As promised, I'm continuing my summer reading updates today by featuring four books I read during the month of July. As you will see below the categories are different and so are my reactions to each one.
I have read quite a few westerns this year within all different categories, and chose to read Seduced by Molly O'Keefe after Wendy brought it to my attention by posting a review at her site (see a link to her review, as well as to Dear Author's at the bottom of my mini). Dissonance by Ericka O'Rourke (new-to-me author) is one of the books I had on my summer wish list, and both I Want to Hold Your Hand by Marie Force and Only Love by Garrett Leigh (new-to-me author) are books that I chose to read because the book summaries caught my eye.
Seduced (Into the Wild #1) by Molly O'Keefe: B+
I've read Molly O'Keefe's contemporary romances but that did not prepare me for her post-civil war historical western romance Seduced. It is not at all what I expected, it is much better. Our main characters are Southern Belle Melody Hurst and ex-soldier turned bounty hunter Cole Baywood. Melody's husband Jimmy, sister Annie, and Cole's brother Steven serve as the secondary characters in a self-contained, closed setting that keeps the high tension-fueled atmosphere going even after violence erupts and dissipates.
Melody has been to hell and back and after Jimmy is gone, she has nothing left to give of herself. Melody was a manipulative southern beauty before the war and will do whatever is necessary to secure a future for herself and her sister Annie to keep them safe. Seducing Cole is her answer. Cole can't see beyond the horror of war and everything he lost -- his family and innocence, his true self. All he sees is blood in his hands. Melanie's beauty and company remind him of who he used to be, but Cole will not settle with a woman who can't give him everything.
Gritty, that's the word that comes to mind when I think of Seduced. Melody may have been a Southern Belle in her past, but she's no wilting flower and Cole is passionate and tender but tough and not easily manipulated. The violent scenes at the beginning of this romance are not gratuitous and instead serve to anchor this romance to the historical time. The secondary characters are also explored and contribute much to the story adding to the central conflict of civil war torn lives and the developing relationship between Melody and Cole. This is a gritty, redemptive historical romance with depth of character and feeling, a big scoop of hope, and the beginning of love for our romantic couple at the end. I can't wait to read the second book in this series. (Historical Romance/Western, 2014)
Other reviews for Seduced:
The Misadventures of Super Librarian by Wendy: B+
Dear Author by Jane: B-
Dissonance (Dissonance #1) by Erica O'Rourke: C+
This YA science fiction/fantasy novel is set in a great multiverse world where music and musical notes are incorporated as a basis for travel between parallel universes. The first book of Ericka O'Rourke's Dissonance series is also heavy on the romance. Expect a few sections with info dump here and there and predictable characterization such as the rebellious, reckless teenager with major authority issues, the love triangle, and the absent, unlikable parents. The characters, with few exceptions, are not immediately likable.
As with other YA romances I have read in the past, I wondered when and why the love happens. There is a disconnect between the sudden crush that turns into a sort of immediate obsession coming from the sixteen-year-old female protagonist, the young male protagonist's lack of awareness of her, and the relationship that develops whereby she is willing to sacrifice it all -- including family, friendships, and world -- for him, while he is willing to sacrifice all for his mother. It comes off desperate and off-balanced to say the least. I don't know how young adults will feel about the romance aspect of this book, but that's how it struck me personally.
Regardless, the premise for the world-building and the overall mystery are both very good, and for those reasons Dissonance was worth a read for me. The story ends satisfactorily, if with a bit of a cliffhanger, ready for book two of the series. (YA/Fantasy, 2014)
I Want to Hold Your Hand by Marie Force: Grade C-
Great premise, but an oddly executed romance where the female protagonist's dead husband gets almost more page time than the hero of the piece. Whatever it is that Hannah feels for Nolan -- lust, attraction, admiration -- her life, her thoughts, even her new relationship, revolve around her "husband" Caleb. And she and everyone else, including Nolan, think of Hannah as "Caleb's wife." She cares more about what her dead husband's family think about her new relationship than her feelings for Nolan or Nolan's feelings for her -- a man who loves her deeply and passionately and waited for her for five years. This is a frustrating read where even at the end I was not convinced that after 7 years of grieving Hannah was ready for a new man in her life.
I believe that Marie Force wrote a good book about the process that widows of soldiers go through when they lose a beloved husband. I also believe that if the timeline for Hannah's and Nolan's romance had been longer, if they had gone through what they experience in this novel and came together later when Hannah was really ready, this romance would have worked beautifully. But as it is, I did not buy it. Nolan, as the new man in Hannah's life has to be more than a saint to accept the fact that he will always be second best -- and that's the way this strikes me. He will always be second best.
Force does a great job with the sexual tension and build-up to intimacy between Nolan and Hannah and I enjoyed that aspect of the story for the most part, until the couple makes it to the bedroom which was a big disappointment. A great addition, the Abbott family and townspeople helped me get through this odd romance. (Contemporary Romance, 2014)
Recommended book with similar storyline that really works: Joe's Wife by Cheryl St. John
Only Love by Garrett Leigh: Grade B
This is a double hurt/comfort book with tons of angst. A war veteran suffering from an incurable decease and PTSD comes home and moves in with his sister-in-law's brother, a man who suffers from severe epilepsy and is monitored by his trained dog. The two men find solace in each other, with the dog becoming a bonus both to the relationship and the story. This is a well written, multiple tissue read with some surprisingly deep issues and a slew of emotionally draining moments. Only Love is my first book by Garrett Leigh, but it won't be my last. (LGBT/MM Romance, 2014)
I will return with more updates. Yes, I read more! My summer reading is going well so far and I haven't even picked up my August 'must reads' yet. :)