Savour the Moment, by Nora Roberts

>> Friday, July 30, 2010

TITLE: Savour the Moment
AUTHOR: Nora Roberts

PAGES: 352
PUBLISHER: Berkley Trade

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 3rd in the Bride Quartet

REASON FOR READING: Autobuy author.

Wedding baker Laurel McBane is surrounded by romance working at Vows wedding planning company with her best friends Parker, Emma, and Mac. But she's too low-key to appreciate all the luxuries that their clients seem to long for. What she does appreciate is a strong, intelligent man, a man just like Parker's older brother Delaney, on whom she's had a mega-crush since childhood.

But some infatuations last longer than others, and Laurel is convinced that the Ivy League lawyer is still out of her reach. Plus, Del is too protective of Laurel to ever cross the line with her-or so she thinks. When Laurel's quicksilver moods get the better of her-leading to an angry, hot, all-together mind-blowing kiss with Del-she'll have to quiet the doubts in her mind to turn a moment of passion into forever...
Ah, this is more like it. Savour the Moment felt a bit like take 2 of the plot of Bed of Roses. Like her business partner Emma, baker Lauren also gets involved with one of the men in their little group of friends. Again like Emma, Lauren's fancied her man forever, but hesitated to risk their friendship. And like Jack in Bed of Roses with Emma, Del (brother of Emma and Lauren's friend and also business partner, Parker) had occasionally had flashes of looking at Lauren and being shocked by seeing her as a woman, not just a friend.

So as Emma and Jack, Lauren and Del embark on an affair, with the understanding that they won't allow their friendship to be ruined if the affair goes nowhere. But of course, they both soon want a lot more.

Such a close similarity between the plots might have made STM feel unsatisfying, if it hadn't been for the fact that I thought the romance in BOR hadn't worked at all. I've gone on about it in my review, but to summarise, I never felt the love between Jack and Emma (nor their friendship, really) and the Big Drama at the end pissed me off, because I felt Emma and her friends were being terribly unfair to Jack.

So really, STM didn't really feel like reading the same thing all over again. It was reading something finally done the way it should have been done in the first place.

Lauren and Del clicked for me. I understood them individually and I understood why they felt as they did about each other. I felt the romance and I felt the friendship, too, even before anything happened. I also felt that the people around them were being a lot more mature about these two hooking up, and that helped. It wasn't the best romance I've ever read, but I enjoyed it.

The wedding stuff and the friendship between the women, the men and all eight of them as a group are as wonderfully done as they have been since the beginning of the series, so I won't say much about that beyond that this really enriches the romance for me and is the kind of thing that makes me enjoy NR's romances even when the romance itself isn't great (fortunately, not the case here).

Now to await the final installment. It's quite clear by now who Parker's love interest is going to be. I found him a bit brash and annoying when we first met him, but he grew on me during parts of this book (there's a scene near the end, in the beach house, which hinted at quite interesting depths), so I'm anticipating their book.



Flora's Lot, by Katie Fforde

>> Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TITLE: Flora's Lot
AUTHOR: Katie Fforde

PAGES: 390

SETTING: Contemporary England
TYPE: Chick Lit

REASON FOR READING: I enjoy Fforde's book, as long as I read one every now and then.

Flora Stanza has sub-let her London life in a bid to join the family antiques business. Her knowledge extends only to the information she has crammed from daytime TV, but what she lacks in experience she makes up for in blind enthusiasm. So she is more than a little put out when she doesn't receive the warm country welcome she expected. Her curt cousin Charles and his fiancee Annabelle are determined to send Flora packing, and their offer to buy her out is tempting...until a strange warning makes her think twice.

Stuck with a cat about to burst with kittens, Flora has little choice but to accept the offer to stay in an abandoned holiday cottage miles from any neighbors, let alone a trendy wine bar. And between fighting off dinner invitations from the devastatingly handsome Henry, and hiding her secret eco-friendly lodger William, Flora soon discovers country life is far from dull as she sets about rebuilding the crumbling business...
I have to be in the right mood to read Katie Fforde's books, but sometimes I just feel like immersing myself in her slightly old-fashioned, stereotypically English world. Flora's Lot was a nice one, with gentle humour and nice, if not particularly fresh, characters.

Flora Stanza's life in London isn't really satisfying her, so when she inherits the controlling stake in the family auction business, she sees it as an opportunity to do something a bit different. She's a sensible person though, so she doesn't just drop everything and decide to run the business. Rather, she simply refuses to automatically sell out and decides to check it out. She'll work there for a few months (bowing to the experience of the cousin who's been actually involved in the business probably forever) and see what she wants to do.

She doesn't expect a rapturous reception, but the one she gets is surprisingly hostile. Her stuffy cousin Charles and his fiancee Annabelle are clearly doing there best to make her life miserable and convince her to go back, to the point of sticking her in a cottage in the middle of nowhere on her own.

But Flora is quite tenacious, and will not give up. Especially when, despite some initial difficulties, she finds herself settling into village life, not to mention feeling some very unexpected romantic twinges.

This was a sweet, heartwarming read, and a surprisingly funny one. Flora's cool. She might be a bit silly sometimes, but her heart's in the right place, and I had to applaud her determination to do what she had set out to do, without being stupidly hard-headed.

I loved the old-fashioned feel of the village life... well, slightly old fashioned. People are clearly 21st century people here, but there is a gentleness there, a lack of any darkness, that is probably a bit idealistic. I also really enjoyed the background of the auction house business. We get to find out quite a lot about how things work, and it was all new to me.

The romance was ok, but not my favourite element of the book. The best thing about it was probably that the identity of the love interest really surprised me. I mean, I'm a veteran romance reader, when I'm reading a non-romance I can usually spot who the love interest is going to be after a couple of paragraphs! But this guy was one that I thought Fforde couldn't possibly make into someone Flora could fall in love with. Surprisingly, she could, and by the end of the book I was convinced.



Beyond the Rain, by Jess Granger

>> Monday, July 26, 2010

TITLE: Beyond the Rain
AUTHOR: Jess Granger

PAGES: 336
PUBLISHER: Berkley Trade

SETTING: Space, mostly, and some alien worlds
TYPE: Sci-fi / futuristic
SERIES: Followed by Beyond the Shadows.

REASON FOR READING: Good buzz, plus, it's sci-fi romance, that favourite and unrepresented subgenre.the sci-fi romance.

In a universe torn apart by civil war, a warrior and a slave must fight for their lives and a love that may destroy them both.

After five years behind enemy lines, Captain Cyani has to complete one final mission before she can return to Azra-a planet ruled by a sisterhood of celibate warriors. Along the way she finds a prisoner, chained and beaten-but radiating feral power and an unbroken spirit.

For years Soren has endured torture as his captors leeched his very essence, a unique hormone then sold as a sexual narcotic in the shadow trade. Now he has been freed from slavery by a beautiful warrior woman with radiant blue eyes.

After years in bondage, Soren's hormones are so unbalanced that he will die if he does not mate with a woman. Can Cyani be the woman he needs to survive, or will this forbidden bond destroy them?
As the book begins, our heroine, Captain Cyani, is on her final mission, after which she'll be able to retire from a career she never seeked out or even liked. So, as anyone who's ever read a book or watched a film with a character who's about to retire could predict, things are about to go pear-shaped.

They do when after rescuing a group of her fellow soldiers from an enemy vessel, her pet (who helps out in their missions) detects another prisoner and refuses to leave him. There's no time for Cyani to get this man and get back to her ship, but she can't leave her pet there, as her collar holds information that should not get into enemy hands. Cyani ends up stranded with the prisoner, and they must make their escape from the enemy ship together.

And it gets even more complicated, because the prisoner is no ordinary man. Soren is from a planet where the males produce a very special hormone when in contact with their mates. It's because of this hormone that the baddies have been keeping Soren prisoner: they've been using their technology in order to force him to produce the hormone, which they then harvest to manufacture an expensive drug. The problem is, because of what he's been through, Soren's only way of keeping his body to shut down is to get it to produce the hormone again. And that means either going back to what his captors were doing, or establishing the mating bond with someone...

Oh, dear. I'd heard good things about this one, otherwise I would have kept far, far away from the must-have-sex-or-die cliche. I should have, anyway. There were some interesting things here, especially the culture-clash and miscommunication based on incomplete information. However, other than that all I got was a ho-hum, tedious plot and characters that never completely gelled.

Cyani was just a mass of contradictions. Is she a warrior, really? She doesn't act like one. And why would she want to return to her horrible, unjust home world at all, when the powers that be there treat her like crap and always have? And Soren was a mystery till the end. I never really understood his reactions.

In a word: disappointing.

MY GRADE: A very average C.


Ravishing in Red, by Madeline Hunter

>> Saturday, July 24, 2010

TITLE: Ravishing in Red
AUTHOR: Madeline Hunter

PAGES: 340

SETTING: Regency England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: First in the Rarest Blooms series.

REASON FOR READING: I think I've enjoyed every single Hunter book that I've read, and a fair few have been outstanding. I've no idea why I've left such a long time go by since my last!

Armed with her cousin’s pistol, Audrianna travels to a coaching inn, to meet with a man who may have information that will clear her dead father’s name. She does not realize that the handsome man of commanding sensuality who shows up is not the person she expected, but instead Lord Sebastian Summerhays, one of her father’s persecutors, lured to the inn by the same advertisement that brought her there.

When the pistol accidentally fires, the situation becomes mortifyingly public, and thoroughly misunderstood. Audrianna is prepared to live with the scandal. Lord Sebastian has other ideas...
Audrianna Helmsleigh's family is in a very difficult position. Her father was accused of, whether by negligence or corruption, allowing defective gunpowder to reach the front lines, causing the death of many soldiers. He committed suicide soon after a parliamentary investigation implicated him in the affair. Since then, Audrianna has been trying to clear her father's name. When she discovers a mysterious notice in the newspaper, requesting her father's presence in a coaching inn, she decides to go there herself.

Lord Sebastian Summerhays was one of the MPs responsible for the investigation into the gunpowder affair. He, too, sees the newspaper notice, and like Audrianna, decides to go to the inn to see what information he can pick up. Both arrive before the person who placed the ad, however, and find themselves in the same darkened room. And then the potential informant arrives, a pistol is fired accidentally, the magistrate is called and Sebastian and Audrianna are found in the room together. Can you say marriage of convenience?

I was completely engaged from the very beginning. For starters, Hunter completely avoids cliches with the path she takes towards her characters having to marry. It's not Audrianna who's rescued by marriage, but Sebastian. She's pretty much already ruined, after all. He, on the other hand, has his work in Parliament to think of, and it's clearly very important for him. The scandal (and most especially the way the papers are presenting him as a mix between laughingstock and cartoonish villain) soon begins to affect his effectiveness. Sebastian used to be able to make things happen, but people are now reluctant to work with him, and not even his title brother's influence can help that.

And when Sebastian and Audrianna finally do marry, their relationship was lovely to read. There's obviously a strong attraction there, one that neither bothers to deny. Their physical relationship is good and enjoyable for both, but Sebastian soon starts wanting more. He sees that while Audrianna is happy to share her body with him, she gets her friendship and warmth elsewhere... with her friends, and even with his own brother (who's paralysed due to war wounds and whose relationship with Sebastian is wonderfully complex). And he can't really blame Audrianna for not wanting to love the man who, after all, was partly responsible for her father's suicide.

Audrianna, meanwhile, is cool to Sebastian purely as a defense mechanism. She has come to care for him, but obviously, such a cool, controlled, powerful man is not going to fall in love with his wife. Better to keep some healthy distance in their relationship, then. I ate it all up. There were points, however, where I felt a slight sense of distance from the characters and their feelings, and that was the only thing that kept the book from being an A.

In addition to being a lovely love story, Ravishing in Red also sets up a new series, the Rarest Blooms. After the scandal, Audrianna had gone to live with her cousin Daphne, in Daphne's small property outside London. There, they and two more friends live quietly and work to contribute to the household, all also helping Daphne with her flower business. All four women clearly have their secret, and the reason they can live so peacefully together is that they have a pact not to ask questions. They each know the others are there to offer support if needed, but they won't be interrogated, whatever happens.

Audrianna's friends play quite an important role in the book, and so do two of Sebastian's. This meant that there was a fair bit of sequel-baiting. I believe the next few books are going to be about Audrianna's friends, and they were all interesting characters. I have some suspicions about what's up with Lizzie and expect to see her story in the next book. What we found about about Celia's history was very intriguing, and while I have no idea what direction Daphne's story will take, I really liked her and would like to read more. As for the heroes, that was a bit more hit or miss. I was very interested in Hawkeswell and look forward to his story, but found the Duke of Castleford a quite disgusting, even while suspecting I was supposed to be finding him oh-so-sexy. But then, I'm one who doesn't think promiscuity in a hero equals manliness, so what do I know.



How To Sleep With a Movie Star, by Kristin Harmel

>> Thursday, July 22, 2010

TITLE: How To Sleep With a Movie Star
AUTHOR: Kristin Harmel

PAGES: 310
PUBLISHER: Little Black Dress

SETTING: Contemporary New York
TYPE: Chick Lit

REASON FOR READING: I got all the Harmels I could find out of my library after liking Italian For Beginners.

26-year-old Claire Reilly is on top of her game as one of the youngest celebrity reporters and editors in the business. At Mod magazine, she is a consummate professional, interviewing dreamy Hollywood hunks and staying on top of every story. Unfortunately, her live-in boyfriend seems intent on setting the world's record for celibacy, yet she finds herself penning articles like 'Ten Reasons You Should Have a One-Night Stand.' When Claire lands the plum assignment of interviewing Cole Brannon, Hollywood's #1 hottie, she knows better than to mix business with pleasure, but the next morning, she finds herself in Cole's bed...without her clothes. After the tabloids pick up the story, Claire's life is turned upside down. In struggling to regain her reputation, she'll learn a great deal about herself...and that you shouldn't always believe everything you read.
Claire Reilly is celebrity editor at Mod magazine, quite a senior post for someone in her early 30s, and one she enjoys very much. She especially loves interviewing and doing profiles, and her job allows her to do that to her heart's content. The pleasure of doing work she enjoys compensates for a really asinine editor, who has the stupidest ideas, and for the hideously horrible fashion editor, Sidra, who clearly has it in for her.

All is going well until Claire is assigned to interview the big movie start of the moment, Cole Brannon. Well, actually, the interview itself actually goes really well. Claire and Cole hit it off immediately, and Claire enjoys the interview. Cole's like no other movie star she's ever met. He actually seems interested in her and what she's saying, and he's not pretentious. In fact, he seems like a pretty down to earth guy.

But things go downhill soon after that, when she finds her boyfriend cheating on her (I don't think that's a spoiler, it's obvious from the first time you hear about the bastard's behaviour). Heavy drinking ensues, and a fortuitous meeting with Cole ends up with them being seen together in Claire's appartment, by the worst possible person. So now Claire is in the middle of a big crisis. She knows exactly what happens to celebrity journalists who are known to sleep with their stories: they become a complete joke. And given that Cole won't leave her alone, it's quite likely she'll be in that position soon...

I think I need to stop reading Harmel for a little while, as I'm starting to see too many repetitions. Her heroines always, but always have a nice guy clearly showing an interest in them, and showing it quite clearly, too. And they always, but always, completely miss the plot and immediately assume that there's no possible way this guy could be at all into them (even though they couldn't be more obvious about them), and are quite rude to them to make them go away. They jump to the most unflattering conclusions and assume the guys are lying based on the flimsiest evidence, and refuse to ask for explanations, or even listen to them when they are forthcoming.

However, while I liked my previous Harmel heroines and forgave them for being a bit clueless about their men actually liking them and being really nice, Claire I just wanted to strangle. She's not just clueless, she's willfully blind. Her boyfriend couldn't be more clearly a complete user if he wore a sign on his forehead. He treats her like crap, never does anything for her, hasn't slept with her for a month, and the twit is still hoping for an engagement ring from him. To her credit, Claire does kick him out immediately when she finds out he's cheating. However, she does come quite close to forgiving him and giving him another chance (and I therefore came quite close to just throwing the book against a wall and not finishing it), and only comes to her senses because he misjudges and goes a bit too far too soon.

As for Cole, I wasn't too bothered with her initial incredulity about him liking her (he is a huge movie star, after all, and the handsomest man in the world), but after a point, you just have to accept that he wouldn't go to the trouble he does and spend so much time pursuing her if he didn't! And much, much worse than that is the way she immediately believes the stories published about him in the scummiest of the scummy tabloids, even though 5 minutes earlier she had been perfectly clear that they printed nothing but lies. "A picture doesn't lie". Really? This from a celebrity journalist? That's beyond stupid.

It didn't help my liking of Claire that I absolutely despise celebrity culture and the type of magazine she works for, so I never had much respect for her and her achievements in the first place. Good for her that she sees the shallowness of it all in the end, and makes the right decision, but it was too little, too late. The completely pointless drama of the magazine didn't do it for me, and I didn't enjoy reading about it.

The secondary characters were not great either. Oh, I loved Wendy, who's a wonderful, supportive friend and actually has a life of her own (and I was very happy that she gets her own HEA). But too many of the other characters are cartoonish. Like Claire's arch-enemy in the magazine, Sidra. Claire herself thinks that the woman's actions are way over the top and don't make sense, but that doesn't mean I bought them any more for that. I could have got that she hated Claire and resented her, but not that she would go to some much trouble to screw her over, exposing herself so much in the process. And as for her sister (who by all accounts is a clone of Sidra), I didn't believe for a minute that she would go for someone like Claire's boyfriend. No money at all, no drive, content to mooch from his girlfriend for years, not particularly handsome... why would this woman even want him? All in all, too many women are stupid / materialistic / man-crazy sluts in this book. And if Cole couldn't see that his publicist was a psycho, then he's pretty much as clueless as Claire.



Midnight Rainbow, by Linda Howard

>> Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TITLE: Midnight Rainbow
AUTHOR: Linda Howard

PAGES: 226

SETTING: Costa Rican jungle in the 1980s (should I call this a contemp?)
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Losely related to other Howards, like Diamond Bay, Heartbreaker and White Lies.

REASON FOR READING: It's the only old Linda Howard I hadn't read before, and I found a copy at my library.

Grant Sullivan, tough, masculine and handsome, is a retired military expert entrusted with a mission in the Costa Rican jungle - to find hostage and socialite Jane Hamilton Greer.

When Grant rescues her in a rather cavalier and physical fashion, no love is lost between them. But gradually their mutual attraction and passion becomes apparent and the jungle smoulders in more ways than one.
Midnight Rainbow starts right in the middle of things. In the Costa Rican jungle, Grant Sullivan waits outside an evil and corrupt politician's mansion. Inside is the daughter of a very influential American, who's convinced Grant to come out of retirement to rescue his beloved daughter from a very messy situation (not only is the Costa Rican evil, there are secret tapes and spies involved).

Grant is not happy to be back doing covert operations. He had been recovering from years doing missions that took a lot out of him in the isolation of his farm in the middle of nowhere, and never wanted to go back. However, for reasons I never understood, he allowed himself to be convinced to take on the mission to rescue this woman, who as far as he's concerned, is either so clueless that she doesn't realise the danger she's in, or so amoral that she doesn't care.

Jane is actually neither. She's got into this trouble by helping out a friend, but is well aware of the danger she's in. What Grant has seen from his lookout in the jungle (Jane sunbathing by the pool, seemingly without a care in the world) is simply Jane pretending to be clueless to gain some more time to escape.

But the very night she's finally ready to make her move, Grant makes his own, and soon they're on the run through the jungle, desperately trying to get to safety.

I would have absolutely loved this book when it was published, or even a few years after that, when I first started reading single title romance. It is, after all, solid vintage Howard, with exciting adventure (a bit like Heart of Fire, which is among my fave LHs) and scorching hot chemistry.

Back then, the mean, mysoginistic hero would have been par for the course. I wouldn't have liked that aspect of the book, but heroes like that were everywhere. Other favourite authors (think Anne Stuart, Elizabeth Lowell) had heroes exactly like Grant. They had an instinctive distrust of women and would treat any woman they suspected of being easy cruelly and only speak to her with disdain. And of course, they always suspected the heroine of being easy... always. So, much as I wanted to bash their chauvinistic little heads in, I almost regarded their sexism as the price I had to pay to read romance, and was willing to be won over when they realised that oh! the heroine was actually a nice, innocent almost-virgin, and they had been wrong to think her a slag.

The thing is, heroes have got a lot better over the years. I've got used to reading about men who aren't quite as big judgmental pricks. So when Grant immediately assumes Jane is a slag, I wasn't amused. I absolutely hated the disdainful way he thought of her and talked to her. She's pretty cool and very resourceful (it was quite funny the way she kept producing actual food out of her rucksack, when Grant would have had them eating bland Army rations), and yet he keeps being a complete dick to her, even when it's clear she's fine.

I also got very annoyed with the heavy-handed author intrusions, which I saw much too clearly. Oh, dear the heroine's a divorcee! But of course, her husband never, ever turned her on, and neither did any man she ever met. No sexual feelings at all until she met Grant. Hmmm, how to get her naked? Let's drop an anaconda on her! All very transparent and laughable.

A big disappointment, I should have tried much harder to get a copy all those years ago. And now I'm afraid to reread Heart of Fire, another Howard jungle romance that is so far my absolute favourite of hers!



The Blonde Theory, by Kristin Harmel

>> Sunday, July 18, 2010

TITLE: The Blonde Theory
AUTHOR: Kristin Harmel

PAGES: 287

SETTING: Contemporary New York
TYPE: Chick Lit

REASON FOR READING: I enjoyed Harmel's Italian For Beginners

Harper Roberts is a corporate attorney in Manhattan. She’s smart, attractive, and funny. So why can’t she find a date? Men flock to her at parties when they think she’s a dumb blonde. But, as soon as they realise she’s a Harvard-educated lawyer, they flee. Harper’s best friend is a magazine editor who suggests Harper go on assignment for a month as a 'dumb blonde' and see if it changes her dating perspective. So, for two weeks, Harper goes undercover. She changes her wardrobe, her conversation, her body language. The result is a series of comical encounters. Soon, Harper must take a good look in the mirror and realise that it’s not just men who judge people on their looks.
Harper Roberts is only in her early thirties and already has all the professional success she could wish for. She has combined her passion for chemistry and law into a brilliant career as a patents lawyer, and her very specialised and rare knowledge has netted her a partnership in her firm at an unprecedently young age. Not only does she make oodles of money (allowing her to purchase a huge Manhattan appartment and give herself any treat she may want), she truly and genuinely loves her work and finds much satisfaction in it (an element I truly appreciated). In addition to a great job, Harper has had the same group of friends since school, and they provide much support and love. Life is good.

In true chick-lit style, though, Harper's love life isn't as successful. Her last serious relationship was with Peter, another lawyer, who broke up with her out of the blue when it became clear that while his career was stagnated, Harper's was on the up and up. In the years since, Harper hasn't had more than a couple of dates with the same guy.

She doesn't have any trouble attracting men, but all seem to run away from her after the first dates. The solution seems inescapable to Harper and her friends: all those smart, successful professional men her own age, who are supposed to want a partner, someone like them, actually don't. They don't want to go out with an intelligent, successful woman, they want to go out with someone less intelligent and less sucessful than themselves. The Blonde Theory is thus born: if Harper behaved like a dumb blonde, she'd have no problem having men eating out of her hand.

And then Harper's friend Meg, who works for a sort of Cosmopolitan-ish magazine, comes up with a brilliant idea. Harper should actually test that theory, and then write an article about it.

I enjoyed TBT, but not unreservedly. To me, its main weak point was the whole idea of the Blond Theory itself... well, more like the conclusions the characters drew from it, which never completely made sense to me.

So, there are men who feel insecure and threatened if their partner is more successful than they are. Wow, brilliant insight! But ok, fair enough, yes, that could be an interesting magazine article, and Harper's experiment would be fun to write about, and would probably help her convince herself that this is what's been going wrong in her previous relationships.

The problem is, rather than concluding from this that it's these particular men's problem, and that Harper bascially needs to find men who are more secure and self-confident, the characters seem to assume that this is just what men in general are like. There's this idea floating around for much of the book that well, then, Harper might have to simply act a bit dumber and put herself down if she wants to get a guy. And she keeps on this vein against all the evidence to the contrary, because there actually are a couple of guys that she knows that seem to be very clearly suggesting that this is not so at all.

Still, if you're able to give Harper a pass for being a bit oblivious in this respect (as I mostly could), there is much to enjoy here. Harper is a lovely character. I enjoyed her sense of humour and her very real passion for her work. There are also some very funny scenes, when she's going out on all these dates in her dumb blonde disguise. I suppose the very concept of this is a bit offensive, but it's done in such a way that I didn't find it so at all. I also liked Harper's relationship with her friends. These are not perfect, featureless characters, just there to give her support, but are real people, with their own faults and with plenty of drama in their own lives.

A word of warning for other romance readers, though: while there is romance, and there is a happy ending for Harper, there isn't a traditional HEA here. I was ok with this, even felt that this was the right ending for Harper, but other readers might be more bothered.



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