Do you love Diana Galbadon’s Outlander Series? Or, like me, did you love books one through four but you just couldn’t take it anymore? I mean, Jamie is great but can Claire just stay out of trouble for two minutes?!? Sheesh. If, like me, you love a lot of things about Outlander but not the infinite never-ending drama, look no further then Highland Crown by May McGoldrick.
Highland Crown is going to be compared to Outlander. I don’t enjoy making comparisons like this but let’s just look at the facts.
Both set in historic Scotland? Check
Hot male character that is instantly admired? Check
Gorgeous medical female lead? Check
Instant love connection in the midst of turmoil? Check
Time travel? Nope, that is just Outlander.
So, I felt a duty to get this out into the open. Yes. I see the similarities. But, I want to focus on the differences and why it all worked so beautifully. Written by Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick under the pen name Mary McGoldrick, Highland Crown is a fast paced romance told in shifting narratives with loads of historic facts that brought the action to life. Alternating between the beautiful doctor and fugitive, Isabella Drummond, and the strikingly handsome ship captain, Cinead Mackintosh, the reader is literally tossed into the action from chapter one. And, since half of this writing duo has a PhD in sixteenth century Scottish and English literature, the historical aspect felt so true and alive it was hard to step back into the present.
I am an absolute sucker for romances where the male character falls deeply in love and has to either reassure the female character of his love or somehow earn her trust. This book gave me that romantic aspect in spades and I cannot wait for the next two books in the series!
Tell me, please!
What is your favorite kind of romance novel?
I hate math. So, a book with math on the cover is to be avoided. But, then the delightful Penny Reid’s fan club argued that The Kiss Quotient by Helen Huang was perfect for any of Reid’s romance ninja’s. I have been anxiously waiting for Reid’s new book (it’s out today!) so I figured, challenge accepted. I purchased a copy of The Kiss Quotient and added it to my Canadian book pile.
The ninja’s were not wrong. The Kiss Quotient is a unique contemporary romance that was a quick enjoyable read. Helen Hoang’s has said that a gender swap of Pretty Woman had been on her mind for some time when she was told that her daughter might have “high functioning autism.” While family and professionals disagreed, Hoang was intrigued, what if the heroine of her romantic tale was a person with autism? More specifically a woman with autism? The result is Stella Lane.
Stella Lane loves her work. She creates algorithms to predict customer purchases and she is extraordinarily talented. However, her parents and peers point out that she is lacking in the romance department, specifically sex. Stella knows she needs practice and prefers a professional so she hires Michael Phan. Michael is an gorgeous escort and cannot refuse when Stella puts together a lesson-plan compete with a payment that will free him from long term familial burdens.
Like Penny Reid, Helen Hoang has created a female protagonist that brings a unique perspective to the bedroom. And throughout the book the shifting narrative between Stella’s perspective and Michael’s kept me engaged. I am hopeful that Ms. Hoang will write another book and we will have the opportunity to see Stella and Michael’s relationship continue to develop and grow.
Tell me, please!
Do you enjoy contemporary romances? Have you read The Kiss Quotient?
Recently I read a review of Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch on Beauty and the Bean Boots. The book sounded too adorable to pass up so I requested it from my lovely library along with Welch’s first book Love & Gelato and quickly consumed them both. These sweet YA books are perfect for summer light reading!
Love & Gelato features Lina who finds herself in Florence following her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. All she wants to do is go back home to her best friend Addie and the world she used to know. After all, why should she want to get to know someone who has been absent for the past 16 years? But then she is given the journal her Mom kept during her year in Italy which opens with the words “I made the wrong choice.” What choice did Lina’s mother make?
Love & Luck is Addie’s story and we join her for her domineering aunt’s wedding in Ireland. After the wedding Addie is supposed to join Lina in Italy but finds herself on a strange road trip with her brother Ian and his surprising friend Rowan. Guiding them through Emerald Isle is a book Addie found written as a Irish guidebook for the brokenhearted. But why is Addie brokenhearted? And how will she ever mend her relationship with her brother Ian?
I adored Lina. She is strong and kind and is clearly working through the unfathomable loss of her Mother. The Addie we meet in Gelato through Lina is very different from the Addie we see at the beginning of Luck. Something has happened to Addie. Something she is hiding from everyone in her life that has caused the rift between herself and Ian. Both Lina and Addie are at that fragile stage of growing up when they must face the serious curveball life can throw your way.
In both books the author vividly takes the reader on a physical journey through Italy and Ireland while simultaneously having us accompany Lina and Addie on an emotional journey. I appreciated that there was a book in both stories that helped to guide and inspire both girls. And, any romantic intrigues were secondary to the main story of personal growth.
Between the two I would have said I preferred Gelato until I got to the last quarter of Love when we finally find out what happened to Addie and why Ian is being so closed off and judgmental towards her. In the end both books are uplifting, fun adventures and sweet YA stories that are just perfect for delightful summer reading.
Tell me, please!
Have you read these books? Or, do you have different kinds of books you read in the Summer?
I love Regency Romance novels. It doesn’t bother me one little bit that there are more Dukes in these stories than people in my hometown, the stories are lovely and sometimes all I want to read is something lovely. So, when I saw My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris I had to read it.
My Lady’s Choosing is a Choose Your Own Adventure novel that stars you as a plucky, penniless, Regency-era London lady. You begin your adventure as a companion to your dragon Aunt and through a series of choices end up in a wide variety of situations and endings.
For those who don’t remember these books, Choose Your Own Adventure novels typically give you two avenues and your selection takes you to a certain page. This continues until the end of the chosen story-line. I loved them as a kid. A number of years ago I discovered that there were adult versions out there but I never really enjoyed them like I did the juvenile versions. Many of the adult choices were daunting and I kept dying or getting kidnapped. The adventure part was missing. I didn’t want to chose whether to take a job or go back to college – I was actually making those decisions already.
This is what makes My Lady’s Choosing so fun for me. Finally I get to participate in a Regency romance from inside the story. I get to decide whether to slap the gentleman caller or kiss him. One path had me taking a position as a companion to an older gentleman or choosing to teach orphans. I decided whether to help the insufferable Lord or travel to Egypt. All paths obviously included romance.
My one complaint is that I felt at times that the authors were overly mocking regency romances. I accept that this book as a parody but still, names were frequently too silly and the characters could be inconsistent in their historical accuracy. But, I let many of the details pass as the Choose Your Own Adventure stories of my childhood were riddled with similar issues.
If you enjoy historical romances this book is a fun way to participate in the story. I had a great time working my way through the book five times already and I know that there are several other paths I have not yet taken!
Tell me, please!
What do you think of Choose Your Own Adventure novels?
This book made me happy cry…three times. Now, maybe it is because the book reached directly into my geeky little heart and plucked at my fan-fiction loving heartstrings. Or, perhaps this delightful little re-telling of Cinderella was just swoon worthy enough to push my frazzled emotions over the edge. Either way, I love this book!
Geekerella by Ashley Poston is a modern re-telling of the classic Cinderella. Danielle is our princess, Darien the prince. Our Prince and Princess are trying to get to the Con – the ExcelsiCon that revolves around their favorite television show Starfield. Danielle’s Father created the wildly popular ExcelsiCon before he died and their shared love of Starfield is all that she has left of him that brings her comfort. Darien is a day time soap actor chosen to star as the lead in the movie re-make of Starfield. His love of Starfield is bringing him nothing but anxiety as he tries to simultaneously live his dream of inhabiting his favorite character and prove himself to the fans.
Geekerella has been well reviewed and many great points have been made about the deeply likable characters, the plot development and the lack of a truly horrible villain. But the unique aspect of this book that really spoke to me was the desire to belong. Cinderella has always been looking for family. The Prince has always been seeking a loving relationship. Danielle and Damien are trying to find these things in a modern world made more complicated by social media and technology.
Danielle has turned inward after the death of her Father. We saw that with Cinderella. But Cinderella had devoted servants (or vermin) to bring her comfort. Danielle has no one to rely on or even someone she feels she can ask for help. Watching her find the strength to put herself out into the real world was what brought me happy cry numero uno.
Darien is a teen heartthrob whose Dad would rather be his Agent and Manager than his Father. We see this everywhere in modern American – parents who want something other than to parent their children. That leaves Darien like our Prince – constantly on guard against user friends, crazy fans and people who want to profit from him. In the end, he is looking for someone who loves him. Just him.
This book really spoke to me about believing in yourself and finding the strength to fit into this chaotic world. There is a place we all belong if we are brave enough to try again and again to find it.
Tell me, please!
Have you read Geekerella? What are your thoughts?
On the first Friday of every month my local library has a $4.00 Bag of Books sale. Sometimes there is little to nothing of interest for sale. But, this time I hit the jackpot! I found a couple of books to add to some of my series collections, some non-fiction gems and two fantastically ridiculous looking YA books that were perfect for the FGR theme.
The first one is Queen of the Dead, A Ghost and the Goth Novel by Stacey Kade. The cover of this book was just too awesomely ridiculous to pass up. And the story did begin just like a made for TV movie. But then, slowly, layer upon layer the story became more complex and the characters more likable and realistic. At first, I couldn’t believe this was actually a series. But, by the end I was so glad there were more stories!
It helped too that this book was set in the small town of Decatur, Illinois near where I grew up. Isn’t it amazing the things you will forgive a story for if you lived in the town or visited it?
The story is about Alona who died in her gym uniform and Will who is a ghost talker. Alona goes from the most popular girl in high school to Will’s spirit guide. Will finally gets to spend time with the girl he has had a crush on since sixth grade. But, admiring people from a distance is different than waking up to them every morning as Will soon learns. And Alona finds out quickly that being popular is not the same as being liked.
Now, doesn’t this sound like every book we have ever read? Except, at almost the half way point the author really puts a new spin on the whole thing. Without giving any spoilers this suddenly had a unique storyline and I loved it!
This may not be a book that you buy multiple copies of to give to friends and family. But it is definitely akin to a middle of the day, cute ghostly romance with just a dash of mystery that you watch with a cup of hot apple cider. But I really loved it. And how hilarious is that cover!?!
Tell me, please!
Do you enjoy reading books set in your hometown?
It is hard to write about things that make me happy when there is so much senseless violence and devastation in world. I was in an utter tailspin after hearing the news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. My heart breaks for all those who were killed, their families and for the people who were hurt, scared or had a love one in any way involved.
For moments like these, I keep a shelf of books that bring me nothing but joy. They are all dog-earned and the spines are broken but they calm me down and keep my company on long nights when sadness is almost all consuming.
I have five Jennifer Crusie books on that shelf. I fell in love with her contemporary romances that combine a strong woman, a cute guy and a bit of mystery within their storylines. I love that her character’s happily-ever-after are varied and not so cookie cutter as requiring a marriage and children. Mostly, these books are well written escape. A much needed one at times like these.
So, today I recommend for you as a FrighteninglyGoodRead, Maybe This Time. This romance pits a divorced couple against a creepy old house with both figurative ghosts from their past coming back to visit and literal ghosts in the present popping up and causing chaos. Add in two delinquent children and an unfinished romance and this book cooks.
There are ways to help people. There are a million things that must and will be done. But, tonight, if you have trouble sleeping, books like these are always there for you. They can’t fix anything but they will graciously keep you company.
Tell me, please!
Do you have an author you rely on to take you away?
You know, when it rains it pours. I have been battling with that ridiculous cold that is going around and it is making it difficult for me to sleep at night. The only upside of insomnia is surplus time to read. Unfortunately, every book I picked up was uninspiring. Finally I took myself, sick and gross, to the library and packed my bag full of books. Full. I figured at least one of them should hold my attention.
In Me Before You I found a treasure. I have seen this book on bookstore shelves and picked it up because it looked familiar and I was getting tired. I sat down to read it last night and finished it this afternoon.
In this book Louisa Clark is living a simple life in her tiny village in England when she takes a new job as a caregiver to Will Traynor. Will has led a big and adventurous life but after an accident is struggling to acclimate to life as a person with quadrapalegia. Both Louisa and Will grew up in the same small town but with vastly different backgrounds and life goals their perspective on life and living are equally disparate. Louisa does not make any plans for her future and is content to dress uniquely and live an unchallenged life. Will has always looked for adventure and success and now he has a new plan, one that shocks his family and Louisa. This book is labelled as a romantic story and it is in the very truest sense because it is the story of how loving someone means allowing them to choose their happiness.
This book says right in the dust jacket that it is heartbreakingly romantic. If I had bothered to read the jacket before starting the book I probably would not have read the book. I do not like heartbreak. Well, more specifically, I do not like to cry. Sometimes, books are “heartbreaking” because the stupid characters make poor choices or have wretched conversation skills and that results in heartache (ahem, again, Nicholas Sparks). These books are contrived to make you feel something that always rings as slightly artificial to me. More rarely, books take us on a journey with a character that reflects the heartbreaking growth that is a part of life. These stories forever connect you with the characters and their experiences. Me Before You is firmly in the second category and I enjoyed it tremendously even though it made me teary.