Monday, November 30, 2020

Review - - How to Catch a Queen

How to Catch a Queen
by Alyssa Cole
Runaway Royals - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

PJ's Thoughts:

If you haven't yet read Alyssa Cole you're missing out on some of the best writing in romance fiction. I loved her Reluctant Royals series and was excited when I learned she would be expanding that world into her new series of Runaway Royals. How to Catch a Queen launches that new series and is everything I could have hoped for.

Shanti was the star of this book for me. Here is a woman who identified her life goal at an early age and since then has diligently prepared herself for the role of her dreams: to be a queen. Not for the crown or the jewels or the pampered lifestyle. No, Shanti has no intention of being any handsome man's arm candy. A brilliant strategist, she is prepped, polished, and ready to stand next to her King and, together, lead their country - and citizens - into a prosperous future. Unfortunately, her new husband doesn't want to be a king, or a husband, her new country is falling apart, progress is being undermined at every turn, the royal council ignores her and her ideas, and if she doesn't turn it all around within four months, she's out the door with several new queen applicants on waiting to take her place. 

While Shanti had me cheering all her boss queen moves, Sanyu tugged on all my nurturing heartstrings. I ached for the absence of emotional nurturing in his life and was ready to exact justice for a lifetime of emotional abuse. He has a significant growth arc that Cole slowly and realistically navigates with sensitivity and care. But he isn't the only one who grows. Shanti also has lessons to learn. I enjoyed watching the two of them ease into friendship, "teamship," and more. But I also enjoyed watching each of them individually open themselves up to the possibility of new friendships with others. The group texts with familiar characters from the previous series were wonderfully fresh, funny, and eye-opening for both Sanyu and Shanti. I loved them!

Cole brings the kingdom of Njaza to life, including it's history, traditions, challenges, geographic landscape, and, of course, it's citizens. She explores many relevant topics including colonialism, patriarchy, social justice, mental health, and the difficulty of balancing necessary progress with historical tradition. The secondary characters are rich, relevant, and necessary to both the progression of the story as well as the growth of the hero and heroine. No wallpaper here. There are several secondary characters who elicited strong emotions (both positive and negative) in this reader. I would have liked a more detailed reckoning for one of them but I'm willing to believe that a lot of discussion, accountability, apologizing, and healing occurred in the five years prior to the epilogue. There's also another character who, though she had a small role, leaped from the page and stole every scene she was in. I'm so excited that Cole's 2021 release, How to Find a Princess will be her story! 

There's so much more I could say about this book but that would be giving away details readers should have the pleasure of discovering themselves. If you haven't read Alyssa Cole yet, How to Catch a Queen is a great place to begin. 

Have you read any Alyssa Cole books yet? Do you have a favorite?

Would you want to be a queen? Why? Or, why not?

What are you reading this week?

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, December 1 will receive a print copy of A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole. 

*Must be 18

*U.S. addresses only

Winners - - Feliz Naughty Dog


The randomly chosen winners of a copy of 

Feliz Naughty Dog by Roxanne St. Claire are:

Cheryl C

You have won a Kindle copy of Feliz Naughty Dog

Please send your email address to 

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com.


Carla Loves to Read

You have won a print copy of Feliz Naughty Dog

Please send your full name and mailing address to 

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Review & Giveaway - - Feliz Naughty Dog

Feliz Naughty Dog
by Roxanne St. Claire
A Standalone Holiday Novella (116 pages)
The Dogmothers - Book 7
Publisher: South Street Publishing
Release Date: November 20, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Pru Kilcannon has one goal when she wakes on Christmas Eve – to perform the most “Random Acts of Christmas Kindness” so she can spread cheer and ensure her high school wins the county-wide “RACK IT UP” contest. But when her friends decide to team up with their boyfriends, the ever-helpful Dogmothers enlist the new kid in school as Pru’s partner for the contest. And that means good-girl Pru has to spend the entire day with the broody, moody, and crazy cute bad boy Lucas Darling, and his chaos-causing greyhound, Tor.

As if that wasn’t enough holiday havoc, Pru and Lucas have to accompany the grannies on a secret mission to check out a man Yiayia has met on an online dating service.  Gramma Finnie is convinced Aldo Fiore is a mobster, Yiayia thinks he’s her dream man, and Pru just wants to be sure her great-grandmothers don’t get themselves arrested — or worse. There’s no telling what could happen when the Dogmothers spy on an eighty-year-old who might be playing a rather flirtatious Santa at the mall…or might be hiding from the Feds.

But no one expected the real trouble to come from Tor, the former racing dog who causes mayhem and mall madness.  As Pru and Lucas attempt to control Tor, supervise the Santa Stalking, and knock out a few random acts of kindness…they also give in to a delicious little Christmas crush that just might lead to some magic under the mistletoe this year!

PJ's Thoughts:

There's a reason they call her General Pru. Sixteen-year-old Pru Kilcannon is a born leader but on Christmas Eve, Pru's plans are...well...not going according to plan. There's one area of Pru's life where she's decidedly not leading the pack and that's romance. Which, of course, suits her over-protective dad just fine but the Dogmothers are of a different persuasion and this year they've decided to work a little of their matchmaking magic on Pru. Will their efforts result in a first kiss under the mistletoe or all-out chaos at the mall? 

And speaking of chaos, YiaYia is in hot pursuit of the mall Santa but will she find romance at the cost of her relationship with her best friend? Meanwhile, Gramma Finnie, that sweet, Irish angel on earth is having decidedly uncharitable feelings about YiaYia's budding romance with a man Finnie is certain is headed for the slammer. Will this be the end of the Dogmothers duo or the beginning of a deeper, more meaningful friendship? We are never too old to learn new lessons. 

Then there's Lucas, who has every girl at his new school drooling over his bad boy looks, and who is living proof that books should not be judged by their cover. There's much more to this young man than anyone imagines. And, of course, we can't forget Tor, a sweet, rescued Greyhound who only wants to do what he's been trained to do: run. But like his human, Tor has hidden depths as well and while stealing hearts manages to also steal darn near every scene he's in. 

Roxanne St. Claire has penned another sweet, heartwarming, hilarity-inducing, holiday adventure with the tenets of love, kindness, forgiveness, and understanding at its heart. Whether you're a fan of the Dogfather and Dogmothers books or this is your first visit, Feliz Naughty Dog is a story that will fill your heart with the joy of family, friendship, and the holiday season. So, grab a mug of hot chocolate and curl up with Pru, Lucas, Tor, and the grannies for another Christmas story that will have you laughing, sighing, possibly shedding a tear or two, and overflowing with holiday spirit. Now that I've written this review, I think I'm going to go read it again! 


Have you read any of the Dogfather or Dogmother books yet?

What books have you read lately that have put you in a holiday spirit?

Have you done a random act of kindness lately or has one been done for you? Tell me about them.

One person who comments before 11:00 PM, November 26 will receive a Kindle copy of Feliz Naughty Dog

*Must be 18

*Must be able to receive Kindle gift from Amazon U.S.

One person who comments before 11:00 PM, November 26 will receive a signed print copy of Feliz Naughty Dog.

*Must be 18

*U.S. addresses only

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review - - Archangel's Sun

Archangel's Sun
by Nalini Singh
A Guild Hunter Novel - Book 13
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: November 24, 2020
Reviewed by Nancy

Archangel’s Sun is the thirteenth installment of Nalini Singh’s popular Guild Hunter series. If you’re not familiar with this series, this is a good starting point. The prior book concluded a long arc. Archangel’s Sun picks up in the aftermath of that and contains enough information about the prior storyline to allow readers to follow the action in this book without confusion. 

That said, Singh does a great job through the series of developing arcs and exploring relationships in depth. The Archangel of New York, Raphael, and his Guild hunter, Elena, met in the first book, Angels’ Blood. Many of the subsequent books, though not all, explore the evolution of their relationship against the backdrop of an extended arc that slowly builds to a dark crisis point. 

Just so we’re all on the same page, archangels in this world are the most powerful members of the angelic race who inhabit the earth. They are not heavenly angels, and the series doesn’t involve religion. The world is ruled by a Cadre of (ideally) 10 archangels. The world also includes angels, vampires, and humans. The Guild is an organization of human hunters. They track down vampires who have gone rogue and started killing indiscriminately or who have skipped out on their service contracts, which they agree to as payment to the angel who turns them into vampires. 

Singh also excels at including future heroes and heroines as minor characters often enough to have readers interested by the time those characters step to the fore. So it is with the hero and heroine of Archangel’s Sun. Titus is the Archangel of Africa. He played a big role in the war that just ended. Sharine is the mother of one of the world’s most popular angels and a renowned artist. The prior books contain numerous references to her. As a result of the seeding Singh did along the way, picking up the book is like giving acquaintances a chance to become friends. 

When the current story opens, Titus is trying to clean up the mess made of Africa in the last war, which involved zombies. Known as reborn, they can infect others with their bites and turn them into zombies too. The war ravaged the land, and the reborn infest it, killing anyone who comes within range. 

Titus has his hands full, so Rafael sends him Sharine to help. Because of a series of traumatic shocks, she has been living mostly in her own mind, her memories fractured, for centuries. When we meet her here, however, she has made great strides in returning to herself. She is no longer the fragile, ethereal artist angelkind considers a treasure to be protected. Instead, she’s intelligent, competent, and assertive. 

Singh does a great job of playing off the reality of Sharine with Titus’s expectations. When he learns Sharine is coming, he wants to curse. He thinks Raphael has sent him an additional responsibility, a famous but delicate creature he’ll need to coddle and protect. The reality is very different and offers several wonderfully humorous episodes as expectations and reality clash. Singh also draws humor from technology. Neither Sharine nor Titus has adapted to modern tech, and their unfamiliarity with it offers occasional amusement as they learn how it can benefit their tasks. 

Sharine knows Titus by reputation only. He’s considered to be a fierce warrior but a ladies’ man. He has also, thanks to his booming voice, scared away many of the angels sent to help him. Sharine also had to learn to see past the surface impressions to the dedicated, complex, and loyal angel underneath. 

As they work together to clear the reborn from his lands, each discovers unsuspected qualities in the other that lead first to respect, then to friendship, and then to much more. Along the way, however, they learn that the former lord of northern Africa, a specialist in creating diseases, had more nasty surprises in store when he died in the war that has just ended. Dealing with the situations they discover raise ethical concerns and new fears. 

Sharine’s efforts to pull her true self out of the fragile, ethereal Hummingbird are admirable and relatable. She grows into her true self throughout the book, but it isn’t always easy. Titus learns to deal with someone who, despite his superior rank, isn’t impressed and always says what she thinks. They grow as individuals and then together in an engaging and sympathetic way. 

The story moves at a good pace, and the worldbuilding, as always, is layered and original. Singh has created a world sufficiently complex to let her add to it without jarring the reader. The action scenes are clearly depicted and gripping. 

With sympathetic characters, an original plot, and a great mix of action and emotion, Archangel’s Sun is highly recommended.


Monday, November 23, 2020

Review - - Summer Warrior

Summer Warrior
by Regan Walker
The Clan Donald Saga - Book 1
Publisher: Regan Walker Publishing
Release Date: October 7, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Somerled’s parentage was noble, of the Kings of Dublin, the royal house of Argyll and the great Ard Ri, the High Kings of Ireland. But when the Norse invaded Argyll and the Isles, his family’s fortunes fell with those of his people. All hope seemed lost when he rose from the mists of Morvern to rally the Gaels, the Scots and the Irish.

Sweeping across Argyll and the Isles like a fast-moving storm, brilliant in strategy and fearless in battle, Somerled began retaking his ancestral lands, driving away the invaders and freeing the people from the Norse stranglehold. In doing so, he would win the title Somerle Mor, Somerled the Mighty, Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne and, eventually, Lord of the Isles.

This is the unforgettable story of his path to victory that forged the Kingdom of the Isles and won him the heart of a Norse king’s daughter.

PJ's Thoughts:

One of the things I most enjoy about a Regan Walker book is her impeccably researched historical detail and authenticity. That research is abundantly evident in this new novel inspired by the life of Somerled, a real person who played a pivotal role in the 12th century lives of the Gaels, Scots, and Irish. 

While key facets of Somerled's life are recorded such as his birth, death, marriage, children, etc., many details are unknown. Using imagination based upon research, Walker has penned a story that takes readers back to medieval times, bringing real people and fictional characters to life. Through well-developed characters and events, she offers insight into their way of life, including goals, obstacles, and emotions as they might have occurred. 

Using a narrative style, Summer Warrior unfolds in an intriguing and effective way that draws the reader into the lives of the characters and the time in which they lived. Reading the book was reminiscent of sitting around an open campfire, listening to a master storyteller weave tales from days of yore. 

If you enjoy sagas rich in historical detail and authenticity, Regan Walker is an author I highly recommend. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Winner - - A Duchess A Day


The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

A Duchess A Day by Charis Michaels is:

Eileen AW


Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Tour Review - - It's Raining Men

It's Raining Men
by Rich Amooi
Publisher: Rich Amooi
Release Date: October 25, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

On a dare, Faith Daniels tosses a coin into the infamous “Fountain of Love” and wishes for the perfect man, laughing it off as the dumbest thing she’s ever done. Like magic, her quiet life turns upside-down when men begin to appear out of nowhere, like zombies, but drop-dead gorgeous and without the odd limp. There’s a doctor, a lawyer, a firefighter, and a swimwear model, for starters. All of them are kind, generous, and successful. All of them are interested in Faith. But who is Mr. Right?

PJ's Thoughts:

When I pick up a Rich Amooi novel I can always count on plenty of humor and heart. The same holds true with It's Raining Men but this time there's a bit less laugh-out-loud humor, a greater depth of emotion, and a range of complex, and complicated, relationships. Faith married her high school sweetheart then lost him when he was killed in action overseas. Now approaching forty, her friends have convinced her to get back into the dating game. All of a sudden, Faith's surrounded by gorgeous guys all vying for her time but could her second chance at love be with the one who's been right in front of her all this time? 

I enjoyed Faith and her group of friends and I was all in with Faith's second chance at love. I really liked the guy she ended up with and the fact that their slow-burn relationship was built upon a solid foundation of friendship. I did have to keep reminding myself that I was reading fiction because I had a hard time buying into the way the dynamic among the group of friends played out, especially with Faith, her best girlfriend, and the man Faith ends up with. It's to Amooi's credit that he convinced me it would all work out happily and none of the relationships would suffer in the end.

The secondary cast really lit up the page, bringing humor, conflict, and endearing sweetness to the story. Amooi excels at creating a community of characters who weave in and out of the story seamlessly, adding to its richness and leaving the reader feeling as if they've spent time with good friends.  

If you enjoy romantic comedies with heart, humor, characters with some life experience, and plenty of chemistry but no sex on the page, give Rich Amooi a try. I always turn the final page of his books with a smile. Always. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Review & Giveaway - - A Duchess a Day

A Duchess a Day
by Charis Michaels
Awakened by a Kiss - Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

An heiress with a plan…

Lady Helena Lark has spent years trying to escape her wedding to the vain and boring Duke of Lusk. She’s evaded, refused, even run away. When her family’s patience runs out, they pack her off to London to walk down the aisle. But Helena has another idea: find a more suitable bride to take her place, even if she must look for a replacement duchess every day.


A bodyguard with a job to do…

Declan Shaw, better known as “The Huntsman,” is a mercenary who can pick and choose his clientele. After his last job, escorting a young noblewoman to France, landed him in jail under false accusations, he wants nothing to do with aristocrats or women. But the law isn’t done with him, and if he agrees to babysit a duke’s errant fiancĂ©, the payout could make his legal troubles go away.


A most unexpected alliance…

When their worlds collide, Declan realizes that containing his new client is only slightly harder than keeping his hands off her. Helena senses an ally in her handsome new bodyguard and solicits his help. Together they must escape the forces that oppose them and fight for the fairy-tale love they desire.

PJ's Thoughts:

I adored this book! It's smart, witty, endearing, adventurous, sensual, heart-tugging, funny, feel-good, and all those other adjectives that check my happy reader boxes. Once I began reading I couldn't put it down; I didn't want to put it down. 

Helena is one of my favorite romance heroines this year. I admired her determination, reveled in her deliciously devious mind, cheered her on as she continued to fight against the miserable fate everyone else thought she should be delighted to accept, and melted with her as her heart recognized its mate in the least acceptable person possible. 

And that brings us to Declan. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. His struggle was real and had my heart aching for him, even as I couldn't help but laugh at the predicaments Helena landed them in, sigh at the growing passion between them, and wonder how in the world they were going to find a way out of the entanglement in which they were caught. He was a perfect "Huntsman" who tickled my fancy and captured my heart.

The pace never slowed in this addictive, grown-up fairy tale that had me laughing, sighing, and shedding a few tears for good measure. I love romances inspired by fairy tales and using a secondary character who never got a happy ending as the hero of a new story is such an intriguing premise. Add in the cast of supporting characters, the very clever duchesses-a-day, a loathsome, string-pulling villain, and a surprising savior, and you have a top-notch historical romance that filled me with joy and has me eagerly anticipating more Awakened by a Kiss stories from Charis Michaels.


What's your favorite fairy tale?

Do you have a favorite romance inspired by a fairy tale?

Have you read Charis Michaels yet? (If not, A Duchess a Day is a great place to begin!)

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, November 18 will receive a print copy of A Duchess a Day

*Must be 18
*U.S. addresses only

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review - - The Captain's Midwinter Bride

The Captain's Midwinter Bride
by Liana De la Rosa
Publisher: Author
Release Date: November 12, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

Life at sea sharpened Captain Phillip Dalton into a shrewd and strategic military man...yet none of those skills prepared him for the intricacies of planning his daughter’s upcoming Christmas wedding. His family, most especially his wife, are all but strangers to him thanks to his service to the Crown. But if Phillip finds himself bewitched by his practical, charming, and guileless wife, he does his best to hide his struggles.

Annalise Dalton raised two children and built a comfortable life for herself while her husband of convenience provided for them from afar. But now Phillip's home to stay, and she finds it impossible to ignore his gruff manner, brilliant blue eyes, or the gentle way he looks after her needs. And if Annalise is unnerved by the budding feelings her husband inspires in her, she does her best to hide how they unsettle her.

When past secrets and misunderstandings threaten the tenuous steps they've taken to create a real and loving marriage, can Phillip and Annalise overcome the years they spent apart to forge a happy future together, and for every Christmas to come?

PJ's Thoughts:

If you're looking for a quick (114 pages) holiday romance with mature characters, heart-tugging emotion, passionate chemistry, and a sigh-worthy happy ending, this one's for you.

I really enjoyed the depth of emotion in this novella. Marrying for convenience at a young age, with Phillip leaving soon afterward for sea, and infrequent shore leaves over the course of his career, he and Annalise are more strangers than husband and wife. They've been wed for 25 years and have two children but they've never had a real marriage, never formed an emotional bond. I liked them a lot and was pulling for them the entire way. There are many issues they need to work through; not surprising after basically living separate lives for 25 years. I appreciated how De la Rosa took her time with them, navigating them through the awkwardness, the resentment, and the yearning while leading them to a deeper understanding and appreciation of one another. Leading them to what might just be a forever love. 

I also enjoyed the fact that Phillip's reunion with his entire family, not only his wife, was explored in this story. It was so poignant to watch him learn how to be a father to his adult daughter, on the cusp of a marriage that may not be in her best interests. He remembers the young girl who idolized her father but reality has placed him in the path of a resentful adult, firmly on her mother's side, who does not make their reunion easy for him. I enjoyed her journey as well. 

I don't know if the author has plans for future stories for this family but I'm invested in them now, hoping for a happy ending for Beth and definitely intrigued by Oliver. There are also a few other loose family threads that I'd like to see resolved. I'm curious to know what happened all those years ago, and why, and see justice for those who were wronged. I am not ready to say goodbye to the Daltons. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Review - - Sleigh Ride

Sleigh Ride: A Novella
by Breezie Bennett
Publisher: Palm Island Publishing 
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Reviewed by PJ

It's Christmas in the Tropics…but not everyone on the South Florida Riders team is feeling the cheer. When the players and their families gather for a holiday dinner with their beloved coach John Watson, they learn that he’s facing heartbreak in his happy home. Determined to do whatever they can to turn the tide, the couples devise a plan to save Christmas and their coach’s marriage by recreating the night John and Jeanette met…in Vermont. In the snow. On a sleigh.

Can they turn the beaches of South Florida into a romantic winter wonderland? Can they make it snow? Find a sleigh? Get a reindeer to South Beach? When love is on the line, these guys and their wives have to get quite creative. But if there’s one thing a South Florida Rider can do, it’s win at love. All they need is a Christmas miracle and some holiday magic under the palm trees.

PJ's Thoughts:

Breezie Bennett wraps up her South Florida Riders series with a big red bow in this heartwarming, sweetly sexy, and often hilarious Christmas novella. I've been missing these characters and this is such a sweet, fun, and funny way to bid them adieu. 

Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character which gives fans of the series the opportunity to catch up with favorites and see how the characters and the relationships of all the couples have progressed since their books, complete with kids, pets, and a few sweetly sexy times. 

They all head into this project with supreme confidence (they are Super Bowl winning football players, after all) but, of course, their plans don't go quite as smoothly as planned, resulting in much laughter, awkward situations, a few madcap antics, and hastily constructed backup plans. The end result is a feel-good story that kept me happily grinning, and frequently laughing, from the first page to the last.

If you're a fan of Breezie Bennett's South Riders series, you're sure to enjoy this wonderful encore. If this is your introduction to the series,  Bennett has written it in such a way that it can be enjoyed on its own. However, these characters are so fun, and their relationships so charming, that, after reading this novella, it won't surprise me if you want to know them better and immediately download their individual books. As for me, Sleigh Ride made me so happy I just might go back to the beginning and read the series all over again. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Review - - Jane in Love


Jane in Love

by Rachel Givney

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Release Date: October 27, 2020

Reviewed by Hellie



A charming, romantic debut novel in which Jane Austen, heralded author, ends up time-traveling almost 200 years in the future. There she finds the love she's written about and the destiny she's dreamed of...but is it worth her legacy?

Bath, England, 1803. At 28, Jane Austen prefers walking and reading to balls and assemblies; she dreams of someday publishing her carefully crafted stories. Already on the shelf and in grave danger of becoming a spinster, Jane goes searching for a radical solution—and as a result, seemingly by accident, time-travels. She lands in...

Bath, England, present day. The film set of Northanger Abbey. Sofia Wentworth is a Hollywood actress starring in a new period film, an attempt to reinvent her flagging career and, secretly, an attempt to reinvent her failing marriage. When Sofia meets Jane, she marvels at the young actress who can’t seem to "break character," even off set. And Jane—acquainting herself with the horseless steel carriages and seriously shocking fashion of the twenty-first century— meets Sofia, a woman unlike anyone she’s ever met before. Then she meets Fred, Sofia’s brother, who has the audacity to be handsome, clever, and kind-hearted.

What happens when Jane, against her better judgement, falls in love with Fred? And when Sofia learns the truth about her new friend Jane? And worst of all, if Jane stays with Fred, will she ever achieve her dream, the one she's now seen come true?


Hellie’s Heeds: 

I confess I started writing this review before I even finished the book. I also confess I committed the egregiously grave sin of reading the last pages to make sure the ending would be satisfactory. I confess the last time I loved a book so much that I was telling everyone about it and insisting they read it before I was even a third of the way finished, it was the book written by the author who is featured recommending this book on the cover, Graeme Simsion, who wrote The Rosie Project. I confess myself utterly charmed from beginning to end with this story, which when one dives into the world of Jane Austen spin-offs, they are a bit like wish-fulfillments of what we wished had happened. In this regard, this love letter to Jane Austen the author is the kind of wish fulfillment I can get behind. While by no means is “finding a man” the be-all and end-all of happiness, for the author who gave us six near perfect love stories, we do wish she had been able to find that sort of happiness for herself too. In this book, she does (to an extent) and it is as witty and delicious and comical as if Jane had composed it herself.  

I enjoy a good time travel romance--tropes ebb and flow in popularity and I do hope to see more time travel in my future reads--and Jane Austen makes the perfect fish out of water in modern day Bath and London. The author does not make Jane Austen a modern heroine--she is quite in keeping with her time period and social mores, which I appreciated more than I can put into words. The modern characters, Sofia Wentworth and Fred Wentworth are delightful, the former an aging movie star wanting to win her husband back (or does she really? I mean, he’s a real asshat in my book) and the latter a history teacher who thinks this Jane Austen wannabe is taking advantage of his dear sister. We also have this handsome librarian who is very helpful and not at all an asshat who I think deserves his own happy ending.  

Urgency commences when Jane’s books start disappearing from modern time (first Persuasion, then Sense & Sensibility? Oh my! My favorite Alan Rickman movie erased for all time? Jane MUST return!) and Jane is unable to figure out how to reverse the spell to get back to her own time. Further complicating her issues is the fact she is falling more and more in love with Fred. A choice between love in a future (that may or may not exist the longer she stays and things keep disappearing) or returning to her own time and becoming the woman we all know and love? A very modern dilemma: career or love? Still...I think Ms. Givney does an excellent job of giving us both, really, and giving us the wish fulfillment we all dreamed for Jane Austen. I think Jane may even give her own nod of approval from The Other Side, or at least enjoy the social critiques similar to her own for the modern era.  

For me, this is a 5 star, Top Dish, and definitely going on my Keeper Shelf (next to The Rosie Project, incidentally.) That said, those who are purists when it comes to romance will be left a bit cold at this story because when taken at its parts, this is much more a women’s fiction/fantasy than romance (i.e. the guy always gets the girl, the story is primarily about the two getting together and overcoming their hurdles), but I quite enjoyed the feminist themes and didn’t mind that the romance was rather secondary. Or that the more engaging romance wasn’t even between the “primary” characters--since some of the other characters seemed to have better romance trajectories. I know some may take issue with the implication that this book is suggesting women can’t have it all, that the story is forcing a choice that doesn’t have to be made. Haven’t we grown up with “Women can have it all”? We can--at least eventually, I say--but I would also say we can’t have it all at the same time. And women, we know when we’re juggling so many tasks, some things have to be let go, and usually the easiest ones of those to drop are those things we do for ourselves, like writing or making art...and I think that is a conundrum explored in this book. Besides, I think those who are successful at juggling all the tasks do have spouses in their lives who support them in honoring that part of their lives, help them create the space for it, and if you do find someone who loves you enough to get out of your way and let you do what you love, isn’t that the real thing? Isn’t that the true love we all hope for ourselves? I think that is the moral of the story in the end.