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guarded moments

Category Romance Review: Guarded Moments by JoAnn Ross

Synopsis:

It was a command performance

Chantal Giraudeau de Montcroix was every inch a princess, and she expected the red-carpet treatment during her American tour to promote a traveling art exhibit. What she didn’t expect – and wouldn’t tolerate – was special agent Caine O’Bannion hounding her every move and cramping her formidable style.

Caine had this crazy notion that someone was out to kill her, and his constant surveillance was becoming a royal pain for Chantal – until the first attempt on her life. It was then that she commanded he keep watch over her…day and night.

GUARDED MOMENTS

SPOILER FREE REVIEW😊

The Book

JoAnn Ross’s Harlequin Temptation, Guarded Moments, takes us to the fictional European royal nation of Montcroix. Or, more precisely, it introduces us to the princess of the said fictional kingdom, the proud Chantal Giraudeau. The Giraudeau family is styled after Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco and their jet-setting brood that the paparazzi hounded.

The Plot

Princess Chantal has quite a reputation behind her. She’s been pictured in the glossies with lots of men, and her intense but brief marriage to a race-car driver was no surprise to the press. However, she’s a woman of many identities, and there is more to her than meets the eye.

Chantal is coming to America to promote an art exhibition. There’s danger afoot, as a potential threat is making the rounds against her. Several mysterious accidents seem to have followed Chantal, and the government is taking those as serious threats.

It’s up to the recently injured-on-duty Secret Service Agent Caine O’Bannion, who is appointed as her bodyguard. As the haughty Chantal would bristle at the idea of protection, Caine pretends to be her bureaucratic US guide. Another agent poses as a limo driver.

The sparks fly between the buttoned-down agent and the beautiful and independent Chantal. She demands her own way, but it’s Caine’s job to protect the princess. Chantal dismisses them outright. Who could possibly be out to hurt her?

Caine’s instincts prove to be correct, as there is an attempt on her life. Now, rather than just accompanying her to events, Caine is there with her, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As the two spend every moment together, they get to see there’s more than meets the eye to one another. Chantal is a vulnerable woman who was hurt in the past by love. What the press reported about her love life was highly exaggerated. Caine has his own issues, but he can’t help but care for the vulnerable princess.

Still, the danger is constantly lurking as attempts on Chantal’s life get more flagrant. Who could be behind them? And even if Caine can get to the bottom of it all, what kind of future would he and Chantal have? Although they form an intense connection, they’re from two disparate worlds. How can they ever be together?

Final Analysis of Guarded Moments

Chantal starts off as a whiny brat, but life has not been as easy-breezy for her as it seems. Like an onion, she’s got multiple layers to her. The closer Caine gets to the center, the more the tears flow.

Caine, for his part, has his eye on his job. It’s one he takes seriously, even if it’s not protecting the US President anymore. Caine can’t deny his instantaneous attraction to Chantal, but he holds his cards close to his chest. Until the very end…

Chantal’s brother Burke gets a book of his own in a later Harlequin Temptation, The Prince & the Showgirl, which I have not read, but am sure to track down one day.

This was a passionate and pleasant Harlequin Temptation. I love bodyguard romances and heroines who don’t want protection. I wouldn’t rank this Guarded Moments as a keeper, but I certainly am glad to have read it. 3.59 stars

3.59 stars

too many husbands

Category Romance Review: Too Many Husbands by Elise Title

category romance
Too Many Husbands by Elise Title
Rating: four-half-stars
Published: 1990
Illustrator: Cinille
Imprint or Line: Harlequin Temptation #282
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 212
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: Too Many Husbands by Elise Title

MILD SPOILERS 😉

A Christmas Romance Filled With Merriment

There are Christmas tales that inspire, ones that make us cry, and others that make us laugh with the joy of being alive. The Harlequin Temptation romance, Too Many Husbands by Elise Title, falls into the latter category. It’s a zany romp of a romance that could have been an old-fashioned screwball comedy on the live screen.

What does a woman do when she has not one, nor even two, but three husbands coming over for Christmas?

No, this is not a remake of the 1940 romantic comedy of the same name starring Fred MacMurray and Jean Arthur. Nor is it related to the similarly-styled film My Favorite Wife, which starred Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Even so, you can see their influences, as Too Many Husbands is as silly and enjoyable as those films.

The Wacky Plot

At only 28, Casey Croyden’s a hotshot in the commercial real estate market. Due to her laser-beam focus on business, she has one failed marriage behind her. When the largest Japanese hotel chain owner decides to set his sights on the US market, Casey is just the one to make the deal.

The only impediment is that Toho, the owner of the hotel chains, is a “traditional” man. This means he might not accept entering into a deal spearheaded by a single woman whose focus is solely on her career. So Casey concocts a plan to have Toho and his wife Akiko stay with her in a huge rented house in a cozy New England setting with Casey and her husband. That is, an actor hired to play her husband.

Enter John Gallagher. He’s Casey’s new next-door neighbor. His unexpected arrival on her doorstep has Casey mistaking him for the actor she hired. She plants a big kiss on him, to John’s bewilderment, and acts as if they’re madly in love. John, to his benefit, plays along.

It Gets Even Wackier

Things take a wacky turn when David, the real actor, shows up. Caught in a trap of her own making, what’s Casey to do? What would any good actor do? Improvise! David is relegated to Casey’s brother, who’s also spending Christmas with them.

Remember, though, this is called Too Many Husbands, not One Husband Too Many. Who else turns up? Casey’s ex-husband, Wes. Casey and her ex aren’t on bad terms, but his appearance is bound to cause confusion. As a result, he’s given the role of a family friend.

To make the situation even more insane, John’s ex-wife, Brenda, appears. An ex-wife would muddy the waters more, so she’s presented as Casey’s best friend.

If you’re counting, that’s three husbands and two wives, not including Toho & Akiko. That makes for a winning combination as a full house beats out a three-of-a-kind hand!

It’s a full house indeed when Casey’s PA drops by to check on how the merriment is progressing. She’s shocked to find her normally cool-headed boss all distressed. What’s with this Christmas tomfoolery?

Somehow Casey should be out of her mind trying to broker a deal with Toho, all while trying to keep up appearances. John is her solid rock, and she can’t help but rely upon and be attracted to him. The pair are forced to share rooms and matching robes. “The Walls of Jericho” (a reference to the famous 1930’s comedic romance It Happened One Night) are raised to keep things platonic.

John is even described as looking like Clark Gable. (Although he looks nothing like him on the cover!) John remains a man of mystery, as we never learn much about him. We do know that he has no feelings for Brenda, their divorce was amicable, and he only has eyes for Casey.

Final Analysis of Too Many Husbands

Too Many Husbands is a hilarious romance. Nothing is meant to be taken seriously except the love story. As said, this book is a screwball comedy in the style of films from the 1930s and 1940s.

Have you ever seen the Frasier episode “The Two Mrs. Cranes,” where Daphne, wanting to fend off an old boyfriend, pretends to be married to Niles? Then Roz shows up and pretends to be Nile’s wife, “Maris,” who is “married” to Frasier. And the cop father pretends to be an astronaut? That was one of the funniest moments on television, and that’s what this book is like. One bit of slapstick silliness followed by another!

An epilogue wrapping up this story would have been the perfect bow to add to this gift of a Christmas romance. There are some loose ends, so it’s not perfection. But whether it’s Christmas or any time of year, Too Many Husbands is an exceptional, sidesplitting tale that will keep you smiling for a long time.

Rating Report Card
Plot
5
Characters
4.5
Writing
5
Chemistry
4.5
Fun Factor
5
Cover
5
Overall: 4.8

Synopsis

Naughty and Nice…

All Casey Croyden wanted for Christmas was a husband. Not a permanent one – just a man to play the part and help her impress the traditional Japanese businessman she was entertaining over the holidays. Sounded simple enough. Hire one from Actor’s Equity.

When John Gallagher arrived on her doorstep, the attraction between them was no act. And the debonair Mr Gallagher was no actor! Casey didn’t have the faintest idea who he was, but she had no time to trifle over details. Especially over the other minor glitch in her plan…what to do with him when the lights went out!

Too Many Husbands by ELISE TITLE
A> Loverboy

Category Romance Review: A> Loverboy by Judith Arnold

category romance
A> Loverboy by Judith Arnold
Rating: four-stars
Published: 1991
Illustrator: Unknown
Imprint or Line: Harlequin American Romance #389
Book Series: A Century of American Romance #10
Published by: Harlequin
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback, eBook
Buy on: AmazonAbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader


Category Romance Review: A> Loverboy  by Judith Arnold

VERY MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

Published in 1991, Judith Arnold‘s A> Loverboy is the final installment in the Harlequin American Romance line “A Century of American Romance” series. There were ten books in the series, each one focusing on a decade in the 20th century. Even

though they were published through a category romance line, all the books could be considered “historical” romances.

All that is, except A>Loverboy, which is more like historical fantasy or speculative fiction. Take your pick. Because instead of taking place in 1991, it’s set at a fictional end of the decade, in fact, it’s the end of the century.

The Future Past

A> Loverboy is a funny romance about two coworkers falling in for each other in an unusual way. Before there was “You’ve Got Mail” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, there was this book.

Lucy Beckwith is an uptight divorcee working in tech. You can tell I know nothing about computers because of the phrasing I use.

Back in the 1980s, Jim Kazan was a prodigy who’d hacked into the Pentagon. This brought him notoriety and put him on the covers of every major magazine.

Years later, he’s still working in computers, this time in the “new Silicon Valley” of Kansas. In this reality, “The Big Earthquake” finally hit California in the early part of the 1990s. The economy was disrupted, causing many businesses to move out of state.

Lucy doesn’t think much of Jim, except that he’s an egoist who lives off his hacker reputation.

The Future Present

One night Lucy starts getting mysterious messages on her work computer.

A> I crave your body.

Why would anyone crave her body? Lucy wonders. Her ex-husband hadn’t thought much of her shape. Her breasts were the size of lemons, for goodness sake!

A> I want you, Lucy Beckwith.

The messages continue. Rather than being disgusted, Lucy is intrigued. Who was this mysterious admirer?

A> Call me Loverboy.

The flirtatious glowing words on her screen bewilder Lucy.

It’s no surprise that the man behind the messages is the arrogant big-shot Lucy can’t stand, Jim Kazan. Jim tries his best to woo her online and in real life.

Lucy finds Jim’s confidence isn’t so off-putting once she gets to know him. And being desired by a secret admirer is working wonders on her own confidence.

The Future Future

Although this witty book has not aged so well, it’s funny to see what Arnold’s ideas of the future entailed. We can debate about what she got right or got wrong.

Reading A> Loverboy was akin to watching movies from the 1980s that predicted aliens and hovercars by the year 2020. I mean, sure, the aliens are here hiding in plain sight, as lizard people are wont to do. But we were promised hovercars, too, dammit!

People in the year 1999 of this book wore special jackets to block out UV rays. In the genuine “Current Year,” almost everybody wears a minimum of SPF 55 sunblock when they step into the sunlight. I remember when sunblock with an SPF of 10 was a big deal.

And PABA-free! (Does any modern sunscreen contain that anymore?)

Arnold did predict reality tv correctly. Or at least, “The Bachelor”-like programs where people “find love” in front of cameras and millions of viewers.

There’s a subplot about a teenage girl, Dara Lynn, who believes that Jim is her father, as she’s the result of an IVF pregnancy to a single mom. Jim supposedly donated a specimen to a fertility clinic years ago, and she’s connected the dots to him.

But the subplot is a minor one and takes backstage to the main love story. Jim is a charming rogue, an Alpha nerd who is determined to get the woman he wants. He desires Lucy not only for her body but her brain as well.

Final Analysis of A> Loverboy

What will happen when Lucy realizes the man who’s won her heart like a cyber Cyrano de Bergerac is, in reality, the smartass, know-it-all whose superior airs and sexy smile drive her crazy?

Despite A>Loverboy not accurately representing the 1990s, I really enjoyed this engaging little romance.

Lucy was a very realistic depiction of an insecure woman who flourished under some much-deserved adoration. Jim was a cute, witty hero.

Judith Arnold’s humorous handling of this romance left me smiling.

4 Stars

Rating Report Card
Plot
4
Characters
4.5
Writing
4.5
Chemistry
4
Fun Factor
4.5
Cover
3.5
Overall: 4.2

Synopsis

“I crave your body.” Seeing this message on her computer screen, Lucy Beckwith wondered if she’d finally gone mad. It had to be a mistake; at the very least, someone’s idea of a bad joke.

“I want you, Lucy Beckwith.” Her admirer certainly knew who she was—but when Lucy asked for his identity, all he said was, “Call me Loverboy.”

“I dreamed you were in my bed. ” Erotic messages … homespun poetry… outrageous flattery—Lucy couldn’t help but fall for Loverboy’s brand of old-fashioned romance.

“My heart is yours.” Lucy couldn’t believe two people could fall in love when they’d never even seen each other. But at the dawn of the twenty-first century, anything is possible…

A> LOVERBOY by JUDITH ARNOLD
a-love-to-last-forever-voyajolu

Category Romance Review: A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom

MILD SPOILERS 😉

The Book

A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is a fine romance between two former high school classmates, Stacy McAllister and Clarence “Mike” Harper. It’s 1986, and a 20-year class reunion brings the protagonists together. While Stacy was a popular cheerleader and prom queen who dated the captain/ quarterback of the football team, Mike had been a chubby, pimple-faced nerd who students like Stacy’s boyfriend had picked on.

Characters

Stacy

Stacy’s life is not running as smoothly as it had years before. She’d once had a promising future with a scholarship to North Western University but gave it up to marry her boyfriend a week after graduation. While that marriage resulted in a daughter, it ended in divorce when Stacy had enough of her husband’s abuse.

A second marriage also ended in divorce after she got pregnant with a son.

Now Stacy works in the same small town she grew up in, working as a secretary to a sleazy life insurance salesman. She drives an old jalopy of a station wagon. She has two radically distinct children: a hyperactive but helpful son and a truculent teenage daughter who seems to hate her.

Ex #2 is nowhere to be found, but ex #1 is still around, late with child support payments, occasionally hitting on Stacy, and usually drunk and mean. An ex-boyfriend, the local sheriff, also pops up to give her ten-year-old son tickets for speeding on a bicycle!

Mike

Mike’s life has changed, too but on a different trajectory. He was once the youngest kid in class due to being promoted several grades ahead due to his intelligence. Now, he’s a successful juvenile psychologist. Mike’s in good physical shape and at the prime of his life at 35.

Although he has one divorce behind him, Mike is well-adjusted, in touch with his feelings (so it seems), and a clear thinker.

Plot

Class of 1966

The attraction is instantaneous and palpable when Mike and Stacy reconnect at the class reunion. Mike had a big crush on Stacy back in the day, and Stacy can’t believe how hunky the former geek is now.

When they meet again, Mike makes no bones about his desire for Stacy. Stacy’s ambivalent about getting into yet another relationship. She’s made bad choices regarding men in the past, but Mike couldn’t be more different from them. He’s got it together, and as an “older” woman (she’s 38), she’s a bit insecure.

Nevertheless, Stacy can’t deny her attraction, and while Mike’s in town for a few weeks, she figured what’s wrong with a few dates?

Class of 1986

The problem is life cannot be compartmentalized so easily. Stacy finds herself falling deeply for Mike. Mike, in the meantime, has to deal with insecurities from the past coming back to haunt him. His marriage failed because a part of him was stuck back in high school, loving memory of a girl whose smiles were the only bright spots of miserable adolescence.

He’s a great father figure to her son. Stacy’s daughter Gail’s persnickety behavior is a mystery to her. Because of Mike’s profession, he’s able to draw Gail out of her shell and get mother and daughter to communicate and deal with Gail’s very complicated emotional issues.

Mike and Gail finally give in to their passion on a trip to St. Louis. They feel an intense bonding never experienced before. This is more than lust; it’s love. Mike wants forever, not an affair. But Gails’ insecurities may be too much and drive them apart. Will they ever be able to leave the past behind and move on to make a life together?

Final Analysis of A Love to Last Forever

Because A Love to Last Forever by Linda Randall Wisdom is an older romance, the writing here isn’t as reflective as one would find in a modern one. Events occur, and people react and move on. There’s lots of head-hopping within the same pages but done in a way to keep the plot moving forward rather than pondering or focusing on internal angst.

As an aside, it’s funny how a book from 1986 makes me feel so young and old simultaneously. Stacy & Mike graduated from high school 29 years before I did, so that I couldn’t relate to her era of grooviness and mod/ midwestern styles. Plus, Stacy’s diet of spaghetti, pancakes, and hamburgers while keeping trim had me rethinking my diet.

Her daughter listening to Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper and Stacy knowing the artists had me cracking up. If I had a teenager today, there’s no way I could identify any modern music. It’s the same pulsing beats or bland pop to me.

When other women delight in Stacy’s fall from grace, they lambast her for wearing clothes she made herself from patterns in McCall’s (Vogue magazine, actually), I laughed. Can you imagine that today? Have you seen the price of bolts of fabric? Making your own clothes costs much more than buying the semi-disposable garments sold at basic stores.

So, my final analysis of A Love to Last Forever? This novel was a satisfying romance with flawed characters who felt like real people falling in love. The conclusion is fitting. Stacy returns to school, her kids are better-adjusted, and she and Mike are passionately in love with a blended family that accepts who they are. A genuinely joyful, happy ending.

3.62 Stars


Synopsis

Once Stacy McAllister had been Carver High’s Most Likely to Succeed, and Mike Harper had been the class outcast. But at the reunion a devastating new Mike Harper, a man she’d never known, swept Stacy off her feet. With the sadness and failures of her past, Stacy felt worlds removed from her golden days. Love seemed a luxury she could no longer afford. Mike had become an astonishing social and professional success, the talk of the town. Soon he’d go back to St. Louis, taking a chunk of her past and a piece of her heart with him. She’d already given him a lot, but Mike wanted more. But she was a two-time loser. Did she dare to dream of a love that could last forever? 

A LOVE TO LAST FOREVER BY LINDA RANDALL WISDOM
a happily unmarried man

Category Romance Review: A Happily Unmarried Man by Kate Hoffmann

A Happily Unmarried Man, Kate Hoffmann, Harlequin, 1995, cover artist unknown

Harlequin Temptation #533

MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review is of A Happily Unmarried Man, #3 in the Bachelor Arms series published in April 1995 by Kate Hoffmann.

Bachelor Arms Series Book #3

The story begins at a mall in Los Angeles. Tru Hallihan and Josh Banks have come to the mall to shop for gifts for their respective wives. Tagging along is their friend Garrett McCabe, the hero of the book and a columnist for The L.A. Post newspaper. When Tru and Josh discover that domestic diva Emily Taylor is having a book signing in the mall, Tru and Josh decide to get autographed copies of her books for their spouses. Garrett, meanwhile, decides to write a vituperative column about Emily, ripping her up one side and down the other. He thinks the column is funny.

Others, however, don’t see it that way. Female readers call to cancel their newspaper subscriptions, and Richard Parker, Garrett’s boss, orders him to apologize to Emily, the heroine of the book. (There are other reasons Parker wants Garrett to apologize; he’s trying to buy “At Home,” the magazine Emily owns with her business partner, Nora Griswold).  At first, Garrett refuses to apologize, proffers a “sorry/not sorry” apology, then he and Emily meet face-to-face. Parker then orders Garrett to be Emily’s L.A. chaperone.

As they spend more time together, Emily and Garrett start to realize they have feelings for each other, later becoming lovers. 

In the end, Emily refuses Parker’s offer for At Home, Garrett quits his job at The Post to take a job with The Boston Globe to be with Emily (she lives in Rhode Island). Emily and Garrett marry and have their Happily Ever After.

Upside

Emily is a really easy heroine to root for, a woman who has had self-esteem issues all her life (exacerbated by her mother and bastard ex-husband) who took the skills she has–domestic arts–and turned them into an empire. She’s a very sweet, likable heroine.

At first, Garrett is a bit of a jerk, but as the book goes on, he shows a more caring side, which works well with Emily’s soft, low-key style. 

Downside

Somewhat nitpicking, but A Happily Unmarried Man lacks some of the, for lack of a better word, juice, that Ms. Hoffmann’s first two books in the series had. The book starts on a low boil and remains there for the entire book. 

Sex

One love scene between Emily and Garrett, which is more romantic than erotic.

Violence

None.

Bottom Line

Kate Hoffman gets the “Bachelor Arms series off to a great start with her three contributions to the series. 

Reviewed by Blue Falcon

Sunday kind of love

Category Romance Review: Sunday Kind of Love By Lois Faye Dyer

Sunday Kind of Love, Lois Faye Dyer, Kismet, 1991, cover artist unknown

KISMET #70

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW 😊

2 1/2 stars

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

A Meteoric Rise and Fall for Kismet?

Lois Faye Dyer, who would produce numerous Special Edition romances for Silhouette Books, was one of Kismet’s more prolific writers. Her romance Sunday Kind of Love is book #2 in a series about 4 siblings.

According to the website FictionDB the Meteor Publishing Company, from somewhere out of Pennsylvania, USA, released 168 books through its Kismet Romance line. The series ran from July 1990 to August 1993. The final book was written by Suzanne Brockman, with authors such as Cassie Miles, Christine Dorsey, Janis Reams Hudson, Sharon Sala, and Christina Dodd releasing works with them.

Dark Memories

I sort of want to revisit this book to see if my feelings about it were clouded by the experience I went through while reading it. About 20 years ago, in the middle of the night, my husband was rushed to the ER with a serious asthma attack. I recall holding our 3-year-old daughter tightly as my husband used his last bit of adrenaline to try to convince the doubtful ER workers that he could not breathe before passing out. He was intubated for several days afterward, and we were all worried if he would make it, then later we wondered if he’d have lasting lung damage. Fortunately, friends and family were there, as always, to give support.

My mother watched our daughter as I kept vigil at the hospital. That meant praying, pacing, and waiting. Finally, I just pulled out whatever book was in my purse and started reading. (I always kept a book in my pocketbook. Now it’s usually a Kindle e-reader stuffed into an already cluttered bag.)

If it seems coldhearted to be reading a romance while my loved one was in critical care, it wasn’t meant to be. There were old issues of McCalls and Newsweeks collecting dust on the table in the waiting room, and there was a TV set placed on the wall to help people pass the time. Sunday Kind of Love seemed like some light reading that I’d pay attention to with one eye while keeping the other looking out for a nurse or doctor.

The Plot

Unfortunately, Sunday Kind of Love tried to be too light-hearted while dealing with a fairly deep and significant issue. It’s doubtful I’d have been engrossed by any subject matter at the time, but instead of keeping my mind busy from negative thoughts, it increased them.

Trace McFadden is the oldest brother of the large McFadden clan. He likes his women fast, just like his cars. It’s those interests that get him in trouble, as he finds himself driving down a street when he slams on the brakes to see a beautiful woman on the asphalt. Trace rushes the woman to the hospital, concerned for the worst. Fortunately, her injuries aren’t major, and the next day, he vows to make amends. He visits her almost every day and promises to care for her until she’s fully recovered.

Lily Townsend moved to a quiet town in Iowa to get away from her past, that is, her abusive ex. A relationship with a love them-and-leave-them type is hardly on her agenda. It’s obvious Trace is interested in her. He introduces her to his family, a large and loving clan. He’s always there for her, making plans, bringing her surprises. Despite her druthers, Lily finds herself falling for Trace, but is he earnest about her?

This was a sweet romance that kind of glossed over the darker thematic and plot elements. Lily’s stalker of an ex is dealt with in a quick, perfunctory manner. Basically, Trace and his brothers threaten him, and that’s enough to keep the dirtbag away from Lily.

Final Analysis of Sunday Kind of Love

I’ve read books during stressful periods, and sometimes the stories made those times pass easier. This wasn’t one of those occasions. Was this a case of “it’s-not-you-book, it’s-me?” Perhaps. I read two other books in the McFadden family series, and while I was disinterested in brother Josh’s story, I enjoyed Cole’s story of a second-chance-at-love. Sunday Kind of Love has bad memories attached to it, so it’s fair to say my judgment may be clouded. I just wasn’t gaga over this romance.