that weekend I fell in love with historical romance (+ I need your recs!)

Oh. My. God. I did something over the weekend that I have never done before: I read a historical romance novel. And you know what? I LOVED IT. It was one of those moments where I was just so tired of the books I already have (let’s ignore the fact that the majority of them haven’t even been read, okay?) and decided to see what was available at my library. I wanted something fluffy, something light-hearted and fun…and I got that and more.

When Beauty Tamed the Beast is actually the second book in Eloisa James’s Fairy Tales series. I came across it while browsing through lists on goodreads and found one all about Beauty and the Beast retellings. SAY NO MORE.

So what’s this one about? Linnet Thrynne is like something straight out of a Disney movie: her cheeks are always girlishly pink, the angels weep at the sound of her voice, you know the scene in Snow White where all the woodland creatures come up to her and just gaze adoringly? Yep. That’s our Linnet. She was the It Girl until her flirtations with the Prince, a dinner of spoiled shrimp, and an unflattering gown led to one massive rumor: Linnet was pregnant. Now the girl who had callers beating down the door has been completely ostracized from polite society, doomed to a life of spinsterhood.

The Earl of Marchant is moody and broody and, after a terrible accident as a child, is unable to produce heirs, something his family desperately needs. When Linnet’s father gets wind of that, he and the Duke (the Earl’s father) hatch a brilliant plan: because Linnet is believed to be with child and since Piers needs an heir, why, the two of them can get married! What could possibly go wrong?

To say I loved this book would definitely be an understatement. It was funny, swoony, charming. The romance is obviously key to the plot, but it’s not the book’s sole focus. There are other storylines intertwined and I tore through this book in record time!

HOWEVER, When Beauty Tamed the Beast pretty much opened the floodgates because now I have this whole new world to explore and I want to do nothing but read ALL THE HISTORICAL ROMANCE. Below are a few I’ve recently come across and want to read, but I need your help! RECOMMEND ME YOUR FAVORITE HISTORICAL ROMANCE BOOK/SERIES/AUTHOR!!

Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen
Captain Maximus Harcourt returns home from his latest voyage at sea to discover a naked earl tied to his missing sister’s bed. If that wasn’t bad enough, the poor man is also very dead. Harcourt has only one option: turn to Miss Ivory Moore, a woman working for a company known for being able to smooth over scandals. This one is the first book in the Season for Scandal series! The other two books in the series deal with a missing duke and an assassin!!

When the Marquess Met His Match by Laura Lee Guhrke
To be honest, it was the series title that initially caught my aeye: An American Heiress in London. UM YES PLEASE! When a scandalous, fun-loving, playboy of a marquess is cut off from his trust fund, he needs to find an alternate source of income, and what better way than to marry an heiress? The fourth book in this series, No Mistress of Mine just came out in August and although each book follows different characters, I still have some catching up to do!

Vice by Jane Feather
This is actually the eighth (and last??) book in Feather’s V series – each title begins with the letter V – and the oldest book in this post! The series started the year I was born eep!! A woman begins the week a bride and ends it a murderer. Not convinced anyone will actually believe her innocence, she runs…right into a shocking proposition from the Duke of Redmayne.

While the Duke Was Sleeping by Sophie Jordan
Adding this one to be To Read list was a no-brainer: I’ve read other books of Sophie’s and really enjoyed them! This one is the first in The Rogue Files series and actually comes out tomorrow, so this is brand new!Poppy is a shop girl who knows it’s silly to daydream about the Duke of Autenberry, but doesn’t feel her fantasies are causing any harm…until a wayward carriage nearly crushed the man. Poppy pulls him to safety and is soon mistaken for his fiance after the Duke falls in a coma. The one person who isn’t falling for it is the Duke’s gorgeous half-brother, the illegitimate Struan and he’ll stop at nothing to expose Poppy’s lies.

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
From what I’ve seen, Tessa Dare is like THE historical romance author. Her Spindle Cove series is crazy popular and comes highly recommended by bloggers and friends! The latest book, Do You Want to Start a Scandal? came out last month and still has a hold list a mile long at my library (for both the print and e-book)! Because it’ll clearly be a while before I can get my hands on that one, I figured I might as well start at the beginning.

To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
This is the third book in Hoyt’s Legend of the Four Soldiers series and another one I found on that Beauty and the Beast retellings list. After returning from the Colonies and scarred both inside and out, Sir Alistair Munroe has locked himself away in his castle. Helen Fitwilliam has been running from her past. This legendary beauty was once the talk of the town, only to now find herself outside a crumbling Scottish castle, seeking employment as a housekeeper and she’s not about to let a scarred man scare her away from starting a new life.

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
This is another book that comes very highly recommended! It’s 1881 and the youngest Mackenzie brother, Ian, has spent most of his life inside an asylum. Beth is a widow who has recently come into fortune and decides to break away from the drama that has plagued her since childhood. She wants to travel and learn about art…but then she meets the Mad Mackenzie. Jennifer has come out and revealed Ian suffers from Asperger’s and I’m very curious now as to how he’s portrayed!

Love is Blind by Lynsay Sands
Whaaat, a standalone?! Yep! And apparently this one is pretty hilarious! Lady Clarissa Crambray is, well, blind as a bat. She’s constantly tripping over things, running into walls, and stomping on toes. Sure, her glasses would help, but she’ll never find a husband while wearing spectacles.

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne
Victorian Rebels? Sign me up! Dorian Blackwell is ruthless and cold-hearted, seeking revenge on anyone who has ever wronged him, even if that someone is a widow. But Farah Leigh Mackenzie isn’t able to be taken captive and she holds a very powerful secret. This one is getting a ridiculous amount of praise and Byrne is churning this series out lightning fast: the first came out in 2015, then two more were published this year and a fourth will be following in February!

weekly wrap-up 10/23

↠ It’s beginning to feel like fall! That’s the view from my backyard and, in just a few days, nearly all those leaves have now changed the orange. ♥!

↠ A few nights ago my local indie had a book launch party for The Other Einstein – more on the book below! The author (Marie Benedict is a pen name for Heather Terrell!) lives in town and was sweet as could be. She even had her husband and two sons there – the younger son played a big role in providing the inspiration for the book. I would have liked a bit more to the Q&A/author talk bit, but overall I had a blast.

↠ We had a little scare earlier in the week when a loose dog bit Bay while we were on our walk. The owner was a complete nut and I’ll spare you my rant, but know that Bay’s doing fine and the police were notified. That was a terrible day and I’m ready for this week to be over.

↠ HISTORICAL FICTION FANS! This coming Tuesday, October 25, we’re having another #HistoricalFix chat! This time we’ll be discussing historical mysteries and am beyond thrilled to announce Lyndsay Faye will be joining us! The fun begins 8:30 EST – see you there!

READING REPORT Last read my total for the year was 152 books read with 105 female authors, 47 male authors. This week I’m at 157 books read. 109 of those books are written by women, 48 are by men.

WHAT I FINISHED I tore through the second volume in the deluxe collection of Revival. I’ve said it before, but I am NOT a zombie person…yet I am so hooked on this series! A tiny town in Wisconsin is quarantined after Revival Day, a day when those who had died simply get up and go about their business as though nothing happened. Lisa Gardner’s FANTASTIC thriller Find Her had me hooked from the first page and my review can be found below! E. Katherine Kottaras’s The Best Possible Answer was…really bad, but Caroline Leavitt’s Cruel Beautiful World more than made up for it and my review is linked below. Finally, I read my very first Eloisa James novel, When Beauty Tamed the Beast, and OMG WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?! Like, seriously, maybe 5 stars. Historical romance with a spunky MC, moody love interest, humor, engaging plots…I loved every second.

CURRENTLY READING I had set aside Marie Benedict’s The Other Einstein for the Eloisa James novel and I’m looking forward to finishing! Also, because it’s almost Halloween I have a copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost I’d like to get to!

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Although Lisa Gardner’s Find Her is the 8th book in the series, it easily read as a standalone and I fell hard before the first chapter was over. A woman was kidnapped in college and held for nearly 500 days before finally escaping. Since then, she’s made it her mission to track down other missing girls…until she finds herself captive once more. AAAHHH SO GOOD and I definitely will be reading more of Gardner’s work soon! Completely switching gears, Caroline Leavitt’s Cruel Beautiful World takes place in the late 60s/early 70s amid the Manson Family murders and Woodstock. A 16-year-old falls in love with and then runs away with her high school English teacher and the book is a magnificent character exploration of her story as well as what happened to the family she left behind. I hiiighly recommend this one!

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
Mileva Marić is the sole woman in her physics class. While other girls her age have long since left school to start families and the their households, Mitza has other aspirations. Leaving her tiny town for Zurich, she attends an elite university, knowing all too well the hardships she’ll face (not only is she female, but she walks with a severe limp). What she didn’t expect was to meet one Albert Einstein. Yep, The Other Einstein is about Al’s first wife, a woman rumored to have actually been the one to come up with his theory of relativity! Thank you, Sourcebooks!

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister
First off, let it be known that I adore Greer, She’s a regular in our #HistoricalFix chats and is such a lovely person. The moment I heard she had a new novel coming out I began pestering the publicist – sorry! Girl in Disguise is based on the true story of Kate Warne, America’s first female detective – her work impressed Allan Pinkerton so much she’s actually buried in the Pinkerton Family plot! This novel takes place during the Civil War and that’s really all I need to know. Thank you, Sourcebooks!

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
A Bavarian castle, once host to countless parties full of German high society, now sits in ruin after WWII. The castle had belonged to Marianne von Lingenfels’s husband’s family and now falls to her after her husband was executed when a plot to assassinate Hitler failed. Marianne now dedicates her life to rescuing and protective other widows of the resistance. Thank you, William Morrow!

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell
A woman asks her best friend to pick up her son from school and she readies agrees, after all, their five-year-olds are best friends as well. Stephanie, a stay-at-home mommy blogger, doesn’t mind watching the boy, but when Emily, a PR exec in Manhattan, doesn’t come home, she begins to worry. Texts and calls are left unanswered and eventually Stephanie reaches out to her readers for help, soon learning that Emily has been found dead. I’ve been having FANTASTIC luck this year with debut thrillers and A Simple Favor sounds like it’ll be just as excellent. Thank you, Harper!

Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis
The thing that initially drew me to this book was the setting: a small college town in Pennsylvania. I LOVE stories that hit close to home! Thomas Huston is a beloved professor and bestselling author and certainly something of a local celebrity. But when his wife and children are brutally murdered, Huston immediately become sthe prime suspect. YESSSS!! Thank you, Sourcebooks!

The Dressmaker’s Dowry by Meredith Jaeger
My favorite, favorite method of storytelling is through a dual era narrative. I love it. This one jumps between the present day and San Francisco in the 1870s when an heirloom engagement ring unravels a 140-year-old mystery of the disappearance of a young dressmaker. Thank you, William Morrow!

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
1910, two babies are left on the steps of an orphanage and, as they grow, their talents emerge. Pierrot’s incredibly gifted at the piano while Rose’s dancing and comedy acts can put a smile on the more dour of faces. Over time, they fall in love and begin making plans for a circus show unlike any New York has ever seen. This one is being compared to The Night Circus and features New York’s seedy underworld, a traveling band of clowns and show girls, and the Great Depression. I. Can’t. Wait. Thank you, Riverhead!

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
Pride and Prejudice + dragons. That’s all you need to know. Thank you, Harper Voyager!

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist
Will Porter is sixteen and blind and on his first day at a new high school he accidentally groped a girl and sat on another student in the cafeteria. Things can only get better from here, right? He soon develops a crush on a girl when he learns about a highly experimental new surgery that would allow him to see for the first time. Sight, however, isn’t all he imagined and it soon becomes clear his friends have been keeping some pretty big secrets. They’ve pushed hard for Will to finally get together with Cecily and it turns out everything they’ve said about her appearance has been a lie. Although Will definitely feels betrayed, should he really care what Cecily looks like? I already know how the story will end here, but it sounds really cute. Thank you, Little, Brown!

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt
Pub. Date: October 4, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Algonquin Books!)
Summary: It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte’s youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into nightmare.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Drama

Set against a backdrop of bell bottoms, free love, and the Manson Family, Caroline Leavitt’s Cruel Beautiful World explores the sibling dynamic of two very different girls and how their family changes when the younger sister runs away with an older man.

As children, Charlotte and Lucy were sent to live with a much older aunt after their parents had died in a terrible accident. Iris was in her 60s and had given up dreams of being a mother decades earlier when she was contacted about these two little girls, girls she learned were her much, much younger half-sisters (with each marriage, her father had opted for younger and younger wives), a secret she kept to herself for many years. While the girls eventually opened up to and, later, fiercely loved Iris, they still heavily relied on each other – Charlotte and Lucy against the world. As they grew older, friends and interests came and went: studious Charlotte had no time for parties or drugs, while Lucy had a wild spirit and was always up for a good time. Just as Charlotte was preparing to leave for college Lucy vanished, leaving only a note behind saying she was happy and that everything was fine.

Having fallen in love with her teacher William, Lucy never imagined he would return her feelings. Over time their looks and glances turned into nights spent at his apartment and, ultimately, a plan to move away. William found a position teaching at an alternative school in rural Pennsylvania and wanted Lucy at his side, though he was adamant they keep their relationship secret until her 18th birthday. Young and hopelessly in love, Lucy agreed – she would have gone halfway around the world if William had asked – and days turned into weeks and then into months, all the while Charlotte and Iris desperately continued their search, never giving up hope that Lucy would one day return home.

I love a good family drama and Cruel Beautiful World fit the bill perfectly. In fact, it was so character-driven that I think some readers might not enjoy its slower pace, but I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. With Lucy’s disappearance, Iris’s backstory comes into focus and, my goodness, I loved that woman. She had been married once to a sailor she met a few days before he went off to fight and when he returned to learned a heartbreaking secret. Her reaction to the realization only made me love her more and I refuse to spoil anything #sorrynotsorry.

As is to be expected, Lucy soon discovered life with William wasn’t what she had dreamed it would be. He doesn’t want her to learn to drive just yet (there’s no telling who she might run into) and their tiny house is so far out in the country she only has the chickens for company. Though she was never as bright or academically talented as Charlotte, Lucy loved to write and, with nothing else to do, she spends her days with her journal, growing lonelier and lonelier.

I’ve found that when I really like a book or it made a strong impression I can’t seem to stop discussing it and that’s certainly the case here. Cruel Beautiful World features a scene that truly surprised me and the rest of the novel deals with the fallout. By the end I’m still not entirely sure who or what to believe!

I will say though that Cruel Beautiful World had one nagging issue I couldn’t quite shake: I never got a real feel for the time period. Going in I expected to be living and breathing the late 60s, but that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, this novel could have easily taken place in the present day were it not for a few brief mentions of students wearing bell bottoms or a handful of reports about the Manson Family but those were few and far between.

Cruel Beautiful World is just that: a tragic and lovely story about a family brought together by unfortunate circumstances who learned to love one another, only to be torn apart once more. Fans of a more action-packed tale might not find this one as enjoyable as I did, but someone who lives for fantastic characters will certainly inhale this one! Although the book is set in the late 60s and early 70s, there was never truly a sense of the time period and could have easily taken place in the present day (especially with such a topical subject: a student/teacher relationship). While I tore through this one (on a stormy, rainy night suitably moody for such a somber story) its very ambiguous ending might not appeal to readers who prefer closure.

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

Find Her by Lisa Gardner
Pub. Date: October 18, 2016
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Dutton!)
Summary: Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to find her.
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary, Mystery

While on spring break, Flora was kidnapped and held for nearly 500 days, forced to do unspeakable things with and for her captor and, when she wasn’t entertaining him, her time was spent inside a pine coffin – completely consumed by the darkness and unable to move.

Five years ago she was rescued, but the Flora that went missing isn’t the Flora that was returned and since that day, she’s made it her mission to track down other missing girls. When a suspected rapist winds up dead the police begin to wonder if Flora is more vigilante than victim…until she goes missing once more.

There’s nothing I love more in the fall than curling up with a crime novel. Something about the chill in the air brings out the armchair detective in me and I revel in the gory details, the heinous acts, the gruesome murders. While temperatures are still well above normal here (I think Pittsburgh broke a record yesterday!) I’m already in that mystery mindset and spent my weekend completely immersed in Lisa Gardner’s Find Her.

While Find Her is the 8th novel in this series, don’t be alarmed: it can be read as a standalone! Detective D.D. Warren is the main character of the series and I easily came to know who she is, what her backstory was, without having to first read the seven earlier novels. In this one she’s back to work after an injury, but placed on restrictive duty…something she is NOT pleased about. Also, because of her injury, she takes a backseat in this novel, something I’ve discovered from other readers is a bit out of the norm for Gardner. From what I’ve gathered, Warren is featured prominently throughout the rest of the series, but to be honest, her lack of a presence didn’t cause the story to suffer. Instead, it’s Flora who takes center stage and what a character she was!

Interspersed throughout the story are short chapters from Flora’s time spent with her captor, starting from the beginning when she wakes up to find herself trapped inside a coffin throughout the 400+ days until she’s rescued. Not only did these glimpses into her past have my skin crawling, but I was shocked (and slightly horrified) to find myself becoming sympathetic toward her captor, much as Flora did. Victim bonding (aka Stockholm Syndrome) is a key player in Find Her and the further I dug into Flora’s story, the more I came to understand how murky that water could be. This is not a clear-cut, black-and-white issue and bravo, Ms. Gardner.

While the ending was a little formulaic, I had to admit I did not immediately guess the whodunnit. From the very first page I was hooked and was desperate to know more about Flora’s kidnapping – in fact I was so absorbed in the book I barely moved an inch the entire weekend! I was rooted to my chair, flipping the pages as fast as I could. If the crime wasn’t intriguing enough, the questions Gardner raises about victim bonding certainly made me pause and take a second look! Find Her is an excellent thriller and I’m ecstatic Lisa Gardner has no many other novels – I need more of her books in my life!

weekly wrap-up 10/16

↠ This weekend has been all about cuddles and breaking out the hoodies! obvious this is still PA though because yesterday the temperature was in the low 30s when we went out our walk, today it was 60.

↠ Last night the news broke that one of my favorite boutiques is closing! Their site is currently down, but the second it’s back up I’ll be sharing links on instagram and twitter – they have the CUTEST clothes and their sale next week will extend to online sales as well, so if you aren’t in my area you can still get in on it!

↠ ALSO last night my DNA results came back! For my birthday Matt got me the Ancestry DNA kit and I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting to hear back! For the most part it’s not surprising (mainly Jewish and Italian with a few others thrown in) though it also said 10% Scandinavian and WHERE did that come from?! So, so cool. My aunt has a huge family tree for my dad’s side and it goes back hundreds of years, but as far as I know we don’t have anything nearly as extensive on my mom’s side. Are YOU into genealogy?? Have you ever had your DNA tested??

READING REPORT Last week my total for the year was 147 books read with 102 female authors, 45 male authors. This week I’m at 152 books read with 105 books by female authors, 47 by male authors.

WHAT I FINISHED Continuing with my graphic novel binge from last week, I read volumes one and two of Cullen Bunn’s Harrow County. This series takes place in the 1910s and, eighteen years prior to that, a woman deemed a witch was brutally murdered by the town. As she was dying, she swore she would one day return and now, sweet Emmy is showing some very odd signs.. I’m really enjoying this series and have the third one from the library – I can’t wait to read it! Dark and moody, absolutely perfect for this time of year. I also read my first novel of 2017, Rachel Hulin’s Hey Harry, Hey Matilda…and was SO disappointed. Tara Eglington’s How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You is reviewed below, as it Jojo Moyes’ Paris for One & Other Stories.

WHAT I’M CURRENTLY READING I’m a little over halfway through Lisa Gardner’s Find Her and am LOVING it! It easily reads as a standalone and is definitely keeping me guessing.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Tara Eglington’s How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You fails HARD when it comes to the Bechdel Test, but I found myself having a blast while reading it. Yes it’s extremely predictable and reads much younger, but I’m looking forward to the sequel! Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the latest Jojo Moyes. I ADORE her and have loved every single one of her other novels that I’ve read but Paris for One & Other Stories was far from memorable.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi
This debut novel is being compared to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and Jodi Picoult. A stay-at-home mom commits suicide and leaves her husband and teenage daughter reeling from the loss. Maddy was the backbone of their family, the glue that held them together – how could they possibly move on from this? As they struggle to make sense of things and pick up the pieces, Maddy realizes she isn’t quite ready to let them go and continues to meddle from beyond the grave. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier
This is the third novel in the Blackthorn & Grim series, a series that has been on my To Read list for AGES. Marillier is a powerhouse in the Fantasy world and I’m ecstatic to have this gorgeous finished copy! I don’t know much about this series other than it’s set in an ancient Ireland where faeries and magic thrive. I think a binge read is in the works! Thank you, Roc!

The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur
I was enormously impressed with Karen’s 2015 debut, The Secrets of Lake Road, and couldn’t contain my excitement when I discovered she has a new book coming out next year! The Sisters of Blue Mountain is another novel about dark pasts and family relationships and as we were talking about it on twitter, Karen graciously offered to send me a copy! I cannot wait to read this one! Thank you, Karen!

Paris for One (& Other Stories) by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes
Pub. Date: October 18, 2016
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Pamela Dorman Books!)
Summary: Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She’s never even been on a weekend away—to anywhere, and certainly not with her boyfriend. Everyone knows traveling abroad isn’t really her thing. But when Nell’s boyfriend fails to show up for their romantic mini-vacation, she has the opportunity to prove everyone—including herself—wrong. Alone and in Paris, Nell uncovers a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid. Adventurous, funny, and charming, Paris for One is vintage Moyes—as are the eight stories that round out the collection.
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Short Story Collection

I love Jojo. Love. Her. I came to her a little late in the game, only having discovered her in 2013 when I fell hard for The Girl You Left Behind. Since then, I’ve been slowly making my way through her other novels and to date I’ve read three more: One Plus One, Silver Bay, and The Last Letter From Your Lover. Now, with the release of a short story collection, I’m thrilled to say I have a fifth Jojo novel under my belt.

Unfortunately – and I hate to say this since I adore Jojo – but I’m just not a big fan of short stories. Or maybe I’m just not a fan of spending such a little amount of time with Jojo’s characters. Instead, I want to live and breathe her worlds over the course of several hundred pages, not a handful.

Paris for One was originally released as a novella and it’s by far the longest story in this collection. Quiet, careful Nell makes a rash decision to take a Parisian holiday with her boyfriend to disastrous effects. Not only does the boyfriend completely stand her up (leaving Nell to fend for herself in a foreign country where she doesn’t speak the language) but there’s a mix-up with the hotel room and it had been double-booked: neither Nell nor the brash American want to back down, resulting in a very awkward arrangement. Fabien is stuck in a rut: still pining after his ex and slowly losing hope of ever becoming a writer. When a nervous woman accidentally spills her glass of wine on his shoes, he has no idea how the next few days will change his life. There are no surprises with this story – it’s short and sweet and pure Jojo.

The other stories in this collection were all just okay. Clocking in at a handful of pages each, I never really got a feel for the characters; instead it was just the bare bones of what could be. There’s a story about an affair; a mix-up at the gym that results in a woman discovering a pair of Louboutin heels; a Christmas story that reminded me of The Gift of the Magi; a bank robbery. Sadly, none of these stories are memorable.

As much as I love Jojo Moyes, I’m sad to say I wasn’t overly thrilled with this short story collection. When I read her work, I want to become immersed in the tale she’s created. Unfortunately that never happened here. While Paris for One was enjoyable enough, the following stories were so short that I never became fully invested and found them to be entirely forgettable. I am admittedly a book collector, particularly when it comes to authors I love, and Jojo’s covers are all so beautiful. That said, I’d still have reservations about buying a copy. I honestly can’t see myself ever rereading this one as I have her previous novels.

How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You by Tara Eglington

How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You by Tara Eglington
Pub. Date: October 25, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: Sweet sixteen and never been kissed . . .

That’s Aurora Skye’s big secret. And the way she wants it to stay. She’s not going to give away her first kiss to just anyone. Busy dodging suitors and matchmaking for her best friends, Aurora (not so) patiently awaits her prince.

But everything changes when Aurora is coerced into a lead role in the school production of Much Ado about Nothing. Which means she’ll have to lock lips with her co-star Hayden Paris—the smart and funny boy next door who also happens to be the bane of her existence, always around to see her at her worst.

Now Aurora is more determined than ever to have her first kiss with the one who’s truly worthy of it. But first she’ll have to figure out just who that person is.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Retelling, Romance

Aurora is sixteen (and a half!) and has never been kissed. Oh, sure, she’s gone on dates with several boys, but every single one has ended with Operation Stop Kiss, a drastic plan put into action to instantly kill the mood and bring the night to a smooch-free end. Growing up obsessed with Sleeping Beauty, Aurora is bound and determined to save her first kiss for her very own Prince and has even started a matchmaking service at school in order to help other girls find Princes (capital P!) of their own.

While helping her bestie get over an ex-boyfriend, Aurora mistakenly winds up playing the lead in the school’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, a role that not only puts her alongside Hayden Paris, her archnemisis, but also requires a kissing scene. Completely unable to find a way out of this disaster of a play, Aurora is determined more than ever to find her true love.

Originally published in Australia in 2013, How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You is now hitting the US where I’m positive it’ll find a whole new audience. That said, let me cut right to the chase: Aurora is painfully stuck on the idea of being Sleeping Beauty. She wants to find her Prince (again, capital P) when it really sounds like what she wants to do if find a husband and settle down. I’m all for fluffy, giggly, daydreamy romances, but Aurora took it a step too far. She’s only 16, but at times came across sounding MUCH younger. Yet because of her search for what is essentially a spouse, the feel of the book is much older. VERY strange.

As rehearsals ramp up, Aurora begins to receive gifts from her secret admirer and her group of girls stop at nothing to find out who the mystery man is. At times this can be a little absurd – one of the girls is the daughter of a cop and that allows her to have access to a fingerprint database..?? All the while it’s completely obvious who the boy is, so the ending will come as no surprise.

While I did enjoy this one, I do have two major issues with this book: every single conversation Aurora and her friends have is about boys. I think one talked about clothes (they needed to find the perfect outfit to get the boys) but any other interaction focuses solely on discovering who Aurora’s secret admirer was, nursing a broken heart, planning how to get the new boy’s attention, how to stop the kiss with Hayden, etc etc. At no point did any of these girls feel comfortable being single. The end game was always to get a boyfriend. The Bechdel test is sent to an early grave here. My other issue was with one friend in particular. Jalena is the girl at school. There aren’t any other girls more popular than their group, but Jalena is clearly Top Dog. Gorgeous, wealthy, all the best clothes, boys falling at her feet. Normally I would roll my eyes and move on, but her entire attitude was grating. Smug and superior and not afraid to let the world know it. Her boyfriend (and what a charmer that guy was ugh) had a role in the play and at one point brutally tore apart his character’s love interest. Instead of defending the girl, Jalena joined in, ruthlessly mocking the girl, saying they should start a collection to help pay for a boob job since that’s clearly the only way she could ever hope to get the attention of a boy in Jalena’s league. And Aurora was best friends with this girl. The only saving grace was that the rest of their group was shocked and embarrassed by Jalena’s behavior. Still, I didn’t care one bit for this character and her redemption at the end felt so phony.

For all my complaining, I actually did enjoy this book and look forward to the sequel! This book had a ton of potential and could have explored Aurora’s family dynamic (divorced parents, her father is very New Age-y, her mother practically forgets she exists) more in depth. There was so much underneath the surface, particularly once her dad starts dating again, and I would have loved to read that story. While I liked How to Stop a Boy from Kissing You enough to read it in a single sitting, it felt very young and the ending was obvious from the very first page. Also, the constant talk of boys and boyfriends left little time for any other topic and I’m sure that will leave many readers disheartened.