Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey (audio)

Book Description:
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin" -- Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately half-hearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

This is a very, very funny book. 

I'm an old school Saturday Night Live fan. I watched the first season with Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.  I watched many a classic episode in the 70's with Steve Martin hosting.  Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman - household names!  But, as I got older I never really got into the show after high school.  Yeah sure I've seen it here and there, caught some Eddie Murphy and Dana Carvey episodes, but I wasn't a faithful watcher every Saturday night like I was back in the '70's during the Carter and Ford years.

I'm still not a faithful watcher.  Even after reading this book.  But, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the incredible talent and humor of Tina Fey.  After reading this book, I really love her!  I want to be friends with her!  I want to sit down with her in my kitchen and have her tell me more stories about her life.
"Tell me more anecdotes about your father, Don Fey!"  
 Tina always refers to her father as "Don Fey," as if in the third person.  Not "my father did this or that", it's "Don Fey did this" or "Don Fey did that."  It's never just "Don."  It's always "DonFey"  as if it's all one word.  Got it?  It's probably because he is such a cool dude, respected by all.  He doesn't take sh*t from anyone.  Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels are both kind of in awe of him - really!  He's also a Republican (Tina Fey is not, surprise, surprise.)

I didn't want this book to end.
"C'mon Tina, please?' Can't we hear more funny stories about college?"  or "Tell me some more stories about what a photo shoot is really like!"  Please? Please?"
One of the things I loved about this book was her take on life in general and as a working mother and dealing with all the little things that go on it with it were so true!  I can so relate to her little conundrums and problems in my own little private non-celebrity way.  I'm not famous and I don't have a full time nanny, but I know what it's like to be afraid to criticize your babysitter too!  I've been there! *raising hand* Yup!  It's adorable how she calls her nanny a babysitter instead of a nanny!  And she's the first to point it out and why she does it! She's so cute!

Those every day things and chores especially around the holidays?  Tina says things aloud - things I've been dying to say!   The way you feel about your body - particularly after having a baby or what it's like getting your nails done at a Korean nail salon in NYC - yes, been there done that.  So true!

Tina takes us on a journey from being a little girl in Pennsylvania (somewhere near Philadelphia) to head writer at Saturday Night Live to today as star and writer of 30 Rock (I've never seen it, hence the low ratings - and yet I still love her!)  We hear about what it was like for her growing up - getting her period, being hairy (she's half Greek), going to UVA, dating, her honeymoon cruise to Bermuda, her drudge job working at a YMCA in Chicago, working at Second City TV (I loved that show!), her first interview with Lorne Michaels, what it's like to work with him - and Alec Baldwin.  She's very proud of what she's accomplished as well, particularly in giving women at SNL a chance to shine.  And of course she talks about the whole Sarah Palin thing and how she got roped talked into doing it.

I'm skimming a lot and leaving about 95% of the book out.  It's short and a quick read, but trust me, it's a scream.  I don't mean you'll be screaming with laughter.  But, you will chuckle and nod your head through most of it.  She is on target with everything.

I found that after finishing it, because she had been inside my head so much (from the audiobook), I started to talk like her.  I found myself emulating Tina Fey without even realizing it.  I'd whisper funny little asides or disclaimers to nobody in particular during my busy day.  I became much more aware of things around me, as if thinking "What funny thing would Tina have to say about that?" and then I'd sort of test something out in my head.  Unfortunately, it was never quite the same and this only lasted for a few days until I realized I am not as funny as Tina Fey and never will  be!  Not even close!  I quickly gave up trying (even if it was only inside my head) and went back to normal soon enough.

One caveat about this book - you must be a woman to appreciate it fully.  I'm sorry if I sound sexist and un-PC, but it's the truth.  I just don't think guys are going to want to hear about sanitary napkins and girly girl things.  Whereas women - they'll totally get it and laugh.  I know I sure did.  Tina narrates it herself on the audiobook and it really is like hanging out with her.   She has the kind of humor and style I love.  Relating to her is easy!  Tina Fey is an inspiration on so many levels, particularly to women who want to get into her line of business.  Some of the things she discusses are hilarious!  It still boggles my mind about men and paper cups!  Her humor is sometimes deadpan, often dry and always conversational.  She doesn't sound like she's trying to get a laugh out of you.  It's seamless, subtle and magic. 

A real winner!


P.S. I tend to agree with her parents, the cover is kind of weird.

Highlander Ever After by Jennifer Ashley

Book Description:
Egan MacDonald was the one person Princess Zarabeth couldn't read. Yet even without being able hear his thoughts, she knew he was the most honorable, infuriating, and deliciously handsome man she'd ever met. And now her life was in his hands. Chased out of her native country by bitter betrayal and a bevy of assassins, Zarabeth found refuge at the remote MacDonald castle and a haven in Egan's embrace. She also found an ancient curse, a matchmaking nephew, a pair of debutantes eager to drag her protector to the altar, and dark secrets in Egan's past. But even amid all the danger raged a desire too powerful to be denied.... 

Third and final installment in Ashley's Nvengaria series, this is Egan, the Mad Highlander's story. It was okay, but not as good as the first two books.  It was disappointing because I really liked Egan's character in the previous books, but I suspected his story would be somewhat of a let down because we already knew he loved a woman who married another and Egan could never get over it.

Egan is now back at his home in the Scottish Highlands near Ullapool.  His life is about to change big time.  The love of his life, the girl that got away - Zarabeth - has left her traitorous Nvengarian husband and has been smuggled out of Nvengaria (a mythical kingdom somewhere in Eastern Europe) to the wilds of the Scottish Highland where she will be safe at Egan's castle until she can get her divorce.  Old friends with Egan, her father knows she will be safe in his care while fleeing from her ruthless husband.

This is one of those stories where the hero and heroine are in love with each other, but neither one will act on it.  It took forever for Egan and Zarabeth to finally get together, though inside both were dying to. The constant stand off between them grew tiresome and I never really bonded with Zarabeth, though I liked Egan.  Egan, a handsome highlander is too noble to bed Zarabeth while she is still married.  He will wait until her divorce is final.  But even then, he's worried he's not good enough for her and will be unable to provide her with the expensive kind of lifestyle she's been accustomed to.  She's torn about Egan, one minute she wants him, the next minute she hates him, mostly because Egan keeps giving her mixed signals!  Zarabeth could care less about gowns and jewels.  She takes to the Highland life immediately and loves meeting his family and neighbors. It's what she has always longed for.  Do either of them discuss this with one another?  No!  So, they have this constant miscommunication through the whole book!

Meanwhile, someone has infiltrated Egan's castle and is trying to kill Zarabeth.  It was a bit anti-climatic about who it was, and the demise of Zarabeth's evil husband back in Nvengaria was also a let down - almost to the point where I didn't believe he was really dead.  Of course, all I could think of was - good, now he's dead so Egan and Zarabeth can finally get together!  Egan doesn't have to worry about sleeping with a married woman.  But no, then her father shows up and Egan is torn, how can he sleep with Zarabeth right under her father's nose as a guest in his own castle?  Aargh!  I was ready to throw the book at the wall at this point. 

What happened to the charming, sexy, swaggering Egan from the previous books?  Mealy-mouthed Zarabeth had him tied up in knots and I just couldn't figure out what he saw in her in the first place.  Maybe you will.  

There's also a minor side plot going on with Egan's widowed sister and a logosh (a mystical shift-changing animal unique to Nvengaria) who is sworn to watch out for Zarabeth.  I kept wondering if we had already been introduced to him in the previous books or not.  He had a background story and I felt like the reader should have been given more information about him to understand where he was coming from.  Their storyline was brief, but I liked it and almost preferred it over Egan and Zarabeth's!  Maybe his story continues in one of the author's other shift-changer series (which I have yet to read.)

All in all, I enjoyed this series, but this last one book of Egan's was seriously lacking.  Still, despite this minor set back, Jennifer Ashley is a favorite of mine.  I've loved just about everything else I've read by her, so this is just a blip in the radar as far as I'm concerned.   Still, if you haven't read the first two books in this series, I would not bother with this one, or who knows, maybe you'll like this one better if you haven't read the first two.  It could go either way. Going through her back-list is helping me while waiting for the next installment of her Victorian Highland Pleasures series featuring the Mackenzie Brothers.  comes out next week!  I can't wait! 


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Eight by Katherine Neville (audio)

Book Description:
New York City, 1972—A dabbler in mathematics and chess, Catherine Velis is also a computer expert for a Big Eight accounting firm. Before heading off to a new assignment in Algeria, Cat has her palm read by a fortune-teller. The woman warns Cat of danger. Then an antiques dealer approaches Cat with a mysterious offer: He has an anonymous client who is trying to collect the pieces of an ancient chess service, purported to be in Algeria. If Cat can bring the pieces back, there will be a generous reward. 

The South of France, 1790—Mireille de Remy and her cousin Valentine are young novices at the fortresslike Montglane Abbey. With France aflame in revolution, the two girls burn to rebel against constricted convent life—and their means of escape is at hand. Buried deep within the abbey are pieces of the Montglane Chess Service, once owned by Charlemagne. Whoever reassembles the pieces can play a game of unlimited power. But to keep the Game a secret from those who would abuse it, the two young women must scatter the pieces throughout the world. . . .

On audio, this was an engrossing story that revolves around a legendary chess set known as the Montglane Service.  Once owned by Charlemagne, the priceless set is rumored to give untold power to whoever owns it in it's entirety.  The individual pieces of the chess service have been hidden for centuries but the hunt for them has never ceased.  The story flips back and forth between 1972 and 1790's France, following the "real life" chess game with it's various players who are trying to get their hands on the various chess pieces. With a Da Vinci Code sort of plotline, loaded with mystery, suspense, historical intrigue, murder and some humor - I enjoyed it.  I imagine being a chess player helped enormously as well.  Fortunately, I've been playing chess as long as I can remember. 

The story focuses on two main characters. Catherine Velis, our heroine from the 1972 portion of the book, is a CPA for one of the Big Eight firms in New York City (get it - Big Eight?)  She's a brilliant mathematician and computer whiz.  She's also a music major.  Basically, she covers all the bases of what is needed for later on in the story to crack the code of how to find the Montglane Service, which is complicated. The only thing she doesn't seem to know is how to play chess.  That's where Lily comes in.  The daughter of a dear friend of Catherine's, Lily is a grand master chess player.  She's also one of the best parts of the book.  I loved Lily, with her bleach blond hair, New Yawk accent and penchant for driving in a powder blue Rolls Corniche (that has no roof - which comes into play later in the book in a sand storm, no less!)  Catherine and Lily make the unlikeliest of female buddy teams a la Thelma and Louise.  Both become embroiled in the modern day search for the medieval chess pieces.  Fending off Russian spies and nasty Algerian secret police, they travel from New York to Algiers and back again, crossing deserts and oceans.  All to find out what is the big deal about these friggin' pieces and why people are committing murder to get them!  Most of the time Cat and Lily are clueless about the very real danger they're in, but gradually with the help of other players in the game, they catch on.  Catherine (Cat) has a love interest or two which added a little sizzle to the story, but for the most part, the story centers on the search and mystery behind the pieces.

The other side of the story centers on Mireille. A young novitiate at Montglane Abbey in 1790, her life is turned upside down during the "Terror" after the onset of the French Revolution.  Mireille is one of a few who must protect the Montglane Pieces at all costs.  Many have died guarding these pieces and Mireille takes her job very seriously.  She travels from Paris to Corsica to Algeria.  Mireille is fearless and her whole life becomes dedicated to guarding the pieces to make sure they never get into the hands of power hungry despots who are aware of their legend and crave their power.  We visit the court of Catherine the Great of Russia and the home of French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a confidante and lover of Mireilles.  We follow her as she avenges her cousin, Valentine - a memorable moment with Jean-Paul Marat.  We follow her adventurous lifetime, which brings us to the conclusion and the ultimate revelation of what is so special about these pieces.  I found it slightly anti-climatic, but it all made sense. 

I really enjoyed much of this book, some parts dragged, but other parts made up for it.  It has been on my TBR list for a long time and I'm glad I finally tackled it.  The plot is complex, but I was still able to follow it on audio, which was narrated by Susan Denaker.  She did a great job with the accents, although sometimes Cat and Lily sounded too alike.  I'm leaving a lot out in order to avoid spoilers, but if you enjoy books like The Da Vinci Code and The Historian that have a detective story intermingled with an historical and mystical legend then you'll probably enjoy The Eight.

This book takes you from modern day Fifth Avenue to the intrigue and power of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.  We live in the post-revolutionary home of artist, Jacques-Louis David in Paris and travel to the timeless beauty and danger of the deserts of North Africa and Casbah of Algiers.  If ever a story will spark your wanderlust, this is it. I know it sure did with me!  I recommend it.


Friday, July 22, 2011

And The Bride Wore Plaid by Karen Hawkins

With less than a month to go before I find myself smack dab in the middle of the Scottish Highlands for my dream vacation, I'm reading and reviewing more and more Scottish based books to get myself in the mood.  On another note, wish me a happy birthday - today I celebrate a milestone - half a century!  Yes, believe it or not!  Everyone says 50 is the new 35 - I sure hope so!

Without further ado...

Book Description: 
Devon St John has never had a problem in his life—until now. Born to wealth and privilege, surrounded by a warm and loving family, he has pursued a life of leisure, chasing the most beautiful women London has to offer. All told, he has the perfect life and no intentions of ever settling down in any shape, form or fashion. So resolved, he heads to his friend’s Scottish castle, unaware that fate is already hard at work.

Once upon a time, a beautiful woman locked away her heart from all who might try to enter ...  Katherine Macdonald once tasted the bitter poison of a broken heart. To protect herself, Kat put her feelings into a deep slumber. Now she lives in a cottage in a mystical wood where, assisted by seven hulking Scotsmen, she makes stained glass of magical beauty, happy in her isolation until ...

One day, a charming prince with black hair and deep blue eyes came riding into the mist-shrouded forest ...

Devon St. John has found himself in possession of the St. John talisman ring that curses the holder by clasping a wedding band on his finger when he least expects it. Devon vows that he will never give up his beloved freedom -- even when an impulsive kiss from a beautiful Scotswoman with red gold hair casts a tantalizing spell ...

And the Bride Wore Plaid was an enjoyable story, furthering the curse of the talisman ring and the St. John brothers. This is Devon's story. While visiting a friend in Scotland, Devon meets the beautiful and lush (which is code for "big girl" size) half-sister of his host.  Kat is somewhat damaged goods, having fallen for someone years before who stole her innocence and left her in the lurch.  Determined to seduce her, Devon is convinced that he will thwart the curse of the ring by going after someone that is unsuitable for marriage (the talisman ring is supposed to hook him up with his future bride).  Kat is naturally hesitant to get involved with anyone, having been burned in the past and she puts off Devon as much as she can.  But, as usual, a tall handsome (and rich) aristocrat bent on seduction is too hard to resist.  I had a bit of trouble with Devon's unscrupulous designs on Kat, which really affected my overall opinion of their courtship.  Plus, it bugged me that he just automatically thought Kat was not good enough for him to marry at first.  I was won over eventually because of the happily ever after ending, but both hero and heroine made it hard for me to really get into this book.

Kat suffers from not only the fact that she's "ruined" but that she's tall and what is considered ungainly by the current standards of Regency fashion.  She's also very stubborn and I found it hard to warm up to her.  Yes, I know she has a deep seated inferiority complex, but I still found it hard to like her! Devon thinks of her as anything but ungainly, he likes her curves...  She's nothing like what he's encountered before and he's into it!  But, as I mentioned above, I had trouble with the fact he thinks he can tumble her over the course of a few weeks and then leave and be on his merry way back to England.  How can he treat his friend's sister so badly?  This was a major flaw in Devon's character as far as I was concerned.  But, as Devon sees more of Kat while riding and going on picnics he realizes he enjoys her just for the sake of her company and conversation, not necessarily lust - though lust is still a major part of his motivation.   It takes a good part of the book for him to put two and two together and realize Kat is his true love and he wants to marry her and do the honorable thing by her - the talisman ring has done it again (though Devon doesn't know it yet.)

Meanwhile Kat is skittish and is not interested in marriage to anyone, much less to Devon who is relentless!  Soon she succumbs to his charms and sleeps with him.  What else is she supposed to do when he climbs up a tree in the rain and raps at her bedroom window in the middle of the night?  What happens next?  She winds up becoming the one who drags her feet when heading to the altar.  Now the tables are turned.  Once she does finally give into her passion with Devon, she tries to avoid him until the night of the big ball (there are lots of fairy tale allusions throughout the whole book, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella.)  Devon, who is normally fancy free with nary a care in the world becomes obsessed with getting Kat!  How can he make her come around to him?  He knows there's an attraction, the two of them scorch the pages while together, but she's unconvinced in Devon's sincerity and feels he'll tire of her.  You see he told her about his fear that he'll never find "the one."  Every time he's interested in someone, as soon as he gets her, he loses interest in her and can't wait to move on to the next.  He never should have opened his big mouth!  She won't believe that he feels differently about her, in fact it takes him forever to realize it himself!  But, the ring never lies.  Even the one time Kat tried it on, she got all hot and bothered and there was a definite reaction to it!

Overall, I liked the story.  It was diverting and I loved the setting, but it was not up to par with the earlier books in the series.  Devon changed his tune eventually and wanted to do the honorable thing and marry Kat, but I still couldn't help holding it against him about his original intentions. Plus, her brother didn't seem to be all that worried about his sister either!  Even her big hulking highland workers who were suspicious of Devon at first cottoned to him after a night of drinking and brawling.  Men!  

Kat was hard to get used to as well. The "I want you" then "I don't want you" business grew tedious after a while and she was prickly and moody.  One minute she wanted to be with Devon, allowing him to kiss her, no less, when he thinks she's a maid when they first meet!  Then, next thing we know, she's all cold and reserved around him.  To be honest, dare I say it?   Kat did nothing for me.  The bratty and vain Murien, Kat's sister-in-law was a much more interesting character.  

Did I sympathize with either Devon or Kat and their mixed up feelings?  No.  After a while, I became more interested in the side story going on with Kat's brother and his wife who were having marital problems. 

Oh well, I'm still into this family of brothers and the ring.  We'll see what happens in the next and last of the series with the eldest of the St. John brood.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guardian Angel by Julie Garwood

Book Description:

The Emerald flew across the seas, carrying the pirate Pagan — despised by the ton, whose riches he plundered, and beloved by the poor, whose plight was eased by his gifts.

The Marquess of Cainewood vows to hunt down the pirate wretch in revenge for his brother's death. But when Jade, an enchanting vision of rippling red hair and eyes of jewel-green, appears at his door to beg desperately for his protection, the Marquess agrees to keep her safe from the villains who want her dead. Jade is infuriating, exasperating, and gorgeous; Caine is noble, strong-willed, and powerful. No woman has ever befuddled him so, nor so deeply aroused his desire. But as Jade answers his knowing caresses with an innocent, wild abandon, they are drawn into a web of treachery that will test the very heart of their love!

This is a sequel to one of my favorites, The Lion's Lady and almost as good.  Lots of funny parts to it, Garwood's humor is witty and entertaining.  My problem with it was that the main storyline between the hero and heroine was so similar to The Lion's Lady that it didn't seem as fresh, though I enjoyed it very much.

The Marquess of Cainewood (otherwise known as Caine) is out to capture Pagan, the notorious pirate who was responsible for the death of Caine's younger brother.  Caine has been skulking around in low life dives hoping to draw the pirate out by posing as Pagan himself!  One night he meets a beautiful enchanting young woman who asks him to kill her.  Thinking he is the real Pagan she offers him money to kill her.  Naturally, Caine is not going to do it.  Once he gets the story out of her of why she wants to die, which involves her witnessing a crime and now running for her life he agrees to be her "guardian angel" and will watch over her until her brother returns from his business concerns (whatever they may be.)

Soon enough, Caine becomes embroiled up to his neck in skulduggery and mix ups. No slouch himself when it comes to spying and all sorts of necessary misdeeds for the Crown, he holds his own, but it's not easy with Jade!  He's trying to make heads or tails of her convoluted story while trying not to fantasize about her and what he'd like to do with her besides wring her neck!  Her story takes a different turn with every telling.  Before long we realize Jade is not who she says she is, and she's really the guardian angel looking out for Caine (though he doesn't know it!)  The whole thing is a farce of mistaken identities, coupled with intrigue and romantic interludes.

Will Caine ever guess who Jade really is? 

I was more than happy to see Lyon and Christina return from The Lion's Lady.  Christina and Jade become natural allies and friends, they're very similar, as Caine and Lyon comment upon more than once.   Jade is resourceful and a strong heroine. She can do just about anything.  Raised on a tropical island by pirates she has a few tricks up her sleeve that Caine is unaware of.  When he finds out - all hell breaks loose and there is the usual hand wringing and "why didn't you tell me the truth about yourself!" scenarios, but all ends well, despite Jade's insecurity that once Caine finds out what kind of woman she really is he won't love her anymore - nonsense! Garwood wraps it all up nicely, setting us up for the next in this series.

A fun Julie Garwood Regency historical romance and I recommend it!
(but read The Lion's Lady first, it's better!)


A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell

Book Description:
The elegance of Madame Fortier's gown shop is a far cry from the downtrodden North End of Boston. Yet each day Julietta, Annamaria, and Luciana enter the world of the upper class, working on finery for the elite in society. The three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream—and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times. Julietta is drawn to the swarthy, mysterious Angelo. Annamaria has a star-crossed encounter with the grocer's son, a man from the entirely wrong family. And through no intent of her own, Luciana catches the eye of Billy Quinn, the son of Madame Fortier's most important client. Their destinies intertwined, each harboring a secret from their families and each other, will they be found worthy of the love they seek?

This is the second book I've read by Ms. Mitchell.  The other, She Walks in Beauty, was great and I loved it.  This one was a bit of a come down for me after the high from the last.  Tackling themes of injustice, racism and prejudice towards the Italian immigrants of Boston, the book took on a lot.  In addition to the burgeoning relationships of the three young women coping with their responsibilities, there was also the subplot of terrorism from political anarchists. 

I admit, it took me a while to get into this historical fiction based in Boston during the end of WWI. Three young Italian girls face their own separate challenges and dreams while working for the well known dressmaker, Madame Fortier. It picked up considerably in the second half of the book and I became absorbed with the the three different young women, though I felt there could have been more depth when it came to their relationships with the men that enter their lives. Though sweet, more development was needed to do them justice. Still, I learned a bit about Boston's North End and the devastating Spanish Influenza that struck in 1918.

The book opens with the death of a prominent Italian nobleman that has been assassinated by anarchists in Rome.  His daughter, Luciana and her grandmother have escaped to America, virtually penniless.  Luciana is now in Boston in the Italian section known as the North End.  As a nobleman's daughter who has been used to having everything done for her, she is now at a loss - how can she live and earn money? They are dirt poor and she is at her wit's end, plus she is certain her father's assassin has followed her and knows where she is so he can kill her as well.  As luck would have it, she gets a job beading for a well known dressmaker.  This is something that Luciana liked to do as a hobby and has a flair for it.  Madame Fortier knows that Luciana is not quite who she says she is.  There is a mystery to this young woman, but Madame is willing to take a chance-plus she needs the help badly.

Among Madame Fortier's other workers are two other young Italian women from the North End.  Both are from large families filled with old world tradition and responsibilities.  Both have ambition, but different in many way.  

Julietta, a feisty go-getter, would one day like to be a partner with Madame Fortier.  She has grand dreams of success and wants to get ahead in the world.  But she has a weakness for handsome men which becomes her downfall.  She is attracted to a stranger she meets every day en route to her job.  He is handsome and a little dangerous - and he owns a truck (a big deal back then.)  She flirts with him and one day she goes off with him.  He expects her to sleep with him, but she is afraid to - luckily.   Meanwhile, she has another suitor, a doctor and an old friend of the family.  He is safe and prosperous, but he seems too staid and traditional for Julietta.  She wants passion and excitement.  Silly, silly girl.  The good doctor, no matter how he tries, just doesn't have the same masculine charisma as Angelo, her mystery man with the truck.  Will Julietta realize her mistake and choose good over bad before it's too late?

The other young woman at Madame Fortier's is Annamaria.  The eldest daughter, she is destined to never marry.  As the eldest, she must be available, as tradition expects, to take care of her parents into their old age.  But Annamaria doesn't want this!  It's unfair!  She meets and is attracted to the nice Sicilian boy across the street at the Sicilian green grocer!  A Sicilian - horrors!  It just wasn't done!  Italian immigrants come from different areas in Italy and even in America they don't mix.  Sicilians were considered the worst of the worst as well!  Still, Annamaria cannot help herself, she wants to go across the street to her Sicilian young man against her family's wishes.  He feels the same way and I really liked the storyline of their sweet and clandestine courtship.  This was by far was favorite part of the book.  I was drawn to Annamaria's story and how she copes with her struggle to be the good and dutiful daughter and the love of the son of a Sicilian grocer.

Meanwhile, Luciana meets the handsome son of one of Madame Fortier's best clients, Billy Quinn.  It turns out there's more than meets the eye of the Quinn's and Madame Fortier.  Billy immediately becomes interested in the pretty Luciana, having no idea who she really is.  She speaks no English, he speaks no Italian, so they speak to each other in German!  He knows nothing about who she is.  In what seems unrealistic and much too fast, with no relationship building, he asks her to marry him for he has been drafted and wants to marry her before he leaves.  Everything was abbreviated.  This is a "clean" book (code for no sex) so I didn't expect much in the romance department, but I wish there had been at least something deeper and poignant for all three girls.   Luciana's scenario was my least favorite because of the lack of development with Billy.  Annamaria and Juietta's romantic story lines received more attention, but I still felt it was too little.

Basically, the main problem with this book is that there was too much going on with the three different women and their separate stories.  The book simply wasn't long enough to hold it all and none of the three young heroines were very likable.  The anarchist bomb threat story line going on with Luciana was interesting of itself, but Luciana was such a lacklustre heroine, she needed more oomph and I didn't care too much about her and Billy.  The other women and their relationships were much more interesting, but I wanted more emotion!  All three stories only scratched the surface of what could have been much more meaningful plot lines regarding their romantic dilemmas which warred with their familial responsibilities.  I understood what all three women were facing and going through, but I can't say I really liked any of them.  I sympathized more with Julietta's doctor than anyone else in the book!  Plus, there is the whole other story line about the coincidence of who Madame Fortier really is, not owning up to her Italian heritage and her relationship to the Quinn's - which I haven't even gone into! The big coincidence at the end was a bit much and predictable as well.

All in all, I appreciated this book for the historical aspect of it, which was interesting.  I knew nothing about Boston's North End or the Spanish Influenza.   But, I can't say I'd recommend it enthusiastically if you're looking for a romance.  If you are interested in this time period and setting then you'd probably like it, but it was slim in some respects, primarily the relationship building and emotion.   If you're looking for a love story, you'll be dissatisfied with this one, though this might be appealing to a young teen. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Slightly Wicked by Mary Balogh

Book Description from Goodreads:
Meet the Bedwyns…six brothers and sisters - men and women of passion and privilege, daring and sensuality…Enter their dazzling world of high society and breathtaking seduction…where each will seek love, fight temptation, and court scandal…and where Rannulf Bedwyn, the rebellious third son, enters into a liaison that is rather risqué, somewhat naughty, and…Slightly Wicked.

With his laughing eyes and wild, rakish good looks, Lord Rannulf Bedwyn is a hard man to resist. To Judith Law, a woman in need of rescue when her stagecoach overturns, Rannulf is simply her savior, a heroic stranger she will reward with one night of reckless passion before she must become a companion to her wealthy aunt. Imagine Judith's shock when the same stranger turns out to be among England's most eligible bachelors…and when he arrives at Harewood Grange to woo her cousin. Certainly, they had made no vows, no promises, but Rannulf never did forget his uninhibited lover…nor did she forget that one delicious night. And as scandal sets the household abuzz, Rannulf proposes a solution…but when Judith refuses to have him--in love or wedlock - Rannulf has only one choice: to wage a campaign of pure pleasure to capture the heart of the woman who has already won his.
Slightly Wicked is an ugly duckling story of a young woman, Judith Law, who, by posing as an actress, has one last fling with a handsome stranger before facing a life of drudgery living with her wealthy aunt and uncle as a virtual unpaid servant. Unexpectedly, the handsome stranger turns out to be Rannulf Bedwyn, whom Judith's vain and self absorbed cousin targets as her chief matrimonial prospect. When Judith and Rannulf meet again, all is revealed.  They both have to own up to the fact that neither one of them had been honest with each other during their brief but idyllic interlude. Can they forget their blissful two days together or get on with their lives as if it never happened?

I liked the book overall, but I was distracted by the many Austen similarities in the plot, plus the story line itself was far fetched.  Judith is a poor relation en route to live with her aunt and uncle (shades of Mansfield Park).   She knows exactly what her life is going to be like living with them.  She will be ignored by most, except her grandmother who is elderly and needs a companion and "servant" to do any number of trivial chores and favors for her.  All Judith's life, she has been led to believe that she was unattractive with her red hair and overly curvy body.  Little does she know...

On the way to her relatives, the hackney carriage she's riding in breaks down in the mud.  By happenstance, a handsome young rider comes along and offers help.  He scoops Judith up onto his horse to take her to an inn where they can send someone back for help.  One thing leads to another and Judith thinks of this as her last chance to do something daring and memorable.  A night of passion that she can live on for the rest of her dreary life.  She pretends she is an actress and Rannulf Bedwyn (the handsome young rider) takes the bait and propositions her in so many words.  Bliss and passion take place.  Rannulf winds up falling for her hard, having no idea that she's a gentlewoman who he has just deflowered!  Thinking she's an actress, he considers making her his mistress, but Judith flees - she knows she cannot continue with him and she has to get to her cousins.  Rannulf is furious at her and goes on to his destination... his grandmother's house which is right next to Judith's aunt and uncle!

Once Judith is ensconced at her uncle's estate, life is just as she suspected it would be.  Forced to wear an ugly cap that completely hides her hair and frumpy loose fitting clothing to hide her figure, she becomes the invisible poor relation (except to her obnoxious cousin).  Poor Judith, I felt so sorry for her!  I just wanted to tear those ugly things off her!  Her aunt, Mrs. Effingham, is just awful, channeling Fanny Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility.  There is no way in hell she is going to let Judith's luscious curves take away from her own fair daughter's beauty and chances for making a sparkling match with none other than the Duke of Bewcastle's younger brother, Rannulf Bedwyn who is coming to stay with his grandmother for a number of weeks!

Well, you can imagine what happens once Judith and Rannulf see each other again.  At first he doesn't recognize her, and then once he does he figures everything out.  He's still annoyed that she disappeared on him, but he understands and now is irate to see what kind of life she has to look forward to.  Plus, he is racked with guilt that he took her innocence!  A gentleman just does not do that sort of thing!  He keeps trying to get Judith to speak with him, but she is determined to keep her distance and try to forget him - fat chance!  All he can do is try to get her to reveal herself  to the rest of world.  There is a beautiful, talented young woman under those dowdy clothes and cap and he wants to see her shine.

There are plenty of bumps in the road on the way to love between these two and it takes a long way for them to resolve their differences.  Judith's brother comes for a visit and he is later accused of stealing his grandmother's jewels.  The whole thing is a mess on the same night of a big ball in which Judith has her chance to shine.  Poor Judith is accused of being in on it and helping him as well.  She runs away to try and find him - all right before Rannulf plans to propose to her - again!  (She turned him down the first time - a nod to Pride and Prejudice and the tragedy that befalls the Bennet's when Lydia runs off with Wickham just before Darcy is about to declare himself to Elizabeth again in Lambton?)  I was biting my nails in aggravation, but loved every minute of it!  Rannulf with the aid of his brother, the Duke, saves the day and it was so good!  I love it when the Duke steps in and makes everything all right with a wave of his hand (I can't wait to get to his story.)

I am enjoying this series.  Rannulf and Judith made a good couple, albeit their differences and unorthodox first meeting. ;)   I'm glad to see Judith get her happy ending, though I do wonder at how she'll enjoy life as mistress some day of the estate next door to her hateful aunt!  Much of the story was a bit hard to swallow, for the whole scenario would so never happen in real life, but it made for an entertaining read.  But of course, anything can happen in romance-land.


Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross

Book Description from Goodreads:
To the ranks of great sleuths of ages past, add a new candidate - Julian Kestrel - a detective as historically authentic as Brother Cadfael and as dashing as Lord Peter Wimsey. Kestrel is the reigning dandy of London in the 1820s, famous for his elegant clothes and his unflappable sangfroid. One night he rescues a young aristocrat named Hugh Fontclair from a gambling house, and in gratitude Hugh invites him to be best man at his wedding. But when Kestrel goes to stay with the Fontclairs at their sumptuous country house, he is caught in the crossfire of the bride's and groom's warring families. Soon, discord erupts into murder. In a world without fingerprinting, chemical analysis, or even police, murder poses a baffling challenge. Undaunted, Kestrel sets out to solve the crime. With the help of his Cockney manservant, Dipper a (mostly) reformed pickpocket, Kestrel delves beneath the Fontclairs' respectable surface. What he finds is a trail of crime, deception, and forbidden lust that leads him at last to the killer. The combination of a new author, a charming new sleuth, and a strikingly original setting adds up to a smashing mystery that moves with force and intelligence - and expert suspense - from beginning to end

This was a brilliantly written historical mystery, one of the best I've read.  I am eager to read more in the series starring Julian Kestrel, Regency man about town who finds himself an unlikely sleuth.  Part of what made this mystery so special was the author's writing.  True to the period, she captured the style of early nineteenth century England to a tee.  Much of it reminds me of a Georgette Heyer regency.  Julian could easily have stepped out of the pages of Heyer.

Julian Kestrel has charm, manners and a knack for dressing to impress.  What he doesn't have is an impeccable pedigree and a large pocketbook.  Still, he is welcome in most of London's drawing rooms.  Julian finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation while staying at a country house party.  Hugh Fontclair, a brand new acquaintance, has invited Julian to come stay with him at his family's country estate.  While there, the dead body of an unknown, lovely young woman shows up in Julian's bed!  No one knows who she is and an investigation begins by Hugh's father, Sir Robert, who is the local magistrate.  Since Julian's valet becomes the prime suspect in the murder, Julian takes it upon himself to clear his valet's name and get to the bottom of who really killed the mystery woman.

While investigating the murder, all sorts of other things surface and we learn much about the Fontclair's secrets and their history that has them tied up in knots!  The plot deepens and just when you're certain who commit the murder - another clue is revealed that makes you rethink everything all over again!  It was a finely interwoven and well thought out mystery and I enjoyed every word of it.  The plot moves fast, and the dialogue is sharp and to the point.  No unnecessary filler to bog it down.  A quick read that kept my attention all the way to the end.  I'm deliberately leaving tons out of the storyline so as not to reveal any surprises, but the book description above is a fine summary in of itself.  I also really liked the various side stories and characters that are going on in addition to the mystery itself.  The burgeoning romance between Maud and Hugh caught my fancy and I liked the way we were able to get Hugh's viewpoint on his surprising and growing attraction to his fiancee, Maud.  Forced to marry her to save his family's name, falling in love is the last thing Hugh expected - much less jealousy! Julian handled himself well in a sticky situation there as well.  Trust me, if you are an historical mystery lover - you will love and appreciate this novel!  For a short book, there is a lot packed into it! 

Much of what I loved about Cut to the Quick and made it special was the author's use of the language and the way it brought her characters to life. The cant of Julian's valet and his former underworld connections sounded utterly authentic and was fun to boot!  The lingo of some of the young men about town who are front and center in the plot line of the murder mystery was also right on and conveyed their youthful lifestyle. Their style of clothing and attire were described faultlessly as well. I had no problem imagining everything! The furnishings were well detailed too - important in a mystery, yet not to the point where I felt the author was showing off her research skills.  Everything was simply well done!  I could cry that the author, Kate Ross, died of cancer in 1998. Such a loss, for she had a great talent and a flair for writing.

You're probably wondering - is Julian a romantic hero type?  I'm not quite sure.  He's no alpha or big and bulky warrior type at all.  He's slim, but not effeminate or foppish.  Nice enough looking, but no heart-throb.  I'll need to read further on in the series to find out.  From what I hear, the next book is even better than the first!  I can't wait!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught

Book Description:


The Countess of Havenhurst possessed a rare gentleness and fierce courage to match her exquisite beauty. But her reputation is shattered when she is discovered in the arms of Ian Thornton, a notorious gambler and social outcast.


A dangerously handsome man of secret wealth and mysterious lineage, his voyage to Elizabeth's heart is fraught with intrigue, scandal, and a venomous revenge.

Destined for each other, yet wary of each other's motives, Elizabeth and Ian engage in a dance of suspicion and passion that tests the very soul of their star-crossed love. As a twisting path of secrets takes them from London's drawing rooms to the mysterious Scottish Highlands, Elizabeth must learn the truth: is Ian merely a ruthless fortune hunter at heart?

Another winner by McNaught, but I'm sad I've read all of her historicals now! *pout*

Two years after a fateful weekend party in the country, can Elizabeth Cameron regain her reputation after it's been ruined by an innocent flirtation with the notorious "you are no gentleman, sir!" Ian Thornton?   Now, desperate to avoid a disastrous marriage that her uncle is determined to arrange for her, can Ian and Elizabeth find their way back to each other?  How can they clear the air and erase the big misunderstanding that jeopardizes their future together forever?

Two years earlier, Elizabeth Cameron was the belle of the London season.  Her brother, who was nearly bankrupt with debts wanted her to make a sparkling marriage to a rich and titled gentleman.  Just as her engagement to one of the most eligible men in London is about to be announced, disaster strikes.  She is caught with Ian Thornton, a notorious gambler, reminiscent of another favorite hero of mine, Rhett Butler.   When Ian is accused of cheating at cards, Elizabeth jumps into the fray and saves him from disgrace.  Not that he needed her help, but it throws them together that weekend.   Ian is instantly smitten with Elizabeth and impulsively proposes marriage to her.  Thrown off balance, she neglects to tell him she's already betrothed.  He's angry and hurt later when he finds out she's not free to marry.  He basically lost his head over her and vows to never do it again with anyone.  Due to the scheming machinations of a jealous friend, Ian and Elizabeth are caught together in a compromising (but innocent) situation.  Even though he's angry with Elizabeth, he fights a duel with Elizabeth's brother.  Ian is shot because her brother tried to kill him, even though Ian did the honorable thing and deloped.  After the duel, Ian leaves the country on business and hopes to never have anything more to do with Elizabeth ever again!

Little does he know that Elizabeth's reputation is in tatters.  Her engagement is off and she's been relegated to the country for two years.  Trying to keep her estate up and running, money is scarce and her dastardly brother is nowhere to be found.  In a last ditch effort, Elizabeth's uncle has devised a plan to marry her off to the highest bidder.  Mistakenly, he sends an invitation to Ian who is now incredibly rich and suddenly accepted by the ton.  (It helps he's also the grandson of a duke even though Ian refuses to acknowledge the connection).   Ian dismisses the invitation, insulted by it.  But, his secretary responds to it by accident and so sets the wheels in motion - Elizabeth and Ian become reunited at his little cottage in the Scottish Highlands.

From this point on the story is delightful.  The two of them are stuck together and the sparks fly.  Both are put out by their circumstances but it forces them to address the issue that they were unaccountably attracted to one another two years ago.  Can they make a go for it now?  Of course, it's not that easy.  Ian is affianced to a respectable young lady and there are all sorts of complications including a sensational appearance at a ball where Ian and his grandfather (the duke) save the day! I simply loved it!

I'm leaving tons out, but this is a great story with plenty of ups and downs.  Ian is not as hard hearted as some of McNaught's previous heroes.  He's not quite as forbidding and he's half Scottish. :)  For all intents and purposes, he is a self made man who has become successful and wealthy, but he has a soft spot when it comes to the sadness of what happened to his parents (and his dog!)  In many respects he is your classic McNaught hero, but slightly toned down.  Speaking of heroes, I was pleased to see some references to some of her past heroes, and a reprise of the characters from Something Wonderful

I'm sorry to finish this book, since it's the last of McNaught's historicals for me, but I'm eager to try out some of her contemporaries.  In the meantime, can anyone recommend another historical author for me that's similar to McNaught and her oh so over the top alpha heroes?  As much as they can be simply awful at times to their heroines, they are my favorites, Whitney, My Love, in particular.  Her books are roller coaster rides, full of drama and misunderstandings.  When under the impression they've been wronged, her heroes have an annoying tendency to cut the women in their lives out, with no chance of forgiveness or explanation!  But I still love them to death!  I must be some kind of literary masochist!  If someone asked me what author has the best heroes, I'd probably say McNaught. 

If you haven't tried her yet, trust me, you're missing out on some great reading.  Get thee to a bookstore - quick!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

My RWA Literacy Book Signing Extravaganza in New Yawk City

What can I say?  It was a night of a thousand stars - a night of a thousand romance writing stars.

Last Tuesday I attended the Romance Writers of America Literacy Book Signing, which is an event to raise charity that the RWA puts on every year during their national convention - known as the Nationals.  This year it was only fifteen miles away in New York City!  Finally, at last my favorite authors are coming to me!  My first time at a book signing event, I was excited and nervous - OMG!  I'm actually going to be meeting some of these amazingly talented women who I am in awe of!

To make it even more wonderful, my good friend, Joanne from Books, Belles and Beaux was coming up to New York for a week too!   You can read all about Joanne's NY experience here.  We had a blast.  With a room booked at the Marriott Marquis for the night, where the entire conference was taking place, I arrived shortly before 4 pm.  The Literacy Signing began at 5:30, so there was plenty of time to spare.   Joanne, who was staying there too, met me at the elevators check in.  With a quick sprucing up in my room to wash off the dust from my travels across the Hudson on the DeCamp bus, we had some much needed catching up with each other.  Last time we met was at last year's Poisoned Pen Conference in Arizona when we both met Diana Gabaldon and Lauren Willig.  It was great to catch up, but the big moment was approaching.  Next on the agenda? The Atrium Bar - where else?

Downstairs at the bar it was packed with zillions of authors, fans, agents, publishers, you name it.  It was a who's who in the romance world!  I couldn't believe my eyes - I was totally star struck!  Walking around, my eyes were probably bugging out.  I recognized authors, but didn't have the nerve to go up to them and interrupt their conversations.  Joanne spotted Lauren Willig and I made an exception.  We went over to her, Joanne sporting her Lauren Willig tote bag over her shoulder.  Lauren looked up and recognized us from last year! LOL!  We said hi, and who is she sitting with?  Sarah MacLean!  I'm a big fan, I told her so and enjoyed talking to both of them.  Later on, Joanne gave Lauren this pretty good luck bracelet that she made.  It was phenomenal and had a few tiny little covers from Lauren's books on it, including The Mischief of the Mistletoe which won a RITA this year - way to go, Lauren! Big Congrats!  Here's a picture I took of Lauren with Joanne and her bracelet. (Sorry Joanne, once again I had no camera and we used yours for all the pics!)

Pretty soon it was time to go upstairs to the signing.  There were huge lines outside of people waiting to get in, but since we were staying at the hotel, we didn't have to wait outside in the hot New York City heat.  We got in line, waited for a bit and entered the Broadway Ballroom. Oh my, this was huge!  It looked like hundreds of tables set up, each one with an author in alphabetical order, we entered at the end of the alphabet, so we saw Lauren Willig easily.  Big names like Diana Gabaldon and Julia Quinn were at the end of the ballroom to accommodate lines, which were already growing fast.  Having seen Diana twice before, I headed elsewhere first and would make it back to her when there was no line.

First stop was to go over and say hi to Robin Kaye, my old pal from her pre-publishing days.  Robin was sitting next to Susanna Kearsley who Joanne was eager to see, so we made a bee line for the "K" section.  We had a great time talking with both of them.  I told Susanna about my upcoming trip to the Highlands and how I wished I could get to see Slains Castle from The Winter Sea, but it's so far out of the way, but we'll see. 

Joanne and Susanna Kearsley

I bought Robin's latest book, which I haven't read and solidified plans for getting together after the signing at The View, the revolving roof top bar/restaurant at the top of the hotel.  Here's a shot of Robin, believe me, she is an amazing woman!  She does so much and she's an amazing storyteller!  Robin I am in awe of you! I had such a good time that night seeing you again and meeting your friends!

Robin and me - can you tell I'm happy??

I was in heaven, believe me!  It was a bit overwhelming to be honest.  Everywhere I'd turn there was another author I knew and loved!  I saw many and got to chat with quite a few, all were so nice and friendly!!  I felt like every author I went up to, I'd hold out my hand to shake theirs and say "I am such a big fan - it is such a pleasure to meet you!"  Among a few I met and enjoyed talking with?  Colleen Gleason!  She is so nice - and pretty! Plus I love her Gardella Vampire Chronicles (as many of you know who follow my blog).  We had a really good chat, and of course, I told her how much I loved her series!  No other historical vampire series has come close to hers (I told her so, too!)

Another author I was dying to meet was Julie James - I simply love her contemporaries - and she has a golden retriever too!  Had a chance to chat about our dogs, but I was otherwise tongue tied!  Still, Joanne got a picture of us together!

There were zillions (it seems) of other authors I got to meet:  Karen Hawkins, Elizabeth Hoyt, Susan Donovan and Celeste Bradley (I went on and on about A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man and how much I loved it).  I bought another copy for myself since I just gave away my other copy in my 100 Followers Giveaway.  Susan was a new to me author so she gave me recommendations of some of her older books to read as well. Very nice, both of them.  I also met Anne Gracie, who came all the way from Australia, Julia Quinn, (showing off some very sexy cleavage and looking great, I might add). I bought The Duke and I and had it signed by her, the only one left of her Bridgerton Series.  I chatted a bit with Diana Gabaldon, no lines by the time I went over to her.  We talked about the shape of her upcoming Lord John book and she drew me a diagram. :)  She must think I'm such a ding-a-ling, I am so goofy and star struck around her!

I also got a chance to meet Deanna Raybourn (didn't buy her latest, since I have it on kindle already), but she is stunningly beautiful in person!  Got a nice picture of Deanna and Joanne.

It was a real crush in the middle of the signing, but that didn't deter me - so many authors - so little time...

I walked past Sabrina Jeffries "Oh my God, there's Sabrina Jeffries!" I blurt out.  I recognized her immediately, primarily because she was in blue, and I always think of her in blue!  (I think she must wear that color a lot in her photos).  I had to stop and talk to her and buy a book!  Here's a funny shot of me talking with her (and no, I am not sticking out my tongue at her!) :D

Other authors I got see and talk to: Sherry Thomas, another of my absolute favorites, Janet Chapman, a big favorite, she came down from Maine, Molly Harper, a new to me author, one of the Lydia Dare team (not sure which), but another new to me author and I bought her book.   Tons of familiar names I didn't get a chance to see and a few authors I wished I'd seen but it was so hectic!  I wish I had gotten a chance to meet Laura Lee Guhrke and Carolyn Jewel!  Darn!  Well, there's always next time or Iselin, NJ in October!

So, I scooped up my books, bags, goodies and bookmarks, paid up at the register and met Joanne outside the ballroom.  We went up to the bar on the roof, and while I slurped down several mojitos, Robin and her two critique partners joined us and we had a great time, talking, talking, talking while looking at the gorgeous, revolving NY skyline and sunset.  Some time, very late, we went across the street, got burgers and by 1:30 am, I was back in my hotel room, ready for bed.

Next morning, I lounged around until check out, reading in bed and savoring all the delights of the night before.  Then it was back to Port Authority and the bus to NJ.   Real life, once again. All in all, I had a whirlwind two days and it was a blast!  I can't wait to do it again!  This was so much FUN!

Thank you to all of you authors out there who took the time to listen to my silly chatter and gushing!  You all made is so worthwhile and memorable.  I will never forget this experience.  Gosh, do I sound like a groupie or what?

My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway

Book Description:
Breathtakingly romantic, startlingly original, Connie Brockway's novels have captured the hearts of readers and the raves of critics everywhere.  Now she brings you a unique and unforgettable love story that begins with a series of letters between a world-weary adventurer and the woman whose love brings him home. 

Dear Mr.  Thorne, 

I give you fair warning.  I intend to do whatever I must to abide by your late uncle's will and win Mill House.  Though I know he never expected me to succeed, and for whatever reasons is using me to shame you, I accept his challenge.  For the next five years, I will profitably manage this estate.  I will deliver to you an allowance and I will prove that women are just as capable as men.  And at the end, I shall accept Mill House as my reward.  

Lillian Bede 

My Dear Miss Bede, 

Forgive me if I fail to shudder.  Pray, do whatever you bloody well want, can, or must.  I shall look forward to making your acquaintance in my lawyer's office five years hence, when I take possession of Mill House.
Avery Thorne

This was a delightful book, I'm realizing I love Connie Brockway, her novels have loads of humor, passion and just the right amount of seriousness to them to make them memorable and not too "fluffy."   I loved the fast pace and quick wit.  It's an amusing and clever story about how two people both vying to win a stately manor wind up falling in love with each other, despite their opposing objectives. Their "courtship" begins through a series of barbed letters filled with insults over the course of nearly five years.  What happens to them when they finally meet in person is delicious.  Plus, there are other facets to this story that give it depth and poignancy.  A great read and I read it in one day -  I love, love, loved it!

Lillian Bede is the unlikely beneficiary to the estate of Mill House that an older friend has left her. But, his will stipulates that she has to make a success of it in order for her to keep it after five years, otherwise the estate reverts to his nephew, Avery Thorne.  Not easy for a young woman under the age of 20, even though she is known for her outspoken ways.  Lily is a suffragette and a firm believer in women's rights.  I liked this unique quality in a heroine and it fits in well with the Victorian setting of the novel.  She is no shrinking violet and has - spunk!  Avery Thorne, who thought he'd be the heir to the estate graciously accepts defeat - for a time.  He's certain this nobody, Ms. Bede is not going to be able to manage the estate by herself and in five years it will be in a shambles.  Thus, he will eventually come into his rightful inheritence.

So, for the next five years, Avery gallivants around the world, biding his time.  Traveling to places like Africa and South America, he writes and publishes stories of his travels on safari and lost civilizations.  Fighting crocodiles and braving several near death experiences, he becomes fairly well known for his adventures - and every young boy's idol - including his young nephew who is back at Mill House with Ms. Bede.  Avery wasn't always the adventurer, though.  An asthmatic, he was perceived to be a weak and sickly young boy, but as an adult he learned to avoid those things that set off his asthma attacks - horses.  It turns out his young ward (and nephew) has the same malady.  Avery's world wide adventures have made him strong and robust.  These five years have done wonders for him! 

Something else has happened during those five years.  Against his will, he's developed a strong appreciation for Ms. Bede.  And vice versa.  Their correspondence over the years is hilarious to read about, each letter outdoing the last in blistering observations and sarcasm.  Ms. Bede is a force to be reckoned with.  Avery reads her letters aloud to his safari friends and cohorts - who all have fallen in love with her from afar.  What will Avery think of her when he finally meets her in person?

I can assure you, their meeting is everything the reader hopes it will be.  The two of them carry on just as unlikely a courtship in person as on paper.  There is much humor and ultimate passion between them.  Avery is a gentleman and I loved his character.  Even though he expects to take over Mill House eventually, not all turns out as he expects.  His honor and heritage are the backbone of how he behaves and believes - and instructs to his nephew, who needs a father figure in his life.  Once he meets Lily and falls in love with her, how can he reconcile ousting her from Mill House yet keeping her in his life?  What would be the honorable and gentlemanly thing to do?  And how can he do it without hurting her own sense of pride and self reliance?

The various plot-lines, aside from the main story between Lillian and Avery also kept my interest.  I enjoyed reading about the developing relationship between Avery and his nephew and how he helps him overcome his asthma.  I enjoyed Avery's non-conformist sister, who is known for her lascivious ways.  I was interested in the friendship that develops between his sister-in-law, who feared her dead husband (Avery's brother) and Lily's suffragette friend (who's staying at the house due to a broken leg).  I kept thinking that they'd turn out to be more than just friends. ;)  But most of all I liked the theme of survival and overcoming adversity - whether it's fear, a malady like asthma, or just being a woman in a man's society.

If you like historical romances, not unlike Julia Quinn's, with lots of humor and a good plot line with some tenderness and passion, this will be right up your alley.  I happen to love this combination.  This book is a gem and a worthwhile read.  The letters were my favorite part of the book, actually.  So sharp and spirited - just plain clever!  I highly recommend My Dearest Enemy and I look forward to reading all of her books! 


Friday, July 1, 2011

We Have Some Winners!

Thank you everyone who participated in my 100 Followers Giveaway Contest.  And now the winners are announced who won my ten favorites which were chosen randomly at  (One lucky person won two books!) I will email all of you and please send me your address so I can mail you the book (US only).

Congratulations to all the Winners!

And now what you've been waiting for... drum roll, please...
Winner: Nicole Rogers

 Winner:  Amy

Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas  4.5 stars

Winner: Historical Romance Rita

Related Posts with Thumbnails