Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another new purse

I recently finished this purse with matching wallet. The purse is from a pattern by Quilt Plus. I bought the pattern at a quilt show in Pennsylvania a couple years ago. If I take my purse to another show where the owner is vending again, I get a free pattern and I'll have my picture taken for her handbag gallery. Hopefully she'll be in Cincinnati for IQF in April. Meanwhile, it's fun to look at the wide variety of bags and purses in the gallery. The owner of this company is very talented.

The wallet pattern is by Atkinson Designs. The pattern makes it very easy to attach the zipper. Zippers are intimidating.

My Pfaff had to go to the hospital again. I miss it :-(

Phyl's 5 Phaves from July

5. Waking Up with the Duke by Lorraine Heath. When I finished this book, my immediate reaction was to admit that I was simply impressed by the risks Heath took in writing about a couple who deliberately commit adultery. I'm writing this several months after having read it, and I'm still ambivalent as to whether I consider it a "phave" or not. In case you missed it, Jayne is married and her husband (Wolfort) is paralyzed from a carriage accident several years previously. His health is (conveniently) declining as well. Wolfort wants Jayne to be able to have a baby and he suggests that Jayne and his cousin (and best friend, Ainsley, the Duke) have an affair in hopes that she would become pregnant. Since this is set in a time when divorce was this close to impossible, you know going in that Jayne's husband will have to die in order for there to be a happy ending between she and Ainsley. And how happy a future can you envision when a relationship begins in such a way? Was Jayne emotionally coerced? Will guilt tarnish their future relationship? Oh, and it turns out Wolfort and Ainsley have been keeping a Big Secret. Lots of interesting questions are raised by this book to the point where it certainly stuck with me and I think that counts for a lot. Parts of it were quite emotional. Near the end, though, it went a little over the top. And now that I write this, I think that had July been a better reading month, I may not have included it here. Nonetheless, if you're a fan of Heath, it may well be worth a read. In the end, I am actually glad I read it.

4. The Eyes of Love by Katherine Storm. Katherine Storm is a pen name used by Karen Ranney for some self-pubbed ebooks. TEoL is a contemporary romantic suspense about a modern-day Duke and an American woman who meet when they are both seeking some solitude on a small island off the Texas coast. Maggie is recovering from a serious accident and Richard is with his two young children hiding from the tabloid press. To put it very simply, they become involved. At the same time, Richard becomes the target of a Scottish radical. I am such a fan of Ranney's work and I love the emotional nature of her writing. It was fun to read something by her in a different sub-genre and I enjoyed the blend of romance and suspense in this book.

3. You Belong to Me by Karen Rose. I think I say the exact same thing every time I mention one of Rose's books. They're fast-paced, tightly plotted books that always have me thoroughly engrossed to the exclusion of all else until I finish them. It's exhausting I tell you. As usual, the villain is a sick psychopath and so this is not a book for the faint of heart. Lucy is a medical examiner and J.D. is a Baltimore homicide detective. Together they investigate a series of murders that appear to be tied to Lucy in some way. It's a race against time. Deftly woven into the suspense is the romance between Lucy and J.D. This is the first book in a new series and would be an excellent introduction to Rose if you've never read her before.

2. Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase. It's such a treat when Chase has a new book out and this was no exception. I remember just inhaling this and was so sorry to see it end. Marcelline is co-owner with her two sisters of a London dress shop and they are striving to become the number one shop in town. Marcelline decides that the best way to attract clients is to become the dressmaker for the Duke of Clevedon's future bride, Clara. Marcelline does this by chasing down Clevedon in Paris and making herself known to him. She's very clear that she asprires to be Clara's dressmaker. Clevedon, attracted to her bold beauty, wants more. This is a very clever story that deftly compares and contrasts the lives and lifestyles of aristocrats vs. those who have to work for a living. There's never anything preachy in the tone, nor is there a false sense of egalitarianism. There are wonderful layers here as well. For example, Clevedon is passionate about very little while Marcelline is passionate about her work. They each have a lot to teach the other and since it is told with Chase's inimitable wit, it's great fun to watch them change and grow. Now I want to go back and re-read it!

1. The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville. This book just barely nudges past Silk is for Seduction for top spot this month. Both were such entertaining reads! Celia and Tarquin find themselves caught up in an adventure together. Celia had been kidnapped and is being held in a small cottage not too far from Tarquin's estate. On his way home, Tarquin is attacked and beaten when he accidentally stumbles upon the place where Celia is held. The two had met previously in London; it had not gone well when the fashionable Tarquin had insulted Celia. Now Tarquin has amnesia and Celia has the chance for a bit of revenge. With nothing more than the clothes on their back, the two of them need to run for their lives. As they do so, they fall in love. Tarquin's amnesia doesn't last long, but now enough has happened between the two of them that they are forced to re-examine their beliefs about the other. I really appreciated how Neville used the first part of the book to strip both characters down to essentials. As the book continues they both have to deal with what they learned about themselves and one another. This is Neville's 4th book and all have landed in my list of "phaves."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

TBR Day. Die Before I Wake / Laurie Breton. 2008

I remember when I bought this book. The Borders receipt was still inside the cover when I dug it out last week. I had a $5.00 off coupon and I thought I'd try something different. I like Romantic Suspense, but I'm not fond of 1st person books, which this is. But it turned out OK and while I doubt I'll re-read it, I did find myself engaged by the story.

I can't find a traditional website for the author, although it appears she has a MySpace page here. This is the back cover blurb:

Just five days after they meet, Julie Hanrahan and Dr. Thomas Larkin exchange vows on a moonlit Caribbean beach, the whirlwind conclusion to a romance that's swept her off her feet. Tom is sexy, witty and charming and Julie's sure she's found her Prince Charming.

But not every fairy tale ends happily ever after.

With a workaholic husband, a hostile mother-in-law and a resentful stepdaughter, the honeymoon doesn't last long. Especially after Julie finds out that Tom's first wife didn't die in an accident after all. The cops called her death a suicide, but Julie is convinced that somebody helped Beth over the side of the Swift River Bridge.

Every marriage has its secrets. Julie is starting to wonder if she'll survive discovering the truth about hers…or die before she wakes. 

As the book opens, Julie is flying to her new home in Maine, the antithesis of everything she'd known in California. Julie is leaving behind a failed marriage and a lot of tragedy; she's looking forward to a "normal" life with Tom and his two young daughters. It's not long, though, before she encounters the hostile mother-in-law and resentful stepdaughter. She also has to learn to cope with Tom's hectic schedule as an OB/GYN. Julie begins to get close to Tom's daughters and even makes some friends. However, Julie finds herself on the receiving end of various accidents and then she discovers a deliberate attempt on her life. Too many signs point to Tom as the culprit.

Most RS books that I enjoy use the suspense to bring the h/h together to fight a common enemy. Here, the h/h are increasingly at odds as Julie begins to believe the worst of Tom. This kind of story actually reminded me very much of the old Mary Stewart or Victoria Holt books I enjoyed as a teen (yes, I'm old). Naturally, there's another villain, but it takes a crisis at the end to figure out who the real culprit is. I stink at mysteries, so I was pretty clueless until near the end to figure out who had killed Beth.

There are lots of potential culprits here, and the story has a good, fast pace. It was an easy read and didn't take long to finish. To be honest, this kind of story doesn't typically float my boat. I doubt I'll read more by this author, but that's more because there are lots of other things I'd rather read first. Still, I'd recommend it if you like a contemporary mystery with a gothic flair.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Phyl's 5 Phaves from June

5. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn. Even though I usually prefer a little more meat to my historicals, Quinn is still one of my favorite authors. Her humor and likable characters make her books fun, and sometimes, very emotional reads. Set in her Bridgerton world, this is the first in a new series featuring the unfortunate young women made infamous by the Smythe-Smith Musicales referred to in the earlier books. Marcus and Honoria have known one another since they were young as Marcus is her brother's best friend and Marcus spent much time with Honoria's family. While it's not quite a "friends to lovers" story, it is a story of two people who begin to see one another in a new light. Thoroughly enjoyable for fans of Quinn's work, although not my favorite.

4. A Marriage of Inconvenience by Susanna Fraser. This is the second book by Fraser that I have read and I liked it as well as her first one. While published second, it takes place before the events in The Sergeant's Lady. Anna, a secondary character here, becomes the heroine later. Meanwhile, James and Lucy meet at a house party meant to celebrate a wedding. Lucy is secretly betrothed to Sebastian. Soon, however, Sebastian turns his eye toward James' sister Anna and Lucy finds herself attracted to James. When found in a compromising position, James and Lucy are forced to wed. James and Lucy must learn to make their marriage work amid a number of secrets which come to light. The whole story comes together very well; I like the way the characters are written. I hope to go back and re-read The Sergeant's Lady sooner rather than later.

3. Pride and Pleasure by Sylvia Day. I really enjoyed this story of Eliza, an heiress who has been suffering a series of "accidents" and Jasper, the thief-taker she hires to protect her from whoever wishes her harm. Eliza's a rather self-sufficient woman with no particular desire to marry. Someone wants to force her hand and she needs to find out who. Jasper is attracted to Eliza from the start and needs not only to protect her, but to discover the source of her troubles. Things become more urgent when Eliza's troubles are linked to issues from Jasper's past. There's a mystery here, but it doesn't overshadow the developing relationship between Jasper and Eliza.

2. A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran. I really loved this book and it was almost #1 for the month. Nell Whitby is a desperate young woman living in the slums who breaks into the home of the Earl of Rushden seeking revenge for wrongs done to her mother. It turns out that she meets the new Earl, Simon, who becomes the hero of the book. He recognizes that Nell is actually the long-lost Lady Cornelia. Nell is worth a fortune and Simon needs a fortune. His motives are less than altruistic when he brings her into his home to prove her identity and restore her to the position she should have had. And in some ways like the Pygmalian story, Simon falls in love with Nell as he helps with the make-over. This Victorian-set novel is enhanced by its look at class differences and the precarious position of working women. Nell is a fascinating heroine and I appreciated that she didn't change too much by becoming Lady Cornelia.

1. Never a Gentleman by Eileen Dreyer. I am fully aware that a lot of people did not like this book. The heroine Grace has put her own needs second to everyone her entire life. And when circumstances force her to marry just when she thinks she's achieved some independence, it seems like it would be the last straw and a wall-banger instead of a moving book. I think this is just one of those times when this book connected with this reader. I loved Grace and felt her pain and disappointment. I loved Diccan and the way he slowly (oh so slowly) came to appreciate just who Grace was and all the things she'd been hiding. I loved the writing and the way Dreyer peels back the layers. Grace is by no means a 21st century heroine. But -- for me -- she works as a 19th century heroine. Your mileage may vary.