Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TBR Day. Doukakis's Apprentice / Sarah Morgan. 2011

This month's TBR theme is something steamy. You can usually rely on an HP to provide the heat, so I decided to finally read this RITA winner by Sarah Morgan. This is one of several books that caught my eye when the RITA nominations were announced last spring because I remembered reading some positive reviews of it. I found this one here at Dear Author and another at The Good, the Bad, and the Unread.

Polly Prince may be "just" an assistant in her father's marketing firm, but in truth she's the inspiration behind their successful campaigns, and the glue holding the foundering company together. Damon Doukakis is a self-made, successful businessman with an ax to grind against both Polly and her father. As the book opens, Damon has purchased the smaller company and Polly is desperate to do what she can to save everyone's jobs. The board of directors has bled the company dry, while taking credit for any success Polly and her team have had. Damon already has a low opinion of Polly and the company, but he hears enough to realize that maybe he should give Polly a chance to prove herself.

This is a wonderful character-driven story that does what the best HP books often do: tell a story of two opposite people who are instantly attracted to one another, but are also divided by some pretty major differences or pre-conceived ideas. Polly is unconventional in her style while Damon is rigid and controlled. Perhaps the best part of this book is that, unlike some HP heroines, Polly isn't afraid to stand up for herself and her people from the get-go. The interactions between Polly and Damon are so well done, and a couple are even a little surprising. There's great chemistry here that leaps off the page and it was great fun to watch both of them, but especially Damon, grow and change because of their relationship.

I haven't read many of the other 2011 books in this RITA category, but I have no complaint that Morgan took home the statue. This was a great read, and a wonderful example of the Harlequin Presents category.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How I spent my summer non-vacation

Since school let out for both my husband and son a little over 9 weeks ago, I was home alone for 5 of those weeks. I had to work while they were busy being camp counselors or driving out west for our vacation (I flew out on July 4th and we all drove back home together, after our tour of Oregon). When I wasn't at work I was busy working on a graduation present for the youngest son of a very good friend of mine. She sent me a box of her son's favorite t-shirts from middle and high school and I turned them into this:
His high school colors are orange and black, so those were the colors I used for the background. I began cutting apart the t-shirts in very late June, about a week before I left home. In that week I fused the stabilizer onto the back and cut the blocks to size, deciding on a final layout. I didn't do any sewing until after our return on July 21. This morning I mailed it off to him. It took a total of 3 weeks (just 21 days!) to sew the top together, quilt it, and bind it. It certainly helped to have my family gone 12 of those days.

This is only my second t-shirt quilt (the first was done for last year's Brenda Novak auction) and now I'm feeling extremely comfortable with the process. I don't do anything fancy. A simple layout against a solid background so that the shirts get all of the attention. The quilting is a medium-scale curvy meander across the whole surface.
I have another box of t-shirts from another friend ready for me to start cutting. But this time I'm getting paid for my time and materials. I'm not exactly ready to turn this into a business, but doing one or two of these a year would be perfect for subsidizing my fabric habit.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Phyl's 5 Phaves from June

Hello to you, my poor neglected blog readers. I keep thinking of lots of things I'd like to write about, only it seems I'm caught up doing other things instead. So much going on: It's been a hot, hot summer. We enjoyed a delightfully cool vacation in the Pacific Northwest that included another trip to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. I've been sewing like a mad woman and so I'm almost finished with a t-shirt quilt. It will be a gift for my godson who heads off to college in little more than a week. I'm also working on what (I think) will be a very cool baby quilt. And Olympics! I love to watch Olympics.

I'm reading. But not quite as much as usual. My last two monthly reading lists have been a bit shorter and here it is the 12th of August and I've finished just 3 books. That's a very low total for me. At any rate, here's what ended up being the top of the heap for June:

5. Overseas by Beatriz Williams. Based on comments I saw around the web, people were fairly split on whether they liked this book or not. Time travel books are hard to do well-- the premise is often implausible. But when all was said and done, I thought it was a winner. Instead of medieval or Regency time travel, this book unites a British soldier from WWI and an American stockbroker from the present day. Overseas is Williams' first book and I think it shows. The book is a little too long and the resolution of the how of the time travel was too pat and easy. Still, I thought Julian and Kate were well-developed characters; I liked them both. Also, I especially appreciated the way the story was crafted-- the book goes back and forth between 1916 and the present day as the author gradually brings both Julian and Kate together permanently in the 21st century. If you want to try something a little different and you like time travel, this might be worth checking out.

4. Barefoot in the Sand by Roxanne St. Clair. I'd read a few of St. Clair's romantic suspense books and, having liked those, was very interested in reading a straight contemporary from her. This was a well-rounded book with great supporting characters. Yes, they're sequel bait, but the relationship that heroine Lacey has with her 3 best friends is an integral part of the story. Lacey is a single mother with a teen-aged daughter, living on a small Florida island. Their home has just been leveled by a hurricane. Lacey has a big dream though, to replace her old home with a brand new bed and breakfast and she has a special architect in mind to design it. Clay, the architect who shows up, isn't exactly who she expected. There are also some questions about his background and qualifications. But he understands what Lacey wants and he designs something very special. As Lacey gets to know Clay, their relationship deepens. They also have to work against some of the island leaders who have no interest in seeing Lacey build her business. St. Clair wrote some fun, quirky characters in this book, and I'm now really looking forward to the rest of the series.

3. Imperial Scandal by Teresa Grant. Ever since I read Heyer's An Infamous Army, I have enjoyed reading more books using the Battle of Waterloo as a backdrop. Grant's books are primarily mysteries, featuring the deepening relationship between Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch. Malcolm is a diplomat and is often called upon to investigate things quietly behind the scenes. He's assisted by his wife. Even though they've been married for a while and have a young son, there are still secrets between them. I'm not a huge fan of mysteries, so I was less interested in the murder than I was in the events surrounding Malcolm and Suzanne as the battle draws closer. I also like the way Grant slowly peels back more and more to let us get to know the Rannochs. This is an enjoyable ongoing series and I look forward to each new entry.

2. No One Left to Tell by Karen Rose. I think I have yet to read one of Rose's books that I haven't loved. Her romantic suspense books are so tightly plotted and filled with the most deliciously evil villains. Once I start one of her books I can barely put it down. In her latest book, heroine Paige Holden is a PI making a new life for herself in a new town. She gets caught up in a case when a client is shot and killed right in front of her. Grayson Smith is a state's attorney who had put that client's husband behind bars for a murder he hadn't committed. When Paige shares what she has learned with Grayson, it puts them together in a search for justice. And as they get closer to the truth, they discover a string of covered-up murders. Paige and Grayson have personal trust issues and vulnerabilities that have to be overcome for their relationship to grow. Rose manages to blend together their romance and the suspense in a believable way, despite the fact that the overall timeline is relatively short. I'm just a huge, huge fan.

1. Marriage of Mercy by Carla Kelly. I read this back in early June and I've been meaning to read it again. This is another gem by Kelly, although the title has absolutely nothing to do with the book. Marriage of Mercy is actually about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events. Grace is a woman born to the gentry, but now destitute and working for the local baker. She learns to make the best of it, and even befriends an old, lonely man. Upon his death, he requests via his will that she go to Dartmoor Prison and rescue his illegitimate son, an American sailor who had been captured during what we now call the War of 1812. Just as Grace arrives, the man she'd come to rescue dies, so she and the other men in the cell arrange for her to quietly substitute another sailor. Rob is paroled into her care, with very specific restrictions. Within a few pages we get a full picture of both Grace and Rob--what they've been through and what they're up against. Rob is torn between his need to escape and his unwillingness to get Grace in trouble if he were to do so. This character-driven romance is so nicely done with a very atypical Regency setting.