had a terrible home life and his parents’ unhappy marriage sours him on the happy ever after thing. He’s always been attracted to Amanda but he values her friendship and the friendship he has with her brothers. When Amanda starts her seduction attempts, he’s aroused and interested but afraid of going too far. Further, he is a little perturbed that Amanda is going to seduce and abandon him – something he learns through eavesdropping.

What I struggled with was Cole’s resistance to Amanda’s seduction which seemed an attempt to simply draw out the sexual tension. Cole wasn’t going to sleep with her, but he’d help her feel sexy and attractive by fooling around or keeping her an everything but virgin. Amanda was going to seduce the pants off Cole, but never gives one thought to how to deal with the fallout of a failed sexual relationship.

The push/pull of their relationship often seemed disjointed. One scene would begin with Cole dreading being seen in the same restaurant as Amanda and the next scene would be Cole dragging Amanda in for a deep open mouthed tongue kiss in the middle of the restaurant. Cole’s purported friendship with the brothers seemed non existent during the book. His closest friend appeared to be Amanda.

The characters are cute and likeable but I didn’t understand them or the arc of the story. I loved the idea of Amanda bartering with people to learn tasks that would increase her independence from getting basic car maintenance lessons to learning how to fix a sink. But because the motivations, particularly of Cole never made any sense to me, the story dragged. While there was humor and sweetness and sexiness, it just didn’t come together for me. C

Best regards,