What a hoot this book was! From the author's apology for the lack of anything happy within, to the frequent insertions of "here this word means", to t...moreWhat a hoot this book was! From the author's apology for the lack of anything happy within, to the frequent insertions of "here this word means", to the speech and thoroughly bad behaviour of almost every adult on the pages, this little book had me snorting and giggling and laughing out loud at least once a page, even as the Baudelaire orphans' circumstances became steadily more dire.
Have to put more of these books on my library wish list. Immediately. (less)
I am really liking reading Eloisa James's historicals. Desperate Duchesses was my intro to her work, and it hit so many right notes I'm digging into m...moreI am really liking reading Eloisa James's historicals. Desperate Duchesses was my intro to her work, and it hit so many right notes I'm digging into more in that series, and other series as they come to my attention.
I'm not sure of the exact timing of this book, but probably early 1800's. No, wait, there's mention of Waterloo. So, sometime after 1816 then. No panniers and powdered wigs, anyway. There is a lot of talk of horses - breeding them, racing them, riding them, betting on them. Horses are an important motif in the book.
This is the story of Tess, and the man she marries and falls in love with, Lucius Felton (which name, I confess, had me thinking of Jason Isaacs with long blond hair and that superior Slytherin air), though the ground has been laid for much more to come: three more sisters to marry off, after all, and I'm absolutely dying to know if their guardian, the duke, marries one of them, and if so, which one.
See, the more I like a book, the shorter my review. It kind of spoils the afterglow, to analyze the book to death. Everything I liked about Desperate Duchesses, I liked about this book.(less)
This was another book I found through the Smart Bitches; it was one of their Sizzling Summer Book Club (which continues throughout the seasons) reads....moreThis was another book I found through the Smart Bitches; it was one of their Sizzling Summer Book Club (which continues throughout the seasons) reads.
And I really enjoyed it. A lot. It reads more like mainstream fiction than what most people think of as "romance" fiction or chick lit. The heroine is competent, confident, well liked, kind, has a loving if bizarre family, a good job, and a busy life in her small Vermont town. She's in an unfortunate place romantically, and she has her blind spots, but she's not any of the things that people disparage about romance heroines: she's not a pale version of Bridget Jones; she doesn't undermine her professional or personal credibility by going from one improbable scrape to the next. She's not Too Stupid to Live. Callie Grey isn't over the top at all. She feels real. Everybody in this book feels real. Even her dog is characterful and charming, rather than overdrawn; the dog is not the most memorable character in the book, as was the case with Fred the dog in Anyone But You.
The relationship between Callie and Ian, the new vet in town, evolves wonderfully as their familiarity, and then their intimacy, increases. They have their ups and downs on this road, and these feel normal and normal and uncontrived.
The secondary characters - and there are a good many of them - are wonderful, too. Best friend Annie, half a dozen co-workers, divorced-but-courting parents, sister who is a single mother to two adopted daughters, loose cannon of a younger brother, elderly one-legged grandfather, and various townspeople surround Callie, and we get to know them all as she knows them. Even Ian's ex-wife and his aunt, both of whom get minimal screen time, have a completeness to them.
Ah, such fun! Much as I enjoyed Desperate Duchesses, I think this book, the second in the series, might have been even more fun to read. The strengths...moreAh, such fun! Much as I enjoyed Desperate Duchesses, I think this book, the second in the series, might have been even more fun to read. The strengths of the first book - period detail skilfully incorporated to support characterization, which then creates and supports plot - are present in this volume, too. The dialogue is snappy and scintillating, there is wit and humour on every page.
I had been spoiled about the "plot device" James used to keep Poppy and Fletch apart in the bedroom for nearly four years, so I was prepared to find it as laughable and lame as some readers did. But I actually didn't, at all, find it so. It was one of those period details I thought was extremely well done, and illustrated not just the period, but a number of the characters, too.
I am really enjoying this series, and am torn between leisurely indulgence and gluttonous consumption. Since I'm borrowing them from the e-library, though, leisurely has been the pace thus far. :)(less)
I finished this in one day, largely because it's an e-book from the library that's due back in two days, and I have to work both those days, so I devo...moreI finished this in one day, largely because it's an e-book from the library that's due back in two days, and I have to work both those days, so I devoted my Sunday to devouring it.
This is an outstanding historical romance. Georgian, so there are powdered wigs and panniers under wide skirts, corsets and beauty patches. The background is fantastic - the period detail, the social structure, the haut ton stuff. Interestingly, there is also a lot of description of clothing and finery, and against all expectation it didn't annoy me as such things usually do. James uses these details to illustrate character and situation, and not just to show off an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject, which is refreshing.
Wonderful characterization. Roberta and her father, Jemma and her husband, Damon and his son, Villiers... they all get the full treatment, at least according to their importance in the story. Even the servants and employees feel like real people.
A lovely romance, skillfully tangled and then disentangled. And some of the best sex - or rather, foreplay - I've read in a really long time. Sex in historicals is tricky, what with the importance placed on virginity and the differences in sexuals sensibilities between the modern writer and the period two hundred years ago, but James does it really well, by making it a matter of sensuality and awakening rather than naked writhing bodies. She has a good vocabulary on the subject, and a fine hand with the showing.
The second book in the series awaits now; I can hardly wait to dive in! (less)
**spoiler alert** I'd like to give this book two and half stars because I really enjoyed the first part of the book, from the time Miranda meets and f...more**spoiler alert** I'd like to give this book two and half stars because I really enjoyed the first part of the book, from the time Miranda meets and falls in love with Turner, to the part where Turner, jaded and embittered by a bad marriage that ended - much to his relief - with his serially unfaithful wife falling off a horse and breaking her neck while on her way to a tryst, begins to feel an attraction to the now-grown-up Miranda. They have some witty conversations, and are generally both very likeable characters, though neither of them is perfect.
But then the story took a turn for the clichéd, starting with girls in nightgowns wandering about houses not their own at night, and stumbling across the man they love, halfway down the neck of a decanter of brandy, followed by a near-seduction on the sofa, followed by the man distancing himself from the heroine, followed by them being thrown together first at a ball, then in a carriage, and then at a private weekend house party where they get caught in a rainstorm and have to take shelter in a hunting lodge that's mostly a large comfortable bed. The seduction happens, they both know they'll have to marry, he goes away to think, and stays away longer than originally intended. She, of course, falls pregnant and leaves London for Scotland. He finds her, follows her, apologizes and proposes. By this time she has lost the baby, but she still has to marry him. But he won't say he loves her (he's a bit stupid, is Turner, and not at all in touch with any of his higher emotions, so disillusioned is he still by the ruination of what he thought was the love of his first marriage), and she doesn't want to marry without his love, blah de blah.
Turner takes absolutely months - until the birth of his first child, in fact - to realize that he loves Miranda, so I often wanted to smack him. And Miranda is so hung up on hearing the words "I love you" that she fails utterly to recognize that his every action with regard to her - his care, his concern, his affection and attention, his kisses, his kindness - announces his love at every turn. So I often wanted to smack her, too. And even when he does finally declare that he loves her (because of course he finally realizes it and declares it), she doesn't quite believe he loves her, rather than was afraid of losing her (childbirth, bleeding, you know how it goes). Silly chit.
There were a few things about this book that disappointed me - romance novel clichés, mostly - but in general I thought the writing was good. I'd read another by this prolific author. (less)
What a book. At 912 pages, it's as grand in scope as the cathedral that's built within its pages and the thirty-five years of history that it spans, a...moreWhat a book. At 912 pages, it's as grand in scope as the cathedral that's built within its pages and the thirty-five years of history that it spans, and it's got everything – love and hate, birth and death, deception, intrigue, loyalty and betrayal, good and evil, grand plans and small details, sin and sinners, penitents and penitence, knights and earls, peasants and serfs, merchants and monks, kings, queens, and princes, towns and villages, England and Europe, war and peace, feast and famine, good luck and bad fortune… the list goes on.
This book is meticulously researched, compellingly written, brilliantly plotted, and populated with unforgettable characters who grow and change and evolve throughout the story, and I can't think of a single loose end that isn't tied up by the end.
This is a book I wish I had written. It's brilliant, it's entertaining, it's gripping, and I plan to read it again and again. (less)
This is the last story in the series, and strictly speaking it's not about a Carsington brother, but a Carsington brother's nephew by his first marria...moreThis is the last story in the series, and strictly speaking it's not about a Carsington brother, but a Carsington brother's nephew by his first marriage, and his adopted (?) stepdaughter, the "last night's scandal" of the title. We first encountered these characters as children in Lord Perfect. Fast forward twelve years, and Olivia is still inconveniently impulsive, outspoken, and confidently trickstery, and Lisle is still obsessed with Egypt and its antiquities.
Olivia has some sense that she loves Lisle, but the close familial nature of their relationship, and his frequent long absences have kept that affection in the "brotherly" category thus far. Lisle is also very fond of Olivia, though part of his reason for being away from England so often and for so long is to avoid getting involved in any of Olivia's harebrained schemes. Being thrown together with her on a mission to restore one of his family's properties (in cold, damp Scotland, to add to his torture) brings certain challenges and then all kind of feelings to the fore, and both of them are Carsington enough to be at first overthrown by this, and have no words for said feelings, and thus no appropriate way of expressing them.
Except through sex, that is. Hot, forbidden, secret sex that just makes them want more hot, forbidden, secret sex. Well written hot, forbidden, secret sex. (I do like the way Loretta Chase writes sex scenes in her historicals.)
This was a really fun series. Great characters, settings, situations, and sex. What more can one ask?(less)
I really love Loretta Chase's books, and her romantic pairings. She takes sharp, challenging, flawed heroines, flings them together with sharp, challe...moreI really love Loretta Chase's books, and her romantic pairings. She takes sharp, challenging, flawed heroines, flings them together with sharp, challenging, flawed heroes who find them gorgeous and irresistible, and who they find gorgeous and irresistible, and lets nature take its course.
I found the denouement of this story a little confusing, and worried for a while that the author was going to make the hero's best friend and fellow Waterloo hero (whose name I now forget because I've read two other books since finishing this one) the true villain of the piece. I was immensely glad to be disappointed on that score.
This isn't just a romance, it's a foreign adventure story, too! 19th-century Egypt is the setting, and the setting is as much a character in the story...moreThis isn't just a romance, it's a foreign adventure story, too! 19th-century Egypt is the setting, and the setting is as much a character in the story as either of the leads, either of the battling villains, any of their credulous and incompetent henchmen, any of the various children who become attached to our romantic pair, and even the mongoose who plays a more important part than one might imagine possible. The tension rises and falls like the tides on the Nile, and the reader gets a better look at both Egypt and the characters by seeing how the characters inhabit and experience the place.
I haven't read many romances like this, but I would love to read more. Maybe this is why I loved "Romancing the Stone" so much. (less)
This book gave me a serious case of the creeps, in places. First of all, any place called Despair? Guaranteed creepy vibe, no matter how sunny, warm,...moreThis book gave me a serious case of the creeps, in places. First of all, any place called Despair? Guaranteed creepy vibe, no matter how sunny, warm, and tropical it might be. And this Despair is in Colorado, miles from anywhere, including its nearest neighbour, Hope. Add a hostile populace willing to do physical harm to get people to leave their town, and the creepy vibe increases in amplitude. Add "company town", "secret operation" and "military police post" and the creep factor shoots up in magnitude and velocity. And make the man who owns the company, the town, and all its people not just the main employer but also the mayor and the lay preacher, and the shiver-inducing vibe goes supersonic.
Oh, and the dead guy that Reacher trips over in the dark, who is gone by morning? That's creepytastic, too.
I love Child's descriptions of the people, things, places, and situations Jack Reacher encounters, and Reacher's thought processes. I especially love the descriptions of how Reacher takes on multiple assailants at once, and takes them all out. I've never been in a physical fight in my life (at least, not since the last time my brother punched me, when we were kids), but the strategic thinking and the damage done gives me a vicarious thrill.
I think I figured out the Big Bad in this story before the reveal, too, but I didn't quite foresee Reacher's solution to the problem. I like that: figuring out some, but not all, of a denouement. Makes me feel smart enough, but also a little surprised.(less)
Tripwire gives the reader an emotionally vulnerable Reacher, and this makes him a tad more human than usual. Reacher has a reliable moral compass - he...moreTripwire gives the reader an emotionally vulnerable Reacher, and this makes him a tad more human than usual. Reacher has a reliable moral compass - he's always on the side of the abused or exploited and has no hesitation taking bad guys out - but he can come across a bit like a well-programmed automaton, because of his lack of human connections. But this book is jammed with human connections, past and present, and Reacher spends a good deal more time investigating and thinking - and feeling - than systematically eliminating bad guys. The body count is relatively low, as I recall - the bad guy and his henchmen kill two or three people, and then Reacher eliminates all of them, and dishes out some judicious violence to one or two other deserving scumbags - but there's none of the wholesale slaughter that crops up in other books.
And the human connections! His former CO, the CO's daughter, a number of other military personnel that he either knows or encounters along the way, plus the elderly couple whose son is at the centre of the whole thing: Jack connects with all of them, and it's both touching and amusing to see him struggle with things like kindness, which he hasn't had much need for in his life as a constantly-moving military brat, and then military man.
I really enjoy the glimpses these books give into the military life and mindset. Can't wait to dive into the next one. (less)
Cracktastic. I absolutely love the way Child describes an operation. From 10,000 ft, he shows how all the threads start, travel, and entwine. And then...moreCracktastic. I absolutely love the way Child describes an operation. From 10,000 ft, he shows how all the threads start, travel, and entwine. And then we get Reacher's molecular-level reactions and actions. In the other books I've read (not all of them up to this point in the series), Reacher is über-capable and not that morally complex. This shows Reacher acting as part of a group of trusted associates, and explores his loyalty and humanity more. I still love Reacher. And he's still a foot taller than Tom Cruise. Vince Vaughn, maybe, for the height if nothing else. (less)
I read recently (perhaps in a review of another Reacher book) that Lee Child was criticized for the importance of coincidence in the early Reacher boo...moreI read recently (perhaps in a review of another Reacher book) that Lee Child was criticized for the importance of coincidence in the early Reacher books, and the first two books certainly take "wrong place, wrong time" to great lengths. Jack Reacher is shaping up to be a trouble magnet, though perhaps he's always been one, because in one of the first two books he mentions years of "bad luck and trouble", which is the title of a subsequent book.
It may start with crazy coincidence, but everything builds organically from who the characters are, what they do, what they know, and what they want. There are some really memorable characters, including an antagonist/villain I was truly delighted to see the back of. The most memorable scene, for me, was the one where Reacher is crawling around in mine tunnels by the diminishing light of a flashlight. I was reading it through my fingers; so vivid was the writing that it got me all anxious before Reacher felt anything like that. This book is filled with telling details (a hundred and thirteen holes in a roof, a single metal crutch, and paint cans) that are satisfying as a reader, and inspiring as a writer. (less)
More action-adventure crack, just as complex and many-layered as I've come to expect of Reacher books, and just as bloody and violent. As casual as Re...moreMore action-adventure crack, just as complex and many-layered as I've come to expect of Reacher books, and just as bloody and violent. As casual as Reacher sometimes is about the violence he commits and witnesses -- he is no more affected by having to take out the bad guys than he is by putting down roach powder, for instance - he is neither callous nor unfeeling. He has a strong sense of right and wrong, a strong sense of justice, and with regard to women, and sex, he borders on the reverential. He's absolutely an alpha hero - mentally and physically strong, capable, intelligent, skilled, calculating, and take-charge. Definitely the kind of guy you want on your side in any kind of a fight. (less)
**spoiler alert** It is with mixed feelings that I bid farewell to the Quinns in this, the final (thus far) book in the series. It's sadness mixed wit...more**spoiler alert** It is with mixed feelings that I bid farewell to the Quinns in this, the final (thus far) book in the series. It's sadness mixed with regret. I loved this series, and I couldn't pick a weak book among the four. The characters are wonderful, their relationships feel real and solid and dynamic, the stories are terrific, the romantic relationships are well individuated, hell, even the sex scenes are well done.
My only objection to the ending in this one is that Seth's bio-mom is still alive. On the other hand, maybe that means she'll be back. Which means another book. Which I like the idea of.
I've had a rec from my friend Amy for Roberts's Irish Trilogy, so that'll be where I go in her oeuvre next. (less)
It's been a while since I read Roberts's Sea Swept, but I fell right back into this, the second volume in a family saga trilogy, as if it had been jus...moreIt's been a while since I read Roberts's Sea Swept, but I fell right back into this, the second volume in a family saga trilogy, as if it had been just yesterday. The unresolved issues from the previous book are still unresolved in this one - was the Quinns' father's car crash an accident or suicide? Was he Seth's father? Where is Seth's mother, and what will she try next? - and as a unifying theme, this family mystery and common concern is a good one.
This is the story of Ethan, whose personal history is very like Seth's, and longtime friend and neighbour Grace Monroe. Ethan and Grace have loved each other from afar for a very long time, and it's lovely to see the slow, deliberate (on Grace's part) and sometimes skittish (that's Ethan) dance that brings them together at last. There are Issues, and Challenges, and Problems (well, mostly there's Ethan's emotional baggage), but it all arises from history and character, and thus is completely believable in both presentation and resolution.
Spoiler: The mystery remains unresolved at the end of this book, so I'm guessing Philip's book, Inner Harbor, will resolve all. And since there's no love interest on deck for him yet, that should prove very interesting indeed. (less)
I was right in my supposition that the mystery that started in Sea Swept and continued in Rising Tides would be resolved in this, the last book in the...moreI was right in my supposition that the mystery that started in Sea Swept and continued in Rising Tides would be resolved in this, the last book in the original trilogy. And it was very well done.
This is the story of Philip, the last (before Seth) adopted Quinn brother, and Dr. Sybill Griffin, who [SLIGHT SPOILER!:] is revealed as Seth's aunt, the sister of his mother Gloria. And it's a terrific story, not just the romance, but the family dynamic, and the solving of the mystery and the resolution of all the loose ends.
Roberts's characterization in these books is wonderfully rich, thorough, and consistent, and it's not limited to the adults, or even to the humans. The dogs have distinct identities, and the setting - the Quinn house, the boatshed, the bay, the whole town of St. Christopher and the people who live there - contributes as much to the story as any of the people on the pages. The three brothers are utterly different, but unified by their purpose in giving Seth the opportunity that saved each of them. Their wives are also completely different, but each is the right match for her man, and each marital addition to the family acts as additional bricks and mortar to the already solid family foundation dedicated to providing a young boy with the stable home and loving family he so desperately needs.
Roberts wrote a follow-up to this series, Chesapeake Blue, which is about the adult Seth, grown up and successful and returning to St. Chris to find his true love. Sucker that I am, that's next on my to-read list. (less)
**spoiler alert** Another good one by Alexis Harrington, though for my money, not quite as good as Harper's Bride, which got four stars from me.
This...more**spoiler alert** Another good one by Alexis Harrington, though for my money, not quite as good as Harper's Bride, which got four stars from me.
This one is set in 1918 small-town Oregon, and once again the setting is wonderfully illustrated. You'd expect to get a good sense of the small town the characters live in, but we even get the flavour of the larger American West, the distant East Coast, and even the mud-soaked battlefields of France.
The lead characters, Dr. Jessica Layton and blacksmith Cole Braddock, are a pretty good romantic pair, though once again the female lead has more energy and capacity for hard physical work than any five modern women. Jessica is a female doctor, and the only doctor in the small Oregon town where she grew up. She's just stopping in for a visit, or her way from New York to a research job in Seattle, but then the influenza - the "Spanish flu" pandemic of 1918 - hits the town hard, she's pressed into service caring for the sick and dying. And care she does, pressing others into service as needed to provide round-the-clock care, feeding, laundry, and supplies, and to dig graves.
Jess has a history with Cole Braddock, but it all went horribly wrong while she was finishing her training in New York, and now he's courting her younger sister, Amy. And the clergyman son of the fire-and-brimstone minister who presided over the church in Jess's younger days, has taken a fancy to Jess. This complicates things.
The historical context, the sensory descriptions of field-and-foxhole battles, of the realities of medical practice and challenges in the period, of the sights and sounds and smells that surround the characters, really worked for me. Harrington does her research, and it shows.
What didn't work for me: - The inclusion of scenes in the French battlefield. There weren't enough of them to make those characters a real part of the story, and thus they felt like they were included because the author had done the research, and the scenes were good, dammit, so they stayed. The scenes were good, but I'm not sure they were essential.
- The main secondary characters, Amy and Adam, started out promisingly, but devolved into stereotypes and caricatures of villains by the end, and left me feeling cheated. I felt like they could have been better-rounded, that Adam's real motivation for pursuing Jess should have been revealed, and that the revelation about Amy could have been foreshadowed. If Adam had had a mustache, he'd have been twirling the ends and cackling evilly before his comedown.
- The side story about Emmaline and her boys, and her dreadful husband Bert. OK, interesting bit, and it served a purpose in the end, but the whole thing was a bit of a red herring.
Another good one by Alexis Harrington. This one's set in 1894, in the tiny borderline-ghost-town of Misfortune, Oregon. Chloe Maitland is a hardworkin...moreAnother good one by Alexis Harrington. This one's set in 1894, in the tiny borderline-ghost-town of Misfortune, Oregon. Chloe Maitland is a hardworking single woman trying to make enough money to make the annual mortgage payment on the farm she inherited when her father died a year before. She takes in other people's laundry, but what she really needs is a man to work in the blacksmith forge that's been empty since her father died. Travis McGuire, Drifter, turns up in her yard one day, asks for a job, then for a drink of water, and then promptly collapses from sunstroke.
I really enjoyed these characters, their friction-filled interactions, their slow, cautious rapprochement, and their passionate sexual encounters that presaged the inevitable happy ending. Theirs was a complex relationship, with no easy answers or shortcuts, and the journey was satisfying.
We aren't meant to like Evan Peterson, Chloe's increasingly mentally ill suitor, and I didn't. I wasn't especially surprised by his erratic behaviour at the end, either. But it served a purpose in the story, so I won't complain. I did think his oddness could have been more widely noted among the population of the tiny town, and that at least one townsperson might have shown some concern for Chloe's well-being. But otherwise, I thought the secondary cast was pretty decent, too. (less)
Forget the title. The title is meaningless and hints at far more hanky-panky than is actually contained within these pages. There is some, and it's pretty decent, but there's more story than sex. And what a story it is, too.
My usual period of historical is Regency - the hazards of being a Janeite, you know - but I absolutely get why Victorians are so popular among both readers and writers. Regency characters get everywhere on foot, horseback, or in some kind of cart or carriage, but Victorians can take the train! They can turn on electric lights, run a bath without requiring a red-faced puffing maid to haul copper basins of hot water up the back stairs, and flush a toilet! The Victorian era was the infancy of many of the technologies we take for granted, and the Victorians themselves were fascinated by the plethora of machines and gadgets that the mechanical age brought them.
The Victorians were also fairly fascinated by and obsessed with the seamy underbelly of human behaviour, and the classic literary conflict of "human versus human". Dickens is replete with examples of how perfectly dreadful people can be to each other, for instance, and let's not forget Sherlock Holmes. (Combine the baseness of human nature, a certain amount of criminal genius, and budding mechanics and technologies, and the rise of steampunk seems both natural and inevitable. But that's not what this book is, so enough about that.)
This book is a thoroughly enjoyable blend of several great literary motifs: secret investigation, pretending to be what you're not, psychopathic criminal behaviour, country house party, psychological torment, rigid social mores, gossip, seduction, entrapment into marriage, hot marital sex, and love winning out over all.
The characters are wonderful, from the alternately idiotic and clever Marquess of Vere, to Elissande with her protective mask and camouflage, to the completely insane and obsessed Mr. Douglas. The story is gripping and dramatic without ever going over the top, and the action seems to arise naturally out of the characters themselves being where and when they are. There are a few uses of language that felt a bit modern, or a bit American, for a story set in Victorian England ("can he handle it?" might have been better as "can he manage it?"; I'm pretty sure that "doable" wasn't common parlance in 1898, and I doubt the veracity of usage of "drunk as a skunk", because there aren't any skunks in the UK, though maybe it was used because it rhymed so well), but in general the prose was clean and clear and not just easy to read, but a pleasure.
**spoiler alert** I read this book because the author (hi, Heather!) asked to friend me at Goodreads, after reading my vitriolic review of the lamenta...more**spoiler alert** I read this book because the author (hi, Heather!) asked to friend me at Goodreads, after reading my vitriolic review of the lamentable Big Girl. And hey, she's Canadian! Gotta support those Canadian authors! Once I found that out, I surfed around to find her books. This one was free, but that's not the only reason I chose it; I was intrigued by the blurb about a marriage in crisis, because I like stories about relationships, and because anyone who's married knows that marriages take work, and that grief and loss are one of the things that test all kinds of relationships, not just marriages.
The book starts with Candice seeing her husband off at the airport, and the fragile state of their relationship is evident from the start. Candice is a woman adrift in the sea of grief, anger, confusion, distance, and sorrow that her marriage has become. She and Ian walk on eggshells, and cling to the few and mundane things that remain unchanged by the enormous loss of his parents, whom they both loved. She watches him go, she wants him to go, and she makes up her mind to think long and hard about whether her marriage can be saved, whether she wants to save it, and how she can go about it. I liked Candice, sympathized with her, empathized at times, and wanted her to win, to find her way back to passion and love with Ian.
Next day, Candice's ten years ago ex, the ten-year-more-attractive Kegan, turns out to be the new client at work. Her new client, actually, since he decides he'd rather work with her (a design assistant) than with her boss, the actual designer of his restaurant. And I just didn't like Kegan. I didn't like him, I didn't trust him, and I didn't believe in him.
There were a lot of reasons for this. First, he insisted on calling Candice 'Candy', even after she told him she now went by Candice. In my book, that's disrespectful bordering on controlling, and that's not an acceptable behaviour from a romantic interest. (Mind you, Candice let him get away with it, which I found disappointingly weak and self-abnegating, but at least I already knew she was in an emotionally weakened state, so it kind of worked for her character.)
Second, Kegan actively pursued Candice in full knowledge that she was married and that her marriage was troubled, and that her husband was away, and that is a big ol' HELL TO THE NO for me in a romantic lead. I don't understand the motivation of men and women who romantically pursue people they know are married, but I firmly believe it's completely self-serving and often remorseless. It's hard for me to get any romantic thrills from a confused and conflicted woman's interaction with someone who behaves so dishonourably toward her (and toward himself, too).
Third, he had a completely out of context reaction to a waiter's very minor mixup, and I am a firm believer that a person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. I thought he'd be a horrible restaurant-owner boss, with that attitude, too.
Fourth, I believed, all the way through, that he had some kind of hidden agenda, something he wasn't telling Candice. This surmise seemed to be supported by the unacknowledged CD's in his glove box, his tendency to scoot off to take phone calls, and the virtual absence of any other friends in his life, which seemed to hint at a recent ex-girlfriend from whom he was still smarting. Though, the depth of his grief over the loss of his friend George made me wonder, for a time, if he were closeted gay or bisexual, and had something to prove to himself by seducing the woman he had cruelly dumped ten years before.
Fifth, I never understood what it was that drove him to work so hard to win Candice's affection, while he withheld basic decency and respect. I really believed that he was doing it to prove that he could win her back (possibly to assuage his wounded romantic ego), and that if she had given in to him, she would have had ample scope for regret because, having achieved his aim, he would cast her aside again.
The physical distance between Candice and Ian – she in Toronto, he in Bangladesh for a month – is nicely symbolic of the emotional distance that's arise between them, and both kinds of distance make it easy for Candice to spend a lot of time either with Kegan or thinking about him. Ian needed to be away for this story to happen; if he'd been in town, it would have been a quite different story, because Candice would have had to consciously choose the company of one over the other, and I don't think Kegan would have stood a chance in that case.
Kegan genuinely did stand a chance in this story, though, and although I didn't like him or trust him, I believed that Candice did, and her uncertainty and tentativeness, her hope and her fear, her joy and her inconvenient conscience, all rang true to her character, her past, and her present. The tension, the will-she-won't-she tension, kept up all the way through to the deciding moment, and even beyond.
Joe Pitt is a badass, and I love badass tough guy heroes. Apparently even if they're unaffiliated vampires hunting zombies in Manhattan, while trying...moreJoe Pitt is a badass, and I love badass tough guy heroes. Apparently even if they're unaffiliated vampires hunting zombies in Manhattan, while trying to steer clear of enemy vampire gangs and other assorted baddies. I tend to steer clear of the undead in my reading, but I really like the created world in this book, and the characters that populate it.
Joe's world is gritty and harsh and unremittingly dirty, painful, and violent. But there is reason to live, to continue, to help people who need it, and there is reason to love. And there is reason to read. I will read more in this series as soon as I can get my mitts on them. (less)
This is yet another book I bought based on a review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. (Seriously, a great resource for the returning romance reader who...moreThis is yet another book I bought based on a review at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. (Seriously, a great resource for the returning romance reader who doesn't know where to start.)
I really, really enjoyed this book. It doesn't get five stars because it's not perfect, but it's really, really good. It's set in the Yukon of the Klondike Gold Rush, which is an unusual choice in a historical, in my experience (the glittering Regency being much more in the common way). And the setting is so real, so palpable, it's as much a character in the story as any of the people. I had the set and costumes from McCabe and Mrs. Miller in mind as I read, and I learned a lot about the that time and place, with its lack of horses and streets so muddy that whatever dray animals could be employed pulled sleds rather than wheeled conveyances, its lack of dairy cows and the price a man could get for any of the luxury goods he was stalwart and persistent enough to transport from down south to sell to the miners and anyone else up there.
As SB Sarah mentions in her review (linked above), I enjoyed reading about Melissa, and I rooted for her, "though at times she was Snow White whistle-while-you-work perfect." Her work ethic and indefatigability made me feel tired on her behalf, and guilty for being grateful I'd never had to do so much grimy laundry by hand while looking after a baby* and cooking and keeping house. (Heck, I'm not so sure I'd be able to swing that even with mod cons. I am so lazy.)
Melissa is thrust into very close quarters and an awkward relationship with Dylan, to settle her ne'er-do-well husband's debt, and although it's an odd premise, Harrington makes it work. In spite of Dylan's assurances that he will never attempt to claim husbandly rights, Melissa is terrified of Dylan to start with, but determined to earn her keep - and a living - so she and her baby will never have to be dependent on a man again. Just as Melissa has been scarred by a history of bad men, Dylan has his own emotional scars. They both cling to these flawed perceptions of the opposite sex a little longer than I thought strictly necessary, given the way the relationship develops, and although they eventually get very talky about things, I began to be frustrated that neither one of them had developed the courage to declare their feelings to the other. Until one of them does, of course. Which then brings the story to an end, shazam, so that's probably why it didn't happen sooner.
There are some wonderful scenes in this, and I don't just mean the sex (oh look, is that a spoiler?). Rafe Dubois is a wonderful secondary character, and he has some terrific, very telling exchanges with Dylan. Melissa's husband, her father and brothers, are all cut from the same filthy, inferior cloth, and they all emanate an undercurrent of pettiness and menace that create a gut-level uneasiness that raises alertness and adrenaline levels in the protagonist and the reader.
I'm planning to look more into Harrington's backlist, now available at Smashwords. Because, you know. Never enough books.
*again with the baby. This one in the same room, y'all. That infant is gonna be scarred for life, is all I'm sayin'.
**spoiler alert** Published in 1996, this is again fairly early Crusie, and it's an improvement over 1993's Manhunting in a multitude of ways. I liked...more**spoiler alert** Published in 1996, this is again fairly early Crusie, and it's an improvement over 1993's Manhunting in a multitude of ways. I liked the female protagonist in this one, and the best friends (Charity and Max) are important to the story, and not just sounding boards. Crusie's dialogue is witty and fun, entirely realistic to the characters. Their mutual attraction is believable, and so are their obstacles, real and perceived. The sex is well-written: evocative and provocative and satisfyingly sexy.
The protagonists do seem to exist in kind of a vacuum once they meet, even though we do drop in to the workplace of each, and there are references to agonizing dinners with both families, but mostly this is told and not shown. Nina's ex-husband puts in an appearance, but he's never really a threat. This, plus an odd scene involving Alex's dad and his brother Max having a mutual bleak evening about their shared demon of alcoholism, made me wonder again how much more of this book had to be cut to make it fit the number of pages in the original Harlequin format.
Some of the secondary characters are a bit one-dimensional, and Fred the dog is more rounded than any member of either family, even the ex-husband. Nina's publisher boss is described as "beige", and I never really had much of a sense of her as a person. When she sacked Nina, I wondered how Nina was going to make it right, and had great hopes of her pulling a miracle out of her hat. Spoiler: that didn't happen, and that disappointed me.
Overall, however, a pretty satisfying read. Sure made my 45 minutes on the elliptical zip by. Thank goodness for enlargeable fonts on the iPhone. :)(less)
Having absolutely loved Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me, I hoped and expected to love this one equally, but I didn't. There were good parts - the dialogue, e...moreHaving absolutely loved Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me, I hoped and expected to love this one equally, but I didn't. There were good parts - the dialogue, especially between the romantic leads, sparkled and the leads themselves sizzled from time to time, and there wasn't a vampire or werewolf in sight - but much of the rest was rather uneven, and I often felt like I was being told what was happening, rather than being shown (the writerly dictum being "show, don't tell").
The premise strained my credulity somewhat, I admit, but this may be because I found it so unromantic. I well remember being over thirty and wanting fervently to meet someone I could build a life with. The difference between Kate and me, in that sense, was that I was hoping to find love, not a business partner I could have sex and breakfast with. I just didn't identify with that aspect of Kate. Not that all romantic heroines have to be starry-eyed romantics - they don't, and plenty of them aren't, and thank goodness for that - but this one didn't work for me.
Some of the characters leapt off the page at me (Penny), but lots of them didn't (the tall, distinguished influential businessmen that Kate 'dated', Valerie the alleged barracuda, Jake's brother Will), and Kate's friend Jessie felt like a single-purpose sounding-board kind of character. I thought she would be more important to the story, and was disappointed when she wasn't.
I found this book only OK, but I have more Crusie on my shelves, so I'll be giving her books more chances. (less)