This is Kandy Shepherd’s first foray into self-publishing (she’s had two very cute novels published traditionally), and according to the Author’s Note, it is her first novel and while no one ever bought it, she always wanted to put it out there.
The story follows Crystal through her wedding preparations, a shocking discovery, a stunned (and ill-advised) flight, and a rescue by a handsome stranger. And that’s in the first chapter.
The handsome stranger is Matt; he’s got some secrets and heartbreak of his own. Anyways they end up shipwrecked on a deserted, tropical island with not much else but a lot of chocolate, and a lot of condoms. And you know both are going to be put to use.
You can see what Kandy Shepherd is going to become in this novel, but my honest opinion is maybe this one should have been left alone. The story itself is possible, especially if you buy into the ‘people can fall in love in a few days’ storyline, and the characters are likeable - I especially enjoyed the lack of histrionics during the resolution.
But as Shepherd has had two novels out - and this novel isn’t as polished or as advanced as those two are. The language and writing is quite purple, the descriptive passages florid. Overall, it felt like a giant step backwards for this author, and perhaps a misstep as well. I’d read her other novels instead - they’re delightful.
I wrote a grown-up review of this book here.
This is the first book in Victoria Dahl’s new Donovan Brothers Brewery trilogy.
Okay, so I have to get this off my chest: I didn’t like Tessa. But here’s the thing about not liking her - it was pretty much for the same reasons you never like someone who’s very like you. All of your faults are amplified, and it tends to drive you nuts. For me, Tessa’s insecurities and her almost cowardly unwillingness to risk herself and make herself vulnerable, all of that was way heaps amplified for me, because it reminded me of me in my 20s. And, really, no one likes to be reminded of how annoyingly obvious they were in their 20s. It’s a bad scene.
But, there’s lots I did like, even though you may find it hard to believe when one of the characters hits you like fingernails on a chalkboard. Because I did like the book a lot, enough to request the follow-up for (professional, grown-up) review.
- Sex. Can I just get a Hell Yeah for Victoria Dahl and her not-hung-up-on-sex characters who have healthy desires and act on them? Because it’s just so damned refreshing. I love it. It makes me so happy. Go Team Healthy Depictions of Sex!
- The family dynamics - so there are two more books after this one, so each of the characters are going to grow a bit beyond the boxes they occupy in this novel, but even so the Strict, Rigid Older Brother is not just strict and rigid and the Devil-May-Care, Irresponsible Younger Brother shows definite hints of not being just irresponsible. Watching all three interact and fall back into the roles they’ve played for years and can’t seem to escape feels very real.
- The ending - I have a hard time jumping on the ‘we’ve known each other for 2 weeks, but it’s forever!’ band wagon, so I really like it when the characters themselves recognise that 2 weeks does not a lifetime make, but the ending is uplifting, positive, and moving forward, but not in a leap-before-you-look kind of way.
- Luke. He’s a damaged cop who’s all macho but vulnerable and he makes dumb mistakes, but it’s because he’s trying to protect that gooey caramel core and just *swoon*
- The resolution of the secondary plot line with Luke’s partner that I won’t go into in great detail because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I liked how this was handled in a bad-things-happen-and-don’t-always-work-out-sunshine-and-lollipops way that still felt like a win overall.
I quote Ernest Hemingway in this review - your argument is invalid.
Given the whole ‘write what you know’ mandate, I’m thinking there’s a whole heck-load of romance novelists out there who did not have good high school experiences, including Susan Andersen.
What I did like about Ava though, is that, even though she was completely decimated by one of the cool guys treating her in a decidedly un-cool way, she was still all spunky and said exactly the right thing at the right time, which I never ever ever ever manage to do, so huge kudos. Then she goes ahead and breaks down in private, away from prying eyes, in the company of people who love her. And then she goes about rebuilding herself.
But here’s what I really really really liked: you know that Hemingway quote, ‘The world breaks everyone and afterward some are strong in the broken places’? I love that quote, but let’s face it - most of us aren’t strong in the broken places. Ava isn’t either. She’s done a lot of work, pinpointed the things she wanted to (and could) change, and gone about doing that. But she was still broken, and not strong at the broken places. And before she could move forward, she had to fix up those broken places too, and she had to do it herself.
So there’s also a hero, Cade, and a bunch of other characters, including best friends who were wonderful. But really, for me, the standout was Ava’s emotional journey.
And don’t be fooled by this post - it wasn’t all angst and drama. It was actually quite fun. And there are jewels! And a latin lover! What’s not to recommend??
So I got all four of these books in a bundle for…I dunno, $10, maybe? (If you’ve got yourself a Kindle, they’re on sale for $8.84). I’d already read Warrior and Scoundrel, but I’d borrowed them and wanted copies for myself.
Umm..yeah, so that was an entire paragraph dedicated to why I bought the bundle. It’s interesting, dammit!
So I read all four in order, one right after the other. And after that I rested, because reading Zoe Archer adventure books is like being on the adventure with the characters, and I was exhausted.
Things that I liked about the books, that everyone else also likes, so there’s no need to expand:
- historical settings other than England (like far north Canada! That was cool!)
- honest-to-god strong heroines who fight and say bad words and are as valued and capable as the heroes - sometimes more so, depending on skill sets
- character diversity - four couples: 4 English, 1 English raised in Mongolia, 1 English descended from slaves (so Black), 1 Irish-American, 1 Native Canadian
- Bennett. Everyone loves Bennett, and so do I. He’s all scoundrel-y and stuff. But just so darned nice about it! A nice scoundrel! Be still my beating heart!
- Magic and riddles and problem solving
- Adventure! With fights and guns and battles and magical enemies and long journeys and like a million different modes of travel (that excited me for some reason that it’s probably best not to get too far into). Real rollicking adventure.
Things that I really liked about the books that other people haven’t really mentioned:
- language. I consider myself relatively well-spoken. I’ve got two language-related degrees. I read a lot. But I was pulling out the dictionary (or making a concerted effort to figure it out contextually) to get at definitions. It was awesome and vibrant and intellectual and made me perversely proud to be reading them.
Things that, if I were in a nitpicky mood, I’d probably talk about, so in the interest of fair and balanced coverage, I’m putting them in:
- okay, so sometimes Catullus’s inventions were just the teensy-weensiest deus ex machina
- This is clearly not Zoe’s fault, but why does the guy on the cover of Stranger look like a white guy with a tan? He’s supposed to be Black?!?
- The School for Brides - Cheryl Ann Smith. Loved the premise, and all the stuff with the ex-courtesans. The main romance was a bit generic.
- Dragon Bound - Thea Harrison. First 1/4: what the heck is everyone going on about. Last 3/4: OH MY GOD THIS BOOK IS AWESOME!!! The End: Thank God the sequel is out already!!
- Shadow Kin - MJ Scott. It’s always tricky when you know the author in real life, and think she’s pretty groovy, and then you have to read her book and you’re all ‘what if I hate it?’ but pretty much this is the absolute opposite, and I’m all, ‘I have to tone down my love because otherwise she’ll think I’m blowing smoke up her ass’ because it’s that awesome.
- Heartless - Gail Carriger. Don’t read this one without reading the other three. First, because they’re awesome, and you’d be missing out. Second, because you’ll miss all the awesome nuances. But mostly because this one sort of goes back to everything you loved about the first one, and you won’t get that wonderful sigh of contentment as you settle in to read.
Real diversity. Not just token sassy gay/black/hispanic friend.
Then, check out these:
I flew from Australia to Canada on September 10th, so I was major jetlagged on the morning of September 11th. I had classes on the day, so my alarm was set. When it went off, instead of the normal country music, it was a stream of reporting. I didn’t clue in to what I was listening to for a couple of minutes, and then I thought it was a radio play a la War of the Worlds. I got out of bed to find my two housemates watching TV. Just as I asked, ‘Is there something going on?’, a plane hit the second tower.
Classes weren’t cancelled, but all anyone did was listen to the radio (or, for those classes lucky enough to have a television) watch TV.
Two days later, in what was the most disgusting display of opportunism I can remember, the Christian Fellowship group plastered colour pictures of the plane hitting the first tower with the caption, ‘Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?’ and directives to their weekly group meetings. The protests against the posters were so uproarious that the CFG (one of the biggest, most organised groups on campus) nearly folded - and had a terrible reputation from that time forward.
(ETA: This was scheduled to post yesterday. It didn’t.)
For those attempting to develop healthier eating habits (not diet, because diets are dangerous), this chart might help. If you’re craving chocolate, apparently you may just need magnesium. Or maybe you just need chocolate. There’s no judgement here.
Make exposition your bitch. I could expand, but really the title just covers it all.
Left confused by what that book review is really saying? Here’s a translation.
This list provides hours of really top-quality procrastination. Did anyone ever confirm or deny if that back-up dancer of Beyonce’s is a man?
So, as an editor IRL, I know that typos are a fact of life. Sometimes they’re devastating. And sometimes authors have great responses to devastating typos. Like Susan Andersen.
I honestly think that teachers ought to earn more than our politicians, and a lot of our education problems could be solved by a proper liveable wage. But this article pinpoints something that might actually be possible.
I have a sister who is an ardent Pride and Prejudice fan, and these would be perfect, if, you know, she drank any kind of drink you’d drink in a mug at all ever.
Which she doesn’t.
So I’m passing this on to you, in the hopes that someone else has a sister with a birthday coming up who drinks tea, or coffee, or even hot chocolate for pity’s sake.
I’d also consider the proposal mug, but again, not a mug user.Plus it’s more for a lover. Flyboy wouldn’t appreciate it, not being an Austen fan, but if your SO is, maybe for Christmas?
Maybe the proposal scarf?
Go forth! Benefit from my misery! Get Christmas organised early!
Things that happened in Brunei:
- I met the Sultan. No really. Also, I was wearing a bathing suit cover-up, flip-flops, and carrying a (clean) diaper in one hand. Do I know how to posh-up or what?
- I did not get a lovely golden tan. I got lots of freckles. Big ones. You’d almost call them splotches. I look like a marble cake.
- I saw my hubby who’s been away for the last four months, and will be away for four more. But I’m not thinking about that, because it kinda sucks.
- I read. A lot. Some books that get to be added to Year of Living Contemporary, some books just for fun, some books for review. I will tell you about most of them soon!
- I missed you. No, really. You. It’s so nice to reconnect