Susan here. In July, we discovered some great reads to share with you — romance, historical and contemporary; fascinating new mysteries; and sci-fi, nonfiction, and more. We often read each other's books, too, so look for some wonderful Wench reads this month as well!
Browse on . . . your TBR stack is about to get a lot bigger . . .
I’ve read an awful lot this month and could probably fill this entire blog all by myself, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I started with two of the Wenches’ own new releases, both of which were wonderful:-
Captivating the Countess by Patricia Rice is the final book in the School of Magic series, and I think this is my favourite. Rainford is the perfect hero – love him! – he stood out already in previous books and it was great to get to read his story at last. The huge and varied cast of characters surrounding him and the Countess also added to the overall enjoyment, and the magic and ghosts were a lovely bonus. I shall miss this series but was really happy with how it ended!
Pat already recommended Nicola Cornick’s The Last Daughter (The Last Daughter of York in the US) last month, and I totally agree with everything she said. This story had me enthralled from the first page to the last! Like many others, I have long been fascinated by the Princes in the Tower, and I love this take on it. Nicola has an amazing gift for intertwining old legends, mystical artifacts and historical riddles, and turning them into the most incredible books. Add to that her skill at creating characters you can’t help but empathise with, and the superb writing, and you have something truly special. The Last Daughter weaves a spell over the reader as powerful as the legend of the Mistletoe Bride and the Lodestar themselves, and I loved it!
The rest of this month was spent glomming every single book written by Kylie Scott – I couldn’t stop reading them! Wench Anne started me off by recommending Ms Scott’s one and only YA book Trust (so far – really hope she writes more!). This was, without a doubt, one of the best contemporary YA novels I have read in a very very long time! I was completely blown away by it. The characters are so real – there is no sugar-coating of high school life and what teenagers are really like, and the things they have to deal with are sometimes absolutely terrifying. It’s a book I simply can’t stop thinking about.
I then continued with her adult books, starting with Fake. When waitress Norah is asked to pretend to be film star Patrick Walsh’s fake girlfriend, she jumps at the chance – mostly for the money. It’s an opportunity she can’t resist as it gives her the means to pay for a much better care home for her beloved grandma, the only relative she has left. Spending time with the moody movie star isn’t exactly a hardship either, at least not when it comes to looking at him. Talking and interacting, not so much, but somehow they start to develop a friendship of sorts, which has the potential to develop into something more. Dare she risk her heart on a man who’s known to be a player, never dating anyone more than twice? And who has recently caused a huge scandal in Hollywood? You’ll have to read this for yourself to find out – I was hooked from start to finish.
My absolute favourites though are her Stage Dive series (the first one is Lick) – about a bunch of brooding rock stars who fall in love, one by one. The stories are raunchy, the heroes are hotter than hot, the heroines sassy, and the romance and chemistry off the charts. Kylie Scott is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and drummer Mal Ericsson is now my all-time favourite book boyfriend. Can’t wait for more by this author!
Pat here: Half historical, half contemporary mystery, THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Fiona Davis brings the famed New York Public Library to life through the eyes of a feminist journalist, Laura Lyons, in the early 1900s, who lived in an apartment there, and her granddaughter Sadie, who becomes a special collections curator. We have tragedy and a hint of romance as well. It’s a nice character study with a strong background of what it was like for a talented woman in 1913. I, being of shallow character and minimal intellect, did a lot of skimming, although the details of the library are fabulous. I read it to the end because I needed confirmation that I’d guessed whodunnit. I did. <G>
Anne here, and since I've been busy getting a book in, I haven't done as much reading as I usually do, and what I have read are mostly re-reads. Of the new books, I read Kylie Scott's PAUSE — I'm a big fan, and she's an auto-buy, but I won't go into this one as Christina has already done such a good job. I read WAYLAID by Sarina Bowen — another auto-buy author. And I read THE SUMMER SEEKERS by Sarah Morgan, another of my auto-buy authors. Christina recommended it last month, but I hadn't read it at that point. It's a lovely story of three generations of women, all learning and being challenged and changing while two of them drive across the USA in a classic Mustang — feel-good and highly recommended.
I also read THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER by Kelly Harms, which was another women's fiction book, with romance. Amy Byler is stressed out and overworked at home and at work, and when her ex-husband shows up hoping to reconnect with the kids he'd abandoned when he left her, she's reluctantly talked into letting him take them for a few weeks in the summer, while she visits New York to attend a conference and reconnect with an old friend. It's one of those "take stock of your life and decide where to go from here" books. Feel-good and there's a nice romance in it as well.
This month I’ve read a couple of books that I didn’t enjoy 100% but I wanted to talk about them because there were some very good aspects to them as well as bits I wasn’t as keen on. Reading is so subjective and I think it’s good to add a bit of grit to the review oyster sometimes so here goes!
The first was The Best Things by Mel Giedroyc which is a riches to rags tale that is bursting with potential. When Sally Parker’s husband Frank loses his business and the family lose their grand mansion and all their money, Sally has to re-discover herself and her strength, which have been buried beneath designer clothes and Valium for quite a few years. Someone has to hold everything together and Sally has to come up with some ideas fast.
Mel Giedroyc is a comedian and presenter who is funny and warm and generally lovely, and the tone of the book was exactly like her. Some of
the writing is clever and laugh out loud funny, and Sally and her immediate family are great characters. I was really engaged with them and rooting for them to pull themselves out of the mess that the feckless Frank had got them into. However there was a huge cast of secondary characters that weren’t as well-drawn and many rambling plot threads that took me away from the central story. I finished it to see how Sally managed to re-discover herself because I love reinvention stories but I was a bit disappointed overall.
My second read was the cozy crime book The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood who also created the Death in Paradise TV series. I love crime novels that aren’t too gory! This one had an eccentric septuagenarian heroine who teams up with an unlikely pair of women to solve a series of murders in the quintessential English riverside town of Marlow. Judith, the central character is a bit over the top as are some of the escapades that the women get up to in order to solve the case, but it was a real page-turner! If anyone has read either of these books I’d love to know what you think!
I’ve been reading a number of research books lately—including the lovely Jane Austen—A Brief Life by Fiona Stafford, which is a critical look at her books in the context of what she was going through in her personal life at the time she was writing them. (That is, what little we know of her personal life.) I found it both elegant and insightful. It’s a short read, but I came with some interesting thoughts about what shaped Austen’s voice.
I did read one fiction book—the first book in what promises to be a new mystery series, which I found utterly delightful. The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett has as its subtitle “Her Majesty the Queen Investigates.” Yes, that’s right—Queen Elizabeth (the current one) is the clever sleuth. Now, you might be rolling your eyes. I, too, was a little skeptical at first on how the author was going to pull it off. But I thought it was very cleverly done! (I discovered Bennett through Wench Nicola, as her YA Book Love Song won the RNA Book of Year several years back, and I think she’s a brilliant writer.)
An unfortunate death has occurred at Windsor Palace during an overnight stay for a group of invited guests. The Security Services are convinced it's a suicide . . . or perhaps an accident that happened during kinky sex. Queen Elizabeth is naturally upset for the poor young man—a virtuoso Russian pianist who had played the previous evening— and inquires into what happened . . . Her voice just seems perfect as she begins to think for herself that the professionals are mucking things and not asking the right questions. (Some of her interior thoughts about being treated as a doddering old fool by the heads of Scotland and MI5 are hilarious!) As she concedes she can’t do any actual sleuthing, she calls in her new Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a young British Nigerian officer recently appointed to the Royal Horse Artillery. The partnership that develops is just wonderful. We see Rozie at first flabbergasted by what she’s asked to do (The Queen tells her that she has to keep this little private investigation a secret from her boss) and then she gets really into the spirit of things. It’s a very twisty mystery with international intrigue and a very well-done plot. I highly recommend it!
The best book I've read this month is The Scoundrel's Daughter written by Word Wench Anne Gracie. It will be released on August 24th, and I was lucky enough to get an early read so I can interview Anne on August 25th. The first in her new series, The Brides of Bellaire Gardens, the story features two very different couples, a scoundrel blackmailer, and Anne's usual wonderful characters, including a cat-fixated four year old. <G> I won't say much more except that The Scoundrel's Daughter has a spectacular cover, and it can be preordered here — and I guarantee that you will be glad you did!