Pat here, joining the other wenches in bringing you new books and old favorites to fill your days as we watch spring pass by from our quarantines. I hope all of you are staying well and not ready to kill your families yet!
My contribution this month is from a wench favorite, Barbara O’Neal (Barbara Samuels in historicals)—a contemporary women’s fiction titled WHEN WE BELIEVED IN MERMAIDS.
I’ve read Barbara in her very many incarnations from historical romance to contemporary category romance to women’s fiction, and I love it all. She’s an emotion-wrenching writer, and it’s impossible to read her without laughing and crying. It’s also impossible not to be swept into the world of her creation. I’ve saved this book for months. The anticipation of knowing it was in my reading pile for a day when I really needed it made me happy. I finally gave myself permission to open it, and it was well worth the wait. I savored every word.
Keep in mind, these books are heart-wrenching for a reason. In this one, we have two broken women from a destructive family, women who saved themselves, but not without scars and untold damage. Josie, the older, abused, addict sister disappears in a terrorist bombing. Kit, the younger, more sheltered sister, goes on to become a physician who cannot allow herself to love. When Kit sees her sister’s face on the TV news, in a country half-way around the world, her shell starts to crack.
Their stories unfold layer by layer, peeling back the years and the fears and leaving them raw and naked—and in a far better place for recovering what was once lost. This is a gem of a book. The descriptions of Auckland keep the reader grounded in reality while the characters come to life. There’s a love story, and it is rich and wonderful as well. Please, try this book!
Anne here. I've read quite a few books in the last month — it's my main form of relaxation. I've read and enjoyed some of the wenchly recommendations from last month: Pat talked about Sarah Kate Lynch's The Wedding Bees, which was fun and lighthearted, and since I'm a beekeeper, I had to read it.
Nicola mentioned Louise Douglas and I read and enjoyed several of her books, including The House By the Sea, which was good, but a bit creepy (I'm a wimp) .
Nicola also recommended When Adam Met Evie, and I read and enjoyed that, too.
I also read Deanna Raybourn's latest, A Murderous Relation — the usual sort of fun.
And thanks to a wonderful wenchly reader, I was able to read a Mary Balogh novella, Rogues Downfall, that came up in discussion recently — thanks for the link, Denise.
I read several books by Julie Caplin — pleasant, lighthearted escapes to different parts of the world. She's written a series, each book with a bakery or similar at the heart of it. I started with The Little Paris Patisserie, in which Nina Hadley is asked to help run a patisserie course with a crush of her youth — her brother's best friend, Sebastian Finlay, now a high-flying chef and restauranteur. Of course she's over her crush. (Yeah, right!) She finds herself in a once popular but now run down little cafe, which Sebastian plans to demolish, and slowly, with Sebastian's attention elsewhere, she and a motley collection of friends and acquaintances start to restore it. Fun and heartwarming, not to mention slightly mouthwatering.
Then I discovered that Julie Caplin also writes as Jules Wake, and I glommed her books as well and enjoyed them also. I started with Notting Hill in the Snow.
Another book I read was Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn. This was a fun read. Meg Mackworth creates beautiful hand-lettered invitations and cards, and sometimes a subconscious (or is it?) message slips in to the design. When analyst Reid Sutherland noticed a pattern in his wedding invitation — the wedding that was cancelled — he confronts her. And that's a cute start to a fun book.
And right now I'm deep in the latest Patricia Briggs book, Smoke Bitten.
Nicola here. This month I picked up a debut Mills & Boon historical The Warrior Knight and the Widow by Ella Matthews. It’s medieval-set and also a “road trip” story. Sir Braedan Leofric is tasked with escorting Ellena, Lady Swein, back to her father’s castle through various perils and challenges. It’s a well-paced and exciting journey through danger, during which Ellena and Braedan get to know one another, fight to protect each another and fall in love. Both Ellena and Braedan are very appealing characters. She is a strong and determined woman used to running her own household, he is her father’s most trusted knight, battle-scarred and with a terrifying reputation. The relationship between the two of them is particularly well written and multi-layered. Braedan is my favourite sort of hero, honourable beneath a gruff exterior, and his vulnerability as well as his strength is well described. Ellena has to overcome her fears of marriage and there are other barriers keeping them apart in a lovely romance that I really enjoyed.
Andrea here, Strangely enough, I haven’t been reading as much as usual this month. I’m not a TV person, but for some reason, decided to start the Miss Fisher mysteries on streaming (I know, I know, what took me so long) and have been glomming them. Watching is very relaxing.
Clearly they put me in a very Aussie state of mind because I’ve also gone and re-read A Few Right Thinking Men, the first mystery in Sulari Gentil’s wonderful Rowland Sinclair series. (Sulari was a recent guest here.) Her cast of characters is so interesting, with richly nuanced personalities, and her writing sharp and engaging. Sinclair is from a wealthy and prominent family, but he’s a free-spirited artist, whose radical friends make him even more of a black sheep to his very straitlaced family. The mystery is very timely, as he’s drawn into investigating the murder of his uncle, which leads him to infiltrate the inner circle of a rising star right wing politician. It’s a very thoughtful and well done plot and I highly recommend it.
Cavalier, by Lucy Worsley is a fun into the world of William Cavendish and the court of King Charles I. His family had a heritage of building great houses, and the reader gets an inside peek at the process of designing and building one of the great houses of the realm. If you like horses, chivalry and interior design, this will be a delight! Worsley, an expert historian of Britain’s grand houses and palaces, writes with a scholarly yet entertaining tone.
And I’ve just started the The Guns at Last Light, the third book in Rick Atkinson’s wonderful trilogy on WWII and the liberation of Europe. (He won the Pulitzer Prize for the first book, which I loved.) He combines lyrical writing on the people and the ambiance of the actual setting—what it felt like to be on one of the transport ships as the troops crossed before dawn to the Normandy beaches—as well as detailed accounts of the battle. To me, it’s history writing at its best, giving both the facts and the personal dramas—the difficult decisions, the heartbreaking sacrifices, the moments of quiet heroism—that make the past come alive and have relevance for us today.
Happily, two of my favorite authors (who happen to be Wenches, what a coincidence!) have books coming out soon, and I've been able to read them both early (Yes, I am smug and entitled. <G>)
Andrea Penrose's A Tangle of Serpents, #6 in the Lady Arianna Regency mystery series, will be released on April 6th, and it's good twisty fun with old characters and new, and it gave me a desire to reread the first book in the series, Sweet Revenge. All the books are good, but I'm particularly fond of Sweet Revenge because it's also a romance that is subtle but powerful and an essential element of the series. The heroine, Lady Arianna Hadley, had a hellacious upbringing and is as shifty, dangerous, and suspicious as a snarling half-grown wildcat. Sandro, the half-Spanish Earl of Saybrook, is a badly wounded and strung out former British intelligence officer when circumstances force them to seek a common enemy. A great story and lots of chocolate porn. <G>
Marry in Scarlet, the fourth and last book of Anne Gracie's Marriage of Convenience series, will be out at the end of May, and it's terrific. It was also a good excuse to reread Marry in Secret, #3 in the series. Lady Rose Rutherford is an independent and unpredictable heiress, and a passionless marriage of convenience to the cold-blooded Duke of Everingham will guarantee her freedom. BUT–don't you just love it when a couple standing at the altar are interrupted by a savage looking man blasting into the church to shout, "STOP!" Well, I do. <G> Because Rose did marry in secret, and the young naval officer she married turned out not to be dead after all. So now what??? Lots of interesting twists and turns as two near strangers figure out what to do with each other when so much has changed.
Which brings me to Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me, one of my all time favorite romantic comedies. Minerva Dobbs is an actuary how to calculate the odds. Calvin Morrisey always plays to win. To win a bet, Cal asks Min on a date. Despite a very good dinner, they pretty much can't stand each other and decide they never want to see each other again.
Then, to quote the blurb on Amazon: "But fate has other plans, and it's not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon they're dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love."
Bet Me is also about body image, self acceptance, fairy tales, great shoes, and the horror that can be caused by pursuit of a Perfect Wedding. Humor is very individual, but I find it one of the funniest books I've read–and reread! If you haven't read it, maybe it's time. And if you have–maybe it's time to read it again. <G>
Joanna here. I've found two books that had me laughing. The first is The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books by Hal Dresner, an epistolary novel and a funny one.
A writer who's been making his living turning out naughty books has taken himself off to a remote cabin in the woods to get some peace and quiet and finally finish a Serious Novel. Unfortunately his past catches up with him. His last book featured an adventurous lass named Bibsy Dibbs. It turns out there's a real Bibsy and her father threatens him with horsewhipping. Also lawsuits. Much correspondence ensues.
The other book is Ben Aaronovitch's Urban Fantasy, False Values, the latest adventures of Peter Grant.
The mixed-race Londoner, policeman and apprentice wizard, is under cover this time, moving through encounters with magical creatures, advanced artificial intelligence, and the labyrinthine office cubicles of the computer nerd. I really love Grant's cynical and observant eye on life and London.