Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lovehampton by Sherri Rifkin


When I worked in Manhattan in the summers between my college semesters, I always wondered why, at 5pm on a Friday afternoon, the throngs headed toward Penn Station and the Hamptons on the far end of Long Island for weekends away. After reading this debut novel, by Sherri Rifkin, I now see what I was missing.

The story revolves around Tori Miller, a single woman in her early thirties, dumped by the love of her life two years earlier, and wallowing, despite the efforts of her best friends, in self-pity and depression.  These same friends stage an intervention, strongly suggesting that she get over herself and get on with her life, getting her to participate in a pilot for a make-over reality show, and securing  a share for her in a summer house in the Hamptons.

Miller, as she is called by her housemates, finds herself in the social whirlwind of a summer on the South Fork,  including the company of  a jet setting admirer who introduces her to the finer things in life. Thinking she could get used to this, she neglects to see that the person she is becoming is not the person she would like to be. It takes one of her male housemates to point out to her that there is another path worth following.

The novel is a story of self re-discovery, told with humor and not a little bit of tongue in cheek poking at the way  the social set looks at itself. I love how Sherri portrays Tori. The reader really empathizes with who she is and what she has gone through. Her friends are colorful and add to the journey Tori finds herself on, steering her in the right direction when things threaten to go awry.

There is the requisite amount of sleeping around that you would expect in this setting, but it's not explicit, for those of you looking for that. What this is is the story of someone finally answering the questions that nag at all of us at some point in our lives.... who are we now, and is this who we want to be?

This is an excellent summer read to throw into your "weekender" bag.  An engaging first novel by Ms. Rifkin,  I can't wait to read what she writes next.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This Duchess of Mine, by Eloisa James

mine_247 At long last, the story of Jemma and Elijah!  I won't lie when I say I've been waiting for this book since I began reading the Desperate Duchesses series.  We got a glimpse of them in the first book, and since then we've been teased with little snippets here and there.  Now, finally we have the entire story.

For those who don't know their history, Elijah, the Duke of Beaumont, married Jemma through an arranged marriage.  Jemma adored him and was infatuated, Elijah....not so much.  He was more concerned with power and making his way through Parliament than pleasing a wife.  Their early marriage wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.  The day Jemma catches Elijah in his office with his mistress is the day she leaves for Paris.  For nine years they live separately, until Elijah faints in Parliament one day, and he realizes his time is short.  He summons his wife home, so he can have an heir.

Jemma is a complicated character, very complex and whimsical at the same time.  She realizes her marriage could be better, and to do that, she needs her husband to want her.  So, with that in mind, she sets about to woo her husband, thinking he is indifferent to her.  After an attempt at setting up a flirtation with a rival, to unknowingly making Elijah extremely jealous with her friendship with the Duke of Villiers, the two finally realize they do love each other.  There is another issue, however.  Elijah has a bad heart, one that causes him to faint for short periods of time.  Jemma is convinced he is going to die at any moment, as the previous Duke died from a heart ailment at the same age as Elijah.  With the help of the Duke of Villiers, the trio races to locate a doctor that has a medicine to cure the problem. Add to all of this their legendary chess games, and you have a fun Georgian story.

As with all of Eloisa James' books, her characters are well written and sometimes on the complex side.  Jemma is a character that appears througout the series, and you learn a little bit about her as the books go on.  Elijah isn't talked about nearly as much, but in this book we get to see the other side of him as Jemma discovers what lies beneath.  Their relationship isn't perfect, and it's very entertaining to watch it evolve.  This is definitely a book well worth picking up, especially if you've been waiting like I have!