booklogy, early August
Tessa Dare, Any Duchess Will Do. Starts with an annoying trope: duke wants to stop his mother’s relentless matchmaking and gets her to agree to train a woman into a duchess, then picks the least suitable woman available. Less annoying than usual because everyone knows that’s what’s going on, including the duchess. Enjoyable, not life-changing.
Mariah Stewart, The Long Way Home. Because Lane Robins read some of hers and didn’t hate them, and this looked sort of cozy and small-town and remind me, next time, that this is not a genre that works for me.
The book has no tension whatsoever and a great deal of of-course going on. Everything is easy, right down to the full set of Fiestaware, the handmade and valuable duck decoys, the silver still in the cabinets, and the numerous paintings of an artist just discovered to be incredibly important (yet not known in the slightest) who is also the heroine’s great-great?-grandmother and selling those will pay for everything and no. And the surprise half-sibling who will otherwise go into foster care, but she’s not anything but perfect and sweet and seriously, there was only a bit more effort put into her than into the dog. The dog at least made sense.
Not a genre that works for me. Or at least, not one that I’ve found the books that work for me in.
Book I Didn’t Really Read: Sorry, I grab by author and didn’t realize you were a reread. In my defense, I am in fact due for a new book by that author.
Mur Lafferty, The Shambling Guide to New York City. I enjoyed this except for the parts I really, really didn’t, which included the appalling lack of boundaries in Zoe’s boss and coworkers-- no, really, a lot of the shit she’s expected to put up with is not okay and suggesting it’s her own fault because oh, she knew her boss was a vampire when she signed up, no. Not okay.
Elizabeth Hoyt, Lord of Darkness. Another Historical Spiderman book, which makes me sad. I like the Maiden Lane series because they are connected to non-nobles rather than being All Rich People All the Time, but they’re at least 75% Rich People All the Time. And they shouldn’t be! Give me more poor people doing the best they can with limited resources! Then I’ll buy that Spiderman is the most logical option for fixing things.
Angela and I did call the sequelbait, though, before it was laid on ridiculously thick. And for a series with this much sequelbait (women: 3, men: 3, just counting right now, without even going into the many many siblings and loyal friends) that is an accomplishment.
Margo Lanagan, The Brides of Rollrock Island. For those who don’t know Lanagan’s work, she always goes for the dark and abusive. Really. This isn’t as immediately brutal as Tender Morsels (really, what could be?) but the duration of the abuse, the generations of stripping away agency and calling it love, the prison built of vengeance that prevents any compassion from reaching its anchorite.... It’s not the same horror, but it is haunting in a non-beautiful way, haunting like a possession and not a sweet ghost. Lanagan creates beautifully crushing dysfunctional systems.
It’s dark like the end of Tender Morsels and not like the beginning. That’s the best comparison I can make.
Nicole Peeler, Tempest Rising. What I liked about the book: when the vampire says he can’t transmit STDs or cause pregnancy unintentionally, the protag calls bullshit and requires him to use a condom until she gets confirmation from an uninterested party that he’s telling the truth.
That is what I liked about this book.
Sarah Zettel, Golden Girl. This trilogy has never pretended to be anything but a trilogy, which I think is a good thing-- I grumble at both surprise trilogies and standalones made into trilogies with broken structures. But I do wish it were a bit better wrapped up, or a bit more connected to the other books. I wanted Spoiler to go along with the Spoiler plan partly because that would be satisfying and partly because then there’s another character and another source of tension.
There’s also a tendency in some YA for the characters to make really stupid decisions, or at least decisions based on very bad logic. It’s often a second-book problem where the protag has to realize that she’s been too impulsive and actions have consequences. I don’t like it much, especially in this case, where the decisions make little sense even in context.
Sabrina Jeffries, What the Duke Desires. I am very good at figuring out why heroes are not dying of degenerative neurological conditions. Well, n=2 levels of calling it. Enjoyable, doesn’t wrap everything up perfectly easily, and not annoying.
Is that faint praise? It’s not meant to be. Jeffries is, as long-time readers may have noticed, an instagrab for me. Her writing is reliably good and very seldom infuriating. She isn’t doing Milan sorts of holy-shit subversion, but I recommend her to people who want to have a baseline for the historical romance genre.
Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick, Courtney Milan, The Heart of Christmas. A reread of Christmas novellas because I don’t have the latest Milan right now. The Milan is still great-- badass accountant for the win-- and I realized that all the Balogh Christmas novellas I have read (and I have read a few) are overtly Christmas. The Milan and especially the Cornick could be moved to just about any time of year, but Balogh does not deal in Generic Wintry Day, Santa, or even Time With Family Time. Balogh writes about the birth of a child in Bethlehem and the hope and love he brings to the world. Sometimes with another child’s birth tied in.
Tamora Pierce, Magic Steps, Street Magic. It would appear I’m also rereading the Circle Opens quartet. More thoughts on this later, when I’ve finished them all.