Author: Monica McCarty
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: This was just as good as the first book I read in the series and despite major similarities, felt like a fresh story.
For my Reluctant Romantic project in February, I read four romances and while I enjoyed them all more than I expected, my very favorite was The Recruit. This was book number six in the author’s Highland Guard series and I immediately wondered if I’d like the rest as well. I admit that I also had/have an image of romances as particularly formulaic, so I was especially curious if similarities between books by a given author would be great enough that they’d all feel the same. To find out, I picked up this first book in the series, The Chief.
As with The Recruit, I enjoyed the historical setup. It was even more fun this time because I could see the historical and personal events that preceded those I’d already read about in The Recruit. Also similarly, the author did an amazing job writing an action packed plot into which sex scenes fit naturally. Instead of artificially holding off until a single sex scene at the end, she includes at least four distinct, steamy sex scenes throughout. I really like this about her books. I think it shows her ability to write many different sex scenes, where some other authors I’ve read seem to write the same one over and over within a book. It also allows the sex scenes to be an important part of the characters’ developing relationship, instead of the end goal.
In addition to the stylistic similarities I enjoyed, there were also some very similar plot points. The main characters end up married before they truly come to trust and love one another. The hero has reasons to be particularly mistrustful and stand-offish. Sex is immediately great because the characters feel a deeper emotional connections, something they do their best to convince themselves they don’t feel. Despite or because of these similarities, I enjoyed this book just as much as The Recruit. In part this is because, despite the similarities, the two main characters did have distinctly different personalities from those in The Recruit. I think the author has an impressive ability to deeply develop the emotional lives of her characters and that allows them to each feel real and distinct.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that even though I loved The Recruit, I had a hard time convincing myself to pick this up. I thought, how I can I read this when have all these more serious or more literary books I could pick up. I really need to get over this snobbishness! While romances do feel like brain candy to me because they’re light, easy reads that teach me little and I don’t want them to become most of my reading, I’d like them to make a regular appearance on my nightstand. I enjoy them enough that not making time for them should strike me as just as unlikely as my giving up chocolate altogether and I can tell you know – that’s not happening 🙂
I am not an avid reader of romance novels either, although I did read them sometimes as a teenager seeking books other than the traditional choices for an avid young reader. It’s been a long time since I read any “romance novels,” as opposed to romances, which I tend to think are more literary than the paperback types. I do find it interesting that the ones you have read include sex scenes that are described with more detail than I remember or imagined they would be. I also didn’t consider romances to be written in series, as I usually see adventure or fantasy books written. Interesting.
As for you being a “snob” when it comes to genres you gravitate to, I doubt it. You seem pretty well-rounded as a reader to me. I myself have grown to enjoy reading several different “types” of books, including non-fiction, which I used to avoid (I know that’s your genre of choice). I just finished Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, a novel based on a real person, which I loved for so many reasons (see my brief and unfinished review in Goodreads). I enjoy reading books that lead me to following up on the subjects involved, and to gain ideas and techniques for my own writing, which I like to think is evolving. This book was also cool for the author’s use of the “language” of the period (early 19th century) and for switching between the voices of the two main characters in each chapter. Guess I went on here beyond the scope of your Review, but I wanted to point out that all kinds of reading are valuable, especially if you are as devoted a writer (and blogger) as you are. Thanks for your honesty and details.
That’s very interesting! I think we have very different impressions of the romance genre. One of my biggest negative stereotypes I had to get over was the idea that they were all in series and that every book in the series would be essentially the same.
Thanks so much for your opinion on reading different genres. I’m glad I generally don’t come across as a genre snob, even if I think I can do a bit better in some ways! I agree that many different kinds of reading can be really valuable and I expect that’s especially true if you’re an author yourself.
Not my type of book but I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Heh, I think it’s great that you’ve been going outside of your comfort zone to try these romance reads and have been finding that you’re actually enjoying them more than you thought! And I def don’t think you should feel guilty slipping in some “brain candy” now and then between your more literary reads – reading can be enriching in different ways!
Thanks Aylee! I’ve been enjoying them a lot 🙂
Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy
Totally understand that it’s nice to have a light and easy read once in awhile. Although I don’t read too many heavy books, so I have them more than once in awhile. 😀 It’s great this book was a bit better than formulaic romance!
I like having a good mix of lighter and heavier reads most of the time, although I’m so busy with school these days, I’ve been learning more towards light reads all the time myself 🙂
I think this kind of book is out of my comfort zone too, but I want to be more open to trying different types of stories. I will have to keep this series in mind if I convince myself to give romance a try!
I’d recommend it!
TJ @ MyBookStrings
I also enjoy some light reading every now and then, especially when I need to read a lot for work. Your Reluctant Romantic event in February encouraged me to try the book Irresistibly Yours, a contemporary romance. I was surprised by how much I liked it. The characters were believable, and the romance was realistic. (Ok, the author wants me to believe that there is an office building in NYC that houses two successful magazine publishers with super-beautiful employees who all pair off, but other than that, it was believable.) It was funny, too. So maybe next time I need a little distraction, I’ll look for this one. Thanks for the tip.
Haha, yes, I sometimes read contemporary romances and I feel as though there are often at least a few unbelievable details. The occasional light reading mixed in helps keep me out of reading slumps 🙂
Jenny @ Reading the End
Oh man you’re killing me! I love recommending romance novels to romance novel newbies, but I also never, ever, ever read Scottish romance novels (because of PAST TRAUMA not really trauma but past REALLY SERIOUS EMBARRASSMENT), which means I can’t pop into your comments to recommend other romance novels for you to read that are along similar lines. BOTHER.
If action-packed is your jam, have I recommended Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady to you before? It’s very good. Lots of spying.
Haha, that’s ok! I was nervous that Scottish romance novels would turn out to be ridiculous, but I’m enjoying them very much. I like the action, but I also particularly like that the male leads are very kind; that there are multiple, diverse sex scenes instead of just one at the end; and that the author does a good job showing how the couple slowly fall in love with one another.