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Donna Birdsell

Dear Author

REVIEW: Suburban Secrets by Donna Birdsell

Dear Mrs. Birdsell,

Suburban Secrets (Harlequin Next)I had been looking forward to the next book in your Georgian spy series but when I saw this one in Waldenbooks the other day, I gave in to another “what the hell” impulse. The back blurb sounded different but honestly I had no idea what to expect in a comtemporary from you, especially in Harlequin’s Next Line. What I found was a funny, breezy farce in the style of the mid 80s movie, Desperately Seeking Susan. Only better.

The Next Line appears to feature heroines at some kind of crossroads in their lives and Grace Becker fits the description. Her husband of 15 years just left her for his older and less attractive assistant (Grace caught them making a human peanut butter and jelly sandwich in bed) and now she’s wondering what’s in store for her. At 37, men aren’t whistling at her anymore, her children are growing up and she feels like she’s fading into oblivion. A chance encounter with a highschool friend gets her out to an 80s nightclub where a grownup game of truth or dare starts her on a wild weekend she could never have imagined. Before it was all over “she’d given away her panties and a twenty-thousand dollar ring, made out with two complete strangers, agreed to cook for an insane Russian mobster, gotten a tattoo, and learned how to dance like a stripper.” Not your average weekend for a suburban Philadelphia housewife.

I can easily see this book being made into a chick flick. It’s not heavy or full of deep thoughts about marriage, commitment, or betrayal. Grace ends up maybe finding a new romance and has a plan for what she wants to do with her life. Readers who are too young to have lived through the 80s might not get all the references Grace and the other characters throw out but for me it was a trip down memory lane. I like how the books ends with the new romance really just beginning. Grace and Pete, the Secret Service agent who mistakes her for his snitch’s girlfriend and mistakenly hauls her into the action, definitely have some sparks of attraction throughout most of the book but I like how you don’t have them succumbing to lust at inappropriate times in the story. I also like how Grace might have some bitter thoughts about her ex husband but she’s basically not a bitter person. And while she does end up helping Pete gather the evidence he needs to make his case, she doesn’t come off as either Girl Wonder or a hopeless klutz for laughs.

What started as a gamble ended up paying off with a B grade. Oh, but I had to mentally change your description of Pete looking like Ron Howard. I love the movies Ron has directed but sexually, he just doesn’t fire my rockets.

~Jayne

REVIEW:  Falcon’s Mistress by Donna Birdsell

REVIEW: Falcon’s Mistress by Donna Birdsell

Dear Ms. Birdsell,

I read a great review for your second book, and decided to give it a try.

It’s a good story and despite how farfetched the plot seems, it works. OK, it’s another English nobleman working as a spy against France but in this case it’s during the War of American Independence and Canby (yeah, he’s a Duke) is thought to be dead. It’s only when Selena is accused of his murder and sentenced to be hanged that he has to resurface and reestablish his identity. I like both Canby and Selena, the falconer’s daughter he loves, and especially the fact that Selena doesn’t immediately fit into Canby’s aristocratic world. In fact, she never does really fit into it and given that Canby hates it as well, I thought the ending was inventive. You’re also not afraid to make your characters un-PC (especially the secondary ones) and take the time to make the villains of the story have reasons for what they do. And it’s interesting to see the other side of the coin as far as England vs her colonies in America. I would love to see more American Colonials but I’m getting tired of most of the currently available ones featuring a British officer and a spirited American woman.

Falcon's Mistress by Donna BirdsellThe scenes of Selena in prison and headed towards a necktie party at Tyburn are well done. You work a lot of information into the story without being obvious. And most of the characters really do show many sides, even the villains. Canby’s brother and future sister-in-law are rather too vague but perhaps the next installment will flesh Randolph out.

Canby’s cousin, best friend and fellow operative is an interesting fellow and I hope is primed for his own book next. But as much as I like parts of the book, I’d be reading along when suddenly something would happen that would pull me out of the story. Characters would do things or act in ways that didn’t seem realistic for the 18th century (Canby has his valet go ask a society hostess’s housekeeper for an invitation to a supper party) and then just as quickly, things would revert back to feeling “right.” I’m not sure what you were doing in these brief instances. If you didn’t have time to set things up correctly, didn’t know, didn’t care, what…and to make it worse, I can’t see that those bits were even needed in the story. If only you’d cut them out.

But, if you can get this aspect of your writing straightened out, I think you’ll be well on your way. And judging from the pluses and minuses pointed out in another review that your first book got at another site, I think you’re improving. B- Oh, and love the cover even if the hero does have an open shirt. At least it looks like an open 18th century shirt and he looks sorta English.

~Jayne

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