Friday, November 1, 2019

My October Reading

I started off this month in fine reading fettle, but then life went south and so did my reading.

His Defiant Princess by Nana Prah
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: If you’re a fan of Alyssa Cole’s The Reluctant Royals series, you will enjoy this story. Published by Love Africa Press that celebrates all things African in romantic fiction, Prah’s novel follows the age-old questions of lovers separated by an ocean: Who should give up their established life to move? Are friends and family and career more important than the love of your life? How to sacrifice one for the other? Since these are difficult questions that people struggle with in real life, so it was interesting to see how Prah has her fictional characters deal with it. Now imagine, she is a princess of a fictional African country and he is a dentist from Vermont. What does their future hold for them? Contemplation of marriage between the protagonists is fraught with political maneuvering and emotional manipulation by the people around them and between themselves. It does not automatically follow that he should give up his life because his social capital is perceived as much lower than hers—I really liked that Prah did not take this shortcut to solve their dilemma. My review is here.

The Write Escape by Charish Reid
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: This is a charming vacation story set in a small village in Ireland far removed from all the mod-cons of big city life. Reid takes two protagonists who are at a low point in their lives and puts them together in a small place where they cannot but be in each other’s space to see what would happen. They’re mature people in their thirties who have dealt with ups and downs in life, but they still have things they need to learn and to work on. I liked that Reid doesn’t have her characters too set in their ways and not willing to make concessions to another person. They're perspicacious and forthright, so unpleasant views get aired and dealt with. I found it charming how she supports his scholarly work in African American history, her history, while he supports her romance novel writing by reading romance novels, a genre he had never thought he would like as a professor of literature with a capital 'L.' My review is here.

The Awakening of Miss Henley by Julia Justiss
Category: Regency Romance
Comments: I am so delighted to have found a Traditional Regency written in 2019. Justiss is a marvelous writer and has penned a tight plot with historically accurate details and courageous characters. It's a story of warmth and stalwart seizing of their futures by the horns. They both start out insecure and uncertain where life is going to take them, but through hard work and belief in each other, they emerge stronger in themselves and thus stronger together.

She is saddled with the moniker Homely, he with Incomparable. She's a diehard member of the reform movement; he's a charming wastrel. She is determined not to wed a rake and deal with infidelity; he thinks he is incapable of fidelity. Neither wants to marry. However, the only enlivening aspect of their social evenings is the acerbic comments and astute observations of society and each other they make in each other's company in ballrooms across London. Jovial banter and laughter punctuate their conversation. Their interest in each other beyond friendship creeps up on them by degrees—so slowly in fact that they are taken unawares. My review is here.

The Lord's Inconvenient Vow by Lara Temple
Category: Regency Romance
Comments: Who hasn't read one of the most beloved speeches in romance novels from As You Desire by Connie Brockway? The hero says to the heroine with anguish and passion: "You are my country. My Egypt. My hot, harrowing desert and my cool, verdant Nile, infinitely lovely and unfathomable and sustaining."

This is the same heart-wrenching emotion I kept feeling from the protagonists as I read The Lord's Inconvenient Vow. Ever since their childhood in Egypt, they have been in each other's company, she plaguing and teasing him, he scolding and berating her. But under their levity, ran a current of serious intent, awareness and care. They trusted each other. They had each other's back. They understood each other like no one else could. But then they part ways to marry other people.

When they meet again in Egypt—the place where all their good memories are etched on their hearts—eight years later, they realize that time has not banished their regard for each other. They discover that they are—still—uncomprehendingly attracted to each other. Both are now widowed and searching for a place to put down roots, to build a family, to have that one person in their life who they trust completely, who makes their soul sing.

The setting is superbly done. You get a good sense of the country and culture of Egypt at the time of British Imperialism in the Regency era. I liked that Temple shows her English characters to be respectful of and have great affinity for the people, culture, religion, language, lands and treasures. Egypt was home to them, where they were most themselves, and, yet, they trod there lightly, ever cognizant that they were guests. This is such a contrast to reality that it is notable how Temple handles it. My review is here.

The Royal Treatment by Melanie Summers
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: Reader, I DNF'd it. 1706 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4.5 stars. I thought this book would be a slam-dunk. People said it was very funny, and I was in the mood for humor. Unfortunately, the humor is rather mean-spirited. It makes fun of people and is homophobic, misogynist, and laughs at childbirth. I laughed exactly once, but kept hoping it would improve, till I finally gave up at 20%. Definitely not for me.

The premise is delicious: Passionate blogger hates the royalty and regularly lampoons them in her blog. Prince is concerned that the popularity of royalty is massively slipping in the polls. So what better idea than to invite his worst critic to the palace to charm her into writing flattering pieces about him, in particular, and royalty, at large?

There's humor that works for me; most doesn't. What works? Act Like It by Lucy Parker. The Hampshire Hoyden by Michelle Martin. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Category: Children's Picture Poetry
Comments: Alexander wrote this poem in 2008 for his newly-born daughter so she could understand how an African American became president of the United States by showing her the facts of American history that are always overlooked. His poem addresses the accomplishments of black Americans. In his notes, he mentions the greats and the well-known, such as Jesse Owens, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, John Lewis, Trayvon Martin, Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, and so many others. He also talks about the Civil Rights Movement and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. His constant message is that "Black. Lives. Matter. Because we are Americans. Because we are human beings." He quotes Maya Angelou: "We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose."

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Category: Children's Picture Memoir Poetry
Comments: Herrera was a child of migrant workers from Latin America. When he was young, he helped his parents at their various jobs, but every time he settled in and made friends, he had to uproot his life and move on. Those early childhood lessons remained with him as he explores in this poem: Who might he be? Imagine... Herrera finally became an American and went on to become Poet Laureate of USA, and read aloud his poetry on the steps of the Library of Congress.

"If I gathered
many words and many more songs
with both of my hands
and let them fly
over my mesa
and turned them into a book
of poems,

Imagine what you could do"