October, November & December 2019 Wrap-Up Part I

Fragonard,_The_Reader

Time for my quarterly wrap-up. It will be in two parts so I don’t bog this post down too much.

Cornered in Conard County by Rachel Lee was pretty good. It’s a book in her Conard County series and I can tell Rachel Lee does a lot of research. The premise of this story is that the heroine is in danger because of an ex who is looking to harm her. To stay safe, she buys a guard dog from the hero who trains police dogs for a living. I don’t know anything about training police dogs, but reading this story made me feel that Rachel Lee did her research. As you would expect, the heroine falls in love with the dog-training hero.

I also read An Unlikely Daddy by Rachel Lee. It was good, but I’m starting to feel like she is recycling old books into newer stories. This one reminded me a little of the second book she wrote back in 1992 called Cherokee Thunder. But as far as romance series go, Conard County is my top favorite. Then I read The Winter Soldier by Diana Palmer.

IXPA8595.jpeg

The Gown by Jennifer Robson was probably the most touching book I read during the last quarter of 2019. The story takes place in two time periods, the present and the past (post-war Britain). I can’t write about this book without getting teary-eyed. It was really touching. It focused on three women who become intertwined with each other and each leaves her mark in the world. If you like strong women, women who have to make their own way in the world (like most of us in real life) and fashion history, then this book is for you. Run, don’t walk, to the library.

y404

Secret Prince’s Christmas Seduction by Carol Marinelli was a fun read. The story takes place during the lead-up to Christmas. It’s a Harlequin Presents and this line never disappoints. Romance, exotic locations, good-looking heroes. (Though, I have to admit, I kept picturing Trevor Noah as the hero. If you stare at the cover long enough, you’ll see it too. Tell me it’s not just me.)

IMG_5862

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella was just what I expected. Fun, silly and festive. Becky is back and up to her usual hijinks. In this story, she was in so much trouble that I honestly had no idea how it could all possibly end in a good way. I wrote more about it here.

Part II will be up soon, as I’m still finishing up a book. I’m looking forward to a new year and more books. I’m not looking forward to life going by so fast and to growing older, but if life has to go by fast and we must grow older, then at least we can do it with good books and good people around us. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, my friends!

xoxo, Jane

 

July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part II

Fragonard,_The_Reader
Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

I didn’t realize that the majority of my reading for this last quarter were romance novels until I reviewed this list. Sometimes I feel like I need to read something else on purpose, but the truth is that I love romance novels the bestest.

Rachel Lee made a career out of writing a book series set in fictional Conard County, Wyoming and the series is addictive. Rugged country, rugged men, sweet heroines, good neighbors… and she always, always writes these really dreamy heroes who make you swoon. Who doesn’t like swooning when reading romance novels?

But Rachel Lee’s Conard County series became so formulaic that you know exactly what to expect: woman in grave danger, abusive ex-husband, special forces hero who kills or puts ex-husband behind bars. And this was exactly the premise for Her Hero in Hiding but I truly did enjoy reading it. I wrote about it here.

Another Rachel Lee book I read was What She Saw. I didn’t enjoy reading this one at all. It was almost as if someone else wrote it. Rachel Lee’s novels are usually packed with emotion and action. The action scenes seemed to be written in a stilted manner and there was zero chemistry between the hero and heroine, Buck and Haley. It took everything I had to keep reading this book.

A Conard County Homecoming by Rachel Lee contains two stories, Miss Emmaline and the Archangel and Ironheart. I enjoyed reading them both very much. They were written in the early days of Rachel Lee’s writing career and it’s these early stories that made me fall in love with her Conard County series.

th_6b35432aea7a08928823d342568d4f49_SOY2_300.jpg

Then I read a bunch of early books (from the 1980s) by Sandra Brown. Shadows of Yesterday is one of my favorites from the bunch. The hero, Chad Dillon, was super nice and romantic and practically perfect. In other words, he was not even one tiny bit a jerk (because they usually are in the 80s romance novels). But the story is not realistic at all. The premise is that Chad finds Leigh, the heroine, stranded on the highway, about to give birth to her child. So he delivers her baby, then they fall in love and then they marry. It’s pure fantasy, although that’s not a bad thing. We all pick up a book to escape reality.

th_6b35432aea7a08928823d342568d4f49_Honor-Bound_300dpi-500.jpg

The other two books I read by Sandra Brown are Honor Bound and Led Astray. Really romantic and well-written. I think Sandra Brown doesn’t write romance anymore. She is strictly thrillers/suspense now, but I love those earlier novels best of all.

And this wraps up my third quarter reading. Feel free to share what you’ve been reading too. 🙂

xoxo, Jane

{Also, July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part I}

July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part I

Fragonard,_The_Reader
I love this painting. I wrote about it here.

It’s time for a (late) quarterly wrap-up. I read way more than I expected to read, which is great for my reading life, but not so great for my writing career.

IMG_4429

Lessons from Madame Chic

This is the first book in a three-part series. I really love this series because it inspires me to organize, clean the house, explore the arts and do some self-care. It’s easy to put self-care on your to-do list, but difficult to execute when you have a full-time job and a household to run, so it’s really nice to read this book for inspiration. My original review is here.

Fortune’s Homecoming by Allison Leigh

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love romance novels best of all. I used to be embarrassed to be caught reading them because people were so judgmental and made rude comments to me. While reading on the metro or in the lunch room at work, I’d hide the cover with something else, like an envelope. But I’m now at an age where I don’t give a fudge what people think. It’s incredibly liberating. So, yes, I read this novel in public, during my commute. It was a perfect read about a nice cowboy and a nice girl who fall in love with each other and live happily ever after. My original review is here.

Naturally Tan by Tan France

Tan France is such a cutie. He seems to be a geniounly nice guy. This memoir recounts his early life in England, how he got into his line of work, how he met his husband and how he ended up on the hit show Queer Eye. I finished it in record time because I was enjoying myself so much. My more in-depth review is here.

IMG_5482

Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry

This was a silly, fun read. Dave Barry is a good writer and a great columnist based in Miami. He wrote this book after traveling in Japan for three weeks. The book is from 1993, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. It’s a laugh-out-loud book. My original review is here.

Hopefully you’ve been reading a great stack of books too!

xoxo, Jane

 

National Read A Book Day

red heart on a old opened book ii
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Apparently today is National Read A Book Day. I’m always a day late and a dollar short when it comes to these fun, unofficial holidays.

My current read is a romance novel by Rachel Lee, Her Hero in Hiding. The plot is much darker than I expected.

The heroine of the novel, Kay, is on the run from an abusive ex. While running away (literally running), she runs into the hero of the story, the elusive, sexy Clint, who takes her to his cabin and proceeds to protect her from the bad guy. I know it sounds cheesy and maybe awful, but it’s kind of not. The dialogue sparkles with wit and romance. Clint is thoughtful and sweet (and tall and handsome and muscular) and Kay gains back her confidence as they begin to fall in love while stuck in the cabin during a blizzard (oh yes, there is a blizzard). Also, I am having serious cabin envy from the author’s vivid descriptions of the house.

I haven’t finished reading it yet, but as this is a Harlequin I know I’m guaranteed my happily ever after!!

What are you reading right now?

xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight)

AgnesMoorjpg.jpg

This week’s tea and book pairing is for a very sweet story, Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole. It’s a short love story featuring Agnes Moor, a black woman who has a position at the court of King James IV (Scotland) as the “favorite.” The King and Queen consider her their “exotic.” But Agnes is so much more than just something to show off. She is extremely intelligent, brave, beautiful and poised. She also speaks Gaelic.

This story has it all. There is a jousting tournament, a knight in shining armor (known as “The Wild Knight”) and a happily ever after. This is an interracial romance set in the Scottish Highlands and it’s really a must-read because I don’t know of any other story like it, plus the character Agnes Moor is inspired by a real woman.

BreakfastBlendTea
Tea image via Fortnum & Mason.

It was fun to decide which tea to pair with this book. I think Fortnum’s Breakfast Blend goes well with this story because Breakfast Tea was first blended in Edinburgh* and the story is set in Scotland.

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

*Queen Victoria enjoyed drinking this blend during her trips to Scotland and it soon became popular in England.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #20

adult beagle walking on grass field
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

It’s almost Friday! I live for the weekends where I can kick back with a book or go for a long walk. What do you like doing best on weekends (or on your designated days off)?

Fear not, I bring you reading links!

xoxo, Jane

A fun little Q&A

Hi, friends. So, I was inspired by kitty marie’s reading corner to do this fun Q&A.  Thanks for humoring me!

close up photo of assorted books
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

Any Jane Austen novel.

If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one book character, who would you choose?

Anne Elliott from Jane Austen’s Persuasion because she is the nicest and is never judgmental. Plus Captain Wentworth would miss her a lot and come rescue us anyway.

Vaclav Havel
Not book-related, but I just love this quote by Vaclav Havel and it’s more true today than ever.

If you wrote a book, what would its genre be?

I do write books. I’m a romance and women’s fiction writer and working towards publication.

What is your favorite book?

Persuasion by Jane Austen. (I wrote about my love for Persuasion here.)

2002666_DETAIL

What is your favorite coffee flavor? (Or another type of drink, if you don’t drink coffee.)

I am a tea connoisseur and I love Fortnum’s Countess Grey best of all. It’s a softer, lovelier version of Earl Grey.

fullsizeoutput_76f
My precious copies of Persuasion and Jane Eyre.

What is your least favorite book?

I had to think about this one and it’s Catcher in the Rye. It kind of left me feeling depressed. I prefer uplifting stories.

Is there any book coming out this year that you’re looking forward to reading?

I have so many books on my TBR shelf that I don’t dare look ahead to what’s being published next week or next month. I need to give my TBR shelf a little TLC. #love.books.so.so.much

What completed book series would you like to see one more new volume for? 

Harry Potter. A girl can dream.

What genre do you read the most?

Romance and women’s fiction. But I read a lot of nonfiction too. Usually biographies.

Thanks, Kittie Marie, for the great questions and inspiration! This was super fun! Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments. I love getting to know my readers!! xoxo, Jane

Fortune’s Homecoming by Allison Leigh

It’s time for another romance novel review. Why? Because I love them best of all.

Description:

Celebrity rodeo rider Grayson Fortune is seeking a reprieve from the limelight. So as his sweet real estate agent, Billie Pemberton, searches to find him the perfect home, he struggles to keep his mind on business. With his famous (philandering) Fortune father, Grayson is sure he’s not cut out for commitment. Roping young, innocent Billie into a fling would only break her heart. But Billie is convinced that love and family are Grayson’s true birthright…

Fortune's Homecoming

What I love

Well, the first thing I love about this book is that it’s a romance novel. I repeat, I love romances best of all! Fortune’s Homecoming by Allison Leigh packed a lot of romance and emotion. Even though it’s part of a series, I didn’t have any trouble at all reading it out of order.

I like that Grayson and Billie are friends at first. Slowing getting to know each other in a cautious way while spending time together during their real estate jaunts. It’s obvious that they like each other, but none can admit it to the other. Plus, Billie knows that Grayson has a reputation as a lady’s man and she doesn’t want to be another girl on his list. So she tries to guard her heart against him. (This gave me all the feels!)

Billie is very strong and likes to depend on herself. She loves what she does and does it anyway even though her mother wishes she’d gone into teaching Economics (why for heaven’s sake?). She lets Billie know this on a regular basis, thus making Billie feel perpetually guilty.

I can relate and you probably can too. Mothers have a tendency to make us regret our (very good) life choices. After high school, I wanted to return to Europe for college and I especially wanted to stay there afterwards. But my family was dead-set against it. They wanted me closer to them, where they could see me (and maybe control me?). I sure wish I didn’t let them persuade me otherwise. I suppose my life ended up just fine. I travel to Europe at least once a year and live life on my terms. But that’s why I love that Billie sticks to her guns and does what her heart tells her. I wish I was more like Billie when I was her age.

Maybe that’s why this portion of the story broke my heart. It’s obvious her mom is NOT proud of Billie’s accomplishments. Billie is so accomplished. Only 24 years old, yet holds a real estate license and a BA in Economics.

Personally, I am not the type of gal that needs rescuing and I’m pretty sure I would not like those types of romance heroines either. Billie, with her grand passion for her job and her education and gumption, is my kind of girl.

I don’t want to give away the conflict, so I’ll keep mum on that, but it involves a rodeo, a really nice mother and a truck! Intrigued yet?

pexels-photo-2618372.jpeg
Via Pexels.com

What I don’t love

I think my only gripe is that the hero, celebrity rodeo rider Grayson Fortune, kept referring to Billie as “darlin” even when they didn’t know each other very well. I know that I’d get annoyed real fast if some random dude kept referring to me as “darlin.” But since this is a cowboy romance, it’s par for the course. Otherwise, it was a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.

What’s the next book you’re grabbing off your bookshelf?

xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

 

The Wind Off The Small Isles by Mary Stewart

poeniesandwind

The Wind Off The Small Isles by Mary Stewart is a long-lost novella, recently republished.

Description:

In 1879, a wealthy young woman elopes with an impoverished fisherman, leaving her family, who live on the volcanic island of Lanzarote, distraught. In 1968, 23-year-old Perdita West, secretary to the famous author Cora Gresham, visits Lanzarote, the strangest and most wild of the Canary Isles, on a research trip. They meet Cora’s estranged son, Mike, and fall in love with the unusual, beautiful little island.

While snorkeling, a landslide traps Perdita in an underwater cave. No one knows where she is, so she can’t count on a rescue. And her efforts to save herself will reveal the solution to a century-old mystery.

Before the story begins, Mary Stewart’s loving niece, Jennifer Ogden, gives a loving tribute. “As her niece and also her constant companion for the last twelve years of her life, I came to know Mary Stewart (Aunty Mary) extremely well and also to realize how lucky we have been as a family to have had within it this extraordinary and fascinating woman.”

After the tribute, the story begins with a prelude which takes place in 1879 in Lanzarote, a Spanish island off the coast of West Africa. Mary Stewart visited the island with her professor husband during one of his research trips. It’s during the prelude we learn about the mystery that will be solved almost a century later by Perdita West. Fast forward to present day and Perdita discovers the mystery by accident while she gets stuck in a cave during snorkeling.

Thewindoffthesmallisles
The Wind off the Small Isles made for perfect in-flight reading!

What I love

Everything! It’s a charming short story (it’s categorized as a novella but actually I’d categorize it as a short story) with a sweet romance and a mystery.

Mary Stewart’s scenes are written so vividly that I felt I was right there. For example, the scene where Perdita gets stuck in the cave is described in such a vivid manner that I began to feel claustrophobia while reading. {My fear is being stuck under water or inside a cave.} During these scenes I felt as if I was right there with Perdita. Let’s just say that if I knew how vivid these scenes were described, I might not have read this novella. That’s how much I suffer from claustrophobia.

But this is what makes Mary Stewart so magical. Her beautifully descriptive writing is what she is known for. Even though this story was very short it did not lack in anything including character development. She writes in a way that pulls you (the reader) into the scenes.

I love the description of Lanzarote and now I want to visit it. The reader gets to know the island really well via the various conversations the characters have and the drive that Perdita takes with her boss, Cora.

I also love that the book is an actual hardcover, even though it’s only 80 pages long.

What I don’t love

It’s a Mary Stewart book, so there isn’t anything that I don’t love. We are lucky that this long-lost story has been republished for us. But if I’m allowed to give a teeny tiny criticism of the book, then I’d say that the book ended too abruptly. The mystery was solved and story over, just like that. It could have gone on for at least another page or so, just to end on a softer note. Either way, this was a charming read and I hope there are hundreds more long-lost Mary Stewart stories waiting to be rediscovered.

Have you read The Wind Off The Small Isles? xoxo, Jane

Amazon US Amazon UK

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links, but it’s also ok if you don’t use the links. I’m just grateful you are here and reading my blog. xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #5

ReadingLinks

I’ve been sick with a cold most of this week, but I’m back on the mend. I hope you are doing well! Here are some interesting links. 🙂

Empress Masako: The Japanese princess who struggles with royal life.

My current read. I’m laugh-crying as I’m reading. Review to follow next week.

Rich guys are most likely to have no idea what they’re talking about, study suggests.

I don’t understand why someone paid $6.5 Million to get their daughter into Stanford, plus tuition on top of that.

What’s your opinion on this? Judge rules museum ‘rightfully owns’ Nazi-looted painting.

Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels.

Have a great weekend! xoxo, Jane

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for reading my blog. xoxo, Jane

January, February & March 2019 Wrap-Up

blur book stack books bookshelves
Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

It’s time for my reading wrap-up for the first quarter of 2019.

I read romances (of course!) and books on photography and fashion. All in all, a very successful first quarter. This is a long post so get yourself a cup of tea and settle in for a fun read about books.

Coming Home for Christmas – A Christmas anthology by Lindsay McKenna, Delores Fossen and Geri Krotow. This anthology features three stories, all military-themed. If you like military-themed romances, then this anthology of three novellas is for you. It’s perfect to read during the festive season (so make a note of it for Christmas 2019). The stories were well-thought out, with rich plots and fleshed out characters. And there is always something romantic about a hero coming home from war.

Except…truth be told, I didn’t realize I would not find this theme romantic. I’ve had a brother and a husband go to war and it was stressful and scary and anxious. And I’ll always have the gray hair I got while my husband was in Afghanistan for one year. I probably won’t be reading military-themed romances again. You learn by reading and I learned that it’s too soon for me to read these types of stories. Nevertheless, the stories were well-written and penned by female military veteran writers and I was happy to support them by buying this book.

Railway

A Christmas Railway Mystery by Edward Marston. This book was a treat. It’s actually part of a series, but I was able to enjoy this book without having read any of the other books. Set in December 1860 in a small town outside London, a detective is on the hunt for a murderer. I played a game with myself to figure out who the murderer is while reading this book, but I was dead wrong with my conclusion (pun intended)! The murderer was someone I least suspected. I’m not sure what Christmas-time and murders have in common, but nevertheless I loved reading this book and I will seek out more English mystery/detective books next Christmas.

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes. This was a very charming short story. The main character is a young British girl (somewhat depressed) who is stood up by her boyfriend at the train station. This forces her to travel to Paris alone. But this is good because she embarks on an entirely new adventure in the City of Light. By the end of the story, our heroine discovers that she deserves to be treated well and learns how to live more daringly. I won’t say anything else, as I don’t want to spoil the ending for you. But if you have an afternoon to spare, this book is a must-read. Captain PoldarkLooking for Captain Poldark by Rowan Coleman. This is another short story. It starts out sweet and funny, but quickly becomes action-packed and leaves you at the edge of your seat. Our main character Lisa is a withdrawn woman (and easily overwhelmed by life) and doesn’t trust anyone because of something bad that happened to her. We don’t find out what that bad thing is until the end of the story. Most of the story takes place while Lisa is driving to Cornwall with a small group of Poldark fans (who dubbed themselves “Poldarlings”) riding along in her car. As they are driving to Cornwall, chaos ensues which leads to soul-searching and self-discoveries for all the characters. This is another quick afternoon read, perfect for summer. Go for it.

Wild Wyoming Nights by Joanne Rock. This was a very romantic, feel-good Harlequin novel. I wrote about it in a previous blog post

PrettyCityLondon by Siobhan Ferguson. This book is a gorgeous read about London’s most scenic neighborhoods and gives you tips on photography. It inspired me to dust off my old camera. 

Kate: How to Dress like a Style Icon by Caroline Jones. I bought this book because I wanted to learn tips on how to dress more stylish. It has pages and pages of gorgeous photography, fashion tidbits, outfit ideas and acts as a look book. I’m so glad I bought this book. It gave me hours of enjoyment. Do I dress more stylish? The verdict is still out.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for reading my blog. xoxo, Jane

Reading Links for {Romance} Writers #1

blur book stack books bookshelves
Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Happy Thursday!

I’ve been reading a number of interesting and educational articles. Here are some links for my fellow romance writers (or anyone who wants to read them, really).

The first three links are from a really cool writing website that teaches you how to DIY your MFA. Ten Rules for Writing Killer Romance: Part I

Ten Rules for Writing Killer Romance: Part II

Ten Rules for Writing Killer Romance: Part III

white ceramic teacup with saucer near two books above gray floral textile
Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

How to self-publish your novel.

This Bustle article is very well-written and researched. Has #MeToo Changed Romance Novel Publishing?

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane