Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#TBRChallenge Reading: Act Like It & Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

2017 TBR Reading Challenge
Book: Act Like It and Pretty Face
Author: Lucy Parker
My Categories: Contemporary RomCom
Wendy Crutcher's Category: Contemporary

Act Like It was recommended to me on Twitter, and I loved it so much, that I immediately turned around and read Pretty Face. AAR and Twitter folks, recommended PF over ALI, but while PF was a 'A' read for me, ALI was a decided 'A+'.

In Act Like It, actress Lainie Graham has a lead role in a play running at the Metronome Theatre in London. In her off-stage life, she'd been involved with lead actor Will Farmer, but she has recently found out via the tabloids that she's been dumped. I admired how well she was coping, personally and professionally. The other leading man, Richard Troy, comes from wealth and the upper classes and has an overly-developed sense of self-importance to go with it. His temper tantrums and bad behavior has been affecting his public image and starting to affect the box office, so his publicist and the director ambush Lainey to convince her to commence a faux relationship with him so that her London's Sweetheart image will burnish his image. In return, the director will donate some of the box office take to Lainey's favorite charity.

In Pretty Face, actress Lily Lamprey has a body, face, and high, light voice that's well-suited to a sexy TV soap but ill-suited for West End London theater. Luc Savage is a highly respected director, who's coerced into taking Lily on. To their dismay, they discover instant chemistry, which would be highly detrimental to Lily's reputation and future theater career ("dumb bunny sleeps her way into a role" being the expected headline).

The simple setups of the enemies-to-lovers story for ACI and the May-December Romance story for PF ensure that all the focus is on the relationships. Usually, I look for complexity in a story with more happening around and to the characters than simple relationship development. However, with these two books, perversely, I felt glad that they were lacking in a plethora of calamities being visited upon their characters. Lucy Parker's talent is in building tight, complex relationships that don't feel rushed or smoothened out. All the problems are out in the open, and they are all dealt with. There're no deus ex machina events that magically get characters out of tight spots they put themselves in.

The writing in both books is sharp and funny, and the stories move along swiftly and very assuredly. The books have a breezy irreverent tone to it that belies the serious nature of the choices the characters have to make. The language felt London-based to me as did the characterization and the setting of the London theater scene. The theater details are well-researched and used sparingly and very effectively—a smooth immersion for the reader. I always find myself noting in my reviews when characters behave in a mature manner to resolve there differences since it's not that common in romances, so I was very pleased to find that there was none of the pouting and flouncing in these books for which I have very little patience.

ALI was by far the funnier, tighter, well-integrated book as compared with PF. If you will read just one book, do make it Act Like It.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My March Reading

This month, I discovered a new-to-me historical romance author with a reasonably long backlist, and I really enjoyed the two books I read. I feel a glom coming on!

Forbidden Nights with the Viscount by Julia Justiss
Categories: Historical Romance
Comments: I enjoyed this story so much. It's about two characters on opposing sides of British politics, who're dizzily attracted to each other and respect and trust each other's political interests and desire to work. This to me is so romantic. Instead of merely languishing in each others' arms, they're debating politics when they're not having a fiery&8212;but very safe—affair. Neither is afraid to broach sensitive topics with each other, because doing the right thing for the other person is a sign of caring. Lovely! My review is here.

Stolen Encounters with the Duchess by Julia Justiss
Categories: Historical Romance
Comments: This is the second book after the one above. Davie and Faith had met when they were very young and had set up a good friendship—well, fondness on her part and love on his. But she was not destined for him, but for a duke. She is now widowed, but as a duchess and he a farmer's orphan, the social gulf between them is as vast as ever. Davie is still in love with her and wants to marry her; she wants to have an affair with him, which he will not do to safeguard her reputation and his. Another lovely story by Justiss. My review is here.

My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway
Categories: Victorian Romance
Comments: How much I love this book! I read it during my first heady foray into Romancelandia. I met Brockway first and loved her voice and humor so much, I had to pick up her books. My Dearest Enemy was the first, and then I didn't stop until I had bought and read her entire backlist and set up a Facebook group for her fans. Over the years, I have read and re-read this book many times, and it has never ceased to make me laugh over the vitriolic moments and sigh over the tender moments. It is such a lovely romantic tale.

Lilian Bede and Avery Thorne exchange fiery letters over five years as Avery travels the obscure parts of the globe while Lilian tries to maintain Mill House in good heart. Avery had been promised Mill House since he was a child, but in his waning days, his malevolent uncle decides to hand over the management to Lilian, with the proviso that should she fail to make the estate thrive, it will pass on to Avery. Distraught and angered by this, Avery takes to intrepid adventuring with gusto. The vitriolic and very creative letters are hilarious and made me fall in love with the characters as did their deepening romance when they meet. This is a story not to be missed.

King's Warrior by Kris Kennedy
Categories: Medieval Romance
Comments: I’m a big fan of medieval romances and have enjoyed all of Kris Kennedy’s full-length stories. She has a great grasp of the medieval psyche and behaviors, and she backs it up with meticulous research. Irish renegade Tadgh O'Malley was Richard the Lionhearted's trusted soldier, but he's on the run from the Holy Land back to England, carrying a special dagger from Richard. In a coastal town of France, he rescues Magdalene from been harassed by the port reeve's assistant. Captivated by her looks and her intelligent conversation, Tadgh cannot help but dally with her despite the danger to him and his mission from the baron and his soldiers who're hunting him for his dagger. After the destruction of her home and business by the soldiers, Magdalena realizes that there's nothing keeping her in France and throws her lot in with Tadgh. Her quick wit and presence of mind gets them out of tight spots, eve as they indulge their deepening—and hot—romance. A good medieval read! My review is here.

Claiming Her by Kris Kennedy
Categories: Elizabethan Romance
Comments: A hot Elizabethan romance with a medieval flavor. She's intelligent, stubborn, and loyal; he's charismatic, a courtier, and a warrior. She's the chatelaine of Rardove, a castle in Ireland with thousands of acres of land attached to it. He's Irish and up until now, loyal to Queen Elizabeth. But his ancestors were Lords of Rardove, and he means to be one, too. She's just as determined not to indulge in treason by marrying him. The romance is intense! My review is coming up on this blog later this month. I'll link back here, when it posts.

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick
Categories: Contemporary Women's Fiction
Comments: Sorrel Sparrow is a gifted gardener from a small town on the New England coast. She’s been lured away from her nursery business to travel to Wiltshire, England to bring a Shakespearean garden back to life. Is it a malevolent garden or merely a neglected, desolate one? As she works hard to resurrect it, she’s distracted by Sir Graham Kirkwood’s enigmatic, good-looking, rector, brother-in-law who’s currently out of a job. Animosity and sparks of a different kind fly between them, but will the garden’s enchantment allow their love to grow? My Review is here.

The Lost Order by Steve Berry
Categories: Dual Timeline Thriller
Comments: I’m very fond of historical intrigues that are more fact than fiction, and when such a book is skillfully entwined with fiction, where you don’t know where fact ends and fiction begins, it makes for a particularly enjoyable read. Note: You don’t want to miss the exciting Author’s Note at the end either, which reveals how much of the story is historically true. This is a story of the confederate Knights of the Golden Cross, from the time of the Civil War and the vast horde of gold they amassed and hid, and the storied history and machinations of the Smithsonian Institution, Museums, and Libraries. My Review is here.

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
Categories: Gay YA Fiction
Comments: If I didn't have to read this book for my romance book club, it would've been a DNF. I did not like the heroine who's self-absorbed and petty towards the other characters, and she does not change or grow over the book. The premise of the story is very interesting. Joanna Gordon is the daughter of a radio evangelist and is a person of faith and also gay. She moves to a small, religious town in her senior year after her father's marriage, where he essentially tells her to hide her gay-ness and dress like everybody else. When I picked the book up, I really wanted to know what she would do in this situation. The story had promise, but unfortunately, failed to deliver. My review is here.