Book of the Week: Never Judge a Lady by her Cover

This week’s BotW is Sarah MacLean’s latest historical romance – which has been sitting on the pike since soon after its release waiting for an opportune moment. And after four night shifts I needed a treat.

Never Judge a Lady by her Cover is the final book in MacLean’s Rule of Scoundrel’s series – and tells the story of Georgiana, who MacLean fans first encountered back in her previous series. Since then she’s been leading a double life – disgraced daughter of a duke (complete with illegitimate daughter) by day and something else entirely by night. She is Chase, the powerful figure behind a legendary gaming hell.  But will she get her happy ending?*

Never Judge a Lady

Another appalling photo. I blame the Huddl2. And the fact that I had 5 minutes before I had to leave for the train. Poor planning from Verity

 

As you can see I have the American edition (and mine is signed!) despite my embarrassment at bodice-rippery covers (though this is a better cover than many) because I’ve been reading MacLean’s books since before you could get them over here – and we all know I’ve got a thing about matching sets! Also the UK covers are wet and nowhere near as good as the ones other US romance writers get here.

Anyway, when the Big Reveal about Chase took place at the end of the previous book, those who didn’t manage to get accidentally spoilt (unlike me – I found out from the flabbergasted good reads reviewsª) were astounded. It really set the expectations for this book sky high and I’ll admit to being a little concerned that it wouldn’t live up to that – which is perhaps why it has been on to to read pile for a month or two.° But Never Judge a Lady is a brilliant end to what’s been a fabulous series.

The heroine is feisty, smart and independent, the hero is powerful, with a dubious past and missing some key information. Their romance is good (oh lord, the swimming pool scene), the peril is seemingly insurmountable and the dialogue is witty and sparky. Plus we also get plenty of our previous Heroes and Heroines taking pleasure in meddling as they themselves were meddled with. In short, everything you want in a good romance. Perfect post-night shift reading.

You can get your copy of Never Judge a Lady by her Cover from Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones or on Kindle.  If you click on any of those, you’ll find out why I don’t like the UK covers – my US edition came from Word in Brooklyn who are Sarah MacLean’s local store and were offering signed copies at the time.  Also if you haven’t read the rest of the series, I suggest you start at the beginning with A Rogue by Any Other Name and enjoy the Scoundrels in the order you were meant to.  Oh and may be Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart.

* Hint: this is historical romance. Of course she will.

ª I’ve only revealed it here because it’s on the blurb on the back of the book, and if you haven’t read the rest of the series, you won’t mind, and if you’ve only read one or two of them you’ll be wondering why it’s Georgiana’s book not Chases, because the series was clearly going to be a book for each of the Fallen Angel’s owners…

° Also I can’t take a book with a cover like this on the train or into work without risking raised eyebrows and scornful looks.

The Week In Books: February 16 – February 22

And this ladies and gentlemen is what a week of nightshifts – with train journeys and meal breaks where all you can do is read – will do for you.   Yes it’s lightweight reading, but I really enjoyed it – and it was just what I needed.

Read:

The Sleeping Salesman Enquiry by Anne Purser

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

Not Quite Darcy by Terri Meeker

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen

A French Pirouette by Jennifer Bohnet

A Sinful Deception by Isabella Bradford

The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean

The Truth about Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries

Return to Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Started:

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders

Still reading:

n/a

I bought 5 books in the early hours of Wednesday.  Oops.

Book of the Week: Her Brilliant Career

This week’s BotW is a non-fiction book which has been on my to-read list since it was reviewed in hardback in the Sunday Times in October 2013 – and has been on the actual pile since soon after its paperback release in back in May.  Which, to be honest, tells you all you need to know about the to-read pile…

But Rachel Cooke’s book – which is subtitled “Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties” – shouldn’t have languished on the pile for so long.  It is really good.  A series of essays about fascinating women that I’d never heard of, but who had lead fascinating and trailblazing lives.  They’re not all tremendously likeable – Alison Smithson and her jumpsuit must have been very difficult to live with – but they all tried at least to live lives on their own terms, despite the constraints of the period.

image

Not the greatest photo I know, but I'm on nights - give me a break!

The ten women worked in different fields and had differing degrees of success, but they all did something.  They challenge the idea that after the war women went back to the home until the sixties came along and shook everything up.  As I said when I reviewed Viv Albertine’s autobiography, I can live my life the way that I do because of trailblazing women in the past who were prepared to put themselves out there and stand up and be counted in a way that I know that I would be afraid to do.

Rose Heilbron was my favourite of the women – the first female barrister, the first woman to lead a murder trial – and part of the group that changed rules about rape so that the complainant could remain anonymous and not have to answer questions about their sexual history.  The pictures of her show that she also looked impossibly glamorous in her wig and gown.  Attagirl.

But all the women’s lives are interesting – if not always happy.  Nancy Spain, Joan Werner Laurie and Sheila Van Damme’s ménage sounds completely fraught.  But it is gripping reading.  You can get Her Brilliant Career from Amazon, Foyles and Waterstones and you can even listen on Audible. Don’t leave it as long as I did to get around to it.

The Week In Books: February 9 – February 15

There is a little bit of a theme to this week’s reading.  I picked up a copy of the second Harper Connelly book at a charity shop on Thursday, read it pretty much straight away – and then went straight on to books three and four which were waiting on the pile (and had been for sometime).  I’m on nights this week coming, so expect the reading matter to be lightweight and non challenging.  I’ll be avoiding anything that’s potentially a weepy too!

Read:

Macdeath by Cindy Brown

Her Brilliant Career by Rachel Cooke

The Amazing Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith

Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris

Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris

Started:

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean

Still reading:

n/a

While writing this, The Boy has been reading some of this post over my shoulder, and I’ve had to own up to a book purchase that I hadn’t mentioned to him(the Charlaine Harris).  So I probably ought to mention that I bought two other books at the same time… But that was it for purchases this week.  And I’ve read a non-fiction book this week – and a library book, so that’s working on my New Year’s resolutions. I’m not sure he’ll see it that way if he reads this!

 

Book of the Week: Three Amazing Things About You

This was so nearly last week’s book of the week – except that it didn’t get finished in time – and I can’t write a BotW post on something that isn’t over – after all it could all have gone terribly wrong in the last 100 pages.  But it didn’t and it was still the best thing I read last week, even if I did finish it first thing on Monday (!) so here were are.

Book

Such a pretty cover. I do love blue

Jill Mansell’s latest book tells the story of Hallie, Flo and Tasha.  At the start of the book we learn that Hallie has Cystic Fibrosis and is on the way to London for a possible transplant that could save her life.  Hallie runs a website where she answers people’s problems – like an agony aunt (but in a good way) – and her correspondents tell her three things about them before they tell her their dilemma.  As she travels to the hospital, she’s writing her three things –  an explanation – revealing her identity and her situation, in case she doesn’t make it.  Then we jump back to find out how we got to here…

The three stories intertwine in a way that I don’t really want to explain, except to say that it really works.  I loved all the characters in this book.  It made me laugh and it made me cry* and I think it may be my favourite of Jill Mansell’s books that I’ve read.  It’s definitely an evolution from her novels that I’ve read – and its a really good evolution.  I know I haven’t written a lot here – but I don’t want to give too much away.  But if you like smart, funny books with a heart, then this may well be for you.

Three Amazing Things About You is out now in hardback and ebook.  You can pick up a copy at all the usual place – and the supermarkets too – or if you can’t wait here are some links – Foyles, Waterstones, Kindle or my shop in My Independent Bookshop (which send money to my local indie)

* Luckily I have learnt from the Rabbit Hayes experience, and I did my crying on the sofa at home, not on the train!

The Week In Books: February 2 – February 8

Quite a busy week of reading in the end – some of it very good, some of it less so.  But then that’s the joy of reading.  You never know what you’re going to get and whether you’re going to like it!

Read:

Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

No Known Grave by Maureen Jennings

Criminal Confections by Collette London

The Restoration of Otto Laird by Nigel Packer

Where’s my Hero by Lisa Kleypas, Kinley MacGregor and Julia Quinn

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Started:

Paper or Plastic by Vivi Barnes

The Amazing Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith

Her Brilliant Career by Rachel Cooke

Still reading:

n/a

One book bought – from the charity shop!

Book of the Week: The Ship

So.  I have joined a book group*.  Or rather I have been allowed to join a book group (thanks Curtis Brown!) and this week’s BotW is our book group read from January.

Antonia Honeywell’s first novel, The Ship, tells the story of a future where the world has descended into chaos – the food has run out, natural resources are exhausted, where people routinely disappear without trace, and you can only continue to exist if your identity card remains valid – forcing you to jump through hoops to keep it up to date.  Lalla has grown up sheltered and protected by her father – who has been assembling a new life for them as her mother shows her around the British Museum.  But when the new life – on board a former cruise ship where her father has had picked all the other residents – gets underway, Lalla grows uneasy – about her future and their destination.

Antonia Honeywell's The Ship

Isn’t the cover gorgeous? I would definitely pick it up in a shop

Now I’m not usually a big reader of dystopian future novels.  I studied The Handmaid’s Tale at A-level – and read Brave New World, Children of Men and 1984 alongside that – but it’s not an area of fiction that I tend to pick up.  But I really, really enjoyed this.  It’s taut and full of suspense and keeps the reader guessing all the way through.  It leads the reader with questions – and it provoked a lot of debate at the (online) book group.

I don’t really want to say too much else about the book – because it’ll spoil it for you, but it’s definitely worth a read.  It paints a very believable picture of a possible future – but it’s one that I sincerely hope never comes to pass.  There are interesting characters – with flaws and secrets for the reader to uncover.  One of the blurbs describes it as Hunger Games meets Handmaid’s Tale – and I think I could get on board with that as a broad summary of what is a really interesting and complex book.

It has a beautiful cover – but I know that if I’d picked this up in the bookshop and brought it home it would have spent a long time sitting on the shelf waiting to be read – as I’m terrible for picking “light” fiction over books I perceive as harder work.  But the book group deadline meant I read this – and I really enjoyed it.  So clearly externally imposed deadlines will work on me – in a way that targets I set myself don’t!

Anyway, The Ship is out in Hardback on February 19th – preorder it on Kindle, from Amazon, Foyles and Waterstones.

*If you’re thinking that it’s odd that I’m not already in a book group, I work a job that has a 24/7 rota pattern making being able to be free on a specific night hard to guaranteed, and I live 80 miles away from where I work, which means I have a long commute – and friends split between home and work.  It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare…