Tag Archives: Hope Tarr

Hope Tarr – “Strokes Of Midnight”

20 Feb

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Blaze, 2007

WHY THIS NOVEL: Despite me not being really happy about Tarr’s latest offerings, there’s still the fact that I liked Tarr’s Vanquished very much + the story here looks interesting.

The back blurb:
“Becky’s New Year’s Resolution:
1) Hit the
NYT bestseller list with latest novel
2) Find a great guy and start living a perfect life
3) Try to stay in her own bed!
When author Becky Stone’s horoscope predicted that the New Year would bring her great things, she never expected the first thing she’d experience would be
great sex! But after the crushing news that the only way to save her career is to coauthor a book with chauvinistic Adam Maxwell, Becky needs something to go right. And what could be more right than spending an incredible New Year’s Eve in the arms of a seriously sexy stranger?
Only, the man in her bed isn’t going to be a stranger much longer …”

The first chapters of Strokes of Midnight drove home the point how little things can work to distance me from the story. It starts with mentioning all kinds of celebrities and labels and names – think shoes and their ordinary suspects and you can’t go wrong. And I start to wonder about the heroine who has no means of income other than her writing (she quitted her day-time job) and after she is told her current release isn’t doing so hot, splurges on two expensive pairs of shoes (which makes me think of her as a twit in that regard rather than a hip modern young woman as was intended, I think). Then I remember she booked a first-class seat on the train to get to New York and that she’s staying at a hotel for 200 $ a night, I add the price of the shoes … well, she sure blew a whole lot of money on just one day.

Then (you didn’t think that was all?) I think about the reason why she stayed overnight in New York all alone in a hotel on New Year’s Eve when the train took only 3 hours from Washington, D. C. to New York and I’m sure there would be a train back she could take, and I come up blank. I wondered how it was possible she could get a room at a, as far as I gathered from the story, rather famous hotel for this night (New Year’s Eve!) with making the reservation just the day before? I always thought the hotels were full at this time of the year. And finally, although I can’t be sure about that but nevertheless it struck me as a bit improbable, an editor calls an author to set up a meeting for the next day, the author lives in another town (3 hours by train), and it’s New Year’s Eve?

This is nit-picking for the most parts. I can’t understand women who go for expensive shoes when they feel low instead of chocolate? – my problem. But when they go for the expensive shoes and they in no way can afford it? – not my problem but the author’s who should make me understand this kind of behaviour (which Tarr obviously didn’t for me). The point of this nit-picking is to show how little things, not distracting on their own, can accumulate and make my reading of a story distanced when come together. My answer to all the questions raised so far is the result of all this: what and why and how things happen is not because of the character(s) but because the author wanted it to happen this way. The hero and heroine have to meet on this day in New York so let’s see how we get them there and a shoe addiction is always cute and hip so let’s throw that in, too.

The story picks up after Becky and Max start their collaboration on the novel. I like to read about writing and a novel with characters who are writers is always worth a second look for me. And while the way it’s done in this story is certainly not something totally new – it plays upon the connection between Becky and Max and the respective main character of their novels and each chapter starts with a short excerpt from Becky’s and Max’x collaboration novel, forshadowing more or less what’s to come – it’s at least something that interests me. So yeah, things started to look up from then on.

While I had my problems with Becky (or better, the way she was written), I liked Max. He’s a nice and decent hero who’s intensly attracted to Becky (and he’s of course very well off and has a large house with seven guest rooms). The way he realizes he’s in love with Becky and how he thinks about his dead wife and Becky is a nice change from the evil ex and makes his falling in love again believable.There are some nice little touches. For example that Max comes up with a special name for Becky. I liked the walk in the snow. I also liked that there was a closure for Becky with her ex at the end of the story.

But overall, there is a “superficial” feelling – things happen for plot reasons and not for character reasons – to the whole story often creating contradictions in Becky’s character. Examples are in the first paragraph, the name dropping of celebrities, and two more instances near the end of the story (see next paragraphs). What’s up with sentences that state one thing and end with “- not”? I always associated this with a certain kind of teenage-way of speaking. I also found it a bit weird that Becky’s main character is called Angelina, has long black hair, drives a motorbike, and is a (action) spy. And the deal with the writing partner struck me the same way.

The first one is the fact that Becky keeps her rental car for the whole time she’s at Max’s house while at the same time worrying about paying the rent for her apartment back in Washington. As an aside, I got the impression she worried about paying her rent for some time now (well, she quit her day job, so there is that. And I won’t touch that because her quitting her job is also WTF? in terms of reasons and time frame) which makes her blowing 2000 $ on two pairs of shoes even more … ummm, twit. But it was needed, you see, so that Becky had a means to get away after the obligatory big misunderstanding.

This big misunderstanding comes about like this: Becky eavesdrops on a conversation between Max and his agent, does it just long enough to draw all the wrong conclusions, writes a short note to Max telling him about the end of their relationship, leaves in a huff. This leads to the second instance I talked about above.

It’s not the misunderstanding per se. You know this is coming (and there are some more pages to be filled). It”s Max’s behaviour afterwards. I thought him the guy to talk things over and not let it be just because a short note says it’s over. But he doesn’t because there’s some more pages to go. For me, this is underscored that when they finally talk (which for structure reasons has to happen on the launch party for their book), their big misunderstanding is cleared up in one page which translates to a conversation of less than five (!) minutes in reality. Now, this misunderstanding was clearly something to get huffy about, indeed – not.

One more thing about this misunderstanding. It’s possible for Becky to think that she needs “mutual trust and understanding and respect” (p. 236, emphasis mine) after the way this big misunderstanding business went? She didn’t have the respect to put the receiver back after she realized that Max got the call and she didn’t have the trust to get Max’s view of it or trust in Max at all. So I think about throwing stones and glasshouses and that Becky starts to look like a twit in more areas than just monetary things with each new sentence I read.

Maybe it’s just the wrong book at the wrong time. Maybe I just got up on the wrong side of the bed. Or maybe this is my convoluted way to say I’m sorry but the bonus of Vanquished is all used up.

Would I recommend this novel? Probably not.

Would I read this novel again? Probably not.

Grade: 2,5 / 5

Hope Tarr – "The Haunting"

13 Apr

GENRE: Romance / Paranormal
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Blaze, 2007

WHY THIS NOVEL: I really liked Vanquished and despite one (major) plotting problem, IMO, I liked It’s a Wonderfully Sexy Life also. So here I go.

The back blurb:
“Investigating a noise in the attic of her historic home, Maggie Holliday encounters a handsome man in a Civil War uniform. He calls her “Isabel,” seduces her in ways the shy academic had never dreamed of … then literally vanishes.
With every fleeting visit, Maggie’s mysterious lover – Ethan – takes her closer to the edge of ecstasy and madness. Is he really a ghost? Far from chilling her, his tough is incendiary – it all feels so real and so very, very good. And so very familiar …
Ethan insists Maggie’s the reincarnation of his long-lost love. And after a few incredible nights in his arms, Maggie is inclined to believe him. But does she dare surrender to a passion that transcends time, tragedy … and even death?”

The premise of The Haunting isn’t an easy one because a lot suspension of disbelieve is needed right from the get-go. A love story between a ghost and a woman who’s alive. In The Haunting, a reincarnation twist is added to the ghost premise. On the one hand, this makes the ghost premise easier to belief. But on the other hand, it causes problems for the believability of the love story. Tarr succeeded in the first place. There is a fairly elaborate explanation for the ghost’s existence. It’s the ‘other hand’ I had problems with.

I never got the see why Ethan loves Maggie other than she’s the reincarnation of Isabel. That’s it, and that’s a bit underwhelming. They have hot sex but beside that I didn’t see much interaction going on. The one or two times it is mentioned that Ethan might love Maggie even more than Isabel didn’t really do it for me either. It felt tacked on and in combination with the epilogue it turns rather problematic in my view.

Now Maggie. Why did she love Ethan? Apart from the fact that he’s the total opposite of her current boyfriend Richard, what a lot of men would be (more on Richard later), I have to assume it’s the old ‘she-orgasmed-she’s-in-love’ reason going on. To be fair, Maggie had orgasms before, just not with Richard, but in the beginning she says about herself: ‘It was bad enough being thirty years old and frigid – make that orgasmically challenged – without getting cheesy sex toys as reminder gifts’ (p. 22), so we’re nearly there.

Or it could be because she’s the reincarnation of Isabel and that’s that. As I said above, this is problematic for me because I get the sense that Maggie is taken over by Isabel and I thought I’m supposed to care about Maggie because the whole novel I read her story. The whole ‘it’s the same soul and they’re soul mates’ just didn’t work here (it seldom does for me).

Richard is Maggie’s current boyfriend and he’s eeeeevil. Every single thing he does or says is unpleasant or downright nasty. Equally, there’s not one single positive thing said or thought about him by Maggie. Leaving aside his shout that opens the first chapter, here’s Richard’s introduction:

Footfalls stomping up the attic stairs confirmed that such guilty pleasures would have to keep until later. Knowing how bad her boyfriend was with books – her treasured first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin had never been the same since he’d touched it – she laid the diary on the built in shelving, making a mental note to retrieve it later. (p. 16)

And that’s one of the ‘nicer’ things said about him. He’s so eeeeevil, nasty, unsympathetic that he’s a caricature and totally unbelievable. It’s either that or you have to assume that Maggie’s just stupid and weak for being with him (for so long). Not a good option. Looking back, I think Richard was the deal-breaker in this novel for me. I thought him just totally ridiculous and unbelievable in his evilness.

The pace of the story is slow and only picks up near the end. That’s not a problem in itself (I rather enjoy ‘slow’ stories), but here it’s mostly because the unfolding of the story has to keep pace with Maggie’s reading of Isabel’s diary, in some way paralleling events. My structure-liking self was delighted., but it also smacks a bit of heavy plotting. How Maggie managed to read only a few pages each day when she knew early on that there was something strange going on, I don’t know and, despite all the things she had to do with the move and her dissertation, I can’t understand.

I liked the sense of history and setting in the story. And I thought the solution to the ‘ghost problem’ (last chapter) a good one. But the epilogue, although delighting my structure-liking self again, left me scratching my head a little because it ties back to my problem with the reincarnation thing.

All in all, the story of The Haunting didn’t measure up to Hope Tarr’s writing skills. And that leaves me a bit sad, knowing what could have been.

Would I recommend this novel? Maybe.

Would I read this novel again? No.

Grade: 3 / 5

Hope Tarr – "It’s A Wonderfully Sexy Life"

5 Dec

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Blaze, 2006

The back blurb:
“Baltimore street cop Mandy Delinski isn’t expecting any miracles this Christmas. She’s thirty, a little too round, still very single and she lives with her parents. So who could have guessed that her whole life would change before New Year’s Eve? That a simple job policing a Christmas party would find her in the arms of sexy-as-sin bartender Josh Thornton? That they would be on the bring of making love before the night ended?
That Mandy would find her perfect man in the morgue the next day?
Or that she’d be given a magical chance to go back a week, save Josh …
and have the best sex of her life. Does Christmas get any better than this?”

There are two firsts with this novel: a) it’s my first Harlequin Blaze; b) it’s my first Christmas themed novel.

What made me get this one: a) the author (liked her writing style in Vanquished very much); b) it’s a spin upon the James Stewart Movie
It’s a Wonderful Life. I was interested in how that would be handled.

The novel went off to a wonderful start. I liked the main characters and I really had the feeling that there was something between them. I expected Mandy’s discovery that she’s reliving Christmas day to be a critical point (it is a hard to believe thing). But it was okay and it didn’t pull me out of the story (much). And anyway, this transition took up just a few pages. Then the story was up to speed and went along nicely again.

After the first half of the story, the focus shifted from the romance between Mandy and Josh to Josh’s role as a protected witness and the hit man who is out to kill him. I thought this part weaker because a) I’m not much into these “thriller”-elements (romantic suspense is way down my list of reading preferences); b) (more objective perhaps) there are some things I found a bit hard to swallow about the way the threat to Josh’s life was handled. I know that sounds rather crazy after I went along with the going-back-in-time, but there it is. For example, his cover is blown and he isn’t moved to another place? Let’s just say that I had to remind myself how much I enjoyed the first part on this novel.

After the external problems are solved, there is a satisfying conclusion, mainly because Mandy had learnt some things about herself by then. And we’re back to what I enjoyed most in this story: the characters and their relationship.

Would I recommend this novel? Probably yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes (skipping the “?”-parts).

Grade: 4 / 5

Hope Tarr – “Vanquished”

25 Sep

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Medallion Press, 2006

The back blurb:
“A devil’s bargain.
‘The photograph must be damning, indisputably so. I mean to see Caledonia Rivers not only ruined but vanquished. Vanquished, St. Claire, I’ll settle for nothing less.’
Known as The Maid of Mayfair for her unassailable virtue, unwavering resolve, and quiet dignity, suffragette leader, Caledonia – Callie – Rivers is the perfect counter for detractors’ portrayal of the women as rabble rousers, lunatics, even whores. But a high-ranking enemy within the government will stop at nothing to ensure that the Parliamentary bill to grant the vote to females dies in the Commons – including ruining the reputation of the Movement’s chief spokeswoman.
After a streak of disastrous luck at the gaming tables threatens to land him at the bottom of the Thames, photographer Hadrian St. Claire reluctantly agrees to seduce the beautiful suffragist leader and then use his camera to capture her fall from grace. Posing as the photographer commissioned to make her portrait for the upcoming march on Parliament, Hadrian infiltrates Callie’s inner circle. But lovely, soft-spoken Callie hardly fits his mental image of a dowdy, man-hating spinster. And as the passion between them flares from spark to full-on flame, Hadrian is the one in danger of being vanquished.”

Vanquished has all the ingredients that I like in a romance. No wallpaper setting (well, okay, you can argue the premise of the story), grown-up characters, interesting conflict, good writing, taking chances – it’s all here. Two minor distractions kept it from being a very special romance novel for me.

For quiet some time I was totally caught up in the story – there was nothing unnecessary there, everything had relevance for the story. Then there was a minor bump and after that – I don’t know why – I couldn’t get back to reading the way I did before. The minor bump – some other characters are introduced, for a good reason and fitting for the story, but then they are used to get the hero and heroine to a place together. That’s the part that didn’t sit right with me. I think it’s something like that the author’s manipulation was too obvious here for me after the seamless development of the things before.

Later in the story, there is a similar incident but for a much more crucial element of the story. You can see it coming just from reading the back cover. What got to me was that 1) I thought the story wouldn’t go there because Vanquished seemed different; 2) there were several possibilities to prevent it from happening and the hero didn’t act which bordered on TSTL for me.

Yes, these are the things that made me disappointed with the novel.


Sure. But you have to keep in mind that I really liked the beginning. I liked the setting, I liked the characters (grown ups!), I liked the conflict, I liked the way Tarr wrote (no flowery descriptions), and yes, I liked it that overall Tarr took chances with this novel. I liked everything and that’s the reason why my two “distractions” bothered me so much and why they seemed to be flaws.

My nitpicking with Vanquished is complaining on a high level.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4,5 / 5 (the nitpicking)