historicals (w/ and w/o murders)

Rounding up the last few weeks of books…


Scandal Above StairsJennifer Ashley == I’m totally in this series for the food, which remains glorious. It makes me want to go find a bad scan of a Mrs. Beeton and start mucking around with converting recipes. All the good/fun characters are back, and a few new ones introduced. There was a mystery and it was suitably convoluted. There was a little bit of peril and I think I approve of the slowly-blooming secondary romance/friendship. Maybe we found out a little too much about Daniel here? Or maybe not. Maybe I’m jumping the gun.

An Extraordinary UnionAlyssa Cole == Holy crap, that was the most nerve-wracking romance I’ve read in a long time. Most romance writers don’t tackle scenarios where their main characters can’t really even be seen speaking to each other without calling down horrible consequences from the society around them. Ms. Cole starts there and keeps right on escalating. She navigates one tricky situation after another, always making sure we, the readers, are crystal clear on just how high the personal stakes are to the characters and how much they were willing to gamble, not just for each other, but for their beliefs and morals. It makes the love Elle and Malcolm find that much deeper and richer, and the ending that much more satisfying. Also, note that this is not a fade-to-black romance and that characters are in mortal peril.

Why Kill the InnocentC. S. Harris == Thirteen books is a long time to keep a series and its characters fresh, but I’m pretty sure I liked this one more than the first few. The glory here is in the historical details and I love how Ms. Harris weaves the notable figures of the Regency into the overall mysteries. She always works with the actual events of the time to set the stage, and this particular story has ties to Princess Charlotte, there are secrets, feuds (the Prince and Princess of Wales loathed each other), petty jealousies writ large (again with Prinny), and betrayals that could ruin the kingdom. At the same time, she makes everyone human and, especially in this book, lays out the less-than-even hand women had to deal with, in the arts, in politics, and in legal matters. (I also really love the Afterword for each book where there’s an extra dollop of the history surrounding Sebastian and his circle.

2018 DragonCon

Weird year, this year…

It felt a lot less crazy for some reason. Less crowded, though they were on track to match 2017’s record-setting attendance. I missed Thursday and most of Friday because of work and the ongoing saga with the replacement refrigerator (though that one looks to be finally at an end, thank all applicable deities.

I did get down in time to grab dinner with the extended clan on Friday and make it to the first of my Space track panels, the one on Tabby’s Star, hosted by @tsboyajian herself. OldestBoy and #2Son joined me, though Oldest did not quite figure out who was speaking until someone asked her how it felt to talk about a star with her name.

As far as the oddities of the star itself: dust. But dust that doesn’t really behave like dust, so… magical faerie dust? Not a bad start to a DC weekend, yeah?

We’re still in the hotel that’s on the parade path, so we made our way downstairs on Saturday morning and wandered out under the tree (v. v. important for Atlanta in August: shade.) We met up with a few other hotel residents who we only see at the parade, which always makes it feel more like the DC of olde, instead of the 70K+ behemoth of today.

I did have a small freakout at Artists’ Alley when I turned down a row and came face-to-face with Gail Simone. I literally squeaked at #2Son and had to go around a corner and remember how to breathe. (I did manage to get my act together and chat with her later, but boy, that was A Thing there at first.)

In the rush to get out of the house, I ended up leaving my wallet on the table by the door, so #2Son was my banker with the dealers and artists and writers. Possibly, the word I should be using is ‘enabler’ because we, uh, bought a lot.

We had fun.

I’ll keep you posted about actual framing and hanging, though…

more book recs and some pop culture babble

Ok, we are in the crunch period to the Royal Wedding Shenanigans (someone in my twitter feed shared the news that Eugenie & her dude have moved into another one of the cottages at KP, which makes everyone neighbors), the boys are making me crazy, and I need to go review some API doc with several non-native English speakers, so here, have the thing that has been keeping me sane recently some more Modern Royals recs:

A Princess In Theory, Alyssa Cole, might have the Best Premise Ever: Our Heroine, a grad student/former foster child on a shoestring budget, keeps getting these irritating emails about how she’s the Betrothed of the Crown Prince of Thesolo in Africa. Our Naledi, being a smart girl, ignores the spam. Except… it’s not spam. 😀 So, yeah, super-fun premise; super-gorgeous cover; fun, mostly fluffy, plot, seasoned judiciously with a little reality, angst and villains, requisite HEA ending. Prince Thabiso is a little oblivious to his privilege but not outrageously so; his right-hand-woman is awesomely cool (I hope she gets a sequel); and Naledi, the heroine, is a little vulnerable under her strength. All very good stuff with maybe a little bit of a rushed ending, but still, super-fun to read.

Royally Matched, Emma Chase, sequel to Royally Screwed, which I also liked, though I will say, the men of this family (the hero is RS’s hero’s brother) are about as far down the jackass line as I want to go. They (mostly) make up for it and get better, so there’s that.

The Princess Trap, Talia Hibbert – I feel like this one should come with content warning for abusive relationships, because, holy crap, does the prince in question come from one seriously bad, bad, bad family situation. He’s mostly still a functioning adult, but he comes with a lot of baggage and ends up dragging the heroine into it all. She’s pretty awesome, though. There should probably also be a smut warning, because there’s lots of (well-written and just a little on the kinky side) sex.

Royals, Rachel Hawkins, is out today and I am waiting for the d/l from the library, but I’m giving it a shout-out because RH’s #sexyhistory twitter threads have kept me going on more than one long, gray Tuesday. I’m waiting patiently for the whole War of the Roses thread, which will probably take weeks and weeks. (Today’s thread seems to be Queens Mary and Anne and their less than heteronormative emotional lives and the tangles in which Srs Historians tangle themselves to not admit said less-than-heteronormativity.)

Previous list here

And finally, a podcast: When Meghan Met Harry, which has been updating weekly since the beginning of the year, covering every wedding rumor, related event, and marginal possibility. If you only want to listen a little, grab last week’s ep with Tan from the new Queer Eye as special guest.

And speaking of, I am loving the new incarnation of Queer Eye, especially since they’re running around the ATL, *double* especially when they take their fabulous selves out into the wilds of OTP (Outside the Perimeter, aka, Red Country.) I don’t think there’s been an episode yet where I haven’t cried.

Also. Holy sh*t, I had ZERO inclination to see Venom, and the first teaser trailer did nothing for me, but then the second trailer dropped and TH (IN WELL-FITTING JEANS) came striding onto my youtube with his whole face visible (and scruffy, killmenow) and this is clearly a lost cause.

Alsoalso, I was going to write up my reactions to Infinity War, but I think they can be summed up as… (definitely spoilers) …

Continue reading more book recs and some pop culture babble

still moving on

I’m missing Mom today… I would have loved to have watched Jesus Christ Superstar with her over the phone last night. She’d have probably read through the first act, but she’d have been so there for Superstar (and Alice/King Herod!) She loved John Legend — there couldn’t have been many 80 year old, Italian Catholic widows who could have said that, but she was so excited when he won the Oscar.

I always have to remind myself that she fought a long time and went very peacefully in the end, but of course I ended up calling and sniffling/crying in my brother’s ear. For being a grumpy engineering/construction estimator (aka, more fond of numbers than feeeeelings), he took it pretty well, I thought (ie, he didn’t hang up on me.)

Other things happening…

We had a giant Indian street food luncheon at the office last week. I brought baked ziti, for the people who don’t do Indian. I mention this only because I got asked for the recipe from three different Indian engineers, so I thought I’d post it here, as well: The Food Lab’s No-Boil Baked Ziti. I’ll note that I used 2 jars of Paul Newman’s Tomato & Basil sauce + a small can of whole tomatoes that I squished into the pot to make the sauce. I’m not opposed to making sauce from scratch, but not when I’m starting the process at 5:30 a.m.

It’s a new quarter, so I’m starting a fresh page in my semi-bullet journal, copying over all the not-done items and seeing what else there is to deal with. My fun goal is to update my modern-day royal romance rec list in time for The Wedding. (Someone else might as well get something out of this thing I have for Harry & Meghan.) The non-fun, but still mandatory goal is to get the damn taxes done without an extension. I might even go wild and sort out my shoes so I can find pairs that are not boots since the weather might stop teasing and actually keep the spring-type options going. (My sympathies to everyone who woke up to snow this morning. I remember those days, when I had to wear boots and an overcoat with my frilly (mom-selected, but that goes without saying, right?) Easter dresses. This is why I put up with sugar in my iced tea now, jsyk.)

collecting my royal valium

So, I was going to start this post off with your usual week-after-Thanksgiving round-up of food, shopping, and my status in various writing challenges**, but then my twitter feed exploded in a shower of sparkles about the Royal Engagement and I decided to join them. (My usual skim of reputable news outlets and the utterly grim headlines contained therein may or may not have contributed to this decision.)

As many of you know, I do love me a good Royal&Not romance, so in the spirit of the day (and to keep me from pulling out any more of my hair over the rest of reality), here are a few of my favorites (and one that annoyed me to the point of going off on a GR rant, just as a warning):

A Queen From The North, Erin McRea & Racheline Maltese == Technically, Our Heroine is not a commoner, but the British alt-history backstory gives enough of a hurdle for Our Couple to overcome w/o the extra class distance. Bonus points for making a contemporary marriage-of-convenience plot point work. (Extra bonus points for a diverse supporting cast.)

Royally Screwed, Emma Chase == American working-class girl, playboy Prince of (Not-Quite-Wales). He butted right up against too-oblivious/arrogant-to-live, but hey, he made her happy and he came through in the end, so I’m good. (There are a couple of sequels that I haven’t gotten around to yet, but I liked this one enough that I’d be willing to give them a go.)

The Royal We, Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (aka, the gofug girls) == If you haven’t already, today would be the day to read this particular story of the Prince of Wales and his [American] college sweetheart (and her party-loving sister & his semi-feckless but secretly tragic brother.) Happily enough, it’s a kindle deal-of-the-day today. Somebody’s marketing team just won the RL Events jackpot.

To Marry a Prince, Sophie Page == This one is sweet and a little mellow, with an alternate history and line of succession that changes reality just enough to make it not!Wills&Kate-ish.

A Royal Pain, Megan Mulry == This is the one that aggravated me to no end. I should have stopped reading it 20 pages in, but I think it was the only book handy and by the time I was really annoyed, I finished it out of spite. It’s the first of a series, though, so clearly I was in the minority. YMMV.

I am waiting semi-patiently for Alyssa Cole’s A Princess In Theory, which comes out at the end of February, in which a nice, smart American girl keeps deleting all those emails about how she’s secretly betrothed to an African prince… Today seems like an excellent day to pre-order.

Plz, feel free to drop in any titles you might like to recommend.

**Answers to the mundane updates: I will have to type up the cauliflower-cheese casserole I made b/c it isn’t online, but omg, it is *so* freaking good; scored a new Lucky purse for me, socks for the boys; got some kind of a plague so my not-great-but-still-cranking-out-words writing more-or-less collapsed, 😦