(not to my blog... sorry)

I'm applying (and accepting) a new job (read: more responsibilities...) on the horizon... very soon.  Haven't been able to write much b/c I've got a mountain of paperwork (to complete and submit re: old job to new job).

I'm nervous yet excited.  It's called a leap of faith for a reason, right?


2013 TBR Challenge - April "New-to-You" Authors

(4 days late.) So many new authors in 2013...  I'm giving April to Rhonda Nelson.

Fact:  Harlequin Blazes are HOT. Covers include one or all of the following: couples dry-humping, strong hot naked man-backs. 90% tanned hot flesh. So I got The Rule-Breaker as a Net Galley ARC, and I thought I'd give it shot, even though the "uniformly hot" series isn't my usual pick.  But this was not what I expected...

Conflict:  So wrong, it's right. Eli is an Army Ranger (The back of the book tells us this, and it's mentioned no where else. I think the word "Army" is only mentioned twice.) who is in love with Shelby - the fiance of his BEST-friend-like-a-brother, Micah - so Shelby is supposed to be off-limits, but they share a super passionate embrace at the engagement party at Micah's family home. Wedding is cancelled and one bullet later, Eli is back in Micah's hometown to build a memorial gazebo/fountain/park-thing - with Micah's family - and Shelby.

The running drama throughout the book is mostly grief over "did Micah shoot himself over PTSD, depression, or loosing Shelby?" (I'm going to say all three...) and there's a plot line involving Shelby getting threat letters (very predictable) - highlight for spoiler:  it's not the bitchy-nosy journalist (also Micah's once-ex-girlfriend) - it's actually from Micah's younger brother calling Shelby a whore. To say his psychotic behavior is rude and concerning is an understatement. 
And this one starts off... really heavy and sad. As in... gruesome suicide with heartbreak and PTSD sad. Everything is sad. Even some extra background sad: The hero's father committed suicide when the hero was eleven, and eventually he ended up in foster care until he was 18. (So this is also how he instantly decides "within seconds of Micah's death" to spare Micah's family from the grief of knowing their son killed himself. This is in the beginning of chapter 1 - Sad, yet?)  The heroine's parents were killed by a sleeping truck driver when she was two, so she lived with her grandmother - who also died when Shelby was a sophomore in college. The only "lightness" in the book is from an older seductress character, named Mavis, who helps Shelby out.

Things I loved:
  • Describing Shelby's dress as "flouncy"
  • Mavis' plot line
  • "Guilt is a powerful thing, but it's no excuse for rudeness." - Shelby

Why do I empathize with this heroine:  Sure, everyone in this novel had it rough, but overall I feel that both the hero and heroine deserve their shameful feelings. And I really had a lot of trouble caring. I only say this because there's a lot of perpetuating lies in this one. And it's not so much the "lies" in this one, as it's more about their guilt. No one wants to be honest and deal with their emotions and discuss conflicts. There's only SOOOO much that a romance novel can CRAM a bunch of grief and tension to earn the reader's sympathy before we just start to feel overwhelmed.  There's no mention of anyone going to therapy/counseling. And major congrats to both of them having an HEA - but also saying "He's out of the army in 3 months!" - is very UN-Believable for a career Army Ranger.  I'm doubting they would retire at so young of an age, and then just settle down into civilian life like it's no big deal - especially if said Ranger LOVES rules and routine and discipline.

Overall:  If you're actually going to pay attention to the plot line and the characters - I have to say skip it.  But, I'd try another Rhonda Nelson read, just to see if it's less sad - and... if you like a hot Blaze, or if you're a Rhonda Nelson fan - pick this one up.


Decadent Dreams (by A.C. Arthur)

Belinda shifted in the seat, the faux leather making a very unpleasant sound as she did.  
Luckily, Malik didn't look up from his menu or comment in any way.

Decadent Dreams by A.C. Arthur

Conflict: (Not sure) past-baggage issues? friends-to-lovers? or *fart noise* "That wasn't me!- That was the seat!" 

NOTE:  I was seriously about to DNF from sheer boredom, but the quote above brought me back. I'm pretty sure this is first romance I've read with any mention/hinting of flatulence.

In a Nutshell: Belinda Drayson-Jones works at her grandmother's patisserie in Chicago, Lillian's. Belinda is a complete perfectionist. But she gets panic/anxiety attacks. Malik Anthony worked next to Belinda for years after an injury ended his professional basketball career (but we're going to pretend that this isn't odd at all, and it's totally acceptable for him to dream of going from NBA to Lillian's) and now we've reached the point where they act on their attraction. 

This was "okay" but it didn't go above average for me.  It's basically watching a couple finally have their HEA after some flirting and some dates - oh, and they talk about some past-baggage issues (evil exes, over-achieving, family drama, etc.). The conflict didn't really stick out to me. This had the normal plot ups and downs, and although I appreciated some "meeting-the-ex" scenes, it just felt like the story was naturally continuing. Nothing to keep me on the edge of my seat and make me wonder/hope that our couple could have their HEA. After I decided to keep reading, I was waiting for something else to pique my interest, and nothing did. We're told that they're perfect for each other and that they care, but we're not shown it.

Why do I empathize with this heroine: Nope. And I struggled with this one. I thought her and Malik were great together though, but no more so than just what I'd expect from my romances. There's a scene where Malik calls his attorney and bails Belinda out of jail/holding - but I'd expect the well-connected boyfriend-hero to do that. Even when we see her admitting to Malik on their first date that she "doesn't want to be Little Miss Perfect anymore" - okay... but she was so uptight, and I feel like I never saw her be carefree enough - or satisfied with any of her "imperfections"...  Sucks reading about a heroine being so unhappy with herself.


Confessionals: That one time I read a bunch of Inspys...

I have never read an Inspirational Romance. It is just NOT the sub-genre I normally gravitate towards.  

So way back when I first won a bunch of Inspirationals (by Harlequin Life Inspired) from Wendy the Super Librarian, I was expecting this:

Only there's NO making out in the Inspys.  Maybe a warm embrace or a chaste kiss.  Maybe hand-holding, but definitely no licking-of-lips before leaning into a kiss.

My Cali-romance-reading-BFF, Sherise (a staunch atheist), test-drove a free Inspy in pdf from Harlequin, and she g-chatted me the next day like, "Nope, can't do it. Hero is talking about how the heroine isn't a good enough Christian for him or some shit - so this is no bueno!" Hmmmm... ok, now I gotta see what this is all about...

...and as a Catholic, I'm nervously expecting a bunch of key terms to pop up in the plot and dialogue --  like: virgin, Virgin, virginity, sin, cardinal sin, confession, sinner, sacrament, holy, divine, matrimony, sanctity, blessed, Jesus, savior, damnation, hell-fire, purgatory, redemption, etc...

And I was actually... *pleasantly surprised*... in a sweet, sugar-coated, wholesome, Hallmark-y kind of way... and I wanted to write a Heroes & Heartbreakers post about it, but I'm admitting that I felt a bit chicken, and it feels good to acknowledge that - almost like I really didn't expect that I would enjoy these - but for some reason I did - but I was also afraid that my post would offend someone (Christian, spiritual, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise...) but over all, I'm glad I sent it.

And like Wendy the Super Librarian said - "sometimes you just want sweet - no serial killers, no suspended-from-the-ceiling-sex, etc."

Heroes & Heartbreakers, yo! - check it out!


Lost In Italy (by Stacey Joy Netzel)

Lost In Italy by Stacey Joy Netzel

Conflict: Boat in Milan with hot actor, or save siblings. Oh, shit -You've pissed off the Italian mob!
Past baggage issues (plus insane action in a foreign country)

Halli takes a vacation to Milan, Italy with her sister and brother. She's too busy video recording swans - and right as her siblings mistakenly/hastily get back in their car (and drive off without her), she innocently captures some footage of a murder. Immediately after this (like MINUTES later) movie star Trent Tomlin basically throws her in his car because the bad guys (framed/exploited his brother's murder-"suicide") are coming after them. It's basically a spiral of crazy azione throughout the pages: bustin' out of police stations, breaking into fancy homes, bustin' out of fancy homes, fighting off bad guys, save her siblings (Rachel and Ben) from the bad guys, blackmail, ransom, etc.

If I were in this situation... (and let's pretend I had zero Italian skills) I'm not going to lie, I'd be so confused and scared shitless. I'd run my ass to the American Consulate in Milan (Via Principe Amedeo, 2/10, 20121 Milan, Italy) and lawyer up immediately. Regardless of what anyone ever tells you about your family being in danger or your situation - you get your ass to American "soil" right away...  

But enough of my paranoia - (that's only half the fun of reading a suspenseful action-packed romance!) Pacing was up and down between action/flirting/tension/reflection. Sometimes it was tough for me to really believe that Halli would be "able" to make out or let alone have sex with a gorgeous famous man she's just met - while her siblings were in danger, but then again half the time, I was reading the story with my Whoopi Goldberg voice saying, "Halli - You in danger girl!"  So, yeah, plots and pacing can get crazy in these action stories.  (Another note: This is a LOT of story to read at over 370 pages, so yes - you gotta like lots of action with your romance.) 

Why do I empathize with the heroine?  It was tough for me to empathize with Halli. And after all her bickering with Trent, I found myself thinking, "She doesn't deserve to be in Milan." - BUT, she did deserve to find her HEA. She's had a pretty crummy childhood and her parents in prison (con artists!), not to mention all sorts of crime drama that crapped all over her Italy trip. Major kudos to Halli and Trent for working this out though and saving the day.

Things I loved:
  • Italy
  • Italia
  • Milano
  • Boats! (For some odd reason, I'm enjoying boat descriptions.  I could care less about boats/boating IRL, but I'm all about having some boats in my romances! I don't know why.)

I still have to read Chasin' Mason - another ARC from Stacey Joy Netzel - and that looks like it's a western almost-YA kind of romance.  Could be good for a summer poolside read. (Reading/Blogging Note:  March 2013 was officially the worst month ever for free-time and reading. Blech. Hopefully, April is better!)