Friday, August 14, 2015

The Perfect Bargain

The Perfect BargainThe Perfect Bargain by Julia London
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sloane Chatfield wasn't quite abandoned at the alter, but she did already have her wedding dress and reservations booked when her louse of a fiance decided to break up with her. Her friends' plan to set her up with someone new has morphed into social torture, so Sloane tells them she's going to go to Scotland and find her own real-life Jamie Fraser (from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander). When they announce they're going to join her, she figures she can fly in early, pretend to fall in love and have a whirlwind romance, then break up with the fictional boyfriend to get them off her back for a while.

Her brilliant strategy collapses when they decide to show up a couple of weeks early, and Sloane panics. The only suitable candidate in the tiny Scottish town is the local pub owner, who's gorgeous, single, and can't stand her. Fear is a strong motivator, however, and she awkwardly propositions Galen, offering to pay him a considerable amount of money to pretend to be her boyfriend. He's completely insulted and appalled, naturally, and refuses. However, he's also going broke and eventually agrees to play along, negotiating half in jest that she'll pay extra for kisses and sex.

I stayed up WAY past my bedtime because I couldn't stop reading until I'd finished, so I was glad it's a relatively short novel. The funny thing is, although I really liked it and couldn't put it down, upon further reflection, I really didn't like Sloane's friends and couldn't understand what she ever saw in the former fiance. However, I thought that the relationship between Sloane and Galen was pretty well-written, and although each started out inflexible and obnoxious, they grew over the course of the story to the point where I felt like they might have a chance of building a life together.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways. Some sex scenes and swearing.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the free ebook copy in exchange for my honest review!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Just Like Magic

Just Like MagicJust Like Magic by Elizabeth Townsend
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this retelling of the Cinderella story, particularly the twist that had the stepmother not being evil but rather just weak and lazy--she didn't intend for Ella to become a servant so much as she just wasn't strong enough or paying enough attention to prevent her older daughter, Lucy, from manipulating the situation.

I also really enjoyed Ella's character arc as she transitioned from being nearly as big a snob--albeit a less imperious one--as her stepsisters to becoming a more humble, useful, and self-aware young lady. Cinderella is often portrayed as a saint whose spirit has pretty well been broken, but this version of Ella had flaws, was fairly stubborn and strong-willed, and seemed more realistic.

My only real complaint about the book is that in the end, Ella agrees to marry the prince. (Does that count as a spoiler if we all know the basic story already?) I think it would have been a better ending if she'd agreed to consider it but had insisted on taking more time to get to know each other. I know that's not "a fairytale ending," but it would have worked much better with the story arc and the trajectory of Ella's character development--an hour's conversation with a stranger does not a solid foundation for a marriage make. A good start to a relationship, yes, but jumping straight into marriage? No.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story secondary. No sex, violence, or bad language. Not quite fantasy, but I'm not precisely sure when or where it's set.

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