This is the sequel to Impossible, and apparently also the book Extraordinary. I think you should have read Extraordinary before this one because it explains some details about why there’s an new Faerie Queen and why she has some sympathies to humans and why her brother is a jerk. This review also spoils the end of Impossible, so the rest of it will go below the spoiler cut. It gets 3.75 stars as well.
"This book was given to me as a wedding gift by my uncle, Arthur Rushton. In it, I am to record my experiences and impressions. Uncle Arthur made a fine speech of presentation in which he admonished me to remember that the thoughts that we record today will become the treasured historical documents. If this is so, I feel sorry for the future. Every other attempt I have made to keep a commonplace book rapidly degenerated into a list of what happened to my pocket money. This time I will try to do better. I intend to write an account of our wedding journey. But I will be astonished if anyone ever considers it a document of historical interest." -from the commonplace book of the Most Honorable the Marchioness of Schofield (Kate).
This book's pretty fun, and features the two couples from Sorcery and Cecelia on their dual honeymoon trip throughout Europe together. They're accompanied by Kate's mother-in-law Lady Sylvia for part of it, and it just shows how awesome and cool Lady Sylvia is that nobody has a problem with that. Seriously, she's great. Anyway, since the two cousins are together for this trip, the story's told in both (a) Kate's "commonplace book" (journal) and (b) a deposition(!) that Cecelia had to give afterwards. What happened was that as the couples traveled together, they became aware of a certain situation involving old enemies of theirs from the last book, a mysterious religious artifact briefly ending up in the possession of Lady Sylvia, and a nice kid being hauled about by his incredibly dubious tutor to various antiquity sites. They eventually discover that there's a magical plot on to make somebody the magical ruler of all Europe, and are on the trail to thwart that. It's pretty good stuff and I enjoyed it.
I have to say that I especially give props to Kate's writings, which are pretty lively compared to well, Cecilia's deposition. Due to plot reasons alone, we get to hear more schmoopiness with her and her new husband (including hints at nookie, yay for them), and Kate's personal feelings on being afraid of being clumsy in public while being a marchioness, etc. Obviously Cecy's not putting those levels of details in a freaking deposition, but it makes Kate more fun to read this go-round. I also enjoyed a new revelation about Kate regarding her personality traits, both good and bad. You've probably figured it out already given that magic runs in families, but it does lead to future potential.
Anyway, I'll give it four stars, it was a fun trip to read about.
This book is fun for the first third, okay on the second third, and .... not so great by the third. Which is a shame, because it starts out pretty dang fun.
William Dunford (who goes by Dunford for whatever reason) unexpectedly inherits a title and estate because there's seriously no dudes born in this family and he's like, eighth cousins to the previous holder who just died. When he goes down to Cornwall to check out the place, he finds out that it's being run by Henrietta "Henry" Barrett, a 20-year-old very distant orphaned relation of the guy's dead wife. Henry is generally awesome and tomboyish and runs around in dude clothes and dealing with pigs with pretty much no apology for being who she is even if she doesn't fit in. Sure, it's a little embarrassing that nobody (not even her female relation who raised her?) bothered to teach her the ways of women or get her any nice clothing, but overall she's fine, thanks. However, she's concerned that the new London dandy who's going to be in charge of her and her home might actually want to stick around, so she's got a plan to dissuade him by pointing out the ways of the country that aren't so pleasant. But Dunford figures this out within like, two days and he and Henry quickly become good friends and he is totally fine with her running things and telling him what's what, and he even gets her a better wardrobe. Their friendship is adorable and perfect and awesome.
Then Dunford finds out that he's legally Henry's guardian for the next few months until her next birthday (a fact that Henry was all "duh" about, but Dunford had no clue about apparently) and he kind of freaks a bit and starts thinking he needs to take her to London and have a Season and find her a good husband and not be the creepy guy who does Wife Husbandry on his ward. To his credit, that does bug him a bit even though this is pretty well not the case here, really. He introduces her to his nice female friends (and he has some! In this time period!) so she can make friends, and she's a hit with all the folks. But in the end, the two of them like each other just too darned much, and Henry's quickly off the marriage market.
Well, until some snotty girl setting her cap for Dunford decides to tell Henry that Dunford has a mistress. Which he does (this is a pretty open secret from the getgo for the reader and even Henry reasonably suspected), but he plans on breaking up with her and passing her on to another friend of his. On this last bit I....yeah, I don't even. I guess that's the best a fallen woman can do in that time period, but it's a little squick. Henry doesn't know this, so she sneaks off to check out the mistress, except it takes Dunford a lot longer than he expected to do the deed and Henry reasonably infers that they were boning for hours. She decides to write a fake letter to a friend (except everyone knows Henry doesn't have any friends except for the ones Dunford introduced her to, so obviously fake) saying she's only marrying Dunford for the house, in hopes he will break up with her, except he doesn't and the marriage is...still going on and awkward and depressing, which I did not need to see, and that drags on for a lot longer than I wanted to read about. Feh. Such a buzzkill. I know third act breakups are a requirement of most plots and since it's a romance novel you can figure it gets resolved by the end, but it kinda ruined the fun of them as a couple for me to suddenly have them in a loveless marriage.
Overall, I'm giving this three stars. Coulda been a four, but...yeah.
I've heard this is "Jane Austen with magic," and by god, that's exactly what it is, no more, no less. It's most similar in some ways to Sense and Sensibility. Basically it's the same kind of world, but people have the ability to use/shape/create things out of glamour, which is...folds in the ether of some kind, I think? I'm not the sort who'd be clear on the details, but it sounds lovely. People create tableaux vivant, fancy up their houses, maybe disguise their features a bit (though our heroine would point out that eventually someone would be surprised when she had to let the glamour go), create glamurals...sounds lovely.
Jane Ellsworth is a 28-year-old spinster who's decidedly unattractive by the standards of her day--brown hair, too long nose, sallow complexion--but in personality she's super smart, kind, polite, protective, and loves all kinds of puzzles. She's a pretty good glamourist despite not having had massive amounts of formal training, but she's not like, the world's best ever. (Yay, realism.) Jane is perpetually comparing herself to her younger and hotter sister Melody, who's actually attractive. However, Melody is apparently perpetually comparing herself to Jane because Jane has talents and Melody basically hasn't been that interested in applying herself. As the story goes on, the sisters become more quietly resentful of each other and annoyed by each other, and Jane has to stifle like heck when she finds out things like her sister likes to fake injuries to get men's attentions.
Anyway...both girls are originally interested in their nice but circumspect neighbor Mr. Dunkirk, but Mr. Dunkirk seems to be more interested in Jane and Melody quickly moves on to the charming Captain Livingston, who apparently gets around. Jane befriends Mr. Dunkirk's little sister Beth, who seems to have had some drama and scandal in her past that makes her brother choke on it. Eventually Jane finds out the whole story, and has to eventually take steps to fend off disasters. (And I have to say, how she did it was pretty cool. Excellent use of skills.)
There's also the mysterious grumpy glamourist Mr. Vincent, who's been employed to create a glamural at a highborn house. Mr. Vincent seems put off by Jane at first--she's very interested in his work and it bugs him when she can figure out what he did--but he starts to relent a bit as time goes on, and they get asked to create tableaux for others' entertainment. After Mr. Vincent falls ill and Jane manages to get the right kind of help for him, he gifts her with his notebook on glamour--which is potent stuff in all kinds of ways.
The end action is surprisingly dramatic for the previous slow pace of the story, and I deeply enjoyed it when the drama erupted. Jane Austen never went that far, whee! In the end, we get a "happily ever after" summation, which I think assumed this would be a one and done story, except now there are sequels.
What do I think of this story? If you're super into Jane Austen, you'll love it. If you're not that into Jane Austen, I probably wouldn't recommend it because it won't be your thing. It ended up being a quick read for me. I'll admit with the addition of magic I was expecting a bit more than slow courtship plotting and was a little disappointed in that, until the end where things picked up. (More use of glamour as a plot point, yes!) I really like Jane as a character, she's certainly a worthy lass. Overall I think I'm going to give it three and a half stars.
There's a prequel to this book, The Governess Affair, but I haven't read it.
Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, ends up overhearing a heinous conversation between a young snotbag bragging that his fiancée is scarred and plain and a total mouse and thus won't say a word when he cheats on her all the time. Unfortunately, he realizes that the fiancée, the aptly named Wilhelmina Pursling, is also overhearing this conversation. Awkward.... However, Robert finds out that Minnie has hidden depths of character and personality--and she's deduced that he's writing seditious handbills, which she's looked into in case she gets accused of doing it herself because it turns out both of them are social rebels. Robert, however, doesn't mind a bit and even writes her a confirming letter admitting as such. Hell, it's not as if a duke can actually get in trouble for that if he's caught.
Robert's father was a rapist and an asshole, and Robert is spending his life making up for that, such as befriending his illegitimate half-brother Oliver and secretly advocating for drastic social change (though good luck with that). He's a genuinely great guy, who's a bit naïve and awkward but knows he is and he's doing his best. And he's totally charmed by the mysterious Minnie, even as she gives him a bit of attitude, and he's inspired by some chess talk she says to him to put it into one of his handbills. This turns out to be a terrible idea....
You see, Minnie's been living under a false identity for years, deliberately painting herself as the world's dullest human. Once upon a time she was living under a fake name and gender...I won't spoil it all, but when you find out what happened, it was quite explosive. Now she's just trying to survive and stifle herself down as much as she can so as not to be found out as a giant scandal, again. But Robert's interest in her is tempting her to come out of her shell with someone who's safe.
It was an intriguing story, and got more and more intriguing as it went on. I enjoyed reading about Robert's mother, who comes off as a snot at first but you find out why she did what she did and why she's doing it, and then you feel for her. I also enjoyed her relationship with Minnie, and Robert's relationships with his half-brother Oliver and honorary brother Sebastian (called the "Brothers Sinister" for their left-handedness), and how Robert felt about wanting to be close with Oliver's nice family but not being able to due to his father being a shitty rapist.
In the end, I liked it a lot and give it four stars.
Previous book here. NOW THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.
Dear Sarina Bowen: should, god forbid, you do Google Alerts and read this review, THIS is the kind of thing you're good at. You don't need to write love stories about perfectly nice people without huge amounts of issues. You need conflict like THIS. You need to write stuff where you've got a whopping conflict and drama to figure out and work around. THIS IS YOUR JAM.
Jude Nickel is a car mechanic by trade who got hooked on prescription drugs in high school. He also got hooked on police chief's daughter/singer/"good girl" Sophie Haines, and they had a super passionate relationship even as he was getting more and more into drugs while she was at college. Three and a half years ago or so(?) Jude and Sophie's brother Gavin got into a car accident while high and Gavin died, and Jude did three years in prison for manslaughter and took up heroin while he was in there. After a stint in rehab, he got a job for a few months at the Shipley Farm, but now that that's run out, Jude is forced to move back to his shitty hometown with cops that hate him because working in his alcoholic dad's garage is the only way he can get a job. Plus he's trying to maintain sobriety while mostly alone. However, he makes friends with a priest at the same location where the NA meetings are being held, and it turns out that Sophie's a volunteer at the weekly dinners that are held that same night.
Sophie's been managing, but she hasn't been living the life Jude imagined for her. She gave up on the idea of professional singing, she's moved home to take care of her catatonic mother while finishing her college degree, and she's got a temporary part-time job as a hospital social worker in Montpelier. Basically her problem is her family--her mom used to be a dynamo but is now a walking zombie all the time. Her father was an asshole growing up and he still is one now. And frankly, Sophie doesn't seem to have any love lost for her dead brother, who was a jerk just like her father was. But she still loves the shit out of Jude and once they're in the same vicinity for very long, they're on each other like white on rice--and having to hide it from a town full of cops loyal to her dad. I probably would have figured their getting together again would have been more conflicted and rocky--but no, the author makes it work that the love didn't die even if someone else died and drugs were involved. Jude is holding on as best he can in a bad situation that's still better than what he was in before, and he does have his reservations about how he can manage to have a life with Sophie in the future. But Sophie's willing to give it a shot. You can definitely buy that this relationship can work out as long as Sophie eventually gets away from her family--this wouldn't have worked if she was close to those people. But that's hard to do when your dad makes it clear every day that the wrong kid died.
And then Sophie's dad introduces her to a young cop on his force that he's trying to fix her up with. This turns out to be a bad idea for dad, because Sophie befriends the cop (Rob Nelligan) and gets him to help her look at the police report of the incident--and a cop's daughter is gonna notice some whopping inconsistencies and missing information in that report. Sophie starts to think maybe Jude wasn't the driver that night, but finding out that information's going to put some lives at risk...During this whole story I kept thinking, "You guys have got to get out of town if you keep going down this hole!" I did feel sorry for the ah...collateral damage that happened to a few folks in this story. Between that and the sketchy guys who keep breaking into Jude's place to look for drugs, there's still a case going on and things have to get resolved somehow, though.
The book also uses friends very well. We've already got the Shipleys from the previous book helping to care for Jude (and Griffin does great backup at one point), but the priest character Father Peters is a total sweetie. And Denny, Sophie's coworker friend, is used really well. He starts out as Hopeless Crush Guy (a plot point that made me wince, but the book gets over that FAST, thank goodness), but he is a good friend to Sophie and is even very kind to Jude when Jude needs assistance--and let's just say the guy went above and beyond in a surprising way. This book kind of made me think that if she wants to continue the series past three books (or if the publisher lets her), she could bring back Rob Nelligan or even Denny as a lead, in addition to Zara.
Anyway, this book was amazeballs. I have certain standards for hugely epic that this book is a tiny bit short on given the subject matter, but it's close. And I'm saying this as someone who isn't particularly into drug plots--I ate this up like candy. So, four and a half stars. Blew me away.
This is a new series for the author, based in Vermont and taking place around the Shipley Farm rather than anything sports-related. I generally liked it, but it did not feel like it had the plot sizzle of well, pretty much almost anything else of hers I've read.
However...Griff and Audrey are pretty much perfectly nice, normal people without a lot of drama going on, and between that and well, the characters being into certain things in life a lot more than I am, I was not so into this book as I have been others. Griff's backstory boils down to: "had a crush on Audrey at college, was going to be a football player and then his dad died so he quit to run the family farm, which he is generally fine about." Audrey's backstory actually sounds pretty painful--she was raised by a rich perfectionist man-hating businesswoman who wanted a clone of herself, except Audrey wasn't good at school and flunked out of two colleges, liked boys, and got cut off financially. However, Audrey pulled herself together nicely, got herself through culinary school, and at this point is so used to what her mom is like and not getting along with her that when she casually mentions something horrible her mom did to her in conversation, she doesn't even notice when the rest of the dinner table is dropping their jaws in horror. She's fine, thanks.
So Griff and Audrey had a few hookups in college, and then Griff graduated and Audrey flunked out and it's been around five years since they last saw each other. Audrey is currently a shitty peon slaving away for the Boston Premier Group, doing their bidding and being borderline-about-to-be-fired all the time, in hopes that she can last long enough there to be allowed to pitch her own restaurant idea. She gets told that now she has to drive around to various Vermont farms and get farm products for BPG....at what turns out to be ridiculously unrealistically cheap prices, something she had no idea about. And when her first stop is Griffin Shipley's family farm, he most certainly does enlighten her on this topic. Awkward. But anyway, the hormones between them are as hot and heavy as they ever were, so the two of them end up dating/boning quite a lot whenever Audrey's in town for work.
There's a lot about farming, cows, slaughtering animals (Griffin thinks Audrey will be grossed out watching that and instead she's all, don't you dare get rid of the cheek meat!), Audrey making delicious meals for the Shipley family and employees and shopping for work, and boning. I'll be honest with you: I'm not into cooking or farming, so the loving details about those things are probably lost on me. If you are into those subjects, though, you'll probably get deep pleasure from reading about them. There's not a lot of major conflict going on here either. Audrey befriends Griffin's grumpy former fuckbuddy (though Zara sounds like an interesting lady and if she ever gets a book, I'd be interested), we wait around for Audrey to either get fired or quit BPG because they are horrible and odds are she isn't going to make it long enough to get to pitch a restaurant idea, and there's a tiny bit of drama about how Griff wants Audrey on the farm but doesn't want to interfere with her getting-a-restaurant dream. Audrey's mom kinda miraculously gets over her issues when Audrey calls her about a business matter.
So overall...don't get me wrong, they're nice people, they have good sexytimes together, they seem to have fun, and the Shipley family is a bunch of nice people anyone would want to be adopted by. That's including the farmhands Jude and Zachariah, who shall be the heroes of the other books in the series. Happily, those guys have super interesting/dramatic backstories, so that should liven things up when I get to them. But overall, I found myself kinda slowly meandering through the book instead of devouring it quickly. It's okay, it's sweet and fun enough, but didn't blow my mind. I guess I need more complications in my heroes and heroines to get more interested.
Previous book here--this is a new spinoff series from The Ivy Years, starting a few years after The Fifteenth Minute and features DJ's brother Leo.
Leo Trevi and Georgia Worthington found true love in high school and were whoppingly in love and whooping it up all over the place for three years--until Georgia got raped during an out of state spring trip. Even though Leo was an awesome boyfriend during that time, Georgia kind of felt like her issues had killed the relationship, leading her to break up with him upon graduation. Six years later, neither of them have found anyone else and are secretly still pining for each other.
Georgia works as the interim publicist for the Brooklyn Bruisers, a new hockey team bought up by a tech genius. She has an interesting time of it when (a) her hockey coach dad Karl gets hired by the same team, and (b) Leo is added to the team, very much against her dad's wishes. (It's not clear for quite some time why Karl has a whopping grudge against Leo, but man, it's kinda ugly.) Poor Leo has possibly one of the worst rookie first months of all time, between a coach that hates him and isn't afraid to get physical about it, his ex-girlfriend being on the scene, and saying the wrong thing in front of a hot mic pointing out that last bit. Leo has very good reasons to suspect he's going to get traded at the first opportunity, about a month from now. Either way, it'd behoove both of them to attempt to be on their best behavior in public...but the hormones get going, the love is flowing, and I'm going to stop the terrible rhymes, but holding back just isn't gonna happen here, even if Georgia's worried about losing him again.
This is a very schmoopy, adorable novel. It handles the back story issues well and delicately but not too delicately, and navigates the hockey world and its quirks well. I liked Leo and Georgia quite a lot and it was a very sweet read. So, four stars.
Previous book here. I didn't know this had come out, yay!
This one features Lennon and takes place a few months after his motorcycle incident, following up on the "what's up with Lennon and we are seriously worried about him right now" theme that was going on in Relent. The band is about to go on an abbreviated European tour, and naturally the brothers are worried about how Lennon is going to hold up. Lennon is desperate for some distraction and is ready to go, even if he hasn't sorted out all of his issues in therapy yet and the like. He hits it off with Haylee, the guitarist/lead singer of Intrigue, their opening act band, presumably because both of them recognize something "broken" in each other and understand what that's like.
Haylee's band was doing really well for themselves until she got kidnapped at gunpoint by a stalker, and she's been PTSD'ing/self-medicating/taking prescription stuff off and on since then. This is the band's second chance and she doesn't want to waste it, but periodically she's having her own issues, and worries that getting into a relationship may not be the best thing given her circumstances--and that's not even knowing all that's going on with Lennon. The two of them get closer despite themselves (and theoretically trying not to hop into a relationship), but things start coming to a head when Haylee's mother blabs things to the press and Lennon gets up the nerve to visit his mother in Europe and finally starts remembering what he's been blocking out of his head since he was a kid. I was right in assuming his issues had something to do with her, and while I won't spoil here, let's just say it's probably not as bad as your imagination may be telling you right now so don't worry about trigger warning things. But at any rate, Lennon's remembering the truth is a shocker to his brothers, and presumably will be gotten into in a final series book about all the brothers that the author promises in another year-ish or so.
I whipped through reading this book in a few hours and enjoyed it as much as the rest of them. I think the mental health issues and the balance of them was handled well, Haylee and Lennon hit it off very well, and I also enjoyed everyone hanging out together, as usual. Paige takes them to excellent places, Daisy does a fun prank, Cash shows moments of growth and improvement, and the members of Intrigue fit in well with this bunch. And I always enjoy the snark that everyone shows toward each other while still being affectionate, though I think the topper on that in this book is Daisy being all, yeah, I love my boyfriend but sometimes I really wish we could do something besides watching extreme fishing videos :p
Four stars. I'm gonna put a wee bit of spoiler commentary below the cut though....
Famous rock star Tommy Stiles's lawyers are going through his next prenup--he's getting ready to wed pregnant fiancee #4--when they unexpectedly discover that 38 years ago when he was 19, he knocked up a 39-year-old. Wait, whaaaaat? The aforementioned lady was an oceanographer who decided to have the kid on her own without ever mentioning it. Tommy's a family man--he's already got six kids + the one in utero even before this that he knew about--and he's delighted to find out he has another kid and is chomping at the bit to meet her. However, his lawyer/foster kid/best friend's kid/band member(!) Finn tries to get him to calm the hell down and give it some time, and why don't we check out the situation first by say, ordering a cake from the woman? She does own a bakery and do custom cake designs, after all.
Hayley Maitland Goldstein has been living a mostly normal life, except for the part where her ex-husband is a moneygrubbing skeezebucket and likely criminal. She's raising their daughter Lizzie and has no idea why the heck a representative of a famous guy would drive 4 hours to her New Jersey bakery to order a custom drum set cake (or for that matter, why the famous guy will give her a phone call), and kinda smells a rat, but it's going to be a while before she can get a straight answer out of anybody. Meanwhile, Hayley ends up hitting it off with Finn big time, and all the while Finn is dying to tell her what's going on but really can't/shouldn't drop that bomb without some verification. When Hayley's mother Jane plans on coming to town to drop some truth bombs of her own around the time of the party, that should be....surprising, to say the least.
I really enjoyed the heck out of this book and read through it very quickly. Tommy Stiles is a pretty adorable rock star, and for all his varying kids and ex-wives and whatnot, genuinely comes off as a decent guy even as you kind of want to roll your eyes that he's marrying a 24-year-old. Hayley and her daughter Lizzie and Finn are all nice folks. And while it does take quite a while for Hayley to finally find out what's going on--in the most publicly embarrassing way possible, really-- once she finally finds out people manage to mesh well together and figure things out. Overall, I just thought everyone in it (except the ex-husband, for obvious reasons) was sweet and nice and well meaning and fun to read about. So, four stars.