July Reading Retrospective

I’m picking my parents up from the airport in a few hours, and on Monday we’re off for a week on Vancouver Island (our house will not be empty though, internet bad guys!).

I’ve lived in BC for 17 years but seen very little of it because our vacations usually involve travelling to New Hampshire to see my parents. They live in an 18th century farmhouse (this photo is my desktop at work, and people are always asking me if it’s Jane Austen’s house); it’s a great place to visit, but we’re excited to be doing something new–and something not involving passports and planes for us–this year.

So here’s my July retrospective a little early, interspersed with some shots of kittens exploring. Right now the kittens are in the closet of husband’s office/guest room, and I’m not sure quite how that’s going to work when we have guests (they can’t get out of the nest by themselves yet, but they’ll be able to any second).

Print/E-books:

Liz Fielding, Tempted by Trouble (Harlequin Romance) Sweet, light, and not very lingering, this romance centers around a vintage ice cream van, which seems entirely apt. I liked the main characters, and I think Fielding depicts the fizzy feeling of romantic attraction very well.

Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers of London (aka Midnight Riot) review here

Joan Wolf, His Lordship’s Mistress review/kittenbirth post here

Jacquie D’Alessandro, Summer at Seaside Cove This contemporary romance was pretty formulaic (with some pretty stereotyped secondary characters in the Italian and Jewish restaurant owners), but I still enjoyed it, because D’Alessandro is a solid storyteller. The heroine tries to escape family troubles by renting a beach house for the summer, and first tangles with and then falls for her not-crusty-for-long landlord neighbor. The family troubles follow her, and I could have done with a bit less of them. I don’t feel compelled to read the sequel, but I’m not sorry I read this one (I have a soft spot for the crusty hero).

Patricia Wynn, A Pair of Rogues This traditional Regency was a JanetNorCal recommendation, and she knows her Regencies. I loved it. A rakish hero and somewhat scandalous debutante are united by their service as godparents. They tease and play games with each other and are surprised to find themselves in love. It is light and funny, but there’s a melancholy and moving undertone, because these two people are lonely outsiders who really need each other. Though they’re stock characters in a way, they don’t feel at all formulaic.

Eloisa James, “A Fool Again” This novella was a free download. A widow who has lived down a scandalous and aborted trip to Gretna Green plots a new marriage, but her plans are derailed by the return of her youthful partner in elopement (uh, surely that’s not a word). I liked the determined hero, but I couldn’t really believe in a love that seemed based on one night’s acquaintance and survived years of separation. It was a fluffy fantasy.

Grace Burrowes, The Heir My thoughts, and great comments by others, here

Jules Jones, Lord and Master Avoriana’s thoughtful review, which inspired me to read this, is here. I liked the way both the author and characters self-consciously played with a familiar trope of category romance (the boss-secretary affair) and reflected on how two male partners did and did not change the dynamics of that relationship. Jones’ style is rather flat and declarative, which kept me from being really emotionally engaged until the end–but the end was surprisingly moving.

Zoe Archer, Collision Course I enjoyed this Sci-Fi Romance novella, though there was a bit too much mental lusting for my taste. Perhaps that’s unavoidable when you don’t have much time to get your characters together. Archer is great at action scenes. Here an alpha male military hero is teamed with an alpha female scavenger to save a lost spaceship and its pilot. I liked the way these two strong but seemingly opposite people had to learn to work together, and came to see how much they had in common. I’ve enjoyed all of Archer’s work that I’ve read (I’m halfway through the four-book Blades of the Rose series), but she’s one of those writers that I think could write a great book, not just a good one, if romance publishing didn’t require such a prodigious . I really like her strong female characters and her inventive adventure plots.

I also got started on George Eliot’s Middlemarch, progress so far discussed here

On Audio:

Michael Robertson, The Brothers of Baker Street (read by Simon Vance) I liked this better than the first: it was London-set and made more of the Holmes connection, with a villain claiming to be a Moriarty descendant; there was more of Nigel, the more interesting Heath brother, but Reggie was more interesting too. The mystery revolves around black cabs, so I kept thinking of my favorite Jens Lekman song (bonus!).

Janet Evanovich, Back to the Bedroom (read by CJ Critt) An early Loveswept, funny with quirky characters. Reminded me a bit of Jennifer Crusie’s early category romances. The library has more, and I’ll probably try them.

Jayne Ann Krentz, The Golden Chance (read by Patrick Lawlor and Franette Liebow) My library has masses of JAK/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle on audio, and I’ve worked my way through most of it. They’re never less than an entertaining way to pass the time, and some I love (this is merely OK). I think she’s one of those writers who sticks to certain tropes/elements and reworks them in different ways–she tends to have rather controlled or reserved, somehow wounded heroes paired with more emotionally open, smart and relatively inexperienced heroines. A big part of my pleasure in her books now comes from watching her ring the changes on this pairing and play with it in different settings, from historical to futuristic, comic to suspenseful.

I am almost done with Ilona Andrews’ On the Edge (read by Renee Raudman), and liking it so much that I downloaded the sequel, Bayou Moon, for my trip.

I’ll be back here sometime in the second week of August, I hope with good vacation reading to talk about.

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2 Responses to July Reading Retrospective

  1. I’ve just come to your blog via Jessica’s recommendation on RRR and I’m so delighted to have found it! I too am a Canadian academic (newly transplanted from New England), although on the other side of the nation.

    I’m intrigued by your Patricia Wynn mention – I’ll have to seek that one out. And I’m interested by your thoughts on Quick/Krentz. I’ve tried several, and sometimes even been delighted by them at the start, but there is always a moment of outraged frustration that leads me to fling them across the room and spend the next half hour ranting at the empty air. I’m not even sure that it is the same frustration in every case; I’m just left with a pile of DNFs. Hmm.

    At any rate, so glad to have found you, and I’m looking forward to reading more!

    • lizmc2 says:

      Thanks! I think I first found your blog through your comments at Jessica’s, so we’re even (or we both owe her).

      I agree with you about Krentz/Quick/Castle, actually. I think they work for me because my exposure is almost entirely in audio, which allows me to enjoy the things I like and doze off/focus on driving/whatever at the wall-banging moments. Which she does have.

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