RECOMMENDED: The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn is $3.99 right now. This is the third book in the Smith-Smythe Quartet, which is related to the Bridgerton series. In fact, The Sum of All Kisses takes place almost immediately after Just Like Heaven and A Night Like This. Carrie reviewed this book as did I, and we had rather different reactions:
Carrie gave it an A- and wrote:
At one point in The Sum of All Kisses, our characters eat wedding cake that is frosted with beautiful lavender flowers. This book is like really, really good cake, the kind that is beautiful to look at and delicious to taste and not too sweet and wonderfully filling. I loved every tiny crumb.
I gave this book a C+ in my review because the beginning and middle didn't match the end:
The not so good part: the ending. There's this incredible slow development of enemies to not enemies to maybe friends to gee I wish I didn't notice your physical person at all can we go back to being enemies…. and then BAM IT IS MADCAP ZOOMING THRILLER TIME. There was a moment about 3/4ths through the book, when all seemed well between the hero and heroine, and I wrote in the comments, “Ok, what's the next conflict?”
AND BAM THERE IT WAS. The external conflict that didn't nearly measure up to the power and emotional complexity of the internal conflict between Hugh and Sarah deflated this book for me. I would have been hollering to everyone on the plane to read it right now if it hadn't been for the ending. Let me see if I can explain without giving away the setup of the story and the twist at the end.
He thinks she's an annoying know-it-all…
Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she's long since tossed them out the window. Besides, a reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.
She thinks he's just plain mad…
Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought that nearly destroyed her family. But even if she could find a way to forgive him, it wouldn't matter. She doesn't care that his leg is less than perfect, it's his personality she can't abide. But forced to spend a week in close company they discover that first impressions are not always reliable. And when one kiss leads to two, three, and four, the mathematician may lose count, and the lady may, for the first time, find herself speechless …
RECOMMENDED: How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn is $3.99 right now. This is the second book in her “Agents of the Crown” series, following To Catch an Heiress. This is light, humorous historical, and if you need an enjoyable pick-me-up, or you know someone who does, this is a good choice. It's an early book from Quinn's backlist, and you can see how her writing has changed in the books since this one, but I still re-read this one occasionally. I always wished Elizabeth's siblings had all had their own books, though. They're lovely.
When James Sidwell, Marquis of Riverdale, offered to help Elizabeth Hotchkiss find herself a husband, he never dreamed that the only candidate he could propose would be himself…
SHE'S TRYING TO FOLLOW THE RULES
When Elizabeth Hotchkiss stumbles upon a most intriguing book, How to Marry a Marquis, in her employer's library, she's convinced someone is playing a cruel joke. With three younger siblings to support, she knows she has to marry for money, but who might have guessed how desperate she's become? A guidebook to seduction might be just the thing she needs—and what harm could there be in taking a little peek?
BUT HE'S MAKING HIS OWN
James Sidwell, the Marquis of Riverdale, has been summoned to rescue his aunt from a blackmailer, a task that requires him to pose as the new estate manager—and he immediately sheds suspicion on his aunt's companion, Elizabeth. Intrigued by the deliciously alluring young woman with the curious little rulebook, he gallantly offers to help her find herself a husband…by practicing her wiles on him. But when practice becomes all too perfect, James decides there's only one rule worth following—that Elizabeth marry her marquis.
Jane Austen's Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman is $1.99 at Amazon and BN right now. This is a nonfiction examination of how Jane Austen might have viewed our contemporary portrayals of matchmaking and relationships, such as online dating and Real Housewives. Smith uses Austen's writing and letters to surmise what Jane's advice to the modern individual would be, applying Austen's wisdom and perspective to contemporary times. This book does not have many reviews, but those at Amazon and GR are positive.
Jane Austen has become our patron saint of romance, our goddess of happy endings. Her name is synonymous with romantic sighs, period costumes, and the ideal of what love should be. But if she could give us advice about life and love, what would she tell us? What would she make of Match.com, of our Real Housewives, or of our obsession with finding The One?
Austen’s stories give us relationship advice that still works today, but her life offers us so much more wisdom than just that pertaining to love. In our fame-obsessed culture, it’s refreshing to think that Austen preferred to remain anonymous. Ironically, Jane Austen—master of love stories—never married and can teach us something about being single. She also endured many painful circumstances and managed them with grace and humor.
In this light biography and guide, author Lori Smith surmises about Austen’s sensible advice for twenty-first-century women—on everything from living our dreams, being a woman of substance, finding a good man, managing money, and much more.
As such an astute student of human nature, Austen can teach us an awful lot about ourselves and about what it means to live well.
Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane is a culinary examination of the role and meaning of food and meals in Jane Austen's works, and it's $2.99 at Amazon right now. The book is a mix of literary analysis, a history of food customs, and a behind-the-scenes peek at what food meant to the women and men at that time, and how food is represented in each Austen story.
What was the significance of the pyramid of fruit which confronted Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley? Or of the cold beef eaten by Willoughby on his journey of repentance to see Marianne?
Why is it so appropriate that the scene of Emma's disgrace should be a picnic, and how do the different styles of housekeeping in Mansfield Park relate to the social issues of the day?
While Jane Austen does not luxuriate in cataloguing meals in the way of Victorian novelists, food in fact plays a vital part in her novels.
Her mainly domestic plots are deeply imbued with the rituals of giving and sharing meals. The attitudes of her characters to eating, to housekeeping and to hospitality are important indicators of their moral worth. This culminates in the artistic triumph of Emma, in which repeated references to food not only contribute to the portrait of her world, but provide an extended metaphor for the interdependence of a community.
In this original, lively and well-researched book, Maggie Lane not only offers a fresh perspective on the novels of Jane Austen, but illuminates a fascinating period of food history, as England stood on the brink of urbanisation, middle-class luxury, and a revolution in the role of women.
Ranging over topics from greed to gender to mealtimes and manners, and drawing on the novels, letters and Austen family papers, she also discusses Jane Austen's own ambivalent attitude to the provision and enjoyment of food.
Bitch in a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen from the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps by Robert Rodi is .99c at Amazon and BN right now. This is a blog-to-book collection of essays, and the title caught my attention for obvious reasons. Rodi posits that our current concept of Austen is a watered down pale version of her real self. He uses his interpretation of three of her novels to support his claim that the real Austen was a lot sharper in many ways. This book has a 4+ star average, and there is now a second volume of analysis, Bitch in a Bonnet Volume 2.
Novelist Rodi (Fag Hag, The Sugarman Bootlegs) launches a broadside against the depiction of Jane Austen as a “a woman’s writer…quaint and darling, doe-eyed and demure, parochial if not pastoral, and dizzily, swooningly romantic — the inventor and mother goddess of ‘chick lit.’” Instead he sees her as “a sly subversive, a clear-eyed social Darwinist, and the most unsparing satirist of her century… She takes sharp, swift swipes at the social structure and leaves it, not lethally wounded, but shorn of it prettifying garb, its flabby flesh exposed in all its naked grossness. And then she laughs.”
In this volume, which collects and amplifies two-and-a-half years’ worth of blog entries, he combs through the first three novels in Austen’s canon — Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park — with the aim of charting her growth as both a novelist and a humorist, and of shattering the notion that she’s a romantic of any kind (“Weddings bore her, and the unrelenting vulgarity of our modern wedding industry — which strives to turn each marriage ceremony into the kind of blockbuster apotheosis that makes grand opera look like a campfire sing along — would appall her into derisive laughter”).