Tag Archives: Jennifer Greene

Re-Read Challenge: “Blame It On Chocolate” By Jennifer Greene

30 Jun

[07/02/2009: a few small edits. I think my mind was already on vacation when I wrote this; that is, more than it usually is.]

re-read-challenge-2009

Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009
This month:Re-Read Challenge: June!

greene-jennifer-bame-it-on-chocolateGENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: HQN Books, 2006

SERIES:

AVAILABILITY: no longer available


The back blurb:
“Lucy Fitzhenry didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to do something stupid…

But when an experimental strain of chocolate that she’d developed needed testing, someone had to do it. Who knew that overindulging in her creation would turn an introverted plant lover into a wild nymphomaniac? Or that a celebration with Nick, her boss, would lead to a shocking kiss and a whole lot more.

She blamed it on the chocolate. Her new discovery was supposed to have made her career. Not turn her practical, logical, normal life upside down and get her pregnant with her boss’s baby! Though she and Nick butted heads at work, if their one night together was any indication, they were a great match in bed. With a little luck (and chocolate!) maybe they could turn their one-night stand into the chance of a lifetime.”


Then

I got this novel because I wanted to read Blame it on Cupid which I thought to be a sequel to Blame it on Chocolate because of the similar titles. I was wrong. The heroine of Blame it on Cupid might be the best friend of the heroine in Blame it on Chocolate but she’s a very minor character, and you really don’t need to read Blame it on Chocolate to get all out of Blame it on Cupid. (Says I who’s rather anal about reading series in order.)

Anyway, I ended up liking Blame it on Chocolate a lot. And I was surprised as hell because a major plot element in Blame it on Chocolate is an unplanned pregnancy.

Now

This time around, I didn’t like Blame it on Chocolate as much. It’s a well-written novel. It’s a straight contemporary with no mystery or paranormal element in sight (which is yay!) and I like Jennifer Greene’s warm and often humorous voice. Blame it on Chocolate is a story of two normal people falling in love.

That is, two normal people who are actually fuzzy-duddies and who like to be in control, take responsibility and are utterly sure that they are playing in different leagues. They get thrown a curve ball as a result of – as Lucy calls it – the Night of the Chocolate: an unplanned pregnancy.

The strong points of this novel are clearly the way Lucy and Nick handle this curve ball. Lucy might be insanely attracted to Nick but she knows that he isn’t attracted to her the same way. She knows she’s responsible for the pregnancy because she threw herself at Nick that night. Nick isn’t in love with Lucy nor is he even attracted to her (to his knowing, at least) at the Night of the Chocolate. But if he’s going to be a father, he’s going to take the responsibility. Not by marrying Lucy, but by paying attention to what she needs. And then trying to give it to her.

Lucy’s well-ordered world is severely off-hinged at the moment so someone who tries to help her is a good thing. Not just because of the pregnancy. It’s also that her I-don’t-want-to-be-a-bother father moved in with her and is – of course – a bother. He leaves a huge mess wherever he goes in Lucy’s (up until then) pristine apartment. Then there’s Lucy’s nephew who thinks he might be gay and, trying not to deal with that, is hanging around at her place all of the time suddenly. Lucy’s quest to lead a more wicked life is stalled. There’s no way she’s running around naked in her home now. Besides, being wicked also lead to her getting pregnant the first time she did something wicked. So maybe this whole being-wicked thing is something she needs to reconsider.

While Lucy and Nick deal with the pregnancy and Lucy’s chocolate experiments, Lucy discovers the real man behind Nick’s good looks and falls in love with him. And Nick discovers that Lucy could be much more than a kid sister to him, if she only let him. Over time, their initial decision that marriage would not be the way for them is turning out to have been a mistake. But how to let the other one know that without losing your face?

I don’t know if I was in a more bitchy mood this time around. I looked at my first review of Blame it on Chocolate. Some of the things that I found really irritating this time around, I mentioned then, too. But they didn’t seem to interfere much with my enjoyment of the novel then. This time, they kept me from getting really into the story and characters.

Again, I thought the whole keeping the possibility of a pregnancy secret for some chapters a bit too cutesy and coy, especially because the back blurb spilled the beans on that. But even without that, a woman having morning sickness for quite some times, that’s just one of the oldest bells that can get tolled, IMO. I also again didn’t really buy into the way the chocolate discovery was set up. Lucy has a degree in horticultures. My problem is, I’m not exactly sure how this qualifies her for doing experiments with chocolate, going so far as trying different receipts and determining which are the best ways to process it. Her tendency to blather on when she gets going about her work and chocolate appeared more like info-dump passages than an endearing trait of her personality this time, although it is much more skillfully done than is usual:

“Chocolatiers have always done cross-breeding, Nick. You know that. But all these centuries, they cross-bred to get a superior quality of bean. It never occurred to them to try to change the nature of the cacao tree itself. That’s where Orson had such vision.”
“Uh huh.” His gaze pinned the slope of her rump. If she’d gained pound, he couldn’t see it.But her rump was distinctive. Little and tight and sassy. The kind of enticing rump that made a guy just want to cup it and squeeze.
“I’m not boring you, am I?”
“Oh, no.”
“Okay, then…you know the whole Darwinian thing about […]” (224/225)

So these things kept me from enjoying this story fully. To reiterate, Blame it on Chocolate is a well-written story. It features nice and likable characters who are adults and talk with each other (most of the time, anyway). It’s a nice and enjoyable read and there is nothing wrong with the story. But this time, it didn’t make me take special notice.

Verdict: I’m a bit puzzled about my first grade (4,5/5). Maybe I wanted more character development this time around (3,5/5).

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Jennifer Greene – "Blame It On Paris"

14 May


GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: HQN Books, 2008

WHY THIS NOVEL: I enjoyed the two previous novels by Greene (Blame It on Chocolate; Blame It on Cupid) and liked Greene’s writing style, so I got this one also.


The back blurb:
“Kelly Rochard is determined to have one last adventure before settling down to married life!
Still, being mugged at the Louvre is not what she had in mind for her long-awaited trip to Paris. Until Will Maguire comes to her aid, and she finds herself completely distracted by the handsome stranger in the Notre Dame sweatshirt.
Kelly can’t seem to resist the world’s most romantic city or Will, who is determined to show her all its treasures, from the top of the Eiffel Tower to strolls along the Seine.
But will their love last when they’re back in plain old South Bend, Indiana, or will they end up blaming their breathless fling on the city of love?”


Blame It on Paris was off to a slow start for me. I don’t know if it was because of the story itself or just because I started to read it on a bench in the park (and kept getting distracted by the gaggling chatting group of girls on the next bench), but after starting with it on a sunny day at the end of April, I put it down for nearly two weeks. A few days ago I picked it up again and finished it on the same day (this time, at home).

Yes, I thought the story picked up then. No, I don’t think it’s just because there were no gaggling chatting girls around and I have zero powers to concentrate, it’s also because the things I liked best about Blame It on Paris then slowly took shape and I was over my scoff about the meeting of the heroine and the hero. The beginning of BIOP was very much a fantasy (everything went dreamlike even though the heroine was mugged) and while that was nice, my interest only was really engaged after reality intruded on more and more on the fantasy.

The second half of the story, after Kelly went back home, turned to the question how to make fantasy work in reality, dividing the story in two parts. Back home, there are a lot of things which threaten Kelly’s and Will’s HEA, not the least of which is set in motion by Kelly’s reason for her trip to Paris.

Kelly comes to Paris to learn more about herself. She wants to see where her dead father, whom she never knew, grew up and she wants to see where she comes from before she starts with the next part of her life (marriage to her fiancĂ© Jason). But before she knows more about herself at the end of the story, she not only loses her identity literally by being mugged, she also loses her sense of identity. Everything she ever thought she knew (about herself) is questioned because of her trip to Paris. There she meets Will, and while at first glance he might look like he knows what he’s about, in the course of the story it becomes clear that he also has to come to terms with his sense of self and identity.

I liked this element of the story. It was interesting and fascinating to see how Greene made the different parts and facets of this theme come together and fit, also at times it was a bit much. For example, there is a small incident later which helps to illuminate Will’s character but since its resolution was left a bit dangling at the end, this thread struck me as “too much” and, seen this way, better left out.

Kelly and Will are a great couple. Even though they are attracted to each other right from the start and act on that attraction pretty soon, Greene managed to convince me that they’re right for each other and even have something to say and give to each other when they manage to keep their hormones in check from time to time. That’s not to say that I wasn’t convinced of the magical nature of their days in Paris. IMO, this was rather well done. But more than that I liked how Greene portrayed Kelly’s and Will’s “reality” relationship: they are different but they get each other and they do this with a nice and warm touch of humour.

Reading Blame It on Paris reminded me that sometimes reading for the author and not just the story itself (I got this book because of my enjoyment of the author’s writing style not because of the story) is worth it. Despite the fantasy aspects of the story (their meeting, wealth of characters), Greene’s story and characters have a common sense to them that I like and which works for me.


Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4 / 5


Jennifer Greene – "Blame It On Cupid"

25 Jan


GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: HQN, 2007


The back blurb:
“Eleven-year old Charlene is not impressed with Merry, her new guardian. Clearly the woman needs some major help in the parenting department. Their neighbor Jack could be the right man for the job – but doesn’t look as though the two grown-ups are ever going to get together without help.
Jack recognizes a short-distance runner when he sees one, and Merry fits the bill. The gorgeous party girl is so unprepared to take charge of the totally fun-proof Charlene, he
almost feels sorry for her. Almost.
Merry is in way over her head. Who would have thought that a vow written on a cocktail napkin would make her a parent long before her time … or that a rock-solid man and a serious little girl would ever become the two most important people in her life?
Merry has finally found something worth fighting for. Now all she has to do is figure out just how to fight!”


It’s ironic that I got Blame It on Chocolate only because I wanted to read Blame It On Cupid … and that I ended up liking Blame It On Chocolate more than Blame It On Cupid.

The reason I was interested in Blame It On Cupid was that it seemed to have an interesting, not your run-of-the-mill heroine. And it did. Merry is fun and refreshing to read about. The hero, Jack, is quite endearing in his total clueless-ness about his feelings and wishes. He keeps wondering why I does the things he does, for example trying to comfort Merry even though he knows she’s a total nutcase.

My problem with Blame It On Cupid was that the parenting issues overshadowed IMO the romance between Merry and Jack. It’s just something I wasn’t expecting from reading the back blurb. Charlene has, understandably, real issues after her father’s death, and Jack’s sons have problems, too. So these get more stage time as the story progresses and change the mood of the story to something a bit more serious. My bad that I got this novel for the fun element.

Like Blame It On Chocolate, Blame It On Cupid is a joy to read. I like the way Greene writes. There’s also a sense of warmth and maturity in the writing and the story that appeals to me very much. Even the convenient no-worries-about-money, everything-is-taken-care-of circumstance didn’t bother me.

Blame It On Cupid was not what I expected but I can’t do different than say it was good.


Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Maybe.

Grade: 4 / 5


Jennifer Greene – “Blame It On Chocolate”

23 Jan


GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: HQN Books, 2006


The back blurb:
“Lucy Fitzhenry didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to do something stupid …
But when an experimental strain of chocolate that she’d developed needed testing, someone had to do it. Who knew that overindulging in her creation would turn an introverted plant lover into a wild nymphomaniac? Or that a celebration with Nick, her boss, would lead to a shocking kiss and a whole lot more.
She blamed it on the chocolate. Her new discovery was supposed to have made her career. Not turn her practical, logical, normal life upside down and get her pregnant with her boss’s baby! Though she and Nick butted heads at work, if their one night together was any indication, they were a
great match in bed. With a little luck (and chocolate!) maybe they could turn their one-night stand into the chance of a lifetime.”


After reading this back blurb, I opened the book with some trepidation. It sounds like a story I normally stay away from – far, far away. I got it because I wanted to read Greene’s Blame it on Cupid and because of the similar titles I thought it was a series. Being anal about such things … I naturally ended up with the first too.

Boy, I’m glad I’m like that.

Sure, Blame it on Chocolate was off to a slow start. I didn’t buy wholly into the way the “chocolate revolution” happened and the family-run business was a tad too cute. It also took some time until it was “revealed” that Lucy and Nick had a one-night stand together and that Lucy now was pregnant. This would have worked better if it wasn’t already revealed in the back blurb (not the author’s fault, of course). This way, it was annoying.

But reading on, I liked this story more and more. And that was mostly because of the characters. Both Nick and Lucy are nice and normal people who try to do the right thing and come to grips with the unwanted pregnancy. They each know that under “normal” circumstances they wouldn’t be together. So the question is: what to do? They have a couple of options, ranging from abortion to marriage, and they think about all of them.

The answer of the generation of Nick’s grandfather – marriage – is set against a more modern look at the problem:

Nick: “Marriage […] is your generation’s definition of honor.”
His grandfather: “It’s everybody’s definition.”
[…]
Nick: “No. It’s not. My definition of doing the honorable thing is doing what’s best for the woman involved.”

(p. 277)

And that’s what made this novel really work for me. The answers of two generations to the same problem are set against each other and looked at. Nick is trying to do the honorable (right) thing. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the same than a couple of decades ago (and it’ll probably change again). A bit later in this conversation with his grandfather he says: “These days trying to do the right thing is hairier than trying to learn a foreign language.” (p. 278)

Both Nick and Lucy are trying to do the right thing and it’s a nice change of pace to read about two people deal like adults with a serious problem. No keeping-the-baby-a-secret from Lucy, no slut accusations from Nick. Of course, their initial agreement that “there’s no basis for a marriage or anything crazy like that” (p. 88) is going to to kick them in the ass. And it’s fun to watch them work that out, too.

I closed the book feeling fine and warm. The world was good for some time.


Would I recommend this novel?Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4,5 / 5