Tag: Crap writing

Delta: Ricochet by Cristin Harber

Delta: Ricochet by Cristin HarberDelta: Ricochet by Cristin Harber
Series: Delta #4
Published by Mill Creek Press on February 27th 2018
Pages: 419
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Colin questioned his recruitment to Delta team from day one, but he's made sure to earn his accomplishments twice over. No one could accuse his diplomat father of pulling strings.

Falling for Adelia is everything he never planned and always wanted. No complications. No agenda. Just a sweet girl who made him smile.

But Adelia has spun a network of lies around the world to help save women from human traffickers, and she's stolen from Mayhem motorcycle club, the men who saved her life, to do it. Anonymous friends back her unseen good deeds—until a link snaps. Actions have consequences in the Mayhem MC world. The repercussions are deadly.

Everywhere she turns, the fallout ripples. Friends become enemies. Family walks away. There's no one left to save her except for the man she's fallen in love with, and she'd do anything to keep him from Mayhem's ricochet.

‘Delta: Ricochet’ started out well enough, but this is my dislike for MCs-type stories speaking here, which Cristin Harber has integrated more and more into her Delta series with the longstanding topic of human trafficking taking priority in the last few of these books. I definitely prefer Harber’s Titan storylines that are more in the grain of the type of romantic suspense that I like to read, and clearly this preference is what’s partially accounting for my rating.

Undoubtedly, the setup of Colin’s and Adelia’s story is an intriguing one and it works well enough as a standalone since Harber does drop hints of what happened before. The first quarter brings Colin’s and Adelia’s paths together in way that is easy to follow (and is in my opinion, the best bit about the story which I sailed through), though their slow, slow burn does stretch past this mark. ‘Ricochet’ is however, a way longer read than what Harber typically churns out. Topping at 400+ish pages on my reader, however, my doubts crept in after I hit the 30% mark and my reading process faltered badly.

The funny thing about Harber’s characters is that they don’t necessarily behave the way and say the things you expect them to. ‘Ricochet’ isn’t too different, but the result here is one of meandering dialogues, character responses that don’t address questions head-on and a prolonging of the advancement of plot. The less-than-succinct delivery meant that a fair bit of editing—for structure, for the huge number of writing errors that really, really shouldn’t be there at this stage and for the roundabout dialogue—would have streamlined the ‘Ricochet’ into a read that had less stutters and abrupt lulls as action scenes built and simply dwindled away.

Still, the amount of riddles, courtesy of the work of secondary characters (which happily ran interference both for plot and structure) and Adelia’s deliberate and frustrating-as-hell in-but-not-in stance with Colin tanked the whole story for me. If Adelia started out as a protagonist whom I admired, this soon changed after the extraordinary lengths she went to obfuscate what she’d been doing all along in Mayhem when it became clear at a certain point that full disclosure (to the right parties) was needed.

I’m all for strong and independent heroines, don’t get me wrong. But having said this before, I think this merits it being said again: such a character isn’t afraid to ask for help, is brave enough to know when she is out of her depth and doesn’t play games when time is of the essence—all of which I thought Adelia fell alarmingly short of when the situation called for it. Calling for blind trust from Colin when she wouldn’t give hers stank of hypocrisy, not to mention the mind-boggling idiocy she showed when she stubbornly decided to go at things on her own without asking for the support she knew she so badly needed. Acting the martyr (yes, a goodbye note was included) was not only unnecessary at this point, but the stupidity of it threw me off so much that I stopped reading completely as ‘Ricochet’ neared its climax.

From a fantastic start to a muddling finish that soured quickly, ‘Ricochet’ capped off what has been a disappointing series for me, more so because Harber’s earlier books had made me a stalwart fan of hers. Thus far, the later Titan books and the Delta series haven’t run any bells for me to the point where I’m almost wary to pick up another book of hers…for fear of being disappointed once again.


Hide and Seek by Desiree Holt

Hide and Seek by Desiree HoltHide and Seek by Desiree Holt
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation on October 17th 2017
Pages: 223
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Anything can happen when you let your guard down . . .

After receiving a violent threat on the heels of her father's disappearance from the town of Arrowhead Bay, Devon Cole fears for her life-until Vigilance, a local private security agency, steps in to shield her from danger. Although she isn't usually quick to surrender her freedom, she has no problem stripping her defenses for her new sexy bodyguard . . .

Tortured by the painful memory of lost love, Logan Malik is determined not to fall for a client again. So when he's tasked with watching over Devon day and night, he's focused on doing his job. Day is no problem, but as tensions rise at night, nothing can protect them from giving in to unbridled passion . . .

I wish I had a better time with ‘Hide and Seek’, since it sounds like a story that’s right up my alley: a woman running from a threat, her father’s mysterious disappearance and the bodyguard hero who helps the damsel in distress.

But frankly, it was a difficult book to get into, not least because of the style of writing that I had a problem getting used to as well. The writing and the characterisation did seem inconsistent and that did throw me off course, quite unexpectedly so, sometimes all within a chapter. I did as well, have an issue with believability at times, along with the plodding dialogue and the numerous characters which suddenly waltz in and out of the pages like old friends. There was also quite a bit of Devon’s near-hysterical, inner monologue veering into the over-dramatic, along with weird moments that just didn’t seem ‘characteristic’ of the way she’d first been portrayed.

Needless to say, I struggled with this book despite thinking that Devon Cole and Logan Malik did generally seem like decent protagonists. ‘Hide and Seek’ didn’t do it for me unfortunately though I might have probably liked it better with tighter editing and more ‘controlled’ writing, especially since it’s clearly a preference for authorial style that’s coming through here.


The Hot One by Lauren Blakely

The Hot One by Lauren BlakelyThe Hot One by Lauren Blakely
on February 27th 2017
Pages: 218
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Ever notice that sometimes a guy will do something really stupid, like let the love of his life slip through his fingers?
Yeah. I'm that guy. But the moment I run into the woman I once loved madly, I’ve got one goal and one goal only—a second chance. The plan? Go big or go home.
Fine, at first glance, stripping naked at my ex-girlfriend's place of work might not seem like the brightest way to win her heart again. But trust me on this count—she always liked me best without any clothes on. And you've got to play to your strengths when you're fighting an uphill battle. As a lawyer, I know how to fight, and I'm prepared to fight hard for her. Because sometimes you need a second chance at first love.
He's the one who got away . . . The nerve of Tyler Nichols to reappear like that at my job, showing off his rock-hard body that drove me wild far too many nights. That man with his knowing grin and mischievous eyes is nothing but a cocky jerk to saunter back into my life. Except, what if he's not . . .? I've tried like hell to forget him, but maybe I'm cursed to remember the guy I fell madly in love with eight years ago. Lord knows I’m not over him, so what's the harm in giving him a week to prove he's changed in the ways that matter?
After all, how do you resist the hot one…

I’m starting to think that I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Lauren Blakely’s books. One the one hand, they’re mostly angst-free, exaggerated to the point where romantic comedy kicks in and pretty much a guaranteed easy read with a HEA. On the other hand, there are times when I find myself rolling my eyes at the overly done descriptions of uncontained lust – it’s 8 years of separation between this couple and a world of hurt, but all it takes apparently is a hot body to get it all going – and how that drove the near re-instalove that reignited between a pairing which up until a week ago, never quite gave each other more than erotic thoughts in their fantasies.

This is one of those times. In fact, I’d call ‘The Hot One’ a unbelievably batty read, which went so far past my ability to suspend disbelief that this book seemed to encapsulate what I hate about the second-chances/reunion trope. In fact, I detested everything about Tyler: the cocky arrogance and the self-absorbed behaviour that suddenly propelled him to winning a woman back that he hadn’t actively sought out for 8 years, as well as the assumption that Delaney would be a doormat to his all-conquering behaviour. Everything about him seemed desperately reactive as he lurched from grand gesture to grand gesture in a bid to convince Delaney that they would be good together again.

While I do admire Delaney’s honesty about wanting him, I couldn’t fathom how she pretty much rolled over at his impulsive drive to get her back permanently (would he have done this without the random meeting?) and then confessing her love near after a week of intensive dating. It was ever harder to swallow that Delaney seemed to take a little of the blame of their separation on herself while all Tyler did was feel a little remorseful about the past, justifying that he couldn’t undo anything now.

Not my type of read, unfortunately, mainly because it didn’t appeal to my innate sense of ‘romantic justice’ somehow, if there ever is a right word for it. So I skimmed and skipped so much and was actually thankful when it was over.


Ruthless by Lexi Blake

Ruthless by Lexi BlakeRuthless by Lexi Blake
Series: Lawless #1
Published by Berkley on August 9th 2016
Pages: 352
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The Lawless siblings are bound by vengeance. Riley, Drew, Brandon, and Mia believe the CEO of StratCast orchestrated their parents’ murder twenty years ago to steal their father’s software program. And there’s only one way Riley can find some solid evidence...   Heir to the StratCast legacy, Ellie Stratton hires a new attorney to handle a delicate business matter—and she’s shocked by her attraction to him. Over the course of a few weeks, Riley becomes her lover, her friend, her everything. But when her life is threatened, Ellie discovers that Riley is more obsessed with settling an old score than in the love she thought they were building. And Riley must choose between a revenge he’s prepared for all his life and the woman he’s sure he can’t live without...

‘Ruthless’s’ summary was a delicious draw for me and I jumped in, itching for a good revenge plot that should at some point in time, turn sour. The set-up was perfect in the prologue – the Lawless siblings, whose namesake seemed fitting for the plot – but I found myself getting more and more confused (and incredulous) as time wore on. The story begins in the midst of a corporate buyout and a legal battle; it soon becomes apparent however, that there are several wars to be won, even when there are people you think are on your side.

I think the biggest problem I had was with the very uneven writing, or rather, the lack of finesse in the execution of the plot: dialogues seemed off (business meetings just didn’t have the appropriate voice and tone – who really mentions breasts and sex in the first so-called professional meet?!), characterisations were wobbly at best and at times one-dimensional, motivations were insufficiently explained and the plot of vengeance and the backstory needed to be a lot tighter. There were some parts where I felt Riley and Ellie behaved more like juveniles than adults. The former prevaricated too much and the latter simply seemed too naive and a pushover where it should really matter, but apparently lust and attraction are enough to change agendas because instant love comes well (there’re pages after all, dedicated to sex here), instantly after someone has an earth-shattering orgasm.

I think this inability to suspend my disbelief here played a huge, huge part in my subsequent ability to go on without questioning everything I read and without my scoffing terribly at some dialogue or scene. In the end, I skimmed lots, only wanting the bits where the deception unravelled and when it all went to pot. If I started out excited about the overarching narrative, this book is making me think again. Yes, there’s the mystery that’s yet unsolved and intriguing leads like Drew and Bran who have yet to fall to their knees in supplication to their women, but well, it’s going to take something special to get my doubts out of the way.


Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis

Sweet Little Lies  by Jill ShalvisSweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, #1
Published by Avon on June 28th 2016
Pages: 384
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Choose the one guy you can’t have . . .
As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.
Fall for him—hard . . .
Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.
And then tell him the truth.
Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything. . . .

The trend of brainless, witless and spineless female leads appears to be Jill Shalvis’s hallmark of late and I find myself barely pulling out my hair in frustration before the halfway point is really reached.

The setup is perfect: a bar owner who has worked his arse off to get him and his brother where they are today meets a sexy captain of a boat and gets involved, but said captain’s secret threatens to destroy what they have. Yet honesty, apparently, seems to take a backseat because the guy’s too hot and everything she’s ever wanted, leaving the predictable trajectory of the story veering towards a conflict that is not only predictable, but highly annoying considering mostly deception and lies by omission drive the plot. If I’d initially thought Pru had a noble, but ultimately misguided intention of repaying everything that her parents had done, that impression quickly degenerated into disgust when she chooses not to heed her friend’s warning (as well as her own instinct) to be honest with Finn, finding every opportunity to shirk that particular responsibility. Going further to believe that getting Finn to fall for her more so he wouldn’t let her go after he learns the truth made her even stupider that I thought she would ever be.

The consequences are so cringe-worthy that I’m repulsed just anticipating it. Isn’t there a different type of conflict that Ms. Shalvis could have set up past Pru’s questionable behaviour? Or is this the only route that romance readers demand and blindly accept because it’s simply a stale, but reliable staple of rom-com? Part of me feels mean for even thinking that sticking to a tried and tested formula (though not always successful) is simply sloppy planning and execution.

Perhaps it’s my cynicism and inability to tolerate such weak and stupid women that I nearly couldn’t finish the book at all. Here’s hoping to something else different in the future, but even then, I’m not entirely too optimistic now, despite the other great characters who are primed for their own books.


Troublemaker by Linda Howard

Troublemaker by Linda HowardTroublemaker by Linda Howard
Published by HarperCollins on May 10th 2016
Pages: 400
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A thrilling, fast-paced novel of romantic suspense from sensational New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Linda Howard.
For Morgan Yancy, an operative and team leader in a paramilitary group, nothing comes before his job. But when he’s ambushed and almost killed, his supervisor is determined to find out who’s after the members of his elite squad—and why. Due to worries that this unknown enemy will strike again, Morgan is sent to a remote location and told to lay low and stay vigilant. But between a tempting housemate he’s determined to protect and a deadly threat waiting in the shadows, keeping under the radar is proving to be his most dangerous mission yet.
The part-time police chief of a small West Virginian mountain town, Isabeau “Bo” Maran finally has her life figured out. She’s got friends, a dog, and a little money in the bank. Then Morgan Yancy shows up on her doorstep. Bo doesn’t need a mysterious man in her life—especially a troublemaker as enticing and secretive as Morgan.
The harder they fight the intense heat between them, the closer Morgan and Bo become, even though she knows he’s hiding from something. But discovering the truth could cost Bo more than she’s willing to give. And when Morgan’s cover is blown, it might just cost her life.

An utter disappointment.

I don’t have much experience with Linda Howard’s books but this one has gone a long way to put me off them.

There’s something rather old-fashioned about the narrative – the omniscient, sweeping POV that simply follows a character through every thought and action, most of which can be superfluous – which simply didn’t sit too well with me. Apart from these details (which didn’t seem to tie into the bigger picture), the lack of explanation in the bizarre twist of events where the female protagonist suddenly gets saddled with a wounded operative because her long-estranged stepbrother orchestrated it is more bewildering than I can accept without question.

Waiting for that grand plan to unravel from this strange set-up however, didn’t quite materialise in the way I hoped it would. The pages that followed simply veered off into documenting the quirky behaviour of Isabeau’s smart but spoilt and rather annoying Golden Retriever rather than the injured hero and the mystery behind the attempt on his life. And as much cute as these dogs could be, reading page after page of the dog’s antics made me give this up halfway, when everything that mattered – the suspense, the mystery, the relationship – just seemed too long in coming.


Wild Card by Lora Leigh

Wild Card by Lora LeighWild Card by Lora Leigh
Series: Elite Ops #1
Published by St. Martin's on January 1st 1970
Pages: 418
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It was supposed to be simple. All Navy SEAL Nathan Malone had to do was rescue three young girls from a Colombia drug cartel, then allow himself to be captured just long enough to draw out a government spy. That was before his mission went disastrously wrong…and before his wife, Bella, was told that Nathan was never coming home.
Bella’s mourned her husband’s death for three long years. But she has no idea he’s still alive. Forced to assume a new identity, the man Nathan was is now dead. If he can get back to his wife, can he keep the secret of who he really is…even as desire threatens to consume them? And as danger threatens to tear Bella from Nathan’s arms once more?

If there are the kind of characters we can come to expect from Lora Leigh, please count me out. There’s a fascinating plot to be unravelled here, but my interest in the story simply can’t be sustained in the face of a sex-crazed, tortured alpha man who hypocritically lies and is generally odious to the neurotic, spineless woman he proclaims to care about – after leaving her for six years to fend for herself only to return and behave like a complete arse about it.

Relationship-development and general human decency seem to be replaced by pages and pages of hot sex, which don’t exactly go anywhere but to show how good in bed both our main characters are together. In fact, I’d really like to say something about the plot, but all I really have right now is a lasting impression of a snorting bull going berserk and a very dislikable showing of so-called ‘alpha’ behaviour that trumps everything else worth mentioning.