Well, it’s been a while since Jenica and I have continued our When Old Meets New blog series, and that has been entirely my fault. I’ve been such a mood reader lately, and while I wound up devouring the entire Wild Aces series by Chanel Cleeton once I picked them up, I really dragged my feet on Velvet Song despite being the one who picked it. But we’re back! And ready to power through the rest of this reading series!!
The first one of these two that I read was the Wild Aces series by Chanel Cleeton, and wow were these books addictive. Technically I’m only going to talk about the first one for this blog post, Fly with Me, but be prepared to binge them all if you read this first one! It’s impossible not to get invested.
This book is really weird to look back at because there’s actually a lot of things I didn’t really like about it, mostly for personal reasons, but at the same time, I was so invested in it, I totally flew through it! I think I told Jenica I thought it was “compulsively readable,” and I totally stand by that. Sometimes the tense/POV was a little too in the characters’ heads for me, but at the same time, I think that’s what makes the story so immediate and really pulls you in. It’s actually really impressive how much I enjoyed this book, because some of the things in it are really not for me.
Mostly, a lot of the conflict in this book revolves around Noah’s career as a fighter pilot and the fact that he has very little control over where he’s stationed, whereas Jordan has built this adorable little clothing boutique in Miami with her best friend and would have to give that up in order to be with Noah long term. Everything about that just rubs me the wrong way, especially because my own husband has a pretty demanding job (though fortunately nowhere near the level of a fighter pilot!) and this is something we navigate, too.
I liked seeing Noah and Jordan date long distance, because that’s something I personally experienced but that you don’t see a lot in romance novels (for obvious reasons, but still). And Jenica and I both thought Cleeton did a great job “tackling the pull between career and love,” as Jenica put it, because it’s something serious and realistic to consider, especially the further you are into your career when you meet someone.
I just had a really hard time with Jordan giving up pretty much everything in order to be a military wife. I like how seriously she took that decision and how much thought she put into it, and she definitely went into it with her eyes open. But I really hated how she was always the one compromising to be with Noah. At the end of the book, she gave up her career and her family and moved to South Korea where she knew literally no one in order to be with him. It’s just an awful lot of sacrifice on her part, and literally none on his, though that is something they acknowledge and talk about in the book, at least. I’m still not sure I agree with Jordan’s choice or that I ever could, so in a way, it was tough to root for an HEA that didn’t involve Noah leaving active duty.
Also, I hated how abrupt the ending was! They eloped, but you didn’t get to see how Jordan’s friends and family reacted to her decision to marry Noah, plus I wanted to see how they made things work in South Korea so that I felt better about their HEA! Jenica didn’t remember that when I texted her about it (or when she proofed this post!), but she says she would have hated that abrupt ending, too.
I know I listed a lot of things I didn’t care for in this book, but I read it in basically one sitting, so trust me when I say it’s addictive and super readable! I just didn’t care for how the pull between love and career was ultimately handled, but I still immediately flew through the next two books in the series! Jenica also pointed out that she thinks this was the weakest book in the trilogy, but that it’s important to start there because it does so much heavy lifting for book three, which I’m inclined to agree with. I’m glad Jenica picked this book (and trilogy, really) for this reading challenge because I’m not sure I ever would have picked them up on my own despite knowing how much Jenica loves them, but I’m really glad I did! The second two books were a lot more angsty than I tend to prefer, but again, they’re just so readable and you get so invested!!
Unfortunately, my experience reading Velvet Song by Jude Deveraux was negative pretty much from start to finish. Deveraux was probably my very first favorite romance author. The Raider was one of the first romances I ever read (I remember finding it at a used bookstore and hiding the slip cover behind some other books so I could buy it without my mom or grandma knowing what it was. What I wouldn’t do to have that slip cover back these days!!), and her Montgomery family books quickly became my obsession. But I reread The Raider within the last few years and wasn’t as enamored with it as I was back in middle/high school, so I figured I’d pick another favorite.
I enjoyed all of the Velvet Montgomery books, but my favorite was always Raine’s. I loved Alyx disguising herself as a boy and confusing Raine with his attraction to her as a boy (which makes me cringe so hard now) and how at odds the two always were and how willing they were to stand up for what they believed in and how they were able to come together in the end. It’s not necessarily one of Deveraux’s most iconic books, but I thought it would be a fun one to revisit.
As it turns out, I was not a fan of this one upon rereading it at all. Alyx was a whiny brat who wanted everything handed to her and was soooo judgmental of everybody. At least she grew though out the course of the book — Raine was forever a pain in the ass about his stupid honor, which he put above everything else, refusing to even see Alyx after she’d given birth and meet their daughter because of it. I was beyond ready to hit him upside the head with something (Jenica says “SAME”). I dragged out reading this book over the course of a month. I read a few chapters and was so unenthusiastic about coming back to it, I eventually had to force myself to do it, and even then, I was only able to make it halfway before I decided to just skim the second half.
This book is full of so many classic 80s/90s tropes. Alyx spells her name with a y (because of course) and has purple eyes (why not?), there’s a ton of emphasis on gender binaries (though admittedly possibly more than usually given the gender swapping nature of this book), a lot of moralizing, and tons of drama. I’ll admit, I’m actually rather impressed at the sheer volume of dramatic events Deveraux managed to squeeze into a 300-page book. There’s some questionable consent (the hero isn’t fully lucid the first time they had sex) and A LOT of mistreatment of women. Sooooo much.
Basically, I was not a fan and found little to redeem this book, and I have less than zero interest in reading the other brothers’ books, let alone more Deveraux in general. Jenica, however, would like me to point out that Alyx did have a rather impressive growth arc throughout the book. I mentioned that she was whiny and judgmental, but she really wasn’t those things at all by the end of the book, and that played an important role in the story’s plot. Deveraux actually did a rather impressive job bringing Alyx around. Jenica also commented that “it’s a wild ride. It’s definitely not something that became a new favorite, but she packed in SO much.” But we were both very much over Raine and his honor by the end of the book and disappointed that Deveraux didn’t show the same growth for him that she did for Alyx.
I will say, reading this makes me really appreciate how much my taste has changed in the past 15 years or so (for the better, I hope!) and how much romance novels have evolved in general. Velvet Song was first published in 1983, I believe, and it’s very much a product of its time. I don’t miss romances like that, but I appreciate how it helped pave the way for what I read today!
I also think it’s interesting, especially in the larger context of this reading project, how Deveraux’s books don’t seem to hold up as well as Johanna Lindsey’s. I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post, but I found Lindsey soon after Deveraux, and the two of them are my original favorites. I read pretty much everything the two of them ever wrote! But there’s something about Lindsey’s books I can still enjoy today, and I haven’t liked a single Deveraux book I’ve reread in the past several years. And to be honest, I slightly preferred Deveraux to Lindsey when I was in high school, so I find that fascinating! Plus I still see people talk about Lindsey books on Twitter, but almost never a mention for Deveraux, though admittedly, some of that might be the outpouring of love for Lindsey after she passed away more than a year ago, whereas Deveraux is still alive and has moved more into writing suspense novels and women’s fiction.
After reading this one from Deveraux, I’m low key terrified of what’s in store for us in A Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss, an even more Old Skool romance author who first published this 576-page behemoth in the early 80s (I’m seeing reports between 1981-1983, and I’m not sure what’s accurate). I’m hoping it’s still enjoyable, but I’m prepared to DNF early if necessary! And we’re going to pair it with A Reunion of Rivals by Reese Ryan, who has a delightful YouTube series interviewing different authors but whose own books I actually haven’t read yet! So I’m looking forward to that one, at least.
If you haven’t caught up yet on our progress in the When Old Meets New series (or forgot where we are because it’s been a while since the last post), be sure to check out the blog posts below:
- When Old Meets New: Historicals
- When Old Meets New: Contemporaries
- Gentle Rogue and Rock Hard
- The Magic of You and Grip
- A Knight in Shining Armor and Trade Me
- For the Roses and Hold Me
- The Secret and Wanna Bet
Have you read Velvet Song or Fly with Me? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!