Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Review: The Roommate by Carla Krae

The Roommate Cover Adorable, New Adult, Friends-to-Lovers Plot

The Roommate (West Coast Soulmates #3) by Carla Krae

Reading Level: New Adult
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Willowick Publishing
Pages: 108 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Jessica has been living in L.A. the past three years since graduating from university, and during that time she has been happily reunited with her best friend since seventh grade, Rosalind, who had previously attended a different university than Jessica. Though they are quite close and enjoy each other's company, the two friends are very different. Jessica's idea of a good time on a Friday night after a long week as an office worker is to loll around on her couch, watching a movie on DVD while consuming popcorn, pizza and soda. Extroverted Rosalind, on the other hand, is much more of a party animal, and she's very rarely been able to convince Jessica to join her in her partying adventures.

Out of the blue one day Rosalind phones Jessica to call in their "BFF chip," a pact they made in middle school, the gist of which is that when the chip is called in, the BFF must agree to grant the requested favor as it is understood to be an absolute emergency. Rosalind is out of town and cannot keep her promise to pick up her brother Patrick at LA International Airport in an hour. He was only given three days notice to show up for his first real IT job since completing his masters degree in computer science, and her work schedule has made it impossible for her to keep her word. She also cannot offer him her couch to crash on for a few weeks until he can get his own place because her apartment building has been temporarily condemned and evacuated. She begs Jessica to also house her brother until Rosalind can help him make other arrangements.

Jessica hesitates only a moment before agreeing to everything. At the airport, a huge shock awaits her. It's been seven years since she last saw Patrick, just before she left for college, when he was 17 and she was 18. On the outside, the only thing familiar now about "little Ricky" is his curly, brown hair, his thick-framed glasses and his quiet, introverted demeanor. In the intervening years, he's grown half a foot, bulked up, and become a "hunk of hotness too yummy to be real." Not only that, Jessica soon discovers that he's an old-fashioned gentleman who is unfailingly considerate and polite, a fabulous cook, and a tidy and unobtrusive roommate. In other words, he's Mr. Ideal Man whom any young woman, most especially our heroine, would be ecstatic to date. Unfortunately, as her BFF's younger brother, he's forbidden fruit for Jessica. She's constantly worried that she will embarrass him and humiliate herself by failing to hide from him the drooling crush on him that she developed from the moment they met, a lustful fascination which only grows stronger with every enticing moment she spends with him.

This is a fairly short book, but it flows well and feels satisfying and complete. I really enjoyed Jessica and Patrick, who are both very sympathetic characters. I particularly liked Patrick. What a delightful change in a New Adult (NA) romance to encounter a metrosexual, Beta male as the hero! He has no tattoos, doesn't use foul language, is respectful of women, and absolutely is **not** a typical, promiscuous NA romantic hero. There is no sex scene in the book until the very end, and it is done with great sensitivity and is highly emotional rather than simply being crude. In other words, the sex works as it ideally ought to in a romance novel by contributing with deep emotion to the building romantic relationship. This, too, is very refreshing, since the vast percentage of NA romances seem to be nothing but a series of gratuitous, crude, sex scenes with very little plot holding them together.

It was also nice to read a NA romance set somewhere besides a university campus. There are no "F bombs" from any of the characters, and no wild, frat-boy type parties. In fact, there is only one scene in which the heroine gets drunk, and it is clearly a major aberration in her normal life. The hero in that situation is her designated driver and caretaker, and does not drink at all in the book.

Because this is a very short, contemporary romance, there were not a lot of subcharacters who existed beyond being simple "walk-on" characters with no lines. However, the subcharacters that are in the plot serve important purposes, such as Confidant and Antagonist, and they are well drawn.

This novel is written in first person point of view, past tense. Though most NA romance novels these days also give the hero's point of view, in this case, because the book is so short, not knowing what Patrick is thinking adds to Jessica's conflict and suspense about how he feels about her and as such, works well.

I am happy to report that this is a standalone novel with no cliffhanger ending. In fact, it is a classic romance novel in that there is a HEA (happily ever after) ending.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 4

Setting: 4

Romance Plot: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4

Monday, January 16, 2017

Book Review: Stay by Emily Evans

Stay Cover A terrifically entertaining, young-adult romantic comedy

Stay by Emily Evans

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: November 20, 2016
Publisher: Emily Evans
Pages: 163 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Seventeen-year-old Mia is thrilled to discover that during most of her senior year in high school, she will be granted an unprecedented degree of personal freedom to party with her best friend and fellow cheerleader, Lauren. Her very conservative parents are setting out on a months-long, around-the-world cruise, and they have left her in the care of her 24-year-old, absent-minded, artist sister, Hope. When soon after her parents are on their way, Mia discovers that Hope will be moving in with her fabulously wealthy, and extremely take-charge, Greek boyfriend, Niko, she's more than willing to live alone at Hope's apartment. But neither Hope nor Niko will hear of this arrangement. Hope insists that it's her responsibility to supervise Mia, and Niko feels honor bound to assist Hope in a mission that Mia considers completely unnecessary. The last thing she wants is a second babysitter who is much more wide-awake than Hope. The decision is taken out of her hands, however, when Niko sends in a whole team of movers and whisks the sisters to his place, an enormous mansion that seems more like a palace to Mia than a home.

As a consolation prize for his high-handedness, Niko informs Hope and Mia that his sister, Sacha, who will be a senior like Mia, is withdrawing from the British boarding school she's attended for years, is coming to live with Niko, and will attend Mia's school, Trallwyn High School in Texas. Mia is intrigued at the possibility of gaining a new girlfriend and begins a lively, anticipatory correspondence with Sacha via email and text. Sacha proves to be a witty and fascinating girl, and Mia is very much looking forward to spending time with the lively Sacha, who will be sharing a suite of rooms with her in Niko's mansion. But on the day of Sacha's arrival, Mia and Hope are utterly shocked to discover that Niko has misled them. His "sister" is actually a brother. And what a brother! He's six-foot-two, with an athletic physique, a gorgeous face, and his name is Alexander.

Alexander has two nicknames, Alexi, and another name only used by his closest family members--Sacha.

This book is a terrific, PG, romantic romp by talented YA author, Emily Evans. Alexei and Mia are very sympathetic protagonists and make a wonderful couple. There are also many quirky subcharacters, and I especially enjoyed the odd-couple of Niko and Hope.

Adult romance readers (and about 60% of the audience for YA novels are drawn from this demographic, including myself) who have read Harlequin Presents novels will enjoy a really fun, comic homage to the rich, Greek, alpha hero so often found in HP novels.

As is always the case with Ms. Evans's YA novels, the heroine is a virgin, and there is no underage sex. However, the author does a fabulous job creating really enthralling sensuality and sexual chemistry between the attractive and pleasing hero and heroine while offering only hand-holding, sunscreen applications to each other's backs, and a few heated kisses. This is a rather remarkable achievement, and quite refreshing in a romance-novel universe extremely overpopulated with boringly explicit sex scenes that too often substitute heaving body parts for real emotion.

I would have rated this book G, but due to some underage drinking and the definitely sensual tone of many scenes, I would say it rather leans more toward PG.

By the way, I purchased this book in Kindle format, and as is the case with every one of Ms. Evans's books (I own them all), it is well formatted and designed, with zero editing errors. The same cannot be said for many mainstream-published Kindle books these days, particularly from the above-mentioned Harlequin lines.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Romance Plot: 4

Comedic Elements: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4.5 stars rounded to 5 stars