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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 2017-06-12 02:49
Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts
Jewels of the Sun - Nora Roberts

Surprising herself and nearly everyone who knows her, Jude Murray quits her job as a psychology professor, rents out her Chicago condo, and flies to Ireland to live in a little cottage once owned by a relative of hers. She hadn’t even reacted this drastically when her husband asked for a divorce only a few months after they’d gotten married. All she knows is that she’s stressed and unhappy with her current life, and she has no idea what to do about it. She intends to stay at the cottage for six months, write an academic paper about Irish legends, and somehow figure out what to do next.

The village of Ardmore awakens a part of Jude that she’d thought long since squashed out of existence, a dreamer willing to believe in romance and magic. She’s baffled and pleased when two local women, Brenna O’Toole and Darcy Gallagher, decide to befriend her. Then there’s her attraction to Darcy’s charming and gorgeous brother, Aidan. And the beautiful and sad ghost who seems to be residing in her cottage.

This was a reread. I loved it when I first read it: the cozy Irish village and welcoming villagers, the Gallagher and O’Toole families, and Jude learning to just do things without worrying so much about the possibility of failure. I still enjoyed it this time around, although my enjoyment was a little more measured.

The main thing that kept me from completely sinking into this story was how painfully obvious it was that Jude came from a fairly wealthy family. She’d have to be, in order to suddenly quit her job, fly to another country, and spend six months working on a paper that, on its own, would probably never pay any bills. At one point, she went on a shopping spree with Brenna and Darcy and spent 2000 pounds on lingerie, plus who knows how much on purses, shoes, and outfits. Just thinking about it made panic well up in my throat - I couldn't help but remember how I'd felt when I paid $100 for a nice coat to wear to job interviews back when I was job hunting. Jude was also a bit shocked at her shopping spree, but whereas I kept thinking about her spending that much money without knowing when she’d see another paycheck, I had a feeling that Jude’s reaction was primarily inspired by her having done something so out of character for the person she’d been back in Chicago. Chicago Jude was practical and wouldn’t have spent so much money on sexy things.

I have a really nice life, but I can’t imagine ever having the kind of safety net that would be required for something like Jude’s story. When it dawned on her that what she really wanted to do was write stories, she worried about failure, but not about how she’d pay her bills if she failed. I could relate to aspects of Jude’s personality quite a bit - I, too, have a tendency to avoid risks and drama - but not so much her background.

That said, I still consider this one to be of Roberts’ better books. It was a quick and cozy read. Aidan was great, a guy who used to be a wanderer but who’d since matured and settled down. The gift-giving bit was lovely and sweet. The way he tried to handle Jude near the end of the book was more than a bit boneheaded, something he probably should have figured out sooner, but I could mostly understand how he’d gotten those idiot ideas in his head. And the groveling at the end was nice.

There were lots of other moments I loved that weren’t directly related to the romance. The way Jude’s mother, who up to that point had been painted as stiff and unemotional, got angry on Jude’s behalf. The hints of Brenna’s unrequited feelings for Shawn. Molly O’Toole’s steadiness, and the surprise Molly’s husband and Brenna had lined up for her. The way Darcy panicked when she realized that she might have had a part in setting Aidan up to be deeply hurt. Darcy wasn’t my favorite character, and I recall her book being my least favorite one in the trilogy, but I did like the way she’d get into snarling fights with her brothers and yet still clearly care about them. (Although her asking Jude for details about sex with Aidan seemed weird. Do sisters with brothers ever really do that? I only have a sister, and I can’t imagine wanting to discuss her sex life.)

The book’s supernatural aspects weren’t too bad either. This is one of the few “Nora Roberts trilogies tied together by something supernatural” that I can stand. The supernatural aspects are well-integrated into the romances and aren’t too hokey. Basically, a long time ago a mortal woman named Gwen fell in love with a faerie prince named Carrick. However, she doubted that her feelings for him and his feelings for her were real and ended up marrying the perfectly nice man her father lined up for her. She had kids, a decent marriage, and a nice but not passionate life. All the while, Carrick tried to woo her but made one big mistake - he never actually told her he loved her. At the end of Gwen’s life, he essentially cursed himself and Gwen not to be able to move on until three other couples fell in love. It was a bit silly and lacking in details (Carrick never actually specified which three couples, so it could have been anyone falling in love, not just the Gallagher siblings) but not too bad.

Jewels of the Sun hasn't perfectly stood the test of time for me, but it still made for a good reread.

 

Rating Note:

 

The me prior to my big job hunt probably wouldn't have had a problem rating this book. It would have been an easy 4 stars, possibly even 4.5. This reread left me debating between 3.5 stars and 4. In the end I settled on 4, because I mostly enjoyed myself and could see myself rereading it again sometime in the future.

 

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

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