Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Acting Up

Plenty of options to chose from this week, and I’ve gone with a romance novel to make a nice change for the summer heat. Or what I hope is going to be a summery week!

Cath and Paul have been friends since college – and Cath’s been hiding a crush on Paul all these years. Now he’s a theatre director, and she’s a stage manager and they do their best work together. As friends. Just friends. Nothing more. And that’s fine with Cath, because she doesn’t want to risk losing the friendship she has with him. This summer, they’re working on a production of a new play at a regional theatre in Connecticut. If it goes well, it could go to Broadway – but will it go well if Paul insists on hiring Cath’s college nemesis to play the leading role? When rehearsals start, Paul realises that his leading lady is making Cath’s life miserable. And also that the leading man is showing an interest in Cath. Paul realises that what he wants is Cath – but can he persuade her that it’s worth taking a chance on?

Regular readers will remember how much I enjoy Lucy Parker’s theatre-set romances and that I always say I want more books like them. Well, here is more like them. This is friends-to-lovers rather than enemies-to-lovers and it’s in American regional theatre rather than the West End, but it’s got great characters, cracking banter – they quote plays at each other everyone, including some Busman’s Honeymoon, what more could I want – and the supporting characters are also amazing. Plus more backstage theatre details than you can shake a stick at, but not in an info dump sort of way. I read it in two sittings – it would have been one sitting, but it was 2am and I had to go to bed. Then I bought the next one so that I can read it on the train to work this week when I have finished the other things I am meant to be reading.

I bought this as part of my read the samples of books on offer spree (as mentioned yesterday) and it is 81p at the moment on Kindle everyone. EIGHTY ONE. And 99 cents in the US. Run don’t walk everyone, because I suspect this offer is going to finish at the end of June. It’s also available on Kobo (for 99p) and in paperback. You’re welcome. I’m off to see what else Adele Buck has written and buy it add it to my wishlist.

Happy reading!

romance, series

Bingeable series: Desperate Duchesses

Yes I know I’ve already done a whole post of books on offer this week, but I spotted this one after I’d written the June Discounts post– and it inspired me to write a whole post. And yes, Villiers got a mention in the Reformed Rakes Recommendsday, but the rest of the series weren’t as good value at that point or I’d have done them a post of their own before this!

These are Georgian-set romances – which is an earlier and naughtier time than the Regency. In Georgette Heyer terms, we’re Masqueraders and These Old Shades sort of times, in fashion (as you can see from the cover pix) it’s bodices to the actual waist rather than the Empire-lines of Bridgerton. Kiera Knightley’s Pride and Prejudice rather than Jennifer Ehle. In trope terms we’ve got a several already married couples among the duchesses with a variety of issues, as well as a cross dressing plot, so some of my favourite things. And then there is Villiers – as previously mentioned, the rake of rakes who gets his book at the end of the series when you’ve had time to watch him develop.T

These were written in the late 2000s – and the first four got a UK release, making them on of the first series I discovered when rampaging through my local library in search of more books like Julia Quinn. So if you’ve read the Bridgerton books after watching the Netflix series, these were written around the same time and gave the same sort levels of heat. There were six books in the initial Desperate Duchesses series, but there’s a spin off Desperate Duchesses By Numbers that Amazon and Kindle count as the same series but is a second generation so if you like them, there are 9 to binge on – and if you read the first six, you’ll figure out whose second generation it is and who you’ll get to see again. I think the later ones are slightly more steamy, but still fairly restrained by the levels you see in contemporary romance novels written at the same sort of time.

Hilariously you can chart the progress of historical romance availability by looking at how I consumed this series: I read the first four from the library, I own three in the American step back editions – the final two because they weren’t available in the UK in paperback or on kindle and Duchess by a Night because it was my favourite of the first four and I wanted to read it again and had moved away from the library service who had copies. And when I ordered it, the copy that turned up was the US version not the UK one. And then I have the Desperate Duchesses by Numbers on the kindle because that had changes by the time they came out!

Anyway, if you want to start a binge, Desperate Duchesses – aka the first book in the series is on offer for 99p on Kindle and the rest of the early books in the series are also quite cheap right now.

Happy Friday!

romance, women's fiction

New release: Book Lovers

I said on Tuesday that last week had been a good one for reading new stuff, and it was because here I am again with a new release that’s perfect for reading while sitting on a beach – or more likely in the garden (if the sunshine lasts).

Emily Henry’s new novel is about a New York book editor, who keeps getting dumped when here boyfriends go on business trips to small towns and fall in love. Nora is the before woman. When her sister drags her to a small town in North Carolina to spend a month, she encounters Charlie – her work nemesis. He’s the editing equivalent of her, but he turned down her biggest novel and she’s not over it. And they keep bumping into each other…

And it’s delightful. As you can probably tell, it’s a book for people who love reading romances and seeing someone do something different with the tropes and archetypes. It’s a romance, but it’s closer to the woman’s fiction end of the spectrum because Nora has some issues of her own to deal with and that along with her relationship with her sister takes up almost as much time as the romance does. It will probably make you cry, you will probably worry if there’s going to be a happy ending but it’s worth it in the end, even if I wanted a slightly longer epilogue (what’s new!).

My copy came from NetGalley, but Book Lovers is out today in paperback – it came out on Kindle and Kobo on the 3rd – because release dates are confusing and annoying. Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Book previews, historical, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting

There were lots of options for this post today. I like a week like that. I’ve gone for a historical romance because it’s been a few weeks and this was a lot of fun and I needed something fun and frothy and if I hadn’t written it already, another entry for the marries the person you’re trying to save someone from post.

Kitty Talbot’s parents have died, leaving their daughters with debts and an uncertain future. Determined to secure her sisters’ future, she decides the solution is to marry well and heads to London with the last money they have to try to secure a rich husband. She’s never moved in this sort of society before, but with the help of her mother’s best friend she’s sure she can succeed. And indeed she soon attracts a suitor and is intent on reeling him in, until his older brother, Lord Radcliffe comes to town to put a stop to it. He knows she’s a fortune hunter and is determined to keep her out of his family, but somehow he finds himself helping her ingratiate herself with the ton…

As you might be able to tell from that summary – which doesn’t even cover half the book – this has got a lot of plot and a lot of twists. It rattles along so fast that you don’t have time to think about it, but when I was trying write that plot summary I realised how much had gone on beside the whole fortune hunter main idea. It pulled it off, but I do wonder whether there are any ideas left for Sophie Irwin’s next book! But I enjoyed this a lot so I’ll definitely be looking for it when it comes to see. It’s “not quite in the common way” of the historical romances I have read recently, not least because the steam level is basically smouldering glances for most of the book and never gets higher than kissing – so not so much enemies to Lovers as enemies to soon to be marrieds!

My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s coming out on Thursday in ebook and hardback and if you pre-order it today it’ll drop onto your Kindle or Kobo or your doormat on release day.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Count Your Lucky Stars

Did I finish this on Monday? Yes. Am I breaking my rules? Absolutely. Is this perfect? No, but it’s a lot of fun and the issues I have will the last quarter are not uncommon. So this weeks BotW is Alexandria Bellefleur’s Count Your Lucky Stars

This is the third in the Count Your Lucky Stars series – which I’ve read two of now and have the first one waiting to be read at some point in the Misty future when I remember about it. Anyway, this is a second chance romance between Olivia and Margot, who were best friends in high school that turned into something more for a week and then… wasn’t. Now a decade later they meet again because Olivia is planning Margot’s best friend’s wedding. And then Margot accidentally offers Olivia somewhere to stay after Olivia’s apartment is flooded and then it all gets complicated.

Now as I said at the top, for 75 percent of this I was all in. A lot of Margot and Olivia’s issues could be solved by a proper conversation and they had that and I was looking forward to the big finish and then… they had another big misunderstanding/problem that could have been fixed by having a conversation but the author decided to make that impossible. And I get it, I do. You need tension and a final resolution, except that it sort of already felt like a final resolution had happened and I was wondering if the book was going to have a preview of another book as the final ten percent because it felt like it was wrapping up. But it wasn’t. And it still left a plot thread sort of hanging in the resolution. And I realise that now I sound like I didn’t like this, but I actually did. There is witty dialogue and a fun group of friends and an amusing cat. I just wanted them to have a conversation to sort stuff out!

Anyway, I know that usually I’m complaining about romances wrapping up too quickly and here I am sort of grousing about one that doesn’t do that, but hey, I’m allowed to be inconsistent. This is a fun contemporary romance with a nice group of central characters and a cat. What’s not to enjoy.

My copy came from the library, but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in paperback – Foyles even have it in stock in some stores.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Roomies

Back with contemporary romance this week, because it’s only been two months since Death Goes on Skis was BotW so I can’t do Nancy Spain again yet, but don’t worry I will find a way to talk about Poison for Teacher, and this Christina Lauren is a good one too!

The heroine of Roomies is Holland, a MFA graduate who finds herself somewhat adrift after her muse deserts her. Instead of writing she’s working for her uncle, who has written the latest Broadway smash, and has a huge crush on a guitarist she’s heard busking in the subway. When Holland helps Calvin to get his big break, it turns out that his student visa is long expired and his chance to shine may be out of reach after all. So Holland offers to marry him, and so begins their attempt to keep him in New York and fool The Powers That Be that theirs is a genuine relationship. But as they live together in Holland’s apartment and find out more about each other, who is actually fooling who and is this relationship turning real?

Marriages of convenience are one of my favourite historical romance tropes, but you don’t get a lot of them in contemporary romance, so when you find one it’s a real treat. This is a bit slow to get started – I think because Holland’s infatuation with Calvin before she knew him made me a little uncomfortable, but once it does click it’s a lot of fun. There is a good group of supporting characters – Holland’s uncles are lovely and her boss is awful – and watching Holland figure out who she is and what she wants is a good counterpart to the romance. Christina Lauren’s books can sometimes be too cringe or have leading character that are too unprofessional for me to deal with, but Roomies manages to stick on the right side of that – just. It all wraps up a little quickly, and I wanted a little bit more closure on a few things, but all in all it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

My copy of Roomies came from the library, but it’s out now and you can get it on Kindle and Kobo and the paperback looks like it may be relatively easy to get hold of.

Happy Reading!

Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: People who end up marrying the person they’re trying to save someone else from

Long title I know, but all the shorter versions didn’t really cut it! Two weeks ago for Recommendsday we had Reformed Rakes in honour of Anthony Bridgerton. Today’s post is in honour of Kate – who in the book is 26 and on the shelf, but in the TV series is putting her younger sister first. So I went looking for historical romances with characters who are unmarried and trying to save someone important to them from marrying someone they think is unsuitable (and end up marrying the unsuitable person themselves) Before I get to my suggestions, I’ve read a lot of articles with reaction to the Sharma family in series two Bridgerton and what it means for South Asian representation – among them this one from Bustle and this from Glamour. Well worth a look. Anyway, to the books!

And it turns out it’s actually really hard to find heroines who aren’t desperate to jump off the shelf and who are saving someone from their heroes. I thought this was going to be a walk in the park – after all, I’ve read a lot of romances over the years. But I’ve put in proper time on this and unless I’m missing some super obvious options – or my search strings are out – it’s a tougher ask than I thought! I can find plenty of spinsters who want one night to find out what passion is (but aren’t expecting it to go beyond that), or who enter marriages of convenience because it’s the least bad option and then fall in love. But not a lot of Kates. But maybe that’s why the Bridgerton series are special?

In The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting, Sir John Hartlebury is definitely not a spinster but he is uninterested in marriage and High Society – so KJ Charles’s novel is actually quite close – Hart is trying to rescue his niece from dashing fortune hunter Robin Loxleigh, but ends up falling for Robin himself. There’s a slight Pretty Woman type situation that ends up going on, but handled well and without many of the pitfalls of that sort of thing.

The Georgette Heyers that are closest are probably Black Sheep or Lady of Quality – the key difference from The Viscount Who Loved me being neither of them end up marrying the man they’re trying to save their relation from. In Black Sheep our heroine, Abigail, is busy saving her niece from a fortune hunter when she falls in love with the fortune hunter’s uncle – just returned from India having made a packet. In Lady of Quality, Annis rescues a runaway heiress and falls in love with the heiress’s guardian. Ok so they’re not quite the same, but it’s closer than some of the other options – Frederica is trying to get her sister a dashing match and ends up falling for the cousin who has agreed to help them (rather than stopping her sister from marrying him), Hester in Sprig Muslin is an older heroine who is not expecting to marry, but she’s not trying to save anyone from Gareth – in fact she turns down his first proposal because although she (secretly) loves him, he doesn’t love her and Mary in Devil’s Cub is not so much determined to not to marry as doesn’t like the options she’s got, and although she does marry her sister’s original beau, he wasn’t planning on marrying her sister just absconding with her (Vidal, such a dastardly rake until he falls in love. Ahem).

In other slightly tenuous options, you could also probably count Alexa Tarabotti, the heroine of the Parasol Protectorate is a confirmed spinster at the start of the series in Soulless – but she’s not looking or trying to save anyone. Ditto Amelia Peabody in Crocodile on the Sandbank – whose age ends up being quietly reduced once it’s clear it’s gong to be a series and we’re going to keep going through til Ramses is an adult… Phyrne Fisher is also determinedly unmarried, but it doesn’t stop her from having as many boyfriends as she wants, so it really doesn’t count for this purpose!

And there you have it. An awful lot of work on my part, for not a huge amount of results. Tell me all the books that do this that I’ve forgotten about – or that I should have read – in the comments!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: A Thorn in the Saddle

I mean it’s only a few weeks since I wrote a whole post about romances on ranches, and here I am recommending another one! You wait ages for a a cowboy and then a while load of them come along at once!

Lily-Grace and Jesse went to school together, but she skipped town for the bright lights of tech startups as soon and she could and he stayed at home to help run his family’s luxury dude ranch and look after his siblings while his parents were away acting. Jesse has never really had time for relationships – and the ones he’s tried have gone badly – but he’s been approached to run for public office, so that single status might have to change. Lily-Grace is back in town after a breakup and after Jesse decides that Lily-Grace’s dad can’t date his grandmother she gives him what for. But when she sees his shy and awkward side at a community event, she offers to help him. And you know where this is going!

This is the third in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Cowboys of California series and this one is a Beauty and the Beast sort of thing, with a side order of a sexually inexperienced hero to boot. I was a bit worried at the start with where it was going with Jesse’s anger issues – but actually it’s more boundary issues and the fact that he’s had to take on a parental role to everyone and never had the chance to have any fun. I really enjoyed the way his nurturing side came out as his relationship with Lila-Grace continued.

This at the higher end of the middle of Rebekah Weatherspoon’s steam and peril range. Yes I know that sounds confusing. I would say this is closer to the heat levels of Rafe than the other books in the series as and it also has a little more of a suspense-y peril element, but no where near as dramatic as her actual suspense stuff. But mostly it’s just a fun way to pass a few hours reading about a couple of people falling in love in a low-key money is no object sort of way. Oh and there are horses. And that was just what I fancied last week.

My copy of A Thorn in the Saddle came from the library but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in paperback – although I suspect if you want it in paperback you’re likely to have to order it from Amazon.

book round-ups, Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: Romances on Ranches!

Now I said in yesterday’s post about Better Luck Next Time that it is not a romance. And I absolutely standby that. But I know that a lot of people who read my blog read romances, so for Recommendsday today here are three books set on ranches that *are* romances!

If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon

A Cinderella retelling with a downtrodden PA and an Oscar winning actor who have a fraught first encounter when she accidentally takes his goody bag – containing his statuette – home with her and then end up at the same wedding at his family ranch. I wanted more comeuppance for the villain of the piece but enjoyed the dancing around about whether Sam and Amanda are just a fling or if they want it to be something more. The first book in this series – A Cowboy to Remember was a BotW just over two years ago and that’s just as much fun – even if it does have an amnesia plotline which is usually something I hate – and there’s a third book in the series that I haven’t read yet, but have on my watch list.

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

I haven’t read a lot of Nora Roberts, but I read Black Hills for the 50 states challenge in 2020. This is a romantic suspense with a long slow build and a resolution that happened a little too quickly for me after the build up. But how often have you heard me complain about romances wrapping up too quickly? Yeah, I know, a lot. When they were kids living on neighbouring ranches, Lil and Coop found the body of a dead hiker. Now they’re adults Lil is running a wildlife reserve and Coop is back in town taking a break from his life as an investigator to look after his grandparents. When pranks on the ranch turn into the killing of a cougar, the two start investigating only to find that the trail leads back to that body from long ago. Can they find the culprit before a killer finds them?

Summer Nights with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews*

This isn’t out until later in the month and it’s *slightly* cheating, because although it is in Crews’ Kittridge Ranch series, our hero Zack is running away from the ranch and rebelling by being the town’s sheriff. The heroine is Janie, a travelling nurse who has come to Cold River to find out more about her family’s past. Zack is suspicious of Jamie’s reasons for being in town and Janie can’t work out why she’s so drawn to the glowering guy who lives across the road. There are charm lessons and a hero who has to come to a reassessment about what he thinks his parents’ relationship is about. Probably the least ranch-y of this group, but worth a look.

NB: these are all contemporaries because historical romances in ranches are Westerns and I just dont really do westerns – and not just because so many of them are mail order bride stories… If you want one though, go read one of Beverly Jenkins’ ones – like Wild Rain.

Book of the Week, book round-ups, romance

Recommendsday: Secret identity/double identity romances

Off the back of yesterday’s book of the week, today we’re talking romances where one (or both) partners are living a double life or have a secret identity

Let’s start with Georgette Heyer – because she has a few of these of various types. The Masqueraders has a cross dressing brother and sister who are trying to lie low after the Jacobite rebellion, False Colours has one twin pretending to be his missing brother and These Old Shades – one of my all time favourites has Leon the page who is actually Leonie. And that’s before you get to The Corinthian (girl runs away from home dressed as a boy and drops out of the window into the hero’s arms), and Arabella (heroine pretending to be a great heiress). Is it any wonder I love this trope so much?

Duchess by Night was my first Eloisa James – and I picked it up at the library because it mentioned the heroine in disguise. Now it’s much, much more steamy than Heyer – but as all you get in Heyer is a kiss, then that’s not a surprise. This’ll anyway, our heroine dresses up as a man to sneak into the house of a notorious rake to see what his debauched parties are actually like. You see where this is going (and why it’s not closed door!). Anyway, as an introduction to the series it was great – although I haven’t reread it in a few years so I hope it holds up!

I came to Eloisa James after discovering Julia Quinn and after James I moved in to Sarah MacLean who I have now written about a lot but has a secret identity type – but telling you what it is is a spoiler and a reveal and you need to have read the rest of the series to get the most out of it. I had to go back and read the Rules of Scandals series again after the shock twist at the end of No Good Duke Goes Unpunished because I was so convinced that MacLean must have slipped up at some point and she hadn’t. It is a master stroke.

Let’s go contemporary! And Jen De Luca’s Well Played which has a heroine who has been emailing back and forth with someone all year who actually turns out to be someone else. It just about manages to stay on the Cyrano side rather than the catfishing, the latter of which is the risk in all the modern day twists on this and obviously I love the Ren Fair setting because I made the first book in the series a BotW – and I read Well Matched (which is the third book) in two giant gulps last week. And maybe the aforementioned catfishing situation is why I can’t think of any other contemporaries to include here – it’s hard to come up with a twist on this that doesn’t create an insurmountable issue on the romance. Which is maybe why I was so impressed with Playing with Love! So please – if you have more, put them in the comments!

Happy hump day!