This week’s BotW is Jill Shalvis’s Once in a Lifetime which was the last book in that omnibus of her Lucky Harbor series that I mentioned in a Recommendsday post when it was on Kindle sale last month. It was a very busy and challenging week at work for me last week what with the fall out from the London Bridge attacks and the General Election here in the UK and this was perfect escapist reading for me.
This is the UK cover for the individual ebook which is… ok. Not as pretty as I’d like
Aubrey is Lucky Harbor’s resident bad girl – or at least the town thinks that she is. She got into trouble at school, she was a mean girl and a beauty queen – and she recently slept with her boss. But now she’s trying to make things right and turn her life into what she wants it to be. Ben is back in his hometown after leaving to escape his grief over the death of his wife. He’s not looking to risk his heart again, but there’s something about Aubrey that draws him to her, even though everyone keeps telling him that she is Trouble.
Once in a Lifetime is the ninth book in the Lucky Harbor series and it has been building towards Aubrey and Ben’s story for the previous two books. You’ll get more out of this if you’ve read those two books – because you’ll have more insight into Aubrey and Ben’s pasts and you’ll see the love stories of Aubrey and Ben’s closest friends, but it still works as a standalone book too. Aubrey is not a traditional romance heroine – she’s not sweet and goody goody and you learn through the book exactly how mean she can be. But she’s working to be better and to make amends and her family backstory explains a lot of her behaviours and makes a character who you don’t initially like that much into one that you’re really rooting for.
Ben is a more usual sort of romance hero – except for the fact that he is a widower. Shalvis does a really good job of negotiating the fact that he has been in love before and had a happy marriage whilst still working towards a happy ending with Aubrey. It’s a difficult tightrope to tread – particularly at times because he is discovering things about his wife that he didn’t know – but Shalvis manages to create a lovely relationship between Ben and Aubrey without running down or ruining the one that he had before.
I’m not a massive reader of contemporary romance as you all know, but small town contemporaries really do scratch an itch sometimes. They seem like a logical extension of my love of Sweet Valley High and the Babysitters’ Club books when I was growing up. To me the towns often feel a lot like a larger (and American) version of the villages that I grew up in – where everyone knows you and your business – but populated by small businesses, often quirky, and attractive people. Who wouldn’t want to live in that sort of world? Well except for everyone knowing you and your business and your history, which I know from personal experience can get on your wick after a while, but hey it’s a romance book and it’s fun to read about!
Anyway, as I mentioned, my copy of Once in a Lifetime was in an omnibus (the third of the Lucky Harbor omnibuses to be precise). That’s unfortunately not on sale anymore and is back up to £4.99 on Kindle but that’s still a better deal than buying it individually for £3.99. Both of those are probably better value than buying the actual books – which I think are quite expensive considering how long they take to read – but that is often the case with American romance novels. However the first three Lucky Harbour books are £3.99 at the moment, if you want to dip your toe into the water (so to speak) – I know I’m very tempted…
Normal service is nearly resumed here after last week’s nights, although I’m still having to resist the urge for an afternoon doze. Anyway this week’s BotW is Julia Quinn’s Because of Miss Bridgerton, which is the first in her new Rokesby series.
Pretty in lilac – and definitely not set in the Regency!
Billie Bridgerton is the tomboyish daughter of Viscount Bridgerton, who spends her days riding the estate and doing the work of her father’s estate manager. The Rokesbys are the neighbouring family and she’s always expected that she’ll end up marrying one of their sons, but definitely not George. Definitely not. She can’t stand him and he can’t stand her. Except suddenly, when they’re thrown together, they don’t hate each other any more. But what do you do when you start getting feelings for some one you’ve always hated – especially if you’re fairly sure they don’t feel the same way about you.
I do love an enemies to lovers romance, and although Billie and George are not quite enemies, it definitely has elements of that, along with best friend’s brother and a bit of a ugly duckling into a swan situation with Billie who definitely doesn’t want to be involved in the Season or the London world at all. It’s fun and flirty and is such a joy to read.
Julia Quinn was my gateway drug into the world of historical romances – she was the first modern author I can across who was doing the same sort of thing (if with a bit more sex in it!) that Georgette Heyer was and I worked my way through her back catalogue at speed. Her best know series are the Bridgerton books – and that makes this especially good – because it’s going back to the previous generation of that family. And there are tit-bits here for people who have read those previous books about Anthony and his siblings – it fills in some gaps in Bridgerton family history and there are some definite nods to the characters that we’ll meet later on in Billie.
This has been out over a year – but I didn’t manage to find a copy in the shops when it first came out (and I’m not meant to be buying books) so it took until I found a copy at the library last week for me to get around to it. The next book in the series – The Girl with the Make Believe Husband – is out today. This one features one of George’s brothers and is nicely set up in Because of Miss Bridgerton. I doubt if I’ll be able to wait a year before I read it having enjoyed this one so much.
You should be able to get hold of a cop of Because of Miss Bridgerton from all the usual sources – I’m going to leave you my traditional links to the Big Green Bookshop and to the Kindle and Kobo editions.
Yeesh. This week has gone downhill. I had something else planned for this post this week, but hey, it can wait, all the horrible stuff coming out of Manchester means that I feel squicky posting it. So I’m here to say, basically, look after yourself. Be nice to people and look after yourselves. I’m doing my little bit of self-care by reading nothing but stories where I know I’m going to get a Happy Ending. So that’s romance. I can’t cope with murders at the moment – so my cozy crime reading list has gone out of the window. Here’s a few that are on my list in case you feel like doing the same.
My train book on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was Julia Quinn’s Because of Miss Bridgerton, which I picked up from the library last week and has done a good job of taking my mind off things. Then I’ve got Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain to read, but I might read the last of the Jill Shalvis omnibus (Once in a Lifetime) I mentioned in Kindle May bargains first to break up the historicals. I’ve got Level Up by Cathy Yardley sat on my Kindle as well, which was the subject of a whole episode of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books (which I still haven’t listened to because spoilers!) and Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect waiting for me as. I’ve also got advance copies of the next Sarah Morgan book, Holiday in the Hamptons (and one of her older books in the Library Book bag), of Rebecca Pugh’s new novel Right Here Waiting for You and that’s all before you get to whatever I might impulse purchase in my weakened state in the early hours – or what I might pull out of one of the to-read boxes.
Check back on Monday to see how far down the list I get – and whether I get the half-read crime book I started on Monday finished.
This week’s BotW is another entry in the list of books that Verity really should have read sooner: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. I have heard this book recommended so many times by so many people – not just as being a great book, but as being a great entry way into romance. And they’re all right.
Bet Me is the story of Min and Cal. Min is an actuary with a nightmare mother, and who looks at life through a veil of statistics. Cal has a reputation as a love ’em and leave ’em type and has his own parental problems. Min gets dumped by her boyfriend, 3 weeks before her sister’s wedding and then hears Cal accept a bet to try and pull her. She needs a date, but isn’t going to put up with any of Cal’s smooth-talking ways. Cal thinks she’s the most uptight, closed-off woman he’s ever met. But when they’re together sparks fly no matter how much they try and ignore it. And then there’s the matter of that bet…
This is the book version of one of those great 1990s romantic comedies, except without any double standards, etc. Min is fun and feisty and not prepared to put up with people being mean to her or acting like idiots towards her. She knows what she wants and she’s out looking for it, albeit not in the right places or the right way. Cal is realistic about what he’s prepared to offer a relationship, even if he doesn’t realise the reality of what he’s doing. The two of them together are a snarky, bantery duo that you’re rooting for from the start. There are a couple of great subplots in here to help with the drama and tension and it’s all such great fun. And to put the icing on the cake, both Min and Cal have great friends, who are on their side and in their corner no matter what, which is particularly great in Min’s case, because in so many books the heroine’s friends have ulterior motives or are just window dressing. Min’s gang are properly fleshed out, real people who are looking out for their friend. It’s just brilliant.
Yes. I should have read this sooner. Yes, I’m way behind the curve. But it doesn’t matter, because this is a great book and mor people need to read it. So I’m happy to admit that I should have listened to Sarah from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and read it the first time she mentioned it on the podcast and not wait till I’ve heard it mentioned dozens of times – not just by her but by the Book Riot girls too and by bookish friends too. I know. I say this every time. But don’t be stupid like me, go and read Bet Me now. And go and read it even if you’ve read his thinking “but I don’t read romance” because this isn’t what you’re thinking of. It’s much, much more. 10 years ago, it would have been given a cartoon cover in bubble gum pink and called chick lit. And I mean that in a good way, because I miss those days of funny, clever romances and I’m always looking for books that scratch that itch.
You can get Bet Me on Kindle or iBooks.
I had trouble picking my Book of the Week this week for various reasons, and I’m sorry that this post is a bit short. Anyway, this week’s BotW is Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley. I read this last week, and while bits of it didn’t work for me (of which more below) it’s a story that I haven’t read before (maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places!) and that needs to be represented more in fiction – particularly YA fiction.
15-year-old Aki is bi-sexual, but so far she’s only told her best friend Lori. She’s off to Mexico for the summer with her church youth group and the pair have a plan to start getting out there and living an interesting life. At the camp, Aki meets Christa and the two have a connection. But it’s not easy trying to navigate your first relationship with everyone watching you – especially if you’re trying to keep it quiet. And how do you know if it’s love anyway?
There was a lot about this that I liked. It’s a diverse (in every way) queer coming of age story that (spoiler alert) doesn’t end in deaths and disownment. But that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of angst, because there is. In fact that was my main gripe with the book – that at times Aki just went too far over my whining teenager limit and there was a lot of petty drama that I could have done without. But I have a low tolerance for that sort of thing – so it may work much better for the target market of angsty teenagers than it does for me!
But although it’s not perfect, stories like this need to be told and need to be out there. And the world needs more happy YA love stories (or at least I do!)- whether they’re F/F, M/M or M/F.
My copy came from NetGalley, but Our Our Private Universe is available in paperback from Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles and on Kindle and Kobo.
Why hello dear Reader. I now have finished my (partly self-inflicted) double dose of nightshift hell I feel like sharing some of the things that I’ve read and enjoyed during my two weeks of sleep deprivation and brain fade. I’ve written about the effects of nights on my reading habits before and I can confirm that I’m still irrational, prone to tears and incapable of making decisions while I’m staying awake all night. This set of nights I’ve been ever so restrained, and haven’t bought any books – which is a minor miracle as my nights the week before Christmas saw a mini ebook spree and the ones before that saw nearly a dozen books turning up the following week!
In many ways romances are perfect nightshift reading for me – you know what you’re getting. The hero and heroine will get a Happily Ever After (or at least a Happily For Now) and if you know which tropes you like and which keywords to look out for you can pick books which should tick your boxes. I know I don’t do well with angst and trauma when I’m on nights, so I’ve been picking out Enemies to Lovers stories like Lucy Parker’s Pretty Face (this week’s BotW) and a couple of new releases from favourite authors. In fact I saved (waiting two weeks to read it counts as saved in my book) Eloisa James’s latest book Seven Minutes in Heaven especially for nightshifts.
I’ve already mentioned The Ballad of Sean and Wilko and I was luck enough to get an advance copy of Duncan MacMaster’s new book Hack which was fabulously entertaining – if you haven’t read A Mint Condition Corpse yet, I highly recommend it. Henery Press are one of my regular suppliers/purveyors of cozy crime and I read the first Zoe Chambers book Circle of Influence as well, which is a little darker than their usual crime, but very good – I’ll be keeping an eye out for more in the series.
Fortuitously for me, an order of Girl’s Own books arrived just before I started nights. This – combined with a couple of Middle Grade novels from NetGalley meant that I had plenty of school girl antics to read about. Although not all of them were school girls. I now know more than I ever thought I needed to about pedigree Cocker Spaniel care in the 1950s (Elinor M Brent Dyer’s Kennelmaid Nan) and a lot more about the trials of being a nursery teacher in a deprived area just after the war.
I wrote about hate reads only a few weeks ago. My tendency to irrationality when on nights and shortness of sleep means I have a habit of losing my temper with Him Indoors at these sort of times. So to avoid that, I channel my anger and rage in a good (you know what I mean) hate read. I’m not naming names here* because this is a positive space but I’ve hate read (or ended up hate reading) at least one book each week of nights.
So there you have it – a bit more detail on What I Read On Nightshifts. Hopefully it’s amused you to see how my brain regresses when I haven’t had enough sleep and may be there’s a few there that might appeal to you, I’m happy to be enabling your book purchasing decisions this weekend.
*But if you follow me on Goodreads or Litsy you’ll know (or be able to work out) exactly which books I’m talking about!
I know. This is a day late. What can I say – nightshifts really wiped me out. I have spent so much time sleeping – and then a lot of life admin to do to try to catch up after two weeks of living nocturnally. So this is a Recommendsday post instead – and you can wait until tomorrow for February stats. Sorry. Anyhow, this week’s BotW really brightened my nightshifts commutes up last week – Lucy Parker’s second book, Pretty Face.
You know its in London because of the bridge!
Lily Lamprey is an actress. Unfortunately she’s handicapped by a sexy voice and curves that saw her cast as a man-stealing bitch in a popular period drama. But now she’s leaving the show and she wants to do something different. Respected theatre director Luc Savage has poured his heart and soul into restoring his family’s London theatre and now he’s casting the opening production. Some of his partners think that Lily giving a role would be a great way to sell tickets. But he’s not convinced she can pull it off. When the two meet there are sparks – and instant attraction. But Lily’s mum has a reputation for getting ahead through her relationships and Lily knows what people will say if she starts seeing Luc. Luc’s long-term relationship has just finished and he’s older than Lily – he’s sure it’s just a mid-life crisis and he’s not willing to risk his career and reputation on it.
This is just what I like in a romance. It’s an enemies to lovers story with witty banter, plenty of snark and a great set up. Both characters have their issues and their reasons for avoiding a relationship with each other and the way things are worked out and worked through is fun to read about. Parker’s depiction of the world of the theatre is great – full of well-rounded characters and personality. If I have a problem with the book it’s that a few of the British references and British-isms jarred for me and didn’t ring entirely true. But that’s little nitpicky details that most people probably aren’t going to spot/be annoyed by.
Pretty Face was just what I needed last week – fun and romantic, with a bit of emotional peril and a satisfying conclusion. And I liked it more than I liked her first book, Act Like It, too. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for another one.
My copy came via NetGalley, but you can get an ebook copy from Kindle or Kobo, who also have Act Like it as well (Kindle, Kobo).