Say You’re Sorry (Morgan Dane #1)
by Melinda Leigh
I borrowed this book via Prime Reading. As with most of the Prime books, this is published by an Amazon imprint (Montlake Romance), so the fact that it’s an Amazon Charts bestseller doesn’t mean a whole lot.
I had a mixed reaction to this book. The beginning seemed to be staggering around, trying to find a flow, as the POV switched from the victim to the killer to the heroine to the hero.
About half-way through, the tension built solidly as Morgan and Lance attempted to find the killer before either the wrongly-arrested suspect died in jail or the killer found them.
And then the end just didn’t feel satisfactory to me. With multiple plot threads to tie up, again the events didn’t flow smoothly. The killer really wasn’t a surprise, since the suspects had been narrowed down to two, and I didn’t care a whole lot which one it was.
This book was labeled as romantic suspense, but both were weak. Morgan should have been in more danger to make it truly suspenseful. And there should have been more attraction between her and Lance to make it a romance.
By C.J. Petit
I bought this book as part of my genre research for writing my own western romance series. C.J. Petit has multiple novels in the Top 100 in this category, so he must be doing something right. (Other than pricing his books at 99 cents and publishing a book a month.)
I read the author’s brief bio on Amazon, so I was prepared for the kind of book this would be. Pettit isn’t a professional novelist. He picked up writing novels as a hobby, found that he had a knack for it, and has had moderate success doing it. That’s quite different from someone who studies craft with the aim of making a career of their writing.
This one is the story of Chance Long, a bounty hunter, who agrees to rescue a rich man’s daughter. She was seduced by a flim-flam man who has used the same technique on dozens, if not hundreds, of other women. The woman, Genevieve, or Jenny as she is called later in the story, is effectively kidnapped for ransom and held captive in a tipi on the Crow reservation.
While the writing isn’t great literature, the development of the characters of Chance and Jenny is fascinating, and the parts where Chance is tracking the kidnappers and having gunfights with the several factions were reminiscent of some Zane Grey books I’ve read. There’s the typical romance trope of the potential lovers being from two different worlds, but despite themselves, there’s a growing attraction.
But the main plot, other than the Happily Ever After, comes to a conclusion half-way through the novel. Jennie is delivered to the safety of her father’s home, and Chance takes off on a totally separate adventure to get more bad guys. There are occasional mentions of each of them longing (although that may be too strong a word) for the other, but she thinks he has a wife, and he thinks that once he’s returned her to Cheyenne, she’s become the rich society girl Genevieve again.
Meanwhile, we have more shooting. Chance, once again, eliminates the bad guys, collects a lot of money, and heads home, only to find Jennie waiting for him at his ranch, eager to marry him.
And still the book goes on with a few more subplots, one horribly wrenching scene, and way too many pretty bows wrapping things up that weren’t even in the first half of the book. The book could have been a lot shorter, which would also have made it more satisfying.
Most of all, this book desperately needed a proofreader. Commas are missing where they’re needed and present where they’re not. Pettit has the use of quotation marks when dialogue spans more that one paragraph consistently wrong. There are multiple instances of having two words where only one should be there (“looked” followed by “stared,” for example). This happens a lot in revision where the writer changes the wording so it’s stronger or clearer than what was in the first draft, but should be corrected before a book is published. There are wrong words and words with missing letters (“he” where it obviously should be “the”) which the author should have noticed on even a cursory second reading. There was one chapter where these errors were so egregious, I almost stopped reading the book. But I pushed on to the end because I wasn’t reading this book for pleasure; I was reading it to learn the genre.
There was so much potential for this book and so much disappointment by the time I got to the end.
A Thin Film of Lies
By C.S. Lakin
While searching for information on writing romance novels, I discovered a series of blog posts this author had done on novel construction in general and romance novels in particular. These were very well done, and I thought it might be worth my while to explore more of what she’d written.
C.S. Lakin has written in multiple genres, including a Christian fantasy series, time travel science fiction, and a historical western romance series under the pen name of Charlene Whitman. This is her only mystery.
For a writer who is also an editor (with multiple writing craft books written), this book was very disappointing. In fact, I quit reading it long before the end.
In one of her writing craft books, Susanne mentions she had a hard time figuring out who the main character in this novel should be. That’s clear from the beginning, as she shifts through multiple points of view. I was never clear on who the main character was until I read that Fran, the detective, was the one she finally decided on. Although the book starts in Fran’s POV, not too long after, we’re in Alisa’s head, and then her husband, Mike’s. We also get at least one scene from Jeff’s point of view. There are introductions to each part of the novel by an unnamed photographer. If I hadn’t been told whose story this was, I never would have guessed from the writing. And I can’t tell you who all these people are because their characters weren’t memorable enough to stay with me.
The other flaw was the dreaded infodump, a long passage where she narrates the backstory of a character. While Susanne warns against doing this in her writing craft books, there’s more than one in A Thin Film of Lies. There’s a reason these are frowned upon; while the author is filling in all of these details, nothing is happening in the story. With no narrative drive, I lost interest.
This was a discouraging introduction to the fiction of a writer who I thought had a firm grasp on writing craft. I’m hoping mystery just isn’t her genre and that the romance I downloaded will prove more rewarding.