In an effort to bulk up my reading in June, I read three books which I feel don’t really need a full review. I read a fourth one in July. I wasn’t crazy about any of them, but I’d like to record my thoughts for posterity, so here goes.
Simply Magic, Mary Balogh
Recently, I welcomed Mary Balogh to my favorites list. She doesn’t do badly in this book either, although I’m beginning to see her formula to an extent. Susanna, a teacher at Miss Martin’s School for Girls, is a charity case who became such a wonderful student that she earned a place among the faculty both as a teacher and friend. When visiting her friend Frances, Susanna meets Peter Edgeworth, Viscount Whitleaf, and they proceed to become friends and eventually fall in love. As I said, Balogh definitely has a formula. The characters become good friends and then realize there is more to their relationship. There is also always the “just one night” mentality, meaning that the couples do it just before they separate for good. This has gotten to me a little bit; maybe once, but every single one of her female characters is relatively unconcerned about pregnancies? I can understand the mentality but I don’t know how much I’d share it if an accidental pregnancy was an irreparable tragedy. I still liked the book but I hope the next one I read by her deviates from this formula.
Guilty Pleasures, Laurell K. Hamilton
Everyone always talks about how the first few books of this series are pretty good but the series goes downhill after that. I figured I’d try it anyway. Luckily or unluckily, I really wasn’t fond of this first book and have no plans to read more. The book is virtually dripping with sexuality even before the series has denigrated; it already disturbed me and it could only get worse. I understand that most of vampires’ appeal is that sexual aspect, but there is a point where it is too much. Worse, I didn’t really like Anita, I didn’t like the style in which the book was written, and I actually missed the world-building explanations I’ve found in other urban fantasy series. This one just tossed me in, which might have worked if I’d liked the plot, but I wasn’t feeling it in any way.
A Little Bit Wicked, Victoria Alexander
I thought this would be a good, unconventional romance. The heroine has had affairs and been married before (gasp!) so I figured she would be relatively aware of the world. It’s not really different, though. The hero is jealous of all her former lovers and of course has to be the best of all of them. Judith is an interesting heroine, but Gideon, the hero, feels like more of the same. I also really dislike when everyone knows the couple is in love before they do. Well-meaning, but I can’t say I’d want someone telling me how I felt, so it always annoys me when they try it in the books I’m reading. I prefer the couple to develop that through their relationship, not through someone else telling them they’re in love because they have a special twinkle in their eye or something. I think I need to stop reading romance novels for a while. I’m getting tired of them; too many of them are the same and not really believable love stories.
To Catch an Heiress, Julia Quinn
This is another cute, funny romance from Julia Quinn. I think this is one of her first books, but it still comes across fairly well and doesn’t drown in stereotypes. Caroline and Blake are a sparkling couple, full of witty dialogue and snarky comebacks. Some of the events that happen here are laugh-out-loud funny and I just loved the little blurbs at the beginning of each chapter with a vocabulary word and Caroline’s explanation of why she was thinking of it at the time. I did find that the espionage plot felt a little tacked on. It was in evidence from almost the beginning, but it seemed more a convenient foil to bring the hero and heroine together than a major plot point, until the end when the suspense suddenly takes over. I didn’t find the threat all too convincing and felt that the couple could have realized the extent of their love in some other way. Still, this is easily my favorite of the four books I’ve mentioned here and Julia Quinn is definitely remaining as my favorite romance author.