Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TBR Day. As You Desire / Connie Brockway. 1997

This month's theme is friends to lovers or unrequited love and this book fits in the latter category. I've had it for years now, having picked it up somewhere when I was trying to get my hands on Connie Brockway's backlist. Interesting timing to read it now, too. Having just had a hero with Asperger's, now I have a hero with Dyslexia. And sitting on the TBR pile is the brand new Erin McCarthy, another with a dyslexic hero. Of course in a contemporary, we "get" dyslexia. But in a historical no one understands dyslexia, so our hero Harry Braxton, an otherwise brilliant man, has suffered the stigma of being labelled retarded because he cannot read and write.

From an intellectual point of view, this is quite an interesting book because of how it treats Harry's condition. Added to that, Harry is paired with an equally brilliant heroine who can read a dozen languages, but can only speak English. (Lest you scoff, as a former linguistics major I assure you this is possible.) The setting is Egypt in 1890. Harry finds it much easier to hide his condition and make his fortune during an era when people were collecting (i.e. stealing) Egyptian artifacts. He's in love with Desdemona Carlisle, but doesn't want her to know it. He's hiding his "word blindness" from her. Meanwhile, she's in love with him, but since he rejected her once when she threw herself at him, she's convinced he doesn't want her.

I've got to say I really liked the story and both Harry & Desdemona. I could feel Harry's anguish over his condition and his frustration that he couldn't explain it. Given the kind of treatment he'd received at the hands of a rigid school system, it's no wonder he doesn't want anyone to know the truth. Nor is it any wonder he doesn't feel worthy. Meanwhile, Desdemona is a bit of a freak herself because of her linguistic ability. She thinks that all she wants is to be a "normal" Englishwoman. Harry can't give her that because he cannot/will not go back to England. A significant source of conflict in the story is Harry's cousin Blake who has come to Egypt because he needs financial help from Harry. Blake was once one of Harry's tormentors and still can only see Harry's "defect" despite the fact that Harry has clearly been successful while in Egypt.

But when all was said and done, there were some things about this book that were rather irritating. I found some of the writing abrupt and disjointed. The book was peppered with several secondary characters who seemed unnecessary. There's also a subplot involving one of Harry's enemies and this subplot seemed to get in the way of what was already an intriguing story. The kidnapping and rescue at the end happens quickly; that part of the story seemed rushed. These things were disappointing because they took the focus away from characters I liked, an unusual setting, and a pretty decent triangle between Harry, Blake, and Desdemona.

Ultimately, I would recommend this book just because it is unusual. But I do so with reservations.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May UFO Update

When I signed up for my guild UFO challenge last November, I listed 28 projects that I would attempt to finish within the year. It is now 6 months later.
I have finished 5.
I have a lot of work to do.
In fairness to me I spent quite a bit of time on Springing Up Fun.
Hey! Go bid on it!
Meanwhile, here's the latest I've finished. This is my Flower Pot wall hanging that was a challenge with two friends. We each made 2 sets of 3 identical blocks and swapped them. It came from a pattern I found in the June 2008 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. We did start with coordinated pink & orange batiks to use for the flowers. I'm giving serious thought to entering mine into the state fair.

One of my UFOs is a 9-patch flower sampler. Below is block number 5. This block was, to put it crudely, a bitch. I swear the pattern instructions were wrong in more than one place. I did more unsewing to get this finished...

OK, yes, the whole idea of a UFO focus is to NOT start new projects. But I couldn't help myself. This first one is a gift for a friend who has a new baby. All new babies deserve a quilt.

And here are all the blocks from the retreat's mystery quilt. They're still up on my design wall waiting to be sewn together. But that won't happen for a few weeks yet.

Because I'm working on a purse that I forgot to take a picture of. I know. It's hopeless.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Phyl's 5 Phaves from April

Late again!

5. Scandal by Amanda Quick. This is considered a classic Amanda Quick and I gave it a quickie review here back when I read it. I really liked the heroine in this book as well as the quick-witted dialogue between her and Simon. I read a copy from the library, but I wouldn't mind buying it if were ever issued as an ebook.

4. Vision in White by Nora Roberts. I just reviewed this here. It was so nice to read a Nora Roberts book that was a straight romance. She does all things well, but I do love a character-driven story and this was it in spades.

3. Never Resist Temptation by Miranda Neville. This also got a mini review. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. This was an interesting story of a young French woman hiding herself from her nasty guardian by working as a pastry chef. On the surface, the story seemed unlikely, which is why I was initially reluctant to read it. But Ms. Neville made it plausible and the well-written dialogue moved the story along at a nice pace. I would like to read more by this author.

2. Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James. I knew this would make my 5 phave list when I read it. This story stuck with me for several days afterwards. It's always the mark of a strong book when it's a little harder to pick up the next book to read. I liked the equality between the hero and heroine and the power setting of a high stakes law firm. This book was engaging on all kinds of levels. And it was a hard choice not to make this number 1 for the month. Julie James has quickly emerged as an incredibly talented writer. I can't wait for more.

1. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. What could I possibly say about this book that hasn't been said on numerous other blogs around romanceland? This is hands down one of the most compelling books I've read in ages. Writing a hero with Aspergers Syndrome set in an era well before AS was recognized or defined had to be one heck of a challenge. Ian may not be normal in our world, but he is capable of love and worthy of being loved. Beth is wonderful heroine as she learns to appreciate Ian for who he is. This book has deserved all of the hype it has received. Once I started it I couldn't put it down until it was finished.