Sunday, April 28, 2013

Good to Myself, by Heather Wardell (Toronto Series)

"I was so very tired of games. But I'd never met a sexy guy who didn't make me play them."

"...that tall sleek body dressed in a dark green dress shirt and black pants that hugged him like they'd loved  him all their life." 

"Then I stopped savoring, and the words 'good to myself' rang through my head." 

I adore books I can relate to. Better yet, if a book makes me reconsider my personal status quo, it's forever labeled a favorite. I knew by the title that Good to Myself by Heather Wardell had that potential.  It does. In spades.

Lydia Grange is a popular online columnist. Single, savvy and smart, she's perceived as Canada's answer to Carrie Bradshaw.  When one of the lead columnists in the office leaves, Lydia is asked to compete with her two coworkers for the high profile job. The premise of the competition is  straightforward - increase site traffic through a "Be Good to Yourself and teach your followers how to be the same" campaign.  Lydia believes she has this one nailed down, after all she's good to herself all the time. Unchecked retail therapy at bargain prices, sexy guys leading to sex with no strings, slices of fabulous cheesecake whenever possible and a staggering Starbucks habit chock full of sugary, caffeinated heaven. All in the name of feeling good as often as possible. However, as the competition goes on, Lydia discovers that her version of being good to herself usually falls short of the intended result. And it's this self discovery that kept me turning the pages. 

Lydia certainly made me uncomfortable and for several chapters I didn't understand why. Then I realized she reminded me of, well, me.  Her epiphanies come slowly and are hard earned, but when they arrive, I guarantee you, as a reader, will be nodding your head and cheering her on and perhaps seeing more than a little something of yourself in her.  Oh, and the purse on the cover.  Been there and bet you have too. 

Ms. Wardell is one of my favorite authors and in Good to Myself, she reminds me why. A modern romance where the protagonist finds her way first is the very best kind. Well written and well done.  Two thumbs up. Way up. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Darius (Lonely Lords #1), by Grace Burrowes

How in the world does Grace Burrowes do it? Book after book, she delivers. In Darius, I think she's found her most unlikely yet noblest hero yet.

Darius Lindsey, the youngest son of the Earl of Wilton, finds himself in dire straits. His father, for reasons Darius would rather not contemplate, but is all too aware of,  has cut him off from his inheritance and left him to fend for himself. In order to help his widowed brother, his small ward and his reputation challenged sister,  he finds himself selling himself for coin. When Lord Longstreet is in want of an heir in order to protect his soon to be widow, he enlists Darius' help and an unlikely bargain is struck. What Darius and Lady Vivian Longstreet did not bargain for was the attraction they have for each other and the lengths to which each is willing to go to protect the other.

Ms. Burrowes' writing is beautifully styled and her characters are always so fully developed. In this novel, we revisit with old friends from previous tales (always a treat) and we are once again witness to flawed characters overcoming adversity and themselves to be the people they were meant to be, and to fall in love while they are doing it. Just superb. This is historical romance as it was meant to be written and read.

I'm looking forward to the next in this new series. Highly recommend.

Friday, April 5, 2013

It Happened One Midnight: Pennyroyal Green Series by Julie Anne Long

Thomasina De Ballesteros and Jonathan Redmond are as unlikely a couple as ever there was. And Julie Anne Long takes the circuitous route in bringing them together, which makes It Happened One Midnight an irresistible romance read. I love the way Ms. Long weaves a story and this one is certainly no exception. Tommy and Jonathan dance a slow circle around each other, testing, pushing, learning each other as the layers are peeled away.  Ms. Long's talent for placing the reader inside the story makes it seem as if we are doing the same - slowly, deliciously, page by page, coming to know Tommy and Jonathan as they really are, not as society defines them. This careful reveal kept me turning the pages while at the same time wishing I could just stop - so as to make the telling last. It was a brilliant feeling.

Great read by one of my favorite authors and available for preorder now on Amazon.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nowhere But Home, by Liza Palmer

While I have a few friends from the State of Texas, I've never been there myself.  But in reading Liza Palmer's latest release, Nowhere But Home, I found it possible to wish I was a native like the residents of North Star, home to Queenie Wake and her sister Merry Carole.

Queenie, (short for Queen Elizabeth), a chef with a temper and a chip on her shoulder,  gets fired from her latest position in New York City, and with no where else to go, she's forced to head home to Texas, and her sister and nephew, in the Hill Country town of North Star. She's been working in different cities, trying to outrun her feelings for the man she was in love with since she was eleven years old, Everett Coburn. "Ever," a man from one of North Star's golden families, was persuaded by his family to end his relationship with  the daughter of the town "floozie." Unfortunately for both Queenie and Everett, there would never be anyone else.

Queenie returns to live with Merry Carole and Cal, her nephew (the star quarterback on the high school football team). She gets a job cooking in a state prison for death row prisoners and while the job is stressful in ways she couldn't begin to imagine, she's the master of her own kitchen and begins to understand how her past and her upbringing have colored her outlook on this small town and its inhabitants. And she puts into motion what she needs to put the past behind her.

Filled with touches of Queenie's unique humor,  Nowhere But Home is actually a coming of age story, for Queenie, her sister, her nephew, their friends, Everett and even the town mean girls, who after all these years, still try to intimidate the Wake sisters until their own pasts catch up to them. All must learn to put the past where it belongs, and change the things about themselves that can be changed, while coming to terms and accepting everything else that cannot.

Liza Palmer, in a wonderfully written contemporary story, reminds us that no matter how old we are, there is still growing up to do, a past to put into perspective, and that love, in the end, can conquer all. It's a potent recipe for a very satisfying read.