Monday, 9 February 2015

CBR7 4: Say Yes to the Marquess

Length: 390 pages, time taken: 3 hours

Clio Whitmore is tired of waiting for her fiancé to come back to the country and marry her, and now she finally has the means to create a life for herself, she wants her engagement dissolved. Rafe Brandon, the erstwhile groom's brother, has the legal power to do so, but instead of giving her what she wants, he tries to persuade her into going ahead. Unfortunately for him, it turns out that kissing her in the rain and groping her in the bedroom are not, in fact, good ways to persuade someone to marry your brother. Can this twisted mess of family and honour be untangled satisfactorily, or will they be trapped in lives they never asked for?

I was inspired to get this after reading Mrs Julien's excellent review of it, and I am very glad I did. This book is funny, sexy, and assured, and has the right balance of following the tropes of the genre whilst still making the plot surprising and enjoyable to read. if you read this, you are in very safe hands, and I will keep my eye out for more Dare the next time I feel the need for a historical romance book-blankie. (That's pretty much how I think of books like this, being wrapped in a warm blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and a few candles. It's not complicated, but sometimes, you need it.)

Given the long and impressive comments Mrs Julien got, anything that I could have niggled about has mostly been answered already. The only thing I was less happy with was Piers Brandon, who was much better as an off-camera neglectful arse than he was as an on-camera SPOILERS REDACTED character in the story. I would have preferred either a better explanation and more exposition, or him being a less sympathetic character. Then again, he's clearly being set up for a book of his own, as is Clio's sister Phoebe, so I can understand the decision to both make him sympathetic and not give huge amounts of exposition - that will come in his own novel.

4.5 stars: practically perfect, sweet as cake and warm as a winter fireplace.
Cross-posted to Cannonball Read here.

CBR7 3: Once Upon A Rose

Length: 300 pages in the print edition
Time taken: 3 hours

Layla DuBois inherits a house in a valley in the South of France, and goes there to recharge her creative batteries. Unfortunately, the valley already has an owner, Matt Rosier, and he is not happy that "his" property has been stolen. can this beauty tame the beast?

Taking most of its elements from the classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast, OUaR is a well-written and enjoyable spin on a familiar story. The details are vivid and loving rendered - I had a very clear image of the location and could almost smell the air at times - and the writing is engrossing and fast-paced.

Too fast for me. I do not like romances which take place over the course of a couple of weeks. I was far more interested in Matt's cousins than I was in him, and I found Layla the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to be as annoying as I find all Manic Pixie Dream Girls. There were a lot of things in the book which really worked for me - Layla felt like a real musician to me, the creative process was realistic and well-drawn, and I do always like seeing what can be done with fairytale elements. But if it's a choice between this and either of Robin McKinley's excellent retellings, I'll take McKinley any day.

I am very interested in seeing what other tales Florand uses to inspire the rest of the series - Sleeping Beauty will almost certainly be one of them, being also heavily redolent with rose imagery - but I really hope she branches out a little bit further than just the well-known Disney type tales. I think though that Florand made the wrong decision by taking so many elements of Beauty and the Beast. It's not a straight retelling, it's more a variation on a theme, but there's too much in there for me to forget about the original fairytale, and I much prefer the original.

I can see this working much better for readers who aren't me though. I don't regret the purchase, but I'll be careful in who I recommend it to.

3.5 stars: better than average but let me cold.
Cross-posted to Cannonball Read here.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

CBR7 2: Trade Me, Courtney Milan

Pages: 280 in PB although I read the Kindle vcrsion
Time taken: ~3 hours (does anyone actually time these? I read about 100 pages per hour or the average book, I just guess based on that.)
Tina Chen has a loving but disorganised family, a job in a library, two majors, and a room-mate. Blake Reynolds has a loving but asshole father, a job at a high-tech company, one major, and $1.4billion (US). An argument over food-stamps and the reality of living in poverty in the US leads Blake to offer Tina to swap lives for the rest of the semester: she deals with the product launch he's supposed to be working on, and he lives her life, working minimum-wage jobs, sending money home, and living in squalor. There is indeniable chemistry between them, but can two people who come from such opposite worlds really be compatible?
Spoiler alert: dur, of course they can, this is a romance novel. We do not read these because we wish our hearts shattered into tiny pieces. Milan has made her career out of writing thoughtful, strong heroines hooking up with thoughtful, flawed heroes, while adding enough social commentary to satisfy my Social Justice Elementalist heart (if you don't know what that means, good for you, it's for the best right now), and this fits right in, albeit with fewer descriptions of clothes, which I personally missed. I like purple prose. It makes me happy. I like fabrics. (Also corsets. Big goth right here.)
I've seen this described as New Adult, which I guess it is, given the relative youth of the protagonists and smexy times combination. It certainly annoyed me less than the YA stuff I read last year and neglected to review - apparently I like my heroines to be either out of their teens, or on an obvious Hero's Journey/Coming Of Age type thing, which I suppose makes me either terribly boring or nearly 33 and hence very tired of teenagers. Or both. I can only take introspection so far.
What the book does really, really well is the thing I am going to term SPOILERS REDACTED. If you want more thoughts, go through the jump. Otherwise, read the Cannonball Read review.