Friday, April 13, 2018

Reminder: #TBRChallenge for April


Hey, hey, hey!  For those of you participating in the 2018 #TBRChallenge, a reminder that your commentary is "due" on Wednesday, April 18.  The theme this month is Kicking It Old School.

A theme that is all about diving deep into your TBR - for our purposes, Old School is defined as any book that is 10+ years past it's original publication date.  Yes, 2008 was 10 years ago ::sob:: 

But what if you're a freak (sorry, you just are) who only has very recent releases in your TBR?  Hey, no problem!  The themes are optional.  The goal is to read something, anything, out of your TBR.

I am more than likely going to be late this month with my own Challenge.  I'm mired in a slump at the moment AND I have family visiting from out of town this next week.  So yeah, have fun without me y'all!

Reminders:

1) If you're participating via social media, remember to use the #TBRChallenge hashtag

and 

2) It is not too late to sign-up!  You can get further details and links to all the blogs participating on the 2018 TBR Challenge Information Page.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Review: Hired by the Brooding Billionaire

My only previous experience reading Kandy Shepherd resulted in a DNF....out of boredom.  For me, the kiss of death in category romance is boredom.  The whole point of category is the short word count, the fast pace, and the hyper-aware focus on the romance.  But the previous book I tried by Shepherd was so blah that I couldn't be bothered.  Which would explain how Hired by the Brooding Billionaire, an ARC I've had on my Kindle since 2015 (!) is just now getting read.  I was in the mood for a Harlequin Romance, my reading equivalent of comfort food, and opened this one to start reading not realizing who the author was.  Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.  And you know what?  It's not perfect, but I was engaged.

Shelley Fairhill is a horticulturalist/gardener and every day she walks past a magnificent home with a horribly neglected garden.  Underneath the mess of overgrowth she knows there's a real gem yearning to be restored, so she screws up her courage to buzz at the front gate.  The owner, Declan Grant, is a recluse and only buzzes her in because he's waiting on some computer parts and he thinks she's the courier finally arrived.  Um, no.  Needless to say he closes the door in her face, but not before she foists her business card off on him.

Turns out it doesn't take all that long for Shelley to hear back from Declan.  She thought the ship hadn't sailed so much as sunk at the dock.  But turns out his posh neighbors aren't too pleased with the overgrown garden and Declan has money to throw at the problem to make it go away.  So he calls Shelley and immediately finds himself enchanted with her.

I really liked these characters.  Shelley is my kind of girl.  5'10", strong, working a physically demanding job that requires less than appealing work wear and constantly overlooked.  Her last relationship ended so disastrously (Steve failed to mention that he was already married) that she's sworn off men and has plans to use her big pay day from Declan to travel.  Declan is a game designing wunderkind, having sold his Lara Croft-like creation at a young age basically making him a gazillionaire.  He was married and adored his wife, Lisa.  She died immediately following childbirth, as did their newborn daughter, Alice.  Declan blames himself and continues to mourn - hence the whole living like a hermit in his magnificent house and letting the garden go to hell.

This is a pretty straight-forward romance that gets dinged on execution.  The author has a tendency to get stuck in the weeds (ha!) and there's a lot of gardening goo-gah here that feels like filler.  It takes a while for the romance to get moving because Shelley is rhapsodizing over the garden and Declan finds himself creatively energized by Shelley to the point where he starts designing a new gaming heroine.  Once the gardening stuff settles down to a dull roar, the story picks up steam and I really liked the ending.  I suspect some readers may feel like Shelley overreacts (I don't think she did).  She  basically has to draw her line in the sand.  She loves Declan but she can't spend her life trying to heal a grieving man who cannot let go of the past out of guilt.  It's the choice Declan makes at the end, how he chooses to take those first steps towards dealing with his grief and his guilt, that were quite memorable.  It's not something we see a lot of in romance novels, let alone in our romance heroes.

No, it's not perfect.  The gardening porn was a bit much and the pacing dragged in the early chapters.  However I really liked these characters and was ultimately charmed by them.  Comfort food indeed.

Final Grade = B-

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Review: The War Bride's Scrapbook

The downside to being management and no longer doing day-to-day selection at The Day Job is that a lot of books fly under my radar now.  God bless Dorine, who mentioned this book on her blog a while back.  In 2011, Caroline Preston wrote another scrapbook/novel, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt - which I simply adored.  Now, seven long years later, she's following up with another, The War Bride's Scrapbook.

As the title suggests, this is a story of a young woman who meets a soldier a mere 3 weeks before he deploys overseas.  When he leaves?  They're married.  Lila is a Virginia (Charlottesville) girl who has never been lucky in love.  Her plump figure and working/middle class parents haven't done her a ton of favors, although her mother has always had ambitions for her two girls to marry college boys.  Lila actually has some brains though, and wants to study architecture, an avenue not open to her since no school in the South is going to admit a mere female into such a program.  So she settles for doing claims adjustments at the insurance company where her father works, and selling war bonds post-Pearl Harbor.

She first met Perry Weld when she showed up to do a claim adjustment.  He was nice to her and she was smitten by his New England good looks.  But the encounter is over before it can begin, and Lila admits that her girlish crush could never be anything more.  I mean, the guy is totally out of her league.  However, their paths cross again after Pearl Harbor, when Perry answers an ad Lila placed for a roommate.  He's looking for temporary lodgings before he ships out and Lila, well she didn't specify what gender a potential roommate should be.  Before you know it a whirlwind courtship ensues and the two are married just before Perry ships out for England with his combat engineering unit.

I still read print, but tend to gravitate towards digital roughly 90% of the time because of convenience and my terrible eyesight.  However, this is a book ideal for the print format.  It's entirely told in scrapbook form, sort of like a picture book for adults.  There's photos, drawings, news clippings, and letters written by both Perry and Lila (heads up fans of epistolary stories!).

For that reason, it's a bit much for readers to expect dynamite character development.  I did get a good feel for both Perry and Lila by the end of this story, but the format doesn't lend itself to a heavy deep-dive into exploring the psychology of the characters.  The secondary players add colorful bits (Lordy, especially Perry's parents!) and the scrapbook moving between the battlefields and the homefront makes for a nice juxtaposition of wartime experiences.

However, where this book ultimately stumbled for me was with the ending.  Look, I'm well aware this isn't, technically, a romance novel.  And Americans - we have this tendency to romanticize World War II.  So part of this is definitely on me - but dammit Janet, this has a bittersweet ending.  I'm going to spoil it and say, yes - Perry comes home alive.  But both he and Lila have been changed by their experiences and I'm left with the feeling that their marriage is....well, "challenging."  I mean, look - all marriages are challenging.  Things aren't great all the time.  But the author has to go, burst my bubble, and tell me things get challenging post-war and....

I go from the heady glow of lovers reunited to a bucket of cold ice water dumped over my head.  The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, technically, wasn't a romance either - but, as I recall, it had an ending that left me with a hopeful feeling.  This ending?  Just left me depressed and a little sad.

I enjoyed this while I was reading it, it's a really cool concept and the content is dynamite.  But dammit Janet, me no likey the way it ends.  Now I'm off to read a romance novel.  Because, dammit.

Final Grade = C-

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

#TBRChallenge 2018: Hotbed

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B003SNJYP8/themisaofsupe-20
The Book: Hotbed by Portia Da Costa

The Particulars: Contemporary erotica, Black Lace, 2002, In Print

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  Before the term "erotic romance" was coined, there were only a few select authors in Romancelandia pushing those sexual boundaries.  Which means if you wanted to get your kicks, you went across the pond to the Virgin Publishing imprint, Black Lace.  The majority of what they were publishing was erotica, but there were a few authors who specialized in happy endings, albeit "not traditional" ones.  After discovering Emma Holly through her 2002 Berkley historical romance, Beyond Seduction, I was on a mission to find her Black Lace titles and discovered other authors along the way, including Da Costa.

The Review: It's been a while since I've read a Black Lace novel and it's going to take me a few days to recover.  I have no idea how I'm going to review this or how I'm going to assign a grade to it - but let's get this party started and see where we end up, shall we?

First things first, this is erotica.  It's not erotica with a tinge of romance, it's not erotic romance - no, it's foot to the floor, fast and furious, erotica.  In recent years Da Costa's writing interests have taken her firmly into erotic romance territory (and hot vanilla at that), but she got her start writing erotica and this is most definitely from her erotica period.  Repeat after me: This. Is. Erotica. Not. Erotic. Romance.

Natalie is slowly getting pushed out of her magazine job in London and decides to head back to the quaint English village where she grew up and where her half-sister Patti still lives.  But this isn't a visit to see her sister, not really.  No, there's a shady politician, one of those Moral Majority-types, who is rumored to have his sticky fingers in a lot of pies.  In a bid to jump-start her flagging career, she's looking to do a bit of muckracking.  What she finds instead is a whole lot of sexual shenanigans.  Good Lord, the shenanigans!  In her tiny, dull hometown?!  Who woulda thunk it?

Sure, Natalie is living in cosmopolitan London - but it's Patti who is having all the fun, with a hunky window-washer roommate, a drag queen, and various other participants at said drag queen's BDSM club.  Because, of course!  This drag queen, with the EPIC name of Stella Fontayne, is basically the puppet master in the story - pulling various strings, manipulating everybody to basically amuse themselves. (Gender identity and pronouns aren't discussed but reading in between the lines, Stella struck me as bisexual with a fluid gender identity).

It's not long before Natalie, hot on the trail of the politician, is getting distracted by her hormones.  There are men.  Many men.  There is humiliation and BDSM and, you know, the whole half-sister thing.

And that's how you know this is erotica.  A big deal is made over them being half-sisters (because that somehow makes this less squirky?!) - but eventually there's several instances of voyeurism and a scene at the end where they speed right across that line.  Also there are some dubious consent issues at play here.  Characters are coaxed into things they're not completely comfortable with from the start.  They end up having the best orgasms of their lives, but it doesn't make the consent issues any less squishy.

Go ahead, think less of me - but I still read this book with a kind of morbid fascination that's hard for me to describe.  This is erotica and I compartmentalize erotica completely different from romance.  I, personally, don't have to be "turned on" by what the characters are doing to read and/or enjoy the story - and ultimately getting "turned on" is not why I read erotica. I'm into erotica, predominantly, for heroines who aren't persecuted for being sexual beings and to be "challenged."  Challenging erotica, for me, involves taboo, how the author addresses those taboos, and how the characters operate in the world they inhabit.  Certainly there are things I do not want to read about - and I think any erotica reader will tell you that.  So yes, even as wrong as half-sisters are?  I read this.  Go ahead.  Judge me.

As if the incest weren't enough, other problematic elements rear their ugly head with the ending, when I felt like Natalie morally and ethically sells out. Also, the Stella character.  I mean, I'm glad Natalie is having a grand ol' time, but Stella is a manipulator.  I don't expect a happy ending in my erotica but I do like the heroine to be "in a better spot" at the end - and I didn't get that here.  Stella will continue to manipulate and Natalie sells out. 

I'm going to cop-out and assign this an average C grade.  It's erotica.  It's problematic.  But that's exactly what I want from my erotica - for it to be problematic.  But I can't think of who I would recommend this to (dear Lord, no one!) and as much as I love some of Da Costa's work (and I do!) this one is strictly for fans - those curious to read her entire backlist and follow her evolution as a writer.  Now I'm off to have a glass or two (or three) of whiskey.

Final Grade = C

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: The Broken Girls

I'm a sucker for Gothics.  The suspense, the atmosphere, the woman-in-peril who doesn't realize at first she's in peril who then has to wiggle out of it.  So it seems pretty inconceivable in hindsight that it took me until 2016 to tear through Simone St. James' entire backlist on audio.  Once I was done?  I was bereft.  Because by that point the publication date for her upcoming novel, The Broken Girls had been delayed.  Well, it's finally here and I can say it was well worth the wait.

20 years ago Fiona Sheridan's sister, Deb, was found dead.  Lying in a field, near abandoned Idlewild Hall, in Vermont.  Pretty, vivacious, 20-year-old Deb had been murdered by her popular, rich, boyfriend, Tim Christopher, son of the wealthiest and most important family in town.  Tim was convicted, is still in prison, but Fiona is stuck.  Haunted by the tragedy and the wreckage it left in it's wake.  She's dating Jamie, a police officer, son of the former chief of police who worked Deb's case, and is working as a freelance journalist.  When she hears Idlewild Hall has been purchased and the new owner wants to reopen it as a girls boarding school, Fiona has the excuse she needs to start digging.  Naturally, she unearths a whole lot of secrets.

In 1950 Idlewild Hall was a boarding school for families to dump off their cast-off girls.  Girls who were trouble.  Girls who were "bad."  Four such girls are roommates, become friends, and all of them witness things they can't explain.  There's a ghost at Idlewild Hall, Mary Hand - who shows you things that you can't unsee.  Who confronts you with your greatest fears, your darkest secrets.  They all see her and one day one of the band of four disappears...without a trace.

This is a time slip novel, moving back and forth between the 1950 story and the 2014 story - St. James taking two different threads and expertly weaving them together.  I'll admit to some reluctance when I heard that St. James was leaving her 1920s English settings behind to move to 1950s Vermont, but that uneasiness was quickly replaced with the uneasy feeling this book's atmosphere evokes.  Folks, it's creepy.  Not just the ghost stuff, but the secrets.  Fiona's psyche.  The truth that's lying just below the surface that eventually bubbles up and boils over.  It's riveting and page-turning and I waffled between savoring every delicious word, prolonging my reading pleasure and guzzling it like a college student whipping out a beer bong.

Usually in time slip stories there's one story line thread the reader is drawn to over the other, which was not my case here.  I loved the 1950 girls - the girls nobody wanted, the girls everybody underestimated, the girls who ultimately end up saving themselves and finding their own brand of justice.  In the 2014 story I was drawn to Fiona's emotional turmoil, her relationship with Jamie haunted by ghosts, and her persistent digging into the secrets hidden at Idlewild.

All of St. James' books thus far feature what one would classify as "romantic elements."  That's certainly the case here, given the Fiona/Jamie relationship, but I will say of all her books this one probably is the lightest in the romance department.  This isn't a criticism from me, but a heads-up to readers who were drawn to some of her earlier books where the romantic arc played a bit more of a prominent factor.

If you're already a St. James fan, this is a great book.  I loved it.  I'm jealous of all of you who now get to read it for the first time.  If you enjoy Gothics and are looking for a creepy good mystery with a light touch on the paranormal woo-woo?  This is it.  St. James' monsters in this book feature the unknown supernatural but also the very real, flesh-and-blood terror that only living mankind seems capable of inflicting.  Don't miss it.

Final Grade = A

Monday, March 19, 2018

Top 5 Unusual Historicals for March 2018

March seems to be roaring in like a lion for most of us in North America and having once lived in an area prone to 70 degrees one day, blizzard the next, I know the importance of having warm blankets, emergency lighting, and plenty of books at the ready - you know, just in case.  This month’s highlights in Unusual Historicals features a lot of variety, including two of my personal favorites - the 1920s and a new western!

All That Jazz!

Love’s Serenade by Sheryl Lister
Escaping an arranged marriage, Leigh Jones flees her southern hometown for Harlem's vibrant jazz scene to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. She finds more than she expected, namely Miles Cooper. The smooth-talking musician walked out on her three years ago, taking her music and her heart with him. Leigh has no intentions of falling for Miles or his charms again, until he tempts her with the one thing she can’t resist: a recording contract. But when her past comes calling, she realizes Miles is the one person who can save her from a man who won’t take no for an answer. 
Miles isn’t one for putting down roots or staying in one place for longer than a season. Yet, memories of Leigh's sultry voice, beauty and sass make him long for the life and love he forfeited. Having walked away once, but never again, Miles sets out to prove he's a changed man willing to go to any lengths to protect his woman. He's determined to show Leigh, one passionate note at a time that the music they make together will last a lifetime.
I adore the 1920s as a setting for historical romance because it’s such a fascinating time period in women’s history.  As if that catnip weren’t enough, I love musical backdrops and reunited lovers (where one of those lovers needs his comeuppance).  This appears to be Lister’s first published historical, and I’m curious to see how she handles the time period.

From Russia, With Love!

From Governess to Countess by Marguerite Kaye
The scandalous truth about the count’s new mistress! 
Count Aleksei Derevenko has hired governess Allison Galbraith for her skills as a herbalist, not a mistress! But when rumors spread, Allison is more shocked by her wanton reaction to Aleksei—inscrutable and impossibly handsome, his icy blue eyes promise white-hot nights of sin. She knows too well how fragile her reputation is, but will the price of their passion be worth paying?
Kaye is one of my favorites in the Harlequin Historical stable, and this kicks off her new series, Matches Made in Scandal.  This story is set in St. Petersburg and features a down-on-her-luck herbalist heroine masquerading as a governess.  There’s also a murder mystery afoot!  I’m really excited to dive into this one!

Smuggler!

Counting on a Countess by Eva Leigh
For a shameless libertine and a wily smuggler in the London Underground, marriage is more than convenience—it’s strategy... 
Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth, war veteran and newly minted Earl of Blakemere, buries his demons under every sort of pleasure and vice. His scandalous ways have all but emptied his coffers . . . until a wealthy mentor leaves him a sizeable fortune. The only stipulation? He must marry within one month to inherit the money. Kit needs a bride and the bold, mysterious Miss Tamsyn Pearce seems perfect. 
Husband hunting isn’t Tamsyn’s top priority—she’s in London to sell her new shipment of illicit goods—but she’s desperate for funds to keep her smuggling operation afloat. When a handsome earl offers to wed her and send her back to Cornwall with a hefty allowance, Tamsyn agrees. After all, her secrets could land her in prison and an attentive, love-struck spouse could destroy everything. 
But when an unexpected proviso in the will grants Tamsyn control of the inheritance, their arrangement becomes anything but convenient. Now, Kit’s counting on his countess to make his wildest dreams a reality and he plans to convince her, one pleasurable seduction at a time.
I have complicated feelings about Avon’s cover art - which is to say I hate their historical romance covers roughly 90% of the time.  But this cover?  It has haunted me since the moment I laid eyes on it.  I love it.  The wind-swept heroine, the jewel tones, and did I mention green is my favorite color?  Anyway, I also love that the heroine is the smuggler in this story!  OMG, where has this role reversal been all my life?  Leigh writes interesting historicals and I always appreciate her lighter touch while not throwing out the history with the baby’s bathwater.

Western!

Bright Montana Sky by Debra Holland
Sweetwater Springs, Montana 1896 
Jilted seamstress Constance Taylor travels to Sweetwater Springs to live with her estranged father, the livery stable owner. She plans to open a dressmaking shop and bring sophisticated clothing styles to the frontier town. 
Doctor Angus Cameron is bitter and discouraged from his work with upper class Londoners and the wretched poor in the East End slums. He arrives in Sweetwater Springs to join the medical practice of his brother, the town doctor. 
Sparks fly when Constance and Angus clash over her fashionable creations, which he believes are unhealthy. Every encounter worsens their relationship, and the pair fights their ill-suited attraction. For love to grow, two stubborn souls must call a truce to their battle of wills. 
As always, Debra Holland enchants readers with her warm, uplifting portrayal of life and love in a small town. 
I recently read a prequel novella to this series and really enjoyed it, so I’m definitely curious to read more Holland.  The series seems to fall into the “cute western small town” mode, as opposed to the “will we survive the winter or get murdered by outlaws” mode, and I love the premise of this one.  For Kindle Unlimited users, this entire series is available to make all your binge-reading dreams come true.

Bonus Story!

A Bittersweet Moment by Vanessa Riley
A second son must find his place in the world, but can he trust his heart and not the heavy-handed antics of his father, the Earl of Crisdon. 
Ewan Fitzwilliam needs his life to change. Unwilling to follow in the footsteps of his abusive father, he gathered the strength to break free. Saving a young flower picker from troubles upon his father's estate may prove the opportunity he needs to become a man of honor. 
Theodosia wants a better life, and she intends to build a flower business that caters to the perfumers in Town, but can she trust a rich man's son to teach her better diction to impress potential clients? Or will she learn a different lesson, succumbing to the dangerous attraction she feels for the tortured playwright?
If you couldn’t get enough of Riley’s The Bittersweet Bride, featured in February's column, you’ll be happy to see that there’s now a short story prequel featuring the same couple!  This looks to give more insight into the reunited couple’s backstory and provide a glimpse into the heroine’s life prior to her inheriting an estate.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to this month?
Note: Unusual Historicals is now cross-posted at the Love in Panels site.  Stop on by and see them sometime!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Review: All the Beautiful Girls

I think I first heard about All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church from the All About Romance review, which was glowing.  After a string of lackluster audio listens, I downloaded this from work hoping for the best and found a book that puts the P in Problematic.  This will likely be a review where some of you will think I'm making mountains out of mole hills, which leaves me no recourse.  Yep, brace yourselves kiddies, it's full steam ahead on Spoiler-Rama-Jama.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

When Lily Decker is 8-years-old her parents and big sister are killed in a car accident.  Lily, asleep in the back seat, survives.  She goes to live with her Mom's sister and her husband.  Her Aunt Tate is stern and cold, her Uncle Miles is a child molester.  It doesn't take him long to start coming into Lily's room at night.  Naturally, this doesn't have a positive effect on Lily who starts cutting herself.  While none of these scenes are written in what I would classify as a graphic manner, there's enough on the page here to be upsetting.

Lily develops a love of dance and thanks to a benefactor begins taking dance lessons in her tiny Kansas town where her beauty stands out in a crowd.  Big fish, little pond.  This benefactor is a man she calls The Aviator, the guy who was driving the other car involved in the accident that killed her parents and sister.  Lily worships this guy for the whole book.

Let's recap so far.  Lily's parents and sister are killed in an accident, she goes to live with a cold fish aunt and an uncle who molests her and the man who was also part of the same accident gets off scot-free in her mind to the point of hero worship.  I'm calling BS on this folks.  I'm sorry, I just am.  The accident completely and irrevocably changes the trajectory of Lily's life, not for the better, and she never feels one iota of anger at the man who walked away from the accident that left her entire family dead and her at the mercy of a damn child molester.  Yeah, no. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Anyway, time marches on, Lily graduates high school and heads to Las Vegas to become a dancer - which is when she's met with another cold, hard dose of reality.  But a fellow traveler on the same Greyhound bus introduces Lily (now going by the name Ruby Wilde) to his daughter who works at one of the casinos.  Eventually, and after much reluctance, Ruby takes her magnificent body and becomes a showgirl.  Silver pasties and all.

This is Vegas in the mid-to-late 1960s, a fairy tale playground of glitz and glamour far away from Vietnam, smelly hippies and the Civil Rights Movement.  This middle portion of the book was actually really interesting, as Lily makes her way up the ranks, meets some of her idols (Sammy Davis Jr.! Tom Jones!) and is well compensated in her work.

But then, it all hits a major speed bump with the introduction of an abusive boyfriend.  Here's the thing: this book is Very White.  Not entirely shocking.  Lily/Ruby is from small town Kansas and showgirls in Vegas during this period couldn't exactly be confused with the Rainbow Coalition.  So it's a huge slap in the face when the abusive boyfriend turns out to be a Spaniard named Javier, complete with heavy accent and broken English.  And of course Ruby is attracted to him immediately because he's SO different from everyone else she's ever known (forgive me, I honestly can't recall if the word "exotic" was used or not) and his accent is a turn on.

So, if you're keeping track, there's two brown people in this book.  One, is Sammy Davis Jr. - who basically has a walk-on role.  The other?  A guy who swoops in like a Latin lover and starts abusing our heroine.  In Vegas.  In a town that is literally floating in mobsters during this era the author decides to import someone brown (I'm sorry, making him European doesn't make this any less appalling) to fill out our villainous role.  I found it jarring folks.  Really, really jarring.

Eventually Javier is dispatched with, Ruby reconnects with The Aviator and then the whole thing descends into idealistic happy sunshine territory.  Oh, Javier?  Once he's off the page, he's literally off the page.  There's no closure there.  At all.  Well Lily gets closure because The Aviator gives her a psychology book to read and suddenly it all makes so much sense to her (because OF COURSE it does).  Insert eyeroll here.  But that's it.  She reads a book.  Whether Javier gets his comeuppance or not is left to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Oh, and I'm going to spoil it because I was super worried about this - no, Lily/Ruby never hooks up with The Aviator.  Given what has to be an over 20-year age difference, I was super worried about this going into the story.  Oddly enough, it turns out that was the least of my worries.  Because in the epilogue-like chapter?  We find out Lily has entered into a relationship with a nice man named Simon with curly blonde hair who treats her right.  Oh, and there was the astronaut she has an affair with in Vegas who treats her well.  So the men who treat Lily well in this book?  White dudes.  The abusive a-hole?  The brown guy who speaks broken English.  Seriously the more I think about it the more I get annoyed.

I'm not going to give this an F.  Why?  Because other than the narrator reading Javier's character with a horrible accent, I found the audio version engaging and I liked the relationship depicted between Lily/Ruby and her girlfriends.  It kept me listening.  Which, given my recent string of listening/reads feels like an achievement.  But yeah.  Problematic.  This is really, really problematic.

Final Grade = D