There are some romance novels in which the conflict feels forced, like the characters are just making trou...more(reviewed from e-arc provided by NetGalley.)
There are some romance novels in which the conflict feels forced, like the characters are just making trouble for themselves. Live isn't one of those: from almost the first meeting of Destiny and Hefin, they -- and we -- know that there's a serious obstacle in the way of them having more than an ephemeral relationship. It gave the story quite a different feel from usual, because there's no anticipation of an upcoming dark moment -- their conflict is how to appreciate the moment they have.
And of course, as a reader, I'm dying to figure out how this issue can possibly be satisfactorily resolved, because it seems so impossible. (I kept thinking of Bob Newhart as Superman, with his suit lost at the dry cleaners: "I don't know if we're going to be able to get you out of this one, Lois.") But gradually, beautifully, it comes to the perfect ending.
Des is firmly rooted in her Lakefield, Ohio community. (This is a small town novel without the small town, believably set in a city neighborhood.) Having recently lost her job, her family home, and her one remaining parent, she clings to pieces of the past. Helping her siblings and neighbors is one way she tries to fill what seems like an emptiness inside her:
After she got laid off six months ago, when Des looked down inside herself, she mostly saw time. Empty time. But not how to live. Not a life. The people most closely related to her saw their entire lives inside themselves.
Hefin, the quietly sexy woodcarver she's been noticing restoring the atrium of the library, is on the verge of beginning a new future. A vacation romance that turned into marriage brought him to the United States; now divorced, he wants to reconnect with his family in Wales and then move on to the work he was meant to be doing. He doesn't particularly want to start something with no future -- as Des correctly points out, he is a "goose" person, the kind who wants to mate for life -- but the attraction between them is very strong. As the attraction becomes love and they begin to truly know each other, their conflict between their needs becomes less rigidly obvious… if they can see it.
The story is written very carefully and deliberately, especially during the sex scenes. Lots of noticing, lots of descriptions of small details -- a lavish depiction of sexual attraction that fits well with their personalities, since they're both people who love to lavish care on others. As is often the case when authors are trying hard to write about sex in fresh language, it occasionally hit a wrong note for me, but I think it pays off in the end.
As any city-set story should be, Live is filled with casual diversity. Hefin, who was adopted from England as a baby, is an undefined racial mix. Destiny's landlady made an interracial marriage in a far more difficult time. Destiny's mother was Jewish, her father Irish Catholic. None of this is particularly important to the story, though the last two have some personal meaning to offer Destiny -- it's just part of the random weave of life.
This is a rich, tender story, not at all the usual contemporary family series fare. I'm looking forward to seeing where life takes the Burnsides next.
Note: the author of this book is an online friend. Whether that led to favoritism or reverse favoritism, I really couldn't tell you. Possibly both.
Iro...moreNote: the author of this book is an online friend. Whether that led to favoritism or reverse favoritism, I really couldn't tell you. Possibly both.
Iron and Velvet is a pastiche, a mix of the classic hard-boiled detective novel (literally the novel -- aside from parentage and sex, Kate Kane has the same story as Sam Spade) and classic-mythology based urban fantasy, with shouts outs/swipes at Twilight and probably numerous other books I don't know. My feelings about it were similarly mixed.
Kate Kane, an "honest-to-God faery princess" is also a hard-boiled, hard-drinking, and hard-bitten detective. Sometimes literally hard-bitten, though she's still trying to shake lose her first boyfriend Patrick, a glittery vampire who won't stop breaking into her house and drawing her while she's asleep. Kate exclusively dates women and non-vampires these days, though the later rule is seriously strained when she meets the vampire prince Julian, who despite her name and title is at least a woman. Julian is also very much in contrast to Patrick:
"I enjoy power. I enjoy control. As previously established. I'm a motherfucking vampire Prince. But I've also been around for eight hundred years and I'm kind of over it. I've gotten enough going on in my unlife that I don't need you to be the centre of it… I won't try to kill myself if you leave me. I don't care who your friends are, and I don't think it's my job to look after you. I'm also a hedonistic, bloodsucking narcissist with nearly a thousand years' worth of enemies, but" she flashed her fangs at me, "I'm never dull."
Reading this demonstrates the danger of following a favorite author into another genre, because I wasn't the audience for it on pretty much any level. (Unless you count having read The Maltese Falcon a dozen times.) I enjoyed the very British flavor of the prose, which adds a certain something to the hard-boiled detective patter. Kate describes someone as "nothing but skin and ferocity. Like a Quentin Blake illustration without the quirky charm," and finding someone else on the floor with the bits of her washing machine scattered around, Kate thinks "I couldn't tell if the whole scene looked like something out of the Tate Modern or something off a really specific fetish site." And wouldn't you love to hear Sam Spade calling someone an "impotent angst puppy"? (No points for guessing who.) But honestly, I can't do much of a plot summary because I have very little idea what was going on, other than that it was a blend of a murder investigation and a quest. There were so many characters, some important ones not introduced into about three-fourths through the story and a whole lot of not much happening, plotwise. Despite enjoying the voice, it took me forever to finish the book, and I don't know if that's because it's not my thing or just not that good. Props for humor and style, and for putting some of the ickier ideas currently circulating in paranormal romance firmly in their place.(less)
These three short holiday romances stand out from the crowd because of Eagle's knowledgeable, sensitive por...more(reviewed from e-arc provided by NetGalley)
These three short holiday romances stand out from the crowd because of Eagle's knowledgeable, sensitive portrayals of American Indian culture.
"The Sharing Spoon." Searching for meaning in her privileged life, a well meaning but somewhat clueless white woman takes a job as an art teacher at a largely American Indian school. Her education is completed by fellow teacher Kyle Bear Soldier, who teaches her the difference between charity and community. This is a low-conflict, happy-for-now story with some lovely romantic moments: "There was no traffic. There was no reason not to cross the street, except that they were mutually stunned by each other's eyes."
(Incidentally, the blurb for this story is completely off: it has nothing to do with Christmas and ends with a communal Thanksgiving feast.)
"The Wolf and the Lamb." This is the first time I've read Eagle writing a historical story and she does a lovely job, filling it with atmosphere and lesser known Indian lore. In 1879, governess Emily Lambert travels to Montana as a proxy bride, but arrives to find that her new husband has recently died and left two young mixed-race daughters behind. Since the town is hostile to partially Indian children, Emily's similarly mixed-race guide Wolf Morsette offers to take them to his people, who will welcome anyone "Metis." Their journey brings out the best in both of them and becomes a courtship, though Emily fears that a wanderer like Wolf could never give her the kind of family she wants.
I loved the writing here, as Wolf uses stories from his heritage to woo Emily and point out how much more similar they are to each other than different. Like the first story, this is fairly low in conflict, but just melted me with its tenderness and romance.
"The Twelfth Moon." This begins with a somewhat similar set-up to "the Sharing Spoon" -- Hope, a new, white teacher at a South Dakota Indian school, travels with a colleague to spend Christmas with her family on the reservation. But unlike Kyle with his deep seated love for his community, Luke Tracker left the reservation for the army and comes back as little as possible; he hates to see his family stuck in a place that has "Plenty of nothing. Plenty of poverty." Luke doesn't want to get involved with Hope and start thinking about "home fires and family ties." I thought this was an interesting situation, but it kind of fizzled out and ended very conveniently.(less)
This is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from the blurb: a cute, sentimental Christmas novella, though perhaps a tad spicier than you'd normally...moreThis is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from the blurb: a cute, sentimental Christmas novella, though perhaps a tad spicier than you'd normally expect when you have a heroine who's an guardian angel. Angels don't seem to be specifically religious in this world though, but part of a large, painfully bureaucratic organization of all kinds of mythical beings. (Nether-Netherland.)
The world-building seems more for giggles than anything else, and I found it a little icky that Sarah (last name Phimm -- groan!) falls in love with Jack after having watched over him literally since the day he was born. But it was a sweet story, with some down to earth moments that kept it from seeming sappy.
This holiday short story is a bit of a change of pace for Fraser, since the heroine is a contemporary woman. Luckily she's a time traveller, so she st...moreThis holiday short story is a bit of a change of pace for Fraser, since the heroine is a contemporary woman. Luckily she's a time traveller, so she still gets to hook up with one of Fraser's sexily honorable Regency heroes!
Ph.D. candidate Sydney has been studying in 1810 for several weeks when she discovers that her time machine no longer works. Protocol demands she blow up her machine and then kill herself, to protect her timeline. But before she can take the fatal step, Captain Miles Griffin catches her looking at family photos on her iPad and she's forced to tell him the truth. Miles is horrified, and decides it's up to him to watch Sydney and prevent her from killing herself -- at the very least, not on Christmas Eve.
This was a pleasant story that would likely appeal to someone who's fantasized about getting to go back in time to find a hot Regency gentleman. (This being a Fraser story, Miles is not actually titled or gentry, but a brewer's son with a gentleman's education.) The effect a woman of today might have on such a gentleman is also nicely imagined for the surprised but pleased Miles (Sydney is secretly amused when he inadvertently rips her bodice) and the Christmas celebration with a group of German officers is bittersweet for the homesick Sydney.
The worldbuilding wasn't entirely convincing and Sydney's attitude doesn't seem consistent -- sometimes she's very careful about what she reveals to Miles, other times she tells him quite sensitive information, like the name of another time traveller he might encounter. But the reason for her time machine problem turns out to be intriguing, and opens the door for another story set in this universe.(less)