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review 2017-09-14 03:12
You'll Be the Death of Me! by Stacia Wolf
You'll Be the Death of Me! - Stacia Wolf

You’ll Be the Death of Me! stars Allison Leavitt, a successful mystery author, and Jay Cantrall, a Los Angeles police detective who’s been temporarily transferred to Spokane after a scandal. They happen to be neighbors in the same apartment building, and although they’re both instantly attracted to each other, they also don’t entirely trust or like each other.

Allison is leery of men who only want to date her for her money, doesn’t really think that sex (aside from masturbation) is all that great, has body issues (due to some scars and, possibly, her curviness), and is still working through her feelings of guilt and terror over a past traumatic event. The only man who interests her anymore is fictional: Detective Ben Stark, one of the main characters in her mystery series. Shockingly, Jay looks like both Allison’s mental image of Ben and the image of Ben on the proposed cover art for Allison’s next book. She can’t decide whether she’s interested in Jay because he looks like Ben, or because she’s just interested in Jay.

Meanwhile, Jay is leery of women who are more interested in his celebrity twin brother than they are in him. To be honest, he has trust issues with women in general at the moment, since it was his ex-girlfriend’s lies that resulted in the scandal that got him sent to Spokane. But there’s something about Allison that keeps drawing him in. Allison, her best friend Paige, and a landlady with an annoying Chinese crested dog that she believes can do no wrong make it hard for Jay to keep to himself.

I spotted this in a used bookstore clearance section a while back and snatched it up primarily because it was a Samhain Publishing title. Some of those can be difficult to find or incredibly expensive now that the publisher has shut down operations. What if it turned out to be really good and I missed out on it? And if it wasn’t good, well, it only cost me $2.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I’d picked up a stinker. Allison in particular seemed to have way more issues to deal with than could properly be handled in such a short book, and the whole thing about Jay’s twin seemed incredibly contrived. In general, these two characters needed to spend at least a few months getting to know and trust each other before I could believe in them as a couple. Instead, they were together for maybe a week or two, enough time to drool over each other and have sex, but not enough time to truly trust each other once the issues readers could see from a mile away started cropping up.

I hated them as a couple so much. Anytime Jay made any kind of small talk that touched on money or Allison’s job, Allison immediately assumed that he was just another guy hoping she’d pay his bills in exchange for sex. I was more forgiving of Jay’s blowup when he inevitably spotted Allison’s newest cover art, but their arguments after that made me dislike them both.

They both refused to listen to or believe each other. In fact, Allison somehow still

believed that Jay was after her money even after he blew up on her about the cover art. How did she think that was going to work? Did she think he was simultaneously going to snarl at her for being more interested in his brother or her fictional character than in him and convince her to pay his bills? Besides that, a true gold digger wouldn't have cared if she only liked him because he looked like her character or his twin brother. It should have only taken a second or two of thought to realize that her conclusions didn’t make any sense.

(spoiler show)

But logic wasn’t exactly the author’s strong suit and, unfortunately, the result was extremely inconsistent main characters. For example, after spending most of the book up to that point thinking that Allison knew full well the effect she had on men (or at least on him in particular), on page 79 Jay suddenly divined that Allison was uncomfortable with her body and reacted accordingly. Then there was Allison, who spent most of the book saying that she’d never orgasmed while having sex with a man and could only get off while thinking about her fictional detective. Despite that, on page 104 this thought suddenly popped into her head: “it had been way too long since she’d made love.” Huh?

I hated how the author wrote about Allison’s issues with sex. Jay couldn’t even fathom that someone might not enjoy sex and became fixated on the idea that Allison’s previous lovers just hadn’t done a good job. He, of course, would do better.

“What did Allison need? Love, passion, romance? Him. She needed him. She needed him to teach her the better side of sex.” (106)

I could imagine him saying that out loud and me laughing in his face.

Sometimes things happened just because the author wanted/needed them to happen, and not because they particularly made much sense. For example, at one point Jay and his partner, Pearce, were doing a stakeout and Pearce, for some unknown reason, decided that he absolutely had to make up with ex-girlfriend right then and there. So he asked her to come see him during the stakeout. Yeah, you read that right. And then when the suspect recognized him and the stakeout went bad, Ping (the Chinese crested) accidentally got loose and Jay injured himself trying to avoid him. Allison blamed herself for Jay’s injury because she hadn’t kept a tight enough hold on Ping’s leash, and so she felt obligated to help him out a bit while he recovered. Pearce told her she shouldn’t be so hard on herself...and failed to say anything about his part in the whole incident. In fact, not a single person blamed Pearce for Jay’s injury, and there were no consequences for his actions. The author literally orchestrated the entire thing just to force Allison and Jay to spend more time with each other.

The book had other issues, but I think I'll wrap things up here. You'll Be the Death of Me! was a quick read, and yet it still wasn't worth the small amount of time it took to get through it. Even the dog wasn't very appealing.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2013-11-14 19:17
For Your Eyes Only (aka How Many Freaking Plots Can We Fit Into One Story)
For Your Eyes Only - Sandra Antonelli













Sandra Antonelli’s blog title says it all: Quirky Romance Novels for Grown Ups…and Smart Asses.  This is exactly what her books are and in part, they are quite a bit of fun.



"Holy, holy shit.  I love that you didn't stop and ask for directions."


                                                         - Willa to John after having sex for the first time



Willa and John meet by accident when she comes back to Los Alamos, NM to investigate a charge of possible espionage which  may involve her best friend, Dominic Brennan (H from A Basic Renovation).  She is FBI who years before, worked undercover as a quantum physicist in the Los Alamos National Laboratory with Dominic who was totally unaware of her ‘real’ job).  To say Dominic is mad is an understatement.  

In fact, he is so mad he later allows her to unwittingly drink a very strong alcoholic beverage, knowing she has a low tolerance for alcohol.  Needless to say, she gets really drunk and passes out in John’s powder room who doesn’t find her until the next morning.


For the record, I didn’t like Dominic in A Basic Renovation and I like him even less in this book.  His temper was way out of proportion for a good part of the first book which caused some huge rifts with the h, Lesley, and while I could understand his being mad about not being told about Willa’s real profession (she became an FBI agent AFTER they met at MIT and became friends, and hell yeah, I’d be mad too if my best friend was recruited to the FBI and she neglected to tell me), it was cruel and dangerous to allow her to drink as much as she did.  He also said some pretty unforgivable things to her which was very reminiscent of the first book.  In either case there was no grovel which is a huge pet peeve for me.

(spoiler show)



Right away, there is some serious chemistry between John and Willa and as a result some very funny bantering back and forth.  They are both older and both have had past serious relationships as both were married before and while John has been divorced for several years,


“He’d been married a long time ago in a galaxy known as the 90’s.”


Willa was widowed 18 months before the start of this story.  John especially, is ready to try again for a serious relationship and he’s decided Willa is the one to try with.  She is understandably reluctant as she has a job to do and can't be totally honest with him about it.  Let the Insta-Love ensue!

Within five days, they are madly, deeply, in love!

(spoiler show)




Along with all of this we have a bunch of other shit going on including Willa’s very conflictive relationship with her step-daughter, a sub plot with two other men (one, a fellow FBI agent and the other a Lab employee), both of whom also have a crush on Willa, an investigation into a possible murder, a meth lab bust, and enough 80’s pop culture references to choke a horse.


My Thoughts:

What we mainly have here is a book that didn't know if it wanted to be a romance, a police procedural, a murder mystery, or chick lit.


I could have come very close to loving this book and I wanted to sooooo bad cuz I think this author has a great voice and writes great banter BUT the non-stop info dumping, copious amount of secondary characters along with weirdly thorough descriptions of said secondary characters kept kicking me out of the story as I went along.


First, the good:


  • Protags are mature, likable, funny, and have great chemistry together from the get go.


  • Dialogue is snappy and fun and real and story is emotional and heartfelt.


  • A murder mystery that did actually have me guessing for most of the book.


  • Location is unusual – Los Alamos, NM, home of the Manhattan Project (and my home state) with great detailed description of different locales. Antonelli also gives a shout out to one of my favorite historical authors and a NM resident herself, Laura Kinsale, naming an FBI agent after her, so you go Sandra. ;o)



And then the not so good:


  • Massive info dumping and tons of introspective chatter in almost every part of the book, sometimes about important things the reader should know about but ended up being dragged out for so long that I ended up not caring about why they were being discussed/thought about after a while or they were about such unimportant and/or trivial things that it never should have been mentioned anyway.


  • Several typos and one section of gobbledy-gook I couldn’t make heads or tails of.  Once again, I point out that this is Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia, and I’m thinking we should be well past having this many of these types of errors.


There were also some truly WTFery moments which had me totally scratching my head:


  • I am deducting a whole star because nowhere did we see a couple of very important characters from the first book: Lesley’s grandfather, a Sicilian fireball who IMO, saved the first book with his hilarious, if over the top antics as well as Dominic’s son, Kyle, who was a very important character and who supposedly is Willa’s godson in this book.  Seeing as Dominic and Lesley play a pretty big part in the events here, I would think their kid should probably show up at some point.  Instead we get Lesley's brother, Sean, a nosy, blowhard dickweed, who judges everyone by the size of his/her bank account.  Even Dominic’s domineering and scary mother would have been welcome so that we could at least see what was going on in her little psychotic world. 


So this begs the question, why in the world would you not bring back some of the best things about this series?  Why drop in completely unnecessary and frankly, weird one-off characters that don’t do a damn thing to drive the story?  The author sacrificed these two great characters in order to add a huge cast of other characters who, while they may have had minor roles, didn't necessarily deserve the airtime ultimately given to them.


  • Extremely thorough (and not in a good way) characterizations and descriptions of said secondary characters.  Normally you might say this isn’t a bad thing but in this case, yes. Yes it was a bad thing cuz every, and I mean Every. Single. Character - and action - and reaction - and thought - were described to the nth degree in this book. Minor or major. Important or unimportant. Necessary or unnecessary.  This included extremely exaggerated accents and countless details about clothing, personality traits, habits, looks, etc.


  • Dominic’s and later, Lesley’s totally inappropriate and violent behavior toward Willa.


  • H’s laugh – yes, I said his laugh, or in this case, his sniff-sniff-sniffing.  This started in the previous book and apparently the author thought it would be a good idea to carry this endearing (not) trait over to this book – ad nauseam. Stupid Kobo apparently doesn’t have a search feature on their iPhone app or I would have counted, but take my word, in every fucking chapter, we are treated to John laughing, oops - I mean sniffing in hilarity.


  • Last but not least, towards the end of the book, John jumps to a major conclusion regarding Willa's and Dominic's relationship, says very hurtful things and ta-daaaaaa - no grovel.  
    He spends a good part of the book insisting that her having a male best friend is no biggie (and in fact, his best friend is Lesley who BTW, he was interested in romantically in the first book) but after Lesley punches Willa in the stomach, he assumes the worst!
    (spoiler show)




I predict a third book and I have a feeling I know who the main male protagonist will be.  I really, really want to know about his story but I just don’t know if I’ve got it in me to pony up what will probably be a very reasonable amount to find out.

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