A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry – Book Review

A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks

Once burned, twice shy.

This describes Bronte perfectly. She was once a smart, sexy, professional woman, but then she met the Texan. He seemed so wonderful when they were meeting on the weekends. When she left her job in New York and moved to Chicago to be with him? Not so much. Now Bronte is finally healing a bit, and to do so she’s guarding her independence very closely. When she meets Maxwell, the handsome British man getting an advanced economics degree at the University of Chicago, she decides that they need to be no-strings-attached. Maxwell is happy with their situation , but just for the time being. You see, Maxwell is convinced that he has met the woman who will one day become his wife and he knows something Bronte doesn’t: the woman who becomes his wife will also become the Duchess of Northrop.

A Royal Pain is a lot of fun. In some (very obvious) ways, it reminds me of The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin. Both feature American girls running off to become British royalty. As might be expected from the contemporary setting, Bronte and Maxwell’s relationship is certainly more of a love match – Maxwell’s family is still quite wealthy – but despite some major differences, some of the same difficulties remain. Maxwell is, at times, a bit controlling. Much of this can perhaps be put down to cultural differences, but even just the fact that he decides Bronte is his future wife and doesn’t bother telling her for quite awhile is occasionally off-putting. I must also say that I got tired of hearing about their mind-blowing sex they were having during their no-strings-attached time. Of course, I’m not typically a reader of romance novels, so perhaps I found it particularly tedious.

Despite some weaknesses, though, Mulry’s characters – Bronte in particular – are vivid and do a remarkably good job at taking up residence in the reader’s brain. For days after finishing A Royal Pain, I found myself thinking about the book, wondering how Bronte might be doing after the end. Say what you will about any of its faults, the ability of A Royal Pain to stay with me like that is, to me, the mark of a good book.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon – Book Review

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Delta, an imprint of Random House
This is the 2nd book in the series, review may contain spoilers for earlier books

Claire and Jaime are back again, trying now to prevent the battle at Culloden Field, in which Claire knows thousands of highland men will die. In an attempt to change history, they travel together to France to try to subvert the cause of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

“Dragonfly in Amber” has perhaps the most confusing opening of any book I have ever read. When we last left Claire at the end of “Outlander,” she had decided not to go back to her own time, but to stay with Jaime. At the beginning of “Dragonfly in Amber,” she is back in the present with a grown daughter, trying to find out who of all of the men she had known made it alive through the battle at Culloden Field. I wondered if I had skipped a page in “Dragonfly in Amber,” or whether I had misinterpreted or misremembered the end of “Outlander.” Before too long, though, it all made sense again, and I was happy to be back, drawn into the lives of Claire and Jamie once more.

As with “Outlander,” I felt that “Dragonfly in Amber” was just a bit too long. And really, it is a testament to Gabaldon’s writing and storytelling that her 800+ page books are only a little too long, and not painfully too long. Still, though, it makes me hesitate a bit to get to the later books, which are even longer. Even so, I am loving these books and have no plans to stop the series any tiem soon.


Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Source: Personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Book Review

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Delta, an imprint of Random House

Life has been in upheaval for Claire and Frank for some time. The majority of their married life was spent apart during World War II, where Claire acted as a nurse. Now is their time to reconnect on a romantic retreat in the Scottish highlands. One morning on their vacation, Claire heads up to an old stone circle (a la Stonehenge). As she nears the structure she begins to hear odd sounds and suddenly is whisked 200 years back in time where she is rescued/kidnapped by a group of Scottish clansmen. One of them, a young man in his early 20s named Jaime, has been badly injured and Claire immediately uses her nursing skills to help heal him. The longer Claire spends in the 18th century, the more time she and Jaime spend around one another, until something happens that will force them together.

When I first joined LibraryThing, one of my first stops was the historical fiction group, where it seemed like everyone was talking about one series. It was universal love, nary a dissenting opinion to be found. That series was, of course, Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series. After that initial introduction, I began hearing praises for “Outlander” all over the place; it seemed that everyone but me had read it. And yet, I resisted. I resisted for a good three years. I was scared by the fact it was a long series of hefty books (the mass market edition of Outlander I read has about 850 pages, and it appears that many of the sequels are longer). I also wasn’t sure how I felt about the time travel aspect or the whole description of the series as historical romance, since I generally feel like romance aspects add very little to historical fiction.

What I want to know now is this:

WHY did none of you sit me down and make me read “Outlander” before this?

Seriously? Because I L-O-V-E LOVE it.

And what of my objections? Okay, first, the time travel thing. It really isn’t time travel. Yes, Claire goes back in time, but it more about the magical qualities of the Scottish highlands, finding that there is truth to the basis of the old myths, not that there is some science fiction-type thing stuck in the middle of what is primarily historical fiction, just a touch of fantasy. Of course, I was also put off by everyone’s description of this book as romance, because historical romance usually makes me roll my eyes or skip pages. However, I was talking to Michelle from That’s What She Read trying to sum up my thoughts on the romance angle and I think that she put it very well: most sex scenes in historical fiction are either gratuitous or insignificant. She’s absolutely right, but the romantic encounters in “Outlander” and neither of those things. By and large they really do advance the plot and the character development. Plus, Gabaldon perfectly walks the line between too vague and too graphic and writes love scenes that don’t make me want to throw the book against the wall, miracle of miracles!

If you are like me and have heard of these books but failed to read them, please stop what you’re doing and go and find the first one. They’re long, but they’re fast reads and they’re terrific. And now I’m out of here, because I’m on my way to buy the next two books in the series!

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Check out some of the other tour hosts for more reviews.  Links go to the host’s site, not to their specific review.

Monday, August 2nd:  Jenn’s Bookshelves (An Echo in the Bone)

Wednesday, August 4th:  The Literate Housewife Review (Voyager)

Monday, August 9th:  Musings of an All Purpose Monkey (Outlander)

Thursday, August 12th:  Under the Boardwalk (An Echo in the Bone)

Friday, August 13th:  Starting Fresh (An Echo in the Bone)

Monday, August 16th:  Planet Books (Outlander)

Wednesday, August 25th:  MoonCat Farms Meanderings (An Echo in the Bone)

Tuesday, August 31st:  The Brain Lair (Outlander)

Wednesday, September 1st:  My Two Blessings (Outlander)

Thursday, September 2nd:  Life in the Thumb (An Echo in the Bone)

Tuesday, September 7th:  That’s What She Read (Dragonfly in Amber)

Monday, September 13th:  Suko’s Notebook (Outlander)

Tuesday, September 14th:  Luxury Reading (Outlander)

Wednesday, September 15th:  The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (An Echo in the Bone)

Friday, September 17th:  Devourer of Books (Outlander)

Tuesday, September 21st:  Rundpinne (An Echo in the Bone)

Monday, September 27th:  Hey, Lady!  Whatcha Readin’? (Outlander)

Thursday, September 30th:  Pop Culture Junkie (Outlander)

* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff – Book Review

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

For Lily Davis, being the daughter of a Coke executive has its rewards. For one, she and her family are treated almost as royalty in Toccoa, Georgia. For another, her father is able to pull some strings so that her husband Paul can go participate in World War II as a Coke man bringing refreshing, American goodness to the troops instead of going to battle himself, making it all the more likely he will be able to come home to her. And, in fact, he is going to be coming home to her in just a few days, a prospect that Lily is not entirely excited about. Lily and Paul were married when she was 17 and were only man and wife for a few weeks before he went to war.

Now, though, Lily is afraid that both she and Paul have changed, and she is not at all sure that she wants to spend her life as Toccoa royalty. And then she meets Jake. Jake who is putting on the town’s fireworks display, Jake who is the son of immigrant fireworks makers, who worked as an explosives expert during the war, whose father was held in a camp by the FBI for being Italian. Lily meets Jake by chance in a field when she stops to watch his fireworks and in the blink of an eye they fall deeply in love. Now she must decide whether to follow her heart or her duty.

I picked this book up in spite of comparisons to Nicholas Sparks because it had blurbs from other (non-romance) authors. As far as plot goes, this comparison to Sparks was apt, the modern framing of the story and some je ne sais quoi quality reminded me of “The Notebook” (or at least the movie, since I’ve never actually read one of Sparks’ books). That being said, I don’t think it had the same emotionally manipulative quality that the books and movies the flow out of Nicholas Sparks’ brain seem to have, which I appreciated. I also thought the story was well told, over all.

That being said, I think that “Fireworks Over Toccoa” has confirmed my belief that I just can’t read romance. I was excited about it, went into it with an open mind, but I simply can’t buy the love story. I can do romance on film, because the medium often cannot go as deep into thoughts, feelings, and emotions as books can. In a book, though, I cannot accept that they just sort of magically fall in love when they know nothing about one another. And really, they knew almost nothing about one another (all quotes from an uncorrected advance copy, they may have changed):

“I lost my brother in the war,” she said evenly.
He sat up, a little taken aback by this. “You didn’t tell me.”
-Page 160

Of course she hadn’t told him, they had known each other a mere 24 hours at this point! It seems ridiculous to expect that they would have the easy level of intimacy in this amount of time that she would have told him something like that.

Of course, I think this is more me not being able to suspend my disbelief for the romance genre than a flaw in this book. Even I, who had a 12 hour first date with the man who is now my husband, and who spent probably 40 hours with him in the first week we were dating  roll my eyes at some of the professions of love and inability to live without the other.

If you like romance novels – or at least can suspend your eye rolls long enough to buy into love-at-first-sight romances – you might really enjoy this book, but it didn’t quite do it for me.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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