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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Appealed: It’s official! The Legal Briefs series is even better than the Tangled series! (My thoughts on Book #3 in the Legal Briefs series by Emma Chase),204,203,200_.jpg

As I said in my review for Sustained, while I thought that it was Emma Chase’s best book yet, I was still open to the possibility that I might end up thinking that she topped herself yet again with Appealed once I read it. Right off the bat, I have to say that I’m very glad that I kept my mind open to that possibility, because that’s exactly what ended up happening. As much as I loved Sustained, I definitely found myself loving this book even more than I loved Sustained in some ways.

One of the things that I’ve always loved about Emma Chase’s books, going all the way back to Tangled, is the fact that she often writes her books in such a way that it feels like the protagonists of her books are talking to the reader in the narrative and telling them a story. This particular aspect of Emma Chase’s writing style is definitely more noticeable at times than others, and it was definitely very noticeable in Appealed. The reason why I really love it when she has the protagonists of her books basically talk to the reader from time to time, is because it really helps to draw me into the story and become very invested in the characters and the story itself. This particular aspect of Chase’s writing style is definitely one of the many things that made me fall in love with the book Tangled when I read it, and it was one of the many things that has really made me fall in love with her writing in general. While I’ve always loved it when she has her protagonists basically talk to the reader, I especially love how she handled that particular aspect of her writing style for this book. It was something that really made me fall in love with the character Brent as I was reading Appealed.

I feel like I’ve made it pretty clear by this point that one of the biggest reasons why I love Emma Chase’s books so much is because all of her books are written partially, if not entirely, from the guy’s point of view. Brent is yet another great character, and I’d say that I love Brent about as much as I loved Jake in Sustained. Brent is an all around great character, and I loved Brent’s internal narrative, because I often times found the things that he was thinking rather amusing. However, the thing that I loved the most about Brent is how he acted towards Kennedy, especially at the beginning of the book before they really get together, his therapist, Dr. Waldo Bingingham, and his butler, Harrison. I found it rather amusing that Brent was so hung up on the fact that his therapist’s first name is Waldo. I could also kind relate to that, because I definitely have a tendency to get hung up on what a person’s name is sometimes, especially if it’s a name that’s kind of unique. I also really enjoyed the dynamic between Brent and Harrison, because I definitely saw a little bit of myself in Brent when it comes to how he acted towards Harrison as well.

A part of me wishes that both Dr. Waldo Bingingham and Harrison had been featured in the book more than they were, because I loved Brent’s interactions with them. However, I would only want Emma Chase to have featured them in the book more than she did if it felt organic, and it helped the story in some way. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted Chase to shoehorn Dr. Waldo Bingingham and Harrison into the book, if it didn’t add something worthwhile to the story. Ultimately, I’d say that both Dr. Waldo Bingingham and Harrison effectively served their purpose in the story, which is why I can accept the fact that they weren’t featured in the book more.

While there weren’t really too many interactions between Brent and his mother in the book, I really loved the relationship that Brent apparently has with his mother. I found the whole conversation that Brent had with her where she asks him if he’s gay since he’s thirty-two years old, and he still hadn’t gotten married rather amusing. Being bisexual myself, I thought it was kind of sweet that she told him that she would be okay with him being gay as long as he had children via a surrogate.

Something that I felt Chase handled very well in terms of the writing for Brent is the fact that a part of his left leg was amputated after he got into a bike riding accident when he was a ten years old, and he consequently has a prosthetic leg. I really like how Chase provided the whole backstory for how Brent lost a part of his left leg, and how she acknowledged it and the problems that amputees have to deal with at times, such as suffering from phantom pain, throughout the book. However, I was really glad that Chase didn’t beat the reader over the head with that aspect of Brent’s life to the point where it would have felt like it kind of defined who he was as a character. It definitely would have been very annoying if she had overemphasized that part of Brent’s life.

As much as I love Brent, one of the things that I love the most about Appealed is actually the character Kennedy. Maybe this will sound like a really bizarre analogy to make, but similar to how the series finale of How I Met Your Mother singlehandedly tarnished the series as a whole in my eyes, and made me very hesitant to watch anything that Carter Bays and Craig Thomas are involved with in the future, this book alone made me love all of Emma Chase’s books even more than I already did. While Appealed definitely remained true to Chase’s writing style, I feel like I loved this book for reasons that are very different from the reasons why I love her other books. I say this because Kennedy is a huge part of why I love this book so much; as opposed to Brent being the main reason I think this is Chase’s best book yet. Plus, this book alone really gave me a whole new appreciation for the way all of the women in Chase’s books are written.

While I’ve been a huge fan of romance novels going all the way back to when I was in the ninth grade (Possibly earlier than that), and I’m 28 now, I’m not going to deny that a major recurring complaint that I’ve had about romance novels over the years is the way the female characters are often written. For a genre that’s primarily written for women and is predominately written by women, the women in romance novels sure do have a tendency to be rather problematic characters in terms of how they’re written. The biggest issues that I’ve had with women in romance novels is that they can often times end up coming across as being very wishy-washy, weak and annoying at times. The other major problem that I’ve had with romance novels over the years is that I feel like writers will often write the women in such a way that it feels like their whole life revolves around the guy in the story, which I think is just sad.

For example, it really bugs me that aside from simply being an incredibly unlikable person in the Fifty Shades series, Ana’s entire life and her every thought seems to revolve around Christian when she’s not thinking bitchy, immature thoughts about other women or thoughts that are simply idiotic. To be fair, I did think the writing for Ana in Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian was somewhat better compared to how she was portrayed in the Fifty Shades series. I’m also not a huge fan of how Bella Swan was written in the Twilight Saga, especially when it comes to New Moon. I thought it was pretty stupid and rather disturbing that Bella basically completely fell apart, both emotionally and psychologically, for several months straight after Edward broke up with her. Plus, she developed a self-destructive streak, simply so she could have brief hallucinations of Edward. I’m pretty sure that they had only been dating for a few months at the point in time that Edward broke up with her in New Moon, which makes Bella’s behavior in New Moon all the more disturbing, in my opinion.

As I said in my review for Abigail Barnette’s book First Time (Ian’s Story), I basically loved that book as much as I loved Tangled. The biggest complaint that I had about “Ian’s Story” was that I thought Penny acted rather immature at times, but I was ultimately able to look past my issues with Penny when I read Ian’s version of the story. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to look past my issues with Penny when I read and reviewed First Time (Penny’s Story), which told the story from her point of view. The issues that I had had with Penny were completely magnified when the story was being told from her point of view, with Penny consequently coming across as being extremely immature and naïve to the point where she honestly seemed rather dumb and childish at times.

The reason I’m mentioning my problems with Ana, Bella and Penny is because I’m honestly very thankful that the women in Emma Chase’s books have all been strong, mature, intelligent and likable women, after having read so many romance novels that have really frustrating and problematic female characters. While I do have my fair share of issues with Twisted, I was really happy to see that Emma Chase didn’t have Kate go all Bella Swan, circa New Moon, after she basically broke up with Drew. Sure, Kate stayed in bed for a few days, but then she got out of bed and started trying to move on with her life. In retrospect, the fact that even after Drew and Kate got back together, Kate continued to handle things between them with strength and maturity by not automatically moving back in with Drew is something that I really like about Twisted. Plus, I love that Kate felt that living on her own for a little while was what she needed to do for herself.

While Jake and Brent pretty much tie as my favorite out of all the guys in Emma Chase’s books, Kennedy is hands down my favorite out of all the women in her books. Don’t get me wrong, I do really like Kate and Dee as characters, but I definitely like Kennedy more than any of the other women in Chase’s books. For the record, Chelsea from Sustained is a fairly close second favorite for me, though. Kennedy is a very well written character in my opinion, and I love that she’s a very strong woman. She definitely has a vulnerable side, though, which is primarily due to her past and the fact that she was bullied in high school.

One of my absolute favorite scenes between Brent and Kennedy is definitely the scene where Brent tries to talk to Kennedy about the possibility of working out a plea deal for his client, Justin Longhorn, who’s guilty of hacking into people’s bank accounts and withdrawing money from them. I love how Kennedy initially refuses to even consider the idea, telling Brent that she doesn’t do plea deals. That was a really great scene for several reasons. For starters, I thought that scene really showed the reader the kind of woman that Kennedy is, mainly that she’s a very strong woman and a force to be reckoned with. At the same time, I thought that Emma Chase really did a fantastic job of showcasing the amazing chemistry between Brent and Kennedy in that scene as well.

In my opinion, one of the best-written scenes in any of Emma Chase’s books is definitely the scene where Brent, Kennedy and Justin are all in court for Justin’s trial. Kennedy cross examines Justin, and asks him how and why he stole money from people’s bank accounts. While the scene didn’t move me to tears like the intervention scene with Jake in Sustained did, I personally thought that it was a really sad scene. Justin explained that once he had successfully hacked into the bank’s computer system, he started by transferring just a penny out of a person’s bank account in the hopes that it would get people’s attention. Apparently, nobody in his life seems to notice him, especially his parents whose relationship is such a mess that they can’t even be together in the same room. When nobody noticed that he had taken a penny from somebody’s bank account, he continued to take more and more money from people’s bank accounts until he eventually got caught. Hearing Justin’s testimony caused Kennedy to break down and finally become open to the idea of working out a plea deal for Justin. Personally, the whole plea deal that Brent proposed to Kennedy, where Justin would serve two years probation under the computer tech division of the FBI or Homeland Security reminded me a lot of the premise of the TV show White Collar. For the record, I’m a big fan of that show.

As far as I’m concerned, it was definitely very good writing on Chase’s part for Kennedy to finally change her mind about agreeing to a plea deal after hearing Justin’s testimony. I honestly don’t know if I would have still been able to like Kennedy if she had maintained her whole “I don’t do plea deals” attitude, even after hearing Justin’s testimony. As much as I love characters that are really tough and strong in an emotional sense, I still think they need to have moments where they show vulnerability, or break down emotionally. Having moments where characters that are typically very strong break down can really go a long way towards making them more likable than they probably would be without moments like that.

Admittedly, both the backstory for Brent and Kennedy’s relationship when they were high school, and Kennedy’s whole backstory about being bullied and teased a lot by her classmates when she was younger, only to become a beautiful and successful woman as an adult, are kind of cliché when I think about it. Plus, the fact that Brent and Kennedy start a relationship when they’re on opposing sides of the court case they’re both working on feels like a classic romance novel plot. However, unlike Overruled, I never felt like Appealed had a “been there, done that” feel to it as I was reading it. Plus, Kennedy’s backstory really resonated with me a lot on a personal level, because I was bullied and teased a lot by my classmates as I was growing up, too, especially when I was in high school. While I was definitely able to relate to Brent in some ways, I honestly found myself being able to relate to Kennedy a lot more at times as I was reading Appealed.

When I was in high school, my school had these award ceremonies called excellence rallies where they gave out awards for things such as, student of the month or demonstrating an excellence in leadership. In all four years of high school, I was never even nominated for one of the awards that were given out at my school’s excellence rallies. However, the main guy who bullied me throughout high school often was and he was even the recipient of some of those awards. Seeing him get leadership awards made me feel like he was being given awards for successfully being able to make my life miserable and get other kids at school to join him in bullying me as well. While I never felt compelled to do anything illegal, there were definitely times during my junior and senior year of high school when I was a driven to a point where I did act out to a certain extent at times. For that reason, I was definitely able to relate to Justin in some ways as I was reading the scene where he was on the witness stand and he explains how and why he had hacked into people’s bank accounts and had taken money from them. That was a truly powerful and fantastically written scene, and I personally think that Emma Chase should be incredibly proud of her writing for that particular scene. Not only that, I think she should be very proud of her writing for the Legal Briefs series as a whole, because for books that fall under a genre that I’ve always viewed as generally being guilty pleasure reading for me, her writing is very deep, as far as I’m concerned.

As I said at the beginning of this review, Emma Chase’s writing style for this book is for the most part not all that different from her other books. However, one thing that is kind of different about it compared to her other books is that this book does include flashbacks to when Brent and Kennedy were younger. Personally, I’m really glad that she included some flashbacks in this book, because I felt like the flashbacks really helped to establish the history and the connection that exists between Brent and Kennedy. In addition to the flashbacks being a bit of a departure from Emma Chase’s usual writing style, the writing for the “Extended Epilogue” was also kind of different, but I’ll talk about my thoughts on the epilogue more later.

Something that I’ve always loved about Emma Chase’s writing is the fact that she has a habit of including fun little moments in her books that while they might not factor into the plot of the book all that much, they do add some humor and flesh out the characters a little bit in terms of their personalities. My favorite example of Chase doing this in Appealed is definitely the part where Brent likens himself to Jon Snow from the TV show Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R. R. Martin at one point in the book. As I said in my review for A Game of Thrones, Jon Snow is currently my favorite character in both the book series and on the show, so I really love that moment in Appealed.

If I had to give examples of my favorite moments like this from the Tangled series, my favorite example from Tangled is definitely the part where Drew talks about how he thinks Ariel from The Little Mermaid is hot, even though she’s a cartoon character. Personally, I think that Elsa from Frozen and the cartoon version of Anakin Skywalker from the TV show Star Wars: The Clone Wars are both kind of hot. I was always afraid to admit to that though, since the idea of being attracted to cartoon characters seemed really weird to me. However, reading that part from Tangled definitely made me feel a little bit more comfortable admitting that.

My favorite example of Chase doing this in Tamed is hands down the scene where Matthew’s mom is talking to him about Fifty Shades of Grey. I just think that it’s a really funny scene. Plus, I feel like Emma Chase mentioning the Fifty Shades books in one of her books is kind of like two people talking about how they like a really crappy burger joint while they’re eating at a five star restaurant. As I have been not so subtly hinting at since the headline of my review for Tangled, I definitely think that Emma Chase is a much better writer than E.L. James is.

Getting back to the subject of Appealed, I’d say that this is definitely Emma Chase’s steamiest book yet. At the same time, Appealed definitely isn’t overly gratuitous in terms of the sex scenes and the sexual content in the book. Plus, part of what makes this book so steamy in my opinion has nothing to do with the sex scenes. A big part of what makes this book Emma Chase’s steamiest book yet, in my opinion, is Brent and Kennedy’s interactions with each other throughout the book.

Personally, I usually think it’s kind of hard to tell whether or not two characters in a book actually have chemistry with each other, as opposed to two characters that are being played by actors on a TV show or in a movie. That being said, I’ve always thought that Emma Chase did a great job of writing her books in such a way that makes it obvious that the characters definitely have chemistry with each other. Out of all the couples in both the Tangled series and the Legal Briefs series, Brent and Kennedy definitely have the best chemistry, at least as far as I’m concerned. However, I have to say that a big part of why I think the Legal Briefs series is even better than the Tangled series is because the chemistry between Stanton and Sofia, Jake and Chelsea, along with Brent and Kennedy is even more palpable than I thought the chemistry between Drew and Kate and Matthew and Dee was. A part of me was half expecting my iPod to explode at times as I was listening to the audiobook version of Appealed due to the intense chemistry between Brent and Kennedy, especially whenever they were flirting with each other throughout the book.

Since I’ve talked a lot about how I think Emma Chase is a much better writer than E.L. James is, I’d like to briefly talk about how I feel about Sylvia Day’s writing compared to Emma Chase since that’s definitely something that I thought about a lot as I was reading the Legal Briefs series. While I do think that Sylvia Day is a good writer, and I do like Day’s Crossfire series, I personally think that Emma Chase does a much better job of handling sex scenes in her books than I think Day has so far in the Crossfire series. When it comes to the sex scenes in the Crossfire series, the scenes themselves are well written, however, the problem that I have them is that there are just so many of them throughout each of the books in the series.

As I said, in my review for Entwined with You, when I was reading the book, I felt like Sylvia Day was trying to cram as many sex scenes into the book as she possibly could. Unfortunately, both Bared to You and Reflected in You also kind of had the same problem, but it wasn’t as bad in those books. That has ultimately caused opportunities for character and plot development throughout the series to be sacrificed in the process. After all, I’ve now read the first three books in the Crossfire series, and I feel like we still don’t know very much about Gideon’s past and what the cause of the very bizarre behavior he exhibits at times throughout the series is. Admittedly, I’m kind of joking when I say this, but when I was reading Entwined with You, I often times couldn’t help but think that the theme of the book was “sex scenes”. Entwined with You is full of sex scenes, but the writing for the book as whole is rather lacking in terms of depth and substance.

Emma Chase on the other hand, does a great job of incorporating sex scenes into her books without going completely overboard with the amount of sex scenes that are in each of her books. She has also done a much better job of not letting the character and plot development in her books suffer because of the sex scenes than I think Sylvia Day has with the Crossfire series. Honestly, I feel like there was more character development for Stanton and Sofia in Overruled, along with more character development for Jake and Brent in Sustained and Appealed respectively than there has been character development for Gideon in the first three books in the Crossfire series combined. Plus, if this book, along with the rest of the Legal Briefs series and the Tangled series, is any indication, Chase really seems to understand that sex scenes aren’t the only thing that can make a romance novel steamy and very enjoyable to read.

Since this is the last book in the Legal Briefs series, I’d like to talk about some of my thoughts on the series as a whole. First off, as much as I love the Tangled series, it’s definitely not without its flaws. If I’m being honest, I think Emma Chase’s writing for the Tangled series is somewhat uneven. Plus, Drew definitely came across as quite an asshole at times after Tangled, not a lovable asshole like he did in Tangled, just a straight up asshole. The writing for the Legal Briefs series as a whole on the other hand was much stronger in my opinion, and it only went uphill after Overruled. Most importantly, Stanton, Sofia, Jake and Brent were all very likable protagonists.

As I’ve mentioned in several other reviews, one of the biggest problems that I have with the Tangled series is Drew’s attitude towards Billy after Tangled. The writing for Drew’s rivalry with Billy and the eventual resolution of that rivalry in Tied definitely left a lot to be desired, so I was really glad that with the exception of Stanton’s rivalry with JD in Overruled, this series didn’t have the guys having any kind of major romantic rivalries in the books. However, as I said in my review for Overruled, I thought the writing for Stanton’s rivalry with JD and the eventual resolution of their rivalry was all handled much better than Drew’s rivalry with Billy was. The Legal Briefs series still has everything that I loved about Emma Chase’s writing for the Tangled series; however, I’d say that the Legal Briefs series is even better than the Tangled series is because it’s free of the flaws that I feel the Tangled series has.

Perhaps this will sound like a really bizarre and random choice of a book series to compare the Legal Briefs series to, but the way the series worked as a whole with Stanton, Sofia and Presley continuing to be featured in the series after Overruled, and Jake, Chelsea and the kids being featured in this book, instead of simply being dropped from the series reminded me a lot of how Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series works. While I’ve only read and reviewed the first book in the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder), and I’m currently reading the second book in the series (Scarlet), the way that series works is that while each book in the series is loosely based on a different fairy tale, the characters from the previous books are still very much a part of the series as it continues. Plus, the main guy character for the third book in the series (Cress) is also featured in Scarlet, kind of like how Brent was featured in Sustained. Anyway, I love that Emma Chase really made the Legal Briefs series feel like one continuous story in some ways, and I love that Marissa Meyer wrote the Lunar Chronicles in a similar manner. Now that I’ve finished the Legal Briefs series, I’ll definitely be reading Scarlet, Cress, Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana’s Story, and Winter back-to-back, but I digress.

As for Appealed serving as the ending to the Legal Briefs series, I’d say that it’s definitely a much better, much stronger, and altogether much more satisfying ending to the series than Tied was as the ending to the Tangled series. I’m definitely sad that this series is already over, but at the same time, I’m really happy with the way the series ended. I’m also really glad that it’s going out on a high note. Admittedly, I did find the “Extended Epilogue” rather confusing at first given the fact that the focus of the book suddenly shifted to two children, Robert Atticus Becker and Vivian Mason, as they watched all of the main characters from the Legal Briefs series while they were at a party. I had to read the epilogue two or three times before I was able to understand what was going on. However, once I got it, I thought the extended epilogue was really cute, and it definitely added to the satisfaction that I got from Appealed being the last book in the Legal Briefs series.

Much like I thought Sustained was Sebastian York’s best performance yet as a narrator for an audiobook that he’s done, I loved Deacon Lee’s reading of this book even more than I liked his performance for the audiobook version of Tamed. Lee’s reading of the book really helped bring this book to life for me and really added to my overall enjoyment of Appealed. Listening to the audiobook version of Appealed also got me really excited to read Christina Lauren’s books since Deacon Lee is one of the narrators for the latest book in their Wild Seasons series, Wicked Sexy Liar, and I’ve been wanting to check out their books for quite a while now.

All things considered, Appealed truly is an awesome book, and a great way to end the Legal Briefs series. While I’m sad to see the Legal Briefs series end, I’m really glad that the series is ending on a high note. Both Brent and Kennedy are great characters, and as I said earlier, the writing for Kennedy is definitely one of the biggest highlights of this book for me personally. Appealed really made me look back on all of Emma Chase’s other books and gave me a whole new appreciation for the way the women in her books are written. Chase definitely did a fantastic job of making Brent and Kennedy’s interactions with each other very steamy and fun to read. Both Kennedy’s backstory, and the backstory for Brent and Kennedy’s relationship are kind of cliché, but I honestly don’t mind, because it really reminded me of why I love romance novels and romantic comedies so much. I’m definitely really excited to see what Emma Chase will come up with for her next book or book series.

That being said, my final score for Appealed is 14 out of 10, because once again giving this book a 10 out of 10 just wouldn’t be a high enough score for this book. My final score for the Legal Brief series in its entirety is 11.5 out of 10.

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