Then a few days ago, I started Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road. This is the Sullen Teen Bear book. (Baby Bear's older sister; not in the fairy tale because she refused to participate in any subversive anti-ursine propaganda and she couldn't believe her parents would even think that she was willing to do anything that bourgeois and would they please stop coming into her room; can't they read the sign that says DO NOT DISTURB?!) I didn't dislike it; it's obviously well-written and true to the teenage spirit it's evoking. I just wasn't in the right mood.
Ah, but then I tried C.A. Belmond's A Rather Lovely Inheritance. This was the ticket. This is a Dotty Aunt Bear book, complete with a too-soft mattress and a champagne-colored satin duvet that slides off the bed. It claims to be contemporary, but there's no way an 8-room flat in Belgravia these days is only worth £750,000. (My ex-mother-in-law bought a garden flat in Belsize Park for that amount a few years ago, and it's not even that awesome a street or that large a flat. So, no. Tack a '1' onto the front of that number and maybe I'll believe it.)
ARLI is about Penny Nichols, a redhead heroine with a broad range of knowledge about historical arts and artifacts. Her parents are clearly well-off, her English relatives are clearly well-off, and -- her protestations to the contrary -- Penny is well-off enough herself. Nonetheless, she's agog when she inherits the contents of a garage in the South of France. The garage is attached to a villa, which her cousin Jeremy inherits.
Now, I need to say something about Jeremy and, by extension, spoilers. Anyone who has ever read a romance novel will recognize Jeremy immediately as a hero. But he's her first cousin, so while it may be legal is several states for first cousins to marry, it's icky. So what to do? Well, either he's not the hero (in which case, who is?) or he's going to get his own romance (in which case, who's his heroine and what about poor Penny, the first-person narrator of the book -- is she really going to have to tell us all about how lovely Jeremy's beloved is while not minding that there's no hero for her?) or he's not really her first cousin.
Guess which it is. Right. He's not really her first cousin. But I'm not going to tell you how that's explained. Because, to my mind, one isn't a spoiler (heck, if you have the second book in the series, A Rather Curious Engagement, you know they end up engaged just from reading the back cover blurb) and the other one is.
I do have one more cliché for Sandy's collection: In chick lit books, could we stop with the Heroine Ends Up Looking Like a Lobster After a Trip to the Spa? No one seems ever to go to the spa and come out happy with what was done, or even relaxed & rejuvenated. It is almost Pavlovian: if the heroine is going to a day spa, she will end up red & splotchy. You can just about count on it.
Oh, Goldilocks also cheated on all those bears and read a vampire book. Yup, I bought Lover Mine in hardcover. (Which means I'm caught up on the Black Dagger Brotherhood.) There's been some back and forth in Romlandia: Is it a good book? Is it a bad book? Is it a sign that it's time to stop reading these things? Or is J.R. Ward back to form?
Well, here's one reader's take: All of the above. These books are a bit like a Chinese menu: unless you are allergic to MSG (or, in this case, black leather), there's something in there to like or dislike. If tortured protagonists and their love for each other is your thing, it's in there. On the other hand, if this is a case of one tattoo over the limit, then it may be the end of the line for you.
So I understand all the grades -- As, Bs, and Cs. I didn't think it was her best, but a lot of that is the couple. I thought I would like John & Xhex together, but they didn't spend enough time together and in many ways they'd already fallen in love so we didn't even get that thrill. But then my favorite BDB couples are Rhage & Mary and Vishous & Doc Jane (the corporeal Doc Jane, btw -- I do find myself unable to suspend my disbelief about the engineering mechanics of making love to a non-corporeal being). Other people loved it because they loved JM & Xhex. I can see that.
One teeny leetle request of Ward's editors: Could you limit her to one use per book of phrases like "a male of worth" and "conversate"? The Brotherhood books are this close to fueling a drinking game: Take a shot every time you read the word "sh¡tkickers." (Referring to them as boots will do -- we know they're badass black stomping-around boots. Trust us. We know.)