Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: One and Only

This week’s BotW is another romance – Jenny Holiday’s One and Only.  I impulse bought this after seeing the author tweeting that she’d realised that she keeps putting scenes in her books where her characters eat grilled cheese. Now, I currently have five different types of cheese in my fridge, and when I was learning to talk my word was more, and my first phrase was “more cheese” so I think we all know what it was that got my book buying ban overruled…

Cover of One and Only

Now as the whole book is not about cheese, I should give you a plot outline: Jane is the sensible, organised, responsible member of her friendship group.  So of course she’s the one tasked with keeping her Bridezilla friend’s soon-to-be brother-in-law out of trouble in the run up to the wedding.  Cameron has just been kicked out of the army (with the Canadian equivalent of a dishonourable discharge) after his attempt at turning his life around went awry.  He’s got a list of things that he wants to do now he’s free of the military’s rules and he’s determined to tick them all off before his brother gets married.  The last thing he needs is someone dogging his every move to keep him in line.

Of course we all know what’s going to happen here – these two opposites are going to fall for each other and we’re going to learn that there’s a lot more to Cameron than his bad boy reputation. Hint: he definitely got a rough deal from the army.  Jane needs some one to challenge her and get her out of her comfort zone and he needs someone to prove to him that he is more than other people think he is and that he can have the future that he wants to have.  I would chalk this up as reasonably steamy – there’s quite a lot of bedroom action here, and it’s a little bit more… adventurous than some of the others I’ve read recently.

The other great thing about this book is Jane’s group of friends – they’re fun and supportive, even the Bridezilla (who is also a great comic turn).  I also loved the setting – I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I read a contemporary romance set in Canada and this left me a) wanting more and b) wanting to visit Canada.  It’s the first in the series and the sequel is out in June.  I’m busy resisting the urge to go and buy more of Holiday’s back catalogue to read more of the grilled cheese scenes.

You can get One and Only on Kindle and Kobo and Amazon also sell a paperback edition, although I’ve not worked out if it’s a UK edition or a US one which will affect whether you’ll be able to order it elsewhere.  Summer is coming and with it I know a lot of you will be going to weddings, so get yourself in the mood with this!

Happy Reading!

American imports, Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: The Duchess Deal

April’s stats are coming up tomorrow, but first we have another Book of the Week post – and for the second week in a row it’s a historical romance novel that has got the nod.  I was lucky enough to go to Sarah MacLean’s London tea party back in February and met Tessa Dare there – but it’s taken a little while for her latest book to come to the top of the to-read pile.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

The Duchess Deal is the first in a new series and tells the story a battle scarred duke and his marriage of convenience with a seamstress.  The Duke of Ashbury came back from Waterloo a different man.  Since then he’s hidden himself away as he recovered from his injuries.  When Emma Gladstone turns up in his library, demanding payment for the dress she made for the fiancée who jilted him, he proposes that she marry him so that he can get the heir he needs.  Emma had been relying on the money from the wedding dress to keep her afloat.  Since her father disowned her, she’s made her own way in the world and is determined to succeed.  But the chance to be a duchess could be the solution to all her problems.  They both have rules for the relationship – his are all designed to stop her from getting close to him, hers are about conversation and getting to know each other.  But as time passes, they both realise that this marriage may be the making of both of them.

Emma is feisty and determined, and definitely not a wilting wallflower.  She knows her own mind and is prepared to stand up for what she believes in.  I liked Ash as well.  He is definitely an alphamale, but he’s one who has had to face up to a future he wasn’t really expecting which makes him more my sort of hero.  They have great banter together and the reader gets to see plenty of their relationship in action.  Because this is a marriage got into because Ash wants an heir, there is also quite a lot of bedroom action in this, which I would say is fairly steamy.*

I do love a marriage – or engagement – of convenience novel.  When they’re done well they’re delicious – and this is one of those cases.  I had a brief moment at the end where I wondered if there was about to be one storyline too many on the road to happily ever after, but I really shouldn’t have worried.   There is quite a lot of set up here for the rest of the series – I’m looking forward to book 2, which gets a little meet cute here – but as most of that revolved around group of women being friends I didn’t have a problem with it.

I ended up with two review copies of this – one from NetGalley and then a proper book copy that I won in a competition on Twitter – but it’s out now and I don’t think it will be too hard to find.  It came out in the UK in February (and in the US last summer) so you may have missed it in the supermarkets, but I’m sure it’s orderable and there are also the Kindle and Kobo editions too.

Happy Reading!

*Which is fine by me, but I know that other people like their romances to be more closed door than that.

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

Book of the Week: After the Wedding

As you may have noticed from yesterday’s post, I did a lot of reading last week – even for me.  And there were a lot of contenders for this week’s BotW, but it seemed serendipitous that Courtney Milan’s latest romance is actually out today, whereas the release dates had already passed for the other contenders.  And don’t worry, some of the other books from last week will feature in upcoming posts I have planned – there’s another cozy crime round up due as well as the traditional Holiday Reading post.  I read through my holiday so that you can benefit from it when picking your holiday reading.  Or at least that’s a happy accident of the fact that my preferred way of spending my holiday is reading!  Anyway, on to the review.

The cover of After the Wedding

After the Wedding is the second book in Courtney Milan’s Worth Saga.  I haven’t read the first, but that didn’t in any way impair my enjoyment.  Set in the late 1860s, it tells the story of Camilla and Adrian. Camilla has been moving around from family to family for years since her father was convicted of treason, but she never seems to be able to keep any of them happy enough with her to be allowed to stay.  Adrian is juggling a lot of things.  He’s trying to run the family business while trying to convince his uncle (a bishop) to recognise his family, who were disowned when his mother ran off with a black abolitionist. This sees him doing things that he would rather not be doing – like impersonating servants to obtain vital information.  When the two of them find themselves married – at gunpoint no less – they begin an awkward dance to work out what to do next.  He has definite ideas about what he wants from marriage, she can’t see how the world can make anything worse for her, but has had enough blows that she knows that she can’t rule anything else.

This is a really good historical romance – but it’s not your typical historical romance.  There is a a sadness in each of the character’s backstories that goes beyond what you normal find, and that is never going to go away or be resolved fully.  But that makes a lot of the other events of the book even sweeter.  Milan says in the afterword that this book is about hope – and I can totally get on board with that.  It’s showing two characters who face obstacles in their lives work out how they’re going to get around them – or live with them – and come to terms with themselves in the process.  The Camilla of the end of the book is not the same bowed, cowed and undermined character that she is at the start, but that’s not because everything has been magically fixed for her because she has found a man.  She’s done it for herself.   Adrian also works out what his priorities are and what he really wants but he’s also working for the best outcome for Camilla because he knows that she has even less choices than he does in many ways.  For me, the best sort of romances are the ones where the characters grow and develop and the fact that they’ve fallen in love in the process is a happy consequence, not the fix.  And that’s how it should be.   You can’t – and shouldn’t – rely on someone else to make you happy or to make your life complete.

I think this is my favourite new romance of the year so far and a timely reminder to me to go back and read more of what Courtney Milan has written.  I really, really like what she is doing with her historical romances – they’re something a bit different from what you expect and have a cast of characters who not only aren’t all dukes, but aren’t all white members of the haut ton.  And they’re stories that I want to read more of.  The conflict at the heart of this is not a misunderstanding that could have been fixed by having a conversation. And that makes for a really satisfying conclusion when you get to the happy ending.

I received my advance copy of After the Wedding from the author via her Facebook page, but as mentioned at the top, this is out today.  As I write this, I can only find it in Kindle and Kobo in the UK, but fingers crossed there’ll be some physical copies at some point.  I’m off to buy more of Courtney Milan’s back catalogue.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: A Princess in Theory

Normal service is nearly resumed here this week – real life is still super busy, but I read some really good stuff last week and I have an excellent BotW pick in Alyssa Cole’s latest book, A Princess in Theory.  After a few weeks of crime picks, I’m back on a romance reading spree, and this one is one of the best that I’ve read in a long time.  And it’s on offer at the moment as an ebook in the UK – so I’m all about enabling your book-buying habit as well!

Cover of A Princess in Theory

A Princess in Theory’s heroine is Ledi, a smart, fiercely independent orphan who’s come through the foster care system and built her own life.  She’s an epidemiologist – aka someone who studies diseeases – and is really fed up with getting taken advantage of at work.  She just doesn’t have time to deal with these weird scam emails claiming that she’s betrothed to an African prince. Prince Thabiso is one of Africa’s most eligible bachelors, sole heir to the kingdom of Thesolo, so why is he so hung up on the idea that the girl he was betrothed to when he was a child is the one for him? When he tracks her down, she ends up thinking he’s just another normal guy – could this be the best way to find out if they could be the real thing? Ledi really likes this clueless new guy who’s moved in across the hall, but what will happen when she finds out who he really is?

This is full of some of my favourite tropes – secret identities, fake relationships and most of all: a Super Competent Heroine. Ledi is such an engaging character – you really feel like you understand who she is, and what she wants and what her hopes are. She’s so used to being let down – describing herself as “defective Velcro” that people just don’t stick around to – that she’s put up big walls to keep people out and stop her from being hurt any more. She’s clever and driven, but she’s used to not being taken seriously and to people not treating her fairly – as a black woman in a male-dominated STEM field, she’s used to trying to get what she’s due whilst trying to avoid being labelled troublesome. One of the things I liked most about the resolution to this was that it didn’t diminish Ledi’s own accomplishments and skills in her finding her happy ever after. She and Thabiso are going to be a team, and he’s on her side.

I usually have a limited tolerance for princes as heroes, but actually Thabiso is kinda charming in his clueless way. Of course he should have told Ledi who he was straight away (although the book wouldn’t be the same at all if he had!) but he knows that and if he starts to look like forgetting that, he has his super efficient, super sarcastic assistant Likotsi to remind him. And Likotsi is a lot of fun too – she’s not going to let Thabiso get away with taking away Ledi’s decision making power and she’s firmly on Ledi’s side later in the book. I really liked that for once in this sort of book, the prince’s advisor/friend who was trying to sabotage his relationship.

I had a few concerns at the midpoint about whether this was all going to be resolved in a totally satisfactory manner, but I shouldn’t have been worrying. This is a fun, smart contemporary romance, with a great voice and that’s diverse and inclusive and bringing something different to the genre. This is my first Alyssa Cole – but it definitely won’t be the last, because I’ve already got the next book in this series preordered! I’ve heard Alyssa interviewed a couple of times on The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast and not only does she seem like great fun and someone you’d really like to go out for a meal with, but she’s a great advocate for her genre and for the need for more books representing people other than white women. Oh and she lives in the Caribbean and it all sounds super exciting.

Anyway, I think I’ve gone on about how much I enjoyed this enough – so here are the links: I bought my copy on Kindle (it’s only £1.99!), but it’s also available on Kobo. There is a paperback edition, but I suspect if you want it, you’re going to have to order it in, either from Amazon or Foyles or Big Green Bookshop.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Duke of Pleasure

I was still suffering from the after effects of my virus from hell last week, so not a lot of reading got done – as you can see from yesterday’s Week in Books post.  But luckily one of the books that I did finish hit the spot.  My brain is still a bit fried and over tired, so apologies that this post is going to be shorter than usual.

Copy of Duke of Pleasure

Duke of Pleasure is the eleventh book in the Maiden Lane series – but only the second one of them that I’ve read.  The Maiden Lane series – or at least the ones of them that I’ve read – are set in the early to mid eighteenth century (around the 1730s) and have characters from the ton mixing it with the less fortunate in the East End and the Stews.  Duke of Pleasure sees Hugh Fitzroy, the titular Duke (of Kyle) on an errand from the government to break up a secret society known as the Lords of Chaos.  When Hugh is ambushed in an alley, he’s helped out of trouble by the legendary Ghost of St Giles – who turns out to be a woman.  Alf has survived on the streets by disguising herself as a man.  During the day she’s a street urchin, dealing in information, but by night she’s a masked vigilante flitting across the rooftops.  When Hugh hires Alf to work for him, how long with Alf be able to maintain his disguise as his two worlds collide?

Regular readers to my posts about romance will be aware that one of my favourite historical romance tropes is people in diguise.  Usually it’s women dressed as men – Twelfth Night, Heyer’s These Old Shades – ocassionally it’s the other way around – Heyer’s Maskeraders – but really, I’ll read anything about people in disguise.  And this scratched that itch nicely for me.  It’s a bit overblown at times – a bastard son of the king working as a spy can have that effect – but I just couldn’t put it down.  Alf is a great character and I liked Hugh’s complicated family and backstory.  It all wrapped up very quickly in the end, but the set up for the next book was intriguing.  I got this one from the library – I can only hope they’ve got a few more!

You should be able to get hold of this from your preferred purveyor of romantic fiction – Amazon have it in Kindle and paperback – but I suspect you may have to have a rummage for it in the bookshops.

Happy reading!

American imports, Authors I love, Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: A Scot in the Dark

A day late, because of my birthday special post, but I’m sure you don’t mind waiting. I read a lot of cozy crime ARCs last week but in the end the choice for BotW was easy: Sarah MacLean’s A Scot in the Dark.

This is the second in MacLean’s Scandal and Scoundrel series and tells the story of Lily, who is facing public ruin after posing for a portrait that she thought was going to be private, and Alec, a Scotsman who has already inherited a title he didn’t want and wasn’t expecting and now discovers that he has a ward and that she’s caused a scandal.

Now, regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of Sarah MacLean’s books and although this isn’t my favourite of hers (still a tie between Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake and Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover I think) it was still my favourite thing that I read last week by far.  I really like what MacLean is doing in this series by turning modern day celebrity scandals into historical romances and this is a really good one. As modern technology and social networks continue to take over our lives we’re seeing more and more cases of revenge porn – and this is the nineteenth century equivalent. Lily has been betrayed by someone she thought loved her, but who was actually using her for his own ends. She’s devastated at the betrayal but she’s not defeated by it. Alec is a fixer – he wants to solve the problem and make it better – but that’s no easier to do then than it is now. He’s also stubborn and has some baggage of his own. All of this makes for a really readable twist on traditional historical romance tropes.

I found a lot of this totally compelling and it’s all very readable. I’ve been trying to work out all week why I didn’t love it, love it, and the closest that I can get is that I just didn’t always know enough about what was going on in Alec’s head and in his history – but it’s still comfortably the best historical romance that I’ve read recently.

I’m a book behind in this series – the final one Day of the Duchess is already out – but I have a very strong negative reaction to the UK covers for these and so I have to wait for a Kindle offer or bribe someone going to the US to buy me the American version and also it got packed into the boxes of stuff. Fingers crossed I get my hands on Day of the Duchess soon. These are always harder to find if you are in the UK: your best bet is to order online or try a big bookshop with a romance section. Of course if you’re in the US it should be much easier and I’m very jealous!

Happy Reading!

book round-ups, mystery, romance, women's fiction

Veritys in fiction

Today is my birthday, so it seemed like a perfect time to talk about Veritys in fiction. I’ve always really liked my name, but it seems to give some people problems. Back in my reporting days, people used to mishear it all the time – I’d get messages to Sarah T, or Dorothy or a variety of V-names – and you should see the mess Starbucks make of it. There aren’t many of us, but here are five notable ones from my reading back catalogue.

Verity-Ann Carey – The Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent Dyer

I think Verity-Ann was the first time I encountered my name in a book – and I didn’t really count it at the time because of the Ann! Verity-Ann is one of what I think of as the second generation of Chalet girls: she joins the school during the Second World War year’s in Armiford and becomes Mary-Lou’s sister-by-marriage. Verity-Ann is always described as silvery and fairy-like and has a beautiful singing voice. Even when I was a child I had nothing in common with her: my sister has banned me from singing in public and I’m a tall brunette. Never mind. The school stories are great though – even if Verity-Ann was never one of Brent Dyer’s pet characters and had very little to do except be dreamy and sing solos in school plays.

Verity Hunt – Nemesis by Agatha Christie

I saw this on television before I read the book and it creeped me out no end. I was eleven at the time and hadn’t met another Verity and one of the first ones I encountered was the murder victim in a Miss Marple! But once I got past the fact that the dead girl had the same name as me, it’s a cracker of a story – darker in the novel than the Joan Hickson TV version (don’t get me started on the Marple version – which had added nuns!). It’s not my favourite Miss Marple, but it’s right up there.

Verity Kindle – To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

A new discovery last year, Verity Kindle is the female lead in Willis’s time-travel romp. She’s also much more my style: for a start she’s a historian and a Cat fan. Well, sort of. To Say Nothing of the Dog was one of my favourite books of last year: a screwball comedy full of literary in jokes, Peter Wimsey references and all the worst bits of Victoriana. I’d been lent it by a friend and really didn’t want to give him his book back. Which reminds me, I must buy myself a copy so I can reread it and then lend it out….

Verity Browne in the Lord Edward Corinth series by David Roberts

Like me, Verity Browne is a journalist, however that’s pretty much where the similarities end. This Verity is abrasive and has communist sympathies – which don’t help her in the 1930s. I read this whole series nearly four years ago in my ongoing quest for good historical mystery series. This is very much Wimsey crossed with spies and Verity can be quite hard to like. But if you like mismatched detecting duos, they’re worth a look.

Verity Love – True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop books by Annie Darling

Verity Love is a bookseller at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop in Annie Darling’s first book, but in the sequel she gets her own happily ever after. This Verity is a huge Jane Austen fan who has invented herself a boyfriend to stop her friends’ attempts at matchmaking and to give herself an excuse not to do things she doesn’t want to. Of course this plan goes awry and she finds herself with a real pretend boyfriend. Lots and lots of fun and I had a lot of sympathy with this Verity! Also I can’t wait for book three in this series to come out next month.

So there you have it: five fictional Veritys to celebrate my birthday. I think there’s one for most reading tastes here, if you only read one, make it Verity Kindle. She’s smart, plucky, loyal and fun – a set of character traits most people would be happy with I think. And if you can think of any more Veritys I ought to read about, let me know in the comments.

Happy Reading!