It’s a real challenge to combine being a writer and a news-junkie these days, and it’s especially difficult to carve out time for pleasure reading. However, as we’ve all heard time and again, reading and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly (though fortunately not as sticky), so making the time to read is a priority.
Anyway, after attending a book signing a few weeks ago and adding a few more volumes to the TBR pile, I was motivated to get reading before the pile turned into an avalanche. Fortunately, the current cold, rainy, cuddle-up-with-a-blanket-on-the-couch weather has been perfect for reading. Cupcakes and napping too, but mostly reading.
So, here’s what I’ve read lately:
A “just released” book
Courtesy of the aforementioned book signing, I picked up a copy of Kristan Higgins’ latest book On Second Thought. It’s women’s fiction, rather than straight romance, but there are definitely romantic relationships and happily-ever-afters. The book is about two sisters, Ainsley and Kate, each dealing with an unexpected life change (no spoilers, so I won’t be any more specific than that). There’s a hot fire-fighter an aging grandma, a cranky boss, some siblings, some friends, and a few walk-ons by characters from the previous book set in the same town, If You Only Knew.
As seems to be a feature of Higgins’ books, the story is about community as much as it is about the main characters. At 470 pages it went on a little longer than I might have liked, and the cast included some minor characters/sub-plots that I wouldn’t have missed if they’d been edited out, but it is definitely going on the keeper shelf. I liked the way the relationships developed, how believable the story felt (with a few minor exceptions), and that it didn’t feel predictable.
After I finished On Second Thought, I dug around in the TBR pile and found I had the first two books from Higgins’ Blue Heron series just waiting to be read: The Best Man and The Perfect Match. The books feature the Blue Heron Winery and the Holland family that has owned it for generations. The Best Man is about younger daughter Faith Holland’s return to town after having been jilted at the altar and The Perfect Match is Honor Holland’s story. Honor, Faith’s older sister is dealing with a ticking biological clock and the rejection by her life-long crush.
Both books are big on community and family. There is beautiful scenery and humor, along with a few rather embarrassing situations. There are also prologues, epilogues, and flashbacks – all things we have been taught to avoid like the plague. The popularity of the series would indicate that those rules, like many others, were meant to be broken. Maybe. I liked Faith and Levi from The Best Man, but I never really warmed up to Honor and Tom in The Perfect Match. I’m not completely convinced about their happily-ever-after and felt Tom ran a little hot, then cold. The books were each over 400 pages and I’m afraid my attention wandered a bit from time to time. I enjoyed the stories, but not quite enough to continue on with the series or to add these to the keeper shelf. If you like stories with a slow build I’d say give them a try, but if you want a quicker pace, then these may not be the books for you.
After several contemporary stories I was in the mood for a little Regency romance. Fortunately, Four Weddings and a Sixpence, an anthology by Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Stefanie Sloan was next-up in the TBR pile. The anthology opened and closed with stories by Quinn and I wish her sections had been longer. Her heroine Beatrice Heywood was fun and intelligent and someone I would like to know and she found her match in an equally intelligent and interesting hero.
I had never read anything by the other three authors before. Their short stories were okay but they each featured sex scenes that felt out of place in the stories / time period. It was especially jarring in Sloane’s Something New, where the hero and heroine went from never having kissed to sex-up-against-the-wall (before the proposal) at the end of the story. The three stories felt like contemporaries playing dress-up in Regency clothing, which was unfortunate because the “lucky sixpence” theme of the book had real potential.
The latest book in a series
The most recent book I read was A Likely Story, a cozy-mystery by Jenn McKinlay (book 6 in her “Library Lover’s” mystery series). I had wandered away from the series a few books ago because the main character was doing things in pursuit of solving-the-mystery that just seemed foolish, but I was in the mood for a quick, light-hearted read, and I did kind of wonder how the long relationship arc in the series was progressing, so I decided to give it a try. At 261 pages, the story was definitely a quick read. It was also fast paced and fun. I especially liked that the main character worried about getting in trouble with the Chief of Police for interfering in the investigation. The long relationship arc was not resolved in this book, but there were clear indications about the direction it was heading (fingers crossed I’m right on that). I may have to see if the next book in the series is out, just to be sure.
Next up for me is Jodi Taylor’s Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s), which has been recommended to me, several times.
What have you been reading (or trying to read) recently? Any recommendations to add to my overflowing queue (or suggestions to skip)?