A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

January 2020 Reading pt. 1

on January 15, 2020

I’ve decided to do my reading round-ups in sections, so they don’t get too unwieldy.

The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas. The primary appeal of this scholarly book is the many photographs of old, gorgeous, and sometimes hilariously inappropriate editions of Austen, but the text is interesting too, albeit weirdly repetitious. Serious romance scholars will likely find it underwhelming.

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe. Marvelous collection of letters the author wrote while working as a nanny in an notably literary London household. It’s filled with descriptions of little interactions between her and her employer and the children, which are just hilarious; all are bright and eccentric and not at all leery of cursing. Almost inadvertently, it’s also a coming of age story, as Nina discovers she can participate in academic life, despite her rather ramshackle upbringing. (There’s the barest smidge of romance, but it has a delightful punch line.)

A Delicate Deception by Cat Sebastian. My least favorite of Sebastian’s books, sadly, unless DNFing the previous one in this series counts. It suffers from what I’ve starting calling the “twitterization” of romance — in which passages seem to have been literally lifted from discussions on social media. I think it’s very valid to write historical characters who care about women’s rights and consent, and who aren’t homophobes, but it has to feel like it believably grew from something.

Other problems include a plot moppet who’s dramatically introduced and then almost immediately forgotten for several chapters — except it’s not even appropriate to call her a plot muppet, since she serves very little function in the plot. And I had a lot of trouble relating to the heroine, which is really sad since she’s an introvert with anxiety and I should totally get her. Her thoughts made sense, but her dialogue didn’t feel real. The hero with self-esteem issues is sweet and likeable, but the story is completely stolen by the hero’s brother-in-law/ex-lover, a newly blind and bereaved Duke who is sardonic as all get out but competently planning a happy life for himself.


4 responses to “January 2020 Reading pt. 1

  1. Liz Mc2 says:

    I love the Nina Stibbe fiction I’ve read and keep meaning to get to this one. I know what you mean about “twitterization” of romance novels. I’ve given up on several much-praised ones recently for that reason. It gave me a kind of after school special feeling, like I was being preached to, and didn’t feel organic. (Possibly me seeing too many conversations about these books on Twitter contributed to the feeling, and that’s on me).

  2. willaful says:

    Oh, do read it! It’s one of those you can easily pick up for a few minutes as a breather from more serious works. I need to read the rest of her fiction now.

    It’s bumming me out how much writers who are aiming to write a different kind of romance are all starting to sound the same. Even K.J. Charles’s last had that feel to it.

  3. KeiraSoleore says:

    You’ve sold me on The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas.

    • willaful says:

      I’m sure you’d adore looking at the photos! And possibly the text, too. There are some very in depth descriptions of the lives of people who owned particular editions.

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