Blog · Book Reviews · Historical Romance

Book Review: The Trouble with True Love by Laura Lee Guhrke

Laura Lee Guhrke will always hold a special place in my heart. I read Guilty Pleasures by her during that first fateful summer when I began reading romance. I remember reading this book on my Kindle on a warm summer day in early July, sitting under a willow tree and devouring chapter after chapter. Don’t you love book memories?

Now on to the juicy stuff!

Book Synopsis

Dear Lady Truelove, I am a girl of noble family, but I am painfully shy, especially in my encounters with those of the opposite sex . . .

For Clara Deverill, standing in for the real Lady Truelove means dispensing advice on problems she herself has never managed to overcome. There’s nothing for it but to retreat to a tearoom and hope inspiration strikes between scones. It doesn’t—until Clara overhears a rake waxing eloquent on the art of “honourable” jilting. The cad may look like an Adonis, but he’s about to find himself on the wrong side of Lady Truelove.

Rex Galbraith is an heir with no plans to produce a spare. He flirts with the minimum number of eligible young ladies to humour his matchmaking aunt, but Clara is the first to ever catch his roving eye. When he realizes that Clara—as Lady Truelove—has used his advice as newspaper fodder, he’s infuriated. But when he’s forced into a secret alliance with her, he realizes he’s got a much bigger problem—because Clara is upending everything Rex thought he knew about women—and about himself. . .

Book Info.35068598

The Trouble With True Love by Laura Lee Guhrke
Series: none (standalone)
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: January 30, 2018

Review
To preface this review, this week has been INSANE. Like 3 other book reviews, 6 freelance articles, plus 40 hours of normal work kind of insane. So I haven’t finished this book yet. I have, however, enjoyed 157 pages of it, and from that, I can tell you that this is a book you should go read ASAP.

The chemistry between Clara and Rex is crazy-hot and palpable, and I was rooting for their HEA from the moment they first touched while dancing in the ballroom. Rex’s character is so intriguing- he’s not the normal rake we see so often in romance. Sure, he’s sexy as hell, but he’s also generous, sensitive, and has a normal amount of emotional depth (compared to so many other historical heroes whose only two emotions seem to be: growly anger and get-in-my-pants lust). Clara is shy but fierce, and I love that she comes to life with Rex, giving him all the sass he deserves.

Despite my love of historical romance, I’ll admit to not exploring many historical romance eras outside of the regency. But after seeing how dramatic and gripping the 20th century can be with the right writer, I’m definitely going to explore more of this sub-genre. Plus, you know, the skirts are less poofy in that era, so it’s way easier to get down to business.

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Blog · Book Reviews · Cookbook

Review: Simply Vibrant by Anya Kassoff

Those of you who have seen my Instagram probably know by now that I don’t subscribe to any specific kind of plant-based eating. I don’t classify foods as “bad” or “good”, and I find just as much pleasure from Chocolate Oreos as I do from salads. Therefore, you might be wondering why I’m reviewing a cookbook that touts itself as “seasonal, clean, and nourishing” when I don’t give the “clean eating” movement much attention.

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I requested a copy of Simply Vibrant on Edelweiss+ because I’m always looking for new, exciting recipes, and I’m trying to be a bit better about cooking with different vegetables (I tend to use the same ones over and over again– broccoli, looking at you here). Many of Kassoff’s recipe ideas are inspired and look absolutely delicious, thanks to the excellent photographs included in the book, but I was a put off by the number of expensive ingredients included in both the recipes and the list of Kassoff’s pantry staples. While I won’t turn my nose at black rice, quinoa, or almond butter, those ingredients can be expensive, and I would have loved to see some cheaper substitution suggestions included in the book.

Now, on to the recipes. I chose 2 recipes to try in my kitchen: the Strawberry and Rhubarb Oven Pancake and the Baked Potato Latkes. Since it’s February in Ireland, there was not a stalk of rhubarb to be had, and the strawberries at the Lidl looked sad and artificial, so I subbed in some mango from the local Asian grocery store, wholemeal flour for the whole wheat spelt, and I have to admit, this recipe was damn tasty. I love pancakes, but sometimes I don’t want to spend half an hour at the stove flipping one batch after another, so this is the perfect solution for those weekends when I want pancakes without all the effort. I’m excited to try this out with actual strawberry and rhubarb, as well, though the basic pancake recipe would work well with many different fruits. IMG_0081

I was a bit more sceptical about the outcome of the Baked Potato Latkes. The only thing binding them together was flax seed meal, and while I’ve seen recipes before that only used the starch from the potatoes themselves to bind the latkes together for frying, I wasn’t sure that it would work quite the same in the oven. But I was wrong! These latkes were perfectly crisp on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, with a pleasing lemon flavour. They definitely took a bit longer than just frying the latkes, but again, there’s no standing in front of the stove with this recipe, which freed me up to do other things in the kitchen.IMG_0080

My Kindle copy of this cookbook did have some glitches with the formatting– ingredient lists were on the wrong page, for example. Overall, the book was well-structured, though, and I love that Kassoff notes which season each recipe should be used in,   making it easy for you to find a recipe to suit the plethora of grapes, for example, that your local CSA might stick you with.

I’ll definitely be cooking from this book again, but I’ll be using my own substitutions for spelt flour, maple syrup, quinoa because while I love the recipe ideas in this book, I do not love an astronomical grocery bill.

 

Blog · Book Reviews · Historical Romance

Book Review: Midsummer Delights

Eloisa James, aka Mary Bly, was one of the first romance authors I ever read, so her titles hold a special place in my heart. Though her last few books haven’t wowed me the way that her Fairy Tales and Desperate Duchesses series did (see my review of Wilde in Love for Love in a Time of Feminism), she’s still one of my favourite authors, so when I got the email that Pure Textuality was organising a blog tour of Midsummer Delights, a collection of short stories, I jumped at the chance to review the book.

Book Info.Midsummer Delights by Eloisa James

Publication Date February 6, 2018

Midsummer Delights by Eloisa James

Series A Short Story Collection

Genre Adult Historical Romance

Publisher Avon Impulse

Amazon  http://amzn.to/2E4ooc3

Avon Romance   https://goo.gl/KYj3YP

Barnes & Noble  https://goo.gl/NYTGbz

Google Play  https://goo.gl/AijSyN

Walmart  https://goo.gl/SxiSTQ

iBooks  https://apple.co/2COtlXk

Review

This book contains three short stories about heroines and heroes finding a happily ever after with people they’ve known since childhood. The problem with short stories, especially in romance, is that it can be very difficult to adequately build up the relationship between the hero and heroine enough that the HEA seems believable, rather than just the de facto ending to all romance. Such was the case with the first and second stories in this collection. There just weren’t enough details about Cecilia and Theo to make their VERY SUDDEN falling in love and proposal at all believable. Theo also basically tells Cecilia he’s glad her brother has been bullied so much that it has ruined Cecilia’s prospects and caused her brother to retire to the country, because it meant that no one offered for her and he was free to scoop her up, so to speak. There are so many things wrong with this, but here are a few: 1. Theo is happy that Cecilia’s brother suffered what sounds like truly traumatic teasing and harassment because it means he gets to marry his lady love, so he’s obviously a selfish cock 2. Cecilia says NOTHING in response to Theo’s jerky comments and instead just gazes dreamily at him 3. From the sounds of it, Cecilia and Theo didn’t even get along well as children and adolescents, and she previously describes him as pudgy and spotty, yet somehow he’s been pining for her for years, and the minute she finds out he’s a talented musician, she’s ready to throw caution to the wind and fly off into the sunset with him? WHAT?! Theo then ends by saying that Billy, Cecilia’s brother, can live with them because he feels bad for him, and Cecilia again just acquiesces to his every word. Ugh.

The second story in this collection also suffers from a lack of adequate background details and an overall badly written plot. Elias is in love with Penny and has been his whole life, which his best friend also knows, yet his best friend is about to marry Penny, who is also ready to marry him, even though it turns out that Penny has also been in love with Elias for as long as he has been in love with her? WHAT! Are Elia’s BFF and Penny just jerks? If they truly cared about Elias, wouldn’t they just tell him to hang the manly pride that kept him from offering for Penny because oh hey, Penny feels the same way as he does! The friendship between Elias, Penny, and Reggie also needs way more background to make it believable. The only detail from their childhood mentioned is Penny beating Reggie up and Elias saving him.

The third story in this collection, however, is well-written, with a believable ending thanks to the ample background details we get about the hero and heroine that make their love totally honest and awesome to see come to fruition. Violet also takes absolutely no shit from Rothwell, refusing to bow to his charms and graces when he’s spent the last four years ignoring her, despite the strong connection and passionate kisses they shared as teenagers. Also, the sex scenes in this story are utterly delightful and very hot, and, the best part, Violet isn’t a virgin! Hurrah for non-virgin heroines. The regency needs more of them!

My only other criticism of this story collection is that in all three stories, the hero and heroine go out into the garden alone, and we all know that in the regency that is. not. done. unless you want to start a scandal that will have anxious mamas and ladies of the ton swooning where they stand. It’s one thing if the hero and heroine steal away to the garden for some illicit smooching, but they wouldn’t just walk out, calm as you please! I was pretty shocked when this happened because I always associate Eloisa James with thoroughly researched books.

So, if you’re going to pick up this book, stick to the last story, and the sneak peak of the next installation in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series, which looks SO JUICY and is high on my TBR.

 

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Audiobook · Blog · Book Reviews · Jane Austen

Book Review: Emma by Jane Austen, Read by Juliet Stevenson

Note: this review is of the narration for this novel, rather than the content of the novel because I believe that all of Jane Austen’s oeuvre is perfect.

I, like millions of other people, love Jane Austen. She’s witty, smart, and her characters are so full of life and real, their conversations and mannerisms reminiscent of people we’ve all met in our daily lives. I do, however, find it difficult to read some of her books in paper format. I stopped and started a51Z6zgc9KPL._SL500__AC_PIAdblRomanceBadge88px,TopRight,0,0_US500_QL100_ paper version of Emma at least twice, and only found myself truly drawn in by the story when I began listening to it on audiobook.

The benefit of listening to classic novels on audiobook is that hearing the lines acted out helps me navigate the antiquated language and visualise the scenes, something I have trouble doing with older novels in paper format. Juliet Stevenson does a masterful job of giving each character in this book their own particular voice, bringing the book to life in a magnificent way that had me finding every opportunity possible to keep listening. Her rendition of Ms Bates, in particular, is hilarious and spot-on, exactly how I would imagine she would speak. The characters of Mr Woodhouse and Mrs Elton come to life as well, and her narration makes the story so much richer and deeper, and so much more enjoyable than it already was, which is saying quite a lot! Thankfully she also narrates Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility, as well as North and South, and Wuthering Heights, all on my TBR list for this year.

If, like me, you are an Austen fan but struggle to bring that world to life when reading, let Juliet Stevenson take you a journey of jealousy, misapprehension, and, of course, love.

Blog · Reading

My Journey to Reading Romance

I credit my love of romance novels for a lot of things, among them, my ardent feminist views, my decision to pursue a career in publishing, and my optimism and belief in a happily ever after, but before 2014, they weren’t even on my radar. I’d read plenty of Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot in high school and loved those books for their spunky characters and happy endings, but at the time, I didn’t realise that many of those books fell under the romance genre. I didn’t even really know about literary genres, full stop.

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I didn’t start using Goodreads until 2014, so before then, the way I picked out books went: walk into the library, go to fiction, non-fiction, and teen sections, choose books with nice covers and interesting plots, check out, go home. Sometimes I’d peruse the library’s online catalogue, looking for books similar to those I’d read before, but I generally preferred my more serendipitous way of finding reading material. I had no idea how to articulate what exactly I wanted to read; I just hoped that luck would lead me to some books that I would enjoy. I never even asked the librarians for help, something I cringe about now that I myself am a certified librarian and geek out when my friends ask me for book recommendations. 110391

I started using Goodreads at the suggestion of my brother, a wonderful person and an attentive listener who is always looking for ways to make my life easier. When I lamented that I had no way of tracking all the books I was reading, he told me to sign up for a Goodreads account, and oh, am I glad I did! Soon after that, I read what I consider to be my come-to-Jesus book: Nocturne by Syrie James. I devoured this book one cold, wintry morning, and after finishing it, immediately logged on to Goodreads to find other books like it. Somehow, I found my way to a page of Eloisa James books, and from then, I was hooked on romance. After Eloisa’s Desperate Duchesses series, I found Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, which I know now is the gateway series to regency romance. Since then, I’ve devoured hundreds of romance novels from all sorts of sub-genres, and in the process, found a community of like-minded book-devourers on Twitter, Instagram, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks, All About Romance, and Love in a Time of Feminism. Reading romance is absolutely the best decision I have ever made.

 

Blog · Book Reviews · Contemporary Romance

Book Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

This book. THIS BOOK. I flew through this book earlier this week, ignoring work and staying up way too late to get through chapter after chapter, and nearly cried out “YES!!!” at the HEA. Things I love about it:

-the setting is subtle; I normally love world-building even in my contemporaries so I can really sink my teeth into the story, but this book’s lack of a clear setting makes it so much easier to focus on the relationship between the characters25883848

-Lucy is a confident, driven, badass heroine who takes no shade from her arch nemesis-turned-true-love, Josh

-Lucy’s boss, Helene, is incredibly supportive and the complete opposite of the Dragon Lady archetype I so often see in books set in/around workplaces with female bosses

-Lucy is the seducer in this book, making her feelings towards Josh clearly known, and mostly unabashedly so

-Josh is a vulnerable, shy, self-conscious supportive hero

-Josh loves Lucy’s ambition

-the sexual buildup is INSANE

-this book combines two of my favourite tropes: enemies-to-lovers and forced proximity

This is probably one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever read. I love how openly feminist it is, I love that Josh is an atypical beta hero, and I love that Lucy loves her body and eats donuts and cheese with abandon.  I can’t wait to read Sally Thorne’s other works, and I now completely get why everyone has been freaking out about this book. GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW.

 

Blog · Book Reviews · General Fiction

Book Review: Losing It by Emma Rathbone

I read this book cover-to-cover in one evening, and spent a good amount of time after finishing it wondering, “did I like it?” After mulling it over, the best I can say is “meh”.

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Losing It is about Julia Greenfield, a 26 year-old virgin desperate to have sex, so much so that it populates all of her thoughts and dictates a good portion of her decisions. I found Julia to be an unlikeable heroine; she’s selfish, lazy, immature, and has no regard for the feelings of those around her. She actually reminded me a bit of Carrie Bradshaw in that she was so focused on her own life that she barely heard what her best friend said in their phone conversations, and didn’t seem to find issue with the fact that she basically ruins the biggest break in her aunt’s career so that she can have a very awkward car ride with a guy she *might* have sex with.

Julia reminds me of how so much of society views millennials; she’s not ambitious or creative and thinks that the world revolves around her. She’s made it to 26 with no career plan, she can’t cook, she can’t focus, she has few friends, and all of her social interactions revolve around her accomplishing what she deems to be the most important goal in her life: having sex.

I was gripped by this book mostly because I wanted to see if in the end she somehow, some way, redeemed herself. Spoilers: she didn’t. Yes, she learns that there is more to life than sex, but this is only after she’s had sex! I also hated that in order for her to figure to plot out her next steps, she has to be engaging in post-coital conversation, as though her life couldn’t start until she’d finally accomplished her “goal” of losing her virginity, and as though it isn’t until she’s had some sort of relationship with a man that she can come into maturity.

This book reinforces all the hangups around virginity and sex that make society so complicated and, at times, dangerous, and I so wish that Julia had managed to become a more understanding, more knowledgable person without those traits somehow being tied to her sex life.