The Life Revamp (CBR13 #58)

I received an ARC from Carina Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Life Revamp publishes November 30th, 2021.

The Life Revamp (The Love Study #3)

This was a first for me, a romance featuring a polyamorous relationship, but one I had been looking for. Kris Ritter’s The Life Revamp tells the story of Mason, who wants to fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. You know, live the fairytale a little. His luck has been less than stellar, including being left at the alter as a younger man, and the hunt is beginning to wear him down, to the point of settling for Mr. Checks All the Boxes. That is, until he meets up and coming local fashion designer Diego. Everything sparks between them—the banter, the sex, the fiery eye contact across a crowded room. There’s just one thing: Diego is already married, which includes outside courtships. In fact, Diego’s wife Claris, who is also friends with Mason, sets them up – she’s sure they are what the other is looking for. Mason thought he knew what would make him happy, but it turns out the traditional life he’d expected has some surprises in store. 

The thematic thrust of this book is expectations, what they are, how we come by them, and what they might prevent us from seeing. We are experiencing the story from Mason’s point of view, and we are therefore treated (burdened?) with his hopes, fears, and insecurities about finding the person who will choose him and allowing the possibility that Diego might be able to choose him equally to Claris. While much of this book focuses on Mason’s romantic expectations (and falling for the delightful Diego), Ripper doesn’t sideline the other areas of Mason’s life, and their incumbent expectations. We see how Mason navigates his found family, the wonderfully named Motherfuckers, his relationship with his mother – and by extension his faith. The story climaxes as Mason realizes he’s been coasting both romantically and professionally and does something about it, and the doing something about it worked for me in a big way.

There are a few things that I wished were fleshed out in order to balance the story, both from an arc structure perspective, but also from telling a balanced story about an open relationship such as Diego and Claris have. While we spend a good amount of time with the various components of the Gentleman’s Fashion week, we never hear from the POV of the pair in the existing relationship, but we also don’t see Mason and Claris have a conversation, really, about what it means to be metamours especially as that relationship would be based on their existing friendship. But by and large I felt that Ritter wrote a believable and entertaining romance with characters that I was happy to spend time with.

All the Devils Are Here (CBR13 #51)

All the Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #16)

Through the first fifteen books in the Inspector Gamache series there is only one book I’ve rated five stars, A Trick of the Light. It’s a doozy of a book, and it dug deep into how characters cope with trauma, addiction, and stress, and any number of other forces that would separate us from our best selves. When I finished All the Devils Are Here, the 16th book in the series, I had my first impulse to rate one of these five stars since the seventh. I’m not sure I can articulate why, but I read this not slight book over the course of three evenings, eschewing all other entertainments (and people) for it. Which while I’m a bookish introvert, is still a lot.

This is a 4.5 rounded up situation. There is a little too much neatness in the denouement of the mystery – which Penny does go back and make more complicated in her final chapter, putting additional information in the reader’s hand about what her lead character did or did not know when choosing his actions. But for each of the nearly 440 pages I was interested to see what was next, what new information lay ahead, what I would learn about characters I’ve come to hold very dear.

And that, probably, is why I loved this reading experience as much as I did. I have been deeply invested in the relationship Armand Gamache has with his family (biological and otherwise) since we were introduced to each character and their relationship dynamic with Gamache. I am particularly emotionally attached and invested in Jean Guy Beauvoir and this story, while not centering him, does meditate on where his relationship with his father-in-law is, what he has developed in his own nuclear family with Annie, and how that all impact’s Daniel Gamache’s relationship with his father and Beauvoir, and how Beauvoir has grown in the time we’ve known him.

This is a Louise Penny book, the writing is going to be very good. There’s the usual delectable food descriptions (and this book being set 99% in Paris ups the food game) but there is also great and exquisite details of Paris woven in. In the Author’s Note Penny discusses returning to Paris for research and taking the time to discover the Paris that she remembered, but also the Paris that the Gamaches would frequent, would know, and that level of commitment to finding the “right” part of Paris to portray shows through. Similarly Gamache’s godfather Stephen features prominently in this story, so too does his fortune and art collection, and all of those details are also paid the attention they are due, and that a Penny reader would expect.

As usual, I’m not really telling you very much about this book in the review. Partly because I don’t want to give away any of the ways in which Penny plots the book, but also because I’m left more with a feeling, a pleasant warmth, than I am with a particular attachment to the machinations of the plot (although the return to Three Pines at the end opens up great possibilities moving forward). If you are less interested in the Gamache family than the residents of Three Pines this one may not be for you in the same way it was for me, but I was ready this go around to have a break from Three Pines and this hit the spot, perfectly.

A Good Heretic (CBR13 #40)

A Good Heretic (Wayfarers, #0.5)

There are a handful of authors that I am simply delighted Cannonball Read has put on my reading radar. Becky Chambers is absolutely one of those. Her The Wayfarers series helped to cement for me my enjoyment of space based science fiction, while simultaneously reaffirming that one doesn’t need to rely on the hero’s journey in order to write excellent genre fiction. My favorite genre books are all character driven, and that is just the kind of exploration and survival stories to which Chambers excels.

A Good Heretic finds its existence in the sidelines of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and one (including me) can be forgiven for not necessarily remembering the plot specifics this many years out from publication as that book spends over 400 pages bouncing from one small adventure to another. But that book doesn’t really need much else, and neither does this short story. For both their strengths lie in the small things. In the Galactic Commons, an interstellar, interspecies union established for ease of trade and travel, Faster than Light travel is illegal, so transportation between systems is facilitated through a vast network of constructed wormholes. The construction of wormholes is impossible without the mathematical contributions of the Sianat, a reclusive race who intentionally infect themselves with a virus that enhances specific cognitive abilities (at the cost of shortening their lifespan). Infected Sianat are properly called “Pairs,” and think of themselves as plural entities. In The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, we’re introduced to mainstream Sianat culture through Ohan, a Navigator aboard a tunneling ship. However, we receive a glimpse of an alternate Sianat way of life through the character Mas, who we meet briefly late in the book. A Good Heretic is her story, a story of what happens when they life we are destined for is not actually the life that we have grown to anticipate.

Chambers has the gift of writing these stories of people living on spaceships who act like people you interact with every day. Chambers captures what informs our humanity and she uses the small details that tell us so much about who we are to craft vivid writing with exceptional world-building. What Chambers can do in a matter of sentences to build her locations is superb.

While this story is my least favorite of all the Chambers I’ve read (I am still holding onto the final Wayfarers book, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within) it is still a good small bite to get an idea if her writing is for you, with the addition of giving a bit of extra insight into one of the corners of her universe that didn’t get as much exploration as it might have in the larger series. But, while you do not have to have read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet to read this one, it might make more sense if you have.

A Good Heretic is available in the Infinite Stars: Dark Frontiers anthology and also at this link for free.

Kingdom of the Blind (CBR12 #40)

Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #14)

My local library system has reopened for pick up in the past couple weeks and Kingdom of the Blind was the first of my holds from way back in March to come in. I was excited to see it, I love Louise Penny’s way of crafting story but unsure how much death and destruction I was in the mood for. I decided to give American Kingpin a read first to gauge my mood and decided that I was in fact ready to revisit Inspector Gamache and company.

In classic Gamache tradition Penny is building on the events of the past, in this case leaning heavily on  A Great Reckoning and Glass Houses the immediate predecessors of this book. Amelia Choquet, whom we met in A Great Reckoning is back and we find Gamache, Isabelle Lacoste, and Jean-Guy Beauvoir in dramatically effected circumstances due to the final actions in Glass Houses. Penny often tries on new structural elements in her writing with each book, but this time it’s a return to form, using various story threads to balance each other out and leave the reader wondering, sometimes just a paragraph or two before returning them back to action in progress.

Kingdom of the Blind is at its core dueling stories – the hunt for the drugs that had been released in Glass Houses and the unraveling of why Myrna and Armand have been asked to be executors in a stranger’s will with a third man, and eventually the investigation of the death of one of the heirs. The will and murder plotline held my interest just fine and were typical Gamache territory. But, the hunt for the missing drugs plotline rubbed me the wrong way on two counts. First, character motivations didn’t make sense until a large reveal late in the book which did nothing for the overall reading experience. Penny needed the characters not to know something, but that didn’t mean that the reader shouldn’t. Instead we spend nearly 400 pages with a character acting very out of character. The second is that Penny used terminology in referring to transgender individuals that was not acceptable to me as the reader and while she did have Gamache correct misgendering as it happened, she still used a derogatory term far more often than needed and in a manner which falls into the worse kinds of stereotypes about transgender people and sex workers.

Separate from that complaint, which is not a small one, I was generally enamored of the book. I care very much about the inhabitants of Three Pines and the members of the Sûreté, and Penny balances the two worlds and moves plots ahead for some characters and lets us revisit some in a more status quo, always moving from one to another. But my heart is sad about the possible departure of Jean-Guy and Annie with little Honore to Paris. I have had a particular soft spot for this secondary storyline since very early on and will miss them terribly if they are really leaving.

There is so much backstory that feeds each new novel that I can’t rightly tell you to read this one if you haven’t read its predecessors, but I can emphatically tell you that if you like murder mysteries (and sometimes other kinds of mysteries) that ruminate on the human spirit than these books are for you and go pick up Still Life at your earliest convenience.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before; P.S. I Still Love You; Always and Forever, Lara Jean (CBR #13-15)

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With the release of the To All the Boys P.S. I Still Love You on Netflix this week I decided to give in and read the series. I really liked the first movie in 2018 but didn’t pick the books up then. I was smitten with the movie and didn’t want to mess with that feeling. But eighteen months later I felt the time had come.

In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before we are introduced to Lara Jean Song Covey, middle sister of three, and a dyed in the wool romantic. Older sister Margot has stepped into the mother role following the accidental death of their mom years earlier. But Margot is about to go to university in Scotland, and just broke up with Josh, her boyfriend of two years who has served as a de facto Covey sibling, so Lara Jean will have to step up to take care of youngest sister, Kitty. Kitty is sassy and the best character in the series, I love her the most. Our other main player is Peter Kavinsky, the most handsome boy in town (with possibly the largest ego) Lara Jean’s first kiss and soon to be fake boyfriend. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

The meat of the story is Lara Jean’s love life or lack thereof. Lara Jean has never been on a date, or had a boyfriend, but she writes letters to the boys she has crushes on and puts them in a hatbox her mother gave her in order to get over the feelings. (Lara Jean is focused on protecting herself, which the series deals with over time.) The letters aren’t meant to be read, but someone sends them anyway. Peter Kavinsky, confronts Lara Jean – he’s a recipient of one of the letters – and as Margot’s ex Josh heads towards them, another letter recipient, Lara Jean kisses Peter in a moment of panic and runs. Following some drama with Peter’s ex girlfriend (and Lara Jean’s former friend) Peter and Lara Jean agree to pretend they are dating. Peter wants to make Gen jealous and get her back. Lara Jean is using Peter to show that she is over her crush on Josh. Fake emotions turn into real ones and Peter and Lara Jean have to decide what they want from each other and if they can salvage something from the deceptions.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before very quietly crafts its complex relationships, taking the time to set up the intricate web of emotions at play. Han dives into the inner life of Lara Jean. We’re with her through her ups and downs and things progress much slower. While the reader never gets inside his head, Peter has as complex an inner life as Lara Jean. The first book ends on New Year’s Eve, with several plot points that the movie adaptation resolved still being up in the air.

P.S. I Still Love You follows immediately picking up on New Years Day. Though Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship has changed from a contracted fake relationship to romantic real one, things do not go smoothly. Freshly after making up (in a scene I liked much better than the movie’s version), a video of Lara Jean and Peter’s romantic moment in a hot tub on the school ski trip (which gets pulled into the first movie) surfaces and goes viral on social media. The book expands the hot tub tape aspect of the story, giving it much of the first half of the book, which felt accurate.

Beyond the tape and all its attendant drama, Lara Jean is having difficulty controlling her feelings about Peter’s continuing relationship with Genevieve. Peter tells Lara Jean that she’s going through a “rough time” and needs him as a friend.  Lara Jean internalized this as Peter putting Gen first even though he is in a relationship with her. As things get complicated, Lara Jean finds herself distracted by the appearance of John Ambrose McLaren, another letter recipient.  As they begin to reconnect, Lara Jean wonders if she can have feelings for two boys at one time, and what that means about her relationship with Peter. This is a book full of teenage jealousy and hormones and misunderstandings and those great aspects of a young adult novel. The second half of the book picks up with the introduction of the Assassin’s game (I’m not a huge fan of the John Ambrose sections), which pits Lara Jean and Peter against each other and their friends. All those messy young adult emotions are in action and moving the plot the way you would expect in a well-written YA.

Unfortunately, the execution of P.S. I Still Love You is a little uneven, and weaker than the first. And my least favorite of the series.  Han sells the subplot on social media bullying and sexual double standards very well, but most of the rest fell flat. I particularly struggled with Peter’s characterization. He is emotionally flat and unavailable in this one and seems unaware of how his actions affect Lara Jean emotionally, and not paying attention to how Lara Jean is negatively comparing herself to Genevieve at every turn.  This doesn’t track with the character development Peter went through in the previous book. Initially Jenny Han was planning to end the series with this book and I’m glad she didn’t.

In the final book, Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Lara Jean and Peter have recovered from their temporary break up in the second book and are a real couple, dealing with real couple things. It’s spring of senior year and a staple of young adult novels comes into play: college decisions. There are also changes on the home front, when her father shares his intention to marry their neighbor, Trina. Lara Jean navigates a lot of adult decisions here, from her choices regarding college to balancing Margot’s dislike for Trina against their father’s love for his new fiancée and her own affection for her. She and Peter also get close to having sex, which is something that had not really been brought up in the books before, although the movies have been dealing with it. Han’s use of it as a plot point is handled in a way I haven’t really run across in YA and I was interested in the way it was woven in.

Overall, the series was as expected, they are sweet and funny and that’s a good thing. The plot of these three novels follow a lot of the topics that YA novels typically hit: conflicts with family, jealousy in relationships, the prospect of college, big decisions regarding life and sex and love. For the depth she manages, Han also keeps the writing light – these are incredibly quick reads, even when they are focused on serious and heavy topics. As to the characters, Peter and Lara Jean felt like teenagers — they made dumb choices and said stupid things and didn’t know how to manage their emotions or communicate them very well. The friendships, especially Lara Jean’s with Chris and Lucas and Peter’s friends on the lacrosse team, dove into the complicated networks that make up our lives. I also appreciated that Margot — who hadn’t been around while her dad and Trina fell in love — resented the engagement and wasn’t interested in the wedding, it all rings true. Thematically I appreciated how much their mother’s Korean culture and family history is woven into the books and how the strong bonds of sisterhood, which are tested several times throughout the book, are never broken. While these books are all three stars for me, I can see their appeal on the larger scale, and look forward to the third book’s movie adaptation which is already filmed and listed with a 2020 release year… so maybe this fall? A girl can hope.

A Great Reckoning (CBR11 #56)

A Great Reckoning: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Book 12) by [Penny, Louise]

After reading The Long Way Home last year and The Nature of the Beast earlier this year I still wasn’t sure what Louise Penny had remaining up her sleeve for the residents of Three Pines and the remaining members of the Sûreté, but I knew not to worry about it anymore. While those books were heading towards a new direction, this book finally takes sure steps into the new reality these characters are facing. The Nature of the Beast accepted the new status quo, this book relishes in it. Isabelle Lacoste has settled into her role of Chief Inspector, Jean Guy Beauvoir is coming into his own as husband, soon to be father, and recovering addict. But perhaps most importantly Armand Gamache has decided what his next steps professionally will be, as his retirement was not permanent.

A Great Reckoning lives up to its name – Gamache is directly reckoning with several different elements of his past both within and without the Sûreté. What really worked for me in this book was the emotionally powerful narrative threads Penny wove together. In her Author’s Note Penny thanked those who have supported her and her husband while they deal with his dementia. It is clear on the page how her emotional work in her personal life is reflected in the emotional work of her characters, once you know its there. The final denouement of the activities in the Academy faintly pulled at my credulity, but the mental abuse and prolonged damage it was meant to convey landed fine. I’ll be happily picking up the thirteenth book in this series early next year and remain confident in what Penny is exploring.  

City of Ghosts (CBR10 #61)

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I read a bit of YA, but middle grades is not something I usually think to pick up, or even necessarily think of as a distinct genre. But as is often the case in my reading diet of the past few years the Read Harder Challenge had a task that needed sorting. Enter Leedock and her review of City of Ghosts – the perfect book to fulfill the “read the first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series”.

Now is when I admit to having never read a Victoria (or V.E. as she is sometimes known) Schwab book before.  She’s relatively well-reviewed around Cannonball Read and now that I’ve been initiated I can see why. Her writing is inventive and immediately sets the reader into her world. In the case of City of Ghosts we’re joining Cass and her best friend Jacob (who is a ghost, by the by) as the easy summer vacation at the beach away from the tap tap tap of ghosts on the otherside of the Veil is replaced by a family trip to Edinburgh, Scotland so Cass’s parents (writers of a series of books about paranormal happenings and ghost myths) can host a new travel show about the most haunted places in the world (an easy series maker, that).

The only thing keeping this from having been a one sitting read is that I was falling asleep the first night I picked it up and no amount of page-turning writing was going to keep me awake. The next time I sat down with the book I was however sucked in, and since this is a book aimed at 8 to 12 year olds (although I think Schwab slightly missed the mark on this, it reads more 12 to 14 to me edging into the YA zone) I plowed through the adventures Cass and Jacob get into and the new friends they meet, and new dangers they find. The book was both a good story and a good book for building a reader’s skills – truly what I’m looking for in books aimed at this age range.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read. You can join our bunch of ragtag readers and reviewers and help us raise money for the American Cancer Society. Every little bit helps, and goals of 13, 26, or 52 are available!

The Proposal (CBR10 #26)

The Proposal (The Survivors' Club, #1)

I have finally taken my first trip to a Mary Balogh romance. I’m still surprised when I manage to miss an author completely, but it usually means that there’s a well-liked series with good reviews which is complete that I can dive right into. In the case of Mary Balogh that series is the Survivors’ Club which tells the story of seven people who survived great tragedy (whether physical or mental) during the Napoleonic Wars and formed a tight friendship while they healed for three years away from Society. The first book in the series, The Proposal, held my attention so well and Balogh’s writing pleased me so much that I went ahead and requested the next few books from the library for the coming months and plan to blow through the series during the rest of the year.

The Proposal begins with Gwendoline, Lady Muir, who has seen her share of tragedy. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. Though, she isn’t the member of the Survivors’ Club: that would be Hugo, Lord Trentham, who scoops her up in his arms after a fall on the beach. He does not, however, view himself as a gentleman; he is a soldier whose bravery earned him his title. Born a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth he is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. In a very funny scene, a grumpy Hugh alerts his friends in the Survivors’ Club to his plan to find a wife to provide an heir and help with his sister. They tease he will obviously find one the next day down at the beach, and of course the very next day he is rescuing an injured Gwen and bringing her back to the house with him.

Embarrassed, Hugh doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have her interfere on the annual reunion of the Club. In a fine bit of plotting, this struggle where Hugo and Gwen are given time and space to get to know each other and become attracted but do not wish to be allows the reader to settle into the series. It is an infodump of sorts, but it worked well for me. In lesser hands the first half of the book would have been the end of the plot, but Balogh has more territory she wants to cover. Balogh builds a story around the mental wounds Gwen and Hugh both experienced, punching holes in the “happy” lives they have both created for themselves in the years since their respective tragedies, and analyzing the class differences of the social strata that Gwen and Hugh grew up and live in.

In the second half of the book their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. Mrs. Julien, one of my personal Romancelandia guides, is of the opinion the central theme of many Balogh historical romances is closed and broken people finding new lives and unexpected happiness. In The Proposal I would say that theme lines up exquisitely. Balogh creates a world and a story where over a respectable timeline; two mature adults in their thirties are given a second chance at happiness. And really, who better to be given these second chances than soldiers and those who have seemingly lost everything? I was warmed and won over by the sincere sweetness Balogh brought to her characters, and that while the characters have been through the proverbial wringer, the stories are not mawkish. Balogh shows a deft touch in how she layers and slowly reveals the sorrows of her characters without wallowing in them.

I feel Balogh earned a believable happily ever after for Hugh and Gwen. As they get to know each other, they recognize their first impressions were about expectations. Even at the books halfway point, when Hugh proposes to Gwen and she refuses, they are still functioning on expectations. But then Balogh builds out her narrative and Gwen invites Hugh to court her, if he wishes. I love that they continue to seek each other out, acknowledging they simply want to be with each other even if it is not a natural fit into either of their lives or worlds.  It is a novel that stays within its genre tropes, but nudges them with the ways in which the details and specific plot points are placed. The novel grows the universe of Balogh’s books, and I’m interested to see how that universe continues to grow and keep up with the characters we’ve met so far.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read – now in our tenth year! At Cannonball Read 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.

Ghostly Echoes (CBR10 #24)

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Back during CBR7 I picked up Jackaby by William Ritter because it featured a bit of a paranormal mystery with a sassy female protagonist who doesn’t have a romance with the male protagonist. While I love a Romance novel, I don’t need romance in all my stories. As it turns out Jackaby was a strong book and over the years I’ve kept up with the series in a (mostly) timely manner.

Ghostly Echoes is the third full novel in the series (there’s one short story as well, The Map) and the character who is the driver of the story is the ghostly owner of 926 Augur Lane, the headquarters of Jackaby’s detective agency. There’s corruption and murder afoot in New Fiddleham and it all links back to how Jenny Cavanaugh was murdered a decade ago and the disappearance of her finance the night she died. As Abigail races to unravel the mystery of how and why people keep turning up missing or dead flinging herself more deeply into her friends’ grim histories, Jackaby leads a cast of familiar characters across the cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England and down to the mythical underworld  and back again, solving the case at hand and setting up the endgame in the next book.

The Jackaby series blends a bit of fantasy and folklore with a touch of mad science and its author, William Ritter, isn’t afraid to throw a touch of social commentary into his YA. This time we get a transgender character whom Jackaby speaks to and interacts with using all the care, class, and affirmation that one could hope for.

These books are fun, clever, and quick-witted and I remain enthusiastic for what I’m assuming is the closing chapter in the next book, The Dire King.

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.

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.