I have been slowly working my way through the Pennyroyal Green series for years, and finding it extremely uneven. I've loved some of them (Perils of Pleasure, A Notorious Countess Confesses), hated some of them (Since the Surrender, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea), and been just "meh" about most of the rest. This one falls in the "Meh" category. The characters are likable enough, the dialogue is snappy, the plot moves along at a reasonable clip, but still... meh.
If Courtney Milan published her grocery list, I'd probably read it. She's at the tippity-top of my auto-buy list. She's smart, funny, and unabashedly feminist: totally my catnip.
Her Every Wish is a novella about Daisy, who was introduced in Milan's last novel, Once Upon a Marquess. One thing I loved about this novella is that it isn't set in the glittering ballrooms of the ton at all, but rather in the seedy, working-class neighborhood where Daisy shares a room with her aging mother. This gives us a view into a part of London that the historical romance genre rarely visits, and it's refreshing.
Daisy works in a flower shop and dreams of opening her own mercantile, but no one takes her ambitions seriously because she's a woman. Some time ago, Daisy had a liaison with Crash, but it ended badly in a way that isn't revealed until well into this novella. Crash is initially portrayed as a flirt and a cad, but as his character is revealed, it's clear he's not that simple. Crash is descended "from a long line of sailors and dock whores" and doesn't even know what race he belongs to, which is also a refreshing contrast to the typical aristocratic lords so much more common as romantic heroes.
However, this story frustrated me because it revolves around a Big Misunderstanding trope. Daisy and Crash went to bed together, then one said something the other misunderstood, and suddenly their great love was over before it began. Big Mis stories generally don't work for me because they require the main characters to be poor communicators, and when you have characters as smart as those drawn by Ms. Milan, it's frankly hard to believe they could be so thickheaded.
Her Every Wish also fell a little flat because of its structure. Crash and Daisy went to bed together and had a falling out, but the reader never gets to see the buildup of their relationship -- how they met, what attracted each to the other, how Daisy put aside her maidenly modesty and decided Crash was worth her virginity, what made Crash fall in love. Without that backstory, it's hard to feel invested in the rekindling of their relationship during the novella.
Finally (and this is a very minor quibble), I am not a stickler for historical accuracy by any means, but lately Milan's witty dialogue sometimes strikes me as so anachronistic that it yanks me out of the story in a way I find jarring. For example, there was a variation on the phrase, "Come to the dark side. We have cookies," that made me roll my eyes. If this sort of thing makes you crazy, this may not be the book for you.
Podcast Episode 156: The Marblehead Smallpox Riot: Smallpox Blankie, or Why Are My Neighbors Bumpy?
Podcast Episode 147: The Greenbrier Ghost: Meatless Mondays are Murder!, or Ghosts Make My Head Spin:
true story of the only known legal case where a ghost testified about her own murder
followup entry: Postmortem Photography: includes a premortem photography story about my great-grandfather
Podcast Episode 145: Squirrel Tooth Alice: No pithy Bullwinkle title because there are vintage nudes, yes sir you are welcome
Podcast Episode 126: RA Cunningham and Tambo: Nickels in the Dime Museum, or How to Buy Other People for Fun and Profit!
and, Resources: American Crime Story (and a personal fable, boogeyman and all): relates back to several episodes and ties them all together:
All of thedollop.net entries has the mp3 of the corresponding podcast episode embedded in the beginning of the blog entry, so you can easily listen as well as read. Also, all of the entries have many, many more suggested books to read than I have highlighted here. Because it's me.
Patreon (help me afford to be here much more often, and there)
I picked this up on sale at Amazon this week, and I really enjoyed it. It's kind of like that 90s skating movie, "The Cutting Edge," except the plot's a little more complex. Yet it certainly targets the same audience, and it hits the same sweet spots.
I was skeptical when the hero and heroine hook up in a coat room at a party in Amsterdam during the prologue, because while I'm no prude, I think a drunken one night stand is generally not a good way to start a relationship. I kept an open mind and kept going, and the story improved. Years later, Anton (Russian) and Carrie (American) are reunited after each is betrayed by their long-time skating partner. In order to salvage their careers, they partner with each other, even though it means Carrie has to move from balmy Georgia (US) to frigid Moscow and become a Russian citizen. After a rough start, they find their skating styles compliment one another far more than the styles of their prior partners, and they begin enjoying their sport and excelling at it more than ever before.
"Pairing Off" employs a TON of romance tropes: kiss-kiss/slap-slap love-to-hate-em initial tension, ruined reputation (Carrie's), mistaken identity (it takes Anton forEVER to realize Carrie is "Amsterdam Girl"), fish out of water (Carrie is an outsider in Moscow), damsel in distress, infidelity (Anton's), sabotage by ex-lovers (both), tragic past (Carrie's), marriage of convenience, sports rivalry, secondary romance between supporting characters, and probably several others I'm forgetting. Still, they're all woven together in a way that feels fresh and keeps the plot moving along, though the romance itself is fairly slow-burning.
This was certainly well worth the $1.99 I paid for it, and I will seek out Elizabeth Harmon's work again.