Best of 2008 List: Reviewer Janet aka Robin
I can’t remember the first time I asked Robin to join us here at Dear Author. I remember seeing her comment at AAR and she often commented here at Dear Author. I just know that from the first, I admired her mind and her thoughtful commentary. Robin and I have had spirited debates about romance and the romance genre. She always seems to be able to convince me to take another look at my position even if she can’t quite get me to change my mind all the time.
- The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanne Bourne
- Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
- Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase
- Dark Desires After Dusk (Cade and Holly’s story) by Kresley Cole
- The Price of Desire by Jo Goodman
- Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins
- Like No Other Lover by Julie Ann Long
- Sex Straight Up by Kathleen O’Reilly
- The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal
- Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas
- Demon Night by Meljean Brook
- A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure by Victoria Dahl
- Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
- From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
- Broken Wing by Judith James
- The Price of Passion by Susan Napier
- Ember by Bettie Sharpe
I’ve never read any of the books Robin/Janet’s reviewed on DA, but I read all her reviews because it’s such a pleasure to see her clear, thoughtful analysis. Like all the reviewers here, it’s critique for grownups and for grownups, and I always feel I’ve learned something after reading it.
Now if I could just turn you to the dark side, Robin, and get you reading more m/m…. :)
Aw shucks, thanks guys.
I’ve got some in my TBR, Ann (including one of yours); I’m just really far behind in reading (as MCHalliday hopefully knows since I’ve got her book waiting, too, lol). I promise I’ll get to them!
That’s it. I have to move Cry Wolf to the top of my TBR pile.
I love Robin’s thoughtfulness too. I learn something every time she writes something.
Okay, I’m going to pimp myself a bit here (wow that sounds kinda dirty!) and point out that I wrote an ode to Shana Abe’s The Smoke Thief today on Access Romance Readers Gab. IIRC, two books will be given away to commenters, so if you want a copy of one of my favorite Romances, EVER, check it out.
Sadly, ARRG will only ship the book to a U.S. address.
I love Robin’s reviews too. Robin, are your lists in alphabetical order by author?
I was really excited to see Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs and The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal on your list, since I hadn’t heard your opinion of these before. Can I ask what grades you’d give these two books and what were the things that made you love them enough to include them on your list?
I’m sorry, Janine; I just saw your post (for some reason I wasn’t getting responses by email for this one).
My list is alphabetical, because I just wasn’t up to ordering them by preference and I didn’t want to include grades.
As for the Briggs and Rosenthal, I’d give the Briggs an A- probably, and a B+ to the Rosenthal.
The Briggs, I must admit, is a composite of Cry Wolf and Alpha and Omega, which I am completely unable to separate in my head, as I read them together and see them as one story (although each can certainly stand alone). In fact, A&O was a straight A for me, a perfect example of a novella that is absolutely the right length and depth for its pages, bursting with character development and relationship progression. Loved it, loved it, loved it. CW was also wonderful, in part because it continued the relationship between two IMO extraordinary characters. And partly because of the compelling nature of the plot and the IMO tenderness with which Briggs writes her characters. I know this is my projection, but I get the sense with Charles and Anna that they are being written with great respect for who they are and how they need to move through the story.
The way Charles balances the protective impulse he has toward Anna and the aggression of his wolf, for example, worked really well for me. That scene in the airport in A&O where Charles is waiting for Anna was so visceral, IMO, and it really resonates through the entirety of their relationship through those two works, making me remember back to it every time Charles struggles to keep his wolf in check but also to protect Anna from outsiders. And the whole concept of the Omega is fascinating to me, especially in the way Anna grows her power during CW. The integration of self, the total sense of beingness these characters have was really well portrayed, IMO.
I also loved the character of Charles’s father and the ambivalent relationship he has with his wife. That she was not a “perfect woman” but still a strong mate was a great touch, IMO, because it showed the dynamics of the mating process as multi-dimensional. And I thought the plot was very clever, and as much as I hated those poor little tortured animals, for example, again, they highlighted the duality of power, the complex world of metaphysical beings, and the darker side of gaining one’s power from animal beings.
As for the Rosenthal, it was a veryyyy slow start for me, like reading Henry James under water, as I put it. The sense of James never really left me, but by the fourth chapter or so I was much more engaged in the book. My favorite thing about it, I think, is the peripatetic nature of the narration, the way the story moves forward but not in a particularly uniform or even linear way. While I still felt that the prose had a tendency to wander too far at times, I thought this particular story was better suited to the spiraling that occurs in the writing and the narrative movement of the book.
Also, I thought it was wonderful that Jasper was so utterly befuddled by relationships, and that Marina helps him connect to himself not by adding a “feminine touch” but by seducing Jasper to see himself differently, to see beyond himself in important ways, and to see Anthony and Sydney differently. In some ways I felt Jasper was a more vivid and distinct character than Marina, although I’m not sure I can articulate why, exactly. I also liked the fact that not everything was explained to death. The connection, for example, between the young woman Jasper first visits and her later protector was priceless, IMO.
On the down side, I felt that Rackham was discarded rather carelessly for someone who seemed to wield so much power over Marina and, in a sense, the story. The end felt forced to me, even though I liked the lack of melodrama between Jasper and Marina. I wanted more of Jasper’s response to Marina’s letter, more of the awareness he was coming into as a character. And Anthony’s romance felt strangely paced to me. I was also bothered by the little discussion he has with himself about how it doesn’t matter if everyone else thinks Helen is plain — as if he was patting himself on the back for finding her extraordinary. That just struck me wrong and worked against my sense of happiness for them.
I did like the inside jokes about Romance novels, though, and the way the novel continued to play on the line between the literary and the romantic.