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3 1/2 stars. I remember the first novella in this historical series, A Midnight Clear, as pure sweetnes(reviewed from an ARC provided by the authors.)
3 1/2 stars. I remember the first novella in this historical series, A Midnight Clear, as pure sweetness and optimism. Although this one starts with Thanksgiving, 1965, and ends with a happy epilogue on Valentine's day, it's a more sobering holiday read.
We've seen Margie and Mitch in previous books in the series: Margie is leader of the astronaut's wives, a bossy perfectionist, and Mitch is egotistical and has a "wandering eye." But their inner lives tell a more sympathetic story. Margie's talents for organization have become her whole life, after having to wrangle six children while her husband is frequently deployed, and then comes home to be the "fun parent" who disrupts the routine. And her fears for his life, first as a fighter pilot and then as an astronaut, have caused her to emotional and physically distance herself from him. Mitch is lonely and doesn't know how everything went wrong. (He is never actually unfaithful, though does cut it fine at one point.)
When Margie's carefully orchestrated Thanksgiving dinner winds up with no guests, they're left alone together, just what she doesn't want. But Mitch sees it as a chance to recapture the zest and passion of their first years together, if he can only figure out the right way to do it.
The story is poignantly and sensitively told, with flashbacks showing how Margie and Mitch got to this impasse, and a believable amount of effort following their commitment to try again. I particularly liked Margie's emotional arc, which brings her more fullfilment in life without requiring her to change who she basically is. ...more
The show "Hamilton" isn't an inspiration for fanfic here, but for three stories about the aftermath of(Reviewed from an ARC provided by the authors.)
The show "Hamilton" isn't an inspiration for fanfic here, but for three stories about the aftermath of the American Revolution for people who are fighting their own personal battles for equality. Rachel, a Jewish woman solider in male disguise, is fighting against the seemingly stifling demands of marriage and religion. John, a black solider, is fighting to protect his family. And Mercy, a black woman who works for Eliza Hamilton, is fighting -- if only in the most hidden corners of her soul -- for self expression. As if in the spirit of the show, all three are matched with loquacious, persistent partners who help them find both love and freedom.
I don't want to give a plot outline of Rose Lerner's "Promised Land," because I enjoyed the surprises in it. It's a passionate story about how war changes things, even our most heartfelt beliefs. And love... love also changes things.
I thought Courtney Milan's "The Pursuit Of..." the weakest of the three romances. It's a road trip/unlikely buddies turned lovers story, in which John is trying to get home to make sure his sister is safe, but finds himself somehow stuck with babbling British deserter Henry. Given the collection's inspiration, I can hardly complain about anachronisms, but I found much of the humor and cheekiness felt forced. It does have moving moments, and a smashing happy ending, but I think I actually enjoyed the author's notes more.
The first two stories focus a lot on societal oppression. During Lerner's story, I though Rachel was unfairly harsh on Nathan -- but by Milan's story, I realized that both Rachel and John were expressing the long-simmering anger of the oppressed. Despite being about two queer black women, Alyssa Cole's "That Could Be Enough" focuses more on internal repression. Mercy has been burned so badly, both as a lover and a poet, that she's tried to keep her heart safe and her words banal. But occasionally she slips up:
"Walked Angelica about the grounds three times. She did not want to talk, but was serene. Dusted Alexander in the foyer. Cleaned the front-facing windowsill. Bathed. Yearned."
(Shocked at herself, Mercy then inks out the last word and replaces it with "slept.")
But Mercy's determination to stay closed and contained is no match for Andromeda Stiel's vibrancy. Andromeda, a successful dressmaker and businesswoman, reminded me of real life black women I've read about, like Katherine Johnson from Hidden Figures and Trevor Noah's mother Patricia in Born a Crime. She's certainly not immune to racism, but her personality is so vital and confident, she generally comes out on top. As someone with a strong community, which she supports and is in turn supported by, Andromeda even has -- relative -- freedom to love. And she shows Mercy the possibilities that she's been denying for years... as well as the sensual fun of being measured for a dress by someone who really knows how.
It was fun to spot the "Hamilton" references in the collection, but I don't think you have to know the show to enjoy it. (Though you'll likely wind up doing some googling.) If you like poignant, historically informed historicals, don't miss it....more
I don't usually rate a book I didn't finish (I did read almost half of it) but I feel a responsibility to balance out the numerous glowing reviews. ThI don't usually rate a book I didn't finish (I did read almost half of it) but I feel a responsibility to balance out the numerous glowing reviews. The autism rep in this book is simply ghastly. Vivian, the autistic character, gets no point of view, always seen through the eyes of the narrator who thinks he's abnormal -- but hot! -- and treats him like a child. I don't want to get to sex scenes between these two, it would just be gross. ...more
3 1/2 stars. Disclaimer: this novella is dedicated to me! Well, okay, it's dedicated to any number of peo(reviewed from an arc provided by the author)
3 1/2 stars. Disclaimer: this novella is dedicated to me! Well, okay, it's dedicated to any number of people:
"For everyone who read Sweet Disorder and told me they would have married Mr. Moon."
Robert Moon is the adorable confectioner who wooed Phoebe with delicious goodies she failed to appreciate in Sweet Disorder. I remember wanting to pick him up and cuddle him. He is no less sweet here, even when in quite saucy situations. (Amazingly enough, I don't think there are sex scenes involving chocolate or caramel sauce, though some kitchen tools get quite a workout.)
Robert is well matched with Betsy, his adoring shopgirl, who manages to seduce him despite being almost as inexperienced as he is. The erotic parts of their romance are charmingly clumsy and experimental as the two figure out together what they enjoy. The fact that they're unsophisticated and diffident but still get their freak on really made the story for me.
They also make discoveries together about the forces driving them -- Robert's ambitions for his shop, and Betsy's ambitions to be a perfect wife to him -- and how to be more accepting of themselves as fallible human beings.
There are lots of atmospheric descriptions of period food, cooking and eating, and also just some lovely detail that bring the scenes to life:
"She laughed, setting the bonnet down with her gloves. Dappled sunlight snuggled up to her like a lover, making bright spots in her yellow hair and a sunny circle the size of a farthing on one striped shoulder."
If you enjoy historicals about everyday, untitled people, don't miss this one....more