Vanity Fare Review

Megan Caldwell. Megan Frampton. Tomato. To-mah-to. Equally delicious no matter what the name.

I finished Megan Caldwell’s Vanity Fare almost in a single sitting. In fact, I got so caught up in it that I nearly missed dinner. And I never miss dinner. I was inspired to seek out the contemporary version of  Megan after I read the regency Megan’s Put Up Your Duke.

An English major myself, I got many a chuckle from the outrageous literary puns that the book’s heroine Molly concocts to market a bakery that is to open a stone’s throw from the New York Public Library.

For a woman who has been dumped by her husband, Molly certainly is surrounded by gorgeous men. The celebrity baker has an ego that fits his status and looks. His business partner is almost too good to be true, what with taking a shine to Molly’s six-year old.

Molly’s two BFFs, not to mention her therapist, are both loyal and honest. Her son is adorable. Even the scrapbooking party is fun.

I can’t resist a novel in which the heroine learns to stand up for herself. I only wish I could tell people off as skillfully.

Megan Caldwell
Megan Caldwell

Put Up Your Duke Review

I just loved Put Up Your Duke by Megan Frampton, Dukes Behaving Badly Book Two. Nick is in the midst of an evening’s pleasure with not one, not two, but three “ladies” of ill repute when he learns he has become a duke. Along with the dukedom, he acquires a fiancée.

Said fiancée Isabella has been corseted physically and emotionally to within an inch of her life to become a perfect duchess. The only time she can let down her guard is with her sister Margaret behind bedchamber doors.

The inner monologues as these two try to figure each other out are as entertaining as they are revealing of character.  So are the clever excerpts before each chapter from the imaginary serial that mirrors the plot. Watching Izzy at last have an opportunity to come into her own is great fun. And the title is oh so apropos.

I don’t know how I missed Book One of this series, but I am making it my business to find it.  I hope  Margaret gets a book of her own too.

Megan Frampton
Megan Frampton

 

Love in the Time of Scandal review

Love in the Time of Scandal is the third book in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series. I had already read book two, so I was eager to see this follow up.

I must say I found Penelope, the heroine of this one, more appealing than Benedict, the hero. He has been bullied all his life by a really nasty father. It takes Penny’s gumption to rub off on him to make him finally stand up for himself. He’s looking for an heiress to support him so he doesn’t have to be beholden to dear old dad. Why couldn’t he strike out on his own and find a way to support himself?

Penny, on the other hand, is a delight. She is still avidly reading the naughty pamphlets that were also described in book two. But she also has a nice depth of character. She is resolute about not betraying a friend and really tries to understand what makes Benedict tick.

The book did hold my attention although the ending felt a bit too deus ex machina. I hope there will be a fourth book to let us know what became of Olivia, the troubled friend.

Caroline Linden
Caroline Linden

When Love Comes review

I am not much into beer, but I like to think I am fairly knowledgeable about wine. As I was reading Darcy Burke’s When Love Happens, I kept thinking the author didn’t know much about either. This is Book Three of her Ribbon Ridge series where the Archer family owns a highly successful microbrewery in the middle of Oregon wine country, and the author lives in that region herself. Her characters seem to imbibe an awful lot but not at the appropriate time. For example, they wait until after a meal to drink a good Pinot Noir.

I found the premise to be equally difficult to accept. Tori shuts out her new husband because she feels guilt over her brother’s suicide. Why? She didn’t answer a phone call from that brother the night before he died, which also happened to be her wedding night.

Tori is also so self-involved that it never occurs to her that her husband Sean is desperately trying to hang onto his job so he can help support his parents. She’s got a trust fund but surely should have figured out he wasn’t as well off. That Sean isn’t above a little manipulation in order to keep that job was off-putting too.

Ms. Burke also writes historicals. I think they’d be more my cup of tea.

Darcy Burke
Darcy Burke

Fat Girl Walking review

I am definitely not the right demographic for Brittany Gibbons’ new book Fat Girl Walking. I am far more comfortable with the likes of Erma Bombeck and Phyllis Diller. I know. Scary, right? Those long-ago women chronicled the day-to-day travails of suburban housewives with less profanity but also, I must admit, with less honesty.

Diller built a career by putting down her own appearance. Gibbons too starts down that path, describing how being overweight negatively affected her life. I found the first half of her book really difficult to read. To me, it seemed her weight was the least of her problems. The photos on her website reveal a stunning woman.

Dealing with her father’s behavior after he suffered a traumatic brain injury sounded much harder. And sadder. This is supposed to be a humorous book, but I was not laughing.

It is when Gibbons gets to the point in her life where she has a daughter of her own that the book finally began to resonate even with me. Her realization that her daughter is beginning to reflect and mimic her attitude about her body starts Gibbons down a different path, that of acceptance of her body, no matter what its size.

Gibbons has trod that path all the way to a TED talk on the subject and now a book. Brava to her. May her courage and wisdom rub off on all of us.

photos of Brittany Gibbons
photos of Brittany Gibbons

Holding Holly review

I really wish Julie Brannagh’s Holding Holly had been a full length novel instead of a novella. This story had so much potential that wasn’t fulfilled.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the characters. The hero is a gentle giant of a football player with old-fashioned manners ingrained by his Southern mama and grandma. The heroine is a hard-working nursing student who also happens to have a cute grandma.

The plot is G-rated, but that’s not a drawback as far as I’m concerned. This is set at Christmas, so the sweetness is appropriate.

But I do question how an interracial romance seems to raise no conflict whatsoever. I know we have come a long way in America, but I also know prejudice still exists on both sides of the color line.  The only real conflict here is over revealing a secret concerning who is answering letters to Santa.

I’ve enjoyed Brannagh’s previous books. I wish she’d added more meat to the bones of this one.

Julie Brannagh
Julie Brannagh

 

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy review

I couldn’t wait to read The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn. Her previous books featuring the Smythe-Smiths and their appalling musicales have been entertaining in the extreme.

This one didn’t disappoint. Even funnier than the concert was the play put on by the cousins who alas are no better actresses than they are musicians. I was snorting with laughter throughout that chapter. (For those who have read earlier books, let me reveal that one prominent character in the play is a unicorn Wink, wink.)

Quinn’s descriptions of sisterly relationships were also both funny and accurate. It is indeed quite possible to love one’s sister dearly and want to throttle her simultaneously.

Sir Richard is a darling albeit fairly clueless about the workings of the female mind. I was honestly surprised when his secret was finally revealed to his new bride Iris. Thank heavens she has a good heart, a good head on her shoulders, and the gumption developed through years of dealing with all those sisters.

Julia Quinn
Julia Quinn