Posts Tagged contemporary romance
Title The Christmas Wife
Author Elizabeth Kelly
Genre Contemporary Romance | Holiday Romance | Christmas
Publisher Elizabeth Kelly
Publication Date November 29, 2015
Synopsis: Deacon Stone, CEO extraordinaire of one of the world’s largest independent toy making companies, is in big trouble. His dear grandmother has finally lost her marbles and threatened to bequeath her controlling shares of the family business – the same toy company that Deacon worked his buns off for over the last decade to rescue from certain bankruptcy – to his greedy ill-equipped cousin if he doesn’t marry before Christmas. Not only does Deacon have an aversion to tying the proverbial noose around his neck but the real challenge is that he has less than a week to do the deed. When his best friend suggests he hires an escort to be his wife for the month, he brushes the idea off as incomprehensible. Then six-years-old Hattie, the daughter of his weekly maid Claire Brooks, glides into his living room, breaks a priceless figurine, and hands him the answer. As single mom Claire gets fired from the cleaning company for the damage caused, Deacon pays an apology visit to the Brookses’ dilapidated apartment to find them living in a state of destitution. Furthermore, he discovers their eviction notice, threatening to render the mother-daughter duo homeless, and suddenly a wife-for-hire doesn’t sound implausible. He realizes that Claire being a dedicated mom in dire straits would never reveal the duplicity of their marriage to anyone for fear of psychological repercussion on Hattie and promptly offers the family shelter in exchange of a marriage of convenience. He even sweetens the pot by offering Claire a hundred thousand dollars as long as they can maintain the charade until New Year’s Day when his grandmother would sign the shares over to him. For Claire, there really is no contest when given a choice between defending her dignity and securing a comfortable future for her daughter. And as long as she can put up a convincing act where everyone believes her marriage to Deacon is real but Hattie doesn’t get too emotionally drawn in, everyone can leave the marriage unscathed come new year. Except once married, the volatile sexual chemistry between Deacon and Claire begins to take precedence over a promise to remain detached and when Hattie and Deacon begin to form new bonds, fake family starts to look dangerously close to the real deal.
Experience: I rated this book 5* on Goodreads – not because I found it “amazing” (as the site’s rating system defines) or even because it was technically flawless. But because, having tried and failed to enjoy the works of a series of newly discovered [by me] authors in 2017, I was tearfully relieved to see that Elizabeth Kelly remembered to dot her i’s and cross her t’s before publishing the novel. And it seems this work was self-published too so bravo!
The book itself banks on an evergreen plot structure in the romance genre – a marriage of convenience – that it liberally peppers with lots of sensual scenes between the newly married couple and then honeys up with the beautiful formation of parent-child bond between a reluctant stepfather and a guileless child. It’s not an ingenious story arc but it guarantees success. I don’t think Kelly aimed to wow her readers with this but rather tried to provide them a homey romance to snuggle up with during the holidays – at least that is how it came across to me and, for once, I’m grateful for the salute to simplicity. Whereas recently I have read too many novels desperately gunning to discombobulate readers by adding an inordinate and unnecessary number of plot twists, The Christmas Wife chose to remain old-school and I found that refreshing. I fell in love with romance novels while reading the early cozy romances written by Sandra Brown and this was sort of a throwback to the sensations they aroused – The Hallmark Channel with a crackling fire smoking up the pages.
Another groan factor for me in 2017 was reading how comfortable so many authors are about treating their characters like plot devices, randomly called to action or left to collect dust as the scene of the moment requires. As though everyone but the main characters is afterthoughts. I have read an actual scene where the hero and heroine – secretly in love with each other – are arguing over something absolutely mundane that the heroine’s roommate is helping to moderate, when because the heroine ingenuously trips and the hero gallantly catches her, they become wholly engrossed in discovering adorable freckles on one’s nose and golden flecks in the other’s eyes, having a conversation that would consume minimum ten minutes in real life while the roommate is floating in the background like a ghost stuck in time without any occupation or even objection to being ignored. While the interaction between the hero-heroine was certainly titillating, the roles of the other characters felt insignificant and implausible. This actually was approved by a notable publishing house and then went on to becoming a YA bestseller. And no, the book didn’t get better after that; rest of it was just as inane.
In a happy contrast, Hattie received a salient role in this novel, despite being a child character in an adult romance. Usually, one would find a novel featuring a single mom/dad using the kid(s) to simply cutesy up the plot – like a pet. They may be part of the conflict or the charm but mostly inactive other than when required to either foil or foster the romantic plot. Not Hattie. She got as much downtime with Deacon as her mom and actively contributed to selling the beauty of “fam-dom” to the resolutely-single hero. And not only did she build bonds with the stepdad but also charmed a shrewd grandmother and formed an alliance with a member of the opposition (the son of that inept cousin trying to weasel away Deacon’s company). This novel was not about only the romantic characters. Kelly did not forget the little people – or rather, the little people had large parts to play.
Meanwhile, the adults behaved like adults and not hapless props acted upon for the sake and break of the romance. Here, the hero and heroine made informed decisions unlike a lot of recent romances where the main characters take rash decisions in the beginning of the novel and for the rest, are juggling the pieces of their lives while they choose to remain blind to the changing dynamics in the said romance or become easily misled due process of salvaging their egos. Conflicts invariably equal to secrets and miscommunications. Again, Kelly broke the mold when neither Deacon nor Claire is relegated to such star-crossed roles. Throughout the novel, both characters had an active hand in how their marriage would be upheld, in its catch or release, whether tightening the hold over their congealing relationship or letting go. They weighed their options as well their constraints before entering the marriage, they chose to become sexually involved letting the other know their individual limits in the relationship, and, when necessary, they each backed off and allowed the other enough space to get their bearings sorted. I felt it was their understanding of each other’s wants that made the ebbs and flows of tension so well-paced and believable. Despite the odds that brought them together and despite the fact that they entered a fake marriage, they always remain a truthful ally to one another. In this lie, they are a unit and that makes each partner a strong support system for the other – in a way, a much healthier foundation for marriage. And it was a relief that the tension was not dependent on yet another incident of “forgot to pass the message” or “didn’t reach the venue quickly enough to stop the villain from gaining center-stage”.
The only objection I had to the novel, though, was that there was no concrete foundation to build the romantic arc upon. What I mean is, while there was oodles of lust between our romantic couple and all, there was no other reason for one individual to fall in love with the other individual. Perhaps I felt this way because there was no real character development in either Deacon or Claire but only the outlook of the “ideal family” they created and fell into character with. Throughout the novel, the most we see of each character as individuals is that one is a hardworking bloke while the other a dedicated mom but everything else they undergo is purely circumstantial. Thrown in such close quarters, any set of individuals would form these bonds, an adult unless heartless would melt towards a precocious child, a married couple with the opportunity and license to initiate a sexual relationship may take advantage of their conjugal rights. And in the process, these people may develop soft corners for each other but it seemed that it could be any rich rescuer or any mother-daughter act that would have done the job. I think it was here, in the enriching of the characters, where simplicity took away rather than added to the novel. But then again, since the novel was no race to becoming the next great American romance, this deficiency is easily overlooked.
Recommendation: If you’re ever in need of an uncomplicated and soothing romance with a little heat, look no further. And you know as well as I that Christmas romances are good to read all year round.
My novella Bad Daughter will be available for FREE DOWNLOAD all day Friday, June 30, 2017 (Pacific Standard Time)! Just follow the link on the title.
I thought I would drop in a line with fellow bloggers to see if I could tempt any of you to read a bit of South Asian Feminist Fiction with a little of dystopia and a little of romance.
Be warned, it does allude to the harsh and unfortunate reality of child sexual abuse and the burden placed on victims from the taboo on disclosure imposed by conservative societies.
Title Something About You
Series FBI/US Attorney #01
Author Julie James
Genre Contemporary Romance | Romantic Suspense
Publication Date March 2nd 2010
Setting Chicago, Illinois, USA
Synopsis: When Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde checks into an upscale hotel for the weekend as the newly tiled floors in her house dries, she expects a peaceful night’s sleep. Instead, she finds herself kept awake by very noisy copulation by the guests next door. But calling in security on the lovers lands Cameron as a key witness for a murder case – a case that involves a dead escort, a philandering Senate, and Cameron’s nemesis FBI Agent Jack Pallas. Three years ago, Cameron and Jack had a falling out when Cameron was made to axe a case for which Jack had worked undercover and been tortured. Not knowing that the decision to shut down the case was Cameron’s boss’s idea, Jack had slandered Cameron on national TV. With no love lost between them, Cameron is reluctant to work with Jack but her sense of duty has her cooperating. She is put under police surveillance when they discover the Senate did not commit the murder and the real murderer is a faceless man at large. Though most of the surveillance work is handled by the CPD, Cameron and Jack are thrown together more often than they desire since he is the lead investigator. Tension mounts as they continue to bait each other at every encounter but their raw sexual attraction is also undeniable. And then the murderer appears masked in her house one night and Jack enlists himself to act as her live-in bodyguard.
Experience: I’ll admit, the humor in opening scene of this novel was very forced. The loud headboard banging from the next guest room occupied half of it and I thought a bit unnecessary to prolong. But luckily, the book then took a very positive turn and I LOVED IT! In fact, I loved it enough to breeze through the rest of the series and found that James sustains her ability to hold me as a reader.
It was a feel-good romance, which is what got me into writing romances in the first place. Both the heroine and the hero were solid individuals that I could like and become friends with if they were real people. There were some great tête-e-tête between Cameron and Jack that made me laugh outloud (or at least sport a goofy smile in public). And I really admire how James generally makes her female characters such women of the world, professionally successful and settled, and the men so driven. That the men are so mucho doesn’t hurt either but I appreciated that their moral radar is so intact even more.
Yet, they are not without imperfections. I admired how Cameron travelled with a whole case of cosmetics to make herself presentable or that she put on makeup after a shower even if she was staying in. This made her more real, more accessible to the contemporary women of our generation. James broke the mold of gorgeous romance heroine who look shiny and brand new even when they wake up in the back alley of a seedy bar after passing out from participating in a night of drunken carousel – not that traditional romance heroines would participate in such activities. The supporting characters are equally charming, with men owning up to watching chick flicks and having heart-to-hearts even while the hero tries to remain alpha though with twitchy smiles. Stereotypes, be damned.
Julie James also has gone intersectional with her romance. In fact, all of the books in the series had people of color, different faiths, sexual orientations, etc. who were NOT put in negative roles. And since the books were written in the pre-Trump campaign era, I would have to say James demonstrates a lot of foresight by portraying the true face of America today. It wasn’t that she was blaring her endorsement of tolerance but had the presence of mind to not white wash all her characters. In Something About You, Cameron’s best friend is a homosexual man who is a sports writer and Jack’s partner is a heterosexual African American man top cadet from Harvard who dresses like a fashionista and is unabashedly in touch with his feminine side. Again, out with the stereotypes.
The plot was totally plausible and there wasn’t too much hullaballoo over the setting to draw attention away from the matter at hand – the blooming romance between two professional adversaries. But the one thing that I thought could have turned out better is the element of surprise. For a romantic suspense, there wasn’t much suspense. In fact, reader is introduced to the murdered from act one, name, role, and POV. We are informed why he committed the crime, we are exposed to his moral sense, and we are hinted on what his next move will be. The only thing left to do was read how it all pans out. In essence, the suspense belonged to the characters within the story and not for the readers to work through. But I actually understood why James did not sweat over arranging the scenes in the novel in a way that bolstered the mystery. Despite being a murder mystery, the main motivator for the story is romance. And when all things are said and done, for a reader of romance, that is okay too.
Recommendation: I recommend reading the entire series, even though I am not reviewing all of it. If you love contemporary romance that stays true to the modern society, this book is a great read.
To say she had an hourglass or pear-shaped figure would be euphemistic; voluptuous downright misleading. Hourglass was what Lexi’s body looked like when she was fifteen years old, while her bottom had expanded to resemble that of a pear’s before she even turned twenty. Now, at the age of twenty-four, all hopes of ever becoming voluptuous was lost and she was fated to lament over centuries gone by where fleshy women were the vogue. If she was one of Rubens’ Women, Michael would not have left her.
Michael cheated on you, you stupid cow! Thank your lucky star that you dodged that bullet.
Unfortunately, this detail was lost on her mother.
~ Zaireen Lupa, Still Falling for You, work-in-progress
“Animals tend to demonstrate natural instincts of self-preservation. So why don’t women when it comes to philanderers?”
~ Zaireen Lupa, Still Falling for You, work-in-progress
Via: Daily Prompt – Slur
“You know you want to,” the sultry voice whispered in her ear.
Alesia quickly averted her eyes from the man seating at table-06 and looked at Sara. One of Sara’s dark eyebrows was arched and she was sporting a smug smile. “Excuse me,” Alesia asked, trying hard not to look like a caught deer.
Sara swung her long faux locs off a bony shoulder before she launched at Alesia. “Girl, I’ve known you for over two years since you took up waitressing here and I have never seen you look at a man the way you are checking out blondie over there. Don’t play dumb now. Act on it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Alesia turned away and began fidgeting with the bread display on the counter, hoping her coworker would take the hint and return to whatever she had been doing before snooping around.
Sara didn’t take hints very well. “When was the last time you went on a date?”
“Please, God?” Alesia muttered, rolling her eyes heavenward.
“I’m serious. When was the last time you went on a date?”
God clearly was preoccupied today and the woman next to her was relentless. Answering the question might get Sara off her back sooner. “Maybe a couple of months ago.”
“Make that five.”
Alesia turned back to Sara, mouth agape. “What did you do? Mark it on your calendar?”
“I don’t have to. Your dates are so few and far between, they make for pretty memorable ocassions.”
Spotting a diner preparing to leave, Alesia made her way to the back area to collect the cleaning spray and sponge. “Yes, well, bussing tables at the LaGuardia doesn’t really provide one much opportunity for finding dates.”
Sara followed. “I see what you mean. After all, we only get about a thousand men dining at the Bon Voyage Café daily who fall within your age demography.”
“And over 52% of them are not from New York; not to mention married or otherwise unavailable from the rest of the pool,” Alesia threw over her shoulder. “I read our traffic report from last year too.”
“You’re right. That doesn’t leave nearly enough eligible and local men for you to choose from.”
Sarcastic Sara may be but she did score a statistical point. Alesia bounced back to her usual tactic as she straightened her uniform and grabbed the cleaning products before heading back out. “I don’t have time to date.”
“Everybody has time to date,” Sara retorted, dogged as ever.
Alesia turned and began arguing in an earnest whisper. “What do you want? Do you want me to go ask that guy out? Would that get you to stop haranguing me?”
“I don’t harangue but sure,” Sara replied, crossing her arms over her perky breasts with all the dignity of a self-righteous do-gooder friend.
“For how long?”
“You’re right. That is too much to hope for from you. How about six months?”
“What? I won’t take anything less than a quarter year.”
“Fine, a month. I ask out that guy and you stop badgering me about my dating life for a month. Regardless of whether or not he is available and interested,” Alesia added with last-minute ingenuity.
Sara mulled it over, humming the tune from Jeopardy!
“It’s my life, Sara,” reminded Alesia on an aggravated sigh.
“Okay. I’ll back down for a month. But you’ll have to really give it a shot. Turn on the full charm and no slurred performance.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Alesia made her way around the counter towards the table that recently emptied, buying time as she wondered how best to approach the stranger. He looked very busy as he clicked and typed away at the laptop before him while silently working his way through the café au lait she served him earlier. Yet he really was a beautiful specimen of a man.
“I knew you wanted to.” She heard Sara call after her.
She did. And it had been ages since a man piqued her interest.
This is a discovery excerpt from a book, Fly Me to the Moon (Book #03), I plan to write as a follow-up to my novel I’ll Be True. Currently, I’m outlining Book #02 of the series, Coming Home to You.
Title The Nearly-Weds
Author Jane Costello
Genre Chick Lit, Contemporary Romance
Publisher Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date July 07, 2009
Synopsis: After being jilted at the altar by her boyfriend of seven years, Zoe Moore is on the run from her past. Falling back on her experience in early childhood development, she seeks sanctuary across the pond from Liverpool in Boston to become a live-in nanny for a young family of four with the prospect of even an all-expense-paid summer holiday in the Bermuda. Upon landing in the land of dreams, however, she learns that there has been a change in her arrangements and she now will be looking after two children, aged six and three, in Boston with their widowed father, Ryan Miller. Zoe is an instant hit with the children but warming up to daddy is another ballgame altogether. Unfortunately, the father is the heart-stopping gorgeous kind with the bite of a barracuda. As Zoe navigates a life in a new country with the help of a band of new friends (other British nannies in the affluent neighborhood and their myriad of romantic prospects), she has to also deal with checking her hormones whenever Ryan is around even while fending off his attacks on her competence. It is obvious that Ryan is not coping well with the death of his wife and has spent the past two years boozing, womanizing and becoming exhaustingly efficient at his job as VP of Communications. But when sparks fly between them, it isn’t always amid altercations. Still, sex with the boyfriend is strictly a no-no, not only because of the unprofessionalism but also because he is bad news for a woman already trying to fall out of love with her ex-fiancé. Except, her ex-fiancé Jason doesn’t seem to want to lie low either.
Experience: This novel gave me a lot of mixed feelings. First of all, it took me about 03-04 days to get into the mood for the novel and then again 03-04 days to finish reading it. This happened despite the fact that the chapters are very short (mostly ending below 05 pages) and the writing was quick paced. So what was the problem? The style of Costello’s writing.
Usually, a 419-page Chick Lit of British comedy would take me 02-03 days to complete on regular workdays (I’m a meticulous reader, or in other words, slow). But this novel had me rolling my eyes and sighing with a bit of discontent by chapter 05. Don’t get me wrong. Costello made me laugh quite a lot by this time with the witty self-effacing first-person narration from the single POV of Zoe Moore [who doesn’t like a protagonist with a healthy dose of insecurities, right?], but Zoe Moore thinks and talks in similes to the point of exhaustion.
Even though it is my first time reading her work, I could immediately surmise how pop culture savvy Costello is because the aspect blossomed on every page – nay every paragraph – of the book. I thanked my lucky star that I was brought up in the West during my formative years and have been a fan of American television since because otherwise I would have been spending as much time on Google researching to understand the content of the book as reading it [and possibly more than Costello spent while writing it]. E.g. the kids, when challenged to quickly put away their toys, is not merely enthusiastic, they’re “possessed by the spirit of Mr. Sheen”. Even when she is running away from her second home, depressed as hell and sobbing, she carries out her luggage to the taxi as though “dragging the dead body of a large yak”.
But it’s not only Zoe but her mother and new friends who also speak this way. The mother I could understand because maybe Zoe picked up her tendencies from her but when other characters began showing the same speech pattern, I began wondering if it was just a thing with the British characters or was Costello mixing up character appeals. So I was really spending a lot of time sorting out who was talking when. In fact, if we cut out the constant bombardment of similes and metaphors, I think the book would end with about 300 pages. I kid you not.
Fortunately, later in the book, individual character approaches do begin to emerge. For example, the male characters have fewer tendencies to exaggerate their statements and the similes and metaphors are kept mostly out of their dialogues [thank god]. The children show certain unique characteristics and so does Zoe’s dad. But these characters have much fewer dialogues. Yes, even the hero. For most of the book, Ryan is kept in the background of the scenes although fresh on Zoe’s mind. He only picks up in making appearances halfway through the novel, which I found refreshing. Hence, I would shelve the book firmly in the chick lit genre more than contemporary romance.
Actually, far as the plot goes, I thought it was very well planned. The gradual development of Ryan’s character was a required element to help Zoe adjust to her recent relationship trauma. While Zoe had not recovered from the jilting-by-Jason fiasco till the near end of the novel, that she had a healthy six months on the job before sleeping with the boss works out as well as the fact that Ryan’s wife had been dead for more than two years before he can come to terms with the death. Really, all of the characters were very believable and the plot too was very relatable. If Costello could have just skimmed it on the adding-of-the-similes a bit, I would have few bad things to say about it. [To be fair, I plan to read at least one more of her book to see if this was something she incorporated for Zoe’s character or is it really her own personality seeping into her work.]
There is one aspect that I could really commend Costello for, though. It is her keeping Zoe so secretive. For a character who has such natural tendency for humorous overtures, Zoe sure kept it mum throughout her yearlong stay in the USA about her failed wedding. Costello’s ability to keep the topic consistently on Zoe’s mind but never bring it to her lips was a very intelligent addition to the suspense. It certainly kept me wondering what would happen once she finally revealed why she ran away from home. And this also actually adds to another consistent element of Zoe’s characteristics – that she has a tendency to make a run for it when her romantic relationships show a first sign of failing.
Recommendation: Really, it’s a good story. I enjoyed it despite the writing peccadilloes once I adjusted myself to reading through the similes. In fact, my eyes eventually were trained to skip phrases upon contact with words such as “like” and “as”. Still, I would suggest you read it on the tab with Wi-Fi access if you are not Western pop culture savvy.