Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Yes, I really have been reading!

I have actually been reading quite a bit this summer. Sadly, my urge to blog has been almost non-existent. Then there was the two week Internet blackhole. I need to actually pay for an Internet connection. Soon! After I move, which may or may not be in the next two months. But as I was saying, I have read a number of books. I feel like I should mention some of them, but can't quite bring myself to write full reviews of them all. Therefore I once again present you with "This book in a nutshell."

Book: Whitney, My Love
Author: Judith McNaught
Genre:  Historical Romance
Whitney Stone's teenage crush on a neighbor has her cold, unfeeling father banishing her to Paris into the care of her aunt and uncle. Under their loving guidance, the young woman blossoms into a ravishing beauty and becomes the darling of glittering Parisian society--a fact not lost on the handsome and equally powerful Duke of Claymore, who determines to make her his wife. Despite the duke's fervent interest, Whitney remains fixed on her childhood love. That is, until she finds herself tempted by the Duke--an attraction that both delights and baffles Whitney, causing her to be increasingly wary of what her heart may lead her to do. The Duke suffers no such confusion. He wants Whitney. And he plans to have her, despite a number of obstacles, including the infatuation Whitney seems to have for another; her aunt's growing concerns; and her greedy father's bungling efforts to control his beautiful daughter. But before the Duke and Whitney's plans can reach fruition, they'll have to work their way through a morass of misunderstandings that threaten any hope of a happy ending.
This book seems to be a bit of a classic.  I have heard it mentioned numerous times in glowing terms.  Based on this I requested it from my library, and I have to say... really?  Truly?  I guess I just don't get it.  The book started off just fine.  I love a heroine, especially a historical heroine, who is so completely outside the mold that she is looked down upon.  The gal who is too spunky or outspoken or a tomboy.  Then add in a hero who is draw to them for the very reasons society shuns them.  I love it, and this book gave it to me.  BUT.  Yes, that is a very big but. By the end of the book I felt as though Ms. McNaught was engaged in a dare.  A dare to see just how many Big Misunderstandings it was possibly to fit into one book.  There were numerous times that the book could have ended quite satisfyingly.  Nope.  We had to add another tragic misunderstanding.  By the end I was ready to tell the H&h to just walk away.  And then!  Then the book was suddenly about the hero's brother.  What?  Annoying.  I actually still have not finish the last 15 pages.  I had to put it down before I threw it out the window.  That would have been bad.  Remember? Library book. 

Book: The Charm School
Author:  Susan Wiggs
Genre:  Historical Romance
Isadora Peabody is the brilliant but socially inept sibling in an otherwise perfect family. And although she struggles to fit into Boston society, her awkwardness dooms her to repeated failure. Fate intervenes when she learns that a sea captain, Ryan Calhoun, is in need of an interpreter for his next voyage to Rio. And despite Ryan's adamant opposition to hiring a female interpreter, Isadora gains a berth on his ship, thanks to a little blackmail.

Life aboard ship and away from the strict confines of Boston society finds Isadora losing weight, gaining confidence, and blooming like a rose. She befriends the motley crew of rough sailors, and in turn, they become a charm school of sorts, tutoring her in gracefulness--which comes in handy when climbing the rope rigging--dancing, and friendship. Isadora's transformation fascinates Ryan, but he is determined to stay away from her for he has secretive, dangerous plans. Unaware of Ryan's interest, Isadora struggles with her growing attraction to the reckless sea captain. But before they can resolve their feelings, prior commitments surface and endanger their chance of finding a happy future together.
I know that many readers have had issues with the fact that the crew or the ship knew enough about social graces to instruct Isadora.  I read so much griping about this that I expected it to be over the top silly.  I think this is a case of going in with low expectations and being pleasantly surprised.  I thought the book was cute and sweet.  I loved the ugly duckling analogy.  Isadora was a great character and her evolution was not simply physical, but emotional, as well. Ryan was flawed and in some ways immature.  This made him seem more real to me.  He had noble intentions and a good heart. I enjoyed his friendship with Journey and his interactions with his mother.  The chemistry and tension between Ryan and Isadora was believable, as was the fact that they both fought against it in the beginning.  A fun read.
Book:  Summer by the Sea
Author: Susan Wiggs
Genre: Contemporary
Two childhood friends negotiate the rough waters of love in Wiggs's newest contemporary romance, which starts out as a typical love-between-the-classes tale, but evolves into something richer. Successful Rhode Island restaurateur Rosa Capoletti seems to have her life in order. Her restaurant, Celesta's-by-the-Sea, has been lauded by the New York Times, she's surrounded by friends, and she has finally achieved financial stability. But when her old flame Alexander Montgomery, whose family name is synonymous with wealth, walks into Celesta's, Rosa realizes that she hasn't moved forward emotionally since he abruptly ended their relationship 12 years earlier. As the two cautiously renew their love, they must come to terms with the tensions between their families and the long-held secret that led to their initial breakup. Although their romance is compelling, sweeter still are the flashbacks of their burgeoning friendship.
After reading Charm School I put Susan Wiggs on my To Buy list.  I am so glad I did.  While the two books have nothing in common, both are very good.  Even better Summer By the Sea has one of my all time favorite plot devices: lost or first loves reunited.  There is just something about a second chance at love that gets me every time.  I think, maybe, it gives me hope.  (Let's just say I am keeping my fingers crossed... this time around.)  Rosa in strong, loud and unabashedly Italian.  Alex is a "summer person."  Old money rich.  Ms. Wiggs does a wonderful job of intertwining present day and past memories together to give the reader a full picture of their relationship.  You see the early friendship, the young love, and the mature relationship.  Yes, there are some Italian-American cliches, but they are stereotypes for a reason: they are very often real.  And can I just say, if Alex were real he would be mine, all mine!
OK, I think that is enough for now.  I will give ya more quickies soon.  Look for some Rachel Morgan/Kim Harrison, an ARC (my first!!!), and Lord of Scoundrels.  I didn't do that one yet, did I?  Ugh. I really need my brain to start working again. I have to go back to school soon!


JenB said...

Ooh, I *love* The Charm School! It's such a sweet and unusual book. I don't care if it's not perfectly realistic. It's just so good! :)

Jill D. said...

Hi Shannon, Welcome back! Yes Whitney, My Love was so over the top, but thats what I liked about it. I love Drama and McNaught gives it in spades. I don't know why there was that part about his brother. It basically was a set up for the sequel, but it was so out of character with the rest of the book. It didn't fit at all.

I think Susan Wiggs is great and I love childhood love stories. There is just something so sweet and touching about their innocence. I haven't read her latest one, but I will have to add it to my list. One book you might want to read by her is The Winter Lodge. It too has a first love reunited theme.

Stacy~ said...

I've never read Wiggs, but her books sound pretty good. Another one to add to the tbb list...

I admit that I loved W,ML. Of course I read it years ago, when I was a young teen, and that probably colored my opinion of the book, but it's one of my keepers.

I sent you an email about tomorrow - I hope you got it. Would love to meet up with you.

Sarai said...

Oh I want to read Charm School but haven't yet. Oh and welcome back! I just printed off a list of books everyone brought to DIK and I am planning on going through it book by book so I know what all the hubla is about *g*

Sarah said...

I did enjoy Whitney but I agree about the big misunderstandings... tiresome after a while. ;)

There is another one of hers I read years ago and it made me cry. Kingdom something, the hero is on his knees and awww. So sad!

MaryKate said...

Hi Shannon! I *LOVE* Whitney, My Love. But I love Old School romance. Also, it might help to keep in mind, that Judith McNaught actually invented a lot of the romance cliches that you find in her books. I think i love her so much because I totally DIG the secret baby. It's one of my all time favorite story lines, and she's the queen of the secret baby.

Either way, sorry W,ML didn't work as well for you. I'd consider reading one of her contemps, perhaps Paradise, which is fabulous. You might enjoy it better.

Shannon said...

I feel so bad for not liking W,ML. I feel as though I am being unfair in not enjoying the Big Mis of the 80's. ::sigh::

Wiggs really surprised me. I liked her so much more than I thought I would. I need to start grabbing up her backlist.

Ciara said...

Thank you! Someone gave me Whitney my love telling me it was Teh Awesome, and I hated it. I'm so glad I'm not the only one. Just one big misunderstanding after another. ugggg. I have the Charm School sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. Good to know it's good!

Ana said...

Yay, another one who didn't like Whitney My Love. I hate all the drama, the stupid Big Mis and The Rape (Yeah, that totally qualifies as rape in my books)

Katie Reus said...

I'm way late in commenting, but it's Sunday night and I can't sleep so I'm blogging :) WML annoyed me too! A friend of mine gave it to me this year and told me it was her favorite book from childhood. I really liked him in the beginning, but by the end I was like, huh? will you please stop jumping to conclusions about the woman you supposedly love. Seriously, way too many misunderstandings!! (AND, *cough*, dude, he totally raped her. No doubt about it. I don't care if it is a historical. Blech.)