I'm copy/pasting my reading progress updates below in lieu of writing new, separate reviews for each book in this set. (I didn't do an update for #5, so the mini-review for that will be the only new content.) My overall impression of this series is that Gemma Halliday is a decent writer in desperate need of a good editor or three. I enjoyed this set for what it was, but I won't be seeking out any more of her books after this.
Some reviews may contain spoilers for previous books, though I tried not to give away much more than you'd learn from reading the book descriptions. Still, proceed at your own risk.
Spying in High Heels (#1):
Rating: 3* (I'm being generous here.)
I have finished the first book in this omnibus and I have . . . thoughts. I was in the mood for a light, fluffy cozy, and this is that, and I was entertained by it. But holy hell! does it have issues!
- The editing is woeful. I’m guessing self-pub on a budget.
- There is so much woman-on-woman hate going on that I’m mildly surprised Maddie has an actual female friend.
- I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to ship Maddie and “Officer Hottie” for most of the book, but the man starts out as kind of an asshole before he (mild spoilers) escalates to almost taking advantage of Maddie when she’s clearly drunk and he’s still investigating her boyfriend for murder. I was super squicked out by him abusing his power like that.
- So much woman-on-woman hate! For such a small person, Maddie sure is a HUGE misogynist.
- Did I mention how squicked out I was by “Officer Hottie” nearly porking an intoxicated person of interest in his police investigation?
- No, seriously, the woman-on-woman hate is intense.
I’ll keep going with the series because I’m still in the mood for light ‘n fluffy cozies and this was a fun, quick one, but I have a feeling I’m going to do a lot of cringing.
Killer in High Heels (#2):
Like the first book, #2 is silly fun. Also like the first book, it has issues.
- The editing is still woeful.
- Maddie has traded in some of her misogyny for transphobia . . . which actually could still be linked to misogyny, now that I think about it.
- Maddie’s decision making was questionable at best in the first book. In book two she descends all the way into Too Stupid to Live territory because she has to or there’s no plot. It doesn’t help that she’s aware she’s doing incredibly stupid things; it just serves to highlight how thin the plot is.
- Jack Ramirez is still a sexist asshole, and Maddie continues to give him infinite passes because he’s hot and doesn’t seem to mind that she hasn’t got huge breasts.
- This book is devoid of romantic tension, relying instead on sexual tension, and it seems the only way the author could think of to manufacture that sexual tension was through constant cock-blocking. It was kind of funny the first two times, but the joke got old fast. I went pretty quickly from wondering if Jack and Maddie would ever get to have sex with each other to wondering why they even wanted to.
It’s still mindless fun, which is what I’m currently in the mood for, so I’ll keep going with the series for now. I’m hoping for more appearances by Felix the Unrepentant Tabloid Reporter. He was easily the best part of this book, and possibly the only hope for re-establishing some romantic tension, since so far the series only seems to have that when Maddie’s attracted to more than one man.
Undercover in High Heels (#3):
Book #3 in the series is more silly fun, this time capitalizing on the absurdities of primetime soap operas and bringing back Felix the Unrepentant Tabloid Reporter for some actual romantic tension. I enjoyed it more than the other two for those reasons, but the woeful editing and rampant misogyny persists. Add to that Ramirez’s predictable transformation into full-on Me-Tarzan-you-Jane alpha male asshole (or “alpha-hole” as the kids say), and I think this series is actually going downhill. There’s a scene in which Ramirez basically screams at Maddie that he’s the only guy who gets to be concerned about her, and Maddie can’t decide if it’s cute or scary. Meanwhile, I’m over here yelling “Run, Forest! Run!” at my Kindle. I think I liked these people better when they weren’t boinking. Now he’s jealous and possessive as well as sexist, and she’s got the self-preservation instincts of a cliff-bound lemming. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this episode of Law & Order: SVU before. It doesn’t end well. :P
Alibi in High Heels (#4):
Book #4 features one of the thinnest plots yet with Maddie being really poorly framed for a murder she had no motive to commit. But somehow she is a suspect (for a really stupid reason not revealed until the end), and yet she isn’t asked by the Paris police to surrender her passport, enabling her to go on international jaunts to Great Britain and Italy in order to discover who’s ineptly framing her. Now, canonically speaking, Maddie is 5’1 1/2” and a size 6 with a “barely B’s” cup size. She repeats this info over and over and over and over, but to no avail. I still picture her as Rebel Wilson in full-on Fat Amy mode. It’s the only way this all makes even a little bit of sense.
The editing is still woeful, and I think this time around there was actually an uptick in missing punctuation, which nicely complemented the random underlining and messed-up italics. The misogyny is also intense as ever, but at least Felix is back for more romantic tension. Yay! Not that I believe for a second Maddie will end up with anyone other than Jack “I’m the only guy who gets to be concerned about you” Ramirez. More’s the pity. Felix is an unprincipled jerk, but at least he doesn’t treat Maddie like a dog. His “Take care of yourself while doing these stupid dangerous things” is so refreshing after Ramirez’s litany of “Come! Sit! Stay!”
Mayhem in High Heels (#5):
Book #5 is basically My Big Fat Greek Wedding with murder, featuring Maddie trying to figure out who killed her wedding planner while her friends and family run rough-shod over her dreams of a small, intimate wedding. Felix is back (yay!), but without the romantic tension (boo!), so he couldn’t save this book on his own. At least Maddie finally—finally—calls out Jack for constantly infantilizing her and devaluing her work as a designer, and at least Jack shows a smidgeon of character growth as a result, but it’s about three books too late in my opinion.
I’ve come to the end of the omnibus, and here’s where Maddie and I part ways. I did have fun, but not enough to pay good money for more books with woeful editing and rampant misogyny. I have to say, though, that if this ever turned into a Netflix series starring Rebel Wilson, I would binge that brain candy so hard!