Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘contemporary romance

Two New Book Reviews are up at SBR

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Folks, I’ve been busy this week.  Between getting up that guest blog over at Murder X 4, editing a friend’s book (he’s trying to get his book out by the end of the year, and there have been a number of revisions to date — but I’ll keep helping him all I can, as you’d expect), editing another friend’s book, and doing a bit of Tweeting and Facebooking to promote fellow authors (most particularly the Twilight Times Books “stable” as I’m a part of that, and I like their work so why not?), I haven’t had a whole lot of time.

That’s why, again, I got two reviews up over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), but could not get over here to write anything about them.

So it’s time to remedy that.

Last night for SBR’s Romance Saturday, I reviewed Aaron Paul Lazar’s THE SEACREST.  This is a heartwarming sensual romance between a deeply honorable man, Finn McGraw, and a complex and rather tormented woman, Libby Vanderhorn.  There’s a great deal to the plot that I didn’t even get into at my SBR review due to lack of space — things like domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, lesbian friends (one of whom just happened to have been married to Finn’s estranged brother once upon a time) and more — but my most favorite thing in THE SEACREST, other than what I’ve already remarked upon during my SBR review, was the character of Fritzi the cook.

Yes, really.

Fritzi was a woman who could’ve been a stereotype, but somehow she broke free of that (mostly, anyway — because aren’t we all stereotypes from time to time?).  This is a motherly woman who loves to cook, is German by descent and talks with a substantial accent, yet despite all that possible baggage, Fritzi emerged as a real person with a mind and heart of her own.

And Fritzi plays an important part in THE SEACREST, too, being one of Finn’s quiet supporters in his struggle for Libby to first realize his love for her, then to give it a chance despite all the obstacles in their way.

So if you love romances — especially of the sensual contemporary variety with just enough spice to be realistic but without too much to make it gross-out awful — give Aaron Paul Lazar’s THE SEACREST a try . . . or at least go read my review and see if that whets your interest any.

Completely changing the subject, but staying with book reviews written this week, I also reviewed Leo Champion’s LEGION, which is a particularly impressive piece of military science fiction set in 2215 that has only one drawback: very, very few female soldiers at any level.

I mean, everything works in this novel.  The combat scenes are excellent.  The “bromance” stuff between the military guys (all men) is very good.  The dialogue for the most part rings true (I didn’t ding Champion, who’s originally from Australia, with a bunch of Australianisms I found in his MS from people who are supposed to be Americans — things like “in hospital” instead of “in the hospital,” mostly because this was a debut novel and they mostly didn’t impede the action any), the characterization was crisp and sharp and the writing was quite, quite good.

But if you’re going to write a story about freedom fighters on a colonial world — whether it’s mostly from the men who are tasked to fight them (the United States Foreign Legion, or USFL for short) or from the freedom fighters themselves — it is nearly inexplicable that there wouldn’t be one single woman soldier of note down on that planet on one side or the other.

The women in LEGION, aside from one Naval Commander on a spaceship high above the action and one notable politician, tend to be one of three things: cooks, waitresses, or prostitutes.  And while there’s some justification for this — I was a military wife once upon a time, and I remember the zone outside of Fort Carson, CO, quite nicely, thanks — it still didn’t work for me.

My view is simple: there should be at least one woman among the freedom fighters.  On the one hand, it doesn’t take a great amount of physical strength to fire most weapons.  And on the other, the guys in the U.S.F.L. obviously would never expect it, young and relatively ignorant about male-female relationships as they are.

Furthermore, it seems extremely unlikely that male convicts would be allowed to go into the U.S.F.L. to “make something of themselves,” but female convicts would not be given the same opportunity — providing, of course, that the female convict had any hope of getting through boot camp in the first place.

Being a female reviewer (yes, sometimes I must point out the obvious, folks; sorry), it was really perplexing for me to read such an interesting book that captivated me for thirty pages or more at a stretch . . . then I’d come up for air and think, Now where are all the women soldiers?  Surely they must be there somewhere.

And I just didn’t see it.

Mind you, this is a military SF buddy-buddy piece that is obviously geared toward men.  It’s not likely to hurt Champion’s audience in the short run whatsoever.  And I am aware of this.

But it also won’t build his audience with women who don’t already know him or know of him (by this, I mean people who’ve either met him personally or who’ve read his short stories in the past or who’ve talked with him online about something or other).  And that does not seem like a winning strategy, long-term.

So that was it for the week — I reviewed first a milSF novel, then a romance.  And I enjoyed them both, albeit for different reasons . . . maybe you’ll enjoy one of the two books, or perhaps even both of ’em, as well.

Just Reviewed Susan Donovan’s romance “Not that Kind of Girl” at SBR

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Folks, here’s the link to my new review:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/susan-donovans-not-that-kind-of-girl-when-opposites-attract/

As always, I had more thoughts than I could cram into any one review — some being irrelevant from a reviewing standpoint — so I’m going to elaborate on them here.

I really liked Susan Donovan’s writing style; it’s perky, blunt, and gets the job done without interfering with the narrative, which is a lot harder to do than it sounds.  I also liked her take on the whole soulmate concept, with a matchmaker with a gift (that may be Divinely inspired) to bring two people together who normally wouldn’t give each other a second glance; this being the third in a series and me not having read the other two didn’t stop me from understanding what was going on at all.

All that being said, the way the two at the heart of this story, Roxie and Eli, make love just made me feel sad.  Or want to throw things.  (Or maybe both.)  Because here you have two people who fall in love quickly and are right for one another, but the guy has to always prove he’s dominant at all times, never letting his guard down at all, never being playful, never enjoying the moment for what it is.  And that does not ring true to me.  Not at all.

Look.  I’ve made no secret of it that I found my soulmate in my late husband Michael.  The two of us, on the surface, would’ve been much like Roxie and Eli in that Roxie’s passions are all on the surface (me) and Eli’s calm, cool, collected and seems to hold all of himself in reserve unless it’s needed (Michael).  Granted, this is at best a rough approximation — I’m leaving out Michael’s delightfully rude sense of humor here, or the fact that I’ve taught a lot of young kids music lessons so if I hadn’t learned a bit of patience now and again I’d have done them no good whatsoever — but I can see enough parallels here to want to discuss why the way these two in NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL don’t behave right in bed.

Simply put, I don’t think a guy who’s always that calm and controlled externally is going to be that way in bed.  So I don’t see why someone would insist on behaving the “alpha male” at all times — there’s no need for that between two lovers who wear no masks and understand each other intimately in all senses — nor do I see how a love affair can proceed without some humor in the bedroom, especially as there’s plenty of humorous moments going on outside of it to make me believe the couple at hand does understand when something is funny.  (And trust me; down deep, where it matters, the way we make love as human beings has to be about the most inefficient process there is.  We may as well make fun of it, and ourselves, as we abandon ourselves to it.  Otherwise, why bother with it at all?)

So Ms. Donovan did her job — the couple is realistic enough that I wanted to scream at Eli to knock it the Hell off, thank you — but the way that all happened just did not sit well.  I realize some people have relationships like this — psychosexual behavior being what it is, some people must need that, right? — but Eli the dog whisperer had none of the other markers for this personality type.  And Roxie — well, I can see why she’d want to get “permission” to be abandoned in bed (this is fairly common), but why would she put up with a guy who’s so damned humorless in the bedroom when she obviously has enough smarts to make a living at her man-hating Web site “I-Vomit-On-All-Men?”

So there you have it; a pleasant, funny beach read that has this one sour note in it.  As a musician, I guess I can’t help it that this one sour note keeps drowning out the rest of the harmony and the melody, and as a writer/editor, I wonder why it is that someone didn’t ask Ms. Donovan to please put something in there that showed that to Eli, this was all a game, not to be taken seriously, rather than the dead serious “I am Mr. Macho Man at all times” Caveman nonsense.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 31, 2011 at 1:42 am