Books Reviews

REVIEW: “Ready or Not” by Melissa Brayden



And here is where I do something that I’ve not done before – I am moving right into my review of Ready or Not (Bold Strokes Books), the third of the Soho Loft romances. I read Just Three Words and Ready or Not back-to-back, so I’m reviewing them back-to-back. Why? Because I can.

Ready or Not

Sometimes wrong is extra right.

Mallory Spencer is in charge. As the face of Soho Savvy, the advertising firm she owns with her three best friends, it’s important that she’s poised, polished, and put together. However, as she watches her friends couple up and settle down, she wonders about her own happily ever after. One thing’s for sure. It’s not going to happen with that blue-eyed bartender from Showplace. It’s irritatingly clear they couldn’t be more wrong for each other…or have more chemistry.

Hope Sanders wants nothing more than to keep her head down and craft a better life for herself running everyone’s favorite nightspot. That means ignoring the groupies that flock to the bar to stare at her all night. However, an uptight brunette has snagged Hope’s attention and she knows a challenge when she sees it.

I probably could have combined my reviews for Just Three Words and Ready or Not since I read them as if they were one, large novel. In fact, I re-read Kiss The Girl first to remind myself of the story and characters. So, it would be easy to review all of them at once. But that wouldn’t be fair. Brayden didn’t write them all at once, so each deserves a separate review. Plus, it’s very possible you folks out there haven’t read all three yet or, perhaps, are reading them out of order. Because, while they definitely have a linear timeline, I don’t think it’s fully necessary to read them as if they serve as a proper trilogy. You can still find enjoyment from Ready or Not if  you haven’t quite gotten around to Kiss The Girl yet. (Though, I do recommend reading them in order…just because I’m sort of OCD when it comes to that.)

Most of my thoughts on Ready or Not mirror those I had regarding the first two books in the series. Brayden did an exceptional job of keeping the characters consistent through each novel. It’s a bit annoying when there are fundamental changes to a character in subsequent books. Character development is one thing, but altering who a character is makes for uneven reading. (This is an issue I had with the narrator for the audio versions of these three books – the unevenness in the performance with each book. But that’s another story for another day and does not have anything to do with Brayden’s writing. The audio books were still very enjoyable.)

As with the previous two novels, Brayden has excelled in offering the reader some excellent dialogue. It keeps the story moving and keeps things interesting. The characters have conversations with each other rather than take turns monologuing. When a character does have the need to share more than just a few crisp sentences, it stands out. It’s important. It means something. It makes everyone – characters and readers alike – sit up and take notice. I think that’s a pretty powerful technique. Whether it’s intentional or not, I don’t know. But it’s effective.

Brayden sticks with many of the same settings – the Savvy offices, the loft apartments, and Showplace (their favorite bar). Only this time, we get to spend more time in places that were a bit more peripheral in the previous two books. Showplace, for example, plays a much larger role in Ready or Not. We get to learn more about the bar, its history, and the people who inhabit that particular part of the world. Previously, it was simply their favorite place to hang out and relax. Now, it’s integral to the story. The same can be said for Mallory’s loft apartment. In the first two novels, it was there and part of the story…but it wasn’t central. So what we have after reading all three of the books is a fully fleshed out setting that includes all of the spaces that are important to the cast of characters. It’s complete.

Quite often, I’ve noticed that readers will ask, “Have you ever thought of making this into a movie? Because that would be awesome!” And, you know what? I agree. That would be awesome. So many novels out there in “Lesbian Literature Land” would make lovely movies. Brayden’s novels among them. But what  really intrigues me about the Soho Loft series is that they would be awesome stage plays.  Think about it – the cast of characters is fairly minimal, the locations are pretty consistent (Savvy offices, loft apartments, the bar where they gather), and the dialogue is fast-paced and vivid.  With the right script, the right actors, and a kick-ass design team, these stories really could work on the stage. I’d go see them.

The one drawback to reading all three stories one right after another (and listening to the audio versions) is picking up on little idiosyncrasies that would probably have been missed reading them months apart. Certain words and/or phrases that are used (one or two are over-used) often tend to stand out and be noticed, thereby pulling the reader out of the story for the briefest of moments. I didn’t find it overly problematic and most certainly does not diminish my enjoyment of the stories. I still think they are just wonderful. But, it is something I noticed.

All-in-all, I’d say that Ready or Not is a very fine addition to the Soho Loft series…and a fitting wrap up to the individual and collective stories of these four friends. Knowing Brayden, this won’t be the last time we hear from these women – I have no doubt they will make cameo appearances in future novels. And I look forward to that.

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