The best romantic suspense villains exhibit which of the following traits:
- Shadowy, mushy goals and motivations which make sense only because the author says they do.
- The ability to hide their thoughts so well that the reader is more often perplexed than not.
- Violent, sometimes sadomasochistic tendencies that have appeared for no good reason.
- Clear, well-defined goals, motivation, and conflict.
Julie Garwood is a member of my personal romance pantheon. While she’s written some clunkers, she’s also given me many hours of reading pleasure (oh my, do I just adore the heck out of Castles). That makes this a difficult review to write. Because Shadow Dance isn’t a bad book…it’s just not the book it could (or should!) be.
Since making her move to romantic suspense (I know, HK, I know), Garwood has also been name-checking two previous series – the “Roses” series and, for lack of a better name, the “Medieval” series. To achieve this feat, she has brought together a descendants of the Claybornes from the Roses series, and the Buchanans (see Ransom. among the other Medievals) and the MacKennas (who apparently didn’t appear in any of Garwood’s previous books — fact-checkers will be working overtime to verify this — but they’ve been feuding for centuries with the Buchanans). This will all come together, I swear.
Even though I often find them implausible and rife with Big Misunderstandings, I am a sucker for marriage of convenience stories. Amazon knows this about me, and has a way of suggesting new titles that make them seem enticing. Time and again I fall for the sales pitch, the clever cover copy. It’s just one of my many character flaws.
So when events transpired that I needed to buy a book by Carson McCullers, I decided to see what new recommendations Amazon had for me – and was intrigued by the come on of The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day. The beauty of one-click purchasing is there is no time for remorse or second thoughts.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I have a real love/hate relationship with continuing series. I adore them more than words can say, and I hate it when a favorite series jumps the shark. I don’t believe every book needs a sequel, I don’t believe every character needs to be expanded into his or her own full-fledged novel, but I do believe that authors should have the grace, dignity, and, well, objectiveness to stop a series at the right time.
I’m also sure that you’ve noticed that even when I swear off a series, I sometimes relapse. For me, breaking up really is hard to do, and sometimes I realize that it wasn’t the series, it was me. Like when I thought I was done with the J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts – the secret was poorly kept to begin with, and that’s clearly Nora looking mad, bad, and dangerous on the back covers of recent books) “In Death” series.
Last week, I asked you to tell me what books you’ve always wanted to read, and there were some great titles in the mix. Alas, I can only choose two. Sharon B via email, who chose When We Meet Again by Victoria Alexander, and Maureen who chose Pride and Prejudice — she really needs to get reading because it’s the best book ever!
Please send your snail mail addresses to us and we’ll get your goodies out (including a few of the titles I’ve reviewed over the past several months!).
We’re going to be slow on the posting of reviews over the next week or so — even Type A personalities like us need to shop and cook (and someone’s gonna break the pact and clean, I just know it). Never fear, though, we’re gearing up for a fab 2007!
You know how it goes — I read a gazillion books a year. Sometimes they blur together, especially if I go on a bender. Things can get weird when that happens. Like when I (accidentally) pick up a Linda Howard book in the grocery store. Honest, I meant to get orange juice, but I went in the wrong entrance.
I digress. So, being a good citizen (I have a badge in Book Buying), I read the back cover. Okay, this was mostly because I never know who might be reporting back to my husband, and I wanted to create the impression that thought went into this purchase. And I’m reading and I’m thinking and I’m trying to remember, “Did I read this before?” Then, being of sound mind and marginally okay body, I realized the book was a sequel.
Through what can only be viewed as a quirk of fate, I found myself in a situation where there were only two books on my desk. Setting aside the fact that someone cleaned my personal space without my express permission – I am now unable to find anything – I was in a quandary. It was time to select my next review vict— book. Choices? A book called Viva Las Bad Boys! versus a book called Scoop.
For professional as well as personal reasons, I went with the latter book.
I can’t explain why I am sometimes compelled to go into the scary place that is my garage and root around in boxes in search of a specific book. It’s like a chemical reaction that I can’t control — I wake up and nothing will make me happy except for that one specific book (generally that one specific book is also located in a box under a zillion other boxes, meaning I work up a sweat before I get to read. Beats hitting the gym.).
A couple of weekends ago, I woke up with a powerful need to read Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Dream A Little Dream. It turns out that I get this urge about once a year, give or take. I love this book. I love this book despite the fact that I spend a good three quarters of my reading time in tears. Please do not tell anyone about that — I do not cry easily (what is the old saying? There’s no crying in reviewing?). But this book does me in. Every. Single. Time.
As I confessed in a previous review, there is a certain element of randomness when it comes my book selection process. I judge books by covers, by clever synopses, by really bad synopses, and, sometimes, by guilt. For example, let’s say someone sends me a book for review and I haven’t gotten to it, then I get an email reminding me that this book is in my possession, and guilt nudges me, saying “You should at least open the package.”
Rest assured that this latter scenario rarely happens. But a week or so ago, I received a friendly reminder from a publicist suggesting that I should have received, read, and loved Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Raven Prince. Whoa there, I thought, you think I get around to this stuff in a day or two? You don’t know me.
And of course I’m also thinking that I’m going to show this publicist. You get all “you’re gonna love this book” with me, and I’ll show you. Take that and that and that.
I’m going to confess yet another reviewer secret: it’s the medium books that are the hardest. Loving a book is easy. Hating a book is pure reviewer joy. Enjoying a book for all the wrong reasons is a delight. But the lukewarm books are killer.
This is my second go-round with Rachel Gibson’s True Confessions, and it’s almost weird that my second reaction largely mirrors the first: I had a good time, but not enough to remember it a year from now. Which is a shame, because this time, as I read, I kept thinking, “Man, she’s a good writer.”