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review 2015-08-02 00:00
A Bride for Tom (Nebraska Historicals)
A Bride for Tom (Nebraska Historicals) - Ruth Ann Nordin Wholesome and sweet. This was a short but wonderful read. when I first saw the synopsis, I was partly expecting some "Hello Dolly"-ish. Not quite. What I did get was a sweet, nearly innocent historical romance.

Tom is a major clutz. In every sense of the word. He is hardworking and caring but can't get two words out without getting a foolish look. And when he moves, LOOK OUT! This story has a few cringe-worthy moments there! But I adored his character! Jessica a bit less so. She is sophisticated, beauty and more a true society girl. But she is not bad. Just misguided.

By biggest concern in this book is how she goes from one guy to another in such a short span. Otherwise I really enjoyed this. It is just over 100 pages so it is quick to read. Perfect for a sunny, outdoor reading session just to add to the atmosphere! Very clean. Refreshing to break away from the typical romance novels.

This is apparently book 2 in a series and while it can be read as a standalone, I can tell that reading it in order would have been smart. Now I need to go track down the first book.
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review 2015-06-08 02:33
Mistress Firebrand: Renegades of the American Revolution (Renegades of Revolution) - Donna Thorland

I've long wanted to read Donna Thorland as I love Revolutionary-era historical fiction and have seen rave reviews for her books. Happily, I wasn't disappointed with this read, which was atmospheric, detailed, and vividly done.

Set in 1777, Mistress Firebrand features a young American playwright, Jennifer Leighton. Niece to the much toasted actress Fanny Leighton, Jennifer aspires to fame, and considers a daring plan to do so: have British general John Burgoyne act as her patron. Burgoyne is a notorious womanizer, so British spy Severin Devere decides to ward off any distractions, but finds himself charmed and intrigued by the writer. Pretty soon, both become caught up in the war between England and the colonies, and both have to decide where their loyalties lie, a decision made more complicated by their very obvious interest in each other.

In addition to being a fabulously fun historical romance, Thorland tackles some rather "modern" issues in the story, which just ratchets the book from good to great: careers over relationships, safe sex through condom use, and the idea of pleasure and happiness. Jennifer and Severin (and their friends and enemies) felt historical grounded and yet, discussed and debated topics that are relevant to people today (which I love). There was a real struggle, not just for Jennifer and Severin to survive a war unscathed (which was exciting enough), but for the two of them to have professional happiness, too.

I mean, read this, from our heroine Jennifer. I practically cheered on the subway:

"...I have seen love up close now, and I will not settle for the kind that limits and diminishes me. You are capable of more than killing. I am capable of more than domestic devotion. I do not wish the kind of love that reduces over time who we each are. I want the kind that makes the whole of us greater than the sum of our parts." (p298-299)


Amen, sister.

There were sexytimes that were hot and plotty (and surprising!). There's a fabulous wealth of detail about 18th century theater (Jennifer is inspired by Mercy Otis Warren and her aunt by Mary Darby Robinson, two real life figures I love, so I've got love-upon-love here!) as well as exciting wartime drama. This isn't a fluffy read, not precisely, but it races from the mix of romance, tension, and humor -- a combo I love.

Technically, this is the third book in Thorland's Renegades of the American Revolution series, although I don't think they're actually connected in any way other than setting. I'm dying to get my hands on the other two now -- I'm a Thorland fangirl!

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review 2015-06-08 02:25
The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand - Elizabeth Berg

May 2015: Am going to just DNF this and move on. Am at about 73% and while I'm liking it a smidgen more, I'm just exhausted by the encyclopedic focus on Sand's life (to the detriment of the story, I feel), and the dual story lines (I do not see a difference in young Sand and older Sand, and it just makes the story drag on and on and on...).
Berg's articulation of a writer, however, was interesting (I love writers on writers). It's obvious she likes and admires Sand, for all her flaws, but despite the amount of words dedicated to Sand, I actually didn't feel like I knew her.

 

April 2015: I just cannot get into this book. Every time I mention it, everyone talks about how much the love Berg's novels, so I keep trying (this is my first time reading her) but the story is agonizingly slow. The split narrative -- her childhood, and then her adulthood -- just slows things down even more.

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review 2015-01-25 01:20
SPEAKEASY DEAD by Vicky Loebel
Speakeasy Dead: a P.G. Wodehouse-Inspired Zombie Comedy - Vicky Loebel
  What a fun read! Set in the Roaring 20's in Falstaff, Arizona during prohibition, a young lady decides she will become a warlock by calling up a demon to say her beloved silent film star Beau Beauregard. Clara is more successful than she thinks. Now Beau is a zombie attached to her. How does she keep him from making more zombies?

I laughed so hard while reading. It was fun! I loved the pictures that were painted by Ms. Loebel's words. She has a delightful way of putting prose on paper. Her use of words and phrases was wonderful. I'll read her again just to see how well she does it again.

I loved these characters, Clara and Bernie. I also enjoyed that the story was told from each one's point of view. Beau and Hans were great as foils to Clara. The secondary characters were colorful as well. Lots of undercurrents run through Falstaff. I cannot wait to read more of this town and its characters.

 

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review 2015-01-08 04:10
Darcy meets Jane Eyre
A Countess by Christmas (Harlequin Historical, #1021) - Annie Burrows

I decided to give this four stars because it was an entertaining romance, with characters that I enjoyed reading about. While the conflict is mainly based on misunderstandings of characters and what is said and done, it wasn't too irritating to render the story frustrating or the characters unlikable.

Readers who enjoy a Darcy-like hero, composed, cold, uninvolved and very proper, they will probably like Bridgemere. I enjoy when the hero is forbidding and withdrawn from life, and stiff and we see him thaw out as he is around the heroine and falls in love with her. Bridgmere really liked Helen's authenticity and her caring for others, but at the same time, his experiences with his deceased wife has made him highly wary of love and withdrawn from life, determined not to make bad choices out of emotionalism. As such, there is a see-saw between his being drawn to Helen and his wanting to maintain distance.

As far as drama/conflict, there isn't a lot of external conflict. This story is more about the developing of the relationship between a lonely man and a young woman who was rejected by most of her family except for one lady who adopted her, and as such, she is devoted to the woman and calls her aunt. There is social conflict as Bridgemere is a powerful man surrounded by family who want access to his means and influence, and are playing a game of one upmanship. Helen is continually told she's not good enough for the Earl and couldn't possibly hope for marriage with him, because she's viewed as a threat to the others who see that the Earl likes, respect, and is drawn to her. This is reinforcing Helen's own feelings of unworthiness. Yet at the same time, she does seem to have a healthy sense of self esteem.

I liked that Helen is a spunky and independent person. She reminds me of one of my favorite literary heroines, Jane Eyre, in that regard. Even with the punches she's received in her life, her sense of loneliness and rejection, she won't lay down and die. She'll keep fighting and standing up for herself, and particularly others who need champions.

The holiday atmosphere was lovely, showcasing that the cold Earl really did have a soft, warm heart, especially for children. He makes a point of creating fun and welcoming activities to the overlooked and emotionally neglected children of his relatives. Bridgemere and Helen bond as they engage in these pursuits and they are allowed to see each other as they are, with the rigid social barriers lowered.

This isn't a particularly exciting book, but the writing is good, and the characters and their developing romance engaged me and kept my interest. I kept picking this up when I had a chance and getting drawn into the story, so that I'd read it longer than I should have been due to the need to complete other tasks.

I think readers who enjoy Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte would appreciate this book.

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