Wow, can’t believe it took me two months to finish this edition. Actually, I can. I’d just forget the whole thing, but I hate being incomplete! (Though not so much that I can’t stand a couple of months being incomplete. But I know that when I’m on my deathbed, I’ll be desperate to catch up on my blogging. That’s who I am.)

Romance

Apparently I didn’t read a lot of romance novels during this sextile, which is good because this won’t take long.

My Fair Princess by Vanessa Kelly
I don’t usually care for the “foreign princess allowed to run wild all her life agrees to be tamed by proper English lord” trope, but this was a pretty cute story. Gillian Dryden was raised free-range-style by her scandalous mother in Italy, but now that her beloved royal Italian step-father has been murdered by bandits, Mom insists on returning to England so Gillian can get a proper British husband, as befits her station, and also to keep her safe. Is Gillian really a princess in this scenario, or are we just defining “princess” loosely for the sake of a gimmick? (This is #1 in the Improper Princesses series.) Whatever. Anyway, Charles Penley, the Duke of something or other, is charged with turning her into a proper debutante. I don’t remember why. Maybe they’re cousins? Something like that. It’s a big challenge because Gillian picked up some pretty bad habits in Italy, such as riding astride and punching people (and sometimes shooting them). Charles really doesn’t think he can handle it, especially since he’s inexplicably attracted to the minx.

The story is actually better than it ought to be. The only annoying thing  is that the author had a habit of ending each chapter on a mini-cliffhnger and then beginning the next chapter several hours or days later, resolving the previous mini-cliffhanger in a mini-flashback, like “oh, by the way, in case you were wondering about that cliff, it was actually NBD”–an odd narrative strategy, but in her defense, I did keep reading. Well, there were also those couple of times when the supposedly-smart heroine made pretty dumb choices for the convenience of moving the plot forward, but I guess we’re supposed to expect no better of a girl raised by Sicilians. (Do Sicilians ever read these stories?) 3/5 stars

It Happened One Wedding by Julie James
I don’t usually go for contemporary romances, as you know–well, you know, anyway, that whenever I review a contemporary romance, I always begin by saying that I don’t usually go for contemporary romances. But I liked this one, mainly because the heroine was not neurotic. I always appreciate a career girl who doesn’t think she’s Bridget Jones. Sidney Sinclair has sworn off commitment-phobic men. Unfortunately, she finds herself thrust into the company of a very hot commitment-phobic man, FBI agent Vaughn Roberts, who is the best man in her sister’s wedding; since Sidney is the maid of honor, this means she and Vaughn are forced to spend a lot of time together, and you know how it is when two very hot people are forced to spend time together. I know! It’s totally unavoidable. So Sidney takes her BFF’s advice (not great advice, IMO, for real life, but this isn’t real life, so whatever) to not let her search for Mr. Right keep her from enjoying Mr. Right Now. Yeah, it sounds sleazy when you put it like that.

But I found it an amusing read anyway. Again, I can’t stress how much credit I give contemporary authors for creating non-neurotic female characters. Worth a whole extra star in my book, frankly. The hot playboy magically converted to monogamy because he falls in love  is pure science fiction, of course, but then again, maybe a non-neurotic woman in 2017 is too. 3.5/5 stars

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
In addition to “I don’t usually go for contemporary romances,” something I always say is “I freaking love Georgette Heyer.” This book is not an exception to that rule. It’s not my favorite Georgette Heyer, but even fair-to-middling Georgette Heyer is better than 90% of what’s out there, kids. Judith Tavener and her younger brother have come to London to enjoy the season, but they have to deal with the constraints of the guardian their late father appointed in his will, Lord Worth–a gentleman previously unknown to them but with whom they get off to an awkward start. Lord Worth is a typical Heyer hero–charming and roguish and invariably smarter than everyone surrounding him–but Judith thinks he’s an imperious jerk and doesn’t appreciate him having veto power over all of her suitors, nor his disdain for her long-lost cousins, whose names I can’t remember, but one of them clearly has the hots for her. (The younger one, thank goodness.) As does Lord Worth, but you probably could have guessed that.

Lord Worth is pretty high-handed, as it happens, and not super-forthcoming about his motivations, but Judith is also stubborn and kind of dim when it comes to other people’s motivations, so it’s a wash, IMO. I don’t read Heyer for the politics. I enjoyed the characters and the dialogue, and the Beau Brummel cameo was a nice touch. 4/5 stars

Truly by Ruthie Knox
Another contemporary romance, better than it ought to have been. May Fredericks hates New York. She only moved there to be with her (famous) football-player boyfriend, and after she has a very public falling out with him, she decides to run away to Wisconsin (I think) and not look back. Unfortunately, being the innocent Midwestern hick she is, she totes forgets to take, like, her purse or her wallet or any cash with her, and since she doesn’t want to risk running into any press or her boyfriend’s handlers or publicists or whatever by going back to her apartment, she decides to just sit in a bar and depend on the kindness of strangers. Yeah, it sounds stupid when you put it that way.

Actually, it is stupid, and the sort of thing that would usually turn me off, so I don’t even remember why I finished reading this book, except I must have been bored, and aside from the totally asinine premise, it wasn’t badly written. Plus there was a hot and grumpy New Yorker named Ben who takes pity on poor May because he’s trying to make an effort to be nicer to people (long story–too long for this review, anyway) and also because he might secretly actually be nice, and he made a nice foil for dumbass May, who really wasn’t quite as annoying as I make her sound, but in retrospect, seriously, what an idiot. And while I wouldn’t call this heroine neurotic, exactly, she does have a couple of hangups, body image being one of them. I always have mixed feelings about heroines with body image problems. On the one hand, I get it, all women have body image problems, unless they’re like Wonder Woman or something, and this is a legit issue, blah blah, and some men legit prefer women with meat on their bones, obviously, but only in romance novels are these dudes invariably super-hot and super-fit themselves. I get that it’s science fiction, but come on. DOUBLE STANDARD MUCH? Anyway, it still kind of a cute story about fishes out of water and country mice-city mice relationships and not annoying all the time. 3/5 stars

 

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