Category: JC's Reviews
Review: The Next Best Thing
JC's Review: I'm only half way through The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins, but so far it has been a really good read. The women of Lucy's family are notoriously called "The Black Widows" because their husbands die young. Lucy is the newest Black Widow after her husband dies in a car crash after 8 months of marriage. The book begins a few years after the accident with Lucy realizing she wants a family. But there are two problems: She only wants to risk marriage with someone she is willing to lose to the family curse, and that means she has to end her relationship with Ethan, her best friend (with benefits). Adding to the twist is the fact that Ethan is her late husband's younger brother.
I'm enjoying this book because Lucy is such a three dimensional character. She has a job in the family bakery, but is frustrated because no one will listen to her ideas, and her talents as a pastry chef are being wasted. She still loves her husband, and her grief is quite real. And she is torn up with guilt over her relationship with Ethan, and trying to make sense of it. I can't speak to the ending because I haven't gotten there yet, but so far, I would recommend this read.
JC's Review: A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh is the fifth book in the Huxtables series, so if you haven’t read any before, start with First Comes Marriage. In A Secret Affair we get to find out about all the secrets that Balogh has hinted at in the previous books as the story follows Constantine, the cousin who missed out on the Huxtable inheritance by being born two days before his parents’ marriage.
In my opinion, all of the books in this series are good, but the first and last are the best. Constantine is an interesting hero, and his love interest, the Duchess of Dunbarton is fascinating. This book looks at image versus identity, rumour versus reality, and the two main characters have to come to terms with the public personas that they play and the vulnerability that comes with letting another person in on their personal secrets.
One thing I love about Mary Balogh is that she excels at character development. I grow very tired of romance novels that make ridiculous generalizations about characters and expect the reader to just accept them as character development. I have set aside so many romance novels where the hero notices something about the colour of the heroine’s dress or the way she holds her spoon, and essentially says "this means she is independent" or some other character trait. Balogh would never insult her reader this way, and instead lets the personalities of her characters slowly unfold and even evolve. So, if you are looking for quality writing and intriguing storylines, Mary Balogh is the writer for you.
One of the great things about RPL joining its catalogue with other libraries is that it gives us a chance to revisit older titles that we've read in the past that might now be out of print. This is a dangerous undertaking because there is no guarantee that a book you loved 10 years ago will be a book that you love today.
I recently revisited The Endearment by LaVyrle Spencer, a book I first read in high school. The Endearment is about a young Boston woman who answers an ad for a mail-order wife under less than honest circumstances, and travels to the American frontier with no skills and a secret younger brother. Her husband-to-be values integrity, and is hopeful that they can be good partners to each other even though she obviously lied about her situation.
This book really appealed to the Little House on the Prairie fan inside of me. Although the central drama of the story is full of marital angst and a sweet love story, the practical day to day happenings of living on the frontier really appealled to me. I learnt about gardening, log house building, and the importance of potatoes for surviving the long winter. So, if you liked Little House on the Prairie, and you like sweet romance novels with a bit of steam, then The Endearment is for you.
Knight of Desire by Margaret Mallory
In order to escape an abusive marriage, Lady Catherine Rayburn spies for the crown, and finds evidence to condemn her terrible husband. What she doesn't count on is that her lands will become forfeit, and that she must marry the man who takes them over or face life in the Tower.
I generally don't read any historical romances except Regencies, so this book which is set in the 1400's in England was a bit of departure for me. It had a strong opening, and would be a good read for people who like strong, stubborn heroes, and situations where the heroine needs saving.
I've just picked up The Season by Sarah MacLean, and is it ever good! Written for a teen audience, The Season follows 17 year old Alex as she embarks on her first season among the London ton. With her are her two best friends, three older brothers, and her childhood friend Gavin, the delicious Lord Blackmoor. With the new responsibilities in their lives, Gavin and Alex begin to see each other not as childhood companions, but as contemporaries, and sparks begin to fly.
This book stands out to me for a few reasons. It has so much more detail than many of the Regencies I have read in the past. When Alex makes her debut at Almack's, I could hear the crowd, and see the candles dripping wax from the ceilings. As well, the romance between the two leads has a strong emotional core, rather than being based purely on a physical attraction. Lastly, the characters are young, and enjoy being young. They are in no rush to find marriage or responsibility, and are a bit overwhelmed by the adult status that has so arbitrarily been forced upon them. I haven't quite finished it yet, but so far I highly recommend this title.
If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you will know that we are big fans of Lisa Kleypas. She is one of the few authors who writes great historical and contemporary romance, and her writing has a real flair for humor. Her newest book, Tempt Me at Twilight, is the third book in the Hathaway series, and we couldn't wait to check it out.
Poppy Hathaway loves her family dearly, but would like to have a more conventional, normal life. Harry Rutledge, an American hotel owner, is anything but conventional and admires Poppy because she is unlike anyone he has ever met. A successful businessman, Harry will do anything to make Poppy his wife, even if it requires him to break her heart in the process.
I've just finished reading Tempt Me at Twilight, and I strongly recommend it. The main characters are interesting, and I really liked how unapologetic the hero is when doing something ruthless. And if any of you have read the previous two Hathaway books (Mine Till Midnight and Seduce Me at Sunrise), you will be pleased to know that secondary character Leo Hathaway (a scene stealer with a fascinating story) figures heavily in this book, and even has a bit of a cliffhanger ending.
I can't wait for the next one!
Time to Revisit a Good Read
The year is ending and instead of looking back at the books I have read this year, I've decided to reflect on an author I have read for several years, and have enjoyed immensely.
Fiona Walker writes chicklit about single women in Britain, and explores their romantic adventures with lots of comedy and wordplay. Her style of writing features multiple characters, and has delicious side stories that compliment the action of her main characters. If you are new to Walker's writing I suggest you start with Snap Happy, where a curvaceous stand up comedian struggles through a series of misunderstandings with a handsome American.
I've discovered a new favorite in the Regency Romance genre. Meredith Duran writes romance novels with strong characters, epic events and thoughtful narratives. Her characters have depth, and the writing style is descriptive without sacrificing plot.
In The Duke of Shadows, Emmaline is moving to India to marry. While there she meets Sinclair, and embarks on a love affair that will change her entire life. But when war breaks out, will they be able to find each other? A vivid romance.
Feel like reading a humorous historical romance? Then pick up What Happens in London by Julia Quinn.
Summary: When Olivia Bevelstoke is told that her new neighbor may have killed his fiance, she doesn't believe it for a second, but, still, how can she help spying on him, just to be sure? Sir Harry Valentine works for the boring branch of the War Office, translating documents vital to national security. He's not a spy, but he's had all the training, and when a gorgeous blonde begins to watch him from her window, he is instantly suspicious. But just when he decides that she's nothing more than an annoyingly nosy debutante, he discovers that she might be engaged to a foreign prince, who might be plotting against England. And when Harry is roped into spying on Olivia, he discovers that he might be falling for her himself . . .
Review: I really enjoyed the main characters in this story. Olivia and Harry were laugh out loud funny, and the amusing situations they find themselves in nicely undercut the seriousness of the political/spy storyline. Julia Quinn has a real talent for creating original, clever characters, and her dialogue is some of the best I have read in this genre. Highly recommended.
The importance of good secondary characters
Have you ever noticed how sometimes it isn't the hero and heroine that really get your attention in a book, but instead it is the secondary characters? In The Dangerous Duke, Lady Kate Fairchild threatens to publish a book of memoirs full of scandalous secrets about the uppercrust, unless her brother is freed from prison. However, instead of having the effect she expected, she finds her life in danger, and has to rely on Maxwell Brooke an operative from the Home Office to protect her.
While Kate and Maxwell's story was an okay read, it was the side story that stole the show. Maxwell's sister Louisa and the dangerous Jardine have a very mysterious relationship, but Jardine's cold commitment to his work makes it impossible for Louisa to trust him. Rumor has it that author Christine Wells is currently working on their story, and I cannot wait until it is published.
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