I loved Beck Anderson's debut novel Fix You, so I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of her second novel, The JewelIntriguing Plot, Quirky Characters
I loved Beck Anderson's debut novel Fix You, so I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of her second novel, The Jeweler. When I heard about the clever plot, I was even more excited.
Fender Barnes is a cynical jeweler who regards his eager, love-struck, engagement-ring-buying customer Brad with disdain. Love isn't real, right? But then Brad dies in a car accident right outside the jewelry shop, and Fender knows he needs to get the ring to its intended recipient: Ginger Stevens. But Fender never does anything right or easily, and when he sees the grieving woman at Brad's funeral, things go pear-shaped.
Ginger is a ski instructor who's stunned by her boyfriend's death. She's "love, light, green eyes, and freckles." Just like in Fix You, the author's portrayal of grief is authentic and eloquent:
The house was filled with his things, their things together. What upset her was looking at all the mundane stuff. Toothbrush. Who cared about his toothbrush? How could she get rid of it, though? A person accumulated stuff, never figuring he wouldn't be around to tie up the loose ends. Brad had arrogant, unfinished stuff, like half-drunk Gatorade bottles in the fridge.
In Fix You, the heroine's husband died. In The Jeweler, the heroine's almost-fiance kicks the bucket. Which begs the question: is Beck Anderson's husband worried at all? ;-) I hope he's exercising and taking his fish oil.
There's a host of wacky side characters, including Fender's dad "Pop", a man with some romantic tricks up his sleeve, and his bff Sam, a slovenly guy who shows his affection the best way a male buddy can: by insulting the hell out of Fender.
As per usual, Pop focused on the woman in the conversation. "Fender went after a girl? Really? Does this mean little Sandy didn't make you swear off women forever?" Sam brightened. "I'd almost forgotten about Sandy. Isn't she the one that wrote I HATE YOU with weed killer on your front lawn?"
I love the understated humor.
Jewelry customers Jimmy the mobster and his bling-seeking girlfriend Naomi provide some color as well. Naomi has a heart-to-heart with Fender:
"That's what my therapist says. She says no woman should be bought for a shiny piece of glass." Fender realized he was in the wrong profession, obviously. He should be blowing smoke up somebody's ass for a hundred bucks an hour.
Hey! Therapists make way more than $100 an hour now, hehe.
This is a sweet and subtle love story, and I encourage you to give it a try!...more
"There's souls not at rest here. It's a troubled place, this."
A historical romance set in Chicago, one of my favorite citieSecret Lives, Secret Deaths
"There's souls not at rest here. It's a troubled place, this."
A historical romance set in Chicago, one of my favorite cities? Sign me up! The classy cover also drew me in.
In the year 2000, 25-year-old Kate moves into an apartment complex that used to be a 1920's hotel. She meets a cast of quirky elderly neighbors who report they didn't find the former tenant Olive in the apartment until three days after her death. *shudders* Then Kate gets locked in her bathroom, and it feels like she's not alone. Eek!
Kate works at a museum with her boyfriend Dexter. While Dexter is sweet, he's no Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles. (The 80s and 90s references make me happy.) Kate also feels intrigued by her hottie neighbor and wants to take a break from her relationship with Dex. (Anyone who knows the Ross/Rachel saga from Friends worries this won't turn out well.)
As Kate gets to know spunky Vera and kind-hearted Leo from the geriatric crowd, they tell her more about the ghostly Olive and her older sister Eva from the well-to-do 1920's Hughes family. The story then travels back through time to the scene of a decadent house party, full of flappers and moonshine. Bachelor Lon meanders through the crowd with cynical distaste, until he comes upon an "exquisite nymph" of a woman, Eva.
Lon first notices Eva's eyes:
They burned with a jade green he'd once seen in a great bonfire, the hottest of flames devouring all they came into contact with.
A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps? Sadly, Eva is betrothed to a man from another of Chicago's socially elite families. But Lon won't give up easily.
The historical romances in the 20s and 00s gradually pulled me in deeper to the point that it felt like I lived in Camden Court myself. The descriptive writing style authentically captures the proper debauchery and impending sense of doom from the twenties. This is a long novel, which allows both stories to unfold at their own pace (unlike my dissatisfaction with jamming two stories into one in Ugly Love).
One story has a happy ending and the other ends on a tragic note, but a common thread woven throughout is the search for love with the right partner, no matter how tangled the threads (or bonds) of life become. Kate's friend Blair tells it so well:
"Kate, trust me. When a guy's genuinely into you, the rules don't apply. Real love isn't a game, and that's how you'll know it when you see it. You'll recognize The One when you aren't overanalyzing him. You'll just ... be, and it'll play out organically."
And Kate responds:
"Why do I always feel like Enya should be playing in the background of your advice? I can almost smell herbal incense spraying out of my phone." Hehe....more
What a thought-provoking romance! It's rare for me to feel such fondness for the hero and the heroine, butThe Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth
What a thought-provoking romance! It's rare for me to feel such fondness for the hero and the heroine, but I loved both Daniel and Aubrey. It's also rare for me to understand Shakespeare, but Georgina Guthrie provides an excellent guide to the Bard in this story.
Aubrey Price starts her last year at the University of Toronto with a tight budget, a set of close friends, and a passion for all things Shakespeare. She works as an assistant to Dean Grant in addition to taking a heavy course load. The TA for her Shakespeare course is Dean Grant's son Daniel, who's scruffy and gorgeous. Aubrey tries to suppress her attraction to Daniel's forbidden fruit due to the anti-fraternization policy. (Good luck, Aubrey.)
Daniel is a puzzle. He crisply calls her "Miss Price", at times seeming standoffish and pompous. At other times he smiles warmly and appears impressed by her depth of knowledge and wit.
Daniel had been livid with me, which was definitely not without its strange appeal. Angry-Daniel was something to behold. But then he was Tail-Between-His-Legs-Daniel, followed shortly afterward by Tiny-Piece-of-Heart-on-His-Sleeve-Daniel. The episode was rounded out nicely by Dimpled-Smile-and-Lip-Biting-Daniel. Smorgasbord, right?
Aubrey has no idea how he feels about her until Dean Grant invites her to a family dinner and Daniel unexpectedly shows up. When he has one drink too many, he reveals his true feelings.
O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts! ~William Shakespeare, Othello
Hehe. Before Daniel makes a total beast of himself, he attempts to rein himself in, though it's tough to avoid Aubrey's charm. The secret that likely drives him to drink that night also ups the professional stakes to dangerous levels.
Aubrey has a winsome sense of humor which her roommate Matt draws out of her:
"I didn't know you guys were headed in that direction," I said. "I knew you liked each other. Some nights I could tell you really liked each other." I rattled the headboard, and he shot me a poisonous glare.
Matt also made me laugh:
"I had to get up. My brain was screaming for Advil," he groaned. "And I have the worst case of the zacklies." "What the hell are the zacklies?" "You know, when your mouth tastes zackly like your ass."
The banter between Aubrey and Daniel kept me grinning. Her F-bomb explosions surprise and delight him. His pair of jeans with a hole over the knee makes Aubrey swoon.
"Now tell me," I said, eager to lighten the tone. "Am I going to get a look at one of those sweet knees tonight?" Daniel sighed again. "Don't worry. Mr. Ratty Pants will be making an appearance this evening."
Instructors getting it on with students is abusive and wrong. But this story never feels icky that way. Aubrey is a strong, independent woman and Daniel does his best to exhibit self-control. Can they keep their paws off each other until semester's end? I look forward to finding out in the next two books in the series!
A very little thief of occasion will rob you of a great deal of patience. ~William Shakespeare Coriolanus, Act II, sc. 1...more
Ride the Churning, Restless Rapids of a Second Chance at Love
What a rich and deep adult contemporary romance!
Kaye is in her late twenties and still inRide the Churning, Restless Rapids of a Second Chance at Love
What a rich and deep adult contemporary romance!
Kaye is in her late twenties and still in love with her childhood friend / ex-husband Samuel (even though it's hard for "stubborn as super glue" Kaye to admit she still holds the candle for him). Kaye is an extreme sports enthusiast, and she and her friend run a PR firm in Colorado. Meanwhile, since the divorce, Samuel has shot up the bestseller charts as a famous author.
Samuel comes from a boisterous Hispanic family, and his sister Danita is about to get married. Naturally, Kaye is Danita's maid of honor, and naturally, Samuel will be in town for the big wedding. Though Kaye and Samuel divorced six years ago, is it possible for them to rekindle a beautiful childhood love?
Kaye is quite a quirky character, and I wonder if the author is equally quirky. There's also much sadness to the story about two broken people trying to mend themselves and each other.
I am so not a fantasy fan and at first I had trouble getting into the snippets from Samuel's wildly successful fantasy series Water Sirens. But when Samuel explains why he wanted to write faerie tales for his little "firecracker" Kaye (cutest nickname ever), I fell for the fantasy completely.
Having finished his fantasy series, Samuel moves on to writing a memoir of his childhood love of Kaye, and excerpts from this story alternate with present events. It makes for interesting reading.
There are some humorous moments in the story, like the time Kaye's attorney pretends to be her lesbian lover in order to make Samuel jealous, as well as:
The morning had been spent calmly arguing over the phone with a ski rental client about why "Going down with you since 1973" was not a family-oriented business slogan.
When we exited the theater after seeing Titanic, Hector shouted, "Hurry up, Kaye! There's only enough cars in the parking lot for half of us!"
Kaye describing a spat between Samuel and his posh editor Caroline: There was tension in Versaceville
The characters develop in a gradual, satisfying way. Both Kaye and Samuel were young when they married, and have made plenty mistakes. Samuel comes from a troubled background that makes you want to hug him.
"I don't need your pity," he said gently, firmly. "I'm a grown man, Kaye -- not that little boy anymore."
"But it doesn't mean I can't feel pain for that little boy. Or that I love him any less," I quietly added.
I like when Kaye says:
"Samuel, you have to get it into your head that when you shield people -- me, Danita -- from the big, bad world, you cause more harm than good."
This was a touching story and I'm excited there will be a sequel titled Skygods....more
How does a woman move on after the death of her husband? Having two adorable sons and supportive parents helps. But what reallyFixated on This Story!
How does a woman move on after the death of her husband? Having two adorable sons and supportive parents helps. But what really does the trick is falling in love with a humble movie star who needs some fixing of his own.
So goes the romance of Kelly and Andrew, who meet when Kelly breaks down sobbing on a run. Andrew's in town for a film shoot, and he feels sad to learn it's the two year anniversary of Kelly's husband's death. They gradually get to know each other. Can a famous actor and a down-to-earth widow make this long distance relationship work? It'll be tough, given Kelly's lovable neuroticism, Andrew's shady past, and initial exchanges like this:
He fishes his cell phone and sunglasses out of the car. "Can I get your number?" "You don't want my number." "Yes, I do." "No, you don't." Seriously, is he kidding? "Do too." He shakes his head. "This is insane. Why not?" "Look at you. Come on." He stares at me with those very blue eyes. "Don't be ridiculous. Give me your number."
I loved the unique setting of Boise (said with an "s", not a "z"!) and the realistic characters. But what I loved most of all was the humor. MAJOR props for the mention of that Saturday Night Live skit "Master Thespian!" As well as these quotes:
Starting the first day I get little texts each day: "Development meeting in 90210. Lady across from me has taken 'bee stung' lips to a horrifying new level."
"You'll fly down here. A quick visit. Now go, make the phone calls. Make it so." "I will see what I can do, Jean-Luc Picard. You're a huge nerd." "You're the one who knows the name of the captain."
The salesgirl is done giving me the up and down. "Size six is the largest we go." "I'm sorry, I missed it. Did the sign above the door say Big Heads on a Toothpick R Us?"
If my life were a movie this'd be the part where the montage begins. You know, they'd play a kicky song like "Walking on Sunshine," and there'd be shots of Andrew and me getting ice cream, riding bicycles through the park, playfully doing lots of things as a happy couple.
Ha ha ha!
The only part of the story I didn't eat up was when Kelly reveals something about her deceased husband Peter toward the end of the novel. That part of the story didn't quite seem to fit as essential, unless I'm missing something.
Kelly and Andrew admire Ernest Hemingway, and it appears author Beck Anderson does as well, evidenced by her short sentences and overall clean writing.
Spend some time with Kelly and Andrew and you'll enjoy them as much as I do!...more