American imports, Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Once in a Lifetime

This week’s BotW is Jill Shalvis’s Once in a Lifetime which was the last book in that omnibus of her Lucky Harbor series that I mentioned in a Recommendsday post when it was on Kindle sale last month.  It was a very busy and challenging week at work for me last week what with the fall out from the London Bridge attacks and the General Election here in the UK and this was perfect escapist reading for me.

This is the UK cover for the individual ebook which is… ok. Not as pretty as I’d like

Aubrey is Lucky Harbor’s resident bad girl – or at least the town thinks that she is.  She got into trouble at school, she was a mean girl and a beauty queen – and she recently slept with her boss.  But now she’s trying to make things right and turn her life into what she wants it to be.   Ben is back in his hometown after leaving to escape his grief over the death of his wife.  He’s not looking to risk his heart again, but there’s something about Aubrey that draws him to her, even though everyone keeps telling him that she is Trouble.

Once in a Lifetime is the ninth book in the Lucky Harbor series and it has been building towards Aubrey and Ben’s story for the previous two books.  You’ll get more out of this if you’ve read those two books – because you’ll have more insight into Aubrey and Ben’s pasts and you’ll see the love stories of Aubrey and Ben’s closest friends, but it still works as a standalone book too.  Aubrey is not a traditional romance heroine – she’s not sweet and goody goody and you learn through the book exactly how mean she can be.  But she’s working to be better and to make amends and her family backstory explains a lot of her behaviours and makes a character who you don’t initially like that much into one that you’re really rooting for.

Ben is a more usual sort of romance hero – except for the fact that he is a widower.  Shalvis does a really good job of negotiating the fact that he has been in love before and had a happy marriage whilst still working towards a happy ending with Aubrey.  It’s a difficult tightrope to tread – particularly at times because he is discovering things about his wife that he didn’t know – but Shalvis manages to create a lovely relationship between Ben and Aubrey without running down or ruining the one that he had before.

I’m not a massive reader of contemporary romance as you all know, but small town contemporaries really do scratch an itch sometimes.  They seem like a logical extension of my love of Sweet Valley High and the Babysitters’ Club books when I was growing up.  To me the towns often feel  a lot like a larger (and American) version of the villages that I grew up in – where everyone knows you and your business – but populated by small businesses, often quirky, and attractive people.  Who wouldn’t want to live in that sort of world?  Well except for everyone knowing you and your business and your history, which I know from personal experience can get on your wick after a while, but hey it’s a romance book and it’s fun to read about!

Anyway, as I mentioned, my copy of Once in a Lifetime was in an omnibus (the third of the Lucky Harbor omnibuses to be precise). That’s unfortunately not on sale anymore and is back up to £4.99 on Kindle but that’s still a better deal than buying it individually for £3.99.  Both of those are probably better value than buying the actual books – which I think are quite expensive considering how long they take to read – but that is often the case with American romance novels.  However the first three Lucky Harbour books are £3.99 at the moment,  if you want to dip your toe into the water (so to speak) – I know I’m very tempted…

Happy reading!

books, reviews

February Half Term Picks

Happy Half term everyone.  Well if you have a half term.  I’ve got two overtime shifts coming my way and the most I can hope for is slightly emptier commuter trains as parents stay home to look after their children.  But if you do have some free time – maybe you’re even headed away for a few days – here are a few recommendations from me, that I think might make your break even better.

The Little Shop of Happily Ever After by Jenny Colgan

Yes! There’s a new Jenny Colgan book just in time for half-term.  I read it at the start of the week (thank you NetGalley) and fell in love. But then it’s a book about a book-a-holic librarian who starts her own mobile bookshop after getting made redundant. I’m not sure a book could tick more of my boxes if it tried. Maybe if the heroine had a thing for both Angel and Spike from Buffy, or a passion for watching figure skating and motorsport. But that withstanding this is so much fun.  Nina’s adventures as she makes the move from Birmingham to the Scottish Highlands and learns about herself are perfect holiday reading.  This will be everywhere – I’ve already seen it in the supermarket, but here are the traditional links just in case. Amazon, Kindle, Foyles, Waterstones, Kobo.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Escape to New York High Society in the 1950s as Truman Capote takes the world by storm and gathers a group of women for his inner circle.  Follow the trials and tribulations of his life and those of his “swans” over the next 20 years.  The narrative flips between the two time periods and unless you know more about Truman Capote’s later writing than I do, you’ll be trying to work out what it is that he’s done that they’re so annoyed about.  If you liked the glamour of Mad Men and like novels of scheming and intrigue this could keep you intrigued all week. The book paperback comes out on the 24th, but there is a hardback at the moment but the Kindle price was quite good (under £5 at time of writing) – Amazon hardback, Amazon paperback (in case you want to pre-order), Kindle, Waterstones, Kobo.

The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia Macgregor

In pretty much any other week, this would have been my Book of the Week, but it had the mis-fortune for me to read it in the same week as Lauren Henderson’s The Black Rubber Dress.  Virginia McGregor’s second novel tells the story of what happens when Norah returns to the family she walked out on six years earlier.  But a lot has changed while she’s been away.  It’s got flawed adults, idealistic teenagers and the adorable Willa who was only a baby when her mum walked out. This is only in hardback at the moment – but I think it’s going to be THE bookclub book when it comes out in paperback, so get ahead of the game and read it now. Amazon, Kindle, Foyles, Waterstones, Kobo.

All Aboard (The Canal Boat Cafe 1) by Cressida McLaughlin

I loved Cressida’s Primrose Terrace series last year and her new serialisation The Canal Boat Cafe makes a really go start with All Aboard. Summer’s returned to the cafe that her mum used to run on a narrowboat.  There are secrets and conflicts and possible romances. And although you don’t have all the answers at the end of part one, it feels like it finishes at a natural break in the story. McLaughlin is confident enough in her story and her characters that she doesn’t end on a big old cliff-hanger out of no-where to make you buy part two because she knows you’ll be intrigued enough to come back for more. This is only in e-book – but it was a bargain 99p at time of writing on Kindle and Kobo,

The Case of the Blue Violet by Robin Stevens

This is one for you if you’ve got a pre-teen that you want to keep quiet for a little while.  Unless like me you’ve got a bit old boarding school story habit.  This is the first Wells and Wong short story and it’s a fun way mini-case that doesn’t involve a murder.  It’s also told from Daisy’s point of view instead of Hazel’s which makes it a bit different too.  And if you haven’t tried Stevens’s 1930s boarding school adventures yet the children that you buy books for haven’t got into Stevens’s 1930s boarding school adventures yet, this may be their gateway.  And you’ve got more three full-length adventures to read before book 4 comes out at the end of March. Another e-book only – Kindle and Kobo.

And finally…

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention last week’s BotW The Glittering Art of Falling Apart – which would make a great read if your on a sunlounger somewhere or enjoying the après-ski. Two women, one in 80s Soho, one in pretty much now trying to save a country house. But what do they have in common? Read the full review here and try not to get OMD’s Enola Gay stuck in your head!  And I mentioned The Black Rubber Dress earlier – it really is very, very good – if you like your murder mysteries smart, funny and 90s cool you’ll love it.

Happy holiday reading and spare a thought for me as I try and weave my way through the ambling and weaving half-term visitors to London on my walk from the station to work and back!