Break Hard

Facebook has realized that my kindle account is a vast wasteland of ripped bodices and “Sirs”, hitmen, and redeemed rogues. This has been both a delight and a nuisance. I’ve discovered books and authors that I never would’ve discovered otherwise, for better or for worse. But there’s no way to control the suggestion monstrosity it’s become. I can’t tell it “I don’t like that author” or “yes, I bought that now go away”. It shows me things I’ve seen again and again and it’s gotten more than a little annoying.

Not only does it do that, but i’m not sure if they consult the authors about the actual excerpts on the ads. This makes the second book i’ve read where the summary not only doesn’t match the actual events of the book but that the quotes used don’t happen either. Could’ve actually come from a completely different book, both times. Especially concerning this book, I was lead to believe that the male character was much more interested and possessive of the female lead then he actually was. It was a frustrating realization because while that might not seem like a distinction, in romance it’s the difference between hate sex and sweet words.

But my complaints about giant corporations and disorganized software aside (*growls at amazon*), today’s review is a book that I might not have seen without the ads. It was a contemporary romance novel written by a man. Jackson Kane, who calls his fans Kandy Kanes and I was so compelled to both laugh and cry at that piece of information, I texted it to basically everyone I knew.

https://giphy.com/embed/10ikeyz0han4zK

via GIPHY

Break Hard is the story of Star, a passionate city girl trapped in small town Oklahoma with her apparently horrible relatives. Coming right off of the Courage the cowardly dog set, her uncle apparently says nothing much, yells at her, and reads the newspaper, complete with rocking chair. Their tiny gas station is set upon by the local One-percenter motorcycle gang and chaos ensues, leading the gang to kidnap Star instead of kill her because Remy, our lead guy, said so.

At this point, the Amazon ad would have had me believe that Remy takes up for her and no one gets to her through him. But at no point does he actually do that. At all. In fact, he tries to ignore his conscience as she’s attacked by another club member, only losing the battle at the last possible second. Star struggles to survive in the toxic climate of the club and Remy is struggling as well, questioning the line his club had gone down in the last several years. They’re eventually forced to leave as Remy makes a final decision that is irreversible and has fairly dire consequences. On the run, they fall into more of a Bonnie and Clyde lifestyle and eventually they get to a rather traditional final showdown, with some unfortunate bumps along the way.

As far as motorcycle club romance novel plots go, this one is fairly decent. Family interwoven in a club gone bad, looking to rebaptize it by fire, and pretty dark action scenes with heavy consequences. As far as the plot itself goes and the accompanying action fight descriptions, I’d be hard pressed to give this book any less than five stars. But the characters and their momentum ruin absolutely everything.

**Spoilers Ahead! If you’d like to give this book a fair and unbiased shot, come back and read my critical complaints later on.**

Complaint One: This is a romance novel written by a guy. The ONE thing I needed from this book was a sex scene, with Star, completely from his perspective! I have romance novels filled with ladies writing sex from a male perspective. The one thing that would have made this book flawlessly unique is the inclusion of a scene from Remy’s POV. But the only scene we have of that is with a hooker, early on into the book, while the character’s drunk. An absolute waste.

Complaint Two: The sex scenes themselves. At one point, in the hotel room, Star notices that calling Remy, “Sir”, got him more excited. But then that was never explored and we never heard about it again. The characters themselves display an interest in kinky ideas and exploration, but never explore. It’s like being taunted with something the whole book, waiting for them to be more honest about their sex lives and then being let down. Not to mention at one point, they have weird, mildly uncomfortable sex on a car that’s been sitting out in the Oklahoma sun. Ouch. I’m honestly uncomfortable thinking about a hot seatbelt, whole car to exposed tender skin aside.

Complaint Three: Star and her backstory. Star complains in the first chapter that she’s in Oklahoma because the college offered her class. This backstory later changes for her to be a rich girl who had an affair with a professor, whose wife was now suing her for vandalism after Star, and follow this logic with me, realized he was cheating on her with someone else. And she knew he was married. She was angry when she realized that someone willing to cheat on their wife with a twenty year old was also willing to cheat on that twenty year old with another one. Even typing that out, i’m struggling to see where she has a right to be angry about that situation, except in that she should’ve seen it coming.

Not to mention, not once in mentioning that repeatedly does she ever place a modicum of guilt on herself. About ANYTHING. She repeatedly says she’s different from that spoiled rich girl she was two weeks ago. But A) she’s definitely not and her just declaring so is so aggravating and B) you don’t just wake up after something has happened to you, good or bad, and decide you don’t know the person you were before. You start to change, you assess things differently, you value different things, you grow. You add to them. Or you develop split personality disorder, I guess.

Complaint One Hundred and Nine: GROWING A BACKBONE DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO BE RUDE, GUYS. There are SO MANY instances of this, I don’t know where to start. But the main two that really get me both happen right before the end of the book. The first is when Star decides that she “can’t do normal” like having committed a few crimes makes her the biggest, baddest bitch in the west, and doesn’t want to put up with a coworker who does nothing. So she pulls a knife on her, threatens her, and leaves. It’s so unnecessary and dramatic and honestly unsatisfying. And the second one almost made me close the damn book, but i’d put in so much time, I couldn’t quit. They’re in a Walmart, with one of the only accessible payphones around. And Remy is on it for while and a woman gets impatient and is rude to him. Star says she’ll take care of it and intimidates the woman so as they leave, she’s crouched on the floor shaking in fear. And then, Remy decides that her problems are not life and death, that they’re nothing compared to theirs, and breaks the phone. There is not only no reason to do that, but there’s nothing in the world that can make me attracted to a character who has, at this point, basically settled for Star and then decided that no one’s problems matter but his. There’s nothing sexy about disrespect.

The saving grace of this book is that it’s not poorly written, besides that one minor plot skip with Star, the action scenes, motives, and plot are on point for the book. That doesn’t mean it’s a good plot, but it is solid enough to stand on its own. If you’re interested enough in the novelty of a romance novel written by a man, go for it. Experience it, I suppose. But if you’re not skip the amazon ad and hang with the Hangmen or the Ravens instead.

Happy Sunday!

Megan

The Resident Romantic

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Tempests and Slaughter

I think I’m finally ready to talk about Tempests and Slaughter, a book I’ve been waiting 12+ years for. I read it the day it came out, back in February, pausing for little else, and I wanted to take a while before talking about it. Give me some room past over intense first impressions of the childhood story of the first love of my life.

When I was gifted First Test as a ten year old by a beloved uncle, my life changed completely. I was lost to a world of strong female characters, knights in shining armor, and charming and distraught healers named Neal. On and on, I went from Kel backwards into Tortall, meeting her idol Alanna, which Pierce is most famous for, and then Daine, resident magical hippie. And it was with Daine and Numair that I fell in love with romance and fantasy and dedicated my life to wanting to be a writer.

It’s hard to summarize this series for you, and to those who would jump in to this world on this book, I beseech you not to do so. This is a complex (okay it’s not that complex, but it is detailed!) fantasy series with a ton of background and characters. I can promise that you will enjoy this book more if you at least read The Immortals, Daine’s story of learning to control her magic with animals, growing up, and Numair’s loving and guiding tutelage. I promise the series is even better on Full Cast Audio. They’re not long, all four books aren’t even as big as this one, so it won’t take you long to catch up!

I think you can tell, by now, that this book meant the world to me. I’ve been waiting for it to come out since it was a tentative title on her god awful website, accessed by dial-up on my home computer. And I can safely say, months later, that this book did not let me down. The set up for the book answered long puzzled over questions as to Numair’s family, his relationship with Ozorne (met in Emperor Mage, villain of The Realms of the Gods) and everything is touched lightly with Pierce’s gift of humanity and realism. I had truly worried, not because of my lack of faith in my wonderful, funny idol, but because it took her so long to write. Faith proven, once again.

Numair, as Aaram in this, takes on his first years in the academy and things about his personality have deeper and more meaningful explanations. I think I still hate Varice, but I couldn’t manage to hate her completely. As an adult, I can recognize the choice of career over love and respect it. It actually makes their brief fling in Emperor Mage more tolerable, something impressive to do using a prequel book. That being said, it doesn’t rival the Tricker’s series in strength as a series and I do have one major disappointment with it. We had yet to follow a main character with the gift, besides Alanna (and that was mostly self taught). I had hoped that, by spending time in magic school, Pierce would take the time to solidify her magic system in a way that was clear and relatable. Instead, there maintains a vage “he made the symbol” reference and we’re on our way. I still have a million and six questions about this system, in fact, maybe more now than ever. That didn’t ruin the book, the characters, plot, reveal, and more keep it from being disappointing. But it is something that I hoped would get better through the book and only got worse.

Tamora Pierce is not teen fiction. It is middle fiction, aimed at 10-14 year old girls who are discovering themselves and who they might be vs. what the adults around them want them to be. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this book changes that direction to be for boys as well, though my fiance enjoyed the original series when we traded favorite books. But I have very high hopes for the next one and for those who have no idea what book series I’m talking about, from the cherished pieces of my childhood and yours, I suggest you read it. Fall in love with falling in love and having rogish smiles break your heart for the first time. I promise your inner child won’t be disappointed, so save it on Goodreads or buy it from Amazon.

Happy Reading!

Megan

The Resident Romantic

Welcome to May

I have come to the honest conclusion that only the first week of April happened. Everything after that can, with my warm and honest good wishes, go to hell. It was a rough month for me, personally, but we got through it and here I am in a rather soggy May, rather grateful to be here.

There’s a lot for me to go through and I’ll probably just go through the highlights since more recent books have held more of my attentions. In early April, I was invited on the trip of a lifetime with a friend to the ever so beautiful Iceland. The land of fire and ice welcomed us with open arms, friendly smiles, and a Northern Lights show to never be forgotten. There is nothing like the reminder that you are small and our universe is a magnificent gift that we are a part of and not master to.

On the plane there I read Steamlust, a Steampunk anthology that a month later I have found unfortunately forgettable. There were some stories I would have enjoyed longer versions of, such as a girl with a precise lucky moment timepiece that gets broken on her way to learning to be more experimental and make mistakes. And there was one about time travel that was absolutely so horrible, I don’t want to talk about it. If it’s on your kindle, give it a read. If it’s not, I wouldn’t go out of your way to purchase it.

My book for the flight back was a recommendation from fellow book blogger bookscoffeeandpassion, Ride Hard by Laura Kaye and it changed the face of my entire April. I’m STILL working my way through the amazing works of Miss Laura Kaye and I’ve only regretted a few minutes, tops.

CaptureWith the beauty of hindsight and a month spent reading all of her books I can easily say that the Raven Riders are the best of her work. She is definitely someone whose work is rough early on and her most recent work gets better every time. The Raven Riders are your “good guy/hero” brand of motorcycle club romance novel. Guys trying to step a little outside the law to get good things done, like vigilantes with less money and older women in leather instead of Alfred. They’re a spin off of her Hard Ink books, but you don’t need them to read the Raven Riders.

Ride Rough is the story of the club president, Dare Kenyon and Haven, a woman currently under the care and protection of the Ravens. On the run from her mafia running dad, Haven takes shelter with the Ravens after being rescued by the Hard Ink team but instead comes into herself. This series could not be sweeter. In addition to handling PTSD with aplomb and creating full and sweet characters while still having a plot, Kaye does something else here that I really love. She describes the damn motorcycles. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read a motorcycle club book and had to google the types of bikes and what they look like. It’s amazing to be told both the type and finish of each bike and that each bike type matches their character.

I barely noticed my six hour plane ride, to be honest with you and I bought the second and third ones right when I got home and then marched straight ahead. If you need something refreshing, but still kick ass, definitely give the Ravens some time. You might wind up giving Miss Kaye your month! Get it from Amazon or Save it on Goodreads today!

Much Love,

Megan Ann

The Resident Romantic

The Luck of the Bride

Before I continue into anything about the book, I have to say that this is hands down one of the best regency romances I have ever read, to date. And I’ve read all your classics. Before being given this ARC in exchange for a genuine and honest review here on my blog, I had never even heard of the author. But after finishing, I ordered the other two books immediately and I cannot wait to receive them.

CaptureIf you’d like to read them, these are the Amazon and Goodreads links to the summary of this adorable book. March Lawson (and as a Little Women fan, seeing that last name as a first name kept throwing me right off) has been taking care of her little orphan family for years, ignored by everyone who was supposed to take care of them. It takes some illegal forgery and embezzling, for funds rightfully hers, to gain the notice of their guardian. Michael, the Marquess of McCalpin, inherits a basket full of orphaned gentry kittens and doesn’t know what to do with them from the start. But with a little trust in his family and a little attraction to the leader of the kittens, he finds his way well enough.

The standout thing in this relationship is the open admittance of trust and love in this relationship. It’s what made me buy the other books. So often there’s this tragic misunderstanding or overreaction and every time I read a line and closed my eyes and thought we were headed there, we weren’t. Everything was made even better than before.

Another thing is the likability of the characters. So often at least one character is absolutely insufferable and lives to make another miserable. I thought we’d face that here too, but yet again it was handled masterfully and with grace. And March was so determined, never upset with her siblings for the motherly role she’d been handed. An easy five stars from me and I can’t wait to tell you guys about her other books!

Pre-order The Luck of the Bride today, it comes out May 1st!!

With Luck,

Megan Ann

The Resident Romantic

Cameron MacKenzie, the Black MacKenzie Stallion

If you talk to me about romance novels for longer that 2 minutes, I will bring up Jennifer Ashley’s MacKenzies. Delectable, perfect books that I will never say a bad word about as long as I’m breathing. I’ve read them, but I prefer to listen to the dulcet tones of Angela Dawe. I’m not ashamed to say I’m attracted to the male voice she does. Really, the woman’s a gift to audiobooks.

I take every available opportunity to talk about The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, the first in this series, which I discovered three years ago and may be in the running for my all time favorite regency. Ms. Ashley takes on a main character with Aspergers headlong and doesn’t stop running. But I’m (for once) not here to talk to you about Lord Ian. I have his brother in mind.

Ian has three brothers, Duke Hart MacKenzie who plays with politics like other people play poker, Lord Cameron MacKenzie who trains horses, and Lord Mac MacKenzie, a renowned artist. They’re rakehells of the best kind and each of their books are interesting and so steamy if you read them, you might actually catch fire yourself. The best thing about these books, however, is the MacKenzie ladies. They’re not fluttery or ridiculous. They almost all come from an upper middle class lifestyle and they are all relatable, resolute, and perfect. I’d give so much to see other books create women just like them.

CaptureIn The Many Sins of Lord Cameron, Cameron and Ainsley take the stage. Ainsley works for the Queen and Cameron trains the best horses in England. Ainsley’s best friends with Cameron’s sister in law, Mac’s wife Isabella. Ainsley discovers quite quickly that Lord Cameron is a horse that had been spooked long ago and requires a firm and loving hand to bring him back around.

Cameron and Ainsley both give everything they have to their relationship and don’t even realize it, at first. Cameron is referred to as the black sheep of the MacKenzies more than once, but I don’t think that’s true. I think he’s more like a black stallion. Noble and distrusting, but strong and loyal. This book, and the others, are more about building a solid relationship than anything else.

Cameron and Ainsley come to mind today as I cross stitch and listen to them chatter and love in my ears. When I visited Scotland from the US this past fall, I knew what the MacKenzies saw in their home and I knew I had to come back and see the Highlands. But I’m definitely scared I won’t leave.

Read the MacKenzies, my dears, you won’t be sorry.

Much Love,

Megan Ann

The Resident Romantic

Her Monster (Rawr?)

I said it when I reviewed Claiming His Prize last week that Sam Crescent is better with Stacy Espino and I mean it. There’s something about Ms. Crescent that when she works with another author brings a bit more out of her. More depth, more pages, more everything. Every time I’ve read one of her normal books, I’ve been heartily disappointed.

CaptureI don’t even need to give you the usual links, the summary to this is honestly that simple. Faith’s father gives her to Caleb in exchange for his growing debts to the Carson family. Caleb is second in command, but not a terrible human being so he takes the girl and kills the dad. The chubby girl gains confidence and security. Yaayyy. Can you tell i’m unimpressed?

I picked up this book because it sounded a little like her Killer of Kings series and I was intrigued. What would Caleb’s past hide? How cute would he be with Faith, someone neglected? I did pick it up as her final shot to impress me and I have to say she failed the test. Neither character is interesting. Caleb is a flat kind of person, never doing anything with too much interest or liking. He doesn’t enjoy being a member of the mob family, but he also doesn’t do anything else besides go on vacation once a year.

And neglected people are usually resourceful. No one cares what they’re doing anyway, right? Might as well be useful about it. But not Faith. She reads a lot, but that’s really all she does. And she doesn’t even really think about what’s she’s reading, you’re just told that she’s reading all the time. And she’s really shy, which makes sense, but there’s this four month gap between her living there and when he gives her a phone, a kindle, and actually spends time with her. Four months is a long time, everyone. A month, sure. Four where nothing at all happens and she almost never leaves the house? Give me a break.

I would’ve been much happier with this book if Caleb thought he was getting the person Faith turned out to be, but she was actually a spitfire, used to taking care of herself and chafing at her new restraints. Or even a resourceful introvert, with lots to think and less to say, but still capable and devoted. Faith was instead someone that needed to be taken care of and that was aggravating.

My chubby girl narrative issue came not in the form of disparaging self confidence issues (because those make sense with her backstory and her issues were more about her scar anyway) but in the author’s POV with Caleb. At one point, he describes her as beautiful “even with her curves”. Back it up right there. She’s beautiful because of who she is, because of her curves, because of a million reasons. But not even though. Even though creates an opening for the concept that Caleb has the traditional idea of beauty in mind, but yeah, this one’s good too, I guess. And with chubby heroines front and center, I know that that narrative isn’t what Ms. Crescent is going for.

I’ll continue reading the Killer of Kings series, but I think Ms. Crescent and I are done for a while. I can’t keep committing to reading books with sad, chubby main characters who need validation. That’s not why I read. If you’d like to grab this for yourself, hop on over to Amazon or Goodreads.

Until next time,

Megan Ann

The Resident Romantic

Etiquette with the Devil

Etiquette with the Devil was my next stop on the rediscovery of New Gothic novels. I thought I was signing up for a sexier Jane Eyre, but unfortunately, I what I got was not as heartfelt and romantic, much to my dismay.

CaptureYou can read the summary on Amazon and Goodreads. The premise itself was, as I mentioned, quasi-Jane Eyre-esque. Girl on the run applies as a governess to a man recently returned from India and the nieces and nephew he has returned to care for. And at first, I was sold. The chemistry between the characters was great, the children cute and sincere, the secrets looming. I was waiting for those to come out and bite them most of the first half of the book. But there, I think, was the downfall.

The book goes, at the highest ( I hesitate to say climax both for irony and lack of applique) moment, to Part Two. And then it seems like the author was determined not to carry the story on, but to tie up every loose end the first part had created. Like some giant question and answer puzzle instead of a story.

**SPOILERS HERE**IF YOU DON’T WANT THEM, SKIP TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH***

I don’t really like to add in spoilers, if I can help it, but I feel like I have to talk about it. The evil villain guy blackmails Bly into leaving for India as a treasure hunter again using the governess and her secrets. But then he’s gone for three years. Three. Years. That’s a bit much, in my opinion. Not to be gone to war or anything, but he didn’t want to go. Three years is a long time not to accidentally kill this guy or not to write to her at all or not to check on your finances onesoever. I’m not saying it’s a long time to be away if you have missions to go on and things to do. But it’s a long time to be so drastically irresponsible when not twenty minutes ago you were hellbent on being responsible.

To be honest, I might have just been happier without the second half of the novel because their resolution isn’t romantic or heartfelt either. It’s sad and then sadder, like these two people haven’t actually grown at all from their decisions. I think it’s a lack of trust that just saturates this book and never really goes away that really cements the issue. And i understood why that issue was so prevalent, but it was just sad and life ruining.

I won’t say this book was bad. It was beautifully written and the characters were real and you could relate to them, to some extent. I wasn’t happy with the story because the reasons the characters were miserable seemed easily rectified, nothing against the author or the read itself. I got the sample for the next one, but we went right to one of the nieces at her debut, not to the scoundrely Duke, Bly’s best friend. I spent the whole book hoping he was next, only to find that our timeline jumps about 9 years into the future. I’ll say the same thing here I said on Litsy. If you have this or get it for free, read it. I wouldn’t however, purchase it.

Read on, darlings,

Megan Ann

The Resident Romantic