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The Fireman Who Loved Me (The Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel #1)

The Fireman Who Loved MeBy Jennifer Bernard

Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Publisher

Captain Brody has been badly burned by his ex-wife. When he orders Ryan, his star fireman, to participate in a bachelor auction, little does he know he’s the one who will lose his heart.

Melissa McGuire is a brainy local news producer trying to get her career back on track. She can’t believe she’s being set up by her grandmother, who bid on a date with a fireman at the auction. She prefers the artsy type, not the tough, commanding , though clearly attractive, fire chief.

And yet, they can’t resist each other, especially once her ambitious news anchor assigns her the “Thanksgiving with the Firefighters” news special. Add in her grandmother’s matchmaking and the combined efforts of Captain Brody’s crew…can Brody help being the first bachelor to succumb to love, and the crazy rollercoaster ride of the Curse?

Goodreads Summary

This was probably a bad idea even before I started reading. My brother is a fireman and I guarantee you, there are not a lot of hot bachelors just sitting around his firehouse. I’ve met one that I’d call “interesting,” but he was older than me and frankly, that would make him prehistoric. I have to give it to the author, she did get a lot of the technical stuff right but the rest of the story was tangled, cluttered and a little lacking in romance.

Melissa McGuire’s grandmother is tired of waiting for her stop seeing men who are all wrong for her and is taking the bull by the horns – or the hose – and is going to buy her a date at the auction of the Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel. Maybe Nelly wasn’t quite…clear when she asked Melissa to meet her at the hotel for her birthday that this would be a beefcake auction, but what’s a grandmother to do when she needs to get her granddaughter settled down? Melissa turns tail and never sees Nelly plunk down a huge amount of money on the supremely gorgeous Ryan who is a little, uh, dismayed at the thought of a date with a woman of her vintage, not knowing the date is for Melissa.

Ryan puts on the puppy dog eyes until his Captain finally agrees to take the date in his place. Harry Brody is a bit of a legend, known for his calm in the face of danger and the fact that he’s never lost a man. He’s shocked – pleased – when he finds out the date is with Melissa, although his plans included the Senior Specials. The thing is, as attracted as they are to each other, they also manage to push each other’s buttons and they go from biting each other’s heads off to sucking each other’s faces off. No happy medium. Then into their relationship, a million complications arise and that’s where the plot went haywire.

Melissa is a television news producer at a small-market station and her main job seems to be corralling the high-maintenance, rather trampy anchor Ella. Ella pretty much becomes Melissa’s shadow for the story, hanging out with her at the firehouse where one of the major plotlines develops then for two more at the television station where more drama is happening. I didn’t like her – if she had to be the villain, fine. She still didn’t need to be everywhere especially when you added in large appearances by Harry’s ex-wife and Melissa’s sleazy ex-boss. Then there’s a started, dropped, picked up, dropped and picked up news story that Melissa was supposedly passionate about that was pretty important. I can give you another half dozen semi-significant storylines that also were running, all at the same time Harry and Melissa’s story was going on.

I really could have liked Harry and Melissa’s romance if it had been allowed to develop outside of all of the noise of the rest of the story. Harry was my kind of hero – not too alpha but strong enough to know how to be. He’s kind, caring, loyal and protective by nature and yummy and sexy without even trying. I liked Melissa too – she was damn good at her job and at managing Ella without her figuring it out. She’d had a big blow to her ego and took a lot of things too personally but she made it all better nicely. They just never had time for romance. It was, “you’re a pain,” to “you make me hot,” to “let’s have sex all the time,” to the bad stuff to the good stuff. No sweet romance, no fun times talking. The air was sucked out of the story by everyone else.

My Summary: If I knew the next book in the series focused more on the couple and had far, far fewer distractions, I’d probably pick it up because I did like the way the author wrote the couple. I just could not enjoy this one because I was constantly distracted by all of the other stuff happening, mostly Ella. I’ll even let it go that there are no scuzzy-looking guys in this firehouse and they don’t swear like sailors or tell morbid jokes, just please give me some romance!

My Rating: C

Somebody to Love

Kristan Higgins

Publisher: HQN Books
Publication Date: Apr 24, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Netgalley

After her father loses the family fortune in an insider-trading scheme, single mom Parker Welles is faced with some hard decisions. First order of business: go to Gideon’s Cove, Maine, to sell the only thing she now owns—a decrepit house in need of some serious flipping. When her father’s wingman, James Cahill, asks to go with her, she’s not thrilled — …even if he is fairly gorgeous and knows his way around a toolbox.

Having to fend for herself financially for the first time in her life, Parker signs on as a florist’s assistant and starts to find out who she really is. Maybe James isn’t the glib lawyer she always thought he was. And maybe the house isn’t the only thing that needs a little TLC….

Goodreads Summary

Parker Welles, a rich and beautiful single mother has just been handed the worst news of her life. Her father has not only spent every penny of Parker’s and her son’s trust fund without her knowledge, all of his assets are being seized by the government and Parker’s cushy lifestyle is now over. While she was never lavish with her wealth, she did enjoy a few creature comforts such as living in the family home, which she must now vacate immediately. The only thing Parker has left is some property a distant relation left her up in Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine. While her son goes on vacation with his father over the summer, Parker intends to travel to the house, do a few quick repairs and put it on the market as soon as possible. With limited time and limited funds, for the first time in her life Parker must get her hands dirty.

Well, maybe not as alone as she originally thought. Her father’s now unemployed attorney (AKA Thing One), James Cahill, shows up unannounced to help her with the project. Parker and James have a barely civil relationship at best, but once she sees how much work the house needs she can’t help but feel grateful for his presence. James feels guilty for his inability to warn her of her impending changes in circumstance (those pesky attorney/client privileges), and he hopes that working with her on the house will earn him a little forgiveness. The couple soon finds that they may have been a bit hasty in their initial impressions, and that the facade they’ve each put on over the years isn’t really who they are.

I need to get one thing out of the way before I head on to the actual review. Does anyone else think it’s bizarre when the author’s name is way bigger than the title of the book? Or is it just me?

I’ve read a few other Kristan Higgins’ novels in the past, with varying success. I’ve always really enjoyed the romance and the characters, but struggled with the point-of-view. Her previous books are solely told from the heroine’s perspective, and I came away from the book feeling cheated. I desperately wanted some insight into the hero’s thoughts/mind/actions, but it was never provided. It felt too one-sided for me. After all, a romance takes two people right? An author needs to have some major talent in order to pull off a romance novel with one point-of-view. In my opinion, at least. However, the author branched out with this novel and it was told from both Parker’s and James’ perspective. Hallelujah! This huge change so much better than her writing style of the past. Kristan Higgins could always tell a wonderful and heartfelt romance, but now we have a fuller picture to enjoy.

Somebody to Love takes place in the same town that Catch of the Day is set in, so if you’ve read it the setting and characters will be familiar to you. It just so happens that Catch of the Day is one of her books I haven’t read, but this is very much Parker and James’ story and I never once felt like I was the only one late to the party. I loved the small town vibe of this book, and the unique people of the town. Parker and James imersed themselves in the community, and the quirky and weird personalities were exactly what they needed to distract, heal, forgive, and learn to forget the past.

I loved both Parker and James, and really believed in their story. I’ve always admired Kristan Higgin’s ability of making her characters deeper than what you would originally expect from a contemporary romance novel. It’s almost like she’s creating her characters from real life people. I enjoyed learning the little tidbits and treasures that made them who they were.

My Summary: Somebody to Love is definitely my favorite book I’ve read from this author. While most of that praise is due to the change in writing style, Kristan Higgin’s consistently delivers powerful characters and a love story that you will remember long after the last page. Want to know one of my favorite things about the book? It has an epilogue. Oh, how I love my epilogues. 😉

My Rating: A

The Selection (The Selection #1)

The SelectionBy Kiera Cass

Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Source: Publisher

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself- and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Goodreads Summary

My review may be more spoilery than usual because I’m going to get a little ranty down below and some of what I’m upset about are general things that happen throughout the book. I’m not going to go into specifics unless you’re a good guesser, but be warned anyway.

When a Prince of Illea reaches a marriageable age, the cattle call goes out to the kingdom – if you’ve got a daughter of a certain age, ask her if she’d like to sign up to try to win his hand. Rich, poor – it doesn’t matter what social standing you have, they’re all eligible as long as they fill out the form and have their picture taken. Then the best 35 of the bunch are announced on television and sent to the palace to try to impress Maxon into proposing.

America and her family are artists – painters, singers, sculptors – and they’re poor. Being chosen to be part of the Selection would mean a huge check and likely a big boost in their family’s status. She doesn’t want to sign up though, because she has a secret. She’s in love with a boy who’s even poorer than they are, a match they’d never condone. But she gives in and is shocked to hear her name announced as one of the 35.

Now under a lot of circumstances, I could like a character like America. She’s feisty, loves her family and is intensely loyal to her boyfriend. But Cass took things way too far and made America an absolutely perfect caricature of a character – she’s beautiful and unique but doesn’t know it, kind to everyone, intelligent enough to offer economic advice to the Prince, sweetly humble, the Queen loves her despite having never met her, etc., etc. I’m sure if she wandered into the woods, butterflies would alight in her hair, birds on her finger and deer and rabbits would gather ‘round her skirts.

I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of The Bachelor, but my guess is Maxon is pretty close to those guys, just dressed up as a Prince with some palace sekrits he only shares with America. He’s not terribly deep, talking mostly about how much he hates not being taken seriously as a Prince by his dad one moment, complaining about how boring meetings are not long after that.

So the characters bothered me and oh, there are more issues coming. But even if I liked them, Cass’ writing style drove me crazy at times. If ever there was a perfect example of telling and not showing, this is it. Especially for the first quarter or so of the book, it was non-stop telling. The author also has a tendency to use the characters’ names over and over in close proximity – I guess she doesn’t like pronouns? In one paragraph, in the retelling of an incident between two characters, each character’s name was used twice, a pronoun once. In one paragraph.

I don’t rant, not really. And this is going to be pretty tame because it’s tempered by the fact that overall, the book wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read. But there were some things that just made me angry in ways that I can barely figure out how to fit them into the review in a coherent way. So I’m just going to throw them out there.

This was not a dystopian. Was the label slapped on there because the palace was attacked a few times by some literally unseen Northern or Southern troops? They either bombed from afar or invaded, and while everyone cowered in a secure room, they ransacked bedrooms and were driven off by the guards. Really? As far as the caste system, that hardly qualifies. So there are rich people who have money and there are varying social levels of other people who have less, down to people who have trouble finding work and education and occasionally steal to eat. And this is different from our current society how?

The depiction of the girls is so stereotypical, it’s offensive. Cold, rich, bitchy girl who wears too much makeup, clings to the guy and sabotages the other girls? Check. Little mousey girl who’s small, quiet, timid? Check – her name is even – wait for it – Tiny. There’s the smart geek who’s afraid to interact with anyone, the super-friendly middle class girl who befriends America because she recognizes a kindred super-friendly spirit. While not part of the Selection group, there are America’s three maids who of course include one girl who was traumatized and once America soothes her, she earns their eternal devotion. So we have America as just “one of the girls” with her maids.

Prince Maxon all but declares to America that she’s the one he plans on pursuing. If she wasn’t totally oblivious, she’d have seen it, but okay. So his first kiss is with her and it’s very sweet. And the next day? He’s kissing someone else? It seemed like there was some confusion about what qualities make an attractive hero or heroine. Maxon and America are both faithless and loose with their affections.

The ending was the most exasperating type of coy little teaser meant to keep a breathless romantic biting their nails until the next book. Look, I am a breathless romantic and under a lot of circumstances, I would be one of those people but I was so offended by the behavior of all of the parties involved, frankly they all deserved each other and I don’t care who “wins” who.

My Summary: So I didn’t love this, I think you can tell. Even if you take out the plot areas that made my blood boil, there were the storytelling problems and if you take out the style problems, you have the hair-burning issues, so I feel pretty secure with my opinion. It didn’t get an F because in spite of everything, I couldn’t help but keep reading, even though I hated myself and was cursing the entire time. I’d like to take the cover off and frame it so I have at least something pleasant to refer to when I think of this.

My Rating: D

Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #1)

Masque of the Red DeathBy Bethany Griffin

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/Steampunk
Source: Publisher

Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

Goodreads Summary

It’s possible that I was initially drawn to this by its cover. Maybe. But I loved the synopsis and it’s inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe story so I was sold in triplicate. I’ve had it sitting here for a couple of weeks now, taunting me and to be honest, I’ve been sort of afraid to read it because I’d been anticipating it for so long. I can stick it on my reread shelf now, since I got it done and it was the keeper that I’d hoped.

If Araby Worth had more courage, she might just end her life. Instead, she separates herself as much as she can from the real world in her parents’ luxury apartment or with her friend April and trips to the Debauchery Club behind her porcelain mask to protect her from the deadly plague. When her normal defenses don’t work, Araby looks for escape in drugs, not particularly caring who she scores from or even what they are.

It’s through the club that she meets Will and Elliot. They’re practically polar opposites: Will is dark, tattooed and poor while Elliot is blonde, refined, wealthy and April’s brother. Araby lost someone very close to her and had vowed never to kiss, hold hands – fall in love – with anyone because he wouldn’t have that chance either. Both boys rouse emotions she’s tried to suppress – romantic interest, hope for their crumbling society and renewed fears and worries about her family. There isn’t really the dreaded Love Triangle, although there’s romance. I know that’s sort of contradictory, but within the story and all the turmoil, the push and pull of the guys and Araby, it doesn’t come off as any kind of triangle at all. So…breathe out. Heaven knows I did.

Araby narrates the story, so obviously the city and people get translated through her. In the beginning, she’s doing everything she can to be detached and other than some brief flares of extreme emotion, she does seem pretty disaffected. Griffin writes with a slightly staccato style and it suits Araby perfectly. Later in the story, the writing gets looser as Araby’s emotions start going haywire. I think some people might find Araby dull or a little stupid with some of the decisions she made but I think given her age, the state of society and her desire to make things right, I understood her and even liked her. Even if she made some horrible choices, in a city where breathing bad air could kill you within days, she did make those choices instead of hiding and did things that put herself at risk when she didn’t have to because she thought she was doing the right thing.

Even in its lighter moments, this is still a grim story. The threat of death hangs everywhere, from the despot leader, Prince Prospero and the maniacal revolutionary Malcontent to the Weeping Illness and the Red Death. Every moment, everyone has to ask themselves – should they ever take their mask off and where, who can they touch, what do you do if you cut yourself? People who can’t afford the expensive porcelain masks don’t leave their houses or they risk using a flimsy fabric mask and possible death. Historic incidences of the plague are a sort of macabre interest of mine and Griffin really did her homework for more than just the emotional despair. I was torn between being fascinated and a little grossed out by her detailed descriptions of the latter stages of the disease and its mutated cousin. Grossed out is meant to be complimentary.

I’m not going to give away the ending, only say that Griffin knocked the wind out of me with it. I don’t know if I just was enjoying the story so much that I wasn’t paying attention or she just threw something in there that that hadn’t had any clues dropped about, but it completely wiped out the conceptions I had about nearly all of the characters. It was a devious, cruel, torturous twist that delighted me in a completely warped way since I normally hate those, “you figure it out,” endings with a passion and now I’m so anxious to read the next book, it’s crazy.

My Summary: I’m starting to open books with so-so expectations right now, and even though I had really been waiting for this, I tamped down my hope and just started reading – and was engrossed almost immediately. The dark world controlled by disease, the contrast of the disaffected, passionate and forgotten people and the suspense storyline hooked me. 2013 seems very, very far away for the next book.

My Rating: A