Wrong Brother, Right Match (Anyone But You #3) by Jennifer Shirk

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Matchmaking guru Kennedy Pepperdine’s life is perfect. Perfect job. Perfect friends. Perfect boyfriend. Except…when she gets trapped in an elevator with a handsome stranger, she accidentally confesses a secret: maybe her perfect boyfriend, Justin, isn’t so perfect for her after all. But a matchmaker should be able to successfully match herself, right? Thankfully, she’ll never see the handsome stranger again. Until she heads home with Justin for the holidays and learns that the sexy stranger is none other than Justin’s older brother, Matt.

Matt Ellis is trying to be on his best behavior for his mother—it is Christmas, after all. But when he recognises the beautiful woman from the elevator—the one he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about for months—his best behaviour is being held by a thread. Matt’s always sacrificed for his family, and nothing is more important than their happiness, but the more time he spends around Kennedy, the more he wonders if her supposed “right match” might just be the wrong brother.

Wrong Brother, Right Match (Anyone But You #3) by Jennifer Shirk

This is a sweet Christmas romance, and it was nice to see both a book that relied on romance (rather than sex), and that moved at a believable pace. But how totally, utterly disappointing to yet again have a heroine who wears glasses full-time, and not have her wearing glasses on the cover!

Wrong Brother, Right Match is the third in a series I have never read before. While it’s fairly obvious who the past heroes and heroines were, it doesn’t intrude on the story.

I’m not much of a love triangle fan, and especially not one when the competition is between two brothers, but I think it was handled believably in this book. I thought the transferring of the heroine’s love from one brother to the other was dealt with well, and in the end I think all three involved handled the situation the best they could. It was nice that nobody was turned into a demon in order for two of them to get together.

Christmas books are fine as long as there’s more to the story than the Christmas stuff. While this one if very Christmassy, it is as much a strong contemporary romance as something set in December.

There was one little thing, and it’s an editing thing: a big revelation was made on one page, and then made again two pages later – and the characters acted like they hadn’t heard it the first time! It confused me so much I reread a number of times to check.

In the end, this was easily one of the better Christmas books I’ve read this year.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Hero (Sons of Texas #1) by Donna Grant

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THE HERO’S HOMECOMING

Owen Loughman is a highly-decorated Navy SEAL who has a thirst for action. But there’s one thing he hasn’t been able to forget – his high school sweetheart, Natalie. After over a decade away, Owen is returned home to the ranch in Texas for a dangerous new mission that puts him face-to-face with Natalie and an outside menace that threatens everything he holds dear. He’ll risk it all to keep Natalie safe – and win her heart. . . .

Natalie Dixon has had a lifetime of heartache since Owen was deployed. Fourteen years and one bad marriage later, she finds herself mixed up with the Loughman’s again. With her life on the line against an enemy she can’t fight alone, it’s Owen’s strong shoulders, smouldering eyes, and sensuous smile that she turns to. When danger closes in, she holds close to the only man she’s ever loved…

The Hero (Sons of Texas #1) by Donna Grant

I WANTED to like this book. However, it fell victim both to some glaring research errors and the bane of the romantic suspense genre: mental lusting and sex at the most inappropriate times.

When I saw The Hero was about Russia and espionage, I got excited and wary in equal parts, because that’s a subject I know far too much about, and far too often Kremlin politics and aggression are glossed over and romanticised. I became a bit more hopeful when I realised that wasn’t the way the story was going (a nice surprise seeing how a Putin apologist just won the election!), but the mistakes drove me to distraction.

In the world, a country’s government is in the national capital city. Also located in national capitals are the embassies.

So why in the world was this book’s heroine working at “the Russian embassy in Dallas”? This was as wrong as putting the White House in Dallas. Yes, some bigger countries also have consulates (not embassies) in other cities, but even the Russian consulate in Texas is located in Houston.

The problem is that – and no matter how obsessed authors and publishers are with setting books in Texas – international espionage just doesn’t work when it’s taking place on a Texan ranch. I’m tired of the Texan cowboy trope anyway, but when political intrigue starts happening in such a location, it’s time for the romance genre to get a shake-up.

This was not my only problem, however. The thing that turns people off the romantic suspense subgenre the most is when characters start lusting after each other and having sex in terrible situations. And that is the case here from start to finish.

The book begins with hero and heroine walking into the house of family members/surrogate family members. The family has been murdered, and there’s blood everywhere.

Their reaction? An erection on his part and hard nipples on hers upon seeing each other again, followed by lots of thoughts about sex and relationships.

This sort of inappropriate behaviour continues throughout the whole book. I can’t like people whose reaction to death and violence is to fall straight into bed and worry about whether or not they might get back together.

In the end, I was disappointed with a book I really wanted to like. There was potential to deal with some real-world issues here, and going in I didn’t realise the entire story was going to be set on a farm. Political intrigue does not belong there.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Charles Dickens by Karen Kenyon

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Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved English novelists.

But who was the man behind the novels?

And how did his turbulent personal life contribute to his literary genius?

By the age of twelve Dickens was separated from his family when his father was sent to debtors’ prison. He was sent to work in a boot blacking factory, and had to live and walk the London streets alone.

He never recovered from the emotional wounds of those years, and when he began to write stories of the poor in London he included especially poignant characterisations of children.

He worked hard to change the way society viewed and empathised with the poor, and yet, despite these displays of kindheartedness, he could be heartless in his personal life.

He had strained relationships with his children and showed very little sympathy towards his depressed and lonely wife.

He was full of compassion, yet could also be a mass of contradictions.

Charles Dickens by Karen Kenyon

Despite living and working near the Charles Dickens Museum in London for a couple of years, I never got there. The more I read about Dickens’ personal life, the harder I find it to separate the books from the man.

Dickens is famous for his work helping the poor, but what is not as commonly known is that he was selfish and often cruel when it came to the people he should have cared about the most, and held a rather disturbing obsession with teen girls and very young women his entire life.

Karen Kenyon’s Charles Dickens is a detailed biography that shows Dickens as a complex and extremely contradictory man. A man who grew up in poverty and worked his way up to one of England’s most famous men, performing readings for the Queen and touring America more than once. (I found the part about his copyright woes in the US interesting.)

It is hard to make sense of a man who was loved by the public, but who blamed his wife for having too many babies – babies he was indifferent to – before leaving her for a teenaged lover when he was middle-aged.

Charles’ and Catherine’s last child was born that year…

…At the time of his birth, Dickens, with his characteristically cold response to the birth of his children, said, ‘on the whole I could have dispensed with him.’

This was a man who refused even to send his estranged wife a note of condolence when one of their children died.

Victorian England is a fascinating place, with a great deal of misery in the poorer classes that provided Dickens with subjects for his work. I think that the atmosphere of the time was described well in this book.

There is so much known about Dickens’ life, as well as more revealed about his secret life with his mistress (after it came to light in the twentieth century), that any biography is going to be heavy on the information. There is a lot of life to cover in detail, even considering he burnt two decades of his correspondence, and that there’re many unanswered questions about his thirteen-year affair.

I don’t think there was any way to present the man’s life than how it was done in this book, even if at times it was perhaps TOO fast with the facts to the point parts felt like a long list of dot points put in sentences.

Additionally, the copy I read had quite a few editing mistakes (and oddly switched back and forth between US and British English), but that was a minor issue.

It is hard to present both sides of such a complicated man – the good public one and the often cruel private one – with balance, but I think it was achieved.

Though this is a story of a man’s life, I think it is as much a story of how limited women’s options were in the nineteenth century.

I do wonder how a man with so much compassion for others could care so little about the most important people in his life.

This affair brought out all that was worst, all that was weakest in him. He did not care a damn what happened to any of us. Nothing could surpass the misery and unhappiness of our home.

One of Dickens’ daughters.

Overall, and despite my inability to get over my anger with a man who has been dead a long time(!), it was an interesting read.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 28th November – 4th December

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Canberra’s Friday sunset.

Busy, sunny, HOT week to begin summer. Getting ready for Christmas is taking a lot of time, plus I help decorate for other family members, too. I haven’t done enough reading; only finishing a Charles Dickens biography (I already knew he was a bastard to his wife and family, but – WHAT a bastard!), and rereading some favourite historical romances.

I am neglecting my Christmas review books, and really need to get those read and reviewed before Easter!

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First summer sunset.

My review of Sweetest Regret by Meredith Duran

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My review of The Heiress and the Hothead (Sinful Suitors #1.5) by Sabrina Jeffries

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First day of December

A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas

Maybe the best Christmas romance title ever!

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On this day: Louisa May Alcott was born

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888), American novelist, at age 20

The ghost of Lord Combermere

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