Romance Review Roundup: Vol. 2

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker (London Celebrities #2)

Publisher: Carina Press on February 20, 2017

Source: Publisher

It’s not actress Lily Lamprey’s fault that she’s all curves and has the kind of voice that can fog up a camera lens.

With PRETTY FACE, Lucy Parker proves that she’s anything but a flash in the pan: she’s going to be one of the greats. Sparkling wit and sizzling romantic tension sell the love story of Lily Lamprey and Luc Savage, two very complex, career driven characters who fall madly, deeply, and unwillingly in love. Swoon!

Tired of being typecast as the sex kitten femme fatale, Lily wants to make the transition from TV acting to stage performances, but first she has to overcome her unfortunate vocal similarities to Marilyn Monroe. That, and she needs to impress the notorious Luc Savage, her new boss and a very talented director. At first glance these two have nothing in common (and have a substantial age gap, Lily’s 26 to Luc’s early 40s), but they quickly find that they’re uniquely suited. But workplace romances rarely end well, particularly when one person is in a position of power, and Lily doesn’t want people to think she slept her way to the top. Is pursuing a relationship worth it?

I absolutely adored the characters in PRETTY FACE, both the primary and secondary cast. Lily’s work ethic and commitment to growing as an actor impressed me from the start, and Luc’s realization that life doesn’t have much meaning without human connection of some kind was also great. Parker also explores the pitfalls of a power imbalance in a romantic relationship with sensitivity and skill. Add to that Lily’s love of books and Luc’s commitment to Lily and this one was pitch perfect.

Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis (Heartbreaker Bay #3)

Publisher: Avon on January 24, 2017

Source: Library

There’s no such thing as a little in love…

Elle Wheaten’s priorities: friends, career, and kick-ass shoes.

With a banter-filled, push and pull romance, I thought that I’d love ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, but out of character behaviour and uneven pacing in the last third brought this one down for me. As the manager of a large building in San Francisco, Elle is responsible for apartments as well as several small businesses, including a private security firm run by a man from her past. Archer, formerly a cop, knew Elle when she was a teenaged thief…and they’ve had an uneasy relationship ever since. 

Elle is a fantastic romance heroine: she’s smart, tenacious, hardworking, she’s hilarious, and she knows the value of a good pair of shoes. The only problem? All of that independence and tenacity seems to fall by the wayside whenever Archer gets involved. Without giving too much away, when it turns out that Archer was “helping” Elle move up in the world without her knowledge (or permission) she forgives him almost immediately. Girl. No. This guy was keeping track of your every move for ten years, involving himself in your private business without your awareness. You better make him grovel!

ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE also features a suspense b-plot involving Elle’s estranged sister and Archer’s security firm, but I thought it was out of place and ultimately unnecessary. While I enjoyed this one, I didn’t feel that it lived up to Jill Shalvis’ usual standards. When it comes to contemporary stories, I just can’t abide the high-handed behaviour that I might forgive in a historical. 

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare (Spindle Cove #5)

Publisher: Avon on September 27, 2016

Source: Library

All Charlotte wanted was to avoid scandal. Instead, she was caught in the arms of a mysterious, handsome lord…and he’s not letting go.

It’s been a difficult season for Charlotte Highwood, as her mother’s overly enthusiastic attempts at matchmaking have given Charlotte the unfortunate nickname of “The Desperate Debutante.” Always one to look on the bright side, Charlotte figures that no romantic prospects means that she can go off on a Grand Tour of Europe with her best friend! But all her plans are dashed when she’s caught in a compromising position (sort of) with Piers Brandon at a party. If Charlotte can’t prove that it was another couple having a tryst, the two are doomed to marry…or start a scandal.

Charlotte is a charming heroine, perfectly comfortable with herself and her situation in life: she’s absolutely uninterested in being anyone else, which is an admirable quality. She’s also quite carefree and possesses a cheerful, cheeky disposition – which she uses to mercilessly tease the too-serious Piers, of course. A spy for the Crown, Piers was in attendance at the party to gather information, not to find a wife. But if he has to marry, Charlotte will do. She’s pretty and young, and she makes him want to smile. Not that he actually likes her, or anything.

It’s official y’all: a person falling in love against their will is my new favourite romance trope. Tessa Dare pulls it off beautifully, as she does everything historical romance related. If you want a witty, clever romance that’s guaranteed to leave a smile on your face, you can’t go wrong with the Spindle Cove or Castles Ever After series.

Do you hold characters to different standards of behaviour based on the time period the book’s set in? What’s your favourite romance-related trope? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Tessa Dare is always fun 😀

  • I love Tessa Dare and the a person falling in love against their will trope haha. Especically in HR. Something about dukes thinking they’re above love and than love kicking them in the butt, ha. That’s too bad you didn’t love Accidently on Purpose more! But I think I also hold different standards for different time era.
    Lovely reviews, Danya!

    • Tessa Dare is one of my faves too! Yes, that trope is definitely better in HR…it’s all the crazy obstacles between couples, I think! Here’s hoping I’ll enjoy Shalvis’ next book more, I’ve not been super fond of the Heartbreaker Bay series so far.

      Thanks Cyn! 🙂

  • Bookworm Brandee

    Thanks for putting Lucy Parker on my radar, Danya. I love the sound of the series. I’m sorry Accidentally on Purpose didn’t quite work for you. I’ve read about uneven pacing in quite a few reviews. And I love Tessa Dare. I need to get back to this series soon.
    I’m not sure I hold characters to different standards according to the time setting…maybe? I’ve never really thought about it. I have lots of favorite romance tropes but second chance romances is one of my most favorite. 🙂

    • Oooh, you’re so welcome Brandee! She’s a recent discovery for me (thanks to other bloggers) and she’s shot to the top of my favourite romance authors list. Normally I don’t mind uneven pacing if I love the characters, but since I struggled with the hero in Accidentally on Purpose it bugged me more haha. Tessa Dare’s books are always so much fun! I love how consistently top notch they are.

      Second chance romance is a good one! So much history between the pair before the story even begins.

  • I’m reading Pretty Face now and I’m still pretty early in the book but I hope I love it as much as you did. Sad you didn’t love the Shalvis book more…

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

    • I can’t wait to hear what you think of it,
      Nereyda! It was on par with Act Like It for me, for sure. Yeah…the Shalvis book was a bit of a let down tbh.

  • I do hold characters to a different standard based on time period. I try to think of the cultural norms and practices that existed at that time! I don’t read any romance really but these sound like great titles!

    • That’s my take on it too, Tori! Don’t get me wrong, I still find it super annoying when dudes act all high handed and domineering in historical books, but it’s easier to forgive because it’s a more realistic type of behaviour than it would be now.

  • I’ve been waiting for Vol.2 of your Romance Review Roundup. Well I still haven’t read Pretty Face. My expectations are so high that I’m afraid to be disappointed. I haven’t read anything by Jill Shalvis. Becky
    gave me recs, so I plan to read a book by her. I’m not sure about Accidentally on Purpose though. I don’t like the sound of the hero’s behavior toward the heroine. I think I’m less critical to historical books compared to contemporaries too. Why is it?

    A lot of my friends love Tessa Dare’s books. I’ve only read the first book in Castles Ever After series, and
    it was just an ok read for me. But I still hope to fall in love with one of her stories.

    My favorite trope is forbidden romance with fake-relationship trope right behind.

    • Hahaha well I’m glad you like these, Ksenia! I’ll try to read my romances more quickly next time so I can get another one up soon. 😂 I know what you mean with high expectations, but I definitely think that people who liked Act Like It will be pleased with Pretty Face…and I want to hear your take on it!

      Shalvis has a lot of amazing series but the Heartbreaker Bay books are not her best, imo. The hero’s behaviour WAS creepy, at least to me! I think people give that behaviour more of a pass in historical books because the social culture and norms were so different from the way they are now.

      I know you’re not a big fan of historical romances, but the third Castles Ever After book is SO FUNNY. I actually laughed allowed many times while reading it. Maybe you’ll have more luck with that one!

      Fake relationship is such a good one!!!

      • I think another reason that
        readers are less critical toward historical books is that they read them as
        fairy-tails. Something that never happened or happened long time ago.
        Contemporary stories feels more real somehow. At least for me.

        Can I skip the second
        book in Castles Ever After then?

        • That’s a good point, Ksenia. I’ll forgive a lot of unrealistic things in fairy tales that I wouldn’t in a contemporary story, ranging from characters’ actions to plot events.

          Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, that couple is referenced a couple times in Dare’s other work, but book 3 follows a *completely* different set of characters from the rest of the series.

  • Love these romance roundups, they are fun and you always get to the point with your reviews. Now, you know I totally agree with you on Pretty Face, loved that book and will stalk Lucy Parker for life to read everything she ever writes, even if it’s a shopping list. As for Do You Want To Start A Scandal I hadn’t even thought about the characters falling in love against their will but they did and it was awesome! I always love what Tessa Dare writes, though.

    And I can’t believe you’ve read the newest Shalvis book before I have! I keep meaning to buy it but then another book I own grabs my attention instead. I’ve definitely not been as in love with her Heartbreaker Bay series as much as I usually am with Shalvis books so it sucks that you were put off by Archer’s kinda creepy ways. I mean, I get annoyed regardless the genre on guys that ‘help’ without letting the person they’re helping know because they’re just controlling. I do forgive it a bit more in historical, though, and I think it’s because you know that would be acceptable in that time period.

    And as for my favourite romance trope, fake relationship every time. Don’t know what it is, I know it’s a ridiculous trope, but I love it.

    • Thanks Becky! I’m having a lot of fun with them, although they’re definitely not as popular as my usual posts. But tbh I don’t really care about that so long as I have a good time writing them! 😂

      Couldn’t agree more re: Lucy Parker, she’s absolutely phenomenal and I’ll follow her to any genre (although I selfishlyhopw she carries on with contemporary romances). Gah, Do You Want to Start a Scandal was so dang cute! Charlotte and Piers are determined not to fall in love but it all goes awry…*swoon*

      I know, what’s going on here? I’ve been in a bit of a romance slump and I thought for sure that Shalvis would help, but alas it was not to be. Archer ends up admitting that his behaviour was over the line but still, man…super uncool. Only a Duke can get away with that kind of behaviour. 😉

      Fake relationship! I want to read more of them. Actually, the only one that comes to mind outside of fanfic is Act Like It. Do you have any recommendations???

      • I enjoy them and will read them even if not everyone else does (what do they know if they don’t want to find more romance books?).

        I know what you mean, I’ll follow her anywhere, but she definitely is the queen of contemporary for me right now. She has plenty she can write yet.

        And I know, Shalvis is an author I still love and will keep reading but she’s been missing the mark lately. maybe my expectations are too high?

        See, now you’ve put me on the spot all suggestions are out of my head. Act Like It is obviously the best of all the fake relationships. I really enjoyed Faking It by Cora Carmack. There’s The Deal but you’ve read that haven’t you? And I’m pretty certain Wall of Winnipeg has a fake relationship but I’ve not read it yet so I don’t know. How do I not have a list to hand?

  • The only one of these that I’ve read is Dare’s, which I loved. I don’t think she has disappointed me yet. How does she do it? I love a good hate-to-love or fake relationship type of romance.

    One of my other blogger friends loved that Lucy Parker book, like you did! I’d not even heard of the author. I’ve not read anything by Shalvis but I have a few of her newer books, which I might try this year. I’m not sure she’s an author for me, but we’ll see!

    Excellent reviews! Have a wonderful week, Danya. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Tessa Dare is one of my absolute favourites! I’m convinced that she’s so good because she’s a librarian, hahaha. I can’t wait to see what she’s got for us next. YES, hate to love is so good! And I’ve been seeing lots of people say they love the fake relationship trope, but I can hardly think of any books that have it. Do you have any recs?

      Lucy Parker is SO good! I think you’d really like her books because they’re clever, swoony, and fun. If you’re in the mood for small town romance, I recommend Shalvis — just not her Heartbreaker Bay series (of which Accidentally on Purpose is book 3) because it’s not her best.

      Thanks so much, Alyssa!

  • > What’s your favourite romance-related trope?

    I haven’t read a ton of romance novels, but I’m huge fan of the ‘tsundere’ trope – that is, going from hate (or at least dislike) to love. It’s so played out, but somehow still always extremely satisfying to see in a character.

    • Whoa, I’ve never seen the word “tsundere” before! Which is a real shock, considering my long-standing love for the whole enemies to lovers thing. I know exactly what you mean: even though it feels a bit overdone, it somehow always works. There’s something about people having their assumptions about someone disproven that makes for compelling storytelling.

  • Oh I hope Elle made Archer grovel (that’s a littlet bit creepy what he did)

    • She didn’t really, and that was my big problem with it! His behaviour *was* creepy! Ugh.

  • I need more Tessa Dare in my life – thanks for that important reminder! And yes, falling in love against one’s will is pretty freakin’ great!

    It sometimes feels like I hold different to different standards regardless of the time frame! I can love a characteristic in one character and hate it in another and time frame doesn’t seem to matter. I think it has to do with how skillfully the author develops the characters.