Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson ****

I've been reading a fair amount again, but this is the first time in months that I've just sat down and read an entire book in one sitting. And it's the first new book I've read in a while too - although I have listened to some new audio books.

First the review - I actually did a recent re-read of Rachel Gibson's See Jane Score because it was the first book of hers that I had read, and I wasn't that impressed. Since then I have become a true fan, and mostly like everything else I've read - which is almost everything she's written. I even liked See Jane Score better the second time around!

This is another of the fictional Seattle Chinooks hockey team that is featured in See Jane Score. Team Captain Mark Bressler had a bad auto accident that has left him too disabled to ever play hockey again, and also left him bitter and angry as a result. When the team goes on to win the Stanley Cup under the captainship of a rival player (Ty Savage of an earlier book), Bressler is about at his lowest. He's run off every home health care worker the Chinooks has sent him - until a Chinooks admin worker sends her unemployed sister, Chelsea.

Chelsea is an actor. Well, an out of work actor, whose best parts so far have been in teen slasher movies where she's the first one slashed. She's decided to take a break from the Hollywood scene and spend some time in Seattle with her sister Bo, who works for the Seattle Chinooks. She takes the job working for Mark Bressler with the carrot of a $10,000 bonus if she can stick it out 3 months. Since she's had a lot of experience with bad jobs and worse employers, she figures she can take anything for a bonus that size! But it's not easy, even when she's chanting "$10,000" over and over to herself. Bressler is a tool, just as she figures out early on.

It's not a new twist on an old theme - it's just a straightforward plot where the 2 start out adversaries but her stubborn streak keeps them together, and they turn the relationship around. Even the necessary almost-at-the-end conflict is pretty dang predictable. But I like Gibson's voice, her style, her characterizations. No Nobel-prize-worthy prose here, just a story with some funny dialog and some heart-felt moments that I enjoyed enough to sit there and read for several hours. Chelsea chips away at the ice surrounding Mark's soul until he realizes she makes his life worth living, and Mark brings out the love Chelsea's been missing in her own life.

Sister Bo is featured as the secondary love interest with a co-worker, metrosexual Jules, but they are pretty minor characters, actually. Mostly we get the story from Chelsea's and Mark's POVs which are narrowed to mainly their own feelings.

I enjoyed it - maybe less than a full 4 star read, but still... Yeah, fun stuff.

Mostly I've been doing a lot of re-reading - Marsha Canham, Loretta Chase, among others. I have read the newer Robyn Carr/Virgin River series, but they don't reach the level of the first one, even when I do enjoy them. (One is looking to be a DNF mainly because the characters irritate the hell out of me.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

After The Night by Linda Howard *****

Ahhhh - another great read by Linda Howard. I've known for a while that she is a terrific author and I don't know why it's taken me so long to start glomming her backlist. This is an AAR Top 100, which is how it ended up in my TBR pile this summer.

The story takes place in south Louisiana somewhere near Baton Rouge, in a small town Ms Howard made up called Prescott. I know she made it up because I grew up in south Louisiana somewhere near Baton Rouge, and I'd never heard of it. She had it described as near the Mississippi state line and the heroine shops in New Roads. Oh not that any of this matters - except I have this creepy growing up thing about south Louisiana and sometimes reading about it gives me the heeby jeebies.

Faith Devlin is the heroine - her family was poor white trash from the word go - I mean, you couldn't get lower than being a Devlin. Her mother, Renee, was the town slut, and the mistress of the town's first family's patriarch, Guy Rouillard. He gave the Devlin family free rent on a shack on his property, where Faith and her mother lived with her alcoholic father, 2 ne'er-do-well older brothers, slutty older sister and retarded baby brother. At age 11, she's already the only responsible one in the family. And she's already over aware of the patriarch's son, Gray, currently an LSU football player.

ok, it does kinda give me the creeps to have characters attending the university my sisters attended and stuff. I just had to throw that in.

At age 14, Faith is awakened from sleep one night when Gray storms the Devlin shack to throw them all out, backed by the sheriff's department. It seems his father has run off with Renee, never to return, and Gray ends the charity right then and there. They scramble to get some belongings thrown in their cars and they head to Texas.

Gray is a well-defined Howard alpha hero - he's always had the world handed to him on a platter and feels pretty much worth it. The one constant thorn in his side is his cold society bitch mother, but he still loves her. When his father apparently deserts the family, he steps in and does what he can to save them from financial ruin. His father left no note, nothing was packed or taken - but he does send a proxy so that Gray can control the family business. I wondered that it never occurred to Gray to try to find his father, but it's explained away that the father's best friend who is also the family lawyer confirms that the father had been planning to divorce his mother and run off with another woman. No one questions it. He's really done it, even though the lawyer thought it was just drunken talking.

12 years go by - Faith has long since pulled herself up by her bootstraps and is a successful business woman. One thing bothers her, though, and that is her pull to go back to her hometown and set the record straight on what actually happened. She wants to know if the town has forgiven or forgotten - because she now knows Gray's father did not run away with her mother, who is now living with her grandmother. She figures he came back in a day or two, and everyone has moved on.

Another aside from me: I could never go back to where I grew up, and I never felt it was my hometown even though I lived there from age 2-15. Faith has no family there, and in fact didn't even know her extended family. So this part sorta got to me, because although I did feel what Faith felt (such is the power of good writing), I could never have that feeling for myself and my own "home town".

Faith isn't in Prescott 10 minutes before she's recognized - or worse, before she's recognized as her mother since the resemblance is uncanny. It becomes apparent Guy Rouillard did not return, and everyone still believes he ran away with Renee and is still with her. Gray storms into her motel room and threatens her to get outta Dodge. Self-assured, confident spitfire that she's turned into, she leaves quietly and makes a plan to come back that he can't get through so she can find out the truth. She buys a house outright (no mortgage), works from home running her multi-city business, and leaves no ends loose that Gray can use to force her out of town. He puts pressure on the local businesses to not allow her to shop there; she drives to other towns to shop. The game is on, and every step one takes is a challenge to the other.

The sexual chemistry between them is so strong the pages in the book are practically hot to the touch. It's a wonder the paper doesn't just burst into flame - but Howard, devil that she is, keeps the tension high and doesn't allow them any release til near the end of the book - leaving you panting and sweating along with them. Faith is on a mission to uncover the truth about what happened After The Night her family was run out of town - but she hasn't confided in anyone that she believes there is a different story than the one everyone tells. She doesn't tell anyone that Renee is alive and alone in another state. She is determined to clear her name there - she needs to bury the child she was and gain acceptance from her home town to go on with her life. And she is determined not to follow in her mother's footsteps as the town slut sleeping with the patriarch of the first family.

I did figure out most of the mystery sorta early on, but that wasn't a deal breaker for me. I was still on the edge of my seat waiting for Faith to give in to Gray, and for Faith to uncover the truth for herself, and for Faith and Gray to allow their feelings to come to light. There's something so exciting about reading the plot the first time, not knowing what is coming up. Although I like re-reads because you uncover more details, more layers, you can never really go back and not know what happens and whodunnit.

It's a 5 star read.

I also have this in audio, narrated by the wonderful Natalie Ross! It's a definite 5 star listen as well.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson *****


I read this book about 2 years ago, and gave it 4 stars (really 3.5) and wrote a review saying it just didn't measure up. But I've been in a sort of reading drought. I haven't been keeping up with what's new and out there to read, and what is in my TBR just isn't getting me interested, so I've been doing a lot of re-reads. Re-reads are comforting - the mac-n-cheese of reading. You already know you love it and it will make you feel good. I picked up See Jane Score because I'd been wondering if maybe I didn't give it a fair chance.

Well, I was right. That is, I did not give it a fair chance! My re-read was a completely new take on the story. My review is still right - the facts are there. We don't really get into Luc's mind much. And I missed a major piece on Jane - the fact that she seems to sabotage her relationships as a way to keep from getting close.

I even laughed at myself for the comment about being raised by her father so she missed out on makeup and dressing. Yeah, I did not get those skills from my mother - in fact I don't have those skills at all. I guess she has a point - she didn't have a mother to get them from. I did, but that mother didn't pass them on (or didn't have them either).

It wasn't the same type of prose that SEP or Susan Andersen write; it's not even exactly the same prose that Gibson writes in other books. But she still knows how to draw characters, flaws and fears and all, and infuse the story with wit and pathos and emotion. And sheesh, the sexual tension when all they do is kiss and grope a little - whew! (Not that they don't do more, later in the book, mind you!)

So, below the line is my original review. The plot is the same, but this time I did love it - and I'm going with 5 stars this time around.


I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did. Maybe it's just because I wanted it to be more like Susan Andersen, or Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and she just didn't measure up.

See Jane Score came to my TBR pile as an AAR Top 100 book. Doing my background work on it (making sure it wasn't a part of a series - well, it is, but I couldn't figure out how, so I read it as a stand-alone) I decided it sounded like something I would like, a la SEP and Andersen. A hockey player hero and a plain Jane heroine (named Jane) who isn't so plain, who get thrown together by circumstance. The circumstance forces Jane to learn about hockey as she goes along, and there's even a pre-game ritual thrown in (It Had To Be You, anyone?).

And, well, Gibson doesn't write like Anderson or SEP. I kept wanting her to dig deeper into Luc's POV - like author Suzanne Brockmann - and let me really feel what Luc is feeling. Maybe she did and Luc is just not that interesting?

Luc's backstory: he's a goalie, recently recovered from knee surgery and pain meds addiction, and recently got custody of his half-sister whose mother died. He has a reputation with journalists who've detailed not only his addiction, but his exploits with women, most of which apparently is fabricated.

Jane's backstory: mother died of breast cancer when Jane was 6, father raised her almost as a boy so she's not interested in dressing up or wearing makeup. (?) Since these aren't really skills I got from my mother, I didn't exactly follow this logic, but whatever. She only wears black and gray because she doesn't know how to match colors. So she's not a girly-girl (she sure cries alot though, shades of A Knight In Shining Armor!), she's short and not well endowed.

The circumstance: she's a journalist who gets offered a position writing a sports column about the hockey team and traveling with them for the season. She isn't a sports writer and has to learn about the sport - they pick her on purpose for publicity reasons (I think, although that aspect is never mentioned again ) because she writes a dating column. Now she has to be the only woman in the dressing room after the game, and the only woman traveling with the team - and they all decide to shut her out. Of course, after a while this gets old, she brings them luck and now they like her.

Luc starts looking at her, but even when Gibson writes from his POV, we know very little about what he is feeling until later when he admits he is attracted to her. They both decide the attraction is a bad idea - her because she wants to keep her position professional, him because - well, I think because he doesn't think she's his type plus he wants to concentrate on his game and his sister is a distraction. Or Something Like That. I may have to read it again - you'd think having just finished it less than 12 hours ago, I could remember.

So they avoid - then they get together -then they avoid. We really feel more of Jane's side - and she is hurt when he avoids her, thinking he was just using her for a one-night stand. Eventually we get his side, which was... oh, the complications, and his not wanting to feel or admit his attractions, and then he does. Oh wait - I almost forgot her porn persona, Honey Pie - that was the Big Secret/Big Misunderstanding part. She writes a porn column under a pseudonym, and only 3 people know it's her - but all the hockey players read the column. Early in the relationship - real early - she writes it about him, but it isn't published til later. So we know it's coming, but it doesn't really affect their relationship til the very end. I cringed when I read the column, because she wrote a scene that actually did happen, almost word for word, between the 2 of them. I was surprised no one figured out it was her, since she even described the dress she wore in front of the entire team. She made no secret of his identity in the column either - a hockey player called Lucky... But not only did no one figure out she was involved (they did realize it was about him), even Luc assumes someone overheard the 2 of them - he cannot imagine she wrote it. When she tells him the truth, he feels betrayed because he trusted her, so they have to get over that right at the end. By the way - I wondered if everyone realized that it was a fictional column? After all, she did leave all her lovers in comas. So did anyone think that whoever this Honey Pie was actually screwed Luc into a coma?

I did have some laughs, and I grinned a few times at a clever turn or 2. But I wanted more - I wanted to feel what I feel when Andersen or SEP tell me a story - and I didn't. Should I read more? If this is her best, though, I just don't know if I can take it. I'm gonna go with 4 stars because it's a 3 1/2 - I liked it more than just "average" or "mediocre" but not nearly as much as I wanted to. I guess it's relative.