Jilly: Good Book Squee – Beach Books

Good Beach BooksWhat do you think makes a great holiday read?

It’s June already – just over two weeks to the solstice – and most of my friends are gearing up for their summer vacations. Chez Jilly we’re using our travel budget to fund our trip to RWA National in New York, so there will be no sand-and-sangria break for us this year. It’s been a hectic first half of 2015 though, so I’m thinking maybe I’ll designate the week after RWA as a reading-for-pleasure staycation. Experience suggests that I’ll bring a big bag full of new books back with me, so I should have plenty of choice, but just in case they’re not sunshine-friendly, I’d like to stock up now with a few perfect beach books to pile up beside my virtual deck-chair.

I spent an hour this morning trying to pin down what I’m looking for. In the end, I decided it was easier to give examples. I’ll be reading purely for fun – whatever takes my fancy, regardless of genre, fiction or non-fiction, new story or old favorite. Call me shallow, but I’m not seeking to be challenged. I’d like page-turners. Escapism. Great settings – perhaps a beach, the sea, brilliant sunshine; maybe an exotic location or unfamiliar culture. I’d have the time to indulge in a grand adventure, so I’d be open to something on an epic scale with lashings of Sturm und Drang.

On the menu so far:

The Fever Tree – Jennifer McVeigh

Enthusiastically recommended by Justine, an epic love story set in 1880s colonial South Africa with a spoiled and newly impoverished heroine, a marriage of convenience to an idealistic doctor and a dashing, diamond-dealing rogue. Sounds perfect!

Blue Heron Series – Kristan Higgins

Recommended by Jeanne, and I know Kat’s also a Kristan Higgins fan. These contemporary romances are set around a fictional small town in wine country. We’re wine lovers at Chateau Jilly and over the years we’ve been lucky enough to meet quite a few American family winemakers. I’d love to read a fun, funny, sexy story or two about their fictional equivalents!

A Bollywood Affair – Sonali Dev

This has been on my must-read list for ages and there’s been so much buzz about it, maybe I’d better read it now, before it wins a RITA and I’m playing catch-up. Set in the US but with Indian characters and culture, an arranged marriage and a Bollywood hero. Nice.

Some Old-School Romance by Kathleen E Woodiwiss

I’ve never read The Flame and The Flower, Kathleen Woodiwiss’s legendary debut novel – the first historical romance to detail physical intimacy between the hero and heroine, the first full-length romance to be published in paperback rather than hardback. I feel I should have read this, and I’m prepared to make allowances for the non-consensual physical encounters that were the only way a romance heroine was allowed to have sex back in the 1970s.

The Far Pavilions – M. M. Kaye

1978 romantic epic about an English officer and an Indian princess, set during the British Raj and based on the author’s grandfather’s writings and her own childhood in India. The best-selling book was also made into a TV series and a musical.

Shogun – James Clavell

I’m thinking a Far Eastern blockbuster would be a nice contrast to my Indian and African literary adventures. The mega-best-selling Shogun is set in feudal Japan and is loosely based on the life of the English sailor William Adams. The inspiration for the story was said to be a sentence that James Clavell read in his daughter’s school text-book: “In 1600, an Englishman went to Japan and became a samurai.” Great story-starter! I haven’t read Shogun in years but I’m tempted to re-visit it – in fact, maybe all six of James Clavell’s Asian Saga novels.

Have you lined up your holiday reading yet? What kind of books do you go for? What’s on your list? Do you have any suggestions for me to add to mine?

15 thoughts on “Jilly: Good Book Squee – Beach Books

  1. I read the first 3 of the Blue Heron series recently and loved them. And everything by Kathleen Woodiwiss–at least everything that came out in the 70’s/80’s. Sounds like a great list!

  2. I love Kristan Higgins… and A Bollywood Affair (oh, don’t save that, definitely read it before New York – it’s such a sweet, lovely, story)… I have to admit that I prefer M M Kaye’s romantic detective series (Death in Kenya, Death in Zanzibar etc) to her epic novels.

    I’ve just read a new (to me) author I enjoyed: Sarra Manning. The first one I read, Unsticky, shouldn’t have worked at all for me (older man pays younger woman to be his mistress, 500 pages, didn’t sound at all promising) – I only read it because a friend (book blogger Cecile Rousseau, who has a romance book blog for french readers:http://inneedofprincecharming.com/2015/05/05/four-nights-with-a-duke/) strongly recommended it – and I loved it: great writing, great characters, unusual plot.

    Also, you might want to look at it Jilly, because it’s set in London, published for UK market, but, although it has some chick lit over tones, it is definitely a romance (a strange one, but nonetheless, it is a romance) not women’s fiction.

    • Okay, now I’m curious. I looked up Unsticky, and I don’t really like the sound of it. The reviews make it sound like somewhere between Shopaholic and 50 Shades. It’s all from the heroine’s POV and she doesn’t sound like my kind of girl at all (I struggle with ditzy Shopaholic and Bridget Jones types). That said, I’d take recommendations over reviews any day, and if you think it’s good I’m willing to give it a try and report back.

      In fact, I might give it a test-drive later 😉 . I’m currently in a grump because today is the second time I’ve written a 100-word short story to post on Janet Reid’s blog and been unable to upload it because she has a Blogger site and I keep failing the Openid validation. Clearly WordPress knows who I am, but can I get WordPress to tell Openid to tell Janet’s blog that I’m not a Spambot? Not so much. Argh.

      • I completely agree, Jilly. I will read a recommendation before I’ll go with the review. I’m going to try Unsticky. I just went through my box from last year’s RWA and read a couple that were awful.

        • Oh, good, Michille! I read Unsticky last night and I have many thoughts about it. I’d love to discuss it.

    • Hi Rachel—I’ll have to try M.M. Kaye’s detective series. I *loved* The Far Pavilions—I read it 30 years ago, and I still remember some of the scenes—but my library at the time didn’t carry any other M.M. Kaye titles, and I clearly gave up the search too soon. More to look forward to!

      • I haven’t read M.M. Kaye’s detective stories either – will definitely look those up – but I have a hankering for something epic. Do you think big books like The Far Pavilions are out of fashion today? I’d love to find some new equivalents, but I can’t think of anything except fantasy/futuristic/paranormal.

        • Stick with Unsticky (ha) and it will get you in the end (I wouldn’t have read it if Cecile hadn’t recommended it – and in fact, I laughed out loud when she told me, but she wouldn’t let it go). Heroine isn’t at all ditzy. The chick lit similarity is the fact that it’s only female POV but absolutely no similarity to 50 shades – but suspect this is because it does have sex in (no more explicit than most romances), rather than closed bedroom door common in UK chicklit.

          Interesting that I also can’t think of anything new and epic – totally out of fashion I think – I love the big M M Kaye’s but just be warned that she is fully capable of letting hero and heroine not see each other for a good hundred pages at a time when she meanders off to have a whole plot around the Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 (just for e.g.)… Tradewind is my favourite of her big books, but the hero (a pirate) basically rapes the heroine at one point (though I didn’t have a problem with it when I read it 20+ years ago), so might not pass modern sensibilities.

          I absolutely love the romantic detective ones, but then I first read them when I was a teenager and they’ve been a comfort read ever since (suspect they were the reason I thought I couldn’t write a romance without a dead body), so hope you’re not too disappointed by them (Kay too!).

        • Okay, you got me, Rachel (and vicarious thanks to Cecile). Unsticky it is. Going for it right now 🙂

      • I would definitely recommend M. M. Kaye’s detective series as well (if you can still find them. I loved them when I read them years ago and still go back and read them periodically. The settings captivated me as much as the stories. Although maybe not Death in Berlin; that one had an image in it that stuck with me over the years, and not in a good way

  3. So while maybe not beach books, you might check out Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 100 Greatest Novels Ever (came out in 2013…you can probably find it online). #1 is Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. #100 – The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

  4. I’m afraid it’s a working holiday for me. I found a list that came out in 1898 of the “100 greatest books” (-:. I’d like to work through a few of those, especially Clarissa, which I’ve heard so much about, but haven’t gotten around to reading. http://timescolumns.typepad.com/stothard/2013/10/not-the-hundred-best-novels.html

    Noted in the comments on that link:

    “Amelia B. Edwards was a successful novelist before she became a cofounder of the Egypt Exploration Fund (which funded the expeditions of William Flinders Petrie, among others) and an inspiration for the late Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody Emerson. See her bestselling nonfiction work _A Thousand Miles Up the Nile_ (1876).”

    Doesn’t that sound great? I want to read it! I bet Bunny would have read it. Also, if I get some spare time, I’d like to re-read the Amelia Peabody series, too. Spending the winter in Egypt sounds like a perfect summer read to me!

    • Love the sound of Amelia B. Edwards and A Thousand Miles Up the Nile – and (yay!) it’s for sale on Amazon. I wonder if this was the inspiration for Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible as well as Amelia Peabody?

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