Comfort Reads – TBR Challenge 2017

My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway

March’s prompt for the TBR challenge is “comfort read”, which is defined as a book that uses a favourite trope or setting, or is by a favourite author.  I’ve chosen something from my TBR that everyone seems to have read except me – Connie Brockway’s My Dearest Enemy, which combines two of my favourite things, an enemies-to-lovers romance and a story in which letters play an important part (I do love an epistolary novel!).  It’s a gloriously romantic, character-driven story set at the end of the 19th century, in which our hero – a famous explorer – and heroine – an advocate of women’s suffrage – butt heads over the home they both love, sniping and pushing each other’s buttons as the attraction between them deepens.

Avery Thorne finds himself all but disinherited upon the death of his uncle Horatio, who, believing Avery to be a […]

TBR Challenge 2017: New-to-Me Authors

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

The combination of cheap and “sounds intriguing” has lured me into buying many a book. And since I’m fairly dangerous in used bookstores, I have a massive TBR pile. So, when prompted to pick out a book by a new-to-me author, my dilemma was something along the lines of which new-to-me author to liberate from the stack. I’ve heard good things about Jennifer Donnelly’s books over the years.  I wasn’t quite in the mood to tackle a giant doorstopper of a book this month, so I skipped over The Tea Rose and picked up her 2003 young adult novel, A Northern Light, instead.

From the cover blurb, I was uncertain whether to expect YA romance or historical fiction. I think this haunting coming-of-age novel is more properly classified as historical fiction and while I did find it hard reading at times, I loved the story. Set […]

By | February 15th, 2017|Categories: Caz AAR, Lynn AAR, Romance reading, TBR Challenge|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Nov TBR Challenge

countessshshameless When I started reading romance, I stuck almost entirely to historicals and romantic suspense. When I saw this month’s TBR Challenge prompt, I knew I had no shortage of historical reading in my closet o’TBR. I decided to go with a new-to-me author and picked up Liana LeFey’s 2012 debut, Countess So Shameless. This Georgian historical, set in France and England during the reign of George II, has enough intelligence and unique characterization to keep me reading but also enough eyeroll-inducing plot twists to make it difficult for me to recommend.

The novel opens at Versailles where the teenaged Melisande Compton has come to court with her French mother and English father. We learn very quickly that this isn’t entirely a pleasure visit and while in France, Melisande learns a dangerous and devastating family secret. Overcome with emotion, she runs headlong into Lord Alessandro Orsini, a rakish diplomat for the Papal States. Though warned early and often by her mother of […]

TBR Challenge – Wild Card!

tuliptreeThis month’s TBR Challenge is a wild card.  When told to go whereever my mood takes me, I find myself overwhelmed with choice since I have quite a sizable TBR pile these days. For this month’s read, I decided to dive into a box of old Coventry romances from the 1970s that I picked up at a library book sale. These books are trads, mostly of the Regency variety, but the line did publish a few from other time periods as well.  My pick, a 1979 release called The Tulip Tree by Mary Ann Gibbs, was one of these and is a Victorian romance set during the 1840s.

As with many of the older romances I’ve read, the heroine in this one is rather young. Allegra Lakesby is 18, and upon her father’s death, she learns that not only do she and her mother need to vacate Lakesby in order to allow her cousin to claim it as his inheritance, but […]

By | September 21st, 2016|Categories: Caz AAR, Lynn AAR, TBR Challenge|Tags: , , |2 Comments

TBR Challenge 2016 – Kickin’ It Old School

tangled August’s TBR Challenge prompt is “Kickin’ it old-school” and it’s a prompt I always enjoy as it gives me the opportunity to pick something from the TBR Pile of Doom, which still looms large next to the bed. I went for Tangled by Mary Balogh, a standalone title originally published in 1991 which features a somewhat unusual premise; one I haven’t read before although I’m sure this isn’t the only book to have made use of it. I see that the book has engendered very mixed reactions over the years, and although I can understand why, I enjoyed it, principally because Mary Balogh is so skilled at portraying the emotional lives of her characters in a way that makes them feel very real to the reader.

The book opens as Lady Rebecca Cardwell is saying a fond farewell to her husband, Julian, before he departs with his regiment for Malta, and then the Crimea. He is accompanied by his foster brother, David, Viscount Tavistock, whom she dislikes and blames for Julian’s joining the army. Julian is eagerly reassuring his anxious wife that he will be in no danger, and it’s clear that he is keen to be on his way and sees the whole thing as an adventure. […]

July TBR Challenge post – RITA season

burningskyThe 2016 RITA awards were announced last week, and now it’s time to get a little nostalgic for this month’s TBR Challenge. In years past, I’ve gone all the way back to the first awards handed out in 1982 to read my pick. However, this time around, I went with something much more recent – The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas, nominee for a 2014 RITA in the paranormal romance category. Though it didn’t win that year, this book is a wonderful read.

Most readers probably recognize Thomas as an author of superb historicals.  This novel, set in an alternate world that intersects somewhat with 1880s England, marks her first foray into YA. I enjoyed the characters and the world created for them, and this book would definitely go on my DIK shelf.

Our heroine, Iolanthe Seabourne, is of a type that anyone who reads a lot of paranormal (YA or adult) will recognize.  She is that special snowflake deemed the most talented of her generation. Of course, she doesn’t initially have a clue about her stupendous powers; they never do. It’s rather like those awkward historical heroines who are drop dead gorgeous but can’t understand why men fall all over themselves to catch a glimpse.

Even if she comes from a familiar subset of heroines, I liked Iolanthe. I liked her hero, Prince Titus, too. The story opens in a mysterious, magical land referred to as the Domain. Iolanthe lives in the Domain with her guardian, and she knows that she is an elemental mage. However, she has no idea just how gifted she is. An incident that occurs when she is conjuring a simple lighting of the path for an acquaintance’s wedding brings Iolanthe to the attention of Atlantis, the dictatorial tyrants who have dominated and oppressed the Domain for generations. […]

By | July 20th, 2016|Categories: Caz AAR, Lynn AAR, TBR Challenge|Tags: , , |7 Comments

TBR Challenge 2016 – Pick a Trope, Any Trope

ladyslesson There are few tropes I actively dislike, but I’m a sucker for a good marriage of convenience story. I love the idea of two people who don’t or who hardly know each other being put into a situation of enforced proximity and intimacy and watching them as they come to know and understand each other and to fall in love. It’s a trope that works especially well in historicals, and my enduring love for it is no doubt partly attributable to the fact that the first historical romance I remember reading is Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me which makes excellent use of the compromised-into-marriage plotline. […]

TBR Challenge – Expect the Unexpected

leviswill I’m a fairly eclectic reader (just check my Goodreads account for proof of that), so when confronted with a theme calling on me to pick out something completely different, I found myself at a bit of a loss. I decided to go with the “outside my comfort zone” side of things, and I picked up Levi’s Will by W. Dale Cramer. I read plenty of inspirationals, but I have often been candid about Amish books just not being my thing. I only had this 2005 novel in the TBR because a couple bloggers I respect had praised it to the skies. Having read it, I now see why.

The book opens on an Amish farm in the 1940s as 19 year old Will Mullett flees his father’s home together with his younger brother Tobe. The two eventually find their way south from Ohio, where they end up taking on various manual labor jobs to support themselves. Early on, we learn that Will has fled not only the Amish religion and way of life, but also an impending marriage. The young woman he was courting is now pregnant and Will is expected to marry her. Knowing this makes Will a more morally ambiguous and complicated hero than we normally find in inspirational fiction, watching him grow and grapple with larger questions of faith, morality, and identity makes this book a real standout.
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By | May 18th, 2016|Categories: Caz AAR, Lynn AAR, Reading|Tags: , , , |7 Comments

TBR Challenge: Modern Love

bestworst It’s always a bit of a scramble for me to find a contemporary romance for this prompt, because I don’t read them very often and don’t own many. And I like to choose my challenge books from books I already have, as buying something new rather defeats the object of the exercise! Fortunately, I found Sarah Mayberry’s Her Best Worst Mistake among my Kindle books; I know she’s a popular and highly-rated author, so that was it, job done and choice made.

The story is pretty much a classic enemies-to-lovers one, which is a trope I enjoy when it’s done well – and that’s certainly the case here. But even in a relatively small page count (170 pages), the author has done more than simply write a couple that gripes, snipes and then falls into bed with each other; she’s fleshed out both protagonists in such a way that it’s easy to see why these two people who, at first glance, are completely and utterly wrong for each other are actually so perfect together.

Violet Sutcliffe really can’t understand what her best friend Elizabeth sees in Martin St. Clair, the man to whom she’s been engaged for a number of years and is on the verge of marrying. In Violet’s opinion, Martin is old before his time; a stuffy stick-in-the-mud, he’s leeched the life out of Elizabeth, who seems intent on becoming the perfect corporate wife. Violet supposes Martin must make her friend happy on some level, but even after six years, isn’t able to tamp down the strong reactions he evokes in her or curtail her persistent need to provoke him. She tries, for Elizabeth’s sake… but rarely succeeds. Violet is a free spirit, a “wild-child” type who often says and does outrageous things as well as dressing, in Martin’s opinion, like a cheap tart. He’s as antipathetic towards her as she is to him, but plays nice for Elizabeth’s sake, knowing that Violet is like a sister to her.

But with six weeks to go before the wedding, Elizabeth makes a discovery that changes the course of her life. She calls everything off, breaks up with Martin and flies out to Australia in order to find the father she never knew – leaving Violet inwardly cheering at her decision to take charge of her life. But even though Violet has never liked Martin, she can’t help feeling sorry that he was dumped so summarily and maybe feels just a bit guilty for the fact that she’s happy about it; so for reasons she doesn’t really understand, she turns up at his office some weeks later with a peace offering – a bottle of the peach schnapps she’s remembered he particularly likes – wanting to make sure he’s okay. […]

TBR Challenge – You've Just Got to Read This!

matchmaker As a September 2015 release, The Matchmaker’s Match has obviously not lingered long in my TBR pile. However, I thought it would be a perfect choice for this month’s TBR challenge. While I was in New York for RWA, I had a chance to meet Emily Rodmell, editor for the various Love Inspired lines at Harlequin. While we discussed inspirationals and the things that tend to be popular in that market, she recommended this book to me. She described it as a book that isn’t necessarily trendy, but one that a wide variety of folks at Harlequin had really enjoyed.

That piqued my interest, so I bought the book and then, as is often the case, it sat in my TBR as I found myself with more books than time. Having now read it, I can say I’m glad I fished it out. And to Emily Rodmell – thanks for the recommendation!

The Matchmaker’s Match is an engaging story and just enough different from the average Regency to linger in my mind. The heroine, Lady Amelia Baxley, craves independence. Not in the “I’m never going to marry, but just toss my curls and be rebellious forever!” sense, but more in the sense of deciding she would rather carve out her own little corner in the world than move in with relatives and live a life dependent upon others as many conventional spinsters would. Amelia had a chance at the Marriage Mart and would have taken a good match, but having received no offers, must come up with a Plan B.

The problem? Her Plan B pretty much gives her sister-in-law the vapors and scandalizes her brother. Amelia lives on her own in a home provided by her brother, and she supplements her small income with a discreet matchmaking business whereby she chaperones young debutantes and assists them in finding suitable matches. Somehow word has filtered back to Brother Dearest, and he is threatening to force her to move into his home. […]