What Was I Reading in April 2022?

My reading was of two types this month. There was more research for writing a Regency romance and a browse through other fiction. It was also my birthday and somehow along the way, it became almost a week of birthday celebrations. Not that I am complaining! Thanks to wonderful friends I was taken out to lunch, twice, as well as being treated to my first pedicure.

Saying it with flowers and lunches and pedicures.

Changeless.( Parasol Protectorate 2 )by Gail Carriger.

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

CHANGELESS is the second book of the Parasol Protectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. 

My Review.
Having enjoyed the first book in the series so much, I was looking forward to reading this.it continues the story than began in book one. Unfortunately, for me personally, it lacked the verve of the first book.

From Where I Fell by Susan Johnson

An anguished email from Pamela Robinson in Australia to her ex-husband in Paris accidentally ends up in the inbox of New York State teacher Chrisanthi Woods. Chrisanthi is sympathetic to Pamela’s struggles and the women begin to tell each other the stories and secrets of their lives.

Pamela, responsible for raising her three sons, must re-invent the meaning of home following her divorce, and Chrisanthi, her dreams long dampened, must find home by leaving it. Temperamental opposites, their emails turn into an exhilarating and provocative exchange of love, loss and fresh beginnings, by turns amusing, frank and confronting

My Review. Having formed friendships online, this book resonated quite strongly with me. I enjoyed the exchanges between the women and their differing perspectives.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal.(Spindle Cove 5) by Tessa Dare

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
• Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
• Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
• Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit… and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love? 

My Review.

I enjoyed this book and its hero and heroine. Charlotte is determined to prove the person trysting in the library was not her. Piers and Charlotte are well-matched and each instance of them coming together proves it, but Charlotte isn’t about to marry anyone. The repartee is fabulous. I was cheering the couple on waiting for their happily ever after. 

Dressed by Iris by Mary-Anne O’Connor

A vivid, romantic story of Sydney in the 1930s Depression – the heartbreak, the glamour, the dark underbelly, the struggle towards a better day – and one young woman’s dream of designing her way from rags to riches. For readers of Natasha Lester and Victoria Purman.

1930: Seventeen-year-old Iris Mitchell dreams of designing clothes, but there’s little spare cash for fashion in their shanty-town home. The gift of a single purple ribbon from would-be boyfriend John Tucker, however, creates an unexpected opportunity … and when Iris’s brother Jim joins the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction, the large, dirt-poor but loving Mitchell family can move to the city. Iris will be torn away from John, but he’s Protestant and she’s Catholic, taboo in their world, so perhaps it wasn’t meant to be …

1932: By day, Iris scrubs the floors at Caron’s, an upmarket department store. By night, she designs and sews in her family’s tiny, crowded house. Friendship with gorgeous, livewire Natasha, one of Caron’s models, allows Iris to show her skills, but will her talent be acknowledged … or exploited?

When John reappears, passions are reignited, and Iris must face not only their religious divide, but the apparent impossibility of having both marriage and a career. Meanwhile, the Mitchells must navigate life in a city riven by corruption, dirty politics and gambling. Will their faith, determination and deep family bond save them when tragedy and adversity strike? In 1930s Sydney, the stakes have never been higher … 

My Review.
An interesting take on an Australian rags to riches story. The depictions of the harshness of life in 1930s Australia are sobering. Iris has talent, but no opportunity until one comes along, but even that isn’t all it promised to be. Friendship is what gets her through these tough times. When she has the opportunity to shine, she does so. Personally, I would have liked a little more about Iris’s success.

The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird

From the author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days (winner of the Courier-Mail People’s Choice QLD Book of the Year Award) comes this beautiful and uplifting story, that will make you laugh and make you cry.

Welcome to The Emporium of Imagination, a most unusual shop that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones.

But, on arrival in the tiny township of Boonah, the store’s long-time custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, makes a shocking realisation. He is dying . . .

The clock is now ticking to find his replacement, because the people of Boonah are clearly in need of some restorative magic.

Like Enoch Rayne – a heartbroken ten-year-old boy mourning the loss of his father, while nurturing a guilty secret.

Like Ann Harlow, who has come to the town to be close to her dying grandmother. Though it’s Enoch’s father who dominates her thoughts – and regrets . . .

Even Earlatidge in his final days will experience the store as never before – and have the chance to face up to his own tragedy . . . 

My Review

Beautiful book. Spellbindingly magical, a fairy tale for adults. Wonderful phrases and concepts. Inspired by a personal loss, this book should resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one. It’s a joyful book, filled with happiness. 

The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams. Secret, Book & Scone Society 2

In New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams’ intriguing new Secret, Book, and Scone Society novel, Nora Pennington and her fiction loving friends in small-town Miracle Springs, North Carolina, encounter a young woman desperately in need of a new beginning . . .

Nora Pennington, owner of Miracle Books, believes that a well-chosen novel can bring healing and hope. But she and the other members of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society know that sometimes, practical help is needed too. Such is the case with the reed-thin girl hiding in the fiction section of Nora’s store, wearing a hospital ID and a patchwork of faded bruises. She calls herself Abilene, and though Nora and her friends offer work, shelter, and a supportive ear, their guest isn’t ready to divulge her secrets. But when a customer is found dead in an assumed suicide, Nora uncovers a connection that points to Abilene as either a suspect—or another target.
 
Summer’s end has brought other new arrivals to Miracle Springs too. Entrepreneur Griffin Kingsley opens Virtual Genie, a cyber business that unloads people’s unwanted goods for cash. With the town in an economic slump and folks hurting for money, Virtual Genie and its owner are both instantly popular. A patient listener, Griffin dispenses candy to children and strong coffee to adults, and seems like a bona fide gentleman. But Nora’s not inclined to judge a book by its cover. And when a second death hits town, Nora and her intrepid friends must help the new, greenhorn sheriff discern fact from fiction—and stop a killer intent on bringing another victim’s story to a close . .

 My Review

Nora Pennington has a knack for knowing which books a customer needs. Her quirky bookstore is a hub for the Miracle Springs community. So why can’t she get a sense of the mysterious girl who has shown up in her bookstore? I enjoyed this story and the book-related quotes and recommendations. 

How to Avoid the Marriage Mart by Eva Shepherd.

A notorious rake.

Meets a spirited spinster…At a weekend shooting party, where the guests are as determined to bag a marriage partner as they are a pheasant, two attendees are under siege. The Duke of Kingsford from a clutch of desperate debutantes, and Charlotte FitzRoy from her matchmaking mother! A pretend courtship between them should keep the others at bay, but an unexpected, impassioned kiss may just bring about the marriage they both sought to avoid!

My Review.

This is actually outside the era I wanted to read about, but I began reading and found it quite engaging. Of course, it has the essential elements,  meddling mammas, rebellious daughters, reluctant grooms and a previous encounter between the couple which had not gone well. Charlotte is a rebellious young woman with no interest in marriage, the despair of her mamma. Charlotte is into causes. Nicholas is at the house party purely to gamble; he has no interest in either shooting or picking a wife. They have a previous acquaintanceship which has left both of them bruised but they decide to help each other with a fake courtship. Of course, nothing is as simple as that sounds.

The Jane Austen Society by  Natalie Jenner  

(2020 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction and for Debut Novel!)

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society. 

My Review. Quite a slow-paced read but brimming with character and connections. Sleepy Chawton just after the war, impoverished, little changed. Unaware of the potential goldmine they have in being Jane Austen’s last home.  Similar to Jane Austen’s books here a cast of characters in a small village come together to form The Jane Austen Society. The diverse group have one thing in common they are all devotees of her work and that is what initially binds them together. Relationships are tested and changed. When love blossoms it is unrecognised and almost lost.

The Truth About Dukes.( Rogues to Riches 5)  by Grace Burrowes 

A new duke and a woman with a secret in her past get a second chance at love in this delightful and charming Regency romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the Windham series.

Robert Rothmere is hiding a past no duke should have endured, but he’s not hiding it well enough. Sooner or later, his enemies will learn that he spent years locked away at a private asylum. To get their hands on his wealth, they’ll try to send him right back to his worst nightmares. If Robert is to foil their schemes, he needs to marry a perfectly proper, blessedly boring, deadly dull duchess, immediately—and he knows exactly which quietly delightful lady he’d love to entrust with that role.

Lady Constance Wentworth has cultivated a reputation for utter forgettability. She never speaks out of turn (in public), never has a daring thought (that she admits aloud), and never comes close to courting scandal… as far as anybody knows. Her path crossed Robert’s years ago, though, and she’s never forgotten the extraordinary lengths he traveled to keep her safe when she hadn’t a friend in the world. She longs to be his demure duchess…but little does he know that to marry her would be utter madness.

My Review.

A romance with more substance than most, possibly because of the sensitive nature of parts of the story. I hadn’t read the previous books, in fact, I didn’t know there were previous books. Robert’s epilepsy offended his father who condemns him to life in a private asylum. Now returned to his estate, he is living the life of a recluse. Can a man who has suffered so much begin to live a normal life?

The Viscount Who Loved Me Bridgertons2)  by Julia Quinn

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn comes the story of Anthony Bridgerton, in the second of her beloved Regency-set novels featuring her charming, powerful Bridgerton family, now a series created by Shondaland for Netflix.

ANTHONY’S STORY

This time the gossip columnists have it wrong. London’s most elusive bachelor Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry—he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield—the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams…

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands—and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister—but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself…

My Review.
After seeing Bridgerton 2 on Netflix I wanted to read the book. There has been so much debate about which storyline people prefer, as they differ markedly. I thought I’d like to judge for myself. To my mind, the book has a better, more involved, and frankly, sexier story than the series. I enjoyed the show but felt it lacked the edge that season one had.
I have read a few of the Bridgerton series-(obviously not in order) and so far, this is the best one. 

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.


But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love

My Review.

A sparkling romance that will make you laugh out loud. There may be a power imbalance in the relationship initially, but bit by bit Emma demolishes both the Duke’s rules and his objections. Can the disfigured Duke stop himself from falling for her? Dare he risk his heart and happiness? More importantly, does he want to?

You should definitely eat the delicious cake

I am already way ahead of my reading goal for the year, but for now, I need to concentrate on my writing. A submission deadline looms. As for my birthday, well it was such a success, I think I will have another next year.

It was my first pedicure, but it won’t be my last.

March Madness: Fourteen Books I Read in March 2020.

Like many people around the world, I am staying home. It has provided me with a reading bonanza. The month started as normal until mid-month with the need to stay home. Most normal activities were cancelled and I read and read.

book-3387071_1280
Luckily, we can still read.

What Holds Us Together by  Sandi Ward

What holds us together

Browsing in the library and this book caught my eye, I was attracted by the beguiling cat picture on the front cover. Reading the blurb further intrigued me, so I took the book home. Serendipity, as I enjoyed reading it, especially the perspective of Luna, the family cat. This is a reflective and thoughtful book, dealing with the sudden death of a husband and father and how the family must try and come to terms with it. Guilt and anger cloud the points of view as Annika wasn’t home when Peter died and Donovan, her son is unforgiving towards her. Luna is the only one who is aware of the presence of Peter’s ghost. Donovan has Peter’s journal and won’t return it, while Annika is concerned about what it might reveal. Things become complicated as Sam Annika’s old high school boyfriend and his brother Danny come to plough them out of a snowstorm. A positive and hopeful book

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell

The LAst Voyage of Mrs Henry parker

As I had enjoyed The Single Ladies of The Jacaranda Retirement Village, I settled down with this book anticipating an enjoyable read. I would have relished it when I was younger, finding it amusing. However, for someone who is aware of ageing, it makes uncomfortable reading. Poor bewildered Mrs Parker valiantly battling on with her memory loss, confusion and worries. Throughout the book, we worry is poor Henry dead, misplaced, or playing a cruel game with Mrs Parker? All the classic fears of ageing, are here, the book wasn’t the happiest choice for me. It is well written, and others have and will enjoy it.

The Secret Letter By Kerry Barrett.


Secret Letter

 

Two interlinked storied make up this book and they are perfect companions for each other. Esther in 1910 is fighting for women’s rights after being left in poor circumstances due to her father’s’ death and gambling problems. In 2019 teacher Lizzie needs to begin again after being unwittingly implicated in her ex-husband’s less than ethical dealings. Both women need grit and determination to solve their problems and build a life worth living. I was cheering on the sidelines with this one and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Bad Girls by Caitlin Davies.

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Coincidentally I was reading this at the same time as I was reading The Secret Letter. This is a social history of Britain’s Holloway women’s’ prison. Bad Girls is a sobering book and one that left me both sad and angry at the treatment these women received. I am full of admiration for the courage of the suffragettes. Political prisoners, which essentially what the suffragettes were, were often treated with special harshness. For example,  Lilian Lenton was eventually tied to a chair by six wardresses after refusing food and forcibly fed by two male doctors. It was a brutal procedure, forcing a tube down the throat or even in some cases the nose to enable ‘feeding’. In Lilian’s case, the tube was pushed into her windpipe and then food was forced into her lung Women were not ‘given’ the vote. They fought for it, demanded it, and eventually won it. There are heartrending stories of interred so-called’ enemy aliens’- women who had fled Nazi persecution to go to  Britain, who then ended up in prison. They could even end up with fascist and Nazi sympathisers and the system did not seem to recognise the difference.

There are of course the  ‘celebrity cases’ notorious women who ended up in Holloway. More interesting to me were the so-called criminals who were products of a society that had no compassion for the beaten, the starving, the ill-educated, and the poor. A society that shamed and devalued women while holding them to a higher standard of behaviour and morality than men. Holloway became a women’s prison in 1902 and was closed in 2016- the site has now been sold to a housing association. It is planned to build  social housing on much of the site

The Cosy Coffee Shop of Promises by Kellie Hailes.

Coy coffee shop

Set in the fictional Rabbits’ Leap  Devon, the book explores the rivalry and attraction between Mel, the local café owner and Tony the owner of the decrepit village pub. Mel is in a panic due to an upcoming visit from her matchmaking mother. Mel can’t face that humiliation again and persuades Tony to act as decoy fiance. It can’t be that simple, can it? And of course, it isn’t.

Amour: How the French talk about Love by Stefania Rouselle.

Amour

The title of this nonfiction book intrigued me. The French are masters of the art of love, or so the mythologising says. So, what did they have to say on the subject? As a journalist, Rousselle covered hard subjects, terrorist attacks, refugees, and far-right parties. She felt despair and decided to look for the antidote-love. What follows are interviews and photographs of ordinary people and how they see love. The whole spectrum of emotions is here from those whose search has ended in despair to the long-married couples who still hold hands. Each story is as individual as the person who tells it. Do I know any more about love? If anything, the lesson is that we each seek what matters to us. Love is more than the physical, it’s the rightness, the connection and one special individual.

The Women of Primrose Square by Claudia  Carroll

Primrose square
A surprise party for Frank Woods that delivers one hell of a surprise and sets off a chain of inevitable events. Primrose Square was once a genteel place and Miss Violet Hardcastle deplores what it has become. She’s the self-appointed arbiter of standards, firing off angry missives to all and sundry. Then there is Emily Dunne, out of rehab and out of chances. I found their stories realistic and entertaining. Claudia Carroll writes with compassion and warmth.

Home to Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees.

Home to Bindarra Creek

Alice is at home in Bindarra Creek, after a tragedy she had built a life for herself. She feels safe, although trapped by her memories and regrets. Dan Molyneux is a local boy returned from the big city, where he was reportedly a hotshot financial whizz. At their initial meeting, sparks fly. When he buys the old pub, Alice expects him to tear it down and that’s alright with her. Unexpectedly, Dan plans to reopen the pub, where there are painful memories for Alice.

The Little Library Year by Kate Young.

The Little LIbrary year

An absolute treasure of a book for anyone who enjoys browsing cookbooks and reading. The recipes sound like the sort of things you might want to cook. For me, the book was a revisit to my birthplace England and a homage to the seasons. This book combines seasonal recipes and recommended reading in a glorious mixture to inform, entertain and inspire.

Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty.

Rules of the Road

Each of Ciara Geraghty’s books is different and for me, this was perhaps the wrong book for this stressful time. Terry is determined to accompany her friend Iris and to try and dissuade her from her ultimate plan to end her life in Switzerland. Iris had progressive Multiple sclerosis and feels its time. The book is about relationships, memories and taking a road trip. Well written and plausible.

White Nights by Ann Cleeves.

White Nights

An atmospheric story that immersed me in the long Shetland evenings of almost endless daylight. These are the White nights of the title, an unnerving time for those unaccustomed to them. Jimmy Perez has a bizarre death to deal with, which is at first presumed to be a suicide. Later, when a murder is revealed the Shetland community feels quite secure. The victim was an incomer, not one of their own. But tongues are loosened, and gossip is revived, as old secrets take on new importance. After another death, the case becomes closer to home. I enjoy Jimmy’s thought processes and his ability to use his island background as he investigates. Well -paced and kept me guessing.

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins.

Book charmer

I am always drawn to books with either a book or library in the title, so this was an obvious choice for me. Initially, the book read like a fairy tale drawing me in and inviting me to enjoy myself. Sarah Dove, Dove Pond’s town librarian has a gift, to her the books live and breathe and sometimes they let her know who needs them. It’s a gift as rare as it is inexplicable. New arrival Grace Wheeler isn’t interested in staying in Dove Pond. She plans to say a year then leave, but Sarah knows the town needs her. It’s just a matter of convincing her and making her stay. I look forward to reading more of this charming series

Falling for the Italian Billionaire by Annie Claydon

Falling fro Her italian Billioniare

Three and a half stars from me,-this is the first Mills and Boon romance that I have read. I choose it because of the cover and the title. After all who could resist an Italian billionaire if he looked like that. I found it enjoyable and readable. The relationship balance ebbed and flowed. Gabriel de Marco and Clare Holt are well-matched both physically and intellectually. Yet each has something in their past they want to forget. My only disappointment was that I felt the ending let the rest of the book down.

The Sunrise Girl by Lisa Wolstenholme.

The Sunrise Girl

Lucy is in limbo, two years have passed since her husband’s death, yet she is still waking each morning at sunrise. She can’t escape the guilt that she was responsible. It keeps her stuck in an endless loop of grief and guilt.

Best friend Em, drags Lucy out for birthday celebrations. Soon, Lucy is in familiar territory as she tries to block out her feelings. The meaningless one-night stands, endless cigarettes, and glasses of wine don’t dull her pain. Em drags Lucy off to Ibiza, the Spanish  ‘party island’  with its hedonistic lifestyle. They relished it when they were in their twenties, but now in their thirties, isn’t it a bit sad? Lucy starts to think so,  until she meets a  sexy man who makes her pulses race. Determined to find answers , she impulsively decides to go home and sort out her affairs there and then returns.  At first, it’s great,  but he wants more than a casual fling and she is adamant she wants no promises, no commitment. He wants to wake up with her beside him, to have a real relationship. Once again, confronted with this she leaves.

Lucy has been seeing a  grief therapist intermittently and Marj’s skillful questioning enables Lucy to  examine her thoughts and beliefs. She goes through grief, blame, guilt and avoidance, numbing herself with the partying to avoid facing her feelings. There  is no future until past issues are resolved, and Lucy now find the courage to do just that.

I was intrigued by how the author cleverly kept us guessing as to how Joe died and what part Lucy played in that. Overall a bit of an emotional roller coaster and a story that is very readable and relatable was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Note on this month’s book choices

As the month progressed and the news became more dismal, my reading pattern changed. I no longer wanted to read anything deep, meaningful or tragic. I know that others have to embrace dystopian fiction, but for me, that felt like too much of an overload. I wanted distraction and comfort. Some take solace in baking; I take comfort from reading. It was a big blow for me when my local library inevitability closed down. I know it is the right decision, but I felt the loss keenly.  A small loss in the scheme of things, but it matters to me. So, I can no longer anticipate a serendipitous find from the library.  I will be exploring the many books I have at home which are waiting to be read. Like most book lovers I do have a TBR( To Be Read ) stack of books.

Have your reading habits changed due to Covid 19?

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