Here at A Writer's Dream, I usually post single book reviews but with these two releases coming out in succession behind each other (not to mention they have similar themes that made my reading experience enjoyable), I'd like to offer a double review for my readers: Always You by Shilpa Mudiganti & Truly, Madly, Deeply, You by Cecilia Robert.
Always You by Shilpa Mudiganti
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Print Pages: 180
Release Date: March 6th, 2012 in Paperback and eBook
Lyla has to move on. She’s been stuck in a rut since her heart was broken five years ago. Trying to decide about life with her fiancé, Nick, she resolves to finish one last project before moving to Spain and starting a new life. That is until she is face to face with the one man who broke her heart all those years ago, Alexander Knight.
Five years ago, when Alex and Lyla meet at his friend, Andrew's grave, they fall deeply in love. But, Alex is hiding a secret that will destroy his relationship with Lyla and does. What Lyla doesn’t realize is that Alex has changed since their break-up, because of her love, only she still has hate in her heart towards him.
But now, fate has brought them together in such a way that they have no option but to remain dangerously close - dangerous enough for Lyla to fall in love with him again. How can she? Not after what she knows about Alex and what he did to Andrew.
It’s true that love can change people for the better. But is it enough? What will happen when two broken people with a past come together? Can they forgive and heal?
First off, the cover caught my eye right away. Very sensuous, sexy and it definitely helps that the hero looks like the very yummylicious actor Neal McDonough.
Always You was a fun, sweet romance about secrets, betrayal, truth and moving on. Our heroine Lyla suffered when she lost her late love Andrew in a car accident involving Andrew's friend Alex. Lyla has harbored anger at Alex ever since she found he was in the car and was the lone survivor. Things are complicated when Alex and Lyla are thrown together in work, years after their breakup. Lyla has been angry with Alex ever since, but he, knowing the truth behind the accident, also knows the embers are still alive between them.
This reminded me of a classic Harlequin Presents novel only with a more likeable hero than the overzealous, sometimes brute-like HP heroes. Lyla was like a classic HP heroine going back and forth between her feelings while trying to keep in mind the sorrow she has held toward Alex. Exotic locations and glamorous jobs added to the romantic feel of the story, and there was also a sense of dramatic mystery throughout the book. One that hints to the reader of the tragic accident known between the hero and heroine but not to the reader.
Alex knows the truth of the accident and although he doesn't reveal it until later, there is a lot of internal conflict where he suffers survivor's guilt. The accident is not done deliberately by his doing (for anyone wondering ahead of time) but the reasons behind it are believable and tie the story (as well some of secondary characters) together.
I must admit, it's Alex's character who really brought me into the book. Thank you Ms. Mudiganti for this wonderful hero! While Lyla ran a bit hot and cold with her changing feelings (which made it hard to identify completely with her), Alex was a sexy, confident, complex character. He has a reputation for being a Lothario but inside he holds a candle for one woman: Lyla. While it was hard to identify with Lyla's ever changing attitude and quick changing thought process, I found Alex attractive in his smooth reasoning and calm confidence. I imagine much of his Casanova-ing took place off screen where we only hear Lyla mention it to reason herself into not falling for him again. This works because I wouldn't want to see Alex hanging all over another woman other than the heroine but I would have also liked to have been shown some things that were talked about later. Comparing the characters, it was a nice juxtaposition to have such two different personalities. I like to think that there were many a times Alex had to be the calm one to Lyla's passionate personality when they were dating before the novel opened.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the whimsical romance of Always You. There were a few times when I as pulled out of the story due to some errors (grammar and such) and when I had to re-read some passages where it seemed like characters would be in one place one minute and then transport to another place with no transition, but I'm pretty sure that's only in the case for the ARC and the final books will be clean reads.
Always You gets a recommended read from me, especially for those HP fans looking for a similar story structure without the cookie cutter HQN style.
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Truly, Madly, Deeply, You by Cecilia Robert
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 2012 in eBook
Four days before Valentine’s Day, Liese Hansfeld is determined to shut the door to her house, as well as her heart, for her annual four days of mourning her one true love. Little does she know her best friend Freytag Meier is just as determined to keep her from her ritual. He’s ready to pick the lock to her apartment door and camp in her living room if that’s what it takes.
What Freytag isn’t prepared for is the surge of deep-rooted emotions he feels for Liese, but two things stand in his way: the grief and guilt she still clutches close to her heart, and a man who threatens to snatch Liese from under Frey’s watchful eye. Frey is determined to distract her into forgetting her pain. But is that enough to ease her grief, or help her see he can be more than her best friend?
This was another sweet romance from Inkspell that I really enjoyed, with the extra goodness of being an interracial romance (squee) and a friends to lovers story (woo hoo).
Like Always You, this book dealt with secrets and moving on. My heart went out to Liese who is the one carrying the guilt in the novel. Her best friend Frey has been there from the beginning before her marriage and eventual loss and is there to pick up the pieces afterward. Also like the previous novel, there is a sense of mystery throughout the novel as 'the secret' is known by the hero and heroine but later revealed to the reader. Liese is a complex character. Suffering from depression, she tries to move on despite the nightmares, the deep melancholia affecting her not only emotionally but also physically and mentally.
Frey is a completely sweet and strong hero. Some romance readers may find his beta tendencies a bit jarring if they are used to reading alpha heroes, but I love how he would be so caring of Liese and also very protective of her when someone is hurting her. The romance is low key, sensual and yet very hot when the reader's tension is relieved with a kiss. My hats off to Ms. Roberts for steaming up my reader with the most sensually hot kiss I've read recently! The later scenes between Frey and Liese prove that with the perfect description, a kiss and some tension can go a long way in place of hardcore sexually explicit scenes.
At novella length, Truly Madly Deeply You offers a quick and very satisfying read for those looking for an easy going contemporary romance to relax with.
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I'm extremely glad I was able to read these two books back to back. With such gorgeous soft pastel covers that look amazing side by side, a theme of secrets, truth and renewal, both Always You and Truly, Madly, Deeply, You go hand in hand for a wonderfully romantic dual read. I must say I'm rather impressed with Inkspell's launch reads. The stories were sensual and sexy without being over the top and in your face with its sexual nature. Many readers I've spoken to have been missing the tension in romance books today where most have replaced characterization with sexual metaphors (and moving body parts) and unresolved tension with hardcore sex every page. I will be sure to mention these titles next time I speak to them because if they are like me looking for some great stories to relax with, lovely romantic tension to get your heart beating, sensual descriptions and characters you want to fall for, they will be in for a lovely treat. :-)
I'm looking forward to reading more of Inkspell's book selections!