Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mini-Reviews: Women In Peril

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0062362860/themisaofsupe-20
I've gotten in the habit of "wish listing" potential audiobook listens from work.  Instead of putting myself on a wait list, when I need something to listen to, I check my wish list, gauge my mood, and download what's currently available.  I was ready for suspense, so went with The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford.  For those keeping track, this is post-Gone Girl and was published the same year as The Girl on the Train.  It reminded me more of the latter, but it's similar to both in the fact that it's a book about miserable people, living miserable lives and the moral of the story seems to be don't get married.

Dana lives in a quiet New Jersey suburb not far from Manhattan, is at a loss now that her son is off to college and the cracks in her marriage to her lawyer husband, Peter are starting to show.  Complicating matters is Dana's bipolar disorder, and the brutal murder of her neighbor and friend, Celia.  Dana was the last person to see Celia alive, they were both drunk, they argued and....that's it.  Dana has blacked out.  Between the alcohol and being in a manic phase she's not sure what's reality and what are just thoughts bumping around in her head.

This is another thriller that employs the Look At Me I'm A Serious Writer method of writing.  There's a lot of musing and rambling words strung together and yada yada yada.  It mostly works given Dana's mental state, but thank Jeebus that this book isn't only told from her point of view.  I found myself much more interested when Detective Jack Moss was the one at the narration wheel.

This is OK.  I pretty much had it figured all out by the 75% mark and it wraps up tidy.  It's not the sort of book I will scream from the rooftops about, but if you loved The Girl on the Train and want another book in that vein?  Yeah, this one.  For me it was a pleasant way to pass the time but I wasn't enthusiastic about it.

Final Grade = C


http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00JTPU3XG/themisaofsupe-20
Her Forbidden Gunslinger by Harper St. George is a short (around 60 pages) western that was an impulse download.  I wanted a quick, one-sitting read for my lunch break at work, went diving into the Kindle TBR and pulled this out.  This was OK, a pleasant way to kill an hour, but ultimately rather forgettable. 

Sophie Buchanan's uncle wants to marry her to one of his loathsome cronies.  She is going to run away and, being skilled in billiards, decides to hustle the few funds she has to a bigger payday.  However the bloke she's playing doesn't take kindly losing to a woman and she finds herself getting pulled out of the fire by Gray, a half-Comanche gunman who works for her uncle.  Naturally these two have had the hots for each other, but haven't acted on them because - well white woman, Comanche man, he works for her uncle yada yada yada.  With her wedding day looming closer, can Gray find a way to rescue Sophie?

This was an OK read, but suffers from the short word count.  Even making it a longer novella (150 pages) would have gone a long way to fleshing out this story.  This did the job of entertaining me on my lunch break, but it's not something I would say you have to drop your life in order to read.  Since the publication of this short St. George has gone on to write full length Harlequin Historicals (which I have in my TBR - because of course I do).  I liked the writing here, which means I'm now looking forward to bumping up those longer books in my reading queue.

Final Grade = C+

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

#TBRChallenge 2016: The Cowboy Way

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00LUVAM2O/themisaofsupe-20
The Book: The Cowboy Way by Anna Alexander

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, first book in series, 2014, Self-Published, In Print

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: This was an impulse grab at an RWA conference during their Indie Book Signing.  Either the 2014 or 2015 conference.  My cataloging notes for this title are non-existent.  Anyway it's a western, there's a guy wearing a cowboy hat on the cover - that was enough for me.

The Review:  I know some romance readers who have jumped whole-hog into self-publishing that they're literally only reading self-published authors these days.  I'm not one of those readers.  I have nothing against self-publishing.  I think it affords many exciting opportunities.  What I want is a good story and strong characters - whether it comes from a traditional print publisher, a smaller digital-first press or it's self-published, I don't rightly care.  The issue I see with some self-published books though is that they could strongly benefit from either a hard-a$$ beta reader and/or critique partner or the eye of a keen editor.  And that's kind of where I'm at with The Cowboy Way.

Ranch owner Trey Armstrong wakes up in the hospital.  Seems there was an accident.  His ranch hands got worried, went out to look for him, and found him on the ground, with a bloody head injury and his horse standing near by.  His accident, naturally, has repercussions.  While he remembers his name and some other details of his life - he's blanked out on a big one.  His wife.  Trey does not remember his wife, Greta.  The doctor says it will come back in time, and Trey goes home to begin unraveling the mystery that is his marriage.  But the more time he spends with Greta?  The more he realizes that it wasn't all sunshine and roses.  What happened between them?

Amnesia is a perenially popular trope in Romancelandia, but one that is especially hard to pull off.  In this instance, there's a good story here.  Alexander goes the smart route by not biting off more than she can chew.  Trey's amnesia is selective.  He remembers his ranch hands, but not his wife.  He remembers his old horse, but not his new one.  But his home office looks cold and impersonal.  He can't remember how to work a computer.  And the decorating in the house (namely the bedroom he supposedly shares with his wife) feels "off."  I honestly kept reading this story because I was curious about the secrets that Trey's amnesia was covering up.

Where this story didn't work was in character development - there really isn't any.  Trey and Greta never really elevate themselves past "characters."  There's never enough life breathed into them to make me feel like these could be "real people."  All I really know about Greta is that she's curvy like a 1950s pin-up and apparently the best cook in six counties.  Seriously all she seems to do in this story is cook for the men and have sex with her husband.

And that's the the other thing - the sex.  The reader knows immediately that this is a marriage that wasn't on the surest footing prior to the accident.  Trey may have selective amnesia, but Greta does not.  Greta knows what's been going on in her marriage.  This is a category length book (around 200 pages).  So given the baggage of the marriage going sour, and Trey's amnesia - the fact that these two jump into bed enough to warrant multiple sex scenes felt really off to me.  In fact the tone in general of this story is like a mash-up of a Harlequin Western (the former American line) and an erotic romance - and there's even flashback scenes tossed on to the fire.  It's not always an easy mix.

In the end I mostly kept reading this because I'm a sucker for marriage-in-trouble stories and I wanted the moment where Trey's amnesia is "cured" and he must confront what happened.  But these characters are just never fully fleshed.  I was completely ambivalent that this "stuff" was happening "to them."  As a reader, that's the goal.  I want to care about these people - and I finished this book feeling like I didn't even really know them.  They weren't real (and yes I know characters in a novel are never real but you all know what I mean...)

Is this the worst thing I've ever read?  No. Believe me, I've impulse-grabbed worse books at conferences.  But there wasn't anything here to light a fire under me to continue with this series or possibly investigate another book by this author. 

Mileage always varies on these types of reviews but....meh.

Final Grade = C-

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review: Bound to the Warrior King

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00U68NR56/themisaofsupe-20
Harlequin Presents were ALL ABOUT THE FEELS before New Adult was a gleam in it's self-published mama's eye.  That's the appeal of the Presents line.  At less than 200 pages a Presents can't waste time flailing about looking for emotional purchase.  The line, at it's best, means high intensity, strong attraction, and enough chemistry to burn off your fingerprints.  And because of this the line has a tendency to feature a strong "fairy tale" component.  Not in all of the books, but in a decent amount of them.  Bound to the Warrior King by Maisey Yates is a very, very good book - but the reader has to be willing to check reality in and collect it after the final destination.

Tarek al-Khalij (yes, we have a sheikh book) was never meant to rule Tahar (yes, we have a made-up country/royalty book).  The former sheikh was his brother, a monster who ordered the murder of their parents and then tortured Tarek.  At the hands of his brother's "tutelage," Tarek became a fierce warrior - living as a nomad, protecting his country's borders - while his brother debauched his way through women and drugs until the latter killed him.  Now Tarek is the sheikh and to put it bluntly?  He's barely housebroken.

Dowager Queen Olivia of Alansund is a young widow desperate to find her place in the world.  With her husband, the King, dead and her brother-in-law now ruler, Olivia is at a loss.  She desperately wants a home.  She wants to be useful.  And to her way of thinking that's another royal marriage.  Tarek seems like a good candidate....until she actually meets him.  But before he can throw her out on her butt, she suggests that he give her 30 days.  30 days to show him that he needs her.  She can housebreak him in the ways of being royal.  She can polish him up.  And she has 30 days to show him just how invaluable she can be to him and maybe, just maybe, convince him that a permanent partnership between the two of them would not be the worst thing in the whole world.

I've read category romances in recent memory where the author went a little crazy at The Trope Smorgasbord and the book reads like a hot mess.  Somehow Yates does the exact same thing and manages to pull it off.  I think because she doesn't overdo it on any of her ingredients.  This story features everything from subtle Pygmalion and Beauty and the Beast themes to Ye Olde Fake Royalty and Virgin Hero Ahoy! tropes.  She pulls all her ingredients together beautifully and not one overpowers any of the others.

Olivia is a complicated heroine and I suspect if readers will have issues with this story it may be with her.  She's an American who met her royal husband at university.  She's the sort of heroine who has a lot of polish on the outside but is secretly vulnerable.  In this instance, it's due to a lifetime of neglect from parents who were distracted taking care of her sickly sister.  Olivia is the sort of heroine who wants people to notice her, to value her, but when she opens her mouth to demand it, it comes back to bite her in the butt.  I could sympathize with a  teenage Olivia who just wanted her parents to acknowledge her birthday, but for some readers Olivia's baggage will likely come off as First World Problems.

Tarek's baggage is much more extreme - what with the Evil Dead Brother and the life he lived from about 15-years-old on.  His whole life is wrapped up in control and being the exact opposite of what his brother stood for.  Honor, duty, sacrifice for his country - these are all very important to Tarek.  But he's not exactly a "people person" - which is where Olivia comes in.  He's very much our Fairy Tale Beast - no polish, with rough edges, but underneath it all he's a good man, with a good heart.

What I really liked about their relationship is that from a sexual chemistry standpoint Olivia is the aggressor.  Tarek is all about restraint and control - which means denying himself his baser instincts.  Olivia is attracted to Tarek almost instantly, and having had a healthy sexual relationship with her first husband, knows exactly what she has been missing the past two years.  I don't read a ton of Presents, but Olivia making the early first moves on our sheikh hero felt very....different to me.  In a good way.  This, of course, ramps up the tension quite a bit and these two set off some serious sparks.  I found myself anticipating the consummation of their relationship and it's been a while since I've been able to say that about a romance (sad, but true).

Yates has written a straight-up Fairy Tale Fantasy.  I'm hard pressed to find much reality in this story, but the author owns it, and runs with it.  It's intense, it brings ALL THE FEELS, and I inhaled every single word of it.  Yates has quickly become my go-to author for Presents.

Final Grade = B+

Note: I actually listened this on audio.  My first ever Presents listen on audio.  I walked into the experience knowing it would either be a success or an unmitigated disaster.  The audio version definitely drew the "over the top" feel that the Presents line can have into stronger focus - especially Tarek's dialogue.  I felt his dialogue fit well with his overall character but....yeah, a little over the top.  Also it took me a little while to get used to the narrator, Arika Rapson, whose voice was a little on the "breathy" side.  I'm not sure I'd listen to an unknown-to-me Presents author on audio, but since Yates was a known quantity?  I could roll with it all.  And I did enjoy it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Reminder: #TBRChallenge for September

For those of you participating in the 2016 TBR Challenge, this is a reminder that your commentary is "due" on Wednesday, September 21.  This month's theme is Random Pick!  Basically the theme is that there is no theme.  Go wherever your current reading mood takes you.  Think of it as making up your own theme.

You can find more information about the challenge (and see the list of participants) on the Information Page

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review: Wendy Poo-Poos The Rat Catcher

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00338QET2/themisaofsupe-20
Disclaimer: This book has been out since 1999 and I think I'm the last romance reader on the planet to read it - but just in case....this review will be riddled with spoilers.  Also, I listened to this on audio and one of my chief gripes may be because I listened to it on audio.  I'll be curious to see if folks who "read" this book feel the same way I did about a certain scene.
I'm a sucker for a good Pygmalion story and the premise of The Proposition by Judith Ivory is one that intrigues.  That is, what if My Fair Lady wasn't a lady but a lad?  Our hero is Mick Tremore, affable London rat catcher who finds himself being made over by Lady Edwina Bollash, discarded relation to a sour old distant cousin (a Duke) who makes her way in the world schooling young misses navigating society.  There's a to-do in a tea house which brings Mick to the attention of the twin Lords, Emile and Jeremy Lamont.  The Lamonts like to amuse themselves with various bets and wagers and think it would be great fun to see if Edwina can make over Mick to the point where they can pass him off as a Viscount at her sour old cousin's annual ball.  There's no love lost between Edwina and the Duke, plus she's fascinated by Mick's blend of cockney and Cornish speech patterns - so why not?

So where did it all go wrong?  Well, not a lot happens in this book - at least until the final 5 or 6 chapters.  Mick flirts, keeps calling Edwina "Winnie," takes her to a pub to show her a good time, and wheedles her (and not in a good way) incessantly.  Winnie is conflicted over her feelings for Mick, propriety and wrestles with her own feelings of self-worth.  I know this book is late Victorian, but honestly this felt like a Traditional Regency idea bloated up to give us 380+ pages.  But Ivory can write.  Her world-building is very good.  I felt like I was reading a historical and not a modern piece with characters wearing costumes.  So even though the plot and conflict are a bit thin, the world-building kept me engaged.

There are bigger issues at play here though.  The first major stumbling block I had was during the scenes were Edwina is needling Mick to shave off his mustache.  What follows is quid pro quo.  Winnie is a tall woman with legs that drive Mick wild.  Basically he'll shave off the mustache if she lifts her skirts to show off her legs.  Which in an era where it was a shocking scandal to expose your ankle - you can understand Winnie's horror.  But she wants the mustache gone.  However Mick keeps upping the ante, finding loopholes to create more demands - to the point where Winnie is practically in tears.  On the audio version her discomfort is palpable.  I don't know if I would have had the same reaction had I read the book as opposed to having a narrator read me the book - but Mick basically comes off as bullying a gentle woman - someone raised in an environment where being comfortable with her own body and sexuality was basically unheard of.  It's not forced seduction, but Winnie's state during these scenes made me, as the listener, extremely uncomfortable.  Honestly I can't believe I kept listening, but I did.

It took a while for me to get over all that.  I don't expect my romance heroes to be paragons of virtue, but I do expect them to treat the heroine with some respect.  And those moments where Mick is pressing Winnie, wheedling her, had me squirming in my seat - and not in a good way.

After that unpleasantness, we're back to not a lot happening until it's time to find out if Mick the Rat Catcher can successfully fool the ton at the Duke's ball into thinking he's Michael the Viscount.

And this would be where the book completely jumps the shark.

Judith Ivory cops out.  She totally and completely cops out on this story with the Fairy Tale ending.  Because it turns out that Mick is NOT a Rat Catcher.  He's NOT some working class slob from Cornwall.  OH NOES!!!!  He's actually the long-lost grandson of the Duke who was kidnapped when he was a toddler!

BECAUSE OF COURSE HE IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gee, it would have been too darn messy to have Mick actually BE a Rat Catcher.  To actually have him BE a working class slob and for the author to flex some muscles to figure out how to make the happy ending between a Rat Catcher and a Lady work.  OH NOES!!!!  Let's just make him the long lost heir to a Dukedom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Am I being too hard on this book?  It was written in 1999, published by a major publisher who probably loved the fairy tale ending.  But here's the thing - I don't think I am.  This was just as much of a cop-out 17 years ago as it is today.  I'm sorry, it is.  I want my romantic couple to have to work for their happy ending, not to just have a Dukedom conveniently fall in their laps from the sky.

All of which highlights some amazing (and sloppy storytelling) coincidences.  The Lamonts just happened to find Mick who just happened to be the Duke's long lost grandson and they all just happened to meet Lady Edwina, the Duke's distant, discarded cousin in a tea shop and she just happened to agree to their bet to polish him up.  So on and so forth.

And never mind that the Duke has no love for Edwina and basically calls her ugly and an idiot in front of Mick and HE SAYS NOTHING TO DEFEND HER!  After she's poured her soul out to Mick on how her family ignored her, belittled her and dismissed her her whole life.  No, Mick will just buy her a pretty dress and get back the house she grew up in for her and la de da.

Seriously.  I don't get it.

In fact I really don't get it because over the years one of the few criticisms I've read of this book is that Winnie is a "snob."

WELL OF COURSE SHE IS!!!!  She's a frickin' Lady who has been stuck in society her whole life.

But no mention is made of the mustache scene and the cop-out ending or the amazing coincidences that lead our characters on this whole merry chase.

I have no idea how to grade this one.  I'm so irritated by the glowing love for this book and my visceral reaction to it that this probably should be a D.  But the world-building is too good and the writing too solid for me in good conscience slap it with such a grade.  No matter how irritated I am.

Final Grade = C-

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: Offensive Behavior

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01BZB7NS4/themisaofsupe-20
Bless her heart, even though she knows I have a TBR that can be seen from space that doesn't keep KristieJ from recommending books to me.  Or nagging me about them.  Which she does a lotOffensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton jumped to the top of the queue because Kristie said the magic words: "virgin hero."  Did I like it?  Well, sort of.  But I'm a big enough person to admit that a lot of what was a mixed bag for me sits firmly in the camp of Wendy Is A Weirdo.

This book has a plot that honestly can only be found in genre fiction.  Once upon a time Zarley Halveston was a world-class gymnast with her eye on the US Olympic Team. Then she screwed it up.  Now she's working as a pole dancer in a past-seed bar known for it's food poisoning track record and going to college.  Reid McGarth was a dot-com wunderkind before his lack of people skills led to his ouster from the company he founded.  So now he's a member of the idle rich, drinking rotgut at a dive bar, feeling sorry for himself and watching Zarley dance. 

And that's pretty much it.  Eventually they hook up, have sex, have more sex, and have to work through their internal baggage to have a meaningful relationship.

This book started out great for me.  I have a weakness for heroes who have hit rock bottom and this book basically opens with Reid doing his best to pickle his liver.  I also like no-nonsense, I don't need your pity, heroines and Zarley isn't the sort to get taken in by a drunk (even if he is a regular) who lives in the back booth.  But while it started out great, it slid south for me the further it went along.

Here's the thing: when it comes to contemporary romance my brain is wired for category.  This book felt entirely too long for me.  It would have been perfect as a Harlequin Blaze.  A Temptation, if that line still existed.  Once Reid sobers up (around the 30% mark) that leaves us with 70% of sex, Reid ticking off his former friends at his company, and Zarley telling Reid he can't buy her.  Blah, blah, blah.  At 350 pages I felt like this book was 100 pages too long.

I'll be blunt, I got bored.  My interest waned.  At first I thought it was a combination of 1) my cantankerous nature 2) the Reading Slump That Won't Die 3) my belief that all contemporary romance is infinitely better when it's category length.  But then I did begin to notice cracks. 

SPOILERS AHEAD!  

Namely that this book is, at it's heart, a rescue fantasy.  Stuff happens to Zarley over the course of this book and Reid wants to make it all better - which he can do since he's fabulously wealthy and doesn't have to work for a living.  Zarley does push against this, but then towards the end of the story she breaks things off with him because, wait for it, he's essentially ignoring her (he finds himself working again on a big project and is burning the candle at both ends).  Boo-frickin-hoo.  He has a job.  He is busy.  And because he's working his butt off he's not around to spend time with her.  She writes him a Dear John Letter to this effect.  Seriously?!?  Seriously!?!?!?!?!?!

Yeah, it sucks - but it's called being a grown-up.  Suck it up cupcake. 

So that annoyed.  And all the sex, which to be perfectly honest after the First Time felt like page filler to me.  The whole He Can Rescue Her With Money/Resources, She Can Rescue Him "Emotionally" thing that after years of reading romance kind of annoys me (Why can't the hero rescue emotionally?  Why can't the heroine be the one with resources/money?).  The whole New Adult thing - the characters, their baggage, the whole dot-com thing, the fact that the heroine's name is "Zarley" (my apologies for any Real Life Zarleys reading this review - but Zarley?  I'd never speak to my parents ever again). 

And I'm about 90% sure a lot of this is me being unreasonable.  It grabbed me by the throat the first few chapters but once it lost steam?  It really lost steam.  I skimmed big chunks - including almost all the sex scenes.  I have absolutely no interest is picking up any other books in this series.  After the initial shine, the character failed to fully engage me (any of them - including the secondary ones).  It just....didn't work for me.  Lots of other people have loved this book (I get it, I do) - so why didn't it work for me?  I'm not sure but I'm beginning to think New Adult is not my bag.

I can read a Harlequin Presents story featuring a 21-year-old heroine, but for some reason you slap on the New Adult label and I'm out.  Maybe I'm too old?  Maybe I just don't get millennials?  Maybe I just haven't found the right New Adult romance for me?  Is this story "bad?"  I wouldn't call it bad.  But it just wasn't for me.  If you're a New Adult fan and you haven't already read this, give it a whirl.  You'll probably love it.  I did like the beginning.  I did feel like Reid made for a compelling Jerk Face hero but other than that?  Meh.

Cranky Wendy out.

Final Grade = C

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: The Obsession

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0399175164/themisaofsupe-20
The entire time I was listening to The Obsession by Nora Roberts the phrase "damning with faint praise" kept running through my mind.  Which means I feel the need to explain how I tend to approach romantic suspense.

I was a mystery/suspense reader long before romance, so when it comes to romantic suspense I tend to be a Suspense First, Love Cooties Second kind of gal.  And I've long accepted that this puts me in a small minority in Romancelandia.  The premise of this book is dynamite.  Roberts really outdid herself cooking up this one.  The downside?  With the suspense concept so dynamite I totally began to think of the "romance stuff" as "filler."  Which probably isn't a good sign.

Shortly before her 12th birthday, Naomi Carson follows her father out into the early morning dawn and discovers he's a monster.  He's been raping and murdering women for years, using an old, abandoned cellar to carry-out his evil.  Naomi discovers a woman, still alive, that day and rescues her.  Her father is arrested, but it's only the beginning.  Her, her mother, her younger brother, go to live with mother's brother - looking for a fresh start.  But the past doesn't stay buried - even after Naomi is all grown up, and finally trying to settle down in the Pacific Northwest.

The first part of this book is bloody fantastic.  It's the story of Young Naomi, her rescuing her father's latest victim, her father's arrest, and the fall-out from realizing that Daddy is a monster.  Then the story jumps to present day.  After years of traveling the country, working as a photographer, Naomi falls in love with a rundown house, decides to fix it up, plant roots, and falls in love (rather unwillingly at first) with Xander Keaton, local mechanic, singer in a bar band, and all around good guy.  She's finally starting to settle down, to let people get close, when someone following in her father's footsteps finds her.

Here's the issue.  Once we're past the Young Naomi portion of the story, we get into Settling Down Grown-up Naomi.  Grown-up Naomi:

Buys a rundown house
Hires a contractor to fix it up
Blah, blah, blah whole bunch of renovation/remodeling porn
Finds an abandoned dog
Keeps the abandoned dog, reluctantly
Falls in love with the dog, because of course
Starts tap-dancing around Xander
Cooks several delicious meals
Takes a bunch of photographs - work, work, work
Romance, romance, blah blah blah....

I. Don't. Care.

Yes, it's harsh.  But the whole concept of this book (that even serial killers can, and sometimes do, have loved ones, family, friends - they're not always loners....) is so fantastic.  That's what I want.  I want more of that.  I don't give a flying hoot about Naomi finding the perfect desk to rehab for her home office.  Or that she makes Eggs Benedict for Xander and he practically orgasms on the spot.

I. Just. Don't. Care.

But back to the suspense.  Once it shows up again (Praise Jeebus!), Naomi has to stop running from her past and admit some hard truths.  The one (and it's big) downside is that while the concept of the suspense is fantastic, the actually WhoDunIt is....obvious.  As in, really, really obvious.  I felt like Roberts' tipped her hand way too early and there are no credible red herrings or uses of misdirection.  Which made getting through the I. Don't. Care. Renovation, Dog Owning, Cooking Porn even more tedious.  I know who the bad guy is.  Can't we just skip all this other stuff and get to the end?

Seriously, I wonder what this book would have been like as a Harlequin Intrigue?  I'm thinking pretty awesome.

The world-building is good, the characterizations are good, and Roberts writes small town life in a way that doesn't make me want to put my fist through a wall (no cutesy cupcake shops!).  And Roberts is a great storyteller.  This is a good story.  The plot concept is great!  But it's how it's executed that I found myself bored by.  I also wanted the mystery to be a bit beefier.  Some twists and turns would have been nice.  This is more straight line.  Wide open space.

I'm not sure where this leaves me and my reaction to this book.  I hate giving it a low grade.  I recognize the good story.  I recognize that I liked these people, I liked the concept - I just didn't really care for how it was all executed.  So it's going to be a middling grade, but it's honestly probably better than that.  Especially if you're a Romance First, Suspense Second romantic suspense reader.

Final Grade = C+