Category Archives: Rated C

Review: The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango

truth and otherTitle: The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
Length: 256 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Dark, witty, and suspenseful, this literary crime thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and The Silent Wife follows a famous author whose wife—the brains behind his success—meets an untimely death, leaving him to deal with the consequences.

“Evil is a matter of opinion…”

On the surface, Henry Hayden seems like someone you could like, or even admire. A famous bestselling author who appears a modest everyman. A loving, devoted husband even though he could have any woman he desires. A generous friend and coworker. But Henry Hayden is a construction, a mask. His past is a secret, his methods more so. No one besides him and his wife know that she is the actual writer of the novels that made him famous.

For most of Henry’s life, it hasn’t been a problem. But when his hidden-in-plain-sight mistress becomes pregnant and his carefully constructed facade is about to crumble, he tries to find a permanent solution, only to make a terrible mistake.

Now not only are the police after Henry, but his past—which he has painstakingly kept hidden—threatens to catch up with him as well. Henry is an ingenious man and he works out an ingenious plan. He weaves lies, truths, and half-truths into a story that might help him survive. But bit by bit the noose still tightens.

Smart, sardonic, and compulsively readable, here is the story of a man whose cunning allows him to evade the consequences of his every action, even when he’s standing on the edge of the abyss.

Review:

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango is a rather clever novel about a manipulative man whose life takes a dark turn after finding out his mistress is pregnant with his baby. Henry Hayden has a somewhat disturbing past and he does not hesitate to take care of his problems in a very permanent fashion.

Henry Hayden is a bestselling mystery writer who has never written a single word. His wife Martha is actually the author, but with her blessing, he takes the credit for her work. This arrangement works out perfectly since for unknown reasons, Martha was never interested in publishing her books. Martha spends her nights writing while Henry takes care of household chores, attends book signings and goes on publicity tours. In between all of that, Henry also indulges in affairs with his editor Betty and other women he meets along the way. After Betty’s surprise pregnancy announcement, Henry runs through several possible scenarios for this very unwanted complication but he quickly discards them and he impulsively makes a decision that make matters worse for him.

Not much is knows about Henry’s past, but from the little that is revealed, it is clear that he is definitely troubled. After his father’s death and his mother’s disappearance when he was a child, he was in and out of group homes and after striking out on his own, he turned to a life of crime. There is a fairly large gap in his personal history until he meets Martha in his mid thirties and they eventually marry. After they marry, Henry lives a fairly normal life and he is well-liked by the people who know him. He is friendly, generous with his friends and gracious to his many fans. But Henry has a very sinister side that surfaces soon after learning about Betty’s pregnancy and although he still continues to be pleasant and outgoing, he is also desperate to rid himself of the complications that are plaguing him.

While the premise for The Truth and Other Lies is intriguing, the pacing of the story is incredibly slow. There are numerous shifts in perspective and these transitions in viewpoint are often abrupt and not clearly marked. Henry is a rather unreliable narrator so it is difficult to know what events are real and which are figments of his (surprisingly) active imagination. Although the characters are interesting, many of them, including Henry, are difficult to like.

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango has a very unusual plot which makes it a fascinating novel to read. There are several unexpected twists and turns and it is impossible to figure out how the story will end. The conclusion is a little ambiguous but mostly satisfying.

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Filed under Atria Books, Contemporary, Rated C, Review, Sascha Arango, suspense, The Truth and Other Lies

Review: The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes

loved onesTitle: The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Historical (60s, 70s), Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The nationally best-selling Hughes returns with a darkly brilliant Mad Men-esque drama of family secrets and professional lies reminiscent of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road and James Salter’s Light Years.

From the outside in, the Devlin family lead almost-perfect lives. Dashing father, Nick, is a successful businessman long married to sweetheart Jean, who upholds the family home and throws dinner parties while daughter Lily attends Catholic school and is disciplined into modesty by the nuns. Under the surface, however, the Devlins are silently broken by the death of their little boy. As Nick’s older brother, a man driven by callous and rapacious urges, inducts Nick into the cut-throat world of cosmetics the Devlin family are further fragmented by betrayals, and victims of the cruelest kind of hurt.

In The Loved Ones Hughes takes her gimlet eye deep into the secret places between men and women to give an incisive portrayal of one family’s struggle to stay together against stacked odds of deception, adultery, and loss. Years in the making, this is Hughes’ astonishing and compulsively readable break out, a sweepingly cinematic novel of relationships defined by an era of glamour and decadence.

Review:

The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes is a poignant novel about a family trying to cope with the death of their child.

The emotional divide between the members of the Devlin family is soon compounded by an unwanted move from their beloved family home in the US to London. Nick is coerced into taking a position in a cosmetic company by his manipulative brother Lionel and after his relocation to the UK, Nick tries to bury his grief with illegal drugs and extramarital sex.  Jean is less than thrilled with the move but she eventually capitulates and she, along with their daughter Lily, join Nick in London where she continues to distance herself from both Nick and Lily. Poor Lily was already struggling to fit in at her old school in the US and she does not find it easier to make friends or find her niche after the move.

Numerous characters are introduced early in the novel and it is virtually impossible to keep up with them or their relationships with the key players. With the exception of Lily, the main characters are difficult to like and despite feeling compassion for their loss, they are rather unsympathetic.

The Loved Ones is a somewhat difficult novel to follow. The narrative is rather disjointed and the shifts between past and present are not clearly marked. Despite the descriptive passages, there is a vagueness to the overall storyline that makes it impossible to connect with neither the plot nor the characters. A lack of quotation marks adds to the confusion and when the dialog lasts longer than a few sentences, it is hard to keep up with which character is speaking.

There is no doubt that Mary-Beth Hughes is a gifted storyteller. The Loved Ones is a well written novel with a decent storyline that is unfortunately buried in the midst of the rambling, confusing narrative. The story’s conclusion is quite unexpected and although a little abrupt and somewhat ambiguous, it is satisfying.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Fiction, Historical (60s), Historical (70s), Mary-Beth Hughes, Rated C, Review, The Loved Ones

Review: Meant for You by Samantha Chase

meant youTitle: Meant for You by Samantha Chase
The Montgomery Brothers Series Book Five
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Brand new Book #5 in Samantha Chase’s popular Montgomery series

She dares to dream…
Summer Montgomery wants to be taken seriously almost as much as she wants her brother’s best friend, Ethan. But with a long resume of seemingly random career choices and a protective brother on watch, those things are nothing more than pipe dreams…

Does he dare to try?
Ethan Reed would like nothing more than to live by his own rules. Not wanting to disappoint his best friend Zach, or any of the Montgomerys, Ethan’s had to push his long-denied feelings for Summer aside. But it only takes one night away from watchful eyes to make impossible dreams come true…

Review:

Meant for You is the fifth installment in Samantha Chase’s Montgomery Brothers series. In this outing, William Montgomery is still matchmaking and his free spirited niece Summer is his latest project. He convinces his brother (and Summer’s father) to send Summer to the Portland office to work with her brother Zach in the hopes that her longtime crush on Zach’s best friend (and company VP) Ethan Reed will lead to love.

Summer has been trying to find her niche for quite some time and the rest of her family views her as flighty. The family does not take her seriously and when she begins working with Zach, he does not give her any worthwhile projects. Nonetheless, she shines as she works in the various departments and she is well liked by the other employees. Summer and Zach have been quarreling over his next thrill seeking adventure and to keep the peace, Summer takes off for a weekend retreat. Her overprotective brother asks Ethan to make sure she is ok and Summer seizes the opportunity to act on her attraction to Ethan.

Ethan is a great guy but because of his loyalty to Zach and the Montgomery family, he has decided to ignore his interest in Summer. He is laidback, easygoing and not eager to rock the boat but when Summer makes the first move, he finds it impossible to resist her. After their one night of passion, the two go their separate ways, but when they unexpectedly run into one another while playing tourist, a push from Zack’s assistant and Summer’s friend Gabriella Martine is just what they need to spend some quality time together. Away from the prying eyes of Montgomery clan, Ethan and Summer enjoy getting to know one another while indulging their desire. Both are aware of the potential problems awaiting their relationship when they return to their regular life, but they decide to live in the moment. Unfortunately, the real world intrudes when a crisis brings the Montgomery family together and the couple decides to keep their romance a secret.

The relationship between Summer and Ethan is sweet and there is no denying they share a real connection. But as soon as they are reunited with the rest of Montgomery family, trouble begins. Neither is willing to come clean about their romance and they are forced to sneak around to see one another (which is completely ridiculous considering both of them are adults). Summer’s brothers are overprotective to the point they are insulting to both her and Ethan. The family’s reaction to Summer and Ethan’s relationship is incomprehensible considering that he has been treated like a family member for twenty years.

But what is the most astounding is the patronizing and disrespectful attitude that the Montgomery family displays toward Summer. They unfairly blame her for another family member’s decision and they treat her like a child. She is forced to prove herself over and over again and despite her efforts, they refuse to take her seriously. The utter disregard for her feelings and complete lack of faith in her professional abilities is appalling and absolutely infuriating. This part of the storyline is incredibly frustrating and completely unforgivable despite the story arc’s resolution.

Despite a few issues with the rest of the family, Meant for You is a lovely romance and a nice addition to The Montgomery Brothers series. Fans will enjoy seeing Summer find her happily ever after and Samantha Chase’s intriguing glimpses of Zach will leave readers impatiently awaiting his story.

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Filed under Contemporary, Meant for You, Rated C, Review, Romance, Samantha Chase, The Montgomery Brothers

Review: A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier

henryTitle: A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In her exquisite new novel, acclaimed author Cathie Pelletier presents a witty and refreshingly candid portrait of grief, intergenerational conflict, and the impact one person can have on those he loved.

Bixley, Maine. One year after Henry Munroe’s fatal heart attack at age forty-one, his doting parents, prudish wife, rebellious son, and wayward brother are still reeling. So is Evie Cooper, a bartender, self-proclaimed “spiritual portraitist,” and Henry’s former mistress. While his widow, Jeanie, struggles with the betrayal, Henry’s overbearing mother is making plans to hold a memorial service. As the date of the tribute draws closer and these worlds threaten to collide, the Munroes grapple with the frailty of their own lives and the knowledge that love is all that matters.

With her trademark wry wit and wisdom, Cathie Pelletier has crafted an elegant and surprisingly uplifiting portrait of the many strange and inspiring forms that grief can take in its journey toward healing.

The Review:

A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier is an interesting glimpse of Henry Munroe’s loved ones as the one year anniversary of his untimely death approaches. In the days leading up to the memorial service, everyone is still grieving his loss but perhaps their biggest struggle is reconciling the new paths their lives have taken since he passed away.

Henry’s widow, Jeanie, is saddened by her husband’s death but her biggest regret is not getting the chance to confront Henry about his last infidelity with bartender, Evie Cooper. In the year since his death, she has become obsessed with Evie and she spends a lot of her time stalking Evie while trying to work up the courage to confront her about the affair. While Jeanie is wallowing over past mistakes, her fifteen year old son Chad is trying to numb his pain with drugs and alcohol.

Larry Munroe always lived in the shadow of his outgoing, gregarious younger sibling and in the year following Henry’s death, his life is in upheaval. After losing his wife, son and job in a shocking divorce, Larry is now living back home with his parents in the same bedroom he and Henry shared as children. He is sinking into a depression that is more about the loss of his marriage and son than Henry’s death. Larry also has an unforeseen connection to Henry’s former mistress and this too plays a role in his growing despair.

In a sea of sadness, Evie Cooper is an unexpectedly refreshing breath of fresh air. As the “other woman” in Henry’s affair, she is not cast in the best light but there is surprising depth to her character. Evie uses her gift as a spiritual portraitist to help the grieving cope with their losses. As a bartender at the local watering hole, she offers a sympathetic ear when needed but she is also willing to step in and find a solution to a friend’s increasingly dangerous situation.

Of course at the heart of the story are the various memories of Henry. As each of the characters reflect on their respective pasts, a rather unflattering portrait of Henry emerges. Although people were drawn to him, he was rather self-centered and self-absorbed.  As the memorial approaches, everyone begins to gain new perspectives on his role in their lives and they begin to make peace with not only his loss, but his flaws and imperfections as well.

While the plot of A Year After Henry is unique, the novel is slow-paced and the overall flow is interrupted by meandering thought tangents and superfluous details. The characters are fascinating and it is enjoyable watching them emerge from their grief and take charge of their somewhat out of control lives. Cathie Pelletier ends the story on a hopeful note as all of the participants say their final goodbyes at Henry’s memorial service.

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Filed under A Year After Henry, Cathie Pelletier, Contemporary, Fiction, Rated C, Review, Sourcebooks Landmark

Review: One Night: Promised by Jodi Ellen Malpas

night promisedTitle: One Night: Promised by Jodi Ellen Malpas
One Night Trilogy Book One
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The new breathtaking novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the This Man trilogy

ONE NIGHT WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH . . .

Livy notices him the moment he walks into the coffee shop. He’s heart-stoppingly stunning, with a blue-eyed gaze so piercing she’s almost too distracted to take his order. When he walks out the door, she thinks she’ll never see him again. Then she finds the note he left on his napkin . . . signed M.

All he wants is one night to worship her. No feelings, no commitment, nothing but pleasure. Every defense mechanism Livy has adopted during her solitary life is at risk of being obliterated by this confounding man. He’s obnoxious but well-mannered. He’s a gentleman but aloof. He’s passionate but emotionless. Yet the fascination is so powerful, Livy can’t deny him . . . or herself.

M awakens something in Livy, something deep and addictive that she never knew existed-and that she fears only he can satisfy. But she senses that behind the fast cars, fancy suits, and posh apartment, he’s aching inside. To have him, body and soul, she’ll have to brave his dark secrets. Delving into his world and breaking down his defenses become her obsession-an obsession that could shatter her heart beyond repair . .

The Review:

Promised is the sexually charged first installment in Jodi Ellen Malpas’ new erotic trilogy, One Night. Bistro waitress Livy is gobsmacked by her reaction to one her customers, the very mysterious and striking M. The two share an instant and scorching hot attraction but the enigmatic M cannot commit to a lasting relationship. He instead offers 24 hours of pure pleasure but will Livy accept his very provocative invitation?

Livy and M start out as likable characters but it does not take long to become incredibly frustrated with both of them. On the surface, Livy seems self-assured and confident but as soon as she becomes involved with M? She turns into an indecisive, whiny mess who puts up token resistance to M’s commanding and ridiculous demands. The reasons for some of her behavior appear to stem from her dysfunctional past, but it takes so long to learn her secrets that she is more annoying than sympathetic.

M is closed off and secretive but he is upfront that he is emotionally unavailable. He relentlessly pursues Livy and he crosses over into creepy, stalker territory pretty much right away. He treats her like a child and M expects her to reveal everything about herself to him but he refuses to tell her anything about himself.

The pattern for Livy and M’s relationship is established pretty early on with Livy running away, M pursuing her and the two jumping into bed. Lack of communication causes trust issues and Livy’s suspicions continue to grow because of M’s secretive behavior.  Little progress is made in their relationship and the constant back and forth quickly becomes tedious.

The premise of Promised is intriguing but it is slow-paced and repetitive. The secondary characters are a mixture of likable (Livy’s co-workers) and exasperating (Livy’s grandmother and BFF). The plot is interesting but it gets bogged down by too many insignificant details. The constant back and forth between M and Livy is irritating and predictable. The story does eventually pick up steam and Jodi Ellen Malpas ends the novel with an incredibly shocking and dramatic plot twist that will leave readers absolutely dying to read the next novel in the One Night Trilogy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Erotic, Forever, Jodi Ellen Malpas, One Night Trilogy, One Night: Promised, Rated C, Review, Romance

Review: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich

sweet spotTitle: The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 355 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

A sizzling story of everyone’s favorite couple from amazing Stephanie Evanovich’s New York Times bestseller Big Girl Panties: hunky professional baseball player Chase Walker and his sassy wife Amanda.

When pro baseball player Chase Walker first meets Amanda at her restaurant, it’s love at first sight. While Amanda can’t help noticing the superstar with the Greek-god-build, he doesn’t have a chance of getting to first—or any other—base with her. A successful entrepreneur who’s built her business from scratch, Amanda doesn’t need a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. And a curvy girl who likes to cook and eat isn’t interested in being around the catty, stick-thin herd of females chasing Chase and his teammates.

But Chase isn’t about to strike out. A man who isn’t interested in playing the field, he’s a monogamist who wants an independent woman like Amanda. His hopes rally when she discovers that squeaky-clean Chase has a few sexy and very secret pre-game rituals that turn the smart, headstrong businesswoman on—and into his number one fan.

Then a tabloid discovers the truth and turns their spanking good fun into a late- night punchline. Is Amanda ready to let loose and swing for the fences? Or will the pressure of Chase’s stardom force them to call it quits?

The Review:

The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich is the romance of Chase and Amanda Walker, a secondary couple introduced in her first novel, Big Girl Panties. The two novels stand on their own and can be read independent of one another (but I highly recommend Big Girl Panties).

Chase Walker is an extremely successful and wildly popular squeaky clean baseball player who falls in love  with restaurant owner Amanda Cole pretty much at first sight. Amanda resists his considerable charm but he eventually wears her down and they begin dating. When Chase makes a surprising request that involves Amanda’s career,  she turns him down and what happens next irrevocably changes their relationship and eventually puts them in middle of a very public scandal.

Despite his successful career, Chase is rather humble and does not take his good fortune for granted. His life has not been all sunshine and roses but he does not dwell on his losses and he tries to focus on the positive. Chase is charismatic, appealing and so unbelievably persistent it is little wonder Amanda finds him impossible to resist.

Amanda is a self-assured and independent woman. She has a few residual self-esteem issues that stem from her childhood, but she does not lack self-confidence. She has been so focused on making a success of her restaurant that she does not date much but she is not inexperienced when it comes to matters of the heart or sex. She is bedazzled by Chase but her self-esteem issues come into play and she is left wondering why he is attracted to her. When Amanda finally does agree to date him, they take things slow and their romance is sweet and despite Chase’s hectic schedule, fairly uncomplicated.

But (isn’t there always a but?) Chase has been keeping a kink of his secret and instead of talking about it with Amanda, he makes an unreasonable demand and when she refuses, he turns into a sulky, petulant jerk. The resulting showdown between them takes an unexpected turn and when Amanda is confused and uncertain about what happened between them, Chase becomes an arrogant, condescending jerk  who claims to knows her better than she knows herself (which I always find insulting and rather ridiculous).  Instead of walking away from him at this point, Amanda turns rather spineless, gives in to his every whim and molds herself into what Chase wants her to be. From this point in the novel, I really disliked both characters and I found it impossible to believe either of them had any deep emotion for the other.

The major conflict occurs between them when their secret goes public and Amanda runs from the entire situation. She has good reasons for avoiding Chase (mainly because there is NO way she can live up to his unrealistic expectations), but the real impetus behind her leaving is based on  sketchy advice from someone she knows better than to listen to. When Amanda is finally ready to face the scandal, Chase does not exactly welcome her back with open arms and she goes to pretty extreme lengths to salvage their relationship.

I have a very mixed feelings about The Sweet Spot. I absolutely loved the first half. The characters were wonderfully realistic and likeable and the romance between Chase and Amanda was sweet and romantic. But the second half feels like it was written about two completely different characters (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde come to mind).  I could not stand who they turned into or the direction their relationship took.

Despite not being overly crazy about The Sweet Spot, Stephanie Evanovich is an excellent author and based on how much I loved Big Girl Panties, I would definitely consider reading any of her future novels.

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Filed under Contemporary, Rated C, Review, Romance, Stephanie Evanovich, The Sweet Spot, William Morrow