Thursday, June 28, 2018

Series Thoughts: Animal Magnetism books 5, 6, 7

Animal Magnetism
by Jill Shalvis
Book #5:  Then Came You | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
Book #6:  Still the One | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
Book #7: All I Want | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

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Sometimes I forget that Jill Shalvis is the type of author you love, but that you must take in small doses, at separate times, over a long duration of time.  For some reason I was bound and determined to plow through the rest of the Animal Magnetism books, all narrated by Karen White.  And unlike some other ongoing series out there, I'm not sure if I'm hoping for more.

I mean, it took me nearly five months to finish listening to All I Want--though admittedly, two of those months were spent in a reading slump where I barely did any reading at all.

Sure, I love the animals in this series; and truth be told, the animals of this series were really the stars.  And Kate, from Rumor Has It, was also a star, as well as her younger brother--they were probably the only humans in this series I actually liked.  Meanwhile, we'll give a big kudos to all the little furry and not-so-furry lovelies in this book, from an adorable little kitten named Bean, to the verbally naughty smart-ass commentary from Peanut the parrot, to two golden retrievers named Thing One and Thing Two whom I wished could have had more book time.

There was even a small turtle named Sammy, a rescue puppy named Woodrow... there were horses, iguanas, more kitties...  Oreo, the big, fluffy giant of a dog who ended up attaching himself to two newborn kittens as they terrorized him with their rowdy, heathen ways...

Really, this series was all about the animals!

Veterinary intern Emily can't believe she wound up in the small town of Sunshine, Idaho, instead of in a Los Angeles clinic like she had always imagined.  Now she has to put her plans to move to L.A. on hold for a whole year while she fulfills the obligation of her vet school scholarship.

Then Wyatt, her gorgeous one-night stand from a Reno vet conference, introduces himself as her new boss.  And Emily is just as drawn to his seductive looks and quiet strength as she was on that very steamy night.

She soon learns that Wyatt isn't just a laid-back doctor but a delicious alpha male tempting her away from her carefully laid-out plans.

There were some things I liked and some things I didn't like about Then Came You.  The beginning was a bit rocky, and might have been cut down a little bit.  Emily's constant, repetitive wishy-washy feelings got a little frustrating... but then again, so did Wyatt's indifferent behavior, and heck care attitude, masking all the roiling emotions shown during his monologues.  These two really just needed to learn to communicate honestly, and all probably would have been right in the world.

Then again, if they had figured that out at the beginning, we'd have no story, probably.  Which doesn't mean I wasn't getting frustrated.

And I'm not sure how much I liked the respective households' siblings, with their nosy interjections, and sometimes annoying commentary.

There were moments in the book that might have gotten a bit tear-jerkingly heart-clenching... which were nice, for some strange reason.  And then Wyatt and Emily sometimes had an interesting partnership as two veterinarians working together to save animals, which I sort of liked.  Truthfully, while the relationship between Wyatt and Emily was a little rocky, I found the rest of the story quite solid... especially for a Jill Shalvis book, since she tends to leave a lot of loose ends in some of the pretty significant story lines.

Darcy Stone is game for anything — except sexy navy vet and physical therapist AJ Colten, the guy who'd rejected her when she'd needed him most.  Now the shoe is on the other foot, and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients.  She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers.

AJ admits it — Darcy is irresistible.  But he's already been battle scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he's not making the same mistake twice — until he and Darcy are forced to fake a relationship.  Growing closer than they'd ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: How much between them is pretend?  What's the real thing?  And where does it go from here?

To be honest, Still the One wasn't the best of the Animal Magnetism books, but the romance and the story and the personal conflicts were actually moving along quite smoothly.  I loved how straight forward and crazy Darcy could be, and how she didn't hesitate to tell you exactly what she thought of you.  And I also really liked all the development she went through throughout this book.

The romance itself was quite sweet as well, and it seems that even broody AJ had trouble resisting falling for Darcy.

There was even a snowbound, fake couple trope inserted, probably just for the fun of it.  And I absolutely ate that one up!

Then the ending started rolling around, and all of a sudden we whipped out all the angst.  Everyone started becoming frustrating, between Darcy's friend Xander turning into a dickhead, to Darcy herself getting irrationally bitchy at everything.  It just seemed that after all the progress she'd been making, she suddenly presented with very un-Darcy-like behavior, what with her "I'm angry at you, and if you don't know why I'm angry at you, I'm not even going to tell you.  And no, we won't talk about it, because you should know why I'm angry with you even though I don't want to tell you."  It was so entirely frustrating that I actually felt kind of bad for AJ... even though he had been a bit of a broody jackass in the beginning.

Anyway, HEAs and whatnot, this was an enjoyable one, and probably would have been my second favorite of the series if not for the sudden explosion of angst at the end.

Pilot-for-hire Zoe Stone is happy to call Sunshine, Idaho, her home base.  But her quiet life is thrown for a loop when her brother’s friend Parker comes to stay with her for a week.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent is a handsome flirt with a gift for getting under her skin.  And the situation only escalates when Parker hires her to fly him around the area while he collects evidence on a suspected smuggler.

Now she has to live and work with the guy.  But when they’re in the air, she sees another side of him.  He’s driven, focused, and sharp. And while he enjoys giving commentary on her blind dates, she quickly realizes with a shock that it’s Parker who gets her engines going…

All I Want should have been my favorite of these last three Animal Magnetism books, but at some point, I simply got tired of the sex and the repetitive courtship-non-courtship between Zoe and Parker.  The two of them had wonderful chemistry and banter; and I loved the way that Parker did little things around the house for Zoe, like fixing her plumbing, or replacing the lock on her back door, or fixing the brick that always fell out of the fireplace whenever she slammed the front door.

I even loved how he just automatically brought home a pair of newborn kittens because the little girl next door was so sad about sending them off to be adopted.

But I started getting annoyed with his inability to answer questions in a straight forward manner, even for such petty things such as fixing the kitchen sink.  Dude, if you fixed it, you fixed it--what's the big deal?  Even if Zoe had pride the size of the Western Hemisphere, I'm sure she wouldn't have thrown him out on his ass just for fixing the kitchen sink.

But what really got to me was how quickly Zoe melted into a sex addict whenever she and Parker were around each other.  So I may not have had a lot of experience with relationships, but I'd hate to believe that, in the real world, a woman has so much trouble holding onto her mad and her principles just because a good-looking man gives her a smoldering look.  And that's exactly what Zoe kept doing.  She would resolve to be angry at Parker for one offense or another, but melt and fall into bed with him as soon as he touched her.

This is one of the things that has always been a big problem with me when it comes to a lot of contemporary romances, especially in a Jill Shalvis book.  The men always get away with being a jackass just because they're good-looking or sexy.

But I'm getting off of my tangent, because this isn't something I can fix.

All I Want had a pretty good semi-romantic suspense subplot going as well.  Granted, I've read some of Shalvis's romantic suspense and she just doesn't really work them all that well.  This one was no exception, but it didn't stop me from hoping for a great story.


I love books with animals, so as much as I had my quibbles with this series, I still found myself enjoying it a lot.  If I just forget that there were so many weird conflicts between our humans, I'm sure I'll find myself looking back and remembering the animals in these books and being happy about it.

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