Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: What You Wish For

What You Wish For

What You Wish For by Katherine Center
My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

Thank you to Goodreads.com and St. Martin’s Press for this ARC of Katherine Center’s What You Wish For. Sometimes it is difficult to properly rate these uncorrected proof copies because even disregarding the obvious typos, you never know exactly how much more of the writing will be cleaned up. Parts of the story needed tightening up and there were times when it was somewhat repetitive. So, I give it 4 stars for writing, and 4.5 stars for story, and 5 stars characters, and setting.

And based entirely on the story and characters, I have to say that I absolutely adored this book. The cast of lovable characters is wonderfully drawn, especially the main character, Sam, a small-town school librarian who after a life of pain and upheaval seems to have found a home at a progressive coastal school. When a blast from her past finds his way to Galveston and her school, Sam is afraid it will all fall apart and she’ll lose the only home she’s ever known. But it is so much worse than she imagined.

Though Sam can be, at times, a little slow on the uptake about others and herself, she has a delightful sense of humor, real strength, and a few thoroughly human flaws. I identified with her in a way that I’ve done with few other characters. I really don’t know if I’ve ever met a character who spoke (or even thought) so exactly what I feel inside.

As for the story, it is a sweet but not unrealistic love story – romantic love as well as love for friends who are more like family, and learning to love yourself. The setting of Galveston, TX is lovingly described so that I felt like I was there with the characters. What You Wish For has beautiful, uplifting messages about creating your own joy and learning from your past but not letting it define you.

For me, reading What You Wish For was a lot about the characters and the messages their story conveyed.  There have been a few books that have struck a chord with me like this book.  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane by Kelly Harms, Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen, The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller, and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman are among my recent reads that have touched me as deeply as What You Wish For, particularly through the characters.  They’ve also all earned a 5-star rating from me proving, I think, how important well-written, relatable characters are for good fiction.

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Adventure, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Romance

Review: Beauvallet

BeauvalletBeauvallet by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 2.5of 5 stars

I’ve had Georgette Heyer’s books on my to-read list since reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Ain’t She Sweet? in which one of the heroine’s favorite authors is Heyer.  I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed, however, by Beauvallet. The story of an English pirate during the reign of Elizabeth I who falls in love with a Spanish noblewoman whom he returns to Spain after attacking the ship she’d been on with the promise that he would return for her to make her his bride is pure escapist literature.  But I hope that is not one of Heyer’s best.

The romance left much to be desired, and the action sequences – something you’d expect plenty of in a novel about pirates – were quick and not all that thrilling. As for the characters, Nicholas Beauvallet is fun like an Errol Flynn (or rather, given that Beauvallet was originally published in 1929, Douglas Fairbanks) character, though not too swoon-worthy, Dominica is intelligent, strong-willed (reminiscent of Elizabeth Swann from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series but with less daring-do), and Joshua, well, I can’t decide whether he is the heart of the narrative or simply annoying. As for the rest of the cast, they are, with the exception of Dona Beatrice, totally unremarkable.

Georgette Heyer is know for having basically created the Regency Romance genre but this novel is set in the Elizabethan era.  If you are interested in more romantic fiction set in that era, I would turn to Philippa Gregory and her series of novels about the royal lives of the Plantagenet and Tudor houses.

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Chick-Lit, For the Love of Books, Reviews, Romance

Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

In public Nina was a quiet, reserved person; in private she was an all-singing, all-dancing cavalcade of light and motion.

We are introduced to the heroine of Abbi Waxman’s latest novel in the bookstore where she works as a customer attempts to return a certain literary masterpiece after reading it, claiming that it was boring. Thus we are introduced to Nina Hill and the general feel of this novel. That literary classic was Pride and Prejudice and there is something about The Bookish Life of Nina Hill that feels like reading a Jane Austen work.
Like an Austen novel, this one centers around a lovable, complex heroine that many readers will recognize very well (I know that I did, sometimes thinking that Waxman somehow has seen inside my head) and will probably want to be friends with. Nina’s expanding world is filled with delightful characters with personalities that pop of the pages, making the reader feel even more connected with Nina herself as she struggles to take it all in. Those familiar with Waxman’s work will recognize a few of those characters from her previous novels, The Garden of Small Beginnings and Other People’s Houses as well as her trademark irreverent wit. Also like Miss Austen’s work, the romance storyline, while wonderful, is just icing on an already delicious cake.
Like Nina’s life, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is not a fast-paced, thrill a minute story. This is a comfortable read with plenty of laugh-out-loud humor and insightful wisdom. Being a story about a book lover who works in a bookstore there are also a few book recommendations to be found in its pages, which is always a nice bonus.

There are a lot of books out there about book lovers like Nina and you and me.  Try They Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms, How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry, or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell if what you’re looking for is a character with which you can identify.  Also, I don’t think I can state enough how much I love Abbi Waxman’s books so, if you haven’t already, check them out The Garden of Small Beginnings and Other People’s Houses.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: Well Met

Well MetWell Met by Jen DeLuca

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to Goodreads and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC of Jen DeLuca’s first (of what will hopefully be many!!) novel, Well Met. I loved this rom/com set around a small-town Renaissance Faire from the word go. Emily is a delightful heroine with an intelligent sense of humor and a wounded heart that just makes you recognize her and want to root for her. But it is Simon with his deep emotional scars and lost sense of self that combined with his swaggering, swashbuckling alter-ego makes for a not only swoon-worthy but relatable hero.
Emily and Simon’s early encounters – even before the start of the faire – crackle like a cross between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and Benedick and Beatrice. And if their dialogue crackles, then their love scenes absolutely sizzle.
Nerd that I am, though, I believe that it is all made better by the Ren Faire setting and the many allusions to Shakespeare. I only wish there had been more scenes from the fair in the last chapters because I enjoyed Emma and Captain Ian’s banter so much.

I’m a sucker for a well-written romantic comedy like Well Met with intelligent, relatable characters.  If you are too, I recommend the novels of Kelly Harms – I particularly enjoyed The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane – and Louise Miller whose The Late Bloomers’ Club was one of my favorite reads from last year.  If you enjoy the modern-day meets historical setting of the Renaissance Faire, I loved Shannon Hale’s Austenland.

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Reviews, Romance

Review: Passion on Park Avenue

Passion on Park Avenue (Central Park Pact, #1)Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish that more romance writers would realize that less is more. So often I’ll enjoy reading a romance only to become annoyed when it becomes a broken record of all the petty roadblocks the central characters have put between themselves making me want to go all Cher in Moonstruck and yell “Snap out of it!”.  Sometimes I even want to slap them. While that did happen to an extent in Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue, Ms. Layne kept her novel of a former housekeeper’s daughter made good and the boy, now very much a man, who tormented her and helped to bring on her mother’s downward spiral short and sweet. Yet, she was able to add a little weight to what could’ve been a pretty typical romance novel.
I’ve read novels where the author attempted to add some meat to a familiar story but it often felt like it was tacked on – a failed attempt to stand out from the pack. In Passion on Park Avenue however, Walter’s Alzheimer’s not only felt authentic but was actually necessary to Naomi’s journey of forgiveness and healing. Naomi is a great character – strong, and empowering, yet vulnerable and haunted, as we all are, by our past – and Oliver is totally swoon-worthy, which any romance reader knows is very important. Along with the romance, which was sweet with just a little steam, there was also a fun friendship between three unlikely women.   Thank you to Goodreads.com for the opportunity to read this ARC.  I cannot wait to read the next to books in the Central Park Pact series.

There are a lot of romance novels out there.  Among my favorite authors are Susan Elizabeth Phillips (her Ain’t She Sweet is one of my absolute favorites) and Kristan Higgins.  If you’re looking for something short and light, you can’t get much lighter than Janet Evanovich’s early romance novels such as Manhunt and Suzanne Baltsar’s Trouble Brewing features a strong, independent businesswoman like Naomi from Passion on Park Avenue

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