Reading Romance: “Venetia,” by Georgette Heyer

BOOK Venetia

Going old school with this one of 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances from NPR Books.

I have never before in my life heard of this book, and more’s the pity. Despite being written in the “style” of Jane Austen, it being a Regency historical romance novel written in the 1950s — in fact, the FIRST Regency historical romance novel —  rather than a contemporary novel like Austen’s were, it holds up remarkably well compared to its notable (and legendary) predecessor. “Venetia” may never acquire the sentimental attachment so many people have for “Pride and Prejudice,” it’s every bit as good as “Emma,” whether or not it has a plucky mid-90s cinematic reimagining that changed the face of teen comedies forever. And I like “Emma” a lot.

This is all to say, “Venetia” is fantastic.

Venetia Lanyon is the preeminent Regency heroine. She’s a woman of substance and humor. She’s intelligent and capable and independent. Most of all, though, she has an incredible sense of self that allows her not only to know what she wants out of life, but to know what suits her and what doesn’t. Honestly, I feel like if I’d read more of this sort of thing in my formative years I probably wouldn’t have had the weird fixation with marriage in my early twenties that I did. It feels stupid to say so, but the possibility of declining a marriage proposal never really occurred to me as an option back then, but Venetia declines two specific suitors and the idea of several others. She knows what (and whom) she wants, and nothing else will do, despite society’s dictates. So many of the historical romantic heroines I encounter never really doubt that they will fit into that social strata in some way, but Venetia rejects it completely. It’s refreshing.

“Venetia” is refreshing as a story as well, because there is no stubborn denial of feelings or forced conflict between Venetia and Damerel. On the contrary, they openly like each other, instantly upon their first formal meeting, and their affection for one another only grows from there. Damerel may not think he’s a suitable match for Venetia, but he never doubts he’s in love with her. Moreover, they are the closest of friends and confidantes, kindred spirits who come together. They share sensibilities and ideals and most importantly they like each other tremendously, which is a surprisingly rare trait in quite a few romance novels. Damerel and Venetia’s relationship, in fact, is addressed almost exclusively from this friendship angle, in that they fall in love by way of their compatible personalities and close companionship while their physical attraction is an afterthought — not absent, by any means, but entirely beside the point. Lust, while certainly alluded to by Damerel from time to time, doesn’t come into play, because their attraction is so much more than that. It warmed my heart from start to finish.

I was also impressed with “Venetia” as a novel, in its form and structure. It’s written in the third person omniscient, and it’s done remarkably well, seamlessly weaving in and out of characters’ thoughts, into references outside of anyone’s knowledge, and back again. The prose is incredibly easy to follow — bearing all the style of 19th century language without being overwrought or cryptic — and while the dialogue can sometimes seem stilted and circuitous it’s clear this is because of the mannerisms of the characters and their unwillingness to be too forward, lending even more authenticity to this world.

In short, I really really really liked this book a lot, and I think it should be right up there with the works of Austen in the category of Classic Romance Novels We Love to Read Over and Over, and I think it deserves AT LEAST one quirky cinematic homage. I would watch the shit out of that.

Reading Romance: “The Lotus Palace” by Jeannie Lin

BOOK The Lotus Palace

Yet another of NPR Books’ 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances.

“The Lotus Palace” is one of those rare, yet welcome, historical romances steeped in the culture of its setting — in this case, Tang dynasty China — without any “Western” influences overtaking the narrative. The characters all have distinctly Chinese names, and the couple looking for romance are both Chinese as well. There is no Westerner unfamiliar with the customs of the area, enamored with the exotic nature of their new surroundings; on the contrary, the strict customs and class distinctions of the setting, particularly those that separate our lovers, play a huge role in the narrative.

Yue-ying and Bai Huang are from different worlds, she being an overlooked servant to a courtesan and he being the wealthy son of a nobleman. Those distinctions might be enough to give me pause, fearing that this would be a tale of Lord Bai saving Yue-ying from her circumstances, but for the most part the book manages to avoid such traps thanks to the characterization of Yue-ying, who has a strong will and an even stronger sense of self. In addition to her character, though, Yue-ying’s past is not that of an innocent Huang can educate in the ways of sex, but rather one of a tortured and traumatic existence that has shaped who she is and that she has to overcome on her own, not through Huang’s instruction or guidance but through his patience to let her come to him. It’s one of very few romance novels I’ve read that actually deals with past sexual trauma in a thoughtful and somewhat realistic way, and I appreciate that as a consumer looking for more depth and shading in her stories.

There’s a murder mystery subplot to the book that doesn’t quite past muster, as the so-called investigation tends to go nowhere until the very end, the culprit is completely ancillary to the plot, and it leaves a lot of loose narrative threads lying around, but for the most part “The Lotus Palace” is a good read, made all the more engrossing by its atypical setting and treatment. NPR listed the book as part of a series, so I’d definitely be interested in checking out the rest of the books in the line, and probably more titles by Lin as well. (If there’s anything reading a bunch of books does, it’s make you want to read more books.)

Summer TV Binge: CALL THE MIDWIFE

Call the Midwife

TECHNICALLY IT IS STILL SUMMER.

For some reason, I had no idea Call the Midwife aired on PBS, so I picked up the first three seasons on Netflix, completely unaware a fourth season had just aired and that I’d missed it. So I was all set to just discuss those first three seasons, seeing as they actually fit very nicely with the midwifery career of Jenny (Jessica Raine), whose memoirs inspired the series in the first place. But lo and behold, my procrastination has finally paid off, because while I was sitting around catching up on other posts and not getting around to this one, Netflix was getting season four of Call the Midwife and I was able to watch it this week — technically still summer — so I have all four seasons under my belt.

Essentially, Call the Midwife is more like a procedural than it is a period drama. There are serialized aspects that follow the lives of the nurses and nuns at Nonnatus House in Poplar, a poor area of London in the post-war fifties, but mostly their cases are episodic, and you rarely see a character from a previous week’s delivery or medical problem show up in a subsequent week. I suspect it’s largely the way nursing is in actuality, as patients come into their lives only for the brief period of time that their services are required, and then they’re out again, possibly forever. And it certainly works as a television show, because too many recurring characters would overwhelm a viewer. However, there are times when every episode of Call the Midwife feels like a Very Special Episode of Blossom, only Blossom is a midwife and she didn’t get her period for the first time but her brother Joey does get polio from not being vaccinated or her best friend Six might have pre-eclampsia. It’s definitely Medical Issue of the Week.

Sometimes I feel the stories get lost in tangents, like early on when Jenny is tortured by memories of her married lover, or the more recent developments such as Trixie (Helen George) suddenly being an alcoholic. But for the most part the core group of characters are all delightful and engaging in their own ways, and I’ve grown quite fond of all of them, even grumpy Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) and overbearing Nurse Crane (Linda Bassett) and tepid former nun Shelagh (Laura Main). My favorite midwife has been Chummy (Miranda Hart) from the start of her run, with her tiddly-boos and top-shots and whatever the heck other goofy things she says, but she rarely gets to do any midwifery anymore, being a retired married lady, which is incredibly sad. However, my favorite character all around is by far Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt), with her mystical proclamations, her frequent quotes of classical literature and her unrelenting love of cakes. I’m always very gratified when she gets to be of unexpected yet invaluable service to her sisters and her community; it gives us both quite a lift.

As for the stories themselves, despite falling squarely in that aforementioned Medical Issue of the Week vein, they are often quite moving. Whatever else may be going on, stories of birth always bring us in touch with the very essence of our being — life and death and the fight of the human spirit. The episodes are filled with great love and sometimes great pain, and are always a representation of how very brave and strong these women are, both the mothers and the nurses. All in all they are wonderful, and sometimes quite cathartic, to watch. And even though the structure suffers slightly now that the story-teller has left the story (despite still being narrated by Vanessa Redgrave as “Mature Jenny”), I definitely look forward to more seasons and more stories. They’re good for my soul.

Call the Midwife airs on PBS. I watched all four current seasons on Netflix.

Reading Romance: “Topaz,” by Beverly Jenkins

BOOK Topaz

Technically, this title was not one of NPR Books’ 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances, but it “[came] in a close second” to the Jenkins book the panel actually selected, “Indigo.” And since I wasn’t able to borrow “Indigo” from my library, I went with this one instead.

“Topaz” is very sexy, and the main characters — Katherine, a feisty investigative journalist, and Dixon Wildhorse, a Black Seminole and Marshal of the Indian Territory — create just enough sparks and develop just enough compassion for one another to be really engaging. If the book focused more exclusively on their relationship with one another, I’d like it a lot more. As it stands, however, the novel is pretty unfocused, and, to be honest, far too ambitious, for me to really endorse it.

Author Beverly Jenkins is clearly passionate about her work, and has obviously done a great deal of historical research, but large passages turn into veritable history lessons about the Seminoles, their oppression and struggles against the encroaching white America, and the continued hardships of black Americans following the Civil War. Make no mistake, these topics are fascinating and there’s a lot of information here I’d never been exposed to before — particularly not in standard history classes. Unfortunately, the insertion of all these topics and lessons is fairly clunky, and takes away from the fictional tale of these characters significantly. Honestly, I felt sort of guilty about how distracting the passages were, not only because it’s clear Jenkins felt very strongly about enlightening her readers on these topics (that absolutely warrant enlightening, by the way), but also because I really liked these characters on their merits — they are very funny, and their relationship gets very steamy and sexy, but they’re also just plain likable — and wanted very much for their narrative to do them justice.

Perhaps if Jenkins has edited her areas of historical focus down to one or two, it wouldn’t have been quite as overwhelming. Or maybe if the scope and breadth of their conflicts had been pared down. As it stands, though, there’s just too much going on. It’s disappointing.

I’d heard quite a few good things about Jenkins going into this book, however, so I’ll definitely see if I find “Indigo” a more satisfying read. But I also accept that it’s entirely possible she’s just not for me. As of right now, though, I remain optimistic, because Jenkins definitely draws characters I want to hang around with more.

Reading Romance: “The Duke and I,” by Julia Quinn

BOOK The Duke and I

This title was featured on NPR Books’ 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances.

First off, “The Duke and I” is a horrible title. Let’s just get that out on the table right away. It’s horrendous. Forget the fact that the book isn’t even written in the first person, using Daphne (the would-be eponymous “I”) as the narrator — it uses a series of limited third person perspectives instead —  it’s just an utterly prosaic and unimaginative title. If I was tasked with coming up with a hundred titles for the romance of Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, not one of them would be “The Duke and I.” But if that feels like a ridiculously small thing to get up in arms about, it’s because the rest of the book is pretty great.

For all the books I’ve read — all the romances I’ve read — over the course of my life, very few have ever elicited tears, but “The Duke and I” is one of them. The book isn’t overwrought or anything, either. In fact, it’s pretty standard romance fare, but the characters were so lovely and I was so invested in their relationship that I felt honestly emotional at one point when the two would-be lovers were nearly separated forever. It’s honestly so rare to accomplish that amount of engagement that I definitely take notice when it happens.

Daphne is a fun heroine, because she’s equal parts worldly (having grown up with several brothers) and completely ignorant of the ways between men and women. It’s actually hilarious the way the combination plays out, but it manages to not make her out to be an idiot either. Really well done on the part of author Julia Quinn.

As for Simon, he’s kind of your standard tortured hero, but the torture comes from a real honest-to-goodness authentic problem that is neither too enormous to be dealt with in this format (the alcoholism of a previous hero I recently read comes to mind) nor too superficial to be treated seriously as a source of pain in the hero’s past (and present). It’s not a secret, but I won’t reveal it just because I truly appreciate all the attention the book gives to it. Well done, one again.

In addition, the two work well together. They have a lot of chemistry and charm, and I often found myself chuckling at their back-and-forth. Their set up is sort of preposterous, but thankfully they both sort of know it’s preposterous going in, which blessedly makes it somehow less so. I guess because they’re in on the joke? Whatever the case, they make a lovely and entertaining couple whose interest in one another really comes across on the page — a vital component of any successful romance.

The supporting characters in “The Duke and I” are also quite charming, which is to be expected since apparently every one of Daphne’s siblings has a novel of their own. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be checking those out as well. Let’s just hope they have better titles.

Summer TV Binge: THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY

Roosevelts

Technically, it’s still summer.

I’ve always liked history, particularly American history, and the impact the Roosevelt family had on the twentieth century, in the United States and across the globe, is unequaled. Truth be told, I meant to watch this Ken Burns mini-series in real-time, when PBS first aired it, but I kept missing them. Luckily, Amazon has my back.

If I were to pick a favorite president, FDR would be it. Here was a man who idolized his cousin Theodore and followed almost his exact same path to the presidency, only with the added obstacle of polio having mostly confined him to a wheelchair. Not only that, of course, but Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal brought the country out of the Great Depression and into a victory over one of the greatest evils, in the biggest war, of our time. These were all things I knew from school. The mini-series, as promised, offered so much more.

The Roosevelts tells the tale of the family from Theodore’s youth, when he was asthmatic and sickly and likely had some sort of undiagnosed depression. His father literally told him to stay active to get sane, and that’s advice TR basically took all the way through his life, which was one of the more badass presidential lives out there, to be honest. If I were a better historian, I would’ve perhaps known a few more of the details of TR’s exploits over the years, but I think even someone well-versed with the period could benefit from the compilation of them provided here. Just as the title says, it’s an intimate look at his presidency, but also his life and his family. I never really thought about it before, but of course Theodore (and Franklin and Eleanor after him) had children, and those children were just as affected by the times as everyone else. Teddy’s sons all served in WWI, one of them even dying in battle. And his daughter from his first marriage (a marriage I’d never even known about before, that ended tragically upon his young wife’s sudden death) was a thorn in the side of the Franklin Roosevelt clan later in life.

As for that side, I honestly don’t think I ever realized that FDR didn’t contract his polio until he was a strong and virile fully-grown man, or that he was anywhere near as incapacitated as he really was. I’ve heard tell before that FDR never would’ve been elected had the full extent of his disability been known, but I also didn’t realize that the press was a willing accomplice in that obfuscation.

It had also never really occurred to me, though I’m unsure exactly why, that Franklin and Eleanor had been madly in love with one another at one time and that their marriage drifted mostly because as much as they loved each other, neither could meet the emotional needs of the other but they remained strong partners who respected one another until the end. It’s a sad tale, but also an admirable one, and ultimately much more humanizing for both of them than I ever expected.

Politically, too, I found The Roosevelts endlessly informative and enlightening. Teddy was a Republican stalwart, but he fought against the overreach of corporations in favor of social welfare. He’s the original Trust Buster, of course, but when seeing it laid out in this manner, being able to compare it to the Republican values of today, it’s amazing to see how much the party changed. Similarly, Eleanor’s prompting of Franklin to address Civil Rights is the reason most Black Americans converted to Democrats from the party of Lincoln. I didn’t even know FDR had done anything for Civil Rights, and in truth he didn’t do nearly as much as Eleanor wanted him to, but it’s a fact that falls by the wayside during most general history instruction.

Finally, I walked away from The Roosevelts more enamored with Eleanor than I’ve ever been. Not only was she one of the most prominent feminists of the twentieth century, she was also a woman who overcame a lot of insecurity and low self-esteem. And while she’s always sort of mocked as an unattractive woman, she had quite an understated loveliness in her youth that was never appreciated at all. The mini-series exposed her as a woman of so much more depth and value than even she was ever given before, and I loved getting to know her in this way. It made me want a movie just about her, honestly, and Meryl Streep should play her, just as she voices her here. (Spectacularly, I might add.)

The voice work overall is quite good, if the late great Edward Hermann as FDR is a little obvious. Paul Giamatti as Teddy is almost unrecognizable, and Peter Coyote just has a great narrator’s voice, truly. Unsurprisingly, though, Meryl blows them all away, somehow being the most obvious choice and the most unrecognizable, but would could expect less from her? All in all, I just loved the whole of it, and it makes me want to watch a hundred more Ken Burns documentaries, as they’re sure to be as thorough, as entertaining, and as fascinating.

I watched The Roosevelts: An Intimate History on Amazon Prime.

Reading Romance: “The Girl You Left Behind,” by Jojo Moyes

BOOK The Girl You Left Behind

This is yet another titled culled from NPR Books’ 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances.

“The Girl You Left Behind” is so unlike most of the romances I read, particularly the vein of romances I’d been focused on prior to selecting it as my next book, it took me a little while to adjust. Once I’d acclimated to the haunting, hypnotic first-person narrative of Part One, however, I couldn’t put it down.

Sophie is a French woman living in her small hometown during WWI, now German-occupied, where she returned after her husband left for war. Sophie lives with her sister — also married to a far-off soldier — her younger brother, and her sister’s two children. Day by day, this family tries to get along, to get through the occupation unharmed, to never give up or give in to the enemy. It’s a heavy existence, the weight of it practically coming through the prose and landing on the reader’s shoulders. Through Sophie’s plight and eventual desperation, though, the one thing that pulls her along is the fervent desire to see her husband again, and to keep him safe.

Part Two is a different animal entirely, as young widow Liv Halston, living in London in the mid-2000s, finds herself slowly being brought back to life, emotionally, by unexpectedly having her social cocoon invaded by a couple of people — an old acquaintance, Mo, who sort of invites herself to be Liv’s new roommate, and a compelling man named Paul, who she can’t seem to get out of her mind. But as circumstances bring Liv and Paul together, other ones push them apart and they both become caught up in discovering what happened to poor Sophie nearly a hundred years earlier in France.

This is a swoon-worthy romance if ever there was one, make no mistake, but the prose feels almost literary. This is not to say that romances can’t, or shouldn’t be, written well, because I am especially picky about that in particular, but there’s a certain way some books are positively transporting that sets them apart. And even though the ending is in part both predictable and, contrarily, facilitated by a Deus Ex Machina, it literally made me so happy that all I could do was cheer and cry and be filled with relief. That’s how invested I was in both the couple of the past and the one in the present. And if her other books are this exceptional, I’m quickly going to become a huge Jojo Moyes fan. “The Girl You Left Behind” is incredible.

Reading Romance: “The Rake,” by Mary Jo Putney

BOOK The Rake

This is another title culled from NPR Books’ list of 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances.

I’ve never read a Mary Jo Putney book before, but I knew she was a popular name in the romance genre. If I liked this one, chances are I’d like several more of hers as well, and there’s little I like more than a long list of good books to read.

Overall, though, I’d have to say “The Rake” was just okay. I liked it fine, really, and I definitely appreciated a lot of the things it tried to do, but it didn’t move me or blow me away or anything like that. It was good, not great.

First off, and I realize this is a minor quibble, but it really annoyed the crap out of me after a while, she uses the term rake way too much. Everyone, even Reggie Davenport himself, frequently used the term whenever thinking about him or discussing him with others. I know it’s the title of the book, but it quickly became tiresome.

Additionally, “The Rake” (originally titled “The Rake and The Reformer”) tackles a serious issue in alcoholism, and while it definitely tries to do the disease justice by not relegating it to something easily overcome, it feels kind of weighty for what’s ultimately supposed to be a novel about two people igniting each other’s passions. Lady Alys has an obstacle of her own to overcome, of course, as all good romantic heroines do, but hers — a painful history of not feeling beautiful, of not being worthy of desire — is much more suited to the genre. It’s still a serious issue — it’s not alcoholism, but the book actually does a wonderful job of not diminishing Alys’s pain just because it’s not as bad as it could possibly be; it hurts her deeply, therefore it is to be taken seriously — but it’s one that she can overcome by way of all those passions Reggie’s ignited. His problem tends to leave her on the sidelines, not being one she either has experience with or one she can solve.

Still, the characters were distinct and compelling, and the writing was strong. Given there were certain indications that Reggie’s cousin and his devoted wife have a separate story of their own, I might check out the first book in this Davenport series, at least, to see if it grabs me more. I figure Mary Jo Putney probably deserves that much.

Summer TV Binge: PSYCH

psych

Somewhere around the time we moved into our current house, the final season of Psych got lost in the shuffle. I’d watched it religiously before then, and to this day my husband and I still bring up the response Shawn (James Roday) gave when Jules (Maggie Lawson) said Carlson (Timothy Omundson) was “literally on fire.” (“Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial literally or misuse or the word literally?”) For whatever reason, though, it just fell off my radar.

In a way, I kind of blame it on Psych, the Musical, since my husband and I tried to watch that one several times on his tablet and (through no fault of the show’s, I promise) kept falling asleep. It was almost comical. But because I’m fanatical, I couldn’t move on to that last season, even after it had been securely moved onto Netflix and I could delete it from my DVR, until I got Psych, the Musical out of the way. Once I did that (last month, finally, on Netflix), I was able to move through the final season quite easily.

If you’ve ever seen Psych before, the final season was much like the other seasons in that Shawn and Gus (Dulé Hill) solve murders by pretending Shawn has psychic powers, when really he’s just really observant, all the while making incredibly silly and fabulous jokes, having an unhealthy obsession with food, and being the kind of awesome best friends everyone should aspire to have in their lives. In a lot of other ways, though, the season was pretty different too.

I’m not sure of any of the behind-the-scenes activity going on, but Corbin Bernsen had a much smaller role as Shawn’s dad, hardly appearing in any of the episodes at all, and even then seemingly only with maybe one other character in a scene. And for the final stretch Jules moved on to San Francisco for another job, even though she and Shawn were still an item. It all resolved pretty well in the end, but it did cast a certain pallor on things, making it clear it was winding down to the end.

One thing I was pretty disappointed by was that Gus was apparently (despite a certain ray of hope in an earlier episode) still left with no special lady in his life. I mean, really, if Carlton can find love, surely Gus could. And I’ve loved Dulé Hill since The West Wing, so I’m always rooting for him. Obviously a significant other isn’t necessary to find happiness, but since Gus clearly always wanted one, it bummed me out he never got there.

I was also pretty much confused over how Jules seemed to still believe Shawn was psychic in this season, since I’m pretty sure in the previous one he admitted to her that he wasn’t, but those sorts of continuity details were never really the show’s major focus anyway.

Really, I was just glad to get a final run of guest stars, a bunch of opportunities to sing that awesome theme song, and a million more chances to laugh at whatever goofball fake names Shawn gave Gus. It was a good show, and a lot of fun, even if I never once spotted a freaking pineapple.

I watched the final season of Psych on Netflix, where the entire series resides.

Reading Romance: “A Lady Awakened,” by Cecilia Grant

BOOK A Lady Awakened

Last month NPR Books published a list of 100 Swoon-Worthy Romances, as recommended by readers and a panel of romance aficionados. It’s been a really long time since I read straight romances, but they were always a cornerstone of the types of books I was drawn to over the years, and I welcomed an opportunity to go back to them — particularly knowing going in that I was going to be reading good ones. (I’m incredibly picky about my romances, and often hesitant to pick one up for fear it will not meet my standards.)

Obviously, not all 100 titles on the list were going to appeal to me, so I read through the descriptions of each and every book, and I made reservations at my library for all the ones available that had piqued my interest. A dozen or so books later, I was a reading machine.

The first book I tackled was “A Lady Awakened,” by Cecilia Grant, and instantly my latest project felt fortuitous, because this is exactly the kind of romance I love.

Our heroine is Martha Russell, a recent young widow, pious and proper in life, but also daring and bold in her support for women, for education, for betterment, and for security for the poor. And when her estate is threatened to be turned over to her husband’s cruel and criminal brother, she embarks on the outrageous plan to secretly conceive an heir and pass it off as her late husband’s. To this end she enlists our hero, Theo, the local ne’er-do-well, recently exiled from London for being a general wastrel and a disgrace to his family and the title he is set to inherit. All this sounds pretty par for the course for a Regency romance, and it’s not at all surprising that being thrown together in this incredibly intimate way eventually brings the two together emotionally, and obstacles and circumstances are navigated in such a way as to allow for the inevitable happy ending.

What makes the book exceptional to me, therefore, are the small details that enrich the story. Martha is not your typical cold fish, just waiting for the right man to come along. She’s an independent spirit, she knows what she wants, and she’s not easily swayed by what she considers ridiculous. More than that, though, the book is thick enough (I have a longstanding thickness test for my romance novels) that none of the emotional notes happen too quickly. These two have to work for the other’s affection, and that takes time. The flip side of that, though, is that none of the obstacles are too contrived. They need to feel substantial and organic to the setting, and these do. Beyond that, the resolution is not too easy and the characters are not too thin. Like Martha, Theo is not your typical rake, but an honorable man in his own right, who, above all things, respects and appreciates Martha’s ideas and opinions. And that’s what makes her love him in the end.

Overall, what really marks a great book to me are characters I want to stay with, characters whose stories I don’t want to end, and these two definitely fit that bill. And finding out that “A Lady Awakened” is the first in a series of Blackshear family novels, I’ll definitely be seeking the rest out.