What I’ve been reading on my holiday

Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell
I don’t know how long I’ve been reading Jill Mansell but I do remember that it began with a free book that came with a magazine. That was Perfect Timing. I’ve read everything she’s written, and although I have my favourites, there are very few of hers that I haven’t enjoyed. Romance readers should be warned that these are (British-style) chick lit, and that although the books always end on a positive note, they do not always conform to the expectations of the romance genre. This book definitely does not.

Three Amazing Things follows three more or less separate storylines: Flo and Zander, Tasha and Rory, Hallie and Luke. Although their lives brush past each other occasionally, it’s not until almost the end of the book that the three parts come together, and although there are signals about how this might happen, it’s still worth reading for the way that Mansell executes the finale.

Hallie is the central character. She has CF and is on the waiting list for a lung transplant. I wished more than anything that Hallie did not have to wait until after her transplant for her romantic fulfilment, though I did appreciate that she had multiple men interested in her. The scene with the ex was my least favourite in the book because I think it was the one where she was treated as a Super Special Unicorn. No other single woman in Hallie’s situation would have asked for and been allowed to behave in that way.

The other thing I wished for was that the Evil Woman in the book had been a bit less one-dimensional. Deeply rounded characters aren’t really Mansell’s speciality but in Lena’s case it wouldn’t have taken much to make her a more sympathetic character. But still, I enjoyed the book and Mansell will remain on the auto-buy list.

Once Upon A Rose by Laura Florand
Florand is a much more recent addition to my auto-buy list, but no less beloved. I adore her gruff, sexy French heroes. Her new series is based in the south of France, rather than Paris, and focuses on the perfume industry, rather than chocolate. But the descriptions are as lush and lyrical as ever and the hero is just as good at putting his heart out there through his work. I love how Florand’s novels stay away from high drama and deep angst. Everything is internal – Matt’s deep love for his valley, his insecurity round his cousins, his need to fix problems; Layla’s fears for her career, her lack of roots, her instinctive desire for Matt. I love a man who gets so flustered round a woman that he forgets how a t-shirt works. Someone on twitter said they were looking forward to Tristan and Damien’s books, and so am I, but I am looking forward to Lucien’s even more.

Playing by the Greek’s Rules by Sarah Morgan
Much as I enjoy Morgan’s single title romances, I adore her categories and I’m so happy to see this new one. It has all the hallmarks of her best books – an adorable heroine who likes to talk a lot and about everything, a tough hero with a strongly protective side and a sense of humour, a complicated family background, and a good grovel at the end. I enjoyed the banter between Nik and Lily a lot, and I believed in their happy ever after. When Lily’s explaining to Nik why she wants a real relationship, she tells him that she wants to be someone’s favourite person. For me, that summed up exactly what it feels like to be a single person. You can have lots of great, close friends, and even family, but you don’t ever get to come first with someone. You’re never the top priority.

I did think that the set up was unnecessarily complex – Lily is a cleaner, and an intern at Nik’s company, and and archaeologist working on a dig. And I didn’t completely get Lily’s background. She’s British, but it seemed like she went to college in the US, in which case she’d either have had a full scholarship or had to pay up front. She wouldn’t have had college loans because she wouldn’t have been eligible for them. Maybe I misread and she went to university in the UK, in which case I’m not sure how she’d made so many US friends and spent so much time there. Hmmm.

Still, I’m not reading M&B’s for strict adherence to reality and I was perfectly able to suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy this, and I’m sure I’ll be re-reading it.

Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M.C.Beaton
This was in the holiday cottage and since I failed to bring any paper books with me, I took it to read while sitting in the hot tub. It’s fine. If you’ve read any Agatha Raisin you’ll know exactly what to expect, although this particular volume has the added interest of being set in Cyprus rather than the Cotswolds.

Someone on KBoards recently suggested that cosy mysteries didn’t have murder in them. I can only assume he’d never read one. And if you’ve never read one I can see why you might think that. Murder is not cosy. And yet… cosy mysteries are an extremely popular genre. I don’t read a lot of detective fiction these days, but I still understand the appeal. It makes crime a less scary thing. It makes the world a less scary place. Even murder becomes almost domestic in this sort of world. And of course the murderer is always caught and justice is served. That doesn’t happen in real life but it’s comfortin sometimes to escape to a world where even murder can be reduced to an interesting puzzle.

Faith Seeking Understanding by Kevin Vanhoozer
I’ve enjoyed and profited from a Vanhoozer’s academic works in the past so I was pleased to see that he’d written something aimed at the popular market. Well, kind of. If you’re okay with 50 endnotes to each chapter, complex philosophical ideas and specialist language throughout, then this will be fine. I was hoping for something that I could actually recommend to people at my church, but I don’t think this is it. To be honest, I think if you can read this, you could easily read his other books. Which is a shame, because I think Vanhoozer’s ideas have a lot of value for thinking about how doctrine needs to be enacted in the life of the church.

Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale read by Nicholas Boulton
I’ve read this before but I wanted an audiobook for the long drive and I’m so ridiculously cautious about them that I didn’t want to take the risk on a title I didn’t know I’d like. Anyway, I’m very much enjoying it again and I like the narration a lot. He doesn’t over-act but it’s still very easy to follow.

Not a book, but another holiday activity which I have thoroughly enjoyed: this jigsaw. I do use a variety of techniques when doing a jigsaw, such as sorting (edge pieces, sky pieces), and testing (trying pieces to fill a particular gap). But my very favourite is when you can take a piece, compare it with the box and find the specific place to put it straight in. This jigsaw is perfect for that. I did the yellow first and then enjoyed myself enormously with the patchwork balloon. Highly recommended.