Tag Archives: romance novella

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.

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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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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.

His Road Home by Anna Richland

There are a lot of wounded heroes in romance novels, but His Road Home must be the first one I’ve read in which we meet the hero straight from the battlefield. Often, the men are well away from their traumatizing experience, left with a dramatic facial scar or bad dreams that can be eased by the love of the right woman and heal them. This contemporary romance novella is not that book.

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While serving in Afghanistan, Rey Cruz invented a fiancee to simplify a negotiation. To bolster his story, he used a photo of a real woman from his home town that he he knew only vaguely. When he was wounded helping a child, his story gained traction in social media and suddenly his photoshopped engagement picture went viral. No one will listen to Grace Kim when she says she doesn’t even know Rey and she finds herself with a free plane ticket from Seattle to his bedside at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Rey has lost both his legs, one below and one above the knee, and his ability to speak. His cognitive functions are fine, but he has great difficulty communicating both in writing and with his voice. He manages single words mostly. Grace is overwhelmed, but decides to take the week she has been given to stay with Rey and help him at the hospital. It’s an absolutely lovely use of a marriage of convenience.

As this is a great book, sensibly Rey and Grace do not fall in love during that week. They establish a bond that continues to grow after she returns home. Discovering he can type his thoughts without trouble, they build a sufficiently close and intimate relationship through daily texts that when Rey is ready to go home to Washington state months later, Grace agrees to drive his car cross-country with him. This is when they truly come together in a partnership.

Over the course of the road trip, Grace finds that being outside her comfort zone with Rey is exactly what she needs and he confirms that she is a strong and wonderful woman. His Road Home neither shies away from nor wallows in the details and ramifications of Rey’s injuries.  He is not magically cured, he manages his physical challenges. His speaking, while it improves, remains limited. Heartfelt and down-to-earth, I loved the story. Rey is a whole man who has found a woman who can see past any supposed limitations to the great guy who is still there.

His Road Home won Romance Writers of America’s 2015 RITA® Award for Best Romance Novella and I can certainly see why. In fact, I am going to keep this list of finalists in all categories handy as a resource for finding new authors.

Later Review Addition: Because it is part of why I picked up the book and diversity is something I and my fellow readers have sought out in the genre, I want to mention that both Grace and Rey are children of immigrants and first generation Americans.

Other Novels with Wounded Men Done Well:

Let me know if I’ve missed any.

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