What’s on my kindle and a call for recommendations

Here’s what I’ve been reading in the last few weeks:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
I finished! On April 1st, which was not too bad at all, considering how busy March was for me. It was an absolute joy to read. Mantel is a master of characterisation and has incredible skill with her prose. I most appreciated the unexpected, fierce flashes of humour that lit up the book every so often. I will be downloading Bringing Up The Bodies very soon indeed. I am a complete convert to e-reading for large books like this. Easier to carry around, easier to mark progress, easier on the hands.

Her Favourite Rival by Sarah Mayberry
I enjoyed this very much. It’s an office romance, with just enough conflict to keep it going. Both hero and heroine have complicated families (this is a Superromance, but there are no kids, yay!). I would have liked a bit more time to explore the dynamics of her family and the resolution with her sister felt a bit too neat for plausibility. But on the other hand, nothing about the hero’s family was neatly tied up. And I really liked the ending, especially in light of the next book I read…

Just The Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James

I suggested this as a twitter readalong because I’d never read James and JTSMA was on sale. The Sexiest Man Alive (TM) is a Hollywood superstar whose next film role is as a lawyer. He pulls strings to shadow the heroine. He messes her around, manipulates her by his influence over her company, and assumes she’ll fall at his feet like every other woman in the world. The good part is that she doesn’t. I genuinely enjoyed several of the early scenes between the two of them where she gets to show why she’s such a good lawyer and gets the better of him each time. But, sadly the book did not live up to its early promise. The dynamic between Jason and Taylor never changes. At the end he’s still assuming she’ll fall in with his plans. He’s still manipulating her for his own ends. And she… well, she goes along with it.

I said on twitter that the ending of this book made me angry. It still does. Taylor is portrayed as a strong heroine, who excels at her job, who has her life in her own hands and yet Jason’s assumption is that she will give up her job, her friends, her family and her life in Chicago in order to move to LA to be with him. Taylor initially refuses – because she’s afraid he’ll cheat on her like a previous boyfriend did. But when she does decide she wants to be with Jason, well then, she gives up her job, her friends, her family and her life in Chicago without so much as a thought. That was what really got me. Not that she ends up in LA, but that at no point does she (or Jason, for that matter) consider any other outcome. His career is still assumed to be more important than hers (just like it was at the beginning of the book when she’s expected to clear her schedule for him, and then he doesn’t even bother to show up). He never once offers to relocate, and nor does she contemplate it. He’s met her Chicago friends, and yet he doesn’t even ask whether she’ll miss them. He knows her family are there, but it never occurs to him that might be a reason why she might prefer not to relocate. She makes partner at her Chicago law firm – and turns it down to stay in LA. It’s FINE if she wants to give all that up, but the book never makes it an option for her not to. And it NEVER makes it an option for Jason to give anything up at all. He’s the movie star. Why couldn’t he move to Chicago and take his private jet wherever he’s filming? Or cut back on his schedule to spend more time with Taylor? Or at least think about the possibility that he might have to make some compromises?

Oh right, because he’s the guy.

Neanderthal Meets Human, Friends Without Benefits, Love Hacked by Penny Reid

I normally avoid books about knitting clubs. Someone always has cancer and dies at the end. But not in these books! These are real knitters who know the value of a Madelinetosh limited edition colourway and aren’t afraid to use it. But also, they’re fun, interesting, clever people who have romances to match. The books are funny, unpredictable, a little bit sexy, and very romantic. There are some editing issues, especially in the first one, but I think they’re worth persevering with despite that. Also, there are no actual neanderthals. I realise probably no one else thought there might be, but I have read too much Jasper Fforde to be sure on that point. And, well, that was part of the reason I hadn’t picked up the first book before someone told me about the knitting. So, yeah, no neanderthals.

And now I need your help. I need recommendations of books to read on my holiday. Anything set in Iceland, DC, Philly, NYC or on a cruise ship! I have Emma Barry’s Special Interests in mind for the DC part of the trip, but would love some more ideas.

What I’ve been reading

Mrs Wintle’s Wonders (aka Dancing Shoes) by Noel Streatfeild. I don’t think it’s her best book but it has several classic Streatfeild elements and a few good moments. I do like the way that she doesn’t feel obliged to redeem her unpleasant characters or give everyone the happy ending they want.

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan. I loved this so much. It is a wonderful, wonderful book about characters who I loved and situations that really matter. I think this is a book I would give to non-romance readers to show them that romance is not worthless fluff. This is a book I’ll want to read again and again.

The Chocolate Heart by Laura Florand. Oh, Summer. This book broke my heart. The heroine has the worst parents ever who have left their daughter feeling broken and worthless. Oh, and she doesn’t think she’s allowed to eat desserts. Parents, why do you mess your kids up so badly? Anyway, since this is a Florand chocolate book, the hero is perfectly equipped to put the heroine back together and feed her amazing creations. Very sweetly, she also gets to feed him pasta and steak and real food.

Room at the Inn by Ruthie Knox. I didn’t love this and I’m not quite sure why. The set-up struck me as implausible and the romance didn’t win me over enough to live with that.

Everything You Need To Know by HelenKay Dimon. This was fun. I was a bit nervous about the set-up – heroine runs a website for women to report back on the men they date. But although that is part of the plot, it’s not directly related to the romance. I hadn’t read Dimon before, but I shall look out for her books in the future.

Ripped by Sarah Morgan.
I loved this. Short and sweet, it’s a perfect Christmas treat.

Take One Arranged Marriage by Shoma Narayanan.
I’m always a sucker for a marriage of convenience story and this, although it is an arranged marriage, fits well within the MOC trope. Both the hero and heroine have their own reasons for the marriage and I thought both were plausible. It’s a sweet story and I’ve now got a couple of Narayanan’s other books on my kindle.

A Date with a Bollywood Star by Rita Lakhani. I forget who was discussing cross-class romances recently, but this is sort-of one and it didn’t work for me. It’s set in the UK, featuring a hero who grew up in working-class Manchester and moved to Pakistan where he became a Bollywood star as a teenager (I wasn’t absolutely convinced by this part of the plot). The heroine is from a middle-class UK Asian family who were upset that she gave up her medical degree to study journalism. I didn’t buy into her total naivete (she’s a journalist!) and nor did I enjoy the manufactured black moment and reversal, wherein the hero lost all his money and then got it back again. I actually thought at first he’d simply pretended to have lost his money to see whether she’d still be willing to marry him (I am not sure she would). But no, and it’s not until he gets the money back that he goes to her and she takes him back.