Review: Star-Crossed Lovers

Review: Star-Crossed LoversStar-Crossed Lovers by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time #5
Published by Loveswept on December 13th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 244
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Classic Hatfield/McCoy, Romeo and Juliet tale about two people who were born to hate one another and yet fell in love. The story also has a romantic suspense element as the two need to discover who wants to make sure that hate prevails.

THE STORY:  A modern day Romeo and Juliet.  The Logans and the Stuarts have been enemies for five centuries. In every generation there is an opportunity for the families to avoid the feud or make it personal and more bitter.  Michele Logan and Ian Stuart unexpectedly meet on a tropical island away from the feuding families and while there is no personal enmity between them. there is a wariness caused by the feud.  There is also a deep attraction.  The question is whether they can overcome the feud or be completely subsumed by it.

OPINION:  I’m a sucker for the family feud stories. This one is particularly well done as Michele especially feels the programming done by her family to hate the Stuarts — including Ian. There is the real chance that love is not enough to overcome five hundred years of hate. The story also has a little romantic suspense element as the question arises what is actually happening between these families in the present day.

Angst, drama, suspense, two people destined to be apart but drawn inexorably together. Just my kind of catnip.  I read this book when it was originally published and I had forgotten how much I liked it then. It expanded my idea of what a good romance could be when it was written.  The romantic suspense with just a bit of magic became the direction that Kay Hooper went when she stopped writing pure romance.  This book shows the beginning of her journey in that direction.

This book was written as an “extra-long” category series book and thus doesn’t have the full complexity one might expect from a full length novel, but I seriously liked the drama between the characters, their intense desire to hold on to the love that it developing between them and the little bit of good fortune that comes their way.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book was previously published in the early 1990s.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  STAR-CROSSED LOVERS is book 5 in the Once Upon a Time series (although it was published 6th).  The series is only loosely connected by the matchmaker who briefly appears in each book so each book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: The Lady and the Lion

Review: The Lady and the LionThe Lady and the Lion (Once Upon a Time) by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time #6
on December 13th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 192
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I loved this book because of the moody atmosphere, the great use of the fairy tale concept and the connection between the characters.  Yes, there is insta-love, but in the fairy tale concept, it works.

THE STORY:  Erin Prentice is taking a vacation from the controlling nature of her father when she meets a voice across a hotel balcony.  Keith Donovan intends to take revenge on the men who killed his family.  He is playing a dangerous game and doesn’t have time for romance.  Despite this, however, Keith is pulled by Erin’s voice and her reminding him who he actually is.

OPINION:  I loved this book. The story is loosely inspired by the tale of a man who lives as a lion by day and a man by night. The idea of duality, of hidden identities is what this book is based on.

Keith Donovan is a man who seeks revenge.  Pretending to be a cartel member by night, he is attracted to the moments in the dawn when he talks to the hidden woman in the next hotel balcony because it grounds him and makes him remember who he actually is.  He risks getting lost in the role that he is playing.

Erin Prentice is a woman who is trying to find out her own identity after living so much for her father’s life. She accepts the extreme limits that Keith places on their relationship because she falls for him and wants what she can get.  She isn’t weak and she knows that there are limits to what she can accept, but she wants what she can get right now.

I loved the way this story developed as one about revenge and the power of love. About choice and pain and what makes life worth living.  Yes, there is instant love here and the story isn’t really realistic, but the characters are intriguing and I love how the story focuses on their relationship rather than getting lost in the crime story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book was originally published as a Loveswept series romance in 1990.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE LADY AND THE LION is book six in the Once Upon a Time series (although it was published fifth). These books can be read as standalones as they only are connected by the fairytale concept and the matchmaker who makes brief appearances in each of the book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Through the Looking Glass

Review: Through the Looking GlassThrough the Looking Glass (Once Upon a Time) by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time #4
on December 13th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 172
Goodreads
four-stars

“I’m involved with a woman who has the eyes of a siren, the face of an angel, and a mind like a labyrinth. She offers absurd answers to the most logical questions, and changes moods right in front of my eyes, and I know she’s a bit mad; I just don’t know to what degree. She’s trying to find one maniac in the middle of a rolling asylum, because the maniac pushed her cousin into a well.”

FINAL DECISION:  I enjoyed the book years ago and still enjoyed it today.  It’s quirky and unrealistic and has instant love that doesn’t always make sense, but the characters are fun and the story is an easy enjoyable read that has something extra.

THE STORY:  Maggie Durant comes from a family of atypical people.  She comes to the Wonderland traveling carnival to investigate the murder of one of her relatives.  There she meets Gideon Hughes, a financier planning on selling the barely surviving Wonderland.  When the two meet, something magical happens between the two even as Gideon struggles to know the mercurial Maggie.

OPINION:  Don’t read this book looking for a realistic contemporary book.  This is a book that tends towards a fairy tale more than realism.  The characters fall in love quickly and with little to basis their feelings on.  The story doesn’t make any real sense, and yet I love this book for the joy in the story, the fun in the characters and the attempts to push the boundaries that this book made when it was written.

Approach this book with an open heart and you can find fun and consideration in Maggie’s Chesire Cat like shifting personalities, Gideon’s Alice-like attempts to impose order on Wonderland, and the funny people and creatures that inhabit this book.  A real attempt to push the boundaries of contemporary series romances toward the fantasy and paranormal, this is one of the book that opened my eyes to the possibilities of crossing genres that have become very prevalent.

Funny and simple and filled with joy and a bit of magic.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book was originally published in 1990 as a Loveswept category romance.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is the fourth book in the loosely connected Once Upon a Time series.  These book are only connected by the fairy tale concept and one character who makes brief appearances to act as matchmaker for the couples.  Each book can be read completely independent of the others.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: What Dreams May Come

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: What Dreams May ComeWhat Dreams May Come (Once Upon a Time) by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time #3
on November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 192
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: For such a short novel, this book is well constructed with a suspense story along with an angst filled second chance at love story.  I loved the setup for this story and the story between these characters went in unexpected directions.

THE STORY: Ten years ago, Kelly Russell’s world was shattered when her fiance was in a car accident which resulted in him ending up in a coma from which doctor’s said he would never awaken.  She is shocked when he returns having finally awakened and wants to pick up where they left off.  While John Mitchell’s life stopped ten years ago, Kelly has lived a life and suffered pain and loss. She knows they can’t recover what they lost, but Mitch wants to try and see what might still exist between them.

OPINION:  I really enjoyed this book.  The book begins with a rip van winkle/sleeping beauty premise. The hero is placed in suspense while Kelly’s life goes on.  She lives a decade, loses family, marries and divorces, and creates a life for herself that is far from what she anticipated at eighteen when Mitch ended up in a coma.  When the two meet again, there is the echo of their past together, but things have changed for both of them. What I find intriguing about this story is that the past is not idealized between these two. Although Kelly loved Mitch, she recognizes that their relationship was shallow then. Mitch wanted a woman who was weaker and more innocent than Kelly is now.  Kelly knows that she has changed and doesn’t believe that there is any possibility of them having a future together.

While the pace of this book is incredibly fast in real time (only days pass before everything is resolved), I thought the feelings and issues were complex for the length of the book. Kelly and Mitch have to resolve incredibly difficult issues.  Kelly has experienced ten years but Mitch has not. The two have to resolve the past and learn who they are now. I enjoy a book with angst and this book has the most angst of the series. For me, when these two find one another, it is sweeter.

WORTH MENTIONING: WHAT DREAMS MAY COME was originally published as a Loveswept category romance in 1989.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WHAT DREAMS MAY COME is the third book in the Once Upon a Time series but each book can be read as a standalone since they are only loosely connected.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: The Glass Shoe

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Glass ShoeThe Glass Shoe (Once Upon a Time) by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time
on November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 192
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Sweet, funny and with just a touch of angst.  This story is short and thus not fully developed but I enjoyed the characters and their journey.

THE STORY:  Amanda Wilderman doesn’t believe in princes so she ruefully allows her cousins to convince her to attend a masquerade ball as Cinderella.  There she meet Ryder Foxx, who is conveniently dressed as the prince. The two have a magical evening together and, of course, Amanda runs off before midnight, leaving a glass shoe behind. The two end up meeting again in Wyoming where Amanda is helping her uncle redecorate a hotel. Amanda doesn’t want Ryder to know that she is an heiress because she has been burnt before and she certainly doesn’t want him to know that she was Cinderella.  Despite this, the sparks fly between these two.  A wary woman and the man who wants her love and trust.

OPINION:  This is a short novel but has a freshness that belies is being over 25 years old. I enjoyed the spirit of the book with has a humor mixed with some mild angst involving Amanda’s wariness. I liked how Amanda and Ryder challenge one another and enjoy each others company. There are such normal activities as board game playing and a fainting dog. The central conflict in the story is Amanda’s wariness, the secrets she is keeping, and Ryder’s own expectations.

Although there is a plot involving a potential technology that both their companies are competing for which might derail their romance, the plot mostly stays in the background in this book.  This is a book about the heart of these two characters and overcoming a sad past.

I enjoyed this book when I read it years ago and it has aged very well.

WORTH MENTIONING: THE GLASS SHOE was originally published as a Loveswept category romance in 1989.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE GLASS SHOE is the second book in the Once Upon a Time series.  It can be read as a standalone because the books in the series are only loosely connected.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Golden Threads

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Golden ThreadsGolden Threads (Once Upon a Time) by Kay Hooper
Series: Once Upon a Time #1
on November 29, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 213
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A nice read, this story is a short category romance that means that the emotional story is somewhat rushed as the emphasis is on the plot of the book. The characters are nice and I enjoyed the book overall.

THE STORY: Lara Mason is trying to overcome her isolation by joining a local production of Rapunzel (the adult version). In truth, Lara is in the FBI witness program after the death of her father.  Her attraction to the male lead of the play, Devon Shane is complicated to what might be attempts on her life.

OPINION:  This book is enjoyable but it is not realistic. Like the fairy tale it is imitating, readers must just suspend their judgment and go with the story. Things happen too fast (insta-love) and there is so much that doesn’t make sense in the real world (would the FBI really allow Lara to operate so far outside their protection?).  But the story is fun and the characters (including a really amazing cat) are good enough to make this book worth my time to read.

Nothing is deep in this story but it is an intriguing and entertaining effort without the angst and drama of more realistic stories.  I read this book years ago when it was first published and there is still something amazing about Hooper’s writing.  She has gone on to write much more complicated romantic suspense and you can certainly see glimpses of that great talent in these early efforts.

I’m going to admit that I’ve read the other books in this series as well and my favorite book of the lot is THE MATCHMAKER which reveals the story of the (you might guess) matchmaker of these couples.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a reprint of a Loveswept category romance that was published in the late 1980s.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  GOLDEN THREADS is the first book in the loosely connected Once Upon a Time series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars