Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes is the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar, with a bitter grudge against his wealthy father. The Duke intends to give his Duchess a priceless diamond parure on their wedding anniversary—so Alec hires a pair of jewel thieves to steal it.
The Duke's remote castle is a difficult target, and Alec needs a way to get the thieves in. Soldier-turned-criminal Jerry Crozier has the answer: he'll pose as a Society gentleman and become Alec's new best friend.
But Jerry is a dangerous man: controlling, remote, and devastating. He effortlessly teases out the lonely young nobleman’s most secret desires, and soon he’s got Alec in his bed—and the palm of his hand.
Or maybe not. Because as the plot thickens, betrayals, secrets, new loves, and old evils come to light. Now the jewel thief and the aristocrat must keep up the pretence, find their way through a maze of privilege and deceit, and confront the truth of what's between them...all without getting caught.
K.J. Charles is one of the romance authors that I found out about on Twitter and now is an autobuy for me. I was thrilled when she offered ARCs of this book to readers.
A lot of her books that I’ve read previously have focused on people who aren’t part of the gentry. That has been a major part of the appeal for me. This one crosses class lines into upper crust society and I think that wasn’t as enjoyable for me as her previous books. Still, the premise is inventive.
An upper class man has abandoned his children because they vocally opposed his second marriage. The children are adults and they are living in poverty with some terrible consequences. Alec decides to get back at his father by hiring thieves to steal the showy anniversary present that his father plans to give his wife. However, to get close to his father he’ll have to pretend to abandon his principles to get back to a life of leisure. This is going to alienate him from his siblings who don’t know that he has another motive.
This conflict between what he believes and the pretense that he needs to keep up tears at him. He has no practice or talent at being underhanded at all. For help he’s reliant on the con man he hired to coach him and who he is very drawn to.
I like more slow burn and not much sex on the page in my romance books. That’s definitely not what you get in these books. This relationship has a dominance-submission aspect to it. It is handled well and respectfully to both parties. I would recommend this book if you like historical romances that aren’t just ladies looking for dukes.
Sandi Ward's shrewdly observed, funny, and wonderfully touching novel tells of a fractured family, a teenage boy, and a remarkable cat whose loyalty knows no bounds . . .
A boy and his cat. It's an unconventional friendship, perhaps, but for Charlie and Lily, it works beautifully. It was Charlie who chose Lily from among all the cats in the shelter. He didn't frown, the way other humans did, when he saw her injured back leg, the legacy of a cruel previous owner. Instead, Charlie insisted on rescuing her. Now Lily wants to do the same for Charlie.
She's the only one who's seen the bruises on Charlie's body. If she knew who was hurting him, she'd scratch their eyes out. But she can't fix this by herself. Lily needs to get the rest of the family to focus on Charlie--not easy when they're wrapped up in their own problems. Charlie's mother kicked his father out weeks ago and has a new boyfriend who seems charming, but is still a stranger. Oldest son Kevin misses his father desperately. Victoria, Charlie's sister, also has someone new in her life, and Lily is decidedly suspicious. Even Charlie's father, who Lily loves dearly, is behaving strangely.
Lily knows what it's like to feel helpless. But she also knows that you don't always have to be the biggest or the strongest to fight fiercely for the ones you love . . .
Praise for Sandi Ward's The Astonishing Thing "A beautiful and touching look into the intricacies of marriage and family life, all seen through the loving and unique perspective of the family pet." --Modern Cat "The Astonishing Thing feels like a bit of a miracle and we all could use a miracle." --Holly Chamberlin, author of The Summer Nanny
This story about a family in crisis isn’t something that I would normally be drawn to without the twist of having it narrated by the family cat.
This isn’t a cutesy cat story. Lily doesn’t have magical powers to be able to solve problems or talk to the dog or send messages to humans. She is just observant and knows what anyone who is truly watching what is going on would know. The problem is that her humans just aren’t paying attention to each other enough.
This is a simple read that compels you to keep reading to find out what is going to happen. I read it in a day because I wanted to know what was going on in this family. I can’t say that I’m thrilled with all the choices the humans make at the end of the book but that’s humans for you. Sometimes they should listen more to their pets.
Because I know this is a major concern with animal characters in books, I’ll let you know that nothing bad happens to either Lily or Gretel the dog during the book. Both of them have previously had human-inflicted injuries that they have recovered from at the start of the book.
About Sandi Ward
Sandi Ward writes books about love, family, forgiveness…and cats.
Sandi grew up in Manchester-by-the-sea, Massachusetts, and received her MA in Creative Writing at New York University. She’s the author of book club novels published by Kensington Books, stories of dysfunctional families told from the point of view of the family cat. She’s also a medical copywriter at an advertising agency. She lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband, teenagers, dog and a large black cat named Winnie.
On December 18, 2018 her latest novel, SOMETHING WORTH SAVING, will be on sale (available now for pre-order) in trade paperback, e-book and audio book.
What if Time Travel were real? What if Time Travelers from 300 years in the future told you that there was a chance that you could prevent catastrophic climate change, plagues, and wars by going back in time to key Pivot Points and ethically altering the outcome of rigged elections? What if failure would result in the destruction of the biosphere? Would you go?
In post-plague 2050 Britain, palm trees tower over the rice paddies of Stonehenge. Tara MacFarlane, a weary 96-year-old anthropologist originally from Taos, New Mexico, longs only to finish out her life in peaceful Buddhist meditation, and rejoin the great love of her later years, the humanitarian Scottish-Afghan doctor Xander, in a future incarnation. Suddenly one stifling autumn day Tara, her great-granddaughter Leona, and Leona’s boyfriend Janus are faced with a trio of Time Travelers from a future alternate Timeline where humanity and the eco-system survived and thrived.
The fate of Earth’s biosphere falls squarely on the shoulders of Tara, Leona, Janus, and Tara’s small gray cat, Georgie, who shows a surprising aptitude for telepathy. Time is short to reverse catastrophe that will bleed through into the alternate Timeline, and the Time Travelers must first determine the ideal Pivot Points by reading Time Code vibrations off the great standing stones of Avebury. Unexpectedly joined by the brave and wise cat Georgie, the six plunge into the Time Circle of Stonehenge on their mission. Where and when will they go, and will they succeed in restoring the Earth and humanity to balance?
There is a lot going on in this book. The Earth has lost most of its population due to plagues and climate change. A group of humans living in the now-tropical area of Stonehenge are suddenly visited by people claiming to be from the future.
The story is told in flashbacks and in the current timeline to show how humans managed to destroy the planet in such a short period of time. The main characters are Buddhists who have invested a lot of their lives into meditation and spiritual practice. They apply what they have learned through that to help try to heal the planet. A lot of this isn’t explained in much detail, if at all. The visitors from the future have a lot of special powers that they are unable to explain. They explain it as using readily available technology in their world but it can come across as sort of lazy story telling like, “Oh, look, she can project holograms of different timelines from her head. How, you ask? Um, technology…”
The group needs to go back to key points in history to change things. (They basically need to prevent the 1980s.)
There is a cat who plays a vital part in the story and is able to speak mind to mind with his people. He is known forever as Georgie, the first Time Traveling cat. I approve of cats with good communication skills.
This book reminds me so much of The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. Both books feature a very elderly woman as the main protagonist. She joins forces with her chosen family to prevent a disaster through spiritual/magical means.
About the Author
Debra Denker has been writing stories since she learned to read. Although novels and poetry were her first loves, she turned her talent to journalism in the ‘70s and ‘80s, writing about Afghanistan and the refugee situation in Pakistan for National Geographic and many leading newspapers. She has specialized in social documentation utilizing journalism, photography, and film to convey the experiences of people in war torn areas, with the intention of stimulating the empathy necessary for humans to stop violence against people and planet.
Denker is the author of two published books, the non-fiction literary memoir Sisters on the Bridge of Fire: One Woman’s Journeys in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and the novel War in the Land of Cain—a story of love, war, and moral choices set during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980’s.
Denker now writes for the award-winning conservation media website, Voices for Biodiversity, raising consciousness to help ward off the Sixth Great Extinction.
She currently lives in Santa Fe with her family of cats, Dorjee Purr-ba, Yeshe Gyalpo, and Samadhi Timewalker, but travels frequently in earthly space, and hopes to travel in time and galactic space.
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The hysterical, clever, and unforgettable sequel to Jonas Jonasson’s international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.
What's next for Allan Karlsson? Turns out this centenarian has a few more adventures in store . . .
It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes!
Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated.
Another hilarious, witty, and entertaining novel from bestselling author Jonas Jonasson that will have readers howling out-loud at the escapades and misfortunes of its beloved hundred-year-old hero Allan Karlsson and his irresistible sidekick Julius.
I read the previous book, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared several years ago. I would sum it up as sort of Swedish Forrest Gump. Allan Karlsson managed to be a part of most of the major events in the 20th century. I don’t remember much more that that.
That didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book. In fact, I think you really don’t have to have read the first book in order to pick up this one. All you need to know is that Allan escaped his nursing home in Sweden and through a series of adventures has found himself in Bali accompanied by a petty thief named Julius and a suitcase full of money that is rapidly running out due to the rate at which they are spending it.
This book focuses on Allan and Julius and their interaction with current events. My husband wandered in at one point when I was reading and asked what the book was about. That’s a hard question. Here’s what I told him.
“A hot air balloon ride goes wrong which leads to them being picked up by a North Korean ship smuggling uranium. They convince the captain they have the ability to fix the North Korean nuclear program but actually escape with the uranium and head to New York. There they meet Donald Trump but decide not to give him the uranium because he seems unhinged. So they give it to the German ambassador under false pretenses along with a note to Angela Merkel written on three napkins telling her not to be too mad that they tricked the ambassador.”
He just nodded and walked away.
That was before they started dealing in coffins caskets. If you like books full of absurdity, this is for you. If you like books that work in lots of anti-Trump rhetoric, you’ll love this one extra. There is a joke very early on about how polar bears should start walking south to stay ahead of the ice caps melting but not all the way to the U.S. because although they are white, they are still foreigners. That made me laugh hard and settle in for the ride.
About Jonas Jonasson
Jonas Jonasson is the author of the international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, now a major motion picture. Prior to his success as a novelist, Jonas was a journalist for the Swedish newspaper Expressen for many years, and later became a media consultant and founded a production company specializing in sporting events for Swedish television, which he sold before moving abroad to work on his first novel. He is the author of the internationally successful novels The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All. He lives on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.
In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.
I loved this collection of short stories but it took me forever to read. I felt like after each one I had to put the book down and let it sink in. I couldn’t just go onto the next. I absolutely love this cover. I remember when this photo series came out. This one makes a perfect book cover.
There are children who get chosen to be a sacrifice based on their good grades. But what happens to them? Is this a punishment for the kids who have to excel despite the risks or a way to set them free?
Fans can freeze their favorite writers by killing them at the time of their greatest talent so they never disappoint.
Can humans who have escaped a dying Earth fix the environmental damage? Should they be allowed to try no matter what humans who have remained behind think?
Making deals (and babies) with dragons might not turn out well for anyone but the dragons. On the other hand, little dragons can help fight off even bigger evil.
There are tales of first contact with alien civilizations and visions of possibly imaginary women dancing in elevators. There are gods that survive the death of humans. How do they entertain themselves?
Wars can be fought or prevented with magic. Maybe, someday, the tenuous connections between people on the internet will be all that there is left. Then again, maybe if you look hard enough there is a train waiting that can take you anywhere you need to go.
There are stories here that I know Foodies Read participants would love.
A chef unlocks her ability to make magic with food.
A restaurant opens that can make the exact meal from any memory.
From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.
“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding
London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.
Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?
With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.
I love historical fiction that pulls you in from the beginning. This is the story of two women from very different backgrounds who meet in the embroidery workshop of a dress designer in London immediately after World War II.
Ann is English. She lost her parents before the war and her brother during the Blitz. She lives with her sister-in-law, trying to scrape by.
Miriam is a French Jew who was in a concentration camp for part of the war. No one in England knows about this part of her life. All they know is that she is a skilled embroiderer who worked in a design house in Paris.
Fast forward to 2016 and a woman in Toronto gets a box of pictures and embroidery from her recently deceased grandmother. She knew her grandmother was from England but she never talked about her life there. She also didn’t know how to sew as far as her granddaughter knew. Why does she have all this?
This is a great story of female friendship and support. It also shows you the amazing amount of handwork that goes into couture dresses. I like stories based on unknown women who have had a part, however small, in historical events.
I had never really looked at the dress before. It is so detailed with both embroidery and applique. I can’t imagine doing that day in and day out. (I hurt my hands just trying to hand sew one quilt.) They only had a few weeks to get that all finished. It is amazing.
Jennifer Robson is the USA Today and #1 Toronto Globe & Mail bestselling author of Somewhere in France, After the War is Over and Moonlight Over Paris. She holds a doctorate from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto with her husband and young children.
Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, this spellbinding saga from beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani tells the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams
Shortly before World War II, Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore and fall in love. Both are talented and ambitious, and both share the dream of becoming singers for the legendary orchestras of the time: Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman. They’re soon married, and it isn’t long before Chiara and Tony find that their careers are on the way up as they navigate the glamorous worlds of night clubs, radio and television. All goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career? And how will they cope with the impact that decision has on their lives and their marriage?
From the Jersey shore to Las Vegas to Hollywood, and all the dance halls in between, this multi-layered story is vivid with historical color and steeped in the popular music that serves as its score. Tony’s Wife is a magnificent epic of life in a traditional Italian family undergoing seismic change in a fast paced, modern world. Filled with vivid, funny and unforgettable characters, this richly human story showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a storyteller and her deep understanding of family, love and the pursuit of the American dream.
You know what you are getting into if you’ve read this author previously. This is the story of an Italian family told from the time the protagonists are teenagers until their deaths. The writing is sparse. Small pieces of time will be discussed in detail and then years will pass between paragraphs.
I was intrigued by the premise, especially this line from the blurb – “Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career?” I was hoping this was going to be a book that discussed the stereotypical gender roles of a post-WWII marriage and possibly subverted them. My hopes were high as the beginning of the book shows Chi Chi was infinitely more talented and more ambitious than Tony.
All this was swept aside quickly though once the marriage happened. I’m not even sure why it happened. I found their “courtship” incredibly uncomfortable as he basically badgers her into giving up her dreams because he decided that he was in love with her when in her mind they were just old friends. This is followed by affair after affair until a divorce and then she still supports him through several more marriages all the while closing herself off completely to the idea of finding love.
“Duty-bound love is the Italian girl’s area of expertise. The Italian woman is a master craftsman at the art of sacrifice.”
I don’t think that this is a good thing. This story is about a woman who sacrificed everything that she was to a man who couldn’t be bothered to care. I found it infuriating and ultimately depressing to read about. I understand that this is much more likely to be historically accurate than a book about people supporting each other in their careers. That is part of the reason why this book made me so angry. This is about a time and attitudes that we have hopefully begun to move past.
About Adriana Trigiani
Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.
A formidable matriarch learns the hard way that no family is perfect in this witty, sparkling debut novel
Dearest loved ones, far and near--evergreen tidings from the Baumgartners!
Violet Baumgartner has opened her annual holiday letter the same way for the past three decades. And this year she's going to throw her husband, Ed, a truly perfect retirement party, one worthy of memorializing in her upcoming letter. But the event becomes a disaster when, in front of two hundred guests, Violet learns her daughter Cerise has been keeping a shocking secret from her, shattering Violet's carefully constructed world.
In an epic battle of wills, Violet goes to increasing lengths to wrest back control of her family, infuriating Cerise and snaring their family and friends in a very un-Midwestern, un-Baumgartner gyre of dramatics. And there will be no explaining away the consequences in this year's Baumgartner holiday letter...
Full of humor, emotion and surprises at every turn, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners brings to life a remarkable cast of quirky, deeply human characters who must learn to adapt to the unconventional, or else risk losing one another. This is the story of a family falling to pieces--and the unexpected way they put it all back together.
I loved this book because I know Violet, or rather I know several Violets. These are women who will always tell you how their family is doing ever so well. They have a story for each member of the family to illustrate their points. If you know their offspring, you generally know that they are the local drug dealer and you are left wondering if their mother has ever met them at all. The other side of Violet is the control freak. She has the idea of her perfect family in her mind and you are NOT going to deviate from it. I might be descended from a person like this but I know better than to say that out loud because I’ve been well trained. She would vehemently deny being a control freak. She just knows what she wants and will passive-aggressively move everyone around until she gets everyone where she wants them. She can deny the existence of anything that mars this perfection. (There is a week in my life that my Violet refuses to acknowledge.) Yes, I know Violet and found even her most outrageous plans to be familiar. It was fun to laugh at it happening to someone else.
There are three mysteries in this book. Violet is obsessed with finding out who is the father of her grandchild. I found that mystery fairly easy to unravel. There is also the mystery of some political sculptures appearing around town and a mystery of what Violet’s friend’s husband is doing when he disappears for days. Those I didn’t figure out.
I tend not to read a lot of literary type fiction but this one was funny enough to me to keep my interest. Maybe you have to be Midwestern and know people like this to find it this funny. If you don’t you might think it is pretty over the top.
From the creator of Dragonbreath comes a tale of witches, minions, and one fantastic castle, just right for fans of Roald Dahl and Tom Angleberger.
When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.
This quirky, richly illustrated novel is filled with humor, magic, and an unforgettable all-star cast of castle characters.
This book has everything I absolutely love about fantasy books. It is chock full of imagination and whimsy. There are also dragons. You must have dragons.
Molly knows that she is going to be a Wicked Witch. She can do some magic. She has an over-the-top Good Twin. So she steals an invitation to apply for the job of Master of Castle Hangnail. Who cares that she is only 12?
The Guardian of the castle cares, for a start. He knows the castle is in danger of being decommissioned if a new master isn’t found who can complete all the tasks assigned. There needs to be proper blighting and smiting and defending of the castle and capturing the hearts of the villagers (probably literally if the new master is an Evil Sorceress or a Vampire). Can a cheery 12 year old manage that?
I love the staff of the castle.
The Guardian has served under many truly evil masters and knows how minions should be properly treated. He isn’t prepared to be given an actual name and thanked for things. It just isn’t right.
Pins is a stuffed doll who can sew anything, including waterproof sweaters for his goldfish
The goldfish is a hypochondriac
Cook is a Minotaur who is very angry about the letter Q
Angus is Cook’s son and general helper
Edward is an enchanted suit of armor with rusty knees
There is a woman made of steam. This happens when a djinn mates with a human woman who didn’t know she had mermaid ancestry.
There are clockwork bees and all kinds of bats including one insomniac bat who stays awake during the day and sleeps at night.
Molly is going to be Wicked but not Evil. Wicked will punish a person to make them think about what they did. Evil will hurt people for fun. So she blights weeds and asks around to see who is being mean and is in need of a good smiting. When she finds someone who is mean to his donkey, she uses a spell to turn the donkey temporarily into a dragon to scare the mean man. After that all the animals want to take a turn being a dragon, of course!
This book was absolutely delightful from beginning to end. I read it in a day. I was hoping that there was going to be a follow up to see what happens next at Castle Hangnail but so far, no luck.
Claude Monet painting is stolen
Of all the things Harry Chase had imagined in his life, being a drummer on a cruise ship band was not one that would have occurred to him. And yet, there he was. Centre stage, behind a young female singer along with his mates, Dave, Tony and Steve.
Which meant that getting involved in a jewellery theft, an on-board massage parlour and the hunt for an Old Master was even further from his mind as he cracked the snare drum.
And yet, this was exactly how he found himself being questioned by Interpol …..
This is the third book in a series but enough context is given to allow you to pick up the story if you are starting with this book.
The story line was inventive. The mystery was complicated enough with enough red herrings to sustain the whole book. There was a fairly large cast and I was able to keep the male characters straight because they each had distinct personalities and character traits.
It did drive me batty that every time they went into a new country on this cruise all they did was shop. Who does that? You are supposed to go sightseeing. But that story choice leads into my main problem with this book — its lazy characterization of women.
At heart this is a male fantasy where all the women are attracted to the main character and try to get him to have sex with them even though they know his partner.
One of the first things I noticed about this book is how many breasts were in it. I know this because they were pointed out every time they appeared in a scene. I sighed and reminded myself that I don’t read a lot of male fiction authors and sometimes these authors are distracted easily. Also every female character was introduced not by her purpose in the narrative or her relationship to other characters but by her appearance and sexual desirability. Then I got to this line.
“Like Clem, Liz was blonde and although approaching her mid-forties was still a very attractive woman.”
No, sir. Nope. Done. Automatic DNF from this 45 year old hag. It puts me in mind of this:
But alas, this is not the real world, this is a review book so I soldiered on.
“I looked at the five women sitting around the table and realised that any man would give his eye teeth to spend a night with any one of them;”
At the time the people were having important conversations but that’s ok, ignore that and focus on reducing them to your sexual fantasies.
The resolution of the plot isn’t even allowed to escape.
“Within minutes two squad cars containing plane (sic) clothes detectives had arrived along with two cars carrying uniformed police; one of whom was a very attractive WPC, and I made a mental note to somehow get Cara a police uniform.”
At one point there is this description:
“The barman was small and effeminate, his head was shaved at the sides, and he wore a black ponytail tied up in a top knot. The badge on the lapel of his bright red waistcoat said Sam. He seemed vaguely familiar. “I haven’t seen you guys in here before,” he said holding out a limp wrist. His accent was either American or Canadian.
I shook his hand, and his fingers collapsed in my grip; a similar experience to squeezing a soft rubber ball. “No, first time,” I replied surreptitiously wiping my hand on my trouser leg.”
If that isn’t bad enough, he is referred to later in this conversation.
“It’s a good picture of that bloke’s arse,” Steve added, “maybe we could take it to Sam, the barman, he might recognise it.”
Contrast this to the treatment of one of the main characters who is a lesbian. Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with that in this book, except for one character’s repeated attempts to sleep with her because all lesbians just need a man to show them what they are missing, right? /sarcasm. Even she is interested in having the main character watch her have sex. (Sadly, not even joking.)
If you like your mysteries served with a large topping of sexist banter on top, then you might enjoy this one.
The rain in Spain doesn't mainly fall on the plain…
Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.
Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town's flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers?
One thing's for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again
This book tells the story of British people behaving badly in Spain.
Belinda is on the run with her husband Jez. They are living on the yacht that is all they have left after their business collapsed in England, probably because of her husband’s shady dealings.
Julia lives with her husband and daughter. She’s the type of ex-pat who refers to all other foreigners as immigrants and is angry that people in Spain want her to speak something other than English.
Laura lives in a super wealthy English enclave with her husband and mother and children. She spends her time lunching with other wives and is bored out of her mind.
Georgina has been dumped in Spain after a bad breakup and an even worse rebound fling. She’s working in a bar and has just learned that she is about to be kicked out of her housing.
These four end up joining an unorthodox flamenco class in a small town. The first lessons involve learning to step out of your comfort zone. A lot of this happens around eating churros. Most of these women are horrified at the idea of eating anything with so many fried carbs covered in chocolate sauce. But each little act of rebellion against the lives that they are living leads to larger steps until their lives are changed forever.
There is an element of magical realism in this story. The flamenco teacher Carmen is able to determine exactly what push each of them needs. She’s a mysterious figure. You never learn much about her. She never even teaches them to dance. They can just magically do it perfectly. This fits into the stereotype of the “exotic” person who teaches white people to fix themselves and then disappears, presumably to go help others.
I never really warmed up to the characters, except for Laura. She realizes that she is living in Spain and not some English colony. She starts to want to get out more and learn some Spanish and interact with the real country. She moves away from the overwhelming fakeness of her life. I wanted to back away slowly from the other characters. Even as the story progresses and you are supposed to start to feel for them I couldn’t get over the horribleness of how they are first described.
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Author Bio – Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.
Social Media Links – www.isabellamayauthor.com Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/ Instagram – @isabella_may_author
When octogenarian Olive Turner is persuaded by her son to move into a retirement home, she congratulates herself on finding the secret to an easy life: no washing up, cooking or cleaning. But Olive isn’t one for mindless bingo with her fellow residents, and before the first day is over she's already hatching a plan to escape back to her beloved beach hut and indulge in her secret passion for a very good gin & tonic.
Before long Olive’s secret is out and turning into something wonderful and new. Only a select few are invited, but word spreads quickly about the weekly meetings of The Gin Shack Club. Soon everybody on the beach wants to become a gin connoisseur and join Olive on her journey to never being forced to grow older than you feel.
I picked up this book because it is precisely a genre that I don’t think we can ever have enough of – old lady chick lit!
Give me stories of older women in charge of their own lives; finding new passions; doing whatever they want! I’ll read them all. Give me more old ladies defying their fussy children and skinny dipping at the beach.
This book also made me really, really want a beach hut even though I don’t live by the beach and even if I did, they aren’t a thing here.
Olive moves into a home where everyone cares about safety to the point of not allowing the residents to live. This is actually a huge problem for older people. If you can’t do anything other than what is super-safe, you don’t get to do anything fun.
I was intrigued by the gin combinations that are discussed here. I wish there were some recipes for the cocktails discussed. I don’t drink so I have no idea if I like gin or not but this book made me want to try some. I feel like I wouldn’t like a gin and tonic at all but the gin with violet syrup that tasted like candied violets sounded interesting. I’m not sure if the rhubarb one sounded good or not but they were fans of it in the book.
I didn’t care much for the bit of mystery in the book. I was just here for the characters and their adventures!
Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar's Abbey isn't the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill--though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome--is anything but a romantic hero.
He Needed Redemption...
Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household--and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.
Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena's past threatens, will Justin's burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?
I have pretty strict rules about the historical romances that I will read. Generally they need to be recommended by some trusted sources on Twitter. When I pick them myself I tend to get horrible books that I DNF. That’s why I’m so excited about this book. I chose this one from the description on the book tour and I absolutely loved it!
Helena is on the run but she isn’t flighty or impetuous. Her escape from her family has been well planned. She needs to get married in order to wrest control of her inheritance from her relatives. She is unable to control it herself because she is a woman so she is in desperate need of a husband.
Justin returned from being a prisoner of war in India and in an act of pure spite, managed to seize control of the largest house from its impoverished gentleman owner. Now he is hated by the community and just wants to be left alone. His secretary and a lawyer friend though have advertised for a bride for him. He’s ignored them up to now when his friend in London sent him a woman who is obviously in trouble.
I loved that these were both sensible, no-nonsense people. There was a real threat that Helena was running from based on newspaper accounts of the time. This was a great way to get actual historical issues into the story.
This book felt comfortable from the opening pages. I was pulled directly into the story. This is the type of historical romance that I love and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.
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Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath's premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.
Determined to break from her father's iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington's into a new decade, embracing woman's equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.
This book takes place in 1910 in Bath. I read a lot of historical fiction but I don’t see many books set in this time period. I was interested to read about a woman who is trying to take over her family business at a time when this was not an acceptable thing to do. This is also a time of great changes in retail. Ready to wear clothing is becoming more popular. Being able to touch the merchandise without a clerk helping you is a new idea.
I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book. In the beginning the writing was a bit clunky. There was a whole lot more description of what people were thinking than showing their actions on the page. I set the book aside for a while because of this. I don’t know if I would have picked it back up if it wasn’t a review book for me and if I wasn’t really interested in the premise.
I’m not sure if the writing improved as I got into the story or if I just accepted it as I went along but it didn’t bother me as much as I got deeper into the book. There are several conflicts here:
The heroine who wants to run the store versus her father who wants her to marry and live the life of a rich housewife.
The hero who wants to expand from a small family store to selling their merchandise in department stores over his father’s objections.
There was conflict between the heroine and hero’s families in the past.
Should department stores continue to cater to the wealthy or should they bring in lower price clothing for the new middle class customers? Would the wealthy continue to shop there if you let lower classes in the same stores?
It was interesting to see the ideas that were considered so progressive (and potentially alarming) that are commonplace now. The anti-woman rhetoric was as expected. Women aren’t smart enough to be in business. Suffragettes are just rabble-rousers causing the downfall of society.
This is a good book for anyone who loves historical fiction where you learn a lot about a topic.
Meet Lucy, master wedding cake baker, idealistic school canteen crusader, and someone whose broken heart just won’t seem to mend…
Lucy is quietly confident that she has made the right choices in life. Surrounded by friends and family in a small town by the sea, Lucy can easily suppress the feeling that something is missing from her life.
But when a blast from the past arrives in the form of her estranged husband, international celebrity chef Oliver Murray, Lucy’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble beneath her like overbaked meringue.
Is Oliver’s return all business or is it motivated by something more?
A Recipe for Disaster starts long after most love stories would have ended, proving it is never too late to offer someone a second slice of cake or a second chance.
Perfect for fans of Carole Mathews, Mhairi McFarlane and Carrie Hope Fletcher.
Second chance romance stories are not my favorites. I figure if you broke up before there was probably a good reason. Especially if you break up for the incredibly stupid reason that the couple in this book did. They are both chefs. She’s a pastry chef. He gets a job offer in Paris. She decides to stay at home in Australia because there is no work for her. As a PASTRY CHEF. IN FRANCE…
At this point I was muttering to myself about agreeing to review this book, but the book surprised me. There wasn’t a magical fix to the relationship as soon as her estranged husband reappeared. She is still insanely jealous of what he’s been able to do. He is still prone to running over everyone else’s thoughts and feelings in pursuit of what he wants. They can’t communicate at all about anything other than food.
They both need to grow up and decide if their relationship is more important than their businesses. Can they work together and have professional disagreements without it hurting their personal relationship?
This book turned out to be deeper than I expected from the first few chapters. It shows that life is messy and complicated and that you need to learn to work through it to get what you want.
Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …
Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she’s been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.
Fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?
This novel explores the dynamics of people from different classes. Beth Jago lives outside a mining town in an cabin in a valley. She lived with her grandfather who recently died. Since then she has been receiving eviction notices. She is dealing with this by ignoring them until the threats become physical.
Many historical romances are about the English gentry but they don’t explore the often unsavory ways these people made and maintained their fortunes. This book looks at the motivations of the men who own the mines that the area depends on to survive. Closing a mine can look good on paper when you don’t care about the welfare of a town built around it.
I appreciated the fact that this heroine is allowed to make her own choices in this novel. She is able to prove to herself and others that she is able to provide a living for herself. It was important to her to know that she was going to choose to marry because she wanted to live with that man instead of marrying because it was an economic necessity. I believe this is one of the few historical romances that include characters in such extreme poverty that going into a workhouse at several points in their life is required. I’m finding that I like historical romances that feature working class main characters or other marginalized characters that don’t often feature in traditional historical romances.
There is a storyline about an adult mentally disabled man that will be disturbing to some readers. I don’t think that it is unrealistic for the time but it will be upsetting to modern readers.
This is the third book of a series but works as a standalone novel.
Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.
Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of witches’ souls.
When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.
---------------BAKER THIEF is the first in a fantasy series meant to reframe romance tropes within non-romantic relationship and centering aromantic characters. Those who love enemies-to-lovers and superheroes should enjoy the story!
I picked this up because it combined a baker and a fantasy mystery. There really isn’t as much baking content as I would have liked because Claude the baker is off being a superhero and keeps needing to close the bakery.
What I Liked:
This is a fantasy world based in a French worldview. The author is from Quebec and it shows in the French blended into this story. I don’t know that I’ve seen another book where this is so well combined. Place names, official titles, etc are French.
There are witches in this world but they have been driven underground by persecution in the fairly recent past. Nonmagical people think they are safe now because witches are gone. Witches are not gone.
The main character is Claude/Claire. They are genderfluid. Generally, he is Claude during the day when he is baking and Claire at night when she is a thief. That schedule of genders was working well until recently when Claude is starting to regret not being comfortable working during the day as Claire or spending the night as Claude depending on which gender feels most comfortable at the time.
It tackles issues relating to aromanticism and asexuality. There are several characters at different places on the spectrum of aromanticism and asexuality so you don’t get a single point of view of these topics. It shows how aromantic people have relationships which is important if readers aren’t familiar with this aspect of queerness.
The rest of the cast is also very diverse. Many genders, sexualities, disabilities, and races are represented. It is also very good at body acceptance of various sizes of people.
Things that are slightly off:
This isn’t the author’s fault but there is a major part of the plot that is very similar to part of the plot of Witchmark. I loved that book so much and I read it first, so what should have felt like a surprising plot point felt like, “Oh, this again?” The books came out about just about the same time so it is just a coincidence but it decreased my enjoyment a bit.
Things that I’ll probably get yelled at on the internet for criticizing:
Sometimes the supporting characters were very awkwardly introduced. The author was working hard to include characters from many different backgrounds which is good but it turned every character introduction into a descriptive list. It is a case of telling the reader instead of showing the reader through the character’s actions. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily be told when being introduced to your new boss what her sexual orientation was or that she was polyamorous. Maybe you would see pictures on her desk or it would come up in conversation later.
Sometimes the plot seemed to be set aside in order for a lesson about identity. The worst instance of this was when Claire ran into a burning building, past a female-presenting witch who was setting the place on fire, and into a room where other witches were being held captive, in order to rescue them. The witches inside ask their friend is ok. Claire refers to her as “Fire girl” in her explanation. At that point, she is informed that the witch is agender and not a girl. My thought reading that passage was, “This is why conservatives laugh at us.” You are being rescued from a building that is literally on fire. You were trapped and needed a person with super strength to get you out. Now, while the fire is about to drop the whole ceiling on you, you take the time to admonish your rescuer for misgendering a person they literally saw in passing. Run first – then figure out the proper pronouns of strangers you’ve never spoken to. This book sometimes felt like an educational tome on identity more than a fantasy story. That’s fine if that was the author’s goal but I would have liked to see both aspects blended together more seamlessly.
When crusading lawyer Vikram Pandey sets out in search of a missing youth, his investigations take him to Holywell Street, London’s most notorious address. He expects to find a disgraceful array of sordid bookshops. He doesn’t expect one of them to be run by the long-lost friend whose disappearance and presumed death he’s been mourning for thirteen years.
Gil Lawless became a Holywell Street bookseller for his own reasons, and he’s damned if he’s going to apologise or listen to moralising from anyone. Not even Vikram; not even if the once-beloved boy has grown into a man who makes his mouth water.
Now the upright lawyer and the illicit bookseller need to work together to track down the missing youth. And on the way, they may even learn if there’s more than just memory and old affection binding them together...
I read this book immediately after A Gentleman Never Keeps Score. The two fit together nicely because they share the theme of sexual abuse/exploitation of teenage boys due to poverty.
Gil is a bastard child of a rich family. When his father died, his older half-brother cut off his education and funds. In order to survive he was a prostitute. Now he runs a bookstore that sells pornography, which is illegal.
Vikram is a lawyer who takes some pro bono cases in London’s Indian community. He knew Gil at school where they bonded over being the only dark-skinned people. He has always wondered what happened to his friend when he suddenly left school but no one would answer his questions. Vikram is investigating the disappearance of an Indian teen who worked as a prostitute. The only clue is a studio photo that the boy’s parents had. There is no way he could afford to have bought it. Vikram guesses he may have been modeling for erotic photographers and was given the formal portrait as partial payment.
There is a bit of over the top serendipity in the main characters meeting. It is like, “I’m searching for this lost boy because it reminds me of my former best friend who went missing. I’ll go to this bookstore. Oh, look! There is my missing best friend. Imagine that!”
Vikram wants to renew his friendship with Gil but has a very hard time accepting the world Gil lives in. He is uncomfortable with the life his friend was forced to lead while he continued his comfortable life in school and university. Gil is cynical about Vikram’s desire to help people because in his life he hasn’t seen many people with that motivation.
This is a novella but there is a good amount of character growth in it. It was interesting to find out all about the Victorian pornography trade. I haven’t seen that as a basis for a romance before.
Once beloved by London's fashionable elite, Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after a spate of salacious gossip exposed his most-private secrets. Rarely venturing from the house whose inheritance is a daily reminder of his downfall, he’s captivated by the exceedingly handsome man who seeks to rob him.
Since retiring from the boxing ring, Sam Fox has made his pub, The Bell, into a haven for those in his Free Black community. But when his best friend Kate implores him to find and destroy a scandalously revealing painting of her, he agrees. Sam would do anything to protect those he loves, even if it means stealing from a wealthy gentleman. But when he encounters Hartley, he soon finds himself wanting to steal more than just a painting from the lovely, lonely man—he wants to steal his heart.
Content Warning from Author: This book includes a main character who was sexually abused in the past; abuse happens off page but is alluded to.
It is not strictly necessary to read the first book in this series to understand this book but it helps to gain understanding of the family background. Hartley is the oldest brother. He tried to make a prosperous life for his brothers by attaching himself to a rich man who was interested in him. At the time Hartley was a teenager and the relationship was abusive. At the beginning of the book, he has inherited his abuser’s house in London. Relatives of the abuser let details of the relationship out and Hartley is now shunned in society. He is living in a house where most of the servants have left because of the scandal. He is dealing with the psychological aftermath of an abusive relationship.
I love Cat Sebastian’s writing. Her plots are original and include people and situations that aren’t often seen in traditional historical romances. Sam is a black man who formerly was a boxer. He is trying to make a living running a pub but he is being harassed by a policeman who is convinced that there are illegal boxing matches in the bar. His brother wants to marry a woman but she is stalling. She tells Sam that she once posed for a naked painting for a rich man. She doesn’t feel right marrying a respectable man when that painting is still out there somewhere. Sam decides to track down the painting to steal and destroy it. The trail leads him to Hartley’s house because it was painted for his abuser.
This book highlights found family. Hartley assembles a rag tag staff of people from London’s underworld who have nowhere else to go. His valet is a former male prostitute. The valet brings home a cook/maid who was thrown out of her house for being pregnant. Slowly he realizes that piecing his life back together doesn’t mean that it has to look the same as it did before. He looks to rebuild his ability to trust and love that was severely damaged in his previous relationship. He needs to deal with the anger he has about being forced to prostitute himself for his family, who are uncomfortable with him now because of it.
I love all the characters in this story. The author does a wonderful job of making them each well-drawn, three dimensional people. No one is just a side character there to advance the plot. I’m looking forward to the next installment of this series.
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.
When most of the world flooded, the elders raised a magical wall around Diné land. The gods and mythological beings are back. Some people are manifesting clan powers. Maggie’s clan powers make her a powerful monster killer. She was taken in and trained by a mythological warrior after a tragedy until he left her a year ago. Now she is a deeply emotionally damaged monster hunter for hire.
Now she is on the trail of monsters that she has never seen before. They are wiping out whole towns.
This book reminds me a lot of the early seasons of the TV show Supernatural, if the lead was a no-nonsense Diné woman driving a 1972 pickup. There are different groups of monster hunters. There is even a safe house/bar/weapons depot/first aid station run by a older black woman and her children.
I loved a scene in a nightclub where Maggie is able to see the patrons as embodiments of their clan powers. That is the type of imagination that I love to see in books.
The ending is magnificent and just a little bit of a cliffhanger. I’m looking forward to the next book in 2019.
(There is a lot of graphic violence depicted including violence against children so if that bothers you a lot you might want to skip this one.)