Blog? I have a blog? Goodness, but I have a lot to catch up on.
Before I get into the phaves, I do want to mention that I began reading Barry Eisler's John Rain series in July. I met Eisler at RT and purchased the 3rd book in the series there. He told me the 3rd book was a good place to start, but I decided to go back to the first one, Rain Fall, and got it at the library. I'm glad I did. I've read 2 of the books so far and they were a nice change from romance. I liked them both. But when it came to the phaves, romance won out.
5. One Season of Sunshine by Julia London. I have become a big fan of London's contemporaries even though I first began reading her historicals. I frequently find her books to be emotional and sometimes thought-provoking. I was intrigued by this story of Jane, a woman adopted as an infant, who is seeking her biological family. I once watched a close friend struggle with the same questions; that fact made Jane a believable and sympathetic character to me. Even more interesting is Asher, a widowed father dealing with his children, crises with his job, and the unspoken truths of his first marriage. Jane comes to work for Asher while she seeks her biological mother. Their relationship develops slowly; in fact I'm not sure you could say that it's the central focus of the book. There is a lot going on here with Asher's children, Jane's sputtering relationship with a boyfriend, Jane's search, etc. But taken as a whole, I found this to be an engrossing read by an author I love.
4. The Search by Nora Roberts. Roberts' annual single title romantic suspense is the first one I've really liked since the Alaska one, Northern Lights. While a little light on the suspense side, it was terrific on the relationship side. The dog training stuff was interesting without overwhelming the story. I enjoyed watching the relationship develop between Fiona and Simon. The story of the rescue at the beginning was a great opening and it had me hooked from the first page. I loved this one.
3. Heaven Forbids by Karen Ranney. I had a hard time choosing between this and Ranney's newest, A Highland Duchess, for this spot. Ultimately Heaven Forbids won out because I was fascinated by the historical detail in the book. I found myself searching the web for more details about the time and place. [Note: spoilers ahead!] Heaven Forbids pushes hot buttons for some readers because the h/h engage in an adulterous relationship before they have their HEA (the hero is married throughout most of the book). Adultery is not something I look for in a romance. But Ranney writes extremely compelling characters against equally compelling backdrops. This book takes place before, during, and after the battle of Culloden, and the political unrest of the time adds a richness to this story that lifts it above the ordinary. And for only $1.59 in the Kindle Store, it's a bargain. I'll add that I also loved A Highland Duchess. It was hard to love the heroine, Emma, because she seemed so weak. But Ranney did a good job of fluidly reminding the reader that Emma was a woman who lived in a time and place where women rarely had any control over their own lives and destiny. Interestingly, both heroes in these books loved science. I like to think that had they been contemporaries, Hugh and Ian would have been friends.
2. The Bikini Car Wash by Pamela Morsi. At the end of June I was on quite a Pamela Morsi kick and when I saw she had a new book out, I managed to be first in line at the library for it. I finished it 2 days after it was released. Technically, this is probably more "chick lit" than romance, although there's a strong romantic relationship featured in the book. Mainly, this is the story of Andi, who has moved back to her small home town to help her dad car for her mentally disabled sister, Jelly. This is a funny and poignant look at how what we think we know about others--even those closest to us--is never the whole truth. Andi is desperate to make a living and when she opens her dad's old car wash, she uses the gimmick of bikini-clad women doing the work as a hook to bring in customers. Naturally this causes the outraged, upright citizens of the town to try and close down her business. Andi finds an unlikely ally in business neighbor Pete Guthrie, owner of Guthrie's grocery store. Andi and Pete had gone to high school together, but ran in different circles. Morsi may have moved away from traditional romance with her most recent books, but this is still a winner with terrific characters and a lot of humor. If you are a fan of the TV show Law & Order, you absolutely, positively have to read this book. Trust me.
1. The House on Olive Street by Robyn Carr. This book was originally published in 1999, and re-published this spring. Since I had devoured Carr's Virgin River series, I was interested in reading some of her older books. THOOS is not a romance; it is clearly women's fiction. Normally I avoid this kind of thing because it doesn't always have a happy ending, but I found this particular book to be riveting and immensely satisfying. The story follows 4 women over the course of a summer when the death of a mutual friend brings them together to sort through the dead friend's personal effects. All 5 women are writers and had been in a critique group together. The surviving women include an academic and literary critic, a NYT best-selling famous author, a successful mid-list romance author, and a relatively new mystery author. Each woman is also dealing with a personal crisis. Their time together as they remember their friend Gabby allows them to support one another through their individual crises. Carr creates 4 well-drawn and interesting characters and through them demonstrates the power of sisterhood and friendship. If you're in the mood for something a little out of the ordinary, I cannot recommend this one highly enough.