The English Wife by Lauren Willig

34945222I had to finish this book quickly in order to not get another late fee from the library and for once, I really wasn’t eager to do so. I think this is the first Lauren Willig book where I’ve been #TeamNobody.

There are two stories being told simultaneously – one is Janie’s as she tries to find the truth about the death of her brother Bay and his wife, Annabelle – and the other is Annabelle’s a few years earlier as she meets Bay and starts a life with him. Nothing is as it seems and things are very confusing. Is Annabelle pretending to be someone else? What’s the real truth to Annabelle’s past? And of course, who killed Bay and Annabelle (assuming she died since they never found her body)?

Everyone is both obliviously awful and maliciously awful to each other, so it’s hard to root for another. Janie’s the most likely hero, but even she is wishy-washy and ridiculous a lot of the time. Plus, we don’t get find out important things like why she doesn’t have suitors or how she got be so meek. Why is her cousin so awful to her all the time? Does her cousin really support Bay in his chosen lifestyle or does she just like fucking with people?

In the end, Janie finds “love,” the killer is discovered and there’s a small measure of justice, but there’s so much left unanswered and Bay is still dead. I still want the questions answered, but I’d had enough of all the characters to last a lifetime.

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The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

23398702Reader, I finished it!

Who knew when I picked up The Secret History of the Pink Carnation in 2008, that I’d still be reading this series 10 years later? This novel comes full circle, meeting back up with Jane, the Pink Carnation, in Portugal. She meets up with Jack, Colonel Reid‘s son, and of course, sparks fly. The mission they are on doesn’t really matter because we get some romance staples like, only one bed at the inn and road trip with your enemy, so it totally works. I wish there had been a bit more of the epilogue of Jane and Jack’s adventures after Portugal, but we left them in a good place, so I’m happy.

It’s also quite nice that Colin and Eloise FINALLY got married, even if it’s still 2005 for them. I could have done without all the meta Eloise = Lauren stuff with her writing a novel about the Pink Carnation, etc. It was also a bit weird to have such a serious kidnapping happening in like 18 hours before the wedding, but I guess it was a nice change from the usual crap that comes with planning a wedding.

In the end, everyone’s happy and I’m happy, so let’s call it a win!

On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen

32969127I have several books to finish from interlibrary loan, so I grabbed this one next, as this series is always a quick read. I had forgotten about Georgie’s trip to Ireland, but it came back soon enough. It’s quite nice that she’s (almost) settled, though it does seem that perhaps there’s an end to this series coming.

Which may be a good thing because Georgie is becoming a little bit like Jessica Fletcher. I’m surprised that Queen Mary hasn’t noticed that every time she sends Georgie on a little spying mission, someone ends up dead and Georgie has to solve a murder. And given the short amount of time that seems to pass during and between books, she’s racking up quite a body count.

This installment takes us to Italy, where Georgie is ostensibly visiting Belinda, who is waiting to have her baby, but really she’s been “invited” to a house party to keep an eye on the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson. There’s intrigue, Hitler, and perhaps a preview of Georgie’s life as a Catholic wife. Oh and Georgie is almost raped – twice. But then her would-be rapist is killed, her mother is blamed and of course, the local police is useless. It would be a nice change of pace to the the local law enforcement not a group of bumbling fools, but then, I guess, Georgie wouldn’t get a save the day in her own way. Georgie’s fiancee, Darcy, is also about, spying on the meeting that’s taking place under everyone’s nose, trying to get the Prince of Wales on the side of Hitler and Il Duce. Sigh.

The whodunit is pretty well done, so I didn’t figure it out until much later than usual, which was great. There aren’t any new books listed, but fingers crossed we get at least one more, so Georgie and Darcy can finally get married!

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

35411583I’ve been a fan of Sophie Kinsella’s standalone books for a long time. This one is a quick read that I didn’t love, but I didn’t hate it either.

Our heroine thinks she has the perfect marriage, but it turns out it isn’t so perfect – and not in the way she believes. The love story in this book is different than most chick lit because our main character is already married (with children). She’s got a stable job (not in publishing) and her life seems settled. When she and her husband contemplate how long they might end up married to each other, she decides they should surprise each other to keep things fresh. It starts out innocent (and ridiculous) enough, but soon there are BIG secrets being kept and Sylvie starts spiraling.

The conflict does enter that sitcom cliche territory of “JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER” a little bit, once things start coming out, you ALMOST understand how they got there. It still feels more contrived than not, so this book gets a “like,” not a “love” from me.

How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis

33155461After a few months of gymnast memoirs and Joel McHale books, I needed a change of pace. I went through my To Be Read list and pulled a few of the new releases through InterLibrary loan. I decided to start the beautiful stack of books with Stacey Ballis because I know it’ll be a quick read that makes me hungry. I swear I end up buying her books most of the time, just for the recipes in the back (even though they are always WAY above my meager skill level – some people make their own croutons?!)

Once I got past how unrelatable [to my life] the main character is (I mean, she’s a private chef to the kindest billionaires ever, so she never worries about money), Eloise is pretty great. After losing her favorite teacher, she reconnects with her high school best friends just as they are about to turn 40. They decide to challenge each other to life improvement plans, with the losers having to donate to charity if they don’t finish.

I totally related to meeting back up with people you were friends with in high school after life happened to all of you and realizing that maybe you wouldn’t be friends with them if you met them today. Eloise is a LOT kinder to her frenemy than I would be, and it’s never really explained WHY she needs her in her life. The romance starts out super cute and then it veers into unbelievable. I kept waiting for the conflict to happen, the thing that breaks them up for a while before they get together in the end, but it just never comes. I mean there’s a conflict, but it’s dumb and Eloise could really just skip it.

IMG_2753All that to say, I did really enjoy this book and it was a super quick read. I finished the middle third with this view during my recent trip to Vegas, so it was never going to be bad. I wish the two high school friends had been fleshed out more than “stay-at-home mom” and “PR maven who only thinks about her career,” but I guess we only get to see Eloise’s point of view. The book also made me want to go back to Chicago on vacation, so I guess that’s a win as well, since it was probably snowing while I was reading.