Tag Archives: novella

You Had Me At Christmas: A Holiday Anthology by Karina Bliss, Stephanie Doyle, Jennifer Lohmann, and Molly O’Keefe

That’s right, I was reading Christmas novellas in October (and reviewing them in November). You Had Me At Christmas: A Holiday Anthology with contemporary romances by Karina Bliss, Stephanie Doyle, Jennifer Lohmann, and Molly O’Keefe also included a Laura Florand novella called Snow-Kissed which I reviewed separately. The anthology let me try four new-to-me authors and while I’m not sure I’ll be racing out to buy more of their books, in a genre with this much choice and so many writers to wade through, this collection appealed to my research impulses.

Romance novellas generally strip the story down to its bare essentials and focus on just the relationship between the main characters which is what I enjoy so much about them. If you like them too, I have a list of Ten Great Romance Novellas you can draw from.

 Play by Karina Bliss

From Karina Bliss’s Rock Solid series, this novella focuses on a couple that has been together since high school, but whose lives have taken a sudden turn when his long sought after dream of becoming a successful professional musician/rock star comes true. Having moved their two children to a new city and recently completed a European tour, Jared and Kayla are trying to find their way back to each other.

The prosaic reality of daily family life is quite a change from being a rock god. To compound this, in what I assume was a key element in one of the Rock Solid books, Jared joined the band through a reality show competition which would have created a steep learning curve. Suddenly, he’s a sex symbol and, while he has always been devoted to Kayla, she’s trying to cope with her new life and the ordinary insecurities of getting older feel magnified next to the glamour of their changed life.

Kayla and Jared work things out around failed dates, laundry, and sick children. I quite enjoyed the ride and may follow up with the other books in the series. Rock stars aren’t really my cup of tea, but as contemporary leads go they certainly beat all the billionaires, former elite military members, and billionaire former elite military members so thick on the ground in romance.

One Naughty Christmas Night by Stephanie Doyle

From Amazon: Workaholic Kate never expected to find herself looking for love online on Christmas night. Then John appeared on her screen and her whim to escape loneliness turned into the hottest sex of her life – even if it was via text. John knew Kate was too classy for his ex-con ass, but he was about to learn that Kate knew how to fight for what she wanted. And she wanted more of him.

Two very lonely people who find each other for one night and decide to turn it into more.I didn’t buy it.

Twelve Kisses Until Christmas by Jennifer Lohmann

From Amazon: Escaping her abusive father and small hometown to follow her dreams takes money Selina Lumina doesn’t have. After a millionaire software developer offers her a ride out of town, she has to decide whether to follow her aspirations or take a chance at love. Could a snowbound night on the road turn into a Christmas miracle?

While I deeply sympathised with Selina’s plight and was relieved when the kindness of others was enough to put her on a more hopeful path in life, I was unconvinced by the love story. It was sweet, but I didn’t believe that the two characters were a good match or made sense as a couple.

Christmas Eve: A Love Story by Molly O’Keefe

From Amazon: Growing up in the mountains of Wyoming Trina and Dean had been childhood friends until the bitter feud between their families drove them apart. When the magic of Christmas Eve tips the star-crossed lovers together year after year, will they be able to make sure this holiday is not their last?

Following the pair as they bounce through a series of Christmas time encounters over several years, Trina and Dean eventually get to a place where they are ready to be together and act on the attraction they always felt. O’Keefe did well at setting the scene and tone for each encounter, but the book never really caught my attention.

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

Spindle Cove Series: Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare

I have an addition to the Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels:

LUST IS IMPERVIOUS TO COLD.

Never mind all those times people in these books get down to their skivvies in drafty old manor houses, lust’s powers are even greater than I supposed. How else could a person wearing a linen shift and corset while standing barefoot in a snow squall be aware of anything than the fact that she is bitterly cold? But I have gotten ahead of myself. First an explanation:

Elinora, having written a popular pamphlet reminding women that they don’t need marriage to have value, is on her way to Spindle Cove. Tessa Dare fans know it as the setting of her highly entertaining series of the same name and a hive of unusual, outcast, and delightful young women. Waylaid by coach schedules and finding herself riding in a carriage with the man who rejected her years before, she and the very subject of her pamphlet (“Lord Ashwood Missed Out”) end up needing to spend the night alone together in a shepherd’s hut to last out a winter storm. They have quite a bit to sort through these two and part of it leads Nora following Dash out into the snow scantily clad. Fortunately, they make it back inside and under the covers with reasonable alacrity. Events proceed apace from there.

Being a Spindle Cove novella, the reader gets to visit with Dare’s previous characters – Griff and Pauline; Thorne and Kate; Colin and Minerva; and Bram and Susanna – who  are caught up in  Nora’s impending visit and sexual one-upmanship amongst themselves. More importantly, we get to see Minerva’s sister, Charlotte, who is going to have a book of her own. Huzzah!

Lord Dashwood Missed Out is not a particularly strong novella. My battle with Dare’s insistence that I not only willingly suspend my disbelief, but club it into submission continues. It’s not just that some events are historically questionable, but that they are questionable full stop. I didn’t feel like I ever really connected with the characters, particularly Dash, and as a whole the plot seemed haphazardly joined together. Dare does have a charming novella called The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright which I suggest you read instead.

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.

How to Catch a Wild Viscount by Tessa Dare

Read The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright instead. It’s wonderful.

How to Catch a Wild Viscount came as part of a 99 cent novella set. The grouping includes works by Courtney Milan, Caroline Linden, and other current authors. I quite like novellas as they are a quick read and strip the story down to its bare bones, but what I just said is the only reason to read this book. It’s an early work by an author on my autobuy list, Tessa Dare, and I just wanted to see what it was like.

From Amazon: She’s on the hunt for a hero…

Luke Trenton, Viscount Merritt, returned from war a changed man. Battle stripped away his civility and brought out his inner beast. There is no charm or tenderness in him now; only dark passions and a hardened soul. He has nothing to offer the starry-eyed, innocent girl who pledged her heart to him four years ago.

But Cecily Hale isn’t a girl any longer. She’s grown into a woman–one who won’t be pushed away. She and Luke are guests at a house party when a local legend captures their friends’ imaginations. While the others plunge into the forest on a wild goose…er, stag chase, Cecily’s on the hunt for a man. She has only a few moonlit nights to reach the real Luke…the wounded heart she knows still beats inside the war-ravaged body…or she could lose him to the darkness forever.

It’s a pleasant little novella, but certainly nothing to make an effort to seek out. Dare has published many works since this one and while it isn’t bad, they are all better. Yes, even the one I hated. The plot of How to Catch a Wild Viscount (summarized above) has a paranormal element involving a “werestag” and unless you are Kresley Cole and I can write angry, spiteful reviews of your works, I have no interest in mythical creatures be they metaphorical or literal.

One interesting note: The main characters engage in an act against the drawing room wall and while Ms. Dare writes world-class [insert funky bass-line here] and is the willing-suspension-of-disbeliefiest of all my favourite authors, there is NO WAY IN HELL they doing that in the middle of the day in a public room, Regency or otherwise.

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.

The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare

The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright is a gem. A delightful Regency romance pared down to its bare bones, this quick read is a perfect of example of what a novella can be and why I love them. There are no machinations, diversions, or distractions. Tessa Dare provides a witty, bright, engaging love story focused entirely on the winning main characters.

Owing to a pubescent scandal, Eliza Cade has been sentenced to wait to enter society until her older sisters are married. Hers is an adventurous spirit and Eliza is clamoring against the wait for her life to begin. Nonetheless, at the age of eighteen, she manages to encounter the scandalous, dissolute, no-good Mr. Harry Wright at a party when he has tucked himself away in a side room waiting for an assignation to begin. Harry takes to Eliza instantly and it is clear they are well matched, but she is too young and he too worldly for anything to come of their undeniable appeal for each other.

The novella proceeds to bounce through their subsequent encounters, some separated by a year or more, as Eliza matures and Harry tries to manage, and eventually succumbs to, his attraction to her. It is never once inappropriate or discomfiting. Rather, it progresses from “I recognize myself in you” and “you are such fun to talk to” towards deeper, mature feelings. The story is entertaining, consistently funny, and absolutely charming, plus it’s only $.99 for your e-reader.

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.

 

A Handful of Gold by Mary Balogh (with Bonus Romance Review Template)

I decided to fashion a fill-in-the-blank romance novel review to make these posts easier to write:

Part A. The Summary: (Title) is a romance of the (“you are everything I never knew I always wanted”/opposites attract/love story balanced with a strong subplot/teach me how to love/I know I am unworthy, but I love you so) variety: Boy meets girl. (Specify relationship obstruction). (Oblique hint at resolution). Boy and girl move forward together secure in their love and commitment.

Part B. The Introduction: A (historical/contemporary/paranormal) romance set in (location and time period) and written by (author’s first and last name), (title) is my (first/second, etc.) book by this author. (If this is an author you have read before, please complete the following:) I generally find her work (pleasant/a good time filler/spectacular/reliable/fun/vile, but the book was free). (Comment on previous work and link to other reviews where possible). I found (title) (suggested descriptors that can be supplemented as needed: enjoyable/lacklustre/misogynistic/soporific/,and/or romantic). I (will continue to/will not) seek out (author’s last name)’s other novels because this one (was nothing special/showed promise/was really good/passed the time pleasantly enough), (and/but/although) I (would/would not) recommend this particular effort.

Part C. The Plot: The main plot of (title) focuses on (the reformation of a rake/the awakening of a wallflower/a revenge plot/a road trip/an intrigue or mystery/their marriage of convenience/and/or the healing of a tortured hero and/or heroine). (Hero’s name and title, as appropriate) is (that rake/a protector). He is (insert three adjectives). (Comment on his general appeal or lack thereof, specify traits leading to this conclusion.) The heroine, (name and title, as appropriate), is a (wallflower/victim of circumstance). She is (choose three adjectives with special focus on her relatability). (Insert MacGuffin.) (Hero and heroine’s names) (are/are not) instantly attracted to each other. Over time, they come to discover that despite any challenges they face, they make an excellent team.

Part D. The Subplot: (Continue to Section E, if there is no significant subplot, or if it is uninteresting.)

The subplot in (title) revolves around (the reformation of a rake/the awakening of a wallflower/a revenge plot/a road trip/an intrigue or mystery/their marriage of convenience/and/or the healing of a tortured hero and/or heroine) It was (an excellent addition well-executed/cumbersome and got in the way of the main story).

Part E. Conclusion: (Reword opinions stated in Part B. The Introduction.) (Make general comments on the quality of the writing either positive or taking pleasure in being cleverly derisive). (If the book is not recommended, provide a suggestion for a romance with a similar theme more successfully presented.)

Part F. Closing: (Insert link to annotated list of available reviews for readers’ edification.)

© 2013 Mrs. Julien Presents

Let’s give the format a go with the Christmas novella A Handful of Gold by Mary Balogh …

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