The Wedding Date (CBR10 #8)

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I accrued some library fines on this book and I’m sending my apology out to the universe for the person behind me in the holds list who is delayed in getting this copy in their hands. That’s what happens when you get six books on interlibrary loan over three days (after none arriving for three weeks), your social calendar gets very full, and you can’t renew this new book (published January 30, 2018 y’all). But I’m also quite glad that I embraced the fines and kept the book.

I try to be more mindful in my reading, and one area that I still don’t give enough attention to is making sure I’m reading book written by people of color and those featuring them. This book is both, and for that reason is a slam dunk for me as it is in a favorite genre – romance – and is perfect for the Read Harder Challenge task 10: read a romance novel by or about a person of color. Done and done. And it is good to boot.

This book has been on my radar for a few months, ever since Roxane Gay gave it a rave review on Twitter back in September. If Roxane is about it, and it is diverse Romance? I’m on it.

She’s spot on, it is charming and its characters are great. However, our opinion diverges on star rating. I’m rounding up to a 4 from a 3.5 because this is Guillory’s debut and the craft of her writing is there, but there’s some first go hiccups (over-reliance on certain phrases for example).

The Wedding Date is the story of Alexa and Drew who meet in an elevator during a quick blackout and each experience a bit of well placed lust. Drew jumps on instinct and asks Alexa to be his date to a wedding he is in that weekend, his ex’s wedding (oh yes, good old Romancelandia drama). Alexa says yes and we are off to the races of these two flirting and eventually getting together. A single weekend turns into trading weekends back and forth as they live in opposite ends of California, which leads to misunderstandings and emotions developing that neither is ready for or really expecting.

Guillory built herself some very believable and nuanced characters. Each has their strengths, each has their weaknesses, and they don’t necessarily solve the others, they have to work on whatever this relationship is at any given time. The secondary characters serve to fill in the yelling of the reader at the main pair (why are you saying that? Why AREN’T you saying that?!), and are well drawn and interesting on their own (Carlos follow up! Please!!). We also don’t suffer instalove, the relationship builds over several months and they talk about issues that exist in our contemporary world, the gross men, the legitimate concern Alexa would feel about not knowing if she will be the only black person at a given social event, the bureaucratic layers associated with getting social aid if our public servants have managed to get it provided in the first place.

This is a good one folks; it has meat on its bone and sexy bassline. Get on it!

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

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A Duke in Shining Armor (CBR10 #7)

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The Romance genre is a trope filled place. Like any other genre, its readers are trained for what to look for, and what to expect. I am a well-trained reader, so much so in fact that I went back to Goodreads early on in reading A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase to make sure that the book in my hand was in fact the first in the series. I am apparently not the only one with this thought: Ms. Chase dedicated a blog post to assuring us, yes, this is the first. My trope instincts went off because Ms. Chase dumps us into action already in progress: the characters know each other, one of the pairs is already married* (but estranged), and a wedding is supposed to be taking place but the bride and groom are both drunk, and the bride is making a run for it out the nearest library window and the best man is setting off to bring her back, if only he can convince her (and himself) that it’s the best plan.

* I am very, very excited and interested in what will be the third book in this series as it will focus on reuniting a married couple (I presume).

I was immediately intrigued. Add into that a heroine who has been overlooked, is a nerdy book girl (Loretta Chase is writing herself and all of us into the story here, I swear), and a steadfastly loyal to his friends male lead and I knew exactly why so many of my romance reading friends were so happy with this book after a relatively lackluster 2017 in Romancelandia. The year was so lackluster in fact that I read only two romances published in 2017 last year (Pretty Face  – which everyone should read after they read Act Like It in time for book three in that series to come out later this year and When Life Happened at PattyKates’ request.)

Ms. Chase does much well in this book, and it’s nice to see her back towards Lord of Scoundrels territory after an enjoyable but not great Dukes Prefer Blondes. In A Duke in Shining Armor Chase deploys a well-paced timeline to keep a short time period from turning into instalove. Chase lays out the historical precedent of how little times affianced couples could expect to spend together in the upper echelons of society in England during the 1830s, and fills a week with more one on one time and varied experiences than many couples featured in romance novels, let alone the real world, would experience, and simultaneously uses the idea of putting a pair together that had spent the better part of a decade keeping each other in their sights we are dealing with people who don’t know each other but would not be considered social strangers. It is just one of many historically accurate details that Chase is known for adding to her writing, and features so prominently on her other blog Two Nerdy History Girls (also a great follow on Twitter for those inclined).  

It was also a bit of a cozy read: there was zero sturm und drang until right at the end. We simply have a bit of an adventure, a bit of a misunderstanding, and some work against social expectations and needs. Olympia and Ripley are well matched, even if we get a little less of who Ripley is on the page, but I expect his character will become clearer as we learn more about his compatriots, the Disgraces.  Oh, and one of my favorite components: a road trip.

I know I’ve told you very little about the book itself, but there are some great reviews to give you more detail there, I’m just going to sit here in my happy feels about a solidly 4 star (creeping towards 4.5 star) book.

 

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

Romancing the Werewolf (CBR10 #5)

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In some ways my CBR history is the history of my reading Gail Carriger books. The third book I ever reviewed for Cannonball was Carriger’s Soulless book. Heck it and the next three books in the Parasol Protectorate series make four of my first 10 reviews. Carriger showed back up in my reading in CBR6 as I started her Finishing School books (a prequel series) which spread out over Cannonballs 7 & 8. I am a big Carriger fan; I enjoy her online presence, and find the tempo of her writing fun and soothing. When last year I saw that her second novella in this universe was going to focus on the love story of two of my favorite supporting characters from the Parasol Protectorate books, Professor Lyall and Biffy, I pre-ordered it to read at the end of CBR9. Of course, it ended up in the beginning of CBR10 instead because that’s just how I roll.

While this is a perfectly serviceable romance novella and an interesting piece of Carriger’s Steampunk Universe I made a mistake. In the Note on Chronology Carriger tells us readers that her Supernatural Society novellas can be read in any order, and that this book takes place chronologically after the events of Imprudence (in 1895), and ties romantically to events in Timeless. I focused on the Timeless portion of that sentence but I should have paid closer heed to the Imprudence part as I have read a sum total of zero of the Custard Protocol books which follow the Soulless books in chronological order.  I should have just gone and spoiled myself so the setup made more sense.

That said, this novella still has all the things I love about Carriger’s writing: her brand of humor, werewolves, vampires, fancy dress and hats, intrigue, and a quick little mystery to solve, and a peak into an alternate Victorian England. It also is a sweet romance between two characters who have been separated for a long time and aren’t sure what they are to each other anymore. Any time spent with Biffy and Lyall is time well spent. I wish there was a little more ahem, romance, in this novella, but I’ll take what I can get.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

Three Nights with a Scoundrel (CBR9 #72)

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I usually set myself up with reading landmarks throughout the year, to keep things interesting for myself. It also helps to keep me on pace. The past three years I have ‘read with my ears’ Tessa Dare’s Stud Club series. It was a random choice, to pick this series to enjoy via audiobook, but I’ve stuck with it and it been for the good. The narrator, Rosalyn Landor, handles the text superbly and I’m fairly certain she improves upon Dare’s early, sometimes uneven, work.

Because that is in fact what we are dealing with: Three Nights with a Scoundrel is uneven. We are wrapping up a few storylines and they are not all as strong as they could be and the pacing suffers because of it. We learn the fate of that damned horse Ossiris as well as the circumstances of the death of Leo Chatwick, plus the resolution of who Julian Bellamy really is, or isn’t but it doesn’t come together in a completely satisfying whole.

There are things I truly and unabashedly loved – our heroine Lily who is deaf and the ways she functions in a society that isn’t built to accommodate her. The emotional landscape of her relationship with Julian is also expertly handled. I also enjoyed Morland’s pregnant ward Claudia and her various interactions as they were a hoot and not without consequence. It is all the other fluff and bits around the main story that detract from what Dare does very well. We have another strange pet, this time the parrot Tartuffe, who at least has plot significance, but he shouldn’t have had to, there should and could have been better communication between the leads. I know having a parrot around a romance novel should have been more amusing to me, it simply wasn’t.

We also receive visits from both previous couples in the series so the male leads can wrap up the murder investigation (ugh), but we were seriously shortshrifted where it came to Rhys and Meredith. They are bringing a crucial piece of the puzzle to London, but are merely treated as a conveyance. Urgh. And as to that piece of the puzzle… while I am always happy for more representation of lgbtq relationships in romance novels this one felt a bit shoehorned in and if it had been telegraphed I completely missed it. In a certain way it all came together a little too much deux ex machina for my personal tastes.

This one gets three stars for all it does right, but doesn’t get rounded up to four because to my mind it didn’t live up to the second in the series.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society. Registration for our tenth year is open now. 

My Dearest Enemy (CBR9 #47)

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This week in the Romance readers back channel one of the many tropes that drives us nuts came up: “this whole manufactured conflict of a couple hundred pages could have been solved by a SINGLE DAMN CONVERSATION.” (h/t kdm). In some ways, that describes the entirety of My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway. At the very core of Romance novels, there is often a single fundamental understanding, and in this one it’s the placing of the two main characters as antagonists to each other by an outside, dead, force.

The book is based around the relationship between Lillian Bede and Avery Thorne. Lillian is shocked to discover that someone she is barely  acquainted with has tapped her to run the affairs of an exquisite country manor following his death. But, there is a catch, she must run the estate for five years and show a profit in order to keep it in perpetuity.  She accepts the challenge, taking the opportunity to put her politics into practice. There’s only one snag: Lily’s inheritance comes with an adult ward, the infuriating, incorrigible globetrotter Avery Thorne who was expecting to inherit from his uncle.
 “Dear Mr. Thorne, For the next five years, I will profitably manage this estate. I will deliver to you an allowance and I will prove that women are just as capable as men.”
“My Dear Miss Bede, Forgive me if I fail to shudder. Pray, do whatever you bloody well want, can, or must.” Avery discovers his inheritance is on hiatus—and his childhood home is in the hands of some overbearing usurper. He handles it in the only gentlemanly manner he can come up with, he leaves with friends on a series of expeditions around the globe. After nearly five years he finally returns, and Avery finds that his antagonist is not all what he expected. In fact, Lily Bede is stunning, exotic, provocative—and impossible to resist. We the reader discover that in truth,  this world-weary adventurer comes home in large part by the pull of the relationship that they have developed over years of battle-heavy correspondence.

There was a time I thought I didn’t enjoy epistolary novels, or their tropes. I was wrong.

But back to my original thought, the entire conflict between Avery and Lillian is about the inheritance of Mill House. But as they spend time together the relationship they developed on paper becomes real, and for the back half of the novel we are waiting for the truth of that to be made clear. The characters circle it, fight over it, and walk away from each other over it. And after one final tearful conversation it is put to rights. This should all be terribly frustrating, but in the larger context of the slow burn that Brockway crafted, it somehow works charmingly.

Many thanks to emmalita for pointing me in this book’s direction. 3.5 stars rounded up.

 

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. We read what we want, review it how we want (with a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

The Soldier’s Scoundrel (CBR9 #38)

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The past few years I’ve been attempting the Read Harder Challenge put on by Book Riot, and hile I’ve completed it the past two years, I am not on track to do that this year. But, one of the tasks is LGBTQ romance, and there are always a TON of suggestions for Romance around the Cannonball Read. So, while on vacation I made sure I moved one to the head of the list.

The Soldier’s Scoundrel  is a historical m/m romance. It strikes me as in the Lisa Kleypas school of recognizable history with lovely smoldery romance woven in. Is it up to the high, HIGH standards of Kleypas’ Wallflowers and Hathaways series which I have just completed? Not quite. But Cat Sebastian is a relatively new author (this is her debut), which means she has room to grow. I like her modus operandi though: Cat writes steamy, upbeat historical romances. They usually take place in the Regency, generally have at least one LGBTQ+ main character, and always have happy endings.

As to the story itself, I thought the romance was delightful. We have Oliver and Jack, two men from different class in the society who find them selves crossing paths as war injured Oliver returns home to find his married sister has paid Jack Turner a large sum of money, and he is determined to find out what for. Turner, making his living filling in the gaps in the justice system in Regency England, will not be sharing that information if he can avoid it, and is put out when Oliver Rivington inserts himself in his latest case. This is a well-written enemies-to-lovers where the relationship progress is slow-burn with undeniable sexual chemistry and tension. My main problem with the book, taking away a full star, is pacing. While the slow burn requires a slow start this one is a bit too slow, and the end moves a bit too fast. But I did love how Cat Sebastian decided to anuever these two characters into closer social circles for their happily ever after (which is strengthened by the characters ability to be accurate about their situations).

This is first in a series, and I’ve added book two The Lawrence Brown Affair featuring Jack Turner’s brother Georgie to my to read list.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. 

Seduce Me at Sunrise and Tempt Me at Twilight (CBR9 #28 & 29)

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I was told, repeatedly, not to read Seduce Me at Sunrise, otherwise known as the Win and Merripen book. I swear I was listening, but then someone mentioned that there were several Amelia and Cam scenes in the book worth seeking out. So… I checked it out along with the book I meant to read, Tempt Me at Twilight, and got to skimming.

More of the book was okay then I feared initially, but it is still only a two star/okay book, and that’s not great for a Romance. Usually the happy feelings push me to rate these about a half star higher than I would more traditional, non-genre fiction. What can I say, I’m not perfect and my emotions can and do get the better of me.

I am glad however that I got these books from the library at the same time, and didn’t do my usual habit of spreading out the series to savor it. These two books occur in rapid succession in the series’ timeline, and I have a feeling book 4, Married by Morning, is also set immediately after (I’ve requested it and book 5 from the library to arrive sometime late in May or early in June – don’t worry). This allowed me to sink into the family dynamic that Kleypas is building. I missed this same experience with Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books and in retrospect; I wish I had read them closer together.

These two books are set about two and a half years after the events of the first book and Kleypas is telling one large story. It is entirely typical of the genre to tell serialized stories of one family, or in the case of the Wallflowers one group of friends, but generally other than winks and nods and updates on previous characters there isn’t usually much interplay between each book’s lead protagonists. That is not the method at hand with these books: instead Kleypas is using the tight family she has created to tell a tightly woven story. I have to say, I prefer this method. There is story and plot points for everyone in Seduce Me at Sunrise, which means that while the main couple have major problems as a pair, there is still plenty of story to carry the book to a two star rating. When a better pairing happens, then we get a better book as well.

I do not know what exactly about Tempt Me at Twilight that won me over to a five star. The book teeters on the edge of too much, our self-made hero Harry is able to do all the things, and upsets Poppy’s possible marriage proposal in order to trap her into choosing to marry him. Kleypas is often playing with the themes of hard work and getting out of your comfort zones, and that is exactly what this pairing is built around. Perhaps the decisive factor was the inclusion of a not physically pleasing first experience for the virgin, which then puts other important plot points into action.

Kleypas isn’t afraid to make and keep her heroes and heroines imperfect, and that is more often a strength than a weakness for her writing.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. We read what we want, review it honestly, and help raise funds to support the American Cancer Society in the name of one of our fallen friends.