May was filled with lots of good reading. I had a couple of books that came close to being a 5 Phave: A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh and SEALed with a Ring by Mary Margret Daughtridge. The former got a tad too sappy toward the end and the latter I really liked, but historicals usually rank higher for me than contemporaries. In the end I could only pick 5 (because Phyl's 7 Phaves is not alliterative), so here they are:
5. Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn. I love the way JQ writes. She has a light-hearted, humorous style that almost always works for me. And she can do it while writing about people with real problems or burdens. Sebastian is a writer of gothic romance. Absolutely no one besides his publisher knows the truth about Sebastian. When JQ wrote about him doing writerly things, I wondered if she was describing herself. And Annabel is the oldest of 8 siblings from an impoverished family. Her wealthy grandfather still harbors a grudge toward Annabel's parents for their marriage and agrees to sponsor her come-out on the condition she marry a wealthy man of his choosing who will also assume responsibility for the rest of Annabel's family. His choice turns out to be Sebastian's nasty uncle, Lord Newbury. Lord Newbury hates Sebastian (for reasons that just don't seem all that clear--a minor weakness in the book) and he's a nasty person in general. Annabel does not want to marry him, but doesn't know how else to save her family. The story involves Annabel & Sebastian falling for one another and figuring out how to save her from the uncle. This is a quick and entertaining read that I really enjoyed. It's hard to believe, Richie.
4. Wild Oats by Pamela Morsi. Wendy reviewed this book in February for the 2010 TBR Challenge and I was intrigued enough to see if I could find a copy of this 1993 book. Sure enough, my awesome public library had a copy for me to read. While the plot is totally different, this book is like Laura Lee Guhrke's Breathless in that it deals with a divorced heroine in a small American town in the early 1900s. Just like the heroine in Breathless, Cora is pretty much ostracized by the people in her town who think they know more about the circumstances of Cora's marriage than they really do. Cora eeks out a living and lives in her own little bubble until the town mortician comes to call, hoping to start a discreet affair. Soon they both get more than they bargained for. Not only did I enjoy Cora and Jedwin (a "beta" hero with a core of steel), but I thought the secondary characters were interesting as well. None of the characters are one-dimensional, and I appreciated that about the story. I hope to find more of Morsi's books to read soon.
3. Sweet Revenge by Nora Roberts. This is another one of those old NR books I picked up in large print from my library. It was originally published back in 1988. While I have not come close (yet) to reading the entire NR canon, I've now read a fair smattering of it. This particular book was rather different from other NR books I've been reading. And I should say right off the bat that I loved it (or maybe that's obvious since it's a "phave"). One thing that sets this book apart is that the first third of the book is a significant backstory that is engrossing in its own right and does a great job of setting up the final two thirds of the book. Philip is a former jewel thief now working for Interpol. Adrianne is a wealthy, jet-setting princess. The backstory is actually about Adrianne's mother Phoebe and the ways Phoebe is abused by her husband who is the king of a small, oil-rich Arab country. Because of the way her father destroyed her mother, Adrianne leads a double-life as a jewel thief. Her goal is to eventually steal something significant from her father. That's the revenge alluded to in the title. Philip comes between Adrianne and her goal and he has to decide what is most important to him. There are several great secondary characters in this book, too. I noticed that this book was re-published last year and is probably still readily available.
It's a tie. I honestly cannot decide.
1. Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly. Technically this book releases today, but as a Harlequin it has been available on their web site since the 1st of May where I bought it as an ebook. This is a wonderful conclusion to Kelly's trilogy involving 3 illegitimate half-sisters who each marry men who are deeply involved in the war against Napoleon. This last book involves youngest sister Polly, who at 19 is befriended by Hugh, age 37, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines. They meet aboard ship when both are traveling to Portugal. Polly is on her way to see her sister & Hugh has an assignment there. Hugh is deeply aware of the age difference and it plays a significant part in the story. Eventually, the two are thrown together again when they are captured by the French and forced to travel through Spain by their captors. Their road journey brings out their feelings for one another as well as hidden depths to their characters. It is a fascinating story, albeit not for the squeamish. It is a vast understatement to say that war is never pleasant and Kelly brings that fact home to her readers most effectively. As usual, Kelly's grasp of military matters, her choice of unusual settings, and her emotional style of writing come together to create a real winner.
1. His at Night by Sherry Thomas. Thomas' latest release is garnering lots of well-deserved praise. I started reading it almost as soon as I got my hands on it and I couldn't put it down. I loved this story of two people who have learned to hide their true selves from others. Vere so that he can insinuate himself into situations on behalf of the Crown and Elissande so she can simply survive. When Elissande traps Vere into marriage in order to escape her cruelly abusive uncle, they each begin to suspect the truth about one another. Vere, however has to get over his anger at being trapped. Theirs is an emotional and compelling story, especially when Elissande's uncle does not give her up willingly. Elissande finds herself willing and able to trust Vere and Vere finds himself wanting to help Elissande even though by all rights he should be able to forget about her. Just a wonderful book.