This one is a DNF for me. Once I realized where the novel was going, I saw that it was not for me. I don't like to read stories where mental health issues are used as plot devices. They tend to fail at whatever the author intends and irritates me as a reader. The first chapter was absolutely beautiful and I thought it would prove to set the stage for the remainder of the book. I was wrong and quickly discovered "Wicked Games" was not the book for me. I'd give it 2 out of 5 stars for effort and the flawless first chapter. Had I read any further into the book, it'd be a definite 1 star read.
I really enjoyed Cake. Mmm … just saying the name makes me yearn for the sugary confection. I didn’t love it only because of a few repetitive lines and the short length. To be fair, it is a novella and I knew that going in. The thing is, with this being such a good story, I wanted more of it. I wanted to know more about Wren and her life. She has two moms, a brother, and we don’t really get into how that shapes her as a person. Yes, we learn she sees family as those you go home to and the friends you have around you, but I’d love to know how her views have been shaped by her upbringing. She’s such an awesome woman—she’s strong, ambitious, and knows what she wants. Her mothers have something to do with that, though I believe one does more than the other. That’s why I want more background. It’d be great to know who helped Wren become the woman she is. The same goes for Gregori. We learn about his parents and how life was for them in Russia, but we don’t get any real feel for who he is and how his life has been influenced by his youth. I mean, the man sold his first piece of art at the age of 15! That’s quite the accomplishment. There has to be more to him, though, especially with his love for sweets. I get why Dane titled this book Cake—because it’s all sweet, satisfying, and goes straight to your hips.
If Cake were longer, I wouldn’t have felt the rush toward the happy ending. A bit of drama comes up in Wren and Gregori’s friendship/relationship but it’s realistic. It doesn’t go into the typical romance tropes—the ex trying to come between them, or countless dalliances with other people. The hiccup deals with their feelings and is handled with adult sophistication. I can’t express how refreshing that aspect of this story is—to have two adults who are going through a rough patch actually come to terms with their relationship and handle it with maturity. Again, I wish the novella were a full novel so we’d get the ins and outs of the distance that was put between them, the emotions they experience with missing one another or what have you, and the realization of what they mean to one another. The ending comes upon us so swiftly, you get the feeling you missed something.
Other than my desire for more back story and more pages of this thrilling, romantic, and sexy piece, I reveled in this tale. I could probably read it a few more times and fall in love with it a bit more. It’s a romance that doesn’t dwell on the petty, little things. Wren isn’t one to play games, going after her man with abandon. While Gregori thinks he knows what’s best for Wren, she makes sure he knows she’s a grown ass woman and can decide what she wants on her own. Make no mistake, what she wants, she gets. I highly recommend Cake to fans of contemporary fiction, romance, and lovers of strong, independent women. You won’t be disappointed with this read. And hey, if you think it’s too short (like I do), go ahead and read it again. Maybe even three times. It’s that good. Almost as good as cake.
I was provided an ARC by NetGalley and Harlequin for an honest review.
Stuck is in a way a coming-of-age tale that puts you into the mind of the MC, Odette. This poor girl feels she’s stuck in her current circumstances without a way out. There’s no real threat or issue keeping Odette where she is other than her lack of self-confidence. I call BS on that, though, because she’s only as stuck as she wants to be. Atkinson introduces us to Odette through a daily play-by-play of her life, the town she lives in, and those who influence her most. The secondary characters aren’t as important as they could be, but a few play an important role in Odette’s life. She has a younger sister at home and a worthless mother she supports with a dead end job. At 23 years old, I’m a bit ashamed of Odette’s stance in life. Also, the repetitiveness of Odette’s day puts you in her head more than you want to be. It’s almost too much and doesn’t allow for much sympathy for Odette’s plight. She starts off as an insecure liar and develops into a self-assured bender of the truth. I say that because she doesn’t accept a few things she should as truth and tries to make herself feel better by creating her own truth.
While the book doesn’t boast a traditional love triangle, there are two men who come into Odette’s life and make her look at things through a magnifying glass. Henri is a great character. He’s sweet, seems genuine, and truly likes Odette for who he believes she is. Of course, if she hadn’t lied about herself upon first meeting him, I think he would have liked her even more. Being truthful is such a huge deal when building new relationships. Odette doesn’t know this because of her lack of experience with boyfriends, living a deceitful life, and her loud and often incorrect, best friend Sarah who gives the most awful advice. Sarah definitely deserves the ‘worst BFF ever’ award. I wouldn’t listen to a word that girl says. Now, Ben … what can I say about him? He’s an enigma and remains one since we don’t learn much about him. But he has the most pull on Odette, even though she doesn’t answer the call. Ben is similar to Odette in that he doesn’t have much in life and doesn’t worry about living beyond the here and now. He’s so down to earth and is what Odette needs to keep her grounded. Odette falls into the trap of wanting to be more than she is because of who she hangs out with. I think the author does a great job of showing us how clueless Odette is to her own feelings by putting her in the sight of both men.
The setting of the quaint fishing village is beautiful. You can smell the ocean air, hear the seagulls near the boardwalk, and feel the bright sunshine on your skin while reading. I don’t know much about lobster fishing but feel like I’ve learned quite a bit with Stuck. It also doesn’t hurt that Odette takes to sailing like a fish to water and it becomes her new obsession. With that occurrence, she begins to see there is more to life than working a dead end job, providing for people who don’t care about you, and not living your dreams.
The issues between Odette and her mom need to be addressed. Atkinson does not do a good job of conveying Odette’s feelings to her mother. Too much is left unsaid or up to interpretation. Her mother doesn’t take anything Odette says seriously nor does she care how much she’s hurt her. Then there’s Odette’s younger sister who is on a collision course with life-ruining circumstances. The talk Odette needs to have with her sister never happens, and the author missing the chance to send her your readers a positive message is a (huge) disappointment.
Though riddled with plot holes, I enjoyed reading Stuck and would recommend it to other readers of women’s fiction. I’m not sure if there is a sequel in the making, but Stuck feels a bit unresolved. I’d love to know where the wind blows Odette and if she finally feels she’s where she wants to be in life.
I was provided an ARC by Net Galley and the publisher Mirror Image Publishing for an honest review.