Monday, March 26, 2012

Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea, by Sophia Nash - Review

Words Fail Me
I liked this book so much I don't even know how to review it.

Oh, sure, I've seen Nash's books around.  I follow her FaceBook page,  I've seen her comment here and there on various romance blogs.

And yet, I've never picked one up.  If you're like me, and you haven't either, for reasons you don't quite understand, I suggest you get the heck over it, because she is fantastic.  The cover blurb from the Chicago Times says it "Gleams with sharp wit" -- I don't know about gleaming, but the wit?  Verrrrrrrry sharp.

If you like Julia Quinn and Loretta Chase, I think you'll like Sophia Nash (and if you don't, then we can't be BFFs any more, because REALLY?? WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU??)

So, I've read a lot of serial books that end with a cliff-hanger, but this might be the first book that starts with one. Literally.  Hanging from a cliff.

Here, I'm going to be a little lazy and pull a quote from the excerpt on Nash's page:

She looked toward the place from which she had fallen. “He saw me fall and he left me to die.

He slowly stood up.

“Where are you going?

He repositioned himself behind her and grasped her shoulders to ease the stiffness. “Can you feel your arms? How long were you waiting for him?”
“I don’t know. I think it all happened about half past four.”

God, she’d been there for nearly three hours.

ok, so in the middle here, they do a little more getting-acquainted schtick, but then, I just love this chapter-ending exchange:

She hesitated. “So, you’ll help me, then? Really?”

“Alexandre Barclay—your servant.” That ringing in his head, which always preceded regret, sounded in his ears. “So . . . what precisely did you have in mind?”

“Do you have a pistol?” She studied him with her big, round honey-colored eyes and a smile that made him nervous. “Or, perhaps, a lovely little dagger?”

The interactions between the couple are so light and delicious, and the farcical business with the would-be-brides so ridiculous (the one with the lisp was particularly memorable touch "Wittle animals, Yow Gwace?" -- she sounds just like Tweety Bird in my head)...that the reader almost forgets that the story opens with an attempted murder. And the murderer is more or less untouchable. After all, the whole cliff-hanging business is more than a bit cartoonish, as is the villain.

However, the story takes a surprisingly dark turn. If you think about it, there is really only one way that the problem of her limbo-ish marital status can resolve into a proper romance Happily Ever After, and it proves quite troublesome for both of them. Nash could have continued in the farcical vein, and done it very well, but I thought the touch of grittiness at the end lent some gravitas to the hero and made the HEA that much more appreciated.

Nash's prose really does speak for itself, she doesn't need me to find more reasons or conduct more analysis to convince you. Pick a book, flip to a random page, and I challenge you not to be drawn in. Strongly recommend!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Rancher and the Rock Star, by Lizbeth Selvig - Review

My First e-Arc
It's true. As soon as I found out that the Avon Addicts would have access to electronic ARCs, I decided that was the push I needed to acquire an e-reader. As it happened, I made the purchase online about 3 days before my birthday. A day or two later, my husband and I had this conversation:

Him: So... what do you want for your birthday?
Me: You got me a Kindle! it will be here Wednesday. Thank you!
Him: Wow! I rock!

And everyone was happy.

After I figured out how to get a non-Amazon book onto the Kindle, this was the first book I read on the Kindle.

Summary: What's it About?
The title tells much of the story.  The hero Gray is indeed a rock star, while the heroine, Abby, lives a rural small-town life, struggling financially, but in most ways, living according to her principles, which I admired.  The two of them are brought together by their children, teenagers who met on-line.  Somewhat surprisingly, there isn't really a secondary romance here, as the two teens maintain more of a friends/sibling dynamic right from the start.  Gray's son Dawson runs away from his mother and hires on at Abby's ranch to help with chores.

The book opens with Gray coming after his son, and a rather lovely scene where he helps Abby with some heavy lifting, followed immediately by a thunderstorm - what a sexy beginning!  The conflict comes initially around Dawson and how one can reasonably parent a teenager while leading the life of a successful touring musician, and segues easily into resolving the differences in lifestyle between Abby and Gray.

The Good Stuff
I really liked the characters in this story, which to me is more than half the battle.  Gray and Abby, Dawson and Kim, and the assorted secondary folks were all crisp and 3-dimensional (you gotta love town with a cockatiel mascot).  There was good chemistry between Abby and Gray, in large part realized through some really excellent dialog.  I'm not sure how realistic the portrayal of the rock-star lifestyle was but it was exotic enough to be fun and mundane enough to feel pretty grounded.

The situation where Kim had a celebrity crush on Gray was unusual and fairly well-done.  I say "fairly," because knowing teens, I think Selvig might have pulled her punches on this a little bit; it resolved without getting too ugly or too convoluted.  To be honest, that's a path I was just as happy not to go down, but it would be fair to say that it was glossed over a little bit.

I also enjoyed the side plot with the drama among Gray's staff; it was interesting and served to emphasize the lifestyle differences.

The Down Side
There were times when the pacing dragged a little for me.  This is one of those things that is highly situational for me, so it might be no fault of the author.  This was also a first e-read for me, so it might've also been partly that--but overall it took me quite a bit longer than it usually would to read a book of this length.

There were also a number of similes that just seemed a little awkward and overblown, enough to be noticeable.  (If I were better at electronic bookmarking I would pull some quotes for you... but you'll have to either take my word for it or read it yourself to decide if I'm right.)  It's always surprising to me when an author's dialog flows naturally but the internal monologs and narration seems clunky -- it's so much more common for it to be the other way around.

One Last Comment
Selvig's tagline on her website header describes her work as "Contemporary Romance with a Twist of Faith" and I would call that pretty accurate.  Abby is a woman of faith, but this is portrayed with a light touch.  There are no scenes where she or Kim attend church; there are a few references to prayer, to faith, and to volunteering at the church.

In this particular book, I am pretty neutral on these touches.  Generally, I'm not a fan of religion in my romances, but it suited Abby's character and wasn't heavy-handed.  I suspect that readers who are looking for inspirational or strictly Christian romance would probably not find it religious enough.  For example, Gray and Abby don't really talk about their differences in that respect, and it seems pretty clear that Gray is not the church-going type. Then there's the premarital sex between Abby and Gray-- certainly not a problem in mainstream romance, but given Abby's character, even I thought the rationalization was a little weak:
Her well-meaning father had indeed drummed the sin of this unmarried act into her head, and Abby had passed the same morals on to Kim.  But Abby was not fifteen.  She was thirty-seven.  Married once.  Long past ignorance about safety, and tired of worrying about taboos she knew heaven didn't care about at her age.
And a little later, Gray says,
 ...there are things adults who've been married before can do that kids can't.  It's that simple.
So, I found all that a bit awkward... but for me, not enough reason to be a significant problem.

Bottom Line
Overall this is a light, entertaining, Cinderella-style romance with enough character development to carry it, and the rock star bit glams it up for some real fun.

Around the Blogosphere
Fellow Addict Grace at Books Like Breathing
Fellow Addict Amy at Unwrapping Romance
Reviews by Molly
Romancing the Books

Just a reminder, if you have reviewed this book, I am more than happy to include a link to your review.  You can leave your link in comments or email me, and I will edit it in.  I would especially like to link up with the other Addicts-- I'm looking forward to "meeting" you all electronically.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feeding the Addiction: It Begins...

Talk about anticipation!  I had to go out of town on business last week and of course my first Avon Addict box arrived shortly after I left.  Finally, I got home this weekend and was able to break it open.

Look at it, just sitting there.  Doesn't it look innocent? It could be anything. It could be brussel sprouts.  Or some kind of guitar stuff for my husband, he orders those kind of things a lot.  Or, um... OK, I wasn't fooled.  I knew it was for me, all me. It's readerly goodness, and the first glance reveals.... 

YAY! Books, of course.  Whoah. Five copies of Sophie Nash's Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea? Looks like giveaway time!

Awww.  Lookit this cute stuff! That's a fireman's hat to promote new author Jennifer Bernard's hot new fireman series (review coming up!), a rubber duckie (which my daughter is calling dibs on) printed thusly:

The Art of Duke Hunting, a ducky new romance by Sophia Nash

Too fun! There's also a die with a slightly mysterious URL on it: ... which leads me to Sarah MacLean's blog. Perhaps there's a gaming hell or two involved in these books?  She also sent along a pretty bookmark emblazoned: "Fetch the Smelling Salts," which cracked me up! The last of the book swag is package of bazooka bubble gum, referencing Rachel Gibson's newest. Apparently, the main character is thrown immediately into literary conflict of the direst kind: a bubblegum pink bridesmaid gown (shudders). I didn't sign up for horror novels!

Just for me, there is a cute Avon Addict button that I'll keep on my coat or something, a neat string bag, AND a very lovely cozy fleece blanket, the better for curling up to read.  I love that!

I understand there are hashtags involved in this whole Avon Addicts dealio.  Which might mean I need to start tweeting.  Or at least following some folks who do.  We shall see.

Relevant Links:

The Art of Duke Hunting, by Sophia Nash
Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea, by Sophia Nash
The Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel series, by Jennifer Bernard
The Cowboy Takes a Bride, by Lori Wilde
How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back, by Sophie Barnes (I do love that title!)
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by JB Lynn (well that sounds interesting...)
Rescue Me, by Rachel Gibson (hmm, I kind of hate that site.  Oh well.)


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