I think I’ve mentioned a few times that I rarely have time to read books that I don’t review, and so I depend on audio to (try to) keep up with authors I love and other titles I’ve heard about.
A few weeks ago a fan from the Read-A-Romance site recommended The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata. (I mentioned I was starting this book last week.)
If you haven’t met this title yet, I highly recommend it.
Vanessa Mazur knows she's doing the right thing. She shouldn't feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans, and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary. But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she's beyond shocked. For two years, the man known as the Wall of Winnipeg couldn't find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He's asking for the unthinkable. What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?
A few thoughts, though.
I was a little stunned to discover that the audio was 16 hours, which translates to 673 pages according to Amazon.
I never once felt like the story dragged, which is testament to good writing, great pacing and compelling storytelling. The author took a long while to get to the romance—a very long while—and while I enjoyed it, I can see that some readers might get a little frustrated if they’re looking for a quicker read or a more traditional trajectory.
There’s a little Two Weeks’ Notice vibe, a little Green Card or The Proposal. Both the main characters are damaged and intriguing, and while Zapata takes a long time to find resolution, I never found myself bored by the journey and had a hard time putting it down.
The romance is definitely a slow burn. Vanessa admits to a crush on the enigmatic football player, and the moment when he doesn’t defend her—which leads her to quit—delivers a big emotional punch and plays into her own insecurities built up from a backstory that includes a mother who expects her to “be nice” to an older sister who has routinely abused her.
Aiden’s story isn’t quite as fleshed out, but we get enough to know some of his damage. And to see him move from a character who communicates almost completely in monosyllables to someone who can wax eloquent (though still not long-form) on his feelings for the girl he can’t live without is surprisingly affecting and heart-warming.
Secondary characters contribute additional emotional depth and help round out the main characters in ways that show who they are, even when they try to deny it.
And since Vanessa grew up in my hometown of El Paso, TX—a city you don’t often see in books—I felt an extra little tug of appreciation.
The book garnered some awards, including being a #1 Overall Amazon Best Seller, a 2016 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Romance, and being included in Amazon's list of Best Books of 2016 for Romance. The narrator (for Tantor) was Callie Dalton, and she did an excellent job.
It released on March 1, 2016 - so exactly one year ago this week.
I really enjoyed it, and I hope you do too!
Also in my queue: I took a little trip down memory lane with Lord Peter Wimsey—still one of my all-time favorite book boyfriends—and reread Gaudy Night, a Lord Peter/Harriet Vane title. Since I went on about Inspector Ganache and Maisie Dobbs last week, I feel obliged to celebrate Peter Wimsey today. Written in the mid-thirties, it’s a title that still makes me smile. If you haven’t discovered Lord Peter and Harriet Vane, you might want to pick one up. Strong Poison is the title where they meet, when Peter must save the mystery writer from the hangman’s noose after she is charged with her lover’s murder. (It looks like Harper rereleased a number of Peter Wimsey titles a few years ago.)
Finally I was so pleased to get an audio copy of Sherry Thomas’ A Study in Scarlet Women from my library’s Overdrive selection. More on that next week, but if you haven’t read it yet, another high recommendation. (Anything by Sherry Thomas is an excellent read, but this title, a fascinating and novel twist on the Sherlock Holmes canon, is a new direction for her.)
What are you reading this week? What great books have you discovered recently?