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BOOK REVIEW: Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson


Georgiana Darcy is perpetually shy and uncertain about the future. Her brother Fitzwilliam is about to be married to Elizabeth Bennet, changing the living situation for all. And Georgiana is about to make some major changes of her own, beginning with her debut in London and her presentation in court.

Georgiana is beset with worries: What if Elizabeth doesn’t like Georgiana? What if she (Georgiana) makes a major faux pas, something her companion Mrs. Annesley is trying to help her overcome? What if she doesn’t “take” with the ton during her debut?

Still viewed as a child by her guardians Fitzwilliam and Colonel Fitzwilliam, Georgiana wants to be a self-possessed and refined young lady, able to hold her own with the ton. She knows she’ll be plagued by fortune hunters but longs to find true love. Now, if only she can get through it without spilling her tea or setting off an overprotective big brother.

C. Allyn Pierson’s debut novel is a delightful coming-of-age story and romance set within the world of Pemberly and Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister is a delightful entry into a very crowded marketplace. The proliferation of novels featuring Jane Austen’s characters leaves readers with spoiled for choice and the popularity of these novels means that some less-than-stellar examples end up on the shelf.

Happily for readers, Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister is a delightful and well-written novel that happens to focus on Georgiana, a minor character from Pride and Prejudice. Pierson’s dialogue flows effortlessly and her characterization and plot stand their own merits, even without ties to the Austen canon. This was a truly delightful read, consumed in one sitting and I was loath for it to end.

Pierson is obviously well versed in the history and customs of Regency England, as well as the literary voice of Jane Austen. Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister has an authentic voice and leaves the reader with the warm feeling of having returned to favourite place and time, with no bitter aftertaste. This reader looks forward to Pierson’s future trips to Pemberley, and Regency England.

ISBN10: 1402240384
ISBN13: 978-1402240384

Trade Paperback
448 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Author’s Website:

A new blog has launched, devoted to Austen fiction writers. Austen Authors can be found here.

BOOK REVIEW: Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda


Jessica Luna’s life contains all the average troubles of a twenty-something living in Houston. There’s the man trouble cause by gifted and troubled artist Guillermo who is unable to “commit” and always seems to disappoint. Then there’s her “perfect” sister who married a white man and moved to the suburbs and seems to want to turn Jessica into a suburban clone. Then there’s her boring corporate job and now her parents are fighting. Where’s a girl supposed to turn for help?

Well if you’re Jessica, the signs or answers could be anywhere: her rearview mirror Virgin-de-Guadalupe; the card readings of psychic Madame Hortensia; or in the prophetic utterances of a TV talk show host. Now Madame Hortensia has confirmed that a change is coming in work and love, but Jessica isn’t sure that Jonathan, the rich and successful guy her sister introduced her to, is that new guy. But when Madame Hortensia refuses to come through with answers – and her life starts dissolving around her – Jessica realizes it’s time to figure some things out for herself.

Gwendolyn Zepeda’s debut novel is a fresh voice in the growing “chica lit” market. A sub-genre of chic lit, chica lit first gained notice with the publication of The Dirty Girls Social Club. Author Mary Castillo explains what makes chica lit different: “Family is always involved somehow.” “Unlike early chick lit that kind of created the image that it’s always about single women worrying about their shoes, in the ethnic books they’re trying to balance their ethnicity and being American. How can you be both? The issues seem to be a little deeper.”

It would be easy for people to dismiss Houston, We Have a Problema as a fluffy offering but Zepeda offers an important message about finding your place in the world, and within your own family. Anyone who has ever found themselves torn between two worlds or found themselves floundering and without direction will find reflections of themselves here.

While the writing is sometimes uneven and a few characters are rather two-dimensional, Zepeda shows great promise as a comedic writer. Madame Hortensia’s personality, flair and vibrancy fairly bursts off the page. Perhaps there’s another novel in her future?

ISBN10: 0446698520
ISBN13: 9780446698528

Trade Paperback
392 Pages
Publisher: Grand Central
Publication Date: January 2009
Author Website:

BOOK REVIEW: There’s Something About St. Tropez by Elizabeth Adler


There's Something About St. TropezIt was the perfect vacation for PI Mac Reilly and his fiancée, Sunny Alvarez – renting the villa, Chez La Violette, in beautiful St. Tropez for the month of June. When filming requirements keep Mac in Malibu for a few extra days, Sunny travels to St. Tropez accompanied only by her chihuahua Tesoro. On arrival, she discovers they’ve been scammed, the villa has been rented to FIVE people for the same time period and the state of the place would make it the perfect setting for a horror movie.

The misfits, as they’ve taken to calling themselves, decamp to a small seaside hotel nearby – the Hotel of Dreams. There their stories slowly come to light: Belinda is on the run from her husband a Russian mobster; Texans Billy and his daughter Laureen who’s still trying to regroup from the death of her mother; shy Sara who’s just broken up with her no-good boyfriend; and former trader Nate who has set up to find himself. As they settle in, Mac decides to track down Madame Lariot in hope of getting their money back. Soon art thefts and a murder interfere with their peaceful vacation and Mac is drawn further into investigations. Will Sunny get any time for romance?

There’s Something About St. Tropez, Elizabeth Adler’s sequel to One of Those Malibu Nights, is the type of fun, light mysteries that many readers look forward to reading in the summer. The easy to follow plot and quirky nature of the characters ensures that interruptions won’t cause readers to lose track of the action.

What elevates There’s Something About St. Tropez above other books marketed as “summer reading” is the sub-plot involving eight-year-old Laureen and eleven-year-old Bertrand, another hotel resident who has been abandoned by his heartless mother. Laureen and Bertrand’s voices ring with authenticity and their tentative gestures toward friendship, magical. Brought out of themselves by Tesoro and Pirate, Mac’s three-legged dog, the children bravely set out to solve the mystery of the art thefts in order to win the reward money and gain Bertrand freedom from his mother. Readers will cheer them on and celebrate their rediscovery of live beyond grief.

ISBN10: 0312385145
ISBN13: 9780312385149

400 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: July 7, 2009
Author Website:

BOOK REVIEW: The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews


fixerDempsey Jo Killebrew has had a very bad day. Her employer, a high-powered Washington public relations firm has been caught up in an explosive scandal, her computer has been seized by the FBI, her boss has fled and she’s suddenly the scapegoat. Desperate to find a way to rebuild her life, Dempsey reluctantly accepts her father’s offer to help restore Birdsong, the family home he’s inherited in Georgia. If she slaps on some paint and gives the place some minor renovations so they can flip the property, he’ll split the profits with her.

When Dempsey arrives in Guthrie, she finds a house more in need of a bulldozer than a paintbrush – and a firmly entrenched squatter who meets her at the door with a shotgun. With no options left to her she rolls up her sleeves and tackles the massive renovation project, and faces Guthrie’s residents who have learned more than she wanted them to know from the endless newspaper reports. What she didn’t expect was that, in the process, she’d learn so much.

Bestselling author Mary Kay Andrews’ latest offering, The Fixer Upper is perfect beach reading. Dempsey is a delightful heroine whose naiveté may strike some readers improbable, while others will simply find it charming. No matter which opinion you adopt, her head-on approach in dealing with the situation in Georgia makes for wonderful reading. The title obviously refers to both the house and Dempsey, whose need for direction and growth drive the plot. The light romantic interludes add depth to the coming of age story and readers will be rooting for Dempsey to triumph in her confrontations with her shady boss.

This lighthearted romp never loses its breezy tone, even when dealing the fairly serious subjects of fraud, political shenanigans and influence peddling. Readers may find it difficult to accept the level of blindness Dempsey has for what’s really happening in the lobbying firm, those who suspend belief and simply enjoy The Fixer Upper are in for a treat.

ISBN10: 0060837381
ISBN13: 9780060837389

432 Pages
Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: June 23, 2009
Author Website:

posted under fiction, romance | 1 Comment »

BOOK REVIEW: Teeth in a Pickle Jar by H.B. Milligan


Megan hasn’t had an easy life. Her first sexual encounter leads to a delightful daughter–and a loveless marriage that comes complete with Annabelle, a mother-in-law who gives new meaning to the idea of hauteur and arrogance. After a year of getting by and enduring, Megan has had enough and she leaves Paris, and the husband, for New York City, and her own overbearing mother.

For years Megan devoted herself to providing a good home for her daughter Hayley, trying to provide a balance for the emotionally cold world of Hayley’s father and the domineering presence of Mamma. Suddenly Brent, a much younger man, enters the picture, throwing Megan’s world into turmoil. Will Megan throw away a chance at true happiness or will she take the leap, regardless of what her Mamma has to say?

H.B. Milligan has crafted a novel of discovery out of some fairly stereotypical plot lines: WASP-ish upper crust society mirrored against the ethnicity of recent immigrants; an overbearing mother of ethnic origin; young single mothers whose lives are relived by their daughters; and finally a middle-aged woman robbing the cradle.
Rather than a formulaic romance novel, Teeth in a Pickle Jar is about searching, discovering anew the shadow our past can cast on our present. Wrapped in a story of a May/December romance, Milligan has constructed a morality play that causes the reader to pause and reflect.

Is it truly better to cling to the hurts we know than to gamble on potential happiness? If Brent is what waits at the end of the journey, then I for one vote for happiness!

Throwing all these disparate plots together with a crazy title like Teeth in a Pickle Jar shouldn’t work, but Milligan’s pen delights, creating an entrancing tale of self-discovery, friendship and romance.

See the review at Armchair Interviews – Teeth in a Pickle Jar.

posted under romance | 1 Comment »

Chick Lit & Romance Book Reviews – Master List


In an effort to reduce the long list of reviews in my sidebar, I decided to create an entry of each of the category of books I review. That way I can update this entry and link to just this entry in the sidebar.

This is a list of the chick lit and romance novels that I’ve reviewed to date.

Chick Lit

  • Swimming Upstream, Slowly – Melissa Clark
  • Some Like it Haute – Julie K.L. Dam
  • Toss the Bride – Jennifer Manske Fenske
  • The School for Husbands – Wendy Holden
  • Miss Understanding – Stephanie Lessing
  • Hooked – Jane May
  • Upside Down Inside Out – Monica McInerney
  • The List: a Love Story in 781 Chapters – Aneva Stout
  • Innocence – Kathleen Tessaro
  • Romance novels

  • The Taming of the Duke – Eloisa James
  • Teeth in a Pickle Jar – H.B. Milligan
  • The Kiss – Elda Minger
  • Paranormal Romances

  • The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Annette Blair
  • Luscious Craving – Cameron Dean
  • Passionate Thirst – Cameron Dean
  • Even Vampires Get the Blues – Katie MacAlister
  • Just One Sip – Katie MacAlister, Jennifer Ashley, and Minda Webber
  • Light My Fire – Katie MacAlister
  • He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot – Stephanie Rowe
  • Must Love Dragons – Stephanie Rowe
  • Damsel Under Stress – Shanna Swendson
  • Kitty and the Midnight Hour – Carrie Vaughn
  • Kitty Goes to Washington – Carrie Vaughn
  • Kitty Takes a Holiday – Carrie Vaughn
  • 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover & Hex Appeal – Linda Wisdom
  • BOOK REVIEW: The Taming of the Duke by Eloisa James


    Imogen spent years determined to capture the heart of Draven Maitland and marry him, despite the fact that he was affianced. In Much Ado About You, the first book in the Four Sisters Regency series by Eloisa James (which focuses on Tess, the oldest Essex sister), Imogen succeeds in her heart’s desire and spends two weeks married before Draven is killed in a riding accident. Now the third book in this series – The Taming of the Duke – focuses on Imogen, who is determined to enter the delicious world open to respectable widows, that of taking a lover. She has decided that Gabe, brother of her guardian Rafe, fits the bill nicely however Rafe and Gabe have other plans for the adventurous widow.

    James’ series feature innovative plots, vibrant dialogue and an authenticity that comes from immersing herself in studies of the relevant time period. As a scholar of Shakespeare, the nod she gives his plays when choosing her titles is intentional. The Taming of the Duke takes the basic plot of The Taming of the Shrew and turns it on its head. Raphael, Duke of Holbrook, is an unlikely hero, mired as he is in an alcoholic stupour caused by guilt and pain. Readers gain an understanding of Rafe’s history in the first two novels in this series but it is only in this third offering that he develops into a possible hero – needing to overcome his addiction to alcohol rather than the vitriolic temperament overcome by Katherine in Shakespeare’s offering. Gaining mastery of his alcoholism wouldn’t have been easy, as in the 1800s alcoholism was a moral failing rather than an illness. That James is able to pull this all together into a delightful novel shows just how skilled a pen she wields.

    Romance novels comprise 53.3% of all mass market paperback novels and 34.6% of all popular fiction, with an astonishing 51.1 million readers in the US alone. (2002 statistics, compiled by Romance Writers of America) One of the fastest growing sub-genres of romance is the inspirational romance, which adds a spiritual obstacle that must be overcome, strong family values, duty, honour, chastity and integrity to the traditional romance template. James, ever the scholar, chooses to show how religion was part of the daily life of men and women in the 1800s rather than limiting herself by writing within the chaste boundaries of this popular category.

    Mary Bly, using the pen name Eloisa James, has been living a double life for many years. Only recently did Bly, a professor of English literature who teaches at Fordham University in New York City, “come out of the closet” to her academic colleagues. The Taming of the Duke is her 10th novel.

    See the review as it is posted at Front Street Reviews: The Taming of the Duke

    posted under romance | 1 Comment »

    BOOK REVIEW: The Kiss by Elda Minger


    Tess Sommerville is due to be married to the man of most parents’ dreams. Successful, rich and powerful, Paul Atherton blew into Tess’ life and swept her up in a whirlwind courtship. While out with her best friend Brooke the night before the wedding, Tess begins doubting her decision, and of course this is the moment Will Tremere, her high school crush, decides to walk back into her life.

    Later that night, Tess stumbles upon Paul in a highly indiscreet position with another woman – in the very church where the wedding is to be performed. In a moment of panic, Tess calls the number Will gave her and offers to join him on his drive to California. And thus begins The Kiss, a new contemporary romance novel from Elda Minger.

    The Kiss has many standard features that propel the plot forward: the getaway from and chase by the evil fiancée, a super-controlling family, the road trip as metaphor for Tess’ personal journey of discovery (and development of a backbone) and of course, the blossoming romance between Tess and Will. So what is there that sets this contemporary romance apart from the rest and makes it worth the reader’s investment of time and money?

    More than anything else, what recommends The Kiss is the vibrant cast of secondary characters. Favourites by far are Toby and Sugar, the canine companions for the road trip, and Elaine, the psychic, who communes with them from the West Coast. Rather than making this a groan-inducing plot feature, Minger infuses the characters with enough kookiness to keep the right level of camp and fun.

    Her deft writing and sense of timing ensures the novel never goes so far over the edge as to be unredeemable. Elaine, Brooke (the best friend) and Kim (Brooke’s cousin) are the needed balance for the stock characters played by Paul and Madeleine (the controlling step-mother).

    There were two areas that were disappointing with The Kiss and addressing these would have definitively moved this novel into a league of its own. First would be further development of Paul and Madeleine’s characters. By moving beyond the standard mold set by the genre, Paul and Madeleine would have ceased to be cardboard stereotypes and become full-scale protagonists, perhaps even evoking some sympathy from the reader. Given that The Kiss runs 304 pages – and 30-40 of those pages could have been edited to create a tighter novel – Minger had room to explore their motivations in greater depth.

    The second area where Minger could have differentiated herself is in Tess’ breakdown. Readers can certainly sympathize with her pain and understand the need for her to have time to heal. Having it last nearly half the novel wears thin and threatens to pull The Kiss into the realm inhabited by many of the “poor me” genre of chick lit. This reader wanted Tess to hit the anger phase earlier and found patience quickly vanishing with her lack of backbone.

    Elda Minger is well known for her best-selling romance novels (more than two dozen), and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Romantic Times’ Best American Romance. While she has written many types of romance novels, her recently published works are contemporary in style and setting. The Kiss is sure to please both ardent fans and win her some new ones.

    See the review as it appears at Curled Up with a Good Book – The Kiss

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