Greetings dear readers!

Bookishly Attentive has relocated to a new blog site.  From now on, this blog can be found at http://bookishlyattentive.blogspot.com/

We hope you enjoy our new look and new home!

Thanks,

Angie, Debra, and Donna

In a number of historical romance novels, the protagonists are more than likely kept apart until the very end by some seemingly trivial misunderstanding.  I kept waiting for that trick to expose itself in this new novel, the first in the new Abandoned at the Altar series by Laura Lee Guhrke. I soon realized, however, that Will Mallory, the Duke of Sunderland, and his once intended bride, Lady Beatrix Danbury had no such misunderstanding. Life simply took them down two separate roads six long years ago. One went to Egypt to follow his life’s dream while the other stayed home in England to follow hers.

Six years ago, Will and Beatrix, childhood sweethearts, were engaged to be married. In fact, they were two short weeks away from that walk down the aisle. Will receives a missive from a famous archaeologist inviting him to search for King Tut’s tomb in Egypt. He must leave straightaway, but tries to persuade Beatrix to come with him. Trix, as she’s known, is tied to England’s shores by her parents’ history. Her mother ran away when she was nine and her father fears losing his daughter to the same fate. Unhappy and feeling the pull of her family and her aristocratic responsibilities, she decides not to go with Will, and he, as heartbroken as she, leaves. The engagement is broken. It takes Trix five years to find someone to help her really begin life again (and that would be Aidan Carr, the Duke of Trathen, whose story is told in the next installment of the series, Scandal of the Year). While she doesn’t love Aiden the way she loved Will, Beatrix feels she’ll be content with him, and she begins to live her life again.

When Will unexpectedly comes back to England to beg for funds to continue his expedition, he and Beatrix are thrown together with disastrous results. Tempting fate, they feel the pull of  first love, and are caught in a compromising kiss. Aidan breaks off the engagement, leaving Trix on her own again. I began to worry at this point that this story may not have the happy ending I’ve come to expect from this genre. Perhaps this will be the one exception to that happily ever after rule that leaves me with that  smile on my face and proverbial song in my heart, even if it is for fictional characters finding their destinies with each other.  It’s the reason why I keep reading these books. What this story actually comes down to is this; There is no “trick” as to why these two are not together. Sometimes love is just not enough.

To the author’s credit, I have never read a novel in this genre that is so rich on introspection and relatively light on dialog, at least in the first part of the book.  This is not a bad thing. Throughout the first two-thirds of the story, Beatrix and Will each have many moments of reliving their past. Ms. Guhrke mixes the present day with poignant childhood memories revisited by both and this makes the story a bit wistful and more than a tad melancholy in many places. Every memory is analyzed and hashed out until you are fully and totally vested in the couple and their history.  It is an amazing feat, really. By the time the novel ended, I felt I knew these two inside and out, and I felt badly for both of them in equal measure.

When certain confrontations force both Will and Beatrix to question themselves and their choices in the last third of the novel, we watch two people mature and finally come to terms with their childhood love and the separation that has colored everything since.

Can Will persuade Beatrix to let him make things right? Can he again persuade her  to marry him and go to Egypt with him six years after he originally asked? Can Beatrix make that leap of faith, leave her surroundings and her comfort zone, and finally, truly be with Will? Is there no compromise these two can make? Things were looking very dicey for a while.  But let me just say this. There is a meeting of the minds, and that is all I’m going to say about the ending of this wonderful love story by one of my very favorite authors. I finished the book days ago, and I’m still sitting here with a smile on my face, and that song in my heart. Ms. Gurhke once again delivers, and in extraordinary fashion. Bring on the sequels.

Destiny, Ohio is once again the place to be in my virtual literary world. That’s because Whisper Falls is finally out on the shelves. Book number three in author Toni Blake’s Destiny series, Whisper Falls is just as luscious as the first two installments (One Reckless Summer and Sugar Creek). But be prepared, my friends. Ms. Blake tees up one beautiful bad boy as this story’s hero. If you thought Officer Mike Romo was something else, just wait ’til you meet his younger brother.

“Lucky” Romo, pegged as a trouble maker and town tough guy, never stood a chance at being understood. So he left without so much as a goodbye to anyone, including his family. And he stayed away for years until an unexpected obligation brings him back home. But Lucky’s a man with secrets – dangerous secrets that seem to be catching up to him just when he thought his days of running from the past were over.  So what is he thinking, inviting the beautiful girl next door into the mess he calls his life? Apparently, he’s not thinking at all …

And Tessa Sheridan should know better. She has enough problems of her own trying to get traction under a failing business while dealing with a serious illness that frequently knocks her out of the box for days. It’s just that the hunky biker next door is really not as scary as he looks. In fact, Lucky Romo makes Tessa forget herself almost completely and, given the sad state of her particular union – that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It’s impossible not to fall in love with every one of Ms. Blake’s well drawn, complex protagonists. You especially have to admire the beautiful bad boy, particularly while he teeters on the brink of redemption. However, Lucky is so much more. Misunderstood as a child, the reason for his rebellion is revealed in an amazingly touching scene, and damn if it didn’t bring tears to my eyes.

Actually, there were many scenes to remember – one in particular reminded me of my first excursion on the back of a Honda Shadow:

“Um, what do I hold onto?” she asked loudly over his shoulder. He turned his head just enough so that she could see his eyes within the helmet.

“Me.”

And what follows is a perfect description of what it’s like to fly down a country road perched on the back of a powerful machine with absolutely nothing to come between you and the glorious rush of the wind except the broad, leathered shoulders of the man you are clinging to. But I digress. . .

Please treat yourself to Whisper Falls. And if you haven’t read the rest of Ms. Blake’s wonderful Destiny series, now would be the time to rectify that shameful oversight. Great stories, fantastic characters, sexy situations and a whole lot of fun. Go on, then. It’s a great ride…

When Abigail Donovan’s publicist creates her Twitter profile, it is with the intention of helping Abby reconnect with her diminishing fan base. And her fan base definitely needs replenishing because it’s been awhile since that first bestselling book made Oprah’s list. To make matters worse, Abby is struggling with a crippling case of writer’s block, and is perilously close to becoming another one-hit wonder of the literary world.

Abby’s very first tweet is answered by @MarkBaynard. Mark tells Abby he’s an English Lit professor on sabbatical and traveling the world as he writes his own novel. The two make a pact not to Google each other and their online relationship develops through prolific tweets of 140 characters or less.

Ms. Medeiros carefully constructs Abby and Mark’s relationship through short snippets of conversation that are so entertaining, they never seem to last long enough. She brilliantly illuminates the story with both characters’ intelligence, sense of humor and vulnerability. We are swept away, just like Abby, to the faraway locales Mark describes perfectly, albeit succinctly. And just like Abby, we begin to like Mark – really, really like him.  But when he balks at having a “real” conversation via cell phone,  she (and we) begin to suspect that perhaps things aren’t really as they seem.

Goodnight Tweetheart is not your typical romance. Most of the dialogue is written in tweets and, short of giving too much away, the ending is not what usually constitutes a happily ever after. That being said, it was one of the most emotionally engaging conclusions I’ve ever read.

I should mention that I met my husband online in the fledgling days of large public chat rooms, way before E-Harmony and Match.com. We were “hanging out” in the same AOL chat and mutually decided, through instant messages, to meet the very next night (in a crowded, public place of course). Our first “in person” date lasted six hours – we closed the restaurant at 2 AM and got married a short year and a half later. That was twelve years ago. So needless to say, I am a true believer in the power of technology-inspired connections.

Read Goodnight Tweetheart and I promise you will be too.

When I read contemporary fiction, I seem to gravitate toward novels that resemble Bridget Jones’ Diary. I just love that British chick lit, where the heroine is a socially awkward, unlucky in love English twenty-something who gets everything she desires by the last paragraph.  And by the time I get to that last paragraph, I’m usually smiling from ear to ear. No wonder I keep coming back for more. This book, The Goddess Rules, by Clare Naylor (a new author for me) is no exception.

The Goddess Rules is the story of Kate Disney, a painter who does commissioned portraits of household pets.  Recently turned twenty-nine, she’s mired in a relationship with Jake, her boyfriend of three years, who has yet to learn not to take Kate for granted. When Kate finally has enough and breaks up with him, he realizes, too late, in fact,  he can’t live without her.  What he doesn’t realize is that Kate has procured a new client, mentor and friend, sixty year old former French actress turned animal activist, Mirabelle Moncur. Mirri teaches Kate how to value herself and to live, just a little, outside her comfort zone.  The lessons work for a short while and Kate starts to see she deserves better than Jake.  When Louis Alcott, a contemporary artist and friend from college, confesses his long-hidden love for her, Kate begins to see him in a totally different light. Just when we think Kate has finally broken free, she’s pulled back into old patterns and can’t quite make the leap of faith that may lead her to the love of her life.  This theme is mirrored in Mirabelle’s story, as she debates whether a first and only love from her past is worth revisiting.

Written with wry humor and a sense of nostalgia for the past,  Clare Naylor weaves a tale of first love and second chances. There were lines in this book that simply resonated with me, enough so that I was nodding my head enthusiastically when I read them.  I love when that happens! I’m looking forward to my next novel by this author.

That smile at the end of the last paragraph is quite addicting.

Christmas-themed romance stories that come out this time of year are usually reminiscent of THAT Christmas tale.  You know, the one where this one sells his watch and that one cuts her hair and both sacrifice what they hold dear in order to give something to the other. His Christmas Pleasure, by Cathy Maxwell, is no exception. While this novel has that theme running through it as well, there is something quite refreshing about a historical romance where there is no rake; the male protagonist is reformed even before the heroine gets to  him, and in that, this story is different.

Andres Ramigio, Baròn de Vasconia of Spain, has a reputation, but it’s not self-inflicted. Women seem to fall into his path, quite literally, and the one woman he has the misfortune to fall in love with, spurns him quite publicly. Abigail Montross, niece of a duke and daughter of a banker, is in love with an Earl’s son who is looking for more than a tradesman’s daughter for a wife. Set up in an arranged marriage by her father, she has already been engaged to and jilted by  another man. When she seemingly rescues Andres from his own father’s fate, their two lives become entangled in ways neither one of them expect. And after Abby’s father proposes another arranged marriage, she desperately looks for a way to avoid it. The Baròn has already seen the good in Abby, and unwittingly provides her with an escape. When he talks to Abby about a solution to their problems (he needs funds, she needs a way out),  it’s already evident that he’s halfway in love with her, which in turn, makes us love him even more.

When Andres persuades Abby to marry him, he’s the one who wants a proper wedding and a blessing from her parents. She’s the one who convinces him to elope. When they reach Stonemoor, the property given to him in Northumberland in exchange for a promise never to return to London, Abby realizes her new husband is not quite what he seems, but our faith in Andres is confirmed when he confesses all.

When Abby receives disturbing news from home in the middle of major misunderstanding with her new husband, and then hightails it back to London, there is little question that Andres will follow her, even if it means losing his home and his new livelihood in the process.

There are some wonderfully written scenes in this book. The showdowns between Andres and Abby’s determined father, the confrontation between Andres and a cuckolded husband, the coach ride that Andres and Abby share, the proposal scene in a garden with a roomful of women watching through a window, and of course, the final scene in the book where everything all comes right again, in a very surprising way, all reflect Cathy Maxwell’s ability at story-telling. This is a fun, quick story that will no doubt get the reader into the holiday spirit.

It was my Christmas pleasure to read it.

Part fiction, part truth, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the story of Emma Grant, a recently divorced Jane Austen scholar who makes a return visit to England after receiving an invitation by a woman claiming to have Jane Austen’s long lost letters.

Emma is fleeing her ex-husband and her teaching assistant, who together engineer Emma’s professional downfall while having an affair. After losing her position and tenure, the invitations from Mrs. Parrot dangling the long lost letters, is too much to resist. With no job or job prospects, no husband and no happy ending in sight, she takes off for London and the home of her cousin. There she meets Adam, her best friend from graduate school, who is in London and staying with Emma’s cousin on pretenses of his own. When Emma meets Mrs. Parrot, she is given a series of tasks to perform involving visits to most of the sites of Jane Austen’s life. We get to hear Emma read excerpts from the letters, and can almost imagine that they do, in fact exist.  At the end of this literary treasure hunt, she is promised that all of her questions about the lost letters will be answered, and she is faced with a moral dilemma of her own and a decision that may lead her to accept or reject the true love of her life.

Beth Pattillo takes us, along with Emma, on a discovery of the heart. When Emma is tempted to betray the trust of the holders of the letters and offer them up for publication, she discovers that Jane Austen’s fiction may have been the catalyst for earlier mistakes and bad decisions, but they  are not what keeps Emma from now truly living her life and finding professional and personal fulfillment. Like the real Jane Austen,  Emma doesn’t need to compromise her honor and her principles to prove her worth. While her decision at the end of the novel is probably not the same one I would have made, we see Emma’s life as she begins to see it; as a process meant to be worked through and lived despite setbacks and betrayals, and despite an elusive happy ending.

This book is a quick, absorbing read. The trek through Austen country was informative to this uninitiated reader. The water spray at the Cobb, the writing desk in Chawton, all these places come alive for Emma and for us. If you are an Austenphile  (and who among us isn’t) this is a book you will definitely enjoy.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.