Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Reviews: Series Books and Readalikes

Consider this a corollary to my general series on 50 Shades readalikes, as most of these books were read in the course of that project. Some spoilers below.

Entwined with You, Sylvia Day (2013)

This book is the third (but NOT LAST) in the Crossfire series. As I got farther and farther in to the book, I kept thinking about how many loose ends Day seemed to be leaving and wondering how on earth she was going to bring them all to a satisfactory conclusion within the bounds of the supposed trilogy. It turns out she's not even going to try--the series will be a quintet. And I am fine with that! I enjoyed the book quite a lot, and still believe that Crossfire should be the first stop for most readers who are looking for 50 Shades readalikes.

Grade: A-

Entwined with You brings Eva and Gideon closer together, even as it increases the number of strains on their relationship, including but not limited to: exes, nosy detectives, tabloids, suggestive music videos, parental affairs of the heart, and of course FEELINGS.

Beautiful Stranger, Christina Lauren (2013)

This is a follow-up to Beautiful Bastard and has appearances by Bennett and Chloe, but the focus is on Chloe's friend Sara Dillon and the notorious British womanizer Max Stella, with whom she enjoys an heated (but anonymous) encounter at a club. Max is left with a sexy video of Sara dancing to obsess over, and only pure luck enables him to find out who she is and pursue her. Sara has recently left a cheating ex to start a new life in New York City, and forming an attachment to anyone, no matter how charming and sexy, is not on her agenda. For his part, Max is extremely gratified--at the beginning--to have found a woman who wants nothing more than to meet with him once a week and have sex in near-public locations. They also make a habit of recording their encounters with a camera. Although their original agreement might have been no-strings-attached, both Sara (determined not to be vulnerable) and Max (feeling like he wants to pursue a real relationship for the first time in a long time) know that there's something more between them than lust. But when some of their revealing photos are stolen and released to the tabloids, Sara must decide whether she can truly trust Max's intentions.

Grade: A-

This series totally has my number. Give me more! It's not a true readalike for 50 Shades, but it is a lot of fun and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

The Red Diary, Toni Blake (2004)

As you can probably tell by the cover redesign, this book was reissued in January 2013 with an eye toward the Fifty Shades of Grey market. Unfortunately, although it's a fine romance with more strongly drawn minor characters than usual, it's not a great readalike for the EL James series. The Red Diary is the story of Lauren Ash, a wealthy accountant who will someday inherit the lucrative family business. Nick is a working-class painter whose father once owned half of the Ash company. Nick blames Lauren and her family for all the pain and heartache his family has gone through since his mother's death, including his father's alcoholism and its tragic consequences. When he stumbles upon a journal of her private sexual fantasies during a job painting her house, Nick thinks he's found the perfect way to take revenge. But Nick finds that being intimate with Lauren leads to pesky FEELINGS about Lauren as well as dimming his desire for revenge. Soon he has to decide whether to come clean about violating her privacy and risk their fledgling relationship. For her part, Lauren believes that she and Nick have a spiritual connection that allows him to bring her fantasies to life, and she tries to draw him out about his life and experiences. Can she recover when it turns out that he's not really the man she thought she fell in love with?

Grade: B-

There's some wealth and there's a lot of sex, a little of it kinky, and the hero does have a tragic past, but to me it just didn't feel like a 50 Shades readalike. Perhaps because the social positions are reversed and she is the wealthy and powerful one?

The Revenge of Lord Eberlin, Julia London

This is the follow up to The Year of Living Scandalously, which so aggravated me by not resolving the mystery that it set out in its first pages. Guess what? The Revenge of Lord Eberlin doesn't solve the mystery of the missing Ashwood jewels either, although it does advance the solution somewhat. Lord Eberlin, AKA Tobin Scott, returns to Hadley Green to get revenge on Lily Boudine, who is now the Countess at Ashwood. Tobin believes that Lily, who was eight at the time of the jewels' theft, is responsible for his innocent father's death--and he's determined to take the entire Ashwood estate down with the wealth and power that he's gained as a weapons dealer. As in The Red Diary, Tobin and Lily fall in love and she must decide whether it's worth being shunned by Society to be with a man who purchased a Danish title (*gasp*). London portrays Lily as primly self-conscious of Society at some times, and blithely uncaring at others, such as when she--an unmarried woman of quality--goes to dine with Tobin alone at his house. Inconsistencies like these, in addition to all the mentions of the "mud" inside Tobin's soul, AND THE FACT THAT THE DAMN MYSTERY IS STILL UNSOLVED, left me unsatisfied.

Grade: C+

I didn't realize before I put them next to each other that The Red Diary and The Revenge of Lord Eberlin were so similar, despite their settings. WEIRD. So let's call them readalikes.

It remains to be seen whether I'll be reading the next book. Someone please read it first and tell me if the missing jewels mystery is finally solved.

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