Ah, Christmas. An excellent time of year full of family, friends, food. But despite how lovely it was to spend a week with the entire family (and when I say entire, I mean the whole clan with the exception of my London-based brother) the week was hardly the downtime I needed after what was a very big and busy 2016.
The very day I returned to work, I booked two days off around Australia Day, with the full intention of spending five days reading, writing and dabbling in the garden.
How fortuitous then that Julia Quinn’s latest story, part of the anthology Four Weddings and a Sixpence, was released a week beforehand.
Julia Quinn is one of my favourite authors. One day I’ll regale you with the somewhat embarrassing story of my meeting her. And one of her co-authors Elizabeth Boyle, I’ve also read regularly. Laura Lee Guhrke and Stefanie Sloane were new to me though. This is one of the reason I like the anthologies that trad publishers put out semi-regularly; I get to add a few more names to my ‘must read’ list.
Short stories are an interesting beast–particularly in romance. It’s a tough ask to convince me that a couple had met and fallen in love in the space of a few thousand words. Usually I find it far more believable when the hero and heroine are already in love, and simply need to resolve a problem in order to find their happy ever after.
This is the approach Elizabeth and Laura both took in their stories. Something Borrowed (by Elizabeth) told the story of a couple clearly in love, but held apart my his need for an heiress and her lack of money. While the resolution to this problem was easy to see early on, the vibrant characters, witty dialogue and cracking pace made the journey to that resolution a fantastic read.
Something Blue was different. There was a lot of anger between our previously engaged hero and heroine, understandable given that he was out to destroy her father, and a genuinely could not see how the story was going to resolve itself. The entire time I was like ‘Hell, I can’t see a way out of this.’ There was a real ‘did he or didn’t he?’ when it came to the heroine’s father supposed crime. This is what really drew me along the story.
Julia and Stefani took a different, and more challenging track. Their characters had to experience the entire love cycle in a short word count.
What I loved about Something New was the relationship between the hero and heroine. He positioned himself as her friend, ready to help her find a husband. What we saw over the course of the story was a real relationship–that comfortable, deep, ‘liking’ of a partner. It felt quickly like you were watching a relationship that was years old. These two were made for each other.
Julia’s And a Sixpence in Her Shoe was my favourite. Her characters are just so good. It didn’t hurt that the heroine was interested in astronomy and the hero studied physics and I’m an ex-physics teacher. I don’t normally buy into ‘love at first site, ‘propose in a week’ stories, but these two characters were clearly so made for each other that it made complete sense. It helped that Julia didn’t complicate the story with a lot of conflict, which is normally the key part of a story, it was just a simple description of two cool characters falling in love. And it worked.
And so ends Day 2 of my five day staycation. Day 1 was spent trying in vain to get through a book I’m not at all enjoying but have to read for book group. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Tomorrow’s plan? I managed to get an advance copy of Michelle Sommers’s Murder Most Unusual. I also need to do some writing, buy some seedlings for my very naked veggie garden and will probably spend a few hours on Pintrest looking for ideas for my goal of ‘creating a soul nourishing space‘.
- Yearly count – 1
- This book – a) a book by an author I’ve met b) a book of short stories.