Monday, June 25, 2018

Jen's Review: Moonlight Seduction

Moonlight Seduction by Jennifer Armentrout
Publisher: Avon (June 26, 2018)
Series: de Vincent, 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance


The de Vincent brothers are back—and so is the intrigue that surrounds them—in New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s sizzling new novel...

Nicolette Bresson never thought she’d return to the de Vincents’ bayou compound. It’s where her parents work, where Nikki grew up... and where she got her heart broken by Gabriel de Vincent himself. Yet here she is, filling in for her sick mother. Avoiding Gabe should be easy, especially when so much of Nikki’s time is spent trying not to be stabbed in the back by the malicious hangers-on who frequent the mansion. But escaping memories of Gabe, much less his smoking-hot presence, is harder than expected—especially since he seems determined to be in Nikki’s space as much as possible.

Gabriel spent years beating himself up over his last encounter with Nikki. He’d wanted her then, but for reasons that were bad for both of them. Things have now changed. Gabe sees more than a girl he’s known forever; he sees a smart, talented, and heartbreakingly beautiful woman... one who’s being stalked from the shadows. Now, Gabe will do anything to keep Nikki safe—and to stop the de Vincent curse from striking again.



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Content Warning: Cancer Treatment of Parent, Violent physical assault and attempted sexual assault (on page) 







Jen's Review:



So this is that weird situation where I know writing this review is going to potentially negatively impact my enjoyment of the book. I hate it when that happens, but I think it might be interesting to talk about why.



The experience of reading, when it’s a good one, isn’t about logic. It’s about emotion. I want to be swept away by a story and into another world. There is nothing like the feeling of being immersed in the inner lives of characters and their problems. When it’s a romance, I want to root for the couple and cheer them on to that HEA. And on that metric, Moonlight Seduction delivered. But it’s once I put my logic hat back on that I couldn’t help but be bothered by some of the pacing and plotting issues in the book.



The hero of Moonlight Seduction is Gabe, he’s one of a trio of handsome, filthy rich billionaire brothers living in New Orleans. The de Vincent family, though, is rumored to be cursed. The history of the family is full of murder, intrigue, and drama. (FWIW, I read this second book in the series without reading the first. There were a few things I didn’t quite get, but I was able to roll with it just fine.)



Nikki is the daughter of the housekeeper and butler. She’s 22, fresh out of college, and has returned home to help her father run the de Vincent household while her mother undergoes cancer treatments. Nikki is ten years younger than Gabe, and nursed a hard, painful crush on him through her teenage years. On the night of her 18th birthday, they had sex when he was drunk, and she hasn’t talked to him since.



One of the things that makes this book enjoyable to read is the real tension and angst between Nikki and Gabe. They both harbor anger, regret, and resentment about their past sexual encounter. And Jennifer Armentrout does a nice job of making both of their positions seem empathetic. They were both right; they were both wrong. However, because of the huge power differential in their relationship, because she’s “the help” in their home, it’s definitely Nikki that has our sympathy. Yes, Gabe can be a real jerk at times, but Nikki doesn’t put up with his crap. I appreciated her strength. The book is super sexy, and the escalation of their physical relationship is faster than their emotional bond, and I think that tension made for a satisfying read. I wanted to see if they could work it out. 



Now starts a super-spoilery part of the review! Be forewarned!



Upon reflection, I’d say the two biggest problems with this book are pacing and plotting. Early on, Nikki is twice injured under mysterious circumstances---but it’s potentially an accident, or wayward kids, or maybe the house is haunted. But I didn’t find the escalation in danger to make that much sense. Things happen, but then the middle of the book is just her “feeling” like someone is watching her, or experiencing vague feelings of unease. In fact, the pacing of the “Nikki is in danger plot” is so slow that at one point, I wondered if the would just drop it. But then she is violently attacked in her new apartment around the 85% mark. I am being pretty open about this, because it’s a violent, vividly rendered scene. This is my first Jennifer Armentrout book, so I don’t know if this is normal for her, but I’d say it is one of the most vivid descriptions of physical assault and attempted sexual assault that I’ve read in a romance. It was visceral, shocking, and upsetting. I don’t want to undersell it because I think it would be absolutely triggering for many readers.



I’m not necessarily quibbling about the story plotting of this event; once all is revealed, it makes sense in the context of what else we know about other characters. However, as a romantic plotting device, I didn’t love it. I just...ugh...It felt perilously close to fridging (a comics term that is used when a female character is put into mortal danger to further the development of a male character). It’s not quite that bad, Gabe realizes he’s in love with her before the attack, but it does make him reveal this relationship that he’d earlier wanted to keep secret. But it was a hard scene to read, and I didn’t quite feel convinced that Nikki had to suffer that way in order to reach an HEA. Maybe a dorm-size fridging event, but yucky nevertheless.



There were several other family dynamics and relationships that were glossed over. Gabe’s relationship with his brothers is well-established. The older de Vincent brother Dev is one closed-off son of a bitch, so of course I can’t wait to read his book next. But Nikki’s mother is undergoing cancer, and there’s very little mention of her, which just didn’t ring true to me. Wouldn’t Nikki be more worried and concerned about her mother? Her mother’s cancer felt less like a real problem Nikki was facing, and more like a plot device to get her back into Gabe’s orbit. Similarly, Gabe has a personal issue of his own in Baton Rouge, and it’s coyly kept a secret from the reader and from Nikki for far too long, which was silly since it was so easy to guess what it was.



It’s weird, because despite all those quibbles, I did enjoy reading the book. It’s well written. I liked Nikki, and even though I wanted to kick Gabe’s ass, I liked him, too. But it’s definitely a book I enjoyed more once I stopped trying to dissect every plot point and worry too much about the pacing.



I’m going to give it a 4 for readability and a 2 for some plotting issues that should have been tightened up. We’ll average it out to a 3 and call it a day.



3 STARS! 


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Source: Edelweiss eARC

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Thanks for the review, Jen! 



Enjoy!



Until Next Time,










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