Tag Archives: Julie Garwood

Hotshot by Julie Garwood Continues Her Reputation for Solid Suspense

6 Aug

Hotshot (Buchanan-Renard #11) by Julie Garwood (Dutton, August 6, 2013)

I was a little leary about tackling Julie Garwood’s latest addition to her long-running Buchanan-Renard series, Hotshot. After all, I was not a fan of the last book in the series, Sweet Talk.

I did have a few criticisms similar to my concerns surrounding Sweet Talk. Rather than rich description, the narrative does sometimes lean to telling rather than showing. Garwood is excellent at creating a sincerely complex suspense plot with plenty of players, but it’s with her main characters that she needs to spend more time.

The book opens with a long prologue detailing how when the Lockhart family moves in next door to the MacBains, teenage Finn sees little five year old Peyton fall into the pool and almost drown. Luckily, the newly minted lifeguard rushes over and manages to save her. A bond is formed, one that continues long after Finn goes to college, the Olympics, law school and then later working for the FBI. Peyton always sends him a note on her birthday, thanking him for saving her all those years ago, and while he sometimes answers her and sometimes doesn’t she always thinks fondly of her “Hotshot” which she named him after all his medal wins in the Olympic games.

But she’s living her own life. Her parents are unhappy that she discarded her humanities degree to go to a presitigious French culinary school and pursued a chef career. Trying to find an opportunity back in the states is difficult, but she manages to astonishingly land a job at the premier food magazine as an assistant where she will train for a year and then become a reviewer. She packs herself up and moves to the middle of nowhere Minnesota in the middle of January to turn a new page of her life.

When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and Peyton discovers (over the course of the first fifth of the book) that the company’s CEO has recently lost his wife of many years, leaving the day to day in the hands of his grasping daughter and disgusting son-in-law. Peyton works for the son-in-law who makes it instantly clear that a big part of her job will be pleasing him in the bedroom. He doesn’t seem to take no for an answer and, with the support of a few friends, Peyton gets incriminating evidence of his sexual harassment and threats on her cell phone and then heads back to Texas as fast as she can. Pursued on the highway, she barely manages to get away, later discovering that her car actually has bullet holes in it from her boss’ henchman.

yokusuka-89827_640Home for his Navy brother’s wedding, Finn MacBain doesn’t recognize the amazing dark haired beauty approaching him with a smile in front of the church. He’s blown away to discover it’s little Peyton all grown up and the kiss they later share confirms that she’s got his vaunted control in the palm of her hand. Recognizing the bullet holes in her car, he drags her story out of her, putting her in contact with a lawyer friend who can help. Even though he knows he should stay away, they still fall into bed together for a cataclysmic night of sex and Finn is slightly horrified to discover (after the fact) that Peyton was a virgin.

She’s okay with knowing that nothing more can be between them, especially since she’s embarking on her own adventure. Her two sisters and Peyton have been offered the opportunity of a lifetime by their Uncle Len. He wants them to take over one of his resort properties in Florida and make it into a money-making prospect; if they succeed, they’ll inherit the multi-million dollar Bishop’s Cove and be set for life. With her older sister’s interior design prowess and Peyton’s culinary background it could work, and it’s a good excuse to move forward.

The FBI, bringing you taciturn and emotionally remote heroes.

The FBI, bringing you taciturn and emotionally remote heroes.

But Finn doesn’t seem to go away permanently. He shows up in Florida when the case against her boss further develops, offering life-rescuing help at every turn, and naturally they sleep together some more. While Finn is enormously helpful with protecting her and figuring out the next move against her boss who has her in his sights, he (eventually) makes clear when he leaves he has no intention of seeing her ever again. Ouch. That’s kind of dick move, if you want my opinion, particularly since he’s sleeping with her for days before he says anything. WTF?

Even after Finn leaves, the suspense plot keeps moving and it’s only after a major attack on Peyton that the anvil falls on Finn’s head and he realizes that he loves her (not that we are privy to that internal decision, just his panicked reaction to the notice she’s in the hospital). The suspense plot has a tidy wrap up with all the baddies discovered and a happily ever after mapped out for our hero and heroine.

Finn is just as non-communicative as the hero in Sweet Talk (is it an FBI requirement maybe? To be a non-chatty semi-dickhead?) and is completely resistant to any future with Peyton, although he doesn’t mind sleeping with her and leaving her in the dark. While Peyton does a good job rallying when she realizes that Finn has no plans to make a future with her (and that he’s totally resistant to marriage and kids, an attitude he never and explains and we are meant to assume it’s because of his crappy ex and the violence in his life), she acknowledges some sadness but just keeps herself busy.

She’s virgin in her mid-twenties (dude, she’s gorgeous and went away to college and FRANCE – how is this possible?) but I like how direct and no-nonsense she was. She did not strike me as a chef at all; people who work with food have a distinct approach to it and use passionate, descriptive terms when talking about it and that wasn’t present in the text. There was also something…old-fashioned about her, and I don’t mean that as a complement. Several references to her mother’s outdated views had me realizing that Peyton herself seemed old to me; I couldn’t imagine a young woman putting up with Finn’s crap and not letting him have it. At no time was I really convinced she was actually in love with him, nor he with her, because I didn’t see it. Were they likeable? Sure. Would I want to be friends with either of them? Not so much.

I’m beginning to wonder if my issues might stem from a lack of editing time dedicated to the manuscript. I found a few usage errors and I could easily see the publishing house giving valuable editing resources to burgeoning authors, knowing Julie Garwood will sell on her own merits and is a pro in terms of the years she’s been publishing. It’s just hard rereading Garwood’s excellent characterizations in her older historical romance novels and not seeing that level of attention in her recent suspense work.

I’m not sure I’d pay the new book price of $9.99 for the Kindle edition or in the $16 range for the hardcover, but I would absolutely recommend checking it out from your local library if you enjoy Garwood’s other suspense novels.

Sunday Reflections: Upcoming Books, News, and Deals You Might Have Missed This Week

7 Jul

I just came back from the ALA (American Library Association) Conference in Chicago were I attended a lot of informative sessions. While most of them where geared toward my work in education, there were more than a few things that I think will help me be a better blogger for my readers. A great suggestion was having the occasional “round up” post to inform people about great links, upcoming books, and excellent blog posts you might have missed, so here are a few recent items I’ve been enjoying.

Upcoming Books

The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures #6) by Jennifer Ashley (Berkley, October 1, 2013)

Jennifer Ashley mentioned on her blog that the ARCs will be out very soon for The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie, the next book in the Highland Pleasures series (which I think is the best Victorian romance series on the market). It’s due out on October 1st, so hopefully NetGalley might have an ARC available soon! If you’ve enjoyed this series, you might also need a reminder that the next interim novella, The Untamed Mackenzie, will be out even sooner, and will finally give Inspector Lloyd Fellows, the illegitimate Mackenzie who is a reluctant member of the family at best, a happily ever after. That one is e-book only, so sorry print lovers!

On Ashley’s paranormal romance front, note that Amazon has made available Wild Wolf for preorder (even though it’s not coming out until January 2014), the next full novel in the fabulous Shifters Unbound series. Yes, I’ve preordered it and will be waiting up at midnight for it to land in my Kindle! Coming out even sooner is the next novella for that series, Feral Heat, which will be Eric’s son, Jace’s story (thank goodness!) out in November of this year.

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews (Ace, July 30, 2013)

In anticipation (and God knows I’m anticipating it!) of Ilona Andrews’ next book in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Rises, due out on July 30th, Bookpushers is sponsoring a Readalong for the series. The husband and wife team of Ilona Andrews have already vetted much criticism for the cover, since the model depicting the twenty-something Kate looks waaaayyyy too young and not nearly enough of a hard ass for this alpha female. I realize I still need to do a review of this series which is tops in the urban fantasy genre for me.

In exciting news, Nalini Singh had two great announcements. The first is that she just agreed to do a Psy-Changeling series novella in 2014 which will be part of an anthology and that the hero of her next full-length novel (the 13th in the series) will be …. VASIC! This cold Arrow won my heart with his questioning of silence long ago, so I’m elated to see that he’ll be partnered with a heroine we’ve never met before. This book will be closely tied to her latest book, Heart of Obsidian which won all five stars from me, making it the fourth book (out of over the 200 books I’ve read so far this year) to be declared totally perfect.

If you’re an urban fantasy fan chances are you’ve been devouring the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones as much as I have (Reyes *fans face* is one of the hottest heroes in a loooooonnnnggg time). Keep in mind that the hardcover and Kindle editions of the next book, Fifth Grave Past the Light, will be released on July 9th (two days from today!!!) so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a copy of this book hot off the presses.

Media News

Outlander (Outlander series #1) by Diana Gabaldon (Dell, 1992)

Any fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series? If so, you’ll be either pleased or dismayed to read that the book series has been made into a TV series which will debut on the Starz network come this October. According to the excellent blog, The Good, The Bad and The Unread, Scottish actor Sam Heughan has been cast to play Jamie Fraser. Worried? Don’t be. “Sam is 33, stands 6’3″ tall, and his Scottish brogue portraying one of the most-loved characters in literature will definitely make the ladies swoon. More importantly, of course, is that he’s perfect for this part and will make Jamie come to life on the screen.”

Reader Fun

In case you were wondering, this is what a RITA award looks like. Pretty cool, yes?

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (an AMAZING blog) is still doing their RITA Reader Challenge. If you love romance (any subgenre), I’d encourage you to take a look at this challenge, which lists all the winners in various categories from the Romance Writers Association. This a great way of making sure you get a taste of all the great books published in the last year. What if you missed one? You may not agree that they deserved an award, but it’s fascinating to note what the judges (published authors as well as agents and publishers) think constitute the best of the best.

Entranced Publishing, a wonderful new ebook press, is having a Christmas in July giveaway where they are giving away one copy of every book they’ve ever published. For a new publishing house, there has been a ton of great buzz about their editing and their payment model, with the result being some stand out books in a short period of time. Fill out their entry form before July 31st for your chance to win!

Australian romance readers! You lucky down-under dogs, the Australian Romance Readers Association is having a book signing event in Freemantle on August 17th that has over 56 authors attending, including powerhouses like Julia Quinn, Nina Bruhns, and Carole Mortimer. Wow! And the signings will be held at three public libraries (further proving the connection between public librarians and supporting romance). Have I mentioned how much I’d like to visit Australia one day?

Authors After Dark are having a giveaway for tickets to their conference (in Savannah this year!) August 14th to the 18th. Anyone who enjoys paranormal romance or urban fantasy should consider following this blog and learning more about the organization. The annual conference is quite small and you get tons of author time, which would be amazing for any fan! Enter by July 11th for your chance to win.

The Romance Publishing Industry

Is historical romance on the decline? Jeez, I hope not! But with the numbers dipping slightly, The Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills discuss if the glut of Regencies on the market are stifling the genre. I agree with them that this is probably just the usual ebb and flow experienced by so many categories of romance, but it’s worth pondering.

In an unbelievable merger, Penguin and Random House have now joined forces, making them a force to be reckoned with. In romance terms, Random House publishes authors like Danielle Steel, Sophie Kinsella, and E. L. James (yes, that E. L. James!) under their imprints of Delacorte, Dial and Vintage, and Penguin controls the romance powerhouse Berkley (Jennifer Ashley, Jaci Burton, Nalini Singh) and Jove (Nora Roberts), so I feel that Random House really boosted their piece of the romance pie with this merger. For your consideration, does anyone besides me think the company’s new name should be Random Penguin? Imagine the logo!

Great Deals

It Had to Be You (Lucky Harbor #7) by Jill Shalvis (Grand Central, May 28, 2013)

If you didn’t have a chance to enjoy the most recent Jill Shalvis Lucky Harbor novel, It Had to Be You, fear not. Ebook readers can take advantage of the $2.99 deal going on right now on Amazon (and I think other retailers).

Julie Garwood’s classic, Rebellious Desire, is on sale in Kindle format for only $.99 for those of us wanting a walk down memory lane. Not to make you feel old, but this puppy was originally published in 1991 – 23 years ago! I’m not sure how long it will be at this price, so if you’re looking to bolster your classic romance backlist, this is a nice addition.

One Perfect Night by Bella Andre is a stand alone short story/novella originally published in 2011 and just reissued with a new cover. Right now, it’s available for free. I haven’t read it but, hey, it’s Bella Andre, so it’s bound to be great! For those of you who haven’t read her Sullivan series, get the lead out. This great family is available in ebook form and now in print via Harlequin and is tops in the contemporary romance category.

Forgotten Sins (Sins Brothers #1) by Rebecca Zanetti (Forever, July 2, 2013)

Looking pretty intriguing on the paranormal romance front is Forgotten Sins, the first book in the Sins Brothers series by Rebecca Zazetti which just came out on July 2nd. A husband returns to his wife after turning up in the hospital with amnesia, yet he abandoned the love of his life two years ago. Does his amped hearing and powerful strength have something to do with his missing years? This new series is billed on Goodreads as “Romantic Suspense with a slight paranormal twist about a band of brothers who carry unnatural powers genetically engineered into them by a black ops military unit.” At only $2.99 for 384 pages, I’m excited to try it!

Julie Garwood’s Latest Romantic Suspense Novel, Sweet Talk, Misses the Mark

25 Jul

Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood (Dutton, August 7, 2012)

I need to say right off the bat that I love and respect Julie Garwood. She was one of the historical romance authors I cut my teeth on when being introduced to the genre and Honor’s Splendor reigned for over decade as one of the best historical romances I ever read (until I met Stephanie Laurens’ books, that is). I still recommend her to library patrons looking for quality historical romance.

But I hadn’t really read any of her romantic suspense fiction, not even her acclaimed Buchanan series (and I plan to tackle them this summer). I wouldn’t want to judge her ability to write in this genre based on her latest book, Sweet Talk which I was able to get in Advanced Reader Copy form via NetGalley.

This book begins with a very long, but interesting prologue about four young girls living on a special hospital ward because they all suffer from the same rare disease, which I suppose we are meant to think is cancer because chemotherapy is one of the treatments. Their young personalities are well-drawn and there is a poignant scene of them pranking the staff by hiding in a storage closet and mentioning their dreams, which they naturally doubt they’ll be able to fulfill. A decent amount of copy is spent on Olivia since the girls observe that hers is the only family who doesn’t come to visit her. With the exception of her Aunt Emma, Olivia’s wealthy family acts like she doesn’t exist.

Flash forward to the present and beautiful Olivia is an IRS agent worried about her job since she knows layoffs are coming down the pike. She happens to also be a lawyer who does child advocacy work in her spare time on the weekends, but right now she is busy interviewing for other jobs related to finance in case she finds herself unemployed.

She has an unexpected interview with a powerful man at a five-star D.C. restaurant, but in the middle of the realization that this pompous sleazeball is someone for whom she would never work, the guy freaks out, rips her dress down the front and accuses her of wearing a wire, all while threatening to kill her. His bodyguard goes crazy, hitting Olivia and pulling a gun on her, but before she can get away, an agent tackles him, saving her.

Meet Grayson Kincaid, an FBI agent who seems to be able to take on whatever case he wants, and who coincidentally comes from just as privileged a background as Olivia in terms of wealth and influence. He ends up paying for lunch since she clearly missed it. (Did she have safety pins in her purse? Was her dress not ripped down the front while they are eating?) He calls her up to ask more questions, meets her at her nice apartment and escorts her to a swanky event under the pretense of speaking with her about the case, acknowledges the attraction between them by giving her an amazing goodnight kiss and then…doesn’t talk to her for two months.

What? Okay, we find out that Grayson has a busy life since he now has full custody of his young nephew, Henry, and that he clearly has never heard of texting. When Olivia gets shot three times in front of her Georgetown apartment, he goes FBI crazy, guards her OR door, takes over the case (how does it fall in his jurisdiction? I’m confused), and tries to find out what’s going on.

Olivia is baffled but glad he’s back in her life and he finds out in his investigation what a great person she is (naturally), about her medical history, her great work for kids, etc. He also finds out from Olivia that her goal in life is to bring down her father and place him in jail because he’s running a Ponzi scheme that will ruin thousands of people’s lives and she’s not willing to let him get away with it.

In addition to this point driving the plot, there is also the suspicion of who else might be trying to kill Olivia. Dissatisfied relatives of the children she protects or the gun-dealing bodyguard who tried to hurt her in the restaurant? A subplot of one of her childhood hospital friends and her supposedly recovered addict brother has a conclusion any reader can spot literally in the first paragraph it’s introduced.

I guess my major issue was related to writing. I know what an excellent writer Julie Garwood is and this book felt…rushed, I guess, as if it were the third draft of a book she’d fleshed out for plot and structure but needed to go back and hone the writing and characters. Olivia and Grayson are very two-dimensional, particularly Grayson, who frustrated the hell out of me. After sleeping with her, he disappears again for two weeks in an effort to keep his distance and not compromise the investigation, all without telling her anything. Dude, you have a smart phone. Call or text her with your reservations. Olivia just takes him back with her “live in the now because chances are my illness will come back tomorrow” philosophy. *wrapping fingers around her neck here*

The prose focuses on telling us what characters are thinking rather than showing us, which made much of the reading rather dull. “She noticed he was muscular” should totally have been a description of how his suit jacket rippled over his shoulders and her body’s response to it. It’s writing 101, so what’s going on? Julie is better than this! I feel almost like the intern was in charge of this book.

But I kept turning the pages waiting for one major point to happen, namely for Olivia to actually contribute to helping convict her father…but it doesn’t happen. Yes, she goes and talks to people, but is she not a competent IRS officer? She can’t discover anything? Grayson almost single-handedly takes care of everything. No wonder he can’t find time to text.

The other ambiguity which affected my reading was the question, still up in the air for me, about this book – is it part of a series, or not? We have all four girls/women introduced with their background and interesting careers with attraction even indicated between Olivia’s friend Collins and Grayson’s FBI partner. But there is no indication on Garwood’s website or Goodreads that Sweet Talk is meant to be the first book in a series. So I have to read all that prologue and all I get is Olivia’s story?

Oh, and Garwood’s publisher is clearly smoking crack if they think that readers are going to be happy to pay $12.99 for the Kindle edition of this book. Seriously? I don’t care that it’s 368 pages (and by the way, that could have been a lot less if one of the tiresome subplots were cut), in a world of $7.99 ebooks as the norm, this price is highway robbery.

I think what galls me the most is this book held the potential, particularly in the hands of such an excellent writer, to be an engaging romantic suspense novel, but it misses the mark. I’m going to reread some of my favorite Julie Garwood novels of the past and try and expunge this one from my memory.

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