Breath of Scandal by Sandra Brown

5 stars for being so balanced, thorough and smooth. Writing that never blew my socks off, but was so completely solid that it wasn’t a distraction. This is a big book – but it didn’t feel too long or overwrought or ridiculous or unnecessary. It was an absolute pleasure to read from page 1.

Jade is a nice girl in a small Southern town. Three someones do something awful to her, and even when Jade does the right thing there’s no justice. These young men have power, and Jade does not. I spent a lot of time dreading what i knew was coming, but it was handled in a manner for maximum impact with minimum reader-agony. (FYI – there’s some romance thrown in this thing as well. I wasn’t expecting that, and when it appeared i was a little confused.)

Jade is a wonderful character – realistic and likable throughout the story. She becomes focused on gaining power so that she can right her wrong as well as stand-up for others.I love love love stories about strong women – i anticipate i’ll have a crush on this story for a while.

It wasn’t preachy or pushy. This book was sans-eyeroll the entire time. I was buying everything Sandra Brown was selling. I’m so excited to check out more of her books.

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

I’m on a cajun kick, and this was recommended by another reader. I didn’t know that it was YA or Fantasy, but I love Kresley Cole so I figured I’d give it a try.

This is an apocalypse/post-apocalypse adventure about Evie (and sort of Jackson). She’s a nice, popular teenage-girl with weird visions of the end of the world – those end up coming true. Jackson is a poor kid from the bayou – he has a huge chip on his shoulder about his less-than-stellar up-bringing and Evie makes it worse. After the apocalypse it becomes obvious to Evie that she has some powers, but she hides them because she feels like a freak.

That’s mostly what happens in this book – Evie hides like 90000000 things from Jackson and pushes him away. Then they may relationship-progress before immediately being awful to one another. Their lack of honesty and being vile to one another was exhausting – as was Evie’s desire to be a total sissy and deny her inner-kickass.

I’m likely to read the next one because I deserve to 1) see some action in the romance department – they have to stop being so awful to one another and 2) see Evie wreak total havoc. This chicky spent over 300 pages being a Damsel in Distress and denying her powers. I want to see her crush things. I’ve earned it.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Beautiful writing. Interesting story. Thought-provoking. I simply didn’t connect.

Cora, her companion Martha and Cora’s odd son Francis go to Essex after Cora’s husband’s death. There Cora meets Will – a happily married parson. And then things get weird between Cora and Will. And Martha and Cora. And Cora and her friend Luke. And basically everyone.

The story lingers in the unspoken. Understated. Lovely and drifting and smooth. Nothing jarred.

I didn’t get sucked in. The story remained academic and distant and pretty. Something soft and abstract. I have been reading some ludicrous, dramatic, heavy-handed nonsense. A recent book was so bad I compared it to “literary MST3K.” I thought my eyes might get stuck rolled back in my head. But say what you will about loathing and mockery – at least they’re a spark – a reaction. In reading this the prevalent thought was “this is pretty” and no stronger emotion was stirred.

All the Linda Howard

I love old school romance! I think it has a depth and intensity all its own. Plus there’s frequently a dissonance – there are cultural, emotional or relationship behaviors that aren’t found today. And sometimes there’s a kindness or sweetness that contemporary books lack – there’s a lack of the modern edge.

Once I read my first Linda Howard I couldn’t stop. I didn’t review them all for the blog because there were so many. But I thought I’d do a quick post listing some of my favorites. I can’t say enough good things about this author. She’s bold, smart, fun and interesting. I think you can pick up any of the books I’ve listed below and find yourself happy and entertained for a few hours.

Mr Perfect – romantic suspense – first published 2000 – 4 sassy friends write a list of traits for the “perfect man” and attract the attention of a psychopath

After The Night – 1995 – a sassy little girl with no money falls in love with the town’s golden boy – Faith grows from an urchin to a capable woman. There’s some whodunit in this one

Dream Man – 2001 – small town librarian makes herself over and accidentally witnesses a murder – she finds her match in a rough former-NY cop. Loved their relationship

Mackenzie’s Mountain – 1989 – a local with hang-ups about his Native American history falls in love with a strong smart teacher. I adored this couple

Cry No More – 2003 – my favorite LH – I have a thing for a strong female character with a mysterious hero – Diaz reminded me of Plum’s Ranger and Milla is so strong, compassionate and realistic. Lots of action. Such a great book

Shadow Woman – 2012 – another favorite because the heroine shines in this one – Lizette begins having odd headaches and memories – it turns out she has some skills that a “normal” staid office worker shouldn’t have – Xavier is great, but this book is Lizzy’s show as she figures out who she really is and what she can do

There are plenty more books by this author, and my favorites aren’t everyone’s favorites. I suggest that you check out Linda Howard because I suspect there’s something in her vast library that’s right for you.