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REVIEW: Thin Ice by Liana Laverentz

REVIEW: Thin Ice by Liana Laverentz

Dear Ms. Laverentz:

This book was originally reviewed by Jayne about four years ago, and I intended to read it after she wrote her review but then other books caught my attention and I forgot.  I ended up buying this book in January because it was included on a sports romance list at Goodreads.  It had a great setup.  A formerly abused woman falls in love with a hockey player who happens to be the enforcer on a pro hockey team.  She has an intense and instinctive dislike for violence. When her first encounter with Eric Cameron is in the emergency room after a bar fight, he seems to fulfill all her preconceived notions about hockey players.

Liana Laverentz Thin IceJayne’s problems resided primarily in the multitude of conflicts that existed in the story and while that was problematic for me, my main dislikes were the lack of realism to the hockey and the portrayal of domestic abuse, the latter being used as a prop.

Emily Jordan is an emergency doctor raising her son in Minneapolis, struggling with student loan debt. Eric becomes interested in Emily immediately despite (or because of) her prickly responses to his mild overtures. He begins to pursue her in earnest and isn’t above taking advantage of her son’s hero interest in him to inveigle invitations to pizza and movies. Emily has to come to terms with Eric’s profession in order for them to have a life together.

Unfortunately, the book was all promise and little delivery. I never bought into Eric as a professional hockey player.  Jayne disagreed. She’s not familiar with sports and felt that there was enough to feel authentic for her.

Eric spent far too little time on the ice and far too much time pursuing Emily.  The amount of free time he had during the story which was set close to the start of the playoffs and then continued throughout until the end of the season was not believable.  But even more than that was his entire attitude toward actually playing the sport. At one point, Eric offers to pick her kid up and take him out to dinner so that Emily can get some much needed rest even though he had to be on a plane for an away game. He says “I’ll tell them I had an emergency. Catch a later flight.”

The gesture is gallant but what kind of professional hockey player or professional athlete would simply lie about his absence at an away game? Perhaps if the story included a storyline about Eric’s fading desire for the game (which might be believable after having previously won four championships), this would have made sense, but instead it just rang my inauthentic bell.  The reference to The Lord Stanley’s Cup, the positioning of Eric as an enforcerer and a lead scorer of the team and the repeated insinuation that he drove divisiveness within his own team by turning people against a co captain all contributed to a lack of believability.

I wasn’t convinced of why he would so ardently pursue Emily when she was constantly telling him no and, even beyond that, being rude and insulting to him.

The abuse angle could have been employed with a greater degree of believability as well. Emily’s ex husband was abusive, patterned behavior he learned from his father. Despite living in the same town as her ex and his very wealthy and prominent family, Emily somehow manages to conceal that she has a son. I found this one of the more bizarre coincidences in the book. The ex doesn’t become a danger to Emily until after she starts dating Eric, convenient for the story, but the ex’s rage induced actions seem almost cartoonish and paint by number, diminishing any tension or impact.  I think that this might have been, in part, what Jayne referred to as the ever building number of conflicts introduced in the story.

While I appreciate the storyline of the abused woman reclaiming herself, I felt like it was more of a contrivance, particularly when the former mother in law who was also abused explains that the new girlfriend of the abuser treated the abuser like a “lap dog” and that the abuser tolerated it because the new girlfriend had “power he craves, the status…the money.” I had a hard time believing that a man who was raised to beat women and went on to beat women would allow himself to be treated like a “lap dog.” Instead, I felt like the characters were manipulated in order to have these big dramatic moments. It was irritating rather than interesting.

Finally, I found the book rather slow until about 70% of the story was completed as Emily played a push/pull game with Eric. The last third of the story was fast paced and contained a lot of drama, even if some of it was manufactured.

This was not a self published book and thus I will take a moment to complain about the formatting and editing. There were several areas in which paragraphs ran together, particularly dialogue. There were numerous quotation errors where quotation marks were omitted either at the opening or close of dialogue. There was no table of contents either. It was an amateurish product that I paid for. D

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Krakow Waltz by Kate Allan

REVIEW: Krakow Waltz by Kate Allan

“The Honourable Miss Annabel Wells needs to catch a husband to save her reputation – and fast. But even in her dire straits she can’t bring herself to accept Mr Henry Champion, a gentleman without property or pedigree, no matter what she feels about him. She marries a foreign count but when her husband is killed in duel will Henry come all the way across Europe to the rescue or is too late for a second chance for love?”

Dear Ms Allan,

A friend described this book as having a stuck up heroine which initially interested me not at all but then I remembered having read one of your previous books shortly after Dear Author started and liking the writing. Not long after my friend mentioned the book, it was offered to us to review and I decided to give it a shot. After all, it isn’t often that a Regency is set mainly in Poland!

Krakow Waltz by Kate AllanI love the setting and the fact that it’s used well. The land and people and politics of the time become an integral part of the story though it took a while before I and the hero realized just how dangerous it was for Annabel to remain in Poland after her first husband’s death and that it’s not just about a family land inheritance. I do wish this had been elaborated on a bit more as I’m the first to admit that I know less than I should about Polish history, especially this time when it appears great things could have happened. But then Poland got sold down the river after WWII as well and for similar reasons. I love that Annabel thinks dearly of this land she’s lived in for 9 years and feels at home there.

Henry isn’t a Duke. He isn’t even titled nor is he rich. Wow, you certainly took a risk with that but I love it. It makes his reasons for not speaking up for Annabel 9 years ago believable. And even now he’s still not sure whether or not she’ll welcome his advances. But as a minor hero of Waterloo (I adore this too, he’s not some “save the day” savior of the battle) and aide to Wellington, he’s sort of made his mark and has some gravitas now. Of course he still has a wry sense of self deprecating humor which made me laugh. Annabel doesn’t regret her decision of 9 years ago. It was the correct one for her at the time and she’s enjoyed her life in Poland.

Despite the fact that they met 9 years ago, neither Henry nor Annabel has mooned over the thought of the other for all that time. When faced with the reunion, each vaguely wonders about the other but no one’s life was put on hold with breathless anticipation and “never having forgotten each other.” Thank you. It’s definitely a two steps forward one step back romance. The reasons for the steps back make sense and fit the story but each interruption of them getting to the point in the romance began to get on my nerves a bit. Henry’s bungled proposal at the end helped make it worth the wait. But…though Annabel’s reasons for fearing marital relations also fit her background and I love the fact that Henry takes them seriously, his explanation/reasurrance followed by a brief 10 second contemplation by Annabel sure seems fast to overcome all her fears.

Marek, Count Ralenski, is a fun addition – also with a great sense of humor and down to earth realism. His character makes me want to investigate Poland’s support of Napoleon. He’s a great friend to Henry and Annabel and I hope we’ll see more of him and his courtship. He’s got the soul of a poet as he gently takes Henry to task for ignoring Annabel as if she was an insignificant flower. Sometimes heroes need a swift kick and Ralenski’s the man for the job. However, I felt that there isn’t much to the villain Zakonski beyond being a bully boy. He’s bad from start to end and I’m still not sure if his interest in Annabel was personal or just for the land. I would have liked to have seen more of why you made him the villain.

Helena and Robards are nice additions to the story. I can see them being “in the know” about their respective employers due to their close relationships with Annabel and Henry. I also like their common sense and support for the main characters. Henry’s sister Jane is delightful and how she deftly manages his romance – or tries to before Henry finally takes matters into his own hands and gets Annabel for himself. Jane would be a fun s-i-l to have.

Sometimes my first thoughts about whether or not to try a book turn out to be totally wrong as is the case here. Good thing I’m allowed to change my mind about what I read and review! Though a Regency in a world full of Regencies, it’s also different and takes some chances that I think will reward those looking for something other than the usual Nobleman/Spy/Rake books. Thanks for offering it to us. B

~Jayne

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