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Romance / Erotica

  • A Wilderness Within

    by Emma Castle

    Rating: 6.25

    Plot: Reminiscent of the novel Contagion, the medieval plague, and the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic, this gripping novel is stirringly relevant. References to China backed by conspiracy theory supercharge the plot with frightening reality.

    Prose/Style: The ability to harness attention with explosive descriptive phrases catapults every terrifying scene into a surreal catastrophic realm. A tad overdone but implemented with precision, each word strives for heightened emotion and maximum impact.

    Originality: A blatant allusion to the havoc of the 2020 coronavirus places parts of this novel in a blurry faction zone—a fictionalized account of real events combined with a fabricated plot line. An intriguing but familiar scenario, it is not original, nor is it taking strides beyond other literary works triggered by the concept of or the actual occurrence of widespread diseases.

    Character Development: Amid the book’s riveting action is a sweet romance and tender introspection that allow for character development beyond the shallow cardboard figures that often appear in thrillers. Set against a life-altering global event followed by an apocalyptic aftermath, the protagonists step forward with empathetic human traits.

  • Seducing an Heiress on a Train

    by Lauren Smith

    Rating: 5.75

    Plot: Set during the Victorian era, this story of seduction and money depicts a common practice of the period, a transactional love affair agreeable to both parties. Historically authentic, and at times interesting, the romance is infused with dated expectations and archaic perceptions.

    Prose/Style: Sound editing and a coquettish way with words may be the novel’s best qualities, along with an undeniable talent for subtle humor that will clearly appeal to aficionados of Victorian fiction. Appropriate pacing and descriptive enhancement of a predictable scenario provide sufficient entertainment for an escapade into social mayhem.

    Originality: Suspected duplicity in a somewhat contrived plot detracts from the originality of a popular, though structured, romance sub-genre. Filled with tenderness and sincerity beneath the ulterior motive, the book sparkles yet fails to shine bright.

    Character Development: Heavy on sultry passion, light on substance, this ebullient narrative adapts to the time in which the protagonists are living, allowing their choices and preferences—no matter how contradictory—to guide their actions. Lighthearted moments reveal deep emotion, while the obligatory resolution of problems and fulfillment of societal expectations threatens to override natural expression.

  • The Cowboy & the Cheerleader

    by Mary Allen Redd

    Rating: 5.00

    Plot: Although this book has an engaging premise, Redd’s execution of the main character’s journey – from country-dwelling cheerleader to worldly city slicker to contented rancher’s wife – lacks a consistent focus, due to less engaging subplots and an overall narrative that expands on inconsequential scenes and condenses ones that offer the opportunity for emotional growth.

    Prose/Style: Redd’s talent at landscape description, authentic dialogue, time-period characterization, and sweet humor are strong. Yet the main character’s voice, while distinct, projects a naivete that seems inconsistent with the changing of times and her personal/world experiences.

    Originality: The Cowboy and the Cheerleader mixes tropes of both women’s fiction and conventional romance to varying degrees. The overall imbalance creates a story that’s compelling in pieces but not overall.

    Character Development: While the heroine’s development ticks the necessary narrative boxes when it comes to experiences/action, a lack of internal dialogue and unsophisticated social commentary lend a sense of inauthenticity to her growth. Also, the majority of the narrative focuses on the heroine with less space given to the titular cowboy. This imbalance lessens the reader’s emotional investment in the relationship and the happily-ever-after of the main couple.

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