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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for September: A Spanish Affair by Helen Brooks

I read this at the very beginning of the month and had planned to read something else for the challenge, but work keeps intervening and I’m way behind on all my non-required reading. Luckily, this entry on the Harlequin TBR fit September’s challenge, which is “Kicking It Old School,” i.e., a romance published ten or more years ago. A Spanish Affair was first published in 2001, so it definitely qualifies. I like Brooks’s Presents books as a rule; they mix sweet and steamy in a way that works for me. The heroes and heroines tend to fit the Presents formula but are not OTT. This particular novel falls on the sweeter side, by a lot, and it felt almost Burchell-like in terms of the plot, characters, and romance.

Cover of A Spanish Affair

Georgie has left her job to come and take care of her recently widowed elder brother Robert and his two young children. Robert’s business was neglected during his late wife’s final months and it’s now teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Georgie is combining PA and other office duties with childcare, and she’s in the office when a badly needed client comes in. The client, our hero, is Matt de Capistrano, who gets off to a bad start with Georgie when he overhears her disparaging him before she’s even met him. But to give him credit, he sets that aside and deals straightforwardly with Robert and the potential business deal they are considering. Matt makes some calls which enables Robert to continue taking on customers and Georgie swallows her initial reaction to help out her brother.

Matt finds Georgie charming despite her hostility, as one does when one is a Presents hero. He works with her and also pursues her, and she rebuffs him, as one does when one is a Presents heroine. But they continue to be thrown together, including by Robert, who befriends Matt, and by his children, who find him as charming as George eventually will admit he is.

The story cooks along in a workplace-romance, getting-to-know-you way. Then there is a sharp turn and acceleration to the romantic storyline, which is precipitated by Matt’s need to go to his family home in Spain (he is half Spanish, half English). Georgie learns more about his background and family, Matt deals with his feelings for Georgie, etc. etc. All too quickly they have their realization, retreat, return to each other, and HEA.

Overall I enjoyed this quite a bit. There’s nothing terribly unusual happening, Georgie is one of those sensible, pretty, and quietly competent heroines, and Matt’s Spanish-ness is quite dialed down from the usual “Latin Lover” approach, which I appreciated. It was just the timepass I needed when I read it, and it reminded me of how often Helen Brooks writes satisfying categories.

A Spanish Affair is #373 on the Harlequin TBR.

Weeknote 19

I meant to write a post at the beginning of the week. Hah. It’s already Friday and I’m not sure where the days went.

WORK

It’s he start of school, which means finishing up the syllabi (always at the last minute for me, always), remembering to hit the “publish” button in Canvas if you want the students to have access, and negotiating a waitlist that is almost as long as the size of the seminar. I drove a few students away with the class requirements, but not enough. I’m almost there, though. The annual meetings always disrupt this process because we teach a class or two and then go away for the rest of the week and then come back and have Labor Day off. I wish we started on the Tuesday after, the way sensible east coast universities do. But the midwest schools have a long semester calendar. Thanks, annoying accreditation association.

I don’t always go to the meetings because they’re disruptive, but this year I had to go and I wound up having a good time. Did the work I needed to do and got to spend time with old friends.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for my committee’s work, at least for this iteration. We’re not done by any means but we’re winding down for a while. But there are still visits to confirm and plan (so many emails) and memos to write. But I’m not behind. It’s a miracle.

My grad classes are starting out well and the students look interesting and engaged. One of them is half lecture, half seminar, and the other is all seminar. Come to think of it, I’m mostly teaching in seminar format this semester. That’s unusual for me.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

Reading, what is that? I did not come anywhere near finishing my 20 Books of Summer challenge, although I enjoyed what I did read and I started a bunch of the books on the list. Barb was so right when she said it was a challenging list. I’m not sure why I read less this summer than last year. Part of it was that our holiday didn’t have much reading time, and I think the other part is that I was working more this summer than I was last year, so there was more academic reading in my schedule. And the Booker reading swallowed a big chunk of time. Still, I enjoyed the challenge and I’ll definitely keep on with the list. I’ll write up a separate post soon.

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Thoughts on the Booker Shortlist and the Giller Longlist

Yes, it’s awards season again. Labor Day is over and my library holds are coming in with a vengeance, what with all the Big September Releases. The Booker shortlist and the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist are coincidentally released on the same day. I woke up to the Booker news, which had been announced at 10am BST, and then waited for the Giller announcement to be delivered from St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador at 8:30am my time.

The Booker shortlist:

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
  • An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma
  • Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
  • 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak

I’ve only read one of the six (the Obioma, which I reviewed here). That seems unusually low for me, but I do own three of them and have a fourth coming from the library in two weeks. And I’d read five of the seven longlisted books that didn’t make it. I will probably not read the Atwood any time soon. I read The Handmaid’s Tale back in the 1980s and still have my ancient mass-market paperback edition. It made a big impression on me then but I haven’t wanted to revisit it, and I had no interest in the TV adaptation. So I’ll wait for the reviews and word of mouth to see if I want to read the sequel. The Rushdie is getting mixed reviews, but I’m curious about it and I got in early on the library hold list so I can at least sample that before the winner is announced.

I was sorry not to see the Luiselli on the shortlist, especially after listening to her talk about it and read from it at the National Book Festival. My reading and reviewing of it was shaped by my knowledge of her personal life and Alvaro Enrigue’s work, but the panel I attended helped me separate that from the text, and the further away from it I get the more I think it is an excellent novel. But there are plenty of US awards coming up, and I’m sure it will be in consideration for at least some of those. Of the others, I don’t have strong feelings about their omissions from the shortlist. I enjoyed the Braithwaite and the Lanchester entries but they each had shortcomings and I don’t see them as Booker winners., I think the Barry, which I have finished and need to review, is stronger but a bit slight compared to some of the other entries. And I was the outlier on the Porter from the beginning.

On to the Giller longlist:

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#Onebag conference report

My first attempt to attend a professional conference in #onebag mode was a success. It made life much easier when I was to-ing and fro-ing and I didn’t wish for anything I’d left at home. I definitely think this is doable on a regular basis for a 3- or 4-day meeting.

What I took:

Photo of everything that I took to the conference, laid out on a bed.

I know it looks like quite a bit, by everything packed down very compactly. I took more than I would have if I had been traveling for pleasure because I knew I’d be seeing the same people repeatedly. They probably wouldn’t notice if I were wearing the same thing two days in a row (most of them are guys and political-science guys at that, so fashion sense is not their comparative advantage, to put it mildly), but I would have been somewhat self-conscious. So I made sure I had different looks for each day and took one dress to wear to dinners in nice restaurants (different people and restaurants so I felt fine repeating the dress).

Clothing, from right to left, bottom to top:

  • 1 black & white patterned jacket
  • 2 pairs of trousers
  • 1 sleeveless black dress
  • 1 patterned dress for evening
  • 2 silk, 1 merino short-sleeved t-shirts
  • 1 dress shirt in a slightly crepe-y cotton blend
  • 1 leather belt
  • 1 tunic-style t-shirt for sleeping
  • 3pairs underwear, 2 bras, 1 shaper, 2 handkerchiefs
  • 2 footies
  • 1 camisole with built-in bra (not pictured)
  • 1 pair casual loafer-style sneakers
  • 1 pair black nubuck sandals with a low wedge heel

Electronics:

  • Samsung Galaxy S8 phone (not pictured)
  • Battery pack
  • Nook Glowlight Plus ereader (the old aluminum model, not pictured)
  • Short charging cable with USB-C adapter
  • Samsung charger and cable
  • Wireless earbuds in charging case (not pictured)
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The National Book Festival

I abandoned the political scientists for a few hours on Saturday to visit the National Book Festival, which is sponsored by the Library of Congress. Like so many public institutions in the capital, this is free and open (and welcoming) to the public. It used to be held on the Mall in tents, but this year it moved to the Washington Convention Center.

I had late afternoon commitments but my morning and early afternoon were free, and the panel that interested me the most was at 11am. This was a discussion with Aminatta Forna, R.O. Kwon, and Valeria Luiselli. It was in the Poetry and Prose stream and titled “Fiction Through A Different Lens.” Forna turned out to be the chair so she posed the questions and didn’t read from her own work. The panel was very well attended and the discussion and readings were engaging. I got a better sense of Luiselli’s approach and it made me want to read Kwon’s novel, The Incendiaries.

Of course the big draw that day was on the main stage, where Ruth Bader Ginsburg was doing a Q&A with Nina Totenberg. One of my friends who is a judicial politics scholar wondered if she’d make it given her recent treatment for cancer but she was there and good as ever. Or so I heard. The audience to get in was huge and the seats filled up in the session which preceded hers with RBG fans.

I had thought about going because it was an interview with Richard Ford and he was receiving an award, but 15 minutes after it started it was maxed out. Poor Richard Ford. I’m sure the audience was polite but he was reduced to being the warm-up act.

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