Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is about the awkward Simon Snow-loving, fan-fiction writing, protein-bar eating, staying-in-on-Friday-night, comfy-clothes-wearing Cath. During her first year in college, she is having a difficult time adjusting to life away from home. While her more socially ambitious and outgoing twin sister is out partying and making friends, she is stuck with a surly roommate who’s boyfriend is always around. Her long-gone mother attempts to re-connect, but she wants nothing to do with the woman who abandoned her. Her father is facing an upward battle at work because of his inability to face his own mental shortcomings. His bipolar disorder has him on a constant roller coaster between being everyone’s best friend and his own personal worst nightmare. But now Cath is wondering if she isn’t the crazy one.
I liked this book because everyone in it felt like real people that I was hanging out with, not just reading about. I didn’t feel like I was reading about Cath struggling to finish her short-story for her class or reading about her gushing about her latest man friend. I felt like we were hanging out in her dorm room, drinking hot cocoa and staying up way too late.
This book is for anyone who has ever doubted themselves or felt really really crummy. This book is for anyone who finds comfort in the unreal; who needs a really good fantasy story to escape reality for a little while. This book is for anyone who wants to remember what it’s like to fall in love for the first time. This book is for anyone who has ever self-identified as fangirl, fanboy or nerd.
Kate Worthington, dismayed and disheartened by the loveless marriage of her parents, has vowed to never marry. She hopes to instead travel to India with her aunt, to escape the discordance of her family and to find both adventure and peace. Her closest friends are Sylvia and Henry Delafield. She has grown up with the siblings and has taken advantage of that by having Henry teach her what he has learned in his classroom. Henry is also the heir to Blackmoore, an estate in Northern England which has always captured the imagination of Katherine. When Katherine finally has the chance to visit Blackmoore, she makes a bargain with her scandalous mother–if she turns down three marriage proposals, she may go off to India. She makes an arrangement to receive the proposals–but will her bargain free her or allow her to lose her heart and her happiness? Katherine is a passionate, intelligent young woman struggling to find her place in the world, wanting independence and love, but not wanting to sacrifice her happiness for the loveless marriage her mother is trying to arrange. Blackmoore captures the desolation and remoteness of the moors and creates a fitting atmosphere for the story. Katherine and Henry are believable, intelligent and compassionate main characters. The portrayal of Kate’s dilemma, in 1820′s upper-class England, illustrates the difficulties faced by young women of the time who were reluctant to marry just for social status or to be considered respectable. This is a charming romance with likeable, well-developed characters, full of atmosphere, emotional tension and intrigue.
Emily McKellips, about to be married, is trying to be responsible, logical, traditional and conforming. Raised by her single mother, with a larger than life personality and 4 marriages to her credit, Emily has reacted by making her life predictable and settled and by doing the correct thing at all times. Engaged to Grant, a transplant surgeon (the perfect man with the perfect family), they spend The Week Before the Wedding at a resort in Vermont, finalizing the wedding plans and welcoming family members. At the resort, Emily’s best laid plans are turned upside down–Grant’s staid and correct mother and aunts are appalled by the behavior of Emily’s mother, her best friend Summer is disappointed in the way Emily is willing to go along with all of the wedding traditions from Grant’s family, and Ryan, Emily’s ex-husband appears on the scene. Ryan and Emily were married on a whim right after college and despite their chemistry and love for one another, were divorced after Emily tired of their lack of stability. Ryan is in Vermont scouting movie locations, and claiming that she is still the love of his life, forces Emily to question her choices. Will she opt for stability and tradition or be the free-spirited woman she one was? Author Beth Kendrick has created amusing situations and a cast of witty and charming characters, with a story that keeps the reader guessing who will Emily choose. This is an entertaining, enjoyable novel filled with likeable characters and laugh-out-loud scenes. A fun read!
Jo Baker has written a wonderful addition to the tale of Pride and Prejudice. This time we see how the five staff at Longbourn cared for the Bennett household and lived their lives. Sarah, an orphan, has vague memories of a loving mother. She works alongside Mrs. Hill, the cook and housekeeper, dealing with the hard work and drudgery; serving with little appreciation. Along comes James, a young man with a mysterious background, who is hired as driver and groom. His seeming disinterest in Sarah, is reciprocated especially when she runs an errand and meets the footman at Netherland-tall, in fine livery and powdered wig. Author Jo Baker creates a marvelous story with all the grit and realism experienced by help in the 19th century. She delves into the backgrounds of the characters we know through Pride and Prejudice and reveals some reasons for their behaviors.
Anne Blythe is happy and successful in most aspects of her life, except for her love life. Leaving her latest partner after learning he was unfaithful, and surrounded by friends with meaningful relationships, Anne finds a business card for “Blythe and Company” and decides that fate is telling her to sign up at what she thinks is a dating service. She works up the courage to make an appointment and discovers that the company is not a dating service but one that arranges marriages. As the company rep describes the matching process and their success rate, Anne decides she has nothing to lose and signs up for the service. The clients all meet their matches on a vacation at a resort, where they marry the day after they meet. Anne has been matched with Jack, and although he is not her usual “type”, she realizes that there is a connection between them. They begin to care for one another when a secret between them is revealed–can their Arranged marriage survive?
This is a fun, entertaining romance with flawed but endearing characters and a unique and unpredictable plot. Anne and Jack are both on voyages of self-discovery and their journeys and their relationships are fascinating to observe — this is a delightful romance!!
Australian author Graeme Simsion has written a very funny romantic comedy about a 30 something, socially challenged genetic engineer who decides it is time to find a wife scientifically. Don Tillman creates a 16 page double-sided questionnaire to judge prospective mates. Along comes intelligent and beautiful Rosie Jarman whom he is able to actually spend time and converse with, yet he disqualifies as a wife candidate. He does help Rosie search for her own answer to who her real father is. This Asperger-like character is similar to people we all know as absent-minded professors, nerds or geeks. Getting into the mind of Don and seeing the way he thinks life should be referenced by this unemotional, critically- thinking person is very insightful and extremely funny. Rosie helps him break free of some of the socially inept tendencies and their relationship becomes very complicated. The Rosie Project was begun as a screen play project and became an award-winning manuscript before it was published in Melbourne.
by Stacy Hawkins Adams
I read this series in eBook format, which I use for my “on the run read”. I downloaded all three books from the Sunflower eLibrary. We do have the third book from the series in paperback on the shelf.
In the first book, The Someday List, Rachelle Covington, the wife of a very successful brain surgeon, isn’t totally happy with her life. While her doctor husband goes off to Africa on a missions trip, she heads back to her hometown and not so wealthy relatives. The characters are fun to be with, even if they do have their own set of troubles.
The second book, Worth a Thousand Words, features Rachelle’s cousin Indigo Burns as the main character. She is growing up and falling in love. Her fiancé wants her to push their wedding plans forward. Indigo wants to go to college and get her career started before she weds.
Dreams That Won’t Let Go, the third book in the series, Indigo’s wedding plans are underway. However, troubles come when Reuben, her estranged brother, comes back home.
Best friends, Charlotte and Nicole, couldn’t be more different. Charlotte is single and travels the world writing articles for magazines, while Nicole is a doctor’s wife that loves all things domestic. Charlotte agrees to come back to the states and help Nicole write a cookbook centered on the foods of an island off the Maine coast, their childhood summer retreat. Nicole has been tasked by her husband to hide the fact that he has MS. His career as a surgeon could end if the word gets out. Recently his disease is progressing quickly and decisions must be made about experimental treatments. A secret that Charlotte holds from Nicole becomes a possible answer to Julian’s MS.
Another storyline revolves around Charlotte’s engagement with Leo, a badboy islander who may not be quite what his reputation leads her to believe. Sweet Salt Air is a lovely story about the struggles and beauty of long standing friendships and how we need to negotiate life with those around us as we learn to love each other.
by Susan May Warren
When Ivy Madison moves to Deep Haven, she is at home. She came to fulfill the new assistant county attorney position, and nothing could ever make her want to leave. At her first community event, she bids on the wrong bachelor by accident, Darek Christiansen. Although Darek is handsome enough, he is also wounded and angry about the death of his wife at the hand of his best friend Jensen.
Jensen, driver of the vehicle that struck Felicity, was sentenced to three years of community service among the hostile citizens of Deep Haven who thought he deserved to be in jail. The trouble is, Ivy was the one who plea bargained to keep Jensen out of jail. When Darek finds out her part in keeping Jensen in Deep Haven, will he hate her and if he does will she be able to stay? Take a Chance on Me is about family, overcoming, forgiveness, and love.
In The Arrangement, the second book in her Survivors Club series (The Proposal is the first), Mary Balogh has created a sweet and charming romance. Vincent has been blinded in war and has escaped to his cottage, away from his sisters and mother, to avoid their smothering and matchmaking. A kind and caring man, Vincent dreams of being more independent. Sophia has had a difficult life, knowing little love or affection from family. At a local gathering, Sophia finds herself in the position of rescuing Vincent from a husband-hunting cousin but is punished by being banished by her home. Vincent comes to her rescue and proposes and arrangement. As these two characters come to understand each other and as their relationship grows, they offer each other love, respect and independence. Mary Balogh is a master at creating characters are likeable, appealing and believable and stories that are touching and filled with both humor and romance. (Don’t let the cheesy cover prevent you from reading this one!) If you enjoy books by Mary Balogh, you might also like Mary Jo Putney or Jo Beverley.
Just after finding out her husband is having an affair, he is killed in a freak accident in the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade, and Helen Fairchild finds her life forever changed. She tries to mourn her husband, but finds that her investment-banker husband has blown their money and she and her son are left on the verge of bankruptcy. Faced with losing the opulent lifestyle they created among the high society residents of Pasadena, Helen must sell her home, juggle her son’s private school tuition and find a job. Surrounded by wonderful friends and finding a job in a museum that fits her interests from her education–before she dropped out to get married–Helen’s life changes in unexpected ways. Dolan writes characters that are believable and easy to relate to and allows us to see them evolve as circumstances demand. Filled with humor and smart, loyal and likeable friends, Helen of Pasadena is a charming story about starting over and finding passion in life. Another equally entertaining book by Dolan is Elizabeth the First Wife.
by Mary Simses
Ellen Branford headed to small town Beacon, Maine, to hand deliver a letter to her Grandmother’s high school sweetheart. A simple day trip turns into a week long adventure. It starts off with Roy Cummings pulling Ellen out of the bay, after she fell through a rotting dock. The kiss Roy received, after his heroic act, was the beginning of trouble for them both. Ellen, a successful lawyer in Manhattan, was to be married in only three months to a very prominent man planning to run for political office.
The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café is a heartwarming, day dreaming, at the beach, fun book. I felt like I was in the salt air, as I read it. The outcome was predictable, but it sure was fun getting there. You will meet a few quirky characters with some twists to the plot.
Merrill, being raised by her father and brothers, has become just one of the boys. Wearing pants was frowned upon back in 1895, but when a girl is out cutting ice from the river nothing else will do. It isn’t until Rurik Jorgenson comes to town, to help his uncle, that Merrill starts caring about her apparel. Merrill finds herself losing her heart to Rurik, that is until his finance shows up. I found Peterson’s, The Icecutter’s Daughter, to be a fun adventure into the life’s of the people in this small Minnesota town. As a bonus this book is also available in an ebook through Sunflower eLibrary.
Trains and Lovers is a stand alone novel with a different flavor than McCall-Smith’s series novels. This time he brings us stories of love experienced by four strangers sitting together while on a train journey from Edinburgh to London. The experiences of love are all unique. One story tells of a man falling for a pretty girl who may not be who she says she is. When a friend leads him to doubt his girlfriend’s identity, he also begins to doubt his safety around her. Another story tells how an art history student falls for a co-worker who is out of his league. Her wealthy and powerful father does all he can to discourage their relationship until something happens to his reputation. My favorite story is set in Australia where a young man finds a girl who is willing to follow him into a solitary life in the outback. The leisurely pace and wise sayings of McCall-Smith are familiar and favorite entertainment for those of us hooked on his series.
It seems as though we just can’t get enough of Nora Roberts. She keeps cranking them out and we eat them up because, let’s face it, the woman tells a good story. If you’ve raced through her entire collection, here are a few items to tide you over till her next book comes out.
If you’re a fan of her Romantic Suspense books you might enjoy Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood. Grayson Kincaid meets Olivia MacKenzie when she stumbles into the middle of his FBI sting. Little does he know that she’s from the IRS investigating a Ponzi scheme. Together they fight corruption and their feelings for each other.
More sensual than Roberts, but with the same sense of suspense, When You Dare by Lori Foster is the story of professional mercenary Dare MacIntosh who steps in to help Molly Alexander investigate who’d had her kidnapped. This is the first title in Foster’s “Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor” trilogy.
If you’re a fan of Roberts’ books that are exclusively romance, such as the Bride Quartet, you might enjoy Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s story of a wedding escape in Call Me Irristible. Meg Koranda has just broken up her best friend’s wedding with Ted Beaudine and is stranded in their home town of Wynette, Texas. Ted is angry, but takes pity on Meg, soon wondering if she saved him from marrying the wrong woman.
In Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis former Army special forces pilot Brady Miller is just passing through town when he bumps into animal rescuer Lilah Young. Steamy and full of humor.
For more great romances, check out our Nora Roberts Read-Alike list, or subscribe to our monthly email of the newest romance titles in our collection.