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.

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