Okay so I spent a few days in June reading a bunch of Courtney Milan. Apparently she's a "betcha can't eat read just one" kind of author for me. I read ten. Most were rereads, which I don't have anything new to say about, but this time I did get around to reading a few books of hers that I hadn't read in November when I last did this. Namely: the Carhart series, the first romances that Courtney Milan ever published! This was back when she was being conventionally published by Harlequin instead of being a self-published author.
This Wicked Gift, by Courtney Milan (Carhart #0.5)
Proof By Seduction, by Courtney Milan (Carhart #1)
And so I continue with the Carhart series despite the extremely inauspicious beginnings. This one, well, at least it didn't have a rapist main character? I still didn't love it though. I dunno, I didn't write down my thoughts soon enough after having read it so I don't remember all the reasons. But it doesn't have the things I like about later Courtney Milan (such as strong female friendships and interesting families) and also doesn't have a romance that I enjoyed reading about. And the leading man was pretty uninteresting to me, and the leading woman kept making baffling life choices.
Trial By Desire, by Courtney Milan (Carhart #2)
The Carhart series continues to improve! This one was actually mostly enjoyable. I liked the leading woman's mission in life, and I enjoyed the nature of the romance being one of having to develop a relationship between a husband and wife who don't really know each other and have been on different continents for years. But although this is closer to the Courtney Milan I know and love, this book just didn't get me excited the way her later books do.
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Leigh. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book category.
Music means more than anything to high school student Cate Reese; it’s also what unites her with Cal Woods. Devoted classical guitar players, Cate and Cal are childhood friends newly smitten by love—until a devastating car accident rips Cal out of Cate’s life forever. Blaming herself for the horrific tragedy and struggling to surface from her despair, Cate spirals downhill in a desperate attempt to ease her pain.
Fellow student David Bennet might look like the school’s golden boy, but underneath the surface the popular athlete battles demons of his own. Racked with survivor’s guilt after his brother’s suicide, things get worse when tragedy darkens his world again—but connecting with Cate, his sister’s longtime babysitter, starts bringing the light back in.
As Cate and David grow closer, the two shattered teenagers learn to examine the pieces of their lives…and, together, find a way to be whole again.
Trigger Warnings: suicide, rape, attempted rape, drug use, physical abuse
I stopped playing the flute after sixth grade. As much as I enjoyed orchestra performances and placing in competitions, I hated practicing and it became clear this would not change. For that reason alone, musicians have always intrigued me. Their dedication to their craft and their willingness to practice for hours (HOW?!) is impressive and I enjoy novels that allow us to peek behind the curtain into their world.
Cate Reese and her best friend Cal Woods are talented classic guitar players. They first met at summer music camp years ago but now they see each other in more romantic light. There was a delightful amount of angst as Cate pondered whether they should take things to the next level. There’s also a fair amount of hero worship on Cate’s part since Cal is pretty much a musical prodigy.
After music camp, Cate returns to Middleburg, where her parents have relocated their family. They’ve summered there the past four years and Cate is happy to live in the same town as her best friend Laurel, even though it means starting at a new school and Laurel keeps overly busy with her girlfriend, whom Cate doesn’t like. She goes to water the plants at the Bennet house while they’re on vacation (she’s babysat for Kimmy the previous summers.) But the house isn’t empty. Plot twist!
Kimmy’s older brother David, a senior, is there, convalescing from an accident while camping in Canada. He won’t talk about what happened to anyone but Cate can see he’s not his usual buoyant jocky self. Even though she’s super tongue tied around him, she reaches out and they start spending time together.
This confuses Cate. Because she likes Cal. Right?
This confuses David, too. Because he doesn’t deserve someone as sweet and innocent as Cate. Right?
In the meantime, Cate and Cal finally go on a date but Cal gets into a car accident while driving them home and dies. In the midst of her grief over losing her best friend- and the inevitable survivor’s guilt- Cate is also trying to figure out what Cal meant to her. He wasn’t quite her boyfriend but he might have been.
The portrayal of Cate’s grief was gripping and realistic, particularly how she does or doesn’t deal with it. Her relationship to her guitar is irrevocably altered without Cal, her muse, around. Her grief is a slow descent into hell. This happened so organically that her spiral out of control almost surprised me. Is she a reliable narrator? Yes and no. She’s a grieving teenager. Take that as you will.
David was wrestling with his own grief and survivor’s guilt. He’s decided not to play sports anymore, in defiance of his dad, and he doesn’t hang out with his friends all that much either. He’s not quite depressed; it’s more like he’s figuring out who he is post-accident.
David and Cate observe each other grieving more than they talk about it but the bond is there. They also have lackluster families in common. David isn’t a musician but he starts working at a music store and has some great insights for Cate’s guitar playing.
We should be rooting for them to get together but I couldn’t get fully on board. David never grew on me. Plus, the two spend more time apart than together. Were this not supposed to be a romance, that would be fine, but as a romance, I needed David and Cate to have more positive interactions.
We get both Cate’s and David’s perspectives, with Cate’s POV being more predominant. As a result, her character growth was stronger. I felt like I knew Cate and her motivations much better than David but I still wanted more from both characters.
The sheer number of things happening in this novel almost makes me want to suggest making a Bingo game out of it, were not so many of them potential trigger warnings. The list includes suicide, rape, attempted rape, drug use, physical abuse, deadly car accident, drowning, bullying, and neglect. Anyone else feel the need to take a deep breath?
The story would have been better served by only focusing on a few of these and let them be the driving force. We’d start to see how a character was processing one thing before we’d be whipped along to the next. While these are heavy issues, I didn’t experience this as a heavy book, likely because most of these plot points weren’t fully developed.
The dynamic between David and his dad (a vile POS) could have used more exploration, as well as Cate’s relationship with her parents. I wanted to know what David and Cate were learning, particularly given the traumas Cate faced. Their inner monologues could get choppy and often what they said they said didn’t match up to their actions. Yes, that can be true for all of us but the “why” matters.
Case in point: David was basically a manwhore. Along the way, he comes to see how he is using these girls for his own satisfaction. This was a great realization but it didn’t lead to much change in terms of his interactions with his past girlfriends.
His past girlfriends are pretty one-dimensional stereotypical depictions. He was such a jackhole to them. Toward the end of the book, as he’s finally starting to pursue Cate, he sleeps with an ex. It was disconcerting to say the least and why I didn’t trust his motivations concerning Cate.
By the end, David and Cate have moved toward one another and taken a chance on love. At long last David shares what happened to him in Canada and it was way, way, way too brief. For all his brooding, this should have been the payoff, not a whimper.
The best parts of the book dealt with music. The descriptions of Cal and Cate playing and getting lost in the music and theory, the scenes of David and Cate listening to music and giving each other band recommendations, Cate figuring out what kind of musician she actually wants to be. It’s clear the author has a musical background and her perspective is imbued on each page. If you love music, it’ll be worth reading this just for those parts alone.
I let go, still not with my guitar, but with my voice.
And this time, when I stop playing, the band fills in the blanks. Their sound swells around me. Waves carrying me atop a sea, their instruments making up the fact that mine is missing…Playing with a band is like having a parachute of gossamer and steel. It’s having people who have your back, who know your secrets, who know you.
Singing with a band is trampolining with your breath. A sound you make, that makes you, too.
I liked the depiction of grief, any part related to music, and the deliciousness known as teenage angst. It felt like a First Novel with too much crammed in it but it made me curious about what Mimi Cross does next. Particularly if she continues to place her characters in music-related contexts.
It’s the last Wednesday in June and we’re inching ever closer to the Dog Days of Summer. Yuck! We hope you’re all having a great week and are looking forward to some awesome weekend plans.
The Book Club Chat is tonight at 8:00pm EDT! Because I’m a procrastinator, I started Radiance last night and almost pulled a Bad Decisions Book Club. I’m really enjoying it and I can’t wait to talk about it with everyone!
I was recently introduced to your work while building a website to showcase the romance novel covers my dad illustrated for Harlequin in the 70s – 80s – 90s. It’s a little sliver of Harlequin history, from the illustration point of view. I’m not an expert, but I had a front seat view.
Love movies? What about book-to-film adaptations? Well, Parchment Girl has compiled a list of adaptations coming out between July and December of this year! I think I’m most excited about Valerian, mainly because it’s being directed by Luc Besson who did The Fifth Element, probably my favorite movie ever.
Across the internet, trolls disproportionately target women and members of other underrepresented groups. On Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Wikipedia, and other open platforms, victims of harassment are forced to make a difficult choice — go silent and preserve their mental health, or try to ignore the abuse and continue expressing themselves openly online. As the wounds deepen, that latter choice becomes harder and harder to justify.
When people get forced off the web, their voices disappear from the internet’s public squares. The ideas and memes that dominate skew even further toward a white male perspective. The web becomes less interesting, less representative, less valuable. We all lose.
But on that Friday night, Temple-Wood had an idea. For every harassing email, death threat, or request for nude photos that she received, she resolved to create a Wikipedia biography on a notable woman scientist who was previously unknown to the free online encyclopedia. She thought of it as a giant “fuck you” to the anonymous idiots seeking to silence her.
She said, “I read this and love what she is doing so so much. But I read all the quotes and kept looking for some indication that she had backup. She sounds so alone.”
The iGo is an itty bitty tool that unfolds to one USB connection, plus a USB and a USB Micro, so you can plug your phone into your laptop, or into a portable battery. Excellent for tiny emergency kits, too.
Tonight at 8:00pm ET, the window below will go live with a text-based chat, and we’ll be there, probably with a tasty beverage, to discuss Radiance by Grace Draven.
If you’ve participated in the book chats we’ve hosted before, the format is the same: I ask nosy questions, I concoct silly polls, and we chat about the book for about an hour. The author will join us around 9pm ET for a Q&A, which is always fun.
We’re so excited to talk about this book and I hope you’ll join us for the Smart Bitches Book Club chat – see you tonight!
Stormy Persuasion by Johanna Lindsey is $1.99 at Amazon! There’s no price-matching and I don’t think this is a Kindle Daily Deal. Readers loved the opposites attract element of this historical romance, while others found the plot to be a little all over the place.
James Malory sets sail for America to honor a promise he made to his in-laws: His and Georgina’s daughter, Jacqueline, will have her come-out in America. Judith and Jacqueline Malory are not simply cousins; they are inseparable best friends. Refusing to miss Jacqueline’s come-out in Connecticut, Judith convinces her parents to let her delay her London debut by a few weeks so she can accompany her cousin. Neither girl intends to fall in love during her first Season. But Judith’s plans are overturned when aboard ship she comes face-to-face with the ghost who has been haunting her dreams.
Unknown to the Malorys, deckhand Nathan Tremayne is a smuggler with a noose around his neck. Determined to carry out a covert mission in America that could gain him a pardon, Nathan senses that beautiful Judith Malory is trouble. Somehow the minx knows his secret—and now she’s blackmailing him into doing her bidding. While passions can soar on the high seas, Nathan knows this aristocratic beauty is merely amusing herself with a scoundrel like him.
When the unthinkable happens in Connecticut and the elder Malorys’ hands are tied, Nathan takes command of a dire situation. Captaining his own ship, he turns the tables on Judith, as he steers them into some intense Caribbean heat where he will fight with all his mettle to win the right to her heart.
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch is 99c! This is the first book in an urban fantasy series set in London and (I believe) was a previous DABWAHA nominee. It was also recommended by author Lauren Willig on a recent podcast! Some reviewers on Goodreads felt the first book was missing something, but liked the setting and story well enough to continue with the series.
Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson is $1.99! This is a work of historical fiction with romantic elements. Though it’s the third book in The Great War series, it can be read as a standalone. Readers say they loved that they could tell a lot of research went into the book. However, some readers found the romance aspect to be a bit weak.
USA Today and internationally bestselling author Jennifer Robson takes readers to 1920s Paris in an enthralling new historical novel that tells the riveting story of an English lady who trades in her staid aristocratic life for the mesmerizing salons and the heady world of the Lost Generation.
It’s the spring of 1924, and Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr has just arrived in France. On the mend after a near-fatal illness, she is ready to embrace the restless, heady allure of the City of Lights. Her parents have given her one year to live with her eccentric aunt in Paris and Helena means to make the most of her time. She’s quickly drawn into the world of the Lost Generation and its circle of American expatriates, and with their encouragement, she finds the courage to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
One of those expats is Sam Howard, a journalist working for the Chicago Tribune. Irascible, plain-spoken, and scarred by his experiences during the war, Sam is simply the most fascinating man she has ever met. He’s also entirely unsuitable.
As Paris is born anew, rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the Great War, Helena realizes that she, too, is changing. The good girl she once was, so dutiful and obedient, so aware of her place in the world, is gone forever. Yet now that she has shed her old self, who will she become, and where, and with whom, does she belong…?
Sugar on Top by Marina Adair is $1.99! This is book 2 in the Sugar, Georgia, series, and it has a 4+ star average. Readers who liked this one – and there are many – really liked the heroine, who has been living with a bad reputation in a small town after some big mistakes when she was younger. Plus, several reviews mention that the dialogue is very funny. Have you read this one?
She’s sassy and sweet
The last thing Glory Mann wants is to become chairman of the Miss Peach Pageant in Sugar, Georgia. Spending months hearing nothing but the clinking of pearls and judgment? No thank you! But when Glory is forced to take the rap for a scandal she didn’t commit, the judge sentences her to head the committee. Even worse, her co-chairman is rugged, ripped . . . and barely knows she’s alive.
He’s ready and willing
Single dad Cal McGraw can’t take any more drama in his life. After a difficult divorce, his little girl became a boy-crazy teenager and his hands are full. The last thing he needs is to spend his down time with the town bad girl. Glory is pure trouble-tempting and tantalizing trouble. But he can’t deny the strong chemistry between them-or how her touch turns him inside out. Now as squabbles threaten to blow up the contest and the town of Sugar itself, Cal must risk everything on the sexy wild card to get a second chance at love . . .
If I’m coherent at the end of this recap, it will be a miracle.
Pour yourselves a drink, people. I’ve got just enough rum to see me through the night.
Last night everyone went to Norway. Well not everyone. The cast of The Bachelorette.
Peter and Rachel may have had sex in a hot tub. Lee and Kenny went on a two-on-one date with Rachel where Lee continued his line of racist bullshit, telling Rachel that Kenny had been violent with him – a total lie.
We learned that an African Ringneck Parakeet named Mr. Tweeters lives in Lee’s hair.
It’s a lot to process and tonight promises to be intense. Or ridiculous.
Take a shot. It’s showtime!
We’re back to the two-on-one date in the Norwegian wilderness. Lee is spouting lies that make Kenny out to be an angry Black man. Rachel is processing the information she’s getting – Lee telling her that Kenny is violent and Kenny telling her that Lee is straight up lying.
Rachel tells both men that the day was “informative” and that the situation comes down to who she believes and trusts. She tells Lee she doesn’t trust him and she sends him home.
Mr. Tweeters lets out a sad chirp.
Rachel tells Kenny that she needs to spend more time with him before she decides whether or not to give him a rose.
Lee responds by saying, “That’s okay, sweetheart, but I just want you to know that when he came back over here he threatened me.”
It’s like Lee literally cannot speak without lying. Also his “sweetheart” remark was super condescending and gross, and honestly, this is a man who desperately needs to be pushed into the river he’s sitting next to.
I hope it’s cold.
Rachel and Kenny walk toward the helicopter. I like to think that Lee was left alone in the wilderness to die, but I doubt that happened. Your cowboy boots and hair gel won’t help you now, dude. Are there things in Norway big enough to eat Lee? Are there wolves? I’m on Team Wolves right now.
Which Nazgul will rise up to replace Lee? We don’t know.
Before they can depart, Kenny tells Rachel that he needs to “say goodbye” to Lee.
WHY? JUST LEAVE HIM THERE TO ROT.
“This is so stupid,” Rachel says. “I feel stupid. You’re still giving him attention! I’m so annoyed about this!”
Despite all the promos implying the men would come to blows, Kenny tells Lee that somewhere inside him is a decent man (nope, just an exotic bird) and leaves. But I’m pretty sure Kenny blew his chance with Rachel.
Rachel and Kenny have some one-on-one time. There are delicious chocolatey snacks on the table, snacks that they are not allowed to eat because the mics will pick up the noise.
They have a conversation about the fact that Rachel was disappointed that Kenny wanted to have the last word with Lee, but she’s still willing to take a chance on him. She gives Kenny the rose.
Kenny Facetimes his daughter. Every time he talks to her, I melt. He’s so proud of his daughter and so obviously devoted to her. He cries every time they talk because he misses her.
Then it’s time for The Dreaded Rose Ceremony. Kenny and Will both got date roses which means that they’re immune from elimination.
Peter is wearing a paisley tie and plaid scarf which is not a great look IMHO. He does get a rose, however.
Chris steps out of the shadows to tell us that we’re down to the final rose. THANKS CHRIS!
Josiah and Anthony are eliminated. Josiah spends some time telling us why that was the wrong choice, but I’m drinking, not listening.
The next day everyone goes to Denmark!
The first one-on-one date is with Eric. The two of them explore Copenhagen together. They seem to have some genuine chemistry.
“How many kids do you want to have?” Eric asks.
“Four,” she answers.
“Oh, wow,” Eric says.
“Is that a lot?” she asks.
“No, I mean, I want ten, so…”
They bust up laughing.
It’s super cute.
They spend some time in a hot tub too. Because hot-tubbing is basically a requirement on these shows. Chris Harrison can summon a hot tub at will with his dark magic.
During dinner Eric tells Rachel that he’s never been in love. He also tells her that his mom never gave him love which is why he’s run from relationships in the past.
“I think for me, love is what I’m missing,” Eric says.
Rachel gives him a rose.
The next day a bunch of dudes go on a group date where they dress up like Vikings. They row a Viking ship and my fibro starts flaring in sympathy. My rhomboids would not enjoy that.
They row to an island where they will learn to fight like Vikings. At the end of the day, the two best contestants will fight for a rose.
YES! Chris Harrison screams. FINALLY WE FIGHT TO THE DEATH.
They play a game that, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP, is called “Greased Stick.”
The woman holds a greased stick and if the dude can pull it out of her hand, he gets to marry her.
I thought the point was to put the “Greased Stick” in her hand, but what do I know.
Dean says, “I think I would have made a great Viking. But, you know, a Viking that doesn’t necessarily fight very much.”
Good story, Dean.
I bet I’d make a great neurosurgeon. But, like, one that doesn’t do surgery or practice medicine or know anything about the human body in general.
The instructors decide that Kenny and Adam will fight for the rose. They have swords and shields.
Both Kenny AND Adam wind up with bloody eyebrows during the fight. They manage to smack their shields together at the same moment, clocking themselves in the face. They get patched up.
Oh, hey, remember when ABC showed us clips of Kenny bleeding and made it seem like he and Lee got into a fight (thereby adding credence to Lee’s bullshit racist “aggressive” comments?).
So you know what, ABC? FUCK YOU.
FUCK YOU FOR PERPETUATING LEE’S RACIST BULLSHIT.
During the cocktail hour, Rachel and Peter spend some time together. My theory here is that Rachel has already picked Peter. The chemistry between the two is super intense. Like eye-fucking. Like Rachel looks like she wants to climb him like a tree. Whenever they are alone together they look like naughty teenagers, giggling and looking for a place to dash off to in order to fool around. I’m convinced Rachel would send everyone else home already to be with Peter.
TEAM PETER FOREVER
Of all the dudes, Kenny feels the most vulnerable. He tells Rachel he’s really struggling, especially being apart from his daughter.
They have a really candid conversation. Rachel suggests that Kenny go home, and Kenny agrees with her. It’s an amicable departure and both of them are super mature about it. When Kenny calls his daughter from the car she says, “I’m so proud of you! You got to go to two amazing places! You got to do an awesome thing. I’m proud of you that you made it that far!”
The group date rose goes to Peter.
The next day (I guess?) Rachel and Will go on a one-on-one date to Sweden. Rachel comments that Will always seems shy and distant with her. She wonders what’s holding him back. Will tells Rachel physical intimacy is really important to him, which is weird because he doesn’t even hold her hand.
Rachel comments on the lack of passion between them and declines to give him a rose, thereby sending him home.
Cut back to the hotel. Adam’s eye is looking a little crusty. Get some antibiotics dude. Neosporin at least.
At this point I’m pretty tipsy. I’m missing Mr. Tweeters. I have a cat on my lap and I have to pee real bad.
So I’m relieved when we get to another Dreaded Rose Ceremony.
Chris Harrison is waiting for Rachel. “You seem solemn tonight,” he observes. Then he plays her a song on his pipe organ that’s hidden in the basement.
We are down to seven dudes and only four roses remain.
CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC.
Rachel talks about Denmark and Hamlet and quotes the play and at least three dudes fall asleep immediately.
Suddenly she breaks down in tears and walks out of the room.
She returns after a few minutes, pulling herself together.
Eric and Peter already have a rose. Rachel gives roses to Matt, Dean, Bryan (who I forgot existed again), and Adam.
Hopefully now that he has a rose, Adam can go to a walk in clinic to get that eye looked at.
Alex goes home. I forgot Alex existed too, if I’m being honest.
The dudebros blur, you know? The rum probably contributes to that.
And that’s it for this week, thank god. I’m going to leave some ibuprofen and bottle of water on the nightstand.
There’s no episode next week so I have a chance to rest my liver.
Are you still watching? What do you think of the remaining six men?
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis (AUs) Characters/Pairing/Other Subject: Teyla, Rodney, John, and Ronon Content Notes/Warnings: none Medium: digital painting Artist on DW/LJ: n/a Artist Website/Gallery:Randommindtime's art on tumblr Why this piece is awesome: These are portraits for a New York-based detective (Law and Order) AU where the team are in law enforcement - John and Ronon are cops and Teyla and Rodney are lawyers. They all look very cool and determined! It's really lovely work with nifty details, excellent likenesses and great colouring. Link:Depart and Act Conceptual Portraits
The National Network of Abortion Funds have matching up to $50,000, and their solicitation e-mail ends "Let’s fund abortion, build power, and radically love each other," bless them (they're also the only organization I've encountered where a staff member has their preferred pronouns in their sig which makes me feel warm and fuzzy):
When Dimple met Rishi is adorable and funny and utterly delightful. It was just what I needed during a stressful day.
Here’s the plot setup: Dimple is eighteen and about to go to Stanford. She resents her Indian-born mother’s attempts to mold her into a traditional woman. Dimple’s plans revolve around school and career, with no interest in marrying and having children. Above all else, she resents any suggestion that she would go to college to get a husband. Since Dimple’s parents are very protective, Dimple is surprised but thrilled when her parents readily agree to let her spend part of the summer at Insomnia Con, a summer program on web development held in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, Rishi, who is also eighteen, tells himself and everyone else that he is happy to be a model oldest son to his parents, who are also from India. Rishi used to love drawing comics, but he has set that aside, applied to MIT, and plans to have a career in computer sciences. Rishi trusts his parents to arrange a marriage for him.
As a matter of fact, Rishi’s mom and dad are acquainted with Dimple’s mom and dad. They think Rishi and Dimple might be a great match, so they send Rishi to Insomnia Con to meet Dimple. However, Rishi’s parents don’t mention to him that Dimple’s parents haven’t told her anything about Rishi or the possibility of an arrangement. Dimple’s parents don’t tell her anything about Rishi either. When a total stranger walks up to Dimple at a coffee shop at Insomnia Con and says, “Hello, future wife!” it doesn’t go well.
Happily, the big misunderstanding is cleared up almost immediately so Dimple and Rishi can get on with becoming friends who absolutely do not date because Dimple is not looking for a relationship. Of course, it immediately becomes obvious to one and all that Dimple and Rishi are fabulous as a couple. They respect each other (eventually), they balance each other’s hang-ups as the best couples do, they are both very smart and very funny, and they have fantastic chemistry.
All of this makes for extremely fun and swoony reading. This book is set up as an opposites attract book, with Dimple determined to chase her dreams and Rishi resigned to fulfilling the dreams of others. However, they have more similarities than differences. Their only real conflict lies in Dimple’s fear of romance distracting her from her career and her independence.
The degree of swoony can be seen in the “not date” when Rishi takes Dimple to Two Sisters Bar and Books (a real place that recently closed, alas). Rishi and Dimple first met at a wedding when they were kids, and at that time Dimple was reading A Wrinkle in Time. So, at their table Rishi has a present waiting for Dimple – a special edition copy of A Wrinkle in Time from the year they met.
In turn, Dimple takes Rishi to a place where they have an amazing view of the San Francisco Bay Area. She tells Rishi that she’d like to make their “not date” a date, but wonders if he feels like there’s a point to dating since she’s not sure she’ll ever want to get married. Rishi says that tradition is important to him, but:
The point of dating you, Dimple Shah, is to get to know you. To spend time with you. To see the way you push your glasses up on your nose when you’re especially moved by whatever you’re saying. To smell your amazing shampoo. To feel your heart beating against mine. To see you smile. To kiss you. So maybe all that other stuff that’s important to me can take a backseat for now. And maybe I’m totally fine with that…if you are?
Pardon me while I pass out for a while.
There are only a couple of nitpicks standing between this book and an A. One is that Rishi and Dimple seem to have a lot of free time for two people in an incredibly complex and difficult competition with high stakes. Another is that the conflicts are so nicely resolved about two-thirds of the way through the book that the ensuing complications feel contrived. Granted, they are the kinds of contrivances that two eighteen-year-olds would generate. The better things go with Rishi, the more nervous Dimple gets, until she’s second-guessed herself into a state of complete panic. It does make sense for her character, but it also means a smart and admirable heroine suddenly seems obtuse and inconsistent, purely so that the story can keep going for another hundred pages.
Generally, however, this is a lovely book. It is sweet and funny and heartwarming. The parents and Rishi’s brother get some chances to shine and Dimple’s roommate is a good, if confused, friend. Both Dimple and Rishi have solid character development. Dimple has to learn to trust in a relationship and Rishi has to learn that his dreams have value. The ending is, appropriately, HFN instead of HEA, but it’s very satisfying. I happily recommend this book.
Vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (the name of the Senate bill) has been postponed until after the July 4 recess. And when they get back, they'll have a whole megillah about passing the budget, which has a hard deadline, so they may "forget" to take up the BCRA.
This is c&pd from a Center for Medicare Advocacy Alert:
Health Care Repeal Vote Postponed - But Keep the Pressure On
Senate leadership today announced that a vote on the Senate health care repeal bill would be postponed until after the July 4 recess. While this shows that the efforts of all those who have called and written to tell the truth about this awful legislation are working, it is not the end. We saw this happen in the House, and can’t let it happen again.
Use the July 4 recess to attend town halls, parades and rallies, and don’t stop calling your Senators to tell them not to cut or cap Medicaid.
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by LibrarianJessi. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book category.
If anyone saw the prom boards Amelia Blanco makes on her favorite fashion app, they’d think Ethan Laurenti was her boyfriend. They wouldn’t know that all the plans she’s made for them are just dreams, and that she’s the girl who watches him from the kitchen while her parents cook for his famous family.
When Amelia’s abuelita enrolls her in a month-long fashion internship in NYC, Amelia can’t imagine leaving Miami–and Ethan–for that long. As soon as she gets to New York, however, she finds a bigger world and new possibilities. She meets people her own age who can actually carry on a conversation about stitching and design. Her pin boards become less about prom with Ethan and more about creating her own style. By the time she returns to Miami, Amelia feels like she can accomplish anything, and surprises herself by agreeing to help Ethan’s awkward, Steve-Jobs-wannabe brother, Liam, create his own fashion app.
As Liam and Amelia get closer, Ethan realizes that this newly confident, stylish girl may be the one for him after all . . . even though he has a reality TV star girlfriend he conveniently keeps forgetting about. The “new and improved” Amelia soon finds herself in between two brothers, a whole lot of drama, and choice she never dreamed she’d have to make.
Here is LibrarianJessi's review:
Although I used to mainline teen fiction like there was no tomorrow, I’ve largely taken a break for the last couple of years. This is partly because I spent the last two years reading 300+ adult fiction books while I served on a committee which I lovingly referred to as “My Crazy Ass Reading Committee” but which is properly known as The Reading List Committee. Reading Alterations, I was reminded of the other reason teen fic and I took a break: especially in contemporary teen fiction, I suddenly found myself empathizing with the parents more than the teens, which was shocking and made me feel ancient. I have to admit I suffered from this in Alterations too. I often found myself wanting to smack Amelia upside the head or sit her down for a long talk. Because of this odd tug-of-war between wanting to sink fully into the drama llama-ness of the story and my rational (apparently) adult brain offering distracting advice, my thoughts about the book are fairly split too. So, I’ve decided to resort to every Type A, detail-obsessed librarian’s favorite tool: The Pro/Con List.
Things that really worked for me in Alterations:
My number one favorite thing about this story was the grandmother/mother/daughter dynamic. Amelia lives with both her abuelita and her mother. Their relationship rings very true with lots of love, expectations, bickering, etc. It’s a complete miracle to have functional, living parents in teen fic, and I really appreciate authors that take the time to create them. Amelia’s relationship with the matriarchs in her life reminded me of Jane the Virgin, the best show on TV right now and the perfect show for every romance reader.
Amelia’s passion for fashion (yeah I know, I couldn’t resist) is infectious. All the people in her life who love her support her and help her find the confidence to pursue her dreams. Her coming-of-age journey is quite excellent. And for days after finishing the book, I was plagued by the need to hang with Tim Gunn in Project Runway reruns.
The story created a very positive message about finding your people. Amelia, like many of us, feels like a bit of a weirdo. But suddenly, she finds her fellow fashion people – “Isn’t it amazing how we’re all sort of loners in our regular worlds, but we come here and we all seem to fit”. The experience was not unlike what many of us experience here with the SBTB community. It’s magical and one of the most fundamental parts of growing up and learning to love the person you are.
As a complete Broadway nerd, I have a slight (read: major) obsession with NYC. Amelia’s trip was an absolute armchair travel delight for me. The city comes alive through her eyes and I was all but drooling to visit again.
Liam, Amelia’s very obvious OTP (one true pairing), is exactly my kind of hero. He’s nerdy and adorkable and even though it’s not his thing, he totally gets Amelia’s love of fashion and works really hard to help her find her full potential.
Things that really didn’t work for me in Alterations:
While I appreciated the excellent job Scott did creating Amelia’s parentals, the story was lacking in the female friendship department. She did have girlfriends – both old and new – but often developing those relationships was sacrificed for other story elements. Often, the relationships or the friend characters fell a bit flat for me.
It took Amelia too damn long to get over Ethan. Every time she went all googly eyed over him, I wanted to smack her. He was obviously a complete asshat and I had absolutely no patience for her obsession with him. Every time I thought she was making some headway getting over him (and noticing the adorableness that is Liam) she would backslide. There were many times I wanted to chunk the book across the room, but I was reading digital and didn’t want to harm my darling Kindle.
Because it took her sooooooo long to see past Ethan, we didn’t get nearly enough of the puppy dog eyes and wooing with Liam. My heart hurt for him every time he was on page. He had it so bad and Amelia was just so oblivious. When they finally get to the HEA, I didn’t feel like the romantic groundwork was laid for the two of them and I also felt like Amelia owed him a bit more groveling.
In the end, my struggles with the romantic subplot outweighed my enjoyment of other parts of the story. I would have enjoyed it quite a bit more if the romance wasn’t there at all.
The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward is $1.99! This book is more of a dysfunctional family saga than a romance, and it was also the inspiration for my first Covers & Cocktails post! Redheadedgirl gave this book a B:
As a novel where there’s a bunch of crazysauce, I appreciated it. I do think the current trend in romance is lacking in crazysauce. There’s a lot that happens!
For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.
For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.
As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.
Make Me by Tessa Bailey is 99c! This contemporary romance has come up in a couple Rec Leagues: He’s Not Worthy and He’s Always Loved Her. Reader Katie C. and I talked about this book in line while at RT17. She loved it! (Maybe she can pop into the comments and share her thoughts.) Meanwhile, I was really anticipating this book and felt disappointed by the pacing.
Construction worker Russell Hart has been head-over-work boots for Abby Sullivan since the moment he laid eyes on her. But he knows a classy, uptown virgin like her could never be truly happy with a rough, blue-collar guy like him. If only she’d stop treating him like her personal hero—a role he craves more than oxygen—maybe he could accept it.
With the future of her family’s hedge fund on her shoulders, Abby barely has time to sleep, let alone find love. And her best friend Russell acting like a sexy, overprotective hulk any time their Super Group goes out in public definitely isn’t helping her single status. But after a near-tragedy lands Russell in her bed for the night, Abby’s suddenly fantasizing about what he looks like shirtless. Chest hair and tattoos—who knew?
As Russell struggles to keep Abby at a safe distance, she begins to see through his tough-talking exterior—and acknowledge her own feelings. Now she’s ready to turn the friend-zone into foreplay…and make him lose control.
Luke by Barbara Freethy is 99c at Amazon! This is the first book in the 7 Brides for 7 Brothers series, which caught my eye because the movie (of the same name) was part of my childhood. This is a second chance romance. Some readers warn there’s an annoying plot moppet in the romance, but others recommend the book for fans of sweet, second chance stories. Some of the other books in the series are also available for 99c!
Meet the Brannigan brothers—seven sexy brothers who bring the heart and the heat! From bestselling authors Barbara Freethy, Ruth Cardello, Melody Anne, Christie Ridgway, Lynn Raye Harris, Roxanne St. Claire and JoAnn Ross comes a brand new contemporary romance family series: 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. You won’t want to miss a single one!
LUKE – Barbara Freethy
Luke Brannigan lives for the adrenaline rush, which makes his job as a filmmaker of extreme sporting adventures the perfect career choice. He loves to travel the world, risking life and limb to capture the most amazing shot. Some might say he’s running away from something…or someone.
When Luke’s billionaire father Colin Brannigan dies unexpectedly, Luke is shocked to receive title to the mountain lodge where his parents first met. Having been estranged from his father for years, Luke has no idea why his dad picked him to inherit this very personal piece of property…until he realizes the pretty blonde manager is Lizzie Parker, his former college girlfriend.
Luke and Lizzie have an emotional and heartbreaking past, but will they have a future? Will love be Luke’s greatest adventure yet?
Bikers and Pearls by Vicki Wilkerson is 99c! This is a small town contemporary romance with an opposites attract element. Some readers expressed difficulty sympathizing with the heroine, while others loved how the relationship progressed between the hero and heroine. Reviews also mentioned that this is a romance without any explicit sex scenes.
Who said tempting a sweet Southern belle would be easy?
When rebel biker Bullworth Clayton gets tangled up with pastel-and-pearls-clad April Church, sparks fly. Sure, April would clearly rather work with anyone else, but if teaming up with Bull means a successful charity event for a sick little boy they both care about, then so be it.
April is baffled at how drawn she is to the leather-wearing, tattooed Bull—he just doesn’t fit with her simple, safe, country-club life. And as much as the handsomely rugged man tempts her, she still can’t shake the images of the tragic motorcycle accident from her past, which left her scarred and her father broken.
Bull tempts her to don a pair of leather pants and go for a ride with him, while April desperately tries to resist her attraction to the wild side and keep her exploits hidden from her small town. Will they be able to navigate their differences and find a middle road to love?