I really enjoyed Mischief and Mistletoe by Lauren Willig. It was probably a 4/5 star book. The first couple and the last chapter or two are PHENOMENAL. Boyfriend material levels of funny and clever, just packed with humor. The rest of the book was fine. Irritating they should have just talked third act which was out of character for the heroine.
The first three novellas in The One that Got Away were delightful surprises. Two of them were unexpected! And they made me want to read the books for the side male characters. Sadly, the Eloisa James book, Much Ado about You, was a DNF– the heroine is great but the hero shows none of his promise from the novella he was in– it was like he was a different person with none of the cleverness or humor. The library didn’t have the linked Victoria Alexander book, so I tried out a few of her others. Same Time, Next Christmas was cute, though the hero was a bit 2-D and the heroine was … a character. Like, not totally sensible, and not entirely likable, but she seemed consistent. Then I tried and DNF The Importance of Being Wicked. The heroine was awesome. The hero was a sexist jerk. At the point in which she changes her entire wardrobe because he says she looks like a governess (as he is trying to seduce her even though/because she’s working for him), I skipped to the last three chapters and… he never stops being a sexist jerk. He just is like, “You’re different from other women” and she’s all happy and promises of course she would never advocate for women’s right to vote. And when a bunch of her workers get hurt and she’s upset he immediately starts berating her for loving her dead husband (who died in the same kind of accident) more than she loves him. It made me realize how important it is to read feminist authors when you’re trying to get a HEA. I also don’t like how the author continually talks about being content and not arguing as if it’s a bad thing. Like, you can have passion AND discuss things as adults without screaming. The Lady Travelers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl was pleasant, but I think I’m done with Victoria Alexander, at least for now.
Tommy Cabot Was Here was an interesting post-war style novella by Cat Sebastian.
The latest Cat Sebastian, The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, was pretty good. I think she was inspired by reading KJ Charles’ Any Old Diamonds but only by the McGuffin, not the mindflip stuff– this one is more straight-forward than the KJ Charles book. This one also has a plot, if you didn’t like the meandering of the past couple/few Cat Sebastians.
The latest KJ Charles, Subtle Blood, the third in the Will Darling series, had a very satisfying ending! Her books are a bargain and I love how she’s so prolific!
Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron was ok. It had a strong start and finish but the middle dragged and I skipped chunks.
I tried to read two books by Soyna Lalli, The Matchmaker’s List and Serena Singh flips the script… and they just kind of dragged. Maybe if you’re more patient than I am. They weren’t bad, they were just… they had long middles? I skipped large chunks. The Matchmaker’s List may actually be kind of bad because it uses “Heroine pretends she’s gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that) to get out of being set up on dates” trope. The actual romance in Serena Singh seems kind of rushed if you’re looking for a romance– it’s likely better if you’re interested in a coming of age. Like at the beginning of the book it is overabundantly clear that she’s just not that into her boyfriend or dating but is just being pressured, and also I dislike the “married people don’t pay attention to their single friends” stereotype and just generally the selfishness of people who get pissy if their friends lose touch for a while. It probably would have been better without the slapped on romance at all!
Very much enjoyed A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder by Dianne Freeman, the third in that series because the price dropped to $1.99. Quite fun! (and maybe it is still on sale?)
Secrets of a perfect night, a set of 3 novellas by different authors was pretty meh all around.
Her big city neighbor by Jackie Lau was fun. The heroine is very pollyanna and the hero is broody and IIRC there’s a stupid third act (but I may not be recalling correctly). The most memorable part of this book are the detailed descriptions of big city food. It’s a nice snapshot of what you could get fast upscale casual in a major city a few years back.
I’m not sure what to feel about Ridiculous! by D. L. Carter. The heroine is an identity thief and there’s not really enough justification about why these impoverished women need servants and money more than any other impoverished people at someone else’s expense. There’s hints, but not enough really to make it completely stick. If you allow that conceit it is DELIGHTFUL until about 3/4 of the way through when it suddenly becomes super homophobic. Like, why you gotta do that? I do appreciate it not having the trope where the otherwise straight hero is attracted to the heroine when he thinks she’s male, but it goes much worse and shows both hero and heroine thinking that homosexual males are degenerate and worse than identity thiefs! That wasn’t necessary, they could be worried about the illegality without being disgusted by the idea (even 19th century people could be not disgusted by the idea… they could be just as puzzled or mildly amused or not thinking about it as most 20th century straight people were before gay marriage became legal). Add to that the hero changing his personality (it changes back) for the third act drama followed up by lots of unexpected (because of how the book was written up to this point) and sudden explicit sex… it’s hard to say what to feel.
Not a fan of Act Your Age Evie Brown by Talia Hibbert. Neither main character is particularly likable, the meet cute is ridiculous (culminates in the heroine hitting the hero with her car) and I really really hate boss/employee relationship tropes. It is very rarely done in a way that isn’t squicky (see: Rafe a buff male nanny and A Gentleman’s Position for the only two that come to mind).
A Master of Djinn was … well, at first you could tell it was very high quality but I had such a hard time getting through the first chapter (more like a prologue) until DH reminded me I could skip it. Once the heroine showed up it was better. I learned a lot of new words! It took me a while to get through the first part of the book with all the fight scenes and so on. And then around chapter 21, something happened and everything came together and got interesting and I couldn’t put it down. I definitely recommend it and am looking forward to getting more. There is a short story and a novella that comes before this one I think, but this is the first novel and you don’t need to have read anything prior (although they are referenced).
Saving the best for last: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik was so good that I read it again the next day. Like, read it, then read it a second time. It is one of the three best books I’ve read in the past 12 months (the other two being Boyfriend Material and Any Old Diamonds, both of which are different genres entirely, rom com and heist, respectively). You may remember Naomi Novik from the His Majesty’s Dragon series 15 or so years ago, which were good, but almost entirely populated with (mostly white) doods. Not so this book– it is beautifully diverse and she does diversity right. And it is a delight to read and the main character is so … likeable? understandable? easy to identify with? … I don’t know, I can’t explain it. And the “Harry Potter meets Hunger Games but 1000 or more times better” also isn’t a good description. You’ll have to read it yourself! I am greatly looking forward to the second coming out in September.
I’m running low on library books. Hit me with your recommendations!