by Mary Jo
The holiday season is a busy time, but the Wenches never stop reading! Here are some books we've enjoyed recently.
For over-the-top emotion and a well-written circus that would make a perfect Bollywood film, try A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR by Sonali Dev. Strictly speaking, this is women’s fiction, but it’s also Bollywood, so you know among the tragedy and unrequited love is a happy ending.
We have the intrepid young woman from India, married at the age of five but never having met her husband after the wedding day, who fights all odds to gain a short grant to an American university in hopes that will impress and bring home her man. She’s been obedient, grateful, and hard-working as she’s been taught in her backwoods town. She probably would have remained so had she not met her husband’s brother—a rakehell Bollywood screenwriter and producer. He brings out the best and worst in her in a star-crossed romance if there ever was one. You’ll need a strong cup of coffee to go with the sugar, but it’s fun and entertaining and I’d love to see the scenes depicted.
I've had a bit of a glom on Laura Florand's "Love & Chocolate" books. Set in modern day Paris, each hero is a French chocolatier — a maker of exquisite boutique chocolate, and most of the heroines are American girls. I was particularly recommended the second book in the series, THE CHOCOLATE KISS, but I decided to start with the first one and work through the series. I found books 2, 3 and 4 especially yummy. Each book can be read independently, though there is some connection between them.
I also read Liane Moriaty's BIG LITTLE LIES, which I thought was wonderful — clever and engaging — it's a mystery of sorts, and the reader has to work out what's happening. And without spoilers, I have to say it ends well — and with a romance.
Finally I read Mary Balogh's latest, SOMEONE TO LOVE which I devoured in one sitting. The heroine is a teacher in the orphanage where she was raised and, like all orphans, she dreams of discovering her origins and finding a family. But when her dream comes true, it comes at a terrible cost. It's the first in a new series, and I can't wait for the next.
This has been a mystery month for me, as my favorite historical mystery writer had a new recent release. I’m a huge fan of Charles Finch and his Charles Lenox series, set in Victorian England. THE INHERITANCE is no exception. An old school friend has learned he’s been left a fortune by a mysterious benefactor, but someone seems intent on killing him before the legalities are worked out. He appeals to Lenox for help, and then the plots twists which begin are worthy of a Wilkie Collins classic! I find Lenox such an appealing hero. By all outward signs, he's a paragon of propriety. He’s done all the right things in life that an aristocratic younger son should do—Harrow, Oxford, a place in Parliament. He’s thoughtful, sensitive, and the very soul of honor, a man well-liked and well-respected by all his friends.
His only quirk is that he loves solving crimes. It bemuses him at times, as he considers himself a very orthodox fellow. And yet, he has a passion for it, and a very-unordinary talent for sussing out the truth. Finch writes in a very quiet, graceful style, yet his observations on human nature are so spot on. And the lovely cast of characters that have developed over the series are so engaging. If you’re looking to curl up on a winter evening with a ripping good yarn, beautiful writing and appealing characters, I highly recommend a Finch book. (The first in the series is A Beautiful Blue Death,)
Whilst away in Wales for a week I have been catching up on some previous WWR recommendations. First up was Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels which had been mentioned as part of our Halloween reads in October. Whilst I found some of it "of its time," I appreciate that it was written in the 1960s and it is still a seriously spooky story. Reading it by candlelight in a cottage in Wales (the power had gone off in a storm!) was extremely atmospheric. I loved the characterisation and also the historical story behind the ghost story.
I also read Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin, who was Anne's guest on the blog a few weeks ago. I adored this book and found it really hard to put down. I loved the way that Emily mixed the historical and paranormal details so easily and convincingly, plus it was a wonderful love story.
From Mary Jo:
I've loved Sharon Shinn's Elemental Blessings series, and the recently released fourth, UNQUIET LAND is no exception. Shinn's world building is wonderful and her kingdom of Welce is rich and fascinating. All Welchins are attuned to one of five elements: water, fire, air, earth, and wood, and in the hours after their birth, three blessings are drawn for them by strangers. These blessing resonate through their lives, though people also pull blessings for daily guidance. Each of the elements has a prime who has great power over his or her element, and each book has a strong romance.
In Unquiet Land, the heroine is Leah Frothen, who was an important secondary character in the previous book, Jeweled Fire. A disastrous love affair drove her from Welce, leaving her baby daughter to be raised by relatives. Leah becomes a spy for her country and thinks she'll never return home, but at the end of Jeweled Fire, she was sailing back to Welce and hoping desperately that she can connect with the daughter she has always loved.
Life back in Welce becomes complicated as she is recruited to spy on foreign visitors while she attempts to build a relationship with her daughter. Most important of all, Leah must come to terms with the pain and errors of her past–and with falling in love. A great read.
For something completely different, try the Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series by my friend Patricia McLinn/. Pat and I were both long term members of the Washington Romance Writers so I've known her for years. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern and has had a long and successful career as a journalist, including many years at the Washington Post.
She's now a full time writer and has branched out beyond romance, but her journalistic past is what makes this mystery series so convincing. I'll use her description of the premise:
Elizabeth “E.M.” Danniher has been among TV journalism’s elite. Until she discovers divorcing her network exec husband ends not only her marriage but her career. She’s been banished to tiny KWMT-TV in Sherman, Wyoming, to finish out her contract as the underemployed consumer affairs reporter.
Now she’s trying to figure out what comes next – in her career, her life, and her relationships with family, friends, and those who’d like to be more than friends.
I love the absolutely authentic feel of the newsroom and the journalists, plus Elizabeth's recognition that she's not in Kansas anymore. <G> The first book in the series, SIGN OFF, is free, and that did its job because I bought book 2, Left Hanging, as soon as I finished book 1. I'm looking forward to more books as Elizabeth searches for her new life, befriends a wary "ranch collie," and learns way more than she wanted to know about rope. <G> I'd classify the series as "Western cozy," and they're great fun.
So–what have YOU been reading?