This was my second book by Loretta Chase and it does measure up to Lord of Scoundrels. I listened to it on audible read by the very talented Kate Reading who has a voice perfectly matched to both of the dynamic couples in the books. I wearied of Historical Romances quite some time ago, but Loretta Chase reminds me of why I used to gobble them up. When I finished the first novel, I was hoping that it wouldn’t be the last I saw of the unforgettable Lord and Lady Dain so I was very pleased to see them again in this, and not just in passing. Not to mention the large and very surprising role the dutchess’s hapless silly brother Bertie has in it!
In 1820s London Lydia Grenville is a crusading journalist who also writes best-selling serials in secret. She meets our bad boy hero Vere Mallory, Lord Ainsworth, after practically running him down in her carriage while in hot pursuit of a bawd who has kidnapped still another young innocent country girl for nefarious purposes. He follows her with mayhem in mind and they face off in a dark alley which ends with the Amazonian Lydia, as always accompanied by her mastiff Susan, knocking him down in the mud. In full public view. Coralie temporarily escapes Lydia’s wrath but the rescued country girl, genteel and well-educated Tamsin, becomes Lydia’s girl Friday. There are many subplots in this which makes the book a bit episodic. It is very action-packed. Lydia continues to pursue and outwit Coralie, the infamous and evil madam, steals back Tamsin’s stolen rubies, rescues a pitiful new mother from prison, participates in a dangerous and exciting carriage race, and foils a kidnapping. Somehow Ainsworth always seems to be around to either lend a hand or to complicate matters, to Lydia’s frustration. It is a passionate battle of wills and they are evenly matched. They fall in lust, then love, quarreling and fighting every inch of the way right up to the altar (she lost a bet). Meanwhile, we learn about their tragic backstories and uncover the mystery of Lydia’s parentage. Tamsin is no slouch either and has her own story and romance as well.
It’s a wild ride and very entertaining with lots of caustic and amusing banter, comedy, adventure, and drama. Social conditions and women’s issues are given due attention. To top it off, the passionate and satisfying romance was free from silly misunderstandings, deceptions, and stupidity. They were made for each other for many reasons, but mostly because they both hide hearts of gold.
I couldn’t take any pleasure in myself if my face were made up.” Pamela swung round on her chair and laid her hands on Jean’s shoulders. “Jean,” she said, “you’re within an ace of being a prig.
“Jean, I’m afraid you’re a chirping optimist. You’ll reduce me to the depths of depression if you insist on being so bright. Rather help me to rail against fate, and so cheer me.”
This started off fairly promisingly with the rich and fashionable but very likable and down-to-earth Miss Pamela Reston retreating to the small Scottish village of Priorsford because she has become bored with the social whirl of London and wants to rest and rediscover herself and the joy of living. Her exotic ways have quite an impact on the villagers there and vice versa. Of particular interest is the very well-read Jean Jardine, her next-door neighbor, and her little family who are genteelly poor, but very happy and delightful. Some of the initial exposition, Pamela’s description of the town and her new neighbors takes place in letters to her brother, Biddy, Lord Bidborough, who is on business in India. The tone reminded me of the letters compromising 2 Jean Webster books, Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy. Of course, we know that Pamela’s description of her new friend and her charming family is going to intrigue Biddy to no end and that he will come to Priorsford the first chance he gets to visit his sister and proceed to quickly fall in love with both Jean and her family. Unfortunately, the letters ceased way too soon. As the book’s focus shifted to Jean and her three brothers, It wasn’t long before it started to remind me of the children’s classic, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.
This book was a mainstay of my childhood reading history. I read it over and over, loving it very much, although I was an adult before I could ever find the longed-for sequels to the original story, in which Polly Pepper and her family (3 brothers, and the youngest little sister Phronsie) grow up into upstanding citizens and get married. I won’t go into all of the parallels, but the main one is the utter and unremitting goodness of both Polly Pepper and Jean Jardine, the two heroines, and their self-sacrificing devotion to their brothers. But I am no longer an innocent and naive little girl appreciative of a stellar role model like Polly Pepper. Jean was just too good for me.
I was led to the author of Penny Plain by her association with a favorite “old-timey” author, D.E. Stevenson. Loving her novels, I am no stranger to lovely, kind, and good heroines. But I am afraid that Jean was just too much. I started to lose touch with her when she gave a bedraggled sad stranger a valuable and treasured book when he confides that it contains a song that his mother used to sing to him when he was a child. She pretty much lost me when she turned down Biddy’s inevitable marriage proposal because “We belong to different worlds” and also,
“My feelings,” said Jean, “don’t matter at all. Even if there was nothing else in the way, what about Davie and Jock and the dear Mhor? I must always stick to them—at least until they don’t need me any longer.”
Girl. But praise be, it turns out that the poor stranger was in fact a very wealthy but dying man who leaves his entire fortune to Jean because of her little act of generosity. Even though Jean and her little family have been living pretty much hand to mouth, she views this windfall not with joy and gratitude, but with suspicion and fear. She doesn’t want it. She is persuaded to see the value of her legacy (she can use the fortune to do good works and give to charity! Yay!) Eventually, she even buys a spiffy car and buys some nice clothes in Glasglow. Another big plus is that now she is worthy of Lord Biddy!
There were enough enjoyable things about this novel that kept me going to the end fairly happily. Most of the character sketches of the Jardines and their neighbors were well done and engaging. Most of the townspeople were very lovable and even the two flies in the ointment the snobby Mrs. Duff-Whalley and her shallow, fashionable, but surprisingly self-aware daughter were entertaining and had a few layers to their personality. I loved the wise and gentle parson and his merry big-hearted wife, Mrs. Macdonald, and their little story. She liked the place kept so tidy that her sons had been wont to say bitterly, as they spent an hour of their precious Saturdays helping, that she dusted the branches and wiped the faces of the flowers with a handkerchief. I was moved by how Jean helps Miss Abbot the dour local seamstress who is going blind but is too proud to ask for help. But sometimes the book took off on short tangents that had nothing to do with anything and added nothing to the plot or character development. Peter the beloved family dog going missing for example. It was further hampered by the use of archaic words and long passages written in the Scottish vernacular and in dialect, which unlike in most books set in Scotland that I have read, was largely indecipherable without a lot of effort and research. In addition, the book is littered with cultural and literary references that were no doubt familiar to readers of the day (World War I era) but which have since been lost to obscurity. (a song called Strathairlie, “Mary Slessor of Calabar”, Mrs. Wishart, Maggie Tulliver, Ethel Newcome, Beatrix Esmond, Clara Middleton, John Splendid, the Scylla of affectation nor the Charybdis of off-handedness, King Cophetua, and on and on. I looked up everything I didn’t “get”, or tried to. As an aside, Mary Slessor needs to have a movie made about her life.
If I had had a daughter, I would have given her this book to read as a child and been very happy if she liked it. But in the future, when I next want to read a wholesome old-fashioned novel, I’ll just stick with D.E. Stevenson or Elizabeth Cadell. **2 1/2 stars**
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
P.S. In looking up Five Little Peppers for this review, I discovered that there was a series of movies based on their adventures and some of them are available on YouTube. Can’t wait! And I just may re-read the book.
So funny. So witty. So romantic. So enjoyable. I had read two Katherine Center books before this one, and enjoyed them but with reservations. The stories and concepts were good, but I found the heroes boring and almost nondescript although they were both lovely. The heroines were, in one case, flat-out annoying and in another just meh. In both cases, their situations seemed intriguing and the stories full of possibilities but they ended up seeming a bit contrived to me. They were both immensely popular highly rated books, so it was a personal problem, apparently.
But this one! Yes, the heroine was flawed and frustrating at times and had some major issues to conquer and grow past. At first, I found her a little off-putting and I had a hard time getting a handle on her. But I liked her. She really spoke to me. Literally. Sadie tells her story in the first person and she establishes a close relationship with the reader. It is as easy and natural as if she is talking to her best friend (you). I was drawn in immediately. You listen to her telling you her side of the story, but you can also see her flaws and things she may be wrong about. Early in the book, I thought we might be dealing with an unreliable narrator situation. As it turned out, she wasn’t really, but confirmation bias is a theme.
“Anyhoo.” (and I quote.) As a result of minor brain surgery, Sadie develops face blindness. When she looks at a human face the features do not come together as such. It is as if they are “puzzle pieces spread out on a table.” Difficult and disconcerting for anyone, but alas she is a struggling portrait painter who has secured a place in a prestigious contest and is on a deadline to complete a traditional portrait. Even being asked to compete is an honor. Doing well will finally give her choice of profession much-needed validation. Sadie had a very painful childhood thanks to the death of her beloved mother, who was also a painter, and her subsequent relationship with her father, stepmother, and stepsister. She was victimized. It has caused her to always put on a brave face, never admitting vulnerability or need for others’ help. As Sadie works to deal with her new disability and complete the portrait to enter the contest, she learns and grows. Unfortunately, The North American Portrait Society folks cater to the Norman Rockwell set rather than the Pablo Picasso crowd. Her condition forces her to treat other people differently and accept help. The self-protective layers start to peel off. Meanwhile, we meet some interesting characters, both good and bad. Her long-term friends and landlords, the Kims, their daughter Sue, her wise doctor, her beloved old dog, Peanut, and his veterinarian, who she decides will be her future husband. Her troublesome family arrives on the scene and we learn that some step-sisters really are evil. And we meet Joe, who turns out to be the, at first, unlikely love interest. He is quirky, funny, and adorable.
Near the conclusion, there is a surprise appearance and an interesting twist I did not see coming but probably should have. But no, I take that back. It was so well disguised that when I started to suspect what was going on, I went back to review some parts to see if it could be true. Yes, the clues were all there, but I still didn’t see how it could be. To Katherine Center’s credit, the exposition of all of the reasons I (wrongly) didn’t believe it made sense. I bought it. Or chose to buy it. It made the ending even more satisfactory and joyful. No, her life and family relationships weren’t all perky sparkles, but as I’ve said before in a previous review, Katherine Center really knows how to end a book. My ratings of both of her books I read previously were bolstered by her climaxes and wind-ups. This one didn’t need bolstering.
There are two Author’s Notes at the end. One is about acquired prosopagnosia. The other is a defense and appreciation of The Romance Novel as a genre. Any reader who has ever felt belittled or apologetic about their tastes in reading such novels needs to read this. Anyone who has thought less of someone’s tastes in reading “Chick-Lit” or romance needs to read this as well. Though they probably wouldn’t. Brava Katherine Center.
Thank-You to Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an uncorrected digital galley of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
I listened to this on audio, read by Ellie Haydon, who makes Christy and Charles, the two leads, posh but likable. Strangely, Christy’s Lebanese driver, Habib, is read as an English cockney. Christabel Mansel is on a guided bus tour of the Mideast. She semi-coincidentally meets her older cousin Charles. “I met him on a street called Straight” is the attention-grabbing first sentence in the book. They were raised together in England and are first cousins, both the children of twin brothers. I’ll let that sink in though I have no comment. My understanding is that in later, possibly in the U.S. editions, the editors changed this to second cousins. Because by the end of the novel, they are well on the way to marriage and presumably children. Christy is the first to admit that both she and Charles are spoiled and entitled, but it doesn’t really come through in their words and actions. They are likable and nice. Christy in particular has a lot of gumption and is not afraid of confronting the bad guys later in the book with her tart sarcastic tongue.
Charles reminds Christy that their eccentric Great Aunt Harriet lives near Damascus in a Castle called Der Ibrahim. She fancies herself as a latter-day Lady Hester Stanhope. Christy doesn’t really remember her too well, but Charles was always a favorite and he plans to go visit her. Meanwhile, Charles has to go meet someone on business, and Christy decides to steal a march on him. Because that is how she rolls. She is successful in getting into the decaying castle and meeting her elderly sick Aunt’s caretakers, who seem OK at first but may or may not be shady, and finally her reclusive and anti-social Aunt, who is really odd and creepy. Before she leaves two days later she notices that the local girl servant is wearing her great aunt’s ruby ring, a family heirloom. Something is not right.
When Christy and Charles meet up again Christy tells him the whole story. The easy and sometimes amusing banter between the two cousins is a strong point in the book. On her way to meet Charles in Beirut (or Damascus?), she is kidnapped and taken back to Aunt Harriet’s castle by a man who looks strangely familiar. From there, Christy and the Reader are confronted with being drugged, smuggling, poison, dungeons, murder, a raging fire, and the truth about Aunt Harriet.
Most of the book is, fair to say, heavy on the description and travelogue aspects and light on the plot. As exotic, romantic, and nostalgic as the 1960s Middle East is, it does slow the book up a bit. The last quarter of the book is full of action and excitement and of course, Romance. It even has a heart-touching scene. Christy and Charles make a great team and have a great relationship. Reading about the 1960s in the 2020s is nostalgia gone wild. With a touch of melancholy. Not that I ever was in Syria or Lebanon, of course. But Mary Stewart is so great at conjuring up that world and the sights and experiences that a beautiful, rich, spirited, and smart girl might have had there, (even without all the excitement) it reminds me of why I love to read. Calgon, Take me Away.
“Well, you will make mistakes. And people will get hurt. Unfortunately, that’s life. But that doesn’t automatically negate all the good stuff. And it doesn’t mean that you should make some sort of pre-emptive strike against taking the risk in the first place.” Sophy let out a sigh, examining the toes of her shoes as they scuffed in the gravel. “You’re a wise woman, Ma,” she said lightly after a moment. “I think so,” agreed Marion serenely. “Did you get that last bit from Oprah?” “A magazine at the hair salon.”
**4 1/2 stars.** For what it is, a light harlequin-style romance this was excellent. This was Lucy Parker’s first book, and it was self-published under what I assume is her real name. I’m used to her glittery sophisticated London-based books revolving around the theatre and other rarefied venues. Her ability to drop the reader right in the middle of her world has been part of her appeal for me. This one is set in New Zealand, and I was impressed that this setting seemed as authentic as her London milieu. I was surprised but not surprised to find she is a native New-Zealander, when all this time, based on her books, I thought she was a native Londoner.
This is an unapologetic romance with a bit of mystery thrown in to keep things moving. Sophy is very shy to the point that she suffers from debilitating social anxiety. With people she knows she is smart, funny, and cute. With people she doesn’t, she “shrinks in both size and personality” like a “spooked turtle.” An artist, she meets the very large, muscular, and very dangerous-looking Mick, a security specialist, while he is in charge at an art exhibit.
And look at them, for Christ’s sake. It was as if someone had mixed up the casting calls for a flowery chick flick and Terminator 5. He felt three times larger and at least twice as ugly as he actually was just standing near her. The chances of her reciprocating anything other than wary reluctance seemed to hover around zero.
When she finds herself in the middle of a domestic terrorist incident, Mick rushes to her aid when she is knocked down and has an asthma attack. Despite his reserve with women due to his looks (not attractive) and her shyness, it’s basically love at first sight.
This started off slow. At one point, I was going to temporarily put it down to start a book I was anxious to read. I gave it 20 more minutes and it came through for me. We learn that Mick does not like his family and that he comes from a very wealthy and privileged background. Interesting. Then Sophy starts getting anonymous gifts from someone who knows her tastes. It starts to get creepy. Hmmm. I loved Sophy’s family, whom we spend a day with. The Lucy Parker wit and sparkling banter seemed to get better and better as the book went on. Some of the humor is based on her talent for including apt cultural references. There were several engrossing scenes including Sophy meeting Mick’s heinous family. I liked that Sophy’s and Mick’s characters were true and consistent throughout. I enjoyed their warm and tender relationship. He was protective but respected her and didn’t try to “fix” her. I dreaded the point where Mick or Sophy’s hang-ups would endanger their relationship but the bump in the road was understandable based on their firmly established characters and was nipped in the bud quickly. The secondary characters were engaging. And it had a great ending. Really couldn’t ask for more from a light romance and it’s just what I was in the mood for.
Based on the lively previews, I was looking forward to this first Hallmark offering of 2023. I’m sorry to say that it was very disappointing. Especially considering the sometimes stellar parade of Christmas movies. The first scene with a dog getting away from Corey Sevier and creating havoc among picnickers in a park was entertaining and amusing, but it went downhill from there. Plot and character-wise, it ended up dull and mediocre throughout, although the script had some semi-clever lines, occasionally.
Corey Sevier plays an advertising guy who is trying to get together with a beautiful model turned designer, We know she is meant to be shallow and “not worthy” by her valley girl inflections and vocal fry. Her dog is a hindrance to the insipient romance as he is badly behaved and doesn’t like Corey. After Corey is rescued by our dog-trainer heroine from the ruckus in the park, he hires her to train the dog or help him train the dog, or train him to handle the dog, or something.
I didn’t like her. Her character has been stunted by her father’s abandonment of her and her sister when they were young girls. She refuses to be open to a relationship with a human man because of course she expects every man to be unreliable and to abandon her as her father did. Instead, she showers all her love on her dog while still acting flirty with the two main men. Dogs are famously loyal and reliable, as we are reminded throughout. We know this girl needs therapy when in the first scene we see her fixing an elaborate breakfast complete with a cheese omelet, bacon, hashbrowns, fresh sliced tomatoes, and garnished with parsley. For her dog. Meanwhile, she eats a power bar. I guess this was supposed to be cute and endearing but to me, it just came across as silly, stupid, and very unhealthy for her pet. This wasn’t just a treat. This is every morning. And from someone who either should have known better or just doesn’t care. Despite her likable and sensible sister’s advice and counseling, she remains stuck throughout the whole movie, causing her to be very annoying. There was no growth. She just finally listens to her sister and changes her mind at the end. The actress was a fresh face and had talent. She even kind of had a Julia Roberts thing going on with her hair down. It wasn’t her fault.
Besides my dislike of the heroine, I found Corey Sevier’s performance in this one a little off as well. Can’t quite put my finger on it, I have liked him in the past and he did have a couple of good scenes in this. I found the vet who was his rival for the dog trainer’s affections a little creepy and vaguely sinister. The subplot of “save the dog shelter” is the excuse for Corey and dog girl to spend time together. It also serves to keep the rivals for the couple’s affections in the picture. Presumably amping up the tension and suspense. What a laugh. The scheme they came up with was unbelievable and contrived. He is putting his talents to work by throwing an exclusive gala and silent auction to scrape up the money for the shelter’s owner to buy the building which is being sold out from under her. They didn’t even try to make any aspect of this scheme even vaguely credible. So unlikable and uninteresting characters, a silly plot, not enough humor, and irresponsible pet ownership. Not good.
I came upon this older Hallmark Christmas movie by chance a couple of minutes in and up popped Andrew Walker and in walked Jodie Sweetin. I looked it up and not only had I not reviewed this, I had not even seen it. Since I am not reviewing GAC or GAF or whatever they are calling themselves these days anymore, I had caught up with all the movies I had on my DVR. As I have mentioned, while Jodie has not always been a favorite, she has grown on me in the last 2 years. Her acting and looks always give a down-to-earth relatable aspect to the characters she plays. And she has a killer smile. Andrew is always good, and with the right partner, he can be great. I came in at the “meet cute”. Jodie’s mother (the talented and award-winning Sharon Lawrence) is always trying to fix her up, and Jodie thinks Andrew is a prospective date sent by her mother rather than an important business associate. The misunderstanding results in some pretty amusing back and forth.
Jodie has taken over her grandmother’s candy cane business after her death. It is the family legacy and it is struggling. How successful can a business be with a product you can only sell for 4 or 5 months a year? She knows what she is doing as she has an MBA and gave up a good career in California to take over. The investors or the board of Merry and Bright, the name of the company, have called in a consultant (Andrew Walker) to figure out how to generate more profit for the business. He is Christmas and small-town averse and doesn’t want to be there as much as Jodie doesn’t want him there. They butt heads as Jodie wants to do things her way. This could have been a lot more frustrating than it was, but luckily Jodie is a smart businesswoman and already knows they have to expand their product line.
As Andrew and Jodie work together they soon begin to like and respect each other. Can romance be far behind? That was a rhetorical question. Meanwhile, Sharon has a nice, funny, but heartwarming storyline. I can see why she took this part. She is not a dog person, but a dog at a shelter has caught Jodie’s eye, and Mom reluctantly adopts it for Jodie a week before Christmas as a surprise. Her antics in trying to hide it but not having the heart to leave it alone in the house is cute and sweet. Adorable dogs always elevate a Hallmark movie or any movie, for that matter. Unless the dog is in danger. The final solution to the business problem is clever and sensible. And Jodie lets her Mom keep the dog when she sees how attached they have grown to each other.
This perfectly enjoyable story is capped off by a nice epilogue where we see the renewed success of the business and Andrew getting down on one knee to propose marriage. That is an increasingly rare conclusion to the romance end of these shows these days, and it was refreshing.
I absolutely love Kristoffer Polaha and so I was really looking forward to this movie. I wasn’t sure about his pairing with Marisol Nichols but I haven’t seen her in anything before and I was willing to give her a chance. I must say though that her eyebrows did give me pause. They were very scary and actually looked navy blue in certain lights. Also the height difference. It was flattering for Kristoffer, but not so much for Marisol.
It started off very promisingly and unusually for Hallmark. Not the usual sweeping city or country scene but extreme closeups of a couple in a marriage therapist’s office talking directly to the camera. The therapist is played by Pascale Hutton, a Hallmark leading lady herself. I don’t care for her in starring roles but she made a great therapist in this little cameo. So calm, gentle, and pleasant. She sends them off for a Christmas getaway in Gracious, Vermont to spend some time together and make an attempt to repair their faltering marriage.
Gracious is a quirky little town filled with alpacas and really really nice friendly people who welcome the couple into all of their holiday activities. This includes Amy Groening once again charming and funny in a supporting role as a pet portrait painter. Time for a promotion, Hallmark! She really has a certain something. Marisol was ok but I wish Kristoffer would have been paired with someone with a little more spark.
All proceeds predictably, repetitively, and boringly as the troubled couple starts to reconnect as they spend more and more time together. The tale of their marriage troubles and the steps forward to eventual reconciliation needed a lot of bolstering and luckily it got quite a bit. Their dog, Jerry was, adorable and a real scene-stealer. He was no Nova. But he was a charmer nevertheless. The couple, Vince and Brian, who own the inn, had a sweet relationship and put a smile on my face whenever they came on the scene. Amy played her funny quirky character to perfection and her tentative romance with the awkward infatuated waiter was darling.
Kristoffer and Marisol’s characters actually turned out to be quite likable even if their journey was not. Isolated parts of the script and plot were well-written and entertaining. The ending had a cute little surprise at the end which hints that their therapist, the inn owners, and the town might have a little Christmas conspiracy going on with more than a hint of Christmas magic. All in all, it’s a 7: nothing really special but little to no eye rolling or remote throwing involved.
I bypassed a number of recent Hallmark productions to watch and/or review to take a whack at this UPtv production. I read another review of this one and it seemed promising even though I had never seen anything else starring either of the two leads (that I remember).
Tara Wilson plays a mature relationship-averse professor who has developed a technology that scientifically determines whether your match is “the one” by the end of 3 dates. Our hero, a not-all-that-mature veterinarian who runs a dog rescue organization is somewhat of a wise guy. He goes with his girlfriend, who is a fan of the professor, to her presentation unveiling her successful study. He doesn’t buy the professor’s contention that true love can be scientifically determined and measured. He brashly stands up, expresses his skepticism, and sarcastically asks whether she has ever used her own technology. She hasn’t, and demurs, but he embarrassingly persists and she is hustled off the stage. This is not how things were supposed to go. A video of the confrontation goes viral and throws her research and credibility into doubt. She does not want to be in a relationship but is forced to publicly date her adversary in order to prove her technology.
All proceeds as expected with the two going on the requisite three dates and surprisingly having a great time together and really connecting. The opposites attract slow burn thing really seemed to work between these two. The attractive Tara Wilson has a terrific smile and really grew on me partly because her acting wasn’t hampered by an immovable forehead. But, helpful hint, lose the sausage curls that seem to be so prevalent with TV romance leading ladies lately. I liked Andrew Dunbar as the hero right away. He had an almost frat-boyish charm and a lot of charisma. And I liked that he was open and honest about his growing feelings for his reluctant professor.
Even so, I was starting to get a little bored with the plot when what to my wondering eyes should appear but Nova, the utterly charming dog-actor who played Sam in Romance to the Rescue!
He really added the spark needed to bolster my flagging attention until the predictable but nicely done conclusion. That dog is a gosh darn superstar.
This book started out so good, I was barely 6% in when I downloaded the first one in the series from the library to read it right after this one. I really loved the writing, and the way it started: A nice likable woman still trying to recover from her fiance’s death two years prior, her funny supportive friend, and the adorable dog. The promise of the dog’s absent owner, an up-and-coming acoustic rock star showing up to claim him was the carrot on the stick. Unfortunately, it went south pretty quickly. They text and talk being very cute and flirty before they ever meet in person. The getting to know each other stage was sweet and nice. They find each other online. “ Jason was hot. No, he was beyond hot. He was bearded, thick brown hair, sexy smile, blue eyes hot. Six-pack abs on the beach hot.” I can only take so much of that. When they finally meet and see how hot and gorgeous they both are and how cool and nice, well, it’s a done deal. End of. I’ve read a few reviews of this and this is the part people seem to really like. It’s light and funny and romantic. But I’m sorry, I was just bored with all of the sweetness, perfection, and adorableness. Had I but known.
He takes her to meet his parents (they love her-who wouldn’t) and they finally have sex. Of course, it is mind-blowing. She says “I always considered myself immune to that kind of frenzy.” among many other things. So sex with beloved dead Brandon was not as good as with Jason? I didn’t like that she even implied that, and I didn’t even know Brandon or their love story from the first book. TMI, Sloan. The last half is all drama and angst all of the time. At first, I actually found this to be a relief from all of the perfection. They have really got themselves in a pickle, and I had to keep reading to see how they would get out of it and achieve a happy ending. To make a long story short, Sloan is sick and miserable on the road and Jason is miserable because she is miserable. It was a constant litany of what a miserable life it was and how it was going to last a whole decade so they can’t have kids or a home and Sloan has to give up her career as an artist. He finally sends her to his parents’ house so she can paint and not be miserable, but they are miserable without each other. Maybe he should have sent her to Sting and Trudy, or BonJovi and Dorothea, or Ozzy and Sharon, to see how they did it.
They have a big fight over Jason being a dick without her and Sloan can’t take the separation either so she surprises him by rejoining him. She has decided that the whole being miserable with life on the road was just her attitude problem and vows to make it work with a positive “can-do” approach. Meanwhile, though, Jason finds out that the record company he is tied to is even eviler than he thought it was and if Sloan stays with him, her very life will be in danger since the record company wants him with his crazy ex-girlfriend Lola for publicity purposes. Now I know record companies only care about the money, but it was pretty hard to swallow that they would maim (and maybe kill?) an inconvenient girlfriend. I mean wouldn’t that kind of thing get out? Anyway, Jason lies to her making her believe he is the worst person on earth so she will leave him and be able to lead a normal safe happy life. The other alternative would have been to just have a conversation, but I guess he just didn’t think it through. Or maybe he just likes the dramatic approach. So naturally, they are sick and miserable without each other. Jason says this:
It had been ninety-four days since I’d last seen her, and I was nothing but a husk of myself now. My world was dim. All was faded. And the more time that passed, the darker it got. Life without her was a sensory deprivation of my soul.
This is not the foundation for a healthy relationship, folks. No one should be that dependent on another for not only joy and happiness but not to be an empty shell with no soul. Sloan is actually trying to move on and is pretty successful, except she will never love again and spends her days in ‘various states of numb confusion,” so no, not really happy. They finally do get back together again after Jason overshares his personal business with a stadium full of people and all of the roadblocks are miraculously removed. But one of the things he says in his self-indulgent blubbering under the spotlight is this:
“Yeah. She’s on a date tonight. I saw her. Went down to her art gallery and saw her with some guy when I was about to come out. It fucking killed me,” he whispered. “I thought breaking up with her was hard. But seeing that…”
So in other words his 3-month separation from her was not as painful as seeing her moving on from him and trying to be happy in a nice relationship? And don’t forget, he purposely broke her heart just so this exact thing could happen. That is just messed up.
So there were even more problems for me with this one, as well as some good things. The redemption of Lola was well done. Abby Jimenez can be very funny-loved Kristen. Despite my difficulties, she is an engaging writer if a little over-wrought at times. I tried to skip ahead but had to go back. Life on the road with a rock star was something new for me, It was thought-provoking and educational. I even like that hunting was not demonized. It is told, and told well, from two alternating first-person viewpoints. Despite the bipolar nature of the plot, I might give her another try with a different story and not-so-problematic characters.