The accidental abduction by Darcie Wilde dragged at the beginning and then told not showed with a stupid out of character trite thing at the end. It felt like she had a deadline that she wasn’t going to make because she spent too much time having the main characters thinking in great detail about sex and not enough time thinking about the full plot. (Come to think of it, this is similar to the problems Olivia Wilde’s books have… though I don’t think Oscar Wilde was particularly afflicted with this problem.)
Beyond Compare by Candace Camp was no good. Hero and heroine not particularly likable. Plot not particularly tied together. Also an attempted rape near the end. Glad I didn’t read it first, and I’m glad I didn’t buy it, because I liked the older sister Thisbe’s story a lot. Read a bunch of other Candace Camps, and some were good and some were not. A lot of attempted rape as a backstory or meet cute etc. throughout, though I assume it’s more in her older books than her newer.
Jackie Lau continues to be solid. And without stupid third quarter out of place unnecessary drama (or if it’s there it lasts less than a full chapter). Her characters seem more true to themselves. As her books go on, she has more developed characters, more different characters, and more organic plotting.
I skipped most of Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur. I will not believe that someone who likes things to be on time and neat and orderly will be able to live with an astrologer who cannot get anywhere on time and is a complete and total mess and vice versa. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. They can’t live together and they can’t get together. It has nothing to do with emotional reserve. Reserved people need caring optimistic sweet people like Amy in the Cider Bar Sisters series, not people who would be their nightmare roommate. Flaky disorganized free-spirits need indulgent partners who are amused rather than annoyed by the other heroine’s quirks. Also third act girl loses girl over misunderstanding thing. Blech.
DNF The Christmas Husband Hunt. The hero is a jerk– he has asked the impoverished dependent heroine for a favor, is not paying her, and proceeds to find fault with everything she does as well as being insulting about it. (As she says, multiple times, if you don’t like what I’m doing, do it yourself, but yet, he never does.) The idea that he has to wear fancy waistcoats is nonsensical (I think they’re trying to make him like the Scarlet Pimpernel, but he only wears the fancy waistcoats when the suspected spy is around and otherwise does not seem to play a role). The husband hunter is ridiculous– like it’s ok to have a minor character/mcguffin who is TSTL, but nobody questions her bizarre choices (like why DOES she have to find a husband by Christmas? She says it often enough that you’d think *someone* would be like, ok, why Christmas? But no.) I gave up at a third. Hopefully that’s the last of the Christmas romances on my wait list.
Never fall for your fiance by Virginia Heath was fine, but it had too much repetition and dragged a bit. It would have made a better novella, OR instead of repeating the hero’s same worries and the heroine’s same worries in their thoughts over and over and over again, maybe it could have had more of them interacting with each other.
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher was quite good. I do think a middle schooler could read it even though it has death in it and even though it’s under Ursula Vernon’s YA name. It dragged a bit in the third quarter but picked up. It’s also got a lot of messages for today even though it was initially written pre-Trump (according to the author note in the back– she had trouble getting it traditionally published and yet it’s won and been nominated for a number of prestigious awards).
I cranked through the Rockliffe books by Stella Riley. They’re not always perfect (occasional stupid third act misunderstanding, one of them has rape (and a villain that died before the series started was killed because he was a child rapist) as a backstory (though it’s never discussed in detail), and it is difficult to keep all the characters in order (especially since she isn’t careful about names!), but they’re pretty engrossing. Some of the books you can read without having read the earlier books, but most of them you really can’t. I think there was one I didn’t buy (of the three my library had, I bought two, and I bought all the ones the library didn’t have, one at a time, though if you’re smart you’ll get the box sets instead).
Enjoyed, as always, the latest Shinigami detective book, Death Over the Garden Wall, by Honor Raconteur.
If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy was a surprisingly angst free story (given it’s about a reality show). It’s definitely light– there could have been a lot more character development and relationship development than there was, but it was a nice read.
Started reading a number of regencies (and Georgians) by Laura Matthews. These are a bit old fashioned, but not bodice rippers and so far strong heroines and delightfully absurd other characters and everybody worthy of getting matched (and some who aren’t!) gets matched in the end. The Nomad Harp was so delightful I bought myself a copy. A Very Proper Widow was fun. The Lady Next Door was more of an ensemble production without any deep insight into character, but charmingly funny just the same.
One of the problems with reading a bunch of excellent books in a row is that one has way less patience for the mediocre right after.
What excellent and mediocre books are you reading, Grumpeteers?