Sunday, August 11, 2013

Return of the Penguin, and a Quick Review of A Prior Engagement by Karina Bliss

Here I am, returning to the world of book blogging after a long 2 1/2 month absence. Wow. When I decide to take a break from reviewing, I honestly never intended to be away for even a whole month. My original justification was that I had major readers block and I just needed a breather so I could come back fresh, and I thought two weeks would do it. Life happened, as it often does. I have no justification other than the basic fact that I was doing other things. Fun things. Important things. Non-bookish things.

The first month of my absence was spent rereading Harry Potter. just felt like the time to do that. It felt like a restful thing to do. I can't really explain the comfort of wrapping myself in the warm blanket of nostalgia, but I'm sure it's something every adult is familiar with. It was also interesting to experience these books for the first time as an adult. The last time I did a reread was just before book 6 came out (with Deathly Hallows I decided to forgo rereading and just dive right in). So it had been a minimum of five years since I touched these books. Viewing Harry Potter through new eyes, I was just as enchanted as I'd ever been, though I spot more details now, and I spot more flaws now. Finishing the series was just as bittersweet this time as it was five years ago.

Anyhow, I still really wanted to keep up with my reading and pursue this years goal to read 113 books, even though I wasn't sure when/if I'd get around to reviewing them. While finishing my HP marathon, I chose to read a lot of graphic novels in order to (almost) keep up with my goal. If that sounds a bit like cheating...I don't care. If Goodreads counts them, that's good enough for me. I plan on reviewing them all in good time as well.

That brings me to my final "housekeeping" notes before I move on to my review. While RtP is back up for review purposes, I'm going to be operating at a tempered pace while I try to resume my reading/reviewing rhythm. I'm keeping all featured posts and memes (with the possible exception of quickies like Follow Friday) are under suspension until such a time as I'm caught up on plain old book reviews.

With that in mind, I'm going to start by doing a quickie review of a book that I read all the way back in May. Yeah. Obviously I'm going to be hazy on the details, but I still wanted to cover it, since Karina Bliss is one of my all-star authors.

16160119A Prior Engagement is the final book in Bliss's Special Forces series, every one of which you should really go read like right now. They are Harlequin's Super Romance line at it's best--dramatic, heart-wrenching stories that go just a shade deeper than your average category romance. In this book. For three books, Lee was thought to be dead. His SAS buddies watched him die, or so they thought. In reality, he's been in enemy hands all this time--tortured, starved, and barely holding on to his sanity. When he's finally rescued and brought back to the world of the living, it's to discover that his once girlfriend, Jules, has betrayed him. Before he left on his last mission, he asked her to marry him. She turned him down flat. Yet now she wears his ring, spends his money, and has all of his friends believing that in her goodness.

Not only did I find the conflicts in this book intriguing, but I was surprised by how not cheesy they were. Bliss handles Lee's PTSD perfectly. He tries not to wallow, he makes a conscious effort to work through his issues on his own. He has a lot to work through, and he's developed a bit of a dark side that he needs to cope with. What I liked about Jules was how reasonable the author made her position seem. When I first read the description I thought, "What a BITCH,". But once you learn the circumstances behind her lies and half-truths, they seem almost completely justifiable. She accepted Lee's ring to honor his memory and make his friends happy. She spent his money to help Lee's father fulfill some bucket-list dream vacations, and only thinks of her own desires after the fact. She tries very hard to put things right once Lee returns, so she ends up being quite a sympathetic character.

I didn't so much care for the fact that Lee fakes amnesia and tells other lies just to screw with Jules. Again, he's been through hell and has no reason to think anything of her but the worst, but I felt his way of handling everything was a bit immature.

So in the end, this wasn't the strongest or the weakest of the four book series. As usual Bliss takes a cheesy trope like the Back-From-The-Dead hero and turns it into an enjoyable story. 4 stars.

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