Friday, March 24, 2017

Romancing Miss Right (Lizzie Shane)

Romancing Miss Right
(The Reality Romance series, Book 2)
Lizzie Shane
CreateSpace/Amazon Digital Services
Fiction, Romance
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: Romance novelist Marcy Hendrickson may write happily-ever-afters, but has never had the courage to pursue one herself; being rejected by the lead man on the reality show Marrying Mister Perfect last season was more a relief than a disappointment (and would've been even if she hadn't seen the man was already in love with someone else before the cameras rolled.) But the stint has been good for book sales, and being the star of this season's Romancing Miss Right should boost her even more. Marcy holds no delusions about actually finding love on reality TV, not even with thirty gorgeous bachelors (each hand-picked by a team of experts) vying for her hand, but she'd be a fool to turn down the opportunity.
Radio personality Craig Callow's bad boy persona makes him a hot property, but the big money's in television, and the exposure from a show like Romancing Miss Right will go a long way toward getting him out from behind a microphone and in front of the cameras full-time. Those shows love a villain to stir things up and boost ratings, and playing the heart-breaker is second nature. He doesn't even need to go the distance to the final round - which is just as well, as his beloved mother has made no secret of what she thinks of this year's bachelorette, the "Ice Princess" Marcy. Craig will turn on the charm, create a little chaos, then walk away. Nothing to it.
Neither Marcy nor Craig actually expect to find love - but their hearts have their own scripts...

REVIEW: After a couple of breakneck middle-grade fantasy titles, I figured I could use a lightweight escape, and romances are usually a decent choice for that. You generally know what you're getting with them. This one delivered on multiple levels, with well-drawn characters that balance each other nicely and a decent plot to make it more than just an overlong and unnecessarily convoluted seduction (as some romance titles I've read became.) Marcy and Craig may seem like opposites, but both have problems coping with their own emotions; Marcy earned the nickname Ice Princess during her previous reality show stint for her refusal to break into emotional hysterics (which audiences and reality show producers prefer), while Craig has cultivated his bad-boy persona after watching man after man break his single mother's heart. Their relationship comes across as earned and balanced, both complicated and strengthened by their respective flaws and the obstacles they face. A subplot involves executive producer Miranda, whose struggle to balance her high-intensity career with a personal life drives many decisions related to the show, her own attitudes about the feasibility of love coming into play at key points as the show unfolds; unlike many side characters (not just in romances), she, too, is a well-drawn character, not just a plot-shaped cog snapped in to facilitate events. The end result may hit familiar notes, but does so in a way that feels authentic, driven by the characters and their choices, not genre expectations. That sense of authenticity, plus its ability to keep drawing me back for "one more chapter" until close to midnight, earned it an extra half-star in the ratings.
As a closing note, I have no idea why Book 2 of this series was offered for a discount rather than Book 1 - not that it matters so much in romances, where series titles tend to be loosely-linked standalones, but still...

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