Sunday, March 11, 2012

What I've Read This Weeknd

What I've Read This Weekend . . .

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins -- Contemporary adult romantic fiction

Cordelia aka Posey Osterhagen is a petite 33 year old who owns a salvage company. She loves rescuing precious historical architectural and decorative items from the homes she lovingly tears down. She shares her life with her beloved Great Dane Shilo, much to the dismay of her parents. Actually, she's currently secretly sleeping with her parents' enemy Dante Bellini who owns an Italian restaurant that her parents consider a rival to their own kitschy German eatery. In order to compete with Dante, the Osterhagens bring in Posey's cousin Gretchen a beautiful buxom blond celebrity chef to redesign the restaurant and draw in customers. They also hope to fix up Gretchen with Liam Murphy, former high school bad boy who has returned to town. Liam was a kid from a rough family situation. He was "nobody from nowhere" as one kid once told him. He took on the bad boy persona in high school. Liam had all the girls crazy about him and in and out of his bed. Then he found Emma Tate. Beautiful, wealthy, popular and nice, Emma had everything going for her and she chose to be tied down to Liam. Now Emma is dead, leaving Liam to raise their teenage daughter Nicole all on his own. Liam and Nicole have moved back to New Hampshire so Nicole can be closer to her mother's parents though they are trying to take over her life. He has developed panic attacks and OCD since Emma's death, but tries his hardest to hide his fears from his beloved daughter. Liam is an overprotective dad. He worries Nicole will end up with someone JUST like him! Mr. and Mrs. Osterhagen were kind to him in the past and gave him a job and a surrogate set of parents when he needed them. Posey secretly discovered Liam's hidden softer side and her fifteen-year-old self fell madly in love until prom night when Liam broke her heart and her date made her life a misery. Now Liam is back in town and she finds herself fighting her attraction to him. Liam has no interest in the multitudes of women who still throw themselves at him but finds Posey's indifference challenging and even a bit sexy.  Posey is determined to put the past behind her but as she's drawn into Liam's orbit she thinks she can uncover the ghost of the young man she had fallen in love with while Liam is determined to do what it takes to keep his daughter safe and happy even if it means giving up on love himself. Meanwhile Gretchen who seems to be hiding something is Posey's best frenemy and reveals shocking secrets about Posey's past. This book explores issues of belonging and identity along with the usual love story. The story falls short of the mark in the love department. The first half of the novel is all about lust. There's no connection at all between the heroine and hero. There's not much time spent developing the relationship between the characters until after they jump into bed together. The second half of the novel is much better. The romance is slightly more developed but still more of an afterthought. Much of the novel is spent on Liam's issues and his experiences raising a teenage daughter. The second half of the novel also delves more into the characters' identities and their issues and motivations which is very well done. One part even brought tears to my eyes. The secondary characters are quirky but not as appealing as in past books. Kate is gross and shares too much information, Jon is a stereotypical gay man and I don't even know how he and Henry can have a relationship because Henry is absorbed in his work and so different. Henry is a stereotypical Asian man. I liked Nicole for the most part. She's a good balance between sassy and sweet. I thought of my dad's cousin's daughter, who lost her own mom at the same age Nicole is in the story and remains a very nice young lady much like Nicole. My favorite character is of course Shilo and there's not enough of him. This is not Kristan Higgins's best book. There are some spelling/typo errors that really bothered me and the romance fail made this one fall towards the bottom of my list. If you liked her last few novels you would probably like this one but if you prefer her earlier novels, you might want to pass. 

Stanforth Secrets by Jo Beverley -- Regency Romance

Chloe Dellamere, Lady Stanforth, a young widow, has been managing Dellamere Hall since she eloped with the dashing Stephen Dellamere right out of the school room six years earlier. She's been content enough but there but now her husband is dead, his Uncle George (and heir) is dead and she's ready to move on. First though she has to deal with with a house full of residents and guests: her non-nonsense Grandmother, the senile old Dowager Countess and her companion and the farmer's daughter who married the most recent Lord Stanforth. Then there's also Justin Dellamere, the new Lord Stanforth who is just as dashing as Stephen ever was and is very attracted to Chloe. Chloe is unsure of her feelings towards Justin. She's attracted to him and has been since before she married Stephen. Her marriage wasn't perfect and she wants to be sure that if she marries again, her husband will be steady and reliable but not try to control her. Justin is certain he's the one for her but he has his suspicions about Chole's reputation. He's been sent by the government to discover the whereabouts of missing French documents that the British government has been searching for for the last year. They were supposed to have been delivered to Stephen but he broke his neck on the way and the messenger also turned up dead. The government suspects Chloe knows the whereabouts of the documents but Justin is convinced she's innocent. He does believe she's guilty in having an affair with her cousin, the rakish Lord Randal Ashby. When more people turn up dead or injured, Justin lets Chloe into the investigation. She suspects Lady Belinda Stanforth, Mrs. George Dellamere, knows more than she is telling. Chloe has to try to ignore her feelings for Justin and get the bottom of the mystery before someone else gets hurt and Justin has to learn patience and trusting. This book is a prequel to Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed and The Stolen Bride. I liked it better than either of the two sequels. Chloe is a good mix of headstrong and decorous. She understands that marriage based on physical attraction is not enough. I empathize with her dilemma and if I were a well-off widow in 1810 I would hesitate to marry again especially a man so similar to my first husband. Justin is a bit of a pig. He claims to love Chloe but he's tempted to seduce her into marrying him. He's not very patient and he has a very hot temper where Chloe is concerned. He's caring towards his dependents and sometimes kind to Chloe but I couldn't entirely love him. The secondary characters are well-drawn and unique for the most part. Chloe's stuffy suitor is lifted from Georgette Heyer and I was able to peg the villainous characters right away. I also figured out where the missing papers were immediately but couldn't figure out how they got there or what Belinda was hiding. I kept reading until I finished the book long after I should have been asleep. The book is a bit more sensual than a traditional Regency romance but less so than most of Jo Beverley's other books. There were a few typos but they didn't detract from the story at all. If you find Georgette Heyer's traditional Regencies not romantic enough but enjoy the mystery, this one should entertain you.

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