Viking in Love by Sandra Hill

Viking in Love (Viking I, #8)

Viking in Love by Sandra Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A light and fun read, for those who don’t mind a cruder side of humor.
You look at this title and this cover and think this will be one of those porny cheesy romances with not much substance or credibility. I would never have bought this if I didn’t actually accidentally read an excerpt in the back of another book a while ago.
While it is still a romance, you can’t escape from that, this book is built on utterly ridiculous, sometimes entirely idiotic, humor, and this humor, even when it turns crude and sexual, is the best thing about it.
It a very well-constructed story for what it is. It is full of small ridiculous details and even brief side characters have vivid memorable personalities. The hero of this book is neither the ‘viking’ from the title, as many might have thought, nor is he a very typical romance hero, which is only a plus. He has a likable personality of someone who is very tired of other people’s shit (because it tends to fall on his shoulders), but still tries to do the right thing, if not entirely successfully. The heroine is not as unusual of a character, but still isn’t dull, boring, or annoying. Their friends and family (including the children) are precious. I do feel like I enjoyed reading this.

One thing I didn’t get about the writing were the cursive opening lines for most chapters…I’m not sure what purpose they served and have a feeling the text would be better without them—less interruption of the immersion, some of the remarks felt too modern to fit in. In fact, there were times where the text seem to lose its flavor and turn too modern from time to time in other places as well, but not enough to really bother, I think.

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The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

The Duke and I (Bridgertons, #1)

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I never expected it to be this much fun. At first, the venomous undertone of the humor in the prologue made me a little suspicious. But then I had the hardest time stopping myself from grinning while reading (in public places), mostly because of the dialogs. The dialogs are definitely my favorite part about this book. I didn’t really enjoy the topic of the main ‘drama’ as much, but regardless, this book was still a surprise and a delight.

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The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

The Devil in Winter (Wallflowers, #3)

The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A well-written ‘love reforms all’ story with a ‘former rake’ and a heroine who is all innocence, bravery, and stubbornness, and not a single negative element to her. This book is also self-aware of the fact that it’s very much a ‘reformed rake cliché’. There are some plot turns, but it mostly made to be sweet.

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Summer Breeze by Catherine Anderson

Summer Breeze (Keegan-Paxton #3)

Summer Breeze by Catherine Anderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A skillfully written, slow, sweet, and simple story of a young woman who has spent last 5 years unable to leave 4 walls because of a trauma-induced panic disorder and a ‘reluctant temporary caretaker’ who is of course a dashing gentleman who will change her world.
It follows very traditional story arc, with romance so thick and sweet you could spread it on a toast, but then have hard time chewing through it. With sprinkles of stetsons, sheriffs, horses, gold, and bullets.
Perfect fit for people who are looking for a quality pure romance.
Though it is also likely simple enough that those of us not too open-minded to transparent romance will have to fight through some skepticism.

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Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison

Storm's Heart (Elder Races #2)

Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is this something about Thea Harrison’s characters and style of writing…when, even if usually I would’ve found this ‘teeny-tiny girly woman that likes pink lipstick and stiletto heels’ and ‘very big and very scary power man’ pair of main characters too cheesy and stereotypical, there’s something about the insight into them and their interactions that makes me ignore the voice of cynicism and actually enjoy the story.
I did feel a little put off at first at how much sexual undertone there was in this, in descriptions on both sides from the very beginning. But the plot was also there and not actually lost behind it. I have a feeling the first book was tamer, with more focus on fantasy setting, but I might be not remembering correctly. Also, the floating POV…
This is very much a female ‘comfort book’ through and through. Tricks was about to leave the safety of her found family out of necessity and begin a new life all alone surrounded by people she couldn’t trust, and this is about having a person who not only came to save her from danger, but decided to stay forever and trade a whole old life for a new one with her, and take it all in a stride. I might not understand high heels and lipstick, but I understand ‘tell me when are you going to leave me, because I need to know what will happen’ and the dream of someone saying ‘never’ and meaning it. And also actually enjoying it.

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A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

A Kingdom of Dreams (Westmoreland, #1)

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A well written archetypal historical romance.

While 14-16 y.o. me would’ve loved this, given it 5 stars, and squealed in delight while re-reading favorite parts multiple times, there’s a part of me that is apparently a bit too old and cynic for this.
The younger me loved that the heroine was actually clever, resourceful, resorting to unusual choices, and not simply blindly stubborn and arrogant; loved the conversations between main characters (even though there were 1-2 dialogs my fingers just itched to re-write); loved that many of the characters actually used their heads and altered their opinions. Also the hero… Big, strong, fearsome and fearless “Black Wolf” on a big black horse? He is practically the model (template) hero for the majority of these romance novels (the ones that don’t deal with the ‘fair-haired and beautiful noble hero’ type). It feels like I’ve seen a few dozen of his twins before. Even if it works…
(Though I do suppose an allowance should be made for the fact that this book was published in 1989 and I’m influenced by the books that came after.)
The older me narrows her eyes at how young the main character is (I know it’s historically accurate, I can’t help it), and at the fact that this book suffers from the ‘I got addicted to the angst and added some more…and more…and more again’-syndrome. I’m not convinced that the final family-related angst sequence was entirely necessary. As wasn’t the mini-angst detail of the Epilogue. Some of the plot turns, especially the ones that sacrifices positive characters, felt excessive.

Overall, I think this is definitely one of the better examples of ‘romance with actual plot’ variety, but I also think that it would be mostly appealing to younger readers.

(Unrelated to the content of the book, I happened to get the edition with rather terrible printing. The problems ranged from about twenty extra pages getting stuck in a wrong place in the book, to constantly missing punctuation marks… Even for a 30 y.o. edition, it’s a bit too much.)

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Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt

Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2)

Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Why do so many of ‘second novels’ in so many series turn into these pits of angst, I wonder?
I found this book much more difficult to enjoy than the first one. I think there were three major reasons. Firstly, is that while I can get behind a tortured anti-social hero who is hunting a murderer, I find it much more difficult to get behind a tortured hero who runs illegal gin still and sleeps with people’s wives in public places. Even though Reading is perhaps a more pleasant person personality-wise. Secondly, this novel takes a very specific and very obvious format. The one where you know with 100% certainty how the story will go from the very first chapters: everything starts from a low and angsty point, then it will become gradually worse and angstier, until it reaches the climax where something terrible happens and forces people to take their heads out of their asses, so that the happy end you expected from the very beginning is brought about. And you know all the major story points that are going to happen before they do. It’s hard to remain interested and not just skip to the end and save yourself from suffering through all the angst and misfortunes. And thirdly, the fact that the main theme of this novel seems to be infidelity. Whether it’s sleeping with other people wives or fiancés, or falling in love with someone else while being engaged, or telling your lover that you can’t marry them and will marry someone else and have an affair with them after a year or so… I don’t like this topic and don’t find it exciting.
Additionally, I also felt like Lady Hero turned out to be a much weaker character here than she appeared to be in the first book, which was rather disappointing.

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