Category Archives: Chick-Lit

Chick Lit is meant to be funny or lighthearted. It is always for, by, or about women. It is almost always set in modern times.

First Lady

Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. First Lady (2000). 384 Pages. Avon. $6.99*

Wynette Texas | Book Four

Susan Elizabeth Phillips' First LadyI mentioned First Lady in my review of Call Me Irresistible, but I’ll bring it up again, and point out that there are a fair amount of character cameos, though it is not necessary to read them in strictly chronological order. Sure, knowing that they end up together can put a small kink in it, but really, it’s a romance novel, and if you’re surprised the headliners end up together, I’d have to be a bit concerned. I will mention that there are two or three “generations” in these books, and this in particular deals with the first. Lucy makes her own appearance later in Call Me Irresistible, but that is not really her book. (Her book is The Great Escape, due July 2012)

Synopsis

The beautiful young widow of the President of the United States thought she was free of the White House, but circumstances have forced her back into the role of the First Lady. Not for long, however, because she’s made up her mind to escape — if only for a few days — so she can live the life of an ordinary person. All she needs is the perfect disguise…and she’s just found it. As an entire nation searches for her, the First Lady teams up with an infuriatingly secretive, quietly seductive stranger and two adorable little orphaned girls in need of a family. And all together they head out across the heartland chasing their own American Dream — on a wild journey, adventure, and glorious rebirth.

First Lines

Cornelia Litchfield Case had an itchy nose. Otherwise, it was a very elegant nose. Perfectly shaped, discreet, polite. Her forehead was patrician, her cheekbones gracefully carved, but not so sharp as to be vulgar. The Mayflower-blue blood that rushed through her veins gave her a pedigree even finer than that of Jacqueline Kennedy, one of her most famous predecessors.

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Wife by Wednesday

Bybee, Catherine. Wife by Wednesday (2011). 222 Pages. Self Published. $.99*

Wife By Wednesday CoverFrom Goodreads

Blake Harrison:
Rich, titled, and charming… And in need of a wife by Wednesday so he turns to Sam Elliot who isn’t the business man he expected. Instead, Blake is faced with Samantha Elliot, engaging and spunky with a voice men call 900 numbers to hear.

Samantha Elliot:
Owner of Alliance, her matchmaking firm, and not on the marital menu… That is until Blake offers her ten million dollars for a one-year contract. All she needs to do is keep her attraction to her husband to herself and avoid his bed. But Blake’s toe-curling kisses and charm prove too difficult to combat. Now she needs to protect her heart so she can walk away when their mercenary life together is over.

First Lines

“I need a wife, Carter, and I needed her yesterday.” Riding in the back of the town car en route to Starbucks, of all places, Blake Harrison glanced at his watch for the tenth time that hour.

Carter’s startled laugh rode on Blake’s last nerve. “Then pick one of the masses and walk the aisle.”

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Just a Little White Lie

Halberg, Lynnette. Just a Little White Lie (2011). Digital Only. Carina Press. $3.99*

This review is pre-release: It comes out September 12, 2011

Lynnette Halberg, Just A Little White LieFrom Amazon

Lucinda Darling thinks she’s ready to get married. Even though Donald doesn’t give her butterflies, the heiress is ready to make her marriage work. She’s got the dress, she’s at the church and her fiancé…is making out with his ex. So Lucinda stuffs her tulle skirts into her tiny sports car and hits the road…only to have her car break down.

Jake Parker knows he’s not ready to settle down. But Grandma Hattie is sick, so, to make her happy, he’s returning home to find himself a fake fiancée. When Jake rescues Lucy from the side of the highway, she goes from runaway bride to temporary fiancée.

Lucy hopes to escape the public eye in small-town Georgia, but she doesn’t expect to fall for Jake’s charming hometown, let alone Jake himself. Soon Jake and Lucy both start to wish their lie were true. But Lucy knows she must stop their pretense before Jake’s family—and her heart—are hurt so badly they’ll never recover.

First Lines

A single daisy bloomed between the curb and the sidewalk, its cheerful yellow-and-white head bobbing in the Gulf breeze. Lucinda Darling hiked up the skirt of her bridal gown and stomped on the flower with her white satin stiletto.

“He loves me not, he loves me not, he loves me not.” She ground the flower farther into the dirt with each loves me not.

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Captive Bride

Dee, Bonnie. Captive Bride (2011). 300 Pages*. Carina Press. $4.69

From Amazon

San Francisco, 1870

Huiann arrives in America expecting to be wed to a wealthy businessman. She no sooner disembarks from the ship than she realizes Xie is not looking for a bride: Huiann is worth more to him as a high-end prostitute. Though her fate is better than that of other Chinese women forced into the sex trade, she has no intention of waiting for Xie to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. At the first opportunity, she escapes and disappears into the city.

When a beautiful woman takes refuge in his store, Alan’s life changes forever. He’s spent the last five years trying to forget the horrors of war, and had almost given up hope of finding love. He hires Huiann as his housekeeper, and though they can only communicate through signs and sketches, they quickly form a bond that transcends the need for words.

But Xie is determined to recover his property, and love may not be enough to protect Huiann from his vengeance.

First Lines

Clouds were painted on the flat blue-gray sky, not even a gull disturbing the barren heavens. From great black stacks, ribbons of white billowed behind the rapidly moving ship. Although the steamer cut steadily through the waves, it seemed it wasn’t moving at all– as though Huiann would spend the rest of her life standing on this deck, waiting for her new life to begin.

When she imagined meeting her husband for the first time, she wavered between nervous anticipation and wrenching fear. Was he handsome, ugly, old, young? Would he treat her gently and listen to her thoughts or expect her to keep silent about her ideas as she tended his house? She hadn’t been allowed to ask such questions when her parents announced she was to be a bride.

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Call Me Irresistible

Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. Call Me Irresistible (2011). 385 Pages. HarperCollins. $25.99

Wynette, Texas | Book Six

There is a sort of chronology to these books, but they certainly don’t have to be read in order. In roughly story-order, this one is book six. Earlier books in the series told the tale of Theodore’s parents– Fancy Pants is about his early years. Seemingly he makes another appearance in Lady Be Good, and then features as the hero in Call Me Irresistible. Meg Koranda’s parents are in Glitter Baby, and Lucy Jorik’s parents are in  First Lady. I’ve read a few of those, but I’m taking my time coming up with opinions.

From the Cover

Lucy Jorik is the daughter of a former president of the United States.

Meg Koranda is the offspring of legends.

One of them is about to marry Mr. Irresistible– Ted Beaudine– the favorite son of Wynette, Texas. The other is not happy about it and is determined to save her friend from a mess of heartache.

But even though Meg knows that breaking up her best friend’s wedding is the right thing to do, no one else seems to agree. Faster than Lucy can say “I don’t,” Meg becomes the most hated woman in town– a town she’s stuck in with a dead car, an empty wallet, and a very angry bridegroom. Broke, stranded, and without her famous parents at her back, Meg is sure that she can survive on her own wits. What’s the worst that can happen? Lose her heart to the one and only Mr. Irresistible? Not likely. Not likely at all.

First Lines

More than a few residents of Wynette, Texas, thought Ted Beaudine was marrying beneath himself. It wasn’t as if the bride’s mother was still the president of the United States. Cornelia Jorik had been out of office for over a year. And Ted Beaudine was, after all, Ted Beaudine.

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Steam & Sorcery

Pape, Cindy Spencer. Steam and Sorcery (2011). 305 Pages*. Carina Press. $5.99**

Don’t let the cover stop you. The contents of the story are much better than the cover suggests with its cheesiness.

From the Publisher

Sir Merrick Hadrian hunts monsters, both human and supernatural. A Knight of the Order of the Round Table, his use of magick*** and the technologies of steam power have made him both respected and feared. But his considerable skills are useless in the face of his greatest challenge, guardianship of five unusual children. At a loss, Merrick enlists the aid of a governess.

Miss Caroline Bristol is reluctant to work for a bachelor but she needs a position, and these former street children touch her heart. While she tends to break any mechanical device she touches, it never occurs to her that she might be something more than human. All she knows is that Merrick is the most dangerously attractive man she’s ever met– and out of reach for a mere governess.

When conspiracy threatens to blur the distinction between humans and monsters, Caroline and Merrick must join forces, and the fate of humanity hinges upon their combined skills of steam and sorcery…

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Match Me If You Can

Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. Match Me If You Can (2005). 383 Pages. WilliamMorrow. $24.95

Chicago Stars Series | Book Six

When I was on a family vacation, I got Natural Born Charmer, and read (and enjoyed) it. However, it was obvious that there was at least one book before it in the series, and I figured I should read it, so I got Match Me If You Can from the library. Turns out it’s the sixth book, but it’s also very capable of standing alone. There are hints of what you may have missed, but in general, while other characters make cameos, it’s not about them.

From Goodreads

Annabelle’s endured dead-end jobs, a broken engagement . . . even her hair’s a mess! But that’s going to change now that she’s taken over her late grandmother’s matchmaking business. All Annabelle has to do is land the Windy City’s hottest bachelor as her client, and she’ll be the most sought-after matchmaker in town.

Why does the wealthy, driven, and gorgeous sports agent Heath Champion need a matchmaker, especially a red-haired screw-up like Annabelle Granger? True, she’s entertaining, and she does have a certain quirky appeal. But Heath is searching for the ultimate symbol of success — the perfect wife. And to make an extraordinary match, he needs an extraordinary matchmaker, right?

Soon everyone in Chicago has a stake in the outcome, and a very big question: When the determined matchmaker promised she’d do anything to keep her star client happy . . . did she mean anything? If Annabelle isn’t careful, she just might find herself going heart-to-heart with the toughest negotiator in town.

First Lines

If Annabelle hadn’t found a body lying under “Sherman,” she wouldn’t have been late for her appointment with the Python. But dirty bare feet stuck out from beneath her nana’s ancient Crown Victoria. One extremely cautious glance under the car revealed that they were attached to a homeless man known only as Mouse, who was famous in her Wicker Park neighborhood for his lack of personal hygiene and fondness for cheap wine.

Thoughts

Annabelle Granger is a charming character who you can’t help liking. She’s determined to make her match-making business “Perfect For You” work, no matter what the cost, and landing Heath Champion might cost her an awful lot. He’s a determined, demanding pig of a client who expects a ton from Annabelle because he’s an agent and he does a ton for his clients. It’s obvious to any seasoned reader what is going on between them, but it takes Heath a very long time to figure it out. (And kudos are due to Annabelle for not being a weak heroine, she sticks to her principles right up to the end.)

I enjoyed the narrative structure, and the basic mechanics of the writing, as well as the plot. I feel like I’m in a literature class when I say that, but there are some authors– now and then– whose stories I like, but whose execution could use some work. Thankfully, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is not one of those authors. I enjoyed the story and the way it was told and the words she chose to tell it.

I suppose there are other books in this series– like the five which come before it– that are probably just as enjoyable, and I may eventually get around to reading those, but for now, I’m content with this. Also, I liked the cover on this one considerably more than I like the covers on some of her other books. It’s got a nice swirly motion thing going on.

When all is said and done, it gets a 4.5 out of 5– it loses a half point for dragging the drama and cluelessness out just a little too long for my taste.

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The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance (Anthology)

Telep, Trisha (ed.) The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance (2010). 592 Pages. Running Press. $13.95

Good lord that was a lot of romance. I do enjoy regency romance quite a bit; it may be my favorite historical era, and it certainly is fun. At just under 600 pages, and 23 stories, it took a while to read. It was worth it, and entertaining, to boot. My biggest complaint might be that several of the stories could have used some more space to grow; they felt rushed with the number of pages they had. Pruning the collection to 20 stories and giving the survivors the extra pages would have done wonders for several of them.

There is no good synopsis for the whole book, and indeed, several which I have found are either inaccurate or misleading, so instead I’ll say a little about each story.

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Devil’s Bride

Laurens, Stephanie. Devil’s Bride (1998). 416 Pages. Avon. $7.99

Cynster Novels | Book One*

Sharing books with friends and roommates can be problematic; it seems silly to each have your own copies of all the books in a series, so while one of you may own the first volume, another may own the second. This works in practice until one of you moves out, or away. This is how I ended up getting Devil’s Bride for my shiny new kindle despite the fact that I own the rest of the series in print**.

Synopsis

Honoria Wetherby never intended to marry. “Devil” Cynster felt much the same way. When a series of unfortunate circumstances find them trapped in a woodsman’s cottage unchaperoned, Devil does the only thing he can think of to protect Honoria’s reputation; he declares their engagement.

Unfortunately for Devil, Honoria is determined to hold out, and rejects him at every turn. Unfortunately for Honoria, Devil sees her challenge as an invitation, and intends to convince her in any way he can.

First Lines***

Somersham, Cambridgeshire

August 1818

“The duchess is so very… very… well, really, most charming. So…” With an angelic smile, Mr. Postlethwaite, the vicar of Somarsham, gestured airily. “Continental, if you take my meaning.”

Standing by the vicarage gate while she waited for the gig to be brought around, Honoria Wetherby only wished she could. Wringing information from the local vicar was always one of her first actions on taking up a new position; unfortunately, while her need for information was more acute than usual, Mr. Postlethwatie’s comments were unhelpfully vague.

Thoughts

It is not often that romance novels stand up to re-reading; often, they are a nice enough story the first time, but approaching them again is considerably less enjoyable. Fortunately, Stephanie Laurens manges to write romance in such a way that it can be read more than once.

I vividly remember reading Devil’s Bride for the first time my sophomore year of college. I think I may have been avoiding The Aeneid, but I can’t be sure. I blame my roommates for getting me hooked on romance novels; the ultimate escapist books. Even when things are tense and stressful, you know the characters will end up together, and they will be happy.

There are some things which, depending upon taste, can be construed as positive or negative. For example, the precept is that the Cynster clan is full of handsome men who have an innate urge to conquer. They have money, power, and land. The latest generation, the “Bar Cynster,” have lived lives of relative ease, sleeping around, and enjoying rake-dom. But each of them has their meeting with “fate” in the form of a woman– typically “strong willed”– who makes them realize that they want to marry her. They then spend most of the book heading for that goal.

There are quite a few sex scenes, which are full of the classic cliches; he is experienced, she is innocent. He is “hard,” and she is “soft.” He is in control, and she is overwhelmed by the experiences. Generally your classic romance stuff.

Overall, it’s a fun book with a reasonable story– a murder mystery of sorts– though there’s not much mystery (I, at least, felt the villain was glaringly obvious from the beginning) there is quite a bit of fluffy, happy romance. It gets a 4/5– well worth the time to read it.

Also, check out the pretty covers. (Too bad the US editions aren’t like these.)

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* Strictly speaking, by publishing order, this is book one, and The Promise in a Kiss came out three years later. As far as interior chronology, it is preceded by a prequel which I will choose to address as book zero, because it is not necessary to read it first, as it was published later.

** On the bright side, knowing that my old roommate lacked volume two because she’d read my copy meant that choosing her Christmas present this year was very simple.

*** I often judge a book by its first lines (I’m sure my review format shows this habit). I find that you can tell a lot about an author by the way they open; do they throw you into the action, or spend time setting up the scene? Is it speech, or description, or some combination? How they set up says a lot about what you can expect later in the book. If this series hadn’t come highly recommended, I may not have read it.

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Jane Austen in Scarsdale

Cohen, Paula Marantz. Jane Austen in Scarsdale or, Love, Death, and the SATs (2006). 275 Pages. St Martin’s Press. $23.95

From the Cover

Anne Ehrlich is a dedicated guidance counselor steering her high-school charges through the perils of college admission. Thirteen years ago, when she was graduating from Colombia University, her wealthy family– especially her dear grandmother Winnie– persuaded her to give up the love of her life, Ben Cutler, a penniless boy from Queens College. Anne has never married and hasn’t seen Ben since– until his nephew turns up in her high school and starts applying to college.

Now Ben is a successful writer, a world traveler, and a soon-to-be married man, and Winnie’s health is beginning to fail. These changes have Anne beginning to wonder… Can old love be rekindled, or are past mistakes too painful to forget?

First Lines

“Great speaker last night, right?” Vince Flockhart, Fenimore’s principal, looked hopefully down at Anne Ehrlich, head of guidance, as she ate her grilled cheese sandwich in the faculty cafeteria. Report had it that the parents had been impressed by the speaker– though half had left in tears and the other half had been digging in the bottom of their bags for Valium.

Thoughts

I do not know much about Persuasion, as I’ve never actually read it, and I don’t recall watching a film version. From what I know, the main point is that Anne Elliot is from a good family, and falls in love with a handsome naval officer named Wentworth. Because her father, elder sister, and mentor disapprove of the match, Anne breaks it off. Several years later– when she is beyond “marriageable” age– Anne again encounters Wentworth, only now he is a successful, rich Captain. Things happen, and Anne ends up marrying Wentworth*.

If Jane Austen in Scarsdale were merely being judged on its ability to follow the general plot of Persuasion, I might have been more impressed. It does a decent job re-telling the story in modern New York. There are difficulties– as there always are when “updating” a classic– and it is hard to explain why a smart young woman would let her grandmother’s snobbery prevent her happiness.

However, it got very bogged down with the guidance counselor aspect. Several chapters were dealt dealing with “the parents,” who were all certifiable, and obnoxious. Additionally, the children were as crazed and driven as their parents, but whinier.** It didn’t really add to the story in any meaningful way, rather, it seemed to slow it down and distract from the main plot– which was supposed to relate to Persuasion. As either a retelling of Persuasion or a romance about a guidance counselor, this would have done very well, but it seemed to be suffering from an identity crisis at times.

The story still managed to be entertaining, and others may (and clearly have, judging by amazon’s rating) disagree with me, but I don’t think I particularly enjoyed it.  It scores a 2.5/5, for managing to be funny, at times, but still not good enough for me to really like it.

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* It’s been around for nearly 200 years, so I’m not concerned about spoilers.

** Good Lord. It drove me crazy to read about this. I went to one of those schools where it wasn’t “Are you going to college?” but rather, “Which college are you going to?” and I still wasn’t that crazed. I had reasonable expectations, and had worked hard enough to be near the top of my class without trying to get a 4.02. I didn’t even involve my mother very much, and she didn’t worry, because she had confidence in me, which mattered more than whatever the hell the parents in this novel seem to be doing. It felt like a little too much hyperbole, and it may have benefited from being a little less crazed.

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