Tag Archives: book review

the Love in the Afternoon review

Here’s some praise: I looked forward to reading this book with almost stupid impatience after reading the teaser chapter last month. Yet the book stood up to all my expectations and more.

(A quick note on covers – I never bother imagining the characters the way they appear on the covers, and neither do I usually give them more than a passing glance. That said, I would be very sad to see an attempt at making the romance novel look sophisticated and lose its distinctive jacket.)

Beatrix is an eccentric, half wild girl who loves animals of all kinds – especially the wounded and alone. (I’m so jealous of her pet hedgehog. I want a pet hedgehog!)

Christopher Phelan is a dashing local lad who joins the cavalry and strides around looking handsome and calling Beatrix “that odd Hathaway girl.”

Then Christopher goes to war in the Crimea and writes his sweetheart a war-weary letter, longing for some quiet, warm place left in the world. His sweetheart is the girl so shallow she has hidden shallows, who has no idea how or desire to reply. But there’s a question about a dog, so she shows the letter to Beatrix, and Beatrix is immediately drawn in.

So Beatrix replies instead, pretending to be shallow-girl, and the two fall in love via letters. Then Christopher comes home…

Great premise, no?

In the Married by Morning review I talked quite a lot about how Kleypas does chemistry like no other. Again here. These two characters are absolutely magnetising. Their love is absolute and intoxicating and just a little bit wild.

The obligatory danger/action at the end of the book is my only hesitation in calling it perfect – it just seemed a little tacked on. But really, with a book this great, who cares?

Love in the Afternoon is the fifth and final book of the Hathaway series. The books are linked by all being about the same family, but can be read separately. Seriously though, read them all. It’s the best romance series I’ve read, I think. (Followed closely by Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses and Essex Sisters and Elizabeth Hoyt’s Princes.) The whole family are so gorgeous, and they all remain throughout each other’s stories.

Because Kleypas’s website is hopeless, here is the series and book order:

Mine till Midnight

Seduce Me at Sunrise

Tempt Me at Twilight

Married by Morning

Love in the Afternoon

Agnes and the Hitman

isn’t that an awesome title? And the book lives up to it, believe you me.

There’s a great explanation by authors Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer about how they started working together and what their partnership has been like.

I’m normally a bit leery of collaborative novels, because it seems like an odd, uncohesive way to write. But in this instance it produces sparks the size of fireworks.

Mayer provides the muscle and action (and death by alligator), in a style that reminds me of Christopher Brookmyre – though perhaps a little less philosophical.

Crusie provides the saucepan-wielding, butter-obsessed heroine with a thing or two to learn about anger management from the hitman-hero.

Throw in the mob, a couple of flamingos and some dark secrets from the past and you get a frickin awesome novel.

Now excuse me whilst I go out and buy every single book they’ve ever written.

the Married By Morning review

And I thought I was going to gush about Soulless…

Reading this book is like being back among beloved family you’ve been longing to see. No, scrap that. It’s like falling in love. The deliciously agonising kind.

I didn’t realise how few books have grabbed me like this recently until I was hugging the book to my chest and grinning – even in the agonising bits.

One of my gripes with Ten Things I Love About You was that I didn’t get the characters’ chemistry at all. Married by Morning starts with a kiss too – and my God did I get it! These two characters are so magnetic that you long for every single kiss as much as they do.

Okay, let’s be honest, probably more. That Kleypas sure can write a sex scene! And I love what she says on her website about writing them: “If done right, they’re crucial in showing the development of the characters and their relationship.” It’s such a brilliant approach to take, and it works. You can’t just skip through the hot bits if you’re not that into them (I can’t imagine doing this – I thought those bits were the whole point of romance novels (ok, sort of), but it’s true, lots of women have told me they don’t read the sexy bits), because then you miss a whole important part of the relationship development.

She also talks about spending a long time thinking about the words, to make sure she avoids cliche. I think this is at the heart of what I love about a Kleypas sex scene – she’s just as non-graphic as Julia Quinn, but so much more specific to her characters, so that it’s not a general sense of the amazing like, say, the earth moving, but a specific sense of how her characters are moved/challenged etc.

eeep! Already so many words and I haven’t even gotten past the rude bits yet!

This is the fourth book in the Hathaway series, which is an amazing series. The third book, Tempt Me at Twilight makes my top three romance novels of all time.

Usually in these kind of series the books are meant to also be able to stand alone and be read out of context. I think MbM would still be highly enjoyable on its own, but she definitely dives right in at the beginning without much set-up, so I would highly recommend reading the others first to get the build-up of the relationship. Because, to be honest, Leo and Marks (Catherine) kind of steal the show a bit when they appear in the first books

Which brings me to another thing Kleypas does so well – the characters of the proceeding books don’t just appear in “happily ever after” cameos so favoured by romance authors. Okay, so we definitely want to know that those couples we invested hours of our lives in have indeed turned out as ridiculously happy as we hoped they would. But it can make them feel a bit irrelevant. Or over somehow, like everything unexpected they were ever going to do has been done. The whole Hathaway family remains alive and involved in every novel of this series.

Oh, and possibly the very highest praise I can give it is this:

My very tired, very sceptical husband arrived home last night and picked up the book where I had put it down and started reading. He didn’t stop for four pages, when dinner interrupted him.

He looked up at me and said the unimaginable: “I was quite enjoying reading that, actually.”

the Soulless review

it’s harder to write a gushy review than a sceptical one, so let’s see how I go with it…

First: I read this book because so many people had told me to read it and Gail Carriger‘s agent is Kristin Nelson, who I wanted for an agent (more on that later). Then once I saw the book covers, there was no way I wasn’t going to read them. So brill!

(On that note, here’s a cool video that design geeks will enjoy, that will also give you a snippet of an idea of the world of The Parasol Protectorate. (Come on! Just the name is enough to make you wanna read it, right?)

)

Second: “Alexia tried to explain that the vampire’s supposed inability to enter private residences uninvited was a myth based upon their collective obsession with proper social etiquette, but her mother refused to believe her.”

I think the book speaks for itself.

The world is Victorian England. But also steampunk. And it also has vampires and werewolves.

Alexia is vulnerable and headstrong and impeccably polite in all the right ways and the very best thing about her is that she’s a force to be reckoned with without also being incredibly annoying – which so many strong-willed heroines are, I find. Which is sad, because then I end up almost siding with the society that’s trying to put them back in their place. Not Alexia, though! She doesn’t waste time on people who disapprove of her.

There are mad scientists, a delicious werewolf-Scot, a ditsy best friend and an airhead family. I particularly loved Lord Akeldama, who’s her übercamp vampire friend. His outfits are ridiculous and brilliant, he knows absolutely everything, surrounds himself with lovely, pretty boys and I don’t think he ever calls her by the same endearment twice.

In the extras at the back of the book, Carriger sites P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen as two of her literary influences. The mixture of these two styles gives a pretty accurate idea of her writing. Not to suggests it’s not unique, because I think she has a very strong voice all of her own.

But it’s definitely got a lighter, more satirical touch than any other romance novel I’ve read, showing the influence of Wodehouse, “The performing flea of the English language.”

At first I found myself slightly excluded as a reader by the style, but overall I think it serves her universe. The approach is so no-nonsense, that you end up taking it all as a given.

Erm…oh yes! I promised gushing.

I loved it! It is so much fun to read, very page-turny (which reminds me – it’s chockers with brilliant, invented words) and the characters are a riot to hang out with. (Did I just use the word riot?)

And the hero has very pretty eyes indeed.

I recommend you do yourselves a favour and get your hands on a copy.

read my review of Blameless here

the Ten Things I Love About You review

Okay. The very first thing I need to get clear is this: I love Julia Quinn.

I think she’s a damn good writer, her characters grab you by the throat (or heart, maybe) and don’t let go, and no one else writes a hilarious scene as well as her.

Think the argument over the word purview in What Happens in London.

Speaking of which – I think that was a masterful book. No plot gymnastics needed. Quinn made a superb book out of two people simply falling in love. How many novelists – particularly romance novelists – pull that off? I mean, just look to Quinn’s first novel Splendid and count the number of obstacles she threw in her protagonists’ path to make up for her lack of experience.

Okay. Now that we’re clear:

I was disappointed. And disappointed to be disappointed.

Her writing is as tight, funny and engaging as ever. But I think I’ve pinpointed the problem. One: I didn’t really like Annabel. Is that terrible? I just found her an unimpressive mixture of naive, wholesome, confused and bursting with sexuality. Sort of.

Two: I kind of didn’t feel like she deserved Sebastian…I wanted someone who challenged him and made him vulnerable. And while Annabel did that as far as the plot goes, I felt like Three: Sebastian was made less, not more by his transformation. And I had the feeling that Four: he was attracted to her because she was attractive – I just couldn’t really figure out what else about her drew him in so strongly.

Which leads to Five: from the scene on the Heath I was skeptical. I could imagine two attractive people sharing a kiss, but Six: I didn’t think they had much chemistry. Which is a shame, because Seven: the unfolding story relied on them having reacted really strongly to each other.

I admit that Eight: I spent a good part of it hoping Sebastian was going to run off with Annabel’s lovable cousin Louisa. Louisa was funny and endearing and insecure in such a wistful, plucky way. She would have surprised Sebastian, I think. I would have been excited for him to kiss her.

Okay, so there’s no point rewriting the book in my head, but you get my point, I hope.

I wasn’t on team Annabel. And I felt that Sebastian became less and less clear to me as a character as the novel progressed and that he was diminished from the dashing cousin in What Happens in London. Speaking of which (again), Harry and Olivia were just as great in this novel as in their own.

Also, Nine: I have this pet peeve about women shrieking during sex. Maybe if the scene is built and built and he does something particularly naughty to her… Maybe. But just for licking her nipple? Did any of you ever shriek for such a thing? Maybe it’s just the way I read the verb, but to me it’s kind of startling – and loud, and to do with fear.

Ditto writhing. (Of which there was none – whew!)

Anyway, there you have it, and I’ve no doubt there are hordes of people out there who disagree with me. I wish I could disagree with me.

Oh, and Ten: it made me pull silly faces like this:

Ten Things I...Love? About You