Continuing down the road of comfort reading I’ve decided to do some rereading of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. I first read the books in 2015 and loved them then, and I’m happy to report that after my latest reading of The Duke and I, the first book in the series, that I’m just as pleased now as I was then. Even better, there’s a Netflix adaptation of the series on the way – season one finished filming before COVID shutdown most television production but we don’t have an announcement about premiere date but Netflix has been holding to sometime in 2020… I may be hoping that this review puts just that much more energy into the universe to get that date announcement, we need it (and once Umbrella Academy season 2 drops there’s a definite window of opportunity),
So, what is the story all about? From Goodreads: Simon Basset, the irresistible Duke of Hastings, has hatched a plan to keep himself free from the town’s marriage-minded society mothers. He pretends to be engaged to the lovely Daphne Bridgerton. After all, it isn’t as if the brooding rogue has any real plans to marry – though there is something about the alluring Miss Bridgerton that sets Simon’s heart beating a bit faster. And as for Daphne, surely the clever debutante will attract some very worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable. But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, she soon forgets that their courtship is a complete sham. And now she has to do the impossible and keep herself from losing her heart and soul completely to the handsome hell-raiser who has sworn off marriage forever.
This book was initially my introduction to Quinn and all the things I enjoyed about her writing I enjoy now. Quinn writes great family dynamics, her humor works for me and had me laughing loud enough to startle the cats. There is a plot point in this story that doesn’t sit well, there are issues of consent that aren’t great. But I’m still happy to spend time with Quinn’s writing and the world of the Bridgertons in this its 20th anniversary year. Interspersed with other reading I’ll be endeavoring to read the next two books in the series in relatively quick succession as they are all set in back to back years (books 4-6 are similarly grouped), and the next in the series will also be making an appearance on my Bingo board.
In fulfilling the color squares that form one of the diagonals on the Cannonball Read Bingo Card this year I have decided to go all-in with Romances. They have some of the most vibrant covers in publishing right now, and I’ve got a bunch to choose from. First up, because I feel particularly suited to choosing one at all, is the glorious violet color covered Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher.
I had every hope of this being a book for me, reviews from emmalita and Malin (#BlameMalin) gave every indication that this was something I would enjoy, and I had been holding off until I felt like I could really appreciate it. I ended up ripping into it after a truly awful week in my professional life and needing some emotional salve.
Christopher takes the rom-com How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days and gender swaps it and updates it. Christopher wrote in her Author’s Note that when she sat down to write this book in 2017 she was writing with the express purpose of seeing herself on the page – a biracial woman who had been through the dating wringer – and the type of hero she hopes will enter her own life. Christopher goes on to expound on how being part of the Loving Generation (children of interracial couples who were legally allowed to marry following the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case) impacted her youth and her time in the dating pool. Short version – people suck. Christopher brings that lived experience into her book and takes what could have been a light, frothy retelling and imbues it with real stakes and a place in the world as it exists, not just out there in Romancelandia.
Not the Girl You Marry is the story of Hannah Mayfield and Jack Nolan neither of whom wants to be in a relationship right now, but each with a workplace incentive to be in one. Jack is a a journalist, and his viral success at “How To” articles and videos has pigeon-holed him and kept him covering hard-hitting politics – the beat he would like to be following. With a lead that he thinks can make the change happen that he wants professionally, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final fluffy bit of clickbait: How to Lose a Girl. Problem is, he’s already met Hannah and is trying to win her over and isn’t sure that he really wants to ruin his chance with her. Hannah is an extremely successful event planner, focused on climbing the career ladder at her firm which is one of the most prestigious in the city. Determined to secure her next promotion Hannah has to deal with her image problem, she needs to show her boss that she has range, including planning dreaded, romantic weddings. Enter Jack. He’s the perfect man to date for a couple weeks to prove to her boss that she’s not scared of feelings.
Christopher could have gone down a couple different trope avenues with this one, in fact having either character fess up to what was going on and setting them down a fake relationship narrative was what I kept expecting. I’m both sad and relieved that Christopher chose instead to have her leads make the same big mistake – they lied, and they lied until they were caught. She then gives herself a few chapters for them to right their lives and their relationship in a way that was very satisfying. It also felt amazing to have Hannah be difficult and to have that reckoned with. As someone who has decided to wear that label proudly, it was refreshing to see.
I laughed out loud when I saw the How To square on this year’s Cannonball Read bingo card – days before a friend had given me Randall Munroe’s latest How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems when I had lamented my inability lately to sink into reading anything. Her answer to that problem (and it is a good answer) was something intended to be read in small pieces and not all at once, and something that is both humorous and full of interesting information. Checks all around.
Reviewing this one is difficult, because I basically just want to ask you, my fellow readers, questions and if you answer yes, then this is a book you might want to pick up. Questions such as:
- Do you find yourself wondering if you could accomplish a basic task in the most ludicrous method possible?
- Do you enjoy random facts and footnotes?
- Are you someone who enjoys and appreciates the beauty of well-done stick figure drawings?
- Are you already familiar with xkcd and Russell Monroe?
- Is absurd, but strait-laced humor, your jam?
See, its more about you the reader than the book itself. I stand by this assessment.
If your answers to even most of those questions is yes than this is something that you might want to pick up for yourself to have around. I will mention that you probably absolutely want to read this book in dead tree format – you want the graphics – and I’m just not sure how they would show up on your eReader of choice and you’d lose them entirely in the audio version.
My Cannonball Bingo tradition is to sit down with the square descriptions and plan out options for what books to read for each category. I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi could qualify for several squares (this is her debut published October 2019, we read it for CBR The Future is Queer Book Club) but I’m using it for UnCannon. The ‘Canon’ is often made up of books written by old, white men and the goal of this square is to read as far from the stereotypical version as possible and this book does just that. Farah Naz Rishi is a Pakistani-American Muslim writer who is writing specifically for the YA audience – one that is often overlooked by the arbiters of taste. I Hope You Get This Message is also focused on queer relationships, mental health struggles, and income inequalities told from the all too real voices of its young cast, UnCannon indeed.
What is the book about? Oh, nothing too important, just what happens when you’re trying to survive your teenage years and the Earth might end in seven days. Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization. For Jesse Hewitt nothing has ever felt permanent: not the guys he hooks up with, not the jobs his mom works so hard to hold down, so what does it matter if it all ends now? But what can he do if it doesn’t all end? Cate Collins is desperate to use this time to do one more thing for her schizophrenic mother, to find the father she’s never met. Adeem Khan has always found coding and computer programming easy, but not forgiveness. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance, but he wants more than anything for her to forgive him for his silence when she dared to speak her truth. With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart.
In all honesty the world of I Hope You Get This Message is not a very hopeful future, before Alma accidentally sends its death message, and in fact it is in most ways the future that we are living in now. The book however is about carving out a little piece of hope when everything feels hopeless. Rishi is playing around with survival and redemption, with love and feeling like you can accept it when you don’t feel like you deserve it. As the POV shifts between the three leads: Jesse, Cate, and Adeem we are deeply entrench in the character-driven as opposed to the plot-driven (although it has some forward movement too), we are here for the interior journeys of these characters as they work towards their own goals in the lead up to the possible end of the world. And as the reader, we want them to discover more beyond their initial goals, because that’s what we want for ourselves.