Flying Solo

Flying Solo by Linda Holmes

Laurie has always admired her Great Aunt Dot, a world traveler who lived to be 93. Her home in Calcasset, Maine, was a quiet refuge for Laurie as she was a middle child with four brothers. In Calcasset to sort through Dot’s belongings, Laurie is having a mid-life crisis as she turns 40. Her best friend June is happily married with three kids, but Laurie has always enjoyed living alone. She has just canceled her upcoming wedding, but is still looking forward to returning to Seattle, where her house and garden are designed just how she likes it. Laurie’s former boyfriend Nick is now the director of the Calcasset Library, and sparks fly when they spend time together, but Nick has never wanted to leave small town Maine.

A very enjoyable part of this book is the adventure of a carved and painted wood duck Aunt Dot kept in a cedar chest. Is it valuable? Apparently not, or has Laurie been scammed by a con man? Nick helps with research and Laurie’s brother Ryan, an actor, helps in the quest to get the duck back. Laurie finally is able to decide what she really wants in this engaging read.

Set in the same town as Holmes’ debut, Evvie Drake Starts Over, this is not a sequel. Readalikes include novels by Jennifer Crusie, Mary Kay Andrews, Abbi Waxman, and Beth O’Leary.

Brenda

Three Romantic Comedies

I recently read a historical romantic comedy and two contemporary romantic comedies, or rom-coms, and enjoyed reading all three books. If you’re in the mood for some light, entertaining reads, check out one or more of these titles.

Never Fall for Your Fiancée by Virginia Heath

Hugh Standish, an earl in 1820s England, has a matchmaking mother who lives in America with his stepfather. He doesn’t think he’d make a good husband, and invents a fiancée named Miranda to keep his mother from finding him a real wife. His letters about the fictional Miranda’s serious illness and father’s death have delayed any wedding plans, but Hugh has run out of excuses. When Hugh helps a lovely engraver collect money she’s owed, he is stunned to learn her name is Minerva. Quite soon, Miranda and two two younger sisters are visiting his country estate, along with an actress hired to play their mother, getting lessons in etiquette and fine dining, when his family arrives early. Hugh’s mother is surprised to learn that Miranda can’t ride a horse or sing, and is getting suspicious. Some very funny scenes delight the reader while Hugh and Miranda bicker, and of course, fall in love. Readers of Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith quartet will likely enjoy.

 

How Sweet It Is by Dylan Newton    

 

Kate Sweet, an event planner known for weddings with an “aww” moment, is asked by her best friend to fill in and organized horror writer Drake Matthews’ book launch. The pair are uncomfortable spending time together, especially after a disastrous introduction. Drake is secretly writing a historical romance, while super-organized Kate is struggling with her plans for the elaborate book party. While I’ve never heard of a book launch quite so elaborate, it makes for entertaining reading. Kate and Drake’s chemistry is fun to read about, especially as the both deny their mutual attraction.

 

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca  well matched jacket

Another pretend relationship turns friends into lovers when April Parker asks Mitch Malone for help with some home improvements so she can sell her house and move to a nearby city. Mitch, a high school gym teacher and coach, is known for his performances in a kilt at the local renaissance Faire, yet needs a pretend girlfriend for a big family dinner. When Mitch’s family unexpectedly visits the Faire, April steps in again, and somehow their relationship doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Well Played and Well Met are the earlier rom-coms set at Willow Creek’s Renaissance Faire.

 

Brenda

A Place Like Home

A Place Like Home: Stories by Rosamunde Pilcher

A local bookseller always has a copy of Pilcher’s Winter Solstice on her display of favorite winter reads, even though it was published in 2000. The enduring appeal of the late author of The Shell Seekers and September is shown in this new collection of short stories that are delightful for cozy winter reading, perhaps with tea and a scone or hot cocoa and a cookie. If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming read, but too busy to read a long novel, enjoy a story or two at a sitting, each with a pen and ink illustration. These stories are set at life’s turning points; a holiday, a move, a visit home, the beginning or ending of a romance. They have a strong sense of place, resilient women, attractive men, and often a seaside setting, with a dog, horse, or young child to add appeal. This title is also available from Media on Demand/Libby as an eBook and a downloadable audiobook. Readalike authors include Maeve Binchy, Josie Silver, and Jenny Colgan.

Brenda

Battle Royal

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker

Four years after judge Dominic De Vere voted Sylvie Fairchild off Operation Cake when her unicorn cake exploded and showered him with edible glitter, the pair are rival business owners in Notting Hill, London. Sylvie has opened Sugar Fair, a bakery straight out of a fairy tale, across the street from the traditional De Vere’s, where delicious cakes are beautifully decorated, mostly in white or perhaps ivory. Sylvie is asked to fill in as a judge on Operation Cake, where she gets to know the stern and prickly judge as a fellow business owner, and they gradually become friends. When Princess Rose announces her engagement to John Marchmont, the pair are finalists to bake the royal wedding cake, and end up doing research on the royal family together, with witty banter, tender moments and irresistible chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed Dominic and Sylvie’s story, and the audiobook narration of Billie Fulford-Brown. A second Palace Insiders is planned, featuring Dominic’s younger sister.

Brenda

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Addie LaRue will likely win your heart, but almost no one she meets in her remarkable long life remembers her. Desperate to avoid marriage to a widowed man with children, Addie prays for “a chance to live and be free”. Unfortunately, the sun has set and a spirit from the dark answers her plea. Luc grants her freedom, but she can’t even say or write her own name. When someone steps through a door, they forget her. Born in a small French village in the late 17th century, Addie struggles to survive, and to thrive. After many decades, she can make friends quickly, learns to read and speak several languages, and influences artists and musicians. It’s an amazing life, but Addie’s often lonely. She may see Luc once a year, if that. One day in New York City in 2014, she steals a book. When she returns it to the bookstore, Henry remembers her. And so her life changes, again, while Henry finds someone who sees him as he really is, but there’s a catch. The audiobook is skillfully narrated by actor Julia Whelan. Readalikes include How to Stop Time by Matt Haig and A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness A wonderfully immersive, character-focused read, Schwab is quite the storyteller and Addie LaRue is unforgettable.

Brenda

Honey Girl

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Grace Porter celebrates earning her Ph.D. in astronomy with a short vacation in Las Vegas with friends Agnes and Ximena. She wakes up the last morning with a hangover, a wedding ring, and a picture of Yuki Yamamoto, who hosts a late night radio show in New York City. Back in Portland, Grace tries to live up to the expectations of her father, Colonel Porter. Biracial and queer, Grace is struggling to land an astronomy job, which she somehow thought would be easy. Grace is used to working hard and living up to her father’s expectations. Her response is to flee, visiting Yuki and her roommates in NYC, then her mother at the family orange grove in Florida. Essentially ghosting her friends for long stretches, they are still there when she needs them. I would have liked more about Grace’s astronomy studies; with perhaps a cool field trip to an observatory in Hawaii or Chile. But Grace’s story is much more about an identity crisis, her relationships with her friends, Yuki, and her parents, and learning to accept her own imperfections and uncertainties. Grace and Yuki are memorable characters, and this is an appealing and compelling read.

Brenda

Majesty

Majesty by Katharine McGee

This is an enjoyable coming of age story set in an alternate American future, in which George Washington was crowned king. In this sequel to American Royals, Beatrice is now America’s first queen, and is feeling burdened with her new responsibilities, especially the expectation that she will marry a nobleman. Her fun-loving sister Samantha is now the heir, and has her own romantic problems, as does her friend Nina, along with Nina’s rival, Daphne. There is more pomp and circumstance than glitz and glamor in this second book. The main characters are appealing and I didn’t predict the ending. While the author could write another American Royals book, none is currently planned. Perfect for royal watchers looking for an entertaining read.

Brenda

Readalikes for The Bridgertons

Readalikes for Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Series

The Bridgerton series begins with The Duke & I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, An Offer from a Gentleman, and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. Four others follow, along with three collections of novellas.

If you’re waiting to read some of the Bridgerton books, try these prequels first:

Because of Miss Bridgerton, The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband, The Other Miss Bridgerton, and First Comes Scandal. These are about the Rokesbys, the generation before the eight Bridgerton siblings.

Regency Romances

Ashley, Jennifer. A MacKenzie Clan Christmas

Balogh, Mary. The Proposal, A Matter of Class, A Very Special Christmas

Beverley, Jo. Forbidden, The Rogue’s Return, To Rescue a Rogue, The Secret Wedding

Britton, Christina. A Good Duke is Hard to Find

Byrne, Kerrigan. All Scot and Bothered, How to Love the Duke in Ten Days

Chase, Loretta. Ten Things I Hate About a Duke

Coulter, Catherine. The Sherbrooke Bride, The Sherbrooke Twins

Darcy, Clare. A Regency Trio

Dare, Tessa. Any Duchess Will Do, The Wallflower Wager

Enoch, Suzanne. Hit Me with Your Best Scot, Scot Under the Covers

Heath, Lorraine. Beyond Scandal and Desire, The Earl Takes a Fancy

Heyer, Georgette. The Convenient Marriage, Cotillion, False Colours, Frederica,  The Grand Sophy, Venetia

James, Eloisa. My Last Duchess, Say Yes to the Duke

Jordan, Sophie. The Duke Effect, The Duke’s Stolen Bride

Kelly, Carla. Libby’s London Merchant, Marian’s Christmas Wish, Miss Chartley’s Guided Tour, One Good Turn, Summer Campaign, The Unlikely Master Genius

Kleypas, Lisa. Chasing Cassandra, Devil in Spring, A Wallflower Christmas

Leigh, Eva. My Fake Rake, Would I Lie to the Duke?

Lorret, Vivienne. Lord Holt Takes a Bride, My Kind of Earl

MacLean, Sarah. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, Daring and the Duke, The Day of the Duchess, How the Dukes Stole Christmas, Wicked and the Wallflower

Quick, Amanda. I Thee Wed, Wicked Widow

Quincy, Diana. Her Night with the Duke

Quinn, Ella. The Marquis and I, The Most Eligible Lord in London

Riley, Vanessa. The Duke, the Lady, and a Baby

Sebastian, Cat. Two Rogues Make a Right

Spencer, Minerva. Notorious

Waite, Olivia. The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows

Waters, Martha. To Have and to Hoax

Regency Anthologies

How the Dukes Stole Christmas

A Homespun Regency Christmas

Joy to the World: A Regency Christmas Collection

The Last Chance Christmas Ball

Seduction on a Snowy Night

Victorian Era Romances

Dunmore, Evie. Bringing Down the Duke, A Rogue of One’s Own

Garwood, Julie. For the Roses

Shupe, Joanna. A Daring Arrangement, The Devil of Downtown, The Prince of Broadway, The Rogue of Fifth Avenue

 

Happy reading!

Brenda

Return to Virgin River

Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Fans of the long running Virgin River series or the new television series will rejoice with the publication of this book. Virgin River is a tiny town set in Humboldt County in Northern California. Suspense novelist Kaylee Sloan, struggling with writer’s block while grieving her mother’s recent death, rents a house from family friends, only to suddenly need a new place to stay. Kaylee, finding a warm welcome at Jack’s Bar, the local gathering place, winds up at the guest house owned by local artist Landry Moore. Kaylee brings her laptop to Jack’s Bar most days, but gets little writing done there, so she starts a second book, a romance featuring a version of herself. Kaylee, with the help of friends new and old, finds her own happy ending, and finishes her books. Favorite characters from past books reappear, leaving fans satisfied yet still hoping for more books in the series. Readers who enjoy heartwarming contemporary romance set in small towns will also enjoy. Start anywhere in the series, or with the first book, Virgin River.

 

Brenda

Well Played

Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Well Played is a sweet romantic comedy set in Willow Creek, Maryland, which hosts a renaissance faire on four July weekends. Stacey looks forward to the faire all year, and this year she’s more involved in planning the faire, and helping arrange the wedding of two of her friends. A receptionist at a dentist’s office, Stacey lives in a small apartment over her parents’ garage. A former cheerleader who’s always smiling, she’s best known for her fondness for pumpkin spice lattes. A typical evening finds her home with her cat scrolling social media posts, or hanging out at a local bar with her friend Mitch. In the past, she hooked up with a hunky faire musician named Dex, and sends him a flirtatious text, which unexpectedly starts a long-distance relationship by text and email. The next July, Stacey’s shocked to learn she’s been writing to Dex’s cousin Daniel, the band manager. Well Played is the sequel to Well Met, but I will happily read them out of order. A third book is planned for 2021.
As I hoped, this is a good readalike for The Falcon Always Wings Twice, a cozy mystery set at a renaissance faire.

Brenda