Gift wins, Charity, Sorcery, and Notoriety

Hi all,

So Christmas is over for another year and the final days of 2012 have drawn to a close. I’m usually a stress-bunny, who starts fretting about Christmas from about September onward, yet this year the stress levels were waaaay down all through the lead-up to the big day, and we had the most relaxed Christmas Day I can remember. (I hope that’s a sign for 2013! Fingers crossed.)

Speaking of Christmas….

  1. Best gift idea: Prepay mobile phone top-up vouchers for the kids — they were VERY appreciative.
  2. Most SQUEEEEEEd over gift: DD loved her Black Milk leggings. She knew about the Call of Napoleon ones because she’d chosen them with me on the website, but didn’t have a clue about the Galaxy ones I’d ordered while they were on sale. With teenagers it can be hard to keep gifts secret, so this was an epic win on my part :)
  3. Best joint gift: Season 6 of Supernatural. We’ve found this series to be great entertainment for the whole family — even DS and DH have become converts.  And as we’ve had to give up our Sky TV subscription, and are finding the NZ holiday season evening TV viewing options  truly dire, thank God for Supernatural is all I can say. (Not to mention Sam and Dean, and everyone’s favorite angel, Castiel — need I say more? *VBG*)
  4. Most fun gift I bought for people: a bunch of handmade journals made from vintage books that I ordered from Ex Libris Anonymous. I had The Best Time Ever browsing the books and choosing the perfect one for each person I had in mind. I even grabbed a journal for myself: The Art of Editing, Third Edition *g*

What was your favorite gift to give or receive? I’m always on the lookout for ideas :)

Anyway, back to the reason for this post: books. This month there were three that really stood out for me.

First up is Charity Begins At Home by Alicia Rasley.

This was a wonderful story that for me encapsulated the charm and humor and clever writing that I enjoy so much from a Jane Austen or a Georgette Heyer. If I had to sum it up in one word I’d say: delightful. Charity Begins At Home is a traditional Regency romance, and I loved every minute of Charity and Tristan’s story — no surprise that it was a Romance Writers of America RITA award nominee for Best Regency.

Here’s the blurb:

Competent, compassionate, cautious Charity, the mainstay of her Kentish village: She would make the perfect wife. Everyone says so, including the men who propose marriage to her. But Charity wants to be more than the perfect wife. She wants to be beloved.

Against the backdrop of a village fete, nobleman and artist Tristan Hale must prove to her that he desires her as much as he esteems her, and to win her, he first has to defeat an evil playwright, paint a voracious whale, and seduce her by the midsummer moon.

Second up is Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer.

If I was to put my author-hat on, this was a very interesting read solely because of the writing technique used to tell the story: ‘Kate and Cecy are cousins and best friends in an alternate Regency-era England where magic works and is an accepted part of society. They are temporarily separated (in the first book) when Kate is taken to London for her “Season”, and they stumble upon opposite ends of a magical plot. The story is told through their letters.’ 

IMHO this technique can be a very tricky one to pull off but it worked beautifully here. And as a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed how each girl’s adventure was revealed as each new “letter” arrived.

I’m always interested in how book ideas come about, so I was fascinated to discover how this story came to be. It started as a bit of fun between the two authors, with Patricia writing to Caroline as the character of  Cece, and Caroline writing back to Patricia as the character of Kate. When they’d finished the game they had a stack of letters, and what they figured was the making of a book. (I don’t have the book on hand at the moment, but I seem to recall the brief explanation that’s currently on Patricia Wrede’s website is expanded on at the back of the book. If so, it’s worth a read.)

And third on this month’s discussion list is A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long.

A joint review from Kati and Dabney over at Dear Author gave this book B+/B- and Dabney had issues with the conclusion, which she found “unbelievable”. (But it’s worth noting the high rating despite her misgivings.) Considering the huge issues — both social and moral — that would have to be overcome for a former courtesan to live happily ever after with a country vicar (!!!), this ending could well be the issue that makes or breaks this book for a number of readers. And I must confess that toward the end of the book I had no idea how Ms Long was ever going to pull off a satisfying ending I’d be happy with. But without spoiling it, she did, and for me the ending really worked. This book made me cry and I loved it to bits — one for my keeper shelf.

Note: This book is the seventh in the Pennyroyal Green series. I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, but didn’t find that to be a problem. For me there was just enough skilfully inserted back-story about the characters for me to get a sense of the other characters’ relationships and follow along without being confused.

Here’s the blurb (and please ignore the cover; IMO it doesn’t do the book justice.)

She rose to spectacular heights…

From Covent Garden to courtesan to countess, beautiful, fearless, shamelessly ambitious Evie Duggan has riveted London in every role she plays. But the ton never could forgive her scandalous —if shockingly short—marriage, and when her star plummets amid gleefully vicious gossip, the countess escapes to the only legacy left to her: a manor house in Pennyroyal Green.

He never expected to fall so hard…

He has the face of a fallen angel and a smolder the devil would envy, but Vicar Adam Sylvaine walks a precarious line: resisting temptation…and the wild Eversea blood in his veins. Adam’s strength is tested when scandal, aka the countess, moves to Sussex. But when a woman who fiercely guards her heart and a man entrusted with the souls of an entire town surrender to a forbidden desire, will the sweetest sin lead them to Heaven…or make outcasts of them forever?


And here’s my full reading list for December 2012:

  •  Three Wishes by Stephanie Bond
  • My Man Pendleton by Elizabeth Bevarly
  • Committed by Lissa Matthews
  • Charity Begins At Home by Alicia Rasley
  • A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long
  • Absolute Boyfriend 5 by Yuu Watase
  • Sorcery and Cecelia (or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
  • Marly’s Choice by Lora Leigh
  • Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan
  • Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry
  • Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan
  • Baptism by Fire by Keira Ramsay
  • Bewitching the Werewolf by Caroline Hanson
  • Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan
  • Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
  • A Chance for Charity by S.L. Baum

Hope you all have a fabulous New Year’s Eve, and may 2013 bring you health and happiness and loads of great books.




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