RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves


Title: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings
Author: Jane Graves
Publication Info: Forever 2011
ISBN: 978-0446568487
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Cover This review was written by Melissa Cutler This story was nominated in the Best Contemporary Single Title Romance category.

The summary: In a world full of frogs, Alison Carter is determined to find her prince. Maybe her dating past is more Titanic than Love Boat, but she's seen enough happy marriages to know that true love is possible. No matter what, she won't give up on happily-ever-after. If she can't find Mr. Right, she'll simply hire someone who can. When Brandon Scott inherits a successful matchmaking business, he thinks his prayers have been answered. Set up a few lonely ladies, collect the fee, how hard can it be? No one needs to know he's not really a professional matchmaker-especially not his first client, the beautiful, spirited Alison. Soon he's falling for her-and her dreams of kids and carpools. But Alison is getting close to figuring out his secret, and if she learns he's deceived her too, she'll walk right out the door, taking Brandon's heart with her.

And here is Melissa's review:

If you're reading this, you're probably as passionate a reader as I am. So when I tell you that for me, “packing for vacation” is code for loading my e-reader and stuffing my suitcase full of books, you know what I'm talking about. You must not only pack the expected number of books you plan to read, but lots of backups, just in case a book or two turns out to be a dud. Vacation book insurance, if you will.

I read Heartstrings and Diamond Rings while on a weekend getaway that involved a lot of rum drinks and soaking in a pool. I'm pretty sure none of that rum-induced relaxation fuzzed up my opinion (rum makes me sharp as a tack! Mr. Cutler will back me up on that), so I feel totally confident in telling you that Heartstrings and Diamond Rings is vacation worthy. You won't need vacation book insurance if you pack it. This is a compliment of the highest order from me because it's always been my dream to be the kind of author who writes books people want to take on vacation. Vacation books really have to deliver the goods because who wants to waste precious vacation time on bummer books?

Bias alert! There's little I adore more in romance novels than hero groveling. I like suffering and heartache that's so bad it's like grief when the hero is finally confronted with his sins. I want the heroine to make him pay, and I want the hero to grovel like he's not worthy to lick the heroine's stilettos—until he finally comes up with the perfect grand gesture to prove his worth. I eat that stuff up.

When readers first meet Brandon, the hero in Heartstrings and Diamond Rings, it becomes immediately clear that he's going to go down in flames. He's conning the heroine, Alison, and a bunch of other lovelorn singles who think he's a matchmaker. He's not and has no desire to, but he's broke and trying to hustle a new real estate deal using the money he makes from the matchmaking business he inherits from his grandmother. He's still likeable, despite his horrible choices, but he digs himself into a hole of lies with Alison immediately—and any reader of romance knows there's only one way out of said hole. It was at this early stage of the book when I poured myself another coconut rum and told Mr. Cutler to entertain the children for a few hours so I could concentrate. Because when I'm promised hero groveling, I MUST READ WITHOUT STOPPING LIKE A MANIAC until it happens. Hence, why I ate this book up in a day.

Jane Graves delivered on the promise of Brandon's comeuppance beautifully. The book has a great ending that won't disappoint. Overall, I'd say this book will appeal to fans of Shannon Stacey's Yours to Keep. It's straight contemporary, without any suspense plot, and Graves is a master of maintaining realistic tension. Another aspect I loved is that the whole story is told from alternating points of views of the hero and heroine, without any pesky points of views from side characters slowing readers down on our march to the big comeuppance moment. One slight issue: the first 100 pages moved kind of slowly. I'm not going to lie—I skimmed the scenes in which Alison attended the preservation society board meetings (snore!). But the second half of the book really picks up speed.

It's worth noting here that I bought the nook version of the book, which was the same price as the paperback, but there was a formatting problem that detracted from my reading pleasure. Every hyphen had been replaced with a question mark. So turn-of-the-century was turn?of?the?century and ill-fated was ill?fated. If you buy this book, pick a different format.

None of that formatting stuff is the author's fault. This was an amazing book that I'd recommend to any fan of contemporary romance. I'll be rooting for Jane Graves at the RITA awards this summer, and I'll definitely be checking out her other books when it's time for me to pack for my next vacation.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
  2. 2

    Thanks, Kristi! I’d never reviewed a book for a blog before. I thoroughly enjoyed the process. Probably because the book I reviewed was so wonderful.

  3. 3
    Cassi Carver says:

    Sounds like a wonderful book—definitely something I’d like to add to my own e-reader! And I love your way of packing for vacation! A woman has to have her priorities. Great review!

  4. 4
    Bnbsrose says:

    Mmmmmmm hero grovelling.
    But I have to say, I usually only ever pack two books for vacation. One for travelling to and one for travelling home because I invariably find at least two more when I get where I’m going. Even my dad’s VFW post has a take one/leave one rack.

  5. 5
    Lisa Kessler says:

    Great review Melissa!!!

    I don’t read much contemporary, but a guy matchmaker sound interesting! LOL


  6. 6
    ReneeK says:

    This review was so great that I immediately went in search of the book on my kindle. I found three others came before it and being a completist downloaded those samples first.  The first book was too much like a Stephanie Plum story for me (suddenly downtrodden society wife takes job as repo agent) but the second book “Tall Tales and Wedding Veils” featured a plain Jane CPA, blue collar bad boy bartender, and a wild night in Vegas! Sold!  I downloaded the book on my lunch break and just finished it the awesomeness. It was oh-my-god-what-did-we-do-last-night good, complete with slightly tortured bad boy groveling, steamy AND funny sexy time, and a srsly 3D heroine.

    Thanks so much for introducing me to Jane Graves…I’m downloading the next two books right now. I’ll probably go back and read the first book now that I know I really dig her style.


  7. 7

    Holy Cow, Renee. That sounds like my kind of book. I’m going to download “Tall Tales” tonight. Thanks for the rec!


  8. 8
    Alex says:

    Ach, bah, grrr, boo etc.  Not available on Kindle in the UK :(  It’s a real shame – it sounds like I’d really enjoy it.

  9. 9
    ReneeK says:

    OK, Book 3 (Black Ties and Lullabies) totally didn’t work for me the way Tall Tales did.  It also had a Stephanie Plum vibe including a Lula-ish character named Lawanda.  I’m detecting a pattern here.  Pregnancy plots usually irk me to no end and this book wasn’t really an exception.  I enjoyed the sparring between h/h, but it wasn’t as awesome-sauce what with that baby bump getting in the way.  Tall Tales pushed a lot of the right buttons for me…Black Ties seemed to miss the mark a bit.  I enjoyed it, but I’m not jumping up and down about it.

    I’m going for the gold here and starting Heartstrings and Diamond Rings.  I’m eager to read it because I now know that the heroin in this book is the best friend from Tall Tales.  I really liked (and felt bad for) Alison when Heather got her HEA. AND it seems like this book bears no resemblance to a Stephanie Plum tale!

    I’m still digging Jane Graves, but I probably should skip the titles involving hoity toity society.  I’m not much for those settings outside of historicals (except in a Kleypas Contemporary).


  10. 10

    Renee, you and I have such similar taste in books! I’m not into sheeshee society people in contemps either (except, like you, Kleypas—I’ll read anything she writes). I love blue collar heroes and regular guys. I downloaded Tall Tales last night, but didn’t get a chance to start it yet. I really hope you love Heartstrings, but either way, let me know. I’d also love other recs from you. So rare to find someone who shares the same book opinions.

  11. 11
    Renda says:

    Thanks for the review.  We pack the same way.  Since my daughter packs the same way and I have told her e only this vacation, I will need to read my paper copy before me leave.  Then I may have to download other Jane Graves’ titles, keeping in mind the mini reviews above.  Thanks again.

  12. 12
    Karen H near Tampa says:

    I not only pack extra books for vacation, I always have 3 paper books with me—the one I’m reading and 2 to read so I have a backup in case one isn’t so good.  But now I almost always have my Kindle, too, so there are over 1000 more books/novellas/short stories added in (not to mention a couple of great word games).

    I’m more of a historical and paranormal romance fan but next time I’m in the mood for contemporary, I’ll check this out.  Great review!

  13. 13
    Tam B. says:

    ReneeK – I followed your lead and borrowed Tall Tales from my library.  I’m totally hooked.

    Thanks for the review that got us all talking and got me a new author to read.

  14. 14

    Tam, I’m so excited that we all found a new author to love. I bought Tall Tales on Renee’s recommendation, but haven’t had a chance to start it yet (wrestling with my own writing deadlines). This weekend, I’m hoping to make it happen.


  15. 15
    Jean Lamb says:

    If you want Hero Groveling, you must read A CIVIL CAMPAIGN by Lois McMaster Bujold. Miles, as he does in so many of his other books, thinks he can win through conniving and mastery of his plan. Except he tells rather a lot of people about his plan.

    Enter Train Wreck. Big, huge train wreck (the worst dinner party of all time). And then…Miles has to grovel. It’s a Grovel of Olympian proportions, and nobody deserves to do it more than he does. And he comes through with a letter written in his heart’s blood.

    Quote: “Here? Now?”  Aw, heck, just go read it (and if you become addicted and have to read all of Bujold’s other books, oh well, don’t say I didn’t warn you).

  16. 16
    Robyn26 says:

    I pack my suitcase the same way!  I even take a fully charged back up reader in case something happens to the electricity and I can’t charge my reader for a few days. 
    Thanks for the review.  It looks like a nail biter!  I just finished the funniest romance book.  It is called, “Jan’s Excellent Romance: Applesauce and Andy” by Lindsay Hall.  It takes place in a café in Long Island, NY.  The characters in the book are hilarious and so well developed.  You’re going to love Andy Hudson, the love interest. A mouth-watering studly male, successful, nice … mmmm.  It’s funny. If you want romance, sex, AND laughs, you should add this book to your suitcase!  http://www.lindsayhallromance….

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