Commentary: “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline

OrpahnI always forget how much I enjoy historical fiction until I read an exemplary researched work, and it reminds me. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is one of those astonishing works that make me realize exactly how much research and work can go into a novel.

In Orphan Train, Kline introduces us to our two protagonists, Molly, a teenager in the foster care system in 2011, and Niamh, a orphaned Irish nine year old who gets put on the “orphan train” in 1929 so that she can become part of a new family after a tragic fire kills hers.

These orphan trains sound awful, let me tell you. The Children’s Aid Society, a Christian-based society that “helps” orphans, piling orphans from NYC, in Niamh’s case, onto train, making stops at Midwestern or Western train stations. At these stations, the children are offered up to the masses for “free.” To promote the fostering of these children, the social workers say things like they are “‘strong, healthy, good for farm work and helping around the house.'” If we can’t pick up from this announcement what these children are to society in 1929, Molly is conveniently being taught in her history class about indenture servitude. The fact is that while some end up with good homes and adoption, most end up abused and mistreated in their new “family.”

Molly meets Niamh, who has become Vivian Daly, when Molly is sentenced to community service for trying to steal Jane Eyre from the library. Molly works to help Vivian clean out her attic for her community service, going through boxes from Vivian’s 91 years of life. As they work, Molly and Vivian talk about the items, and Molly decides to ask Vivian to become the focus of a research project at school, giving her the opportunity to hear more about Vivian’s experiences, including mistreatment by families similar to Molly’s own experiences in the foster care system.

Kline portrays Molly as a kid who is really smart, but her lot in life has made her cynical and bitter. She encourages everyone’s suspicions of her as the typical “bad girl” persona that she acquires through her Goth look. Molly acknowledges this has become a character for her to play and not really who she is. But she uses it to keep people back after she is bounced from foster home to foster home since the death of her father. This character she has created is on the verge of becoming who she really is until she meets Vivian. As Vivian shares her experience on the orphan train and beyond with Molly, a connection is made between the two orphans.

I really enjoyed this novel because Kline made me care about both Molly and Vivian. I wanted to know what happened to Vivian, how she came to be successful and independent, and I wanted to believe that this success would translate to Molly, who is sensitive despite trying to portray herself as a badass. Of course, this is a commentary about how the foster care system hasn’t changed all that much since the time of orphan trains, since Molly is bounced back and forth between foster families, not all of whom are stellar.

It made me think about many students whom I have taught who have been in the foster system; all of a sudden I realized that I had no idea what fears and disappointments they must have gone through in their lives, things with which I can empathize but not really know. I felt proud of those whom I know have succeeded and agony for those whom I know did not. I hope that going into the next school year, I will remember this book and remember to have compassion for teenagers who seem to have a tough outer shells but are really just babies on the inside.

So, I would definitely suggest this book, my friends. It made me cry, but in a good way because I cared, ya know? ūüôā

Until next time, my dears, enjoy this wonderfully thorough piece of historical fiction!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Random Romance Review

The fact is this: I read way more than the books I review. So to make up for this, I’ve set up a system to review in brief those books that I simply didn’t have time to write a complete review for. Here’s the rating system:

  • Blech–What a waste of time! I couldn’t stomach this. I might have hated one or more of the main characters.
  • Hmmm…–I’m not totally sure I remember this, neither loved it nor hated it. Just read it.
  • Interesting…This plot had a lot of action or a lot of friend/family scene, sometimes at the expense of the love story. But I liked it, mostly.¬†More importantly, I remember this.
  • Sweet–This was a good love story, and it had an entertaining plot. It might have lacked one of the following:
    • A character-driven, sometimes heartbreaking, tension between the two characters that I like.
    • Love interests who complement each other.
    • Believable character development.
    • Intense passion.
  • So close!–This had almost every aspect of the top category, but characters might have had unbelievable backgrounds/traits or lacked depth (just a smooch too formulaic). Also, the plot devices used might have been questionable or unbelievable. ¬†But still, emotional connections and tensions rule this book and made me want another from the author because I could sense the potential despite the issues.
  • I-WANT-TO-MARRY-IT!–Yeah, this book had it all–interesting plot, multi-layered characters, emotional connections, intense passion, and believable tension between the love interest. This book made me root for the HEA and look up the author’s other books on Kindle immediately!

Okay, so here’s the most recent list of romance novels I’ve read with brief impressions of the novel.

  1. The Earl Takes All¬†by Lorraine Heath.¬†So close! Edward Alcott is pretending to be his twin brother, the Earl of Greyling, so that his brother’s pregnant widow won’t lose the baby she’s carrying. To complicate matters, he has loved Julia, his brother’s wife, for years. Julia realizes something’s amiss, but thinks it’s due to being apart and her husband losing his brother. There’s passion and love, and the animosity between Edward and Julia doesn’t last long after the big reveal is made. But there’s a ick factor in HER marrying HIM. The reason is there; I’m just not sure I liked it. But once I learned to overlook this issue, I really enjoyed this book, like I do with most of Heath’s works. ūüôā

  2. To Pleasure a Prince¬†by Sabrina Jeffries: So close! I actually really liked this book. The Dragon Viscount, Lord Marcus North, makes a deal with Lady Regina Tremaine to help protect his sister Louisa from Regina’s brother, the Duke of Foxmoor, who Regina believes is courting Louisa sincerely. But really, it’s all a ruse set up by Prinny, the heir to the throne of England, who is Marcus’s true father and thinks he is Louisa’s as well. Everyone in the book has their own agenda, but it doesn’t take too much away from the romance between Marcus and Regina. This is the second book in Jeffries’s The Royal Brotherhood¬†series, all of which focus on the bastards of Prinny, King George IV. I would definitely recommend this book, and I plan on reading the others in the series soon. Plus, Louisa and Foxmoor have their own book, set seven years from this one.
  3. Ha’ven’s Song by SE Smith¬†and¬†Jaquin’s Love¬†by SE Smith: Somewhere between Hmmm… and Interesting. ¬†These were okay. Aliens with powers, like turning into dragons, find their mates on Earth and bring them back to their home planet. Reminds me of the Brides of the¬†Kindred¬†series by Evangeline Anderson, a little. I am not reading anymore of these. I thought they were okay, but not something I want to continue reading.
  4. Forevermore by Kristen Callihan: ¬†Sweet. This is the seventh novel in Callihan’s Darkest London series. The main romance is between Layla Starling and St. John Evernight, both of whom are powerful in this supernatural world. But there’s a side romance between the angel Augustus and Layla’s mother Lena, which I actually thought was more interesting. I wanted more of them, honestly, but overall the book was decent.
  5. Claimed (The Outlaw series)¬†by Elle Kennedy¬†and¬†Addicted (The Outlaw series)¬†by Elle Kennedy:¬†¬†So close!¬†This new series by Elle Kennedy is erotica, set in an alternative rough-and-tumble world of outlaws, and includes multiple partners and voyeuristic sex scenes, so these books might not be for everyone. Honestly, I was a little uncomfortable with some of the scenes (I don’t usually read erotica.), but I overlooked it because the romances in both were passionate! I might write a review of the entire series once it’s done.
  6. Truth or Beard¬†by Penny Reid: So close!¬†Okay, this is the first book in Reid’s new series, The Winston Brothers. These brothers have names like Cletus, Duane, and Beau. What’s not to love? This first book focuses on Duane and Jessica. Jessica has a crush on Duane’s twin, Beau, but Duane has loved Jessica since high school. There’s a ton of passion and intensity in this book, although I liked Duane more than Jessica. He’s a sweetie pie! I will definitely read the rest in this series when they come out. The second one, Grin and Beard It, is out and in my queue waiting to be read, actually!
  7. Rescuing the Bad Boy¬†by Jessica Lemmon: ¬†I did not enjoy this one that much. The hero, Donovan Pate, was kind of an ass, even though we’re supposed to feel sorry for him because of his abuse-laden past. And the heroine, Sofie Martin, was ridiculous in her belief that one night with her would change his entire personality when they were younger, even though she knows he’s a player. When they meet again some years down the road, the attraction is still there, of course. I don’t know. Sofie just had very little self-respect. She is almost obsessed with him even though they only slept together once when they were younger and didn’t date. ¬†Plus, he was super rude to her, and I mean SUPER RUDE, after they slept together, and she barely holds that against him. It would have been a better book it they had never had that night, merely the past attraction, then maybe I would have liked them both more.
  8. Clay’s Hope¬†by Melissa Haag: Hmmm…¬†I don’t know. This was a weird one. Includes shifters and humans interacting. Not sure I remember enough to comment, which says something, I think.
  9. Midnight Action¬†by Elle Kennedy: Interesting… Jim Morgan, leader of a company of mercenaries, and Noelle Phillips, an assassin for hire, have a complicated past filled with betrayal and heartache. But when Jim is in danger, Noelle is there to help him, even under some duress. The animosity between the two is too much at times, honestly, but the cast of characters surrounding them made this a better book for a change. I might read some of the other books in this series, but not all.

  10. A Rake’s Guide to Seduction¬†by Caroline Linden:¬†I-WANT-TO-MARRY-IT! I loved this story between Anthony Hamilton and Celia Reece. Anthony has loved Celia for years, even asking her father for her hand. But she had already been promised to another. After her husband’s death, Anthony works to kindle a relationship between them. I love unrequited love stories, so this is definitely going on my keeper shelf!
  11. The Study of Seduction¬†by Sabrina Jeffries: Hmmm…. Part of her Sinful Suitors¬†series, Jeffries pairs Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, and Lady Clarissa Lindsey. Again, I don’t know what to think about this one. Edwin’s prim and proper, and it makes sense to pair him with Clarissa because she’s a little bit more free spirited. But… I’m not sure I remember enough about this. I do remember that I didn’t like Clarissa that much. This is one of those times when I don’t like Jeffries books, which happens every once in a while. There was a lack of passion between the two characters.

That’s it. Until next time, enjoy one of the above selections!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Addendum: Review of “Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld

eligibleOkay, so I have an addendum to my review of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.

I went to Goodreads to update my reading profile, and I discovered that Eligible is listed as Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice (The Austen Project, #4). 

I thought: What the hell is “The Austen Project,” and what are the other three books in the project?

Turns out HarperCollins has a assigned Austen’s books to contemporary authors. There are three others, besides Eligible, in the project out already. They are as follows:

There has not been an announcement about authors for the retellings of the other two books in Austen’s collection, Mansfield Park¬†and Persuasion.

But there is a Facebook page dedicated to the project, as well as blog articles about the project and reviews of previous retellings¬†or about¬†the project’s¬†lack of success, as some of the opinions may be. There’s also a whole blog on Austen called “The Austen Project” that reviews Eligible and includes blog posts on varying aspects of Austen’s works in general. Pretty interesting.

I don’t know if I’ll read these other books, but I wanted to give you a chance to look up the others in case you wanted to. Just thought it was interesting to share this discovery because I had no idea about this project when I picked up Eligible!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Review: “Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld

eligibleLiz Bennet. Darcy. ¬†Bingley and Jane. Kitty and Lydia. Mary. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Nope, I’m not listing the characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. …Well, actually, I am, but I’m also listing the cast of characters from Curtis Sittenfeld’s new book¬†Eligible, “a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice.”

Here’s the thing: I’ve read MANY retellings and reworkings and revisions of P&P; it’s kind of a requirement for the modern romance reader, ya know? I mean, Pride and Prejudice¬†is the plot from which many of today’s romance novels take their formula for love. Also, go to Listopia on¬†Goodreads, and type in best love stories. Guess what’s always at or near the top of list? That’s right! P&P, baby!¬†Jane Austen rules the modern romance reader!

Anyway, I only say this because I want you to know this: I know P&P, and I love it and all things related to it. And I want you to know that out of all of the MANY P&P¬†tributes I’ve read, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible is officially the most memorable and the best written one I’ve read so far.

Yeah. That’s right. I said it. THE BEST.

In Sittenfeld’s world of Eligible, Liz Bennet is a writer-at-large in NYC for the magazine Mascara, where she writes feature stories and a column on notable women. But she’s home in Cincinnati with her sister Jane, who also lives in NYC as a yoga instructor, due to a health scare that Mr. Bennet has had. They are 38 and 39, respectively, and Mrs. Bennet bemoans not her husband’s health but her two eldest daughters’ unmarried states (of course!) and the fact that they will not be able to have children in their advanced ages.

Did I mention that the other three–Mary, 30, Kitty, 26, and Lydia, 23–still live at home? Of course, they do, even though they all have college degrees! (Mary’s actually working on her third degree!) Liz is the only Bennet who is completely self-sufficient and not relying on her father’s dwindling inheritance.

Enter Chip Bingley, doctor and former reality star from the TV show Eligible (think The Bachelor), where he asked no one to marry him with a major influx of tears. On his part, natch. Well, Mrs. Bennet, who you have to know is drooling over the idea of one of her daughters hitching her wagon to the handsome doctor, arranges for her daughters to meet Chip at the Lucases Fourth of July BBQ. And, you know, Jane and Bingley ensue, but in a contemporary way.

But the BBQ also allows us to meet Fitzwilliam Darcy, handsome doctor extraordinaire with a seemingly prideful demeanor that Liz finds equally humorous and antagonistic. As with P&P, Darcy insults Liz (in her opinion) with the most demeaning insults of her hometown, which she left (Hello, many ironic moments!), and her looks (not her specifically but those of Cincinnatian women, in general). Confrontation ensues between the two, and she proceeds to tell everyone about his insults. This Liz has a predilection for gossip and an interest in people that fits with the modern times and her job as a writer.

Well, anyone who has read P&P¬†knows how this will turn out, but here are a few things that are specific to this novel. Ill-timed pregnancy. Transgender relationships. Financial hardships, including massive debts and no income. Crossfit. A reality TV program filming a confrontation between Liz and Caroline Bingley. ūüôā

And satire, but that’s in the original, too. But modern readers who have never been able to get through Jane Austen’s version will enjoy the modern updates and Sittenfeld’s satirizing of characters in today’s society and their values, as much as Austen’s contemporaries must have enjoyed her satirizing the original characters and the views on marriage and women during her time. (Seriously, there were parts that I felt like I was reading The Onion.)

SIDEBAR:¬†There’s a Charades scene where Kitty and Lydia star as the ridiculous Millennials in a roomful of Generation Xers. Some view them with resigned tolerance, and some don’t. You can probably guess which ones.

Plus, it’s a funny book. Liz is funny, even though Darcy is right when he claims she’s “not nearly as funny as” she thinks she is. She’s a lot like her family in this regard. While the rest of the Bennets are almost always eye-rolling funny without meaning to be, Liz is sometimes funny without meaning to be, too, a description that truly would burn her britches, as she thinks she’s a little above the absurdity that is her family, but is an accurate description, nevertheless. Her penchant for gossip and for viewing others through her sometimes narrow lens is fodder for the problems of defining people on just one instance, rather than the whole of the interactions. And I’m not just talking about the lens through which she views Darcy, either. She has a married lover, Jasper, whose reality is much worse than her perception, a piece of dramatic irony that we, as readers, can see, while Liz is in the dark for a loooooong time.

For those of you who have read Pride and Prejudice¬†(or watched Keira Knightley’s version of the movie), you know that some misunderstandings and regrets are in store for our heroine, Liz, but though it all, her good humor and focus on the positive gets her and us through these issues. In fact, Sittenfeld deftly maneuvers us through Liz’s disappointments, which Sittenfeld could have easily turned into a dour look on life and love, but instead, ends up showing how gracefully, humorously, and maturely a character can face these reality-based bumps in the road.

I would, and have, recommended this book to all of my reader friends, and I hope that you, my readers, will also pick up Sittenfeld’s Eligible!

Until next time, enjoy Liz and the Bennets!

Ta-ta for now,

HMicheale

Update: My (Delusional) Summer Reading List

I’ve decided to update My (Delusional) Summer Reading List…obvs. Here’s what I’ve read so far from that list and links to any reviews. No surprise that I’ve read all the romance novels except the one that hasn’t come out yet. ūüôā

Romance Genre 

  1. Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas:  Missing something that would make it a great read; review here.
  2. Cottonbloom series by Laura Trentham: Read the first two, and they were awesome! Love small town drama and romance! Read my review of Kiss Me Like That and Then He Kissed Me. Looking forward to the release of the third of this series, Till I Kissed You on August 2nd.
  3. Rhymes with Love¬†series by Elizabeth Boyle:¬†Couldn’t finish; review here.

Young Adult: As of right now, I have read none of these. Boo, me!

Literary Fiction:¬†I read and reviewed¬†The Vacationers¬†by Emma Straub–LOVED IT! And that’s it. I did start Summer¬†House with Swimming Pool¬†by Herman Koch but sadly didn’t finish it. (I have a 50 page rule. If it doesn’t grab my interest by then, I close it and regulate it to the pile of the unread.)

I also read a Kate Morton novel, The Forgotten Garden, and while I didn’t love it as much as The Lake House, I always enjoy her intricate plotting. (See that review here.)

eligibleI’ve also added Eligilble¬†by Curtis Sittenfeld to this list…because who doesn’t enjoy a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice¬†by Jane Austen with heavy satire on today’s societal values? ¬†(I’ve already started it! Can you tell?) I’ve read A LOT of retellings of P&P, and I’ll tell you this one has already made me laugh out loud and contemplate our modern world.

I also bought Orphan Train¬†by Christina Baker Kline, so I’m hoping to get to that one soon.

On my library eBook loan status, I’m, like, 11th in line for Jane Steele,¬†7th for What She Left Behind, and 3rd for The Good Girl. These are pretty popular at the library! Oh, and The Nest. 15th in line. Don’t know if I’ll get to any of these before the end of summer. Fingers crossed, though!

Historical Fiction:¬†I’ve downloaded the audiobook for Wolf Hall¬†by Hilary Mantel. I’ll listen to that in the car, but that’s all I’ve gotten around to on this list.

ClashAs for my Science Fiction/Fantasy list? Nada. But I have decided, after that TUSHIE KICKING season finale of Game of Thrones¬†that I’m definitely reading the rest of the series. (I’ve already read the first one. Twice.) But ASOIAF is a series that I actually need a copy of the book, not a downloaded version, so I’m off to the bookstore today to pick the second of the series. There are just some books I want to hold, rather than read on my Kindle…although I love my Kindle, too. Anyone else like this?

SIDEBAR: The fact that I’m buying A Clash of Kings while still reading Eligible¬†prompted my husband to ask, “Do you really need to buy that now since your reading something else?” Silly man, of course I need to buy it! Buying books is a compulsion that I no longer fight, though I do love library eBooks for the ones I can read on Kindle. It’s like he doesn’t know me at all! ūüėČ

So, as you can see, I’m doing pretty poorly on My (Delusional) Summer Reading List…but I have plans, I tell ya! Plans!

Ta-ta for now, my readers,

HMichaele

Commentary: “Then He Kissed Me” by Laura Trentham

ThenSo, you know that I really liked the first in the Cottonbloom series by Laura Trentham, Kiss Me That Way. (Read my review of that one here.) And I enjoyed Then He Kissed Me, just in a different way.

Here’s the rundown: Nash Hawthorne is back in Cottonbloom, Mississippi, after getting a job at the local college. His childhood friend from the Louisiana side, Tallulah, sister of Cade from book one, has never left Cottonbloom and owns her own gym on the Louisiana side of Cottonbloom. She’s successful and pretty, but she has some pretty deep insecurities, probably from not having parental guidance after her parents die in a car crash when she’s ten, a few days after Nash loses his own mother to cancer. Before his mom died, Nash lived next door to Tally, but he moves to the ‘Sip side after her death and never sees Tally again until he moves back for the challenge of building up the history department at Cottonbloom College.

But the challenge of the work isn’t really what draws Nash back. It’s a feeling of home that he’s always had in Cottonbloom, the river, and, of course, Tally herself, even if he doesn’t realize she’s one of the reasons he’s back. (We totally know though!)

Once he’s back, he goes looking for her, showing up every night in a bar he hears she visits every so often and trying for a casual first encounter. Okay, that first encounter? Pretty funny. Nash is asthmatic, and the smoke really makes it flare up. But would you want to pull out your inhaler in front of the girl you dreamed about? Yeah, he doesn’t either and eventually has to hightail it outta there without a real explanation. Heee-larious!

Nash, of course, chases Tally, but she’s a mass of anxiety. She’s attracted to him but feels they have very little in common because he has a Ph.D, and she’s dyslexic, which no one knows except her brothers. She feels intimidated by the amount of books he has in his little cottage and feels like a relationship between them would burn out quickly. But that’s not her only problem. She, even more than her brother Cade, has a serious fear of putting herself out there, and she doesn’t want to take a leap to trust Nash, who is totally book boyfriend material, I tell ya! Her inability to trust stems from the fact that many people, teachers especially, implied she wasn’t as smart or good as her older brother Sawyer, who will be featured in book three of the series. Nash points out that she’s practically a genius with numbers, but this does not get her to believe in herself. Eventually, a couple of people tell her the same thing I want to tell her about halfway through the book: Grow up. But nicely, you know?

This book didn’t really have as many humorous scenes as Kiss Me That Way¬†did, probably because Regan and Sawyer were largely absent. (Seriously, their love/hate relationship makes me chuckle every time I read a scene where they are conniving against each other. Can you tell I really want to read their book?) Plus, Trentham is dealing with a pretty serious subject of disabilities and how people can negatively view themselves based on others’ opinions.

Even though¬†Kiss Me That Way¬†touched on the subject of childhood abuse and abusive relationships, it still had many lighthearted moments that made me consider it a “beach read.”¬†And¬†Then He Kissed Me¬†is a beach read, too, just in a less lighthearted way. Tally constantly questions her worth and struggles to overcome her belief that she’s not smart enough for Nash.¬†Then He Kissed Me¬†is poignant in highlighting the struggles Tally has faced since her parents’ deaths, how alone she really was since her support system always seemed to desert her, including her parents, Cade, and Nash, when she was younger.

Overall, I liked Then He Kissed Me and strongly recommend it to the romance reader! The somber tone surprised me since there were many funny scenes in the first one (Like I said, the humor in the first was really Regan and Sawyer-centric for those scenes.), and I guess I expected it in the second as well. But that didn’t make it worse, just different. The romance was sweet and sappy and lovely and all those things a summer romance should be!

Until next time, enjoy the Cottonbloom¬†series by Laura Trentham. The final one, Till I Kissed You, is out August 2nd, and I can’t wait!

Ta-ta for now, my friends,

HMichaele

Commentary: “Unlawful Contact” by Pamela Clare

UnlawfulMy favorite type of romance? (All romance readers have one!) It’s bad boy and good girl meet when they are young, connect, but have to go their separate ways because, well, life. Then, of course, as this is the romance genre, they meet when they are adults and find out they were always perfect for each other.

Some examples of my favorites with this plot? The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann ($2.99 on Kindle right now!), When He Was Wicked  by Julia Quinn, One Reckless Summer by Toni Blake, Beast in Shining Armor by Cassandra Gannon, You Own Me by Shiloh Walker, Seduce Me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas, and She Tempts the Duke by Lorraine Heath, just to name a few that I remember off the top of my head.

I list these because I’m pretty sure I’m going to add Unlawful Contact by Pamela Clare to my favorites. It was that good.

Bad boy Hunt and good girl Sophie Alton have one special night as teens the night before he embarks on a military career. Sophie inspires hope in Hunt, whose family life is unstable. Cut to twelve years later, and Hunt, whose real name is Marc Hunter, has been in both the military and an agent for the DEA. But he’s hit hard times since he’s now in prison for the murder of a fellow DEA agent and drug possession.

Sophie is an investigative reporter who has been speaking to Megan Rawlings, who unbeknownst to Sophie is Marc’s sister. (Cue eye roll here!) When Megan goes missing, Hunt arranges to meet Sophie to gain her insights on Megan’s disappearance. Sophie does not recognize him at first (What a blow to his ego!), which is unfortunate because he holds her hostage to escape prison, scaring the crudola out of her in the process until she realizes who he is. From here, the book is a journey in their search for Megan and Sophie’s desire to look into Marc’s case, which seemingly has a link to Megan’s disappearance.

Look–this book is not believable, but as long as you can suspend your disbelief at all the crazy coincidences that are littered throughout the book, then you’re in for a wrenching romance that will have you wondering exactly how this relationship has any chance of a future at all. (But it’s a romance novel…so, you know. It usually does.)

And I love both Sophie and Marc, or Hunt, as Sophie knew him in her teens. They are really great together, and their romance is sweet and passionate. I will say if your not okay with some obsessive (borderline stalkerish) behavior from the hero, this story probably isn’t for you. I’m usually not into the whole I-love-you-so-much-that-I-can’t-be-separated-from-you-or-trust-you-by-yourself, but I accept the reasoning Marc has for why he’s watching Sophie, which is at first to make sure she gets him some information he needs about his sister and later to make sure she’s safe when the action gets a little hairy.

I should say that this book is part Clare’s I-Team series, which is a series about reporters who work in at a news agency. Clare allows previous characters to pop up throughout the novel, but the focus largely stays on the central characters of Sophie and Marc, which is better, in my opinion. The fact that I hadn’t read any of the others did not negatively affect my reading experience at all, and Unlawful Contact actually made me want to read the rest of the series.

So, yeah. I liked this book a lot, and it’s definitely going to be added to my KEEPER shelf, to be reread in times of romance slumps. ūüôā

Until next time, enjoy the I-Team and their stories!

Ta-ta,

HMichaele

Review and Commentary: “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton

ForgottenI recently suggested Kate Morton to a fellow reader at work because her mysteries are so interesting, and The Forgotten Garden is no different from her previous books. Literally. She always writes about a mystery from the past that someone from a today-ish time period is trying to solve.

But with The Forgotten Garden, Morton adds in someone in between the two time periods who is also trying to solve the mystery. Simple, right?

Here’s a rundown: After the death of her grandmother, Nell, in 2005, Cassandra finds she has inherited a house in Cornwall, a house she did not realize existed previously. She finds Nell’s journal from 1975 and discovers that Nell had been trying to solve the mystery of her origins.

You see, Nell was put on a ship in 1913 from London to Maryborough, Australia, where the portmaster, Hugh, finds her and takes her home to his childless wife. Nell becomes their beloved daughter, but on the eve of Nell’s 18th birthday, Hugh decides it’s time to tell Nell exactly how she came to live with them. This is a shock to her system, leading Nell to distance herself from the family she thought was hers. When Hugh dies, he sends her a suitcase filled with clues to her past. Nell jets off to Cornwall, trying to piece together why she was abandoned on that ship in 1913. She plans on moving to Cornwall as soon as she can wrap up her life in Australia, but then the unexpected happens: Nell’s daughter Leslie brings Cassandra to her and abandons her to Nell’s care. Nell decides to raise her granddaughter at the expense of discovering who she is.

Upon her death, Cassandra picks up Nell’s search, going to London and Cornwall with Nell’s journal to figure out who Nell was.

Morton flashes between several different time periods, piecing out information to the mysterious reason Nell was on that ship. Interspersed with fairy tales that speak to the theme of identity, this story circles over a hundred year time period, giving hints as the story progresses as to the reason for Nell’s kidnapping.

Morton plays with the mystical in all of her novels and the idea of hereditary memory. Cassandra and Nell both have flashbacks (not so many as it becomes unbelievable) that are not their own memories, helping them to gain insight into Nell’s origins. There’s always a feeling of knowing a place in Morton’s novels, and both Nell and Cassandra feel the familiarity of home in Cornwall, even though Cassandra has never been there and Nell barely remembers the place.

Overall, I liked The Forgotten Garden. Is it one of Morton’s best? No, that honor belongs to The Lake House, but it was an enthralling read. And Morton’s descriptions of places and events are truly the magical part of her writing. Plus, I love trying to see if I can figure out the mystery before the main character, in this case Cassandra, does.

If you like a mystery with beautiful descriptions and detailed plotting, then Kate Morton’s books are for you! I suggest them to all of the reader friends!

Until next time, enjoy your mystical-ancestral-memory reading! (That’s a mouthful!)

Ta-ta, my readers,

HMichaele

Review and Commentary: “To Wed a Wild Lord” by Sabrina Jeffries

Wild LordLighthearted. Fun. Family-driven. These are words I would use to describe the Sabrina Jeffries books I’ve read, including To Wed a Wild Lord. Although not filled with intensity and passion that some books lay claim to, her books have a family dynamic that supersedes the romance on occasion, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. Just depends on what you’re in the mood for.

To Wed a Wild Lord¬†is the fourth installment of Jeffries’s¬†Hallstead Hall series, which focuses on the (scandalous?) Sharpe siblings. I question the scandal because it doesn’t really involve any of the children, but their parents. Although I suppose if there is a scandalous sibling, the hero of To Wed a¬†Wild Lord, Gabriel Sharpe, would be it. Reckless, daring, and bold, Gabriel wagers on himself in carriage races to support himself and his dreams of raising Thoroughbreds for racing. Years ago, during a reckless. drunken wager with his best friend Roger Waverly, Roger loses his life, and Gabriel carries the guilt of his death with him. Roger’s family, his grandfather General Waverly and his sister Virginia, holds Gabriel responsible for Roger’s death. ¬†Virginia, who is just as daring as Gabriel, challenges Gabriel to a race, which Gabriel declines. But this puts Virginia in his sphere, and Gabriel decides to marry her to “help” her out of his guilt. Really, this is just an excuse because Gabriel is fascinated by Virginia, who challenges him.

The problem I had with this novel was that the whole blame for Roger’s death went on too long. I find it annoying when the heroine (or hero) repeats her hatred for the hero (or vice versa) throughout the novel, despite an intense attraction that flares up between them. It seems ridiculous, but Jeffries handled it well, for the most part. Virginia begins to have doubts early on about Gabriel’s culpability in her brother’s death, acknowledging that she doesn’t have the full story. And, really, these two characters are perfect for one another (as are their grandparents, Virginia’s grandfather and Gabriel’s grandmother, their burgeoning romance being a secondary story in the novel).

But Jeffries does something that I usually have a problem with. She focuses too much on the relationships between the main characters and their family members to the detriment of the romance between Virginia and Gabriel. Truth be told though, their families are interesting, and the dynamic with each is delightfully done, making me want to read the rest of the Hallstead Hall series. (To be honest, I have three of them on my Kindle, but I can’t remember them. Can’t be good, right?)

Another plus: All the characters have some sort of profession, even if Gabriel’s is racing, which he is using to start his stud farm. I dislike it intensely when members of the¬†ton¬†have no profession or responsibility; I don’t care how accurate it is. It makes them boring. Gabriel’s grandmother owns a brewery, while Virginia’s grandfather, a former general in the British army, runs a stud farm, so both characters come from hardworking backgrounds, despite their social status.

This is what I say: If you’re looking for some lighthearted fare after an intense book, To Wed a Wild Lord might be for you. It’s entertaining, if lacking in passionate intensity that you might see in other romance novels. But like I said, lacking intense passion isn’t always a bad thing, and in this case, it doesn’t hurt the novel too much. Maybe I’ll reread those other books on my Kindle to see if I can jog my memory on the Sharpes. We’ll see, I guess.

I have a couple more books to review, so I’ll post those soon! Until next time, enjoy the Sharpe family and their interactions each other as they try to solve the mystery of their parents’ deaths while falling in love!

Ta-ta, my friends,

HMichaele

Commentary: “Slightly Dangerous” by Mary Balogh

DangerousHere’s a secret: An avid romance reader (No, that’s not the secret!), I have never really enjoyed the tales of one of the most prolific writers of the genre: Mary Balogh. But I always read glowing reviews of her books, so I decided to pick up Slightly Dangerous, the final installment of her Bedwyn series. (I know. I’m terrible, but I like to start at the end to see if I want to read the beginning! It’s weird!)

You see, the Duke of Bewcastle, Wulfric Bedwyn, has watched as all of his many siblings have found love over the past few years. At a party in the country, he meets the intriguing, perpetually engaging, and sunny Mrs. Christine Derrick, a widow who ignores the dictates of the elitist society of the ton and often lands herself in pickles that the average member sees as fodder for gossip and derision. After the death of her husband a few years previously, she turns her back on the society she joined only through marriage. In fact, she’s only at the party because the hostess, who is a friend from that life, begs her upon discovering the numbers of men and women are uneven. (Was this a thing back then?)

After a humorous introduction of the two protagonists, Balogh shows that Bewcastle is no different than the rest of the ton when he first meets her. He judges her harshly for her (mis)actions while being inexplicably drawn to her. This is an opposites attract novel in the fact that Bewcastle is a cold, uptight, stick-in-the-mud who lets the rigidity of society dictate his actions. As the novel progress, he begins to see exactly how lonely and frigid his life is, especially when compared to his siblings and their lives, of which we get a glimpse in the novel.

As he begins to realize that she is the only one that can lead him out of the self-imposed isolation in which he lives, he wants to take a chance on a future different than the one he has had since he inherited the dukedom at a young age. Christine doesn’t make it easy for him though, as she simply can’t see herself with this man whom she perceives as unemotional and judgmental. As he chases her and tries to convince her he can be the man she wants and deserves, Balogh shows a side of the last but oldest Bedwyn that has not been seen before–a caring man who puts the best interest of his family before himself.

I liked this book, especially after they leave the party in the country. The scrapes Christine manages to get herself in allows Balogh to show Bewcastle’s knight-in-shining-armor characteristics, which I truly doubted existed at the beginning of the book. Honestly, the two are perfect opposites who need each other, in my opinion. Plus, the focus remains on the two characters with brief re-introductions into the Bedwyn clan, and it kind of made me want to read the previous books in the series. (The lack of knowledge of the previous didn’t hurt my reading of this book!)

Overall, I give this book a pretty high marks for entertainment value, but if your looking for tons of passion, this probably isn’t the book for you, though there are some parts that are definitely oh-la-la-ish. But only a few. This is a love story and shows how the characters fall in love in a mature and thoughtful way. I say it’s a keeper!

I have many more books that I’ve read in the past few weeks, so expect some more commentaries soon! Until then, enjoy the Bedwyns, especially the eldest one! ūüôā

Ta-ta for now, my lovelies,

HMichaele