Roberts, Nora. Face the Fire. Jove Books, 2002.
Reason read: to finished the trilogy started in February in honor of Valentine’s Day and love and romance and cheesy chick lit.
To recap the trilogy: Nell came to Three Sisters Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, looking to escape an abusive husband (a la Sleeping with the Enemy). She found a sisterhood of witches with Ripley and Mia and true love with Ripley’s brother. In the second installment, Ripley, the witch with the biggest chip on her shoulder needed to chill out. She found true love with a witch researcher. In Face the Fire, it is Mia’s turn to find her true love. The only problem is, her true love is someone who walked away from her many years ago, leaving deep scars and a toughened exterior. While I appreciated the fact Mia’s story ran through the earlier installments, I was disappointment when she decided she could have a sexual relationship with long lost love, Sam. Like the other plots in the Three Sisters Island trilogy, there is an element of evil that must be vanquished before anyone can live happily ever after.
Book trivia: Face the Fire is the last book in the trilogy.
Playlist: “Sea of Love” and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say much about Face the Fire except it was out of chronological order in Book Lust.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).
Roberts, Nora. Heaven and Earth. Jove Books, 2001.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of love (February 14th). All you need is love, love, love. Right?
In the Three Sisters Island trilogy, the plot of Heaven and Earth turns away from Nell and directs its focus onto Sheriff’s Deputy, Ripley Karen Todd. Before I go any further with the plot, I have to say there is always a popular formula to love and romance in bodice rippers: stubborn character refuses to accept second character’s heartthrob’s advances. However, handsome or beautiful second character is persistent. Very persistent with a charming veneer. Heaven and Earth is no different. Ripley is the stubborn one and newly arrived MacAllister Booke is persistent and charming. Be warned ladies, he also has a strong jaw. The problem lies in the fact MacAllister’s life work is researching people of the strange ilk: shaman, vampire, ghost, brujo, necromancer, witch, lycanthrope, alien, psychic, and neo-druid all interest him. Ripley doesn’t want to be researched. She doesn’t even like being associated with weird. There were more than a few times I resisted the urge to roll my eyes after reading lines like this, “She caught the unmistakable scent of Nell’s beef-and-barley soup and quickly decided it was that, and that alone, that was making her mouth water” (p 50). Yes, the hunky and irresistible MacAllister Booke was in Ripley’s presence.
Having said all that, I appreciated the consistency from one novel to the next. Ripley is still locked in a battle of wills with Mia Devlin. Ripley still resents the fact that she, at heart, is a witch. She’ll need to come to terms with this when Nell’s ex-husband convinces a shady reporter to pay the residents of Three Sisters Island a visit. It takes an ominous turn from there.
A word of obvious warning: Heaven and Earth is a little dated. A $20 spot as a bribe wouldn’t get you boo. These days a Benjamin is a good place to start.
As an aside, what brother calls his sister, “baby”? It kind of made my skin crawl.
Quotes to quote (aside from the eye-roll inducing ones), “He always liked the sound of the sea, especially at night when it seemed to fill the world” (p 37). Amen to that. Another one I wish could have been reworked, “A headache blasted his temples” (p 250).
Author fact: Did you know there is a Romance Writers Hall of Fame and Roberts was the first one to be inducted?
Book trivia: Heaven and Earth is the second installment of the trilogy.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Heaven and Earth except to list it out of chronological order.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).
Du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Harper, 1938.
Reason read: as a “romance” I chose Rebecca for Valentine’s Day. For the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge, I chose it for the category of a book where a house is featured predominantly. Manderley is that house.
I took Rebecca to Florida for a five day trip and in that short time I devoured the entire book from start to finish. I can see why it has never gone out of print. Rebecca is a true psychological thriller that doesn’t need blood and gore to make it creepy. Even though the ghost of Rebecca never makes an appearance, you can feel her presence in every scene. In a nutshell, a young and inexperienced traveling companion falls in love with a much older widower while vacationing in Monte Carlo. Before meeting him, she heard all the rumors about how his wife tragically drowned in a sailing accident less than a year prior. She has heard all about his palatial estate, Manderley, handed down from generation to generation. Rather than travel on to New York as a companion, Mr. de Winter asks our unnamed heroine for her hand in marriage. And so begins the adventure. No one really likes the new Mrs. de Winter and Rebecca’s ghost seems to be everywhere thanks to Mrs. Danvers, the former Mrs. de Winter’s personal assistant. Danny just won’t let Rebecca die. While Rebecca does not make an appearance anywhere in the novel, her presence is felt everywhere.
As an aside, I wish Daphne Du Maurier was still alive to answer questions about Rebecca. Actually, I have questions about both the book and the character. The first Mrs. de Winter fascinates me.
Author fact: Du Maurier won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century with Rebecca.
Book trivia: My edition of Rebecca included a note from the editor, an author’s note, and the original epilogue.
Nancy said: in Book Lust Pearl said Rebecca is an annual read for some fans. In More Book Lust Pearl mentioned liking the opening line to Rebecca.
Setlist: Destiny’s Waltz, the Blue Danube, Merry Widow, Auld Lang Syne, Good Save the Queen.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203). From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lines That Linger; Sentences That Stick” (p 140). Lastly, from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cornwall’s Charm” (p 71). You can always tell when Pearl likes a book. She mentioned it either a bunch of times in one Book Lust or it makes its way into all three.
Roberts, Nora. Dance Upon the Air. Jove, 2001.
Reason read: Valentine’s Day is in February. Read Dance Upon the Air in honor of love.
I always read romance novels with a grain of smirk. I can get easily irritated by fluffy characters and airy dialogue. For example, Dance Upon the Air: who hires a complete stranger at first sight, lends them money, gives them a house, and puts them in charge of a business inside a ten minute conversation? A witch, that’s who. Of course. Having another character point out this generosity weirdness doesn’t make it any more believable until you remind yourself (again) that Mia Devlin is a witch and she’s totally comfortable giving a stranger control of her bookstore bakery. She more than knows what she’s doing when stranger “Nell” shows up in her bakery and announces she knows how to bake, run a business, and charm the socks off everyone she meets.
Nell is on the run. But, this is a romance novel so of course there is the hunky (and very single, of course) sheriff of the island who knows Nell is not Nell. However, he’s sexually attracted to her (of course he is) so he’s not about to scare her off with his suspicions. There needs to be the overly tough, slightly rebellious sister who is, by the way, a cop (of course she is).
In a nutshell: strange woman shows up on a small island where everyone will talk. She’s hiding out from an abusive husband who thinks she’s dead. She is so charming that by the time deadly hubby figures out where she is, the entire island is behind her. The plotline of Dance Upon the Air totally reminded me of the movie Sleeping with the Enemy, but I would have to think there are hundreds of victim-runs-away-from-abuser-to-start-a-new-life stories out there. Don’t forget the witches.
Author fact: Roberts has at least three pennames.
Book trivia: Dance Upon the Air is the first book in the Three Sisters trilogy. I am reading all three for the Challenge.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about the Three sisters Island trilogy except to list the three books. More on that later.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p ). Again! I am always irritated with myself when I don’t do the homework before starting a series. Pearl lists the books in the trilogy out of chronological order. Of course she lists the last title of the series first. Like a blind sheep, I borrowed the last book first. Bah, bah.
Kirchner, Bharti. Pastries: a Novel of Desserts and Discoveries.
Reason read: December is traditionally when a whole lot of baking goes on.
Meet Sunya. She owns a small bakery in Seattle, Washington where the star attraction is her one-of-a-kind decadent chocolate creation, Sunya Cake. Only these days head baker Sunya has lost her mojo for any kind of sweet creation. Every recipe she attempts ends in distraction and disaster. For a baker not being able to bake, that must be like a writer suffering from writer’s block. However, Sunya has more to worry about than her own failing skills. She is on the rebound from a bad break-up (the lowest of lows: a friend stole her man); her business is about to go head-to-head with a bigger, glitzier bakery (think of a chain similar to Cheesecake Factory), there is a nasty critic stoking the fires of competition, Sunya’s employees are unreliable and fickle; her shop’s lease looks like it won’t be renewed due to financial instability. To top it all off as if that wasn’t enough, Sunya suffers from latent abandonment issues and an ever-growing identity crisis. The mystery of her father’s sudden departure from the family haunts Sunya despite the fact she was only two days old at the time. Even though she is of Indian descent, Sunya best identifies with Japanese culture, but who is she really underneath it all?
Through all this, Sunya’s character is honest and believable. She isn’t above ratting out her competition to the food inspector (pun totally intended). She harbors enormous jealousy for the woman who stole her boyfriend (as mentioned before, someone she used to call her friend). She definitely has relationship issues thanks to the mystery of her father leaving her. Even sexy movie director Andrew has trouble convincing Sunya he is interested in more than just her chocolate cake.
Author fact: Kirchner also wrote The Bold Vegetarian: 150 Inspired International Recipes which was on my Challenge list even though I didn’t need to read it.
Book trivia: this should be a movie.
Playlist: Bach, Brahms, Pearl Jam, and Andres Segovia.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Pastries.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fiction for Foodies” (p 88). See why The Bold Vegetarian shouldn’t have been on my Challenge list?
Brockmann, Suzanne. Over the Edge. New York: Ivy Books, 2001.
Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Brockmann’s birth month.
If you have read any of Brockmann’s other Troubleshooter books you will know she has a formula for her plots. They all include Navy SEALs who are blindingly, devastatingly, glaringly, or outrageously handsome and the women they lust after, deeply love, or obsessively desire are all undeniably gorgeous, remarkably good looking, or intensely (or sinfully) attractive. Everyone, male and female, has exotic eyes or cheekbones, lush, full, or bee-stung lips, and they always, always, always a hard body to die for. No one seems to have an ounce of fat or ugliness or plainness anywhere. Despite everyone being impossibly beautiful that wasn’t what really bothered me. What irked me is the amount of sex on the brain. Someone could be talking about the abuse they suffered as a child but thinking lustfully about the person across from them. A murder could happen right in front of someone’s face and within minutes he or she has forgotten the death because they’re too busy trying to unzip their pants. Every couple seemed to be either arguing, miscommunicating, making assumptions, or having blistering hot sex. Seriously, there were so many sex scenes I started to skip them to the detriment of the plot. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say the hijack rescue, despite taking the whole book to set up, was over in a matter of minutes. Oh yeah, back to the plot:
In Over the Edge the plot alternates between a present day plane hijacking and a forbidden love during the early days of World War II. Terrorists land a plane in Kazbekistan in hopes of trading hostages. The Navy SEALs are brought in to negotiate a rescue of an American Senator’s wayward daughter. The most interesting character who tied present day with the past was Helga Schuler, a journalist and Holocaust survivor who is losing her memory.
Author fact: Brockmann has written over fifty novels.
Book trivia: I got nothing.
Playlist: “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, Wynton Marsalis,
Nancy said: I like what Pearl said about Brockmann’s novels. She said Brockmann gives a “female slant to the James Bond ethos.” The characters are “sharply drawn” and the reading of her work is “interesting.” Too bad I didn’t agree when reading Over the Edge.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our love is Here to Stay” (p 203).
Brockmann, Suzanne. Unsung Hero. New York: Ivy Books, 2000.
Reason read: May is Brockmann’s birth month. Read in her honor.
Back in 2008 I read Defiant Hero, starring Navy SEAL Lieutenant John. Then in 2011 I read Out of Control with the dashing Navy SEAL Ken Karmody. This time we have Navy SEAL Tom Paoletti in Unsung Hero.
Most of Brockmann’s romances have these common details: Navy SEALs, kidnappings, an important grandmother, a terrorist or two, great looking people with hard bodies, and let’s not forget roiling sexual turmoil. Unsung Hero is no different. Tom Paoletti and Kelly Ashton’s conundrum is that they have history dating back to high school: Kelly was too young for next door neighbor Tom so he ran away to join the military a month early. Sweet and innocent Kelly was left with unrequited teenager lust never to be forgotten. But now, sixteen years later, Kelly is all grown up and just happens to be visiting her father. Tom is also back in town trying to convalesce after getting caught in a bomb blast. Kelly never lost the burn for Tom, so much so that even though her father is dying of terminal cancer, all she can think about is getting the doomed man back in bed. She needs to return to her fantasy about Tom and his um…hard body as soon as possible. Even though Tom is damaged goods, his one track mind is no better. He too carries the long burning torch of lust. He eyeballs Kelly’s perfect ass as they blithely discuss her father’s terminal cancer. Insert eye roll here. So sex aside, while Tom is home he catches a glimpse of a terrorist long thought dead. His superiors think the bomb has altered his reality and refuse to take him seriously, leaving Tom no choice but to cobble together his own counterterrorist team to take the man down.
Author fact: I think I read this on a Wiki page: Brockmann dropped out of college to join a band. How cool is that?
Book trivia: Unsung Hero is actually the first book in the Troubleshooters, Inc. Novel series. I read them out of order and like an idiot didn’t catch on that a plot with the same characters just might be a series. Duh.
Nancy said: I like what Pearl said about Brockmann’s novels. She said Brockmann gives a “female slant to the James Bond ethos.” The characters are “sharply drawn” and the reading of her work is “interesting.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here To Stay” (p 203).
Dickey, Eric Jerome. Liar’s Game. Rockland, MA: Wheel Publishing, Inc., 2000.
Reason read: Read in recognition of Black History month being in February. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Reading challenge for the category of a book written in multiple perspectives.
Vincent Calvary Browne, Jr. is a Negro Black Man trying to date after divorce. His ex-wife cheated. Adding insult to injury, she left him taking their three year old daughter out of the country. Baggage, baggage, baggage. Dana Ann Smith is a single woman trying to land on her feet in Los Angeles after leaving heavy debts and an even heavier romance in New York. Baggage, baggage, baggage. When Vince and Dana meet they are immediately attracted to one another. They seem like the perfect fit. However, in an effort to present their best selves to one another they hide their secrets under a pile of lies and more lies. Sooner or later, those lies start to reveal themselves as the couple gets more and more involved and Dana’s ex arrives from New York. Can Dana see beyond Vince’s lie about never being married or having children? Can she respect him as a father with an ex-wife? Can Vince hear Dana over the warning bells about her debt? Can he trust she is truly over her rich and hunky ex? What makes Liar’s Game so much fun is the varying perspectives of the same story. As the saying goes, there are are always three sides to every story: his side, her side, and the truth. Dickey gives us all three.
A word of warning – the writing is a little dated. In today’s society, I don’t think many people would consider a cell phone a piece of technology for players.
I have to admit even though the sex scenes were a bit cliché it was refreshing to see a condom play a major role in the hot and heavy relationships. There is even a scene when the condom gets “lost.”
Simple but great lines to quote, “Hard living and bad loving ages a man” (p 2), “A smile is the shortest distance between two people” (p 6).
Author fact: Dickey died of cancer in January of this year. Sad.
Book trivia: I could see this as a movie or a daytime soap opera.
Nancy said: Pearl mentions Liar’s Game as another good example of fiction written by an African American male.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 13).
Bantock, Nick. The Morning Star: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine is Illuminated. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2003.
Reason read: Friday, I’m in love. – the Cure.
Back to Griffin & Sabine. It always comes back to Griffin Moss & Sabine Strohem. Except not. This time, it is Matthew and Isabella. Matthew Sedon and Isabella de Reims are madly, hopelessly, truly in love. Except, like Griffin and Sabine before them, they cannot reach each other. He, in Alexandria, Egypt. She, in Paris, France. The archaeologist and the student worlds apart. Unable to connect, their romance depends on the guidance of the only other couple to experience such a divide. Through similar letters and postcards, Matthew & Isabella explore worlds beyond their imagination. Will they ever meet?
Book trivia: this was supposed to be the final book in the Griffin and Sabine saga. It is not.
Undset, Sigrid. The Master of Hestviken: the Axe. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.
Reason read: I needed something for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge. The category is women in translation.
Considered to be the companion to Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, The Master of Hestviken series tells the saga of Olav Audunsson in thirteenth century Norway. As a boy he was raised by a foster family. When you are first plunked down in the middle of the drama you meet Steinfinn, a young man who fell in love with a fair maiden named Ingebjorg. So far so good, except Ingebjorg was betrothed to someone named Mattias. Doesn’t matter. Steinfinn and Ingebjorg run away and live together as if they are man and wife. They soon have a family of three children, one of them being the beautiful Ingunn. In addition to their own children they foster a young lad by the aforementioned name of Olav Audunsson. Thus begins the romance of Ingunn and Olav. Both Olav and Ingunn’s fathers agreed the two would grow up to marry each other, but after Steinfinn passes the young couple are told it was only a game their fathers played and the betrothal is not real. Cue the violins, people. Olav commits murder with an axe named Kinfetch and that complicates things. He escapes punishment but in the meantime Ingunn is struck by some mysterious paralysis amid rumors of witchcraft. And the plot thickens. Especially when she becomes pregnant during Olav’s exile…
As an aside, I have to admit, thirteenth century drama is not my cup of tea. Luckily, The Master of Hestviken is chopped up into four books and each book is a little over 200 pages long.
Author fact: Undset was originally born in Denmark.
Book trivia: Master of Hestviken was originally published in one single volume and according to the inside flap, had been out of print in England until 1962.
Nancy said: The Axe is part of the series that Pearl considers Unset’s “other” masterpiece.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Norway: The Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162).
Forester, Cecil Scott. The African Queen. New york: The Modern Library, 1940.
Reason read: I needed a classic I’ve always wanted to read for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading challenge. This one fit the bill. And, and! And, it was short!
Who doesn’t know the movie version of this book? Thanks to Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and a little Academy Award for Best Actor, everyone has seen it. Nearly everyone that is, except me. Fear not, it’s on the list.
To set the stage: Africa, World War I. Rose is high spirited, a spunky woman despite being a strait-laced and virginal missionary’s sister. She is out for revenge for the death of her brother; she wants to torpedo the Germans to strike a blow for England. Enter gin-swilling mechanic Charlie Allnut and his river boat, the African Queen. Rose is only too eager to learn all about the African Queen to determine its full usefulness to exact her revenge – torpedoing the German police boat, the Konigin Luise. Rose’s patriotism and lust for adventure adds up to a woman Allnut has never seen the likes of before. She somehow convinces him to take on her quest and it is her feisty nature that gets her and Allnut through deadly rapids, thick mangroves, choking weeds, malaria infested swarms of mosquitoes and stifling heat down the Bora delta.
Typical and predictable, a relationship blooms between Rose and Charlie, but how could it not when confined on a river boat for days on end? As they say, misery loves company. Despite seeing the relationship a mile away Forester reissued his story so that he had the opportunity to present the end of the story as he originally intended. It’s not what you expect.
Lines I just had to quote, “Allnut tried to keep his amusement out of sight” (p 39), while Rose was described thusly, “A woman sewing has a powerful weapon at her disposal when engaged in a duel with a man” (p 91). He’s bumbling and she’s feisty.
More lines I liked, “Allnut would not have exchanged Rose for all the fried fish shops in the world” (p 165). Aint romance grand?
As an aside, I just love an author who uses the word willynilly.
Author fact: C.S. Forester might be better known for his Horatio Hornblower sea adventures.
Book trivia: The African Queen was made into a movie in 1951 as I mentioned before.
Nancy said: Pearl only mentioned The African Queen because Forester is known for it, above and beyond his Horatio Hornblower series.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sea Stories” (p 217). As you guessed it, I deleted this from the Challenge list because The African Queen takes place on an African river, not the high seas.
McKinley, Robin. Beauty: the Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. New York: HarperCollins, 1978.
Reason read: August is Fairy Tale month.
Here’s a question for you. Do you enjoy an adaptation or a retelling more or less if you don’t remember the details of the original? For me, I don’t remember the details of Beauty and the Beast except to say the Disney version was centered around Belle, her sickly woodsman father, the Beast, and the talking tea kettle. I remember it also had singing furniture and, of course, a droopy rose was at the center of the story. McKinley’s version has three daughters, Gracie, Hope and Honour. Honour, nicknamed Beauty, is the protagonist of the story and ironically, is not at all beautiful like her sisters. Instead she is homely, unromantic, and scholarly; the bravest and strongest of the bunch. Honour’s father has fallen on hard times as a shipping merchant and the family must move to the country. Enter the proximity of an enchanted/haunted forest. We first learn about these mysterious woods when Ger becomes angry with Beauty about being in the woods of Blue Hill.
To speed up the telling up the story you know so well: father runs into trouble in the enchanted forest, has a dust up with the Beast, and promises to send a daughter to the Beast to save his own hide. Beauty, being the bravest and most admirable, is the logical choice. Beauty falls in love with Beast despite his appearance and by turns becomes a looker herself. When she promises to marry Beast, the spell is broken. The end.
Author fact: McKinley and I went to the same high school. I can remember teachers mentioning her in English class.
Book trivia: Beauty is McKinley’s first novel.
Nancy said: Pearl included Beauty in a list of books that are sure to be “teen pleasers…great choices for teenage girls as well as their mothers” said this about McKinley, “McKinley is another major contributor…” (More Book Lust). The inside flap promises Beauty is appropriate for ages ten and up.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in two different chapters. First, in “Best for Teens” (p 23) and again in “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 93).
So. I never posted what I hoped to accomplish reading for July. Whoops and whoops. To tell you the truth, I got busy with other things. What other things I couldn’t tell you. It’s not the thing keeping me up at night. Besides, if I’m truly honest no one reads this blather anyway. In my mind the “you” that I address is really me, myself and moi; our own whacked out sense of conformity. Let’s face it, my reviews are as uninspiring as dry toast carelessly dropped in sand. It’s obvious something needs to change. I just haven’t figured out what that something is or what the much needed change looks like. Not yet at least. I need a who, where, what, why, and how analysis to shake off the same as it ever was. It’ll come to me eventually.
But, enough of that and that and that. Here’s what July looked like for books and why:
- Killing Floor by Lee Child – in honor of New York becoming a state in July (Child lives in New York).
- Alligator by Lisa Moore – in honor of Orangemen Day in Newfoundland.
- Forrest Gump by winston Groom – on honor of the movie of the same name being released in the month of July.
- Aunt Julia and the Script Writer by Mario Vargas Llosa – in honor of July being the busiest month to visit Peru.
- Accidental Man by Iris Murdoch – in honor of Murdoch’s birth month.
- Blood Safari by Leon Meyer – in honor of Meyer’s birth month.
- By the River Piedra I Sat down and Wept by Paulo Coelho – in honor of July being Summer Fling Month.
- Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Yes, I am behind.
- Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson.
- Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. Confessional. Even though there are two more books in the Barsetshire Chronicles I am putting Trollope back on the shelf for a little while. The stories are not interconnected and I am getting bored.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm. I only started this. It will be finished in August.
What startles me as I type this list is I didn’t finish any nonfiction in July. I started the Holocaust memoir but haven’t finished it yet. No nonfiction. Huh.
Busch, Frederick. Take This Man. New York: Ballantine Books, 1983.
Reason read: February is Busch’s death month. Read in his memory.
This is a love story in its purest form. Simple plot: Ellen LaRue Spencer is on her way to California to see her soldier fiance who hasn’t shipped out to war yet. Her car breaks down in a barren midwest town where she meets hapless Tony Prioleau. Despite his unsuccessful business ventures and his thing for television (he wants to harness the power of television to assist in the war effort), Ellen is attracted to him and ends up in his bed..but she still leaves him for her fiance. Ten years later, a son shows up on Tony’s doorstep and the love Tony buried all those years ago comes bubbling back up. He accepts the boy as his own, no questions asked.
I don’t think it is a spoiler alert to say that Ellen herself comes back to Tony. But not without complications. She is still married and still confused about the depth of her attraction to Tony.
Confessional: the last twenty pages are heartbreaking.
Vivid lines, “…poured an unfresh breath into Prioleau’s face to say…” (p 46). I just love that image.
Other lines I liked, “And you cook like a mass murderer” (p 55). I don’t know what that would taste like. I’m guessing not good. And. And! And, “Twenty years later, and she was still in transit, collecting men at the edge of the sea (p 156) and “…but he was frightened as he stepped up onto the side porch to get hugged home” (p 192).
Author fact: Take This Man is Busch’s eighth book.
Book trivia: The cover of Take This Man is intriguing. Two people are adrift in a rowboat. In my mind it symbolized Tony and Ellen’s relationship. It was never solidified or tethered to reality.
Nancy said: absolutely nothing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Frederick Busch: Too Good To Miss” (p 48).
Brown, Carrie. Lamb in Love. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 1999.
Reason read: the television show “All Creatures Great and Small” first aired in January. A lamb is a creature.
Vida Stephen at forty-one years of age is considered a spinster in her rural English village. She lives a simple life of being the nanny to a mute young man with mental challenges. She has cared for Manford Perry practically all his life after his mother died young and his father is often away for long periods of time, traveling overseas. Vida and Manford are all alone in the gigantic Southend House with its myriad of dusty and dim unused rooms. In truth they are all they know. The community collectively shakes its head and tsks, of the opinion Vida is wasting away caring for Manford all alone in the sad and crumbling mansion.
Then there is Norris Lamb. He thinks differently of Vida. Even though he has known her (and her situation for years) he has begun to slowly, slowly fall in love with her. Like Vida, he is single with seemingly one purpose in life, to be the village’s postmaster. His world centers on stamps. They represent the wonderment of worlds untraveled. When his love for Vida takes him in new directions it is as if he doesn’t recognize his old life anymore.
Vida, Manford, and Norris all go through a metamorphosis of sorts. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say this changing, by the end of the story, offers hope for a new beginning for each of them.
Brown’s writing had the ability to make me change my mind several times about each character. I oscillated between wanting triumph and hoping for failure and back again.
As an aside, I loved the way the moon was almost another character in the book. It is not a plot spoiler to say I loved how the moon caused Vida to dance with wild abandon at the fountain and kept Norris company on his lonely walk home. Additionally, there is the fact that on July 31st of that summer a man has done the unthinkable by actually walking on the moon.
Quotes I just have to mention, “And you don’t see a nearly naked woman dancing in the moonlight in a ruined garden and then just go about your business as though nothing has happened, do you?” (p 3), “And then he’d stopped, and his face had taken on a surprised expression, as if the feeling that pressed up out of his heart at that moment was transforming him into a different man” (p 53), “She felt indebted to a ghost and under constant surveillance” (p 59) and one more, “The ugly shape of jealousy was arranging itself in his heart (p 265).
Author fact: Brown also wrote Rose’s Garden and Confinement. The latter is on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: this book challenged my perception of love, romance, and relationships. It should be a movie.
Nancy said: Pearl just described the plot of Lamb in Love. She never really explains who has the interesting character.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the delightful chapter called “Real Characters” (p 197).