book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Enemies to Lovers Romances

As my top romance pick of the year was an Enemies to Lovers romance, I thought it was about time that I did a Recommendsday post about one of my absolutely favourite romance tropes! And honestly, it actually turned out to be quite difficult to find ones I haven’t already written about before – particularly contemporary ones because so many of them have already been Books of the Week!

My much-loved TV tie-in edition of Pride and Prejudice

Lets start off with something very obvious: Pride and Prejudice. This is the grandaddy of them all. If you’ve never read it, you should, but there are also stacks of retellings of it from pretty much every different twist you can think of. My favourite is probably still Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, which is set in modern day (well modern five years ago) Cincinnatti, which has a lot of the wit that makes Austen so much fun but which you don’t always get in the retellings.

Next up, The Viscount Who Loved Me – second I Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and the basis for the upcoming next season on Netflix. Who knows how they’ll make it play out in the TV series (although the first one was quite faithful to The Duke and I) but in the book Kate is determined to save her older sister from marriage to reformed rake Anthony Bridgerton. Anthony has decided that he needs to marry (for reasons that you don’t really ever get to the bottom of in the book) but is determined not to marry for love (for reasons that you do discover). The two of them really don’t get on – until they do and it is delightful. Read it before the second series drops at the end of March.

Very worn copy of Regency Buck

I mentioned Regency Buck years ago in a post about comfort reads (and even longer ago in my post about Georgette Heyer), but it is one of my favourite historical romances with this trope. Judith and her brother come to London against the wishes of the guardian that they have never met. Of course they discover the Duke of Worth is the annoying man they met en route, the son of a man their father was friends with. Judith spends most of the book fighting against Worth’s every word and the reader isn’t really sure what he is up to until the reveal – which makes the resolution all the more satisfying. Side note: if anyone has come up with a modern (non problematic) twist on the guardian and ward trope, let me know in the comments!

Before I move on, I’ve featured a lot of Sarah MacLean books here before, and she does a great line in truly epic grovelling – which does often goes hand in hand with the enemies to lovers trope – like Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, which is the last in her Love By Numbers series and has a deeply rule following hero who thinks the rule-breaker heroine is trying to trap him him to marriage. The Rogue Not Taken is also an enemies to lovers.

Cover of Act Like It

I have featured a lot of contemporary romances with this trope, to the point where it is hard to find stuff I haven’t already recommended! Basically all Lucy Parker’s books are enemies to lovers – but as well as Battle Royal being my favourite romance of last year, Headliners, The Austen Playbook and Pretty Face have been books of the week and Making Up got a mention in a summer reading post too. So that only leaves me with Act Like It that I haven’t already given a big old plug to. So here it is: it’s a fake relationship between two actors who can’t stand each other, to try and help a bad boy actor to rehab his image. It’s the first in the London Celebrities series, and when I read it I had a few issues with some of the British-isms not being right (Parker is from New Zealand) but even writing about it here has made me want to read it again!

If you want to go old school romance, then a couple of Susan Elizabeth Philips’ Chicago Stars books also have enemies to lovers going on. Nobody’s Baby But Mine is that rare thing – a pregnancy romance that I like. And that surprised me because the heroine deliberately sets out to get pregnant by the hero which is so far from my thing. But Jane is actually a very different character than you would expect from that description- she’s a scientist who thinks she’s making a rational decision about her life. Cal, our hero is the quarterback of the team and is (unsurprisingly) unhappy about Jane’s entire plan for his only involvement in their baby’s life to be conception. It’s funny and touching and very escapist. The first in the series, It Had To Be You, is also an enemies to lovers, with a heroine who inherits a football team and the team’s extremely Alphahole head coach. But that has rape in Phoebe’s backstory which I know is a no-no for some people.

Other contemporary romances that have been Books of the Week include: Talia Hibbert’s Act your Age Eve Brown , Ali Hazelwood’s Love Hypothesis, Christina Lauren’s Unhoneymooners (see also The Honey-Don’t List which was in a Mini review roundup), Jen De Luca’s Well Met, Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, Alisha Rai Hate to Want You and Kate Claybourn’s Love at First. All of those are relatively recent releases (as in new or new ish when I wrote about them) but if you want something else a bit older, then how about Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me – which is now nearly 20 years old (!) – and features a first date that’s the result of a bet…

One last book before I go and that doesn’t really fit into any of the other categories – Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, which is the first of the trilogy set in the world at the centre of Cath’s fandom in Fangirl – and is the equivalent of Harry and Draco in Harry Potter books.

Happy Reading!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: March 2021 Mini Reviews

So we made it to the end of a year of the quarantimes. And despite the fact being back in March meant it felt like we’d never left March at all and the world had ground to a halt in 2020 and given us endless March, itwas actually quite a good month in my reading life. Here are a few books I enjoyed that I haven’t told you about yet.

Women vs Hollywood by Helen O’Hara

Hardback copy of Women vs Hollywood

Empire Magazine’s Helen O’Hara’s new book is an examination of pioneering women through Hollywood history and the ways in which they’ve been left out of the history of the silver screen. It also examines what could be done to help redress the balance and for films to tell some different stories from some different points of view. It’s impeccably researched and well argued and will left me wanting to go out and spend some money at the cinema on female-centric films. As the cinemas are still closed, I contented myself by watching Lady Bird and Emma. and a couple of Katherine Hepburn films.

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

Cover of the Consequences of Fear

I’ve written about the Maisie Dobbs series here before. And this is another engrossing and twisty instalment in the series. With long running series it’s always a challenge writing a review that doesn’t give away too much of the plot – or spoil earlier books in the series. But what I can say is that now the books have reached World War Two, Jacqueline Winspear is consistently finding interesting aspects of the conflict to entangle Maisie in, and if a few liberties are taken with the timeline, they are minor and you forgive them because it’s so page-turning and engrossing. This also sees some really interesting developments in Maisie’s personal life too – so all around this is a really good read.

You’re History by Leslie Chow*

Cover of You're History

What’s not to love about a book with a cover as gorgeous as this and I did enjoy it, but that comes with a few caveats. I think I was missing some of the background on some of the songs to get the most out of it. Although the names listed in the blurb are all people you will have heard of – Kate Bush, Nikki Minaj,  Janet Jackson, Taylor Swift and TLC – in quite a lot of cases it’s actually taking quite a deep, in depth dive into their musical back catalogues. Really I think it needs to come with a playlist so you can listen to the songs that are being talked about as you read the book, because unless you’re really, really into music you may get lost here unless you’ve done some prep work. I used to work at radio stations as well as watching a fair few music documentaries both general and artist specific, so I consider myself fairly well across music, and I still had to do a fair bit of googling. I have a goal to try and read more books about music and musicians – because when I do I invariably enjoy that – and this fits in to that but it’s not my favourite of the genre.

Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker

Cover of Happy Singles Day

This is a sweet, fluffy holiday (by which I mean vacation not Christmas!) romance set on an island off North Carolina, with a widowed hero with a B&B he can’t face running since the death of his wife and the professional organiser who visits for an out of season holiday. Lucas is focussed on raising his daughter and ignoring the bills that are coming due – so his sister relists the B7B without telling him – until Paige is booked and on the way. When Paige arrives, she finds that her accomodation doesn’t quite match the online brochure and decides to return home. But bad weather means the ferry isn’t running and she’s stuck on the island… Nothing revelatory or surprising, but a nice fun weekend read featuring a grumpy hero, a sunny heroine, a bit of forced proximity, a cute kid and some puppies.

Flake by Matthew Dooley

Hardback copy of Flake

So this is a really genuinely charming graphic novel about an ice cream seller and his van and the rivalries and challenges he faces. Low key but remarkably emotional. It had been sat on my shelf for a few months – my friendly local comic book shop had managed to get me a copy just before her last lockdown started again and I had been saving it for a treat. And I was right that it was a treat because it was really, really good.

In case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in March were Wild Rain, Act Your Age, Eve Brown, Mrs Tim of the Regiment and Heroes are my Weakness. And here are the links to the mini reviews from January and February.

Happy Reading!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: February 2021 Mini Reviews

A bit of a strange month all in, because although I read a lot of stuff, there were a lot of series, and there weren’t a lot of books that I really liked that I haven’t already told you about. Still there are a few, so here we go again…

We Are Bellingcat by Elliot Higgins*

Cover of We Are Bellingcat

If you’re a casual news consumer you’ll probably have come across Bellingcat as a result of their investigation into the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. But the open source investigation team has its roots further back – in the Arab Spring and the dawning of citizen journalism via social media. It’s an absolutely fascinating read, but a warning: if you worked in a newsroom in the period 2011-2015 (roughly) approach this book with care. I wanted to read this book because I was interested in their verification techniques, mission statement and how they work – after all my day job is in a newsroom. But reading it brought back some memories that I’d rather not think about. It’s not that the book is overly graphic – or even excessively so. But if you watched the sort of pictures they’re talking about first time around – most of which didn’t make the tv news because they were so graphic, you’ll find it coming back to you. I started at the BBC fulltime almost exactly ten years ago – and my first job was in picture intake. That first year – through the Arab Spring, Japanese Tsunami, Utoya Island, the assassination of Mummar Gaddafi – I saw so much really grim footage that I invented the Panda scale of how many times did I have to watch my video of baby pandas playing to cheer myself up. And I didn’t even get the worst of it. This brought back some of the images from that time that I thought I had forgotten. But if you’re interested in open source investigation and in how the masses of UGC (user generated content) from the conflicts of the last decade are being preserved and the hopes for how it might be used in the future- this is the book for you.

Teach Me by Olivia Dade

Cover of Teach Me

Not my first time writing about Olivia Dade – and I’ve read this series out of order – but this is a lovely romance between a newly divorced Dad and the teacher whose world history class he’s unwittingly stolen. What I really like about this whole series is that there is no stupid drama. Rose has reasons why she doesn’t trust people and why she won’t let people in. Martin has issues around his self worth. But there’s no big misunderstanding that could (should?) be resolved by a simple conversation, it’s all about two people working out if they are right for each other beyond just chemistry, and then starting to negotiate life together. And it’s very, very romantic despite – Dade is proving you don’t necessarily need high stakes drama to make a satisfying romance. And I don’t need any more angst at the moment, so this was perfect!

These two reviews have turned out to be not quite so mini as I intended, so a quick rattle through a couple of other things: I listened to the audiobook of Strong Poison for the umpteenth time – I still find the mystery incredibly satisfying and Sayers portrayal of “bohemian” writers life, the interwar craze for Spiritualism and surplus women all make for something a little out of the ordinary run of murder mysteries of the time. And that’s before you get to the fact that it is the start of Peter and Harriet. I read The Sugared Game, the second part of the Will Darling Adventures by K J Charles and it was really good and I’m annoyed that there’s no date for the final part yet – although I do have Charles’s new book (in a different series) so that is something. And I also ended up listening to The Unknown Ajax again after I found out that her next series is about smugglers! Apart from that, I read some more romances – historical and contemporary- that I had too many quibbles with to fully recommend, and I carried on with the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.

In case you missed any of them, the Books of the Week posts in February were: Beekeepers Apprentice, Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, Boyfriend Material and The Holdout. And January’s mini reviews are here.

Happy Reading!

Best of..., The pile

My 2019 Obsessions: Revisited

Well. Here we are again. And obviously 2020 has been a year like no other. When I came to try and write the end of year obsession posts, I realised that I  have no new obsessions – 2020 in my reading life has been fairly similar to last year – whether that’s because everything has been in a sort of stasis since March or because I haven’t been able to go into bookshops and find something new to be obsessed with, I don’t know. So only one obsessions post this year and this is it!

The Year of the Library 2

Collage of covers: Sex and Vanity, Killings at Kingfisher Hill, Vanderbeekes lost and found and The Gravity of Us

Like last year, I’ve read a huuuuuge number of ebooks from the library this year. It helped me finish the Read across the USA challenge, as well as enabling my binge-reading habits and keeping me from the worst excesses of book buying. I’ve also used it to try a lot of new books at a lower risk. And when I’ve liked them, I’ve often gone out and bought the next books in the series. And so the combination of always having library holds coming in – and buying sequels, it meas that as with last year, the TBR shelf is as full as it’s ever been. On top of that I think the library book situation has contributed to my enormous NetGalley backlog, because there’s always something due in a few days that I “should” be reading!  Tackling the NetGalley mountain is one of my priorities this year…

Another Year of Non-Fiction

Collage of the covers of Here for it, Money, Bad Blood and The Radium Girls

Some of my favourite books of the year have been non-fiction ones – I’ve been recommending Bad Blood to all and sundry, and I’m looking out for more books with a similar feeling to them. I also had another bumper year of American politics books – perhaps unsurprisingly given that it was the presidential election year – but I haven’t read as much history. That’s something I want to change in 2021 – I’ve missed it. I’ve got a stack of interesting group biographies and similar waiting on the to-read bookshelf, so hopefully I’ll get to them soon…

The Year of Contemporary Romance again

Collage of covvers of Spoiler Alert, Well Met, Real Men Knit and Snapped

I’m finding it hard to tell whether I read more contemporaries than I did last year, but I certainly carried on the trend. As I hoped this time last year, I’ve got better at figuring out what I’m likely to like though – so I’ve had less flops and got better at finding new-to-me authors who are writing the sort of books that I want to read.  This year I’ve been happy to read books set in The BeforeTimes (even if the authors didn’t know that’s what they were when they were writing them)  but mostly ones set in America because that always feels like it’s one step away from Real Life for me anyway. I’ve got no idea how things will go in 2021 though – because I can’t work out if I want to read books about people finding love in the Quarantimes – or if I just want the genre to completely ignore that anything is happening! I do think that when we can all go out and about again, it will be to a different sort of normal – and I don’t know how that’s going to work out in books.

Last year turned out very differently from what we had all hoped, so here’s hoping 2021 doesn’t throw quite so many curveballs at us all, and that at the end of the year I’ll have some different things to tell you about!