Friday, April 12, 2024

Stephanie Rowe - Date Me, Baby, One More Time

Immortal guardian Justine Bennet has one duty: keep a powerful magical item out of the hands of troublemakers, like, oh, the leader of hell. The eternity of celibacy that goes with her job? Something that would have been nice to know before she signed up for it.
Then Derek LaValle, a no-carb pretzel mogul, shows up at her door to behead her, which is the only way to save his twin from a deadly curse. Derek's charming, tempting-as-hell, and extremely determined, all the things that Justine needs to amp up her life.
Unfortunately, if Justine lets him live, her mom will end up as Satan's love pancake. But if Derek doesn't kill her, his twin will die in a week.
When high-octane attraction blooms between them, a dramatic fight to the death no longer feels like such a fantastic option. But with such high stakes, they better figure it out fast, or Satan dating her mom will become the least of their worries.

Comment: This is one of those books which has been in the TBR list for who knows how long. When I started reading more in English around 2007 and 2008, right after authors like Nora Roberts, Barbara Delinsky and Sandra Brown, who were my first obsession and why I dedicated myself to read in English, the trend at the time was the PNR genre and I acquired many of those books that caught my attention, this among them. 
(to compare prices now, how nostalgic, some paperbacks were like 4 or 5€ only... 😞 )

In this paranormal adventure, we meet heroine Justine, she is the keeper or protector of a magical goblet that might provide eternal life to the person who drinks from it. Obviously, many people are after this artifact, but Justine and her friend Theresa, who was transformed into a dragon centuries ago, share life and their days, both protecting the goblet and keeping boredom away. 
However, Derek laValle is worried about his family's curse, in which men at age 31 and some months die, no matter what. Right after seeing his cousin Les perish, Derek decides to look for the goblet and kill its protector so that the curse can and with its magical powers. Although it was relatively easy to find Justine's address, it's not as easy to convince her to give him the goblet, so he will need to kill her. At the same time, Justine needs to kill Derek to pass a specific test by the Council that appointed her the protector of the goblet but... what happens if they fall in love?

I think the premise of this story is a cute and intriguing one. My biggest problem with the book, though, is that the development felt very thin and silly to me. Now, one can say, as other readers have, with that cover and title not much should be expected, but I've seen there are other editions of this book, mainly digital ones, with different covers and even titles, so would the readers of those, unaware of the original cover, expect the same?

I suppose the author thought about the original work and these new editions might have changes or some improvement, but if those are not my editions, I can only speak about the one I have, and that one offered a story which was incredibly inconsistent to me. Perhaps I'm over analyzing, and that is not the point of this apparently comedy story, but whether the goal is to amuse, or to entertain or to emotionally impress the reader, it still should be a well structured and developed story, which I felt this was not.

The set up isn't bad, the two protagonists have their reasons for what they do and they have a task, and somehow there's a conflict in their goals when they meet and start feeling attracted to each other. I think this wasn't such a bad idea to develop and I think the author conveyed enough need as to why Justine and Derek felt their respective goals had to be accomplished, but their personalities and actions and interactions were all described as being over the top. With this i mean that the writing style made it look like everything was fun and cute and slightly ridiculous but I didn't see it as such, to me the way things happen doesn't feel like a never ending party, it's more like unlikely situations after one another.

For instance, Therese the dragon is a friend of Justine, she apparently drank from the goblet once, got transformed into a dragon... why did this happen, which purpose did it have beyond the shock factor? Now Therese lives hidden with Justine, but has an obsession with sex and the cyber world, and every time she showed up in the page, somehow she had to talk about sex. OK, I get it, but the repetitiveness didn't strike me as cute, it was more like annoying.

Anyway, there are other examples, such as Justine's mother being a ghost in purgatory, then Satan being her love interest, then some more ridiculous things happen related to the whole "protecting the goblet" thing and it got to a point where it was all a little too much with fabricated stuff. It is true that humor and comedy are subjective, and each person has their own way of feeling it, but while I liked a few details or one or two scenes more, the majority of the story wasn't that great. I kept hoping something more substantial in terms of plot would happen, but when the conundrum between Justine and Derek and how could they end up together without killing each other as finally solved, I wasn't as invested. That aspect, by the way, also felt it was dealt with rather quickly for the confusion it caused throughout the story.

The romance was.... unappealing, for the most part. I say this because I felt no real chemistry, no real tension between them besides the words but since the scenes, in my opinion,didn't follow suit, the final result was ordinary and I will likely remember only a few details about their story. 
I also think characterization was weak and somehow shallow which, along with the rest, made this a very mediocre story and I don't feel like trying the other books in the series.
Grade: 4/10


  1. Gah, the "all paranormal, all the time" trend of the mid-aughts (I have far too many of those in the TBRs myself, both print and digital, gog help me). And some of them had pretty decent worldbuilding; it may have required some hefty suspension of disbelief, but once you bought into the premise, the worldbuilding would be internally consistent (see, for example, Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling series--I have fallen out of love with her writing voice in those, but the worldbuilding still works for the most part)

    Of course, the success of those stories spawned what felt like hundreds of imitators who didn't care one whit about worldbuilding; the main thrust of the stories was to get the characters having sex (seems to me the vast majority of paranormals were/are also erotic romances), and everything else, from pseudo-plot to pseudo-worldbuilding existed in service of that.

    Even then, some erotic romance authors did build complex and internally consistent worlds, but this one does not sound like it at all, which sucks.

    As I told SuperWendy a few days ago, at least it's off the TBR pile, yes?

    1. Hi!
      Yes, it's always good to finally let go of some books.

      I agree with you in regards to world building. And Psy/Changeling still works for me, in general! But here, I think the idea was to focus on the comedy? Only some things didn't seem so to me!