Reviews

Book Review: “Faking It” by Cora Carmack

Well, it’s the first time I read a sequel novel that did not push me to read the first book right after finishing it. My main issue on this: what was the heroine in the first book thinking letting go of such a special man, i.e., the hero of the second book.

When I first started reading this book, I thought this would be a fun book to read. When I was almost halfway through, I thought I liked this book. A lot. But when I was already nearing the end and seeing that the pages of the book are running out, I thought I loved this book.

I was surprised by the emotions that the author inspired from her readers, with the use of her words, her characters, her story. When I read romance novels, especially contemporary ones, I basically want just a few things, well-fleshed out characters, an interesting plot, witty banter, sexy moments can’t hurt, and a happy ending that makes sense. (Okay, that’s a lot of things but now you get what I mean.) And I was glad that Carmack’s follow up novel did give all those to me and topped it all off with that one thing that makes a novel truly special in my books: heart. This book was surprisingly filled with a lot of heart.

It has the familiar trope of good boy-bad girl (Golden Boy and Angry Girl). At the outset, they’re just fundamentally different that seeing them together will make no sense whatsoever. But then Carmack develops their story and the battles that they have to face to be themselves, to be together, and then BAM. They do make sense. Incredibly but understandably.

Here’s the blurb from :

Mackenzie “Max” Miller has a problem. Her parents have arrived in town for a surprise visit, and if they see her dyed hair, tattoos, and piercings, they just might disown her. Even worse, they’re expecting to meet a nice, wholesome boyfriend, not a guy named Mace who has a neck tattoo and plays in a band. All her lies are about to come crashing down around her, but then she meets Cade.

Cade moved to Philadelphia to act and to leave his problems behind in Texas. So far though, he’s kept the problems and had very little opportunity to take the stage. When Max approaches him in a coffee shop with a crazy request to pretend to be her boyfriend, he agrees to play the part. But when Cade plays the role a little too well, they’re forced to keep the ruse going. And the more they fake the relationship, the more real it begins to feel

I also appreciated the parallelisms that Carmack uses, like Cade’s theatre background and how he translates acting or being an actor in his real life, or Max’s music background and how music makes her cope and sets her free at the same time.

And I love the songs that Cade and Max wrote individually and that were presented in different times in the novel. They were wonderful not just in and of themselves but in relation to the characters and to their character arcs as well. LOVE IT.

I love how more than their being together as a couple, the story is also about finding themselves in the process. And it’s always a great story angle for me to find in novels.

What I also appreciated is that the author resolves the issues not completely but realistically; meaning, everything is not roses and peaches and perfect.

I love Carmack’s prose.

Max:
“It was the kind of fear that made people jump off cliffs and climb mountains—the kind of fear that told you something miraculous was waiting at the end of it, if you could only get there.”

Getting there was the problem though. I wasn’t the climbing mountains kind of girl. As appealing as the summit seemed now, I knew myself well enough to know I’d give up halfway there, and then I’d be left with only the pain of the journey, and none of the reward.”

Cade:
“Maybe it was because we were both actors. Maybe it was just because of who we were. But I could see in her eyes that she knew, too. This was the end of a chapter.”

And I love the epilogue. So much. It was beautifully written, poignant, and SPOT. ON.

In the end, I am so glad I was able to read this one. It was a damn good one.

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Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Book Review: The Temptation of Your Touch

 

I know Teresa Medeiros has already written a lot of books. However, this is only the second book of hers that I’ve read, the first one being the first book in her new Burke series, The Pleasure of Your Kiss.

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Here’s the book blurb from Goodreads:

Maximillian Burke has always prided himself on being the man every mother would want her daughter to marry. But after his scoundrel of a brother makes off with Max’s bride, Max discovers it’s more satisfying to be a rogue than the perfect gentleman. Forced to flee London after a duel gone wrong, he seeks refuge at Cadgwyck Manor on the lonely coast of Cornwall, a place as wild and savage as his current temper. The tumbledown manor comes complete with its own ghost, but oddly enough, it’s not the White Lady of Cadgwyck who haunts Max’s heated dreams—but his no-nonsense housekeeper.

The last thing housekeeper Anne Spencer needs is a new master, especially one as brooding and gorgeous as the Earl of Dravenwood. Even as she schemes to be rid of her new employer, she finds herself irresistibly drawn into his strong, muscular arms. When Max vows to solve the mystery of Cadgwyck’s ghost, he doesn’t realize it will put both of their hearts at risk and tempt them to surrender to a pleasure as delicious as it is dangerous.

 

The Temptation of Your Touch was an enjoyable read. Added to the central love story was a plot filled with mysteries. It wasn’t great but reading it was not a waste of time either. I like the first three quarters of the book. I love happy endings but my only misgiving in this book was that the latter quarter, especially the ending felt a bit hurried. The mystery gets solved in like a flick of a finger. There were resolutions offered but it felt a bit contrived in the end. Although I appreciated the bits and pieces of information or clues, if you will, that were peppered throughout the book but maybe it would have worked better if the answer to the mystery had been revealed earlier because by this point, the readers would have had a good idea what had happened, and instead focused more on the dynamics that the reveal would have shifted between our hero and heroine.

 

I like Max’s character. He’s a good person and I would have wanted his character arc resolution to have been more epic, for lack of a better word. I was looking forward to his redemption and three-fourths of the book had offered more than glimpses that the story was walking the readers into that direction. But since the ending was really a bit abrupt, I felt that I was left hanging a little. Nevertheless, given the character development that was expressed in the book, readers wouldn’t have a hard time imagining the ending, like the ending was were the trajectory of the story has been targeting after all. It just would have been better if the gaps in between were filled.

 

As for Anne, I like my heroines feisty, tough, and smart, and I think she has all these qualities. Her motivations are understandable and I appreciate that she has endured through life in spite of all that fate has dealt her with. Again, in the first three-fourths of the book, I absolutely adored her. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and she can stand her ground even, or most especially, against Max. But then that last quarter of the book when the big reveal came… I just expected more, especially with her relationship with Max.

 

As for the mystery, I appreciate that Teresa Medeiros wrote it the way she did. As I’ve said earlier, there were already clues that point to the truth, but still not enough to set it on stone. She had kept me guessing until the big reveal. When I was sure that it was one way, she writes it like it’s completely the other way, which is a plus that the mystery was sustained. However, as I’ve also said earlier, it would have been nicer for a bit more development in terms of the relationship of our hero and heroine after the mystery was solved so that readers could have been given much more substance in terms of the future of their relationship beyond the mystery. I would not have minded a little more angst from both of them, or at least from Max, instead of following it up immediately with the happy ending.

 

Nevertheless, I actually like the theme of the mystery of the ghost. It’s a nice parallel of having a ghost haunt you and having your past haunt you. Max said it best:

 

“We’re all haunted in one way or another, are we not? If not by spirits, then by our own demons and regrets.”

 

Overall, it was still an enjoyable read. I think part of Medeiros’ charm as an author is that she writes lovely prose and her descriptions are one of her greatest assets. They’re vivid I could see her scenes play out in my mind’s eye. The part where Maximillian was imagining what had happened to Angelica in the tower during the fateful night was an example of this.

 

My rating: 4.0 stars

Book review: The Duchess War

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Courtney Milan has already become an automatic read for me. She’s proven her brilliance with her craft and I always appreciate the unconventionality of her stories. In a genre such as historical romance, which does not experience a dearth in quantity of material, it is such a great feat for a writer to set herself apart from the others and in a good way. Courtney Milan does that with every single one of her books and her latest is yet another example of how good a writer she truly is.

 

Book Blurb:

“Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly—so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don’t get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match…”

 

Let me count the ways I love this book:

 

As always, the first thing that struck me is the unconventionalities that the story presents the readers, starting from the main characters where you have a heroine who’s smart, street-smart, strategy-smart, and strong-willed, and a hero who’s pretty much the anti-thesis of the conventional brooding and rakish heroes of the genre. In fact, the heroine has a scar on her face and the hero is a romantic at heart. They’re just both strong people in that they have survived the ugliness of their childhood pasts.

 

I love the running theme of discovering the true character or essence of a person beyond the physical, beyond a title, beyond a name, beyond the past. Minnie, the heroine, assumes another name in order to escape a past and hides behind a quiet demeanor to keep her past from catching up to her. Robert, the hero, is a duke, a member of the realm. But he is also a radical and the change that he wants done, to abolish the peerage. He fully knows the privileges that his title has brought him but at the same time he has this innate belief that such privileges are the causes of abuse and he abhors that impunity does not pay because people are protected by their titles and their wealth. I love that these two people are not who people see them to be and the first one to discover the true person underneath it all, the first one to see through the mist of illusion is each other.

 

I love Minnie but Robert is really the shining character in this book for me. He defies every conventional trait of the supposed ‘hero’ of a novel: he’s a duke but he’s embarassed by his title and his wealth and he even wants to abolish the institution that has made him such; he’s not a rake, in fact, he’s even (GASP) a virgin; and last but not the least, he’s a romantic. Despite the rejection and disillusionment that his parents’ marriage showed him, he still believes in love. However, he does not believe that he will experience it. Until he met Minnie, that is. The scene where he realizes that he loves Minnie offers one of my favorite lines from Robert and just displays the brilliance of Milan’s writing:

It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in love. The thought of love was like water in the desert. Now there was a stupid cliché, one that made him think of a man in ragged clothing staggering through the Sahara, searching for an oasis among the sand dunes.

 

But the Antarctic was a desert, too—a cold desert, one made dry because water there turned to ice the instant it hit the air.

 

So he believed in love. He’d always believed in love. He’d been surrounded by water all his life; it had simply been frozen solid. He’d loved as hard as he dared and watched it freeze before his face. It was no surprise now when he checked his feelings and discovered that he loved her. The surprise was that this time, when he dared to take a sip, he found water instead of ice.

 

Her characters, even the secondary ones, are well-fleshed out. They don’t seem like characters in a book; they’re like real people. They make mistakes. They make wrong decisions. They’re flawed, basically. And human. But then you understand them and what they’ve been through and you stand behind them just the same. That’s great writing. 

 

Last but not the least, the story itself was unconventional. What I love about Milan’s writing is that she takes a conventional premise and then somehow manages to transform it into something new, something not cliche. When you think that the story would go this particular way, she surprises you because it takes a detour and goes to an opposite direction. And it works. She doesn’t divide her universe and her characters in blacks and whites; there are always grays and colors. And again, that’s great writing.

 

All in all, this is another A-grade piece by Courtney Milan. I can’t wait for the next installment in her Brothers Sinister series. And for those who haven’t read her other books, you should try them. They’re good.

 

Rating: 5/5 stars