Reviews, Romance

Review: The Distance

The DistanceThe Distance by Zoe Folbigg

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read Zoe Folbigg’s The Distance. The story of two people on opposite ends of the world who meet in a chat room and slowly fall in love is a sweet, wise exploration of how miles and life can come between people even in today’s shrinking technological world. At times the story moves slowly for its relatively short length and the flashbacks over the five years from their first meeting to the end of the story can get confusing. I kept having to look back up at the chapter title to understand the stage of their relationship was being related. Also, I’m not quite sure if the character of Kate and her story was really necessary but she did add an extra twist toward the end. I especially enjoyed learning a bit about the cultures of Hector’s Mexico and Cecilie’s arctic Norway.

Romantic fiction is full of characters getting in their own way of happiness but if you like the sweet tenderness mixed with the harsh realities of life found in The Distance, you might also enjoy Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop or Louise Miller’s The Late Bloomer’s Club.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: The Accidental Beauty Queen

The Accidental Beauty QueenThe Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read Teri Wilson’s new novel, The Accidental Beauty Queen. This story of bookish Charlotte who gets roped into filling in for her beauty queen twin, Ginny, when an allergic reaction sidelines her last chance at the crown that their mother won is everything most people expect from a rom/com (in fact Miss Congeniality is mention many, many times). It is light and somewhat predictable yet sweet and, at times, wise. Many of the things Charlotte expects to go wrong do but she hadn’t predicted connection with the other pageant girls or falling in love with one of the judges – a Darcy-quoting good guy.
The simple story only works because it is short yet the writing still tended toward repetition and some over-explanation. The biggest flaw for me was the ending which was rushed an tacked on, reading more like an epilogue than a conclusion. Still, it was a fun, light read.

Since Chick-Lit is one of my favorite genres, I could recommend any number of reads like The Accidental Beauty Queen, but if you’re looking for a really great romantic comedy, I recommend the books of Kristan Higgins.

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Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Late Bloomers’ Club

The Late Bloomers' ClubThe Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

It has been some months since I’ve read a novel that spoke to me as deeply as this one. As in her first novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, Louise Miller makes the small town Vermont setting come alive with her descriptive style.
The Late Bloomers’ Club isn’t all walks through ancient orchards or morning rushes at the Miss Guthrie Diner. It is a story about family, sacrifice, coming to terms with the past, and allowing yourself to see the beauty around you even when you feel like you’re stuck in a rut from which you’ll never emerge. It also has a sweet romance and some lovable, complex characters. And a few familiar faces from the earlier novel.  If I had one complaint, it would be that the happy and hopeful ending was a bit rushed. I very much enjoyed returning to Guthrie and finding a kindred spirit in Nora.

If you enjoy The Late Bloomers’ Club, definitely read Miller’s other novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, but I would also recommend one of my favorite reads from last year, The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

The City Baker's Guide to Country LivingThe City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a good foodie novel and Louise Miller’s The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is the sort of foodie novel that warms your heart like a wood fire in a little cottage – or an oven in a cozy kitchen. Olivia is a world-class baker whose life is currently a recipe for disaster. After a catastrophe at her job in Boston, she runs away to the open arms of her friend in the small rural Vermont town of Guthrie. When a job opportunity arises at the local B&B, Olivia feels like she has no other choice than to take it no matter how unwelcome the inn’s stern owner, Margaret, makes her feel.
It isn’t long before Vermont’s magic begins to work on Olivia’s heart, bringing back tender memories of her father. Her heart is also warmed by a connection with Martin, the son of Margaret’s best friend, and his family who welcomes her with open arms giving her the feeling of a family she never knew she was missing.
When it looks like her new found family will not welcome her as she’d imagined, Olivia does what she always does. She runs away. Once again she turns to baking, and it is baking and friendships that help her to find her way again.
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is a romance and Martin was pretty swoon-worthy, but it is Olivia’s journey of healing and the wonderful female friendships that carry this story. And the details that thrill the senses from the mouth-watering descriptions of Olivia’s bakes to the crispiness of the autumn leaves and the smell of the woodsmoke. Vermont is a character in this novel, leaving me to wish I’d read it in winter rather than the height of summer.

If you, like me, enjoy a good foodie novel with a touch of romance, please read Ruth Reichl’s only foray (so far?) into fiction, Delicious!which not only has food and romance but some history and lots of wonderful characters.

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Mystery, Reviews, Romance

Review: Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in Austenland (Austenland, #2)Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The original Austenland novel was a light, fun romance – my fantasy put down to paper. With Midnight in Austenland, Hale attempted to add a bit more weight with a genuine murder mystery set in this make-believe world. At times it worked well as an homage not just to the novels of Jane Austen – particularly Northanger Abbey – but also to the mysteries of Agatha Christie, of which Charlotte is so fond. Other times Charlotte’s wishy-washy nature and repetitious inner dialogue. By the time I got halfway through, every time I saw the words “Inner Thoughts”, I wanted to scream. These little aggravations and the mind-boggling explanation of the motive for murder took away from the romance, which is the real reason I read these books.

If you enjoy Jane Austen fanfiction type novels, I recommend reading Austenland, which is light and sometimes silly but so much fun to read.  If it’s the gothic mystery/romance you love, read Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which I love for its sense of humor

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