Sunday, April 19, 2009

Color Me Purple

I've noticed that some "mainstream books" that normally might appear on the Fiction shelves have made their way onto the Romance aisles at the bookstores. Like, for example, Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwiliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. When I first saw it, it kind of stuck out like a sore thumb for me. For one, It's larger than an oversized paperback, and two, lots of these Pride and Prejudice continuations are cropping up these days.

The author starts off the book with a foreword in which she admits that before 2005 and the Joe Wright production of Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, she had never read any Austen books nor seen any previous screen adaptations of the book. But once she saw the 2005 movie, she fell in love and decided to read the original, research, and write her own continuation. Her influence of the 2005 adaptation was clear; there were many little details in the book that was obviously from the movie and not from any other versions or the original book.

Once I started, I realized that it was very similar to Linda Berdoll's Mr. Darcy takes a Wife. It starts off right after the Darcy/Bingley wedding and then the next chapter flashed back to a few days before the wedding. Both books did the same thing.

 Now, a quick note: if you're a Austen purist, don't even think about picking up either of these two books. Because if you do, you will think that the good name of Jane Austen has been entirely sullied by anachronistic language and too much sex. That being said, if you just want a Romantic read and feel like Pride and Prejudice should've ended in the sack, you might enjoy this. But beware, there is a copious amount of sex in both books. However, I must note that while the two are similar, Lathan's book contains a lot of slices of life scenes where Berdoll juggles the entirety of the cast and a (sorta) more complicated plot.  

Back to Sharon Lathan's Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. Like I said, there's is a very close correlation to this book and Berdoll's book. Which is fine with me but I did notice the similarities off the bat. Lathan has a lot of sex. I was kinda surprised. Even more than Berdoll's book, which already surprised me when I read it a few years ago. But anyways, the sex has so much purple prose. So much. And cuddling. And pillow talk. More snuggling. More good morning sex. If purple writing amuses you, you'll enjoy this. It didn't annoy me, surprisingly; I just went with the flow and enjoyed it.

But as to plot...well, it's thin at best. Like I said, the book is mainly comprised of all slice of life scenes with lots of bedroom back and forth, a few breakfasts and dinners, a party, and one incident that seemed to act as the climax of the book. Doesn't take a genius to come up with the "surprise" if the Darcys are going at it like bunnies everyday. 

In the end, I flipped through it, some parts my eyes just read the words but I wasn't too concerned that I might be missing something. I was probably only missing some more cuddling. But thankfully, I was in the mood for a super sappy read. With lots of cuddling. So, good thing I was in the mood. But honestly, I can't really recommend this book to someone else because I don't think it's a good spend of $14.99. (I got mine for free through BookMooch. Thank you fellow moocher!)

2 out of 5: 2 because I just so happened to be in the mood for something so sappy. But if you want plot, accuracy, or interesting character development...steer clear! Sex abounds in this so-called Pride and Prejudice continuation. More like well written fanfiction.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Animal Names and Bloody Appendages and Doomsday...oh my!

As a continuation to the previous post, I picked up Jessica Andersen's Nightkeepers, since it came so highly recommended by J.R. Ward, a friend of Andersen's. I didn't think to put too much weight on the rave review because 1) they're friends and support each other's writing and therefore 2) they would naturally recommend each other's work. But I still tried it because I love Ward and was hoping for something on the same level as her work and how the Brotherhood sucks me in.

I did not get that. In fact, I couldn't finish Nightkeepers.

To be honest, I would have never bought this book had I just come across it at the bookstore. I might have picked it up because of it's alluring cover, but I would never have purchased. The back cover copy isn't written to entice me and had I gone and actually flipped through the pages, I would have been discouraged.

First off, the world was disconcerting to me. I couldn't get my bearings in the environment created by the book. On one hand, it's about Mayan prophecy but the term that's constantly used to speak about how the characters tap into their magic is "jack in." To me, that term is very Matrix-y in its electronical jargon and that makes a very weird juxtaposition with what I naturally connect with Mayan culture which is something that happened in history many many years ago. So, that awkward mix of the old and new just rubbed me the wrong way.

Another thing, there's a secondary character named Rabbit?! What? And he's an angsty teen who wears black, has plugs in his ears, and is constantly connected to his iPod? The names...sigh, a hero who is Striking Jaguar, which isn't all that bad, but I learned to hate it because I just couldn't get over "Rabbit."

This book is very obviously setting up to the rest of the series. Instead of concentrating on the main hero/heroine pair, there's a large section of the book where we meet the other Nightkeepers and we don't even read about the main pair. This just turned me off. When I read a Romance, I expect to be with one or both of the main characters at least 98%-99% of the time, giving a little leeway for some secondary characters. But when a significant chunk of the book is gone to characters of upcoming can you expect your reader to engage with the characters?

There is quite a bit of jargon here and I don't think it was done in a way where the reader is just seamlessly inserted into that culture and they don't feel out of sorts. Unfortunately, I was very confused, and the language wasn't an enhancement, but all techy jargon to me. When including non-English words or words that are made up by the author to spice up the book, the author needs to be careful it doesn't detract from the book, but adds to it. But alas, this was one of the biggest things I didn't like about this book. Too much.

Lastly, what is with all the knife welding and cutting of flesh and blood contact? Yuck. It just made me cringe and not in the "I'm grimacing because something bad has just happened to the hero and/or heroine and it's written so well I feel like it's actually happening." It just made me cringe because it was gross. I mean, the hero slicing a cut on his tongue, forcing the heroine to open her mouth so he can do the same, and then mingling their blood in a bruising kiss is not sexy; it makes me think of disease, not sex. The whole bloodletting element just made me want to shrink away from the book.

Ironically, I've never really had this feeling even though I love vampire books and have read some (that I didn't like) where the blood was a big element. I don't know what it was but Andersen just didn't write it this element in an appealing way. Which sounds weird, but when dealing with paranormal and blood is involved, if the author doesn't do it right it smacks of obscene, not sexual or appealing.

To be fair, I think this series has a very interesting basic idea. Nightkeepers and magic and Mayan history seems enough rich fodder to plot an entire series. However, it was the writing and the way it was written that turned me off. Sad to say that I had high hopes for it, and if it wasn't for the source of the recommendation, I would have never even tried it nor stuck with it for as long as I did, even though I didn't finish it.

One small note: it is a very nice cover.

0.5 out of 5: I would have given it a zero because I couldn't even finish it, but I gave it half a point because it's a good idea for plot in theory, but unfortunately in reality, it was awful.

Author Pimping

Notice how authors will have a page on their websites where they link to other authors or when they blog about upcoming books, urging their readers to try them out? Well, how much stock can I place into these recommendations when I know they're obviously friends with each other and support mutual work?

Well, even though I'm not sure how much I can count on these recommendations, I will be trying one out. J.R. Ward is friends with another author, Jessica Andersen, and has recently help promote Andersen's Mayan, Final Prophecy, paranormal series.

Off to read...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Guilty Pleasure

We all have them, and I have a few in Romance. This is one of the guiltier ones.

Any Way You Want It by Kathy Love

I've reviewed her contemporary stories before, the Stepp Sisters, and came away with mixed feelings about the trio, absolutely loving the first one, okay with the second, and disastrous with the third. But this is about the first book in one of her paranormal series about three friends, two of which end up with brothers.

Maggie Gallagher is spending a nice vacation in the Big Easy with her friends, Erika and Jo. The shyest of the bunch, Maggie and Co. are enjoying their time together when Maggie is arrested by a melody that nobody is supposed to know. As an authenticator of classical music for the Smithsonian, Maggie recognizes the few bars of a piano melody written by a composer back in the 18 century.

Having just indulged a whim to stroke a few keys of a old piece of music that he had written back when he was just a mere mortal, Ren Anthony is instantly attracted to the small curvy strawberry blonde who has stopped to listen to the live music. Living as an ex-composer who now is the frontman for an immortal cover band, Ren is an auto-pilot musician these days. He just plays to pay the bills.

As a special kind of vampire, a lampir, he survives and feeds off human energy instead of blood. Having believed since his rebirth that he was cursed by his mother, he knows that he shouldn't get involved with Maggie, but can't resist her unique blend of innocence and natural sensuality. Agreeing to a vacation fling, Maggie and Ren explore each other while mutually loosing their hearts as well.

Why is this one of my guiltiest pleasures? For one thing, it's super sweet. Like, send-you-into-a-diabetic-coma sweet. Like most heroines who are shy, they're accompanied by a little issues of body image. While Ren thinks her slight curves are delectable, Maggie has been told they're more than chubby by her ex-finance. Ren takes each and every opportunity to rid Maggie of that misconception and it's so sweet, it'll give you cavities.

But I love it. When I'm in the mood for a hero that's protective and sweet, Ren is my go to guy.

Another reason for guilt inspiring reading? The plot. It's very light. As in, there could've been so much more layered on for a sturdy story. First of all, Ren believes he's cursed. Having been through two failed love affairs, he thinks that his mother has cursed him in the love department. This wasn't covered at all. There's mentions of his past lovers, but you're given scant more information than just their names. One of them, the opera singer, seemed to play a large part in Ren's belief that he was cursed but there was little to no information about that part of his life.

The conclusion is another point of weakness. In an effort to push away Maggie, thinking that he's ultimately saving her life, he does the unthinkable for a Romance alpha hero. He engages intimately with another woman. Yes, we know it's all in an effort to "do the right thing for Maggie" but it's still a little off-putting. In a previous post, I've mentioned that being with another person once the hero/heroine have been together and established is one of the cardinal sins not to be committed in a Romance. Some authors, like I've said before, dare to venture into that forbidden territory, but few make it out alive. And yes, Ren commits this sin.

With all that said, there is something just so sweet (that one word can sum up Ren and Maggie) about this book. The characters aren't the strongest, the plot is minimal at best (more like a collection of day-to-day activity scenes), and the ending is rushed for the sake of an ending. But still, I consider it an occasional reread because I just can't resist this guilty pleasure.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Like Roller Coasters...right?

Having just read (and liked) Susan Elizabeth Phillips' What I Did for Love and in the midst of listening to Lisa Kleypas' newest contemporary, Smooth Talking Strangers, via audiobook, I got to thinking about emotional roller coasters. 

Emotional roller coaster books are exactly like they sound. The emotions run the gamut and takes the reader through high highs and extreme lows, usually where tears threaten to prickle the eyes and your heart clenches for these imaginary characters. Like I've mentioned before, one of my Good Read Triggers is that tightening of my gut where I don't know how the story can possibly end happily even though logically, I know that it does. So, if I base a good book on that, then I must like those emotional coaster reads, right?

Surprisingly, the answer is, not always.

I've recently come to this conclusion because I've noticed myself buying books from authors that I've read and really enjoyed in the past, but putting them aside for some reason. And then I realized why I've been doing that--those authors are known for an emotional read and I just wasn't in the mood for something that takes so much out of me to read.

Having just finished What I Did for Love and working on Smooth Talking Stranger, I realized that there are times where those flat emotional reads are much better suited to me. Both of these books take the reader on a sort of plateau in terms of emotions. It sets the bar in the beginning and doesn't deviate very far from the plan. And there are times where these reads are just plain comforting. You want a feel-good read and these deliver. 

There are good points and bad to these non-emotional reads. These tend to be the books that pick up when I'm looking for a Romance reread. But these also tend to be the ones where when I'm finished, I wonder if they are a keeper copy because they feel so...interchangable. A good portion of these books feels like they lack substance.

But there are times where those emotional reads set themselves apart from the vast category of Other Romance. By that I mean, the giant numbers of Romances that mean nothing. There's no depth of plot, no real planning of character development, and no sizzle to the chemistry. Those that set themselves apart in my opinion, are most often the emotional reads. Because of their nature to take the reader up and down, they really stand out in the sense that they have substance and depth and makes the reader care for the characters beyond the end of the book. These authors cultivate active message boards and the devoted fan base will want to know of the characters' well-being after their books are written.

While I've recently discovered that my palette for books is diverse, one is not better than the other for they balance each other out to create the beautiful range of Romances.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon Debacle

Yes, in case you haven't read, people are up in arms about the recent activity occurring on Amazon. It appears that Amazon has removed books deemed "Adult Content" from their ranking and the search engines. 

Google it to read about more about this issue. Amazon has replied that it's just a glitch, but people aren't buying it. Not at all.

My take? This won't last. No way will people put up with this form of censorship. And really, where does this "Adult Content" label end...oh the dangers of censorship. A slippery slope, I tell you...very slippery. 

From Browse to Checkout

What makes you buy a Romance book? I'm talking about the times when I'm just browsing at Borders, coupon in hand, but no specific book in mind. In those times, there's probably a one in ten chance that I'll leave with a purchase.

Why? Well, first of all, I'm terribly picky after having read so many of these. Second, I have to waste my money and I will have certain buyer's remorse if I finish the book and feel like I could have spent my time doing something else. 

So, I got to thinking, what catches my eye when I don't have a purchase in mind?

1. A familiar name. For those authors whom I know (matter of speaking) and love, I'll know well in advance when the next coveted book is coming out. I'll have the up and comers catalogued on my shopping list on Amazon and I'll usually be waiting and out to the bookstores on the day of release. But for those names that I'm familiar with but not in love with...that recognition of their name is vital in me picking up an unforeseen purchase. 

2. Placement. I'll always check out the "New Paperback" selection that usually is consisted of 90% Romance for new reads. It's the first place I check when looking for any new release as it's easier to pick them up there instead of scouring the specific shelves alphabetically. So, that's also a good place to check for an impromptu read. 

However, Placement is two-fold. Not only am I talking about placement in the New Paperback display, but I'm also referring to placement of books near or around authors that I consistently read. If a new book is placed conveniently placed near ones that I've already read, I'll almost certainly pick them up as well just to check out the back cover synopsis.

3. Cover. Ahh, the infamous cover art. How many good books have they ruined simply because of lame cover art. One that comes to mind is the original mass market cover art for Shelley Bradley's Bound and Determined. If I hadn't already been acquainted with Bradley's work, I would've dismissed that book entirely. And it's a fantastic read. Hot and sexy with heart and plot. She's mentioned in the past how she received angry (not) fan mail stating that readers were misled by the cover. It displays a very out-dated art with two models that look like they're dressed for a lazy tropical vacation. But instead, the plot has quite explicit sexual scenes (done tastefully), with a plot that has its ups and downs in terms of excitement and emotional level. Happy to say, this book has been re-released into an oversized paperback with a cover that accurately portrays the "higher" heat factor. But I won't mention how that same cover art was recycled from a Janice Maynard novel. Smartly, it was also released into Bradley's alter ego pen name, Shayla Black, the name she uses for her more erotic romances. (Not quite sure I'd put Bound and Determined on the same level as her explicitly erotic Decadent and Wicked Ties, but it's certainly not as tame as her other Bradley releases).

But I must admit the reverse, I've picked up many a Romance simply because they had a nicely done cover. And not all of those good covers were explicitly romance with a heavily muscled man flexing his goodies. Some were just a nice collaboration of colors, a good manipulation of Photoshop, or maybe it was just simple in style with clean lines and text. There are many things that make up a good cover and sometimes, it's not the revved up sex factor. 

There you are, three reasons why I might buy without planning. But the occasion is rare; I usually go into Borders knowing what I'm going to buy. Most of the time, I'll leave the same way I went in, empty handed, but there have been a time or two that I found a new author to pursue from one of those surprise buys.

Interestingly enough, while on the subject of impromptu buys, Romance books recently made the New York Times. The article mentions how Romance readers are loyal and therefore sacrificing other things in order to continue to indulge in these hard economic times. I agree; readers of Romance are devoted and the thought of a happy ending is too hard to pass up when real life might be crap. Besides, who doesn't love a guilty indulgence of a hot alpha male and a good read?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Keeping Secrets

I'm not a big fan of Harlequin. Don't get me wrong, I know a lot of the big names that I read and love started their Romance careers with Harlequin. But I'm just not an instant fan. Maybe I still have a bias against what people view as typical Romance novels. That super gushy, no plot line, all sex, bodice rippers from generations past. I know this prejudice, but I still don't gravitate towards this line.

I don't do their serial Romances, and I also feel like their books aren't long enough to warrant my time or money. However, lately, I've noticed that they're releasing "normal sized" mass paperbacks with nice covers and a diverse set of sub-genres. 

For example, I saw Victoria Dahl's Talk Me Down, a while ago at Borders. What caught my eye was the cover, it was simple and understated but definitely a Romance with the female wearing a man's white dress shirt with a bright red tie and some sex-kitten peep toe pumps to match. But it wasn't a cover that had rippling abs of some long-haired Fabio and it was nicely done. The colors worked and it drew my eye. 

I've never read any of Dahl's work and found out that she writes historicals but this particular book was a contemporary. Though I thumbed through it for fifteen minutes, it didn't look good enough to purchase. But a week later, I came across it for fifty cents at the library bookstore and happily gave this book a new home.

I read some reviews about it and it seemed positive. What really sold me and got me excited was how one reader mentioned that Ben, the hero, wasn't the typical alpha. He was the beta hero who blushed when the heroine made a dirty joke. I'm sometimes weary about this "role reversal" because sometimes authors don't write this well. The heroine comes off too masculine and the hero looses that edge that makes him a good candidate for the protector. But this book did an admirable job in very subtly shifting some stereotypes about gender without loosing too much.

Molly Jennings has come home to her small home town for some R and R. There's some familial connections to why she comes home, but point is, Molly's back in town. Ben Lawson, was/is Molly's older brother's best friend. But now he's the chief of police and still as handsome as he'd been in high school when Molly worshipped him. 

Incidentally, back in the day, Molly had accidentally walked in on Ben and his girlfriend. Molly hasn't forgotten that sight of Ben in his truck with his pants around his ankles, and neither has Ben, judging by his embarrassment. 

But Molly's back in town and Ben has to deal with it. She brings with her a secret because no one, not even her own family, knows what she does for a living. She writes erotica for an e-publisher, and has garnered her very own stalker. Ben, on the other hand, is going crazy wondering what she does for a living. Having gone through his own share of family shame, thanks to his father's sex scandal back when Ben was a teen, he definitely isn't too keen on Molly keeping secrets. But they can't stay apart and soon Molly's problems find their way into their new relationship.

The plot's pretty basic. Girl goes back home, brings mystery and stalker, and Boy is there to fix things as best as he can while battling his own issues with Girl. Eh, nothing that's earth shatteringly original but it's not too bad either. The "surprise villain" isn't much of a surprise and I was just waiting for that to come to light. 

While I thought that the slight role reversal was handled well, with Molly being the more aggressive one, Ben wasn't written off as weak because once he gets going, he's not shy at all about pursuing Molly and a physical relationship. So, he might be the beta hero, but he's not that far away from alpha status. That was really important to me. That even though Ben was more of the emotional and sensitive guy, he didn't loose his edge and still had the potential to go all caveman on his women, even if he never actually did it.

But what lost me as a loyal reader was the Big Secret. Molly's career. It just dragged on way too long and her excuse to not tell Ben was lame. He would ask about it and she would hedge. When he got frustrated, she got frustrated back and asked why he just couldn't let it go. This went on for the entire length of the book. The secret just didn't have enough meat to last that long. 

The only cute part about the secret was when Ben would brainstorm about what the secret was and scribble his ideas of "hooker, phone sex operator, chatroom sex hostess...etc" at the beginning of the chapters. But all in all, the secret wasn't all that big and it just didn't have enough steam to carry the entire book where in the end, they didn't even make a big deal out of it nor did they resolve much concerning the secret. 

So, was it worth the read? Yeah. It had it moments of humor and while the sex wasn't written to be too explicit, it was still done well and generated enough heat to keep the reader interested. But worth the cover price? And a coveted place on my crowed bookshelf? No. It was well worth the fifty cents I paid but I'll be recycling the book on BookMooch soon, letting someone else enjoy it.

3 out of 5: Decent, but not great. Fun contemporary that is a definite easy read. Good for beach reading but not something to look forward to reading all day and burn through normal sleep hours to finish.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Coming Soon

For all the posts that I've done about books that are already out on the shelves, I feel like I should do one about the ones that are coming soon.

These are some that I'm looking forward to...

1. The first and foremost would be J.R. Ward's Lover Avenged. I can't even begin to describe how excited I am for this to come out at the end of the month. It's no secret that I'm a big Ward fan and since I wasn't all that happy with the last Brotherhood book, Lover Enshrined, I'm thoroughly looking forward to this book. However, in all fairness, it wasn't that I didn't like Lover Enshrined. I loved how the Brotherhood world got so much more complex and the secondary plot lines were amazing, it was the main hero and heroine that didn't exactly do it for me. 

So needless to say, I'm very much looking forward to the next installment. Only downside? It's coming out in hardcover. Andwhile the price is a factor for me, I also love the ease of carrying around a paperback. Plus, the mass market issue is coming out in December and I just can't justify getting a hardcover while the paperback will be released so soon afterwards. And may I just add, "hello, hot cover..."

2. Bengal's Heart by Lora Leigh. Basically anything by her is an instant to-buy for me and this will be no exception. Leigh is really on a roll this year. 2009 seems to be her year because she's basically releasing a book every month. Well, so far. But she's skipping May with a novella coming out in June and then Bengal's Heart in August. Bengal's Heart will feature Cabal, the twin of Tanner Reynolds who was the hero in Tanner's Scheme. I very much enjoyed the pushing of boundaries in that book and am looking forward to Cabal's story.

3. Rachel Gibson is releasing another book as well. True Love and Other Disasters is coming out the same day as Ward's book on April 28. It looks to be another Gibson that connects to her hockey player characters and though I've read all her books, I don't always love them. So, I'm not sure that this will be a purchased book, but I will read it one way or another.

4. Demon Can't Help It by Kathy Love will also debut at the end of April. While I really liked Any Way You Want It for its utter diabetic sweetness, I was disappointed by the subsequent read, I Want You To Want Me. So I can't help but feel like the disappointment will continue in the same vein, but I won't cast the decision before I have a chance to read it myself. Nevertheless, Love has given me some good reads and I am looking forward to this. Ironically, looking back, I can say that I love the first book in each of her series but have been unhappy with all others following.

5. I just found out that Shannon McKenna is releasing a trio of novellas in July. Tasting Fear is about three sisters and typical to McKenna, there's a crime and a supposed murderer on the loose and three sisters meet three super alpha males who barge their way to a rescue. Hopefully, I'll have finished Ultimate Weapon by then because I just haven't been in the mood for such edgy contemporaries. But while McKenna might not always be the best of reads, I can always respect how she pushes the envelope with her writing, plot, and characters. 

There are a few more that I'm looking forward to but these five seem the most promising...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Not Original Enough?

In past reviews, I've made my (sorta) love-hate relationship with Susan Elizabeth Phillips' books clear. I find her writing funny as hell at times, to the point of laughing out loud, but I'm generally left feeling unsatisfied at the end. Doesn't bode well for a Romance. Insert all jokes about "feeling unsatisfied" here.

So after the disaster of Glitter Baby, and whew, does that disappointment list run long. I had such high hopes for it too. So many reviews raved about Phillips' first romantic work as being epic and the love story as unsurpassed. My confusion was clear when I cracked open the re-issue and found that the story began decades before the birth of the heroine and that somehow, we were taken back to read about her mother and her story. What? 

Long story short, I was entirely disappointed by the plot, I didn't feel the heat between Jake and Fleur, and basically didn't care how the book ended one way or another. However, I feel like I'm being harsh on the book. If it were labeled as a coming-of-age story versus a Romance, I would have been happy. It really is a book about a girl coming into her skin and becoming a woman. But the so-called love connection between her and Jake? Didn't buy it. Nope.

And when SEP released her newest book, What I Did for Love, I wasn't flying to the bookstore to pick it up. Coupled with the fact that it released into a hardcover...well, I wasn't going to spend so much on an author that wasn't an instant hit with me. I checked Amazon to read the reviews about the new book and they certainly didn't help. Reviewers criticized the plot as being a thinly veiled attempt to fictionize the Jolie-Pitt-Aniston triangle and the uncomfortable divorce and husband swapping.

And really, the plot to the book is almost identical. Georgie York was America's sitcom darling and though the show has been off the air for eight years, she still can't shake that image. By the opening of the book, Georgie finds herself divorced from her movie-star husband who left her for an exotic looking, humanitarian actress who recently announced her pregnancy. Come on...anyone can see where Phillips got her inspiration from. 

The real story starts when Georgie finds herself pulling a Britany Spears a la the Vegas nuptials, and married to her old co-star Bram, whom she detests (the hate is basically mutual between the two). Desperate to pull together her ruined image, she agrees to pay Bram to stay her husband. Bram, the bad boy actor who ruined his career by way of drugs, drink, and women, is also desperate to renew his credibility in Hollywood. Although he's not as outwardly desperate as Georgie, each has a stake in their pretend marriage.

Despite what should have been a recipe for disaster, it surprisingly wasn't. In the past reviews of SEP's books, I complained about the secondary romances. I felt like they dominated the books and that the main pair didn't get their deserved room. But in What I Did for Love, that wasn't the issue. Yes, there was a secondary romance. Two actually. One that involved Georgie's father and her agent, and another with Bram's housekeeper/chef and Georgie's personal assistant. But the wonderful part about these romances? They collectively added up to be about less than fifteen pages total, versus what normally would've been at least a good third of the book. That was the biggest plus in endearing me to this book.

Another reason I thoroughly enjoyed the book is the nicely time-lined romance. Bram and Georgie genuinely don't like each other in the beginning. I was suspicious about Bram's feelings because it's so typical for the hero to have those love/hate feelings but secretly lust after the heroine. But not so much in this case. Bram might have the ability to appreciate the nice picture that Georgie's legs might make, but they really don't like each other. Georgie especially for the heartache Bram caused her as a kid. 

But the romance between the two evolved progressively and steadily. It wasn't as if they went from hate and full-throttled into lust and then love straightaway. They bickered for a good third of the book with them taking cheap shots liberally laced with sarcasm at each other's expense. If I wanted to nitpick, I would say that Bram's fall into love was kinda cheesy. One minute he's not, the next he has some ocean-induced revelation about his feelings and finds himself in everlasting love with Georgie. But by then, I'd already fallen in love with the characters and book that I excused that use of "divine intervention."

In addition, if you've read other SEP books, you'll notice consistent appearances by other characters. Natural Born Charmer and Glitter Baby characters make an appearance as friends of Georgie's and Bram's.

All and all, this was an enjoyable book. I'd go so far as to say it might be my favorite SEP so far. It doesn't have really heavy emotional tones like her other ones, but if you're looking for a nice read that doesn't have too many emotional ups and downs and is pretty predictable and sweet, this is the read for you.

I enjoyed it enough to say that when it comes out in paperback, I'll be buying my own copy to put on the shelf.


4 out of 5: Predicable and sweet with the emotions pretty much on level for the entire length.