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Tag: romance

20 Books of Summer: Books 1-3

It’s almost July and I’ve only finished three of my 20 books. Ack! Oh well, better than zero I suppose. One was for the Romance TBR Challenge and two others were on my list.

A Month in the Country by JL Carr.

So many people have raved about this book, including Barb and Liz, that I was sure I’d love it, and when I found a gently used copy in my local used bookstore I snapped it up. It has sat on my shelf for quite a while, though, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to dive it. It is a short book, more of a novella, and it was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1980.

I don’t know why I expected this to be a relatively spare, unemotional book because it’s quite the opposite. The language is lush and the reader is immediately enmeshed in the atmosphere of a Yorkshire village just after WW1. The narrator, Tom Birkin, is a veteran who has come to this village to uncover a mural buried under coats of whitewash in a village church. He is separated from his wife, suffering the aftereffects of battle, and generally at a not-great place. As he works on the mural he slowly makes connections with villagers and with another veteran who is working there and comes to a more peaceful place. The novel has been described as elegant and poetic, and it is that.

It took me a while for the book to work its magic on me, perhaps because I was (for no good reason) expecting a different style. I didn’t warm immediately to Tom himself, but when he started to interact with the villagers and become part of the community, it came to life. There are some sad scenes and some quite funny scenes (e.g. when Tom substitutes for Mr. Ellerbeck at a church meeting). Overall, though, it felt like a book written in mid-century, not the late 1970s. Reading Carr’s biography it is clear he was an unusual person, so that might account for the tone. Anyway, it was excellent, even if I appreciated it more than was captivated by it. I imagine if I read it a second time I will start raving about it too, though.


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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for June: Lady Polly

I read this in time for the June 19 deadline but I didn’t get it written up before we left for Wales and then I was occupied with walking and writing about walking. But it’s still June, so at least I made the month.

The prompt challenge for June was historical, of which I have many in the TBR. As usual I chose from my Harlequin TBR and I decided to go with a favorite author. Cornick wrote a bunch of trads before she switched to single-title historicals and I’ve been reading through the new-to-me ones over the last couple of years. They are in the vein of the old Signet Regencies and she knows her historical material so they hit my comfort-read sweet spot. Lady Polly is no different; while I didn’t love every aspect of it, I found it an enjoyable read with a wonderful hero.

The book is part of a series, but while there are clearly characters who starred in an earlier installment, you don’t need to have read it for this story to make sense (I know I’ve read the previous one but I didn’t remember much about it and it didn’t matter).

Lady Polly Seagrave and Lord Henry Marchnight were in love with each other but he became embroiled in a scandal and was considered off-limits by her family. When Lord Henry asked Lady Polly to flout convention and elope, she hesitated and Lord Henry told her that was the end of them forever. Five years later, Polly is still single, refusing every eligible offer she gets. Lord Henry returns from wherever he’s been (somewhere debauching, everyone thinks) and resumes contact with her. Slowly they reestablish trust and admit they still have feelings for each other. But Henry is considered to be too dissolute etc. to be a proper match for Polly. What to do.

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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for April: Burn for Me

I’ve had this book in my Kindle collection for years. Sirius is a huge Ilona Andrews fan and she bought it for me as a gift. I read about a third of it but then put it aside. I don’t remember why it didn’t work for me, but I just wasn’t engaged. I’ve been meaning to go back to it and this month’s challenge, “Something Different” seemed like a good opportunity because if there’s one subgenre I don’t read, it’s PNR/UF. Yes, I know they’re not the same, but the features they share are the features I generally shy away from.

I cracked it open, started reading, and was immediately engaged with the characters, the world, and above all the voice. I’ve been reading the Andrews’ blog for the last few months, and I could hear the voice that I enjoy there in the book.

I’m guessing many of you have either read the book or know enough about it that you don’t need me to recap. But I’ll give you the setup and a quick summary of the plot. Nevada Baylor owns a private investigation firm in which she’s assisted by her military vet mother and her college-going cousin Bern. They live together with the rest of their family (grandmother, another cousin, and Nevada’s two younger sisters) in a converted warehouse. The firm used to be run by Nevada’s father, but he died a few years earlier from cancer. The treatments took all their money and forced them to sell their house and mortgage the business to one of the big Houses of Houston, where the story is set.

This Houston is our Houston but also not our Houston. The discovery and development of a serum that gave people magical powers has created a world of haves and have-nots based on their magic endowments. The Houses are powerful families who have the highest levels of magic and can use that magic to consolidate and extend their power and influence. Augustine Montgomery has taken on a job for House Pierce, a client, to find their wayward son Adam, who is sought by police for a deadly arson at a bank. Nevada doesn’t want the job but she can’t turn it down. Meanwhile, Adam had a partner from another big House, which brings in Mad Rogan, a vet with his own amazing magic skills.

The plot has two main threads: the search for Adam and the development of a partnership between Nevada and Rogan. Both play out against the backdrop of Nevada’s family, a set of characters who are great fun to spend time with. Nevada has a magic skill but because it’s one that is sought after by governments and law enforcement, she has hidden it and not allowed it to flourish. By contrast, Rogan has obvious and over the top powerful magic skills.

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Quick Review: Love and Blarney (Ballybeg #2)

As I said at the end of my review of Keane’s first Ballybeg romance, I enjoyed myself so much that I went on and started reading the second book (one of the joys of boxed sets is that one novel just follows another on my ereader). It is a novella, so it wasn’t a huge time commitment and I didn’t have to feel guilty about not reading one of the many partly-done books in my stack.

Love and Blarney cover

The story features Ruairi McCarthy, whom we met in the first installment, and his estranged wife Jayme King. We knew that Ruairi gave up a lucrative and high-status job as a stockbroker in New York to come back and run his family’s pub, but we didn’t know why. At the very end of Love and Shenanigans we discovered, along with the rest of Ballybeg, that Ruairi had not only left his job but also his wife, whom he had married years ago without telling any of his family.

All this comes to light when Jayme shows up in Ballybeg, unannounced and unexpected. She decided to make the journey because the divorce is about to be finalized and she wants to make sure this is really what they both want to do. She wants Ruairi to talk to her face-to-face. Ruairi, as you can imagine, is gobsmacked to see her, and he gets into serious trouble with all the women in his life when his wife, mother, and sisters find out he never told his family in Ireland he was married. For what it’s worth, he didn’t tell Jayme why he suddenly had to return either. So we have the Big Mis and the Big Secrets.

After everyone simmers down, Jayme and Ruairi begin to talk about their marriage and the possibilities for the future. They have refreshingly adult conversations where both parties think about what they might have done differently rather than harping on what the other did. The resolution has to come pretty quickly since it’s a novella, and that truncated aspects of the story I would have liked to see developed better, but other than that everything is well handled.

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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for March: Love and Shenanigans

Love and Shenanigans in the first novel is Zara Keane’s Ballybeg series. I picked up the five-novel boxed set ages ago and it’s been on my ereader for almost as long. Zara is someone I’ve known in Romanceland since before she was a published author, but I’ve had no contact with her for the last couple of years since we’re not on the same social media platforms anymore.

This month’s TBR theme is “favorite trope,” which I had a bit of trouble with because I don’t really read by trope. But I do like certain setups and relationships more than others, no question. I like pretty much any form of romance that involves people who already know each other, whether it’s friends to lovers, second chance at love, friends of siblings, etc. And I’m a total sucker for marriage of convenience. I also have a weakness for small-town romance despite all the problems with those and despite the fact that (or perhaps because) I have never lived in anything remotely approaching a small town. I dug around in my TBR, considered and discarded a few possibilities, and then rediscovered Zara’s books on my ereader.

Love and Shenanigans features a heaping helping of tropes I gravitate toward: small-town childhood friends who discover that their supposedly annulled Las Vegas marriage wasn’t annulled after all. And if that isn’t enough, they find out on the eve of the hero’s marriage to the heroine’s cousin. Talk about piling on. But it totally works, because the main couple are down to earth and fun, and also because the writing doesn’t wink at the reader or camp it up. Yes it’s a ridiculous situation but I bought the whole thing (OK, maybe not the drunken marriage itself, but everything else). Keane is Irish and she writes the heck out of an Irish setting without condescending. It reminded me of Ballykissangel in a good way, i.e., less cloying and clich├ęd. If you step back and think about it then yes there are stereotypes, but they aren’t hitting you over the head.

On to the story. Fiona comes home to Ballybeg to be Maid of Honor at her unpleasant cousin Muireann’s wedding to Gavin. She doesn’t really want to but she wants to please her Aunt Bridie, and it’s her last act before going to Asia and Australia on her sabbatical year from teaching. But then she discovers that her fake marriage to Gavin nine years ago wasn’t as fake as they thought and the fat is in the fire. The fallout at the wedding ceremony results in a hospital visit for Bridie, and Fiona is the only one around who can pick up the slack.

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