or, Books That Deserve Better Than They’re Going to Get From Me
Lately I’ve read and listened to quite a lot of books I enjoyed but haven’t felt moved to write about at length. Here’s a round-up.
OK, the next Snyder book I read, I’m going to choose a time when I can give it my full attention. I’d like to give her a proper review for once! This one I took a hiatus on when my cat went missing so I’d kind of lost the thread when I picked it back up. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Snyder’s first two Bollywood books, because glamorous and soapy isn’t normally my thing. They don’t actually focus on the glamour, but on the very human emotions of the characters. Snyder writes yearning really well. And I found the soapy elements of the plot fun (there’s quite the villainess in this book, and she gets what she deserves) because the language was never too purple. Like Spice and Secrets, this book has two romances intertwined. My favorite was talk show host Sunita and her British producer, Davey Shaw: Sunny is an ambitious woman who doesn’t have to compromise for love (like all the Snyder heroines I’ve read so far, yay!); her reasons for hesitating to fall in love felt real and I liked the way their sparring worked in jokes about colonialism (or were they jokes, exactly?). I was less in love with the younger couple–I couldn’t quite see what was keeping them apart, or had separated them in the first place, and just wanted to bang their heads together. I am old and cranky. I’m looking forward to the third book in this series, Bollywood and the Beast, which is in my TBR (I do like a Beauty and the Beast story). [Also: Samhain lists this as “Red Hot!” but I did not find the sex to be more frequent or explicit than a “regular” romance, nor was it kinky, and that was fine with me. It could be classified as an erotic romance in the sense that a big focus of the relationships is the characters’ desire for each other, but if, like me, you’re not in the mood for more erotic books, don’t let the publisher classification put you off.]
Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels (audio re-read, narrated by Kate Reading) and “The Mad Earl’s Bride” (connected novella)
I read Lord of Scoundrels early in my romance-reading career but I wasn’t sure it would hold up for me as well as Chase’s Mr. Impossible, still a favorite. I was right. Kate Reading’s narration (after her weird emo rendering of the Dear Reader letter at the start) was solid, but the book had lost its magic. I did still enjoy a lot of Chase’s dialogue, but instead of developing a deeper appreciation for its tropey story, I found it sillier. I know, I suck. Dain’s (unconscious) yearning for love no longer moved me, and while I could see a deconstruction of the madonna/whore dichotomy going on, I did not care and found the kid part at the end even more annoying than I did the first time around. Ah well. I suspect I’ll still listen to this again, because I appreciated some bits a lot. I also read “The Mad Earl’s Bride,” which I enjoyed more. I rolled my eyes some at the set-up, also rather tropey (the hero thinks he’s destined to die in a madhouse like his mother, the heroine wants to open her own hospital, cue marriage of convenience). But I liked her level-headedness and his having to learn to trust both her and his future. Got this from my library, which has expanded its digital romance collection quite a lot, with some things I actually want to read, hurrah.
I have a pile of AllRomance “e-book bucks,” and I decided to spend some on things by writers I enjoy interacting with on Twitter but haven’t read. This was a poor choice for me, though, given my above-stated current lack of interest in more erotic stories, because it’s an erotic short story. I was swayed by the hot dude in glasses on the cover. I ended up skimming a lot of the sex scenes, but that’s about me, not about the writing. I did really enjoy the heroine’s sense of humor and the voice, and I thought this was pretty solid for someone’s first published story, so I’m looking forward to reading more by Wallace. I have her most recent book, Witch Interrupted.
I’ve been successful with the recommendations so far! I found Kate Charles’ Evil Intent (recommended by Kathryn) more melodramatic than Barbara Pym, whom the cover quote compared her to–Anglican church setting, I guess? But I got caught up in the community she created and really liked a lot of the characters and cared about what happened to them. In fact, the ending felt too abrupt and I wanted to know what became of some secondary characters. Definitely a win; looking forward to seeing what’s next for curate Callie Anson and the rest.
I just finished Donis Casey’s The Old Buzzard Had It Coming (recommended by Barb). This book, set in early 20th-century Oklahoma, reminded me of the Little House books–want to know how they did laundry and what they made for dinner? I loved those details here, just as in Laura Ingalls Wilder. I enjoyed Casey’s Alafair Tucker, a sensible/meddling matriarch (a mere 38, with a daughter of 20 and many other kids!) who wants to fix things for those she cares about. I look forward to more of this series.
Thanks to a comment from Mariana on Twitter, I listened to Slightly Shady, the first of Amanda Quick’s Lavinia Lake/Tobias March books (basically historical romantic suspense, but a three-book series), narrated by the wonderful Barbara Rosenblatt. In part because of the narrator, this reminded me a bit of Elizabeth Peters’ mysteries. As always with Quick and her other pen names, I enjoyed watching the characters develop both a romantic and professional partnership, learning to trust and respect each other.
Big Fat Books Update
I am still slowly reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and listening to George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Ian Buruma’s Year Zero: A History of 1945. They’re all very good, but none is emotionally “light,” so I’ll be interspersing them with easier reading. I seem to be on a Big Fat Book kick: I just picked up Count of Monte Christo and Lonesome Dove (neither of which I have ever read) in an Audible buy-one-get-one sale, and a couple more non-fiction tomes (American history, this time) as well. I may possibly have over-faced myself with reading at a busy time of the semester, but I’ve decided not to worry about going slowly as long as I keep going.