A Man of Character by Margaret Locke

“What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?”

What’s it About? 

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Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do … especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.

A startling revelation — that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago — forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.

Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect — who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which — or whom — she wants more.

Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character is a whimsical-yet-thought-provoking romantic comedy that tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.

First Impressions

Looking back on this novel I have to say that the premise was probably the strongest part. We’re presented with Cat, a seemingly lifelong bachelorette who is down on her luck in love and in life. But then something fantastical happens. Not only do a slew of different men start asking her out, but she comes to realize that these men are actually characters she created in stories when she was younger. Cat soon discovers that an old manuscript passed down through her family explains the power that the women in this family wield when it comes to putting pen to paper. In the midst of this literary conundrum she also meets a man with whom she has the strongest connection, but she can’t help but wonder if he’s real, or simply a character of her own creation which she can’t remember.

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It certainly sounded like such a fun read at the outset! Unfortunately I felt like the story never went to the next level it needed to in order to reach its full potential. Similar to the narrator’s delivery of the audiobook which I listened to for this read, the progression of the story also came across as a bit flat. More life needed to be injected into it! I almost wish it had been elevated one additional level of silliness so we could lose ourselves in the fantasy of the situation. Or…we could have done a complete turnabout and gone full on horror scenario, but overall I think I would have preferred a more comedic lift to the plot and narration.

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The Family Manuscript

As discussed earlier, an old manuscript which Cat’s father left her before he died contains the answers as to why these fictional characters have just recently come to life. This manuscript presented us with both a heartbreaking, yet frustrating influence to the plot. Let’s start with the heartbreaking side of things. At the start of the novel, we see Cat’s father wrapping up this manuscript to give to his beloved daughter on her birthday. It’s an item his own mother had given to him with clear instructions on when he needed to give it to Cat, and also the history contained within this manuscript which grants the female family members with an unbelievable power. Sure, it’s a power he himself doesn’t believe, but what’s the harm in sharing this silly story with Cat?

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Sadly, we then see him pass away from a heart attack before he ever gets a chance to give it to Cat, or explain the implications of its history. The untimely death of her father has an enormous impact on Cat, and we especially see this come to the forefront when she interacts with these fictional love interests. In a way, she has so much power literally at the end of her pen. She can create the ideal man. What woman wouldn’t want that? Well, for Cat she realizes there are things far more important than creating a man on paper for herself. She’d much rather have her dad back, spend time with her family and friends, and find someone who chooses to love her of their own free will rather than being written to love her. It was really a powerful exploration of what truly matters in life.

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This is all well and good but there was another aspect of this manuscript which frustrated me to no end. Basically, Cat barely spends any time with it! This is seemingly the key which contains the answers to all her questions. It was only after this thing came into her life that madness ensued. If it were me, I’d read that thing from cover to cover, and probably more than once just to ensure I had all the information I needed. As for Cat, she doesn’t really seem that concerned with it. She only bothers to read the intro, the final conclusion, and get the whole thing photo-copied because of it’s age. But then she just pushes it aside without another attempt to discover what secrets or explanations might be lying within.

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Series: Magic of Love, book 1.

Final Impressions: Overall, the premise was far superior to the execution of the story. I wanted more from it, whether that be comedy or suspense, I honestly could have gone in either direction. Instead the story just kind of stays flat at the same level throughout the entire read, and I never felt like I connected strongly with the main character’s personality. It was also kind of surprising, considering we’re dealing with a romance novel here, how often the characters of the book berated romance novels. Her friends and family laugh at Cat for ever having written love stories, and the concept of her amorous writings seems almost more unbelievable than the prospect of her characters coming to life.

Smut Level: A fairly clean read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Locked on Love Publishing. 336 Pages.

Going Down on One Knee by Christina Hovland

For a cute, romantic, funny read…hot damn was this thing surprisingly sexy!

What’s it About?

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Number-crunching Velma Johnson’s perfectly planned life is right on course. That’s a lie. Sure, she’s got the lucrative job. She’s got the posh apartment. But her sister nabbed Velma’s Mr. Right. There has to be a man out there for Velma. Hopefully, one who’s hunky, wears pressed suits, and has a diversified financial portfolio. He’ll be exactly like, well… her sister’s new fiancé.

Badass biker Brek Montgomery blazes a trail across the country, managing Dimefront, one of the biggest rock bands of his generation. With the band on hiatus, Brek rolls into Denver to pay a quick visit to his family and friends. But when Brek’s sister suddenly gets put on bed rest, she convinces Brek to take over her wedding planning business for the duration of her pregnancy. Staying in Denver and dealing with bridezillas was not what Brek had in mind when he passed through town, but there is one particular maid-of-honor who might make his stay worthwhile.

Velma finds herself strangely attracted to the man planning her sister’s wedding. Problem is, he ticks none of the boxes on her well-crafted list. Brek is rough around the edges, he cusses, and doesn’t even have a 401(k). But trying something crazy might get her out of the rut of her dating life–so long as she lays down boundaries up front and sticks to her plan…

First Impression

Every once in a while, my sister will ask for romance novel recommendations from me, and sometimes she’ll say she’s in the mood for something “cutesy”. Cutesy is sort of a level beyond cute, where some scenes are just so freakin’ adorable you want to giggle and squeeeee in delight. This novel perfectly embodies the definition of a “cutesy” read! It didn’t take long at all before I started to have a permanent grin on my face whenever I opened this baby up on my Kindle. Sure, it started to hurt after a while, but in the most fabulous way possible. The banter back and forth between our lead characters is everything, not to mention their dynamics with the lovable secondary characters. The fact that one of Brek’s good male friends is a florist, so he and his buddies all converge at the flower shop to drink some beers and discuss Brek’s love life was such a hoot. Your toes will inevitably curl in delight with this one!

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A Biker Handles Bridezillas

Brek had just planned to be in town for a short visit when his sister unexpectedly ended up on bed rest towards the end of her pregnancy. She’s desperate to have her wedding planning business succeed, so who does she enlist to help her out with some upcoming weddings but her unbelievably supportive badass biker brother, Brek. The first wedding he’s in control of basically crashes and burns in a rather over-the-top way. From a dog gagging on a pearl necklace, to the mother-of-the-bride sitting down on a box of melted chocolates, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. This was perhaps the one part of the book that I thought, mkay let’s tone it down juuuust a bit. Overall though these weddings are really the linchpin that bring Brek and Velma together as a team when she agrees to help him out with the planning logistics. They go from meager acquaintances to unexpected roommates, unlikely friends to passionate lovers. It’s fun to see their relationship play out and develop into something special that neither was really expecting.

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From Avoiding Commitment to Seeking it Out

An interesting feature of this read was both Brek and Velma’s approach to commitment, as well as to their own newfound relationship. Basically, both see this thing as short term. He doesn’t check any of the boxes in her 5-year plan spreadsheet for a possible groom, but she sees this as an opportunity to live life a little on the wild side and break out of her comfort zone. For him, he’s insistent that he’s just passing through Denver. True, his family and close friends are here, but his life is on the open road managing a band. Settling down just isn’t in the cards for them.

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As their time together lengthens though Brek comes to discover that, “He wanted Velma. He also wanted freedom. The two wouldn’t mesh well. But he wasn’t willing to give up either one. There had to be a third solution.” What I found so interesting in this romance was that Brek was the first to consider making changes in his life for Velma, and as a matter of fact is the first to say “I love you”. They both seemed so set in their ways, and while we knew they’d break eventually I guess I just never thought it would be Brek to be first.

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The Doomed Spreadsheet

Keeping in line with her accounting ways, Velma keeps a spreadsheet with an algorithm to determines her suitability with men she’s gone on dates with. We can all see that this spreadsheet of hers is gonna come back to bite her in the ass eventually. Brek ultimately discovers his entry in Velma’s spreadsheet, and his measly score of a 4 out of 10. According to the spreadsheet rules that’s not even good enough for a second date (even though they’ve been going out for a while now). What follows is a romance novel trope that I must say I’m not a huge fan of, and that’s when one person refuses to listen to an explanation by the other. Velma goes after Brek several times to explain that she loves him, and that she’s finally realized the spreadsheet could never account for feelings and emotional connection. And yet, Brek continually turns his back on her.

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Mkay, here’s my problem. I know it must have hurt like a son of a bitch to see his name on that sheet, and with such a low score to boot. Velma should have deleted the thing long ago, and the fact she even bothered to fill out the columns with his information was a low blow. But, he loves this woman. He’s considering making huge changes in his life for her. She’s already hinted at how she doesn’t hold as much weight behind the spreadsheet as she once did. If you truly love this woman as much as you say you do, the least you could do is treat her with enough respect to listen to her when she’s trying to speak to you. Don’t throw a temper tantrum and essentially tune out what is obviously an honest and heartfelt plea for understanding.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: A Mile High Matched Novel, book 1. I am definitely going to continue with this series, just try and stop me! But please don’t. I am so ensnared with the supplemental characters in this book I can’t wait to see them get their own shot at a happily ever after!

Final Impression: This is a delightfully fun and lighthearted read, not to mention a perfect option for the beach. Velma and Brek are such lovable characters that you root for them throughout the entire novel. Although slightly predictable, it’s just the kind of cutesy read you need to put a smile on your face.

Smut Level: Just because it’s lighthearted doesn’t mean this thing won’t get steamy! These two come up with some pretty clever sex locales, including Brek’s motorcycle! The scenes themselves never get too dirty or raunchy though. Just some good steamy fun!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 314 Pages.

The Dare by Rachel van Dyken

Well…that was disappointing. Definitely my least favorite book in “The Bet” series, even though it probably had the most potential of all three. My biggest problem with this book was following the logic behind many of the characters’ decision-making. Mainly because it was void of all logic.the dare

Beth has always been described by others as boring. In fact, it’s her unofficial nickname: boring Beth. I’d like to take a moment here to say that if anybody tried to give me that nickname I’d smack ’em upside the head. But anyway, Beth is boring. Until she wakes up one morning after a friend’s wedding to find a sexy senator tangled up in the bed sheets next to her, and no recollection of what went down the night before. So unfortunate. First time the girl has some fun in her life and she can’t even remember the details.

Our sexy senator is Jace, and he and Beth actually have a bit of a history, although neither one is very willing to talk about it. This really ticked me off because it is undoubtedly the most romantic aspect of the entire book. The two met at Beth’s prom years before, but because they went to different schools they didn’t really know each other. Beth had actually been asked to prom by the hunk of the high school, but it was more an act of charity than anything else. While she’s sulking in a corner, a handsome stranger approaches her asking for a dance. Enter Jace. Whereas all of her classmates made fun of her and thought she was boring, Jace found her to be beautiful when nobody else did. Good God I think I need a tissue! The two teens shared a brief kiss on the dance floor before Jace hurried off into the night, and it was years before the two were reunited. See what I mean? Definite potential. Sadly, the author chooses to sort of leave this amazing back-story by the wayside, so it doesn’t get the full amount of attention that it really deserves.

Ok, so that was their past, now let’s get to their present. This has got to be one of the more confusing relationships I’ve ever encountered. The book is entitled The Dare, but to this day I really don’t get what the whole dare was about. Basically, Beth dares Jace to give her “the fairytale” for one week while they are stuck at a couple’s retreat (don’t even ask). Now, what that fairytale is, I have no idea. In my opinion, “the fairytale” would involve lots of hot monkey sex with the hunkenstein that you’ve thought about since high school. Although taking a break now and then to soak up some sun wouldn’t be too bad either. Oh, and maybe a back massage. But apparently Beth’s idea of a fairytale involves no sex at all. Just some steamy kissing, a bit of rubbing, and no relief whatsoever. They get frustrated, I get frustrated, and we don’t see any real action until the last freakin’ chapter of the book.

I understand that in most romance novels the two main lovey doveys can sometimes be hesitant to begin a relationship. That is the case in this book as well, but their reasons for not wanting to start something make no sense at all! Jace keeps saying that he knows he’ll just walk away from her eventually, and that he has to choose between Beth and his career. Umm, definitely missed something here. Firstly, Jace isn’t a player, so I don’t see why he’d walk away. It’s not like he has a history of leaving behind a trail of broken-hearted females. Secondly, somebody please tell this idiot that nowhere in the senator handbook does it say that you can’t have a girlfriend. When another character told Jace that he was basically being a major douche I wanted to crawl into the book for some fist bump action. There were so many pointless discussions in this book about walking away, and making the big gesture to show that he cared. You know what’s a big gesture? Leaving your pity party and just having sex already!

This book did have some humor in it with the character of Grandma Nadine. She has been the not so behind-the-scenes puppet master matchmaker in each book of this series, and she’s crazier than ever in this one. I did find myself giggling a few times while reading this book, but it was usually accompanied by some massive eye-rolling. Grandma Nadine’s antics were just so over-the-top, and not in a good way. I mean I’m all for bringing together two lonely people for the sake of love, but when you have to resort to using the date rape drug to accomplish that you might be overstepping your bounds a little bit. We are supposed to just laugh it off as another silly ploy by Grandma Nadine, but it sounds like her medication might need some adjustment.

Series: The Bet series, book 3.

Should you read it? I pray that this is the last book of the series, but if it isn’t I can tell you that it’s definitely the last one I’m gonna bother reading. Honestly, the whole series can probably be skipped.

Smut Level: Every time things started to get hot and heavy our lovebirds would get interrupted. I grunted from annoyance one too many times.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here

Coffee, Cigarettes and Crisis by Jano Misho

The protagonist in this novel lives in Paris, France which means I was thereby obligated to read it. I studied French throughout most of high school and all of college, and took an amazing two week trip all over France with my mom before I graduated. Basically, anything France related, and I’m in. Throw in a little romance and you’ve got a book bound to be featured in a post on my blog. So let’s get started!Coffee, Cigarettes and Crisis

Sadly, I’ll only be able to refer to the protagonist as “the lead character” or “her” because we never actually learn her name. If we did, I totally missed it. Yikes! Anywho, the lead character is a young woman living in Paris when she experiences a quarter-life crisis. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Sure, she loses her job, and has some minor plumbing issues, but things quickly turn around for her. Not only does she have a close group of friends for support, but she also gets a French boyfriend with amazing blue eyes and facial scruff. Did you hear me? Facial…freakin’…scruff! So I apologize if I don’t exactly sympathize with your quarter-life crisis, which might as well be a mid-life crisis with all the cigarettes you smoke! You’ll be lucky to make it to 50 before you get cancer!! Ahem, sorry, don’t know what quite came over me there. Oh, did I mention that shortly after losing her job our protagonist has her paintings featured in an art gallery, and writes a novel on top of it? GAH!! Cry me a river.

Putting aside the life crisis that wasn’t really a life crisis, I would say this book is more a tale of self-discovery. To me, a life crisis means that everything is falling apart around you. Instead, what we have here is a young woman who is finally given an opportunity to get out of her comfort zone and discover what she really wants to do with her life. Her previous job working at a magazine was comfortable, and she had great co-workers, but it wasn’t necessarily her dream job. In hindsight, losing her job was probably a blessing in disguise. We then learn she has a talent for painting, but she questions whether this is something to do as a career, or merely as a hobby. That was probably one of my favorite parts of the book, when she was debating whether to turn her painting into a career just because she was good at it, or if she should just keep it to herself so the pleasure she gains from it isn’t lost. We’ve all probably experienced moments in life like this, but our protagonist just happens to be experiencing them in Paris. Therefore, no right to complain!

Although the novel is set in Paris, I must say I don’t think that fact was used to its full potential. Sure, one of the protagonist’s favorite things to do was go to Montparnasse and people watch (which I totally understand), but I know there are other things to do in that city. Our lead mainly hangs out in her apartment, goes out for coffee and cigarettes, and chats with an old dude who happens to own a strip club. Girl, go to a museum or something! Even the scenes in Montparnasse could have been described in more detail. Having been there myself, I personally could envision the scenes when our protagonist had coffee there. As someone from the US, normally when you picture a Parisian street in your head, you’ll probably find the real image somewhere in Montparnasse. All of the streets curve into old buildings of architectural beauty, with idyllic flower boxes under all of the windows, and balconies of intricate lattice-work. However, if you’ve never been to Paris and you read this book, I’m not sure you’d be able to picture such a clear image in your head.

This novel is characterized as chick-lit, which definitely works, but I feel like it should have been funnier to truly enter the chick-lit book shelf. The comedic relief in the book was the protagonist’s friend Max (finally! a name), a playboy in every way who seems to make everyone laugh and forget their worries. I loved his character and want to speak French with him. Immediately.

As for the lead character herself, I wish we had learned more about her background. Why did she come to Paris? What led her there? If she’s having a quarter-life crisis, we need to understand more about the first quarter of her life, rather than just the last couple months. I thought it was pretty interesting that this information was left out seeing that whenever the protagonist would people watch, she’d always try and figure out their back story. This missing info made it difficult for me to connect with her as a lead character. In my opinion she seemed kind of whiny, and by the end of the book completely naive. Listen up ladies, and even you gentlemen out there because I am going to share a universal truth with you that our main character never seemed to have learned in life: if you are dating someone, and you happen to come across their ex in a public restroom, every word that comes out of their mouth is complete and total bull shit. Sounds pretty obvious, right? Well, not to this chica. Or I guess I should say mademoiselle.

There were some very obvious grammar and writing issues throughout the book, but when you looked past all of that to the plot lying underneath, it wasn’t that bad of a story. Now, if you don’t like Paris, or books of self-discovery then you might want to avoid this one. However, I must say I found it rather refreshing to read about a female lead learning about life and making her way in Paris rather than a male douche like Hemingway. Oh, sorry, that’s a rant for another day.

*An ARC of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Yes, although I’m not really sure why. Everything pretty much comes together in the end.

Should you read it? If you’ve been to Paris, and liked it, sure.

Smut Level: Pretty nonexistent, although you can just imagine the smut that happens between our protagonist and her facial-scruffed Frenchman behind closed doors. Mmmm, better than a chocolate croissant any day.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

This piece of chick-lit is laugh out loud funny, and such a fun read. If you’re in the mood for something lighthearted, romantic, and empty of BDSM outrageousness, then this is definitely something you’ll enjoy. i've got your number

Poppy Wyatt is engaged to be married, but after losing her priceless engagement ring, as well as her precious cell phone, she quickly realizes that desperate times call for desperate measures. This includes “borrowing” a cell phone she just happens to find in the trash of a hotel lobby. After all, how will anybody be able to contact her if her ring does magically show up?

Well, it turns out the phone belonged to the personal assistant of tough-as-nails businessman Sam Roxton, and he wants his phone back. What follows is a hilarious back and forth between a stern man and a cheerful young woman; two opposites who become drawn together through text messages, e-mails, and even a few personal close encounters.

Because this novel belongs in the chick-lit genre, there isn’t a whole lot of smut. No hanky panky, and we are rewarded in the end with a passionate kiss rather than a roll in the sack. But this novel is so damn funny, you won’t really mind, and the chemistry between these two is spot on. Poppy is hilarious in trying to make Sam less of an ass, and takes it upon herself to respond to some of his work e-mails from the phone she happens upon. One of these includes sending a heartfelt poem to one of his employees whose pet recently passed away. I laughed so hard I almost had tears in my eyes! You might want to consider reading this one at home, unless you don’t mind looking like a laughing idiot in public. I leave it up to you.

Although Sam can’t stand Poppy at first, and Poppy is convinced that her fiancé is the perfect man, these two start to develop a chemistry, and start to question if the animosity they once felt for each other is becoming something more endearing. Towards the end of the novel I must admit that Poppy started to get on my nerves a bit, especially when she finds out that her fiancé has been a bit of a dick, but still decides to marry him anyway. And hello, you’ve got a hot businessman who will be sure to comfort you through your times of woe. However, the ending more than makes up for it, especially when Sam acts out in a moment of desperation to try and prevent Poppy from going through with her wedding. So freakin’ cute I just can’t stand it.

Series: Nope

Should you read it: Yes, as long as you’re not looking for a romance book full of the horizontal mambo.

Smut Level: Pretty much non-existent. You might want to have a steamier novel on hand for when you’re finished to release some sexual tension build-up.

Buy it on Amazon: Click Here.