What are we reading?

Boxing Day is for reading books!  Here’s a fantastic list of good books, if you don’t have enough to read.

I don’t usually like rehashes of Pride and Prejudice, but Lady Bridget’s Diary: Keeping Up with the Cavendishes by Maya Rodale isn’t really a rehash of the book so much as a splicing of a bunch of Colin Firth media together (the P&P is definitely the BBC miniseries version, complete with fully-clothed dousing). She even names her hero Colin Fitzwilliam Wright Darcy. It’s very tongue and cheek and definitely not historically accurate. A library check-out, but I think probably not a purchase. It’s hard to say. Silly and enjoyable.  The rest of the books in the series were ok but not great.

(Another book is Pride, by Ibi Zoboi, along the same lines.)

Other Maya Rodale books were not worth even trying.  The Tattooed Duke was terrible.  Bad in the #metoo movement, repetitive, unlikable main characters, nobody realizing that a married woman doesn’t own her own property except the dumb villain… so much that doesn’t make sense.  The entire writing girls series also terrible… boring, TSTL, at least one unlikable main character in each.  A great idea with a terrible execution.

In contrast, I’m in the middle of Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh which is another take on the female gossip columnist (here she owns the entire gossip sheet), and so far 27% in it has been enjoyable… meandering but I’m in the mood for a little meandering.  (Though I am going to skip the second in that series because the amazon reviews says the hero is a creepy stalker who doesn’t take no for an answer, which, ugh.)

I liked In Love with a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle enough to buy my own copy (though it was only $1.99, so no real hardship).  It’s a nice take on the hardened hero gets amnesia in a near-death accident while the heroine nurses him back to health trope.

If you can handle a Christmas novella after Christmas, A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews was lovely.  Soothing.  Sadly, the book the library had available, The Lost Letter, was one of those where if the Hero and Heroine ever talked with each other instead of constantly jumping to conclusions and then running off the book would be 3 pages long.  You’d think after it happened once they’d have you know, figured it out.  I’m curious about her other books, but not enough to pay to try them given that they’re mostly tropes I’m not crazy about.  (I did buy A Holiday by Gaslight before reading it which was a total impulse purchase, and I am glad I did.)

Note to self:  stop trying to read Balogh reissues.  They are ALL full of rape.  Just stop.  The new stuff is good but make sure it is genuinely new.  (Most recent indiscreet)

#2 really liked Not Even Bones, by Rebecca Schaeffer.  It’s too violent for #1 to read, though.

I (#2) would also like to recommend the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal.  The first one is The Calculating Stars and the second one is The Fated Sky.  The third one is in progress, dunno the expected pub date.

I also recommend The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe.  First in a contemporary series about the mythical Tufa people, who live and keep to themselves in Tennessee.  Until 20-year-old Bronwyn Hyatt becomes an accidental war hero in Iraq and returns to her hometown with all the pomp she never wanted.  I think I would call this speculative fiction.  I’m waiting on the second one from the library.

I recently liked Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang, but I can’t remember if I talked about it on here already or not.  I think I didn’t.  It’s weird and has a happy ending.

What have you been reading, Grumpeteers?

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What are we reading in romance?

A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen was good!  Not perfect, but good.  I think with some editing and if it were maybe a bit longer it would have been great.

Only one of the Sally MacKenzies I read is worth reading (and not worth owning), and yet I almost read them all (the library didn’t have two of the spinster house books).  I guess that can happen when books are easily available as library ebooks.  Two of them have attempted rape as a plot point (and with a third both the hero and the villain force themselves on the heroine, but it’s somehow ok when the hero does it).  And in The Naked Duke, the bad guy rapes and murders a woman onscreen pretty graphically.  Unnecessary.  Naked king has rape as a backstory. That aside, the author has a small grab-bag of plot-like things to choose from and just randomly pulls for each book.  So much repetition across books.  In case you’re wondering, the only one that wasn’t a drag and actually had some plot was Surprising Lord Jack.  Bonus points on that one for having a hero who respects “no” and isn’t a douche.  It did have a mass murderer who targeted prostitutes and women with bad reputations though, so not completely misogyny trope-free.

Oooh, ooh.  Henchmen of Zenda by K. J. Charles.  We love her.  This improves upon the original.

Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope.  It’s a fantasy adventure that feels a lot like a romance (I believe the author has written romance novels before).  I think there’s a sequel out soon, but to me this felt like a complete book that didn’t need one.  Give it a try.

Read a bunch of Sabrina Jeffries.  None worth owning so far.  Lots of the hero kissing the heroine after he’s been told no.  The pleasures of passion starts out with rape as a macguffin.  Yuck.  (That one so far is the only one I quit in the middle– it was just all around not good.  I assume the macguffin’s romance is also in that series, so that’s probably got rape as a backstory which means I won’t even pick it up.)  Update– quit a bunch more in the School for Heiresses series, which has a great premise, but turns out to be chock full of horribleness.  (Brooding jerky kidnapping heroes, ginormous age differences between 17 year old heiresses and the heroes, lots of focus on “innocent but eager” and girls wanting to explore what they read about in a harem book but being soooo innocent, lots of sex after meeting the hero for the second time ever, usually when he turns up someplace super creepy like the heroine’s bedroom in the middle of the night etc., supposedly intelligent but also TSTL heroines and heroes making bizarre choices…, sex as a tool of manipulation except during sex they fall in love etc.)  So… I guess her Duke’s Men series is worth reading and her Hellions of Hallstead Hall series is readable, but not ownable and the rest shouldn’t be bothered with.  Or if you’re just looking at covers:  If there’s a bare female back or a bare male chest, pick it up from the library, otherwise give it a miss.  (I’m guessing that this is probably a date of publication thing– the series that have more skin on the covers also have more feminism inside.)

After a slow start (by which I mean the hero seemed not that great at first), enjoyed A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase enough to put it on my amazon list.  It really felt like the second in a series, but turns out it is the first.  I’m curious about the other two dukes and the aunt, but one of them has the “troubled married couple” trope and the other dude is an alcoholic who doesn’t seem all that bright, but maybe he also has hidden depths that will become apparent.  Or maybe he’ll be the B-story in a book with the aunt and this guy’s uncle as the A-story.

Too Wilde to Wed by Eloisa James had a promising start but then kind of petered out into stupidity.  Worth a library read, possibly.  But I really do want to read the next in the series!

The Doctor’s Discretion by EE Ottoman turned up on a couple of “you must read” lists, so I gave it a spin for $3.99 on kindle.  It starts out really clunky… definitely an early novel in need of professional editing.   But it was on those lists, so I persisted… and it did get much better and was well worth getting through the clunky opening.  Is it worth buying?  I dunno.  It’s definitely not perfect, but it became an enjoyable read.

Amanda Quick’s Deception made me laugh out loud several times and I had to explain why I was laughing to DH.  It is different!  And I love the heroine and her relationship with the hero.  A++ will read again.

What are we reading: Romance edition.

#1 skipped large middle chunks of Patricia Bray then deleted on kindle.  Waste of a dollar.

I enjoyed Poetic Justice by Alicia Rasley enough to purchase it.  There’s no onscreen sex, if that’s important.  It’s a fun caper where the protagonists fall in love over books.  The end is a bit rushed, but there’s also no unnecessary angst.  (The best part though is a glimpse the love affair of the long-dead parents!)  The first in the series is free on Amazon but I haven’t read it yet (update: it was ok, but not worth paying for).  I also haven’t read the second in the series, but plan to…

I tried a couple of Patricia Rice regencies, but I don’t like how the heroes take away the heroine’s agency, even when having agency is a big deal for the heroine and it seems like the resolution should include the hero giving in on that.  We’re talking about things like, I dunno, secretly marrying the women against their will in Scotland where the marriage rules are different and not telling them they’ve been married until months later when circumstances have made it far too late for an annulment.  Or, you know, not stopping sex when the woman is in pain because of his “need”.  UGH.  Or forcing the heroine to have sex as a transaction in a situation where she doesn’t want to, but feels that she has to in order to save someone else.  Not cool.  Her Genius series is a modern set of romances… the amazon reviews complain about it having a liberal agenda, but there are too many uncomfortable racial and homosexual “jokes” for it to truly be liberal… or maybe it just shows how far we’ve come in the past 20-30 years in terms of what’s not cool to say about minorities.  I won’t purchase it, but I think I’ll try the second in the genius series, and later books seem to get higher reviews.  So I dunno… it felt like the books could be really good if they were just updated and the bad parts that used to be more common in this literature were removed.  It’s possible that, like Mary Balogh, her more recent books are less icky because the entire genre has moved away from icky.

Genuinely enjoyed The Heiress Companion, which is an old fashioned (and clean) regency novella by Madeline Robins.  It is no The Grand Sophy, but a pleasant read nonetheless.  Lady John and My Dear Jenny were also pretty good.  Spanish Marriage and Althea were both pretty awful, though in different ways.

Danse de la Folie by Sherwood Smith was also worth buying.  An old-fashioned style regency, if that makes sense.  (Not a bodice-ripper, older than that– more Austen-style.)  Not perfect, but soothing.

We both love love LOVED KJ Charles’ latest, Spectred Isle. The adopted son of Simon Feximal is in it!  SOOOOO GOOOOOOD.  Neither of us can wait for the next one.

In the modern world, #2 read and liked Attachments, which was Rainbow Rowell’s first book. Can you fall in love with someone via email? (Of course.) I think I’ve already mentioned Carry On somewhere on this blog.

Finally, we love books. I loved the little book, Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life. Writing letters to books is a neat idea and maybe I’ll try it sometime.

Get to reading, Grumpeteers! Tell us what’s good in romance.