Book review of Christina Britton’s debut novel WITH LOVE IN SIGHT

With Love in Sight (Twice Shy, #1)With Love in Sight by Christina Britton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a sucker for historical romance books with chicks who wear specs and With Love in Sight is no exception.

I liked Caleb, but I must admit I was partial to Imogen and enjoyed her inner workings and watching her personal growth over the course of the book.

Britton does an excellent job developing a couple of my favorite tropes: the wallflower/scrappy spinster and the-rake-with-a-heart-of-gold. I thought she deviated enough from the standard treatments to keep the story fresh and interesting.

There were a couple of points where I wanted to bash the characters’ heads together and yell WAKE UP! but that happens in any fulfilling romance at some point novel, historical or contemporary and Britton was careful not to bog down the story with any TSTL characters.

Overall I found her style engaging and the story kept me turning the pages and rooting for love. I’d read another Britton book in a heartbeat.

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The Devilish Duke by Maddison Michaels

The Devilish DukeThe Devilish Duke by Maddison Michaels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love a devilish duke? Especially one who has a butt like the guy on the cover of this book!? And there is nothing I like more than a businesslike marriage of convenience that quickly skates over the edge into pleasure.

Anyhow, I hugely enjoyed this Victorian romance and found the mystery that is skillfully woven throughout the story an added bonus. Excellent chemistry between Devlin and Sophie and just enough bickering and tension to keep me turning pages, but not make me want to throttle either of them.

Michaels writes a fast-paced and well-conceived story and I was glad when Devlin and Sophie got their happily ever after, but sorry the story had to end!

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The Marine’s Secret Daughter by Carrie Nichols

The Marine's Secret Daughter (Small-Town Sweethearts #1)The Marine’s Secret Daughter by Carrie Nichols

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is perfect for those times when you are in need of some authentic, uplifting, and rewarding entertainment! Nichols does a great job painting a multi-dimensional picture of small town life. I personally find a romance that centers around ordinary people (rather than billionaires and super models) a refreshing change.

I really liked both Riley and Meg while alternately wanting to grab and shake them both from time to time when they did something stubborn or stupid. I’ve never read a secret baby novel before and found myself thinking about the decision to keep such a monumental secret from the father. I have to admit that colored my perceptions about Meg and I definitely thought Riley had quite a bit to be angry about.

Nichols handles their reconciliation in a way that is both deft and fulfilling. Lots of good humor make this a very fun read!

This is a wonderfully touching and down-to-earth debut and I think Nichols has some serious chops. I’d definitely read a second book by Ms. Nichols.

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Wrapped in the Stars, Elena Mikalsen

Wrapped in the StarsWrapped in the Stars by Elena Mikalsen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book–LOVED it!

I began this story thinking it was a conventional time travel story. Boy was I in for a surprise. Wrapped in the Stars is so much more than a time travel novel it’s hard to know where to start. So I’ll begin with the characters themselves.

Honestly, it’s like the author was channeling the two women in this book. The story is told in alternating times–Maya’s (present) and Rebecca’s (early 1900s).

Right from the first chapter I was hooked. I would get so wrapped up in the story I was reading (either Maya’s or Rebecca’s) that I absolutely hated it when a chapter ended. But by the time I’d read a paragraph into the next chapter, I’d be hooked all over again. . . . And then pissed when THAT chapter ended. This book grabbed me over and over again.

Mikalsen masterfully weaves together at least a half-dozen threads to create a rich, living tapestry: a glimpse into the history of women in medicine, a look at the grassroots organization of the Russian Revolution, early Twentieth Century European social history, parallel love stories, and a FASCINATING mystery/adventure in dual times.

I have this amazingly clear picture of Bern in the early 20th century stuck inside my head! The excitement of the time: a revolution brewing, a war coming, advances in medicine, technology, and revolutionary shifts in gender roles/relations. But even with such a vibrant backdrop, the characters still stand out and do not become lost.

It would be hard for me to say who is the heroine in this story–Maya or Rebecca. So I’m going to say they both are. They are two distinct characters and there is no mistaking their voices. Mikalsen does an excellent job of respecting history and depicts a character–Rebecca– who is a product of her time even as she rebels against it. Which means she actually ends up sounding and behaving like a woman from 1914, rather than a woman from 2018 dressed in clothing from the period.

And Maya? Well, she is a woman who alternately appears to be coming apart at the seams but also strong, driven, curious, and vulnerable. In other words, she is REAL.

And then there are the secondary characters, like Sarah, who Mikalsen makes you care for with only a few subtle, but powerful, snippets of her life.

Clearly I was floored by this book. Awesome debut and I hope for more.

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Book Review: Forbidden by Faith, Negeen Papehn

Forbidden by Faith (Forbidden Love, #1)Forbidden by Faith by Negeen Papehn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb on the back of this book does not do the story between the covers justice.

Forbidden by Faith isn’t only a love story, it’s also the story of young woman’s journey of self-discovery. Sara has her plate full: pharmacy school, loving–but demanding–traditional Persian parents and family, and two hot, forbidden men who are both willing to fight for her.

The author kept me guessing and I loved not knowing how this story was going to end. Papehn also did a stellar job of depicting Sara’s struggle to find the truth while those around her are busily pursuing their own agendas.

Sara walks a fine line of being an American, a Persian, and a woman who is her own person, regardless of labels or her family’s or society’s expectations.

Papehn tells Sara’s story in a clean, fast-paced, direct fashion that is compelling without sacrificing beautiful, intelligent, and often amusing prose.

Here are a few examples:

“There was a warmth about him that felt like fingers wrapped around a hot cup of tea on a cold day.”

“Persian women were a special breed, possessing certain ironclad strength. They never showed weakness. . . . Absolutely no one considered therapy, unless they were clinically insane.”

And then there were the descriptions of food, which left me so hungry I was ready to gnaw off my arm. I LOVE Persian food and it was torture to read about it and have no Persian mother here to cook for me.

Anyhow, I loved the book–starting from the very first page. The prologue, which was clever, made the story even more fun and interesting to read (you’ll need to read the book to see what I mean!)

5 stars

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Sugar MoneySugar Money by Jane Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I won’t lie–this was a very hard book to read. Lucien, the narrator, is a slave in Grenada in the 1760s. As if life weren’t hard enough, the island is also going through political and social upheaval as the French and British jockey for control.

Harris is an AMAZING author when it comes to evoking a feeling of brooding, incipient terror. Lucien is a fascinating narrator and you feel a crushing empathy for him as he goes about his life, which just spirals from harsh to bad and worse.

Lots of patois make the reading come to life and Harris’s descriptions paint a picture of an island that is no tropical paradise, at least not for the people who are forced to work it.

A great, if tear-jerking, book.

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Review of : And the Next Thing You Know, by Chase Taylor Hackett

And the next Thing You Know . . . (Why You?, #2)And the next Thing You Know . . . by Chase Taylor Hackett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book came at a perfect time! I had just finished back to back weepers (see reviews for Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality and Sugar Money) and I really, really needed something that made me laugh and smile.

I honestly cannot recall reading a more consistently hilarious romance other than The Hating Game.

Chase Taylor Hackett writes laugh-out-loud dialogue. I picked up the book because I was intrigued by Jeffrey, the angry-lawyer-sleeping-his-way-through-NYC. I have to admit that Jeffrey is still my favorite, but I did end up liking Theo a lot, mainly because he is such an impervious, amusing butthead (yes, I have a weakness for that).

Anyhow, the story takes place from the perspective of multiple POVs, but mainly Jeffrey, Theo, and Thomas. The story is fast-paced and you get into the characters heads pretty deeply as the author does a great job of making you root for them. There are some heavy moments and some important themes, but the book is not dark and depressing.

I think good comedy is the hardest thing to write, but Hackett kept me rolling on the floor even though I am most likely not his intended reader (a 50 year-old). And of course the ending was wonderfully fulfilling and romantic…

5 stars!

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Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer

Match Made in ManhattanMatch Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Match Made in Manhattan (MMM from now on) took me on a journey down “Memory Lane” and back into my own past.

I kicked off my dating years back in the ’80s, when there were no cell phones (horrors!) and people were pretty much out of control when it came to sex, drinking (drive-in liquor stores!) and drugs.

The story Stauffer tells in her book could hardly be more different than what I experienced. Even so, there are definite parallels between dating in the 80s and dating in 2015 (or so), and I think that is where the magic in this book lies–the commonalities of the dating scene that bridge age or era. I swear, I dated the older brothers (or uncles) of some of Allison’s duds….

Anyhow, here’s the story: Allison–our protag– isn’t out for a good time and NSA sex; she is looking for a mate. But although she has a “The Pants Stay On” approach to dating, Allison doesn’t come off as a prude or judgmental, instead she is mature, focused, and decisive about what she wants in a guy.  I mean she is VERY mature and focused and I found her approach to dating fascinating to read about as it is so utterly different than my own.

Interspersed between her various dates are interesting details about her job, which is certainly a conversation starter: she is an architectural conservator. Her job (well, her boss) and the attendant stresses are a big part of the story, and the reader gets more than just a series of amusing dating vignettes–they get a thoughtfully crafted tale of her life and who she is.

I think the comps on the book blurb may do this book a disservice. I’ve never seen the reality TV show The Bachelor so I can’t say whether that is accurate, but I have read TBJ Diaries and I would say MMM is a more serious “slice of life” with humorous moments and incidents. Unlike Bridget Jones, Allison is not a drinking, smoking, weight-obsessed woman consumed with finding a man and I respect the way she conducts her friendships, career, and relationships.

While she maintains her standards throughout the book I did enjoy her changing attitude and approach to dating and her dates as the bloom slowly comes off the rose (don’t want to spoil the ending, which is not what I expected…)

NYC is one of my favorite cities and Stauffer works the City into the story almost like another character. At times the role NYC played made me think of another story about single women and their different approaches to men/life/love/careers in NYC. (Go ahead, guess!)

I found myself turning pages late into the night, eagerly reading about each date and wondering where it would go. Rooting for some of the guys, shaking my head in disbelief at others (my favorite out of all the dates was Brandon. What the hell was THAT all about?!)

Anyhow, I hugely enjoyed my journey into Allison’s life, which made me think back on things in my own life I haven’t thought about for years.

A fun page-turner and great debut.

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The Ghosts of Galway, Ken Bruen

The Ghosts of GalwayThe Ghosts of Galway by Ken Bruen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a huge Bruen fan and have read everything he has written. This is his 13th Jack Taylor book and it as engaging as everything else in his oeuvre. You could read this as a stand-alone, but the series really does fit together in such a way as to make starting from the beginning more rewarding.

Bruen’s books are dark and edgy and this one is more so than most–if you’ve been reading this series, you will know that is saying something…

The book is full of observations on everything, from the meaning of life to current affairs. Watching Jack destroy himself is never easy, but it is always an exciting ride.

I love so many things about this book, but do wish–as I always do with Mr. Bruen–that his books were a bit longer. Still, I guess it is natural to want more of a great thing.

I will continue to read and buy Bruen’s books as long as he continues to put them out. There is nobody who writes dialogue that is as sharp, witty, and abrasive. I love it and give The Ghosts of Galway an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up.

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Book Review: The Typewriter’s Tale

The Typewriter's TaleThe Typewriter’s Tale by Michiel Heyns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

*I loved this book. I’ve read my share of James, but it was years and years ago. When I started reading this book the first thing I had to do was sloooooow the heck down. This is a novel to be savored, like rich chocolate. The writing is luxurious and when you relax into it you feel transported to a different, more dignified, time. Not that people weren’t as manipulative and nasty as ever, but just better dressed and more well-spoken while going about it. . .

I was also thrilled to see my old friends, adverbs, back in such abundance. When is the last time somebody in the literary world dared to use so many adverbs? Heyns uses them fearlessly and to great effect. Each sentence is like a mini work of art and you get the impression Heyns lovingly considered the worth and meaning of every single word before it earned its place on the page.

Heyns has a wicked sense of humor and a poison pen which is very reminiscent of James and Wharton. The internal reflections of the main character, Frieda, are what really make this book great. She is at once innocent and very insightful, looking from the outside, while being slowly drawn in.

Heyns is enamored of James but is still capable of portraying him “warts and all” and I found I liked the novelist more and more as the book went on. It is sometimes easy to view the artist as self-indulgent and affected, but Heyns’s characterization is sensitive and avoids the obvious traps.

I wouldn’t say this was a beach read, but it would go well with a shady, quiet river and some chocolate.

****Possible SPOILER****
I wish the ending had been more fulfilling, but fans of James will expect an ending like this. You get the feeling Heyns is making Frieda suffer so she will have something to write about, something to push her on her way to becoming an author.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed this book and am grateful something this elegant can still find its way into a publishing house and then out again, without giving in to twenty-first expectations. Beautiful.

*My reviews are about my enjoyment of a book as a reader. I’m not a literary critic and I don’t delve deeply into the psychological motivations of the author and/or characters. If I am reviewing a book on my blog, I consider it worth reading. Books I read and don’t care for, for one reason or another, I do not review. There are plenty of other places to find negative reviews.

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