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  • Maggie Boyd Maggie Boyd
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    Lavender – distrust. Read a book with a big misunderstanding. She Walks in Beauty _ Siri Mitchell

    At 17, motherless Clara Carter is looking forward to her last year before having to debut. Her beloved governess has indulged her desires to learn math, science, art and literature and is only now slowly introducing the social graces Clara will need when she is launched into society. When Franklin de Vries is called home early from Europe in mild disgrace from some shenanigans there, Clara’s quiet life is brought to an abrupt halt. Her aunt fires her governess and announces that instead of debuting next season, she is to debut this season. Clara receives a very hit or miss crash course on everything from marrow shovels (ick!) to the abominable corset. All of this because it is imperative that she land Franklin, who is heir to the de Vries fortune.

    But this will be no easy task. Not only is Clara socially awkward due to her complete lack of training in any of the societal graces, her best friend Lizzie is also being groomed for an early debut in the hopes that she will catch the de Vries heir. While the two girls pledge not to let a man come between them, it is clear their can be only one winner in this contest. Clara would love to simply let Lizzie have him but her aunt and father are quite determined the she not only snare his attention but get him to propose.

    To that end, her aunt forces her to wear a corset which narrows Clara’s 21 inch waist to 18 inches and to give up her friendship with Lizzie. Lizzie, being an enterprising gal, works around that but Clara, ever dutiful, finds no way around the torture device destroying her digestion. As the book progresses, the tight corset robs of her of sleep, of air, and eventually even of food since her shrunken stomach can’t digest anything heavier than soup.

    The author tries to present Clara as a smart girl but I never really bought into that. Beyond the fact that she can regurgitate the information she learned, I never see her apply her intellect to anything at all. Unlike Lizzie, who is forever coming up with schemes for how they can meet, Clara is a perfect pawn for her aunt and father, who plan to use her as a tool for their vengeance. It seems the de Vries family bank mismanaged their fortune during the crash and the father had to work as a doctor to rebuild his kingdom. Only Clara marrying the heir and securing the de Vries fortune will restore their honor, and no thought is given to how Clara herself feels about this.

    Ms. Mitchell’s work is always rich in historical detail and this novel is no exception. From lemon forks to at-home days, no detail of life in New York’s Gilded Age is left un-examined. While I thoroughly enjoyed this rich look at history, I felt that the author’s time would have been better spent in developing her characters and tightening her plot. I had a lot of questions regarding Clara’s father and their finances which went, in my mind, un-answered. I was also disappointed in how little ingenuity or gumption Clara showed. Smart people rarely make good stool pigeons and yet that was exactly what Clara was for most of the novel. Like Harry, the man she winds up falling for, there is a certain sweetness to her character and a general sort of morality but that’s really all she has going for her. For much of the book, she was such a patsy for others that I couldn’t see her as either independent or intelligent. The scene where she blindly agrees to spread a rumor at Lizzie’s behest was a good example of this to me. Towards the end,in literally the last 50 pages, she begins to develop into her own person but it was too little too late for me. Also, I struggled to believe it given the depths to which she had allowed herself to be controlled previously.

    If the hero and heroine were reduced to their sweetness (although Harry displays some cleverness) the villains really suffer from being reduced to caricature. The aunt and father are slightly nuanced but Franklin de Vries was reduced to an ambiguous womanizer. He couldn’t even put any effort into his seductions! Also, the horror of some of the things the aunt and father did seem quickly glossed over to me. I would have liked to explore that area a bit more.

    In the end, the book was good but not great. I wish the author had spent more time on her story and less time at her rage against the celebrity lifestyle and the things women do for beauty. In the end what i like most about this book was getting off my TBR.

    The Floral Challenge – seven down,ten to go.
    Cocktail Challenge – complete!
    Letter Q Challenge – complete!

    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 52

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay
    Saison for Love by Meg Benjamin:
    In the beginning of the story the h/h shared a one-night stand which the heroine then decided was a mistake. The heroine was a cheesemaker and owned a deli. She was five years older than the hero, but she was the only one who cared. The hero had planned to leave town for a new job. The heroine was dealing with her jerk ex-husband who’d suddenly decided their twelve-year-old, who he hadn’t seen in years, should live with him in another state. Although he’d irked me in the first book, I actually quite liked the hero in this story. After a disjointed start the book improved. The h/h made a good couple though the plot relied too much on a lack of communication between them as the sole conflict. There were a few other small plot quibbles, but overall an enjoyable read. The relationship between the hero and the heroine’s daughter was my favorite part.

    Made for Us by Samantha Chase: The book started as a fun workplace romance. Given the h/h’s backgrounds I expected plenty of angst. I understood why the hero’s five younger siblings and even his father viewed him as a “second parent,” but his overprotective attitude toward his sister was ridiculous. The hero often acted like a complete jerk and the heroine acted wishy-washy only to advance the plot. He ran hot and cold, treated her cruelly and then apologized, rinse and repeat. Then he pulled a stunt at the end the heroine thought was extremely romantic, but came across as more stalkery. Everything happened on the hero’s timetable, but despite lip service otherwise that seemed to suit the heroine. They both needed professional counseling. I wanted to like it and parts were engaging, but too often I wanted to throw the book against the wall. Overall a disappointing read.

    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay: 11 down, 6 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: completed!
    • The Cocktail Challenge: completed!
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    Sandlynn Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 24

    Continuing with the Genre Challenge:

    Read a Contemporary romance

    Since we can read up to two to three romances in a particular sub-genre, I took the opportunity to read a second contemporary, Lucy Parker’s Pretty Face, published in 2017. This is an e-book about 292 pages in length.

    AAR reviewed this book and described it here: https://allaboutromance.com/book-review/pretty-face-by-lucy-parker/ giving it an A. I enjoyed the book as well, but I think I’d give it an A-.

    This story obviously has many positive qualities including the fact that the author has a talent for taking characters who are suppose to be well-known celebrities and artists and making them very down to earth. No stilted sit-com dialogue here, the prose just flows. Also, even though I know almost nothing about the life of the theater, the author does a good job of presenting that world in some detail. Parker also manages to include the lead couple from her debut novel, Act Like It, without it seeming forced.

    The reason I took a few points off was because of the epilogue. I thought it was both a little too long and unnecessary. It shows the couple — months later — I assume, enjoying a vacation together where one important loose end to the story is wrapped up. This loose end could’ve been handled within the story itself and much more quickly. Instead we get an extra chapter of rambling conversation that just peters on. I thought it took away from the punch of the ending.

    *****

    The Cocktail Challenge – 10 down – complete

    Alphabet Challenge – 10 down (A, B, C, G, H, J, K, M, P, & Q) – complete
    
Genre Challenge – 3 down, 7 to go

    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 3 days ago by Sandlynn  .
    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 52

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay
    Love Walks In by Samantha Chase:
    The hero owned multiple resorts. He felt guilt over his mother’s death years earlier and as a result he avoided impulsive decisions and craved routine and structure. The h/h had a meet cute when she crawled through his office window. She ended up working for him after the eccentric wine distributor he was dealing with insisted she be their point person. The hero was upset with the change of plans and angry with the heroine. Though his attitude didn’t last it cropped up again later. The character reactions and plot weren’t as extreme as in the first book, though the hero and his siblings all really should have had professional grief counseling years before. I enjoyed the middle of the book. But then most of the hero’s issues were suddenly magically resolved (mainly off page) in a manner which was dismissive to people who actually have OCD. The final big problem for the h/h and its resolution were clichéd. It felt both heavily telegraphed yet tacked on. So the last third or so of the book was a disappointment.

    Always My Girl by Samantha Chase: In the previous two books the hero had been a jerk to the heroine which continued through much of this book. They’d been bffs since childhood. She’d made a lot of changes in her life partially in an effort to move on, but also to get the hero to notice her. Everyone in his family has been aware of her feelings for years though he was oblivious. The hero was a player, but his change in attitude on that score was believable. When one of his fellow retired racing buddies drugged the heroine’s drink on a date no one even considered going to the ER or police which was strange (her cop brother was justifiably upset when he found out the next day and legal action taken). The hero was a drama king who often overreacted, but he was eventually called out for his behavior. There were parts I enjoyed, but overall the author did too good a job portraying the hero as an inconsiderate jerk.

    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay: 13 down, 4 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: completed!
    • The Cocktail Challenge: completed!
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    Library addict library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 52

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay
    Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis:
    The heroine was a YA author who hoped a change of scenery would help with her writer’s block. She had a meet-cute with the hero when the dog he was walking knocked her into a fountain. The hero had been quite secretive in the previous books, but felt an instant connection to the heroine. They fell for one another very quickly then thought the other only wanted the temporary fling they’d agreed upon. We learned a surprising secret about one of the secondary characters. The heroine’s level of success as an author with only a single trilogy published seemed odd. She needed to set boundaries for her mother and younger brothers as they took advantage of her financially and emotionally. The quirkiness factor often crossed the line into overly cutesy. I had some other plot quibbles, particularly with the way the h/h each overreacted to things multiple times. It was fun to catch up with the other characters. Light on conflict but nevertheless an enjoyable read.

    Whiskey River Rescue by Justine Davis: The heroine ran a horse rescue center and was surprised to arrive at the home she was renting to see it being bulldozed. She stormed over to confront the person responsible. Of course all was not as it seemed. The hero was the town recluse. He was keeping several secrets but they were very easy to guess. The romance was slow to start, but well-balanced with the other subplots. I liked the heroine but she was entirely too selfless and perfect most of the time. It irked me that she solved a major problem the hero was having though I understood why the author made that choice (trying not to be spoilery). In the end everything was tied too neatly in a bow. Despite multiple issues overall I enjoyed the story.

    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: completed!
    • The Cocktail Challenge: completed!
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    Library addict library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 52

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay
    This is Our Song by Samantha Chase:
    The hero had been having a crisis of confidence for several books. The heroine was very judgmental and tended to jump to conclusions, then apologize; rinse and repeat. The hero’s record label basically blackmailed him into giving an interview to the magazine where the heroine worked. Her boss threatened to fire her if she didn’t do it. The hero arranged for them to spend time with his family in an effort to curb their instant attraction. The heroine made an unfounded accusation to the hero and then was upset when he got angry. Yet he was the one who had to apologize. They each acted childishly. The name dropping of real musicians, actors, etc was supposed to provide a sense of realism, but instead kept throwing me out of the story. It didn’t help that the hero was a drama llama or that everyone instantly adored the heroine and couldn’t say enough wonderful things about her. The reason for their breakup toward the end seemed ridiculous and then they each pouted for months. There were several other plot issues. There were a few parts I liked but mostly a very disappointing read.

    The Wedding Trap by Adrienne Bell: The heroine was maid of honor at her bff’s wedding. The wedding party and guests were staying at an old hotel for the weekend. Her overbearing mother wanted her to reunite with her ex who happened to be the groom’s brother. So she’d made up an imaginary boyfriend. She “blackmailed” the hero into helping her thinking it would take five minutes of his time. But the hero was at the hotel to catch a rogue CIA agent. Posing as the heroine’s boyfriend provided the perfect cover. He found the heroine to be enchanting and quirky. The book started off as a zany comedy then morphed into a romantic suspense. There were a few moments when the characters acted against their better judgment solely for plot purposes. But overall a breezy and fun read with a charming romance.

    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: completed!
    • The Cocktail Challenge: completed!
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay: completed!
    Library addict library addict
    Participant
    Post count: 52

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Repeat Replay
    A Sky Full of Stars by Samantha Chase:
    The astrophysicist hero met the artist heroine when his mentor suggested hiring his niece as an assistant for an upcoming project. For as much as the hero resented being judged solely on his academic accomplishments and social awkwardness he was quick to jump to conclusions and judge others himself. Numerous conversations came off as clunky infodumps. There was a major continuity error between this book and the previous book in the series. The family had all been overly friendly (often oddly so) from the instant they met the previous books’ heroines, so to have them be rude to this heroine only for plot purposes was out of character even with the explanations given. I enjoyed parts, but the lack of communication and manufactured conflicts—combined with the hero not groveling enough for his actions—made for a disappointing read overall.

    Whiskey River Runaway by Justine Davis: The hero discovered the heroine hiding in an abandoned house he’d been hired to rehab. She’d been on the run for the past four years and was shocked when he offered her a temporary job. I had issues with some of the heroine’s actions though I also had sympathy for her predicament. There was a touch of small town equals perfect, big city equals bad. The mother of the heroine from book one appeared and was still too perfect. The heroine lamented that the hero would never love her as he had his deceased wife, but she was the only one worried. I appreciated that while the hero had definitely loved his wife he never put their relationship on a pedestal and was ready to move on. The resolution to the heroine’s dilemma was OTT. Despite a few plot quibbles I enjoyed the romance. I liked the heroine, but it was the hero who made the book.

    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 15 down, 2 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Repeat Replay: 2 down, 15 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: completed!
    • The Cocktail Challenge: completed!
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay: completed!
    Sandlynn Sandlynn
    Participant
    Post count: 24

    Continuing with the Genre Challenge:

    Read an historical romance

    For this part of the challenge, I read Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal, published in 2017. This was actually my romance book group’s choice, so it dovetailed nicely with this challenge.

    Having never read Tessa Dare, I didn’t know what to expect. For one, I didn’t expect it to be as funny as it was – actually to the point of being absurd at times. And, I noted that the comments that followed AAR’s review of the book were sprinkled with readers remarking that it seemed more modern than historical. Perhaps that’s why I liked it more than they did since my preferred subgenre is contemporary romance.

    Anyway, the story is set after Waterloo. The Duke — our hero, Ash or Ashbury — was badly injured and scarred during his military service and, upon his return to England, he finds that his fiancé cannot abide his appearance and will not go through with the match, despite his extreme wealth. Ash, however, wants an heir so that he can keep his lands and duties out of the hands of unworthy relatives. Because he believes himself too ugly to attract anyone and his temper too ill, Ash ends up proposing a marriage of convenience to a young dressmaker who has come to him requesting payment for the elaborate wedding dress she was making for his former fiancé. The dressmaker, our heroine Emma, is not without her own history. Emma is the daughter of a country vicar. Having been found in a compromising situation, she was tossed out of her home and had been making her own way for six years, trying to earn enough money to open her own shop. (This situation puzzled me a bit. You’d think it would be the dress shop owner demanding payment for the dress, not Emma the employee.) In any event, Emma ends up accepting Ash’s proposal, seeing it as a way to gain money more quickly and to help a friend who is facing her own compromising situation. The deal – from which our title comes – is that Ash and Emma will “work” to get her pregnant, then Emma will be given her own estate to raise the boy which will be Ash’s heir. Unfortunately, for both Ash and Emma, though, Emma is not physically repulsed by Ash and begins to wish for a more loving relationship with him and Ash cannot keep himself from desiring Emma for more than just sex.

    The side characters in this story are plentiful and many are amusing – including a cat. You can see the possibility of future stories in not only Emma’s group of friends, including the young lady who was in trouble, but in one of Ash’s relationships, with a young man who befriends him. I agree that the story was sometimes a bit too screwball and the thoughts and reactions might be considered modern. At times, that did leave me shaking my head, but I enjoy sarcasm so much that I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the thoughts and reactions both Emma and Ash had – especially Ash. For that reason, I’d give it a B+.

    *****

    The Cocktail Challenge – 10 down – complete

    Alphabet Challenge – 10 down (A, B, C, G, H, J, K, M, P, & Q) – complete
    Genre Challenge – 4 down, 6 to go

    Library addict library addict
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    Post count: 52

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Repeat Replay
    Fighting Kat by PJ Schnyder:
    This full-length story featured the same h/h as the introductory novella. It provided a different take on shapeshifting, with the heroine having been forcibly infected with a virus that allowed her to shift into a panther. The hero was part of a special forces team. When his unit was taken captive the h/h went undercover to mount a rescue. However, not everyone in his chain of command wanted to see them succeed. The dog made a nice addition to the supporting cast of characters. A few plot quibbles, but overall an entertaining read. Bummed to see that the series hasn’t continued as though this was a complete story the book left several loose ends in the overarching plot. Plus I would simply love to read more about the h/h as well as her captain.

    Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – novellas
    Star Cruise: Songbird by Veronica Scott:
    This was part of the Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 anthology and I loved the hero’s “pet” bird. The heroine was a mega singing star traveling on the luxury cruise ship where the hero was temporarily working as part of the security team. She was near the end of her ten year contract and her greedy manager wanted her to re-sign. The romance worked much better for me than the suspense-light plot which started strong, but felt very anti-climactic in the end. Nonetheless an entertaining read.

    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Novellas: 16 down, 1 to go…
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Repeat Replay: 3 down, 14 to go…
    • The 20th Century Challenge: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler): completed!
    • The Breakfast Cereal Challenge: completed!
    • The Cocktail Challenge: completed!
    • Seventeen Magazine(s)! Challenge: completed!
    • The Alphabet Challenge Variation: completed!
    • Simply Seventeen Challenge (The Whittler) – Replay: completed!
    Maggie Boyd Maggie Boyd
    Participant
    Post count: 50

    Larkspur – beautiful spirit. Read a novel with a ghost or spirits or where the h/h can talk to spirits (medium) A Spirited Seduction by Casey Claybourne

    I have a really hard time grading Casey Claybourne books. On the one hand, she makes it clear they are farces. From ghostly madames who give seduction advice to Regency virgins to mother in laws who haunt their son in laws, her books are humorous and often so light they virtually float. That said, some standards should still be adhered to and this is where the author really struggles.

    In this novel, Sabrina and her two young brothers are about to lose their home. Heaven sends Nell, a former prostitute and current ghost, to teach her how to seduce a man in order to keep Simmons House. When Richard Kerry, Viscount Colbridge, first meets Sabrina she is sopping wet, having recently jumped into the Severn river in order to avoid being decapitated by a tree limb. Her wet dress does interesting things for her figure but it is the fact that she can quote classical literature at him that truly intrigues him. Richard holds a low opinion of women but this lady may prove the exception to the rule.

    Or maybe not. Once Sabrina follows Nell’s guidance she turns into an made-up clumsy flirt who at once intrigues and irritates Richard. He loves the glimpses of the real Sabrina he sees but the near trollop who seems determined to seduce him irks him to no end. Slowly, the two play a game of one-up-manship and revelation, until who they really are comes to light.

    This author has wonderful clear, concise prose but her plotting, characterization and setting leave a lot to be desired. She rides roughshod over the manners, history and customs of the Regency era and then adds insult to injury by plopping her characters into ridiculous situations. She compounds the problem by having them behave in a willy-nilly fashion without ever giving justification for that behavior. It was all a bit too much for me, so I wound up finding the book readable but not particularly enjoyable.

    The Floral Challenge – eight down,nine to go.
    Cocktail Challenge – complete!
    Letter Q Challenge – complete!

    • This reply was modified 1 week ago by Maggie Boyd  Maggie Boyd.
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