June 2024
« Mar    

Book Thoughts: Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins

anna and the french kissAnna Oliphant’s sudden-millionaire author father has decided that his settled American daughter needs to finish high school in France. So, for her senior year of high school, and mostly against her will, Anna is sent to an American school in the centre of Paris. She’s ready for a year of hiding in her room, longing for her American life back, but then she meets Etienne St Clair, a ridiculously gorgeous boy with an English accent, incredible personality, and a girlfriend. Anna soon fits in with his crowd, but she can’t help her feelings for him, and suspects that they might just be mutual.

I thought I didn’t really like YA, but books like this one just keep on winning me over. I have known so many book bloggers who have read and adored this book, but I still thought – not for me. I’m not even entirely sure why, now; I know I don’t particularly like contemporary books, sometimes I find YA romance a little too overwhelming, but neither of those are justifications. I bought it, based on all the rave reviews out in the world, but I didn’t pick it up until last week, when to be perfectly honest I needed something that was light, stress-relieving, and not a huge chunkster like the other two books I found myself reading.

I didn’t expect much, but this book is so sweet and wonderful. It is a romance which grows from a friendship, even if attraction is always there. I love books that do this – completely portray the underpinnings to the love story, not just oh-look-I’ve-seen-you-I-love-you-now. Etienne and Anna are friends. They grow together. They learn how to talk to each other, and they learn how to deal with the myriad concerns that compose their lives. They really turn into best friends. And it’s not actually to the exclusion of all of their other friends, either. It’s easy to believe that a couple like them could genuinely stay together in the real world because they’ve had to learn so much to get to the point where the book ends.

Anna’s confusion and homesickness at the beginning of the book completely and totally won me over. Her embarrassment at her foreignness, her terror of embodying stereotypes, her complete block against even trying to speak French – these are things I could relate to, even though I have always consciously chosen to live away from my own country. I’ve actually read reviews that criticize Anna for this, which baffles me. Perhaps they’ve never quite experienced the combined paralysis of shyness and unfamiliar culture. The fact that Etienne is experienced in more cultures than Anna is but still understands then in turn made me love him (also, the English accent, never gets old even when you live in England and are married to an English man), and the rest of the book I spent luxuriating in the slow burn of their growing romance.

Although, seriously, sometimes people in books need to talk to each other.

Plus, Paris itself. I will be completely honest, I didn’t like it that much in person, but in this book I loved it. I could connect my memories to Anna’s experiences and think, yes, actually; this could have been magical. For her it is as she gets used to it and the city becomes a place of wonder and discovery. I loved the way their love story was woven into the fabric of the city, that their major landmarks in discovering each other are mirrored by shared experiences within such a romantic place. If a book could make me want to go back to Paris and try it all over again, this is the book.

I finished it in one day with a happy sigh, and then bought Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After. If you, like me, have been waiting to read this book because you’re not sure, I would encourage you to give it a try anyway. It might surprise you.


Review: Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James

fifty shades of greyThe last thing Ana Steele wants to do is interview the wealthy, young businessman Christian Grey. She’s shy, klutzy, and completely inexperienced around men. But her friend Kate Kavanaugh is sick and has spent a huge amount of effort securing this interview, and so she goes to meet him. Within minutes, she finds that she’s fascinated with him, and he with her, to her utter shock. But when she starts to get involved with him, she discovers that there are many sides to Christian Grey, and some of them are sides that she’s not sure she’s ready for.

The buzz around this book is huge. It’s everywhere, on nearly every bestseller list you can imagine. Even my mother mentioned it to me, that she was curious about everyone loving it. And from what I’d read online, I knew that it was a variety of romance in a trilogy. So when a colleague offered to lend it to me when I expressed my own curiosity, I decided to give it a try. After all, I like romances, as readers of this blog will know.

I did not like this book.

Several caveats here, I suppose; I mainly read historical romance and I don’t really get that into contemporary romances, although there are exceptions. Jennifer Crusie springs to mind as one author who does it successfully. I’m not into reading erotica, although I’m not opposed to a good sex scene in a book I’m reading at all. And I didn’t like Twilight. I also don’t like being called “baby” or “babe” or any of that sort of endearment, which these characters do, and that always puts me off. Finally, I like nice men; I married one, after all, and it was the best decision I ever made.

That said, there are too many things wrong here beyond that for me to ever recommend this book to anyone, really. The writing style irritated me. It’s incredibly mundane, there are very few descriptions, and the ones that are there are repetitive. If I had to hear about Grey’s long-fingered hands or the way his pants hung off his hips again, I would have screamed. I didn’t need to hear every single detail of Ana’s existence; I can assume she’s shaved her legs and under her arms before a date, thanks. Some sequences just didn’t need to be there. The constant swearing irritated me; the amount of times she says “holy” something or other, or “oh, my”, really started to get to me. Swearing is not something I mind usually; I find it adds grittiness and realism to some books, but here, I just felt like the author should have showed those emotions some other way. Let’s not mention the constant gasping and squirming, often in the presence of other people, who don’t seem to notice.

Then there were the characters, neither of whom I actually liked. Christian is, to be perfectly honest, a controlling freak, and there is nothing I like less than a truly controlling person. I would have run in the other direction as fast as possible if I’d ever come close to someone like him in real life, and honestly I would have hoped the same of other women too. He wants to dictate how much she sleeps, when she eats, and he keeps turning up when she’s trying to get away from him. He traces her cell phone to work out where she is, looks up her mother’s address and where she’s having cocktails to see her, and buys her a computer and a second mobile phone to make sure she can email him whenever he asks. Ana herself isn’t any better; she tries to be independent, but she seems to have zero spine whenever Christian is actually with her, and she barely has an existence outside of his regard for her. I didn’t like her for falling so easily for a guy with a pretty face, for returning to him even when he’s made her cry, for ignoring her friends and their warnings for someone like that.

And I haven’t even talked about the sex scenes yet, and there are a lot of them, starting around page 100. They are disturbing, unrealistic, and written in such a way that I rolled my eyes at them rather than being interested. This couple seems to do it four or five times a day, occasionally one time right after the other, then again twenty minutes later. I didn’t need to read about every single one of these sex scenes; they do not further the story and they get, frankly, boring.

I have zero desire to read any of the rest of this trilogy and I am honestly depressed by the fact that so many people have chosen THIS series as the one that’s caused a public craze. I have read so many romance novels that respect and empower women by showing them that it’s their desires that matter, that they are worthy of love and attention, and instead women just seem to choose the novels where the female characters are spineless in the face of a dominating man.

Instead of reading this, please try Jennifer Crusie, Courtney Milan, or Eloisa James (links go to favourites of their books), or another of the fantastic historical romances I’ve reviewed on this blog. I think you’ll enjoy them far more.


Review: The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller

the song of achillesAs a result of an unfortunate accident with another boy, young Prince Patroclus is exiled from his homeland and sent to grow up in a foreign land with a set of strangers. In Phithia, his new home, he is merely one of many boys growing up under the shadow of the king and his half-god son, Achilles. Almost immediately, Achilles takes Patroclus under his wing and draws him into a new, mythical world, where Achilles is destined to become the world’s greatest warrior and Patroclus his steadfast, fervent lover.

I can’t do justice to this book with my review. It is simply incredible – moving, emotional, mythical, and simultaneously epic and close in scope at the exact same time. If I had to say one thing to you about it, I would say, please read it, it is incredible.

Let’s start with the setting. The Trojan War is relatively familiar for people versed in mythology and literature; if not, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Trojan horse and the face that launched a thousand ships. This takes place around that war, primarily because it is there that Achilles will become a legend. This is The Iliad, but personal, close, and loving; for the first time I felt like I could understand Achilles and Patroclus’s relationship and just how they got to that final, brutal, excruciating point of both their lives.

This is truly a fantastic retelling, one that manages to be both timeless and relevant. Achilles and Patroclus have existed for thousands of years in readers’ minds, but in our society today, many people wish that a relationship like theirs would not exist – a travesty, if you ask me – but a book like this demonstrates just how beautiful that relationship can be, and moreover, how appropriate. It’s partly a romance, writ large on the world stage as these two players tangle with gods and the most powerful of men.

Speaking of gods, there are plenty here, and they walk the world right alongside the characters. Patroclus and Achilles encounter figures of their own legend, like those who trained Hercules, and Achilles’s mother Thetis is a goddess. Their power is appropriately terrifying, especially for Patroclus, who has the dubious role of keeping Achilles from fathering further children, and thus earns his mother’s wrath.

For anyone who may have the slightest interest in a literary, romantic take on The Iliad – The Song of Achilles is a book for you. Very highly recommended.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.


Review: Caressed by Ice, Nalini Singh

caressed by iceAfter Brenna was mentally abused and nearly killed at the hands of a notorious murderer, she has struggled to feel safe even amongst her fellow changelings. What’s worse, she’s lost the ability to change after her abuse, making her feel vulnerable and completely unlike herself. In this state of mind, she has been trying to heal with the help of Sascha, star of Psy-Changeling book 1, and Judd Lauren, one of the coldest Psys around. Judd makes Brenna feel safe, though, and as she begins to spend more time with him the attraction between them goes. But every touch and emotion is literal pain for former Arrow Judd, trained so well that his brain begins to combust at the seams, making the fulfilment of their feelings seem like an impossibility.

I have had an interesting relationship with Nalini Singh’s work so far. In the romance blogosphere, I’ve found that she is completely revered. So many people love her books that it’s impossible to resist picking one up. For me, though, the connection hasn’t been there. I’ve enjoyed her books but so far she hasn’t catapulted her way up my favorites list. With this book, though, I could sense something starting to change, as I got so much more invested in this book than in the earlier two.

In this one, I think the difference was in the characters. Judd Lauren in particular is just the kind of hero I seem to like best. He’s tough because he has to be, the classic dangerous man who just needs a little affection. What I really loved, though, is that he doesn’t really soften. He doesn’t become like a changeling. Instead he expresses his emotions towards Brenna as best he can; he can fall in love but she can’t completely change him. They’re very clearly different types of people who bond regardless. They need healing, but their past lives can’t be erased just because they’ve fallen in love. The entire romance was excellently done, in my opinion, and had me really eager to read more, wishing I had already had the next Psy-Changeling book!

Caressed by Ice is a solid, very enjoyable paranormal romance, further enhancing the Psy-Changeling world and drawing me deeper into Singh’s snare. Recommended!

All book links to external sites are affiliate links. I purchased this book.


Review: Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion

The world has been more or less overtaken by zombies, groaning swaying creatures who exist mainly to feast on the remaining humans’ flesh.  “R” is one such, but he occasionally has dreams about what it’s like to be human, and he thinks about who he was even though he can’t quite figure it out.  On a raid one day, R sees a girl, Julie, and instead of eating her, decides to save her.  He masks her with zombie blood and brings her back to the airport where the zombies live, somehow changed because of her brightness, vivacity, and humanness.  Despite the fact that R is a zombie and Julie is a human, things begin to change between them, and R begins to wonder if there might be more to life than his zombie self realised.

I doubt my summary above conveyed this book properly, and I hope you haven’t clicked away, because I loved this book.  I mean well and truly loved it, was completely drawn in by it, found passages in it that I liked and actually marked to remember.  If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll probably know by the lack of quotes around here that I simply don’t take note of it very often.  I’m rarely struck by a particular passage to such an extent that I’ll specifically mark it out – I see them, but I generally just keep on reading.  Not here.

What most struck me about the book was the fact that Marion used death in order to define life.  It was somehow funny and profound at the exact same time – I knew that this guy was an arm-waving, moaning zombie, Marion cracks jokes regularly about how they try to recapture certain elements of their humanness – but at the same time he’s reminding his readers, reminding me, how actually amazing it is to be alive.  And now I’ll shut up and just quote the book:

Sex, once a law as undisputed as gravity, has been disproved.  The equation erased, the backboard broken.

Sometimes it’s a relief.  I remember the need, the insatiable hunger that ruled my life and the lives of everyone around me. Sometimes I’m glad to be free of it.  There’s less trouble now. But our loss of this, the most basic of all human passions, might sum up our loss of everything else.  It’s made things quieter.  Simpler.  And it’s one of the surest signs that we’re dead. (p 25)

It just struck me as so poignant – life, messy as it is, is something that is precious, and now that R has lost it, he realises this.

Of course, this is also something of a love story, if one of the most unusual ones that I’ve ever read.  I was doubtful at first, I’ll be honest, because who can imagine a zombie as a hero?  I’m already not the world’s biggest fan of paranormal romances.  But, rather astonishingly, it works, and it’s not because we forget R is a zombie, either, as we’re reminded of this very often.  Instead, it’s because we can see inside his head, and we see how he changes as Julie enters his life.  It’s quite a remarkable book.  And despite the author’s intro amusingly citing his lack of qualifications, it’s beautifully written, and I was pulled into this post-apocalyptic world without any effort on my part.

Warm Bodies is an astonishingly beautiful book – a reminder of what it is to be human and a touching romance wrapped up in a zombie novel, of all things.  It’s also wildly funny at times and even disgusting at others, which also makes it one of the most peculiar books I’ve ever read, but it’s oh so worth it.  You truly won’t be sorry you picked this gem up.

One last quote, on this post-apocalyptic world:

What is left of us? the ghosts moan, drifting back into the shadows of my subconscious.  No countries, no cultures, no wars but still no peace.  What’s at our core, then?  What’s still squirming in our bones when everything else is stripped? (p 148)

I am an Amazon Associate. I won this book from the publisher on Twitter.


Review: Crazy for Love, Victoria Dahl

Known worldwide as “Bridezilla”, Chloe Turner just wants to get away from it all.  Her former fiance faked his death to get away from her – meaning that she not only grieved for him but was forced to face the extremes to which he’d go to cancel their wedding.  So her friend Jenn takes her to Virginia for a much needed beach holiday, where they meet the Sullivan brothers.  Max Sullivan is afraid of almost everything and has a need to keep everyone safe; he’s drawn to Chloe and finds himself sharing his secrets with her almost immediately.  Will he be pleased when he learns that the infamous Bridezilla is keeping secrets from him?

This was a fun, fast read that would be perfect for the beach or a lazy afternoon.  Though the characters are somewhat tortured in various ways, their dialogue is snappy and it’s very easy to care for them.  There are simultaneous love stories running in the book, but it’s really much more about Chloe and Max; the secondary love story provides a foil and another angle to the main romance.

I liked especially that Chloe and Max were both a little crazy, which I felt meant that they’d suit each other quite well.  Max is a control freak, convinced that someone is going to die under his watch.  He’s been responsible since his father left when he was very young and he just can’t turn off that responsibility.  He stresses about diving, driving, fires, and even night time swimming, which is apparently very dangerous.  I think he would have driven me mad, but his extra attention is perfect for Chloe, who seems mostly normal.  It’s the paparazzi that have driven her mad and made her paranoid, and Max provides an oasis of calm in the middle of the storm her life becomes.

If there was anything I didn’t like about the book, it would have to be the in detail love scenes; Dahl’s books seem to be on the racier side, so it’s worth warning potential readers.  You may like that, but I am not the biggest fan, especially when the hero and heroine hop into bed without much preamble.  I did feel that their relationship grew over the course of the book, and would have done so anyway without these particular scenes.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than I did Victoria Dahl’s last effort, and I went forth and purchased a historical by her on my Kindle almost immediately after finishing this.  So Crazy for Love was a success for me, and if you like contemporary romance, it may be with you as well.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review through Netgalley.


Mini Reviews

Because otherwise these books are never going to get reviewed!

Ten Things I Love About You, Julia Quinn

Annabel Winslow is looking for a rich husband to rescue her family from the poorhouse.  And she’s found a potential suitor, an aged, lecherous earl, of whom she isn’t at all fond, but she figures she has to resign herself to her fate – even if he does nearly assault her.  Then she meets the earl’s nephew, Sebastian, and everything changes.  They may be falling in love, but will Sebastian have the funds to save her siblings?

Much the same as the last book in this series, What Happens in London, this book is very sweet and very funny.  It’s easy to become fond of both characters and believe in their romance, even if everything is far too rosy for real life.  The series lacks the real fantastic romantic potential of the Bridgerton series, but still all of them provide a nice, quick diversion from every day life.

Lead Me On, Victoria Dahl

Jane Morgan has worked very hard to get her position as an administrative assistant to an architect.  She rescued herself from years of bad behavior as a teenager in order to turn herself into a real adult – even if that means she’s neglected her family.  But she can’t seem to kick her attraction to big, tattooed, rough men, no matter how many businessmen she dates.  When Billy Chase steps into her office, she simply can’t resist him – but can she fit him into her new life?

I think I may be the only romance reader in the world who had some issues with this book – I just found that it wasn’t really to my taste.  Dahl’s writing is funny and smooth, so no problems there, but I couldn’t connect with her characters and the book was a little too raunchy for my tastes.  Jane spends most of the novel as a complete snob, and it bothered me that she judged people so heavily on their appearances when she knew perfectly well that people could be more than that.  I should have been delighted that her prejudices got absolutely torn apart and she had to face reality, but I was already too annoyed with her to bother!

My negative reaction to this book won’t really stop me from reading more Victoria Dahl, though – the concept of the book was very good and I liked the writing a lot.  I think I’ll try another one of her books and see if the characters annoy me less!

Stealing Water, Tim Ecott

Tim’s parents give up their home in Ireland to move to South Africa, a land where Tim’s father believes he has a respectable job waiting, and where Tim’s mother believes she will finally be free of the boggy Irish weather.  But things don’t turn out as they expect and the family become virtual vagabonds, struggling to get by.

This was okay, but I think is one instance where I enjoyed the idea of the book more than the book itself.  The family’s South African life is so full of crazy, illegal antics that, even though they were often necessary to survive, it made me uncomfortable.  There were aspects I enjoyed, though; my favorite bit was when Tim worked in a Johannesburg hotel, at a total contrast to his home life, and became acquainted with guests solely based on their voices.  It was clever and funny.  I also enjoyed glimpses of period department stores and cities.

I also struggled because I couldn’t really understand the way his parents worked; I would basically never do what they all did, much less not return immediately, or as soon as I could, once I realized things were going haywire.  I felt for Tim quite often but it was hard to relate to everything that happened.

Visions of Heat, Nalini Singh

Faith is an F-Psy, meaning she can predict the future.  She’s one of the best, which also means that she is bound to go mad eventually, but she’s making her family rich in the meantime.  Outside her home lurks Vaughn, a changeling jaguar who longs to know more about the girl he senses behind the walls of the compound.  When Faith comes out, she and Vaughn collide, opening her to emotions and physical sensations she’d never dreamed of.  When the Psy world no longer begins to make sense, Faith wonders if she and Vaughn can make a life for themselves without it.

I definitely enjoyed this, and the world-building that went on, but I didn’t really find it to be anything particularly out of the ordinary.  As usual I find Nalini Singh’s love scenes a little too racy and a little too frequent for my personal taste.  I’ve read that she tones down the heat in the next volume, though, as well as lays on the plot, and I’m really interested to see what happens to Judd, so I think I’ll keep on reading.

I am an Amazon Associate. I did not receive any of these books for review.


Review: Maybe This Time, Jennifer Crusie

maybe this timeAndie Miller is finally over her ex-husband, North Archer.  She’s getting married to someone else, and heads to his office to symbolically return ten years’ worth of alimony checks.  As it turns out, though, North still needs her help; he has two young wards in a supposedly haunted house.  Three nannies have fled from the kids, and North is pretty desperate.  So he offers Andie a ridiculous amount of money to take care of them for just a month, convinced that she’s the one – not ready to let her go.  She can’t turn that down, not just to take care of two kids, but it turns out that the house truly is haunted – and the ghosts don’t want to let the kids go.

Jennifer Crusie is the only contemporary romance author I like and she’s proved herself yet again here.  This isn’t a romance, because the romance isn’t driving the plot, but it is one fantastic book no matter what genre you put it in.  I picked this book up and I did not put it back down.  I ignored basically everything else going on and absolutely inhaled this book because I just completely loved it.  I loved it so much that I’m not sure I can even articulate why but I will completely agree with Crusie’s editor – your weekend might be shot because of this book, but you won’t be sorry.

First of all, the plot.  Most of the book takes place in the haunted house with the kids and their skeezy housekeeper.  I knew there were ghosts involved, but for a while there is some suspense around who they are, why the kids won’t leave the house, and what everyone’s so nervous about.  Andie not only has to win the kids’ affection and, you know, educate them, but has to contend with ghosts who will not let the kids leave.  The pace quickly ratchets up and is part of the reason I sped through the book.  I had to know what happened and I couldn’t let the story go long enough to set the book down.  And, to my surprise, it was genuinely creepy. There was a definite gothic feel to the book. I was afraid for Andie, Alice, and Carter, and I wasn’t sure how it would all end.

The relationships in this book are most definitely its strongest point.  There’s so much growing and changing that it’s almost incredible, between Andie and the kids, Andie and the ghosts, Andie and North, even between all the eventual houseguests, who all have their own distinctive and wonderful personalities.  They feel like real people and they react like real people and I was desperate for most of them to be okay and happy.  I could believe in everything happening here, and at times their interactions just brought tears to my eyes.  It was that good.

And, of course, the romance is just spectacular.  Crusie’s words are magic.  Andie and North have a history that’s slowly revealed and better yet, they’ve made mistakes.  They’ve changed.  They’re adults now in ways they weren’t really before, but they can still feel the romance of their youth and bring it back.  I loved how their memories intertwined with what was happening now to create a completely new relationship based on the foundations of the old.

Honestly, Maybe This Time was just great.  I think it could appeal to many people outside of Crusie’s normal audience, who are bored by a normal romance but would definitely enjoy the suspense and quirky characters of this one.  It was absolutely perfect for me and I suspect I will go on recommending it to everyone I see for a long, long time.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the Amazon Vine program.


Review: Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater

When she was a child, Grace was attacked and bitten by werewolves.  She was only saved by the intervention of a yellow-eyed wolf, who has continued to watch her progress throughout her life.  Now 17, Grace is making her way through high school but maintains a strange feeling of kinship with “her wolf”.  When she meets a boy, Sam, with those same yellow eyes, Grace immediately feels drawn to him, especially when she realizes that he truly is a werewolf.  As they fall in love, Grace and Sam struggle to find a way to be together before he turns into a wolf permanently.

I really, really wish I had liked this book more than I did!  I’ve had a number of comments already from people who just loved this book and I was really looking forward to it.  I think in this case, expectations really ruined the book for me.  With the use of the word “chilling” on the cover and the fact that it was a book about werewolves, and that was more or less all I knew, I guess I expected it to be creepier.  Or at least creepy somehow.  Instead, “chilling” referred to the fact that winter’s cold turns the werewolves into their wolf selves.  I felt a bit misled and perhaps if I’d paid more attention to reviews beforehand, I wouldn’t have been particularly annoyed.

As it was, this book is basically a teenage paranormal romance.  As I was reading it, I could tell that my sixteen year old self would have been head over heels for it.  But since I expected more, or at least something else, I wound up disappointed – I often do when I think I’m reading something and it turns into something else.  The romance was sweet enough but it was clearly predetermined from the beginning and the story didn’t really have any twists that set it apart from a regular romance novel.  I’m fine with all of these things when I know they’re happening, but for some reason this book and I didn’t click at all.  Many of the scenes were slow-moving, focusing on just Sam and Grace and their developing relationship.  There was a bit of drama focusing on Grace’s friends and a boy that goes after the wolves, but I was just reminded a little too much of what it was like to be a teenager.

I also really disliked how absent minded Grace’s parents were.  It really brought home to me how much this is a flaw in YA books; I found it hard to believe a father could just forget his small daughter in a car days after she’d been violently attacked by werewolves!  And what parents would miss the fact that their house was now inhabited by another person, sleeping in their daughter’s bed?  It’s hard to believe parents could claim to love their child and then completely ignore everything she does.  I’m sure they’re out there, but Grace’s parents just annoyed me every time they appeared in a scene.

Regardless of my disappointments, I still felt that the book was well-written, with Sam and Grace having distinct voices that made it easy for me to tell the difference between them.  Stiefvater’s prose is lovely, with a number of gorgeous descriptions – that special part of the woods comes to mind immediately and I wish I had the book with me to quote it.  I would certainly be interested in reading another book by her, but I think for once I’ll investigate a little more about the plot before I commit myself.

Would I recommend Shiver?  I don’t know; probably not to someone who expected a creepier book!  But I do think people who enjoy paranormal romance (or Twilight) would like it, as attested by its popularity.

I am an Amazon Associate. I borrowed this book from my local library.


Review: Flirting with Forever, Gwyn Cready

Art historian Campbell Stratford is very close to securing the top job at her museum, but first she needs to complete a biography of seventeenth century artist Anthony Van Dyck first.  Unfortunately, her publisher wants her to add a little sex and drama to an otherwise rather staid story, and she has no idea where to start.  Then she accidentally discovers a time portal, courtesy of amazon.com, and finds herself in seventeenth century England at the studio of Peter Lely with a host of naked models.  At first naturally shocked, Campbell then seizes on the opportunity to observe Lely paint – but she doesn’t know that he’s been expecting her, and neither of them could have predicted the attraction that immediately springs up between them.

I haven’t read very many time travel romances, but I liked this idea of this one, and it was very well executed for the first part.  We’re aware of the time travel from the very beginning, since the book starts from Peter Lely’s point of view.  He’s sent back from an in-between place – between dying and being born again – to rescue Van Dyck’s reputation, but his personal goal is to declare his dead lover, Ursula, his wife by royal decree.  When he meets Campbell, he’s astonished by his reaction to her.

The best part of this book for me was reading about each individual character’s reaction to finding themselves in the past or the future.  Campbell is considerably less shocked by her presence in the sixteenth century than Peter is by his in the twenty-first, which only makes sense.  She’s spent her life studying the period, so she at least knows what’s going on.  Everything is foreign to Peter and his earnest determination to stick to calling things what he’s used to – tunic, carriage, and so on – is endearing.  I really liked the way the whole time travel angle was handed, and I think that now I’d be open to reading more in the genre (Yes, I have read Outlander and no, I didn’t love it the way everyone else did).

The romance did let me down a bit, though.  I often fail to relate to couples who meet and then two hours later find themselves in bed together; it’s just not something I’d ever do and it definitely has me questioning the believability factor.  This is especially so when Peter and Campbell shortly afterwards develop animosity towards one another; there’s so much distrust that it’s hard to believe they could also be falling in love at the same time.

So, to sum up, I enjoyed Flirting with Forever but I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I’d been able to connect with the romance.  Still, I definitely wouldn’t mind reading more by Gwyn Cready or in the genre of time travel romance.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the publisher for review.