Today I’ll be reviewing two short romance novels, one I liked and the other well, not so much. The first book is a Harlequin Blaze anthology called Once Upon A Valentine with authors Stephanie Bond, Leslie Kelly and Michelle Rowen.
I’ve always been a sucker for alternative retellings of fairy tales and popular stories and this book definitely delivered. The book starts with Stephanie Bond’s All Tangled Up which is an incredibly loose take on Rapunzel. Busy NY ad exec Andrew McMillan returns to his native sleepy hamlet of Tiny, Tennessee to bury his father and drives into a tree to avoid running into a horse he didn’t see because he was too busy being captivated by the sight of his neighbor’s beautiful long golden hair. Summer Tomlinson has had a longtime crush on Andrew and of course now that she’s a beautiful woman with hair so strong he keeps getting tangled in it throughout the story, the feeling soon becomes mutual. Andrew hates small time life and after helping Summer market the hair product she and his father developed, which is responsible for the length and strength of her hair, he needs to decide whether to return to life in the big city or spend the rest of his days in the arms of his beautiful neighbor.
Sleeping with a Beauty by Leslie Kelly is another interesting story that involves a historian from an alternate fantasy universe trying to complete her father’s lifelong search for the elusive mythical castle from the story of Sleeping Beauty. She soon finds herself under the protection of an adventurer from our world hired by her uncle to keep her safe from the clutches of ruthless parties also interested in the castle. I love Ashlynn’s reactions to what we take for granted in this world, such as missing Chunky Monkey when she goes home once she realizes the ice cream doesn’t actually contain animal chunks, and I think this story is my favorite out of the three.
The final story is a very cute take on the Gingerbread Man story called Catch Me by Michelle Rowen. Ginger and her best friend Stephen work in his book publishing business and have to tackle a very difficult author who also happens to be their cash cow. After yet another disastrous blind date, Ginger is approached by an employee of the Valentine Cafe who gives her a magic gingerbread man and tells her to make a wish when she eats it. Shrugging, Ginger wishes she would be wanted by men before devouring the cookie. Suddenly she finds herself dealing with lots of unwanted attention, which includes getting screamed at by a couple of wives, before facing her ultimate dilemma. When Stephen is unable to control himself and confesses his love for Ginger, she wonders whether or not the words she’d always wanted to hear came under the influence of the cookie.
I don’t usually read holiday based books but this one centered around Valentine’s Day is a light and pleasant read and I highly recommend it:)
Monarch of the Sands by Sharon Kendrick
Francesca O’Hara is a pretty useless heroine. Her mother abandons the family because her father is a boring old scientist or something and her daughter didn’t turn out to be the bombshell she’d hoped she would be. With her father now dead, Frankie becomes engaged to a stranger who appears at her door trying to get her to sell her house and land and offers her a job at his agency. When sheikh and king of Khayarzah, Zahid Al Hakam, appears on her doorstep he turns her world upside. Apparently their fathers had been old friends because Frankie’s dad discovered oil in the country which boosted their economy to the moon and so Zahid is kind of a family friend except being royalty he seems incapable of being a douche. Actually since the man’s a king he wouldn’t just be any old douche, he would be Super Douche!
Well it takes one douche to sniff out another and Zahid is unimpressed with Frankie’s fiancé Simon. He soon discovers Simon is a fortune hunter and has another woman and breaks the news to Frankie who breaks the engagement. Of course this means she’s out of a job so this young woman who despite growing up around scientists and working by her father’s side in the lab (I wasn’t very good at it so I gave it up cuz science is hard TEE HEE!) has absolutely zero job skills or education. So Zahid decides to hire her to type up his dead father’s diaries but she has to come back to Khayarzah to do it because (I assume) there are no typewriters or computers in modern day England and the postal service doesn’t exist.
Even before they arrive, Frankie starts experiencing culture shock and is ticked off by various aspects of Zahid’s country such as the fact women aren’t allowed to go to college or drive and when she confronts him about it he merely shrugs and tells her how his advisors are old fashioned and aren’t open to modernization. After this he takes Frankie to a racetrack so she can check out the women’s facilities before starting on the diaries. Seriously. What one has to do with the other I have absolutely no idea but when he tells her of his plans to attract international clientele to the race track she informs him that if the wives of the wealthy men he’s hoping to attract aren’t happy, they won’t be happy and won’t do business with him because clearly all successful businessmen are pussy whipped.
After this blow up, which is one of many, they drive off to his secret little bungalow or whatever in the desert and finally have the sex they’ve been dodging throughout the story. Frankie hasn’t even caught her breath when Super Douche makes his appearance and starts bitching her out for not telling him she was still a virgin. This is after he spends half the book pissed off at her because he assumes she’s been sleeping with other men now that she’s a beautiful woman and not the awkward tomboy he knew when he last saw her five years ago.
I’m sorry but I hated this book and flung it across the room at this point. I found it so unbelievably stupid that it actually pissed me off! Kendrick spends half the book establishing how Frankie basically spent her entire life in her father’s laboratory with the sheikh and his father being constant visitors to her home and spending a considerable amount of time with the family yet she knows absolutely nothing about anything! She says how her father always told her stories about the country, their cuisine etc. yet she’s astonished when she finds out things about the culture that’s different from Western society. Zahid meanwhile has such a hard time dealing with his attraction to Frankie that he develops a tendency of being nice to her for 3 seconds before turning into an explosive asshole for the rest of the week. This is what I hate about certain romance novels. As I’d said in an earlier post, my pet peeves are an insipid and useless heroine and a hero who’s nothing but a colossal schmuck but because he’s rich and handsome all is forgiven. Ladies and gentlemen, this book has both along with plot holes so large you could drive a tanker truck through them. I advise you to stay away from this book with as much enthusiasm as I say to pick up Once Upon a Valentine.
By the way, I thought I’d take a moment to do a shoutout to a fantastic organization. Being a military couple for 10 years and with my husband about to be medically retired from an injury he sustained during a deployment, we’re not exactly rolling in dough. We both love to read but can’t always afford to buy the books we’d love to read and sometimes the selection at our local library can be seriously lacking. Thanks to the good folks at Operation Paperback, we both receive lots of free books that appeal to our interests every month or so. The books that go to our troops at home and abroad, both in the field and recovering in the hospital, come from donations from people like you. If you’re interested in sending in a monetary donation or have some books you’d like to donate click here.