175 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, November 2, 2023

  1. You know, you read a blurb and it’s all ‘romantic comedy’ and ‘hilarious’ and it just isn’t funny at all? I’m three chapters in to the audiobook of 10 Things That Didn’t Happen by Alexis Hall which is probably too early for GBT, but wow, risk-taker. Actually funny, snarky laugh out loud moments. I don’t know if it’s just the audio, but at less than 10% in to the book, recommended! M/m, fake amnesia plot, I’m settling in for a good time.

    Oh, also, the mc is a manager in bed n bathroom style chain store in Sheffield (Splash and Snuggles) which is so normal that it shouldn’t feel faintly subversive for a romance hero.

      1. This is one of the rare instances where I diverge from an Argh recommendation. I like Alexis Hall a lot. But both MCs got on my nerves (in different ways) so I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped for. Glad you all are enjoying it though!

        1. Well, I listened to it, not read it and I thought the narrator was exceptional, especially with all the silly extra long product names. He may have added to the tone and my enjoyment.

          1. I think this is the case for me too. I’d absolutely recommend listen rather than read. His comedic timing and tone is spot on.

  2. The bad thing about reading multiple books by authors you really like in a row is that it ruins you for a while. I dnfed several audiobooks while I struggled before settling on Kristen Ashley’s newest. It’s a potentially haunted house in England, a dysfunctional wealthy family and a house party. I am enjoying it. I don’t know if the ghosts are real yet or not. The setting makes it feel just a bit like Christie or Heyer, which is fun. And it slows down Ashley’s usual plotting, so the characters haven’t gotten into bed yet, which feels right for this book.

    1. My library usually has her books and so far, it is not on the list. Looks like I’m going to have to go over and put in a request for Too Good to be True. Along with SEP’s Simply the Best, but that’s not coming out till February.

  3. Several Arghers mentioned enjoying Alexis Hall’s 10 Things That Never Happened, and I have to join them. Not as funny as Boyfriend/Husband Material but sweeter and more romantic and I actually liked the two MC’s better – more fully realized as characters.

    I listened to another Cordelia Knightsbridge’s Seven of Spades series, still invested in the long arc of the series.

    I read two TA Moore books, neither as hard-edged as some of her other stuff, Take the Edge Off and Wanted: Bad Boyfriend. The latter in particular was practically mainstream.

    Because of several mentions last week of Rachel Reid’s A Time to Shine, I re-read it – I really do love her two MC’s – one sweet, sunny and very sexually active; the other demisexual and probably neurodivergent. Adorable.

  4. I just finished reading “The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies” by Allison Goodman, and loved it. What a fun book! This is apparently Book 1 in a planned series, and I plan to read them all the moment they show up.

    The framework is that two 30-something twin spinsters from a wealthy noble family begin doing what is essentially good-hearted detective work to help rescue people from intolerably bad situations.

    This book contains three cases, of increasingly difficult and dangerous challenges. The author says she’s been fascinated with the Regency period since reading her first Georgette Heyer, and this should be obvious from the very careful research the author did into each situation and how it relates to real life in that place and time. The twins come close to reading one another’s thoughts, and one falls in love with a highwayman, who assists them more and more centrally in their work — a very helpful contribution that that teaches them things and backs up their efforts. Plus he’s quite gorgeous. Feelings ensue.

    Wonderful, funny & moving novel. So glad someone here recommended it!

    1. I, too, read The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies this weekend and adored it. I loved the fact that it was Regency but not featuring very young ladies coming out – instead two much older ladies. Lovely romance, with no rippery (I was once informed by a great bookseller that Georgette Heyer was great at authentic Victorian/Regency but with no rippery!). Really wonderful, moving and thoughtful novel. I also thank whoever recommended it.

      Also read Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin. Great murder mystery and loved the twist that I in no-way saw coming. Less convinced by the romance bit, but would still recommend. Think I got the recommendation here too – so thank you.

      Mad for the Plaid by Karen Hawkins also had a good twist but I got really annoyed with the Hero, who was a bit self-absorbed. Also (as someone who has lived in Scotland for 49 years) the “Scottish” accent as written was really dire, and inauthentic. I have never heard anyone say “it was nae” – here it would be “it wasnae” a small but distinct issue which would not bother anyone who was not local to Scotland. Plus “oop” is more local to northern England and I have never heard here. Couldn’t really recommend this title! But maybe I am just being pedantic, it spoiled it for me.

      Just started Time for Justice by Susan C Muller – the third in a series and really loving it so far (I have high hopes as I have enjoyed the others in this series and her previous work).

      1. “it was nae” would certainly bother me, and I’ve never even been to Scotland. I have read a lot of Stevenson, though, both R.L. and D.E.

    2. If it wasn’t me who recommended it, it should have been. I read it several weeks ago and adored it. I’m so pleased there are going to be more.

  5. I’m in the midst of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Each evening as I do my wind down reading for the day, I get caught back up in it, and end up reading longer than I intended – to the detriment of my sleep! I think this is a winner so far!

  6. For those who like audio, here is an interesting article about casting voice actors:


    “Other A-list actors such as Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Willem Dafoe have gone on to give notable readings in audiobooks by performing with their voice.

    “They aren’t reading, they are performing,” said Lisa Hintelmann, the head of casting and talent at Audible. “They want to be able to give an actual performance that is coming exclusively from their voice.”

    According to Ms. Hintelmann, voice-over work gives actors an opportunity to “stretch a new creative muscle.” Because they are not performing a single character in a book, actors will often have to coax out subtle changes in their voice to portray different characters. Dialect coaches sometimes help with that aspect.

    “Sometimes you’re female and you’re doing a male character,” Ms. Hintelmann said. “So you’re not going to try to actually sound like a man, but you’re going to maybe take it down a register to indicate it’s a different character and that it’s a male.”

  7. I finished my reread of Janny Wurtz and Raymond Feist’s Empire trilogy. I had completely forgotten how the third book started and it was a real punch to the gut. Definitely a trilogy that has stood the test of time but very hard on the heroine at times.
    One of the things I liked, is that things don’t happen instantly, you feel the passage of time.

    1. I LOVED LOVED this series. One of the things that stood out to me as a young person reading it was Mara – she was brutal, and made hard decisions with her eyes open, and sometimes made poor decisions, and it felt different to how women were typically portrayed, even in fantasy. And it made sense, like reading McEwan – you may not like how the characters are acting, but they’re consistent, their decisions and behaviour may be frustrating, but it fits with their character and history, and their maturing is perfect. Excellent excellent. I must get my daughter to read it.

      PS even now I resist wearing orange and black, crazy. Also Arakasi.

      1. Yes. There is that point in the first book where you realises how young her first husband is and what she is doing… and her awkward handling of her suitors…

    2. Yes, the third book has such a cruel start to it. I also started rereading these a couple of years ago, but I had to take a break at the third book because there’s so much pain there. I think I’ll just read them all again from scratch rather than pick up where I stopped, but yes, very good books!

    3. Fantastic series, and one of those where I like the collaboration more than I like work by either of the individual authors – although I haven’t tried Janny Wurts in years, maybe time for another attempt. I get the impression she was largely responsible for Mara’s characterization.

  8. Diana Wynne Jone’s “Dark Lord of Derkholm” thanks to GBT recommendations. Loved it, and will now start searching out her backlist! This is also good because I’ve been in a reading funk, with more dnf’s than finished books in October. Thank you all!

    1. One of my favorite books! The sequel is the year of the griffin. I wish they were more sequels.

  9. I am trying to reread the Diana Wynne Jones Dalemark Quartet. I had forgotten how complicated the character relationships are —not with each other but trying to understand which names refer to the same characters. It is spread over three very different time periods and yet is absolutely all one world.
    Two of the books have girls as heroines and they could not be more different from each other —not in an “opposites” kind of way but rather because they live in such different worlds neither could begin to understand the other one. In Reflections she talked about how when she started writing she had to write boy heroes because girls would read about boys but boys wouldn’t read about girls (yes, I can think of counter examples like Alice and Ballet Shoes but it clearly was what she thought). These must have been some of her first female protagonists.

    I keep wondering —when she wrote the first book did she have the third and fourth in mind already ? The third book is such a different book from the other three and yet the fourth book pulls it all together.

    Also, reading this after reading the book of her pieces on writing I realize how much her childhood shaped her portrayals of mothers.

    1. Also she may be the only author I know who makes gods major characters. I think some of them are gods—others are just not mortal?

    2. I never saw a boy reading Ballet Shoes, or anything by Noel Streatfield when I was growing up. You must have had one hell of a children’s librarian.

      1. We did. Also she brought her pet skunk in. He stayed under her desk when things were busy and waddled around when they were quiet.

        This may have improved her cred with the boys.

  10. I read The Library, by Bella Osborne, and liked it. To me, it reads like a YA book. The MCs are reluctantly drawn to each other, and eventually become a family of sorts. There are a few upsetting moments dealing with alcoholism. It has a great HEA, and there are sheep and dogs that are entertaining.

    Then I started the Duke of Rothaven series of Grace Burrowes. My One and Only Duke features a view into incarceration and the English justice system of the times that is fascinating. The MC’s, a pregnant widow and daughter of a pompous clergyman, and a banker who has pulled himself up by his bootstraps, are thrown together by fate. Both rise above the oppression of their lives and find a way to love. Then, the next book, A Duke by Any Other Name, explores epilepsy and mental institutions, and there is a lot of tension around concealing the “shameful” aspects of the disease. The female MC is also dealing with bullying by people who are angry she has risen from the gutter to their level, by her brother’s inheritance. How dare she attempt to join their ranks! I like characters with spunk, and there are several of them in this book. On to the next!

    1. Rogues to Riches is a good series. I think Burrowes is getting more consistent now and I enjoy pretty much all her more recent books, whereas her earlier ones were more hit and miss for me.

  11. Still plugging away at the dissertation so reading time remains short, but I did read the eARC for System Collapse, the new Murderbot novel by Martha Wells. I wanted to get the review done before the book release on 11/14. If you are reading Murderbot, you are of course going to like this book, but it has a different tone than Network Effect. If NE was the windup then SC is the aftermath. It’s best to read them back to back because SC begins right after NE ends. There is a lot here about trauma, healing, and treating people as numerics on a spreadsheet but as always it’s a lovely read.

    I also have eARCs by Nora Roberts, a new series The Lost Brides with Inheritance, and Naomi Alderman’s The Future. I’m going to try to find some time this weekend to dive into those, but my brain is tired.

    I continue to love this discussion because of all the recommendations for every taste.

    1. So jealous! And fortuitously listening to Network Effect (as breaks from the 400-hour long epic fantasy), so I’ll be all set!

  12. Another week of reading and listening. There was the last Penric & Desdemona book – Knot of Shadows – an excellent read. I let Grover Gardener read it to me.

    I started reading The Jennifer Crusie Collection. I finished “Welcome to Temptation” and started on “Tell Me Lies,” but I didn’t feel like reading about Maddie and Chopped Liver, so I set it aside for later.

    Up-time Pride and Down-time Prejudice by Mark Huston is one of those side novels in the “Ring of Fire” Universe. The universe created by the late Eric Flint about a West Virginia town called Grantville transported lock, stock, barrel, and kitchen sink to Thuringia, Germany, in the year 1631. This one is sort of a romance, apart from the witch burnings. A comfort reread, withal.

    Speaking of rereads, The Rat Rebellion by Goodlett and Huff is the third of four (so far) in their “Star Wings” series.

    There were others. I can’t remember them. Oh well.

    I watched Voltron, Episode 1 on Netflix, I think. I can’t tell if this is the same Voltron my son watched back in the ’80s. I might watch another episode or two, just for the nostalgia.

    I also watched Spiderman: Across the Spider-verse. I may have to sign up for Disney to get access to Marvel. There are a lot of superhero movies I haven’t seen. I re-watched Batman v Superman. I need more superheroes.

    Of course, I re-watched all the old standby shows – Supergirl, Flash, Gilmore Girls, Justice League Unlimited, Arrow – because Lorelei and Luke count as supers, too.

      1. In chapter 1, Mary Russo is part of the military administration of Wurzberg.

        She was the new kid here, nineteen years old, just out of basic training, graduated early from high school, and dropped into what her superiors must have thought would be an easy job. Sort out property records. Simple enough. And property records by themselves were nothing to cry about. She was crying about why they were so messed up. The town of Wurzburg, with a population of maybe fifteen thousand people, had in the last four years, murdered around 900 of its citizens for witchcraft. Beheaded some of them, then burned the bodies. Burned many of them alive.

        Huston, Mark. Up-time Pride and Down-time Prejudice (Kindle Locations 150-154). Kindle Edition.

        She is hired to be a teacher/consultant to a branch of the very most richest family in Europe and the world – The Fuggers. She finds herself living in the Alps, all too near Bavaria, home of Duke Maximillian, the most Catholic (and slightly insane) noble of the Holy Roman Empire. “More Catholic than the pope.” Romance and hijinks ensue.

      2. I know… that made me crack up too 😀

        It made me think of when my kids insisted I watch deadpool because it is a romance.

        1. I don’t know about Deadpool, but I do know that The Terminator is one of my fave romances which is why I like to rewatch it.

          1. Yes, totally, I also saw it as a great romance. Linda Hamilton was a kickass heroine and Michael Biehn was swoonworthy in that film.

          2. He came back all the way from the future to rescue her because he fell in love with her picture! I adored Michael Biehn. The only other thing I saw him in was the second (?) alien film but he didn’t have much to do.

    1. The Voltron is a reboot of the cat one from the 80’s, so same characters but much better animation and more than 1 plot. In the 80’s, every episode was the same episode with a different monster to kill and minor long arcing storyline advancement. The new one is better but I need to go back to it as I was only part way through the first season when I got distracted.

      1. I am sorry. It was published by Ring of Fire Press which ceased operation after Eric Flint died. His widow went through bankruptcy proceedings. Baen books is trying to acquire rights to much of ROFP’s backlist to republish. I got my digital copy while ROFP was still operating.

    2. I don’t care for most of the DC movies in recent years, but I dearly love both Wonder Woman movies. Not your typical superhero fare, with a lot of heart.

      1. I am thoroughly over watching remakes of origin stories. DC and Marvel are both guilty of this crime, though DC is worse. Morales is the fourth spiderman (even though it’s a cartoon.) How many times do we need to know/be shown that Batman’s parents were killed in front of him?

  13. I had one hit and one miss this week. I DNF Wildwood Magic by Willa Reese. I was actually really angry at the author (this only happens rarely) because a few months ago I read her first book, set in the same town, Wildwood Whispers, and it was one of the best books I’d read all year. It was charming magical realism, and I loved it so much, I couldn’t wait until the next book came out. Alas, the second one was the exact opposite of charming…I found it disturbing and unpleasant (every kind of abuse you can think of, and many profoundly nasty male characters, all of whom you were in the heads of), way too many POVs, plus way too long. I only made it about halfway through the 406 pages before I couldn’t take it anymore.

    Then I read Ally Carter’s The Blonde Identity, which I think someone here recommended, and it was the perfect palate cleanser. (I just had to look up palate to make sure it was the right one, not palette or pallet, oy.) A fun romcom spy caper with amnesia and all sorts of twists and turns. And two protagonists I actually liked. Whew. Thanks to whoever suggested it–you saved my reading week.

  14. I listened to the audiobook of You called an ambulance for what! – essentially a funny autobiography of a Sydney paramedic (most Australian paramedics are degree-trained). If you like the Australian sense of humour, it’s worth a listen. My daughter was a paramedic – until she was permanently injured lifting heavy patients – so it was interesting comparing her stories with his.

    I’ve also just finished the third book in India Holton’s Wisteria Society series. Genteel late Victorian lady pirates with flying battle houses and a penchant for violence.

  15. I second Jinx’s approval of “The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies” by Allison Goodman, it one of the better reads of this year. If you are a Regency reader, you can see when the characters are stepping outside of the societal bounds for a walk on the wild side. Humor, mature women as the protagonists, and well written.

    My book club chose what looked like a cozy murder featuring a women’s book group with a picture of a cake on the cover. (Murder at the Book Club, B. Reavly) But it was dreary and full of bad relationships, and dull, humorless people. DNF’s half way through. Just like putting a dog on a cover if there’s not a dog in story, a cake on the cover without a little more attention paid to enjoying cake, is a no no.

  16. Ah, the books, the books.

    1. ‘Ex Appeal’ by Cathy Yardley. F/M second-chance romance between a Southern California hacker / IT worker and the Vietnamese-American millionaire business consultant she fell for in school. Both are dealing with past and present family trauma; I felt she could have done better at dealing with her issues (she has lots of friend support) sometime over the past 6+ years instead of blaming the guy for everything, but they worked it out.

    2. ‘Party of Two’ by Jasmine Guillory. F/M romance feat. a young white California senator and the black attorney he falls for on the down-low. There is a last-act blow-up, completely in character for both MCs, a legit conflict that they needed to sort out; they deal with it intelligently. Good friends & family on her side, one good friend on his.

    3. ‘Hideki Smith, Demon Queller’ by A.J. Hartley with Hisako Osako (his wife) & Kuma Hartley (their son), YA fantasy adventure based on Japanese folklore, set in a modern-day North Carolina that feels very lived-in. I have a bone to pick with the publisher, who loaded ARC in need of line edit instead of a clean paperback, but the book itself is unusual (despite hewing to the hero’s journey beats) and good. Honestly, they had me at ‘his sister turns into a fox.’ Gorgeous cover, cinematically imagined, would make an awesome graphic novel.

    4. re-read my own ‘A Few Kisses Ago,’ F/M older-woman co-workers to lovers.

    4.5 re-read my own novelette ‘In Tune,’ M/M set in Vegas feat. musicians.

    5. ‘Magic Burning’ by Kaje Harper, M/M in Carnival of Mysteries multi-author series, the best of them I’ve read so far. MCs are an elementary schoolteacher (sorcerer) and a closeted firefighter. Realistic family & friends entanglement, support where needed, the MCs become real allies. Would happily re-read so gave this 5 stars.

    6. ‘Kiss Me, Catalina’ by Priscilla Oliveras. F/M contemporary feat. an established mariachi star and the songwriter of rising all-woman mariachi group who’s just landed a contract with his label. The co-workers aspect is dealt with well but I did get tired of internal monologue about their pants feelings. She is 28 and he is in his 30s; they both act ten years younger than they are. Also there’s zero reference to their past relationships and how those inform the one they’re in. Instead all the emotional groundwork derives from their hangups about their fathers. This is a riff on ‘Taming of the Shrew’ and the FMC is really hot-tempered and impulsive. That’s very not me, so it wore thin.

      1. Spoiler alert!

        One thing that makes it unusual is that Hideki ends the story very much as he began it; while he is introduced to a family legacy of power, and access to some new powers of his own, his real-life life doesn’t reflect that. An interesting authorial choice that I found more relatable than the typical YA Hero / Prince Ends Up On Top of Everything conclusion. He remains a marginalized outsider, an intermittently surly 15-yr-old with a good heart.

  17. Read some older Dean Koontz books this week. Watchers, Lightning. These are the books where his career kind of took a turn and led to where he is now and while they are dated (the US post 9/11 is very different from the era those books were written in) you really can see how his storytelling came together in a really impactful way. Just thinking about this while I consider reinvention.

  18. Heading to lunch with my aunt at Holy Crepes so I don’t have time to read comments now. Something to look forward to later.

    Question for Tammy & Lupe – my MC in the novel I’m writing for NANOWRIMO is reading a tentacle porn book. You like those, right? Can you tell me your favorites?

    1. Hey they’re smutty, not pornographic. It’s different. My favourites are: Lyn Gala’s Claiming series and her Earth Fathers/Husbands are Weird; the Nepenthe series by Octavia Hyde (that’s probably darned close to porn) and Strange Love – can’t remember if precisely had tentacles but close enough and alien abduction is an adjacent sub genre but I won’t go there now.

    2. I read a lot of them because they hold a lot of comfort elements for me. Are you looking for anything specific? M/F, M/M, lots of sex, not so much sex?

      I second Octavia Hyde and Lyn Gala. Addison Cain also has one. Is that Strange Love? I think that it is. Some dub con elements in there.

      I also kinda like Tiffany Roberts Kraken series. Not my favorite writer, but more traditional m/f arc and the reason the kraken exist and can mate with humans is very clever.

      Um, Adrian Blue does a lot of very short, very smutty alien and monster romances. I like them when I am in the mood.

      CM Nascosta is a perennial favorite with more substance than some of the others, but I think her tentacle stuff is all short stories in anthologies and on her patreon as unpublished work.

      Katee Robert has a good Kraken romance that is more monster/fantasy than alien tentacles. There is a lot of nuance here.

      I could go on…

        1. What can I say? Paranormal romance is a gateway drug. You go from human men who are slightly other to men who turn into other things, to aliens who are more other (blue with horns) and then you begin to wonder what would happen if…

          I blame Meljean Brook. Her demon hunter series has this great line about the main characters desiring each other in any form they are wearing because they love each other and it is them, you know?

          Also, I get very curious about how an author will try to make something work. I read this one about a sentient door… I was disappointed. He just turned into a person. It was a cop out.

          1. Only you would have a semi-intellectual and objectively self-reflective explanation of why you like tentacle romance.

          2. TBH, I was ruined earlier. Who can go back to regular human males after Vivian Van Velde’s Dragon Bait?

      1. This is the situation – MC is the head of college libraries for UNM. She is constantly battling book banners. One in particular catches her at her meet (kind of) cute of the man who will be her love interest (looks like Matthew Goode BTW).

        She is caught in the park, illegally drinking wine and reading tentacle romance, Doesn’t have to be porn. Becomes her guilty pleasure.

        The wine is in a travel cup & she has made a paper bag cover for the book so the villainous book banner doesn’t ACTUALLY catch her. Just close. And interfering with her meet cute – dammit.

        I should have a 3 beat of titles. So which 3 do you & Tammy or anyone else think is right for this.

        1. You can’t go wrong with a lead that looks like Matthew Goode, I spent the entire duration of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society wishing he was the ML

        2. Full disclosure, I tend to be rather niche in my tastes, even when it comes to tentacles. I know there is more mainstream stuff with more traditional plotlines.

          If you are asking for my favorites, its Cm Nascosta, Octavia Butler and Lyn Gala.

          If you are looking for name recognition for your readers, it’s probably Addison Cain, Tiffany Roberts and Katee Roberts. There are definitely more in this category, but if they are too mainstream I don’t usually pick them up.

          1. Oh, you can always winnow it down more. But really, I like a certain kind of story. A lot of tentacle smut is just a variation on general alien romance. The beats are the same, but conflicts are the same, the resolutions are the same. It could be any paranormal romance, just with different appendages. And I like something more specific than that, a story that is unique, that really considers the limitations of the trope or pushes past them.

            I think that Octavia Butler is rather playful with her portrayal, and extra smutty but in a specific way. Each of her vignettes would only happen between those characters. The scenes are not interchangeable at all.

            Two for Tea is my favorite. It’s more about accepting and seeing a being that doesn’t fit into conventional society than it is about titillating tentacles. Lots of emotional punch on both sides of the relationship plus a non-binary character and a demi-sexual character. I really enjoy non-mainstream portrayals of sexuality because they help me learn.

            Tiffany Roberts is the most standard, normal romance arch. Just fun costumes and settings really… I don’t tend to reread, but they are fun when the mood hits me.

        3. It took me three reads to realize the banner was a person and not a sign.
          Much more interesting this way.

  19. I read Suzanne Enoch’s Every Duke Has His Day, which relies on black poodles, evidently rare in England during the Regency era. Easy enough to figure out what will happen, but I’m all about comfort reading now.
    The other interesting thing was an article in New York Times about updating Georgette Heyer, specifically The Grand Sophy, to remove the blatant anti-semitism. Mary Bly/Eloisa James was to write an afterword, but dropped out, disapproving of the rewriting, coming down on the side of the intelligent reader who will not be bothered.
    It’s a good question, and applies to other writers of Heyer’s era; even Dorothy Sayers tosses off some anti-semitic comments, not as blatant as Sophie’s interaction with a Jewish moneylender who could be straight out of Merchant of Venice. I don’t know what I think about the rewriting.

    1. Huh. I personally stopped reading Mary Bly / Eloísa James because of the way one of her recent romances had the hero essentially sexually harassing the heroine ( he kept staying close and touching her when she asked him not to). I wonder if she would want to rewrite that or if she thinks it was appropriate to the period or doesn’t find it problematic?

      I guess I’m not persuaded that she is the best judge of what is problematic and what readers will comfortably ignore, intelligent or not.

      1. Also the Grand Sophy was written in 1950 so anti Semitism should have been a real issue for the author. Even though I love the book as a whole I am really troubled by that scene.

        1. I was never troubled by the scene as it was true to the period. in the 1800s Jews were detested in England and other places. They were only good for lending money. They were certainly not part of society. I never thought that Georgette was anti-Semitic. I thought she was historically realistic.

          1. Not trying to be flippant. Just working through my own feelings about it. Really, The Grand Sophy is a historical fantasy at its base and Heyer could definitely have chosen a different path. She didn’t need to perpetuate this harmful stereotype and could have avoided it in any number of ways. But I’m torn between rewriting a book to make it more palatable and leaving it alone in all its flawed glory. It’s too much like sanitizing history so no one knows what really happened.

          2. Having a Jew as money lender would be historically realistic. Describing him as having long greasy curls, a Semitic nose, an ingratiating leer, and “the instinct of his race”, and making him an evil man has nothing to do with historical accuracy and everything to do with stereotypes.

          1. If it’s clearly designated as a new or revised edition, though, that’s not misleading. Especially if the literary heir is up front about their reasoning.

      2. To quote the NY Times article

        “To Bly, changing “The Grand Sophy” without acknowledging the flaws in the original felt like an attempt to obscure Heyer’s views. After the estate declined to include Bly’s explanation of the changes in an afterword, she quit the project.

        “They’re publishing a bowdlerized text, and I can’t have any part in that,” Bly said. “You can’t hide it.””

        So more that she objected to making Heyer appear more enlightened than she was …

        1. Well, I take her point. But I also worry less about the intelligent reader being upset and more about the unsophisticated reader having stereotypes reinforced. Anti-Semitic attacks reached historic levels in 2022.

    2. I’m in favor of literary heirs making an attempt to engage new readers who probably don’t want to be slapped in the face with gross ethnic or religious prejudice. Especially when, as in ‘Sophy,’ the offensive characterization does not exist for story reasons. At best, it’s crudely funny; at worst, it’s insidious support for some very terrible human rights abuses.

      Having already read a lot of Heyer, I know what I’m missing by not re-reading. A person just now discovering Regency romance who wants to investigate early writers like Heyer, unless they are reading a lot of commentary about romance at the same time, could be very unpleasantly surprised by that type of characterization and thus very unlikely to appreciate the craft.

      Agatha Christie’s literary heir is making efforts in this direction. Obviously, I come down on the side of appreciating cleaning up the work for a new generation of readers.

    3. I prefer to know that a book is as its author wrote it even if sections are dated.

      If someone revises a novel, that someone’s name should be used as the primary author. The title should be altered, too.

      In the future there will be tastes that vary from today’s tastes. I’m not interested in having books revised — I think it’s a form of censorship.

      1. The other icky thing in the Grand Sophy is that she is marrying her cousin but nobody worries about that.

          1. Avunculate marriages happened in the European Royal Familes, but you had to get permission from the Pope. You want creepy, there was a papal dispensation for Henry Fitzroy (Henry VIII illegitimate son) to marry Mary Tudor (legitimate half sister)

          2. So this sent me down a rabbit hole and it was banned in Britain since at least 1506 but it is permitted in Norway, Chile, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Finland, Malaysia, The Netherlands,Germany and Russia. In the United States it is permitted in some circumstances in two states.

          3. You have to remember in some cultures, they didn’t allow you to marry relatives that close with the same surname, but they didn’t care about the maternal side at all as they considered a woman married away was no longer part of that family

          4. I was reading about 19th century Paris and I came across the Pereire brothers who were real estate moguls and one of them married the other’s daughter. Squick!

        1. Happened in the Big families all the time, I think the Rothchilds had a tradition of marrying cousins to keep the money in the family. I was worried about Lord Charlbury getting the mumps as a adult causing potential fertility problems. The books were set in a different time and written in another, if we apply today’s values to them. We would start worrying about an 18 year old, Cecilia marrying a 30 year old man, in Emma – Jane Austen, she is 16 years younger then Mr Knightley

          1. While I think Georgette Heyer’s depiction of historical settings is phenomenal, I think much of her morality is of the time when she was writing (throughout the middle of the 20th century). Coming to mind are books like A Civil Contract, The Quiet Gentleman, Arabella, Sprig Muslin, and The Nonesuch. I find the strengths of the MCs — good housekeeper/responsible rich man, both MCs children-loving/handling, and either MC committed to social causes — very much like the values of my 1950s-on childhood.

        2. The cousin thing is a very modern concern, and more I find in North America than elsewhere. I wonder if societies with higher proportions of harmful recessive genes were more likely to develop taboos around it, which then get carried forward.

          Similarly in families with lots of siblings an uncle-niece (or aunt-nephew, I’m only five years older than mine) might be only a few years apart in age, in which case its really genetic health that’s a barrier.

          I’m much more squicked out by power dynamics – guardian-ward, boss-employee, mentor-protegee, big age gaps. They can provide tension in a story as long as the author really deals with it, but too often its just there without even being acknowledged.

          1. I agree power dynamics are big issue. I feel obliged to say they don’t always run the way you might think. My mom definitely was the dominant personality in our family despite being 12 years younger than my dad who also had been her supervisor during a summer college internship

          2. I’ve read that there is an area of rural Kentucky that is known for blue skinned people. The skin looks blue because it is blood condition that is the result of two parents that carry the same gene.

      2. I agree with you except in the case of Stephen King’s It. The part where Bev sleeps with all the boys should be unwritten. It makes me so mad.

      3. I wrote a very long answer to this (agreeing and then ranting) and then moved it to a post draft because it was too long (don’t monopolize the comments, Jenny, they’re not for you). I don’t know if I’ll ever post it, but I did want to say, Yes, THIS. There’s a reason an author has moral rights to their work, and this violates a basic tenet of creative work: Don’t fuck with what somebody else has written and keep their names on it. That’s fraud and literary assault and elitism at its worst.

        1. It might be something authors begin to put in their will, like Pratchett saying he didn’t want any unfinished work published.

    4. My husband and I had a pretty in-depth discussion about political correctness when Dr. Seuss’s family chose to pull books from production because of problematic illustrations.

      As a white person, I never noticed or bothered, but my husband is South Korean and he did find the images demeaning. However, he was also the manager of our library at the time and chose to leave the books on the shelves because he felt it was important for parents to have the opportunity to have that discussion with their children. Racism doesn’t disappear and the visual history of it shouldn’t either. He felt that we need to leave problematic materials available so that we don’t forget that past.

      I really learn a lot from him.

    5. I think it goes further than “The Grand Sophy” – I just re-read “Venetia” and although I still loved most of it, I was very uncomfortable with how the sexual assaults are handled. But I still think leave them as they are and with a forward or a trigger warning rather than erasing the rough bits – even with an explanatory note.

      I think my biggest problem with the whole re-writing debate that there are other equally good books out there that don’t have these issues which can be generally recommended. Give new books a chance to build an audience.

      If I personally love a problematic book (new or old) and want to share it with someone that I know, then I can judge individually whether it will be triggering for them and recommend the books with provisos and context.

      1. In Venetia they are more essential to the story. In Grand Sophy they are gratuitous. But in some ways that makes them more troubling because they perpetuate the idea it’s romantic.

        I am also generally troubled by the reformed rake trope when it ignores the real possibility that the rake has acquired a disease he will now share .

  20. Following great advice on this column last week (Dodo, Tammy, Lupe- thanks!) I went for total immersion in Hockey stuff. I don’t usually swallow series whole, I like to take a break between books and authors and mix in other things, but this time I went all out on Rachel Reid’s Game Changer series. After reading the first (Game Changer) which was great, I diverted to M/F and read Brooklyn Billionaire the first in the Brooklyn Bruiser series by Sarina Bowen (first in series but not written first so a lot of reference to people who are couples later in the series I think).
    After that I could not resist the rest of the Game Changer Series. I read it out of order 1,5,3,2 and I am just finishing 4. I read them out of order as Heated Rivalry (no 2) was more than twice the price of the others (it must be way more popular), but I find it hard to pay more for a kindle book than an actual book, but after 3 in the series I forked out… and loved it. They all have strong, characters that you want to root for, believable story lines and interesting issues.
    I think Tough Guy (No. 3) is a stand out for dealing with mental health issues while still being a book to devour. Minor quibble on no 4 (Common Goal) which I don’t think is as good as the others and I wasn’t as invested in the characters and the issues were more mundane). I’m just finishing that up now and then it is on to the last in the series, which revisits the characters in Heated Rivalry. I am excited about it, but also a little nervous… hoping it lives up to expectations, and also that it doesn’t lose focus by spending too much time with the characters from the other books in the series. We’ll see.
    At the current rate of progress I’ll be finished on Saturday (The last series I binged like this was The Hunger Games Trilogy, back in 2011!). I don’t usually read 7 books in a week either. Then will try and resume more normal reading pattern and will read more Sarina Bowen and check out the other suggestions too. (Will have to wait for Time to Shine as it VERY expensive over here), and I need to actually do some of the housework I have abandoned.
    Fun reading week for me. It was nice to feel like a teenager (the teenage I was) and abandon everything to just read.

    1. Hadn’t realised my comment was quite so long… Sorry!

      Meant to say, on Audio I’m listening to Cotillion (Heyer) a favourite but one I haven’t read in ages).
      Excited too that a new Lily Chu is out today on audible (The Takedown). Loved her two previous books.

      I have a bit of driving to do over the weekend so there’ll be competition as to which I listen to.

      1. Loved the long and detailed report so no worries! I am with you on Tough Guy being my second favourite of the Gamechangers series. And The Long Game is not as exciting a plot but so totally great to be with those two characters again that I totally recommend it. I’ve re-read it several times…Chacha1 didn’t like it so much though. Trying to provide a balanced report here. *:)

    2. Brooklyn Billionnaire is not the first in the bruiser series. Its timeline is parallel to another one in the series (can’t remember which one) but some of the other books published before definitely happened first if you discount the flashback bits.

      1. I should have added it is one of my favourites in the series even though I know lots of people don’t like it. My other favourite is the one about Patrick.

        1. It’s not my favorite (do I have a favorite?) but I love it because he’s so completely clueless. Makes me feel seen.

      2. I liked most of the books in that series, but they’re definitely interlocked. I generally don’t touch books with “Billionaire” in the title, but that one was a Bowen so I tried it and liked it a lot.

        1. It helps that they met long before he was a billionaire and that the attraction is not his money. Also that she tackled the boss power dynamic.

          1. Yes, I liked that she was his assistant back when he desperately need organized so that he treated her more as a partner and a problem solver than an employee.
            He was also very careful about how he courted her. There was no alpha hero nonsense. Very smart man.

    3. I’ve said it before, but Heated Rivalry is my absolute favourite by heaps hockey romance. I must have re read it half a dozen times. I think it is the epitome of the fuck-buddies fall in love trope. I appreciate it might be too heavy on the sex scenes for some though. Also, it really rewards the re-read, you can see all the places that Ilya is falling in love.

          1. I like them both. I’ve got a thing for the not-bad-boys, so I like Shane a lot.
            Also, I’m probably in the minority who’s kind of immune to the “Russian” appeal, I hate smoking and hate vodka/strong spirits. It speaks for hhe book/story that Ilya won me over eventually by the man underneath all those hyper masculinity.

      1. Usually I’m one of those who don’t like too much sex, but here it’s not gratuitous, those scenes say sooooo much about those two guys.
        I love it.
        My kid no 2 loves it, it was her first hockey book and way too adult, but in spite of the smut, those two CARE about each other, so a good character lesson.

        1. I think that it is great that you give her access to adult books. She is going to be exposed to all sorts of influence, no matter what, and this way you get to cherry pick the good stuff.

          And what a vote of confidence in her that you feel that you can give her sexy content. I haven’t raised children but I think that this says good things about future discussions.

          1. I’m giggling at “give her access to”.

            When my daughter was 9 I discovered she was reading Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. And when I took her to the library I found her reading Like Water for Chocolate.
            Kids who read obsessively will read whatever they want.

            I did take away Angela’s Ashes but she may have found it later.

          2. This is true. I got into all sorts of things that weren’t age appropriate (still do. Heh heh). And I wasn’t raised in the era of the internet. But I think that I am better for it, so all is well.

            What I should have said is that it says good things about your parenting that she doesn’t feel she needs to hide it from you.

          3. I’m far too thrilled that she was interested to try one if my hockey books. In spite of the covers of which she’s no big fan of.
            Also, she’s a rather mature and considerate 15 yo. I’d read books at least as adult at her age: thanks to being tall for my age, I was abke to borrow books from our library that were really too adult for me. No porn, mind you, not quite, but mirrors of a very misogynistic world.
            My parents never guessed…

    4. I’m happy that you liked Rachel Reid’s books!!
      I love her writing and think she’s one of those who have a ralent to incorporate characters of previous books without them overpowering.
      Happy further reading!!

    5. The last time you all got me interested in Rachel Reid my library had nothing—at least in ebook— and now, several mentions later, I check again and they have several. Just checked out Game Changer.

  21. Several new books this past week:
    Megan Bannen’s The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was an unexpected delight. I don’t remember where I got the recommendation for it, but in case it was on this forum, thank you, arghers. The novel sported many influences from a number of genres. There are threads in the narrative and the world-building belonging to historical fantasy and steampunk, to zombie flicks and epistolary tales, to frontier westerns and women’s fiction. But they all come together seamlessly in a quiet and warm F/M love story. It was a joy to read.
    T. Kingfisher’s Thornhedge was a weird retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Every assumption of mine about this fairy tale was turned on its head, and the result was a haunting and gentle tale of beauty found in unexpected places. As a short novella, it only took me a few hours from the first to the last page, but it packed an emotional punch. And although I enjoyed reading this book, I doubt I will ever revisit it. Despite its happy ending, it was too sad.
    Hannah Lynn’s New Beginnings at Wildflower Lock was … adequate. I finished it, but that’s all I can say.

  22. I didn’t get a lot of reading done this week. I reread and of the island by LM Montgomery and plan to start the ill mannered ladies next.
    I’m scheduled to travel to Vancouver BC on Sunday and I think I will mostly read on my iPad or iPhone. But I’m looking forward to hitting a bookstore in Canada.
    I got hired to do a singing commercial for NerdWallet and I’m so thrilled to be going to Vancouver because I love that city.

  23. I read The Innocent Sleep by Seanan McGuire. It’s a companion novel to the most recent book, narrated by the heroine’s husband. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure if it was needed, exactly? I mean, you find out some details that he knew that she didn’t, but overall it covers a lot of the same material and didn’t feel like it added all that much to the story. Sigh.

    1. It took me a while to figure out that it was a telling of the events of the previous book from Tybalt’s point of view. I too had mixed feelings about it.

  24. Reread Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. Delightful, as usual! A tale about a young Wicked Witch rescuing, and being rescued, by a castle and the minions that live therein. Read The Hexologists by Josiah Bancroft. It’s a magical world and a husband and wife private investigator team in the mode of Sherlock and Watson is investigating what has caused the king to suddenly fall mentally ill and beg to be turned into a cake and baked in an oven. Along the way they encounter all manner of magical opposition.

  25. I finally finished My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. I enjoyed it a lot, just like the books in the Jane-series. I like their take on history and litterature, the way they screw it up but make it enjoyable, gentle and fun to read. Easy on my anxious brain.

    On popular recommendation, I’m now rereading Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Not regretting it one second. Can’t believe I haven’t reread it until now. Thanks to everyone who mentioned it a few weeks ago for reminding me about it being such a lovely read!

  26. Not much reading done because of life being too busy.
    Tried one book that sounded promising (Powerplay), but it was very disappointing in that the writing was ok, I liked the characters, but it wasn’t thought through in the least. Starting with a surprise kid from a ONS the hero couldn’t remember (but he was sober enough to have the girl sign a NDA and be able to father a child), then the mom had her lawyer hand over her kid because shd was dying and hhe hero NEVER EVFN TRIED to reach out and see if she had died yet/give his daughter clisure or be on time and reassure the mom he’d take care if her kid. Oh well. I skimmed very fast and it didn’t get better.
    It’s such a pity – the author CAN write, but I had similar feelings with another of her books.
    So now I’m back with Bowen and Reid, re-reading and listening favourites.

  27. I reread Courtney Milan’s The Duke Who Didn’t, since I remembered I’d had mixed feelings the first time, and I didn’t want to buy the next in the series unless I changed my mind; which I didn’t – it’s gone into my Rejects collection. I found the first half irritating and the second half blah. She seems to be so keen on being PC that she’s lost sight of telling a good story. Which is a shame, since she’s a great storyteller when she’s on form.

    I switched to Victoria Goddard, reading her latest novella, The Game of Courts and then rereading Petty Treasons – both enjoyable but not vital (and overpriced). I’m now happily rereading The Hands of the Emperor, despite it being so slow: it’s just a fun world to spend time in.

    1. Was that the one about the girl who’s father is trying to make the perfect sauce? I dnfed that one too and haven’t picked up a Courtney Milan since. I will probably try her again sometime, but it didn’t work for me or feel particularly like a historical romance. It felt like a modern romcom in fancy dress. And it lagged.

    2. I don’t think it’s exactly about being PC. Milan is part Chinese and trying to find what being in Regency England would have meant for her. Although to the extent she is trying to reshape our views of England as multi racial that is perhaps PC. She has black characters as protagonists in other Regency novels.

      But I would rather read a book that shows how they were integrated into the population (which her other books do) and how they were treated than a book that sets them up with their own little village.

      If I were a fiction writer I would for example try to write a story about Dido Elizabeth Belle. She was born into slavery and illegitimate in the British West Indies. Her father was a British career naval officer who entrusted her upbringing to his uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, and his wife. The Murrays educated Belle, bringing her up as a free gentlewoman together with another great-niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray, whose mother had died. He confirmed that she wasn’t a slave in his will and left her money but not nearly as much as the other niece got. She later married a white servant.

      She clearly was raised in a sort of inferior companion status—would join company after dinner for example. It’s not clear if that’s because she was black, illegitimate, or both. There is a famous painting of her with her cousin where she isn’t depicted as a servant.

      What makes it particularly interesting is that her uncle was chief Justice and issued the first legal ruling on the path to ending slavery.

      I can’t write that book but I would love to read it.

        1. It’s pretty good. Note they’re making up quite a bit of the history as very little is known of her.

  28. Having fun rereading Janet Neel’s series of 7 books about Francesca Wilson, her brothers, her mate and other more or less interesting people. I have read them all before but now am reading one right after the other. Never did that before.
    She writes about music so that I can hear the music. She writes about food at times so that I can taste the food.
    She is an amazingly accomplished woman, so can write authoritatively about the workings of British government, the running of building sites, and restaurants and girl’s schools. If it isn’t obvious, I greatly admire her writing and her characters, though sometimes one wants to shake them.

  29. This week I read Wickedly Unraveled and the Baba Yaga novellas. I really enjoyed them. I like it when justice is served. So glad Deborah got the rights back and this group brought them to my attention.

    I’ve just started Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell. The one MC is a hoot, a trickster who spreads chaos wherever he goes.

    Regarding the Heyer ‘update’, I don’t know that the tropes used should be rewritten because it doesn’t do any good to ignore that they exist. I do wish that they’d correct the ‘giraffe’ quips. The first was left out of one of the newer editions and never put back in.

    And thanks for the tip to reread Network Effect again before Systems Collapse. Or, maybe I should just do a complete reread.

  30. I’m reading books that I’ve read before. Too long to get into but this month I’m putting a stop to buying any new books. So I’m relying on my library. I’ve already read We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian, I’m reading it again for a book club this month and it is in my library! I really loved that book and I know I’m going to love it again the second time around. I also read again The Witness by Nora Roberts (it is the dialogue in that book that hooks me every time). I used to think the first six chapters were a prologue but actually that book starts where it is supposed to start in structure (she has a new one at this end of this month which I’ve already put a hold on in my library). Oh and Ali Hazelwood has new one out this month (I’ve put a hold on it in my library as well), it is all about chess, so that concept has me excited.

  31. New books, but semi- comfort reading, Jayne Ann Krentz, Lightning in a Mirror is a good continuation of the Fogg Lake series. I don’t remember the details of the other 2, books, but the world it is in feels familiar and I felt good for a visit. Didn’t like Sleep no More as much, but it was a competently done JAK and they always do what they say on the tin, so no complaints.

  32. This week I reread Homeport by Nora Roberts. It gets better every time. I love the leads, Miranda was strong, cool & layered. Ryan was wicked, dangerous & unpredictable. The story has a perceptive view on how neglect, mother issues influnce and shape individuals. Even the mystery about the dark lady, the forgery & the deranged stalker was fantastic.

    I read Dont pretend Im yours by Natasha Anders and this couple was not ready for a HEA, They were not even ready for a lets be happy this week. Just give the male lead a cynic of the year award and let him be miserable. The h should fake her death and disappear.
    Natasha Ander’s books are a hit & miss for me. Let the experiment continue.

    I enjoyed Till death do us apart by Nadine Mutas. It’s a fantasy romance set in hell. The H gets married to the h because of a summoning & a hell contract. This series explores about what happens after the reluctant broody demon collects his bride.
    Its a heart warming story with lots of snark & steam. Dont miss it if you like talking hell cats & goofy hellhounds.

    I read Dante’s stolen bride by Day Leclaire. The Dante family has a legend- they can detect their soulmates. The story twin brothers, mistaken identity, a solid case of opposites attract & heartfelt declarations – it was a delightful read.

      1. Omg. You’re right. It’s Till Heaven do us part. I read it last week. Im really mixing up and making up titles these days. ( Facepalm ) Thank you 🙂

  33. I’ve read The Grand Sophy multiple times but not recently. The Jewish pawnbroker never particularly struck me, but I’d have to reread to see if I glossed over something glaringly offensive. In excerpt it rather sounds like I should have noticed. Poking around online, I did see that the issue has come up before and that his description was already slightly altered in some editions (possibly to tone down any idea of there being a Jewish “race”) . See:



  34. I just went into moderation with information on The Grand Sophy, I suspect for posting two links at once. As somebody earlier speculated, the algorithm doesn’t seem to like that.

    1. Sorry! You’re not there now, though. Did I already get you out?
      I was on the road most of the day so brains are tapioca right now.

  35. Spent the last week or so reading MA Carrick’s “Rook & Rose” trilogy which I thoroughly enjoyed. Big intricate city-based fantasy with a con-woman protagonist whose plan to fake her way with her sister into a noble family ends up with her involved in politics, metaphysics across cultures, and basically trying to do the right thing by everyone in her different personas. A sweet (m/f) love story, although the focus is more on found family, and the world is refreshingly queernorm without making a thing of it. Plus a tarot-like magic system 🙂

    Before that read “The First Time at Firelight Falls”, a contemporary by Julie Anne Long. Very funny second chance romance between a busy single mother and the local school principal with some delightful banter.

  36. I haven’t read much. NANOWRIMO started on Wednesday & before that I was doing prep.

    Part of prep was binge rewatching seasons 5 & 6 of The Good Wife. My love interest looks like Matthew Goode so I spent sometime watching his facial expressions & putting words to describing them. Hours of watching Matthew Goode. Oh the suffering I will do for my art.

    I did reread Welcome To Temptation. Don’t remember what got me started rereading that book but I loved it, as usual.

  37. My alarm clock says it’s 2 PM. The rest of the clocks say 3 PM. I hate Daylight Screw-with-clock Time.

    Remember, whether you are pro or anti DST, call your congresspeople at 2AM tonight to make your position known. It’s the right thing to do.

  38. I’ve been rereading the Mapp and Lucia novels by EF Benson prior to delivering a podcast on these wonderful stories. They are set in the 1920s and 1930s, depict an England that I vaguely remember in retreat during my 1970s childhood, and capture divinely and memorably the petty squabbles and feuds of two upper middle class women, Miss Elizabeth Mapp and Mrs Emmeline ‘Lucia’ Lucas. Their every foible and flaw is dissected, they both merit and receive comeuppance, but in the end, they are in their peculiar way, totally lovable. It’s about 20 years since I reread them, and they are as funny as ever.

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