Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TBR Day. The Millionaire's Misbehaving Mistress / Kimberly Lang. 2009

This month's TBR Theme is contemporary romance and this HP is one I picked up during the author signing at last year's RT convention. Kimberly Lang's The Millionaire's Misbehaving Mistress is not your ordinary HP and the ridiculous sounding title even made sense after I read the book. Unlike most HPs which take place in Europe, this engaging story takes place in Dallas (how fitting as I was watching the Mavs win the NBA title). The blurb:

As Dallas’s most eligible bachelor and heir to his family’s fortune, billionaire Will Harrison knows how to handle the paparazzi—but his little sister Evie is a worry….
Miss Behavior, etiquette expert Gwen Sawyer, has only three weeks to work her magic on Evie before a society ball, and so moves into Will’s luxurious penthouse. However, she discovers too late that etiquette is the last thing on devilishly handsome Will’s mind….

Will is the head of his family's company and is trying to shepherd the business into new Asian markets. He's permanently attached to his Blackberry and works long hours. His much younger half-sister, Evie, has been orphaned and needs help entering Dallas society. Gwen is more than an etiquette expert. She actually has formal training in international relations and protocol. Her career had been derailed and she finds herself in Dallas helping young debutantes. Gwen also writes a column for a popular teen website under the name "Miss Behavior" (thus the source of the pun in the title). Gwen had been trying to get a foot in the door of Will's company in order to get her career back to working with adults and corporations. When Will hires Gwen to teach Evie everything she needs to know in order to have a successful debut at her first society ball, she accepts the job because 1) she needs the money, and 2) perhaps she could use the contact.

Will has Gwen move into their home so that she can spend as much time as possible with Evie. Gwen's presence in his home fuels a mutual attraction and it doesn't take them long to act on that. At first all is going well. Evie and Gwen hit it off. Will and Gwen grow closer and he realizes that she has the skills he needs to help make his Asian project succeed. But then Will overhears part of a conversation between Gwen and Evie that leads to a big misunderstanding. Will acts like an Alpha jerk. When Gwen is vindicated a grovel ensues and all ends happily.

I'm not fond of the "big mis" especially when a character just leaps to a conclusion without trying to talk it out. But that's a common trope in HPs, so it goes with the territory. And in many respects this isn't your ordinary HP which makes it worth reading for that alone. Besides, I liked the writing and I liked Gwen's character. She was no doormat. In the end, I do recommend it.

While browsing Lang's website I noticed that she has written Evie's story. It hasn't been released in the U.S. yet, so I'm making a note to watch for it later this year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Phyl's 5 Phaves for March

Yes, March. I started this blog post in early April. Since then I have been seriously quilting my brains out. I spent April & May making 2 competition quilts for the June NQA show. I've read less than usual and barely blogged. Seriously, I'm exhausted. I've barely cleaned my house in 2 months, I've quit exercising (ack--gained 7 pounds!!), and I've consistently nodded off at night during my normal reading time. But the quilts are now at the show getting ready to be shown June 16-18 and perhaps life can get back to normal. It was worth the effort, though. I think The Quilt of Many Squares will turn out to be one of the best things I've made to date.

So. Back to the topic at hand. For March an honorable mention needs to go to A Light at Winter's End by Julia London. This sequel to The Summer of Two Wishes was a book I had been looking forward to reading. I certainly recommend this book whether you read the first one or not, but I think it's more meaningful to have read TSOTW first. If I had liked the heroine a little more, this book would have been an official Phave.

5. Captive Bride by Bonnie Dee. If you're looking for an unusual historical, this would be the book for you. Hiuann is a young Chinese woman who arrives in San Francisco in 1870 expecting to marry a rich Chinese merchant. Instead it turns out that she's a captive to a powerful man who intends to turn her into a high-priced prostitute. She manages to escape that fate and finds shelter in the home of a shopkeeper, Alan Sommers. Hiuann is far from safe, though, as her captors are scouring San Francisco looking for her. Alan hires Hiuann to be his housekeeper and she finds relative safety for awhile until ultimately there is a confrontation with the man who claims to own her. What I found absolutely fascinating about this book is how Dee developed the relationship between two people who spoke different languages. There's also a strong sense of how different they are culturally. All-in-all, this was a gripping and satisfying read.

4. A Lot Like Love by Julie James. The old adage "opposites attract" is certainly true in this fun romantic suspense. Jordan Rhodes is a wine shop owner and heiress to a sizable fortune. She has ties to the Chicago social scene and the FBI needs to use those ties to get at one Robert Martino and his money laundering activities. Enter FBI agent Nick McCall who prefers beer to wine and is from a working-class family. Jordan and Nick need to pose as a couple as part of the FBI's attempt to trap Martino. Naturally, what starts out as pretend becomes real as Jordan and Nick's attraction deepens. This is a smart romance; it's fun to watch these characters who are so different from one another recognize their feelings for one another. Once I started reading I couldn't put this book down. James is a smart and snappy writer.

3. An Unlikely Countess by Jo Beverley. This Georgian-set historical is loosely-related to Beverley's Malloran world, but it totally stands on its own. This book has not been a favorite with a lot of readers because it seems too light on the romance and too heavy on the social and historical framework. While I can easily see why some readers felt that way, I have to say that I still found this story extremely appealing. I was fascinated by the details of everyday life for the working class and the very real divisions between the classes that many historical romances would prefer to pretend did not exist. When heroine Prudence, desperate and near destitute, is rescued by Catesby, she doesn't realize she's about to become a Countess. While she expected to be restored to the gentry class, she did not expect to enter the aristocracy and she is ill-equipped to do so. Prudence must grow and do so quickly if she's to cope with the things that will be expected of her. I really enjoyed her transformation and growth. There was a natural progression in her relationship with Cate and if this book lacks the sizzle of most romance novels, it fit with the time and the story well enough that I was totally satisfied by the read.

2. Unveiled by Courtney Milan. The only reason Unveiled isn't my number one read for March is that a certain highly-anticipated book (ahem) was also a March read. After only 3 books, and a novella, Milan has become an auto-buy, auto-read author for me. This was a fascinating story of what could happen if everything you grew up knowing about yourself and your place in the world was proven false. That's what happens to heroine Lady Margaret when Ash Turner is able to prove that he is the rightful heir to the dukedom that had been held by her father. As Margaret and Ash go from being enemies to lovers, they find themselves dealing with issues of family (with their respective siblings), choices, honor, loyalty, and more. This is a complex, yet very readable novel. There are several humorous moments as well as some deep issues to explore. I was enthralled by this book and pretty much didn't do anything until I finished it.

1. It Happened One Season. Well, duh! THE book that won me that little contest last year. I enjoyed every word in it and had so much fun seeing what each author did with my plot idea. I've slowly been writing a blog post dedicated to this book; I need to finish re-reading the book first. See that bit above about me quilting my brains out. I probably need to re-read the parts I already re-read. But allow me to say here that I in all honesty I loved the stories in this book. I found them to be as different as they could be considering the similarity of the plot. They showcased the talents of the various authors whose voices are very different from one another. I am impressed that they allowed a reader contest to dictate their stories and I'd love to see similar contests, perhaps involving other authors. It's an entertaining concept. I'm so grateful to have won.