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April 21, 2017

R is for Romantic Tales #AtoZChallenge

by MK French

A lot of stories have at least a romantic subplot even if the book isn't strictly Romance. There's historical romance, and paranormal romance, and fairytale romance, and on and on it goes. It is human nature to want to connect to another person on an intimate, romantic level. MK French recently reviewed several romantic tales. ~ Donna

Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Free books were provided for honest reviews.


Campbell's Redemption
November 2016; Loveswept; 9781101964903
ebook (240 pages); Scottish romance
Campbell's Redemption by Sharon Cullen

Iain Campbell is laird and feels responsible for all the people of his clan. He feels responsible for the death of Cait's husband years before and had avoided her. At the start of this novel, however, he brought an injured man to her home, knowing that she has renowned healing skill. They are constantly in each others' orbits after this, and Iain has to confront his feelings for her, as well as the mounting tensions between clans and coming from England.

This is the third book in a trilogy, but it all made sense even without reading the first two books. Cait's history is one of intense tragedy and loss, starting from her birth. Everyone she has ever cared about was eventually lost to death or estrangement, so it's difficult to earn her trust. Iain walks a fine line between his Scottish and English heritage, especially with England trying to tighten its stranglehold on the Scots.

They're a likable hero and heroine, even with all of the background hurt between them, and the other characters in the book also feel believable. There are so many obstacles in the way of these two getting together, it almost felt as though it couldn't be the traditional happily ever after of a romance novel. There was a very sudden change in circumstances at the end of the book that allows it to happen; I wonder if it would be less of a shock to me if I had read the first two books of the trilogy. All in all, I enjoyed the book and was rooting for Cait to finally find happiness.

Buy Campell's Redemption at Amazon


An Unseen Attraction
February 2017; Loveswept
audio, ebook (209 pages); Victorian romance 
An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles

Clem Tallyfer runs a boarding house at his brother's bequest. He likes how peaceful it is, the people he works with, the hobbies he has and his quiet evenings with tea. He especially likes sharing that tea with Rowley Green, one of his tenants. They're good friends, slowly becoming more in spite of the norms of the era. When another tenant is left murdered on the house's doorstep, Clem is uncomfortably thrust into the middle of an investigation that forces him to question his loyalties.

This is a wonderful look at the Victorian era, especially for those who aren't in the titled class. It starts off slow, really getting to know these characters separately before throwing them together as a pairing. We see the ins and outs of running a lodging house at that time period, as well as some background into being a taxidermist. It's fascinating, because these professions for our main characters gives us a window into the class system of the era and how they feel about it. Clem has difficulty with reading and tolerating loud noises or crowds, which is never formally named as dyslexia or ADHD as it would be in our time, but as a very real struggle that he has to deal with on a daily basis. He has made a number of adaptations that are available in that time, and it's wonderful to see Rowley deal with them and learn how to address them as a couple. There's a definite sense of fondness and emotional connection even before the physical aspect is dealt with, which was also lovingly handled.

The pace of the book picks up as the murder mystery truly begins, shifting from day-in-the-life romance story into more of a thriller. There are the inevitable contacts that Clem has which allows the mystery to be pieced together without the police's help. Still, Clem and Rowley aren't supermen able to finish off everything themselves, and they do support each other to the very end of the book.  As the first in a trilogy, the book is very much a standalone with a hint at possibilities for more that are picked up in the rest of the trilogy.

Buy Unseen Attraction at Amazon


Geekerella
April 2017; Quirk Books; 9781594749476;
ebook, audio, print (320 pages)
YA, fairytale romance
Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Elle lives with her stepmother and twin stepsisters, who are all interested in makeup, social media, impressing others, and looking their best. Elle, on the other hand, loves the show Starfield, which her late parents had loved. In fact, her father had founded ExcelsiCon, the large convention in Atlanta. Elle and all the other fans of Starfield are upset with the movie reboot being filmed, and Darien Freeman is just as nervous. Unbeknownst to the public, he's also a fan of the original show and doesn't like the publicity stunts his manager father pushes him to do. He tried to call ExcelsiCon's staff to get out of some appearances, leading to him beginning to text Elle and discuss fannish theories.

The book is subtitled "A Fangirl Fairy Tale," and that it certainly is. There are wonderful nods to other fannish interests, and Starfield is very reminiscent of Star Trek. ExcelCon seems more like Dragon*Con, and the Cosplay Ball is a great way to tie cosplay and the Cinderella stories. Elle's fairy godmother is a fun addition because it isn't such an obvious parallel in the beginning. Elle herself is a believable and relate-able mix of defeatism and hope, just as every other geeky seventeen year old would be. There's a strength in her, even when she feels trapped by others' expectations and her lack of resources. While she still gets "rescued" by her prince in a way, Elle also has her own independent attempts to break free and still be true to herself.

This is a fun YA book that lovingly understands the teen geek and fully lives up to the "part love letter to nerd culture" description for the book.

Buy Geekerella at Amazon


right
March 2017; Diversion Books; 9781682307014
ebook, audio, print (268 pages);
paranormal romance
Souljacker by Yasmine Galenorn

Lily O'Connell is a succubus and owns a sex salon. When one of her clients is murdered by a vampire, not only is her reputation tarnished, but her life is at stake. The murderer is an insane tattoo artist that escaped a prison for the criminally insane supernaturals, and he is going after everyone that he ever gave a tattoo to. This includes Lily and many of her close friends. The police can't do much for this case, so she is referred to the private investigator Archer Desmond, who is also a chaos demon.

There is a wide range of supernatural creatures: the fae, vampires, weres, demons, witches, and ghosts as well as humans. They all interact in this world, mostly uneasily, and in a realistic manner. There were discussions about property ownership, citizenship, how the laws interact with the supernaturals, as well as the fae courts. The relationships between all of the characters were really well done, slowly unfolding and giving more information and backstory as we went further into the book. Lily discovered more about behind the scenes events as she dug into the investigation. She doesn't have superhuman strength, agility, intelligence or any of those kinds of powers. She does have the power inherent in her succubus nature, which is to charm others and to draw in their chi, or life force. That allows her to heal from some of the damage dealt, but that doesn't mean she can combat all of her obstacles on her own.

This is the beginning of a new series of books by Ms. Galenorn, and the dovetailing of the different supernatural creatures reminds me a bit of the October Daye books. This will hopefully shape up to be a series just as good because this is a great start.

Buy Souljacker at Amazon


Pretend Princess
March 2017; Williamson Press
ebook (299 pages); romantic suspense
Pretend Princess by Carolyn Rae

Tricia is visiting Cordillera, a tiny kingdom located between Spain and France where her parents are doing missionary work. She intends to watch over her younger sisters while her parents are at a conference for two weeks and is briefly mistaken for the Crown Prince's cousin, who had disappeared. She agrees to take the princess's place at public functions in order to help the royal family avoid scandal while they search for her. In the meantime, she gets close to the Prince and tries to fight their growing attraction.

Romance novels often rely on tropes, and the lookalike impostor that helps solve the mystery and falls in love with the hero(ine) is a favorite trope. The novel begins with this, and the setup is done beautifully. It just gets a little repetitive and runs down after a while, because there's nothing new and no additional obstacles for our hero and heroine to overcome.

The advance copy had a lot of quotation errors (action breaks in the middle of a statement meant that the quotes weren't picked back up for the rest of it) that I hope are fixed in the final copy.

The prince didn't impress me very much, and not just because he's a product of his country's culture. I didn't find him particularly charming or noteworthy. Tricia liked some aspects of his character, but he steamrolled over some of her objections or outright dismissed them, which never appeals to me. The expected happily ever after ending was abrupt and a complete turnaround from the royalty/commoner conflict throughout the book that it felt very contrived. For such a promising beginning, I was disappointed by the ending of the book.

Buy Pretend Princess at Amazon


Disenchanted
March 2017; Loveswept; 9780399178436
ebook (303 pages); fairytale romance
Disenchanted by Susan Carroll

Ella Upton lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters. They tend to live with their dreams and are somewhat oblivious to the realities of the world around them. Even in a kingdom where magic exists, there are bills to be paid, meals to be cooked, houses to clean. Ella loves her family, and won't let her best friend Malcolm put them down. She has no interest in going to the royal ball, but her stepsisters do. They still believe in true love and the possibility of marrying the prince, but Ella had already lost her sense of magic.

This is a wonderful retelling of Cinderella. Instead of Ella being horribly abused by her stepmother and stepsisters, they're simply absent-minded children she felt responsible for taking care of. Her stepmother has never been mean to her but simply wasn't her mother.

There are a plethora of possible suitors by the end of the novel, in keeping with this being a Loveswept title, but it isn't terribly contrived. Of course, the Harper she once fell in love with wasn't who she thought he was, and the dour Commander isn't the relentless slave to rules that she thought he was. Even Malcolm's motives give her pause, though he remains a good friend throughout the book. I really enjoyed seeing how nuanced her relationships with each of the characters was. She's stubborn at times, but a very kind and loving person. It shows in how she acts toward her family and how she feels guilt over past mistakes, and I felt very connected to her as a result. There isn't anything more than a few kisses scattered throughout the book, and the ending feels rather open for future installments. I don't know if this is meant to be a series, but if it is, I would definitely read more novels.

Buy Disenchanted at Amazon


Meet Me On the Ice
December 2016; Hartwood Publishing
ebook (131 pages); romance
Meet Me on the Ice by Laura Jardin

Elise had missed out on a lot in her troubled childhood, so as an adult she decides to learn to ice skate. At the public rink, she meets Zachary, who is trying a different route to work through his grief at losing his best friend. They get to know each other, and Zach is convinced he's all wrong for her, just as she's convinced that it will work out between them.

This is a cute story, and fitting for winter. Our two leads meet cute, and they are instantly attracted to each other. Elise thinks Zach is gorgeous and he is instantly drawn to her cheerful mood and determination to succeed despite how often she falls.

It's a short book, very sweet and with a predictable but heartwarming end. It's a book version of hot cocoa in front of the fireplace.

Buy Meet Me on the Ice at Amazon


Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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2 comments:

  1. I'm not much of a romance reader, though I like my chicklit from time to time (which is essentially romantic comedy)...Though I once found myself sucked into a Nora Roberts trilogy. I couldn't stop reading it!

    A to Z Challenge: Rashness

    Isa-Lee Wolf

    A Bit 2 Read
    @IsaLeeWolf

    ReplyDelete
  2. They're good for a lighthearted read. You know that the pairing is going to get together at the end, so it's just how they get there that keeps you hooked in.

    -MK

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