Category Archives: Romance

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

1 Star

I should have known better.  I don’t know if I’m a glutton for punishment or a masochist.  I didn’t like Me Before You, so I’m not sure what possessed me to check out the sequel, After You.  I don’t know if I thought it was going to get better or if somehow the characters were going to redeem themselves  I must have just been very hopeful.  Because it didn’t get any better and the characters certainly didn’t redeem themselves.  This is the first book in a very long time that I just wanted to be done with and I didn’t really care what happened to anyone in the book.  Dangerously close to a DNF, but I pushed through and was completely underwhelmed by the entire thing.

The story picks up a year and a half later.  Louisa is working in a bar in the airport, depressed and completely unable to move on with her life.  She’s miserable and she’s utterly devoid of any spark of life.  Gone is the vibrant and talkative woman that we met in the first book.  She’s been replaced with a wet noodle with absolutely no personality and seems to have even less coping skills than she had before.  She has fallen apart and doesn’t seem to be able to put the pieces of her life back together again.  She lies alone in a nearly empty apartment and one night finds herself drunk, on the roof yelling at Will and her life.  She falls.  Louisa goes back home to recuperate and has to convince everyone that she didn’t jump.  Even the paramedic who was the first responder.

She stays home for awhile and we get to hear more about her family drama and her family becomes a character in this book, something I think we could have done without.  They are all utterly annoying.  You want to slap all of them at several moments.  The story went nowhere and their involvement ended with absolutely no resolution, so I don’t know why it was made so important in the first place.

The romance that Louisa has with Ambulance Sam was actually quite nice at points.  But at other points it just lost it’s authenticity.  The additional drama of Lily was interesting in the beginning, but it soon just became another excuse for Louisa to just ignore her life and just dwell on someone else’s problems.  I mean who in their rational mind would turn down the chance to go to New York City to work for a millionaire and be a companion to a rich businessman’s wife?  Especially when she can work with her old friend nurse Nathan?

I know that I’m again in the minority when it comes to Lou Clark.  I know that both books received overwhelmingly good reviews.  This is just my personal review.  You might love it.  If you want to see what happened to Louisa after Me Before You, then you will probably like this book.  If you were as exasperated as I was with Louisa, then you might want to steer clear.

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Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

2 1/2 Stars

Louisa Clark finds herself without a job.  Her family depends on her paycheck to keep them afloat and without it, there is tension within the family.  She goes through a series of dead-end jobs and those that simply don’t fit.  Somehow, she lands a job as a care-taker for a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor.  The Traynor family are well-known in town and are quite fabulous and wealthy.  Will was an extremely active man who took life by the horns and lived every day to the fullest.  Injured in a freak accident, he is now confined to a wheelchair and must depend on others for his basic care.

Will has decided that this life he’s living is one that he’d rather not.  He has made a decision to take his life and his care into his own hands.  But what he didn’t count on was Louisa Clark.  He couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams that this colorful and chatty woman will change his life just as she can’t imagine that this abrasive and rude man will change hers in ways unimaginable.

My opinion of this book is quite different from pretty much everyone else.  Since the movie was announced, everyone has been falling all over themselves with praise for this book.  I can respect their opinions and can even see why many have rated it much higher.  But I just couldn’t get there.  There were too many things that annoyed me for me to give it anything higher than my 2 1/2 stars.  The plot wasn’t lacking, the writing wasn’t lacking.  It for me, it was the characters.

One of the main characters is Louisa Clark, alternately known as Lou or Clark.  She is a 26 year old woman who seems to have no ambition in life other than to dress herself in the most garish and outrageous outfits she possibly can.  She is immature, selfish and resentful.  Due to incidents that happened to her in the past, she refuses to even try to do anything that might better her life or the lives of those around her.  She engages in fights with her sister that I outgrew when I was in my teens.  She is in a relationship with a man that’s going nowhere and she does nothing to help it one way or the other.  I almost feel sorry for Patrick, especially when she whines about how he changed from a doughy couch potato into a hard-bodied runner.  Really?!

Louisa has absolutely no marketable skills beyond being able to make a cup of tea, smile and chatter on about nothing.  How she landed an interview as a care-taker in the first place is a bit of a stretch.  But being hired!?  She has absolutely no experience whatsoever but is hired by this wealthy family to look after their severely disabled son?  Not on your life.  I understand wanting someone who is not a stuffy, old Nurse Ratched, but come on.  It was such a stretch of the imagination for me that it really did detract from the storyline.  I just couldn’t get past it.

Will and Louisa don’t get off to a very good start.  He’s quite abrasive and rude, and I can empathize here because knowing the kind of life that he lived prior to his accident, I don’t think I would exactly be a ray of sunshine either.  He’s battling to take control of his life against the wishes of his family and the last thing that he wants is someone new intruding into his life and trying to wrest control away from him once again.  But he really is a jerk.

I know that a lot of people have a real issue with the elephant in the room.  Will wants to take ultimate control of his life and be the person who decides when it ends.  Everyone is going to have an argument either for or against the right to die.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  What I didn’t like was how Will tries to take control of Louisa’s life.  Will is telling Louisa that she needs to live.  She needs to not settle and live her life as fully as possible.  I can empathize with how Will is feeling in his present condition, but isn’t it a little more than hypocritical to tell someone how to live their life when you are begging for control of your own?  And how can you be so emphatic that someone go out and LIVE when you are counting down the days until you can die?  I don’t know, for me it just didn’t jive.

I will admit that I cried and that I did find some of the later interactions between Will and Louisa to be very touching and very tender.  I think that they did bring each other happiness for a brief period of time.  I was very surprised with the ending, especially given everything that led up to it.  I’m not sure what the message was that the author was trying to get across because with the way that the story ended, the message really became quite muddled and far too many people came away with what I think was probably the wrong message.

I will say that each person is going to get something different from this story.  This was just my opinion.  I would recommend that you pick it up and read it.  This was a well-written story, I just had some issues I couldn’t get over.  I will probably take up the sequel just to see what happens to Louisa after the epilogue.

 

 

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Review: The Ruby Brooch by Katherine Lowry Logan

2 Stars

As the sole survivor of a car accident that took the lives of her parents and best friend, Kit MacKlenna struggles with survivor guilt.  This is especially hard for Kit because as an EMT, she was trained to save lives and she feels that she failed to save her loved ones.  She comes home to her family seat, a sweeping horse ranch, only to learn that the life she knew was built on a lie.  In a letter from her father, he reveals that she was abandoned as a baby 160 years earlier and the only clues to her identity are a blood-splattered shawl, a portrait of a 19th century man and a Celtic ruby brooch, which her father claims has magical powers.  Kit decides to continue her father’s search for her true identity and solve her birth parents’ murder.

Kit travels back to 1852 and arrives in Independence, where she meets Cullen Montgomery.  He is a San Francisco bound lawyer who is leading a wagon train over the Oregon Trail.  Against his better judgement, he helps Kit join his wagon train.  She passes herself off as a widow and makes fast friends with one of the families on the train as she hires their son as a driver.  But Cullen doesn’t believe Kit is who she says she is and he is determined to find out why she’s lying and what she’s hiding.  Especially after a series of accidents and miraculous survivals show Kit to be more than a simple widow.

As someone who has read a lot of fantasy novels, it’s not too hard for me to suspend belief and accept the supernatural and unusual.  But The Ruby Brooch wants me to not only to accept the existence of magic and time-travel, it also wants me to ignore basic science and common-sense.  I just couldn’t do it.  I could accept that Kit took her iPod and a solar charger with her and could listen to music, it might just be possible to do so.  But to be able to watch YouTube?!  Also, people were far too accepting of Kit’s behavior.  They just shrugged it off instead of being distrustful of her.  The only person who even has a hint of distrust is Cullen but he tempers that against his growing feelings toward her.

I had a lot of high hopes for this book.  I was really hooked by the description and the first few chapters did have me looking forward to Kit’s adventures.  I did appreciate that the author made Kit a fairly strong female lead and not a typical damsel in distress, though she does seem to find herself in trouble more often than not along the trail.  Unfortunately almost all of the characters followed a typical stereotype.  You had the crusty but heart-of-gold sidekick, the ever-faithful and strong mother, the little girl that reminded Kit of herself, and of course the dashing hero.

The romance between Cullen and Kit was more annoying than interesting.  At times I wanted to just scream at both of them.  Granted, I think most novels with a romance angle have many readers doing the same thing as we get frustrated with the characters lack of common sense!

The writing wasn’t bad and it was a quick read.  I just couldn’t get interested in Kit and Cullen the way that many other readers have been able to.  There wasn’t a connection for me.  There are other books in this series, but I’m not sure I’ll be checking them out.

 

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Review: Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

3 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this book prior to publication.

Can you ever really know the person you love?

This is the over-arching theme of this book.  Caroline Hammond asks herself that question as she discovers that her husband, Adam has been having an affair with another man.  As if that devastating news wasn’t already hard enough to bear, she also learns that he’s been  hiding a whole host of other secrets from her for years.  She begins to question how well she really knew this man that she’s spent half her life with.

The story follows Caroline as she works through the initial shock of Adam’s betrayal.  As she questions herself and everyone around her.  How could she not have known?  Did anyone have any idea?  She was completely blindsided by his affair, never had any clue that he was anything other than the loving man that she’s been with since she was a teenager.  The story winds through her life over the next few months as she learns more and more about this man she married.  Adam is more of a stranger to her now than someone who she’s shared her life with for nearly two decades.

I enjoyed the story and though the plot was a familiar one, it was handled very well.  There was a flow to the story that worked very well.  There were some awkward moments, especially between Caroline and her best friend and also with her sister.  Caroline’s coming to terms with her divorce and dealing with her loneliness are heart-wrenching at times.

Adam is nearly unredeemable.  Not only does he cheat on his wife and destroy his wedding vows, he cannot take any responsibility for his actions.  He’s completely unable to explain himself or gives banal and inane responses.  If he’s truly this shallow and unrepentant, what did Caroline see in him in the first place?  I wanted to strangle him every time he opened his mouth.  I could find no redeeming  qualities in Adam and was very happy in Caroline’s decision to kick him to the curb where he belongs.

A decent woman’s fiction book with a little romance thrown in.  There are a few racy passages, but nothing too extreme.  I did enjoy Caroline’s foray back into the dating world and all the fun that comes with it!

 

 

 

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Review: While You Were Mine by Ann Howard Creel

2 1/2 Stars

Gwen Mullen is a nurse in New York and the end of World War II has just been announced.  It’s V-J Day and she should be on top of the world like the rest of the populace.  The war is over and the men are coming back home.  It’s a circus and a joyous occasion, she’s swept up in the crowd.  She’s the iconic figure that graced the cover of Life magazine, she’s the nurse that gets kissed by some random soldier.  But Gwen really isn’t much for celebrating, she’s afraid of losing the little girl who has become her life over the last year.  Those fears are realized as she approaches her home and sees a soldier on her doorstep.

John McKee comes back home to see his wife and the child that he’s never met.  But he’s in for shock because Alice isn’t there waiting for him.  Instead, he meets Gwen.  We learn that Alice had been Gwen’s roommate and shortly after giving birth to Mary, she decided that she just couldn’t handle motherhood and had convinced herself that John was dead, so she left Mary behind without a second thought or a backward glance.  Since then, Gwen has become the only parent that Mary has ever known and now, she’s going to lose this child that she’s come to love as her own.

Gwen decides to help John get to know his daughter and help him learn to be a dad.  They slowly begin to get to know one another as well and begin to grow a bond and feelings for one another.  With the help of her best friend and her neighbor, Gwen and John look to be coming together as a happy family.

It honestly could have just stayed that way.  A really sweet story about a woman who stepped up when no one else could or would and the man who came home from the war to a destroyed life, only to find love again with this strong woman.  But no, it’s apparently not enough and there are obstacles that need to be thrown in the way.  John turns into a jerk and Gwen becomes the ultimate doormat.

The story ultimately has a happy ending, but it’s almost unsatisfying.  I’m really wanted to like this book more, especially since it started out so well.

 

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Review: Searching for Harmony by Kelly Elliott

4 Stars

Harmony Banks has already been through hell.  She was disowned by her parents because she became pregnant instead of going to college.  She and Trey married and began their lives together to raise their son, TJ, as a family.  Then her world is shattered again after a horrible accident takes both her husband and her son from her.  As time passes, she learns that her marriage wasn’t what she thought it was and begins to fall apart.  The only thing keeping her going is the strong friendship she formed with the firefighter who saved her life.

Preston Ward is a firefighter and first responder.  He thought that he’d become immune to the emotional roller coaster that can come along with his job, especially when unable to save a child.  But he couldn’t get Harmony or her son out of his mind, so he visited her in the hospital.  The bond that started when he saved her life, grew into an amazing friendship, one that saved both of them from what could have been a very deep depression.

As the months pass, Harmony and Preston become closer and begin to recognize that the feelings they have for one another are definitely more than friendship and go much deeper than either one of them expects.  But can Harmony get past her heartbreak and let herself love again?  When you lose everything once, can you open yourself up to someone even if there is the possibility that you could lose it all again?  Can Harmony and Preston let themselves just live in the moment and take everything that life has to offer them?

I really did enjoy this book.  It was a tear-jerker in several areas.  I wasn’t always convinced of the authenticity of the characters, but they were definitely a warm and loving bunch that I wanted to get to know more.  The romance wasn’t overdone and it was one of the more believable romance stories I’ve come across in quite awhile.  There were times I wanted to smack both Harmony and Preston upside the head, but who doesn’t want to do that from time to time with people in our own lives?

 

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Review: When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

3 Stars

This book opens on a pretty awful scene.  Luke Richardson is returning home after burying his beloved wife, Natalie.  Not only is he dealing with his own grief, but also the grief of their three young children and learning how to parent their children alone.  Something that he’s really not prepared for is the sight of a blue envelope in Natalie’s handwriting waiting for him on the floor of their home.  Inside the envelop is a letter from Natalie, written on her first day of cancer treatment.  This letter turns out to be the first of many.  Luke is convinced that they are genuine, but who is sending them?

As the letters keep coming, Luke begins to learn that his wife had secrets, ones that she never told him, not even when she knew that her cancer wasn’t going to go into remission.  As he continues to receive these letters, he becomes obsessed with them and their content.  He begins to question everything that he ever believed to be true about his wife and their marriage.

The premise was really good.  Putting myself in Luke’s shoes, I would probably become just as obsessed with these letters from my loved one that just suddenly started showing up right after the funeral.  I could totally empathize with Luke in the beginning and even when he started finding out her secrets, I could go along with his reactions.  But there were too many times where I just wanted to throttle him for being an idiot.

There were a lot of secondary characters that had a lot of page-time dedicated to them, but you really didn’t get a very good sense of who they were and how they fit into Luke and Natalie’s life.  The relationships seemed a little stilted and wooden.  Natalie’s mother absolutely hated Luke, but you really don’t get a sense of why.  You would think that no matter how much you might dislike your son-in-law, that you would at least bury the hatchet long enough to have the funeral and help her grandchildren mourn.

It was kind of neat to get to know a character solely through her letters.  I think that was probably the best aspect of the book for me.  Learning about Natalie through her letters.  She began them on the very day that she first started her treatments and as her disease got progressively worse, she began to open up about everything.  How she wanted Luke to go on after she passed.  What her deepest secret was and how it could effect him and their family.

The twist wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be.  Probably because I figured it out pretty quickly.  I think without some of the foreshadowing the twist could have been much more of a surprise.  I also wish it didn’t end as abruptly as it did.  It ended on a cautiously optimistic note, but there were still so many questions left unanswered.

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