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review 2013-10-05 02:50
Same As It Ever Was
It Had to Be You - Jill Shalvis

Jill Shalvis's Lucky Harbor series is a consistently good bet for light, fun, contemporary romance. That very consistency, though, is what left me feeling a little let down by this book. All the the Lucky Harbor characters are cut from the same cloth: the women are sweet, funny, loyal, and stronger-than-they-knew even when down on their luck (and they are always down on their luck). The men are always the strong, silent type, pathologically commitment-phobic but unable to resist love when it comes calling.


Ali is having a rough week. She learns her boyfriend is cheating on her, and the he dumps her (via text) before she has a chance to dump him. In that same text, he tells her the lease has expired on their apartment, so she's homeless, too. Plus she's about to lose her job. And then, as if all that were not enough, she's suddenly the prime suspect in a major theft.


Luke is a detective from San Francisco who has returned to his childhood home to decompress after a very high profile murder case goes very wrong. He carries a lot of guilt: guilt for the botched case, guilt for not being there when his grandmother died, guilt over a life altering mistake he and his sister (mostly the sister) made as teenagers.


Together, Ali and Luke make each other happy. That's one thing Shalvis does well: her couples take care of each other in equal partnerships. Even where the damsel in distress is rescued by the knight in shining armor, she patches the chinks, polishes the armor, and rolls up her sleeves and stitches up the war wounds, so the relationship is not so one sided.


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review 2013-10-05 02:39
Not Nearly as Good as the Hathaways Series
Secrets of a Summer Night - Lisa Kleypas

Lisa Kleypas can be hit or miss for me. I loved the Hathaway series, and had heard the Wallflower books were just as good, but alas: this one landed squarely in the Miss column.


First, I really disliked both heroine and hero. Annabelle and her family are in desperate financial straights--so bad that her mother has resorted to sleeping with an ugly, slimy toad of a man in exchange for his settling their grocery bill--and Annabelle's only hope for salvation is to catch a husband by the end of the Season. Due to her lack of dowry, though, no one is interested, and soon, she too will have to become a kept woman to survive. Against the backdrop of this desperation, Annabelle's snobbish rebuffs of the extremely-wealthy-but-not-a-peer Simon seem both cruel and inexplicable.


For his part, Simon pursues Annabelle (in case hero in pursuit stories are your catnip), but lets her assume the worst of his motives: that he, too, seeks a mistress rather than a wife. Also, for all he pursues Annabelle, he's quick to assume the worst of her character. He pursues her and even marries her believing she, not her mom, has been sleeping with the Toadly Lord. (I don't consider that a spoiler, since Simon learns of the Toad in the first chapter.


I also found the pacing of the novel to be very amateurish, as if Kleypas got to the HAE, realized the book was too short, and kept going to meet some page quota of the publisher. There is significant conflict and drama in the last quarter of the book, but it seems hastily written and doesn't fit with the pace or plot of the rest of the book. One longs for the Toad to get his comeuppance, but because it happens when the hero and heroine (our POV as readers) are elsewhere, we don't get to 'see' it, so it's hugely unsatisfying.


Finally, much of the plot was artlessly predictable: Annabelle goes for a walk and (gasp) encounters Simon; the Toad corners her in a deserted hallway, and who should happen by but (shock!) Simon; she gives up her last, best hope for marrying a peer and runs into Simon as she flees. I wouldn't have minded so much if she didn't always act so surprised.


I originally gave this three stars, not less, because I liked the supporting characters (the other Wallflowers) enough that I held out hope for the series. Having now finished all four books, though, that hope was misplaced, so I'm downgrading my rating. 

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