This month, BSB has released a number of titles to keep you busy as we move into Fall. There’s a decided darker edge with three books hitting the intrigue/mystery/suspense buttons – all three were nice and meaty reads and I enjoyed the darker tone. But never fear – there’s some lighter books including smutty erotic romance, regular old romance and a bit of speculative fiction to round things out.
As far as covers go this month, I think Breathe wins hands-down and has a great visual appeal. I could see myself reading a paperback version on the bus without being mortified (yes, All She Wants, I’m talking about you, but never fear – on my e-reader nobody can see the truth about what I’m blushing). Unfortunately, I’m puzzled by the Beautiful Accidents cover.
Legacy – Charlotte Greene
Hot on the heels of Gnarled Hollow (well, I read them pretty close together at least) Greene has published another strong paranormal romance. Once again, the focus of the book is more on the paranormal and suspense; although, there is a bit of romance thrown in for good measure with the arrival of a hot Park Ranger who’s just the ticket to save some damsels in paranormal distress.
Five women arrive at an isolated family cabin located in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The property has been in Jo and Carter’s family for years but due to internal squabbling, no one has been up there for two years and its in need of a fair bit of work. The cousins are finally able to go back and try to restore the property and cabin. Joining them are Carter’s wife, Daniella, and their friends Meg and Rachel. As the odd woman out in the group of five, Jo seems to be the one that experiences most of the odd happenings. At first things can be explained away – noises from an animal in the brush, misplaced books or tools; but, as the odd events start to add up, coincidence and imagination are less likely explanations. Slowly the others start to experience similar things and the reactions range from “something’s out there” to “it’s all explainable”. From a character standpoint, Jo and the others are more consistent and relatable than those in Gnarled Hollows and the romance build between Jo and Andy provides a nice counter-point to the ominous happenings at the cabin.
Greene likes to take her time to work up the suspense, starting with smaller and seemingly inconsequential things that build up an suitably creepy atmosphere. Placing the characters in an isolated setting ratchets things up. This isn’t a gore-fest nor is it relying on jump-scares to set the atmosphere – instead it’s a well paced ghost story with strongly developed characters and I liked the backstory that unfolds in the latter half of the book (almost to the point that I wouldn’t mind reading about that as a book in itself). Legacy didn’t scare me, but it definitely created a compelling level of suspense that kept me glued to the pages.
This book has definitely not sold me on camping or living in the rough – life without a shower or flush toilet have lost their luster (if they ever had it) long ago. Camping in an isolated location where you have to trek in or out, there’s nightly sound of footsteps in the woods, nearby is an old family graveyard and things seem to move on their in in the cabin? Yeah … I’ll be at the Hilton, eating room service and booking a massage at the spa.
I had been saving this book for one of my last reads based on how much I enjoyed Create a Life to Love by Erin Zak. Unfortunately, a project at work turned into a dumpster fire of colossal magnitude; and, by the time I started reading it, my brain was frazzled and grumpy. I’m afraid that this may have impacted my enjoyment of the book – and based on other reviews I’ve read for it, I’m the odd one out in having trouble getting fully invested in the characters and story. Don’t get me wrong – this was well written with some very real characters and situations and is a strong romance. It was just the wrong book at the wrong time for me and I’ll likely re-read it in a few months to see if a better frame of mind will push this into the category of books I loved.
Stevie is an up-and-comer in the comedy scene and is eagerly awaiting to see if she’s made the cut to join the Saturday Night Live cast. After losing her parents at a young age, she’s pushed away the idea of investing in the chance at love and instead is intensely focused on achieving her dream. Dragged by her cast mates to a psychic, Stevie receives a reading that indicates that she’ll have a difficult decision when it comes to pursuing her dream or love. Bernadette is a woman who is resigned to constantly puts others ahead of finding her own happiness – in love for her best friend, she continues to act as her interpreter and has resigned herself to staying and taking care of her mother. The connection between the two women is pretty much instant, but their relationship grows slowly with both being inexorably drawn to one another but also fighting against it as neither of their futures seem to have room for love.
Although there was an insta-attract, Zak takes her time with the characters in developing them as individuals and allowing the relationship time to develop. There’s lots of obstacles including their own insecurity and doubts, so a fair bit of push and pull. This is a bit more of a mature romance in that there is unquestionably a connection but both characters recognize that with their lives at major turning points (Stevie’s career taking off and Bernadette’s family), that HEA aren’t easy and compromising for the other person holds the danger of regret. There’s drama, but not overblown – it’s real, messy and complicated with difficult decisions that have to be made.
This is a romance that expands the story beyond just the development of the relationship between the mains. The supporting characters, especially family members on both sides, round out the story – both in their interactions with the main characters as well as giving the story an authenticity that the main characters aren’t existing in a romantic bubble for two. At times, I was a bit annoyed with Bernadette and her conviction that she had to stay and care for her mother (who seemed perfectly capable of managing on her own and is quite clear that she wants move to a retirement community) as well as the horribly unhealthy relationship with Connie Fucking Russo (Zak said it not me), the life-long friend who manipulates and controls Bernadette’s life.
I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of Rose’s previous books – they were angsty and steamy fun – and was looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, this is a miss for me.
The two main characters were rather unlikable and also rather inconsistent in their actions and reactions. Lots of hot and sweaty sex, but … meh, I couldn’t care less about the characters and found myself skimming a lot of the book. Things were laid out a little too obviously and kind of clumsily and the plot just didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Lots of judgement, lots of bitterness, lots of flying off the handle and stomping off. I’m really disappointed. But never fear – I’ll read her next one because I have had a few good hits with Larkin Rose’s books.
Before Now – Joy Argento
A word of warning – this is a re-published book. So if you start reading it and it seems familiar, you probably read it when it came out a few years ago. How meta – you get a sense of deja-vu reading a book about characters who feel like they have met before. 🙂
Before Now is a longish novella that has a bit of a speculative fiction feel to it. There are two romances at play – separated by five hundred years. In the present, Delany and Jade are set up for a potential friends with benefits date by their mutual friend Abby. I actually laughed at just how refreshingly blunt Jade was when she sent her midnight email to Abby asking if she had any single friends. Once the meet, Delany and Jade have an immediate connection – they are comfortable with each other’s company and there’s a distinct chemistry. Once things start to heat up, Jade pulls away, torn by her desire for Delany and sense of panic she feels as her emotions get carried away. For Delany, she begins to get glimpses of herself and Jade but in a different time and place. The bulk of the story revolves around Delany’s memories of this past romance and how it impacts her feelings for Jade while Jade is still conflicted about a relationship with Delany. Running counterpoint is the romance between Isobel and Heather, two women in 15th Century Scotland whose own relationship develops secretly.
I suppose you could call this a second chance romance – with Delany and Jade getting a second chance in their reincarnated selves. The shifts between past and present were a bit choppy and with the length of the book, for me, there didn’t seem to be enough time to dig in with either storyline. I think I was a bit more interested in Isobel and Heather’s story than the present romance as I found Jade a bit hot and cold (poor Delany). There’s also a bit more tension and suspense with the past lovers as they have to keep their relationship from friends and family.
September 2019 Releases not reviewed:
Somewhere Along the Way – Kathleen Knowles: The blurb didn’t grab me. I may come back to it though as it is set in the early 80s.
False Horizons – CJ Birch: Third in a series I’m not following. Science Fiction and possibly space opera.
Royal Street Reveillon – Greg Herring: Eighth in a series I’m not following. Looks like a fun series though – former go-go boy turned PI in New Orleans, how could you not have fun. Note that this is a M/M (and I think another /M) story.