Book Review: His Bride By Design by Teresa Hill

Earlier this year, my grandmother started giving me books. And by that, I don’t mean the occasional bag of half a dozen paperbacks; I mean thirteen grocery sacks of books at a time. It’s a wonder my roommates haven’t killed me yet for having random sacks of books strewn about the house.

Because of this, I’ve acquired a number of books I wouldn’t normally pick up on my own, including enough Harlequin category romances to supply my own used bookstore. I know a lot of people tend to stick up their noses at Harlequin, but I’ve found some gems there before, and I love romance anyway. So I was kind of excited at my haul.

Alas, the first book I picked up to read, His Bride by Design, wasn’t really worth it. It was a disappointment, because I had recently read a couple of fake-relationship stories that I really enjoyed, and I was looking forward to finding another one.

bride-by-designSynopsis from the back of the book:

Wedding-dress designer Chloe Allen had it all—her first celebrity client, a debut New York fashion show, even a happy engagement…her third, but who was counting? Then a catwalk catfight revealed her fiance’s cheating ways, and the media had a field day. To be painted as unlucky in love was a curse in her profession.

As brides-to-be rioted to return their Chloe originals, Fiance No. 2 rode to her rescue. Financier James Elliot IV couldn’t let her—or his secret investment in her business—suffer. They would play up a reunion romance for the cameras and get Chloe back on track. He had it all sewn up—but would their tabloid tableau vivant turn into the real deal?

Now, if you’re guessing that Chloe’s man was cheating on her with a model, you would be correct. What you might not guess is that he was cheating on her with a male model, which was a giggle-worthy twist since Chloe was kind of slow on the uptake.

What bothered me was how it was handled afterward. A blog (in the book) said “It’s the other men modern-day brides have to worry about,” which made me raise my eyebrows, as guys sleeping with other guys is not exactly a modern development.

On top of that, other brides actually were terrified their grooms were sleeping with their groomsmen, which also had me rolling my eyes. While I can kind of understand the superstitious aspect of it, this seemed like a weirdly specific fear that I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough for.

Then this conversation happened, after James found out someone’s put the video of Chloe finding out about her cheating boyfriend on YouTube:

“People are online watching a video of the brawl at Chloe’s show?”

“More than a hundred thousand people so far,” Marcy said.

James grimaced. “Someone’s keeping a count?”

“Of course. At the rate the video’s being downloaded, it could go viral at any time.”

A hundred thousand views in less than two days? I hate to break it to you, but that video’s not “about” to go viral; it has gone viral. Also, most people don’t actually download videos from YouTube. There’s no built-in functionality for that. And considering every YouTube video ever uploaded has its number of views just beneath it, “keeping a count” isn’t exactly difficult.

This kind of stuff frustrates the hell out of me. I don’t expect everyone to know the difference between HTML and CSS, but if you’re supposedly Internet-savvy, as Marcy is, I would hope you know how YOUTUBE WORKS.

However, even I can admit inaccuracies like that are usually minor issues in a story, and if the rest of it is good enough, I can forgive them. In this case, the rest of the story really wasn’t good enough to outweigh these mistakes.

I couldn’t get behind Chloe as a heroine. I liked her initially, but she was just so…wimpy after everything went down. She was so dependent on her assistants and then on James to do anything, it seemed.

I didn’t buy her as a woman who owned her own (successful) business. She didn’t even have any kind of plan for dealing with the fallout. Then, when James offered her a way to mitigate the problem, she burst into tears at the thought of doing it. She didn’t come across as strong enough to do what needed to be done to save what she cared about.

Then, they were kissing only thirty pages in. Which just never, ever works for me. Part of the fun of the romance is the journey in getting the characters from “Hello” or “I hate you” to “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” After thirty pages, I’ve barely gotten a chance to know these characters; I’m not even rooting for them to get together yet. It’s like everything’s happening way too quickly.

I was excited for a reconciliation romance on top of a fake relationship, but after about the first four pages of the book, it just kind of meandered downhill. It didn’t dive straight into crazy-terrible, which might have been entertaining in and of itself for the WTF level, but just kind of settled at “not good enough for me to justify continuing to read.”

Between the heroine I didn’t like, the mediocre writing, and the Internet-related inaccuracies, I just didn’t care enough to finish the book.

Book Review – Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey

exclusively-yours-webOne of the kinds of romances I’ve come to enjoy more in recent years has been the reconciliation story: that is, two people who used to date/be married getting back together after a breakup. It’s a much different kind of story than the regular romances, which start with the meet-cute and proceed through the initial courtship.

Rather, this is a story about two people who already know each other, and knew each other extremely well at one point in time. And I love watching them come to know each other again as they learn what’s changed about their relationship and what remains the same, and seeing if they can learn to avoid the pitfalls that brought about the breakup in the first place.

In Exclusively Yours, Keri Daniels is a writer for a celebrity magazine, and her boss could give The Devil Wears Prada‘s Miranda Priestly a run for her money. And when said boss learns Keri once dated reclusive bestselling writer Joe Kowalski, she gives Keri an ultimatum: get an interview, or find a new job.

They may have broken up 20 years ago, but Joe Kowalski certainly hasn’t forgotten Keri. And when she comes to town looking for an interview, he decides to have a little fun with her. Joe’s about to go on the annual two-week family camping trip, where there’s no electricity and no cell service, and lots of mosquitos. He invites Keri along, and for every day she sticks around, Keri gets to ask Joe one question.

However, it’s not just the mosquitos and lack of amenities Keri has to contend with: there’s Joe’s entire family, who wants them to get back together, except for Joe’s sister (and Keri’s former best friend), who definitely doesn’t. And then there’s the fact that their former chemistry comes roaring back with a vengeance. Can Keri and Joe survive the family vacation?

I don’t read nearly as many contemporary romances as I do historicals, but if this is any indication, I need to read more. Exclusively Yours is HILARIOUS.

I loved Joe’s unique idea for giving Keri the interview, and Keri’s tenacity in the face of activities she hadn’t done in twenty years or more. I loved the sections from Terry’s point of view, seeing why she was so angry with Keri and seeing her own romance as a subplot. I really loved watching both broken relationship slowly rebuild and rekindle.

Keri and Joe have some great banter, and I loved watching them reminisce about the good old days as they’re getting to know each other again. They’ve both changed a lot over the past twenty years, and Joe has become so reclusive to outsiders that Keri really has no idea what he’s gone through.

Plus, the entire Kowalski clan is fantastic. With parents and siblings and children all running around, the opportunity for shenanigans is endless, and all of them enjoy giving Keri and Joe all kinds of trouble regarding their relationship.

You can see why Keri falls in love with the family almost as much as she falls in love with Joe, which is a wonderful thing to see in a romance novel.

My sole problem with this book came at the end. I (for the most part) bought the happily ever after, but it just felt a little too pat. I didn’t fully understand why Keri made the decision she did, except perhaps because she was supposed to. It felt like certain things that had been important to her throughout most of the novel weren’t resolved satisfactorily.

Which is a shame, because up until then, I loved the book. It’s probably one of my favorites I’ve read so far this year, and the hiccup at the end is a minor thing in the larger scheme of the novel. It just made things feel a little off for me.

If you like funny, contemporary romances, you really should read Exclusively Yours as soon as you get a chance.