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  • Sandlynn
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    Post count: 84

    Returning to the Phonics Challenge:

    E for education — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero is involved with education, e.g. teacher, principal, school counselor, etc.

     
    For this challenge prompt, I decided to read Julia Whelan’s My Oxford Year, published in 2018.

    What’s interesting about this book is that it’s based on a screenplay, which was inspired by Erich Segal’s Love Story which was also based on a screenplay. Furthermore, the author is an actress who had a role in the TV show, Once and Again, as a teen. Since then, she’s been both writing and acting, including deciding to adapt a screenplay into a novel that has some basis in her own life as an American who studied at Oxford as well as someone who had to deal with illness and loss.

    That being said, don’t necessarily judge this book by its inspiration.

    The first half of My Oxford Year was actually a fun and charming read about twenty-four year old American, Eleanor Durran, who wins a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. Back in the States, she’s involved in politics and education policy. She had successfully managed a few local campaigns and is being courted to work with a female Senator who is running for president, allegedly for her education policy chops, but more so for her political advising skills. Eleanor or Ella decides to put that all on semi-hold to study 19th century poetry at Oxford. Upon arrival, she almost immediately, *literally* runs into a handsome, twenty-nine year old Brit named Jamie Davenport. Even though very attractive, his semi-sober state and careless attitude towards slamming into her in a fish and chips shop, causing all kinds of condiments to end up all over her, puts a sour taste in Ella’s mouth. However, later, she learns that Jamie Davenport will actually be the instructor for one of her classes, causing her to rethink her initial impression of him as a brainless, high class prat.

    As Ella begins to make friends with her colorful college mates, she learns that her academic work does not impress Jamie. Not used to such judgments about her work, Ella confronts Jamie and before long, this leads to different sparks and a discreet affair. Just as Ella starts to question the depths of her feelings and how hard it will be to say goodbye and return to her political work in the States, Jamie abruptly puts the breaks on their relationship. But why?! Ella and her bruised heart stews over this question, until she finally learns the answer. It seems Jamie has been hiding something about his health — one that will challenge their relationship and Ella’s plans for her future.

    As I mentioned above, My Oxford Year starts out as one thing — a charming, humorous, and literate — each chapter begins with a stanza of poetry — look at an unexpected love affair. But, in the second half, it takes a decidedly emotional and serious turn. Frankly, I didn’t know what hit me and I got a little mad, which I suppose is just how our heroine, Ella, felt. From that point on, the story is about family, about choices, and about love and loss. I must admit to shedding tears at a number of points after that and I honestly didn’t know up until the last pages how this would end. I won’t give it away but I will say I am glad I read the book. I also have to say that the author did a wonderful job of describing life at Oxford, and creating supporting characters with both depth and color. I found myself growing attached to many of them just as Ella does. I’d give this book an “A” for content and a “K” for Kleenex.

    ******


    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 11 down, 8 to go (A, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, S …)
    
The Phonics Challenge – 3 down, 16 to go

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 4 days ago by   Sandlynn.
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise
    S = Southern Comfort by Carla Neggers:
    The heroine was a cook book author. The hero had moved to Nashville with plans to buy back the newspaper his ancestor had started. He was convinced the heroine was a con artist out to bilk his aunt. His aunt couldn’t afford the upkeep on the rundown house she’d inherited. She hadn’t lived there in decades but refused to sell it. The hero’s inane plan was to dress up as the ghost of his great-great-grandfather and frighten the heroine into leaving. He started as such a creep I wished the heroine had brained him with a frying pan. The book should have benefitted from his POV, but even after meeting the heroine and realizing he may have jumped to an unfair conclusion about her he continued to act like an arrogant jerk. How she was supposedly conning his aunt by renting her house was never explained. Thankfully the hero admitted he’d made a world-class blunder and apologized so the last two-thirds improved though the plot was rather a hodgepodge. Some fun moments, but overall an uneven read.

    The 20th Century Challenge
    1985 = Apple of My Eye by Carla Neggers (published February 1985):
    The heroine was a newbie literary agent who’d been given the ethically dubious task of tracking down a reluctant author. For this she needed to be hired at an orchard near the small town where the author’s royalty checks were sent (her boss knew his real name, but refused to tell her). When the man she assumed was the foreman was surly at her interview she jotted off a snarky letter to the orchard owner, not realizing he was the one who’d interviewed her. Of course, he also turned out to be the author. I absolutely adored the heroine. Despite the fact they started out trading good-natured insults, their romance was charming. The subterfuge on both their parts was tempered by the myriad of conflicting motivations they each had and that they each wanted their relationship to succeed. The entire story was infused with a sense of joy. Such a fun read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 4 down, 15 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 15 down, 4 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 14 down, 5 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 3 down, 16 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 16 down, 3 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 7 down, 12 to go…
    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise
    I = Interior Designs by Carla Neggers:
    The hero owned a literary agency in NYC. The heroine was from the small town in Kansas where he’d grown up. His mother arranged for it to appear that he’d hired her to redesign his offices. The heroine went by a fake name so he wouldn’t know as she wanted to keep the job based on her talent. She was unaware the hero had easily recognized her. The had-to-lie plot was frustrating as it dragged out for too long. The fact she continually told herself there was no way he could have recognized her made the heroine appear foolish. The hero could be overbearing, but he was never mean. The humor helped. He played along and actually stopped her from confessing a few times. So it was easy to give in and embrace the ridiculousness of the plot. It also helped that it was acknowledged on page by the characters. I enjoyed seeing the couple from the previous book. An entertaining read.

    The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas
    Badari Warrior’s Baby by Veronica Scott:
    This novella centered around the main couple from the second book in this series. The pregnant heroine was kidnapped by disgruntled members of the settlement who threatened to trade her baby to the horrible alien bad guys. The main kidnapper had been an annoyance in earlier books so his actions weren’t out of the blue, though the heroine and others were surprised he’d go so far. A subplot involved rooting out the others involved. The main focus was on the group effort to rescue the heroine. Despite the stressful situation, it was nice to have some of the earlier characters play an active part in the story. I enjoyed the secondary couple and hope we get to see more of their developing romance in future books. I appreciated that the heroine stayed true to her character and was never a damsel in distress. I wished the resolution to the suspense plot had been carried out by someone other than the hero. The last few chapters focused on the birth of the baby (not a spoiler, it’s the title!). Some uneven parts, but overall an enjoyable read.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 4 down, 15 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 15 down, 4 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 14 down, 5 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 4 down, 15 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 16 down, 3 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 8 down, 11 to go…
    Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 84

    Returning to the Alphabet Variations Challenge:

    Letter “B”

    For this letter, I decided to explore my new found appreciation for Sarina Bowen’s work by reading Brooklynaire, published in 2018.

    This book is part of Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series about a professional hockey team based in … Brooklyn. However, even though it wasn’t the first book written for the series, you could certainly start with it without missing much. This story involves the billionaire tech genius Nathan “Nate” Kattenberger, who owns the team, and Rebecca “Becca” Rowley, his once faithful assistant who was transferred out of his corporate office in Manhattan to manage the office of his hockey team in Brooklyn. While Rebecca is puzzled and somewhat hurt by the transfer, she lives in Brooklyn, loves the hockey team, and enjoys her new responsibilities. What Becca doesn’t know is that part of the reason Nate has traded down-to-earth Becca to Brooklyn for Lauren, who is a sleek, polished blonde who had been working in the hockey offices, is that 1) Lauren had a relationship with the Bruisers’ goalie that went sour and 2) Nate has had a thing for Becca for many years and isn’t sure about her feelings, but is definitely sure she would be disinclined to date her boss. For the first quarter or so of the book, Nate and Becca dance around their feelings not admitting them to each other. But, after an accident on the ice that leaves Becca with a concussion and an ill-advised tipsy evening some time later, Nate and Becca have a night together that changes everything. Can Nate finally get Becca to date him, and can Becca put her insecurities about her education, looks, and lack of cash aside to accept the attentions of a handsome billionaire with a big brain.

    This story is told in alternate chapters from Nate and Becca’s points of view. It also moves back in time to give us a little history on the couple’s early work relationship, during Nate’s company’s rise, as well as on their individual lives that made them who they are. For that reason, this book has a bit more depth than I expected. It also has a wonderful sense of humor. The characters are written as funny, smart, ambitious people with understandable hang-ups as well as concerns. I did not find either of their reasons for not being together, initially, to be farfetched. I also appreciated all the supporting characters – some of whom have their own books or soon will. I especially enjoyed Heidi Jo, Becca’s bubbly intern, and the almost human Bingley, the computer generated guardian of Nate’s home. What pushed this book from a solid “A” to an “A-“ were some overly dramatic developments towards the end of the story that ultimately came to nothing and were unnecessary. Everything but the kitchen sink seemed to be thrown at the couple, I guess to prove their commitment. I also thought that Nate’s solution to Becca’s concerns about working for her significant other was farfetched too, but this is something of a fairytale romance, so I went with it. Still, this is definitely a good read and I look forward to reading others from the series.

    ******


    The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 12 down, 7 to go (A, B, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, S …)
    The Phonics Challenge – 3 down, 16 to go

    library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 214

    And The Award Goes To… Challenge
    Unforgiven (1992) — Read a romance set in Wyoming or Kansas
    Wyoming Cowboy Ranger by Nicole Helm – set in Wyoming:
    The h/h had been secret sweethearts in high school. He’d taken off to join the Army without telling her. They’d avoided one other after he came back to town, but that changed when he realized she was the target of someone out to get him. I’d liked this heroine since the start of the series and she was the best part of the book (even with her negative thoughts at the start regarding her siblings’ marriages since the feud stuff has been deconstructed in every book. Plus the hero thought the same things.) Too many scenes from the villain’s POV. The hero had been a jerk to break his promises to her when they were younger, but that was understandable to an extent. But he did something “for her own protection” which crossed way over the line and never apologized. The heroine did most of the emotional labor which was frustrating. The book improved in the latter half. Despite my issues with the hero I liked their romance due to the heroine. Still an uneven read overall.

    The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge
    T for transfigure — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero has the ability to shift into an animal.
    Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh – hero is a wolf changeling:
    We’re back to the familiar California setting in the latest Psy-Changeling Trinity book. I adored the heroine. She was an empath, but with a different skillset. I liked the hero who was one of the SnowDancer lieutenants, but he’s not a favorite when compared to the rest of the sprawling cast of characters. The focus was very much on them and their romance, but it was also fun to see so many of the favorite characters from the first story arc turn up. One of the newer characters had some POV scenes. I haven’t liked him since he was introduced. Don’t want to give spoilers but I am very much hoping the author is not setting him up to be a future hero. As with many of the previous book I enjoyed the h/h’s various friendships as much as the romance. Another solid entry in this series and now the long wait begins again for the next installment.

    • The 20th Century Challenge: 4 down, 15 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: 15 down, 4 to go…
    • The 19 in 19 Phonics Challenge: 15 down, 4 to go…
    • The Nonchalant Nineteen Challenge (The Whittler) — novellas: 4 down, 15 to go…
    • And The Award Goes To… Challenge: 17 down, 2 to go…
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation Reprise: 8 down, 11 to go…
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