Books I read this week Vol 21, June 3

RR: Fool Me Twice

Author: Meredith Duran

Series: Rules for the Reckless #2

Tags: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Dukes!, housekeeper, bluestocking, politician, smart, forthright female, recluse, secret identity, VILF

Format: ebook

Rating: SUPER YAY!

 

This was a reread.

 

The idea of villains as protagonists has been on my mind for a while now, and I decided to revisit one of the two that keep coming to mind. The other one is Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt, and one of the foremost romance novels I can think of that has a truly sociopathic protagonist. He doesn't know right from wrong, and often kidnaps, kills, and blackmails for his own enjoyment. Yet, he follows the well trod path to love as if he were the same as all the other romance heroes before him.

Fool Me Twice also offers what I like to call a VILF (Villain I'd like to fuck), though not to the extreme of Duke of Sin. Marwick's villainy is more noticeable if you read the first of the series. He tries to bribe his brother into getting married, shuts down an entire hospital, and refuses to recognize his brother's new wife.

When we meet him in the second book, he is holed up in his house, crazed with rage at finding that his dead wife cheated on him, and threatening to kill all of his wife's secret lovers. He bullies, threatens, and neglects his servants. He has pushed away all of his family, collegues, and loved ones.

 

It. Is. Excellent.

 

There is nothing more boring than a good character. 

God, they make me want to puke.

The meat of literature is inner turmoil, the push and pull of warring views, desires, circumstances, etc. None of that can happen if you say "this character is good" and leave it at that.

Most romance novels flirt with just where the line is drawn between the bad, but redeemable character, and the full on villain. It's so much more interesting to find that one spark of goodness than to watch a shining example of all that is good. It's not that women love "bad boys"; it's that we assume (often wrongly) goodness hidden within.

I'm doubly intrigued when an author intentionally crosses the line into full on villain.

 

This book is Jane Eyre on crack. The hero and heroine's chemistry feels like those deliciously charged conversations between Rochester and Jane....without all that boring Lowood stuff, and religion, and wandering around in the moors...

Olivia goes toe to toe with Marwick and fights for purchase in his world. He is ruthless. He is a skilled politician who just recently lost his moral high ground, so he is not throwing his punches. She comes out on top, and he likes it. They spar like evenly matched swordsmen.

Olivia has her own cunning. She is strong, and smart. How many times is a female character supposed to be both of those things, and ends up being neither? She has lived on her own for a long time. She has strong doubts about the morality behind her goal to steal from Marwick, but she soldiers on, inventing new ways to get to her goal.

 

Marwick's mercurial nature--hot, cold, calculating, passionate, snobbish, rude, ruthless--make the sweet moments so much more poignant.

There's a moment when they are playing chess, and Olivia automatically starts dumbing down her moves. Because she is too smart, and has had to dumb down her moves to everyone she knows. He catches it, and says, in his offhand way, that she doesn't have to pretend here.

AWWWWWWWW.

Not only is she finally, for the first time in her life, granted the freedom of a safe space to be exactly who she is, no holding back, but she also has someone who can challenge her. She has a kindred spirit and partner.

AWWWWWWWWW.

 

IT IS GREAT. I need to own this book so I can come back to it more than once. 

Also, how have I not read more Meredith Duran? This really makes me want to seek out more, though I didn't like the first book of this series very much at all.


 

Must Love Hellhounds

Authors: Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook

Series: Sookie Stackhouse #9.2, Guild Hunter #0.5, Kate Daniels #3.5, the Guardians #5.5

Tags: paranormal romance, shifters, hellhounds, angels, vampires, bounty hunters, slayers, detectives

Format: audiobook

Rating: yay!

The narrator has some kind of Catherine Hepburn lilt which is annoying. Also, no Renee Raudman for Ilona Andrews novella! Sad face!!!

 

Quick Breakdown:

Charlene Harris.

I don't know what the fuck is going on with the Sookie Stackhouse books these days. This short story is supposed to be part of the series, but I can't see how. Something about otherworldly high tech knights, the gates of hell, demon slugs, and a guy with two penises. Couldn't deal. Skip!

 

Nalini Singh.

Meh. I'd read something of hers if it came my way.

 

Meljean Brook.

I liked it! It's about a guy who's blind but can see through everyone else's eyes but his own. Fascinating! He saves his sister with the help of a hot bodyguard and a hellhound turned seeing eye dog. The hellhound was pretty cute. I'd read something else from this series!

 

Ilona Andrews.

Ah, always fun. I was less impressed by Andrea's story, but still liked it! I wish there were endless amounts of Andrews to read.


 

Marked in Flesh

Author: Anne Bishop

Series: The Others #4

Tags: urban fantasy, paranormal romance, werewolves, vampires, alternate world, prophets, elementals

Format: audiobook

Rating: SUPER YAY!

 

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGG

 

Can't.

Stand.

How.

FREAKIN ADORABLE.

This.

Couple.

Is.

Will.

Die.

Of.

Cuteness.

BRB

 

I just. Omg. When. When is the fifth one available for me to read. Right now? A minute from right now? I can't even handle it.

 

This couple is moving painfully slow and I will soon implode. I want them to get together so bad. But they are taking it slow. WHICH IS GREAT. For them. But omg, just do it already.

 

Speaking of consent, this is the most consenty romance I've read in a while. Let's face it: most romances at least flirt with nonconsenty themes. The whole heteronormative predator/prey vibe running below most romance conflicts. And those are the tame ones. 

How many times has a romance heroine gone through a big transition or recovered from a huge trauma just to jump into the arms of another, if nicer, man? How many times do you want to say, "uh, good for you, but don't you want to slow down and take some time for yourself, hun?"

Meg is taking things slowly, finding out about herself, absorbing what she can, and resting when she needs to. Not only is he not pushing her, he's not overtly waiting. He is not pursuing. He is not saying "I will make you mine eventually," etc. There is no other shoe waiting to drop. No timeline.

Just two people figuring out themselves and each other, enjoying their time together.

She decides the pace. She initiates a change. It's not until she comes to the conclusion that being with Simon romantically might be more beneficial to her, might enrich her experience, does she come to the conclusion to try one tiny step towards romance. What an excellent way of looking at it. That romance is not a necessity, but a voluntary experience that enriches your existence. No matebond bullcrap, no mystical force driving two unwilling people together. Just something to think about, to choose.

There is a really adorable skinny dipping scene, and that's it. 

High marks, all around, but ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGG IWANTTHEMTOGETHERRIGHTNOW.


 

Night Shift

Authors: Lisa Shearin, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Milla Vane 

Series: Kate Daniels #6.5, SPI Files #0.5, Psy-Changeling #12.5, Barbarian #1 

Tags: paranormal romance, urban fantasy, high fantasy, detective, orphan, paranormal police, shifters, werewolves, psychic, leprechans, goblins, gods, curses, prophecy 

Format: audiobook 

Rating: yay! 

 

Another anthology!

The Breakdown: 

 

Nalini Singh: Secrets at Midnight 

Meh again. This story was about a (shifter) changeling that didn't know she was one, and her new changeling boyfriend helps her through it. Pretty simplistic, reminds me of Shifters Unbound series by Jennifer Ashley, which I miss. The male character can do no wrong. He sounds a little too good to be true. 

 

Lisa Shearin: Lucky Charms

I liked it! I'm putting Lisa Shearin on my Authors To Watch For list. This story was about a girl's first day on the job of a paranormal police force. She's human, but is a "seer": can see through glamours and tell what kind of magical being they are. Her first task is to bodyguard a group of leprechauns on a bachelor party... and things go wrong from there.

She's Small Town Girl In the Big City, from North Carolina. She's plucky, and funny. Her partner is a growly, laconic badass. It had some funny parts. Yay!

I was waiting for Too Fast To Be Probable romance that always accompanies novellas, and it didn't show up. I mean, it's her first day. It would be weird to smush a romance into that tight of a time frame. I'm wondering if Shearin somehow finagles a romance out of the tall, dark, and angry partner. Probably. Right now that have zero chemistry.

 

Ilona Andrews: Magic Steals

Yay! Again, always good.

This story focused on part 2 of Dali and Jim's relationship. Their get together story was incredibly, amazingly cute. This story didn't shine as much, but awwww. I love them. 

Jim is a big, dark, laconic badass jaguar shifter. Dali is a small, quirky, vegetarian, Indonesian tiger shifter with glasses who pukes at the sight of blood, does calligraphy magic, and has short term memory loss every time she shifts. She's got some self esteem issues. They work it out.

One of my favorite parts is whenever she shifts. The process makes her disoriented, and you hear it from her perspective. Ooh pretty lights, lots of pretty lights. Smells like Jim. Mmm  Jim. I like Jim.

 

You know what else is great about Ilona Andrews (besides all those other things I always mention)? Mating is just dating in the Kate Daniels world. No mystical, on-sight, forever-locked-in, smooth-sailing-from-here bond. They have to get to know each other and work out their problems like everyone else.

I mean, I am also obviously a fan of insta-mate, as evidenced by the fact that I read so many paranormal romances, but sometimes it gets on my nerves.

 

Milla Vane: Beast of Blackmoor

So, Milla Vane is a pseudonym for Meljean Brook! Ever since reading Iron Duke, I have been book-courting her. I have not yet decided how I feel about her as an author.

Iron Duke: great, but a lot of the rapey. 

Blind Spot: great! No rapey! 

Beast of Blackmoor: dang it! Back to the rapey!

This was high fantasy, no urban elements at all, a totally made up world with quests, and battles, and prophecies, and gods, etc. I'm not entirely certain, but I don't think I like high fantasy.

And there was a lot of the rapey. What is it about Vane/Brook that she feels the need to do some full-scale massive rapey on entire towns, generations, cities, countries??

The Beast is pretty much Iron Duke take 2, and the heroine was pretty much Mina times Furiosa. Also some BDSM going on. And lots of oral. Probably the most dude oral I have seen in a series of books, and this is just a short story.

It was, generally...not fun.


 

All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue

Author: Sophie Jordan

Series: The Debutante Files #2

Tags: Regency romance, historical romance, viscount, childhood sweethearts, "can't love", artist, shotgun marriage, marriage of convenience

Format: audiobook

Rating: yay!

 

In the way that I like most regency romances, I liked this one!

 

I thought that it would end sooner than it did. The plot line Girl Needs to Get Married In a Hurry, Guy, Who Ostensibly Hates Her, Ruins Her Chances So That Only He Can Marry Her resolved itself, and we got a bonus Hero Can't Love (But Obviously Does) Marriage of Convenience at the end.

Still gotta put When the Duke Was Wicked at the top of the list for the first plot line, cuz BRANDY SCENE.

 

There's nothing good about our hero. That's pretty normal, right?

 

In any case, I liked this one better than the first of the series, which had a bit too much melodrama in it. Nefarious villains!