Monday, September 15, 2014

Two Gabriel Allon Novels by Daniel Silva: THE HEIST and PRINCE OF FIRE

As most of you probably know by now, I'm a big fan of Daniel Silva's work. It all started with 2013's The English Girl, one of the best thrillers I've ever read. After finishing that novel, I decided to dig into Silva's backlist and, unintentionally, started reading the Gabriel Allon series backward. But recently I broke with that trend and skipped both ahead and backward, reading Silva's latest—The Heist—and 2006's Prince of Fire practically back-to-back.

Unfortunately I wasn't terribly impressed with either of them.

For those of you who aren't familiar, Silva's series follows the adventures and misadventures of Gabriel Allon, the greatest spy of all the times. Born to a Holocaust survivor, Allon was recruited by the Mossad after the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. His job: hunt down the members of Black September and assassinate them. Allon, who originally wanted to be an artist, couldn't paint original pieces afterward and instead became an art restorer—an art restorer frequently called in by the Mossad to take care of shit-head terrorists because HE'S THE ONLY SPY IN ISRAEL. Or something.

prince of fire cover

In Prince of Fire, Allon is restoring an important altarpiece in Venice, when he's called back to Israel. His information has been leaked, possibly to the son of one of the Black September men he assassinated. Even worse, the man gunning for Gabriel has figured out where his wife, Leah, is hidden.

Bridget from Portable Pieces of Thoughts told me I should read Prince of Fire next, and I can kind of see why. This is the book where Allon's core team is formed, and so far the only one I've read where Leah plays a big role in the action. Honestly, the way Leah is treated in this book infuriated me. See, Leah keeps reliving the same day—the day her and Gabriel's son died in a car bomb explosion—over and over. Why? Maybe it's because she's hopped up on meds and doesn't do anything but stare out an asylum window all day, who knows! Meanwhile, Gabriel is cavorting with his nubile young lover, Chiara, half a continent away in Venice. Channeling Mr. Rochester much there, buddy?

That's bad enough, but then Leah actually leaves the asylum for a while. And she actually starts getting better! Imagine that. Like, she starts interacting with her world some more and pulling herself out of her fugue states. At least until Gabriel gets ahold of her and sticks her back in another asylum. This is one kidnapping where I was rooting for the bad guys to get away with it.

And don't even get me started on Chiara, who is beyond annoying in this book. If the guy you're in love with is 1. married, 2. promised to marry you, and yet still 3. isn't divorcing his first wife, then there's a problem. The fact that Gabriel pulled the "Leah needs me right now," card quite frankly boggles my mind. At least Chiara left him, although I could have done without the tearful goodbye and Gabriel's attitude of self-sacrificing nobility.

grumpy clint eastwood
Uhg. Get off my lawn.

After finishing Prince of Fire, I resolved to not dig into Silva's backlist any farther, except maybe to read the first Gabriel Allon novel. The books are just getting to be too annoying.

I was, however, still really looking forward to reading Silva's latest release, The Heist. Silva's novels have gotten progressively better over time, so if the trend continued The Heist was shaping up to be completely amazeballs.

Obviously my expectations were really high. Too high.

the heist cover

In The Heist, Gabriel is back in Venice, once again restoring something. Art restorers gonna restore. He's waiting for Chiara to give birth and for Uzi's term as Boss Guy of Israeli Intelligence (I don't know the official name) to end so that he can take over. It's like a mini-vacation, if you will. And then the Boss Guy of the Carabinieri Art Squad (again, don't know the official name, but you get the idea) shows up and "asks" Gabriel to look into the mysterious death of an art collector. Gabriel can't get one moment to himself, I tell ye, NOT ONE MOMENT.

Anywho, after walking around the crime scene for, like, thirty seconds, Gabriel figures out Fancy Art Collector Guy (again, not the official title) was actually and very unsurprisingly Stolen Art Smuggler Guy. And the game is afoot. Will this all tie into a Middle-East terrorist plot to blow something up? This is a Gabriel Allon novel, soooooooo: probably, yes.

The Heist wasn't a bad novel by any means, but so much of it felt like a retread. The use-an-art-smuggling-ring-to-find-terrorists element was extremely reminiscent of the same device Silva employed in The Fallen Angel. Gabriel uses a Muslim woman to gain access to terrorist bank accounts, just like he did in Portrait of a Spy, and said woman is kidnapped, just like she was in Portrait of a Spy (running tally of women kidnapped in this series so far: 4). Even minor characters from The English Girl make a reappearance. And yes, I did like those characters in The English Girl, but there's no reason for them to be in The Heist. Like Christopher Keller literally has nothing to do; I kind of even forgot he was there.

To be fair, I thought Silva executed all these elements more skillfully in The Heist than he did in his previous novels, but it felt a tad phoned in. The Heist had no anima, no oomph. Bridget told me that Silva had trouble finishing the book and only did so because of pressure from his publisher, which if true would explain a lot. Even with the lack of inspiration, however, Silva is still on top of current politics in the region, and what he has to say is still extraordinarily relevant. It's just not terribly new.

The Heist is a novel where the main character is waiting—waiting for his new life as a father and Intelligence Director Guy (I should really look these titles up) to begin and his old life as Broody Super Secret Agent Man to end. Accordingly, it feels like the author is waiting, too. Hopefully whatever Silva is waiting for will happen between now and his next book.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Giveaway: Bookish Swag from Gone Reading!

book text art poster

I enjoy bookish swag as much as the next person, so when Brad Wirz from Gone Reading offered to let me try some of their products and host a giveaway for a lucky reader of this blog, I was definitely in.

Basically, Gone Reading is a retail website that sells every kind of book-related item you can imagine, from t-shirts to journals, to those posters made from the text of a book. Even better, Gone Reading donates 100% of its profits after taxes to literacy charities like READ Global and Ethiopia Reads. Everybody wins!

jane austen handbook cover

So what did I get from Gone Reading? As some of you might know, on occasion I ask myself what would Jane Austen do, so I requested The Jane Austen Handbook, which claims to tell me what Jane Austen WOULD do, although not in as esoteric a sense as I usually imagine (and considering how gorgeously bound the book is, it was actually very reasonably priced).

jane austen tattoos

I also got a collection of Jane Austen temporary tattoos because I couldn't help myself. I can finally realize my lifelong dream of tattooing Colin Firth's face on my butt.

Some other nifty items on Gone Reading I was tempted by: a Shakespeare finger puppet theater set, an Edgar Allan Poe bobblehead doll, Shakespearean insult bandages (basically band-aids with insults on them), a personal library kit (I know I'd probably never use it, but it's still pretty cool), and a book text poster of Pride & Prejudice.

So, as mentioned earlier, Brad is offering one lucky reader of this blog a $25 gift card to Gone Reading! To enter, just comment here with the item you'd buy if you won the lottery (the lottery to win the gift card, not the Powerball or anything... although, hey, if you want that much stuff go for it). If you can't comment because Disqus is being stupid, shoot me a tweet @heidenkind with the hashtag #gonereadinggiveaway. For my readers who don't live in the US, make sure Gone Reading ships to your respective countries here before you enter.

This giveaway will run from August 15th-22nd. I will choose the winner using and notify them by replying to either the winning tweet or comment, so be sure to follow the comment thread here! If I don't hear back from the winner within three days of the announcement, a new winner will be chosen.

Good luck to all!

Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


still life with strings cover

^^Terrible book cover.

Jade makes her living as a Dublin street performer and symphony bartender. After a one-night stand with the symphony's new violinist, Jade and Shane start falling in love, despite the fact that Jade made it clear she was not interested in being anything other than friends. Because reasons. Will Shane be able to convince her to change her mind?

Last year I read and enjoyed LH Cosway's Painted Faces (you know, the book with the drag queen hero), so when I saw Still Life with Strings on sale, I was more than willing to download it. On the surface Still Life with Strings sounds more conventional than Painted Faces—the hero is a musician, and the heroine *is* a street performer, but it's more of a hobby than a full time job. However, I'd go so far as to say that in their own ways Shane and Jade are more unique, and more fully-realized, than Freda and Nicholas from Painted Faces, with a lot more chemistry and a more believable relationship arc. I stayed up until 5 in the morning reading this novel—on a work night, no less—and as much as I enjoyed Painted Faces, I think Still Life with Strings is 1000x better. You all should definitely give it a try.

First of all, the characters. Both Shane and Jade are different and isolated in their own ways, the reasons for which we discover gradually over the course of the novel. Jade's had a hard life, but she maintains her sense of humor and balance through "street performing" as a living statue. I've always wondered why someone would do that, and Cosway makes it sound surprisingly fun and creative. As for Shane, he's definitely an odd one—which actually fits in well with what I know about musicians—and I loved that he spends a good deal of time during the course of the book playing music, writing music, and talking about music. Unlike in some romance novels I could name (coughLickcough), the fact that he's a musician isn't just a hook. It's a part of his character and central to the story.

And speaking of music, the way Cosway incorporates it into Still Life with Strings is brilliantly done. It's not easy to write about music in a way that's unique and interesting, and SHOWS us its importance and effect on the characters, but Cosway does it through imagery and Jade's imaginings, and it totally works.

Still Life with Strings DOES contain several of my least favorite romance tropes: first of all, one night stands that turn into true lurv. So entirely likely, not. However, in this case I found it believable. The trope I had the most problem with was the one where the heroine refuses to start a relationship with the hero just to drag the book out, then changes her mind and says they can be fuck buddies but they won't be "in a relationship." Yeah, it kind of made me roll my eyes a bit, as did the fact that Shane's like, "Sure, we can just be friends. Whatever you want." And then immediately starts hitting on Jade again because HE CAN'T HELP IT. But it was more well-done than in It Happened One Wedding—I mean, there *are* reasons why Jade doesn't want to be in a relationship that apply to every guy out there, not just Shane. Not entirely logical reasons, mind you, but reasons. I also liked the fact that even though Jade was hesitant to get into a relationship with Shane, she was still sexually aggressive and confident. And honestly, Shane and Jade had so much chemistry I was willing forgive the occasional lapse into probably-would-never-happen town.

Another thing that I found kiiiiind of ridiculous and annoying were Shane and Jade's awkward Facebook chats/texts. UHG PEOPLE. I don't want to read pages and pages of characters texting, messaging, or emailing unless it's 1. necessary, and 2. interesting. Okay? Like those things aren't tedious enough in real life (and incidentally, my social media discussions are usually way more interesting than Shane and Jade's).

But aside from that, Still Life with Strings was a really creative and different romance. There are a lot of things going on in this book—mystery, magical realism, Dublin's indie art scene, both Shane and Jade's messy and complicated personal lives, music, class conflict—but it all comes together without one element overwhelming the others. I might have enjoyed Painted Faces, but Still Life with Strings has turned me into a LH Cosway fan.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review: SECONDS by Bryan Lee O'Malley

seconds cover

It's probably not totally obvious, but I am a huge Bryan Lee O'Malley fan. I loved his first graphic novel stand-alone, Lost At Sea, and I think Scott Pilgrim might have ruined me for all other graphic novel series. It was that amazeballs. So to say I was looking forward to Seconds would be putting it mildly—I've been wound up like a spring waiting for O'Malley's next project for YEARS.

Was it worth the wait? Well...

The start of the comic is actually pretty strong. The main character, Katie, is the head chef at a hip restaurant named Seconds. She's the queen bee of the place, but she wants more. To that end, she's opening another restaurant across the river, creatively named Katie's. However, the old building is a money pit and renovations are dragging on and on and on, so in the meantime Katie's stuck at Seconds.

Katie isn't the best person. She's selfish, oblivious to the people around her and their feelings, and like many people who work in top kitchens (I'm guessing, based on all the reality TV chef shows I watch), she's a ball buster. But O'Malley manages to make her sympathetic, especially when she uses the mushroom a house elf gives her to rewind time and save a shy waitress from a serious kitchen accident.

Of course, once Katie finds the elf's stash of mushrooms, she uses them to rewind time and erase really stupid stuff like staying up all night watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. Would any of us do any different? Probably, because I'm assuming y'all aren't assholes. But I think we can all understand the temptation, despite the fact that Katie's constant rewinding is obviously going to fuck up the space-time continuum.

Here's the thing with Seconds: it's good, because it's by Bryan Lee O'Malley. But it's not as good as either Scott Pilgrim or Lost At Sea. O'Malley's strength—aside from his visual style, which is slightly muted here but still evident—lies in creating characters that are at once really quirky and yet totally identifiable. As I said in my review of Lost at Sea, I KNOW these people. That's not the case in Seconds. Katie's well-drawn(ish), but the secondary characters? Not so much. I was particularly annoyed with the whole love triangle between Max, Katie's cool ex, and Andrew, the chef she trained to take over for her at Seconds. What either of these bozos see in Katie, or vice versa, I have noooo idea. Their personalities, if one could call them that, were interchangeable, and Katie didn't seem to think of either of them as more than convenient bed partners. I didn't care which guy she wound up with because it didn't really matter, and I was kind of irritated she did settle with one of them by the end of the book.

The story also starts getting really boring and repetitive about 2/3rds of the way through the comic, especially since the solution to the whole problem seems really obvious. Everything is fixed too easily, with too little consequences, and as a result the themes of Seconds—responsibility, patience, growing up—aren't effectively fleshed out.

There's also nothing original in Seconds like there was in Lost at Sea and Scott Pilgrim. It's very self-referential, which COULD be amusing, but turned out to be annoying instead. Just because a joke worked—and brilliantly—in Scott Pilgrim doesn't mean it will work here. There's not enough distance between the two comics that fans of O'Malley will pat themselves on the back for remembering the reference, which is really the only reason to insert jokes like this:

bread makes you fat joke in seconds
You should be sorry, O'Malley.

Keep in mind that I'm being hyper-critical here because I expect a lot out of O'Malley, and for good reason. Seconds is by no means a terrible comic. But does it stand up to O'Malley's previous works? In my opinion, no. If you're starting out with O'Malley, I wouldn't recommend Seconds; and if you're already a fan, you probably already bought it anyway. I just hope O'Malley can shake off whatever malaise he's got himself mired in and give us something with more energy and a more developed storyline for his next project.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

4 Mini Book Reviews

neanderthal seeks human cover

Hi there one and all! I'm at Book Riot today reviewing four books for Buy, Borrow, Bypass:

  • Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
  • Waking the Merrow by Heather Rigney
  • Patricia Brent, Spinster by Herbert Jenkins
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

All of these books deserve longer, more thoughtful reviews, which I hopefully will be able to write soon. But since I recently took on another job (for those of you keeping track at home, that's three jobs), time is a bit at a premium nowadays, so I can make no promises.

If you've read any of these books, let me know what you thought here or over at Book Riot!

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Dual Review: THE CHOCOLATE HEART & TEMPTATION by Laura Florand

the chocolate heart laura florand

Bonjour and happy Bastille Day! I hope you're all using the day we celebrate French Independence to the purpose for which it was created: an excuse to drink champagne!

In the meantime, me and my blogging buddy, Kelly from Reading with Analysis, thought Bastille Day would be the perfect day to talk about two paired novels from our favorite writer of Parisian romance, Laura Florand. I've made no secret of the fact that I adore Florand's novels--she specializes in delicious, emotional, and escapist novels featuring French dessert chefs in the City of Light. The Chocolate Heart and The Chocolate Temptation both center around the three Michelin-starred pastry kitchen of Luc Leroi (aka Luc the King) and Patrick Chevalier (a knight in shining armor?). Should you read these books? Um, yes. For more details on why, read our discussion on The Chocolate Heart here, and The Chocolate Temptation over at Kelly's blog.

Now, on to the discussion!

Book blurb, in case you're curious:

No one hates Paris--except Summer Corey. The moody winters. The artists and their ennui. The inescapable shadow of the Tour Eiffel. But things go from bad to worse when Summer stumbles into brooding, gorgeous chef pâtissier Luc Leroi and indecently propositions the hero of French cuisine...
Luc has scrambled up from a childhood panhandling in the Paris Métro to become the king of his city, and he has no patience for this spoiled princess, even if she does now own his restaurant. Who cares if she smiles with all the warmth of July? She doesn't eat dessert!
There is only one way to tempt her. A perfect, impossibly sweet seduction...

Tasha: Unlike the last few Laura Florand novels (The Chocolate Touch, The Chocolate Rose), this one isn’t based on the Beauty & the Beast fairy tale, but on the myth of Persephone and Hades, one of my favorites. In the original myth Persephone is chillaxing in a meadow with her girlfriends, when she’s suddenly kidnapped by Hades and taken into the Underworld. After months and months, Hades convinces/tricks her into eating a pomegranate, so that even after she escapes, she has to return to the Underworld for half the year. I thought the way Florand adapted the myth into a modern story set in Paris was really clever and seamless. What did you think?

Kelly: I had a difficult time settling into the story at first -- until I finally caught on to the Persephone thing and was able to appreciate the Florand’s take on the myth. The biggest change -- I thought -- (other than Luc/Hades not being a kidnapping villain) was that Summer isn’t really a tragic character. I mean, Persephone is totally tragic, right? She’s chilling with her ladies, and all of a sudden this crazy dude whisks her away to his underground kingdom, and she can’t eat anything… until finally she does, because hunger, you know? And then it’s her fault that she’s got to split her time between her home and Hades’, because -- what -- she should have been able to starve herself forever?

Tasha: OR she decided to let Hades *think* he tricked her into eating the pomegranate, when really she was like, “Hey, this is a great opportunity to move out of the house.”

Kelly: True, but even that doesn’t really give Persephone any agency. I mean, she could have been kidnapped by any Tom, Dick or Bacchus and just decided to make the best of it, but it still wasn’t her choice. Summer, on the other hand, while manipulated by her father into sojourning in Paris, makes choices and sets her own course. That was the change that I appreciated the most. She isn’t a victim of fate’s whim, like Persephone.

Tasha: No, but in the end she does give up her island and her job to live in the south of France with Luc. And that’s all his idea. And she was willing to move to Paris permanently just for him, too.

Kelly: True. I wish the move to the south of France had been her idea: a compromise.

Tasha: I agree. That’s actually what I was expecting to happen, since I read The Chocolate Temptation first.

Kelly: I still feel a bit ambivalent about The Chocolate Heart. I liked it, loved Luc’s gushy, mooshy hearts and loved all of Summer’s issues, and I particularly loved Patrick (because he’s awesome), but I had a slightly difficult time recommending it to other readers, because I knew certain things about it would needle them.  Summer’s a difficult character, and there are a lot of readers out there who have a hard time with difficult lady characters, specifically (but -- for some reason -- difficult dude characters are A-OK. I don’t get it.) Other folk might have a hard time with the poor rich girl thing.  And, while I liked so many things about the book (and while neither of those pet peeves bother me), I’m not convinced that the other parts of the book would end up satisfying every reader. Does that make sense?

Tasha: It does. I don’t think Summer was a difficult character at all—I think Florand did a good job of addressing the “poor little rich girl” thing while still making Summer sympathetic and making her issues valid. But there was a lot of rinse-wash-repeat when it came to the miscommunication between Luc and Summer, and I wasn’t down with the ending. It wasn’t as emotionally satisfying as I wanted it to be. For example, I would have really appreciated SEEING Luc meet his dad and come to terms with that.

Kelly: YES, to all of this.  (And a clarification: I don’t think Summer is actually a difficult character or a poor little rich girl, but I suspect that people who have those pet peeves have a lower tolerance for anything that hints at either of those traits, so they might perceive and be irritated by those traits, without a truly great romance/ending/story to make up for it.)  And maybe some of my irritation with the miscommunication is just a sign of my own reading issues and low tolerance for anything that hints at poor communication as a plot device.  (Except Shakespearean cross-purposes and mistaken identities are the best things ever.)

Tasha: No, I agree that the misunderstanding plot device didn’t quite work, mainly because it went on way too long. At some point it just became frustrating because Luc persisted in being a dick when he should really know better. It wasn’t as successful as the misunderstanding in The Chocolate Touch between Dom and Jaime (which was based more on cultural misunderstandings and always moved the characters forward).

Kelly: And, in The Chocolate Touch it never felt petty. But Luc and Summer frequently seemed petty, because the resolution to their difficulties is so obvious, and it’s obnoxious that they don’t get it.

Tasha: Yeah, just kiss already! Sheesh. That said, the dinner scene (though a bit contrived—I don’t know any chefs who personally feed the owners of their restaurant romantic dinners) was really romantic. I loved the creativity of the desserts. And, despite the problems I had with it, I still stayed up until 5 am for three nights in a row reading it, so.

Kelly: My favorite scene is the one where Summer cooks for Luc.

Tasha: I loved that one too!

Kelly: When I compare The Chocolate Heart to my idea of the average contemporary romance novel, I consider it a very good read, a good use of my time, a happy purchase. But when I compare it to other Laura Florand books (which is maybe not fair?) it just isn’t one of my favorites.  The Chocolate Thief, the other Florand book that -- to me -- has some issues, is a little bit more fun, and The Chocolate Kiss, which I tend to forget I’ve read, has some woo-woo stuff that I absolutely adore.  Heart, though it has a whole pile of scenes that I enjoyed, doesn’t really have anything that made my heart sing.

Tasha: It did make my heart sing and I’m totally glad I bought it, even at $10 for the ebook (outrageous), but I agree. It’s maybe not the best book to start out with the series.

Kelly: Unless you love heroines with family issues, heroes who communicate their mushy feelings through chocolate and also have family issues, and shit tons of miscommunication and angst. And you might!

Tasha: And if you love the Madeline books…

Kelly: Exactly. But, even if you don’t fall into any of those categories (I don’t), you’ll still really enjoy the book and be glad you purchased it, so that’s something.

Be sure to read the rest of our discussion at Reading with Analysis. And remember to buy that bottle of champagne!

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dual Review: IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING by Julie James

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Sydney is thrilled for her sister when Isabelle announces a sudden engagement, but also kinda bummed. You see, less than a year ago Sydney herself was about to get married, before she found out her fiance was a cheating bastard. Now she has a 32-point list of everything a man has to have before she'll date him: a steady job, friends with steady jobs and/or families, etc. Too bad her future brother-in-law doesn't pass the test, because he's super cute and has a sexy job (FBI agent). Maybe they can just be fuck buddies instead. Yeah. That'll work out.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have some issues with Julie James novels. I loved Just the Sexiest Man Alive, but many of her other novels have irritated me with their unbelievably perfect heroines, gender issues, and complete and utter lack of anything resembling a plot. Since I knew Anachronist from Portable Pieces of Thoughts has had similar issues with James' books—only with an added soupçon of hatred—I thought it would be fun if we discussed James' latest, It Happened One Wedding.

So what did Anachronist and I think? You might be surprised. Read on to find out:


Anachronist: When it comes to novels of Ms. James one saying comes to my mind: the more it changes the more it is the same thing (a famous epigram by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr). Would you agree with me?

Tasha: Yes, but maybe that’s a good thing. It Happened One Wedding is a romcom twist on Pride & Prejudice, but fortunately James does that kind of story really well.

Ana: Define ‘well’. The one thing that makes me rather angry and disappointed about her books is the fact that they feature plastic-perfect heroines and heroes, people who deal with artificial problems while they are unvaryingly beautiful, successful, rich, relatively young and desirable. Real life calling  Ms. James: it never happens.

Tasha: Totally agree. I suppose that was the point of all those work scenes we had to sit through, just so we knew Sydney and Vaughn were both successful.

Ana: To tell you the truth I would love to have a chat with Sydney’s ex, that guy who left her almost by the altar and had had sex with his fitness instructor before that. I kept wondering why he cheated on his girlfriend if she was so perfect, pretty, rich and so good...

Tasha: In bed? Presumably because he’s a playa playa. Tigers can’t change their stripes (unless they’re romance heroes of course). Speaking of which, what did you think of Vaughn’s sudden realization that he wanted to get married and have a parcel of kids?

Ana: Option A - his hormones switched on during that wedding preparation period and he hit the early male menopause. Option B - Sydney was feeding him a fidelity drug all the time. Option C - he was UNREAL from the first page to the last and the poor author never had any idea how to make him change from a sexual predator into a family man so she went all deus-ex-machina and ta-dah! Here you go, all of a sudden Vaughn becomes a serious guy who loves kids and wants nothing better than a wife and a family of his own. Tigers can’t change their spots, hein?

Tasha: Why’d he even have to turn into a family man is what I wonder. Uhg that ending was so dumb. If only they’d had a double wedding, then AT LEAST someone would have saved some money. That’s a conclusion I can get behind.

Ana: By the way tell me whether wedding preparations in the USA are really so ridiculously arduous and long as described in this novel (and many other novels as well)?  I admit I half-laughed half-snorted reading about those rehearsals, practices, choosing the dress, trying on the dress, tasting the dishes in a restaurant, stag parties, hen parties and so on. Honestly people, so much fuss and then you divorce after a year or two…

Tasha: lol Actually, yes, that’s pretty standard. Is it not in Europe?

Ana: Not really. Some people do like copying the rehearsals from our lovely American cousins but it is hardly common or widespread. It takes too much time and too much effort I suppose.

Tasha: I don’t know why people have rehearsals—all you have to do is walk down an aisle slowly! Is it really that difficult? But I guess it’s an excuse to go out to dinner afterward.

Ana: Oh, now I see. Dinner at somebody else’s expense. It sounds reasonable at least ;p. Let return to the book, though. What do you think of Sydney’s sister pretending that she wasn’t pregnant before her marriage? Preposterous? Normal? Both?

Tasha: Another deus-ex-machina to get the wedding to happen quickly instead of over the course of a year like normal. It seemed a little old-fashioned, honestly. Like anyone would care, even a Catholic mom? Probably not, but if Isabelle wants to make life miserable for herself…

Ana: I live in a very Catholic country but a bride with a bun in her oven going proudly to church in a white dress is quite normal here. Nobody cares as long as there is a wedding because sometimes there is not. That’s why such a plot device was shocking to me - it sounded so quaint and not in a positive way. I thought the author was hard-pressed for fresh ideas or rather joking...anyway it didn’t make me liking this one more.

Tasha: Yeah, I think she was using it for comic relief to a certain extent. Not to mention that the kid and the wedding is basically the plot. I thought for sure Sydney and Vaughn would connect over a case—I mean, he works undercover in white collar crimes, she’s an investment banker—but James totally missed the boat on that one. Kind of a let-down, even if it would have been a predictable way to bring them together.

Ana: You’re right - so far in the series there has been a crime, a case and there have been two protagonists forced to cooperate in order to solve it. No more of it in this one.

Tasha: Maybe she’s realizing suspense isn’t her strong suit. Kind of like writing about food isn’t her strong suit. Did you catch the tomato cutting scene? Pretty sure that wouldn’t have worked out the way she described it.

Ana: I am not a chef or a good cook but I did wonder how you can cut a tomato into even squares without using some super-extra-outer-space-technology kitchen tool instead of your ordinary knife...perhaps it can be done in James’s America where tomatoes are grown as cubes ;p. Overall did you enjoy It Happened One Wedding? So far we’ve been criticizing it pretty consistently...

Tasha: I did like it. It had a plot (yay!), Vaughn and Sydney had a lot of chemistry, and it was a fun read.

Ana: I suppose the book was better than the previous novels because I managed to finish it at all (yay seconded!) but still I can’t get over the plastic Barbieland all James characters come from. It gives me creeps, really, thinking about all these imperfect readers who all of a sudden are faced with the fact that in some novels only handsome/beautiful/successful people have any chances to find a partner, marry and be happy. Not fair.

Tasha: That’s basically 98.2% of romance novels, though.

Ana: Small wonder I hate them on a daily basis.

Tasha: At least Vaughn wasn’t inexplicably wealthy.

Ana: But he was an FBI agent, they don’t have to be wealthy.

Tasha: They don’t? Oh right, because they can provide security with their shooting and fighting super powers.

Ana: Exactly. And they are handsome, all of them. It is a prerequisite I suppose.

Tasha: And Sydney manages to be the only investment banker who isn’t a sleaze. haha

Ana: If you were to recommend this novel what would you say?

Tasha: That it’s James’ best novel since Just the Sexiest Man Alive and it’s a fun and romcom-y. I think that’s what James’ audience is mainly looking for, anyway.

Ana: Now I am asking myself a rhetorical question: should I read Just the Sexiest Man Alive? Maybe.

Tasha: Since the question’s rhetorical I won’t answer. *wink*

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