This week I’m wishing desperately to be at BEA, but since I can’t manage that, I’m immersing myself in some great reads. You too?
Over the past month, I was lucky enough to get my hands (and ears) on a few new releases from some favorite authors.
If you’ve had the chance to read any of these, I’d love to know what you think! (Or share what else you’re reading and would recommend.)
Julia Quinn’s two most recent releases—last year’s Because of Miss Bridgerton and this week’s The Girl With The Make-Believe Husband (which received a starred review)—stepped back a generation from the core Bridgeton books, and I’ve really enjoyed them both.
TGwtM-BH was especially interesting, since it’s set in the colonies during the Revolutionary War and has a “While You Were Sleeping” vibe to it. There was so much to love about this book! JQ is such an excellent and charming author that, even if there are details that don’t quite work for me, I’ve yet to read a JQ title that I didn’t truly enjoy.
When Cecilia Harcourt’s father dies and she gets word that her brother Thomas is injured in the colonial war, she crosses the Atlantic to nurse her brother back to health. However, the British army seems to have misplaced her brother, so she nurses his best friend, handsome Edward Rokesby, who’s in a coma, instead. In order to do that, she passes herself off as his wife. Under her care, he comes to, though with three months of memory missing, so he takes her word for it that they’re married—they’ve become friends through letters, which are interspersed throughout the narrative—and together, they attempt to get more information about what happened to her brother. However, Rokesby’s memory comes back, and he feels betrayed when she doesn’t tell him the truth.
Okay, so here’s one of those hard truths about critiquing a novel vs. writing a novel. There were a few too many points in the book where I felt like telling Cecilia, “Okay, now’s the time to tell him.” And she didn’t. She should have, and she didn’t. It’s a tough thing this kind of book, because there were these moments when I really felt like the character Cecilia would have told him. JQ did a great job of explaining her point of view and expressing Cecilia’s guilt, fear, and confusion around her choices, which made it better, but still not great. However, I also know that if Cecilia had not made those choices in those moments, then it would have hindered the powerful progression of the plot. So in a sense (in my opinion), JQ was painted into a corner, plot vs. authenticity of character.
Me? I’m good with it. I think she wrote it well enough to make it mostly believable, and I think if Cecilia had told Edward too early, then the rest of the book would have lacked emotional tension in places it needed it, like solving Thomas’ mystery and standing up to some inexcusably rude and obstructionist officers, etc. In the end, experiencing the full arc of the book made those few questionable details practically negligible, and understandable. Especially given the new and complicated ground she’s moved into with this storyline. So overall, my pure admiration for and major enjoyment of everything Julia Quinn writes remains intact, and I don’t hesitate to recommend this title. ;o) (A note of thanks to Harper Audio for the copy.)
Speaking of authors I love, have you discovered Amy E. Reichert yet? This month she released her third book, The Simplicity of Cider, and I’m happy to say it is another terrific read.
From the description: “Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard.”
That’s a perfect short synopsis. The novel is charming, and I did fall in love. The main characters—single dad Isaac and Door County orchard co-owner Sanna Lund—feel an immediate attraction when Isaac and his son Sebastian decide to stay and help work the land for the summer. There is pressure to sell the orchard to a developer, plus someone seems to have a grudge against the Lunds. There’s a lot going on in the book, all of which is interesting and challenging, and the characters are very human, and we can see some of the train wrecks coming. (I think we’re supposed to.)
But this is what I loved about this book:
I loved how Reichert solved some of the major conflicts with ingenuity and heart. I loved how the characters made some crazy mistakes, but that they owned them and didn’t expect the people around them to readily forgive them, but when the time came for forgiveness, it was available and earned. I loved the amazing apple tree that was the heart and soul of the orchard. I loved the book’s hint of magic and the slight softening of the characters’ attitudes as they began to look for solutions and help from each other. And, of course, the book has a strong food theme, which Reichert is celebrated for. (Oh. I have to mention the fact that the books are set in Wisconsin, especially #1 and #3. I swear the tourism board should hand out her titles as advertisements!) ;o) (A note of thanks to Tantor media for the audio copy of The Simplicity of Cider.)
If you haven’t read Amy Reichert yet, I highly recommend you check her out.
Finally, I don’t think there’s an author I’ve heard more buzz about over the past couple of years than Santino Hassell, so I was very grateful to get a copy* of Fast Connection, the Rita-nominated title he co-wrote with Megan Erickson (and the second title in their Cyberlove series).
After a decade in the Army, Dominic is trying to navigate his new civilian life and, with help from Grindr, is exploring his attraction to men. When he hooks up with Luke, the chemistry is immediate—both in bed and through texts. Luke has a steadfast “one time only” rule. But he can’t resist Dominic, and the two embark on a blazing sexual affair that creeps into emotional connection, despite Luke’s best efforts and intentions.
Luke has a family and a business that he’s determined to focus on, and he has tried very hard to compartmentalize his sexual encounters, since a past experience stemming from his bisexuality caused great harm. While he does not want to be in a relationship, he is nevertheless drawn to the younger Dominic. They share a sense of humor, bisexuality, past military service, and that electric spark that takes them both by surprise. So Luke lets him in. A little.
Only to have it kind of blow up in his face. Sort of.
The world does not come to an end. Dominic forces Luke to look himself in the mirror. And his ex-wife, who is still a very close friend, reminds him that he has a right to pursue happiness.
And then….well, that’s the good stuff—where Luke and Dominic have to navigate their own feelings, their families’ feelings (this includes Luke’s son and Dominic’s daughter, who are at the least best friends, but possibly more, though they deny it), what they want for themselves and for each other, and decide what’s worth fighting for.
A truly entertaining and emotionally satisfying book—congrats on a well-deserved Rita nom! I highly recommend this book, too, and look forward to reading more from Hassell/Erickson as well as Hassell alone. (*A note of thanks to Audible for the copy.)
So what about all of you? Again, what are you reading/loving/devouring? Would love to know!