Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows

Well after last week’s (slightly cheating) pick of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, another book featuring bees gets the nod this week. And this wasn’t the only other book with a bee connection – because Rose Learner’s Taste of Honey was also on the list, and while that’s not really bee keeping in the way that the other two are, it’s got honey right there in the title!

 

Anyway, to the plot: since Agatha’s husband died, she’s had to run the family printing business, whilst reining in her son’s radical tendencies. Whilst visiting the company’s warehouse she finds the last thing she needs – a colony of bees has taken up residence in amongst the printing plates. Penelope Flood is the town’s go to person when it comes to moving hives, so she’s the person that Agatha is recommended to get help from to move the hive. The two become friends – but each is wondering if it could be something more. There are obstacles though – aside from being two women in a relationship in the nineteenth century. Agatha has her family and her business responsibilities in London, and Penelope has a complicated situation in Melliton – she’s not one of the gentry, but she’s not precisely one of the tradespeople either. And it doesn’t help that her husband is away for years at a time on his whaling ship, along with her brother. Agatha and Penelope are drawn to each other from the start, but everything is also complicated by the return of Queen Caroline from abroad and tensions start to boil over in the town.

This has two older female heroines, a slow-build friends to lovers relationship and a really interesting setting. I loved all the details about the bees and their hives and I really, really liked the setting within the unrest and societal disorder that found an outlet when George IV tried to divorce his wife – with people who wanted reform coalesing behind the queen and those trying to preserve the status quo behind the king. I’ve read a lot about this period while I was studying history and in my history reading since – but it’s not a series of events that I can remember seeing used in historical romance and after reading this I find myself wondering why because it works brilliantly here.

This is the second in Olivia Waite’s Feminine Pursuits series – the first, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, was also great – with women looking to get their work recognised under their own names (rather than those of men from their families) and finding love along the way. The third book, The Hellion’s Waltz, is out in June and about all we know about it is that it’s a heist story – I have it preordered already.

You can get The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows from all the usual places – Kindle and Kobo and as an audio book. It’s a bit pricey as an ebook at the moment, but the good news is that The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics is only £1.99 on Kindle and Kobo at the moment and so you can just start the series! I don’t know how hard these are going to be in physical copies, but judging from the price of it on Amazon, it shouldn’t be too hard.

Happy Reading!

 

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: 40-Love

I’ve got some Christmas recommendations coming up tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s something completely different: a holiday romance set in Florida. Never let it be said that I don’t mix things up!

Cover of 40-Love

Assistant principal Tess Dunn is spending part of her summer vacation at a resort in Florida to celebrate her birthday. She’s splitting her time between the beach and planning for the promotion that she wants, but the point is that she went on holiday at all right? One morning, she’s in the sea when a wave takes her bikini top (no laughing matter) and she uses the nearest person as a human shield to protest her modesty. That nearest person is Lucas Karlsson. He’s currently the resort’s tennis pro, but behind his flirty demeanor he’s recovering from the premature end of his top level playing career. In an attempt to match make, Tess’s friend buys her some lessons with Lucas, and the sparks fly. But Tess has just turned 40 and Lucas is 26, and they only have two weeks to get to know each other. Is this just a holiday fling or could it be a long term thing?

I was about to say that I don’t read a lot of age gap romances, except that almost every traditional Regency you’ll ever read features an older man and a fresh out of the school room debutant. So it would be more accurate to say that I don’t read a lot of age gap contemporaries and very few of those feature an older woman. And this made a really nice change. Tess is a fun heroine who knows what she wants and how she’s going to get it, and Lucas’s tennis career means that he’s more mature than perhaps your average 26 year old man. As a pair they are delightful and it was really entertaining watching them get to know each other and break down their defences. It’s funny, it’s flirty, it’s sexy – but it also has a relatable core and deals with some real world issues in a compassionate way.

In the grand scheme of things – and the grand scheme of romance novels, 40-love is very low angst. Lucas is absolutely the polar opposite of the Alpha-hole romance trope. He’s kind, he’s emotionally fluent and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there’s no Big Stupid Thing that either of them do to the other. The conflict here is entirely about whether they’re going to work together when they get to know each other – not that one is hiding something big, or has done something dumb. And given the state of the universe at the moment, this is the sort of conflict that I feel emotionally ready to deal with! This isn’t my first Olivia Dade – I read Spoiler Alert a few weeks back, which was also a lot of fun and has some of the same elements of interesting non-typical romance characters – perhaps against expectations given the fact that the hero is the star of a show that I’m going to call Not Game Of Thrones, and there are a couple of references to that in this too which is a nice easter egg to find.

My copy of 40-Love came from the library, but you can buy it now on Kindle or Kobo or as a paperback, but it looks like its a print on demand type situation – although you can get Spoiler Alert from Waterstones much more easily.

Happy Reading!

American imports, Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Well Met

Well here we are at the start of December, and I’m recommending a romance again. Because what we all need when it’s cold outside is something that warms your insides. I mean it’s also set in summer in Maryland (another state ticked off!) so it might make you nostalgic for hot weather too, but you can’t have everything.

Cover of Well Met

The heroine of Well Met is Emily, who has rushed to help her sister and her niece after a car crash. And Emily soon finds herself roped in as volunteer at the town’s Renaissance faire. She’s only there because her niece needs an adult to accompany her, but she’s soon enjoying herself – or she would be if it wasn’t for Simon – high school teacher in the week and Ren Faire killjoy at the weekends. But when rehearsals are over and the Faire gets underway for real, Simon is transformed into a pirate and Emily is a tavern wench and the two of them can’t stop flirting. Is it just a summer fling or will Emily put down roots in Willow Creek?

First of all let it be said that Emily’s ex boyfriend is awful and should go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collection £200*. Secondly this is a lovely, sweet slow burn romance with a side of self discovery for Emily. Simon is an intriuging character, and although I joined the dots on bits of his backstory faster that Emily did, I think that I was meant to. I’ve never been to a Rennaissance Faire – I’ve done a couple of living history type events, but I don’t think that’s quite the same thing –  but that’s not a problem because it’s so well described that you can really picture it. I am basically assuming that all of their “English” accents are as awful as a group of Brits trying to do American accents would be though! The side characters are all great – and I’m looking forward to seeing what Jen DeLuca does with them in the next books in the series. The good news is that this came out a couple of years back (because as ever I am behind the curve) so the sequel is already out, with the third one planned for 2021.

You can get a copy of Well Met on Kindle or Kobo or audiobook. There is a paperback – but it looks like it’s an US-import type situation, so it may not be available in your normal bookshop.

Happy Reading!

* that’s a monopoly reference

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Someone to Romance

As I said in yesterday’s post, most of last week’s books were nice soothing reading to help my frazzled brain after a lot of work on US election coverage. And a fair few of them were old favourite authors or the latest in long-running series. So today you get a romance pick!

Cover of Someone to Romance

Jessica Westcott has decided that this season she’s going to get married. After years of ignoring the marriage mart because of the way they treated her best friend Abigail, she’s decided that she can’t be left behind any more. She might be older than some of the other debutants, but she’s the sister of a duke, so there will be options. Gabriel Thorne has just returned to England from Boston in order to reluctantly claim his inheritance. When he sees Jessica he decides that she might be his ideal wife. And when she learns more about him, she is intrigued and drawn to him. But will he manage to claim his birthright and will Jessica be at his side if she does?

This is the seventh in Balogh’s Westcott series, but you don’t have to have read the others for this to make sense – as with most romance series they’re a linked set of standalone stories rather than an ongoing plot with the same characters. I’ve read two of the others – the first and the fifth. This one is not quite a marriage of convenience, not quite a lost heir, but it’s also really quite low angst for all of that. Mary Balogh has been writing reliably good romances for decades and on the drama scale they clock in closer to the Georgette Heyer end of the drama scale than the Big Confrontation, Major Twist into a Sudden Ending one. And ditto on the steaminess scale – more Georgette than Sarah MacLean. It’s a lovely, romantic and calming read that did exactly what I wanted it to last week. And if you’re feeling stressed about the world – and goodness knows 2020 has dealt a lot of stress – than this would be a perfect read for you.

My copy of Someone to Romance came from the library, but it should be fairly easy to get your hands on – there are Kindle and Kobo editions as well as a paperback release in the UK. All the physical bookshops are shut at the moment, but bookshop.org.uk has stock of it. If this were normal times I’d say that these often crop up in The Works a year or so after release so you should be able to find them in supermarkets or Waterstones on release. But these aren’t normal times so who knows.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Manhunting

Back with a romance book this week – a contemporary romance at the time it was written, but given that that was the early 90s, not quite contemporary now! I’ve written about Jennifer Crusie’s books a few times before and as I read two of them last week it feels like they’re turning into a regular comfort read for me. And I needed some comfort reading. Anyway, to the book.

Kate Svenson is a successful businesswoman, but she’s unlucky in love. She’s been engaged a few times – but found out just in time that the men were only after her (father’s) money. But she’s fed up of being alone and wants someone to spend her life with. So she comes up with a plan: a two week holiday at a Kentucky resort. The Cabins is full of eligible bachelors – surely one of them must be the guy for her? But everytime she goes on a date, something happens to the guy. Jake Templeton’s brother owns the resort and he works there. He’d sworn off women even before he picked one of Kate’s rejects out of the swimming pool. He’s not interested in her, and she’s not interested in him – so why are they spending more time together than Kate is with anyone else?

This is a fun, frothy romantic comedy. You know exactly where it’s going to end up, but there are enough complications to keep it interesting, and the various situations that Kate finds herself in with the prospective boyfriends are a hoot. Obviously life – and technology – have changed a bit since 1993 when it was written, but I don’t think there’s anything here that’s dated in a bad way – which isn’t always the case! It’s just the sort of book I love reading – the stakes are fairly low, it’s funny but the humour isn’t nasty or based on humiliation and you come away with a nice warm feeling inside.

The bad news is that this doesn’t seem to be available on Kindle or Kobo at the moment, but Amazon have a bunch of paperback copies for a couple of quid.

Happy Reading

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Duke Who Didn’t

After a few weeks of crime or somewhat mystery-y picks, I’m back with some romance for this week’s Book of the Week – and the new novel by Courtney Milan, which is also the first in a new series from her.

The cover of The Duke who Didn't

Chloe Fong is super organised. She lives by her lists, and hopes that one day she’ll have the perfect day and get everything done. And beyond the daily list, she has a big plan too and it’s helping her father launch his new business. Jeremy Wentworth has been visiting Chloe’s village since his early teens, but stopped a couple of years back after Chloe told him that for anything to happen between them he would have to get serious. It’s taken him some time, but he’s realised that he just can’t be serious – or at least not the sort of serious his family wants him to be. But he’s convinced he’s the right man for Chloe and he’s back to convince her – if she can just get past the fact that he’s never told her his real name, that he’s a duke and owns the whole village…

This is a historical small town romance, set across the course of a couple of days in 1899 that happen to be the busiest in the village’s entire year – and possibly of Chloe’s life. There is a big competition called the Wedgeford Trials and Chloe and her father are using the influx of visitors this year to launch their family’s new sauce. Prepare to feel really, really, hungry – because the food in this sounds delicious. And it’s also taking a subtly clever look at colonialism through food – which is interesting and very real: I was watching Nadyia’s latest TV show this very week and she was making a recipe with Tamarind paste in it and said that if you don’t have Tamarind paste, it’s in Brown Sauce – so just use that. If you’ve read the book, you’ll get even more from that story. I promise. So go read the book.

Courtney Milan is also doing a lot of fun things with tropes here too, because the plot summary (even in my version) sounds like the story is going to be really angsty, and it’s not. It’s a perfect read if you’re feeling stressed and uncertain about the world and want to escape into another reality – there are stakes, but it’s not going to stress you out; there are conflicts, but it’s not life or death. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything going on. There’s plenty of plot, and character development – and also the set up for the Wedgford Trials of the series name – which are delightfully incomprehensible in the way that many British traditions are – even for Brits like me. Eg – in normal times, my village has an egg rolling race in the run up to Easter (I want to say on Palm Sunday but I can’t remember for sure), where you use a newspaper to hit a hardboiled egg along the road. Why did it start? I don’t know. Is there areligious meaning behind it? Probably, but I’ve forgotten. Is it fun – yes. Bingo.

My copy of The Duke Who Didn’t came from the author in return for an honest review, but it’s out now and available on Kindle and Kobo – and apparently in paperback, albeit with a very long leadtime.

Happy Reading!

 

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Daring and the Duke

The well-informed may have spotted the final books in two series on my reading list yesterday. The final book in the Wells and Wong series – which sees the girls take a Nile cruise – and the last in Sarah MacLean’s Bareknuckle Bastards series. This week’s BotW is the latter – because it’s an epic grovelling book and that turned out to be exactly what I needed last week.

Paperback copy of Daring and the Duke

The Daring of the name is Grace, queen of Covent Garden and the Duke is Ewan, who betrayed her when they were children and who Grace’s brothers have been hiding her from ever since. Ewan has been searching for Grace for a decade – and was told that she was dead – and has been busy trying to ruin her brothers in revenge ever since. But now he knows she’s alive and he’s determined to win her back and make her his duchess. If you haven’t read the first three books in the series, that already sounds like a lot of grovelling is going to be needed, but if you have read Wicked and the Wallflower and Brazen and the Beast it feels going into this like it will be impossible to redeem Ewan. Which is what makes this book so intriguing.

And it mostly delivers. I think if MacLean didn’t have such strong form for series ending novels I would have been even more enthusiastic but  it’s not quite as brilliant a redemption as MacLean’s previous epic-grovel series ender Day of the Duchess or the big reveal general epicness of Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover – which came off the back of a cliffhanger moment so big that you almost couldn’t believe it had been done. But Grace is a great character (also her business organisation is a lot of fun) and peeling back the layers and finding out what happened to Ewan is very satisfying.  We continue to be in difficult times and a bit of escapist reading in early Victorian London with plenty of grovelling as well as actual boxing makes for a strangely calming experience. Or at least it did for me.

I’ve written before that I’m trying not to save up books by my favourite authors anymore because my tastes change and I end up missing out on books that I would have enjoyed at the time but that now don’t float my boat. And previously this would probably have been a book that I would have saved for a time of need, but to be honest all of coronavirus life is pretty much a Time of Need, so I wasn’t going to risk saving it. I’ve also had a recent run of disappointing reads from new books by authors who I usually love, which means it was also a real relief that this was so good and did what I was hoping it would do.

Coronavirus also means that there was no Sarah MacLean meet up for me to go to this year, so instead I treated myself to a signed copy of Daring and the Duke  from Sarah MacLean’s local bookstore in Brooklyn, Word bookstore – but you should be able to get hold of the UK edition (which looks substantially more ethereal and floaty than these books are) from your usual purveyor of books (I can’t promise it’ll be in stock though, it might be an order) or in Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

Bonus picture: it was a sunny week outside and there was also a bit of a sunshine-y theme in the look of my reading!

Copies of Daring and the Duke, Death Sets Sail and The Vinyl Detective

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Take a Hint Dani Brown

Back to my happy place in romance for this week’s Book of the Week. You might have noticed two Talia Hibbert books on yesterday’s reading list and they’re both excellent, but Take a Hint, Dani Brown is out today (Tuesday!) so it’s getting the pick, but I’m basically going to talk about both of them.

Danika Brown knows what she wants from life: professional success and whatever the academic equivalent is of her name up lights. There is no place in her plan for relationships – she’s tried that before and got burned. So after her latest friend-with-benefits decides she wants more from the relationship than Dani is prepared to give, she asks the universe to send her the perfect no-strings partner. So when Zafir, the grumpy security guard she chats to on the way in to work, rescues her from a firedrill gone wrong, she thinks it a sign. Trouble is, that someone filmed the rescue and now it’s trending on the internet and is one half of #DrRugbae. But it turns out that Zaf has a sports charity – and it could really use the publicity and soon the two of them are playing along for the internet and fake dating. Dani’s plan is to try and seduce him behind the scenes, but Zaf is a secret romantic, with some issues of his own. Life is about to get very complicated.

I have mentioned before that I love a fake-relationship story and this ticked all of my boxes. Dani and Zaf are great leading characters and both have a backstory that totally explains why they are the way they are. And as they go about faking their relationship for social media, the two of them have the best banter. Dani’s sisters (more on them in a minute) are great – as are Zaf’s best friend and nieces. The resolution at the end is totally in keeping with their characters and what’s gone on before so it just left me with a big happy smile on my face. As well as the banter between the characters, the narrative has such a witty turn of phrase that it will make you giggle.

Cover of Get A Life Chloe Brown

Now this is the second book in the series – the first was about Dani’s older sister Chloe, and the last in the series will be about the other Brown sister, Eve. And as I mentioned at the top, I also read Get a Life, Chloe Brown last week. Chloe is a computer geek with a chronic illness, who comes up a plan to get a life after a sort-of near death experience. Top of the list is getting her own place and that’s where she meets Redford Morgan, her new building’s handyman who paints at night when he thinks no one is watching. Except that Chloe sort of is. Chloe and Red make a great pair and I love the way that they navigate their relationship as well as their personal hurdles. They’ve both got legitimate reasons for all of their understandings, and pretty much every time I thought things were about to get derailed by something that could be fixed with a conversation, they immediately had the conversation. I also really liked that Chloe’s health problems weren’t cured by a magic penis/amazing sex – she’s still got them at the end of the book, but she’s also got a partner who understands her and supports her. Chloe (and Red) make supporting appearances in this book, as does Eve in both books and I’m throughly looking forward to seeng what Hibbert has in store for her in the final book in the series, Act Your Age, Eve Brown which is coming next year. And if you want an example of that witty dialogue that I mentioned earlier, here’s a quote:

 

Since Gigi wasn’t wearing a head scarf this afternoon, her chic crop of white coils on display, Chloe had absolutely no idea where the Marlboro had been hidden. Her knickers? Up one nostril? In an alternate dimension she accessed at will? God only knew.

I bought my copy of Get a Life, Chloe Brown, but my copy of Take a Hint, Dani Brown came from NetGalley. You should be able to get hold of both of them fairly easily I would hope – because they’re published by Piatkus. If you want an ebook here are your links: Chloe Brown Kindle and Kobo and Dani Brown Kindle and Kobo. And Chloe is only £2.99 as I write this, which is a bit of a bargain.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Boyfriend Project

So I said yesterday that I had a slumpy week of reading, but actually I started the week with a really good new romance by Farrah Rochon, so that was an easy choice for my pick today! And after two weeks of books aimed at young readers, I can confirm that this one is definitely for the grownups!

Cover of the Boyfriend Project

Samiah Brooks is about to go out on a date, when someone live tweeting a horrific date reveals that she’s being cheated on – and not just two-timed, but three-timed. When she and the other two women confront the catfisher in a restaurant, they end up going viral. But Samiah also gains two new friends and they make a pact to spend the next six months focussing on themselves and not on men. Samiah’s big goal in putting herself first is to work on the app that she has been dreaming of creating, but hasn’t had time to do. But her resolve is soon tested by the new guy who has joined the tech company she works at. Daniel Collins is smart and funny and attractive – but Samiah can’t help feeling that he might be too good to be true.

I thought this was lots and lots of fun. As a reader, you know what is going on with Daniel from very early on and it’s a nice suspense-y subplot to the romance. I was somewhat concerned about how that subplot was going to impact on the happy ending – there was definitely a point when I was worried that there wasn’t a way to get to a satisfying resolution, but it actually all worked out really quite nicely. And if you like competency porn in your romance heroines this is one for you: Samiah is incredibly good at her job and also very upfront about the challenges and barriers to black women in tech. Oh and Daniel is pretty smart too…

This is the first in a series – I’m assuming Samiah’s other two friends will be the other heroines in the series and I am totally here for that. One of them is a surgeon, the other is running her own exercise business and the setups for both of them in this book is great. I love a strong group of female friends in a book – and I also love that they seem to be making a resurgence in romances. If you read and enjoyed Tracey Livesay’s Sweet Talkin’ Lover (maybe after I recommended it!) and the group of friends that that has, this has a similarly supportive and fun group. I preordered this (only a few days before publication but it still counts!) after hearing Farrah Rochon talking about it on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books last week – and that’s well worth a listen too if you need something to listen to on your daily exercise.

I’ve mentioned several times now that I’m focusing on reading black authors at the moment, and if you are too – maybe you’re taking part in the #blackpublishingpower week that Amistad publishing came up with, which is asking people to buy two books by black authors this week, then this would be a great pick for you. It came out last week and is a bargainous £1.99 in Kindle and Kobo. It’s also available in paperback – but I suspect it’s an import type of deal if you’re in the UK, rather than something you’ll be able to pick up at your newly reopened local bookshop.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: A Cowboy to Remember

As I said yesterday, it was a tough week for me last week, with all the changes in the world getting to me a bit. And I struggled to find my usual relaxation from reading, but there were some bright spots, And after a run of murder mystery picks, today I’m back with a contemporary romance choice.

Evie Buchanan is on the edge of something big. After winning a TV-cooking show, she’s snagged a hosting gig and she’s killing it. But when a fall down some stairs at a party nearly *literally* kills her, she’s left with a case of amnesia that she really needs to hide from her bosses and her fans. Her assistant gets in contact with the only “family” Evie has left – cowboys who run a ranch in California. Evie doesn’t remember them at all –  but when they arrive at the hospital to visit, one of them is the guy she’s been having dreams about since her accident. Zach hasn’t seen Evie since she left the ranch when he refused to admit that there were feelings between them. His family have always been desperate to pair them off together, but is he ready to admit that they might be perfect for each other? And what will happen if Evie gets her memory back and remembers how it ended the first time?

So, tell me again that I don’t like amnesia as a plot line (or cowboy stories), because this is so good and just goes to show in the right hands anything can make a great romance*. I’ve read a couple of Rebekah Weatherspoon’s other books (including Xeni which I wrote about after my birthday trip back in the times when we could still go away on holiday) and this has all the relatable characters and interesting plot that the others do, but with less on the page bedtime action. The chemistry between the leads is still as good, and it is in no way closed door – but it’s not as blush inducing as Xeni was. I was a bit concerned about how Zach and Evie’s relationship could be resolved if (well when) her memory came back because there seemed to be a couple of unresolvable things there – as I was concerned that one or other of them would have to become less (or give up their dreams) to make it work but actually, it was really cleverly worked out and fit in with both characters.

This is great fun and made great escapist reading at these difficult times. Your mileage may vary, but a ranch in California is sufficiently different to my every day life that I wasn’t constantly worrying about social distancing or viruses the way I am everytime I try and read something set in the contemporary UK at the moment! It’s also the first in a series – because luckily for us, Zach has brothers (and one of them is a pro-sports player, so they may not all be cowboy romances). The next one is out in the autumn and I’m hoping it’s about Jesse, but there’s no blurb for it on Goodreads yet.

My copy of A Cowboy to Remember came from the library, but it’s available now in Kindle and Kobo or as a mass market paperback. The delivery time claims to be quite short, bu I suspect you might be waiting a while for that physical copy because of it being a US release and you know: the ‘rona.

Happy Reading – and stay safe.

 

 

 

*but I’m not prepared to read a lot of Secret Baby or pregnesia romances to try and prove this though.