Thin Love by Eden Butler

I still, despite all the inconsistencies, go to online reviews to help choose books to read. Thin Love was strongly recommended, cheap, and had the added appeal of a lead character who was a person of colour which is always welcome. Unfortunately, much of the romance between Keira and Kona is centered around the kind of relationship chaos that passes for passion with teenagers and in badly written novels, and resulted in it being my first DNF (did not finish) novel of the year. I read most of it, but resorted to skimming once its bumptiousness became truly annoying. Eden Butler’s writing was trite and the viewpoint sophomoric.

“And I wouldn’t use a situation like this to take advantage of a girl.”
“I never said…”
“I don’t have to Keira.”
He hoped she caught his meaning.

Bully for you, Kona! I’m delighted to learn you don’t have to use force to get laid. What  would happen if you did “have to”? He is truly a treasure:

“Don’t fish, Tonya. It makes you look common.” And Kona realized that’s what he didn’t like about girls like her. They were common. They were all the same, clones of each other trying to stick out, each one mimicking the other until their faces were indistinguishable.”

I assume these are the same women Kona doesn’t have to take advantage of since he has just slept with Tonya owing to sexual frustration in his relationship with Keira. Kona is in love with someone else, sleeps with Tonya, and then belittles her for acting exactly the same way he has.

“He got Tonya with little effort. He got her because that morning while he ran before class, she followed, trailed behind him like a prowling cat. He gave the kitty her cream, and now? Well. he felt like shit about it.”

Oink.

You aren’t telling the reader who Tonya is, Eden Butler, intentionally or not, you are telling the reader who your hero is. I wish there weren’t so many romances saying that  sexually active women who aren’t the heroine are desperate, vapid whores, or that there’s nothing wrong with a man who sleeps with whomever he wants but regards those women as beneath his contempt as well as his body. She was good enough to be inside of, but not seen as a person.

The relationship between the hero and heroine in Thin Love is filled with jealousy, violent gestures, breakups and makeups until they truly splinter apart… only to find each other again years later for one last round of chaos before they make their way to happily ever after. I finished enough of Thin Love to be appalled by it and skimmed the rest to meet my review obligations, vexed that once again melodrama and havoc has been presented as a love story.

Links to my other reviews (including books worth reading) can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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The cover is the best part of the book.

So You Want to Read a (Historical, Contemporary, New Adult, Paranormal) Romance …

Alternatively: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

This recommendations list is gleaned from at least 80 authors and over 500 books.

Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started

Looking for something specific? Here’s a list of authors I’ve read enough to see thematic consistencies and it’s hard to go wrong with these writers:

Tessa Dare – FUN, bring your willing suspension of disbelief, on double-secret probation right now
Laura Florand – contemporary romances set in France, great intensity
Carla Kelly – lovely Regency romances, often military-themed
Lisa Kleypas  – the gold standard, also writes contemporaries
Julie Anne Long – extremely clever and funny
Courtney Milan – The very best currently publishing, one for the pantheon.
Julia Quinn – An excellent place to launch your reading. Start with The Bridgertons.

I lovehate Jennifer Ashley’s sincere romance mired in tortured heroes and overwrought plotting.

This list is an edited version of my Complete Reading List by Author. Reviewed books are linked.

Mallory, a frequent commenter, asked me to make a personal Top 5 list. I tried. I couldn’t do it.

CLASSICS

  1. Balogh, Mary Slightly Dangerous – historical
  2. Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date  – new adult novella
  3. Chase, Loretta Lord of Scoundrelshistorical
  4. Gabaldon, Diana Outlanderhistorical
  5. Heyer, Georgette Venetia (Dameral/Venetia) – historical
  6. Jenkins, Beverly Indigo  – historical
  7. Kinsale, Laura Flowers from the Storm old school, historical
  8. Kleypas, Lisa Dreaming of You  historical
  9. Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter  – historical
  10. Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke historical
  11. Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter historical novella
  12. Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal  historical
  13. Montgomery, L.M. The Blue Castle historical now, but not when published
  14. Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton  Bridgerton Book 4 – historical
  15. Thorne, Sally The Hating Game – contemporary

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Bridgewater Menage Series Book 1: Their Kidnapped Bride by Vanessa Vale

Make no mistake, this western historical romance was the worst book I had the displeasure to read in 2016, has a place on my online list of The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read, and Vanessa Vale is on the Avoid at All Costs list I maintain in my noggin.

Emma James is sold to a brothel by her evil step-brother. Given a choice between paying off the cost of her purchase by working as a prostitute or being auctioned off as a bride, she chooses the latter. I’ll let Amazon take it from there: One look at Emma James and Whitmore Kane and Ian Stewart know she would belong to them. Marriage was the only way to truly claim her… they return to the Bridgewater Ranch and teach her the ways to please not one husband, but two.

Not just badly written, Their Kidnapped Bride is one of the vilest, most offensive romances I have had to draw on an iron will to finish, and I’m pretty sure it was actually just a novella. Never mind the threesome aspect of the plot – that’s a “to each their own” element – the story itself is a bizarre alt-right, meninist fantasy entrenched in patronizing, misogynistic notions of “female empowerment” wherein so-called female power derives from gladly subjugating herself completely to the husbands who know best what she needs and what will fulfill her.

Kane and Ian served together in a fabricated Middle-Eastern-sounding country based on ethnic stereotypes, Mohamir, and learned from their way of life that women are most satisfied in plural marriages in which all authority and obedience is given to her husbands. Contentment and happiness come from her acceptance of subservience to the men and their roles, in turn, of providing protection and sexual gratification. With constant refrains of “good girl”, Emma is treated like a child, humiliated, and physically punished to learn her place and soon she is a desperately begging for sex and seeking to keep her men sated. Nothing belongs to Emma, not her body, not even her pleasure. It is theirs to command and control.

Conveniently for the ongoing series, the threesome lives in a community in which all of the men served in the same unit as Kane and Ian and their relationships are also based on the sharing of a wife. At her first meal, Emma meets Ann and learns what awaits her. For an acquiescent woman, even eating supper is an opportunity for to prove her worth and joy by deciding she needs sex too badly to concentrate on eating.  Her men reward her with what she needs. In this way, the story alternates between erotica, shards of plot, and discomfiting juxtapositions of carnal relations and submissiveness.

I did read another menage a trois romance this year, Home for Three, and it was awful as well, but in a completely different way. Links to my other reviews (including books worth reading) can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Sidebar: For once, I approve of the limited WordPress dictionary. It doesn’t recognize “meninist” as a word.

Kulti by Mariana Zapata

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When I wrote “barring a dark horse in December, I am quite sure this is going to be the best romance I read all year,” about The Hating Game, I didn’t honestly expect there to be challenger. What a pleasure it is to be rounding out the year with Kulti which is a fantastic contemporary romance and one that is on theme for 2016 with a difficult hero, c.f. Dukes Prefer Blondes, Hold Me (review to come), and Act Like It.

Correctly described to me as “terrible and magnificent” by my friend and fellow reviewer, the hero of the book is the eponymous Reiner “King” Kulti, a world-renowned, retired soccer superstar. Arriving in Houston as an assistant coach for the Women’s Professional League franchise, he’s ambivalent about his presence there and soon so is everyone else. Kulti was Sal Castillo’s childhood hero and teenage crush, the man who helped inspire her to relentlessly pursue her goal to play soccer for a living and to excel at her chosen sport.

Told from Sal’s perspective, Kulti is a longer than average romance that moves really well and is also a slow burn. Practicing in the morning, and running her small landscaping business in the afternoon to make ends meet on her meager player salary, Sal is perplexed by her brooding and silent coach whom she often refers to simply as “the German”. When she does finally get a better sense of him, it’s not a good start, but the two stumble towards friendship. Thirty-nine to her twenty-seven, Rey is terse, tough, uncompromising, and frequently tactless. What to some extent, but not completely, balances out Rey’s tendency towards being difficult is the decorum with which he treats their budding relationship out of respect for their professional roles and the fact that, while often frustrating, he is generous and willing to learn from his mistakes.

There aren’t a lot of romances in which both the hero and heroine are elite athletes. Sal and Rey are very physical people and complete jocks. They eat, sleep, live, and breath sports. Neither one was secretly bookish or nerdy.  I loved it. She just wants to play and be the best she can. Rey, retired and perhaps a little lost, is well aware of Sal’s potential and wants to help her fulfill it. He knows she could be one of the greats of their sport, despite the recognition limitations for women.

Rey can be a hard person to like at times, but the glee and directness with which Sal stands up to him compensates for a lot. He may not be the nicest man in the world, but, honestly, very few men in these books are. Steadfast and honourable, yes, but arrogance is a frequent element in romantic heroes and Zapata has the integrity to write one who remains true to himself throughout. What Kulti lacks in a soft touch, he makes up for in fierce loyalty, devotion, and willingness to have his faults brought to his attention.

Kulti is one of the best romances I’ve read this year and I’ve added it to my romance recommendations list. I will be keeping an eye on Mariana Zapata for more stories that take their time and have beautifully paced character development.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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I Will by Lisa Kleypas

An addendum to Lisa Kleypas’s Capitol Theatre series, I Will is a very bad Christmas novella that my friend suggested had been lying in a drawer at the author’s house for years. Dated in many elements, I had at first suspected it was ghost written, but a long abandoned manuscript makes more sense. Shortly after I began reading, I found myself wondering how I would feel about the book and quality of the writing if it didn’t have the Queen of Romance’s name on it. Admittedly, Kleypas’s last couple of historicals have not lived up to her very high standards, but I Will is a mess.

From Amazon: Andrew, Lord Drake, has been cut out of his father’s will because of his dissolute manner of living. To be reinstated, Andrew decides to pretend that he has changed his wicked ways. As part of his plan, he wants to convince his father that he is courting a respectable woman with the intention of marrying her. The problem is, he doesn’t know any decent women, except for his friend’s spinster sister, Miss Caroline Hargreaves. He blackmails the reluctant Caroline into helping him, and so the charade begins …

In addition to the extortion plot, which is disappointing, the rest of the story feels either cobbled together or shoehorned in. It’s as though significant gaps that were to be filled in later were never revisited. I’ve read virtually all of her books and the writing doesn’t even come across as Kleypas’s style, it has almost none of her spark or smolder. But these shortcomings pale in comparison to issues I had with the love scene late in the book. After a period of estrangement, the hero is delivered to the heroine handcuffed to a bed. In order to convince him they should be together, this completely inexperienced, naive young woman decides she will seduce the hero back to her. It’s an attempted rape and I found it extremely distasteful to read. Had it been written by anyone else, I would have stopped reading then and there, if I had not given up on I Will already.

Despite this effort and since she is indeed one of the best romance writers in the business, please visit my complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue for recommendations, including two classics and a few of my personal favourites.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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Rock Kiss Series : Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

Inspiring a list of The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read, I think sums up my opinion of the first book in Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series, but the long version is below anyway.

From Amazon: Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media’s harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction… Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he’ll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own.

There are a lot of hackneyed, poorly written elements in Rock Addiction, such as telling instead of showing us how the leads feel, the hero thinking of the heroine like a child that needs to be trained, but do you know what really bothered me? The hero uses his hand on the back of the heroine’s neck to steer her, and this…

“Gripping her jaw, he said, “You don’t get to treat me as disposable.””

“He gripped her chin to turn her back toward him.”

“He watched her close the door, then imprisoned her against it by slamming his hands palms-down on either side of her body.”

“Grabbing her wrists, he pinned her arms above her head with one big hand. He gripped her chin with the other, the green of his irises violent and his breath hot against her skin…His fingers tightened on her wrists, his other hand curling around her throat…”

GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF HER!

It’s not sexy, it’s not passionate, it’s not romantic. The hero uses his physical strength to control and intimidate the heroine.  Take your rock star clichés, your trite writing, and your “BUT EVEN IN HIS ANGER, HE HADN’T HURT HER” and never darken my Kindle again, Nalini Singh.

Links to my other reviews (including books worth reading) can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I just hated them so much! I recommend none of them.

There can be no doubt, Kresley Cole would have more entries had I had continued reading her novels.

Sarina Bowen, Penny Reid, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips have the dubious distinction of being both on this list AND my recommendations list.

  1. Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
  2. Barrett, Jo Nothing to Commend Her (Magnus/Agatha)
  3. Bennett, Sawyer Alex: A Cold Fury Hockey Novel (Alex/Sutton)
  4. Berg, J.L. When You’re Ready (Logan/Clare)
  5. Blair, Annette Jacob’s Return (Jacob/Rachel)
  6. Blake, Jennifer The Tuscan’s Revenge Wedding (Nico/Amanda)
  7. Bliss, Chelle Throttle Me – Men of Inked Book 1 (“City” Joey/Suzy)
  8. Bowen, Sarina The Fifteenth Minute (DJ/Lianne)
  9. Boyce, Elizabeth Once a Duchess (Marshall/Isabelle)
  10. Brogan, Tracy Highland Surrender  (Myles/Fiona)
  11. Butler, Eden Thin Love (Kona/Keira)
  12. Callihan, Kristen Idol (Killian/Libby)
  13. Cole, Kresley A Hunger Like No Other  (Lachlain/Emma) VILE
  14. Cole, Kresley Macrieve  (Uilliam/Chloe) VILER
  15. Darcy, Norma The Bluestocking and the Rake (Robert/Georgiana)
  16. Dee, Cara Noah (Noah/Julian)
  17. DiPasqua, Lila Undone (Simon/Angelica) *Worst of 2013*
  18. Dune, Lyla Low Tide Bikini (Brock/Sam)
  19. Ford, Rhys Sinner’s Gin (Kane/Miki)
  20. Foster, Melissa Sisters in Love (Blake/Danica) a. God b. Awful
  21. Garvis Graves, Tracey Heart-Shaped Hack (Ian/Kate) – Worst of 2016 Contender
  22. Goodger, Jane When a Duke Says I Do (Alexander/Elsie)
  23. Harber, Cristin Sweet Girl (Cash/Nicola)
  24. Hawkins, J.D. Insatiable 1 and 2 (Jax/Lizzie)
  25. Jackson, A.L. A Stone in the Sea (Sebastian “Baz”/Shea)
  26. Johnson, Julie Not You, It’s Me (Chase/Gemma)
  27. Kell, Amber Attracting Anthony (Silver/Anthony)
  28. Lee, Jade Wedded in Scandal (Robert/Helaine)
  29. Lilley, R.K. In Flight (James/Bianca)
  30. Long, Andie M. The Alphabet Game (Gabe/Stella)
  31. Mabie, M. Bait (Casey/Blake)
  32. Malone, M. Tank (“Tank” Tanner/Emma)
  33. McNaught, Judith Once and Always (Jason/Victoria)
  34. Merrow, J.L Muscling Through (Al/Larry)
  35. Michaels, Jess An Introduction to Pleasure: Mistress Matchmaker (Andrew/Lysandra!)
  36. Novark, Anna Marie The Doctor Wears a Stetson (Cameron/Jessie)
  37. Pamfiloff, Mimi Jean fugly (Maxwell/Lily)
  38. Phillips, Susan Elizabeth This Heart of Mine (Kevin/Molly) WORST HEROINE OF 2014
  39. Reid, Penny Elements of Chemistry (Martin/Kaitlyn)
  40. Reid, Penny & L.H. Cosway The Hooker and the Hermit (Ronan/Annie)
  41. Roberts, Holly S. Play: New Adult Sports Romance (Killian/Rebecca)
  42. Schone, Robin The Lady’s Tutor (Ramiel, The Bastard Sheikh/Elizabeth)
  43. Singh, Nalini Rock Addiction (Fox/Molly)
  44. Stewart, Nicole Home for Three (Selwyn/Jack/Kess)
  45. Vale, Vanessa Their Kidnapped Bride (Kane, Ian, Emma) Worst of the Year 2016
  46. Ward, JR Dark Lover (Wrath/Beth)
  47. Wylde, Anya Penelope (Charles/Penelope) *Most Inept of 2013*

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