When Heather and I embarked upon this rollercoastery ride called The Estella Society, I knew one of my personal interests was in stretching the boundaries of my reading “comfort zone.” This has been something of a genre reading year for me. I think every year of my grown reading life has had a “theme” of some variety falling in line with what’s shaking in my personal life. Last year I was focused almost exclusively on literary fiction, but given a tumultuous year in 2012 I’ve just wanted to KEEP READING. The best way to do that has been to mix things up in a big way, stepping outside of my normal reading to embrace genres I might’ve left to the wayside last year: historical fiction, time travel, sf, romance.
The Genre Cage Match is a pretty straightforward ongoing project. I’ll tackle two novels in a given genre and see who wins. I pick the books in a very slapdash and unscientific way: this time it was the titles and covers that make Shannon (my officemate) and me giggle the most.
Let the rumble begin!
Admittedly I was feeling silly and a little raunchy after my reading of 50 Shades of Grey and I was going for romance that looked somewhat randy and stereotypical. Keep in mind, I realize romance has varied offerings and runs the gamut of quality, but I was in the mood to see what was between these particular covers. For the romance rumble I chose Highland Heat by Mary Vine and pitted it against Secondhand Bride by Linda Lael Miller. These books have a few items in common — they’re very distinctive genre choices. Both historical romance, both mid-series though they can stand alone, and both reasonably priced! Ha! Here’s a short blurb and impression of each:
Highland Heat: The rugged Scottish Highlands bred warrior men and women who fought for country keep and kin and loved as passionately as they lived. Laird Quinton Cameron and an ostracized laird’s daughter, Deirdre, with nothing to lose work together to outwit an enemy to king and country as the sparks of their mutual attraction burst into flames.
This book is very rawwwr. Hot. Coming off my delicious readings of the first four Outlander novels, I was admittedly drawn to the “Highland” portion of this one. I also thought I might burn out on it pretty quick, since I was fairly certain the quality of the writing would be far less than what Gabaldon offers in her chunky tomes. I was right, by the way. The writing was far less fabulous, and this novel follows a pretty typical romance formula: hero and heroine hate each other and fall into the sack. Boom!
But on the upside, this little novel did have a good bit of political intrigue, and I recognized names of various clans and their plight that would later play out on the fields of Culloden.
And let’s face it. The sex in this one was hot. A lot of it (but not so much as to make one wish to be sterilized).
Secondhand Bride: The youngest McKettrick brother, Jeb, is the wild one who never could stay out of trouble. And trouble is what he gets when he proposes to Chloe Wakefield. No sooner had he and the pretty schoolteacher tied the knot than Jeb discovers she’s already married! After a major dustup with Chloe in a Tombstone barroom, an irate Jeb hightails it back to the Triple M Ranch, certain that his chances of winning the spread in a marriage race with his brothers are dashed.
This one was a sweet book. On the prairie. Still the same basic romance formula: Jeb and Chloe are at each other’s throats until they fall into bed. Then they’re at each other’s throats some more until resolution time. This one lacked for me based largely on the fact that it needed more heft. I like the Highland backstory in Highland Heat because it added some additional purpose, interest, and backbone. Here we just have lovers on the range who need to clock each other once or twice and get over it. There’s no one particular historical moment to ground the story.
Sex-wise, this one left me cold. One hot scene followed by a lot of let-down.
The verdict: HIGHLAND HEAT takes it!
Andi is one of the founders of the Estella Society and she’s been blogging at Estella’s Revenge (formerly Tripping Toward Lucidity) for 7 years. She’s a social media professional, English professor, reader, blogger, and mom to a superbaby!