I’ve always been hooked on novellas but it’s been difficult to decide whether to review them or not since just a quick synopsis has the potential to spoil the whole thing. I’m getting a lot of recommendations for novellas (and serials) lately though, so I decided to go ahead and create a weekly feature for whatever shows up on my Kindle that week. Since they’re short little bite-sized books, what else could I call them other than bonbons?
By Shawnté Boris
Publication Date: January 5, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Her life was all set…she had everything she had ever dreamed of. Promises of forever…. But promises can be broken. Alyson Almon, or Ally as she is called, finds this out in a tragic way. The emotional scars on her heart are ones only she can feel. With a change of location and a makeover she tries to start her life anew. She is drawn to a beautiful wedding and snaps some photos, capturing the love between the bride and her father. Luke McDerment, brother of the bride, is a man who is dealing with his own loss. Their paths cross when he spies her gorgeous photos and the instant attraction is something neither of them can deny.
Luke, with the help of his family who also find themselves drawn to this haunted young woman, involve her in a project that throws her right in the middle of this loving, warm family. They have a Gala coming up and Ally is the perfect photographer to capture the moments. Ally is embraced by the family and finds that she needs the love and warmth this family gives so effortlessly. She also finds the attraction to Luke is something she can’t deny. Can they fight the electricity between them and just walk away or will they let fate hand them the happy ending they both desperately need?
This felt like a book in two parts, and when that book is a novella and it’s split in half, it’s going to have to suffer someplace. I absolutely loved the first half. Ally checks into a hotel and simple things like unpacking toiletries have special meanings that start to unravel her past. As she came across new items and bared new pieces of herself, I was grabbing more and more tissues. It was so beautifully, sweetly written – I wasn’t expecting what came at all.
What I’d call the second half, or at least a pretty distinct change in tone, came when Ally stumbles into a wedding being thrown at the same hotel where she’s staying. She just takes a few snaps because the father of the bride has a look in his eyes she wants to capture and from there, a sudden attraction between she and his son crops up.
The overall theme is that grieving is a process and at some point, you choose to live for yourself. The first half of the book promises an introspective, quiet and emotional look at the nature of love and the value of committed relationships. The second half is your standard contemporary romance with some insta-love and two instances where specific words yanked me clear out of the story. An “A” for the first half, “C” for the second.
My Rating: B-
By Jenny Schwartz
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Publication Date: January 10, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Saul knows he crossed the line when he claimed a surprise engagement with Grace. But her hysterical denial – and the way she’s avoided him ever since – has made things awkward, but it can all be worked out.
The Australia Day long weekend down at her family’s beach house is the perfect time to show everyone that they’re friends, with not a broken heart between them. But can a fake engagement become life-changingly real?
Can I get away with just saying breezy and adorable? Because that’s what this one was. It wasn’t terribly deep and situations and the history of relationships weren’t even needed because the in-the-moment stuff was just that good.
Friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes and while this wasn’t quite that, it was close. Saul and Grace have known each other for years, so there was no need for the author to come up with a reason for them to have such familiarity and easy affection/irritation with each other. The two have a nice bickering attraction to each other that doesn’t feel unnatural and I really liked both of them, something not always easy to make me do in such a short book.
The plot was kept simple, practically clichéd, which was pretty smart, going with the familiar. It left space to add in some nice details that made things feel fresh, like Grace’s job as a student doctor, the Australia Day holiday and a little romantic rivalry subplot.
This was a remarkably fun read, considering I only had to set aside an hour or so. There was more charm in this story and it was of higher quality than a few full-length books I’ve read recently. I’m definitely reading this author again.
My Rating: A
The Arrangement, Vol. 1
By H.M. Ward
Publisher: Laree Bailey Press
Publication Date: January 6, 2013
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Serial
FML is becoming Avery’s motto. Just when she doesn’t think things could get any worse, they do. When her car stalls out at a busy intersection and she gets out to check under the hood, a guy steals her car. Armed with a dress and a pair of Chucks, Avery runs after the thief. When a hot stranger offers to help, she can’t say no. That’s how Avery meets Sean Ferro, the totally sexy, totally damaged guy with more secrets than she has time for.
Avery doesn’t have time for anything anymore. Her is life falling apart and it’s not just the car. It’s everything, and it doesn’t matter how tightly she tries to hold on, there’s nothing left to hold on to. With the sudden death of her parents, it’s only a matter of months until Avery’s shot at college is gone, and she’s living in a cardboard box. Other students have their families to rely on when things get bad. Avery has no one.
But there’s one option, one incredibly sexy, morally devoid, option. If Avery takes a job as a call girl, one guy could save her. One client. One time. She just has to say yes.
I’m usually not a fan of serials/series’ at all, but I decided to make an exception for this one because it was New Adult and hopefully wouldn’t have the same type of death/ex-wife/espionage cliffhangers that some of the adult serials have had. To answer the big question first – this didn’t end on a big cliff. It just felt like a break between chapters more than anything.
I like novellas because they’re like little spoonsful of sorbet between courses of other books and I never expect them to give me complete character profiles, full plots and worlds and win me over with a solid, convincing romance. I have some standards I won’t compromise though – if you’re going to skimp on the world-building, give me some magnificent characters. If the plot is a little weak, make sure I believe like mad that this relationship is true. I couldn’t find anything to really be passionate about in this story. It was all just sort of meh.
I didn’t really believe Avery was in college since nothing she did felt collegiate unless you count wandering around a dorm and taking a test. She had no backstory beyond a few sentences explaining why she was all alone. I barely know what she or Sean look like. It was just all rather bland, including their sort of high school-like mooning crush on each other. It didn’t feel like passion or hot, holy-hell-we-have-to-have-each-other kind of emotion, but more like, “Hey, he’s cute. My ladyparts could learn to like him.”
One last thing that will keep me from continuing even if the book had grabbed me – the next installment was due to come out on January 15th, but as of today, there isn’t even a cover or synopsis up. If a weekly serial isn’t even going to come out weekly, then what’s the point?
My Rating: D
ETA: I wrote this late on the 17th and there was nothing there or at Amazon; I just checked it this morning and the second book is up, with a “published date” of January 16th.