Showing posts with label Americana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Americana. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

July 2013 Recap & Minis: Spencer, Howard, Balogh

I don't know what it is about the summer and the heat, but it almost always makes me crave romance. That's what happened in July. I hit the books and ended up reading some romances that have been lingering in my shelves from early 2013, along with some oldies but goodies.

Here they are:

Total books read: 15
Contemporary Romance: 6
Historical Romance: 6
Paranormal Romance/Steampunk: 1
Urban Fantasy: 1
M/M Romance: 1

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews: (Review to come)
The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh: A-
Love Irresistibly (FBI/US Attorney #4) by Julie James: (Review to come)
To Die For (Blair Mallory #1) by Linda Howard: B
I read this book by Linda Howard as my August Internet Book Club read. This is rather surprising for a Linda Howard book. It's humorous and light with a heroine that comes off as petulant and somewhat superficial. She's a cheerleader who applies cheerleading rules to her life even as an adult. For me, Blair's thought process turns out to be both hilarious and frustrating, but overall, Blair is more than she appears to be on the surface. The romance is hot with amusing dialogue to help it along. If there is something I find tired in this romance it is Blair's tendency to sleep with Wyatt while telling him she doesn't want a relationship -- the old "body betrayal" plot device. The story is narrated from Blair's point of view in the first person, but it is very well done so that I did not miss Wyatt's point of view at all. I think that both his thoughts and feelings are well conveyed by Howard. I also like the mystery, probably because of all the craziness that goes on in Blair and Wyatt's relationship contribute to it. Overall, a solid, light, fun, and enjoyable romance suspense.
He's The One with Linda Lael Miller, Jill Shalvis, Lucy Monroe, Kate Angell, Cat Johnson: B-
Fire & Frost with Jessica Simms, Carolyn Crane & Meljean Brook: B-
True to the Law by Jo Goodman: C+
Twice Loved by Lavyrle Spencer: Grade C+
This is one of the three books I read for the TBR Challenge during the month of July, but decided against reviewing it. I've loved every single book I've read by Lavyrle Spencer so far. I still love her gorgeous writing style and how she develops characters and a story -- all are evident in Twice Loved. On the positive side, I absolutely love the setting and atmosphere in this novel. It is set in a small fishing village, and the place and people who inhabit it come alive in this novel.

Unfortunately for me, the romance is a triangle, and I mean one of those triangles where the woman who finds herself in the middle knows who she loves but doesn't have the gumption to make the right decision. She ends up hurting everyone, including herself and her child, so that by the time the happy ever after comes along I really did not want her to have it! I wanted the "hero" to walk away from her, and that's not the way a romance works, right? This romance is brimming with betrayal, yearning, love, angst, anger, and passion. I could not help but feel terrible for both men and the child caught up in the middle of it all. Just as I could not help resenting her for the lack of backbone that destroyed whatever connection I could have felt. In this case, it may be that it is a case of personal preference. If as a reader you don't mind triangles, you may want to read this book by the amazing Spencer. However, for me personally, this was a beautifully written, but painful read.
On the Clock by Chris Owen: C+
No Strings Attached (Barefoot Williams #2) by Kate Angell: C
Kentucky Home by Sarah Title: C
Beach Beginnings (Beach House No. 9 #.5) by Christie Ridgeway: C
The Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh: C
I really enjoyed the wit and humor found in the romance between Lady Sophia Bryant and Lord Francis Sutton. They fake a betrothal to reunite Sophie's estranged parents. Sophie and Francis grew up together and have a history of arguing and hostility. Sophie is funny and Francis teases her to death. I love the way they play each other and end up together. This is a light and fun pair. On the other hand the romance between Sophie's parents is seriously painful. It's the type of romance I usually love to read, but in this case the incredible lack of communication between these two adults, the resulting misunderstandings and lack of trust made me question that love would triumph or last. Thank goodness for Sophie and Francis whose romance made this book an average read for me. Otherwise, I think The Counterfeit Betrothal would have been my first DNF (did not finish) by Balogh.
The Suitor (The Survivor's Club #1.5) by Mary Balogh: C

Years by Lavyrle Spencer : A
Years is one of my favorite Lavyrle Spencer books. I reread it for the TBR Challenge, but at the last minute decided that as a reread it did not qualify -- a shame because I really wanted to review this book in all its glory! I previously wrote a mini that doesn't do this book justice in my humble opinion. Anyway, if you haven't read it and would like to pick up a gorgeous May/December historical romance set in the Middle America during WWI, I highly recommend Years. The title refers to more than the age disparity between the main couple, and as in all Spencer books, there is depth to the plot, gorgeous characterization, and amazing detail that enhance both setting and atmosphere.
My favorite books of the month were: Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews, my last read of the month, The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh, and Love Irresistibly (FBI/US Attorney #4) by Julie James.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TBR Review: Here Comes the Bride by Pamela Morsi

The theme for this month's TBR Challenge is "new-to-me-author." Unfortunately, I picked up and discarded a slew of books that just did not work for me this month -- an unusual event that I think has more to do with my current "reader's block" that the books themselves. In the end, I decided to read a book from a favorite author's backlist. Pamela Morsi.

There comes a time in every woman's life when she must get herself a man or give up on the idea entirely. Augusta Mudd had reached that moment. Miss Gussie, as she was known to all, was in the spring of her thirty-first year. All through her twenties she had reminded herself that there was still plenty of youth ahead. At thirty itself she had taken comfort in the fact that she was barely out of her twenties. But thirty-one --- thirty-one was definitely an accounting that brought realization, or perhaps even resignation.

"Get it done or past contemplation."
Thus begins Here Comes the Bride by Pamela Morsi. It is the late 1890's in Cottonwood, Texas. At thirty-one, Gussie has inherited a successful ice-making business and property from her father. She has become a keen businesswoman happy with her lot in life, but is missing only one thing to make it complete -- a man. Gussie is also a straight shooter and after walking out for three years with Amos Dewey, she decides that it is past time that he proposes, but since he hasn't, she approaches him with her own marriage proposal. Go Gussie! But, Amos bulks and flees leaving Gussie angry and not a bit humiliated, but not defeated. She thinks about the situation overnight and comes up with a plan to have a perfect wedding and her man.

The next day she approaches her employee, Rome Akers, with a direct proposal: to make Amos jealous and bring him to heel, all Rome has to do is pretend to be Gussie's new beau. As an incentive, Gussie offers Rome the partnership in her business – his dreams come true. Rome admires Gussie for her business sense and straightforward manner and thinks she deserves to be happy. He has certain reservations about this plan, but being an ambitious young man, Rome accepts and throws himself into his role wholeheartedly.

Problems soon arise when both Rome and Gussie realize they have much in common and begin having fun together. Admiration for each other grows and kisses soon come into the equation. In the meantime Amos is fighting his attraction for Pansy Reynolds, the town's wicked widow and Rome's longtime secret lover. Rome and Gussie, Amos and Pansy will have to make decisions that in the end may break their collective hearts.

Here Comes the Bride is another romance where Morsi uses the collective town to both aid and to create conflict while developing the romance. There are two factors that play a major role here, human nature and societal views of the times. Morsi plays one against the other deftly by using two couples whose lives interact closely, but that in the end deal with two very different conflicts.
Morsi's female characters drive the story, and not surprisingly, they also contrast sharply against each other. Gussie is the virginal, sexually naive female who shows strength as a businesswoman with a keen mind and not a few feminist views. However, Gussie works within traditional boundaries set by local society so that she is accepted and respected regardless of her role as a business owner. This stands out only because this historical romance is set in a small town where conservative views prevailed.

Pansy, on the other hand, is portrayed as a widow who loved her husband and was a faithful wife, but became the town pariah after her husband's death when she rejected society's traditions by taking lovers. Pansy is scorned and only allowed to gain love and/or show courage through public self-humiliation. Morsi also makes a point of showing that although men may also be shunned by a conservative society for having illicit liaisons, they are quickly forgiven, particularly if or when that man is a respected businessman. Money, respectability, sex, and religious foundations -- all very interesting subjects that interconnect from a historical perspective in this romance.

The romance between Gussie and Rome is sweet! I loved Rome's admiration for this woman and his absolute adoration and passion for her once the two click. And Gussie's contradictory character is another favorite, as she goes from being an authoritative and driven businesswoman to a woman in love who learns to appreciate passion in her life. The romance between Amos and Pansy on the other hand did not work for me. I believe that is because I couldn't stand Amos and his brutal rejection of Pansy or his lack of understanding/care for Gussie. I did not buy his love for Pansy or frankly, Pansy's love for Amos. I did like Pansy! I liked her loyalty and courage, even though I hated, hated, hated what she did in the end.

Here Comes the Bride is a historical romance that seems sweet on the surface. However, Morsi is sneaky in that she makes her romances seem simple, but by keeping her characters true to the mores of the times, she also manages to make points that make me think in contemporary terms. As always, an enjoyable, solid read, by a favorite author.
April 2013

Category: Historical Romance/Americana
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Avon/July 3, 2000 - Print Ed.
Grade: B

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Review: The Love Charm by Pamela Morsi

The Love Charm by Pamela Morsi is one of those oldies but goodies I love to read and review every so often. I review what I read at Impressions..., and often the books reviewed are back list books by great writers. I've been catching up with Ms. Morsi's Americana historical romance novels and this 1996 release is one of them.

I've been collecting her works in print, and until recently was not lucky enough to get my hands on a copy. However, for those of you who do want to read this book and can't get your hands on a print copy, please note that the digital edition of the book became available in May 2011.

The fairest in all Louisiana...

Aida Gaudet has charm and fire enough to enflame the desires of any man. Like a hurricane descending upon the bayou, her unparalleled beauty has thrown a humble Acadian town into turmoil--setting neighbor against neighbor in competition for her attentions. But Aida wants what no one yet has offered her: she wants to know true love.

A steadfast pillar of a tight-knit community--someone to trust in times of trouble--Armand Sonnier also feels Aida's fire. And he, too, burns for this rare, radiant jewel who can never be his, for she is promised to his closest friend.

But the bayou moon can work many strange sorceries--compelling even a rational young man to take irrational risks... as it strengthens his resolve to win an enchantress's restless heart with passion, determination, and a cup of voodoo magic.
The Love Charm by Pamela Morsi is another book full of the type of characters that I've come to expect from this writer's stories. These are hard working, everyday people who find love while going about their ordinary daily lives. She sets this story in a small Acadian town smack in the middle of the Louisiana bayou, and in true Morsi style she provides the necessary details to set the type of atmosphere that takes and keeps the reader straight to place. The time is 1820, however, although I knew that I was reading a historical, I lost track of the exact time when this novel is set, possibly due to the remoteness of the location and the sub-culture that Morsi explores with such success. Regardless, as expected, Morsi's characters and romances (there are three) take center stage.

The central romance is that of Aida Gaudet and Armand Sonnier. Aida is considered the most beautiful woman in Louisiana and is initially engaged to Laron, the best looking man in the bayou. She is viewed as a somewhat scatterbrained, superficial woman by the community, and that includes Armand and even herself. Armand Sonnier, the most educated man in the bayou and Laron's best friend has loved Aida from afar since they were no more than children. But he's never been able to take action because of what he sees as his one flaw -- he's handsome but short for a man. His stature keeps him from going after what he wants, Aida.

Their romance encompasses the whole book, and although it's full of misunderstandings caused by their personal insecurities, with a little help from a love charm, a friend, and true love, Ms. Morsi delivers in the end. As an aside, this is the first romance I read where the male protagonist is quite short, shorter than the female. For example, Aida mentions a few times how shocking and unusual it is to meet a man's gaze straight on... plus, she mentions seeing the part of his hair when they are dancing together. This aspect of Aida and Armand's romance is really well done, but that should not be a surprise. Morsi loves to create characters that stand out and of course she makes it work!

There are two secondary romances, although I hate to call them that because they pack such an emotional punch and make such an impact that one of them is actually my favorite in this book. Aida's fiancé Laron is a gorgeous man with all the physical goods, but there's so much more to him. Laron has been conducting a long-term affair with Helga, the "German widow," who lives just outside of the Acadian community. She and her three children adore Laron for good reasons, and as the story moves along it's obvious that the love these two people share is deep and true. Morsi spared no emotions when writing this couple's romance - highs, lows and in-betweens. I fell in love with Laron and Helga.

And then we have Armand's oldest brother Jean Baptiste Sonnier and his wife Felicité. Ohhh, this was good! This was just SO good! Jean Baptiste and sweet Felicité were married when very young, and she has been pregnant almost every year since then. Jean Baptiste says he loves her, but he's tired of the fact that his wife is always fat and the responsibilities of marriage are dragging him down. Jean Baptiste is envious of Armand, Laron and all the other single young men who are having fun while he's dragged down by all the babies and the "fat" wife! With a little help from a friend sweet Felicité gives Jean Baptiste exactly what he deserves. Yes!!!! What a great scene! I loved the final resolution for this couple, just loved it.

In summary, The Love Charm by Pamela Morsi is a solid historical romance that contains all of the writer's best traits: excellent characterization, atmosphere, wonderful setting and inspired writing. She again includes a whole community of characters to complete the story and give it depth without taking the focus away from its main purpose, romance. What I'll remember about The Love Charm is that, although I enjoyed the central romance which is pivotal to the story as a whole and has the distinction of including a short male protagonist, a secondary romance became my favorite and the other one has one of the best resolutions I've read in a while. All in all a solid, enjoyable read for me from Pamela Morsi.

Category: Americana Historical Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Released: Avon Books/November 1, 1996
Grade: B

Visit Pamela Morsi here.