I’m rethinking doing the diverse romance challenge. No one has said anything negative to me, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with the bingo square format in this context. Am I overthinking?
The theme: A random book.
Why this one: I was cleaning out my unread Deverauxs, feeling like the right time in my life to read them was past, but I could not resist the description of “a hot-blooded union organizer” hero. My grandpa would have been proud.
(Damn, I suppose I should’ve reached in the cabinet and pulled a book out at random? Too late now.)
The Awakening reminded me that the Deveraux books I’ve enjoyed the most have all been North American-set historicals… and that she thinks up some great stories. The setting of 1913 California is unusual enough, but when you add in the plight of migrant workers, it puts in some compelling history.
The romance plotline is compelling too, at least for much of the book. Hank Montgomery, an economics professor who works with unions, is invited to the Caulden family ranch in hopes he will soften towards their side in a brewing union battle. There he finds a truly weird set-up: Caulden’s wife is hidden away, and his daughter Amanda is subject to the strict rules and schedules of her tutor/fiance, who controls every aspect of her life, down to when and for how long she uses the bathroom. Obedient and adoring Amanda is instructed to entertain Hank and keep him on schedule, too.
It’s love at first sight for Hank — or maybe it would be, if Amanda wasn’t such a know-it-all prissy bore. For her part, Amanda is frustrated and upset with this man who uses the bathroom whenever he wants, insists on huge delicious meals, and makes her feel things that upset the way everything should be. Their interactions are romantically offbeat because a lot of the time they genuinely don’t like each other, yet they’re continually forced into intriguing intimacy. (Such as Hank having to brush Amada’s hair.)
Hank isn’t always a great guy here (though he usually recognizes when he’s messed up.) To be honest, none of the main characters behaves truly honorably — everybody cheats on everybody else — which I guess makes it sort of even out in the end. Also, though basically a beta hero, Hank lives up to Willa’s law — so if you’re very sensitive about dubious consent and sexual coercion, avoid this one. Hank’s carefree bachelor sexual history is kind of irksome too; he seems to belong to the “nobody gets pregnant unless they have sex 24/7” school of thought. No wonder there were so many Montgomerys.
Even so, about two-thirds of the book felt fresh and captivating — but then the last third pissed away a lot of the tension. The plot meanders to keep things going, and the most action-filled moments in the book are written at a remove. Perhaps this is because, as the author’s note explains, Hank and his union organizing were based on a real person and actual events. The descriptions of the workers’ living conditions are vivid and sickening; it’s a shame the union plot aspects aren’t better integrated into the story.
Still, just having an older historical romance touch on how badly migrant workers were treated feels important to me. The genre has so many romantic Southern plantations and wealthy ranches — I just finished a Diana Palmer book in which the union organizers were the baddies — that it’s good to see acknowledgement of the exploitation that often accompanies wealth. (Racism isn’t addressed, btw.) If you want a historical read that really isn’t the same old thing, this fits the bill in a number of ways.
I’m having so many thoughts and feelings while reading this that I decided to write a reaction post as I read, rather than try to do a traditional review.
The story is narrated by Denise, a biracial autistic teen living in Amsterdam. It opens as the earth is just about to be hit by a comet. Denise and her mother are late leaving for their assigned shelter, because they’re waiting for Denise’s missing sister, Iris.
— I wonder if the author wrote this partially to address her own fears about how she might survive as an autistic person in a cataclysmic disaster? I know it’s something I’ve thought about a lot myself — one of the reasons I’m really not attracted to dystopian fiction — and especially now that I have an autistic son. When I told my husband the premise, that’s immediately where his mind went and he thought the book would be too scary to read.
(One of my favorite stories is John Varley’s The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged). You can read it online. In it he writes,
“We all love after-the-bomb stories. If we didn’t, why would there be so many of them? There’s something attractive about all those people being gone, about wandering in a depopulated world, scrounging cans of Campbell’s pork and beans, defending one’s family from marauders. Sure, it’s horrible, sure we weep for all those dead people. But some secret part of us thinks it would be good to survive, to start all over.
Secretly, we know we’ll survive. All those other folks will die. That’s what after-the-bomb stories are all about.”
Not me. I have never believed that. In my scenario, if I survive, I will undoubtedly die shortly thereafter.)
— Denise’s beloved missing sister is a trans woman. This worries me in a post-apocalyptic story. (It turns out not to be an issue at all.)
— (32%) I appreciate the nuance of this portrait and it feels really well balanced. Denise is realistically having trouble dealing with stress and melting down, but she’s also contributing. She’s neither SuperAutistic Girl or Autistic Robot Girl.
— (37%) “It’s the end of the world; I knew I would have to change. ”
I pondered this sentence for awhile. It seems an ableist point of view. I guess Denise means she will have to be really brave? To do things that are very hard for her? Does she really think she can just decide to change?
— (60-something%) This plan is so messed up. Does no one think about what it will be like to spend the rest of your life stuck with people who will utterly hate you?
— The moral ambiguity in this scenario is excruciating. I hope the story will find some good way to resolve it, but I can’t imagine what.
— Oh. Now I understand what the earlier thought about needing to change was about. It is an ableist point of view, because it’s internalized ableism. Denise thinks she has to be more “normal” and useful in order to justify her existence in the post-apocalyptic world.
Ending — Wow. Just wow. I’m so impressed with how this played out. It’s an amazing book. I wish I could read it to my son without scaring him to death. This is why #ownvoices matter.
I’m often aghast when reading reviews of modern Harlequin Presents that dare to break out of rigid formulas. (I wrote about one example, also, as it happens, by Abby Green.) The hate a book garners when the heroine dares to have sex with someone other than the hero is sickening. So it was embarrassing, reading the reviews of this and having to go… “Yes. True. You’re absolutely spot on.” Liking a book despite the fact that it’s really sexist isn’t as bad as hating it because it isn’t, right?
The plot is a bit of a mix of The Sheikh (sans physical force or brutality), Susan Napier’s Mistress of the Groom, and Green’s own The Brazilian’s Blackmail Bargain — two of which I really like. (No prize for guessing which two.) Arkim is planning to marry a sweet young girl, as part of a business deal and also to establish his respectability because his dad was — gasp! — a porn mogul. Unfortunately, the sweet young girl has an older, hotter sister who works in a – gasp! – naughty Paris revue. When Sylvie destroys the wedding by proclaiming that she and Arkim had had sex the night before, he decides to take his revenge by stealing her away to his Sheikhy desert hideaway and making her lie true.
Revenge! Misunderstood innocent! Whore goggles! I totally love this shit! But it’s hard to deny that it’s extremely implausible here. The contortions the story goes through to make 28 year old Sylvie a total innocent who barely shows a thing when she dances would fit handily in her revue:
“‘I couldn’t care less if you stripped naked and hung upside down on a trapeze in your show. This conversation is over.’
Sylvie refrained from pointing out that that was actually Giselle’s act…”
Sylvie is the fakest of fake rakes and Arkim is pretty much a fake Sheikh, which is offensive in other ways. Credit to the author for trying to strike a positive note against slut-shaming at the end, by having Arkim accept Sylvie’s job… but it’s gloss. It can’t mitigate the sexism at the heart of the story.
I feel like I should write more about why I enjoyed the book anyway, but there isn’t much to say past, “I like this kind of thing.” The prose is smooth and effective. It’s intense, it’s angsty, it’s cathartic in some way. It hits the sweet spot; I’ve learned to be okay with this.
I decided to do something a little different this month. I was reading A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy, and was pleased to see there was a story title perfect for “Taming of the Shrew,” a square name I had picked based on my reading last month. I then thought it would be fun — and would make the bland collection more interesting — to see if I could fit a story from the book into every square! (Definitely a little challenging, since Binchy sex is always off-page.😉 ) I’ll also do a regular reading round-up at the end of the month and see if I can fill my card the usual way.
There are more than 25 stories in the book, so a few aren’t mentioned here.
Christmas Gifts *wink wink nudge nudge: “Forgiving.” A woman estranged from her family decides to forgive them and visit for Christmas
Do You Remember: “The Sensible Celebration” A woman recalls the repercussions of the very foolish parties her friends have thrown.
September: “Be Prepared.” To truly prepare for Christmas, you have to buy your cooking foil in September.
A Woman in Her Prime: “A Few of the Girls.” This was a hard story to place because I don’t think I really got it, but the character of Nicola seems to really have her shit together.
Balance: “The Mirror.” A disastrous evening is balanced out by a happy realization.
Where There’s a Will: “Audrey.” For fans of sentient cat stories.
Taming of the Shrew: “Kiss Me Kate.” Just the title really, but it’s enough!
BIRTH DAY: “The Custardy Case.” Bernard thinks all the drama in the house is a surprise for his seventh birthday.😦
You Complete Me: “Chalk and Cheese.” Linda doesn’t appreciate how much her perfect life runs smoothly because of her friend Chalkie.
Twenty Fifth: “The Consultant Aunt.” 17 year old Sara gets romantic advice from her 25 year old aunt.
Coupling: “The Bargain.” A meh little romance.
Gush: “The Afternoon Phone-In”. Rory thinks that radio host Fiona is amazing, far too special for an ordinary bloke like himself.
Swooning: “New Year’s Eve and the Garden”. Instead of her traditional New Year’s Eve party, a newly widowed woman reads her late husband’s journal and gains a sweet legacy from him.
Naked Truth: “Falling Apart.” A woman realizes that her chance at happiness depends on being very firm and honest with her alcoholic mother.
You’re History: “The Foul-Weather Friend.” A friendship that will only last as long as you’re miserable.
69: “Picnic at St. Pauls.” Catherine is very disappointed when the attractive stranger in town who phones her turns out to be “in his late sixties, at least.” (This is Binchy, that’s the closest I’m gonna get!)
Somewhere Around the Corner: “The Afterthought”. A man having an affair dreams about how it could all be perfectly resolved someday.
Ravish: “No Tears in the Tivoli.” The main character is a trophy wife, so presumably pretty ravishing. Sorry, that’s all I got.
HATE: “Giving Up Men.” Ironic Binchy at her most aggravating.
Cool Dude: “Sandra’s Suitcase. A friendly tour guide helps out when a tourist loses her suitcase and changes her forever.
Flip Back: “Living Well.” No, THIS is ironic Binchy at her most aggravating.
HOME cooking: “Catering for Love.” Ronnie is a caterer, hired to pass off food as home-cooked, with unfortunate results.
Pillow Talk: “A Tactful Conversation.” A tough square, because sex is only alluded to in Binchy. But the couple has conversations and they could certainly be having them in bed!
Subtle: “Someone’s Got to Tell Her.” A one-sided conversation in which the narrator gradually becomes aware that not all is as she thought.
Gamma: “Mr. Mangan.” The definition of gamma is somewhat confused, even in romance terms, but one generally accepted definition is a sort of Alpha/Beta combo — a hero who is confident and top dog, but also sensitive and not arrogant. Mr. Mangan is quite the guy.
Recurring themes of the month: Witnesses in jeopardy. Tough guys dancing with babies. Revenge. Artists. Cornwall. Sassy gay friends/relatives, including in m/m. Heroines named variants of Katherine. Russian heroes who get to call such heroines Katya. Heroines who had loving but passionless marriages with much older men. Significant others with bad secrets. Adultery. Somewhat off-genre romance. Terrible books that I hated.😦
Delusional: The Sound of Snow by Katherine Kingsley. The heroine believes her cousin is a little spoiled but basically good-hearted. Hahahahahaha. My TBR Challenge read.
Suddenly: Midnight Man by Lisa Marie Rice. Everything was sudden in this. BAM they’re hot for each other, BAM they’re having sex, BAM she’s in deep shit, BAM he makes everything okay again.
I haven’t read a lot of Rice because my reaction to her “traditionally hypermasculine meets traditionally hyperfeminine” formula ranges from “Not really my thing” to “Jeez, that’s disturbing.” (Leaning towards the disturbing: the description of the heroine’s much-softer-than-other-women’s pubic hair.) There were definitely disturbing elements here, particularly the truly superfluous, nasty treatment of a sympathetic gay character. (In a book with so little space devoted to anything other than sex scenes, you have to give time to that?) But the fantasy of the incredibly strong, competent, sexy hero who comes along and makes everything okay is a pretty powerful one, and perhaps works especially well in such a tight, concentrated book.
August: And One Last Thing by Molly Harper. The heroine married her husband on August 1st, a fact which becomes very pertinent when she receives the wrong woman’s anniversary flowers.
A July read from Valancy. Funny story about a woman going a bit ’round the bend when she discovers her husband is cheating on her. Overall, pretty positive. Very chicklit in feel, with a nice emphasis on her personal growth, but also romantic.
Kick it!: Only Beloved by Mary Balogh. I kicked it to the curb. :-( So freaking nice and sweet, I fell asleep in my blancmange.
Glacial: The Sun at Midnight by Sandra Field.
I figured this would go to a cold character, but then a Harlequin Presents with an Arctic tundra setting fell into my lap! Oh man, do I miss the 90s.
Quite a lovely read; the heroine is a biology student doing research, and her passion for the animals and environment really shine through. The story was also pretty good if you like anger and betrayal, though the plot details felt a little off in some ways.
I’m Not Worthy: Claiming His Wife by Diana Hamilton. Insecure heroine is so afraid she’ll suck in bed for her player husband, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Shallow, dull, stupid book. I was especially pissed when it turned out the heroine’s independence after leaving her husband was entirely orchestrated by him.
Shades: Once Upon a Moonlit Night by Elizabeth Hoyt.
This square made me think of Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice: “Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” She would be beyond horrified by this match. And it amused me to use a historical romance for shades. No, you’re reaching.
PRIDE: The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black.
“John, did you see those boys at the bar the other night? They weren’t just out and proud, they were out and proud in flashing neon, you know? I’ll never be that far out of the closet. I’ll never be anyone but myself. But it seem to me I’ve been missing something critical. I see that in you too. Missing the right to love.”
I decided to go with “pride” because it’s something the two main characters have never gotten to feel around their sexuality or relationship, but they’re starting to move there at the end. More thoughts at “Heroes and Heartbreakers.”
Cool Bananas: The Counterfeit Secretary by Susan Napier.
“Ria was thankful that she had never felt a spark of personal interest in the man. She knew him too well to find him as irresistible as other women did… she had been too well forewarned.”
Yes, she starts off cool. Then she goes bananas.
Evil Side Eye: The Desert Virgin by Sandra Marton.
I was side-eying this entire ridiculous and offensive book, but especially the “hero” who is EVIL. On top of more typical douchecanoe hero behavior, he tacitly approves of enslavement.
Dreaming: Even Odds by Elia Winters.
A erotic romance in which
— POC are described in ways which don’t sound like bad food porn?
— The hero has non-appropriative tattoos and a great awareness of the importance of consent?
— both heroine and hero respect each other’s boundaries?
— the characters get creative when they don’t have condoms, instead of assuring each other they’re clean?
— non-physical perfect geeks have confident social lives? (And gimme a book for Dan now, please.)
— sexual harassment is taken seriously?
— All with laughs and lots of steam and a few heart tugs?
I must be dreaming!
Bop: Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw. The main character is dragged to a dance and even dances a bit. Sharp, funny YA story. I didn’t buy the resolution of the romance plot.
So Utterly Perfect: The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly. I wouldn’t say this is Kelly’s best book, or my favorite, but it was exactly the palate cleanser I need after the false piety of The Sound of Snow. It’s a harrowing story, but always goodhearted and life-affirming.
This was also the story that made me realize if Lois McMaster Bujold wrote historical romance, it would read a lot like Carla Kelly.
Would you like a cuppa tea, Love!: Vows of Revenge by Dani Collins. It seems kind of wrong to give this square to an American book, but the hero going to visit a mother-figure is a turning point for him.
Loved this one. Just what a modern day Harlequin Presents should be, IMO.
Rags to Riches: With His Kiss by Laurey Bright. The heroine’s late husband was a philanthropist who helped musically talented kids from poor backgrounds; the hero is one of the success stories.
!: Labyrinth by Lois McMaster Bujold. Reread.
I thought that The Mountains of Mourning had deepened on reread! This one I barely remembered, other than Taura, and now it hit me like a ton of bricks.
“‘What else do you wish for, Taura?’ Miles asked earnestly.
Slowly she replied. ‘I wish I were normal.’
Miles was silent too. ‘I can’t give you what I don’t possess myself,’ he said at length. The words seemed to lie in inadequate lumps between them. He roused himself to a better effort. ‘No. Don’t wish that. I have a better idea. Wish to be yourself. To the hilt….
Look at Nicol — or look at Captain Thorne, and tell me what ‘normal’ is, and why I should give a damn for it.'”
Almost Kiss: Red Moon Rising by Lori Handeland.
“His gaze drifted to my lips. I swayed, and I wasn’t even dizzy. I wanted to kiss him, right there in the middle of another burning wasteland. We should be running for cover, calling the cops; instead we were staring into each other’s eyes and puckering up.
Clay dropped my hand and stepped away. At least one of us had some wits left.”
Terrible short story. TSTL heroine and brusque sloppy writing that feels more like an outline than a narrative. There are a few laughs.
Small MAN: A Shot at Forgiveness by Cardeno C. Hero is a small man who likes big men. He scores.
Romances about former bullies and their bull-ees are my catnip — BUJEET all the way! — but this short story required a huge suspension of disbelief. If someone who had once bullied me started stalking me, I would at the very least be nervous about his possible agenda. Definitely a fantasy read, and doesn’t have much angst, which seems like a waste. I think it’s an interracial romance, although we aren’t told much beyond — you guessed it — “mocha-colored skin”
roam: Gunslinger by Lorraine Heath. Novella originally titled Long Stretch of Lonesome. The hero is always on the move, longing for a home he thinks he doesn’t deserve. An enjoyable sentimental story. (Insert obligatory “I wish Heath still wrote Westerns” comment here.)
A+ Bestie: Rightful Possession by Sally Wentworth. I won’t say what the bestie does, since it’s a spoiler, but it’s just what you’d want in a bestie.
Soft focus: Snowed by Pamela Burford. The hero is a photographer and there’s a nice soft-focus cover.
This seemed very familiar to me, and I’m guessing I started or skimmed it a few years ago, but then got put off by the reviews. Despite the faux incest, I quite liked it, as it turned out. Very sensual. The hero is a touch old skool, but not too bad as they go.
HOMEcoming: Breaking the Rules by Barbara Samuels (Ruth Wind). The heroine, a former foster child, has yearned for a home and security all her life.
I’m not sure exactly why — maybe it’s classism on my part — but the hero of this book totally put me off. Even his dancing with a baby couldn’t make up for him referring to himself in the third person as “old Zeke.” Bleh.
Petite: No Longer Forbidden? by Dani Collins. A sad square choice… the heroine was coerced into pursuing a dancing career by her mother, and has infertility caused by lack of body fat. There’s a happy ending but no magic cure. (I know petite is more height than weight in terms of fashion, but the dictionary definition allowed it. Enough, anyway.)
Gaslight: Lessons in Pleasure by Victoria Dahl. Victorian set novella. The heroine has been gaslighted by her entire society, but specifically by a very evil doctor.
I didn’t find this as touching or powerful as Dahl’s Americana historicals, but it did have some teeth to it. And it gave me some serious shivers, though thankfully the scary part is over quickly.
X: The Wicked Duke by Madeline Hunter. I’m going with X as in X-rated here… not because the book is all that graphic (though more so than she would’ve written ten years ago.) But the scenes showing how “wicked” the duke can be were more X-rated than I really wanted in a romance hero. Props for not making him another fake-rake, I guess…
A well written book, but the relationship arc reminded me a lot of The Rules of Seduction, which is one of my top ten favorites, so this inevitably suffered in comparison.
Also read (or not):
Static by L.A. Witt. Fascinating story. More here.
Fallen by Lauren Kate. YA paranormal cliches galore, particularly the undying love for a completely blah character. Meh. A better narrator might have saved it — not bad overall, but the teen voices were pretty terrible — but then again, there is the scene in which the heroine has witnessed another character cut an innocent person’s throat in cold blood, before tying the heroine up in a sacrificial cross with a knife to her throat, and then actually says in bewilderment, “you wouldn’t hurt me?” THUD.
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler. Cute, romantic story with a prickly heroine. Shallower than I expect from Tyler, but considering I couldn’t finish her previous book, I’ll take it.
Indiscreet by Mary Balogh. Reread. I wouldn’t call this a favorite, and yet somehow I seem to reread it more than any of her others. Perhaps it’s because I passed on my copy when I owned it, so I keep borrowing it when the opportunity arises.
Exposure by Susan Andersen. Another one for “almost kiss” and “I’m not worthy.” I was pretty iffy about a book recommended for having an adorable little girl character, but I guess now my son is a teen, adorable little kids work for me again. She is indeed damn cute, but also believable. The big hero is very sweet too, although I felt he was sometimes hypermasculinized, as if to make up for the fact that he’s disabled. (Prosthetic hook.) He always seems to be flinging the heroine around.
Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole. After a bumpy start, I was surprised to find myself totally into this. It goes in a different direction with fated mates than Cole’s usual, because the hero has been a whore for so long, he’s cut himself off from feeling any emotional connection to sex. He can’t understand why fidelity is important to his mate. The bad-ass but deeply lonely heroine is pretty awesome, and there’s some good banter as well as angst.
Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole. DNF. Snoozeville.
The Curse on Tenth Grave by Dyranda Jones. DNF. Shark. Jumped.
The Bedding Proposal by Tracy Anne Warren. DNF. Could not get into the writing style at all. People laughing at things that aren’t funny.
The Master by Kresley Cole. Kind of an odd mash-up of Cole’s paranormals with Harlequin Presents. The snark works, the Russian guy sounded just like one of her werewolves not so much. Don’t know if I’ll bother to read the others in the series, since they all sound exactly the same (tortured Russian mob billionaires into BDSM.)
Kind of a follow-up to this post.
I’ve started Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole, and it’s even odds whether I’ll DNF. It opens with the paranormal version of an old romance classic: the heroine watching the hero having sex with someone else. Except in this case, it’s 6 or 7 someone elses, I forget exactly how many. He’s basically a spy, cold-bloodedly seducing women for information and to get them to do what he wants.
This line really struck me: “After just one bedding, non-nymph females uniformly grew attached to him, becoming jealous and possessive.”
I realized that the entire race of nymphs basically only exist in these books to be unproblematic receptacles for the heroes’ lusts. They’re used in the same way in Macrieve, Shadow’s Claim, and probably any number of other books in the series. I’m pretty sure there are no nymph heroines. The one succubus heroine is a freakin’ virgin.
I’m very cranky about books this month, but damn, I think I have a right to be.
Set in a parallel universe where some people are genetically “Shifters” — able to shift at will between male and female bodies — this is a good yarn and an excellent metaphor.
Damon heads out to his girlfriend Alex’s house, worried that he hasn’t heard from her since she has bouts of depression and heavy drinking. He find an extremely ill Alex… who is now also a man. Unbeknownst to Damon, Alex is a shifter, and his parents have forced an implant on him to prevent him from shifting back into female form.
As Alex struggles with the (many) ghastly after effects of this betrayal, Damon tries to figure out what their relationship now is. Alex is not bisexual — both forms are attracted to men — but Damon has always been straight.
When I started reading Static, I told my husband “This is the weirdest gay-for-you story ever.” * But towards the end I realized it was actually the most sensible gay-for-you story ever. Damon eventually realizes that Alex the man is still the same person he was in love with, and can still be attractive to him.
Although the slow unfolding of Damon’s feelings works nicely, the relationship is in a holding pattern for three fourths of the story, and the middle sags. Also, Alex is truly in a dreadful situation and for me, the prose was not up to making that compelling rather than a complete downer. But I was really happy with how the plot went — it so easily could have been a wallbanger for me — and the imaginative take on being genderqueer.
*Hub’s reply: “Unless it was written by Chuck Tingle, no it isn’t.”
The theme: Kickin’ It Old Skool. Wendy defines this as “published more than 10 years ago” but to me, Old Skool means a nice fat historical with an ugly cover. This was published in 1999, so isn’t in prime old school territory, but the plot is kind of a mix of Violet Fire by Jo Goodman and Light And Shadow by Lisa Gregory (both read last April) so it has some roots.
Why This One: I own literally hundreds of possibilities for this theme, but really was not in the mood for sweeping stories of lover’s betrayal during wars. This Regency romance seemed pretty cozy. As it turned out, I might have been happier with a rapey hero and a long sea voyage.
The first part of the book is pleasant enough, albeit bland. The loss of her parents sent Joanna to live with her aunt and uncle, who were none too happy about the arrangement. Fortunately, Joanna had her younger cousin Lydia to dote on. When faced with a forced marriage to a man she loathed, Joanna escaped to Italy, but she and Lydia kept up a correspondence.
Six years later, a now-widowed Joanna returns to England after hearing of Lydia’s death. She’s heard all about how terrible Lydia’s husband is, and what a dreadful father to their son — and indeed, young Miles is in a state of great emotional disturbance. But Guy is by no means the villain Joanna expected, and he’s a very attractive man.
I doubt any reader is really surprised to learn that Lydia was not the basically good-hearted person Joanna thought she was. There are other non-surprising surprises to come.
Joanna using affection and art therapy to help Miles get over his trauma, and Guy and Joanna falling in love was, again, pleasant if bland. The second half of the story was where I started to wish this book had gotten lost behind a cabinet. Joanna is adored by absolutely everyone, and she gets away with some terrible behavior — forcing Guy to tell her his horror story from the war, for one thing, and then later lying to him about something he specifically tells her is very important to him, for his own good.
And then there’s the resolution of the plot. The Sound of Snow reads somewhat like an inspirational romance (though one with steamy pre-marital sex.) God and religion are very important to Joanna and become important to Guy. And religious themes are used here is a way that made me wish I’d read it while fasting. The characters act in a really callous manner, but it’s all part of God’s plan and there’s even a freakin’ heavenly visitation to show just how okay God is with everything that happens.
Perhaps if I’d been more in charity with the book as a whole, I wouldn’t have had such a visceral reaction to the end, but it felt ten kinds of wrong to me. On the bright side, I own at least three more Kingsley books, so the TBR will now be much reduced.