The Fiction Vixen

Throwback Review: “Sea Swept” by Nora Roberts — February 11, 2016

Throwback Review: “Sea Swept” by Nora Roberts

Sea SweptI finished re-reading Sea Swept late last week and for some reason I have been putting off writing the review.  I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that I’ve read this book so many times over the years that all those previous readings color the way I perceived it this time, making it harder to separate the feelings I had before I cracked open the e-book (metaphorically speaking, of course) from the ones I had while actually reading it.  I have to say that while it is a good book and will always be a good book, the way I read it this time is different from the way I read it those other times.  It is odd to think that this is a book that I first read nearly 16 years ago and looking back on where I was at that time, sitting at the kitchen table in my mom’s apartment, making a list of La Nora’s books that I still hadn’t read and needed to find in either the Howard Beach or Ozone Park libraries, at how much I’ve changed in that time–no wonder my opinion of Sea Swept (and Cam in particular) changed.  (At one point, craving a re-read of the series, I ventured all the way to the Queensborough Hills Library in Flushing to get a copy of one of her books.  True, I was in college at the time and it was only about four stops from school on the Q88, but I still had to pay an extra fare on my Metro Card to get my little hands on that book.)

Cameron Quinn had it all.  He was a champion racer, craving a need for speed that was nearly insatiable, and lived a life full of glamour and opulence.  After yet another win, he receives the worst news of his life–his father was dying and he needs to return to the picturesque shores of Saint Christopher, Maryland to take care of his younger brother, a child he hadn’t met.  Not happy about how fast his life went from fast boats and French models to housework and homework, he wants out desperately, but he wasn’t one to break promises, especially not deathbed promises to the only father who ever mattered to him.

Anna Spinnelli was the social worker assigned to the Quinn case.  She’d heard of Ray and Stella Quinn and how they’d taken in three surly teenage boys over twenty years ago, but she’d never gotten to meet them.  Now, she has to decide whether their sons are capable of taking care of the most recent edition to the family, 10-year-old Seth, a little boy who pulls at her heart.  She was determined to be objective, but that goes out the window the moment she meets Cam.  Like Seth, he pulls at her, but in a different, completely unprofessional way.

Sea Swept, the first book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga (originally the Quinn Trilogy), was first published in 1998 and it is very much a book of its time.  There are very few mentions of things like cell phones or the internet, both of which were still in their infancy at that time–hell, my family only got a computer for the first time that year and we wouldn’t start using AOL until the summer of 2000.  Anna still received faxes at her office and there was one scene in which a big deal was made out of the fact that both Anna and Cam had portable phones.  Don’t get me started on the idea that Philip had a “snazzy” laptop.  Snazzy.  Laptop.  Oh, technology.  I’m picturing the old computers in the original run of The X-Files.  Those things looked heavy.  I wouldn’t want to put one of those on my lap.  Nope.

More than the technology (which I had to brace myself for when reading), Cam wouldn’t be the same person had he been written today.  His rough edges wouldn’t be quite as rough.  He’d be more of a Beta hero and while I love those very heroes, especially compared to all those military Alphas that I loathe more than Esther “hate, loathed, and abominated” the poor boy next door (until she loved him, that is) in Meet Me in St. Louis.  I’m not sure how I would feel about a different type of Cam, but I did have some issues with the way he handled things.  The way he treats Anna in the end, I remember thinking how romantic it was when I was 15 and didn’t know better, but looking at it nearly 15 years older, I shudder.  Romantic?  Not quite.

The thing that bothers me about Sea Swept is the BIG MISUNDERSTANDING, which isn’t really a misunderstanding at all.  Cam chooses not to share vital information with Anna.  That’s a choice, one he knows is the wrong one and that he should not make, but makes anyway.  Anna had every right to be angry with him, but he didn’t see it that way.  He didn’t understand that in finding out these things, crucial things that would effect her decision in Seth’s case, would sever their relationship.  No doubt modern heroes would make the same mistake, but I think that it wouldn’t take them quite as long to figure out what they did wrong.  Even in the end, I don’t think Cam completely got why she was so mad at him and why she needed to go away for a while.

I know this is a review and normally that means there has to be a grade at the end, but to be quite honest, I don’t think I could come up with an accurate grade–one that wouldn’t partly be based on all the other times I read and loved this book.  That might be a problem for some of these Throwback Reviews.  I might have to think about how this is going to work when some of the books will, like this one, be books I’ve read in the past.  I’m already planning to review either Fast Women or Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, both of which I’ve read before–Fast Women was my first Crusie.  It would be disingenuous of me to say this is a four or five star book based solely on the fact that I’ve read it multiple times over the years, but it would also be wrong of me to give it a lower grade because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be this time around, which again if I’m being honest, might very well have something to do with the antibiotics I was on at the time I was reading it.

Video of the Day–“You Complete Me” —

Video of the Day–“You Complete Me”

 

In honor of the Throwback Review of Sea Swept, I thought it would be a good idea to go with an equally throwback song that could have been playing on Anna’s radio, since she mentions listening to Springsteen’s music several times throughout the book.  Chances are she listened to this at one point as this is his only song I remember being played ad nauseum in the late 90’s, usually with lines from Jerry Maguire spliced in the way radio stations did with every movie, probably starting with that one.  Plus, I’ve always liked this one and it was more than likely the first of his songs that I knew the lyrics to and sang along with when it was on in the car.

Review of “A Gentleman’s Game” by Theresa Romain — February 10, 2016

Review of “A Gentleman’s Game” by Theresa Romain

A Gentleman's GameA Gentleman’s Game is a very different kind of romance novel.  While it takes place firmly within the Regency Period, it is worlds away from any other Regency novel.  First off, the hero is the younger son of a minor aristocrat whose title only goes a few years back (rather than all those Dukes that can trace their titles back to Agincourt).  It was not at all what I expected it to be and I’m still not fully sold on it or on the romance between the lead characters.

Nathaniel Chandler is the younger son of a minor aristocrat and he doesn’t really know who he is to his family.  He’s not the heir and his father doesn’t trust him to take part in the family business–horse racing.  After asking his father to let him take the horses to Epsom for the Derby, he doesn’t expect to be told to take along his father’s secretary, Rosalind Agate.  He likes Rosalind, but the fact that his father trusts her more than he trusts him upsets him more than he wants anyone to know.

Rosalind Agate is not who she claims to be–the only true thing about her is her name.  She’s only working for Sir William Chandler because she needs to find paperwork for her real employer, so leaving Newmarket to travel across England with his son is the last thing she wants to do.  Until Nathaniel promises to stake a wager for her.  150 pounds.  The price of her freedom.

I should be jumping up and down over this book, but I’m not.  I don’t know why.  It was written well.  Ms. Romain has an engaging voice and both her main characters are likable enough.  There’s just something missing.  The only thing I can think of is that I didn’t fully believe that they were truly in love.  Yes, there were feelings involved and they were both depressed at being separated, but it all happened too fast.  One minute he’s buying her sugared almonds and kissing her senseless and the next they’re all each other can think of–it kind of left my head spinning.

I was also disappointed in how little there was involving the horses.  This series is supposed to involve horse racing, but this was mostly background here.  The Derby was almost an afterthought (and while horse racing tends to be an afterthought for me in most cases, I wanted to see more of this here).  I was more than a little disappointed in this turn of events.

There was also a suspense plot (of a kind) involving Rosalind and the person she was actually working for throughout the narrative.  It was fairly predictable and could have been handled better.  I saw the result coming from about a mile away, and honestly only a blind person would not have seen it.

This isn’t to say that there weren’t aspects that I liked.  I enjoyed the banter between Rosalind and Nathaniel, although once they were on the road most of that went away.  They joked with each other in Newmarket and then in the Chandler home in London, but there wasn’t much of it at any other point.

I also like that Nathaniel was a flawed hero.  He wasn’t perfect and part of who he is was based around a problem that most people wouldn’t have considered an issue at that time (and many people still have problems thinking of this as something real).  I liked the way this was handled.  It could have been brushed aside very easily and I was glad that it wasn’t.

3 Stars

Video of the Day–Little Johnnie Jones Riding the Ponies in London — February 6, 2016

Video of the Day–Little Johnnie Jones Riding the Ponies in London

I started reading Theresa Romain’s A Gentleman’s Game and almost immediately, I knew I needed to post this clip.  I tend not to pay much attention to horse racing now that I’m not stuck going to Belmont with my family, so of course, the connection I made with the sport was completely in the realm of fiction (Little Johnnie Jones was a play written by George M. Cohan, whose life was being depicted by James Cagney in the above clip from my favorite 4th of July movie, Yankee Doodle Dandy).

So far, I am enjoying Ms. Romain’s book, the first of a new series, with the exception of the novella The Sport of Baronets, which came out back in November of last year. The series involves a family of horse trainers in early Regency England.  As it is late and I am still on antibiotics, I will get back to the book tomorrow, which is also when I will be publishing my review of Sea Swept–I finished that just as Grimm started earlier.  Now, I am off to bed and hopefully, I will not wake up in a few hours.  I’d love to sleep through the night for the first time in over a week.

Review of “The Other Daughter” by Lauren Willig — January 29, 2016

Review of “The Other Daughter” by Lauren Willig

the other daughterLast week, I started a free trial of Audible.com and decided to use the opportunity to “read” Willig’s standalone novel.  I love her Pink Carnation novels and since this took place in the 1920’s I was ecstatic.  I don’t know if I built it up in my head since I’d waited so long for it, but it wasn’t what I expected.  That doesn’t mean it is a bad book–it isn’t.  It was just missing something.  I wish I knew what that was.

Rachel’s world has been turned upside down.  On the heels of finding out that her mother is dead, she learns that the father she believed dead never really died and has been living with another family for the last 23 years.  Rachel isn’t sure what she wants, but she has to find him so he can explain why he left the way he did.

 

My main issue with The Other Daughter is that Rachel isn’t all that likable.  She doesn’t know what she wants and spends a good portion of the book vacillating between getting revenge for what she sees as a slight on her and her mother and simply wanting answers. Does she want to make her father pay?  The brother and sister that she didn’t know?  It was exhausting.

Then, there are the other characters.  Rachel’s sister, Olivia, is a doormat because she didn’t live up to her mother’s expectations.  Olivia’s fiancé is a douche to the 1000th degree and deserved to be shot for the way he treated Olivia and Rachel.  As for Simon, it is hard to tell what he wants most of the time.  We never get anything from his point of view, so all we know is what Rachel tells us.  Since she doesn’t know him well neither do we.  He was the one thing I was as confused about as Rachel was.  He says he loves Rachel, but we don’t feel it.  There is no slide into love for them.  I felt more of a connection between him and Olivia than there was between him and Rachel.  I was actually pulling for that relationship for most of the book.

What I did like: this wasn’t a predictable novel by any means.  There was never a point at which I thought that I knew what was going to happen.  When I thought Willig was going to take the narrative left, she went right.  I love that.

The prose was also one of The Other Daughter’s saving grace.  Willig does not know how to write a bad book.  It isn’t possible.  Her words are indescribably great in everything she writes and this was no different.

Last, there is the narration by Nicola Barber.  This was my first audiobook, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but Ms. Barber was definitely a fun narrator.  One of the things that surprised me was the fact that she did voices.  None of the characters sounded exactly the same, although it was sometimes hard to tell the male characters apart because it seemed harder for her to vary her lower register.  I can’t do any voices, so I don’t hold that against her.

3.5 Stars

 

Friday Writing Prompt from NaNoWriMo Facebook —

Friday Writing Prompt from NaNoWriMo Facebook

 

It’s Friday writing prompt time! Thanks to a temporary rift in the space-time continuum, you encounter your 10-year-old self and have 10 minutes to give them advice or answer their questions. What would you tell them?

I blearily made my way into the bathroom; the crust coating my eyes yet again. Oh, how I hate mornings. There was no way I was going to make it to work today. Not on the abysmally poor night’s sleep I had.

After washing my face, I looked into the mirror and that’s when I noticed it. My bathroom was different. Was I still sleeping? Was I laying in my bed, my head leaving an indentation in my soft pillows? That could be the only explanation. How else would she be in her childhood bathroom? That house wasn’t even there anymore. Not for years.

I pinched my arm since everyone knew that in dreams you couldn’t feel anything. “Ow!” I yelped. I definitely felt that. Not sleeping, then.

As a fan of science fiction, my next thought was that I’d been wormholed. Somehow, I was standing in the bathroom of my past. Now that I was paying attention, I could vaguely hear the morning show that my mother would listen to while getting us ready for school. That show wasn’t even on anymore. One of the DJ’s jumped ship a couple of years ago and was now doing his own show on the oldies station. Apparently, he like the rest of my parents’ generation couldn’t handle new music. I sighed. Shaking my head.

“Elizabeth!” My mother shrieked. Her voice still not 100%–not that it ever would be. At this point in time, it was only a few months after she left the hospital. At least, I imagine it was. Looking around the bathroom, I spot the Simba tooth brush my dad bought for me during the summer of 1995. I didn’t have that much longer–maybe until some time in 1996.

“Coming, mom!” I heard my younger self answer in its youthful timbre. I couldn’t remember the last time my voice was that high pitched. A stupid decision to sing in my high school’s gospel chorus irrevocably damaged my voice and now I couldn’t sing much higher than an alto.

I couldn’t stand in the bathroom all morning. Not with five other people, her younger self included, needing to get in here. I opened the door slightly, looking through the small crack to see if anyone was outside the door. It wouldn’t do for someone to see me and think that I’m an intruder. I wouldn’t like the accommodations at the 106th Precinct.

From what I could tell, there was no one there, so I made my escape. Unfortunately, I hadn’t looked down and ran right into…myself.

Surprisingly, she (I?) didn’t scream or even make a sound. It was as if she knew that we were one and the same. There was an odd smile on her face and her green eyes hinted at the juvenile attitude that my mother always tried to tamp down upon and always failed miserably.

I put my finger over my lips and led her into my bedroom–never touching her. I’d seen that episode of Doctor Who more than once. No weird Paradox Pterodactyls for me.

“Who are you?” Asked younger me. “Why are you here?”

I shushed myself and closed the bedroom door. What do I say to her? Do I tell her the truth? Would she believe me? Who was I kidding? Of course she would. She was me and I’d always believed in these types of things. Pushing aside the thought that I might outdo Marty McFly and actually erase myself from the present (future?), I told the truth.

“I’m you.”

“Me? I’m old.” Her eyes went wide. “You’re old.”

“Twenty-nine is not old.” I said through semi clenched teeth.

“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes. “Why are you here?”

“I don’t know. I woke up here instead of in my apartment.”

“You live in an apartment? By yourself?”

“No, with Dad.”

“You live with Dad? What about Mom?” There was fear in my eyes. Her health issues still fresh in my younger self’s eyes.

“She’s fine. She lives with Grandma. I didn’t want to stay there. Couldn’t stay there.”

“Mom and Dad aren’t together?”

“No. Dad left in 2001.”

“And you left with him?”

“No. That came later.”

“Elizabeth! James! Breakfast!” My mother’s shriek bounced off the walls. Somehow my dad managed to sleep through it.

The younger me grimaced. “I have to go to school. I hate it there.”

“I know. Don’t let them get to you. They’re not worth it.”

“Easy for you to say. You lived all this already.”

“Yes, I did, so I know it gets better.”

“When?”

“High school. Sophomore year.”

“Five years from now? It doesn’t get better for five years?!”

“Not really, no, but you’re strong enough to deal with it.”

There was a knock at the door. “Liz, mom wants you. She said you need to eat or you’ll fail your math test. I think you’ll fail either way.”

I could hear the smirk in my brother’s voice. He always did think he was smarter than me.

“He’s right.”

“No, he’s not. Math will never be our thing, but you’re not going to fail.”

“Maybe, but Jimmy always gets A+’s in math.”

“He won’t always,” I said, adding, “He’ll flunk out of calculus and drop out of college with a .75 GPA.”

“Yeah, right. And I bet my GPA was a .50.”

“Nope. You do really well and graduate with a 3.69 GPA. Don’t worry about Jimmy.”

“I’ll try.” She turned to go. “Is there anything else I should know?”

Was there? I asked myself.

“Yes. When you go to Grad School, start looking for a job the moment you step foot in Boston. Put your name on crisis center volunteer waiting lists immediately. Also, keep writing. And read. In two years an amazing book is going to come out and you’re going to love it.”

As I looked at my younger self, her eyes widened and her eyebrows shot up into her hairline. She was staring at my hands and something made me look at them. They were fading. Ah, shit. I Marty McFly’ed myself.

I woke up in bed. Turning to get up, my legs brushed up against another, hairier one. There was a man in my bed. That was new. When I opened my eyes, I barely recognized my apartment. It was the one I had in Grad School. Apparently, I changed my future. Cool.

New Feature for 2016: Throwback Reviews — January 28, 2016

New Feature for 2016: Throwback Reviews

Last weekend, ABC Family (yes, I know it is #Freeform now, but I just can’t call it that) aired a “Throwback Weekend” showing movies that were 10 or more years old (Clueless is 21, yikes!).  Personally, I think they were looking for a reason to air High School Musical and took advantage of the fact that it came out in 2006.  Anyway, this got me thinking about what I consider “throwback” or “classic”.  One of the things I had a problem with was that they placed the label at 10 years.  I don’t know if I can really say that’s a throwback.  Ten years is nothing.  I even had a problem with the idea that Bring It On, which came out in 1999 was being aired as such, but really, if it were a person, it would be getting ready to graduate high school.  Damn.  I turned 13 in 1999.  I’m getting old.

Anyway, when I was thinking about this, I started to realize that we don’t really talk about books written more than two or three years ago.  Everyone is all about Courtney Milan, Tessa Dare, and Kate Noble.  While they’re all awesome, it seems like unless you read a book when it came out, you ignore it.  For me, a lot of that comes from those cheesetastic covers–seriously, no wonder people thought romance was “porn for women” (let’s set aside that if women want to watch/read porn, they can and do watch/read the same stuff as men).  If Fabio was on the cover, I just walked right passed it in the store.  (I know.  I know.  You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but those covers were awful, even if they weren’t indicative of what was inside.)  The other part is wariness.  I’ve heard all about Alpha rapist heroes and heroines with Stockholm Syndrome.  I really really didn’t want to stumble upon one of those, but now I’m going to expand my horizons.  At least once a month, I am going to read and review a Throwback Novel.  Here’s the thing–not every book is a throwback, so there is one rule.

  1. A Throwback Novel is a book published between 1980 and 2000.

If the main characters are sipping Chai Lattes while talking on iPhones and heading to Spin Class, then it is not a throwback.  On the other hand, if they’re hanging out at Studio 54 and doing the Hustle, it is also not a throwback.  Depending on the book, it could be a classic or old.  Not a throwback.

I’m currently looking for books that fit my definition of a Throwback Novel (Julia Quinn was writing back in the 90’s–who knew?).  I’m going to ease my way into this and so my first Throwback Novel will be Sea Swept by Nora Roberts.  I’ve read this before, so I know I like it, but it has been at least 5 years since I last re-read it.  We’ll see if it is still as good this time around.

I’d appreciate any recommendations I can get, but remember, it needs to have been published between 1980 and 2000.

Review of “Reckless” by Kimberly Kincaid — January 25, 2016

Review of “Reckless” by Kimberly Kincaid

RecklessReckless is the first book Ms. Kincaid’s new series (Rescue Squad) and I believe it is a spinoff of her Pine Mountain series as it features characters introduced in the last book.  I’m really glad that I took a chance on this author because I’m quickly becoming addicted to her books (thankfully, Netgalley helps me with that).

Alex Donovan is a good fireman, but his behavior leaves a lot to be desired.  After doing something stupid, he’s ordered to do community service at Hope House.  He’d literally rather be anywhere else, but in order to get back to doing his job, he needs to complete those hours.  Less than five minutes after reporting for duty, he’s shocked to find out that his boss is none other than Zoe Westin, his fire captain’s only daughter.  If only he could keep his mind (and hands) off of her…

Zoe is barely scraping by as the head of Hope House’s Soup Kitchen and doesn’t want anything to get in the way of its success.  When she sees Alex, she’s not exactly happy to learn that he’s her volunteer for the next month.  He’s a nice guy and all, but she’s well aware of his antics and can’t afford that kind of a risk–or any risks at all for that matter. It doesn’t help that she’s been attracted to him for as long as she could remember and that he’s just as attracted to her as she is to him.  If only he wasn’t a fireman…

The first thing that I noticed about Reckless is that it could have had its own drinking game.  I swear I have never read another book in which its title is mentioned so often.  I lost count somewhere around 10.  That’s just a little ridiculous if you ask me–kind of like when you’re watching television and they have to remind you that you’re watching ABC or CBS.  Do people forget what they’re reading/watching and need to be reminded constantly?  It was so weird.  Reckless, even.

For the most part, I did enjoy this book, but I’m not sure if Zoe is ready to be fully involved with a firefighter.  Yes, she grew up around the station and she understands what might happen to Alex down the line, but I just don’t think that she’s going to be better equipped to deal with what could happen to him the next time he’s injured.  From the very beginning, she was adamant that she doesn’t want to be involved with someone in his line of work because she’s afraid of not being able to handle the consequences of that job.  I felt that this fear was never fully dealt with and it will come back to bite them in the ass the next time Alex has to go out on a call.

One of the things that I loved about this book was the sense of community there was between the firefighters.  Yes, at times it felt a bit contrived (Zoe needs help getting things for the Soup Kitchen and they immediately jump to help her out), but it was nice to read people who genuinely cared about each other.  Usually, I find this in small town contemporaries, but this isn’t one.  What Ms. Kincaid did with the Fairview FD was turn it into a small town (similar to how historical authors do that with members of the aristocracy).  From what I’ve heard of real fire departments, this is how things actually work.  It makes sense.  These are the people that you see day in and day out, so of course they become a family.

While, I loved these characters, but I’m not sure how long this relationship will last, which sucks.  I feel the same way about Dirty Dancing, although for very different reasons (what did those two have in common?!).

3.5 Stars

 

 

 

Books to Keep You Warm This Weekend — January 21, 2016

Books to Keep You Warm This Weekend

It seems that no matter what part of the country you’re in there is going to be some kind of wild weather this weekend.  If you’re on the East Coast like most of my family, you’re probably stocking up on rock salt, making sure your shovels are within inches of your door, and checking the batteries in your flashlights.  If you’re in Northern California like me, you’re heading to the supermarket for some last minute bread, milk, and wine to wait out the El Nino infused rainfall that is going to hit tonight and go on straight through Saturday.  All I have to say is thank your lucky stars that we’re not in snow country because we’d be up one nasty creek without a paddle.

While you’re stockpiling for whatever weather is coming your way, stop by your local library and pick up some books.  You could fill your e-readers, but when power outages are a distinct possibility, you don’t want to drain your batteries, especially if those tablets are the only connection you have to the outside world (assuming they’ve got 3 or 4G).  Don’t know what to read?  Well, I’m here to help.

PRINCESS BRIDEThe Princess Bride by William Goldman: Sure, this is a fairy tale, but you’re never too old to read an old fashioned fairy tale, especially when it is chock full of “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love.
Miracles.”  Who can turn that kind thing down?

Bet MeBet Me by Jennifer Crusie: This is the second Crusie novel I ever read and I still remember spotting that cover sitting on the shelf at the Target on Queens Boulevard.  Those shoes just called to me and I am not a shoe person by any means.  The thing that I liked the best about this book was that it is so body positive.  Long before Meghan Trainor told us it was All About That Bass, Ms. Crusie told us that it didn’t matter that you’re not a size 0 because someone is going to love you (and love to feed you).

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig: Crimson Rose is the fourth book in Ms. Willig’s Pink Carnation Series and to be honest it was not one of my favorite books the first time around.  That changed when I re-read it over the summer in preparation for the release of the last book, which was came out back in August 2015.  I don’t know why it didn’t work for me the first time around, but when I sunk into this time, I didn’t want to give it back to the library.  There was just something about seeing Mary and Vaughn fall for each other, especially when neither of them really wanted to do so (or in Mary’s case–couldn’t afford to fall for him…at least at first) that got me.

something about youSomething About You by Julie James: The first book in Ms. James’s FBI/US Attorney series is one of my favorite books.  It set up the series perfectly by introducing us to Cameron and Jack, who is probably one of the hottest heroes I’ve ever read.  I love the chemistry from the two of them that practically flies off the page from the very beginning of the book and smolders straight through to the very last page.  Plus, it is a Second Chance romance, which is my absolute favorite trope to read (a close second is Friends-to-Lovers).

The Sum of All Kisses

The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn: The third book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet is quite honestly the best of the series.  Taking place before and during the weddings for the two prior couples in the series, Sarah and Hugh are thrust together despite not liking each other.  I loved seeing them slowly realize that all the hatred and mistrust they had for each other was turning into a once in a lifetime type of love.

Sea Swept

Sea Swept by Nora Roberts: First released in 1998, Sea Swept introduced the world to the Quinn brothers, Cam, Ethan, and Philip.  Many people prefer Ethan for his quiet calm and his love for Grace, but I’m all about Cam and Anna.  I loved how they were immediately drawn to each other even when they shouldn’t have been (she was his brother’s social worker and was involved in the decision to allow they brothers to stay together).  He was one of those good guys with rough edges that hadn’t quite smoothed out completely over time.  What always gets me about him is how much he loved his adoptive parents and how loyal he was to his family and eventually to Anna.  The scene after Seth fell from the roof of the building they were rehabbing to house their boat building and the way Cam reacted?  Priceless.

The Passion of the Purple PlumeriaThe Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig: The book that should have been second to last in the series is amazing.  It focuses on Jane’s chaperone/righthand woman, Miss Gwen and Colonel William Reid.  Miss Gwen was a fun character right from the very start of the series, waving her parasol around the way The Doctor brandishes his Sonic Screwdriver.  Somewhere along the line, her parasol began to mask a deadly sword, which she uses to save William when they’re attacked by footpads, looking for the Jewels of Berar.  What is so special about this book, other than Miss Gwen’s wit, is that despite being about 20 years older than all of the other heroines in the series, Miss Gwen was treated the same way all of the other women were.  No one condescended to her because she was on the shelf.  Not that there’s a shelf anywhere in the world that could contain Miss Gwen.Head Over Heels

Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis: I recently reviewed this book and like Crimson Rose, this was a book that worked better the second time around.  Chloe and Sawyer were perfectly matched despite all of their differences.  There is just something about Shalvis books; rarely does she have a bad one.  They’re full of wit and enough feels to keep the most emo person happy.

it happened one wedding

It Happened One Wedding by Julie James: I loved this book so much that I could barely wait six months before diving into it for a second time.  The chemistry between Sydney and Vaughn was palpable and I thought that the friends with benefits storyline was perfect for those two characters.  The way Ms. James had them falling for each other was so slick that neither of them were even aware anything had changed until it was almost too late.  The best part was watching them become friends as well as lovers.  (It was awesome how she’d text him about the dates she was going on and he would translate the guy’s manspeak.)

Heaven and EarthHeaven and Earth by Nora Roberts: For a long time, this was my favorite Roberts novel.  Ripley’s fear of losing herself to her magic (not to mention her love for Mac) was extremely relatable despite the fact that outside the pages of a book people can’t call upon the elements.  The thing that made me love this book so much was not Ripley’s relationship with Mac, but her relationship with Mia, her former best friend, who she pushed away years earlier when she gave up her magic.  Some of the best romance novels are not about the heroine’s relationship with the hero, but about her relationship with her girlfriends.  That was the beauty of the Three Sisters Island Trilogy (as well as many of Roberts’s other trilogies).

I could go on and on about my favorite books, but I think ten is a nice round number at which to stop, so there you have it.  Whether you’re inundated with snow, rain, or sun this weekend why don’t you sit back with one of these (or one of your favorites) and let the world go on without you for awhile.

Romance and Recipes–Cooking Disasters — January 20, 2016

Romance and Recipes–Cooking Disasters

kitchen failWhy did she have to make the bread?  Everything would have been fine without the bread.  Everyone told her making bread was a BAD idea.  But did she listen?  No.  She just had to make bread.  Now, her kitchen–not to mention her lungs–was charred, she was minus one eyebrow, and her cat was cowering in the corner.
It wasn’t her fault, though.  She blamed pinterest.  All those “easy” recipes and pretty pictures of delicately braided breads.  Easy her ass.  She didn’t know what went wrong.  One minute she was praying for her dough to rise and the next the kitchen was on fire!  How does that even happen?
There was an upside, though.  At least the firemen were hot.

We’ve all read situations like this.  In the Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, one of the heroines attempted to make cookies and set her kitchen on fire only to be rescued by the hero, a firefighter.  That’s just the most recent example I could think of at the moment.  Within the last couple of weeks I’ve had more than my fair share of Kitchen Disasters and I thought I would share them with you.

Coffee Cake Crisis:

I recently found a recipe for coffee cake and it looked fairly easy, so I decided to try it myself.  Big mistake.  Everything was actually going alright until I got to the last step.  Somehow, I confused the bowls with the filling and the topping and wound up putting the topping in the middle of the cake.  So, what does any inexperienced baker do?  I panicked.  I grabbed the entire filling, which was supposed to be crumbled, and stuck it right in the middle of the batter.  Then, using my bare hands, I pushed it down into the batter and tried to spread it out.  I have no idea what I thought I was going to do, but whatever it was, it didn’t work.  After it baked up, it was way too sweet, probably because the filling was intact.  It wasn’t so bad that we had to throw it away, but I won’t be making it again any time soon.

Caramel Catastrophe:

Last Saturday, I attempted to make a caramel sauce from scratch.  I had all my ingredients ready–the cream was warming in the background just like it said to do online (because when you put cold cream in a pot of hot sugar water, apparently bad things happen) and I combined the sugar and the water in a medium sized sauce pot (the same one I used whenever I make marinara sauce).  Unfortunately, I misread the instructions and instead of leaving the sugar in a sandy, grainy state, I completely dissolved it in the water.  Not good.  Within minutes, the kitchen was so smokey that I had to open all the windows, the patio door, and the apartment door.  Because I was waiting for the water to turn amber, I ended up boiling it down to the point where the entire bottom of the pot was black.  Yikes! Five days later and I’m still trying to rehabilitate it.  (Oven cleaner is doing a fairly decent job, but there are some resistant spots.)

Pizza Panic:

Not learning from Saturday’s disaster, I decided to make a pizza.  From scratch.  I’ve made a few pizzas using store bought dough in the past, but this time I wanted to make everything myself–dough included.  I found a recipe online and everything looked alright, except it didn’t seem to be rising.  According to the other reviewers online, that was normal.  It wasn’t supposed to appear to rise until it was time to roll it out and even at that point, it shouldn’t rise that much.  My first clue that something was wrong was when the recipe said to  cut the dough in half and store the unused portion for later use.  Well, that wasn’t really possible with my dough.  I had to use it all, which is probably why it didn’t cook right.  I ended up having to order an actual pizza.  Oh, the humanity.

Unlike in books, none of my disasters led to a meet-cute with an awesomely hot fireman, but I hope you guys found them amusing.  Anything for my readers. :)

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