Romy Fitzgerald was the quintessential good girl. She was a good student in school, built up her on succe Originally posted on The Librarian Next Door:
Romy Fitzgerald was the quintessential good girl. She was a good student in school, built up her on successful business and always figured marriage and children were in her future, someday. Then one Halloween, she has a fling with a guy in a Darth Vader costume and winds up giving birth to baby Luke nine months later. Though his arrival in the world was unconventional, Romy loves her son more than anything. She just wishes she could tell him more about his father. Then her old boyfriend, Kit Masterson, arrives back in town just as Romy undertakes a quest to find her mysterious Darth Vader. Kit has his own secrets to hide, but he – and Romy – are about to find out that secrets don’t stay hidden for very long.
She had me at “Darth Vader.” Seriously.
Frisky Business is Irish author Clodagh Murphy’s third book and definitely my favorite so far. By combining my enduring love of Star Wars (and, really, everything is better with Star Wars) with a sweet, laugh-aloud funny and entertaining contemporary romance, Murphy all but ensured that I would enjoy this novel. I first discovered Clodagh Murphy on a trip to Ireland three years ago and, ever since, I’ve gone out of my way to get my hands on her books. Sadly, they’re still not available in the U.S., but I firmly believe they’re worth paying the extra shipping to buy them from Amazon UK. With Frisky Business, you can tell Murphy is growing as an author. Her dialogue is quicker and wittier, her characterizations are sharper and the plots are tighter, with less extraneous material. As an author, she’s reminiscent of Sophie Kinsella, but with her own flair.
One of the highlights of Frisky Business is the great supporting characters who steal the spotlight. From Lesley and her “incident nook,” May and her wildly awkward sex lectures, and the sweet but dim Tank, these secondary characters feel every bit as important as the main characters. I especially Danny and Ethan, for being exactly who they were and not hiding any part of themselves.
Of course, it’s also easy to enjoy this novel because Romy is such a wonderful heroine. I mean, she sleeps with Darth Vader, then names her son Luke. How can you not love her? I loved how complete she was. Yes, she wanted a relationship and yes, she wanted to find Luke’s father, but she wasn’t wallowing in her life. She wasn’t sitting back and waiting for things to happen. She had a happy life all on her own, before a man ever enters the picture. And even though she seemed a bit too naive at times (I, for one, thought Kit’s secret was abundantly obvious from the start), she never let herself be a doormat. Romy is a genuinely nice person and, because of that, you root for her happy ending because she deserves it.
There were some parts of the novel that stretched credibility at times. Romy’s romantic relationships moved fairly quickly, which seemed a bit out of character for someone usually so cautious (then again, she did have sex with Darth Vader in a closet, so…) and it took the entire length of the book for me to come to like Kit. Still, Murphy manages to explore some “big” ideas (such as the idea of identity and who you are – especially in comparison to your family, and how people deal with the aftermath when life doesn’t turn out the way they plan), but she does so with a lighthearted touch, so it’s approachable and enjoyable.
Sometimes I feel like a one-woman American evangelist for Clodagh Murphy, but that’s a label I am more than willing to take on. Even if you don’t live in the U.K. or Ireland, I still strongly suggest you find a way to track down Murphy’s novels. Heck, I’ll even let you borrow my copies (and I rarely let people borrow my books, for fear that I will never see them again). If you’ve liked Sophie Kinsella or Marian Keyes, if you enjoy fun, summertime beach books, and especially if you love seeing Star Wars woven into a contemporary romance, Frisky Business is the book for you....more
I re-read this book recently and liked it a lot more than I did the first time. My original review is below, but I think I just allowed myself to enjoI re-read this book recently and liked it a lot more than I did the first time. My original review is below, but I think I just allowed myself to enjoy the romance this time and stopped thinking too much about the details.
Originally published on The Librarian Next Door:
Needing a break after her mother’s death, Autumn Haven heads to Las Vegas to blow off some steam. She doesn’t except to meet Sam LeClaire, bad boy hockey player. She really doesn’t except their whirlwind affair to lead to a quickie Vegas wedding and an equally quick – and bitter – divorce. They would never have to see each other again – if it weren’t for their son, Connor. Six years after the disaster in Vegas, Autumn and Sam barely communicate and rarely see each other. The only thing they have in common is Connor. But when a work event brings them together, both are forced into a new, uncertain relationship with one another. They might have a future together, if only they can let go of the past.
I’ve read a number of Rachel Gibson’s books revolving around the players and staff of the Seattle Chinooks hockey team. Some of them are great, some not-so-great. Unfortunately, Any Man of Mine falls into the “not-so-great” category. I definitely didn’t hate it, but I had a hard time warming up to both Autumn and Sam. Autumn is understandably quite guarded with her heart, but she also holds too tightly to grudges and resentments from years past. She’s willing to risk losing Sam because she can’t (or won’t) let herself move past everything that happened all those years ago. Sam, meanwhile, is a self-admitted jerk and a mostly absentee father. While I really liked his determination to make up for his past mistakes, especially when it came to Connor, I never really bought the reason why – the change from carefree hockey player to devoted dad seemed so sudden that I just never thought it made a lot of sense. Though I wanted to like Any Many of Mine more than I did, I realized about halfway through the book that I was more interested in the periphery characters from past books than I was in the two main characters. If you’re a Rachel Gibson fan or have read the other Chinook books, you’ll probably like this one. Otherwise, feel free to skip it....more
Rose Holland may have lived in Holland Springs her whole life – and be a member of the family that gav Originally published on The Librarian Next Door:
Rose Holland may have lived in Holland Springs her whole life – and be a member of the family that gave the town its name – but she’s never really felt as if she belonged. The Holland women dispense matchmaking advice and their “magical” beauty products, but they’re also accused of being home-wreckers. Rose has never fit in the last category and she’s most happy with her life. Then Alexander “Sasha” Romanov walks into town. Sasha is dangerously sexy and Rose is just in danger – of losing her head, losing her heart and losing her family’s home and land as part of a scheme by Sasha’s vindictive uncle to get his hands on the Holland Springs. Sasha’s an unwilling participant in his uncle’s plot, but he’s determined to to make things right, before his loses his heart to Rose as well.
Third Time’s a Charm is the second full-length novel in Marquita Valentine’s Holland Springs series. I read the first book, Twice Tempted, earlier this summer and while it was a fun summer beach book, I didn’t feel the need to write a review. So imagine my surprise when I started reading Third Time’s a Charm and was caught off-guard by how much more intense and well-developed this novel was. I certainly don’t want to diminish Twice Tempted in any way, but this second book is the series is much stronger than the first. Third Time’s a Charm clearly shows Valentine’s growth as an author. The characters are more roundly drawn and Rose and Sasha’s story is much more compelling, heartbreaking and hopeful. Plus, there’s just enough of a touch of fantasy and magic to keep things interesting.
One of the things I liked most about Third Time’s a Charm is Valentine’s decision to make things difficult for Rose and Sasha. Neither has an easy or enviable life before they meet each other, then they’re both tested repeatedly once they’re thrown together by circumstance. At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss both (especially Sasha) as flat and one-dimensional, but Valentine surprises readers. I wanted to hate Sasha for his scheming and obvious lies, for the way he repeatedly let Rose down again and again. But I couldn’t. Valentine makes you understand the impossible situation he’s in and shows how he tries to subvert his uncle in subtle ways. He’s not perfect, but he’s not evil either.
Meanwhile, I liked that Rose never wallowed. Though treated poorly by the town, her ex-boyfriend and even her father, she still manages to maintain her dignity. Even faced with constant scorn, she still keeps helping people. She’s not a saint (after all, no one likes a Mary Sue), but she simply keeps trying to make things better, even when blocked by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Her sense of inner strength is admirable.
So, of course, Sasha and Rose fall in love – how could they not? While the chemistry between them is intense and heart-racing (Valentine really knows how to prolong the anticipation and tease readers with little glances and subtle touches), Rose and Sasha’s relationship extends beyond the physical. Thanks to Rose’s influence, Sasha is propelled to break free from his uncle, while Rose learns to let go a little and not let every little snide comment or remark get her down. At the end of the day, they’re better together.
Third Time’s a Charm is Marquita Valentine’s second novel and and it clearly demonstrates her growing skill as an author. With more books to come in the Holland Springs series, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next....more
All her life, Bronte Talbot has been obsessed with the scandalous lives of the British royals. But whi Originally published on The Librarian Next Door:
All her life, Bronte Talbot has been obsessed with the scandalous lives of the British royals. But while she soaks up all sorts of gossip about their love lives, her own isn’t going so well. After moving to Chicago for her boyfriend, the relationship abruptly ends and Bronte starts looking for her Transitional Man, the rebound guy to get her back in the game. Enter Max Heyworth, who is charming, handsome – and British! Bronte’s dead set on keeping things with Max light and casual, determined not to make the same mistakes again. Then Max’s father dies and their relationship takes an unexpected turn: Max is actually a duke, one of those royals Bronte is always reading about. Now she has to decide if she’s willing to stay with him, despite all the trappings of aristocracy.
The ladies of The Ballroom Blog have never steered me wrong before, which is partly why I’m so disappointed that Megan Mulry’s A Royal Pain ended up as a “did not finish” book for me. I have great faith and trust in the Ballroom authoresses and they recommended Mulry’s debut novel on the blog. I loved the idea of the premise; after all, I’m a big fan of British fiction and Regency-era novels detailing the lives of fictional aristocrats, so I liked the idea of modernizing a romance between an “ordinary” woman and a duke. And, of course, I liked how the premise of A Royal Pain let me indulge in a little fantasy (since where else can we indulge in fantasies besides books and reading?). Alas, while the premise got me reading, the book itself couldn’t hold my attention. In the end, I gave up about half-way through the novel.
My primary source of frustration and disappointment with A Royal Pain was Bronte. Mulry sets up her main character as a smart, intelligent, career-driven woman who has so much to offer the world, but who also keeps falling for the wrong guys and making the wrong decisions when it comes to her romantic relationships. Despite outward appearances, Bronte has very little self-esteem and clings needlessly to distorted memories of her father. She’s so fixated on not repeating past mistakes that she ends up making even bigger ones with Max. She refuses to compromise (even though compromise is a very large part of mature adult relationships) and she refuses to let herself trust in Max. I kept wanting to shake her because she kept making one bad decision after another.
And yet, for all his charm and good qualities (he says what he means, he does what he says he’s going to do), Max wasn’t perfect either. He deliberately hid an important part of himself from Bronte, then simply expected her to embrace him with open arms once she discovered the truth. Furthermore, he kept planning for a long-term future, despite Bronte’s repeated declarations that their relationship was short-term. Instead of being honest and admitting that he wanted a future with her, Max assumed that he’d be able to talk Bronte into doing whatever he wanted.
Both main characters felt so flawed and so irredeemable that I just couldn’t finish the book. I assume they end up together eventually – it is a romance novel, after all – but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish when all I really wanted to do was slap some sense into both characters. Mulry does do a believable job of setting up Bronte and Max’s relationship at the beginning and it was easy to believe in her spin on the British royals. Her writing style is easy and straightforward and I think I would have liked A Royal Pain if I had liked Bronte and Max more.
I’m always disappointed when I don’t finish reading a book and this time, I was doubly disappointed because Megan Mulry’s A Royal Pain had come so highly recommended. I wish I had enjoyed the novel more and I wish I could have gotten past my frustrations with the main characters, but ultimately this book was not for me....more
So I went back to the beginning and read the first book in the series after reading all the others. I think it's obvious it's the first book, so I did So I went back to the beginning and read the first book in the series after reading all the others. I think it's obvious it's the first book, so I didn't like it as much as I love the later ones. But it was fun to see how Dan and Phoebe started, since their relationship is held up as the standard throughout the series. I even appreciate football a little bit more. ...more
Minerva Dobbs is risk-aversive. With her head filled with statistics, she does the research, considers Originally published on The Librarian Next Door:
Minerva Dobbs is risk-aversive. With her head filled with statistics, she does the research, considers the numbers, and makes a carefully considered decision. Calvin Morrisey loves to gamble and has a reputation for never losing. When Min overhears her ex-boyfriend make a bet that Cal can’t get Min into bed within a month, she gets angry – and then she decides she just might get back at him. After a disastrous first date, however, both Cal and Min are ready to cut their losses and say goodbye forever. But no matter how hard they try to avoid each other, they keep meeting again and soon Cal and Min are realizing that sometimes, some things are inevitable and you just can’t fight fate.
As much as I love the romance novel genre, I usually gravitate towards historical romance. But my most trusted Internet source for all things romance, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, kept raving about Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me, so much so that I finally caved (I’m especially susceptible to sales pitches) and started reading. And herein, dear bookworms, is the lesson: when Sarah Wendell tells you to read a specific romance novel, you READ THE DAMN NOVEL. Bet Me is laugh-out-loud hilarious, witty, clever and smart. I’m pretty sure I had a ridiculous smile on my face the entire time I was reading it (and since I read part of it while commuting into the city, I think I scared the other people on the T) and I hated having to put it down.
Bet Me draws you in and makes you want to spend more time with Cal, Min and their friends. Crusie creates a quirky group of characters who simply work; none of them are perfect, but all together, they make sense (even the crazy ones you want to strangle, like Cynthie, are integral to the book). There’s just the slightest tinge of something otherworldly, as Cal and Min keep getting pushed together, along with an unusually wise cat, Tony’s chaos theory pick-up lines, a continuous debate over the realistic nature of fairy tales, donuts (which play an exceptionally important role in one sexy scene) and two different Elvises (Presley and Costello).
I adored Min. I felt like I could completely relate to her. From her wariness of risks to her internal war on carbs, I found myself commiserating with her and understanding her so well. And yet, in spite of her insecurities, she still has this innate knowledge of her own fantastic-ness. She knows she deserves a great guy and she makes Cal work for her respect and affection, things that have always come so easily to him in the past. For his part, I loved that Cal gives himself the chance to fall in love with Min. She’s not his typical type. She’s not traditionally beautiful or stick-thin skinny, but when he gives himself the opportunity to get to know her, he realizes that she’s perfect for him. It’s a lot of fun to watch two people who initially hate each other fall for each other; their fights – filled with verbal foreplay – were a thrill to read. Best of all, they learn to admit their mistakes, to make amends and realize that the person they thought was all wrong turned out to be the person who is all right.
But perhaps the one thing I truly loved best about Bet Me happens at the very beginning of the novel. When Min’s friends encourage her to walk across the bar to talk to Cal, she resists at first, convinced that a guy like Cal would never be interested in a woman like her. And then she does something extraordinary: she goes anyway. This means she overhears the bet and sets in motion the chain of events and misunderstandings that shape the novel, but none of that would have happened if she hadn’t taken that first step. Despite her fears of rejection, despite the immobilizing terror that comes with putting yourself on the line, Min takes those few steps and walks towards Cal. It’s such a simple thing, and yet it’s so powerful. What if Min hadn’t walked over? What if she had never heard about the bet? In Bet Me, Crusie is reminding us that sometimes, all we need to take charge of our life is just a little bit of courage to do that one little thing that seems impossible.
There are a lot of people I trust, both in real life and on the Internet, to make good book suggestions. But I don’t always take other people’s advice, so I’m glad that this time I did, because I loved Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me. Everything about it, from its humor to its fabulous hero and heroine, was fabulous. Listen to Sarah Wendell, bookworms. She knows of what she speaks. And go read Bet Me. You can trust me on that....more
At first glance, it seems Gabriel Delange has it all – a successful career as one of France’s top chefs, Originally posted on The Librarian Next Door:
At first glance, it seems Gabriel Delange has it all – a successful career as one of France’s top chefs, his own three-star restaurant, and all the fame that goes with it. But Gabriel has never forgotten his past, and how his old mentor Pierre Manon pushed him out of the way and claimed Gabriel’s work as his own. So, naturally, Gabriel can’t stand to see the sight of his famous dessert, the Rose, on the cover of Pierre’s new cookbook. Pierre’s daughter, Jolie, wrote the cookbook and is now faced with keeping Gabriel’s lawsuit from her father as he recovers from a stroke. Jolie agrees to a devil’s bargain with Gabriel, helping him write his own cookbook in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. But fraternizing with the enemy is more dangerous than it looks; Jolie is in danger of falling in love, and Gabriel just might end up rethinking his plans for revenge.
The Chocolate Rose is Laura Florand’s third book in her Amour et Chocolat series, featuring the great (ficitional) pâtisseries and restaurants in France. In this novel, the action shifts from the busy bustle of Paris to the lazy, sun-drenched villages of Provence and the Côte d’Azur. Like the previous two books in the series, Florand brings a wealth of rich details to make readers feel as if they are right there with the characters, walking down ancient cobbled stone streets, breathing in the scent of jasmine and lavender. She also sprinkles the novel with French phrases and words, which may not work for every reader, but as an intermediate Francophone, I really enjoyed having the French mixed with the English (especially because Gabriel swears in French quite a bit – they don’t teach you those words in school).
I’m not always a fan of the “blackmail that turns into love” type of plot. If it’s not well written, it can end up feeling manipulative, instead of romantic. But in The Chocolate Rose, it works, and that’s in large part due to the wonderfully flawed, utterly frustrating and entirely loveable main characters, Gabriel and Jolie. In many ways, Gabriel is typical of Florand’s heroes: arrogant, self-assured and supremely confident – until Jolie walks into his kitchen and he completely falls apart. For all of his success, Gabriel still harbors some self-doubt and insecurity, in part stemming from his history with Jolie’s father, and in part because he’s so adorably clueless when it comes to women. Like Jolie, there were times when I wanted to slap him silly and then there were times when I wanted to hug him until his vulnerability went away.
I found Jolie harder to read; she kept so much to herself and spent so much time sacrificing her own desires. There were moments when I felt she was being too martyr-ish, but I also admired her love and dedication to her father, and her infectious enthusiasm for the art of food. Together, they both learn from each other and by the end of the novel, they are better people as a result.
Having now read three of Laura Florand’s books, one of the things I’ve been consistently impressed by is her ability to vividly describe the scenes in the restaurant kitchens, the pâtisseries, and in France itself. My knowledge of gourmet food and chocolate extends to one simple fact: I like to eat it. But by reading Florand’s words, I’m given a glimpse into these worlds, where the most exquisite plates are created and destroyed within the same breath. Her descriptions make these things and places come alive, so I can picture exactly where Gabriel’s restaurant might be and what it might look like, even though I’ve never been to Provence. Florand’s books drag you into a highly visual world. And I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: yes, this book will make you hungry. Just go with it.
If you haven’t yet discovered Laura Florand and her Amour et Chocolat series, you need to remedy that, immediately. The Chocolate Rose, like the famous dessert itself, is sweet and sumptuous, with a hidden center that will surprise you. Vivid descriptions, fantastic characters and plenty of sensual innuendo can be found within its covers. Find yourself some good chocolate, a comfortable chair and lose yourself in Gabriel and Jolie’s story.
Full disclousre: The author provided me with a copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review....more
You absolutely cannot miss Demonglass, the second book in the series in Rachel Hawkin’s Hex Hall serie Originally published on The Librarian Next Door:
You absolutely cannot miss Demonglass, the second book in the series in Rachel Hawkin’s Hex Hall series. Demonglass takes everything good about Hex Hall and makes it better. The mysteries get more complicated, the mythology of the Prodigium deepens and just about everyone is harboring a secret or two. This time, Hawkins shakes things up by moving the setting to England. Outside of the comfort, familiarity and relative safety of Hex Hall, Sophie now has to contend with the Council, the ever-present threat of the Eye and Nick and Daisy, two teenagers who are also demons – demons who should not exist.
Hawkins’ plot twists and turns at breakneck speed and keeps you constantly guessing. Like Sophie, readers are trying to figure out who – and what – to trust. Best of all, Sophie is still Sophie, with her trademark sarcastic wit that leaves you laughing aloud throughout the book. Just when I thought my girl-crush on Sophie couldn’t get any bigger, I read Demonglass. She’s still wickedly smart, but with just the right amount of vulnerability to make her completely lovable. I was especially glad to see how much stronger and tougher she was in this book. No longer content to wait for things to happen, Sophie takes charge, demands answers and goes looking for them when she doesn’t get them.
One of my favorite parts of the book was Sophie’s developing relationship with her dad. It’s clear from the start that Sophie is a regular chip off the old demon block. Her quick retorts and snarky comebacks are mirrored in her father’s dry sense of humor and it was fun to watch them realize how alike they really are. Despite his years of absence, James obviously cares for Sophie a great deal and though I’m certain there’s still a lot more to learn about him (and Sophie’s mother), I really loved the inclusion of a “good dad” in the story.
But for those more interested in boys, never fear! There’s plenty of swoon – and kissing – in Demonglass with Hawkins’ well-crafted supernatural love triangle. It would be easy to say that Sophie has to choose between bad boy / potential archenemy Archer and strong and silent Cal, but it’s not that simple. There is more to both guys than even Sophie knows and I really liked both of them. I still waver back and forth when trying to decide who I think Sophie should ultimately end up with. Kudos to Hawkins for writing a love triangle where all options are appealing – to readers and to the main character.
The most frustrating and aggravating part of this book (and I do mean that in the very best way) was the ending. Hawkins ends with a tantalizing cliffhanger that leaves you demanding the third book RIGHT NOW and in agony when you realize you’ll have to wait a year to find out what happens next. Though some answers are given, many more new questions arise – as a result, I now have plenty of theories about Book Three. Still, the ending is worth it because everything that comes before it is so exciting and good. As Rachel Hawkins is fond of saying, this book is made of awesomesauce and you would be crazy to miss it....more
The DUFF. The “designated ugly fat friend.” That’s what Wesley Rush calls Bianca Piper before she throws her Coke in his face. Bianca’s not really ugl The DUFF. The “designated ugly fat friend.” That’s what Wesley Rush calls Bianca Piper before she throws her Coke in his face. Bianca’s not really ugly or fat, but she thinks she isn’t as pretty or beautiful as her friends. Deeply cynical, but ultimately loyal, Bianca doesn’t have time for Wesley’s games. Her mother took off and has been absent for months, while her father teeters precariously on the edge of sobriety. Then one day, desperate for something to take her mind of her problems, she kisses Wesley and realizes she likes it. A lot. Bianca and Wesley embark on a clandestine “not-really-friends with benefits” arrangement. But as things heat up between them, Bianca realizes that there’s a lot more to Wesley than what he shows to others and, if she’s not careful, she could end up falling for the one guy she swears she hates.
Bianca is a familiar character with a distinctive voice. I found her incredibly realistic and relatable, especially when she was observing and commenting on the people around her. She uses cynicism and sarcasm to deflect deeper emotions and has a snarky sense of humor that isn’t fully appreciated by her peers. Since she narrates the story, you get a good sense of just how far she’s willing to go to avoid having to deal with her problems and you understand exactly why she does what she does. Most of the other supporting characters fell a bit flat in comparison, though Keplinger does give Wesley a nice bit of “bad on the outside, good on the inside” flair.
The DUFF is a young adult novel, so I especially liked that Keplinger depicted a (mostly) healthy view of teenage sex, complete with a few requisite mentions of birth control. Perhaps because Keplinger is a teen herself (the book was published when she was 18), there’s no judgment involved when Bianca and Wesley’s relationship becomes intimate – just fact. There’s also an awareness of the consequences, particularly when Bianca realizes that her feelings for Wesley are much more complicated than she would have liked.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that I loved The DUFF. The novel lacks that touch of nuance and subtlety. Little is left to the reader’s imagination as Keplinger more or less spells everything out. I never had to wonder what Bianca was thinking or what Wesley’s intentions were, because it was all there on the page. As I mentioned above, Keplinger wrote this novel when she herself was a teen, so that’s what readers get: a book about teens written by a teen. There’s a certain finesse missing that more experiences authors usually have. While this doesn’t take away from the good stuff, it does make for an overall weaker story.
Mostly, though, I think my experience with The DUFF was ruined by hype. There was so much buzz and chatter going on about this book in the book blogosphere and I am generally quite susceptible to hype – I fall for it all the time. So I think my expectations for reading Keplinger’s debut novel were higher than maybe they should have been. All of the positive, glowing, raving reviews set me up for a story that just wasn’t there when I read the book. I guess I didn’t see what others saw.
According to a quick Google search, Keplinger has another book coming out in 2011. I’ll be interested to see how that one compares to The DUFF and I’d also be interested to see how she progresses and evolves as a writer. I loved the idea behind this story and there were good aspects of The DUFF. In the end, though, I found myself wishing for more things left to the imagination and thought it was mostly “okay.” ...more
So here are the ten reasons I loved Sarah MacLean’s new book.
10. Sarah MacLean is from Rhode Island. Maybe that’s not a good reason for you, but it’s So here are the ten reasons I loved Sarah MacLean’s new book.
10. Sarah MacLean is from Rhode Island. Maybe that’s not a good reason for you, but it’s a good reason for me. Rhode Island is a small state. We get lost in the shuffle or compared to the size of icebergs floating in the icy, arctic waters. So whenever someone from Rhode Island does something awesome, I feel the need to be “Rhode Island REPRESENT!” Also, I see it as my solemn duty to evangelize to the rest of the world that Rhode Islanders are more than just Elizabeth Hasselbeck from The View and the guy who told President Obama to “shove it.”
9. The book is the second in a series and the first one was great. Ten Ways continues the story of the St. John siblings. Gabriel’s story comprised the first book, Nine Rules to Break, and it is one of my favorite Regency romance novels. I’ve read it so often that the binding is all worn down. So, naturally, it stands to reason that the second book in the same series by the same author would be wonderful as well – and it was.
8. It’s a Regency romance, so there’s lords and ladies and dukes, oh my! Given my obsession with enthusiasm for English Tudor and Georgian history, I really should have been born years earlier so I too could wear fancy ball gowns, waltz with notorious rakes and libertines and ride in carriages. Instead, I can live vicariously through books. I love nearly all Regency romances, but I especially love the ones featuring members of the aristocracy and nobility, two classes so far removed from my own life that I can’t help but be fascinated.
7. Of course, no book is a good book without good dialogue and, in Ten Ways, plentiful witty, clever banter abounds. In the grand tradition of Jane Austen’s spirited heroines, all good historical romances (like MacLean’s novels) should feature delicious wordplay and wickedly entertaining back-and-forth between many of the characters, engaging readers and eliciting laughs.
6. No romance novel is complete without a devilishly handsome hero! MacLean kicks it up a notch by giving Nicholas St. John a few secrets, one well-placed roguish scar and the classic trait of being entirely unable to resist a damsel in distress. And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, he’s a genuinely good person too, determined to help others and take care of those who need protecting. Swoon!
5. And what good is a hero without a kick-ass awesome heroine, with secrets of her own? Lady Isabel may need some assistance, but she’s no damsel in distress. She’s strong and independent, perfectly capable to taking care of herself and infinitely resourceful. She’s also resolutely determined to do things her way, even when that infuriates Nicholas.
4. One thing that makes Ten Ways stand up from other Regency romances is the undercurrent of feminism throughout the book. Isabel may be low on funds, but she’s essentially been running her estate for years, a task not often left to women. More importantly, though, she provides safe haven for women looking to escape desperate situations, resulting in a home run entirely by strong, capable women. It’s girl power, Regency-style.
3. It’s a romance novel, so of course, there’s lots of smooching. It wouldn’t really be a romance if there wasn’t some kind of smooching. Isabel and Nicholas’ chemistry is evident from the moment they meet and while it’s fun to watch them try to avoid and delay the inevitable, there’s a sense of satisfaction when they finally realize what you’ve known for chapters: they belong together.
2. No, really, there’s A LOT of smooching. Romance novels can run the gamut from tame to sizzling hot, with every sort of variation in between. Ten Ways doesn’t shy away from the fun, sexy times AT ALL. Nicholas and Isabel are not, after all, repressed Victorians! I’ve heard people argue that pre-marital fun, sexy times are unrealistic to a Regency romance and that’s a perfectly fine opinion to hold. But I’d rather just enjoy the chemistry. And the smooching.
1. Last, but certainly not least, Ten Ways concludes with a sweet and happily-ever-after ending. Obstacles have been overcome, mistakes have been corrected, forgiveness has been obtained and all is right in the world. Perfect endings are rare in real life, which makes them all the more rewarding in fiction.
You don’t have to read the previous book first to enjoy Ten Ways, though I’d recommend that one as well. In fact, I have to confess that, as much as I enjoyed Ten Ways, I still prefer Callie – the heroine from Nine Rules – more, as she is like the Regency equivalent of me (sort of). I’d also love to know what happens to some of the supporting characters in both books, which means I’ll just have to wait and see....more
Miss Juliana Fiori is no simpering, quiet English miss. She lives her life boldly and passionately. She d Originally posted on The Librarian Next Door:
Miss Juliana Fiori is no simpering, quiet English miss. She lives her life boldly and passionately. She disregards the rules of society and never thinks twice about saying exactly what’s on her mind. She is a favorite of London’s gossips, both because of her behavior and her scandalous family. She is everything Simon Pearson, Duke of Leighton, wishes to avoid. He places the highest importance on having an unimpeachable reputation. When Juliana’s actions put Simon’s reputation – and his secrets – at risk, he decides she needs to learn a lesson. But Juliana has plans of her own and sets out to prove that no one – not even Simon – can stay cold and unfeeling forever.
Sarah MacLean’s 11 Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart is the third (and, regrettably, final) book in the Love by Numbers / St. John siblings trilogy. I ADORED the first two books and therefore had high hopes and expectations for this third book. But I was also nervous – how can an author possibly top two of my favorite books from 2010? Well, I don’t know exactly how she did it (I personally suspect magic), but MacLean has delivered a thoroughly wonderful, thrilling and delicious book that is a worthy ending to this series. 11 Scandals is easily my favorite of the three books, thanks in part to the undeniable attraction between the two main characters.
On the surface, Juliana and Simon could not be more different. She is stubborn, determined and vibrant; he is cool and logical, always doing and saying the right thing. But they both put up false, fronts, hiding behind carefully cultivated personas and hiding so much of their true selves. Juliana pretends to scorn society’s opinion of her, but underneath her bravado is vulnerability and a longing for acceptance. Simon rarely deviates from the appropriate behavior, yet still struggles with the weight and responsibility of the dukedom and his family’s secrets, pushing aside his own desires for the sake of others. In reality, they are perfectly matched. While their chemistry is immediately obvious, the real treat is watching them discover the person behind the facade, learning new things about a person they thought they already knew.
MacLean is a wonderful storyteller, crafting a tale that draws you in and compels you to keep reading. Just when you think you’ve figured out how Juliana or Simon will act (or react) in a specific circumstance, MacLean manages to surprise – and delight – you with their behavior. And even when you’re convinced that there will be a happy ending, a few twists and turns (that I definitely didn’t see coming) pop up to keep you guessing. 11 Scandals is also quite humorous; I laughed aloud at many of Juliana’s antics and adventures, but Simon and Gabriel’s responses were even better. Having older brothers myself, I know exactly how exasperating a younger sister can be!
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the inclusion of characters from the previous two books. Of course, Juliana’s brothers Gabriel and Nicholas show up, along with their wives Callie and Isabel. But I was also glad to see members of Callie’s family and the women of Minerva House in Yorkshire. It felt comforting to see familiar faces and favorite characters from the past two books, especially since 11 Scandals helped provide a sense of completeness to all of the stories. (Spoiler-y side note: poor Benedict! He needs a chance to find his happy ending.)
11 Scandals will make you laugh with (and at!) Juliana, but your heart will also ache for her. You will find Simon (and even Gabriel and Nick, to lesser extents) infuriating and arrogant and then your heart will melt when they do something worthy and heroic. This book worth every minute of angst, worry, swoon and happiness. Juliana and Simon’s happy ending is hard-won and therefore that much more satisfying, because you feel as if they’ve fought for it and earned it. I cannot say enough good things about Sarah MacLean’s 11 Scandals to Start – it’s funny, sexy, entertaining and I highly recommend you read it.
(I received this book as an e-book ARC from Net Galley. I read it as part of Historical Tapestry’s 2011 Historical Fiction Challenge.)...more
Review originally posted at The Librarian Next Door:
Classical literature is classic for a reason: the stories – and characters – have weathered the ch Review originally posted at The Librarian Next Door:
Classical literature is classic for a reason: the stories – and characters – have weathered the changes in time and history and yet have still remained beloved. Fictional characters become real to readers, forging literary friendships and delighting us over and over again with adventures that never seem to grow old. Indeed, where would I be – where would any of us be – without Lizzie Bennett, Anne Shirley or Laura Ingalls? There heroines played a large role in my childhood and now, thanks to a thoughtful book by Erin Blakemore, I’m still learning from them as an adult.
The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder is a series of essays that explore the lives of the female authors and their famous heroines, extracting important and vital lessons. Blakemore digs deep into the authors’ pasts to uncover how their own lives informed the creation of their characters’ lives and what, exactly, a 21st century woman – a heroine in her own life – can learn from them. Each heroine/author pair is examined through the lens of one particular quality; Jane Austen and Lizzie Bennett, for example, embody “self” while Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre are, of course, “steadfastness.”
The Heroine’s Bookshelf may not have been written for me, but it may as well have. In the introduction, Blakemore reveals her own bookworm tendencies, thereby guaranteeing that I would love her and this book:
“Call me a coward if you will, but when the lines between duty and sanity blur, you can usually find me curled up with a battered book, reading as if my mental health depended on it. And it does, for inside the books I love I find food, respite, escape, and perspective. I find something else too: heroines and authors, hundreds of them, women whose real and fictitious lives have covered the terrain I too must tread.”
From the start, I knew I would find kindred spirits in this book, but I also found a sense of comfort and familiarity, a feeling that comes with revisiting literary friends I know so well. This book also conveys a sense of discovery. I was pleasantly surprised to learn things that I didn’t know before, both about the authors I’ve loved since I was a child and the characters who have become as real to me as any living person. I also truly enjoyed the fact that Blakemore included many of my favorites (Austen, Bronte and Alcott), but also exposed me to a few heroines I’m learning to love in a new way for the first time (I’m looking at you, Miss Scarlett O’Hara).
One of the reasons I think The Heroine’s Bookshelf works so well is because these authors and their heroines struggle with issues that are universal. There’s a timelessness to these stories, which makes it easy to go back and re-read them time and again and still find a new way of looking at them. While my 21st century live might be very different from Lizzie Bennett’s economic and marriage woes or Mary Lennox’s magic garden, there are still things they can teach me, still ways in which our lives do connect. For all of their flaws – and for all of my own – these heroines are women who triumph, women who find their own way, and there’s certainly a lot to be said for taking that lesson and applying it to my own life.
Every reader has his or her own relationships with and memories of these heroines. These women mean different things to each of us and that’s part of what makes The Heroine’s Bookshelf so great. While the lessons therein are largely universal, every reader will have a different experience with this book because we all have our own way to relating to these fabulous characters. My Lizzie Bennett might be quite different from yours, and that’s okay because neither one is wrong. The Heroine’s Bookshelf is a must-read for any literature lover, for any girl or woman who grew up with these characters or anyone who just loves looking beyond the surface and seeing more of a character or author.
“As women, we are the protagonists of our own personal novels. We are called upon to be the heroines of our own lives, not supporting characters…luckily, we’re not required to be brave to be heroines…all we have to do is show up for our own stories. Even if the reality is less glamorous than fiction, even when it feels impossible to tap into a spirit that’s bigger and better than you, but IS you, we’re called upon to lead big, sloppy, frustrating lives.”