Playing Catch Up…

As you know from Sunday’s post my blogging has not been up to par recently. In an attempt to catch up on all the reviews I need to write I’ve penned several “catch up” reviews below. Hopefully some of the books spark your interest and make you want to read further!

ucmUnbound by Cara McKenna

Plot from Goodreads:

She set out to find herself, and discovered the darker side of desire.

Merry’s lost a lot recently—first her mother, then close to a hundred pounds. Feeling adrift, she strikes out in search of perspective. A three-week hike through the Scottish Highlands was supposed to challenge her new body and refocus her priorities, but when disaster strikes, she’s forced to seek refuge in the remote home of a brooding, handsome stranger…

Rob exiled himself to the Highlands years ago, desperate to escape his own self-destruction. Haunted by regrets, he avoids human contact at all costs…but when Merry turns up injured, he can’t very well run her off. And as he nurses her back to health, Rob can’t resist his guest’s sweet demeanor—or her flirtatious advances. The igniting passion between them rouses a secret appetite Rob has long struggled to keep hidden. But Merry craves nothing more than to help Rob surrender to his desires, and the journey draws the lovers into an entirely different kind of wilderness.

Reading BFF Kelly recently told me she had a new author I needed to start reading: Cara McKenna. When we discussed what book I should read first she immediately recommended Unbound. I’m really glad she did because it’s about two really odd but really fascinating characters.

Merry is a woman undergoing huge physical, emotional, and mental changes.  Her physical changes have led to her being a bit more adventurous and aggressive sexually, while also giving her new confidence in herself as a woman and as a person. This new-found confidence (and the unfortunate loss of her mother) forces her to reevaluate the track her life seems to be on – her job, the friends she’s surrounded herself with, and the man she’s been giving her attention to.

Rob, on the other hand, has been struggling to keep the person he is all tucked away inside. Due to his checkered past, he decides to leave society, his friends, and his job to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, no modern conveniences, and most importantly – no people. There in that cabin he hides what he believes is his most shameful secret – his masochist fetish.

Final Thoughts: If you’re ok with reading about sexual relationships that are Dominant/submissive and include bondage, then definitely check this one out. McKenna’s story about two people rediscovering themselves sexually and personally is really well done. I truly enjoyed Merry and Rob’s quirks and watching them get their shit together.

4 out of 5 Stars

Unbound by Cara McKenna
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook: 268 pages
ISBN: 9781101621998

tahdgThe American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Plot from Goodreads:

Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

This book frustrated the hell out of me. Nothing about any of the main characters endeared me to them at all. Cora is totally naive and aloof, Ivo has a bi-polar personality, Bertha has no mind of her own, and the whole story takes WAY too long to come to a resolution. When I finished the book I scratched my head and wondered what the point of it all was. The last chapter gave me a small amount of insight into Ivo’s head, but at that point it was too little too late. Every time he affected Cora in a negative manner there was never a resolution. For example, he leaves her for most of her pregnancy to go to India, returns to England many months later but doesn’t tell Cora, which angers her. Nothing is ever said between Cora and Ivo about this or about him not showing up until the birth of their child. Their relationship is so dysfunctional because of the lack of communication, and by the end of the novel that problem still isn’t really resolved.

Final Thoughts: The character development is so poor that you can’t appreciate any of the “world” that’s built (when I say “world” I mean the setting: the estates, the art, the fashions, etc.) It’s a shame because Goodwin’s writing had promise. The story she created had a great premise, it was just poorly executed.

2 out of 5 Stars

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin’s Press (2011)
eBook: 480 pages
ISBN: 9781429987080

bemBelieve (True Believers #3) by Erin McCarthy

Plot from Goodreads:

Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a naïve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…

Having previously read the first two books in McCarthy’s True Believers series (True and SweetI jumped at the chance to continue by reading book three, Believe.

To be honest I wasn’t a fan of how fast things moved between Robin and Phoenix. Robin has basically become a new person after her major screw up – and as such I wanted her to find herself and become independent before jumping into a super serious relationship with Phoenix. Phoenix is also changing. He’s adapting to a new life and new surroundings. The two of them are going through so many personal changes that their relationship with each other makes sense, I just wish they had more time to get comfortable in their own skin. It makes me wonder what they would be like if their relationship suddenly failed. Would they be able to continue making the healthy decisions they had started making in their new lives? Or would they both fall back to their old habits?

What I did think was great was the evolution of Robin, and the focus on drinking till you black out/binge drinking. It’s a serious issue for many college aged kids, and one I think McCarthy is smart for bringing attention to.

Final Thoughts: I’m glad I’ve stuck with the series this long. I’m excited to see how it’ll all come together in book four, Shatter, due out this fall!

3 out of 5 Stars

Believe by Erin McCarthy
Penguin (2014)
eBook: 232 pages
ISBN: 9780698148710

Special thanks to Penguin Group for my review copy via Netgalley!

mtrMisbehaving by Tiffany Reisz

Plot from Goodreads:

Wanted: Adventurous, open-minded man willing to try anything…

As a popular sex blogger, Beatriz gets paid to have orgasms. So being on deadline the week of her sister’s wedding isn’t as rough as it sounds. There’s just one hitch: Bea’s assignment is to write a review of a sex position manual, but she doesn’t have a plus one to play with.

The good news: Ben, the one who got away back in college, is also attending stag–and he’s as temptingly gorgeous as ever.

The bad news: Ben turned down Bea’s offer of graduation night sex five years ago.

The best news: He’s not planning on making the same mistake twice. 

I really enjoyed Reisz’s Original Sinners series and was excited to read something else that strayed from that world. Not that anything is wrong with the Original Sinners world, I was just eager for some new characters from her. I was definitely not disappointed. (Note: Misbehaving is a contemporary erotic retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.)

Bea is this badass sex education blogger who is completely confident in herself, except when it comes to Ben. He’s been the one guy to turn her down. The one guy she really wanted to give her heart to. And Ben knows that turning her down all those years ago was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. When the two are thrown together again at a wedding they realize they have the perfect opportunity to try again.

Misbehaving is a smart erotic novella about two individuals who are interesting, smart, kinky, and unafraid to explore their sexual appetites with each other. It is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Reisz – a story that explores human emotion with witty banter, hot (at times awkward) boundary-pushing sex, and extremely likable characters.

Final Thoughts: READ IT.

4 out of 5 Stars

Misbehaving by Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin (2014)
eBook: 108 pages
ISBN: 9781460326404

Special thanks to Harlequin for my review copy via Netgalley!!

rnacRusty Nailed (Cocktail #2) by Alice Clayton

Plot from Goodreads:

In this sequel to Wallbanger, the second book in the Cocktail series, fan favorites Caroline and Simon negotiate the rollercoaster of their new relationship while house-sitting in San Francisco.

Playing house was never so much fun—or so confusing. With her boss on her honeymoon, Caroline’s working crazy long hours to keep the interior design company running—especially since she’s also the lead designer for the renovation of a gorgeous old hotel on Sausalito. So with her hotshot photographer boyfriend gallivanting all over the world for his job, she and Simon are heavy-duty into “absence makes the heart grow fonder” mode. Neither has any complaints about the great reunion sex, though! Then Simon decides he’s tired of so much travelling, and he’s suddenly home more. A lot more. And wanting Caroline home more, too. Though their friends’ romantic lives provide plenty of welcome distraction, eventually Caroline and Simon have to sort their relationship out. Neither wants “out of sight, out of mind,” but can they create their own happy mid-ground cliché?

Rusty Nailed is the second in Alice Clayton’s Cocktail series, and is a direct follow-up to Wallbanger. When I read Wallbanger a year or so ago I remember laughing out loud SO hard. Clayton has this writing voice that you can’t help but get sucked in by. Rusty Nailed tackles the challenges involved with a relationship becoming more serious and more permanent. As such, the writing grows a bit more serious and reflective, but still includes the signature humor. Rusty Nailed chronicles this relationship growth excellently. I love all the characters and the situations into which Clayton throws them. I think she excellently illustrated the stress that comes with moving in and settling down with your partner.

Final Thoughts: Clayton introduces us to who will be the heroine of book three in the Cocktail series, Screwdrivered. It’s safe to say that I’ll be reading it, and that you should be reading Wallbanger and Rusty Nailed in preparation.

4 out of 5 Stars

Rusty Nailed by Alice Clayton
Gallery Books (2014)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781476766669

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Kim’s Guest Dueling Review of Once Upon A Billionaire (The Billionaire Boys Club #4) by Jessica Clare

ouabjcI hope you love the dueling reviews that my reading bestie Kelly (from Reading With Analysis) and I write, because we have a brand new one for you. It’s on the fourth book in Jessica Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series, Once Upon A Billionaire.  (Here are my/our reviews of books one, two, and three.)

Once Upon A Billionaire follows Griffin, a member of the royal family of a small European country, and Maylee, the deeply southern secretary of book two’s hero Hunter.

For a direct link to our review, click here.

Jen’s Review of The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

tkdjmThey say “normal is just a setting on a dryer” (with the exception of my dryer, I guess.) However, more to the point: what is normal, exactly? In The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry this question is explored.

From Goodreads

After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.

A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

Honestly, I was very disappointed in this book. It received rave reviews on Goodreads, so maybe I set my expectations too high.

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry is about a young woman, Ginny, who is living with (undiagnosed) Asperger’s Syndrome. The book is written from her point of view, so you spend a lot of time in her head. Her parents pass away unexpectedly and as a result you read much about how she copes with this. Her sister, Amanda, wants to sell the house Ginny has lived in all her life and tries to make Ginny be more “normal,” or at least realize how abnormal she is. I did not like Amanda at all. Her characterization was very one-dimensional.

Cooking is Ginny’s passion and coping mechanism. She suddenly has the ability to conjure up ghosts by preparing the deceased person’s recipes. I was very intrigued by this but wound up being disappointed when it had little to do with the storyline, with the exception of perhaps her parents. As far as the “secrets” went, there aren’t really any, at least in my opinion. One could skip over much of this portion book without losing the story.

I did find myself relating to Ginny having to find a new “normal” since I deal with social anxiety and chronic illnesses. I liked Ginny’s view that everyone has their own “normal,” and to not label mental health issues as abnormal, but instead a different variant of normal. Because really, what IS normal?

Sadly, the plot really fell flat. I was not motivated to keep reading to see what would happen and it took me longer to finish because I had to force myself to read it. If you are looking to learn what it’s like to be inside the head of someone with Asperger’s, you may enjoy this book. But if you want a more exciting plot, skip this.

2 out of 5 Stars

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
Gallery Books (2011)
Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN: 9781451648508

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy!

Series Spotlight: The Summerset Abbey Trilogy by T.J. Brown

Up until now, every single Series Spotlight post I’ve written has been about a series I’m raving about. Sadly, this particular spotlight is on a trilogy that bothered me for a multitude of reasons. The Summerset Abbey trilogy by T.J. Brown started out with an enormous amount of potential.  However, as the series continued I found myself aggravated not only with certain characters, but with larger statements the trilogy was making.

sattjbAll three books revolve around three “sisters.” I say “sisters” because two of the three women, Rowena and Victoria, are actually sisters. The third young woman, Prudence, was their governess’s daughter and was raised like their sister after her mother’s death. When Rowena and Victoria’s father Sir Phillip dies, their uncle steps in to bring them to his estate for his wife to raise. Their uncle is not forward-thinking at all. He believes Prudence has no place in their lives and society, as she’s the daughter of a servant. Thus begins the tale of how one man’s death changes the ideals, lives, and futures of three young women. Rather than talk about each book individually, I’m going to discuss each of the three main female characters.

Prudence: Of the three women, she started out as my favorite. Her plight from a girl raised with wealth, freedom, and status to being thrust into a world of servitude and poverty was captivating. Her odd upbringing did her no favors in terms of helping her find her place in the world. In Rowena and Victoria’s home she was just as they were. Outfitted in nice clothes. Educated and not worked as a servant, though her mother was the governess. Sir Phillip was a man of forward thinking who didn’t believe in the rigidity of the social classes. He encouraged the girls to be freethinkers themselves, and all of this led to Prudence believing she could accomplish great things someday. The girls’ uncle, however, doesn’t believe in this way of thinking and tells Rowena that Prudence is not welcome at his estate. Rowena, needing Pru, tells her uncle that Prudence is really their lady’s maid. This is how Prudence finds herself in the servants quarters. She is not welcome above stairs nor below, as the servants recognize she’s not truly of their class.

I found Prudence to be the character that had the MOST potential and the one that flopped the hardest. She makes a decision at the end of book one that just doesn’t match up to her character’s intelligence at all. Over the course of the next two books we’re left to watch the repercussions of her decision. At the end of three books I still didn’t understand the motives behind her decision nor did I really feel like she was happy. She just seemed resigned to what her life was. And what kind of statement does that tell readers? Here is this young woman, brought up with education, music lessons, and access to the suffragette movement among other things. And where do we see her wind up? Struggling to bake bread and wash clothes. Her potential was completely revoked, the minute that decision at the end of book one was made.

Rowena: From start to finish, I disliked her. From our first introduction to her she’s selfish, impulsive, rude, and stuck-up. I cut her a bit of slack knowing her father had just died, but even in book three – she’s just…ugh, aggravating. All she cares about is herself and finding ways to make her feel “alive.” She allows her uncle to run roughshod over all of her and Victoria’s feelings on moving, their obligations to society, and most importantly, what they can “do” as women. Her inability to help herself or to help others truly bothered me.

Victoria: While she started out a bit boring for my taste, she quickly rose up the ladder in my mind and is the reason why I stuck with the entire series. I wanted to know HER story and her’s alone.  Of the three women she is the only one that fights for what she wants, and the only one that tries to better herself and the world around her. She fights with her Aunt and Uncle about Prudence constantly, even standing up to them pretty amazingly at one point. She becomes a nurse during the war to help those around her. She becomes friends with one of the scullery maids in the estate’s kitchen and brings her to London, giving her a more decent future. She’s definitely the most nurturing of the three women, as she is always worried about the causes of others (a bit naively at some points.)

So what are the larger points of this story that bothered me? For one thing, why were the majority of the women in the books bitches? Also, did the insanely crazy side of the Women’s Suffragette Movement have to be the only one shown? Sure there were women who did crazy things all in the name of women’s rights, but there were also amazing women like Alice Paul and Millicent Fawcett, who could have been used to show another less vindictive/less self-serving side of the movement.

Even with all of the nonsense above that bothered me I do have to give Brown props for her work on the historical front. Her incorporation of the clashing of social classes and overarching effects of the war were done brilliantly.

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. Summerset Abbey – 3 out of 5 Stars
  2. A Bloom In Winter – 2 out of 5 Stars
  3. Spring Awakening – 2 out of 5 Stars

Kim’s Guest Review of The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecelia Stanton by Viveka Portman

twcolcsvpMy super-bestest reading buddies, Kelly (from Reading with Analysis) and Tasha (from Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books), and I sometimes read books which we know are going to be bad, but in a hilarious way. When we find said books we immediately get copies and read our way through them together. Our responses are (in my opinion) uproariously genius. The three of us are sarcastic creatures in our own right, but put us together and we’re downright side-splitting.

For our latest “ménage à review” we read The Wicked Confessions of Lady Cecelia Stanton by Viveka Portman. Click here for a direct link to our laugh-out-loud funny review. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Kim’s Review of The Marriage Merger (Marriage to a Billionaire #4) by Jennifer Probst

16153618After reading the first three works in Jennifer Probst’s Marriage to a Billionaire series,  I was excited to see how Probst was going to finish out this intriguing storyline.  Considering I had just finished book number three, The Marriage Mistake, and dubbed it my favorite of the series thus far, I figured that the series on a whole might be on an upswing.  So, with that in mind, I dove in.

From Goodreads:

Her sisters have found wedded bliss with their wealthy,wonderful dream men, but not Julietta Conte. She’s stayed on terra firma as top executive of the family’s corporation, La Dolce Famiglia bakery. Work is her passion, and her trendy Milan apartment her sanctuary . . . until Sawyer Wells, a masculine masterpiece in a suit, lures her out of hiding with an irresistible offer: an exclusive partnership with his international chain of boutique hotels.

Julietta’s been burned before—and trusting her brother-in-law’s friend, whose powerful gaze alone has her rethinking the best use of a conference room, is the riskiest proposition. But with a once-in-a-career chance to take the bakery global, will she mix stone-cold business with red-hot seduction?

I went into reading The Marriage Merger thinking I’d like it as much as I did the others in the series.  Sadly, I was disappointed and annoyed with it.  My main reason for disliking the book can be attributed to my dislike/non-connection with the characters.  Sawyer, our male lead, comes off as a domineering jerk for a majority of the book.  He’s opinionated, arrogant, and an overall ass.  I think that the trope of using such a character to masquerade as a dominant and thus attract a submissive is well represented in this work, and it lacks originality.  I know that there are certain fans of this idea, a strong and powerful man taking a woman with reckless abandon, but I couldn’t get past how arrogant and unlikable Sawyer was.  The idea of trying to make these characteristics into something sexy and what a woman should want is unappealing.  It’s Fifty Shades all over again.

On the other hand, I did enjoy the return of Mamma Conte.  She was entertaining and brought some life to this otherwise one-dimensional story.  Additionally, the couples from the first three books make an appearance, which does tie the series together.  It is therefore regrettable that Probst had to end the series on a low note, but if you’re like me and can’t leave series unfinished, give the first 50 pages a try before setting it down.

2 out of 5 Stars

The Marriage Merger by Jennifer Probst
Gallery Books (2013)
eBook: 400 pages
ISBN: 9781476744964

Special thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim’s Guest Review of Secrets and Lords by Justine Elyot

saljeMy super-bestest reading buddies Kelly (from Reading with Analysis), Tasha (from Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books), and I all found a book entitled Secrets and Lords by Justine Elyot on Netgalley that we decided was a must read. Why did we decide this? I don’t know. Something about the summary spoke of a book we’d find humorous.

You can find what we’re calling our “Ménage à review”, here. Unsurprisingly, it’s hilarious.

This is my nineteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Kim’s Review of Legally Addicted by Lena Dowling

laldI was browsing Netgalley recently and saw the following tagline for Legally Addicted by Lena Dowling: “A fast-moving, high stakes battle-of-the-sexes story with a Hepburn/Tracey flavor (and a hot one-night stand!)”  How could I not be excited?  I’m a sucker for anything relating to Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracey related and having seen a good number of old Hepburn/Tracey films I can say that this was a surefire way to get me to request this work.  So, once I received word that I had received the book I jumped right in!

Georgia Murray’s hard work as a lawyer has paid off, and she’s finally gotten a partner position in her law firm in Sydney, Australia.  Out celebrating her hard work, she has what she believes to be a one night stand with a fellow lawyer, Brad Spencer.  While she tries to put the night past her, Brad makes sure that it isn’t so easy, and decides to put up a fight for her affections.  He feels that she is the one woman who has convinced him that not all women are after him for his money, but what he doesn’t know is that Georgia is harboring a secret about her past that makes her all the more hesitant to give in to Brad’s persistence.  What will become of their tangled love story?

Where to begin? I took umbrage with several things in this book.  The first and foremost issue was definitely the writing.  The majority of the book was written with a lot of things being told to the reader outright.  It was odd….like so much of the flirting/relationship building didn’t happen during the course of events you’re privy to as the reader.  You’re told about time they spend together and talk, about the times Brad comes by Georgia’s desk at work to flirt with her with double entendres, etc.  I know the book is short, but if a reader is to believe their relationship, should there be more scenes with the couple in them and not just summarized passages of their time together?

Taking the writing out of the equation for a minute, I’d like to discuss the characters.  Honestly, I never connected with them.  Georgia and Brad just weren’t that likable.  Georgia’s got a lot of baggage from the unfortunate difficulties she faced growing up, but from what we’re told it seems like there were people who helped her along the way.  You’d think those people would have helped soften her slightly.  Given her hope that there are good people out in the world.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.  Instead, she’s a hardened individual who is fairly single-minded, does not open up to anyone, and really isn’t even that friendly.  There is a scene where her secretary tells Brad how she thinks he can win Georgia’s heart.  She even admits that Georgia is a bit of a shrew and that it took a long time for them to become acquaintances.  Brad, on the other hand, is slightly better but even he is confusing at times.  There is this laid back side of him that I really dug and wanted to see more of and then there is the wealthy side of him that’s a bit priggish.  I never got how the two of them worked as a couple (probably because there wasn’t a lot of development) or really what their attraction to each other was besides great sex.  (Even the sex scenes – there are two – are pretty boring)

I need to jump into extreme spoiler territory now.  The epilogue.  Throughout the last third of the book we become privy to a little problem Georgia has – saying the L word.  I have no problem with a romance novel not having a couple say “I love you” to each other five days after meeting.  In fact, I enjoy it when an author makes the relationship face extreme conflicts before the characters share the L word with each other.  In the epilogue we see Georgia and Brad on their wedding day.  Georgia whispers that she loves Brad (I’m assuming this, since it’s not actually written what she says), and from Brad’s reaction he’s really surprised to hear it.  It’s not that Brad is surprised she feels that way, but it seems as though she’s never said it before.  I’m sorry, but how do you marry someone for love without ever once telling them that you love them? That pill was too much to swallow for me.

Sadly, this book bored me, disappointed me, and confused me.  Others may find it enjoyable, but I could find no realism and no depth in the story.

2 out of 5 Stars

Legally Addicted by Lena Dowling
Escape Publishing (2013)
eBook: 149 pages
ISBN: 9780857990464

Special thanks to Escape Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley!

Kim’s Review of Once Upon A Prince (Royal Wedding #1) by Rachel Hauck

ouaprhLate last year I judged a book by its cover.  That book was The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck, and turned out to be a great introduction for me to Hauck’s writing.  When I heard about her new series, The Royal Wedding, I was really excited.  I LOVE everything to do with Kings & Queens, Princes & Princesses.  There is just something so regal and romantic about it all.  When I saw the first book Once Upon A Prince released on Netgalley, I knew I needed to request it and continue my obsession with all things royal.

Susanna Truitt never expected too much out of life.  She has led a simple life, devoted to her boyfriend Adam, whom she has loved for as long as she can remember.  Adam leaves to become a Marine and when he returns she expects a proposal, but instead she gets rejected.  Reeling from this loss, Susanna decides to go back to her roots on St. Simon’s island to rediscover herself.  A vacationer on the island is Prince Nathaniel of the European nation of Brighton.  Due to political pressure Nathaniel’s family has already chosen a wife for him, yet he is unsure of this turn of events.  Nathaniel sees Susanna for the first time as he comes to her aid under the Lover’s Oak on the island.  He is smitten by her, but bound by his duty to marry someone else.  Will he be able to follow what he believes is his heart’s true desire?  Will Susanna be able to find herself and love on St. Simon’s?

When I started reading Once Upon A Prince I was definitely intrigued.  My heart broke for Susanna as her boyfriend of 10+ years broke up with her (especially because she spent a good portion of that time waiting for him to return from deployment overseas.)  I could understand the quest she set out on, to re-evaluate her life, rediscover her faith, and to reaffirm who she was as a person.  The more of the book I read, however, the farther down the rabbit hole I felt I was falling.  A lot of things just didn’t make sense to me.

First and foremost was the entire entail storyline.  I was SO confused.  Who would lose what, who should marry who, for what reason…the entire thing had me spinning in circles.  Secondly, all the time that the Prince is with Susanna and she doesn’t realize who he is was a bit hard to believe.  Did no one wonder why he had a security detail with him?  Even if you didn’t think he was a Prince, wouldn’t you think he was a VIP of some sort?  Maybe in the business or political world? It was hard for me to believe that someone would meet him with his entourage and be okay with making him clean toilets.

Almost all of the secondary characters weren’t likable.  Prince Stephen, Queen Campbell, Jon, Susanna’s co-worker Gage…..there was just something about all of them that rubbed me the wrong way.  Especially Prince Stephen, Queen Campbell, and Jon.  The three of them are some of the closest people who Prince Nathaniel has in his life, yet none of them respect his feelings or wishes.  Prince Stephen and Queen Campbell even go so far as to set up an elaborate plan using Susanna in a very ill way.  They almost played out as the villains of the story, when clearly they aren’t meant to be.

My biggest problem however, was with the romance.  For the majority of the book Susanna and Nathaniel are apart.  If they were communicating during their periods of separation that would be one thing, but it was complete radio silence.  I’m not really sure how you can fall head over heels in love with someone without being with them and/or even kissing them!  I find it hard to believe that in year 2013 there are people who accept marriage proposals without ever having once kissed their proposed intended.  Maybe it’s just that I’m a forward thinking woman, but how can you tell if you even have chemistry with that person?  Sure, chemistry on an emotional level is important, but a physical connection is just as important.

Sadly this book did not live up to my expectations.  Although there were times which I enjoyed small aspects of the story, the reasons I listed above were too great to ignore.  However, if the summary speaks to you and you want to give it a try, be my guest!  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

2 out of 5 Stars

Once Upon A Prince by Rachel Hauck
Zondervan (2013)
Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN: 9780310315476

Special thanks to Zondervan for my review copy via Netgalley!

Christine’s Review of Under the Same Stars by Tim Lott

utsstlI think there are two kinds of books in this world. The first kind knows exactly what type of book they are, whether it be fantasy, romance, literary, or contemporary fiction. They embrace what they are and try to be the very best book they can be. Sometimes they are great, sometimes they are good, and sometimes they are terrible, but at least they know what book they are.

The second kind of book doesn’t know what it is. Very often, it wants to be another type of book so badly but just doesn’t measure up, so it fails at being the book it should be as well as the one it wants to be.

In my opinion, Under the Same Stars falls into the latter category.

From the publisher:

It is late summer 2008 and, as the world economy goes into meltdown, forty-year-old Salinger Nash, plagued since adolescence by a mercurial depression, leaves the London house he shares with his girlfriend, Tiane, for his older brother’s home in the Garden District of New Orleans. Carson Nash has persuaded Salinger they should find their missing father, Henry- last known location Las Cruces, New Mexico. But it is with a sense of foreboding that Salinger sets off with his brother. Painfully aware that their own relationship is distant and strained, will dragging up the past and confronting their father going to help or harm them? Meanwhile back in London, Tiane isn’t answering Salinger’s increasingly urgent messages. Why? Tender, funny, unflinching, this is a road trip story in the great American literary tradition and an exploration of sibling rivalry that harks back to Cain and Abel. A vivid glimpse of a Britain’s ‘brother country’ through the eyes of a skeptical outsider, a profound exploration of fraternal love and a gripping journey of the soul.

The story of Cain and Abel is an old one, and has been retold in many, many forms. I think it resonates with us because our human nature, as well as and how we react to jealously, rejection, and guilt, hasn’t really changed and we relate to it still. I think Under the Same Stars wanted to be a thoughtful, literary retelling of the Cain and Abel story, but it feels forced and relies on references to other books to explain itself. It’s one thing to refer to another book, so when Salinger (this book’s version of Abel) picks up a copy of East of Eden (one of the greatest Cain & Abel re-imaginings), I rolled my eyes. But when he then reads a very thoughtful, crucial, and philosophical conversation from East of Eden out loud to Carson (the Cain character), I laughed and immediately wanted to put the book down and re-read East of Eden.

There were a few other things I did not enjoy about this story, namely a horrific act of violence against a dog. I almost did not finish the book after that happened, but I wanted to see if I could understand why the author thought it was necessary to include that bit. Honestly, I understand why it’s there, he’s showing us Cain’s violent side, but I don’t think it served the story and felt it was written for shock value more than anything.

I do believe this book could have been an interesting exploration of America and a good contemporary road trip story, but instead it tried too hard to be too many things and I felt it failed at all of them.

2 out of 5 Stars

Under the Same Stars by Tim Lott
Simon and Schuster UK (2012)
Hardcover: 352 pages
ISBN: 9781847373052

Special thanks to Simon & Schuster UK for my review copy!