Jen’s Favorite Books of 2015

It’s hard to believe we’re leaving another great year of reading behind us. In 2015, I found it more difficult to find books that suit my taste. I don’t care to read about billionaire bachelors, rock stars, step-brothers, biker gangs, or BDSM. Take a minute and think about how many titles fell into those categories last year.  I did a lot of backlist reading to fill in the gaps.

There were some really good new releases that I did enjoy; they were just more scarce. Here’s a look at some of the 2015 releases that really satisfied. [Read more…]

Review: The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long

legend of lyon redmondReviewed by Jen

I honestly can’t remember the last time I so eagerly anticipated an historical romance as I did this one. Julie Anne Long artfully crafted the romance between Lyon Redmond and Olivia Eversea so well, that I would get excited by just the mention of them in the 10 books that led to this point. Not only is theirs the ultimate forbidden romance, it’s also a tragedy. And a mystery. Long has built almost impossibly high expectations for their story, and I am happy to report, she completely delivers in every way.

Before I say too much, I have to give props to the Avon art department on the cover of the book. It completely conveys the emotion of the story, the exaltation of this reunion. [Read more…]

Review: It Started With a Scandal by Julie Anne Long

it started with a scandalReviewed by Jen

Julie Anne Long has done it again. This book proves once again why she is one of my favorite historical romance authors. She crafts characters I genuinely care about and relationships easy to root for. Although this is the latest in her Pennyroyal Green series, it holds up well as a standalone, featuring neither a Redmond nor an Eversea (the two core families) in a leading role. It is a great place for a new reader to get their feet wet –or for an existing fan to return. [Read more…]

Review: Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long

between the devilReviewed by Jen

Not every Pennyroyal Green installment is created equal, but this book reminds my why I enjoy the series so much.  It’s fun reading.  The hero and heroine have this entertaining and complicated dance that’s equal parts courtship and warfare.  Neither wants to want the other, but the attraction –the pull– between them is so strong, that fight against it is futile.  There is great tension and satisfying sex.  And underneath it all, two people who have never let their masks slip… until now.

Ian Eversea is a rake of the highest order.  He conquers a woman, only to move on to the next. He never buys them gifts; never spends the night; never trifles with an innocent.   [Read more…]

Review: Like No Other Lover by Julie Anne Long

like no other loverReviewed by Jen

Still waters run deep, my friends.  Miles Redmond may be an entomologist and a scholar; he may wear glasses and lack the obvious charms of his brother.  But that doesn’t mean he can’t satisfy as a hero. In fact, he definitely satisfies. Unfortunately, Cynthia does not see things so clearly.  When she first saw Miles, she judged him at face value, a mistake that would come back to haunt her in a big way.

Thanks to Cynthia, I didn’t care for this book in the beginning. In fact, I was quite sure that with such an unlikable heroine there was no way I was ever going to enjoy the story. I almost put it down. Now I am glad I didn’t. [Read more…]

Review: The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Anne Long

perils of pleasureReviewed by Jen

Why did I wait so long to read this book??? I jumped into the Pennyroyal Green series somewhere around book 5. I loved it right off the bat. I went back and checked out some of the earlier installments but missed the first two. What a mistake that was! This book is mentioned throughout the entire series.

In just about every book we get references to Colin Eversea and his near-miss at the gallows. This is his story! Colin is the most charming of the Eversea sons. Just about everyone likes him… except, of course, the rival Redmond family. As the story begins, Colin is accused of killing a distant Redmond cousin. He is set to hang. In fact he gets all the way to the point where he is walking to the noose, when he is spirited away in an amazing rescue. It turns out a beautiful mercenary named Madeleine is his savior. [Read more…]

Review: It Happened One Midnight

Reviewed by Jen

I am a big fan of Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series; and I did like this latest installment, but it took me a while to warm up to it.  The romance was a very slow burn and I found myself impatient through the first half, waiting to get to the romance.  It’s a friendship to love story and it seemed like the friendship part lasted a long time.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just as it took our couple awhile to get on board with the lovin’ — it took me just as long to get excited about them together.

Our hero, Jonathan, is the youngest of the Redmond clan.  Few people take him seriously, especially not his father.  But there is more to Jonathan than meets the eye. Behind his good looks and rakish charm, he has a mind for business.  He even has a lucrative venture in mind.   Unfortunately, his father won’t give him the backing he needs. Even worse, he demands Jonathan marry an “appropriate” woman or be cut off financially from the family.

Thomasina –Tommy– exists on the fringe of society. She is no proper lady, but she is no courtesan either. She helps plays hostess to popular parties, and is universally desired by the men who frequent them.  Her carefree and attractive persona is a just a mask she wears, however. She lives hand to mouth, comes from a difficult childhood, and has a higher calling that constantly places her in danger.

In meeting Jonathan, Tommy finds a kindred spirit. They have the same wit and social parrying skills.  They see through each other’s bullshit, frankly, and come out friends because of it.  And it’s a good long while before it progresses beyond that. In the interim, they end up showing each other their true selves… something few others ever see.  By the time they start to see each other with romantic interest, they are so close, they can’t imagine living without each other, despite all the common sense reasons they should be with other people.

I liked the characters. I liked the plot and I thought Tommy’s cause was a great one.  I felt for her as she struggled without anyone to love her. I loved that she maintained her independence and worked to live up to her personal morality.  Jonathan, meanwhile, was sexy and an interesting blend of earnest and jaded.   But I never burned for them to get together.  Sure, it was nice once they did –and the book picked up at that point– but I didn’t feel much tension between the two of them in the first half.  First they were friends; then they were briefly friends with (less than sex) benefits; then true lovers.  I guess the tension was supposed to be in that middle phase but it was underwhelming.  Not bad by any stretch. I just wasn’t excited.

I had hoped to love it more.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
It Happened One Midnight
by Julie Anne Long
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Avon

 

Favorites From… Julie Anne Long

Julie Anne Long

I read constantly and across all genres, but I read far fewer historicals than I used to (and I used to wallow in them), in part because I’ve learned that my muse needs to be fed something very different from what I’m writing—it’s a sort of flint for my creativity to strike against, if that makes sense. And my first responsibility to my readers is to write a great book, so when I’m starting work on a new book, I fish around for a book or two to read that’ll help prime my creative pump.

First off, I want the writing to be fabulous. And by that I don’t mean…oh, lyrical descriptions of s manor houses or what have you. For me, prose is utterly secondary to (or rather—I should say it should only be the delivery medium for) a voice and vision and world view that creates a reading experience so immersive that I feel a little disoriented, almost drunk, when I lift my head from the book, as if I’m surfacing from a deep sea dive or a vivid dream. I don’t really need a happy ending, but I like the ending to feel right. And I may or may not want to read a particular amazing book again. Some pack such a visceral wallop I may never read them again, because I never want to risk altering the way I felt when I first read it. Others I’ll read a half dozen or so times or more. I might critically parse books as I read them, questioning a plot direction, for instance, but I ultimately judge a book on its net impact: was I entertained throughout? Was I moved? Does the story linger? What ultimate feeling was I left with? I’m a pretty egalitarian reader—I don’t really think a “light” book has fewer merits than a “heavy” one, and I don’t believe one genre is superior to another. A good book is a good book; a dull book is a dull book. If it takes you away, it’s done its job. If it transforms you, better still. Reading is a GOOD thing.

YA Author John Green’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS just…blew me away. And if you haven’t read it, and if you don’t think reading about two teenagers who meet in a support group for terminal cancer is something you want to read…well, start reading and try to stop. It’s gorgeously romantic—a true love story in every sense of the word—but it’s very witty, a bit dark, compassionate, tragic, profound, philosophical, intelligent, compulsively readable, and ultimately uplifting. John Green accomplishes all of this with a deceptively light touch. I know better than to use the word “effortless” to describe anyone’s book—even if a writer is propelled by instinct and hard pressed to dissect his or her process, so is, say, a panther when it leaps. I suspect little chunks of the author’s heart and soul are the kindling for a book like this. But it’s utterly effortless to read. Fair warning: it’ll likely wreck you, but in the best way.

David Mitchell is a writer that leaves me kind of blinking and drop-jawed, very, “How…HOW…the HELL does he do THAT??” Again there’s that temptation to pull out the word “effortless”—CLOUD ATLAS is a set of linked stories that leap from genre to genre, from era to era, from voice to voice, absolutely seamlessly, with wit, skill, depth, enormous intelligence and grace without ever losing the narrative thread or my attention. The writing is quite simply astonishing. They’ve made a movie of it (Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry, among many others are in the cast), and I can’t wait to see how they try to pull it off. And if you’re a child of the 80’s, I’d recommend Mitchell’s BLACK SWAN GREEN, a story of a boy growing up in England in that era, his challenges at school, his parent’s disintegrating marriage, so much more. It’s lovely, funny, wrenching and gorgeous, and a bit more traditional in format that CLOUD ATLAS.

Irish author Marian Keyes has been a longtime favorite of mine. She began her career classified as a Chick Lit author—she in fact may have been one of the pioneers of the genre, along with Helen Fielding—but to me, she reads more like…oh, maybe more like a female Nick Hornby: she’s a literate, nuanced, writer with a marvelous emotional intelligence who again employs that deceptively light touch even as she navigates some darker themes, like addiction or domestic abuse or grave illness. But basically, she writes about life: friends, family, romance, betrayals, beginnings, endings, transformation. And she is HILARIOUS— one of the few authors who can force me put the book down because I’m laughing so hard. She started out a great writer and has simply gotten better with every book. I’ve read everything she’s written several times, but I’m a little too old now for some of the issues in her earlier books (e.g., girls with low self esteem navigating the dating world), but I suspect she is, too, because her themes have also matured. If you haven’t yet read her, I’d recommend THE BRIGHTEST STAR IN THE SKY (hated to see that book end) or IS ANYBODY OUT THERE, my favorite so far of the Walsh sister books, and another book that’ll wreck you, in a good way.

Other books that I devour: M.C. Beaton’s light and addictive Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth cozies; anything written by Alexander McCall Smith, who writes with such compassion and intelligence and humor and has a fabulous sense of place—his wit is a little edgier and more satirical in his Scotland Street series, and I love it; Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell books—excellent writing, some dense history, wonderful characterizations; I’ve been on an noire kick lately, gobbling up Raymond Chandler and Vera Caspary, both brilliant and unique writers; I love Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti mysteries set in Venice; and lately I’m catching up on David Sedaris books I’ve missed.

Thanks so much to Julie Anne Long for sharing these recommendations. I asked Julie to be a part of the feature because her Pennyroyal Green series finds just the right blend of romance and humor.  I always laugh when I’m reading these books, but the love stories really deliver as well. My favorite is probably How the Marquess Was Won, but What I Did for a Duke was a huge fan favorite as well.

Would you like to try one of Julie Anne Long’s recommendations?  This seems like a great time to remind you that you can enter to win ANY book recommended in the entire Favorites feature, valued up to $15. We’ve got an ongoing international giveaway (anywhere The Book Deposity will ship to.)  Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*”Favorites from…” photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos  

Review: A Notorious Countess Confesses

Reviewed by Jen

Julie Anne Long continues to impress me with her Pennyroyal Green series.  These books are charming, witty, and difficult to put down.  And in this particular installment, it has a slightly inexperienced, yet thoroughly swoon-worthy vicar hero.

Adam Sylvaine is part of the Eversea extended family and has the requisite good looks of the bloodline.  He takes his job as vicar very seriously, though it’s often made more challenging by the number of young ladies who pursue his affections.  He’s not exactly an innocent, but he has thrown himself into his work and has really had no time or inclination to pursue any dalliance.  He first lays eyes on our heroine when she falls asleep during one of his sermons.

Eve has moved to Pennyroyal Green, hoping to make a new life for herself.  Her reputation in London is in tatters.  Once a much sought-after actress, she was later mistress to two men, and after that, may have cut her new husband’s life short by being too vigorous in the bedroom.  Dubbed the “Black Widow” by the ton, she prays that the moniker won’t follow her to her new home.  In fact, she starts trying to recreate herself, by attending church.  Of course, it was never her intention to drift off to the melody of the handsome vicar’s rich voice.

Sadly, Eve cannot escape her past. She is essentially shunned before she ever really has a chance to make an impression in Pennyroyal Green.  She reaches out to Adam for help.  Adam, who seems immune to her beauty, her flirtations, and manipulations.  Adam… who is honest, stoic, and frank.  He reluctantly agrees and helps to lay the groundwork for her social acceptance in town.  And somehow, they slowly make their marks on each other’s hearts.

The romance is a really slow build here.  Both Adam and Eve fight any real feelings of substance.  Eve has pulled herself up from nothing and fears ceding control to a man. At the same time, Adam must think of his position as vicar and how precarious a relationship with a fallen woman could be.  The sexual tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.  By the time Adam finally put his mouth on her, I was ready to jump out of my seat.  And once things started getting physical, it was smoking hot.

There’s a great cast of secondary characters and a lot going on with the Pennyroyal Green community –and how they all interact with both Eve and Adam.  Eve is a tough cookie and I liked her. But Adam really stole the show for me. I loved his quiet strength. He has all this tightly contained passion, that –when unleashed– rocked my socks off.

There’s also a little movement on the Olivia and Lyon arc.  Good gravy, I want their book so much!  Please, please, give it to me, Julie Anne Long. I need it.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Notorious Countess Confesses
by Julie Anne Long
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Giveaway: A Notorious Countess Confesses

I am a huge fan of Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. They are fantastic historical romances and they are so, so funny.  Julie’s next book, A Notorious Countess Confesses, isn’t out until October. But you can win it before you can buy it!!   Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. This contest is open internationally!

She rose to spectacular heights…

From Covent Garden to courtesan to countess, beautiful, fearless, shamelessly ambitious Evie Duggan has riveted London in every role she plays. But the ton never could forgive her scandalous—if shockingly short—marriage, and when her star plummets amid gleefully vicious gossip, the countess escapes to the only legacy left to her: a manor house in Pennyroyal Green.

He never expected to fall so hard…

He has the face of a fallen angel and a smolder the devil would envy, but Vicar Adam Sylvaine walks a precarious line: resisting temptation…and the wild Eversea blood in his veins. Adam’s strength is tested when scandal, aka the countess, moves to Sussex. But when a woman who fiercely guards her heart and a man entrusted with the souls of an entire town surrender to a forbidden desire, will the sweetest sin lead them to Heaven…or make outcasts of them forever?

 

This giveaway is closed. The winner is May.

a Rafflecopter giveaway