Geek Girls Don’t Date Dukes – #BookReview

They Date Valets instead

Happy leap day everyone! For most of us it’s an extra day to make the most out of life. For me it’s an extra day to slog through a silly romance book. To each their own I suppose. Today I am going to review Geek Girls Don’t Date Dukes.

The last time I read a romance book that had a duke in it, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it was halfway decent. I won’t say this book was as good as that one. I had some thoughts as I read through it which I will share below.

If you are just looking for a mindless, fun, romance book, this one is not bad at all. If you are like me and sometimes have difficulty entirely suspending your disbelief, you may not want to pick this one up. I am going to give a quick plot summary so if you don’t want spoilers, because you just love to read books that involve time warping mirrors, emptying chamber pots while wondering about latex gloves and mention Star Wars more than once, you have been forewarned.

So here’s the deal. This book is about Leah. She has a huuuuuge jerk of an ex-boyfriend. This dude (Kevin) not only breaks up with her for a different woman, he literally asks her to the wedding to be a bridesmaid for this other woman, but only so that Leah can be in the picture and then photoshopped out for the woman’s actual friend. Dude, come on Kevin, you are making all men of this time period look bad. So bad that apparently there needs to be a magical mirror where woman can go to Regency period England just to land a man.

Leah who apparently has a few interests including going to Renaissance fairs, playing The Legend of Zelda and weeping over seeing Mr, Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett get married, has this friend who went back in time and found an Earl to marry. Leah gets the chance to house-sit for this friend and seems to think it’s a good idea to dive through this mirror to find a Duke to marry because she totally misinterprets what the woman who does the mirror magic says to her. The mirror magic woman, Mrs. Knightsbridge, tells Leah she will find her true love at the Duke of Granville’s manor. Yeah, so we all know that means not the Duke right? I mean we’ve read enough books that we know that right? Yeah, it wasn’t the Duke because it turns out he is a lot older than her. But that doesn’t stop him from being the third wheel in the book.

Turns out that when Lean crawls through that mirror she basically crash lands into the arms of Avery, the Duke’s valet. He is the first person she meets in this time period but it’s clear that they are destined to be together because he is hunky, and kind of rude to her, although I would say if you saw someone suddenly crawl out of a mirror, politeness might not be at the top of your mind either. We also know this is the right man for her because he sticks up for her and does chores for her when she should do them. Leah through some serious good luck is able to fake that she is a maid for the Duke in the hopes of catching him for a husband. This ruse just leads to Avery falling for her and vice versa. For her part, Leah absolutely hates doing the normal stuff that maids would have done back then and can’t wait to get out of doing it.

After a couple of days of this, Leah goes to this party and meets a woman who knows about the magic mirror and happens to want to help her. I got the impression she is maybe from one of the earlier books in this series but I haven’t read those so I don’t know for sure. Anyway, Lady Chesterfield takes Leah in so doing chores is no longer required. Never content to be happy though, Leah gets really tired of doing exactly what she hoped to do, going to balls in Regency period dresses and trying to hook up with the Duke.

Avery is not only a Valet but also a boxer and he’s on the hook for some money to some bad dudes. This results in a side plot where Leah gets kidnapped and Avery has to beat a few dudes up, etc. Then the magic mirror breaks and Leah can’t go back. But she wants to go back because her Pawpaw, is in the hospital. She wants to take Avery with her but a. he’s apparently too big to fit in the repaired mirror and b. they have had a few misunderstandings that a five minute conversation might have sorted out but they never have time for that because, you know, all the kissing going on.

As you might imagine, everything works out in the end and all is well that ends well. I noticed some things in this book I would like to bring attention to though.

  • Leah seems smart and she is all into Ren fairs and whatnot, so why was she so surprised at the lack of sanitation in the Regency period? She wonders both if they had bleach and latex gloves. Yeah, cause in all those Colin Firth movies, the staff is always putting Clorox everywhere right?
  • Also, I get that you can like more than one time period but she seems to think she is kind of prepared for this because she goes to Ren fairs. That is a huuuuge time difference! But whatever.
  • At one point in the book Avery touches Leah’s arm and she gets… let’s say excited. And she thinks in her mind that, “her arm graduated to an erogenous zone.” I wondered if there was a degree involved in that. I mean does your arm at least get an online certificate that it can hang on the wall or what?
  • Let me get this straight, Leah has read all the Jane Austen, she has seen the movies, she knows her friend found someone when she was least expecting it but she never thinks that the guy who might be right for her is not the dude who is old enough to be her father? Seriously?
  • At one point Leah thinks to herself that the staff probably realized she played more Legend of Zelda than she had scrubbed floors. Man, that game is a lot older than I realized.
  • Leah also totally freaks out because she has to move a chamber pot with no gloves. While I understand the concern for sanitation, what did she freaking think she would be doing as a maid in a huge house? Didn’t she see like any BBC period mini-series ever? Oh wait, she watched Pride and Prejudice so uh….
  • She totally assumes Avery is just going to go to the future with her. I think there might be a bit of shock and quite the learning curve there for him. Just wait til he sees indoor plumbing! Although, I guess if she did get him to this time period, anyone will stay once you feed them a single Oreo so, maybe that was her plan?
  • Kudos to this book for mentioning Star Wars in appropriate context more than once. Not sure that is enough to qualify a person as being a geek but at least it’s in there.
  • Okay so, let’s say you are planning to go back in time and maybe find the love of your life. Lucky for you, you live in the 21st century and you can bring some stuff with you. Leah brings aspirin (good call), a picture of her grandfather (can’t blame her there), but she does not bring any form of birth control. Uh, I mean I know he is the right guy for you and all but maybe get to know him before you might have a kid with him? Just saying.
  • Okay last thing for me about this book is this one question about this whole thing. What about the whole time travel thing? I mean, could she cause a Marty McFly situation? She’s a geek so she has probably seen that right? What about the butterfly effect and all that? But she wastes exactly zero time thinking about that. Like not even once does she think about how her being in that time period might have brought back some sort of plague and then when she goes back home it’s nothing but zombies and she needs The Doctor to show up in the TARDIS to fix everything because of one magic mirror (that is probably actually alien in origin). But why does no one in this book think about that? Best I can tell is because the mirror is full of “time magic and love magic”. I love science.

I’ll be honest, I have read a lot worse romance books than this one and I didn’t hate it as much as I expected but it’s also no Outlander. If you have a few hours to kill and want a bit of time travel, a bit of steaminess and a whole lot of wondering why people don’t wait five minutes to talk to each other to sort everything out, this book is for you.

Leapingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Want to find out what happens for yourself? Get the book here: Geek Girls Don’t Date Dukes

Mulberry Moon – #BookReview

Snickers Satisfies But this Book doesn’t

It’s late at night and you want to curl up with a good book that will give you lots of warm and fuzzy feelings about love. Here’s my advice for that situation. Under no circumstances should you read Mulberry Moon by Catherine Anderson. Re-read Outlander instead. Trust me.

The story centers around Sissy who is a restaurant owner and a woman who keeps walls around her heart and the guy who is destined to be with her, the stetson wearing, manly hunk of manly goodness, Ben. Ben is in love with Sissy, but she is tough to win. They go back and forth for ridiculous reasons about not being together and of course in the end they wind up married like we all knew they would.

Overall, I would mostly call this book just dull. It has a couple moments that could have been cute and funny but just really read flat for me. However, I noticed some things in this book that made me, uh, wonder some things. The premise is fine and I think that this book is supposed to be in a series where like everyone in Mystic Creek (the setting) is supposed to come under some kind of love spell eventually but I am just going to talk about what popped out to me.

  • “With the taste of tacos lingering in his mouth, Ben Sterling opened the door to leave Taco Joe’s on West Main and hollered good-bye to Joe Paisley, the owner.” That is the first sentence of the book. A.) nothing says romance like talking about the taste of tacos in someone’s mouth. B.) I vote this for worst opening line of a book, ever. And I have read some bad openings my friends.
  • A good portion of the book has Ben complaining to himself about the women he dated in the past who couldn’t get along with the animals at his ranch. Example: “He needed a down-to-earth person who didn’t run in terror from his free-range chickens or pick dog hair off her fancy clothes. ” I have a few thoughts here. First, where is this guy finding these women? He lives in this tiny Colorado town where no one visits. Is it just somehow full of super rich women? Second, even if that is the case, why would he be interested in them? I think he’s a pretty casual guy so why would he be like, I gotta date me a woman who wears fancy clothes!! And finally, what exactly is a woman with fancy clothes supposed to do with dog hair on them? I think taking the dog hair off might just be them trying to you know, not ruin their clothes.
  • When Ben and Sissy, well not first meet because they seem to have met before the book starts, but when they have their first meaningful interaction, Sissy acts very standoffish even though Ben is just trying to help her round up loose chickens. Ben thinks to himself how women always respond better to jerks and then thinks, “I need lessons in how to be a convincing jerk” Mmmmm…. nope, you don’t. Assuming a woman is not a nice person just because she doesn’t want to talk to you while she is trying to gather all her chickens on the street makes you a jerk already bro.
  • Another window into Ben’s mind: “If a woman could turn him on now, when his nuts still ached, he guessed he really was going to be fine.” Let me check, do my nuts ache? Yes. Can a woman turn me on while my nuts ache? Yes. Okay, life must be good then! You got this life thing figured out Ben!
  • Sissy has her own problems. She can’t get close to a man because she had a terrible father who abused her (which is a perfectly valid reason to have emotional issues). But she has a soft spot for animals so she ends up connecting to Ben through his dog. She is supposed to, you know, not like Ben at first because that is how romance books work but she looks at Ben’s dog and thinks this. “It wasn’t Finn’s fault that his master embodied everything that she most distrusted in a man. Ben Sterling was suave, charming, and successful.” Yeah, suave, charming and successful. No one could possibly like those qualities…
  • This is what Sissy really thinks of Ben: “Sans Stetson his bangs and sideburns gleamed like a horseshoe-shaped halo around his head.” Er… what? I don’t even know how to picture that in my head. I guess he is angelic but like in a hairy way?
  • There is a little side plot at the beginning about what Sissy thinks is a ghost haunting her but turns out to be a literal pack rat. Why does she think she has a ghost? Well, she hears noises at night. Okay sure. But more importantly, in Sissy’s candy bowl she has fun sized Snickers bars but they keep disappearing. She knows that the candy is disappearing because she is very strict with herself and just eats two per night. She eats the candy because… she isn’t having sex with anyone at the time. Err… seriously. But this whole thing leads to dialogue like this, “I just can’t wrap my mind around the idea of a nonphysical being that steals Snickers bars.” Me neither, Ben. Me neither.
  • More of Ben’s head, “But I’m tired of hooking up with fussy women who reject my world and want me to wear chinos with polished loafers.” Okay, Ben, here’s a thought – Don’t date those kinds of women then!
  • Sissy finds herself attracted to Ben but doesn’t want to show it. This is what she does while working along side him fixing up a chicken coop. “She just made sure she didn’t look at him from his belt buckle up. Or from there down for that matter.” Uh, okay so you are going to just not look at a dude while you are working right along side him. Yeah… that makes sense…
  • More of the whole Snickers equals sex thing in Sissy’s head, “And looking at him did maker her want a Snickers bar.” So yeah, if a woman wants to eat a Snickers bar because she is looking at you, she’s waaaay into you. Take note!
  • There is this weird thing in romance books where characters seem to think that it would be romantic to go to jail and that they would get to do jail time with their romantic partner somehow. In part of the book Sissy and Ben decided to steal a kitten with no front paws from the vet office because it will be put down if they don’t. Sissy says to Ben, “I want you to know that there’s nobody on earth I’d rather do time with.” Seriously that might be the most romantic line in this whole book.
  • At one point Ben looks at Sissy who is just wearing a little bit of makeup and a somewhat nice sweater. Not like fancy clothes like he hated those other women wearing and he thinks how good she looks. But then his next thought is, “Ben wished he could dress her, starting with undies and bras from Victoria’s Secret, with her modeling everything for his appreciation.” Make up your freaking mind Ben. Do you want fancy clothed women or not?!
  • More of Ben’s romantic thoughts: “Why did the idea of a tie-down strap ruffle her feathers? He had one in the bed of his truck that would work.” In this part of the book Sissy had broken her leg and rather than just wait for it to heal, Ben thinks to freaking tie her leg down so she wouldn’t buck when they… well you know. I gotta say dude, you are not lacking in confidence there about your charms, skillful use of bondage equipment, and physical abilities.
  • Remember above when I quoted Ben wanting to put Sissy in Victoria’s Secret underwear for his pleasure? Here is what he tells her, “You don’t need sexy lingerie.” Seriously man, make up your mind!
  • Next time you want to get steamy with your romantic partner say this, “Watch another romantic movie, sweetheart, and remember during all the love scenes that I am going to outclass every Snickers bar you’ve ever eaten when I come back upstairs tonight.” Snickers – 0 Ben – Outclassed them all. No candy is safe.
  • Ben reassuring Sissy, “Your breasts are the perfect size for your build. And you do have some. Trust me, I notice things like that.” Very observant of you Ben.
  • Also Ben, “Maybe I should rent you some porn.” To each their own I guess?
  • Also Ben, “You’re so beautiful I couldn’t spit if you yelled, ‘Fire.'” I still haven’t figured out what this is supposed to mean.
  • Also Ben, “I need to know, before we take our relationship to that level, that you’ll be my forever lady.” Smooth Ben, smooth.
  • There is a really disturbing scene in this book where Sissy’s father tries to out and out rape her. This is not a particular criticism of this book or anything but I swear like eighty percent of romance books have a rape scene in them. I don’t know why this is the case. These scenes are always awful to read and I get the feeling sometimes that they are put there just to show that the guy who gets the girl is not like that. I just have to think there is a much better way to demonstrate that without placing in rape scenes that might get fetishized by certain sick individuals. Okay, stepping off of my soap box now.
  • Now I will remind you again that Sissy was almost raped by her own father in a very violent and brutal way. After that she is sort of shell shocked and doesn’t want to speak with Ben, or really anyone. This is Ben’s thought, “He loved her too much to take no for an answer.” WHAT?! That is the absolute most awful thing you could think in that moment dude. Ben, when you thought you should take jerk lessons earlier, you really were wrong. Get your money back because you are a jerk.
  • Sissy basically goes back to hiding her feelings from Ben but then he basically gives her an ultimatum of how she has to win him back. She is worried that mental illness runs in her family and that their kids will be less than perfect and that wouldn’t be fair to Ben. He offers that they could adopt and all kinds of other things that would make it okay for them to get married. You know what I didn’t see from Ben? Him asking if Sissy was okay after attempted rape. And now she has to ask him to marry her if she wants to keep the relationship. What an A-class jerk.
  • Here is Sissy’s proposal, “Ben Sterling, will you please become my husband? For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. For better or worse, whether or not we’re genetically flawed, crazier than loons, or predisposed to have any kind of cancer?” You know, I think Ben might have said no but then you threw in the cancer and I am pretty sure that sealed the deal.
  • Ben’s answer, “If I say yes, will you have unprotected sex with me tonight and risk getting pregnant?” Wow. That feels like a good place to stop.

Again, I cannot recommend not reading this book enough. I hope you enjoyed reading my review more than I enjoyed reading Mulberry Moon. Next week I will be reviewing another destined to become classic literature book – Doggie Day Care Murder. Why did the doggies murder the day care? I have no idea.

Satisfyingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Temptation – #BookReview

I have No Idea What is Happening in Texas

Hello out there to those of you above ground. It’s Friday the 13th today and that means bad luck. What was my bad luck today? Reading Temptation by Brenda Jackson.

I tend not to like romance books much and this one is a prime example of why not. From a barely there plot, to poorly developed characters, to really weird obsessions with mouths, this book was awful from start to finish. It was so bad that I was at times baffled and at times just straight up angry at how bad this could be.

Here’s the thing though, when I read something that I think is awful, I just obsess over it somehow. How did this get made? Why? Who thought publishing this was a good idea? But then it hit me, there is only one answer to this riddle for Temptation. I need to find out right from the horses mouths (yeah cause Texas and horses and… ah never mind). So, lucky for me, I have run into several of the characters in the book! I will be interviewing them below. I have no idea how they ended up in the fifth room of my dungeon but here they are. I wish I could say it was good to see people but well… maybe next time send someone with a ladder so I can get out of here?

Anyway, I am going to provide a quick summary of the (for lack of a better term) plot and then dive right into the interview.

Sheila Hopkins is an emergency room nurse in Royal, Texas. One day she is driving and sees a hunka hunka burning man meat in the car next to her on the way to work. She gets to work and surprise, surprise, surprise, Mr. man meat is there and meets her. This guy is Zeke Travers who is a private investigator. A baby was left abandoned and someone is trying to name Zeke’s best bud and client Brad as the father. It’s part of a blackmail scheme to get some money out of rich folks who are in charge at the Texas Cattlemen’s Club. Zeke and Sheila hit it off and Sheila, within minutes of meeting an abandoned baby is supposed to take care of it for two weeks while the custody of said baby is worked out. Sheila takes a shine to the kid and names her Sunnie, Zeke takes a shine to Sheila and they kiss a lot while ridiculously saying they should stay away from each other. Zeke has to keep an eye on Sheila cause what if she is some kinda psycho who just was handed a baby (never mind that it’s kind of psycho to hand over a baby to a stranger). Zeke and Sheila hook up, break up (but not really), hook up some more, have some fights, Zeke figures out the plot, Sheila has to give up the baby but it’s okay because now she can have babies with Zeke. Happy ending and holy crap there are a bunch more books in this series.

Let me give a warm Slick Dungeon welcome to my guests, Sheila Hopkins, Zeke Travers, Sunnie, and Bradford Price.

Slick: Hi Sheila, nice to meet you. So you were a nurse for the whole book but you never did any nursing other than taking a kid home. What are your thoughts about taking a baby home instead of you know, leaving it say, at the pediatric ward of your hospital?

Sheila: Neither me nor my kitchen would be able to handle all the heat Zeke and I would make.

Slick: uhmmm, that didn’t really answer the question. About the baby…

Sheila: Earlier in the day a man proposed to his his girlfriend in the E.R. It was very romantic.

Slick: Uh, ok. I mean have you been in an Emergency Room? It’s noisy, smells weird and occasionally people walk in with a severed finger in a mason jar full of ice. Is that actually romantic? Anyway, about this kid who you took care of…

Sheila: I named her Sunnie because she stopped crying and smiled at me. That makes me most qualified to be her mother.

Slick: I’m not sure that fits the definition of qualified but at least you are on topic this time. What made you so attracted to Zeke?

Sheila: Have you seen him? He has a mouth that is hot. Also he said to me, “Good. Because if I get arrested, Sheila, so do you. And it would be my request that we get put in the same jail cell.”

Slick: Okay, first off, I doubt you would get the request granted. Secondly, a jail cell? Is that supposed to be romantic? I kind of think your idea of romantic locations is a bit off here. Was it tough keeping Sunnie? You didn’t seem to have much experience with infants when she was randomly given to you.

Sheila: Zeke did a background check on me and I got sooo mad. Then he built a crib while I showered. We kissed. Zeke smelled good. Most of the men at the hospital smell sanitized. Zeke reminds me of a real man’s scent.

Slick: Wasn’t he all sweaty from building the crib and like hauling things in for you?

Sheila: Yes.

Slick: Okay gross. Also, just because you smell sanitary really does not mean you are not a “real man”. I think a lot of male nurses, doctors, and people who don’t like to stink might take offense at that. But since you keep bringing up Zeke, let me switch gears and speak with him.

Slick: Hi Zeke, you are a private investigator who did almost nothing for two weeks while Sheila took care of a kid that you first handed over, then thought, maybe I should do a background check on this woman that I gave a kid to. Were you suspicious of Sheila? And do you think maybe the background check could have happened prior to the baby hand off?

Zeke: Sheila attracted me right off. I kissed her, even though I had only met her earlier in the day, first at a stop light, then when I gave her a baby to take care of. This kind of mouth interaction with Sheila was stirring things inside me that I’d tried to keep at bay with other women.

Slick: TMI dude. So, Sunnie was not even five months old and cried a lot and had been literally abandoned on a doorstep of a club that your friend Brad is a part of. Yet, you wondered why the kid didn’t have a bed time. You don’t know how babies work do you?

Zeke: My friend Brad is a good man. He hired me. I own a big ranch. I have a niece and nephew too so I know about kids. Did I mention I kissed Sheila?

Sheila: Even after brushing my teeth I could still taste Zeke.

Slick: You need to brush better.

Zeke: Sheila tasted good. I couldn’t get enough of it, which is why I was eating away at her mouth with a relentless hunger.

Slick: Dude, stop, we have been over this. TMI.

Sheila: But he’s so romantic. He said, “I want to cherish you with my mouth, Sheila.”

Slick: I’ve watched a movie where space zombies try to take over the planet and no one in that film said anything even close to as weird as that. Let’s try talking about something else. There was a hurricane threatening your neighborhood, Sheila. Zeke did what a responsible guy would do and came over to check on you. Then he basically pressured you into moving into his house to wait the storm out. That seemed reasonable because, hurricane. But you asked him not to seduce you while you were there. He wouldn’t agree to that. Sheila, that’s seriously disturbing behavior, why didn’t you call the cops on Zeke?

Sheila: I went to his house knowing I was attracted to his mouth.

Slick: Okay… Uh, Zeke, did you not think it was messed up to basically say, stay at my house to ride out the hurricane but I won’t promise to keep my grubby mitts off you to Sheila?

Zeke: Brad is a good man. I own a ranch. I had to clear his name and to do that I had to mostly spend time with Sheila. My job was to investigate the crime so I stayed with the caretaker of the baby.

Slick: Er, you really sucked at your job and at being a decent guy. Hurricanes are not prime opportunities to coerce women.

Sheila: I stayed way longer than after the hurricane was a threat. I can’t admit my feelings for Zeke.

Slick: I would say all the kissing you did is kind of an admission.

Zeke: There’s something about Sheila’s scent that makes me want to mate.

Slick: Seriously dude. TMI.

Zeke: I could only imagine the outcome of this mating. But I needed it the way I need to breathe.

Slick: The outcome is pregnancy. In case you didn’t notice, there was a baby the whole time. That’s the outcome of mating. and let me just say this again, T.M.I.! But speaking of the baby, it was really convenient that she cried a lot at the beginning and then kept her attention on Sheila so she could be given over. Then it was even more convenient that she didn’t cry later in the book when you guys were doing weird mouth things and mating and what not. Sunnie, do you have anything to say about this?

Sunnie: …

Slick: Well I suppose you are kind of a plot device.

Brad: That’s my job. I’m a good man. I was set up. My brother had a kid with a woman, was killed by her and her drug dealing boyfriend then they tried to blackmail me with his kid. This is all explained in about two whole paragraphs in the book.

Slick: True. Sheila, you seemed to get surprisingly angry and depressed over the fact that Zeke might miss a flight while trying to catch a crook. Are you over that?

Sheila: Oh totally. We got married and Brad and this other woman Abigail that I met just days ago who seems to be interested in Brad was there.

Slick: Uh, more in this horrible series to come then?

Brad: Yeah. See when I told Zeke I had a genetic link to the baby, he left the building without any explanation and then hooked up with Sheila. We figured out it was my brother’s kid but not before I made Abigail cry. Then we watched a tape with Abigail that literally could have solved the entire crime if Zeke had just done his job and showed it earlier to the people at the Texas Cattlmen’s Club. But he was mating with Sheila. I get my turn next. With Abigail that is.

Zeke: Well, I did have to fly to Dallas and then be almost late for when Sheila gave back the baby, so I could watch other people arrest the bad guy. So I called my super rich dad who I was estranged from until a few years ago and ask to fly in his jet. Then while on that jet I bought a wedding ring for Sheila and proposed to her.

Slick: You proposed in a parking lot outside of the Texas Cattlemen’s Club?

Zeke: I did and she said yes.

Slick: I guess it’s better than an Emergency Room. How did you propose?

Sheila: He said, “Do you love me enough to wear my last name, have my babies and spend the rest of your life with me?”

Slick: Err. I don’t know where to begin here. First, is a last name something you wear? In my experience I mostly say it, spell it or sign it. Also, I would just like to mention that they wouldn’t just be Zeke’s babies. They would be yours as well. Spending the rest of your life, I have no problem with. But seriously, Zeke, you are one weird dude.

Brad: But he knows I am a good man. I bet he shows up in my book!

Slick: I will not be reading that. Thanks for finding your way here down in the dark. Now all of you, get out!

Slick drops microphone and releases various types of lethal oozes to get them to leave.

I hope you enjoyed my exclusive interview. Next week I will be back with another review. This time I will be reading The Last Chance Olive Ranch by Susan Wittig Albert. I guess someone already must have taken the first chance olive ranch?

Journalistically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Summer in Tuscany – #BookReview

trust me, I’m a… doctor?

Slick Dungeon here and I am just hanging out in the fifth room of my dungeon where I keep all kinds of less than stellar books. This week I read Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler.

But wait, what is this? What is this thing I found rolling around on the floor? It’s my new patent-pending, scientifically tested, completely reliable, totally untested and unscientific suckiness meter. This device will without fail let us know if something in a book sucks. Along with this meter, there is a set of instructions. They tell me that there is a rating scale. For every beep I hear while describing something in the book, that is a suckiness point. If there is no beep, I will remove a point. At the end we will discover if Summer in Tuscany sucks or not.

First, a very quick plot summary. An overworked doctor has to go to Italy because her mother inherited a villa where she grew up. As soon as she gets there, a land dispute breaks out with a handsome American man that we all know is going to end up with the main character. I have no idea why so many romance novels lately involve land disputes but whatever. Stuff happens, people hook up, there’s a wedding and we all knew the summer in Tuscany was going to end with a permanent residence there with said hunky man. Is this Doc Hollywood or Cars with the gender roles reversed? Basically yes.

Also, quick note, I listened to this on audio so if I misspell any names please forgive my unintentional error.

Suckiness meter activate!

  • The main character, Gemma, is a doctor but in the first chapter wonders if she should get breast implants. Does she not know how bad putting silicon in your body for no reason is for you? What kind of a doctor is she? +3 suckiness points for being a bad doctor.
  • Gemma is described as a hard, working, dedicated emergency room doctor in New York City, who does her best to help people, all while raising a teenage daughter on her own. No beeps. -1 suckiness point.
  • We learn pretty quickly she has a biiiig secret about a man named Chase Drummond who is a cowboy crossed with a surfer. I bet her secret is not all that bad! And seriously, Chase Drummond? I think he should have just been named Chiseled Manhunk. +4 suckiness points for overhyped masculinity and secrets that are not secrets.
  • Gemma’s mother Nona, is hiding that she has a heart defect from her own daughter who I may have mentioned is a doctor. I mean, I get you don’t want to tell your kid bad news but, free health care right?? +1 suckiness point for not using your own resources.
  • Nona has to go back to Italy because she is told by a shady lawyer type that she has inherited this massive property and is now a wealthy heiress. Gemma is going to disrupt her life, and take herself and her kid Olivia (who goes by Livie) for an entire summer to sort it out. I’ve heard much worse reasons to go to Italy so no beeps. -2 suckiness points.
  • The book really gets going once the fam arrives in Italy and there are beautiful descriptions of the scenery and the food described is mouth-watering. -3 suckiness points
  • They see all kinds of sights in this book including going up the stairs of the duomo in Florence but they never wait in line. +4 suckiness points for not making this completely fictional story seem more like reality.
  • Gemma seems to be lusting over virtually every dude she sees but she has promised herself she would remain celibate due to reasons involving that Chase guy from her past. Yeah right. +5 for unbelievability.
  • Gemma, as I have mentioned, is a doctor but at one point she wonders if the “sexy parts” (her words not mine) on her body are called the loins. Did you not have to take anatomy to become an ER doc?! +7 for making me crazy with annoyance at her poor job skills.
  • Gemma meets her love interest, a man named Ben Raphael who, I freaking kid you not, is super wealthy and has a daughter named Muffy. Muffy!! Is there a more stereotypical rich kid name ever? I think she should have been named Super Spoiled Rich Kid instead. +3 for the continuing trend of stupid names.
  • Nona gets her own cute little romance with a guy from the village who remembers her from way back when. I have no problem with this and kind of liked the part where they let the dog decide if they should get married. -2 suckiness points.
  • Livie goes on her first date, with some random Italian guy who thinks she is older than 14, and misses her curfew but kisses him. +9 suckiness points for a combination of bad parenting and predatory grossness.
  • Gemma is constantly questioning her looks, despite the fact that there is a man who is seriously in love with her and keeps telling her how attractive he thinks she is. Confidence, woman! Why do women in these books always have self esteem issues? +5 suckiness points for boring old romance tropes.
  • Ben Raphael is wealthy, handsome, divorced, in love with Gemma and runs a vaguely defined “business”. I think he’s probably doing something really shady to make his money. It never says that in the book, it’s just the obvious conclusion. +3 suckiness points for more romance tropes.
  • For a good part of the book Ben is living at the villa and when he wakes up one morning and the shower does not turn on, he immediately thinks Gemma is to blame. Here’s the thing though, she was kissing him just the night before and although they are in a bit of a legal dispute, she gave him no real reason to think she would do anything like that. Hmmmm…. the shower didn’t turn on, I know! It’s the woman who was kissing me last night. Perfectly logical conslusion. +3 suckiness points for Ben being an idiot.
  • Ben also has weird things he says to Gemma. He literally calls her a walking disaster. He compliments her by saying she is “looking girly”, this despite the fact that he earlier thought how great it was she wasn’t hung up on make up and didn’t care about looking perfect all the time. (Spoiler Ben, she really is hung up on make up constantly and you could tell if you just read her inner dialogue like the rest of us did). Then he proposes to her in an Italian jail cell. Smooth move bro. +7 suckiness points for fake romantic moments.
  • At one point Ben and Gemma are… doing that… and while Ben is looking at her and says how much he wants her, Gemma looks behind her and then asks David, “Me?”. Uhhhh… you got a medical degree you say? But did you really? +3 suckiness points for making Gemma seem dumb, incompetent and way too self conscious with one word.
  • There’s this little side story where they chase around that shady lawyer guy but never catch him. It’s just an excuse for Ben and Gemma to get separated, go to somewhere else in Italy, and then hook up again. I had no problem with this. There are much worse reasons to run all over Italy and it gave the author more room to have nice descriptions of the scenery. -4 suckiness points.
  • Gemma is constantly thinking about how much she needs and loves her job. How it defines her. But in the course of a summer, she is able to just toss it overboard because she met a super rich guy and now her mother owns this villa. It didn’t seem like she was gonna keep doctoring either. Maybe that’s okay considering her track record of not great statements in this book. But still, if she felt it was so important, why give it up so fast? +9 suckiness points for sending the message that you should find your passion and then abandon it for a handsome, wealthy man.
  • Also, I am not saying New York City is better than Italy in any way, they are both good in their own way. But why do these books constantly insist that the best way to live your life is outside of a big, bustling city? What’s wrong with New York? Gemma leaves it without a thought and doesn’t seem to ask her daughter if that’s even okay with her. +2 suckiness points for small country bias.
  • Ben is constantly told by Gemma that she can’t love him. She explains how she will always love Chase which he understands. But he still is on her to say that she loves him, over and over. He proposes and her first reaction is to say no. So he makes her propose to him. Come on man, learn to take no for an answer. I mean, I know the book wouldn’t happen if she didn’t “truly love Ben” on the inside but when a woman says no, take it for exactly what it sounds like. I get it if you want to try again later after some serious discussion but in the moment it shouldn’t be, oh she can’t have meant to say no to me. +15 suckiness points for having to point out again what should be obvious to any decent man.
  • I’m going to give away Gemma’s big, deep dark secret about Chase. She had been in love with him and things were going well. But one night, after her shift ends, she asks David to come pick her up for coffee. He gets in a car accident and Gemma ends up treating him. It’s clear almost instantly that his injuries were too grave for even the best of doctors to save him. I thought her secret was going to be that she was overtired and made a mistake. Or that she blamed herself for not learning some new technique to save him. Nope. She blames herself because she invited him to coffee. Seriously. That’s her big secret. She invited a guy she loved for coffee once and he ended up in a fatal accident. For this she is torn up with guilt. She also dives in to her job because of it. I get the second part, and seriously, I know that grief does strange things to the mind but why would she think this was such a dark secret that she couldn’t ever love someone else because of it? +7 suckiness points for fake secrets.
  • The little romance with Livie and the Italian boy doesn’t go anywhere and she moves on like a perfectly healthy 14 year old girl should. -8 for not making it weird.
  • The book ends with telling us that they get married and live in the villa but whether they stay there or make it a hotel or whatever “is another story”. Good God, there’s going to be a sequel? Please, please, I am begging you, just.. just… don’t okay? +7 suckiness points for sequelitis (undiagnosed by Gemma obviously).

Suckiness meter deactivate!

Well, there you have it, the patent-pending, scientifically tested, completely reliable, totally untested and unscientific suckiness meter worked like a charm! So what was the total?

Sucks = 97. Points taken away for non-suckiness = 20. Grand total of sucks = 77.

If you ever need to tell anyone how this book is, just let them know it sucks 77.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review more than I did reading this book. Next week I am going to be diving into paranormal romance with Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong. A whole store of magic?! For a dime?! Count me in!. Uh, hey can I borrow a dime?

Patent pendingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Romancing the Duke – #BookReview

Dating 101

Hey everyone, Slick, here back to tell you all about the book I read this week. Let me start off by saying that I am not a fan of romance books. I am not a fan of historical romances unless they are written by Diana Gabaldon. And while I won’t say I am a fan of Romancing the Duke, I will say, I did not hate this book in the way I expected to. I thought it was going to be utter and complete garbage. But, if you like romances and you know what to expect from romances, this book is pretty decent.

There are a few things this book gets right and I want to call those out right off. So, if you want to read this, consider this the valet/footman/butler calling down the hall: SPOILERS AHEAD.

This story centers on a Duke (obviously) and the woman who romances him (obviously). In the story he is blind and I thought the whole time that there was going to be some kind of miracle where he got his sight back. That never happened. What’s more, the blindness is accurately described as the Duke can see sometimes enough to make out shapes but he’s still most definitely blind. So kudos to the author for not falling into the all or nothing blindness trope along with the miracle cure trope.

Also, this book has a clear understanding of what it is. It’s a fun little romance between two people and doesn’t really expect more out of itself. The uh… shall we say steamy… parts are just that and it doesn’t bash you over the head with it too much. So again kudos.

The last good thing to call out is that this does have a realistic understanding of how women were disadvantaged by societal rules in the past. (Still are in many instances but let’s stick to the book). It’s clear that men control the property and inheritance and that it would be considered extremely unseemly and unlikely for a woman to be an author, despite the fact of, you know, all the female authors out there at the time.

But as I was reading this, I realized that this book actually is an instruction manual on dating. To give you the highlights, I am going to list the steps to getting your own Duke, or romance, depending on if you are the Duke or the romancer. Also, this book is clearly for hetero relationships so I can’t say this is a foolproof guide to dating for everyone.

Without further ado, I present to you, Slick Dungeon’s foolproof guide to dating for everyone.

Step 1: Live in the time and area when Dukes who have a massive estate but are unclaimed bachelors seem to be as easy to find as dropping a pebble into a pond. Alternatively, be one of these Dukes.

Step 2: Get involved in a tangled property dispute over a castle that the Duke owns but that you think you own, show up at his door and faint. Alternatively be the Duke, open the door, catch a feinting woman and immediately think to yourself that her hair is “predatory”.

Step 3: Have a father who writes literary fantasy stories and has named you something romantic, like, say, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight. Alternatively, have a manly man’s name like, say, Ransom, Duke of Rothbury, and be scarred in battle after having your intended elope with another, then fight her suitor in a duel with swords causing you to go blind, then go back to live alone in your castle for so many months that everyone thinks you might just be dead.

Step 4: After you faint let the Duke undress you, make you more comfortable, put you in bed but don’t quite sleep through the night, wake up, and nearly immediately mention that you make excellent pancakes. Alternatively, awkwardly undress the woman who fainted at your door and place her in a bed, figuring she is just some stranger who will most likely leave in the morning and assume she fainted because your scarred face is monstrous.

Step 5: Think to yourself that you own this castle but even if this Duke is who he says he is, he doesn’t own this castle because it is yours now but also marvel at how devilishly handsome the man is and that even though you are determined to keep the castle, keeping the Duke might be a bonus. Alternatively, be outraged internally that a woman who showed up trying to take your home that you are definitely not giving up, offered to make you, of all things in the world…. pancakes.

Step 6: Scare the heck out of the Duke who seems to be a bit of a jerk by not informing him of the ermine that is hanging out in your bag. Alternatively, be the Duke and get bit by an ermine and exclaim several profanities while asking what that was and ultimately admit that you are visually impaired, but internally, refer to this woman’s hair as an octopus.

Step 7: Offer to go through the Duke’s correspondence to sort this whole property dispute out but also go about as if you own this whole dang castle already cause, like, you do right? Alternatively, try and get this freaking woman with her predatory, octopus hair having, pancake making, butt out of here by scaring her with bats and/or also offer her a job to go through your correspondence and also kiss the woman that you wish would just leave already.

Step 8: Step up steaminess. Alternatively, step up steaminess.

Step 9: Have this whole host of people show up who are like a fan club of your father’s writing and be super embarrassed about it, but also enjoy the fact that the Duke has stepped up the steaminess. Alternatively, be annoyed that this whole host of people has shown up to disrupt your life, but like totally, keep the steaminess going for sure.

Step 10: Have the inevitable blow up where you are just trying to help the Duke and prove he is sane so he can keep this dang castle that is supposed to be yours but is his but doesn’t really matter because maybe you’ll get married anyway. Alternatively have the inevitable blow up because this woman won’t leave you alone and you are clearly trying to help her but are more interested in the steamy parts but then again, she seems like the perfect woman so maybe you’ll just marry her.

Step 11: Admit that you are actually the writer of the books, not your father and that also, you think you are not beautiful, despite the fact that this Duke clearly has the serious hots for you. Alternatively, admit that your father was a total jerk and that you only became blind because you more or less let the guy you were fighting win because you didn’t want to actually kill the dude, nor did you love the girl you were engaged to, and also finally be nice to this woman’s friends.

Step 12: Get the whole property/sanity thing sorted out, marry the Duke, make pancakes, get pregnant, write more and get slammed by literary critics who are too stupid to realize this is the same author they just praised, all while still keeping it steamy. Alternatively, get the whole property/sanity thing sorted out, marry the woman, eat pancakes, build a nursery, listen to bad reviews of your new wife’s work and get irritated all while keeping it steamy.

There you have it. I guarantee if you follow all those steps, you will have either romanced or been romanced by a Duke.

Next week we’re going to go back to being a little more contemporary as I read The Beach House Reunion by Mary Alice Monroe. It’s about time someone put that dang thing back together!

Steamily yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Time to Love (Quilts of Lancaster County #1) -Book Review

What’s wrong with this picture?

But Who Will care about the Children?

If you are looking for a romance book that is extremely chaste and never wades into any kind of inappropriate territory, this one’s for you. No steamy scenes because, well, this book is about an Amish community so it fits that there’s no heavy petting. Ever wondered what an Amish romance book was like? Nope, me neither. At least, not until I heard they existed. Guess what? They’re pretty much like other romances except, much, much tamer. I have no problem with the romance part of this book, or the Amish part of this book. I wouldn’t want to live in a community without electricity or buttons, but if that’s what floats your boat, float away.

That’s not to say that there weren’t things about this book that bugged me. I’m gonna list ’em after a quick plot summary.

Jenny, the main character is recovering from a difficult surgery she had to have after suffering a bomb blast while doing her job as a journalist overseas. To recuperate she visits her grandmother Phoebe who happens to be Amish and live in Lancaster County. While there she reconnects with Mathew, a man she knew long ago and nearly married. Mathew married while Jenny was away and had three children. Mathew’s wife died and it’s been a couple years since that happened. Now would be a good time for Mathew to move on and as luck (or God as the book states) would have it, Jenny seems to come back at the perfect time. Everyone ends up happy because, well, what do you expect out of an Amish romance?

My annoyance with the book is as follows:

  1. Jenny is a a journalist working for [unnamed network] recovering from a bomb blast she suffered in [unnamed country]. I put the brackets there because the author chose not to actually name the network or the country. Jenny was always overseas. What was she doing overseas? She was making sure that [the people] knew that there were children there who were suffering. I think this was mentioned roughly twelve times per chapter.
  2. Is there an adorable little kid in this book meant to tug at Jenny’s and the reader’s heart strings and says things like “Read me a stowy.” Oh you betcha. It’s like the plucky kid in apocalypse novels but you just know they are going to make people get married in romances, not get themselves killed the way they do in the other books.
  3. This is an Amish community we are talking about and Jenny is there recovering which is fine, but they keep talking about how much hard work there is to do. Yet Jenny, who more or less recovers doesn’t seem to do any hard work. She does try and cook one meal but I kind of think the author sold it short cause I am sure that there really IS hard labor to do in these places.
  4. It’s mentioned like a zillion times how the Amish children are so good and clean their rooms and do their chores and help out and never, ever complain. I have two thoughts about this. First, I bet that some Amish children DO complain on occasion. Why? Cause they are kids and sometimes kids complain. Second, there are plenty of non-Amish children that are good. But the author bludgeons us about how lazy the “Englisch” (the Amish term for people living outside their community) children are because they watch television. I sort of felt, more than once, like the author had not really interacted with real children over the age of three.
  5. Jenny has suffered what would be a real, major trauma. I mean life changing. She is described as being scarred across the face. She is constantly fretting about this. Of course Mathew and everyone around Jenny who all love her think it’s no big deal. I agree. Having a scar on your face doesn’t disqualify you from love. It doesn’t mean you are not beautiful. It doesn’t mean that anyone should think less of you. But you know what bugs me to no end? Look at that cover image. You know what I don’t see? A Scar!!! Come on cover designers, own it! I doubt this was the choice of the author so I can’t fault her but jeeze, let’s judge this book by it’s cover. Jenny should have a scar. Have the guts to put it on the cover. Okay, I am getting off of my body image soap box now.
  6. Another thing Jenny agonizes over is that if she doesn’t go back to work for [unnamed network] then no one, and I mean no one, will ever care about the children in [unnamed country]. Jenny is quasi famous and people on the street recognize her now and then. She is occasionally told by nurses or other random people how no one has gone back there. No journalist has gone back overseas (interesting how everyone on the street calls it overseas too instead of naming a country) to talk about the children. So her choice seems to be Mathew or go to [unnamed network] to work again. But Jenny’s colleague has this idea to interview her so the audience of [unnamed network] can see that she is okay. She does the interview and when it airs, they put a few charity phone numbers on screen. In Jenny’s mind that seems to clear the problem up. Yup, want to help out orphans in war torn [unnamed countries]? Two options. First. Jenny. Second, phone numbers on a screen. Either one will most definitely fix it.
  7. While cooking the one meal that Jenny makes, she tells Phoebe about microwaves. She says that microwaved food doesn’t taste as good because they don’t put love into the food the way her grandmother does. Note to self: invent microwave that operates on love. Also, I don’t know about you but I’ve loved me some hot pockets and microwave pizza rolls on occasion and no one’s grandmother made those.
  8. Mathew works very hard and loves his children. This is perfectly obvious from the descriptions of what he does and it’s no surprise. We wouldn’t want our main character to fall for a jerk of course. But not only do we have to see that revealed through his actions. No, everyone around him has to say pretty much every time he leaves the room how he works hard and loves his children. I think we get it.
  9. Since this is a romance, there has to be a setup for a continuing series. I think that’s a contractual obligation for even thinking of a romance concept. I’ve got good news. Mathew has a sister, Hannah. She’s Amish and lives in Lancaster County. Hmmm…. You don’t think… I mean could it be… Wait guys, it is, it really is… The sequel is about Hannah! Groan. It couldn’t be more obvious if they had put Hannah’s phone number on the television screen during an interview. Wait, that doesn’t make sense, Hannah wouldn’t watch television and it’s a community phone. Ah, never mind. I will say though that it bothers me one hundred percent of the time when you know that the sibling of one of the love interests is going to star in the next book. I read that there is a brother or sister who is not in a relationship and I know right where it’s going.
  10. Okay so part of this is me and part of this is not. This book has a long subtitle involving quilts. There is a quilt mentioned at the very beginning and it shows up a lot. But see, I thought that we were going to see Jenny learn to quilt or do all sorts of quilting or something. She doesn’t even begin to quilt until the second to last chapter. I was like, where’s the quilting? I want to see transformative, life changing quilting and I want to see it now. I think that was my misconception. But the quilt also wasn’t all that essential to the plot either. So, maybe make less of a big deal in the subtitle if your not gonna make a bigger deal of it in the book. Like they say, if you see a quilt in the first act, you should see quilting all through the book. I may have that quote wrong. But anyway, more quilts please.

I’m going to stop there but to finish my summary, I am going to give it over to the wisest, smartest, most celebrated poet of mine or any other generation. “We been spendin’ most our lives livin’ in an Amish Paradise” – Weird Al Yankovich.

After all this non-quilting peaceful time spent in Amish country, I need to spice things up. Come back next week when I will review Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan Long. I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the extra a. I’ll let you know what it is.

This guy gets it –

Image result for scar lion king
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