Friday, February 7, 2014

What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

Molly Hallberg is a thirty-nine-year-old divorced writer living in New York City who wants her own column, a Wikipedia entry, and to never end up in her family’s Long Island upholstery business. For the past four years Molly’s been on staff for an online magazine, covering all the wacky assignments. She’s snuck vibrators through security scanners, speed-dated undercover, danced with Rockettes, and posed nude for a Soho art studio.

Fearless in everything except love, Molly is now dating a forty-four-year-old chiropractor. He’s comfortable, but safe. When Molly is assigned to write a piece about New York City romance "in the style of Nora Ephron," she flunks out big-time. She can’t recognize romance. And she can’t recognize the one man who can go one-on-one with her, the one man who gets her. But with wit, charm, whip-smart humor, and Nora Ephron’s romantic comedies, Molly learns to open her heart and suppress her cynicism

An engaging look at one woman's quest to find love (or at least a good story about love), this book is a lovely homage to all that is great about Nora Ephron. Molly is a sympathetic heroine who has settled into a comfortable relationship with Russell after a painful divorce. As she works to gain her own column, she takes on a series of bizarre assignments to impress her boss; though she succeeds at skydiving, she fails at writing about love until she meets successful novelist Cameron.

This book is definitely an enjoyable read, and it was great to see Molly's growing awareness that there is something missing in her romantic life. The dialogue is snappy and Molly's narrative tone and pointed jokes are amusing. My only quibble is that it reads like a zippy Sex in the City column- a tone I find works better in short chunks than as the structure of a novel. Regardless, an enjoyable book to curl up with while watching the snow swirl outside.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Trouble with Honor by Julia London

Desperate times call for daring measures as Honor Cabot, the eldest stepdaughter of the wealthy Earl of Beckington, awaits her family's ruin. Upon the earl's death she and her sisters stand to lose the luxury of their grand home—and their place on the pedestal of society—to their stepbrother and his social-climbing fiancée. Forced to act quickly, Honor makes a devil's bargain with the only rogue in London who can seduce her stepbrother's fiancée out of the Cabots' lives for good.

An illegitimate son of a duke, George Easton was born of scandal and grows his fortune through dangerous risks. But now he and Honor are dabbling in a perilous dance of seduction that puts her reputation and his jaded heart on the line. And as unexpected desire threatens to change the rules of their secret game, the stakes may become too high even for a notorious gambler and a determined, free-spirited debutante to handle.

This series debut about four sisters introduces a lovely set of characters focused solely on romantic pursuits- no supernatural or suspense subplots here. I enjoyed this well-written romance primarily because I enjoyed the hero and heroine. Honor is nowhere near as flighty as she seems in the beginning, and I feel her desperation as she tries to find a way to protect her mother and sisters from dramatic life changes. George is a complicated character- the unacknowledged illegitimate son of a duke, he is for all intents and purposes a self-made man battling to maintain the fortune he earned through hard work. I also enjoyed the various side characters who become fleshed out through the story- though I found Augustine's attempts to exert control rather surprising, Monica is slowly revealed to be a complex and goodhearted person.

There were some unanswered questions that led me to a four star rating rather than a five: who are the young bucks who take Honor and her friends to that gaming den? What happens to those young men and women- Honor seems to have no friends or interactions other than with her family. Given the Earl's immense wealth, why hasn't he made financial provisions for his wife and step-daughters? Despite these niggling questions, I enjoyed this series debut, and am looking forward to reading more about the Cabot daughters in the future.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Newcomer by Robyn Carr

Single dad and Thunder Point's deputy sheriff "Mac" McCain has worked hard to keep his town safe and his daughter happy. Now he's found his own happiness with Gina James. The longtime friends have always shared the challenges and rewards of raising their adolescent daughters. With an unexpected romance growing between them, they're feeling like teenagers themselves—suddenly they can't get enough of one another.And just when things are really taking off, their lives are suddenly thrown into chaos. When Mac's long-lost ex-wife shows up in town, drama takes on a whole new meaning. Mac and Gina know they're meant to be together, but can their newfound love withstand the pressure?

This is an unusual romance in that it doesn't really focus all that much on the hero and heroine; instead, the focus is on the town in which they live. For those who have read The Wanderer, this book carries on the story of Sarah and Coop in interesting and unexpected ways. It also highlights the difficulties of two single parents trying to find romance amid a messy situation. I was taken aback by the chances to Downy's character given that he was such a good guy in the last book, and I also thought that the story of Mac's ex-wife was a little unresolved- hence the four stars rather than five. That said, an excellent addition to the Thunder Point canon, one that has whetted by appetite for the next installment.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angel Brkic

A woman must leave her island home to search for her missing sister-and confront the haunted history of her family.

Magdalena does not panic when she learns that her younger sister has disappeared. A free-spirit, Jadranka has always been prone to mysterious absences. But when weeks pass with no word, Magdalena leaves the isolated Croatian island where their family has always lived and sets off to New York to find her sister. Her search begins to unspool the dark history of their family, reaching back three generations to a country torn by war.

This moving story of a family torn apart by politics, war, and secrets is a wonderful read from start to finish. Though there are parts along the way where is it hard to sympathize with any of the characters, everything comes together to create a clear and realistic picture of a complicated situation. It helps to know a little about the history of the region to set the various backstories in the right time frame; anyone who has been to the region will immediately appreciate the author's ability to paint a picture of life on the Croatian coast. This story is difficult in places, but ultimately redemptive. Highly recommended!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Searching for Someday by Jennifer Probst

In charming Verily, New York, Kate Seymour has a smashing success with Kinnections, the matchmaking service she owns with her two best girlfriends. But Kate’s more than a savvy businesswoman: She’s gifted with a secret power, a jolting touch that signals when love’s magic is at work. It rocked her when she picked up a strange volume of love spells in the town’s used bookstore . . . and it zapped her again when she encountered Slade Montgomery, the hot-tempered— and hot-bodied—divorce lawyer who storms into Kinnections demanding proof that playing Cupid won’t destroy his vulnerable sister, Kate’s newest client. The only way to convince this cynic that she’s no fraud, and that love is no mirage, is for Kate to meet his audacious challenge: find him his dream woman. Can Kate keep their relationship strictly business when her electrifying attraction nearly knocked her off her feet? Or has the matchmaker finally met her match?

Despite an interesting plot and some great secondary characters, this book was a ho-hum read for me. The supernatural element was well-handled with just hints here and there, but nothing overwhelming. That said, I found Kate's fears and romantic past a bit hard to swallow. Nevertheless, it was the hero that really turned me off this book- I cannot imagine what possessed anyone to fall for this brash, arrogant, and obnoxious personality. He was a jerk from the start, and frankly didn't improve as the story progressed. He behaved like a horny teenager which I do not find attractive in an adult, and I wanted nothing more than for Kate to kick him to the curb. The Kate's mother and dog and business partners were the best characters in this book and are the only reason I'm giving it three stars.