Jayne’s mid summer Reading List
Sadly, here are more books I wanted to enjoy which, for various reasons, did not work for me.
The Master of Measham Hall by Anna Abney
It is five years since King Charles II returned from exile, the scars of the English Civil Wars are yet to heal and now the Great Plague engulfs the land. Alethea Hawthorne is safe inside the walls of the Calverton household as a companion to their daughter. She waits in anticipation of her brother William’s pardon for killing a man in a duel before they can both return to their ancestral home in Measham Hall.
But when Alethea suddenly finds herself cast out on the streets of London, a long road to Derbyshire lies ahead of her. Militias have closed their boroughs off to outsiders for fear of contamination. Fortune smiles on her when Jack appears, an unlikely travelling companion who helps this determined country girl to navigate a perilous new world of religious dissenters, charlatans and a pestilence that afflicts peasants and lords alike.
Anna Abney’s immersive debut is a fast-paced, multi-layered novel that intimately explores the social and religious divides at the heart of the Restoration period.
I found the historical details to be amazing and convincing. The opening of the book was the strongest part for me. But after a while, I began to feel that Alethea was a bit thick. Then she was abandoned and had to make her way and lucky for her a savior appeared right when she needed one. Once the story moved to the Forest, things slowed down to a crawl and I began to lose interest. Oh, and Alethea was still thick. Frankly, when she turned down the offer of help from a friend to account for her predicament, I lost all interest in how she was going to proceed from there and flipped to the end. Reading the last few pages confirmed that I now didn’t like Alethea and wasn’t interested in going back to read any more. DNF
Sweet Tea by Piper Huguley
Southern traditions, history, and hope come together in author Piper Huguley’s heartfelt romance from Hallmark Publishing.
Althea Dailey has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams: she’s about to make partner at her prestigious law firm in New York. So why doesn’t she feel more excited about it? When she has to travel South for a case, she pays a long-overdue visit back home to Milford, Georgia. To her surprise, a white man she’s never met has befriended her grandmother.
Jack Darwent wasn’t interested in the definition of success dictated by Southern high society. His passion for cooking led him to his current project: a documentary and cookbook about authentic Southern food. Althea’s grandmother is famous for her cooking at Milford College, a historically Black institution. But Althea suspects Jack of trying to steal her grandmother’s recipes.
Despite Althea and Jack’s first impressions of one another, they discover they have more in common than they’d guessed…and even as they learn about one another’s pasts, they both see glimmers of a better future.
I’ve read and mostly liked several historical novels by Huguley so I was looking forward to this one but after 3/5, I had to reluctantly conclude this one isn’t for me. Allie is judgmental and prickly about everything while Jack morphs, IMO, from enthusiastic to pushy and smarmy the more he’s around her. It’s like watching a glaring hedgehog being badgered by an obnoxious, pushy Golden Retriever who won’t leave her alone. Enemies-to-lovers is not my favorite trope, especially when for large swathes of the book, there’s nothing but sniping and Jack getting all up in Allie’s business aided and abetted by her grandmother who does nothing to conceal the fact that she wants the two to marry and present her with great-grandbabies.
I was confused about a lawsuit that Allie is supposed to be working on that disappears only to finally resurface looking like Allie’s suddenly switched sides based on what she thinks might have happened. In addition, there is the issue of Allie being worried that Jack is after her grandmother’s recipes. Allie is determined to get Jack to sign legal papers guaranteeing her grandmother will be paid part of the proceeds of any book or documentary Jack makes – something Jack readily agrees to do. But despite the fact that he’s agreed and Allie is an intellectual property lawyer, by the time I stopped nothing had been signed. I’m sure she has access to a boilerplate legal agreement to cover this and could print it out and get him to sign. After a while it just seemed silly and only a way to drag out their conflict.
The descriptions of food are, however, mouthwatering and made me want to sit down wearing stretch pants at Miss Ada’s legendary feast, knowing full well I’d need to run a few marathons in order to work off the calories. My final words, before being wheeled off in a food induced stupor, would be “I regret nothing!”
It’s too bad that the good parts of the book – the history of Milford College, the multiculturalism with most of the characters being African American, showing the importance of religion and faith in the lives of Ada and the community, my gosh the food, and Allie’s otherwise indomitable grandmother, weren’t enough to keep me going and finish it. DNF
Samak the Ayyar A Tale of Ancient Persia translated by Freydoon Rassouli, Adapted by Jordan Mechner
The adventures of Samak, a trickster-warrior hero of Persia’s thousand-year-old oral storytelling tradition, are beloved in Iran. Samak is an ayyar, a warrior who comes from the common people and embodies the ideals of loyalty, selflessness, and honor—a figure that recalls samurai, ronin, and knights yet is distinctive to Persian legend. His exploits—set against an epic background of palace intrigue, battlefield heroics, and star-crossed romance between a noble prince and princess—are as deeply rooted in Persian culture as are the stories of Robin Hood and King Arthur in the West. However, this majestic tale has remained little known outside Iran.
Translated from the original Persian by Freydoon Rassouli and adapted by Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner, this timeless masterwork can now be enjoyed by English-speaking readers. A thrilling and suspenseful saga, Samak the Ayyar also offers a vivid portrait of Persia a thousand years ago. Within an epic quest narrative teeming with action and supernatural forces, it sheds light on the lives of ordinary people and their social worlds. This is the first complete English-language version of a treasure of world culture. The translation is grounded in the twelfth-century Persian text while paying homage to the dynamic culture of storytelling from which it arose.
Samak the Ayyar sounded like it would be a thrilling and wonderful introduction to a beloved folk hero character from a different culture. I was on board to be wowed and entertained. But the sad reality is that while I can easily see this being a fabulous story if told orally to a captivated audience by a master story teller, unfortunately it’s not quite ready to be read as a book.
The introduction states that in the translation and preparation for publication, duplications were removed, tweaks were made to improve flow and continuity, bits of dialog and action were introduced to clear up issues and correct errors that would doubtless not be noticed while listening. Yeah, well there’s just not enough streamlining as the repetition after even just 100 pages was mind numbing. I can see the need for this if you’re listening over the course of several evenings but it doesn’t work if you’re reading it.
I guess the story is supposed to focus on the action and not the (rather stock and one dimensional) characters. Keeping them straight in my head was a chore and more work than I feel I ought to put into a book. The “just in time” remembrance of convenient friends exactly when Samak needs help or the discovery of hidden passages (gotta have those in a adventure tale) to rescue prisoners (and there are a ton of them) began to get comical and not in a good way. Of course the prince is the most handsome man in the kingdom while the princess is so exquisitely beautiful that men instantly fall in love with her. The vizier is evil while the shah is more a bumbling fool. And more guards die than is believable. Seriously, how does the palace keep enough staff interested in working there with the terrible death problem they have?
This book might work better if read in small doses rather than large gulps and perhaps I’ll eventually go back and try that but for now, reluctantly I think I’m done here. DNF
Meet Me in Bendigo by Eva Scott
Rural Australia meets You’ve Got Mail in this romantic comedy about online dating, second chances, and following your heart.
Small-town sweetheart Annalisa Cappelli has returned to Wongilly to take over her family’s hardware shop while she heals from a tragic loss. The business was hit hard by the pandemic, and now a Carpenter’s Warehouse hardware superstore is opening in the district. There’s no way Annalisa is going to let two hundred years of history go down the drain, but she’s going to need to fight to keep her family’s legacy alive.
The one simple thing in her life is her no names, no complications, easy-breezy online relationship with GardenerGuy94. For now, their online flirtation is the only kind of romance Annalisa needs. Until she meets Ed Carpenter. Sexy as hell, he’d be the perfect man … if he wasn’t trying to destroy her business.
Ed Carpenter is in Wongilly to offer the owner of a small hardware shop a payout to pave the way for his family’s next superstore. What he doesn’t expect is for the owner to be the woman he’s been talking to online. Annalisa is beautiful and passionate, and he’s sure she’s the one for him. But how can he reveal the truth without losing her?
For a book that focuses its hero’s failed business issues on the Covid pandemic and has the heroine partially blame her store’s troubles on it, no one appears to socially distance, there’s no mention of masks, or in fact any other lockdowns that I know for a fact that Victoria, Melbourne in particular, was subjected to. What the hell?? The clueless heroine also seems to be basing her hopes to save the store more on luck and a miracle than having any kind of business plan. Her nonna appears to be the only one who’s looked at the accounting figures for the past two years yet didn’t mention anything to her granddaughter. Frankly, I’m amazed the family store didn’t close already. While I like the beta hero, he’s just a bit too wimpy, frankly, and is in serious need of a backbone. This story and it’s characters just aren’t holding my attention or interest. DNF