Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

I don’t get it. How did Hate to Want You make it onto a Best of the Year list? Granted, 2017 was a disappointing year for romance readers, but even with that in mind, this is a surprising inclusion.

Plot Synopsis: A teen romance torn apart by family rivalries and agita, leaves the two lovers years later finding what solace they can in one night a year together. When the woman, Livvy, moves home, can she and Nicholas find their way to be together in all ways and always? Yes, but only in romance fiction.

This is what I did and did not like: about this overrated romance:

  1. I brought my bias against reunion plots with me.
  2. Livvy is a tattoo artist and she likes to draw on Nicholas. That’s cool.
  3. There’s too much sex. I think I’ve only said that once before.
  4. The sex was busy being crazy-mega-earnestly passionate and kinda naughty.
  5. “This magical land of not giving a fuck was pretty cool” #lifegoals
  6. The writing was really on the nose.
  7. Their relationship shouldn’t work. They were right to break up.
  8. I don’t like the “I shall never love another” trope. You were children. Move on.
  9. It felt like an adult relationship written by a teenager.
  10. The family drama was over-the-top and I didn’t believe for a second they could overcome it and move on.

That’s all I have for now. I haven’t posted a review in such a long time, that I’m working to get my mojo back.  Hate to Want You was facile and trite and, most importantly, overrated.

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

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Mary Balogh Reading List

Every time I read or review a Balogh romance, I say the following: If Mary Balogh’s publisher made her back catalogue available $4 or less each, I would stockpile it.

Balogh writes Regency romances about sensible people finding love.

Themes: Love moves one out of one’s comfort zone, and one needs to in order to find a true and passionate match.

I’ve read a bunch of Balogh that I haven’t reviewed. She’s a prolific and reliable author.

The Slightly Series:
Slightly Married – no
Slightly Wicked
Slightly Scandalous (Josh/Freya) – he’s fun, she’s a bit of a pill
Slightly Tempted
Slightly Sinful
Slightly Dangerous (Wulfric/Christine) CLASSIC

The Simply Series:
Simply Unforgettable
Simply Love
– no recollection
Simply Magic
Simply Perfect
– sweet

The Survivors’ Club:
The Proposal  (Hugo/Gwen) – pleasant
The Arrangement  (Vincent/Sophia) – very sweet, understated
The Escape (Benedict/Samantha) – meh
Only Enchanting (Flavian/Agnes) – WONDERFUL, read this one. Read it twice. I have.
Only a Promise  (Ralph/Chloe) – very good
Only a Kiss (Percy/Imogen) – nothing special
Only Beloved (George/Dora) – a sweet wrap up to the series

The Westcott Series:
Someone to Love (Avery/Anna) – disliked the hero
Someone to Hold (Joel/Camille) – great character development
Someone to Wed (Alexander/Wren)
Someone to Care (Marcel/Viola)
Someone to Trust (Colin/Elizabeth)
Someone to Honor (Gil/Abigail)
Someone to Remember (novella) (Charles/Matilda)

Also:
A Matter of Class novella (Reggie/Annabelle)

Penny Reid Reading List

Knitting in the City Series:
Neanderthal Seeks Human – I ADORE the heroine, I’ve re-read it a few times, recommend
Friends Without Benefits – Meh
Neanderthal Marries Human – More strangely compelling, also re-read, love her
Love Hacked – differently strangely compelling, the heroine is a pip
Beauty and the Mustache – Really liked it, Winston sister, recommend
Ninja at First Sight – Cute-ish
Happily Ever Ninja – NOPE!
Dating-ish: A Humanoid Romance – Meh
Marriage of Inconvenience – mostly pretty good

Winston Brothers Series:
Truth or Beard – too much comeheregoaway
Grin and Beard It – pretty darn good
Beard Science – decent
Beard in Mind – very good, recommend
Dr. Strangebeard – I appear to have read it. I don’t remember it at all.
Beard Necessities– not yet published

Dear Professor Series:
Kissing Tolstoy – Loathed it

Other:
Elements of Chemistry – Very frustrating, young adult romance
The Hooker and the Hermit – Loathed it, made me stabby

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

Castles Ever After Series: Do You Want to Start a Scandal? by Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare’s latest Regency romance series is called The Duchess Deal and I would recommend its first book, Girl Meets Duke, over Do You Want to Start a Scandal? This crossover story between Dare’s Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After novels, features the youngest of the Highwood sisters and longtime troublemaker, Charlotte, who has both eldest sibling Diana’s desire for a loving home and intellectual Minerva‘s sense of adventure.

Piers Brandon, Lord Granville is an agent of the crown performing reconnaissance at a two-week house party in the English countryside. Devoted to his duty to King and country, he is caught off guard when Charlotte Highwood presents herself to him with a warning: Her mother will be trying to force a match between them and they must be careful to avoid it. Before you can say “in flagrante delicto”, Charlotte and Piers are caught alone together and giving the appearance of having crossed several lines. Their betrothal now imminent, they agree to the appearance of an understanding to get through the remainder of the estate. Kissing book plotting has other plans for them. After all,  it is a romance novel truth universally acknowledged that a peer must be in want of an heir.

Autocratic and closed off Piers is drawn to Charlotte’s intelligence and charm, while she soon learns that below the surface and behind his protective walls is a loving and passionate man. As they wend their way through plot machinations, they discover they are mad for each other and all that’s left is the genre’s forgone conclusion. I didn’t buy it for a second.

I tried reading Do You Want to Start a Scandal twice –  once in my original attempt and again for this review. It’s amazing how much of my time was taken up with wondering “How old is Piers exactly?” in the midst of skipping forward to find a more interesting part of the story. Charlotte is “not yet twenty-one” and while Piers’ age is never specifically stated, he must be at least 32. A twelve (or more) year age gap is not unheard of, but it didn’t work here. While I’d like an older heroine, the problem is not actually her age. I just don’t see what she has to offer Piers. What could they possibly find as common ground to build a relationship on? All of her youthful exuberance serves to remind me that he is a person of much greater experience in life and of the world and the writing failed to convince me that they were on the same page.

With the lack of well-matched characters overshadowing the story, I wasn’t especially worried about Dare’s usual requirement that I bludgeon and sequester my willing suspension of disbelief or that the revelation of the true goings on by the supporting characters was preposterous. I require somewhat more Regency and somewhat less modern farce in my historical romances.

Julie Anne Long’s classic historical romance What I Did for a Duke features a large age gap convincingly rendered. She’s twenty years old to his thirty-nine.

A complete summary of Tessa Dare’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

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The Winston Brothers: Beard in Mind by Penny Reid

Buying all of Penny Reid‘s Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City books means that I have ridden the roller coaster of her uneven stories. The writing is always fine, and often much better than that, but she hits more rough patches than smooth and doesn’t always manage her plot complications well. Those issues are dealt with, mostly, in Beard in Mind and along the way, the reader gets to see couples from previous books, including Quinn and (my favourite) Janie.

One of Reid’s best efforts, Beard in Mind is a strong entry to the Winston Brothers series with its tortured heroine and the world’s most affable hero. Beau Winston is a sincere charmer. Helpful, well-intentioned, and self-possessed, he does not know what to make of the extraordinarily prickly new mechanic in the family auto repair shop. Shelly Sullivan, sister of Neanderthal Seeks Human’s Quinn, is irascible and difficult. Her habit of cutting people off at the knees perplexes and fascinates Beau. Shelly gets under his skin and her obstreperousness doesn’t stop him from falling for her as he comes to understand the reasons behind it and respect the person she is.

So often in romances, the hero is exasperating and the love of the heroine is traditionally redemptive. It’s nice to see the trope switched here. Shelly, however, doesn’t require of fixing/redeeming. She has OCD and what she needs is someone who sees her as whole, has expectations of her, and understands that sometimes she is at war with her own mind. Beau, while going through his own issues, is the right man for her. Each is responsible for managing their challenges or “fixing their own refrigerator” as it is described in this story. You root for Shelly to find what she needs and to be given/take the opportunity to participate fully in life and relationships.

I would recommend Beard in Mind not just because it’s Reid’s strongest book in a while, but because it contains a sublimely romantic moment. Given the genre and the number of books I read, you’d think these would occur more often, but they simply don’t and this one was the equal of the very short list of those I keep in my head and can track on the fingers of one hand.

Penny Reid’s Catalogue gives an overview of her published works , some of which I recommend and some of which I dislike intensely.

Links to my other reviews 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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A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

“I don’t think anything inspired me except the necessity of coming up with a story so that I could fulfill my obligation to a contract I had agreed to! I had to dream up a story, and this one popped into my head.” Mary Balogh in the interview following A Matter of Class. Nonetheless, as an experienced, and clearly honest, professional writer, she delivered a sincerely charming  historical romance novella.

Reggie and Annabelle are lifelong neighbours divided by a waterway as well as the barriers of class levels in so-called polite society. Their estates may be next to each other and they may go to the same church, but his self-made father and her top-lofty, though cash poor,  sire have been at odds for Reggie and Annabelle’s entire lives.

Told in present day and flashbacks, the reader learns that Reggie has become a dissolute spendthrift more interested in the tassels on his new Hoby boots than settling down. He’s a minor scandal compared to the fact that Annabelle has recently been recovered from an unsuccessful, but nonetheless scandalous, elopement with a family servant. Disgraced, impecunious, and in need of being advantageously foisted off on a man of means, the fathers make a plan for their children to marry. Reggie and Annabelle have plans of their own.

Light and quick, A Matter of Class moves entertainingly towards its resolution with some clever twists along the way. I recommend it as and strongly suspect I will be revisiting it when in need of a lift.

My favourite Balogh novels:
The Survivors’ Club:Only Enchanting – great book and wonderful hero
The Slightly Series: Slightly Dangerous – this one is a classic

For more Mary Balogh book reviews you can go here.

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

 Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata

Mariana Zapata is very good writer who specializes in slow burn contemporary romance. She doesn’t necessarily drag out the timeline, but she takes her time building characters, especially the heroine, into well-rounded people. Her heroes then match up to these strong women really well. While the men in each of her novels may not be dreamy to the reader, they are clearly excellent partners for the women. The first book of hers I read, Kulti, is a classic and I also recommend Wait For It. My feelings are not as warm for Dear Aaron.

Ruby has volunteered to be the pen pal of a member of the military serving overseas. She gets matched up with Aaron and the two begin a long distance and progressively closer correspondence that culminates in a romantic relationship. Moving from emails to texts, they are clearly falling for each other as their communication becomes more intimate, until at last they meet, and by that point I just didn’t care. It might have worked better if I found Ruby likable. She was immature and so insecure as to be frustrating. I understand Zapata was creating an anxious, quirky character, but she just didn’t work for me.

The format of Dear Aaron also played into my disappointment with it. Since Aaron is overseas, a large portion of the book is epistolary and it’s not a format that I embrace. It’s annoyed me ever since my mother bought my sisters and me our own personal copies of A Woman of Independent Means. She bought it for me twice and I couldn’t get through it either time. With Dear Aaron, the waiting time for Ruby and Aaron to meet and come together felt endlessly drawn out and the messaging didn’t help. Zapata may write slow burn romances, but I’m surprised she didn’t run out of matches.

I haven’t tried Zapata’s The Wall of Winnipeg yet and may well do so on a quiet weekend. Either I wasn’t paying attention or her back catalogue is starting to flow out because it seemed to me she had one or two other books out when I read Kulti and now she has half a dozen or so. She may be a bit hit or miss, but I am going to keep trying.

Also by Mariana Zapata as mentioned above:
Kulti – CLASSIC!
Wait for It – Very enjoyable, recommended

Sidebar Recommendation: Anna Richland’s His Road Home is a wonderful novella about a soldier who has come home from the Middle East and is recovering from his wounds with the support and, ultimately, love of an old acquaintance. It’s lovely.

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