We Word Wenches love doing these posts because we always find new authors to try!
Starting off with Pat Rice:
One Plus One by JoJo Moyes I love the way romance has expanded into women’s fiction, and One Plus One by JoJo Moyes is a masterful example of how it’s done. It’s clear from the very first that we have a conflicted hero and heroine. Ed is owner of a software company about to go mega-huge. Jess is his housekeeper—and he doesn’t even know she exists because she cleans his vacation home, and he never takes vacations.
But this is not the usual meet cute or billionaire-sweeps-heroine-off-her-feet. They both come with so much baggage that it takes most of the book to unload it, with bits exploding along the way—in suitably dramatic fashion. She comes with a math genius daughter and a goth teenager who isn’t even hers, plus a giant slobbery dog. He has a dying father, a screaming sister, a girlfriend he tried to get rid of by handing off insider stock info, and an ex-wife who helps herself to his bank account whenever she likes.
Only when both Jess and Ed’s lives completely implode do they even begin to see each other as fellow human beings. The black moment is sheer romance trope, but the rest of it—pure heaven. If you like your love stories gritty and joyous, give this one a try
My TBR file finally shifted enough for me to get to A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole, which I know has been mentioned before in this column. But it was so good that I think merits another shout-out. It’s a classic trope of Cinderella meets the handsome Prince, but done with such a fresh and modern take. The heroine is a young woman who was orphaned during early childhood and has spent most of her life bouncing from foster home to foster home. Despite those challenges, she’s now a grad student juggling studies and applications for summer internships while also working to make ends meet.
When she gets an e-mail saying an African prince wishes to arrange a meeting, she thinks, “yeah, right" and hits “delete". And that’s where the fun begins. The characters are all really well drawn, with an emotional depth and texture you don’t always see in romantic comedies. I loved the interaction between Naledi, the science nerd, and Thabiso, the playboy prince. It’s smart, sassy and I highly recommend it!
I also glommed A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn, the latest book in her Veronica Speedwll historical mystery series. Veronica is yet another strong, heroine who is determined to live life by her own rules. . . .which rarely align with those of Victorian England. The hero, Stoker, a younger brother of Lord Templeton-Vane, is equally eccentric and acerbic, so sparks are constantly flying between them—though they're often distracted from their own tempestuous relationship by the need to solve some puzzling mystery.
This one involves travel to a remote island off the coast of Cornwall to visit a friend of Stoker’s brother, who announces on their arrival that he wants their help in discovering why his bride simply vanished three years ago on their wedding night. It’s a locked-box sort of mystery involving an old castle, a “poison” garden and centuries-old smuggling tunnels. As always, the plot twists are great fun—as are Veronica and Stoker.
A few days of holiday gave me the chance to get to my TBR pile and first off was Lethal White, the latest Strike novel from Robert Galbraith, the crime-writing alter ego of JK Rowling. Andrea mentioned this book a while ago and I’d been wanting to read it. I was glad it was less graphic and gruesome than the previous Strike novel. Which I found a bit too much. This one has a good, complicated plot and some very interesting characters. It kept me turning the pages.
Since the Strike books have been televised, Rowling has said that the interest in the personal relationship between Cormoran Strike and his business partner Robin Ellacott has influenced the way that she writes and one of the bonuses for me was that there was certainly a lot more character and relationship development in this book, which was really interesting.
Whilst I felt that Robin’s marriage issues seemed to drag on for rather too long, my biggest gripe with the book was an odd one; I got fed up with everyone in the book finding both Strike and Robin so attractive. It got really boring! There must be someone out there who can resist either or both of them! However, this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story as a whole and part of it was set just down the road from where I live and it was interesting to see an area I know so well through the eyes of another writer
I also read Bound to her Blood Enemy by Tora Williams which I loved as much as any historical romance I’ve read in a long while. I just kept on reading when I should have been writing! It’s set during the 12th century and features the struggle between the Normans in England and the Welsh under King Owain of Gwynedd. Matilda Comyn is half-Welsh, an orphan and the ward of a cruel Norman lord who is only waiting for his wife to die so that he can marry her.
When Huw ap-Goronwy, a Welsh spy, offers her the opportunity to escape and return to her mother’s kin she seizes it only to discover that Huw has secret reasons of his own to hate her and covet her inheritance. Huw and Matilda were both great characters and the relationship between them is strong and complex. The story had lots of twists, turns and adventure on the way to a happy and satisfying ending. The final conflict was rather strung out but overall the book was very engrossing and unusual historical background was also a nice change.
Susan King reports in!
"It's a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it's a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up." Ibi Zoboi's Pride tells us right up front what to expect: a new spin on Pride and Prejudice–and while it hits all the main points of the beloved classic, it's very much its own story. Set in Brooklyn, with an excursion to D.C., Zoboi's story is a fresh and interesting YA read. Zuri Benitez is a Afro-Latina girl living happily with her parents and sisters in an older established Brooklyn neighborhood, when a new family moves in.
She keeps encountering Darius, the new family's eldest son. At first she's put off by his family's affluence and sophistication and struggles with her own assumptions about economic and cultural differences. She's aware that the neighborhood is becoming more gentrified, but resists change. Gruff, distant Darius is not as privileged as he appears, and has his own problems to deal with. As the two prepare for college, and when one of Zuri's sisters gets into some trouble, Zuri discovers an unexpectedly kind and responsible ally in Darius.
Zoboi's Pride takes on issues of economic, social, cultural, and race differences, and at the same time, is a delightful love story that evokes new crushes and young love. Beautifully written, faithful to its Austen inspiration, it is fresh and original throughout. And not only does it have a gorgeous cover–the endpaper drawings are stunning, too!
Apparently I like Fantasy Police Procedurals. I mean, who knew this was even a thing For a couple months I’ve been diligently reading through Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series (Begins with Midnight Riot) where wizard’s apprentice Peter Grant, a policeman in nowadays London, deals with magical crimes.
I’ve moved on to Snake Agent by Liz Williams. This is Book 1 in the Detective Inspector Chen series. DI Wei Chen’s mandate is to protect an alternate Singapore — and earth — from the forces of Hell. And demons. And flying monsters with poisonous claws. Working with his counterpart from Hell, the dapper demonic detective Irzh Zhu, Chen tracks miscreants on both sides of the Earth/Hell divide.
Anne Gracie's choices:
I've had a good reading month – historical crime and romance, mainly. I've already spoken about Lucy Parker's delightful The Austen Playbook — see the interview here.
The historical crime series I glommed is by Sulari Gentill, an Australian author. The books are set in the early 1930's (yes, that's regarded as historical these days) and take place largely in Sydney, though they move around — in book #2 the events take place on a luxurious trans-Atlantic liner, and in New York, and in book #4 much of the action happens in Germany during the rise of Nazism.
The series opened, for me, on a chapter of Australian history I didn't know much about — a time when the Sydney Harbour Bride was about to be completed and the forces of the left and right were at such a point that the state of New South Wales seemed on the brink of civil war. The communists were rallying, and the forces of the right were raising and training private armies.
The history is excellent, so are the mysteries and I really took to the characters, as well. The main character is Rowland Sinclair, the youngest son of a wealthy family. Educated in England, at Eton and Oxford, he returns to Australia and finds himself at a loose end. Uninterested in helping run the family empire, he becomes an artist, and soon finds himself caught between the politics of the times — his friends are bohemians and communists, his brother and all his family connections are staunchly right wing. And this is a time when Nazism was on the rise, internationally, not only in Germany and Italy.
One of the fun things about these books is the dropping of little historical "bon-bons" through the stories — where a real historical person interacts with the fictional characters. For instance in Book #2, while they're in New York, the heroine, Edna, goes dancing with Mr Archibald Leach, a handsome young English actor who's hoping to break into movies. <g>
The series starts with A Few Right Thinking Men.But you might prefer to dip your in with THE PRODIGAL SON, a free prequel, which introduces you to Rowly and his friends and sets the other stories up. The Prodigal Son can be downloaded from platforms in Australia and the UK and perhaps other countries within the British publishing territories. It doesn't seem to be available on US platforms, but you can download it for free from Sulari Gentill's website.
Mary Jo here
I'm on a romantic comedy kick. I heartily endorse Lucy Parker's new novel, The Austen Playbook. As Anne mentioned above, she interviewed Lucy about the book, but I'm here to talk about the story. The set-up is great: a popular recent electronic game in the UK was called "The Austen Playbook," and it was a mash-up of familiar Jane Austen characters and the classic board game, Clue. All the characters are staying in one house, a murder is committed–and who of Jane's characters is the victim and who the murder?
Now a live action, interactive version of the game is going to be staged, with viewers voting on plot options at different points in the game. So they decide who gets killed, who falls in love, and who survives–and the actors have to learn multiple versions of the mammoth script so they can perform whatever options the viewers favor.
Shooting is to be done the family country house of Griff, the stressed, cranky hero. A TV presenter and critic, Griff is the lone rational member of a family of flaky dreamers and his family needs the money, but he does not need a house full of diva actors! One of whom is Freddy Carlton, effervescent scion of a famous London theater family, who has received more than her share of critical barbs from Griff
Yet sparks fly between them as they delve into a mystery that involves both of their families, and they connect in ways neither could have imagined. By the end, mysteries are solved, family issues are sorted out, and Freddy and Griff are where they want to be. The Austen Playbook is highly recommended!
My other romantic comedy suggestion is Just This Once by Judith Arnold/Barbara Keiler. Barbara has written many, many romances as Judith Arnold and is now branching out independently with mysteries and women's fiction. Just This Once is pure romance, though, as well as a love song to the quirky wonders of New York City, protective Italian families, and Jewish guilt.
Josh and Loretta meet on a commuter train from Long Island into The City when he shuts down a crazy-making cellphone user. Loretta is a producer for a talk show and thinks he'd made a great guest as a champion of all people driven crazy by inconsiderate cellphone use. They like each other, neither is interested in a relationship, so when Loretta is forced to go on a blind date on her own TV show, Josh seems like a great and safe choice.
As the blurb says, what could possibly go wrong? <G> Just This Once made a long flight fly by. Fun!
So–what have you been reading? We Wenches love hearing about what books others are enjoying!