A Modern or Ton romance?

The Marlow Intrigues Jane Lark

Jane Lark writes soulful romance.

Of course, there’s all the perennial themes for historical fiction.  Yet, I can’t help feeling that her social commentary is more for today’s modern women than a comment on the Regency ton.

In a world where young girls can be Rhiannon or head to Syria as jihadi brides, ultimately we need to think how we help them become independent women who can love a man with their self respect in tact.

To me, this is the author’s point.  If her heroines who had far fewer choices than young women today can come through their trials with not only their self respect but winning the love and respect of their men, then there’s a lesson in there for us all.

Of course you can argue that Ms Lark’s heroines are constantly rescued by their romantic hero.  But what’s attractive is that they aren’t the beautiful damsel looking for the love of her life.  These heroines have complex back stories.  The trend she set with her first heroine being a Courtesan, continues with more women who take a path that normally in a bodice ripper wouldn’t endear them.  Well, Ms Lark makes them endearing.  I especially love that there’s even a pregnant older merry widow!

Yet the writing is simple in the best way.  It’s not that you can’t put the book down – you just don’t want to.  This is romance for romantics.  If the heroines are intriguing, the heroes are more traditional – gorgeous, complex, flawed and quite yummy.

As for the history?  Ms Lark’s research and understanding of the era delivers richly historic stories.  By sticking with the series you’re rewarded with not just a good developing storyline but fab characterisation.

Book 5 – the Secret Love of a Gentleman – is out in July, sadly that’s a bit of a wait.  I have a feeling it might be worth it!

 

More and British please…

A Cut Too Deep Marissa Farrar

Marissa Farrar’s latest book was a welcome treat today.  With a busy day at work, a cracking headache and a number of small but annoying things to sort,  I needed a book tonight for a bit of light relief be easy to pick and put down but yet absorbing.  Perfect!

Although once I started I remembered Ms Farrar’s habit of not sticking to the rules! Eek!  Time after time with her fab Serenity series she’s left me breathless. So, I read holding my breath worried that there wouldn’t be a happy ever after ending. Phew – this is one author who knows her audience and happily delivers.  Impressive that she writes so nicely across different genres.

A Cut Too Deep is a sweet romantic thriller with a good bit of sexiness thrown in. Jenna’s struggles with her body image and PTSD draw you in inch by inch.  As for Ryker? Well, he’s not going to be thrown out for eating crisps is he?  I like him flawed but knowing what he wants. Life’s made them mature beyond their time and whilst there’s a happy ever after it comes at a very high price.

The villain was a nasty piece of work. You could feel his anger, hatred and drive for revenge.  You felt Jenna’s terror but especially her anger and her strength. And this is a book about finding your own strength even when you’re so headed in the wrong way.

Piercings, tattoos, scars and curves all wrapped up in a gorgeous little romance. Yummy!

Two complaints though: please next time make it longer and especially make it British!

Thank you to THE bookclub on FB for an advance copy in return for an honest review.

 

 

My shattered illusions

Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I first read Marquez’s masterpiece when I was still a student.  It fast became one of my absolute favourites and for many many years I’ve recommended it at every opportunity.

I bathed in the uplifting and incredibly moving story of faithful love.  The message that love conquers all, left me warm, fuzzy and hopeful.  As for Florentino Ariza – a true romantic hero.  I read it alongside my dear friend, I guess it was part of our own first memories of romance.

So, I couldn’t wait to recommend it to my lovely bookclub, and spent the last week re-reading it.  Well, as I said to the bookclub girls tonight – my illusions of love and my favourite book are totally shattered.

What was once a romance is now clearly a tragedy.  In fact, its a book that equates love with illness – primarily cholera.  How did I miss that first time round?!

As for missing things the first time round – Florentino is no hero at best he’s a creep.  Perhaps even a paedophile creep, with stalking tendencies.  Urgh – he made my flesh crawl.  Where once I saw romance in his inability to move on, now I just wanted to kick him where it hurt, and yell “get on with it”.

When I finished I didn’t have that warm glow, about love conquering all but an understanding that time ravages us all.  Death awaits folks! Get ready!

Yet, maybe I’ve taken more from the book now (thanks in part to bookclub chat).  For example, the younger me, paid no attention to the taboo of elderly love.  No doubt I glossed over that in my rush to celebrate that love conquers all.  Today, I can see that Marquez was offering us so much more than the more simplistic book I first read.

Marquez’s descriptors of life in this Caribbean island are extraordinary.  The term “bringing something to life” is over used – here I think its probably an understatement.  As you read not just the story and characters came to life but his world – the smells, the heat, the noises.  It’s visual writing at its absolute finest.  To think it was written in Spanish and translated – what an achievement.

Would I recommend it again?  Yes, but to different people and in different circumstances.  I’m blushing now to remember recommending it to a friend going through a divorce and bereavement.  I’m glad she ignored my advice now.

So, which hero’s memory will I ruin next?  Mr Darcy?  Oh please not Heathcliffe surely?

 

bags of potential

Propositions Tanya Joyce

This was an enjoyable and easy read – perfect for sitting on the sofa with a coffee for a couple of hours.

The main characters were lively and likeable, with passionate chemistry and just the right amount of sizzle.  Jess’ high stakes fashion spiced it up just a bit – I want they necklace!  Nate’s behaviour towards the end was so abhorrent. But I guess that’s story telling for you, when it annoys you its a good sign you’re hooked!

Given I’ve just finished Nalini Singh’s Rock Hard – I did miss the humour, pace and oomph of character that she delivers.

However, I got stuck on a few things that bothered me.

First up – the best friend doesn’t know about the son’s father, especially after the divorce?  Rubbish.  Not much more to say on that.

And there were some things that just felt rushed or muddy.

– having lived in both countries, I can confirm that British men don’t wear jocks (in fact so far my test audience have all confirmed that a jock is an American athlete). Maybe Aussie men wear trunks but it just didn’t read right. In both countries men say boxers – wouldn’t that work?
– there was a lot about how short notice the launch was – 6 months right? As I know a lot about this industry it annoyed me – if only 6 months to organise huge gala like that, was the norm – usually its so much less. Nate seemed to have nothing to do but meet Jess and her team all week – not really what you get from the CEO! And no social media?
– the dates surrounding Jess’ age, Connor’s birth, Troy’s disappearance/wife’s death, her marriage to Graeme just didn’t seem to add up. Not overly sure why.

Tanya Joyce demonstrates lots of potential – she’s definitely got the ability to craft a good tale, create some interesting characters and describe her setting well.  One to watch definitely.

Thank you to netgalley for an ARC in return for an honest review

A cover for strangeness?

Popsugar’s challenge set one that I just didn’t get “a book based entirely on its cover”.  How on earth can a book be based on its cover?

Then I found the Miniaturist and ticked off that particular reading challenge.  Great cover, really reflecting the story and I thought no more of it.

Until this morning when I woke up to Nalini Singh’s new cover for Archangel’s Enigma.

OMG!  Finally I get the relationship between what’s inside the cover and the cover itself.  With archangels, regular angels, vampires, guild hunters and regular humans Naasir stands apart as “strange”, yet one of the Seven.  Naasir wants a playmate, that much we know (and love).

How does an artist capture all on a book cover?  Seriously impressed.

She might always deliver but Ms Singh never does quite what fans expect/want.  My own views seemed to be in tune with other fans – it was Illium’s turn.  Although I will admit to falling a smidgen for Naasir in Archangel’s Legion, it was Illium I needed (and wanted but that’s another story – in more ways that one!).

Well, move over Illium – you’ve been usurped big time!  And boy am on board!  Bring it on!

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The Aunt’s tent

The Red Tent by Anita Daimant

International Women’s Day seems the perfect time to review Anita Daimant’s book about Dinah.  The author proposes an alternative to the accepted wisdom that Dinah was raped and the ensuing violence was a reaction to her rape.

Immaculately researched and beautifully written the Red Tent is an extraordinary story, Daimant demonstrates real skill in retelling such a well known story, asking in essence what if Dinah was in love?  What if it wasn’t rape?

If you accept this alternative view – there are two ways to understand what happened.  One is that her brothers knew this and actually it didn’t matter.  As an unmarried girl of the time she didn’t have the “right” to choose who she fell in love with and certainly not to choose her sexual partners.  The families had not come to any agreement, she was at the palace as a guest.  So, once they understood what had happened her brothers had every right to decide it was rape and act accordingly.  Dinah’s view was of no importance.

The other of course is that she was just an excuse for her rather blood thirsty brothers to act as they wanted.  As a woman, it was easy enough to use her.

Perhaps Dinah should have been more aware of the consequences of her actions?!  An interesting view?  Well, it brings us full circle to today and this week’s airing of  “India’s Daughter”.  This different perspective on rape,  showed that in 2,000 years maybe we haven’t made the kind of progress we’d like to think we have.

What’s very sad is that Anita Daimant’s painstaking research shows that in the Ancient world women were far more in tune with their sexuality and that their monthly cycle was a cause to be celebrated and recognised.  Today most women would feel great embarrassment for their cycle to be known widely in their community.  Indeed, the concept of a monthly red tent to spend time with other women (“aunties”) is beyond our understanding.

The tent with the Aunties reminded me of the old fashioned gentlemen’s clubs, where connecting with like-minded souls was a way to refresh yourself, gain different perspectives and learn from others.

For me this wasn’t a feminist book.  But it did celebrate women and the often unique ties that they make with each other, the contrast with Jacob’s sons is often compelling.  The other aspect that I loved was the connection between women and nature – for all we have gained in 2,000 years it was striking to see what we’ve also lost.

 

This link explores the concept in a more academic approach:

http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/dinah-bible

Are curves healthy?

The Curvy Girls Club Michele Gorman

Michele Gorman’s book has had me thinking about health and how we should define healthy.  Pretty much daily we’re told that being overweight is unhealthy.  Even with my curves, I’m smart enough to agree.

But is that it? Before this book, I would have agreed. I was more unhealthy than I wanted to admit. This book has me re-thinking that.

The author’s subtle point (brilliantly made) has me trying to understand what my own version of healthy is.  So, if your BMI is good but you’re miserable and struggle with your self image is that healthy?  Is the girl you envy because she can wear anything healthy simply because she’s a size 10?

I’ll no doubt have Helen Gurley Brown turning in her grave, but I believe you can’t have it all.  So, if I apply that logic, what do I compromise?  Like many working career orientated mums I can’t do it all.  If you choose to be a “career girl” (god, I hate that term!) you have to expect a certain level of stress associated with a high power career – surely?!  Not to mention the impact on your time.   Is that healthy?  Or is it healthier to dampen that aspect of yourself and go for a lower stress option?

And what about the relationships that sustain you?  Could it be that aspect of your life that defines your true health?

If all that wasn’t enough Ms Gorman manages to get you thinking about the nature of prejudice and self esteem.  Thought provoking stuff.

As for the read itself, well the latter half of this book is very good – in fact its terrific.  However, its starts off very chic lit’sih and kind of average chic lit (and I do like chic lit). Then it starts to change and it feels like the book Michele really wanted to write comes up – slowly but surely.

One of the challenges is that we learn everybody’s back story via Katie the main character. The other characters don’t have a choice, often this works in a book, but here not always. Not sure why.

As a PS I would add that Michele writes about London beautifully – not OTT like many do but just day to day stuff. I loved that aspect.