Romance novels – some fun, some not so much

Silver LiningsLord and Lady Spy

The other day I wanted a break from a series of heavy novels that I liked and was glad I read, but left me feeling spent.

A romance, I thought, might just be the answer. Understand that I’m not a romance fan, but over the years I’ve found a number of romantic suspense novels that I enjoyed. They were full of witty repartee and sexual tension as the duo sparred and fought to deny and resist their mutual attraction. The books also had strong plots involving killers, or wicked business rivals or… Think Silver Linings by Jayne Ann Krentz or Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen.

So I went in search of a light read and found one I thought would fit the bill. Alas, it was not to be. No repartee, witty or bland, no sparring, with or without swords, no real plot, and worst of all–no fighting of mutual attraction, never mind sexual tension. Let’s just have the two lead characters fall into bed over and over again and call it a romance novel.

Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, The

No I didn’t finish the book and yes, I’m back to my usual reads. This time it’s The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. Based on the unexplained (until recently) blue people of Kentucky and on the Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky, Richardson weaves a captivating tale.

Behind the Book – The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson | BookPage

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The Weight of Ink – Rachel Kadish

The Weight of Ink by [Rachel Kadish]

 

This novel deserves all the allocades it has received and more. Kadish has done a marvelous job of weaving together the story of Ester, scribe to the rabbi, blinded by the torture of the Inquisition (1660s), and Helen, stiriving to unravel Ester’s life as she pours over the documents found hidden in an old house in England (2001)

The story is complex, the characters more so, effectivley ensnaring the reader into their times and lives.

This is not a book you put down easily each evening knowing you can’t get back to it until the next day.

BLURB

“A gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion.”—Toni Morrison

Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history.

When Helen is summoned by a former student to view a cache of newly discovered seventeenth-century Jewish documents, she enlists the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe, the elusive “Aleph.”

Electrifying and ambitious, The Weight of Ink is about women separated by centuries—and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind.

 

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Dinner out in Puerto Vallarta

We find a charming restaurant in downtown Vallarta several blocks off the Malecon. It’s surrounded by a local residential area–old and charming.

As we enter, I’m convinced that this was once a hacienda style home with a central courtyard which is now a dance floor.

Dinner, enhanced by the atmosphere, is delicious.

 

 

 

 

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie – Marie Benedict

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie: A Novel by [Marie Benedict]

 

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie reads like an Agatha Christie mystery.

Mrs. Christie disappeared. We know that she didn’t die for eleven days later she showed up alive and well. She never spoke about the incident and no one ever discovered the truth.

In Benedict’s masterful story, the reader is glued to the page. We learn of Christie’s writing life, of the influence of her mother, of her despicable husband, but none of that tells us what happened during those eleven days.

However, Benedict brings the story to a satifactory conclusion with her hypothosis of what may have been Christie’s intent in deliberately absenting herself from her life.

A book not to be missed.

 

BLURB

“A stunning story… The ending is ingenious, and it’s possible that Benedict has brought to life the most plausible explanation for why Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926.”—The Washington Post

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room returns with a thrilling reconstruction of one of the most notorious events in literary history: Agatha Christie’s mysterious 11-day disappearance in 1926.

In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of a deep, gloomy pond, the only clues some tire tracks nearby and a fur coat left in the car—strange for a frigid night. Her World War I veteran husband and her daughter have no knowledge of her whereabouts, and England unleashes an unprecedented manhunt to find the up-and-coming mystery author. Eleven days later, she reappears, just as mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations for her time away.

The puzzle of those missing eleven days has persisted. With her trademark historical fiction exploration into the shadows of the past, acclaimed author Marie Benedict brings us into the world of Agatha Christie, imagining why such a brilliant woman would find herself at the center of such murky historical mysteries.

What is real, and what is mystery? What role did her unfaithful husband play, and what was he not telling investigators?

Agatha Christie novels have withstood the test of time, due in no small part to Christie’s masterful storytelling and clever mind that may never be matched, but Agatha Christie’s untold history offers perhaps her greatest mystery of all.

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A Little Look at Nuevo Vallarta

In Nuevo Vallarta (just a short drive from Puerto Vallarta), you can lounge on the golden-sand beaches of Banderas Bay, or take an ATV tour through the nearby Sierra Madre jungle. A local water park has great twisting slides and sea lion shows,or you could treat the kids to a memorable swim with dolphins.

 

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A Single Thread – Tracey Chevalier

A Single Thread

 

I’ve been a Chevalier fan for a long time and don’t even read the blurb when I see a new book by her. I just hit the “buy now” button.

The Virgin Blue and The Last Runaway are two of my favorites. I’m now adding a third — A Single Thread.

As usual, Chevalier transports the reader into another time and leaves us feeling like we were there. Her characters live on long after we have finished reading the book.

This time we are entranced by Violet’s life as a “surplus woman.” She’s one of the left overs after WWI living in a time when single women have few options — take care of an aging parent or toil away at a menial job scraping by on a devastingly low salary. We hold our breath and cross our fingers as Violet struggles to make more of her life. Will she triumph? Please, please let her succeed against the odds.

PS A bonus reading Chevalier is that you learn so much whether it be about tapestries, quilting, embroidery, bell ringing or sheltering run away slaves. SPOILER ALERT – in A Single Thread you will learn the history of the swastika symbol (which the Nazis stole).

books by tracey chevalier – Bing

BLURB

1932. After the Great War took both her beloved brother and her fiancé, Violet Speedwell has become a “surplus woman,” one of a generation doomed to a life of spinsterhood after the war killed so many young men. Yet Violet cannot reconcile herself to a life spent caring for her grieving, embittered mother. After countless meals of boiled eggs and dry toast, she saves enough to move out of her mother’s place and into the town of Winchester, home to one of England’s grandest cathedrals. There, Violet is drawn into a society of broderers–women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers.

Violet finds support and community in the group, fulfillment in the work they create, and even a growing friendship with the vivacious Gilda. But when forces threaten her new independence and another war appears on the horizon, Violet must fight to put down roots in a place where women aren’t expected to grow. Told in Chevalier’s glorious prose, A Single Thread is a timeless story of friendship, love, and a woman crafting her own life.

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The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by [Elizabeth Kostova]

I have mixed feelings about this book which, at 704 pages, is a long read. On the one hand it held my attention and I learned a lot about Eastern Europe.

Kostova paints beaurtiful pictures of the setting throughout, I never thought I’d want to go to the area, but I do now especially with her as my guide.

Wrapped in the setting sits the story of Vlad the Impaler. I’ve read historial novels about him before, but this is different. The Historian surmises that Vald is still lurking about spreading his evil.

There’s a beautiful love story too, tinged with tradegy of course — how could there not be when Dracula is involved.

So where do the mixed feelings come in? At the end. Kostova brings the story to a satisfactory conclusion, but it could have been much stronger if it hadn’t draged on and on.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. Do I give it five stars in spite of my quibble with the ending? Yes. It’s definitely worth the read.

BLURB

Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family’s past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe—in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.

“Part thriller, part history, part romance…Kostova has a keen sense of storytelling and she has a marvelous tale to tell.” —Baltimore Sun

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