American imports, Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Bride Test

You all knew this was coming.  You knew I’d been looking forward to this.  It was in my anticipated books post, Helen Hoang’s debut, The Kiss Quotient, was a Book of the Week and one of my favourite books of last year.  It is on my bullet journal list of 2019 books I want to read and only came out two weeks ago.  The reading list yesterday was short.  Doris Day died and I’ve been watching romantic comedies and being nostalgic.  This was the perfect book to be reading last week and the perfect BotW pick.

Cover of The Bride Test

So, Khai Diep doesn’t have feelings.  Not like everyone else seems to anyway.  The big feelings that everyone else gets, he doesn’t seem to.  Or at least he doesn’t think he does.  So it wouldn’t be fair on him to have a relationship with anyone – because he can’t give them what they need.  Except that his family knows better – he feels things, it’s just that his autism means he doesn’t process them the same as everyone else does.  So that’s why his mum makes a trip to Vietnam to find a woman for him.  Esme Tran has always felt out of place in Ho Chi Minh City – as a mixed race girl in the slums.  So when she gets the chance to spend a summer in America, she just can’t turn it down.  She could make a better life for her family, she could try and find her father.  But Khai isn’t what she expected.  There’s a language barrier and a culture barrier sure, but there’s something else as well that’s making Khai hold back.  But holding back isn’t a problem for Esme – everything that she’s doing to try and make Khai fall for her is only making her fall for him more.  And Esme’s on a clock – she’s only got a tourist visa and if she doesn’t make Khai want to marry her by the end of the summer, it could all have been for nothing. How will these two get to happily ever after?

I loved this.  Esme is a fantastic heroine – she fierce and determined and resourceful and she’s taking an opportunity to make her life better.  Her story mirrors that of many immigrants from around the world – who are looking for a better future.  You’re willing her on every step of the way.  Khai’s family are the other end of that migration story – they’ve been in America, they’ve arrived, they’ve set down roots and they’ve started the next generation.  And Khai is a fabulous hero – smart, but clueless, generous and caring but in ways that people don’t always recognise.  They make a great couple and it’s a real treat watching them work out their relationship.

There’s a lovely afterword from Helen Hoang talking about how her mother’s life inspired and informed elements of Esme’s life, and it shows.  What also shows is the care and attention Hoang has taken with Khai.  Like Stella in The Kiss Quotient, Khai is in the autistic spectrum, but the two of them are very different and that is absolutely as it should be.  Austism comes in many forms and we need more representation of neurodiverse characters in books.  I’ve been lucky enough to read a lot of books who feature heroes and heroines who I can see myself in – and everyone in society and the world deserves that for themselves too.  Books have also always been one of the ways that I expand my horizons and my understanding – so having more books (and knowing where to look for them) about people who don’t look like me fills me with joy.

This would make the perfect holiday read – I’m almost sorry I didn’t manage to save it for my next vacation.   The next book in the series just can’t come soon enough – especially as it’s Quan’s story and I’ve been itching to find out more about him.  I know I’ll be pre-ordering it just as soon as it that’s an option.

My copy of The Bride Test was pre-ordered on Kindle, which is good because at my library the hold list for the ebook is currently around 19 weeks. But it’s available now on Kobo (£1.99 at time of writing) and Kindle (only £1.19! total bargain)  or you can pre-order the paperback – which comes out on June 6th – from Amazon, Book Depository or wherever you buy your books.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Happy Reading!

Bonus photo:  The aforementioned upcoming books master list in my journal.

Double page journal spread with a bookshelf on one side and a list of books on the other

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 13 – May 19

So, yes.  It’s been one of those weeks.  I’ve been super busy and Doris Day died so I’ve been rewatching her films rather than reading.  Oh and it was the Eurovision Song Contest which is one of my favourite weeks of the year.  What can I say.  The reading

Read:

Thanks Obama by David Litt

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

The Condor Crags Adventure by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Archie Vol 1 by Mark Waid

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Started:

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas

Still reading:

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

A Gentleman’s Honour by Stephanie Laurens

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

One book bought – but it’s the new Vinyl Detective novel, so sorry, not sorry.  And thank you Foyles for hanging on to a copy for me after I asked you on Twitter!  I picked it up on my way to the Phoenix Arts Club for their Eurovision party after work on Saturday night.

Bonus picture: My frozen Margarita at the aforementioned Phoenix Eurovision party on Saturday night!

Frozen Margarita with a projector showing Eurovision in the background in a club

 

 

 

 

tribute

Not a Book: Doris Day

You may not know this about me, but my all time favourite five films are probably Pillow Talk, Some Like It Hot, The Philadelphia Story, Mary Poppins and The Parent Trap (the Haley Mills one).  And once you get over the fact that all my favourite films are more than 50 years old, you’ve probably figured out that the death of Doris Day left me feeling quite sad this week.  Actually, my favourite films also shadow my reading tastes in many ways, so maybe you’re not so surprised after all.

In case you’ve never seen it, Pillow Talk is the story of an interior decorator who’s feuding with the playboy she shares a party line with.  He finds out what she looks like, decides he likes the look of her and adopts a fake persona to try and get in her pants.  Of course he falls in love but she’s less pleased when she finds out who he really is.  Yes, by modern standards, there are a few issues – how well does she actually know him when they get their happily ever after considering he’s been playing her – but if we were to turn it into romance tropes, it’s an enemies to lovers, reformed rake, love triangle, sassy confident heroine thing.  And whoo boy is that a whole lot of some of my favourite tropes.  Here’s the trailer – which is very, very retro…

Pillow Talk got Doris her only Oscar nomination, but she was the top female box office start of the late fifties and early sixties and she deserved more.   I’ve seen pretty much the whole of the Doris Day film canon – I had a Lovefilm rental subscription in my final year of uni and used it wisely – and as the best of the obituaries have been trying to point out, she was more than “just” Hollywood’s favourite girl next door.  Everyone has heard of Calamity Jane – and she is brilliant in it – but she’s also fabulous in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.

 

Yes she got stuck in a type – the second Rock Hudson sex comedy, Lover Come Back, isn’t as good as Pillow Talk – and is even more dubious by modern standards as he gets her knocked up while in a false persona – but it’s still got a few laughs and hey, it was daring for the time and got an Oscar Best Screenplay nod (Pillow Talk won that Oscar).  And it’s the law of diminishing returns because Send Me No Flowers – the third and final Rock n Doris – isn’t as good as Lover Come Back, although are some nice farcical moments there.

Move Over Darling has it’s moments – with Doris playing a wife back from the dead after a plane crash and trying to win her husband James Garner back from his new fiancee.  I prefer it to her first film with Garner, The Thrill of It All, but that has its moments too, as well as highlighting the repetitive formula of Hollywood at the time – got a success?  Repeat it with the same actors and a slightly different premise.  On the musicals from, as well as Calamity Jane, Doris gets to be fabulous in the Pajama Game, but all the prints I’ve seen of it have been terrible, so I’m giving you the Calamity Jane trailer instead.

 

 

Calamity Jane was my first introduction to Doris back when I was really young, but as a teen in the late 1990s, early 2000s, I loved romantic comedies.  And when I first saw Pillow Talk, back in those teenage years, it was my introduction to the films of the past that had got us to the modern films that I loved.  It started me down the rabbit hole that lead me to Katherine Hepburn’s screwball comedies and all the rest.  There’s been a bit of a dearth of romantic comedies of that type in the last few years, so imagine how much I was cheered up at the end of the week when this trailer for Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe dropped.  And I’ll leave you on that optimistic note.

 

American imports, Book of the Week, historical, romance

Book of the Week: Day of the Duchess

This week’s pick is a book that I brought back from my American Adventure with me and have been saving for a time of need.  And last week was my time of need for a variety of reasons including but not limited to: a book hangover after finishing the Blessings series, a super stressy week at work, not enough sleep and general life stress that I’m not going to talk about because talking about it makes me anxious. So it seemed like the time to crack out the emergency MacLean.

Paperback copy of Day of the Duchess

Day of the Duchess is the last book in the Scandal and Scoundrel series, which was inspired by modern celebrity scandals and translated them back to the nineteenth century. Seraphina is the most scandalous of the sisters that we’ve been following – she left her husband Malcolm and fled abroad but now she’s back and she wants a divorce. The book flashes backwards and forwards between Sera and Mal before their relationship imploded and now when Sera is very clear that she wants her freedom and her future back no matter what the consequences and Mal is equally determined that he wants her back and that they should and can fix things.

And it is really good – an estranged couple, a battle of wills, a fiery relationship with amazing chemistry and the ultimate question: is love and chemistry enough? What happens when you are head over heels for someone – and they are for you – but there is a fundamental problem in your relationship and a conflict that isn’t just a misunderstanding. How do you work past that? This is much more melancholic and reflective than a lot of historical romance – if I hadn’t known it was a romance (and that it was written by an author who I trust and who knows the genre rules!) I would have been worried that there wasn’t going to be an Happily Ever After. But there is and I had strong feelings about what needed to happen to get there too. But the end I was a satisfied customer although it sort of broke me and put me back together again along the way, which was not quite what I was expecting.

As I said at the top, this has been on the shelf for a while and there has been another Sarah MacLean since this  which has started a new series which has some set up going on here, but in a subtle way. On reflection I think that I probably should have reread the rest of the series first because it’s nearly 18 months since I read A Scot in the Dark and I forgotten a little bit where everything fitted in and what we already knew. But that’s not to say that it would be a problem to start reading Sarah MacLean here – because it totally isn’t.  It’s more that if you’re a nerd like me it’s nice to remind yourself who everyone else is and how we got here. Although to be fair, I could also just have gone back and checked the archives here to start with!

As I mentioned at the top, my copy of Day of the Duchess came from the US – specifically the Clarendon Market Common Barnes and Noble – and I’d expect this to be easy to find in any US bookstore with a reasonable romance section – because Sarah MacLean is a Big Name.  If you’re not in the US, you can get the UK version (with a cover that does it no justice) from Kindle or Kobo. Amazon are also carrying the paperback, but I suspect if you want to get it from a real shop it’ll be a special order. All I need to do now is figure out how I’m going to get an American edition of the next Bareknuckle Bastards book when that comes out in the summer. I’m open to offers y’all.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 6 – May 12

A really, really busy week.  So busy.  But some books finished, some really good ones started.

Read:

Lighting the Flames by Sarah Wendell

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean

Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton

An Unnatural Vice by K J Charles

Just Past Two by Elia Winters

Lies, Damned Lies and History by Jodi Taylor

Fence Vol 2 by CS Pacat et al

Started:

A Gentleman’s Honour by Stephanie Laurens

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Still reading:

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

Thanks Obama by David Litt

No books bought – but a couple of pre-orders turned up.

Bonus photo: The stage set for Bill Bailey on Sunday night

stage set up for Bill Bailey

 

American imports, Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Intercepted

It was a bank holiday here yesterday, which means that I wasn’t at work for all the Royal Baby excitement – but then as I’ve done most of the Baby Cambridges, I coped.  It has got me in the mood for another royalty-themes romance – so if you’ve got any recommendations, drop them in the comments.  And yes, I am cross with myself that I’ve already talked about Alyssa Cole so much this year that I can’t jump on the Royal Baby bandwagon and pick A Prince on Paper, which I read on day of release last week.   However we are still firmly in the romance section of my reading life for this week’s BotW pick – to be honest this was on my hold list at the library for months, when it finally came through I absolutely adored it and so it’s a fitting BotW pick – no bandwagon jumping needed!  Intercepted is Alexa Martin’s debut and I’ve wanted to read it since I heard her talking about it on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast as I was wandering round an outlet mall in Maryland in the autumn during my American odyssey!

Cover of Intercepted

Marlee Harper has been dating her NFL pro boyfriend Chris since they were in high school.  Ten years on they’re not married and this makes her the main target of the clique of wives of the other players.  Then the one night stand she slept with while she and Chris were broken up is signed as the teams new quarterback, and she finds out that Chris has been cheating on her. So she starts over – with a new flat, a fresh purpose in her career and determined that she won’t date another sports star.  Except… well Gavin just keeps appearing.  He’s the star player, the key to the team’s Super Bowl chances and he’s also determined to show Marlee that they’re perfect together.  But is he really different?  And how will Marlee cope with the coven of NFL wives who are now on her trail?

I absolutely raced through this.  I know I’ve said before that I don’t really do sports romances, and then here I am, picking another sports romance, after that Susan Elizabeth Philips streak the other year and then the Farah Rochon book in the diverse romances post last month, but this is so good.  One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team and the action between the wives here is just what I imagine goes down behind the scenes there with all the picture perfect cheerleaders who make nice for the cameras but who you suspect are a sea of backstabbing, rivalries and jealousy behind the scenes.  And Alexa Martin was an NFL wife – and so this is all informed by her experiences, which makes it all the more delicious.

Marlee is great a great heroine too – she’s not in the Coven and unlike most of them, she hasn’t turned herself into nothing but an accessory to a football player and his career.  When we meet her she’s busy making sure that she maintains her independence and has her own business – despite her boyfriend’s efforts – and after the break up she goes all out to make her life into what she wants it to be.  And part of the conflict in the budding relationship with Gavin is that she wants to be independent, fight her own battles and be treated like an equal.  As you know, I’m all about the strong women and competency porn and so this ticks all my boxes for that.

It’s also really funny.  I didn’t love the #hashtagoneliners but then I’m old and boring.  The dialogue is great, the characters are witty and it’s just not taking itself too seriously.  What’s not to love. There’s a reason this made pretty much all the Best Romances of the Year posts at the end of 2018 – and why I had to wait about 6 months on the library waiting list to read it.  I’m currently in an estimated 16 week wait for the second book in the series – Fumbled – which came out at the end of April and features an adorable side character from Intercepted.  It’s £10.99 to buy on Kindle at the moment which is the only reason I’ve managed to resist buying it so far.  I’ll keep you posted…

You can get Intercepted on Kindle, Kobo or in paperback, or you can get to the back of the queue for your library’s copy.  And if you’re an American reader (*waves*) then I reckon it should be super easy to find in Barnes and Noble and maybe be even at Walmart.  If you like Alyssa Cole*, Jasmine Guillory, Jenny Holiday or the aforementioned Susan Elizabeth Philips Chicago Stars series I don’t think you will regret it.

Happy Reading!

*Check out my restraint in not writing about A Prince On Paper this week, because you know I read that the day it came out!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: April 29 – May 5

Another busy week – because it was the local elections so I got to work on the coverage!  But those train journeys meant some good reading time – and then there was a bank holiday weekend at the end.  Not bad going at all.

Read:

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujaya Massey

Second Time Sweeter by Beverly Jenkins

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian

Web of Love by Mary Balogh

Out of Time by Katy Monger

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

Daily Grind by Anna Zabo

Started:

Lighting the Flames by Sarah Wendell

An Unnatural Vice by K J Charles

Thanks Obama by David Litt

Still reading:

Lies, Damned Lies and History by Jodi Taylor

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle

Four books – that copy of Bonfire of the Vanities I mentioned in last week’s BotW post and the first three cozy crimes in a series that I spotted in the Oxfam bookshop when I was on my lunchbreak on Friday!  Oh and two graphic novels at the Comic Book shop on Free comics day too..

Bonus picture:  My view from results duty on Friday!

View of the houses of parliament from an upper floor window