Friday, January 17, 2014

Book Review: Without a Clue by Trish Jensen

Without a Clue Cover Delightful comedy of errors

Without a Clue by Trish Jensen

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases
Pages: 224 pages
Source: Author Request
Reviewed By:Kate McMurry

Event planner, Meg Renshaw, has never hosted a mystery weekend before, but it seems like a sure thing to set it within an enormous, atmospheric, antebellum mansion on a Charleston plantation. Unfortunately, the project is plagued with problems from the start, most disastrous being when the actor hired to play the murder victim passes out from root-canal pain pills before it is time for him to become a corpse. As if that wasn't bad enough, handsome, wealthy Matt Rossi shows up and announces he is the new owner of the property. He claims that Meg's contract to use his home is invalid, and he demands that she and her guests leave at once. Meg exercises every bit of patience and charm she possesses to change Matt's mind, and he is unable to resist her. He hasn't been this intensely attracted to a woman in his life, and his insistence on staying on to supervise the mystery weekend is as much about connecting with Meg as it is about protecting his home. Meg immediately takes advantage of his presence to further persuade Matt to join the cast of her flamboyant production in the role of the dead man. Once again, he gives into her, because Meg plays the part of his character's mistress and there is at least one bedroom scene before his character is murdered.

This is a really cute romantic comedy which uses the ever-green plot of the spontaneous, seat-of-her-pants heroine loosening up a straight-laced, workaholic hero. The setting in a Southern plantation house is unusual and fascinating, and the concept of a mystery weekend is also quite unique, is extremely well done, and provides endless opportunities for comedy-of-errors hysteria.

As for the romance between Meg and Matt, they are highly sympathetic protagonists who have terrific chemistry, and their repartee is wonderful.

All in all, this book is a major treat for fans of romantic comedy, and I strongly recommend it.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 5

Hero: 5

Setting: 5

Romance Plot: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Review: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Being Sloane Jacobs Cover Fun, YA, girl-power, trading-places, sports story

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Pages: 354 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Amazon Vine
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Sloane Emily Jacobs is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C. She has been burned out on figure skating since she fell in a major competition three years ago, but her mother wants her to make a comeback by attending an ice-skating camp in Montreal, Canada which will consume eight weeks of Sloane's summer break. Sloane seeks out her father at his office to gain his support in foiling her mother's plan and stumbles upon him in an amorous embrace with his young, beautiful press secretary. Suddenly all Sloane ggj is to get out of town.

Sloane Devon Jacobs is the sixteen-year-old daughter of a working-class family from Philadelphia. Her mother is an alcoholic currently in court-mandated rehab; her father is struggling with losing his wife, and Sloane has put her painful feelings of abandonment on hold by making hockey her whole life. Unfortunately, her game is a mess because she keeps getting into fights with her team members, and she freezes up every time she has a clear shot at the puck to make a goal. Her coach warns her that her chances for a college, hockey scholarship will go up in smoke if she doesn't get her act together. In order to make that more possible, he uses his personal connections to get her a spot at a prestigious hockey camp in Montreal.

The two Sloans meet by chance at a hotel in Montreal, and impulsively agree to trade places for the summer, since both have a similar need to avoid the stressful pressure to succeed at their particular sport.

Anyone who enjoys stories where two protagonists switch places (such as The Parent Trap, The Prince and the Pauper, and Trading Places) will enjoy this novel. And those who are fans of young-adult, girl-power, sports stories will be particularly pleased. There are also family-dysfunction subplots for both of the heroines which will be appreciated by readers who like YA family drama.

My favorite parts of the book involve the skating scenes. They are extremely well done and often quite exciting. There are also excellent romantic subplots, with each of the two young women finding very appealing romantic partners in Montreal.

The main trading-places plot is based in several major coincidences, and there are additional coincidences strewn throughout the novel. However, since the author consistently employs coincidence to cause conflict rather than to conveniently solve problems, it is easy to overlook that literary device because it results in such a fun story.

Both of the Sloanes are sympathetic and intriguing heroines, and I loved that each are clearly outstanding athletes. I liked that their love interests were both athletes as well, and that these guys were supportive and sensitive, rather than merely well-muscled alpha males.

The setting of Montreal is very well done, adding to the unique appeal of this story. It is great to discover a YA novel that has not a single scene set in a high school. In addition, the writing in general is excellent.

This story is a "clean read," suitable for all ages. There is no underage drinking, smoking, wild parties or sex.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book through Amazon Vine.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroines: 5

Subcharacters: 5

Girl-Power Sports Plot:

Romance Subplots: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5