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Wendy the Super Librarian‘s review of The Rules of Engagement by Ally Blake
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Presents 27 Nov 12

Ask any reader what the kiss of death is in a not-working-for-them romance novel and you’ll get a variety of answers.  Historicals that get the history wrong.  Alpha heroes who morph into Neanderthal jerks.  Supposedly smart heroines who are actually dumber than a sack of doorknobs.  However, I have a separate kiss of death just for category romances, although it can certainly apply to any book, regardless of genre.  Boring.  Nothing is worse than when a category romance is boring.  And this new book by Ally Blake is so devoid of compelling conflict that it took me a week to slog through less than 200 pages.

Caitlyn March has a problem, one that is best described by her BFF and roommate, Franny:

“’Cait, my sweet,’ Franny said, ‘listen to me this once.  You don’t smoke.  The hardest drug I’ve ever seen you take is really strong caffeine.  You don’t pick your nose in public.  But your one true vice is romance.  You get so caught up in it I could dance naked in front of you right now and you wouldn’t see it for the stars in your eyes.  You, my friend, are addicted to love.  It’s your one and only failing.  But as failings go it has the potential to be a doozie.  It’s a failing that can and has dragged chaos and catastrophe in its wake.’”

Catastrophe that has manifested itself into three, count ‘em three!, broken engagements.  All nice guys, to be sure.  But the moment those rings came out and the guys got down on bended knee, Caitlyn bolted to the closest escape route.  Our girl is a commitment-phobe and, after her latest broken engagement, has decided that she needs to ditch the hearts, flowers, and romance and just stick to really hot, just-a-fling sex.  Enter stage left, Dax Bainbridge, a monied-family-foundation-running type who literally runs into Caitlyn at a club.  She’s funny, smart, great in bed, and tells him she’s not looking for anything serious.  Given that women tend to see Dax and immediately put on the full court press for a ring, he thinks the perfect woman has just fallen into his lap.

What follows is Dax and Caitlyn having a fling.  Going out.  Having fun.  Having sex.  And?  That’s about it.  The conflict, if you can call it that, is basically two people having a fling and slowly developing “not-just-fling” feelings for each other.  Then, naturally, Dax finds out about the three previous engagements and everything goes to hell.

Seriously, that’s it.

It’s about as much fun to read about as paint drying.

True to life?  Sure.  But ever notice how not everything in real life is fiction-worthy?  Yeah, that’s what we have here.  Personally I loathe drama in my personal life – which is why nobody will ever model my personal relationships after a romance novel.  It would be boring as hell to read about.  Sort of like this one.  There’s no drama.  There’s no angst.  There’s nothing here to keep me glued to my seat, breathlessly turning the pages, waiting to see how the author is going to make it all work out in the end.  It’s dull as dishwater.  Honestly, it is.

I do like that the author goes for a little role reversal here, with the heroine being the one with commitment issues, as opposed to the brooding Alpha hero.  Although, honestly, if Dax would have brooded some more,  maybe I wouldn’t have been so bored.  She also throws in some backstory about Dax’s parents and Caitlyn’s Dead Daddy, but given that this baggage is written as almost an afterthought and not really delved into at any real depth, it’s essentially non-existent.  I like the inclusion of Franny, as we don’t see a ton of female friendships in romance novels, but she starts to come off like filler.  To mask the fact that there is little to zero conflict churning our couple forward.  Seriously, I got to the point where I was hoping Dax would forget the condom and Caitlyn would end up pregnant – that’s how desperate I was for something (anything!) to happen.

Yeah, I was reduced to that.

Wendy TSLGrade: D


For Better, For Worse, For Ever?

The first look, the first touch, the first kiss… Is there anything better than the beginning of a new relationship? Not for Caitlyn March–self-confessed relationship junkie. Now she’s sworn off “forever” for good. Three broken engagements make it clear that she–and her fickle heart–are not to be trusted….

Enter Dax Bainbridge–the most deliciously handsome man she has ever met! He’s a man with enough oomph to make her forget her vows to steer clear of romance, but luckily his rules of engagement are simple. There’s no ring on offer–all he’s interested in is one unbelievably hot fling….

Read an excerpt.