Tag Archives: romance

{Book} Well Met

Well Met (Well Met, #1)

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
Sometimes I need a little frivolous romance in my reading life. I’d also like to add some romantic B-plots to my own writing, but I’m not super familiar with romance genres. Kazen at Always Doing reviewed Well Met a while back and it sounded like a fun story that I would enjoy.

Programming Note
I’ve noticed that, especially in prose fiction but also in non-fiction and TV/movies, there are three basic things that keep me interested: plot, characters, and setting. A story doesn’t need all of these, but it can’t utterly fail in one of them either. I’ve decided I want to think about these three aspects in my “reviews.”

Plot
I’ve watched my share of rom-coms, but I’m a newb when it comes to reading the genre. Therefore, I was actually intrigued about where the plot was going. At about 70% it seemed that our characters were into happily-ever-after land, so I started wondering who was going to screw things up and how. Thankfully, the turn of events wasn’t too out there, but it wasn’t entirely obvious either.

Characters
All in all, the characters weren’t anything special, but they were all likable enough (even Simon when he’s being a bit of ass). More importantly, all the characters were separate people. Occasionally, I thought Emily was a little dense about things, but maybe that can be forgiven due to her pre-book breakup.

Setting
I liked the ren faire setting, but I was a little confused about how small of a town Willow Creek is. On one hand, everyone seems to know everyone’s business. On the other, the town is big enough for physical therapists, an indie bookstore, and enough people to support a renaissance faire. I can see that maybe Willow Creek is on the edge of a metro area, but does that lend itself to that small-town-ish-ness? It’s not a big deal, but the setting didn’t feel as real to me as I would have liked.

Overall
This was fun. It was a light read with enjoyable enough characters and a pleasant romance. It seems to be the first in a series. Not sure what more story there is, so I probably won’t read the next one.

Original Publishing info: Penguin Publishing Group, 2019
My Copy: Tempe Public Library
Genre: rom-com

Mini Reviews, Vol. 15

The Wedding Date cover The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

I don’t read a lot of romances, but I will probably have some romantic elements in the story I’m writing. Hence, I’m going to make an effort to read a few. I picked The Wedding Date because it was available and it sounded fun. And it was! Pro: Alexa’s growth as a character wasn’t directly linked to her relationship with Drew. Con: The ending was very tidy. But I’ll allow it.

The Cure for Dreaming cover The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

For some reason I thought this was book was going to be a heavier romance than it was. Due to its mesmerism plot, it had come up on my radar anyway. All in all, The Cure for Dreaming was okay. The protagonists were fairly young, which is a minus for me, but there were a few fairly scary bits.

Black Klansman cover Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth

And now for something completely different… I became interested in Ron Stallworth’s story due to the current coverage that the movie is getting. Stallworth was the first black police officer in Colorado Springs in 1972 and spearheaded an information gathering task force investigating the local Ku Klux Klan in 1978. In an era when background checks were not easily done, Stallworth placed three officers in the Klan and had personal contact over the phone with Klan members, including speaking with (and ending up as personal security for) David Duke. The writing is occasionally repetitive, but it’s a pretty amazing story.

Review ~ The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

This book was provided to me by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for review consideration.

Cover via Goodreads

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo

When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.

But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.

Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo’s The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won’t erase. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
As a kid, very few things frightened me more than the thought of the Headless Horseman galloping down the hill in my neighborhood (blocks from one of the busier intersections in Omaha) while I was on my way to my grandparent’s house. As an adult, I have read Washington Irving’s story and have heartily enjoyed various adaptations of the story beyond the Disney short. And since I’m not completely heartless, I thought the story with a romantic twist might be fun for the upcoming season of spookiness.

What Didn’t Work (for me)
Erin Bow has written one of my favorite posts ever about book reviews. She wrote it from the perspective of a writer reading reviews, but I like to keep her thoughts in mind when I’m a reader reviewing books too. And I thought a lot about the concepts of cilantro and werewolves while I was reading The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel.

In Bow’s parlance, a person’s reaction to cilantro is a matter of taste. Some people just don’t like cilantro. The same goes for book genres. Generally, I’m not a big fan of YA romance, supernatural or not, but there are exceptions. In fact, the biggest surprise of the year for me was how much I enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater’s All the Crooked Saints. It was a book I probably wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t won it in a contest. So I knew going in that The Spellbook of Katrina Van Vassel wasn’t in my ideal choice of genres and I was ready to make allowances for that.

But still… Ichabod and Katrina were just *so* perfect together. Everyone (other than Brom and Katrina’s father) loves them both together. Isn’t a protagonist allowed to have flaws? And for a being social outcasts (due to Brom’s insensitivity), Charlotte and her mother seem to do pretty well…aside from being shunned at parties. Also, everyone has a ton of free time and older adults are miraculously absent from goings-on. It was many of the things that I (perhaps unfairly) pin on the YA genre.

To return to Bow’s thoughts on reviews, the concept of werewolves is this: a reader brings their own agenda to a book. “This biography of Teddy Roosevelt was pretty good, but it didn’t have nearly enough werewolves in it for me.” Obviously, werewolves in a nonfiction biography of Roosevelt is an unfair expectation. I don’t think I am being unfair when I expect a book called The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel, set in Sleepy Hollow, released in October to have some strong supernatural aspects. And this story really doesn’t. There are some dreams and visions and a bit of off-scene action that we are meant to take as supernatural. Mostly, this book is a star-crossed romance that is eventually complicated by a missing person mystery (that no one bothers to really investigate until two years later).

The actual spellbook of the title is the book of regional lore that Katrina begins to write as she is Ichabod-less and trying to find some joy in the second half of the book. It’s a very nice metaphor, but not what I was expecting.

I feel like there were many opportunities when Palombo might have taken the story in a direction that might have resulted in more tension in the plot, but those are werewolves that I shouldn’t bring into this book.

Overall
If you’re looking for a romance between two young people in sort-of 1790s New England with a little paranormal pumpkin spice seasoning, The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel might be the book for you. If you’re looking for a story that veers closer to the more recent movie or television adaptations of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleep Hollow,” gallop past.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle, St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 2, 2018
Acquired: NetGalley
Genre: historical romance

Mini Reviews, Vol. 10

alt text The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

On the heels of WWI, temp girl Sarah Piper takes work as an assistant to two ghost hunters; one posh, one rough, both scarred by the war.

This book was much too much of a romance for me. Sarah’s spends an overage of time believing that her beau (Matthew, the rough one) hates her for no real good reason and that she must never tell him how she feels for no good reason. The ghost story was passable, somewhat predictable. The Haunting of Maddy Clare was an audio book and the narrator’s portrayal of Matthew was disconcerting.

alt text Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Emily Carroll “tells” five stories of isolation and dread akin to Grimm’s fairy tales.

With a limited color palette and drawings that are by turns stark and detailed, these are new tales of old-fashioned creepiness. The stories and art evoke a coldness, a darkness that seems perfect for fall and winter reading. Through the Woods was an impulse pick-up for me for during readathon and it was the highlight. Might even become a yearly Halloween read.

Review ~ Attachments

Cover via Goodreads

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ? (via Goodreads)

I needed a slump-buster. After the stress of returning from vacation, I needed a light-ish, enjoyable read. And that meant picking up one of Rainbow Rowell’s books.

Attachments is like my favorite type of romantic comedy. The circumstances are a little odd-ball. The characters have problems other than being partnerless. There are things going on that are separate from their romance. The world is populated by normal people. No one’s overly glamorous, but everyone is as funny as we all wish we were. Add to that, Attachments has that geeky quality that I expect from Rowell, and it’s set in my hometown. There’s a quip in the book about Sandra Bullock rom-coms, but this book does remind me of one of my favorite chick flicks, While You Were Sleeping.

I will say that I had a bit of a hard time sorting Beth and Jennifer out.  It was less about their voices and more that I couldn’t, for part of the book, remember who was with Mitch and who was with Chris. I kind of wish there would have been a cast page like you find at the the beginning of a play. Considering that we only see the world from Lincoln’s POV and only “hear” from Beth and Jennifer through their emails, Beth and Jennifer really are like reading the dialog from a play, a little unmoored from the solid story. But this is really a minor annoyance.

Overall, it was exactly the book I needed last week.

Publishing info, my copy: Penguin Publishing Group, eLibrary edition
Acquired: Tempe OverDrive Digital Collection
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Deal Me In, Week 45 ~ “Natasha’s Bedroom”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Natasha’s Bedroom” by Robyn Carr

Card picked: Queen of Hearts – The last heart of the year!

From: David Copperfield’s Beyond Imagination

Thoughts: Robyn Carr is perhaps the only non-speculative fiction writer in this anthology. She is, in fact, a writer of romances. (I’ll leave aside whether romances should be counted as speculative…) This has also been the sexiest story. Tasha is a painter and a recent widow living in Scottsdale, AZ. After months of grieving, she begins to paint a mural on the wall of her bedroom: her deceased husband standing amid a field of desert flowers. Unfortunately, the image of her husband never quite comes out right. In fact, it seems to shift and change to become a different man. Then one night, the man steps out of the mural…

Worry not. This is not one of those disturbing tales like Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Hand-Puppet.” Instead, it gives two lonely people connected by Tasha’s paintings a potentially happy future together.

Is This Your Card?