Book Review: Wendy Vella’s The Reluctant Countess

The-Reluctant-Countess-by-Wendy-Vella Title: The Reluctant Countess
Author: Wendy Vella
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 2 out of 5
My Copy: Borrowed from friend

I’m not sure what to say about Wendy Vella’s The Reluctant Countess. From the synopsis it’s publicized as a Cinderella type plot and it has aspects of it, but Vella just falls short.

Synopsis:
Regal, poised, and elegant, Sophie, Countess of Monmouth, is everything that a highborn lady should be. But Sophie is hiding a past that is far from royal. When Patrick, Earl of Coulter, realizes that her story doesn’t add up, he resolves to find out the truth of what Sophie and her sister-in-law are concealing. Although Sophie has every reason to avoid him, the handsome and charismatic Patrick awakens something wicked deep within her soul . . . a powerful need that Sophie must stifle in order to protect her place in society.

Despite Sophie’s humble background, the raven-haired beauty has won Patrick’s heart. But what Sophie needs now is an ally. Viscount Myles Dumbly, the disgruntled former heir of Monmouth, is determined to expose Sophie as a fraud to recapture his lost inheritance. Soon Patrick is drawn into a fight for both their lives. Somehow he must find a way not only to rescue Sophie from poverty once and for all, but to keep her in his arms forever.

As for character development, there are some issues. The main problem for me is the villain. He’s introduced as hating Sophie and wanting to find out the truth behind her marriage to the late earl. Villains, especially those in a Regency romance do tend to be dastardly, but this one just was meek. A lot of things just don’t make sense. If the earl was dying and as the earl’s heir, wouldn’t he be there to protect his claim especially if there was talk of the earl’s apparent marriage? Speaking of marriage…Sophie married the earl on his deathbed and her son becomes the heir, hence displacing the villain. Here’s the thing… her son turns out to be her brother and of course her brother was already born when Sophie married the earl and therefore cannot be the heir! I understand being out in the country and away from London gossips, but here’s the thing- communities were small enough that people would be aware if the new mistress of the house was pregnant. Servants gossip and how in the world did the earl’s sister, Letty, manage to hush everyone up in the household is beyond me, unless they fired the lot and only retained a few in confidence. I can suspend disbelief, but in this situation it just doesn’t work for me. At one point the villain confronts Sophie and she says something to the effect of, “you got a title passed to you.” What title was that and why isn’t it attached with the others? You can’t just pick and chose with titles will pass just like you can’t pick out of a hat who your heir is going to be.

I didn’t find Sophie and Patrick’s romance all that convincing. It seemed to me she married him because she didn’t have a choice. Obviously marrying Patrick offers some protection (ahem from the possibility of the Ton finding out you weren’t married to your first husband), but I never got the impression Sophie loved Patrick. There wasn’t any indication of feelings of dislike and distrust turning into admiration and then love. It’s also never fully explained why Patrick was interested in knowing more about Sophie. It’s not like he had a claim on the title or was in any way a friend of the family. Yes, Vella writes he visited the earl a few days prior to his death, which again brings up the question of Sophie. Wouldn’t the earl have mentioned he’d married? Vella presents Sophie as a beautiful woman who pretty much keeps men at a distance. If Patrick was interested in her favors, I’d expect an author to describe his lust at seeing her for the first time or something to that effect, but we don’t. His sole purpose is to expose her as a charlatan, but then he changes his feelings regarding Sophie 25% in.

I do have to make note of the language because it sounded too modern. I know it is difficult to write a certain way, but for me when an author sets a novel in the past, I expect it to sound like a product of the time period or as close as possible.

I debated heavily with the rating. In the end, I gave it a two because Vella fails to execute the plot and problems regarding inheritance. I’ve read some well- written Cinderella plots in the past. Julie Ann Long’s To Love a Thief comes to mind as well as Pamela Britton’s Scandal.

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Book Review: Shelly Crane’s Significance

16282066Title: Significance
Author: Shelly Crane
Genre: YA / Paranormal
Series: Yes / Book 1 of 4 (plus a companion book)
Rating: 2 out 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Author

Significance is the first book in Shelly Crane’s Significance series. There are four books total with a companion book. In this case, it is necessary to read the first book in the series and work your way down the list. I should also note there’s a film version of the series coming to a screen near you.

Synopsis:
Maggie is a seventeen year old girl who’s had a bad year. She was smart and on track, but then her mom left, her dad is depressed, she’s graduating – barely – and her boyfriend of almost three years dumped her for a college football scholarship. Lately she thinks life is all about hanging on by a thread and is gripping tight with everything she has.
Then she saves the life of Caleb and instantly knows there’s something about him that’s intriguing. But things change when they touch, sparks ignite. Literally.

They imprint with each other and she sees their future life together flash before her eyes. She learns that not only is she his soul mate, and can feel his heartbeat in her chest, but there is a whole other world of people with gifts and abilities that she never knew existed. She herself is experiencing supernatural changes unlike anything she’s ever felt before and she needs the touch of his skin to survive.

Now, not only has her dad come out of his depression to be a father again, and a pain as well, but Caleb’s enemies know he’s imprinted and are after Maggie to stop them both from gaining their abilities and take her from him.

Can Caleb save her or will they be forced to live without each other after just finding one another?

Ultimately what doesn’t work for me is how quickly Maggie and Caleb fall in love. Maggie even questioned her constant need for him and Caleb himself said to her that he wouldn’t push himself on her. He doesn’t, and I realize situations forced them be in each other’s company, but it wasn’t believable to me. Also the whole imprint concept was a bit rushed and not thoroughly explained. I don’t know if it’s just the way I view things, but I would imagine if your soul mate was in the same room with you, you’d know them or perhaps feel them. In two distinct incidents, Maggie and Caleb are in the same area, but the imprint doesn’t happen until later. Yes in hindsight I can see why Crane set it up the way she did, but it just doesn’t work for me.

There are a lot of unanswered questions that are never addressed. I assume this is because the author felt it was necessary to expand on her series and fill in the details as you read along. For starters who and what are Virtuosos? Why doesn’t Maggie demand more answers regarding their identity? What does it mean to be Aces? Also why are there fewer imprints happening? What caused the shift in change? Why is it rare for a human to imprint with a Virtuoso? Crane never explains why it was possible for a Virtuoso to be attracted to a human despite knowing they aren’t meant to be.

I debated with the ending and decided on a two because of the amount of skipping I did. I realize you can’t fully understand a plot if you’re skipping and you miss details, but I found I didn’t miss anything at all. I expected something BIG to happen and it just didn’t. The one section I thought for sure would be the climax just fizzled. I also had a small problem with the font used. It made reading difficult and was a strain on the eyes. Finally, the ending was a big no. I won’t say how it ends, but it’s not a way to end a book. Correction, it’s not the way most authors would end a book.

In the end, this book read too much like Twilight and I’ve never read the books and haven’t seen the films. You can tell the author is a Twilight fan because a dog is named after a character and mentions the series (Maggie and Caleb discuss the films). There are references to Caleb’s large family that happily accepts Maggie with no questions asked. And just like Twilight, there’s a love triangle. If you’re a fan of Twilight you might enjoy this book.

Book Review: Courtney Cole’s Confessions of an Alli Cat

allicat-for-webTitle: Confessions of an Alli Cat
Author: Courtney Cole
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Yes / Book 1
Rating: 2 out of 5
My Copy: Review Copy via Author

I’ve never read Courtney Cole before, and it’s my understanding she writes mostly Young Adult. Confessions of an Alli Cat is her first “adult” contemporary. I had high hopes for Confessions because the synopsis looked interesting, and it sounded like a funny read. Thirty-five-year-old Allison Lancaster is divorced and in a dating funk. Well, actually not a funk as she’s not dating anyone. Her best friend Sara buys her a night with a gigolo, and encourages to her to try new things such as sex toys and a Brazilian. What ensues is supposed to be a hilarious account of a woman getting her groove back; however, the book falls flat for me. While it’s a fast-paced read, I had several issues with the plot and its execution.

First of all, the language used in several places seemed forced and unnatural. I felt the author was trying too hard to be funny, and it just failed. Sure, there are a few funny moments but none that were really memorable. The constant referral to Alli’s ex-husband as “Rick the Dick,” got old really fast. A few times here and there would have been okay, but it’s overused. The language ultimately felt very juvenile to me. I couldn’t quite place why it felt this way. The only times it felt natural was when Alli’s 15-year-old daughter and Alli’s assistant were talking.

Second, with the exception of Alli’s daughter and Alex, everyone else seemed to be a caricature. I found myself asking what mature, 35-year-old woman acts the way Alli’s best friend does? I’m not saying the “Sara’s of the world” don’t exist because I’m sure they do, but the entire dynamic between Alli and Sara felt fake. Alli asking if the Brazilian was THE Brazilian just felt off. Also, Alli complains how everything is Sara’s idea and doesn’t want to go along with them, such as the Brazilian experience. She’s a grown woman and can put her foot down and say no, but does she? Nope. Yes, we see Alli grow from this shy, sexual woman to a woman confident in her sexuality; but I believe the experience could have been achieved without the exaggeration used.

Finally, the big plot twist ended up more of a “yuck fest” than anything at all. I’m not a prude; but when the big reveal came, all I could do was put my e-reader down and walk away. It took a few days to get back into it. I know a lot of reviewers don’t have an issue with this; and that’s okay, but I do. Part of the issue is that nothing is said to Alex, and all I can imagine is the future when he does find out. I know it’s fiction, but I don’t need a Maury Povich moment in my books, even if I imagine what the future could be. Judging from the reviews, no one has a problem with it, and that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I couldn’t move past it. Even trying to think of Shade as Shade, etc. I just couldn’t.

A lot of reviewers have focused on the sex and saying they are scorchers, etc. I found myself skimming them. One scene in particular involving Shade and a masseuse had me rolling my eyes and skimming the rest of the scene. I don’t have a problem reading a love triangle; but in most, the third wheel isn’t expanded, and it’s easy to cheer on the underdog or the one giving lessons in seduction. In Confessions, we don’t have that. A large chunk is devoted to Shade and Alli’s relationship and I kept wondering if it was Shade she was going to wind up with and what the heck Alex had to with the book.

I’d also like to bring up the concept of gigolos. The gigolo genre isn’t very popular, and there’s a reason for it. I’m not sure how the author got the idea, but I think she must have been watching Nightline’s story on “Secrets of Gigolos” or Showtime’s Gigolos, that focuses on the Cowboys4Angels website. Here is where the author failed the legal aspect of it. While paying for an escort is perfectly legal in several states because you are paying for companionship, paying for sexual services is illegal. The novel takes places in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, so paying for sex is therefore illegal. While the author, does state that Shade is an escort, the fact remains Alli and her friend pay to have sex and it’s illegal in Nevada to exchange money for sex the way the author describes the scenarios. In fact, in Nevada legalized brothels outside metro cities is acceptable with the rest being prostitution. Shade even admits he got into the business because he likes to have sex. I can suspend disbelief in fiction, however; in this case I can’t separate fact from fiction.

The story had potential, but quickly fell flat. I debated over the rating. It would have been a three if we would have had more moments with Alex because I truly believe those are the best scenes in the book.