Sunday, March 05, 2017

Review: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

I read this books months ago, I decided to hold off on writing a review until closer to publication date and then waited too long. Now I feel compelled to finish the review because I'm seeing this book everywhere. I didn't enjoy this book much at all. I found the love story to be weak and the story line to be very predictable. I was describing the book to someone else, and they kept guessing what happened, and they were right each time.

Sometimes I read a love story, and I find myself thinking I may be missing out in life because it all sounds so wonderful, even if things do end badly. (My favorite love stories are those that end badly - Wuthering Heights, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, English Patient, you get the idea.) But other times, I read a story in which the primary love story is so unsettling, it gives me a brand new appreciation for my single status. This book falls into the latter category.

I was looking for something romantic and tragic, and hoped this would be it. But for one, while I understood that the events in the story were pretty dreary, I never felt a strong emotional connection to the characters or their situation. The love, which seemed like more of an infatuation, seemed very one-sided.

The main character, the person telling the story, was such a weak character. Throughout the entire story, she continued to allow things to happen to her, never taking control of the situation. She meets Gabe in class, and it's a very intense situation. They share a moment on a day they'll never forget, and she thinks she's met the love of her life. Next time she speaks to him, she learns he's returned to his ex-girlfriend. They eventually do get together, but Gabe leaves her to pursue his career. For the next few years, they're in and out of each other's lives, but their whole history together seems to be about him turning to her when he's alone and can't find anyone better.

This character marries someone she doesn't love because she feels like she's expected to marry him, she has children because it's expected. I was so bothered by the situations in which she became pregnant. Despite being secure financially and loving her job (which her husband wants her to quit), she has a fairly awful life. So of course she continues to think the relationship that ended shortly after her college days is the ideal situation. To me, it didn't seem like a great love affair, but rather a desperate need to escape.

A lot of people seem to like this book. I'm not one of them.

I also don't like the way it's being marketed as "the next Me Before You." Seeing this, you know there must be some sort of tragedy. But other than that, there isn't anything similar.

I received a review copy via NetGalley. 




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review: The Harlot and the Sheikh by Marguerite Kaye

First a disclaimer of sorts: I've been having some trouble reading romance novels lately. Once, they were my perfect escape, but now, what used to work so well does not. I'm finding it more difficult to disconnect from the real world and slip into these fantasy worlds. But I'm trying.

I selected this book because I wanted something indulgent. Something completely unrelated to anything in my real world. I needed a dirty, sexy fairy tale. The title made this sound like what I needed. I was thinking escape to Arabian Nights or something like that.

I found the beginning of the book to be slow. (But see my disclaimer at the beginning, this could be a me problem and not necessarily a book problem.) The book wasn't grabbing my interest. Too much about the horses, not enough about the characters or any sort of development in their relationship. I was beginning to think the book was entirely too tame for what I was wanting.

But then, somewhere around the 40 to 50 % mark, the book became exactly what I needed.

This is the story of a strong, intelligent heroine trying to move beyond her past mistakes, and a sexy prince, looking to redeem his family name and bring honor back to his kingdom.

After a mysterious illness strikes his prized horses, Prince Rafiq sends for an English veterinarian. Stephanie Darvil arrives in her father's place. She views this as a fresh start, and a way to spare her family disgrace. She foolishly fell in love and allowed herself to be seduced by a man who used her, thus earning her the reputation of a harlot. The prince isn't quite sure what to make of her at first, having not expected a woman to appear to tend to his horses, but her skill quickly wins him over. Rafiq though is having trouble seeing her as only his horses' veterinarian, and the attraction is mutual as Stephanie realizes that there are advantages and an element of liberation to her ruined reputation.

What really won me over with these characters was Rafiq's reflections on how women are treated by society. He's furious when he finds out about what happened to Stephanie, certain there must be a way to punish the man who lied to her to get her into his bed. Also, he becomes aware of how she's treated in her profession, and how she has to work harder than a man to earn any sort of respect. At the same time, he's guilt-ridden about his deceased wife, who married him as part of an arrangement and had to give up so much of what she loved to satisfy a deal made by her father. Suffice it to say, Rafiq is understanding and respectful, reflective and willing to change, as well as being an attentive and skilled lover. This, along with being a prince, makes him just about perfect. Strong women and men who love and
appreciate strong women are essential for me to like a romance novel, and this book does well in that area.

While the book may have started out slow for me, in the end, I really liked it. Great, strong, intelligent characters; angsty backgrounds the characters need to overcome, and some very steamy sex scenes.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.