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unrequited-love

REVIEW:  Seducing Mr. Knightly by Maya Rodale

REVIEW: Seducing Mr. Knightly by Maya Rodale

Dear Ms. Rodale:

I have not read the previous three books in this series but the recent sale by HarperCollins piqued my interest. I had a review copy in my files and decided to give it a chance. The premise behind the series is that newspaper owner Derek Knightly hired four women and dubbed them the Writing Girls. Annabelle Swift is the advice columnist who lives in the garret of her older brother’s house and suffers heaps of abuse by her sister in law. She is, in some aspects, a cinder girl.

She sleeps in the attic, makes clothes out of leftover remnants, takes care of the children, and even helped the Cook with meal preparation. Annabelle has loved Derek since the first that she laid eyes on him “three years, six months, three weeks, and two days ago.” (A mantra repeated throughout the book)

Seducing Mr. Knightly Maya RodaleThe initial emotional conflict is one of unrequited love. Annabelle’s feelings for Derek have gone unnoticed since they met. Deciding that she must do something, she writes a column asking for readers to give her advice on how to attract her love. Her asking for advice becomes the talk of London as gentlemen in coffee shops and women in their parlor rooms gossip about the best way to attract a man. She begins with lowering her bodice which apparently works because Derek does notice her abundant charms and then roundly chastises himself for doing so.

Derek’s newspaper business is in jeopardy given that a rival newspaper’s reporter was found to have been impersonating a physician and thus breaking the confidence of every Londoner. The House of Lords is investigating this issue and one prominent Lord has put it to Derek that he can preserve his newspaper should Derek agree to marry the Lord’s sister who was suspiciously absent from the previous Season.

The unrequited love story rests upon Derek, a newspaper man, to be wholly unobservant of those around him. He doesn’t even read the initial column penned by Annabelle. He certainly isn’t observant enough to perceive that she has longed after him for over three years. He remains blind to her feelings until Annabelle engages in the amazing transformation of actually letting down her hair, lowering her bodices, and casting sultry glances in his direction. Suddenly Derek looks anew at Annabelle. Apparently once she is attractive enough, he becomes interested but, of course, he should not be interested because he has to marry someone else to ostensibly save his livelihood.

Derek’s character arc is complicated by the fact that he is a bastard and while his father loved him and his mother more than his own family Derek, being obtuse, doesn’t understand why his legitimate siblings don’t welcome him into the embrace of the family. Derek never came off as very bright to me and his oblivousness to other people’s feelings and motivations made little sense for a man who was “obsessed when it came to his newspaper business.”

This book brings nothing new to the table and the text evinces a very specific writing style. Annabelle, in particular, tended to think in dramatic exclamations.

Annabelle lay in her bed, dying, another victim of unrequited love. It was tragic, tragic! In her slim fingers she held a letter from Knightly, blotted with her tears.

It was fun to see Annabelle grow from shy spinster to toast of the Ton, a sort of celebrity; but it would have been nice to be shown exactly why Annabelle wanted Derek so much when he ignored her, was curt to her when he did see her, and spent time courting another woman. Particularly after Annabelle began to gain attention from other men who found her desirable, her entrenched position on Derek was sometimes a headscratcher.

This is a serviceable and light historical with a tendency to melodrama and ridiculousness. (I.e. climbing a tree outside Derek’s bedroom window dressed in breeches was bound to ruin even a Writing Girl, if caught). While Annabelle is likeable, it wasn’t enough to encourage me to read the previous three books in the series. C

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey

REVIEW: All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey

Dear Ms. Stacey

I’m not one who really loves big family stories but you make the Kowalski clan so appealing that even I, the curmudgeon, look forward to spending a few hours with them. This story features Ryan Kowalksi, an owner of a custom home building business in Massachusetts. He is spending a month in Maine helping to fix up the family lodge and get it ready for sledding season and his eldest brother’s wedding.

All He Ever Desired Shannon StaceyBack in Maine Ryan is confronted by the uncomfortable fact that at the age of 36 he wishes he was married with children. The one girl he ever loved married his best friend. He begged her to leave with him back when they were high school seniors but she refused. Over time, Ryan has been married, divorced, and built a great business but there is something missing in his lie.

Lauren Carpenter loved her high school sweetheart, Dean, and when she got pregnant they agreed to marry each other. Having a baby shot both their dreams of college and a different life which eroded whatever feelings they had for each other. The only thing that ties them together is their 15 year old son.

When Ryan sees Lauren again, his old feelings are stirred up. When her son is caught engaging in delinquent acts at the Kowalski family lodge, Ryan sets him to work as part of his penance. This brings Lauren back into constant contact with Ryan. As Lauren and Ryan get closer, their connection is strained by Ryan’s distance, their geographical differences, and Lauren’s position as a mother. Her entire family is in Whitford, Maine, and all of her friends are there. Whatever she and Ryan may have doesn’t seem to be worth throwing that all away. The son comes off as genuine as well, moody but loving.

The book surprised me, pleasantly in many ways. Instead of taking the well worn path of the romances of old, you manage to infuse a freshness into a common trope – friends to lovers. Lauren truly did love her husband and she didn’t leave him even when Ryan asked because she loved him. Overtime, the love relationship died off. It makes sense that Lauren is afraid of leaving her family and friends at this stage in her life even when her feelings for Ryan grow, partly because she doesn’t know where she stands. They are both afraid of exposing their vulnerabilities to the other, Ryan in particular because his past attempt at the big gesture was met with a resounding no.

The story was humorous and sexy. The soiling discussion had me howling.

He crossed his arms and gave Ryan a flat stare. “You can call me Mr. Dozynski, I think.”

“What?” Ryan had never heard anybody call him that. Ever. He’d been Dozer since he’d moved to Whitford and bought the hardware store in the seventies. “What did I do?”

“You molest my daughter and then come in here and think I’ll sell you flashing?”

“Whoa!” Ryan held up his hands. “Your daughter’s thirty-four years old. Nobody molested anybody.”

Dozer looked at Josh. “Is that not the word I wanted?”

Josh shook his head. Albert Dozynski had grown up speaking Polish at home and English at school and still had some trouble with the more outside-the-classroom words. “People use it joking around, but it’s not cool if you’re throwing out serious accusations.”

“What word do I want?”

Josh considered for a few seconds. “Soiled.”

“You soiled my daughter,” Dozer threw at Ryan.

He glared at his brother. “You asshole.”

“Hey, he needed a word.”

“Look, I didn’t soil Lauren, okay? I spent the night with her, yes. And I’m taking her to dinner tomorrow.”

I loved the interaction between Lauren and her best friend Hailey. Lauren is upset with Ryan, a bit irrationally, and she wants Hailey to back her up. After telling Lauren she doesn’t think that Ryan is doing anything wrong, Hailey dutifully refers to Ryan as “that jerk” for the rest of the night because she is a true friend. Everything in the book came off genuine and real. Can’t wait for the next Kowalski. I hope that there are more cousins we don’t know about because the end is in sight and that makes me sad. B

Best regards,

Jane

P.S. I tweeted that I needed a family tree and this is what Stacey tweeted back:

Kowalski Family Tree Shannon Stacey

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