Romance Novel Review: Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy

Average Goodreads Rating: 3.46 stars

My Rating: 5 stars

Life is looking down for Bailey when she gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend Craig. Not even her three best friends– Tom, Olly and Linc– can cheer her up. Not for a lack of trying on their part. They bought her Jagermeister and wrote her a song comparing Craig to a slutty werewolf.

It doesn’t help that Bailey makes wedding cakes for a living, or that Valentine’s Day is coming up.

But her friend Linc knows what she needs to cheer up, and he is completely willing to give it to her.

It’s finally been done: a romance novel with a nerdy love interest. Hallelujah.

Not a pseudo-nerd who’s introverted but still a charismatic billionaire, but a genuine, video-game playing, YouTube-video making, awkwardly sweet nerd.

“Anyone would think that you were trying to seduce me, Linc.”

“I think… I think maybe I am.” He nudged my shoulder gently. “Is that okay?”

He is the best. Linc’s shyness and awkwardness is adorable, and he always has Bailey’s best interests at heart, even above his own. Despite being in love with her for five years, Linc wasn’t happy to hear about Bailey’s breakup with Craig. Instead he was concerned about her and wanted to make her happy. The seducing didn’t come until later.

And this might be a short romance novel– it took me about three hours to read– but it’s very well-done, and hilarious.

Bailey’s personality is great. She’s witty, relatable, and comes up with the best descriptions, like:

It’d been a week since I broke up with a guy who not only chewed my heart up and spat it out, but slowly re-ingested it so he could (poop) it on to crackers and feed it to parrots with attachment issues.

Crazy and yet accurate, right?

The book is filled with great imagery like that. There is also some very real chemistry between Bailey and her friends. Their relationships don’t feel forced at all and I love that Olly and Linc are YouTube celebrities with supernatural parody songs.

Not only do they remind me of Danny and Aaron from Starbomb, which I’m a fan of, but it also allows for songs like “Slutty Werewolf”, which I really wish was a real song. I can’t post the lyrics here because of the language, but, Lucy V. Morgan, if you end up reading this, please record and make a video of the Slutty Werewolf song. I need it. The internet needs it. The world needs it.

The only thing I didn’t like was Bailey’s pet rats. Yes, they add to her quirkyness, but they’re rats. I just got rid of a bad rat infestation in my house a couple of months ago, so every time she cuddled one of those rodents I kept thinking uillew. (I took me ten minutes to sound out the noise I was making in my head so I could spell it properly. You’re welcome.)

But this isn’t really a story or writing flaw. This is just me being specist. So I’m not taking any partial stars off for the rats. Beautiful Mess is a rare five star book for me.

Romance Novel Review: The Compromise by Michelle Grotewohl

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy

Average Smashwords Rating: 5 stars

My Rating: 1 star

The feud started on the first day of kindergarten when Ethan put dirt in Arin’s hair. It followed them all the way through school, even through college. But when Ethan and Arin get jobs at an advertising firm working together– as the “Dream Team”– it looks like they finally have to work together. With the two of them sharing the same space so close, they might realize that what they feel for each other isn’t hate, but sexual tension.

This is simply supposed to be a cute story about two kids growing up hating each other before realizing they liked each other, but it has an unintentional darker side to it. Most of the pranks the two kids played on each other were harmless and funny. Like the dirt put in Arin’s hair, or Arin putting gum in Ethan’s hair.

The pranks they pulled in college were even relatively funny and harmless. Arin dyed Ethan’s clothes pink to get back at him for switching out her backpack with one full of condoms and pregnancy tests.

But a few of the pranks were not funny or harmless, and it’s offensive the author tried to pass them off as such.

Ethan hit Arin with a chair, hard enough to bruise. He also snapped her bra strap. These aren’t funny skirmishes in a cute childhood feud. This is physical and sexual abuse and they have no place in what’s supposed to be a light and funny story, especially from the so-called love interest.

Not that Arin isn’t without her share of not-funny pranks as well. Pantsing Ethan is also wrong, and telling Millie, an awkward teenager that Ethan liked her just to mess with him is flat-out bullying. It’s really hard to care about either of the main characters when they are bullies pretending to be locked in a cute, flitatious war.

Maybe these acts would have been almost acceptable if the characters admitted that they took things too far. But no. The entire story basically said this was okay, and even funny.

Frig. That.

That’s not the only thing wrong with this story, though. Arin’s and Ethan’s love relationship feels really forced, probably because they don’t do anything nice to each other, or show any feelings at all except for mutual loathing. They feel more like brother and sister at best, and distant ones at that.

Also, my suspension of disbelief was severely stretched when not only were they going into the same job field (despite being “totally different” from each other) but they also ended up working as the “dream team” with dream jobs. Neither of them even have Bachelor degrees at this point! But their boss decides that they’re geniuses who will make him millions? Yeah. Sure.

As a college student facing a crap job market, the ease of them getting their dream jobs is incredibly annoying. Either they should be miserable interns, or a lot more experienced than AS holders looking for their first jobs. That’s more realistic and doesn’t affect the story at all.

On top of all my issues with the plot, there’s also the problems with Grotewohl’s storytelling capability. Sure this story was funny at times and I wasn’t bored, but there was so much summarizing! We saw barely any dialog, description, or action from Arin and Ethan, and certainly nothing that made me actually care about them at all. All we saw was them arguing. All. The. Time.

The Compromise is simply an unmemorable short story about two toxic people who bring out the worst in each other. I suggest you look elsewhere for your romance fix.

Book Review – Bad Land, An American Romance

Johnathan Raban’s Bad Land: An American Romance brilliantly and descriptively describes the attempts by would-be farmers and ranchers, those of the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century, to make a living on highly questionable land. This land, most of it in eastern Montana and the western Dakotas could have been described as marginal land, but Raban’s fact-finding mission has made it abundantly clear that these lands were less than marginal.

The federal government and railroad companies would benefit by having settlers in this region. Their benefits: There would be more products to ship to and fro and travel to this region would be greatly increased. However, as Raban documents and, I have seen first-hand, this marginal land had shallow topsoil, heavy wind patterns, low precipitation, and extremely frigid winters; and, the efforts to cultivate the arid land were seldom rewarded.

This book was written in a casual, personable manner as the author walked this region and perused some of the failed homesteads. It is drama indeed as Raban explored the remnants of these numerous failed homesteads. He even found a book that described the best method to prosper on these arid farms. The book was entitled Campbell’s Scientific Dry Farming Techniques and it was subtitled The Camel for the Sahara Desert and the Campbell Method for the American Desert. According to meteorological figures any area with an average annual rainfall of less than three inches per year would be classified as a desert region. This eastern Montana region is certainly considered desert as most of it averages less than the three inches of rain per year.

Like Raban, I too, have walked this land, but I walked it for a different reason. I was in search of sharp-tailed grouse and the elusive sage grouse. I was amazed, those many years ago, to have seen so many remnants – remnants of rotted and fallen wind mills, broken and gray boards of outbuildings, barns, and house, as well as, vacated rock foundations, long-rusted barbed wire fencing, fence posts that were rotted and lying flat on the ground, and space – wide open space… endless space. Raban’s book told a story of the many courageous human attempts to produce on this infinitely poor homesteading land, bad land. The government pamphlets and railroad brochures were, no doubt, at least spurious, if not downright lies.

Raban had an inspirational idea to write this story, and he followed through – brilliant inspiration, first-hand research, and highly descriptive writing!