The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR Review #36: Eleanor and Park


I’m the guy who hated Romeo and Juliet (spare me captain boner and lady dumbass). I’m the guy who hated Wuthering Heights (go jump off a moor Heathcliff, I like the cat better anyway). I’m the guy who shakes his head at every protestation of love I ever hear from students, every hand-holding, sweetly embracing pair of fools who will end up in tears in just a few weeks.

I’m also the guy who nearly broke down crying at this book. Rainbow Rowell doesn’t try to oversell the seriousness of the relationship, it’s not life or death–but it may feel that way. She doesn’t try to make her characters more mature than their years (they seem downright childish at times), nor does she make it infantile crushing. You have to root for a pair of kids who seem so familiar to us all and so eager to live for the sake of living.

It’s a supremely sweet story, honest and exhilirating and a little bit brutal…just like teenage romance is.


Malin’s #CBR5 Review #143: Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

4.5 stars

Disclaimer! Harlequin Teen granted me an ARC of this through NetGalley in return for a fair review.

This is the third in the series of books (both excellent) about troubled teens who become attracted to their seemingly complete opposite. Previous books’ characters appear or are mentioned, but the book works fine on its own too. If you are interested in starting at the beginning, though, start with Pushing the Limits.

Isaiah Walker should be living in foster care, but is secretly living with his best friend Noah (the hero of Pushing the Limits, who’s the only person he really feels close to. However, rent money is hard to come by and if they can’t find enough cash, Noah will have to move into subsidised college housing, while Isaiah has to go back to the indifferent foster parents he was so relieved to escape. He agrees to drive a car in an illegal street race to get extra money, and that’s where he first meets Rachel. More on my blog.

Alexis’s #CBR5 Review #13

beautifuldisasterAKA how I learned not to trust raving Goodread reviews. Beautiful Disaster frequently shows up in “best of” romance lists and get’s 5 star reviews by many. Although contemporary romance is not my thing I decided to give it a try.

Mary Sue Abby is a pretty, quiet college student who, based on how often she goes shopping and/or is at the salon, has waaay more time and money than I did in college. Travis Maddox is a popular, muscular, sexpot who notoriously eschews any romantic entanglements. Also Travis pays for college by participating in an underground fight club. Because, of course he does.

Despite the bevvy of bikini-clad women available to Travis he is intrigued by Abby, because of course he is. Abby wisely steers clear of Travis until an ill-conceived bet results in Abby being forced to live with Travis for 30 days. Their mutual attraction blossoms but Abby fights it knowing that it will only end in heartbreak. Abby, however is, dating some hot rich dude (Parker but who cares) who is totally into her (because, of course he is) who amazingly is totally OK with the developing relationship between Abby and Travis because Abby repeatedly tells him that “Travis and I are just friends.” Which they are, until they have sex. So that’s a little awkward.

After that things get blurry – there are multiple break ups and make ups. Pretty forgettable and stupid until….

*SPOILER ALERT which you won’t care about because if you take my advice you’ll NEVER read this book*

Abby is a card shark. Her evil drunken gambler Dad shows up and will be KILLED BY A VEGAS MOB BOSS if Abby doesn’t fly to Vegas immediately and win enough at poker to pay off the Mob Boss. Abby comes up a few dollar short but after Travis BEATS THE MOB HENCHMEN TO BLOODY PULPS the Mob Boss hires Travis to fight in an underground Vegas match with a professional fighter in order to pay off save Abby’s Dad.

Luckily Travis is SOOO good that he has no issues dispatching the pro and he and Abby happily trundle back to college where they can bicker about if Abby’s latest fraternity formal dress shows too much skin.

Travis may be sexy but he’s also a caveman. He solves most of his problems by beating them to a pulp (in real life, Travis would be in prison.) If that doesn’t work, he gets drunk and has sex with strumpets.

Abby is a bore. Not only did the whole “card shark” angle come out of nowhere but it’s completely incongruous with everything we’ve learned about Abby up to this point, namely that she likes getting her nails done.

At one point Abby dumps Travis who is desperately heartsick for months. In the meantime Abby changes her mind and decides to get back together with Travis. Only because of stupidity decides to say nothing. Months later fates conspire for them to reunite and Abby finally admits that she decided to get back together months ago. Is Travis angry because he suffered needlessly for months? Does he recognize that his beloved has the emotional maturity of a four year old? Naaaahhhh….

They just fly to Vegas and get married.

I can’t lie – this was a compelling read that kept me up late. But let’s be honest, Beautiful Disaster is the book equivalent to Sharknado. It was horrible yet oddly compelling. After it was over I felt vaguely sick to my stomach and embarrassed that I had spent time on it.

(Phew…just squeaked in my quarter cannonball!)

Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Reviews #79 – #82: The Amour et Chocolat Series by Laura Florand

Laura Florand does not go wrong mixing dessert, France, and love stories. She has an excellent conceit and uses it to maximum advantage in this intersecting contemporary romance series. As in life, almost everything comes back to chocolate, except the sex, that’s fairly frequently about oblique vanilla kink, and, truthfully, once or twice about chocolate, too.

Plot Summary (All): American woman meets French food god. Instant attraction. Conflict. Delicious food. Hot sex. Engagement about three weeks later.

  1. The Chocolate Thief – Pretty good, it took me from 99 cents on Kindle to the complete series.
  2. The Chocolate Kiss – A very good fairy tale that made me forgive the metaphor.
  3. The Chocolate Rose – Excellent passion, I’m not sure what happened to the love story.
  4. The Chocolate Touch – My favourite of the group, it was really sweet and intense.
  5. The Chocolate Heart – I’ll let you know when my library gets it in.

Each of the heroes are artists in their chosen medium which, fortunately for the reader, are food related. As professional chefs, they are artists, intelligent, driven, and self-disciplined. The heroes were also a little more insecure than is usual in a romance. They carry themselves with bravado, but Florand lets the reader see their vulnerability. Is it because they’re French that they are allowed to be masculine and sensitive as well? I’m not sure, but I really liked it.

Individual book reviews after the jump or on my tiny little blog.

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Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Reviews #75 & #76 – Welcome to Temptation and Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

To sum up:

duck soup 1

Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me is number 15 on All About Romance’s readers poll of the Top 100 Romances of all time* and Welcome to Temptation comes in at number 20. I managed to take four of Crusie’s books out of the library, but not the one I really wanted which was Bet Me. I put it on hold and then just bought the darn thing on Amazon anyway. It was worth it, Bet Me is a definite keeper.

Welcome to Temptation

This was an extremely entertaining read. Sophie and her sister arrive in Temptation, Ohio to film a C-list actress’s demo reel and it expands into a full movie of dubious content. The internecine political squabbles only a small town can provide are the backdrop for Sophie to fall in love with the Mayor, Phineas (Phin) Tucker.

Welcome to Temptation was frequently laugh out loud funny. Crusie created likeable and believable leads with excellent chemistry and a sexy, light-hearted tone. There are multiple players and machinations to track and the whole thing careened along very enjoyably, buoyed by its own charm, until it veered into camp. Let’s just say that it’s a lot of larceny for one small town and the resolutions were ludicrous in proportion to events.

Bet Me

This was one of those books you read while quietly adjuring, “This is so awesome, please don’t mess it up, please don’t mess it up, this is so awesome, please don’t mess it  up.” Crusie did not mess it up. The Come Here Go Away went on a bit, but Bet Me was absolutely delightful, a fantastic read that I highly recommend.

Do you need to know the plot, too? Fine. Minerva overhears an Adonis making a bet with her former, for all of thirty minutes, boyfriend that said Adonis, Calvin, can’t get Minerva into bed inside a month. Everything is exactly and absolutely not the way it appears. There were subplots involving an ex-girlfriend of Calvin’s and Min’s ex-boyfriend conspiring against their success as a couple which went on too long and veered into camp; time spent on Minerva’s sister’s impending nuptials which went on too long and veered into camp; and the coming together of Min and Cal’s groups of friends which was just fine and did not veer into camp. That’s still a lot of veering. What exactly is my problem with silly over-the-top fun? I think I need to re-calibrate my willing suspension of disbelief, if I’m complaining that a romance novel is insufficiently realistic. Continue reading

Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Review #71 & #72: Sugar Daddy and Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

Having read Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas and being desperate for more good romance to read, I went and got her other two Travis family books from the library. It’s what always happens to me with a Kleypas series. She really does have the most scrumptious men in romance. Scrumptious men and sexy smolder, those are her by-words. I adore Courtney Milan and she is the best author currently publishing historicals, but have I re-read all my favourite Kleypas novels more times than I am willing to admit in type.

All three books in the Travis series, Sugar Daddy, Blue-Eyed Devil, Smooth Talking Stranger, are told in the first person from the heroine’s perspective. Normally, romance has an omniscient narrator so the frame of reference flips back and forth between the two main characters. The single viewpoint means that one sees the object of affection exclusively as he presents himself to the female lead. It makes each novel her story as opposed to “theirs” and this is appropriate given that each of the heroines has a rather fraught history.

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Malin’s #CBR5 Review #134: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning

Neve is in her mid-twenties and awkward around new people, especially men. She works as an archivist and seeks refuge in classical literature. Over the course of the last three years, she’s kept up an old-fashioned pen and paper correspondence with William, one of her professors from Oxford, whose currently lecturing in California. During the same three years, she’s also lost more than half her body weight (from a UK size 32/US size 30/European size 62 to a smallish UK size 16/US size 14/EU size 44) through a strenuous and rigid exercise and diet regime. William is due back in little over three months, at which point Neve is determined to be a size 12. She’s sure that once William sees her again, he will love her as much as she has always loved him, and everything in her life will finally be perfect.

Her little sister Celia is not convinced that Neve is doing the right thing, pining for William and rejecting all other men. She encourages Neve to get some dating experience, saying that she doesn’t want to be completely innocent when William finally returns. The only man she warns Neve away from entirely, is Mx, one of the assistant editors at the fashion and lifestyle magazine where Celia works, claiming that he’s a bit of a man whore and will only break Neve’s heart. As Max has a young blonde draped over each arm and throws an ice cube at her accidentally the first time they meet, Neve is pretty sure she’ll be able to resist his “charm”, yet ends up taking him home at the end of the night, desperate to get some of that precious experience with someone who seems to have lots of it. Their first night together is absolutely dreadful, and it’s clearly better if she and Max never speak again. More on my blog.

Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Review #69: Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

“I had always gone in the other direction, toward men like Dane who made you kill your own spiders
and carry your own suitcase.That was exactly what I wanted. And yet someone like Jack Travis,
unimpeachably male, so damn sure of himself, held a secret, nearly fetishistic allure to me.

Jesus, GOD, YES! Lisa Kleypas, you just get me. You marry suitcase guy and secretly hope he will carry heavy things for you anyway, not because you can’t, but because you are lazy. You read romance novels for fetishistic allure guy.

Ella Varner is the product of a repeatedly broken home and, far worse, of a narcissistic and manipulative mother. Through time and counseling she has built a healthy life for herself. The same cannot be said for her mother or younger sister. When Ella’s sister leaves her one-week-old baby with their mother, Ella is summoned from Austin to Houston to help sort out the mess. Ella drops everything, including her long-term, vegan, environmental activist live-in boyfriend, to go and help out. This turns into a three-month sojourn while Ella’s sister receives psychological counselling.

But enough about the maguffin and on to the main event of any Lisa Kleypas romance: Jack Travis is Ella’s first candidate for the child’s father despite his protestations that he a. “always holsters his gun” and b. insists the he did not have sex with Ella’s sister. He is quickly dismissed as a candidate, but sticks around anyway because of his interest in Ella. Jack is a self-made man and the son of a billionaire. He’s tall, dark, handsome, friendly, helpful, possessive in a secretly attractive way, smart, sexy, supportive, wry, a good listener, seductive, mature, chivalrous, manly, mellifluous-voiced, physically fit, generous, emotionally available, funny, polite, mad for Ella, and willing to take on a newborn. I’ve never said this about a romance novel hero before, but this guy is too good to be true. Jack is too perfect*. He’s certainly a very comforting fantasy. Who wouldn’t want Captain Perfect to show up in your life while you are in a crisis, worship the ground you walk on, and provide the moral support you need? It would have been fine if the final timeline had worked differently, or if the do-gooder boyfriend was not painted as an unsympathetic jerk, or if I could believe for one second that someone unexpectedly and without any experience taking care of a newborn baby could have the time or inclination to fall in love with anything other than the notion of a full night’s sleep.

Smooth Talking Stranger features the trademark Lisa Kleypas smolder. Her heroine is independent, self-sufficient, and kind. One certainly can’t fault her for falling for the hero. The problem is that the point of a romance novel is not that there is a perfect man, it’s that two people find something more in each other or fit together in a way unique to their personalities. Succumbing to the magnificence of the ultimate man misses the point.

This was my first Lisa Kleypas contemporary romance, but not my last. I have read almost all of her historical romance catalogue including The Wallflowers series and The Hathaways. I cannot recommend her highly enough. Start with Dreaming of You or The Devil in Winter. Both are classics of the genre.

*As opposed to Outlander’s Jamie Fraser who is just perfect enough.

The (Shameful) Tally 2013

This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.

Mrs. Julien’s #CBR5 Review #67 & #68 – Something About You and About That Night by Julie James

Same willing suspension, different disbelief.

I don’t read contemporary romances because they don’t provide the narrative distance my obsession calls for, but I was looking for a book to fill an evening and I had quite liked Julie James’ Love Irresistibly, plus my romance spirit guide, Malin, had spoken approvingly of Something About You.

Girl overhears murder. Boy is investigating. Boy and girl have history. Boom chicka wow wow.

Jack Pallas is a glowery, stubbly, hot FBI agent. Cameron Lynde is a successful Assistant US Attorney with a stereotypical “women love shoes” fetish. Cameron ends up in protective custody after overhearing a murder in the hotel room next to hers. The victim was a woman a senator was paying to have sex. Mercifully, as I dislike murder mystery sub-plots, the killer’s identity is revealed early and not the point of the novel. The point of the novel is that Cameron needs protectin’ and she and Jack need to get around to the kissin’ and the lovin’. There were legalities and procedures that strained credulity and/or reality, but it is a romance novel and I can’t be bothered to get my knickers in a twist about suspected jurisprudence inadequacies as long as I’m being entertained.

Something About You had leads with excellent chemistry, he was kind of delicious, as well as fun secondary characters, a nice dose of humour, and, saints be praised, a completely non-stereotypical gay best friend. The novel helped me pass a pleasant evening and I would recommend it to do the same for you.

About That Night is my third Julie James book, my second in a week. I only read it because I was trawling the romance spinners at the library and I stumbled across it. The reviews said it wasn’t as good as the other novels in the series and they were right. Each of these books features either an FBI Agent, a US Attorney, or both (see above). This time it’s the middle one.

Boy and girl clicked, but missed chance. Boy is back, but a felon. Boom chicka complications wow wow.

Kyle and Rylann (I know) met in university, but life got in the way of their incendiary spark. Eight years later, Kyle did something impulsive and stupid that landed him in prison. Rylann is the Assistant US Attorney who represents the federal government in the hearing to commute his sentence to time served. The story behind the sentencing change is covered in the book A Lot Like Love which falls between Something About You and About That Night in the series.

Julie James is a competent writer who gives good smolder. These books are all set in Chicago and I suspect residents will recognize all the local sites and eateries mentioned. Because I don’t live in Chicago, these details did not disrupt my reading experience with any intrusions of realism.

The (Shameful) Tally 2013

This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #111: Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

Caroline has many things to be happy about. She’s got good friends, a devoted cat, a job she enjoys, a very nice Kitchen Aid mixer and a beautiful new San Francisco apartment. What is missing from her life, and has been missing for over six months, since a particularly disastrous date, is the big O. To make matters worse, the main flaw in her otherwise lovely apartment seems to be that the walls between her bedroom and that of the one next door, are very thin. And her neighbour has a very active, frequent and loud sex life with at least three different women (all of whom Caroline gives snarky nicknames). She keeps losing sleep, and one night, in a fit of frustration, pounds on the wallbanger’s door (forgetting that she’s clad only in a skimpy nightie) and demands he keep it down. Simon, as the wallbanger is actually called, answers the door wrapped only in a sheet, and seems very amused by the whole situation.

Caroline and Simon start out fairly antagonistic to one another, but when his two closest friends start going out with Caroline’s two besties, they are naturally thrown together more often than not. They start out with a tentative truce, which turns into friendship, which eventually seems to blossom into something more. Will Clive the cat ever be united with his one true love, the woman who mieows through Caroline’s walls intermittently?Will Caroline ever recover her lost O? Will Simon be able to give up his little harem of women and settle for just one woman?

Full review on my blog.