I really enjoyed The Undoing of Daisy Edwards (my review at Dear Author: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/re...) but worried this companion story might feel like a retread. The alternating first-person narrative style is similar to the first book, but not in a bad way. Its main flaw is that it's too short for the story it tells.
Producer Lewis and movie-star Poppy both try very hard to convince themselves that they're happy. After all, Lewis survived the first world war intact, as an ambulance driver, and Poppy didn't lose a husband like her sister did... they should have nothing to complain about. They push away their memories by focusing on their ambitions; as Lewis says, "I know I'm one of the lucky ones. I owe it to the rest to make the most of my luck, and that's what I'm doing. If I'm not happy, then I ought to be." Falling in love is definitely not in the plans for either of them... it's too scary.
I didn't feel the zeitgeist quite as much in this book as in the first, although the Hollywood setting is interesting. The aftermath of the war isn't as strongly felt in Hollywood as it was in Poppy's native England, and she feels somewhat alone in her post-war depression, until she discovers that Lewis was also affected by it. This, added to their powerful attraction, should make for a good relationship, but I just didn't see enough of it. I was quite surprised to discover that this is actually a few pages longer than the first book, because it seemed less substantial.
I do really like the conversational style of the narration, and the different setting, so I'll give it 3 1/2 stars. (less)
Almost 6 foot tall and with "some meat on her bones," May found it a huge relief to start dating football player Dan."Here was a guy who had three inc...more Almost 6 foot tall and with "some meat on her bones," May found it a huge relief to start dating football player Dan."Here was a guy who had three inches and sixty pounds on her, with biceps that bulged even beneath a sports coat. He was huge, and his friends were all giants who made her feel downright small." In many books, that would be the romance right there, and it's not a bad one. (I have always been big myself, and it is very pleasant to be with someone who lets me feel a bit dainty.) But this romance has more than that to offer its heroine, and its readers.
"Unsexy. Uninteresting. Steady." That's how Dan makes May feel with an all-time crappy public proposal. When she impulsively leaves him, and her bag is snatched by paparazzi, she finds herself broke and alone in New York City. Misanthropic Ben, a former chef with anger management problems, has no intention of playing knight in shining armor -- even for a fellow Wisconsonite -- but finds himself doing it anyway. As he sets out to show May the good side of New York, their growing relationship also shows them new sides of themselves.
May's journey was the strongest for me, as she learns to appreciate herself for who she is. Her first change is appreciating her physical self. The story isn't fetishistic about May's size, but it is an important part of her:
'I have anaconda thighs.' May gazed at herself in the pants. Strangely, she felt neither approval nor repugnance, but something in between. 'I look like I could squeeze a man to death with them.'
'I know. Like some kind of marvelous Amazon warrior.'
Heeding the saleswoman's advice to 'try to see yourself as I do,' May discovers herself in the mirror:
'This was a tall stranger whose honey-blonde hair had dried wavy and windblown. An unknown woman in snakeskin pants who looked like she might eat you up and spit out your bones if you crossed her.
[...] A powerful, impolite, passionate woman. And the weird thing was, May recognized her.
She was the person May had always known she was, deep down. The person no one had ever encouraged her to be.
From there, it's just steps to learning to really let herself go in bed and ask for what she wants, and then to standing up for herself with her family.
Ben's journey was a little less vivid for me, but has to do with understanding the roots of his anger and letting go of unhealthy ambitions. There's no neatly tied-together ending, because part of the point is that they don't need one; it's okay to still be in the process of becoming themselves.
I love the themes of this story, the unconventional characters, and the dry humor.
"Perhaps there was an award for world's least effective dirty talk. She could nominate herself."
"'You make me want to be a decent person,' he murmured against her lips. 'It's just awful."
I would probably have gone for an even higher grade except I felt very bogged down in the middle of the book, in which it seemed like both characters were constantly learning lesson after emotional lesson, which were being hammered home. Perhaps this is attributable to the original serial format.
(I should mention there is one really unfortunate line in Truly, which was almost certainly inadvertent. Ben gives May challah to eat and she dreamily asks, "Is it made from ground-up baby angels?" I'm pretty sure this was an accident, and not intended to be May making a truly terrible joke -- that's not at all her style.) (And how messed up is it that I found such a recent news item to illustrate this?)
Contemporary romances seem to be becoming ever more the embodiment of fantasy -- ever-friendly small towns with great economies, gorgeous billionaires, mind-reading Doms. It's so good to also read romances that find the fun and the sexy in stories with relatable themes and characters.(less)
I suspect that if I had read this in print, it might have come across as a bit same old/same old, but a really excellent narration kept it fresh and e...moreI suspect that if I had read this in print, it might have come across as a bit same old/same old, but a really excellent narration kept it fresh and exciting. Terrific accents, very sensual sex scenes. The hero is somewhat less dark than usual for this series; as Diana said, he wants to be bad, but he can't quite make it.(less)
The young Queen Elena of Thallia, whose position in the throne is a precarious one, has made a very deli...more (reviewed from an e-arc provided by NetGalley)
The young Queen Elena of Thallia, whose position in the throne is a precarious one, has made a very deliberate engagement with Sheikh Aziz of Kadar. Both desperately need the added stability that a judicious marriage will bring to their rule. But that's exactly what Aziz's half-brother Khalil doesn't want; instead of being taken to her fiancé, Elena finds herself a prisoner in the desert. And though she dutifully tries to escape, as time goes on, she finds herself wanting to less and less.
This has a quieter tone than you might expect from a "kidnapped by the sheikh romance," although not in a bad way. Elena and Khalil have a lot in common: along with the shared burden of responsibility towards their people, they've both had lonely lives and suffered major betrayals from people they loved. The bond between them grows naturally from their shared experiences and makes them sympathetic -- especially Elena, who is valiant in her efforts to be a good queen.
Tears pricked under her lids and she blinked them back furiously. She wasn't a little girl, to cry over a cut knee. She was a woman, a woman who'd had to prove she possessed the power and strength of a man for four endless, stormy years. It couldn't end now like this...
I enjoyed the first half of this book, which has action and danger in Elena's escape efforts, and then a bittersweet quality as the attraction between Elena and Khalil grows. I didn't like the second half quite as much; I was exasperated by how long it took the two of them to see the obvious answer to their mutual problem, and then found Khalil's shilly-shallying about his feelings to be kind of tiresome. But the end goes in an interesting direction, nicely setting up Aziz's story.(less)