Tuesday, June 3, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 58-60

58) That Weekend... by Jennifer McKenzie

A nice, light contemporary romance that won my affection by being set in a big city (Vancouver) and having a character briefly return to his hometown (ANOTHER big city, namely Toronto), only to decide to come back to Vancouver as part of the happy ending. Yay big cities! Yay happiness being found outside of one's hometown! True, I could see the characters' Big Misunderstanding coming a mile away and wanted to scream at them to communicate already, but did I mention BIG CITY? In a contemporary romance?

59) The War in the Peninsula: Some Letters of a Lancashire Officer by Lt. Robert Knowles

This brief volume of letters written home by a British officer serving under Wellington in the Iberian Peninsula from 1811 till his death in battle in 1813 at the young age of 24 was originally published in 1913. The letters themselves aren't especially interesting--if you're looking for primary sources on the Peninsular War, you'd be better off with Harry Smith, Private Wheeler, Rifleman Costello, Wellington's own dispatches, and so on. Lt. Knowles wasn't given to vivid descriptions of his surroundings or the battles he fought in, so the letters are basically, "Dear Dad: Took a minor wound, don't worry about me, tell everyone hi and my brothers and sisters I love them, and, oh, by the way, send money because our pay is still behind." Only in early 19th century English, of course.

No, the most interesting thing about this book is the 1913 framing describing the battles and explaining what took place in between each battle. It's so clearly a document of its time, contrasting with both the mentality of the Napoleonic Era and our own with its fulsome praising of British glory and manhood and its assurances of the valor, honor, and cleverness of the French enemy. It's as if, oh, I dunno, the two nations had become allies in the interim, and everyone could see another war coming and was, like, foolishly spoiling for a fight.

60) His Uptown Girl by Liz Talley

Another big city contemporary romance, this one set in New Orleans. The hero is a musician looking to open a jazz nightclub across the street from the heroine's antique store, and she fears a nightclub will be bad for the classy, secure atmosphere their street has been trying to establish for itself...but that's the least of their conflicts. Both still bear scars from Katrina, and the heroine in particular is burdened with a ton of family baggage from her late husband's demise. A good book on hope and new beginnings.

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