I have a confession to make.
I fell down a rabbit hole of trashy romance novels, and I’m just now fighting my way out. I discovered a fantastic site called Dear Author, where a number of bloggers review romance novels of all stripes (including my beloved ‘paranormal romances’ by Patricia Briggs and Illona Andrews). I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading traditional romance novels, with the exception of my beloved Carla Kelly, and I especially have not been a fan of contemporary romances. That said, I found Dear Author because of their favorable review of Kelly’s new book, Marriage of Mercy (released June 1). I started clicking around and came across a recommendation for a contemporary romance called About Last Night, so I downloaded a sample, was hooked, and bought the book.
Of course, Amazon had a number of recommendations for me based on this purchase, and that’s how I went off the rails.
- About Last Night (Dear Author review here) and Ride with Me, by Ruthie Knox.
- Marriage of Mercy (a new release!) and Reforming Lord Ragsdale(re-release) by Carla Kelly. Ms. Kelly rarely disappoints me. Many of her older titles are being published in ebook format, which is fantastic. As I’ve said before, she’s one of my ‘go to’ authors, and I have probably read each of her books at least a half-dozen times.
- In the Arms of the Law (Deborah Harmse) was quite similar in plot to See How They Run (below), but poorly executed. Bad plotting, bad characters, zero redeeming qualities.
- Child Bride(Suzanne Forster) was terrible. I finished it, but just barely. I found the author’s characterization of the heroine to be problematic – she is presented as an inexperienced and ‘innocent’ young woman, but her innocence seemed fetishized to the point of being rather creepily child-like.
Damned with Faint Praise:
- See How They Run (Bethany Campbell). When autistic students witness a mob hit, they are taken into protective custody, along with their teacher. The teacher develops a relationship with one of their protectors. Although this is billed as a ‘loveswept contemporary romance,’ it reads much more like a suspense/mystery, with a little romance on the side.
- Because of You (Jessica Scott) was a complete surprise to me – it’s the story of a breast-cancer survivor and an injured Afghanistan vet. (Apparently this is a whole sub-genre, but I’d never been exposed to it). Good characters. I’d read another book by this author.
- Remember the Time (Annette Reynolds) reminded me of something Anita Shreve might write. There’s a romance story in there, but you also get an interesting plot that manages to make the typical boy-girl-boy high school love triangle feel fresh. There is also a bit of mystery thrown in. However, this book employs a plot device that I despise – telling parts of the story from the p.o.v. of some random character (or character who died prior to the story at hand), merely for expository purposes.