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Archive for the ‘Chick Lit’ Category

FakingArt, theft, and con artists in love are an irresistible combination in this contemporary romance classic. Whip-crack dialogue and lots of old movie quotes evoke the great screwball comedy duos of the screen.

They meet in the closet while burgling a house: Davy Dempsey, a (reformed?) con man introduced in Welcome to Temptation, is trying to steal three million back from a gold-digging ex who has moved on to her next victim, an art collector. Tilda Goodnight is trying to steal back her own painting so that the world won’t learn that the respected Goodnight art gallery has been trafficking in forgeries.

I’d forgotten how crowded this book is when I revisited it on my recent romance binge. On top of the cast of dozens, some have double identities and others have multiple nicknames, depending on which movie they happen to be quoting at the time. Fast-paced and funny, it’s one of those comedy romances in which you never know who will come through the door next— the con man, the hit man, the gold digger, the FBI? “It’s like the clown car at the circus,” someone remarks during the whirlwind conclusion, but it all ends in a happily ever after with character reveals that would make Shakespeare proud.

Crusie’s titles stand out from a crowd of romances because of the truths underneath the silliness: women trying on different roles, trying to be all things to all people, and losing track of which is the “real” self in the end. Tilda, a gifted painter, has been supporting her family with knockoff Impressionist murals for so long, she’s come to hate her art— and Davy can give Tilda her art back, not just in literal paintings, stolen or conned from their original owners, but in the joy of painting again in her own style. And while Davy and Tilda’s hot-and-cold affair is in the spotlight, there are satisfying moments of revelation for all three generations of Goodnight women. Happy endings are not only for the young and cute! Mother Gwen, whose long-repressed anger comes out in subversive cross-stitch and patchwork quilts with teeth motifs, gets a new beginning out of the plot as well.

For other romantic crime capers, Melissa recommends The Spellman Files. Or, there’s the stylish 1960s film, How to Steal a Million, in which Peter O’Toole, Audrey Hepburn, and Hepburn’s Givenchy and Cartier wardrobe also find true love in a closet, while conspiring to steal a forged sculpture. While Dempsey and Goodnight are more down-to-earth than O’Toole and Hepburn— aren’t we all— the aura of witty, screwball fun is the same.

Check the WRL catalog for Faking It.

Go ahead, watch How to Steal a Milliontoo.

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rat queensIf you liked Lord of the Rings, but wished there were more sassy, kick-butt female fighters, snag this book and dive in. This first book collects #1-5 in a series that has refreshingly strong, unrepentant, female characters that are taken straight from fantasy convention but with some definite twists.

Palisade is protected by several mercenary groups in addition to their local guard units. One of these groups, called The Rat Queens, is comprised of four females: Hannah, an Elven Mage, Violet, a Dwarven fighter, Betty, a Smidgen Thief, and Dee, a Human who can cast healing spells. They are a mix of races, sizes, and personalities that are distinct and not two dimensional. They love fighting, drinking, rabble rousing, and money, all in equal measure. They have a strong sense of who they are and they make no apologies.

This is no origin story, so we join the group right before they are sent off on a quest to help clean out a goblin threat just outside the village. You immediately feel like you know these women and have been following their story forever. Their banter throughout the book is amusing and familiar to anyone who has those couple close friends who they can say anything around. These women are not in competition with each other, and any little friendly squabbles are quickly dropped as they team up to face whatever threat comes their way. They’re not perfect, and they do get hurt, but the fight scenes are fast paced and not overly dramatic.

This first volume was published in March 2014, and I eagerly await whatever comes next for these women. One thing I know for sure, it will be a party!

Recommended for readers who like strong female characters, fantasy, and a lot of fun.

Search the catalog for Rat Queens.

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paigePaige is despondent. Her family recently moved from central Virginia to Manhattan and she has to deal with acclimating herself to a new city and culture while her relationships with her parents, especially her mother, have been crumbling. She misses her old life, and her old friends, especially her best friend Diana. Paige floats around New York with a sensation of being lost, unsure of herself or what she wants.

Both her mother and father are writers (hence her unfortunate name, Paige Turner), but she is more like her grandmother, a painter. Introverted and quiet on the outside, Paige is full of life and emotions on the inside. She can’t express these feelings in words so she buys a sketchbook, determined to follow her grandmother’s rules that she came up with to teach herself to be an artist. Starting the first drawing is daunting, and brings to the surface more of her anxieties. Is she a good enough artist, what if she has nothing to draw about? Monologues of self-doubt constantly run through her head, even as the pages begin to fill up with sketches.

Entering her new school, Paige quickly falls in with Jules, her brother Longo, and his friend Gabe. The foursome is soon inseparable. Paige still struggles with self-doubt, and everything cool and fun she sees in her friends strengthens her inferiority complex, and fear that her lack of specialness will be discovered. Her inner voice promises that she can change. But how can she build a new self and remove those parts she dislikes most?

Ever practical, Paige makes a list of those aspects of her personality she dislikes the most and intentionally faces them with the help of her friends. She discovers that they too have things that they lack the courage to face, and she begins to coach them, even as she is developing and evolving herself. The image of a seed being planted and carefully tended to as it grows into a fragile shoot appears several times in the drawings and is particularly apt.

The writing is lyrical and evocative while being relatable to anyone who was unsure of themselves when they were a teenager. Paige has a knack of summing up complicated emotions using simple phrases. She states that “like fun house mirrors, different people reflect back different parts of me” and while mourning her loneliness early on, she states that she hates how all her “friends now live in picture frames.”

Recommend for young adults and graphic novel readers and anyone else who can relate to the heart wrenching process of finding yourself.

Search the catalog for Page by Paige

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secondtimeWhat would you do if you were given a financial boost so you could change careers? Four college friends get to explore the answers to that question in this charming story by Beth Kendrick.

Ten years after they all graduated with English degrees Brooke, Cait, Jamie, and Anna are employed, but not doing what they would really like to be doing. When an unexpected financial windfall gives them a little cushion to follow their dreams, they each take a risk.

Brooke buys Henley House, the off-campus dorm where the friends lived while in college. She intends to turn the old structure into a welcoming bed and breakfast. She’s joined by Jamie, who leaves L.A. to try her hand as a party planner; Anna, who leaves her stressful marital issues to bake specialty desserts; and Cait, who leaves a shaky associate professorship to write a novel. The book is about their friendship and their choices.

The book reminds me of those multi-character stories by Maeve Binchy or Debbie Macomber. The character interactions are important–and it is satisfying to see how these different lives fit together.

Second Time Around is a fun, easy escape. It has a little bit for everyone–romance, intrigue, home repair, baking–this hits all the popular trends! Perfect for hot summer days.

Check the WRL catalog for Second Time Around

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ivegotyournumberDays before her wedding, Poppy Wyatt loses her engagement ring.  Sometime between her girlfriends admiring the ring and passing it around.. and the luncheon programmers finishing up the raffle drawings.. and the hotel staff requiring everyone to evacuate the room for a fire drill… the heirloom ring disappeared.  Not only that, but when she goes outside to get a better cell signal, someone steals her phone.  Desperate to figure out what to do next, Poppy paces the hotel lobby and spies a cell phone in a trash can.  What luck–the phone works!  One problem solved.  Sort of.

The phone belongs to Sam Roxton’s personal assistant who quit without giving notice, so when Sam calls the number and reaches Poppy, she is able to convince Sam to let her keep the phone until she finds her ring  and she’ll forward all his messages.

The crazy plan works, but of course, Poppy reads all the texts that come to Sam and gets a pretty good idea of what’s going on behind the scenes in his office.  Sometimes she understands what’s going on better than Sam, who is too busy to read, much less return, most texts.

And because this is a Chick Lit with romantic elements, Poppy and Sam gain insight into each other through this odd arrangement.  And they like what they find!

I listened to most of this book on CD.  Jayne Entwistle is the reader. I loved listening to her perky British accent–she was perfect for Poppy!  It was easy to follow the narrative even with the texts and footnotes read aloud.  (Yes, there are footnotes in the book.  Why? Because Poppy’s self-important fiance is a scholar, and Poppy was impressed with the number of footnotes in his book.)

Personally, I never thought texts could be romantic, but I changed my mind after listening to the incredibly touching scene where Poppy and Sam are texting each other in the dark woods.

This is a light, fun, satisfying book.  I highly recommend it for poolside entertainment this summer.  I even enjoyed the secondary characters, even the snarky ones.  And rooted for Poppy’s happily ever after with Sam right from the beginning.

Check the WRL catalog for I’ve Got Your Number

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I typically choose beach reads in the fall or wintertime.  As temperatures drop below 50°F, cover images with hammocks and cerulean blue seas become irresistible and I pick them up for escape purposes, to tide me over until I can reach a beach in a warmer clime. It’s like a chocolate indulgence or an extravagant café selection — a little me-time fantasy.  Ocean Beach fit the bill this time.

The author’s work caught my eye months ago when this sequel to Ten Beach Road came out so I’ve had it on my to-read list ever since (and enjoyed Ocean Beach without having read the first book in the Beach series).  Since then, I’ve learned that Wax was once honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award for her debut romance 7 Days and 7 Nights in 2003. Now I’ve just learned that Wendy Wax has joined the Downton Abbey craze — using her fandom as the source of inspiration for her latest novel, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

The scenario of Ocean Beach made me recall the 80’s television sitcom Designing Women.  A group of women friends, assembled in Wax’s typical ensemble-cast style, are collaborating on the renovation of an historic Art Deco home in the dreamy vicinity of Miami’s South Beach.  This project shows the promise of promoting the future success of their fledgling enterprise owing to the fact that their remodeling project is to be featured on a reality television show called Do Over.  However, they had not anticipated that such notoriety might stem from a camera focused much more on their private lives than their skills with refinishing and refurbishing old houses so they are soon wishing their dirty laundry wasn’t about to be broadcast for all to see.

Ocean Beach readers will find a little romance, troubling pasts and deeply hidden secrets, a bit of amateur detective work, and more than a few strained domestic relationships in this lively, dramatic novel. Fans of chick lit and romance are sure to enjoy turning its pages, preferably while relaxing on a sun-kissed beach.

Check the WRL catalog for Ocean Beach

If you’re interested in starting with Wendy Wax’s earlier books, try The Accidental Bestseller.

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clementineEach chapter in this entertaining, dark yet humorous debut novel counts down the 30 days pop-artist Clementine Pritchard has given herself to set her affairs in order before her suicide. She starts by crashing into the annoying car that blocks her driveway daily, tossing a teapot she never wanted anyway out of her apartment window, and flushing her medications for various psychoses–freeing her body from the numerous side effects she’s suffered from most of her life. The complex details of Clementine’s troubled history are revealed slowly with each day. I don’t want to reveal too much that will spoil the suspense for potential readers, but I quickly became fascinated with this flawed but loveable protagonist’s compelling story. I was not able to assume what had happened to her in the past or predict what she might do next, so the pages just kept turning.

It was uncomfortable but also quite funny watching her live her last days on the edge without the usual fear of consequences for her rash actions, eating her lovingly described extravagant last meals, and fearlessly speaking her mind. I found myself fearing for how she might pick up the pieces if for any reason she were not to have the courage to go through with her planned death. It all seems very considerate, how carefully she prepares so that no one will be terribly inconvenienced or have to go to any expense for her loss, yet she has falsely assumed that her death would cause no harm.  Clementine may have gravely underestimated her worth to significant others in her life. In the course of her last month, it turns out that some are not who they had seemed, and new people have entered her life unexpectedly.

I found this to be a very touching story and a quick read that was well worth my time. Anyone who’s ever contemplated suicide, even for just a moment, can relate to Clementine’s state of mind and the fact that suicidal thinking creates distance in relationships. Older teens may find appeal in this book’s emotionally intense themes of childhood abandonment, but recommenders should be aware that it contains adult sexual and drug-related content. I look forward to more contemporary fiction titles from Ashley Ream.

Look for Losing Clementine in the WRL catalog.

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