Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Jayne S

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

Posts by Jayne S:

REVIEW:  A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

REVIEW: A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

Paris, 1923
The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides.

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.

Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.

Dear Ms. Raybourn,

I’ve read – and enjoyed – most of your Lady Julia Gray mysteries. Your foray into the gothic in The Dead Travel Fast wasn’t as much of a hit with me. Still when I noticed this book at Netgalley, my antennae perked up and I zipped over my request to read it. A book set in the 1920s and in Kenya? Cool and so NOT a Downton Abbey clone. Bring it!

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna RaybournMy initial impression was these people are J Peterman catalog come to life. Both in Paris and in Kenya, the crowd among whom Delilah lives and with whom she was brought up are just the type of people to have perfumes designed just for them and carried in special handcrafted fitted leather train cases. This is the smart, sophisticated set who do live it up, use cigarette holders and dance until dawn in riotous clubs run by androgynous managers. This is the age when people still monogrammed linen and flatware upon which divorce changing names would wreck havoc. And that’s before we even get to Africa and the safaris. Thank goodness for the dukas there where one can stock up on those little necessities like duck confit, goose pate, champagne and whatnot before heading out into the bush. One must be civilized after all.

Kenya is only referred to by that name a few times – usually it’s “Africa” that is said but is this what the white settlers and visitors would have used given the colony’s name? I’m wondering how the race relations aspect of the book will go over. It’s not all “white settlers arrive and teach the natives a thing or two” or worse yet “whites arrive to save the day.” In fact, the political unease is already simmering and the whites are aware that things might not stay quiet for long. In trying to salvage a bad situation, Delilah even makes things worse before she does the “grand gesture” that saves someone – and wrecks his life.

At times Delilah is not an easy heroine to cheer for nor an easy woman to even like much less love. But she is unique and as her mother writes her, if one is going to hell one might as well dance all the way and give people something to remember you by. She’s a true image of a 20s flapper with a Parisian couture wardrobe to die for, a taste for Sobranies, sex and the ability to slug back massive quantities of booze. She is also abrasive if she’s annoyed, hellbent on getting her own way and a damn good shot. I found her fascinating and cheered as she got the better of just about everyone in the story.

Ryder is larger than life as well. Truly a man’s man in a man’s world. He’s suave, fearless, has bedded most of the white women in the colony, has the natives fighting to be porters on his safaris, can also down rivers of alcohol, smokes like a faulty 2 cylinder engine, can track any animal across the savannah and then deliver a horse whipping to cads in full view of the crowds at the Nairobi train station. Yet he can be gentle to Delilah’s poor cousin Dora and is far ahead of his time in terms of conservation.

Delilah and Ryder are of course much alike in that they’ve been badly hurt in love before but in different ways. Delilah might as well have crawled in the grave with her first husband while Ryder learned too late whom his first wife really loved. Both have tried to cover their hurt in similar fashion – by partying and by indulging in a glut of one night stands and – in Delilah’s case – ultimately empty marriages. Though she did be faithful to each husband while married to him. The pain they’ve each suffered cut so deeply that they’ve evolved ways to dull it to a haze of oblivion and show me more by their actions than any protestations that “they’ll never love again.”

As such, it takes a lot for either one to show the cracks in the facade much less let someone into their hearts. They fight almost like it’s foreplay and end up attacking each other as much as it’s having sex. There’s truly nothing pretty about that encounter. So if it’s not nookie that brings them together, what is it? Something I like to see even better and which means more to me about how two people think about each other – in their every day actions. Delilah proves she’s got the grit to not only survive but thrive in Africa. She takes care of what needs doing even if it’s distasteful to her, she has standards below which she won’t sink, she’ll stand up for what is right and heaven help anyone who crosses her. Ryder is loyal to his friends, willing to bend the law when the occasion demands and it’s for a good cause and cheerfully takes advantage of idiots who only want to go out and shoot something. He also comes through in the end with a grand gesture of love – even if Delilah initially has to have it spelled out for her

In the end, neither Delilah nor Ryder is perfect. I foresee fights and smashed liqueur bottles galore as they work out their relationship but they’ve come so far from where they were and have helped each other heal that even with the probable fireworks, I think they’re well suited and headed for a HEA. B


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REVIEW:  Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

REVIEW: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella


Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.

Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.

Dear Ms. Kinsella,

This is only the second book of yours I’ve read but I’m seeing a pattern developing – namely plots that sound more than a little ridiculous but which have to be accepted in order to enjoy your particular brand of literary chaos. So far, I’ve had enough fun with the books that the outlandish things going on haven’t fazed me. But when it comes right down to it, the plot descriptions do make it sound as if your novels are peopled by complete fucking lunatics.

Lottie is a pulled together professional woman with a tendency to go whack-shit when love lets her down. She’s spent years remembering her gap year in a hazy, golden glow that she tries to wrap around herself after the disappointing turn of her relationship with Richard. This jump from the frying pan into the fire of her sudden marriage is the set up that must be bought – hook, line and sinker by the reader. And let’s face it, if this wasn’t a comedy and it hadn’t been written by you, I would have closed the book right then with the thought that Lottie was as crazy as a shit house rat. But, as told by Fliss, Lottie’s past actions and the fact that Lottie and Ben were sympatico at one time makes it easier to shake off the WTF aspect of the plot set up and get on with reading it. It takes the horrormoon with its final trip back to the scene of her memories to jolt it home to her – you really can’t go back.

I literally crowed with laughter – earning me strange looks from my kitties – at so many points — the condom landing in Lorcan’s G&T at the sidewalk bistro, Richard upending his “won’t fit in the overhead bin” suitcase and then, after pawing through it, standing in the Heathrow departing lounge holding his wadded up boxer shorts, Ben’s loud and persistant (despite another guest thinking him a perv) efforts on the beach to rent a hotel room from a fellow hotel couple for quick sex and then there’s the sheer, demonic brilliance of manager Nico & Co’s fiendishly clever “in flagrante delicto” inhibiting efforts at the resort. It’s a shivaree of epic, long distance proportions.

Wedding-Night-by-Sophie-KinsellaBut, there’s something more going on here. The wedding night sabotage is funny but had the book been only that, it would have grown rom-com stale very soon. Lottie and Ben are slowly discovering that maybe you can’t just ignore 15 years of separate living and perhaps at 33 you really do need to know something more about your mate than what you knew as hormonal 18 year olds.

Meanwhile Fliss might come off as a nutcase for her choice to stick a spoke in Lottie’s wedding night wheels. Her defense makes more sense than might initally be believed given Lottie’s long history of kooky post-breakup actions and Unfortunate Choices – this being the worst of them. And then there’s Fliss’s own hellish divorce that drives her to try and avoid watching Lottie endure the same. As Lorcan tells Fliss, after blowing up at her for the epic interference in her sister’s life, in a fucked up way, Fliss is trying to do the right thing and help Lottie, but she can’t be Lottie’s keeper forever and Lottie deserves the chance to succeed or fail in her marriage choice

Then Lorcan shouldn’t be throwing stones in his glass house because he’s just as obsessed with continuing his efforts on behalf of Ben’s company. Fliss gets to raise her eyebrows at Lorcan trudging across half of Europe to browbeat Ben into making the best – in Lorcan’s POV – decision for the paper products company. Just as Fliss is almost blinded in her efforts to “save” Lottie from a mistake, Lorcan can be so singleminded that he can’t see the forest for the trees. This trip, the situation and his time with Fliss will be the things that beak the lock the job has on him and sets him free to get back on with his own life.

Fliss and Lorcan bring the book to some deeper moments as they trade divorce horror stories and find shoulders to cry on about it. Fliss, at least, has spent yonks complaining to anyone she can corner about her soon-to-be-ex husband’s shittiness but it doesn’t seem as if she’s taken the final step to emotionally let it all out and thus let it go until now. This is what finally brings Fliss closure and begins to heal her wounded spirit. It helps Lorcan too I think, as he sees how far Fliss and Richard will go for family and loved ones.

And Richard! Richard is aces in how he comes through romantically – flying around the world, being willing to discover the truth about something that means a great deal to Lottie and even the fact that he knows this means a great deal to her. Bless him that he’s even halfway to accepting the ring Lottie’s bought him.

The alternate first person takes a little getting used to but both women are astute observers and I felt I was getting the unvarnished reactions of the others in the story – mostly men now that I think of it. Both sisters find what they need – Lottie gets the man she really loved all along – and Fliss gets letting go, peace and a new start. I love the gift that Lorcan gets her which shows he remembers what she’s said.

This could have been little more than a light, frothy beach read but underneath the frivolity is some deep shit. My advice for readers is just to let yourself go and flume with it. B



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