Wednesday, September 16, 2015

TBR Day. Home by Morning / Alexis Harrington. 2011


It's historical month for the TBR Challenge and I want to know why we aren't talking about the novels of Alexis Harrington more often.

Several years ago I read her Harper's Bride, a book set during the Yukon Gold Rush. (The Yukon Gold Rush, people!) And when I finished that book I immediately bought Home by Morning. I can't believe I waited four years to read it.

Home by Morning is set during September and October of 1918 in Oregon, where horses are still more common than automobiles, the telephone only works during the day when the operator is on duty, and the small town of Powell Springs is more rural than not. Doctor Jessica Layton is passing through her home town on her way from New York to a new job in Seattle. Her sister Amy, Jessica's only remaining family, still lives there and Jessica wants to spend a few days with Amy before moving on. The same day that Jessica arrives, the great flu pandemic of 1918 also arrives in Powell Springs. Powell Springs is temporarily without a doctor of its own and Jessica soon finds herself taking care of many of the flu victims.

Meanwhile, Cole Braddock, the man she once loved, is working hard on his ranch while his brother is in France with the Army. Jessica and Cole had a bitter falling out and now Jessica discovers that Cole is on the verge of proposing to Amy. All Jessica wants to do is move on, but the epidemic keeps her in Powell Springs. As Jessica deals with the tragic effects of the flu and the unwanted attention of the town's minister, she also has to deal with those who don't want to trust a female doctor. Being around Cole resurrects old feelings, but she doesn't want to stand in the way of her sister who basks under Cole's attention. Eventually Cole and Jessica come to terms with what separated them, but they still need to find a way to move forward.

Harrington does a wonderful job of giving you a sense of what it must have been like during those awful fall days of 1918. We learn that Riley, Cole's brother, is suffering in the trenches of France while his wife is home, filled with worry. That Wikipedia article about the flu pandemic (link above) mentions that the American press minimized the extent of the flu to keep morale high. As a result, Jessica's ignorance about what she was facing rings very true. The minister who sets his sights on Jessica also heads up the local branch of the American Protective League. Reading that made me think that American citizens during WWI faced serious privacy issues. Threats to privacy are not new, just the methods are.

Clearly, a book set during a lethal epidemic and a gruesome war (well, all wars are gruesome, but the stories of the trenches in France are particularly awful) is not going to be lighthearted. Parts are rather heartbreaking. So be forewarned that this is heavier than many romances.

Finally, while I certainly liked this book, I wish the romance had been resolved a little better. I won't give away spoilers. I do believe in the HEA here, but it comes about abruptly and I felt it needed one more conversation between Cole and Jessica. Still, I highly recommend this book, especially if you want to read a historical that's non-European and non-19th century.

Harrington has written two more books about Powell Springs and there are some Montana-set books that I'm very interested in. The Bridal Vail looks interesting. I guess I'll be over here spending some money.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Recap

I've been largely absent from social media of late. You'd think that would mean I got more reading done, but, in fact, I've been preoccupied by other issues the last couple of months. It's not bad stuff either--just job changes and family changes. My parents recently sold their house and moved into a retirement community, for example. There was also a lovely trip to Brooklyn for a family wedding.

All that aside, I did manage to carve out some time to enjoy several good books. Here are a few worth mentioning.

Ghost Killer by Robin D. Owens is the third book in her trilogy about a woman who reluctantly discovers that she is tasked with the job of helping ghosts move on to the next life. I wrote about the first book, Ghost Seer, last year. The three books take place over a short time span, just under a month. Owens draws on the history of Colorado during the latter half of the 19th century because the ghosts who have to move on are from that time period. The various locations are lovingly described and as I read this one, I wanted nothing more than to take a vacation out there near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. If you'd like a paranormal that's a touch different, I recommend this series. There's an excellent romance that develops through the books. Owens does not always keep her website up to date, but an Amazon search revealed that there is at least one more Ghost Seer book coming in 2016, so I'm psyched for that.

A couple of years ago I read Dani Atkins' debut Fractured. (I wrote about it here.) I read a self-pubbed version; it was eventually commercially published in the US under the title Then and Always. I really liked that book and kept an eye out for her next book, The Story of Us, which was finally published here in the US in the late spring. I also liked this book very much, but it is not a typical romance. Emma is on the verge of marrying her childhood sweetheart when a devastating accident postpones the wedding. In the aftermath of the accident, Emma gets to know the man who rescued her and also learns some things about her fiance, Richard, that has her questioning her choices. In the end, I think I liked Jack and Richard more than I liked Emma. Still, it was a compelling and emotional read that I recommend if you can handle a love triangle.

I've had Suleikha Snyder's Bollywood and the Beast on my Kindle for ages and I finally queued it up. Indian American actress Rocky finds herself in trouble with the media while working on a Bollywood film. To keep her out of the spotlight, she goes to live in the home of her co-star on the outskirts of Delhi. There she meets Ashraf's brother Taj, a recluse and former action hero. Taj was horribly injured--he keeps himself hidden away because of his scars and his long, difficult recovery. Taj resents Rocky's presence in the house and they fight from the beginning. Rocky's ability to stand up to Taj breaks down his defenses and soon they are lovers and in love. While I thought they went from fighting to loving almost too fast, I very much enjoyed this book. It was a great take on Beauty and the Beast. There was also a sweet secondary romance involving Ashraf.

I'll wrap this up by mentioning Lauren Willig's The Lure of the Moonflower. I've enjoyed all of the books in this series, including this one, but I'm glad to see it finally wrap up. It's been a great journey and I'm a fan of the humor Willig brings to her writing. Still, it was time to bring it to a conclusion and I thought Willig ended the series on just the right note. This one takes place in Portugal which got me thinking that I'm way overdue to re-read one of my favorite books of all time, The Winding Stair by Jane Aiken Hodge (originally published in 1968). Seriously, if you are a fan of Regency-era romances and want to read a classic, TWS is a must-read. And hey! There's a Kindle version. Awesome, because I have no idea where my much-loved paper copy is.