Monday, January 31, 2022

January Reading Notes

Today is the last day of the first month of the year, and it feels like just yesterday, I was writing my New Year's Day post. This month has simply vanished. There was a lot of busyness involved every single day and some days felt like they were a week long; yet, the month has gone by with an unnoticed rapidity. I moved yet again, and there was a lot of packing and unpacking involved. There are less than ten (feels like a victory) packed boxes to go through and then I will be done. I hope there are no more moves in the forseeable future.

The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews
Category: Victorian Romance
Comments: I highly recommend this book. It is one of the best historical romances I have read in a long time. At twenty-three, Evelyn Maltravers has just arrived in London from the Sussex countryside for her first season. Evelyn is determined to snag a wealthy aristocratic husband to pave the way for the successful futures of her younger sisters. Her passions are horses and fashion, and she intends to harness both in her bid to cut a dash in London society. Ahmad Malik is a dressmaker, currently working out of a gentleman’s tailoring shop making bespoke riding habits for the ladies of the demimonde. He dreams of opening his own ladies’ dress shop, designing unique gowns to fit each lady’s body and personality. Evelyn and Ahmad meet when she arrives at his shop to commission a riding habit. [My Review]

The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: This is a haunting meditation on the psychological perils of success. It is a romance novel by two coauthors who married for love, who’re now writing a romance about coauthors who fall in love while they’re writing a love story. New Yorkers Katrina Freeling and Nathan Van Huysen have history. They used to be very successful co-authors who had a falling out. But now, they're back together to write one final book on their publishing contract, and they realize that they are not only phenomenal co-authors but even more phenomenal life partners. [My Review]

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: A lovely story that does Jewish, neurodiverse, and fat rep well. It also sensitively handles managing depression through meds and therapy. Ari Abrams is a TV meteorologist. Russell Barringer is a TV sports journalist and a teen parent of a now preteen. The two bond over matchmaking for their bosses because their verbal warfare is causing stress in the workplace for everyone. While I liked Solomon's debut Ex Talk more, this is a wonderful story.

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: I loved Heron's first book, Accidentally Engaged, last year, and I loved this book. I enjoy her voice and her storytelling style. Set in the same cosmopolitan Toronto setting as her first book and Uzma Jallluddin's and Jackie Lau's books, this is a childhood friends to lovers story. Kamila Hussain is a staid accountant by day and a vivacious party planner by night. And clueless that sharp-dressing Rohan Nasser is in love with her. They have history. He is the CEO in her and his fathers' company, and her father trusts him while indulges her, i.e., doesn't take her seriously. She wants to be respected. And Rohan shows her how to get what she wants.

Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: This was an unusual book for me, and I loved it for that. Set in San Diego and dealing with the unique and complex San Diegan Latinx culture, this deals with one character being fully embedded in the culture, and another coming to terms with his roots, after being on the outside for long. The unusual part of the book for me was the deep immersion in the culture. In the Latinx books I have read before, the authors have sparingly included cultural details. This book does a deep dive—without the culture, there is no story. I loved that! And the stakes for the hero are very high, his very identity. In his youth, Ramón Montez’s father stole a recipe for a taco from a señorita and built a nationwide chain. Ramón lives a luxurious lifestyle. The recipe was Julieta Campos' mamá's, and they are barely ekeing out a living. Julieta wants to continue to run her highly successful, small tacqueria, but Ramón wants to convert it into his flagship chain restaurant.

Lease on Love by Falon Ballard
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: This is a roommates-to-lovers, opposites-attract debut rom-com. I enjoyed Ballard's wit and writing, and I am looking forward to her next book. Sadie Green works in stodgy finance but dreams of opening a highly creative florist business. One day, sharp words later, she's out on her ear. After confusing a roommate-finding app with a dating app, she ends up with a room in a beautiful Brooklyn brownstone at an unbelievably low rent. Jack Thomas is very wealthy and very alone. He is shy and she is larger-than-life. She's like a whirlwind in his life and gets him out of his shell and painting again. He, in turn, makes her feel worthy and valued and respected.

Reputation by Lex Croucher
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: This was a difficult book. The publicity for the book is falsely advertising that it is Bridgerton-esque or like Jane Austen. Yes, it is set in the Regency, but any and all connections to Julia Quinn’s and Jane Austen’s work or other current histrom are non-existent. There is a love interest, but it is not a romance; it is more women’s fiction with a romantic subplot. This is not the usual rom-com as the publicity would lead you to believe. While there is some witty banter and some LOL moments, I feel British sense of humor is rather different from American. The story is rather dark with drug and alcohol abuse, death, emotionally abusive families, rape, sexual assault, slut-shaming, toxic friendships, racism, and violence. While none of these in the singular or plural is cause for my disfavor, all of it together is too much to balance with the love sub-plot. As far as the writing goes, it is well written, astute, and assured and does not read like a debut book. And I loved the diverse cast of characters in terms of race, gender, and sexuality. Yes, the book is popular on GoodReads, but it was not for me.

Caroline's Waterloo by Betty Neels
Category: Vintage Contemporary Romance
Comments: There was a period of a few months in 2020 when I read many Betty Neels and Mary Burchells. This was my first Neels since then, I think, other than one exception. It came across highly recommended by @NYSuri from our Saturday Twitter Book Club. It is classic Neels with a middle class British nurse heroine and a very wealthy Dutch doctor (surgeon?). This book is set in The Netherlands. Caroline does not think anyone would ever want to marry her since she isn't pretty or especially clever. She gets injured in a biking accident and ends up staying at the mansion of the aloof, arrogant Professor Radinck Thoe van Erckelens for a few days. Out of the blue, he proposes to her, telling her that he needs a hostess. He is not looking to fall in love. He has A Past(!) and so wants to settle for comfort this time around. She has fallen in love with him so accepts his proposal and agrees to not impose on him in any way. But, in her heart of hearts, she is scheming for his love. There is one dramatic scene towards the end that is quintessential Neels, and our heroine brings the hero to heel...imposingly and arrogantly.


Keira Soleore said...

Test Message!

Barb in Maryland said...

Hi Keira

Well, now you know that someone is reading your reviews--even if I'm a little behind times.
I had lost track of your blog and finally(!!) found it again.
You are not the first of my reading friends to recommend the Mimi Matthews book--looks like I'll have to give it a try. I've had mixed luck with the others of hers that I've read--but I'm always willing to give her another chance.
Caroline's Waterloo is always a treat to re-read, even if it's not my favorite from Betty. (Today that would be The Promise of Happiness, tomorrow it might be Mistletoe Kiss...)

Keira Soleore said...

So lovely to hear from you, Barb. And I am so glad you're reading my reviews. Sometimes, you feel like you're shouting into the void. :)

I haven't read all of Mimi Matthews' books, but whatever I have read, I have liked. This was a cut above the rest IMO. Historicals have a growing tendency to be boring--grinding the same old, same old path. This was refreshingly different.

Betty Neels is always a treat. Thank you for two recs by Neels for me to read. Our book club is reading Mary Burchell later this month. Are you a Burchell fan?

Barb in Maryland said...


Mary Burchel is one of those authors who I enjoy when I stumble across one of her books, but I don't actively seek out her titles.
However, I can heartily recommend her memoir--Safe Passage (aka We Followed Our Stars) written under her real name (Ida Cook).

Keira Soleore said...

Ooh! Thank you for the title of her memoir. I would love to read what she and her sister did during the war. Such inspiring women!!