Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hate to Love You, by Elise Alden - Review

Title: Hate to Love You
Author: Elise Alden
Publisher:  Carina Press
Release Date: June 2, 2014
Reviewing: ebook, complimentary at RT14.
Reason for reading: a fair amount of buzz.

The Short Answer 
At the risk of being overly cutesy: I hated to love it.  And I mean that.

The Blurb (from Amazon)
Despite my slutty reputation, I was technically a virgin at eighteen. But it turns out all those sex-ed teachers aren't just trying to scare you. The faint positive on a budget pregnancy test sent me spinning, moments before meeting my sister's snooty new fiancé.

Shaking hands with upper-crusty James was like downing a triple shot of vodka. Dizzy with desire, confused by my body's reaction, and shocked by the possessiveness flashing in his eyes, I deceived him that night and told the world at their wedding reception.

The truth?

I slept with my sister's fiancé. Hot and sweaty, all night long in a room so dark he couldn't tell I wasn't her.

The lie?

Said fiancé is the father of my child. The one I signed over my rights to just before he was born.

That was seven years ago.

It's time to come clean.

The Whole Scoop
This book started out pretty much totally unlikeable for me. I thought the premise was gimmicky and the heroine is a train wreck, with a crude vocabulary and a cruder life.  I almost gave up on it in the first chapter when Paisley found it necessary to explain to me about her extraordinary nipples:
I've got to tell you about those little suckers.  I am cursed with the longest nipples in the world.  Even Marcia says so, and she's seen them in all shapes and sizes at the hospital. Mine are ginormously freakish. They sit on a large circle of dark pink and just wait for me to brush against something or get cold or...

I looked at James.

I don't know if this was supposed to be funny or what, but I found it off-putting. In fact, I found Paisley's whole character off-putting.

But then it turned out, that was kind of the point.  I got just enough of a glimpse of Paisley's vulnerability to keep me engaged through the serious train wreck of Part 1. Similarly, James was snide and condescending and generally awful, but then he would do or say something with a genuine kindness that made me willing to stay on for just a few more pages.

OK, so then part 2 seems promising -- Paisley has managed to get her act together; gotten away from her toxic family and carved out a profession for herself. She's back in London, and wants to be a part of her son's life.

And then I have another headbanging moment, where she applies for a job at James' place of work, under a different name, and, just, SERIOUSLY WHO DOES THAT? AUUGGHH.  I didn't like this plan at all.

But somewhere in here, the story and characters started to turn around for me. It is partly because the author feeds us Paisley's backstory in just the right way that it doesn't feel like excuse-making, but it feels like a maturation, for us as readers, in the same way that Paisley matures and begins to cope with it. But even more so, I think it was the kindness in James than anything else, and I know I've said that before. But when Paisley came back and had her act mostly cleaned up, it was easier for him to be kind to her.  And for all the crudeness and wrongness of their first hook-up, their chemistry is ELECTRIC, to mix a metaphor, and the author pulls off the lightning-strike magnitude of their attraction. 

The best thing about this romance is that we have some of the most imperfect non-vampire characters EVAR, with shipping-container-sized baggage, and they work through it. And win.

And that is a well-earned Happily Ever After.

Around the Blogosphere
Dear Author (oo, Jane does not agree with me at all)
Maryse's Book Blog
Harlequin Junkie
Britt's Book & Life Blog

PS: Okay, I just cannot NOT say this, even though it doesn't fit anywhere in the flow of the review.  PAISLEY IS A MIND READER.  That's right. If she can look you in the eyes, she can READ YOUR MIND. Except when she can't, which happened at times with James, for no apparent reason. (Also, HE CAN READ HER MIND TOO. It was not clear whether he could read everyone's mind, or just hers.)  This element of the book was, in my humble opinion, COMPLETELY STUPID AND THE WORST THING. If I gave starred ratings, I would knock off an entire star because this is so stupid. It made it much much harder to take the story seriously. Please don't let this ever happen again. 

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