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 (with bonus algebra!)

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and so the answer is quite a lot. I’ll spare you some of the more mediocre reads.

Here’s the summary:

A Study in Seduction by Nina Rowan
I had been waiting to read this since it came out last year because, hello, mathematician heroine, but boo, geographical restrictions. I am not sure it was worth the wait. I didn’t warm to either of the main characters much and I didn’t really believe that Lydia was a mathematician. We’re told that she is, a lot. And she knows lots of formulae and things, but she doesn’t really think like a mathematician. About halfway through, she sets a maths problem for the hero. Which I then had to solve before I could read any further and since my maths is pretty rusty it took a while. I think I have solved it but I get a different answer from the heroine (but I think her answer must be wrong, unless she’s dealing with complex variables). Finally I have solved it! Answer below. I am happy that this took me considerably less than the two weeks which Lydia allowed Alex. Also, authors, please put the solutions in the back of the book! Or at least, on your blog. Some of us care about these things.

The One She Was Warned About by Shoma Narayanan
Sweet, undemanding, a little bit predictable India-set M&B romance. Narayanan’s style is different from other books in the Modern Tempted line, but I like it.

Girl with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir and Geek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
I was never planning to read a book narrated by a cat. And I was relieved to discover that neither this nor the sequel are entirely from the cat’s POV. It was cute. I think I liked Geek better than Girl. I’m happy to have read both but I would quite like pet romances not to become a Thing. (F, don’t read Geek. Someone is mean to the cat. I think you’re safe with Girl, if you want to try it.)

A Night of Southern Comfort by Robin Covington
Fun category romance with a side element of suspense.

The Italian’s Suitable Wife by Lucy Monroe
The Greek’s Innocent Virgin by Lucy Monroe
The Sheikh’s Bartered Bride by Lucy Monroe
Um, so M&B are digitising some of Monroe’s backlist and I am powerless to resist. The Sheikh’s Bartered Bride is very like her more recent Prince of Secrets. The Greek’s Innocent Virgin is a not-completely-secret baby book. And The Italian’s Suitable Wife has a hero in a wheelchair for much of the book. Sometimes I thought that was handled pretty well – there isn’t much unnecessary detail about how he manages to do things in his chair, and he’s very much still the alpha male, in control of everything, whether he’s on his hospital bed (he starts off in a coma) or in the chair. And I liked very much that at the beginning of the marriage, they clearly have a sexual relationship which is satisfying for her but does not involve penetrative sex. Because she is a M&B heroine, she is a virgin at the start, and it’s clear that the hero considers himself to have taken her virginity even though there has been no PIV sex. However, the next scene has the hero beating himself up about not being ‘whole’ and not being able to make love ‘completely’. His impotence fuels the major conflict in the second half of the book and I was not impressed with the way he dealt with it at all, and the consequence it had for his wife. So, um, I guess I’m not recommending this one. Which is a shame because it has some great scenes in it too.

Love and other Scandals by Caroline Linden
Bought and read on the strength of MFOB’s review. Light on the historical accuracy, and with an irritating motif of an erotic book for women called Fifty… But a nice courtship and characters who I wanted to get their happy ending.

Promise of Happiness by Betty Neels, Damsel in Green by Betty Neels, Saturday’s Child by Betty Neels, Enchanting Samantha by Betty Neels
Some of the best Neels I’ve read, thanks to some recs from Sunita and others.

The Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick
Disappointing. I’ve read and enjoyed other books by Cornick much more than this.

The Prince of Pleasure by Sandra Marton
Didn’t like the set up for this, didn’t believe in the plot, didn’t care enough for the characters to let the rest go. Not her best.

Reforming the Playboy by Inara Scott
Didn’t love the set up for this either – one of those tricksy wills that I don’t really believe in. But after that it was great. Two artists, former lovers, lots of creative tension.

Mr Right There All Along by Jackie Braun
Oh, this was another great rec from someone. Sweet, funny and just lovely.

The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand
I do love Florand’s voice and style, so as I was reading this I was swept along with it and sighed happily at the end. But I admit even while I was reading that I had to find a creative solution to the sexual harassment at work issue, and I had some doubts about the heroine’s backstory. And afterwards, reading Brie’s comments here and Willaful’s here, I’m not sure I’ll read it again, or at least not with such pleasure.

The Sheikh’s Bride by Sophie Weston
An old M&B but a great one. Not sure if it’s available in ebook, but you may be able to find a second hand copy.

So, that’s me. What have you been reading?

*The problem is this: If a+b+c=6, a^2+b^2+c^2=8, and a^3+b^3+c^3=5, what is a^4+b^4+c^4?

Here’s my solution:

(a+b+c)^2 = a^2+b^2+c^2+2ab+2ac+2bc = 36
(a+b+c)^3 = a^3+b^3+c^3 + 3ab^2 + 3ac^2 + 3ba^2 + 3ca^2 + 3bc^2 + 3cb^2 + 6abc = 216
= 5 + 3a(b^2 + c^2) + 3b (a^2 + c^2) + 3c(a^2 + b^2) + 6abc
= 5 + 3a (8 – a^2) + 3b (8 – b^2) + 3c (8 – c^2) + 6abc
= 5 + 24a – 3a^3 + 24b – 3b^3 + 24c – 3c^3 + 6abc
= 5 + 24(a+b+c) -3(a^3 + b^3 + c^3) + 6abc
= 5 + 24×6 – 3×5 + 6abc
= 134 + 6abc

So 6abc = 216-134 = 82
abc = 82/6

(a+b+c)^4 = a^4 + b^4 + c^4 + 4ab^3 + 4ac^3 + 4bc^3 + 4ba^3 + 4ca^3 + 4cb^3 + 6a^2b^2 + 6a^2c^2 + 6b^2c^2 + 12(abc^2 + ab^2c + a^2bc) = 1296

If a^4 + b^4 + c^4 = n, then

n + 4a(b^3 + c^3) + 4b (a^3 + c^3) + 4c(a^3 + b^3) + 3a^2(b^2 + c^2) + 3b^2(a^2 + c^2) + 3c^2 (a^2 + b^2) + 12abc(a+b+c) = 1296

n + 4a (5-a^3) + 4b (5-b^3) + 4c (5-c^3) + 3a^2(8-a^2) + 3b^2 (8-b^2) + 3c^2 (8-c^2) + (12 x82/6 x 6) = 1296

n + 20a -4a^4 + 20b – 4b^4 + 20c – 4c^4 +24a^2 – 3a^4 + 24b^2 – 3b^4 + 24c^2 – 3c^4 + 984 = 1296

n + 20 (a+b+c) – 4(a^4 + b^4 + c^4) + 24(a^2 + b^2 + c^2) – 3(a^4 + b^4 + c^4) + 984 = 1296

n + 20×6 -4n + 24×8 -3n +984 = 1296

-6n = 0

n = 0

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.

What’s on my kindle for Christmas

I have been hoarding up books by some of my favourite authors for a special Christmas reading binge next week. Here’s some of what I’m looking forward to:

Courtney Milan’s The Countess Conspiracy
Sarah Morgan’s Ripped
Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Heart
HelenKay Dimon’s Everything You Need To Know
Rebecca Rogers Maher’s The Bridge
Shoma Narayanan’s Monsoon Wedding Fever
Nina Rowan’s A Study in Seduction (I have been waiting for this to be available in ebook in the UK forever.

What’s on your TBR pile for the Christmas break? Which books are you hoping to get in your stocking? Is there anything else I need to add to my list?!

What’s been on my summer kindle

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I have been reading up a storm. Here are some of the highlights:

The Ruin of a Rogue by Miranda Neville

I do love a bad boy turning good and this is a classic example of the trope. I loved Marcus and Anne and almost everything about their story. Perhaps not quite my favourite Neville but certainly in my top three.

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Probably the best Christian romance novel I’ve read. It’s about opium smuggling in 19th century America, so it gets bonus points for the unusual setting. The heroine is terrific, but the hero wasn’t the easiest to warm to. There are some issues with the ending, I think, but on the whole I enjoyed this a lot.

Road to Rouen by Ben Hatch

Family travelogue. Amusing in parts. Mostly the lesson is: don’t take your family on a road trip around France.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers

Everything which is to be said about this has already been said four times over. I liked it but didn’t love it.

Imprisoned by a Vow by Annie West

M&B Modern. I like Annie West’s books a lot and this was her at her best, I think. I don’t remember reading a heroine like Leila before.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

People had been recommending this to me for months and eventually someone just gave it to me and told me to read it, so I did. And loved it. A feminist lesbian professor at Syracuse University describes the trainwreck of her conversion to Christianity. Brutally honest and astonishingly frank, she reflects on her history in insightful and challenging ways. Also, I am now thinking of changing my name to Ros Champagne Clarke. Seriously, isn’t that so cool?

What have you been reading lately? Anything you’d recommend?

What’s on my kindle

I promise there will be new Tom and Hattie soon, and even some other blog posts, but I’ve been away and busy and ill, and for now these are the easiest posts to write.

There has been more Jilly Cooper: Polo has been this week’s read. More horses, more ludicrous puns, more outrageous characters. Fab.

There is going to be more Betty Neels, following Liz’s mention of Cassandra by Chance.

And, since it is about to be March, there are going to be some new books: Annie West’s Captive in the Spotlight is first on the list.

I’m not going to be buying Katie Fforde’s latest, having been disappointed with most of her recent books. Nor will I be getting Janet Mullany’s Improper Relations, newly out on Kindle – I know many people love her style, but it’s just not for me.

What’s on your reading list this week?

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