Thursday, May 19, 2011

5 Minute Review: Welcome Home, Cowboy by Karen Templeton

Welcome Home, Cowboy by Karen HewittA RITA finalist for Contemporary Series Romance 

 Cash's childhood home is filled with memories of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mentally ill father. It's little surprise he hasn't been back until now. A country singer, he has returned at the request of a childhood friend. At his arrival, he finds his friend has died and he meets Emma, the very pregnant widow. 

The last thing Emma needs, on top of running the farm and parenting her two children, is a broken man on her doorstep. However, she can't turn him away and before she knows it, he's constantly underfoot, working as an unpaid farmhand. Cash needs to let go of his past, Emma has to figure out her future, and the present is filled with surprises for them both.

I got about half way through the story when I noticed that the kids on the cover are a) both boys,  b) neither of them of them appears to have Down's Syndrome and c) by the time Cash & Emma get together, she's already given birth. So that bothered me. The story itself wasn't too bad. It was interesting to read about farming life in a modern, practical setting. Cash's status as a country music star was downplayed. There were repeated references to how country music has "changed," but no concrete examples were given. If I had to guess, I would imagine it was about the rise of pop-country, but I shouldn't have to guess.

I have to say, though, for such a short book, it packed a lot of complexities: child abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, financial woes, single motherhood, religion fanaticism, special needs children, etc. It was almost like reading a soap opera's plot arc. I did think it was better than Zoe and the Tormented Tycoon. I'm not sure how many of the other Contemporary Series nominees I'll get to read as Mills & Boon is a UK publisher. Good thing I work in ILL!

Monday, May 16, 2011

5 Minute Review: And One Last Thing... by Molly Harper

And One Last Thing... by Molly Harper: A RITA finalist for Contemporary Single Title

A misdelivered Rose Romance Special Deluxe floral arrangement is what tips Lacey Terwilliger off to the fact her husband has been cheating on her with his secretary. She's done everything for him over the years, from cooking, cleaning, and writing the company newsletter. Well, after confirming the affair, the next company newsletter is definitely newsworthy and quickly goes viral as Lacey tells the world exactly what her husband is. 

She gets slammed with a defamation lawsuit and, on advice from her lawyer, hies herself to a family cabin to avoid making a bad situation worse. Her neighbor is cranky Monroe, a man who has preconceived notions about divorced women, and makes it clear he wants nothing to do with Lacey. That's fine with her as she tries to figure out her future and who she is without her husband. Monroe soon learns he's misjudged Lacey and Lacey learns that some dreams never die.

Adultery is one of my reading no-nos, so I never added 'And One Last Thing...' to my TBR. However, I really enjoyed Harper's 'How to' werewolves books and since 'Last Thing' was nominated for a RITA, I gave it a chance.

I had a plan. I was going to go grab Subway and then go home to eat & watch a bit of television. After that, I would curl up in bed and start reading. But I am a red light reader (it's one of my pet peeves about e-readers, the fact that they are not easily read when in a non-moving car). I pulled it out of my bag and started reading it at the lights. Then I got to Subway, pulled into the parking lot, and kept reading. My stomach was rumbling, my throat was dry, but I kept saying, 'one more chapter.' And then it was, 'I'm almost finished, I should just keep going.' I read the whole damn thing in, literally, one sitting, about an hour and a half.

Molly Harper has a very deft hand with humor. I enjoy a book that's heavy on snark and wit, and this book fits the bill. Lacey never spirals into a bitter mess and makes sensible decisions after her initial emotional reactions. Her relationship with her brother is fun to watch and I loved how she didn't take any crap from the hero, Monroe. Monroe stayed cranky throughout the whole book, but it was an understandable cranky and he fights for her in the end. The ending was also not a fairy tale, yay-new-beginning, ending, but more of a let's-see-it-goes ending.

I really recommend this book and I think it would be a great beach/vacation read. I've now read 7 of the 8 RITA Contemporary Single Title nominees (I'm still missing 'One Fine Cowboy' by Joanne Kennedy). It's really a close call for me between And 'One last Thing...' and 'Lead Me On' by Victoria Dahl. If the winner is not one of the two, I'd be very surprised.