The distance in time from my last review, on April 26th, and today, the eve of a new month, feels like a lifetime. I wrote my Yates review Friday morning and spent that afternoon and evening and the week-end in church, experiencing the magnificent journey of the Eastern Orthodox Pascha. I cannot describe how meditative and profound is the experience, at the same time as it’s joyful and renewing. Every year, these few days are a precious time of juxtaposition to the mundane world of work, taxes, and a city going about its business without consideration of the enclaves of worship occurring in it. I like that feeling of being in a protected space out of time (even while I was aware of how blessed I was, given that miles away, in Sri Lanka, safe spaces were devastated). More than anything, the Holy Week of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection is the privilege of entering into a profound, endlessly-giving Narrative. I always take this time to think about what sustains my spirit, other than, obviously my faith, which I rarely mention on this blog. And will not be making a habit of … but it does connect to my social media Lenten fast and why I write this blog.
Staying off Twitter for a month+, (though still keeping up with my ARC-reviewing blog schedule) helped me realize a few things about why and how I might go in a different direction. Without Twitter’s hurly-burly, I had time to think, to read, even to feel restless, or lonely. (I wrote about what I “learned” from being away from Twitter on Twitter and those who follow me there may read about it.) I did get on top of my reviewing game and that felt great for a while — except when the chase to the release date became more important than the reading enjoyment and writing joy. In truth, writing is an ARGH of frustration, but I still love coming here and letting the thoughts flow. I also like writing about my reading and sharing it with other readers. Being off Twitter, on the other hand, was a whole load of relief at being out of the drama and trauma of American politics and the fraught did-I-say-the-wrong-thing-or-think-the-wrong-thing ethos of Romancelandia.
I took time to soul-search. I came to not terribly complicated, or interesting conclusions. I’ve met wonderful people on Twitter, whom I care about and who care about me, so I’m back on, but I have set my account to private. I only made it public in an attempt to reach more of an audience for my blog reviews; in other words, pure vanity and competition. But setting it at private, I can curate my followers (there aren’t many) and enjoy posting and saying as I please. I also love writing this blog and, knowing there are people who enjoy reading it, I want to continue. (May 13th, btw, is my blogoversery, six years strong for MissB!) What I don’t want to do is review ARC after ARC after ARC (I still have tons in the TBR, so you’ll still read about them here for a while). I do A LOT of reading outside what I review here and yet never write about it. I’d like to do that. For example, did you know that I’ve set out to read every Betty Neels ever pubbed? Or that I’m reading, slowly, relishing every word, Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years? It’s a brick and it’ll take me years to finish, but it’s brilliant and written in a prose of such profound simplicity and clarity that I find myself glued to its pages. I’ve always found the question of which author would you like to dine with hokey. But I admit I’d love to have dinner with MacCulloch. I’m also rereading Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries with an eye to where I can find hints of her Christian faith and perspective. I have a summer reading plan to — FINALLY — read Marilynne Robinson. The Women’s Prize nominees announced, though I don’t read much litfit any more, I do have an ARC of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls knocking about, her Ghost Road trilogy being three of my favourite linked novels.
But I’ll also never NOT read romance. It’s too soul-sustaining to me. Sometimes I’m bored and restless with it, but I always come back and miss it when I don’t have a title going. In between church services this week-end, I read Michelle Douglas’s Miss Prim’s Greek Island Fling, a charming category romance in the vein of Jessica Hart, or Liz Fielding at their best. Miss Prim is Audra Russel, who is recovering from a traumatic break-up with her ex-fiancé, at her brother’s Greek island villa. In walks her brother’s best friend, daredevil adventurer and modern rake, Finn Sullivan. Finn too is at the villa to recover, from an accident he sustained while harrying off on a dangerous adventure. His body has taken a beating and his spirit questions if he should keep living this way. Finn and Audra are so hurt and yet, so kind and funny. While resisting their love and attraction (horrors, what will Rupert, Audra’s older bro and Finn’s BF, think if he comes on to Rupert’s heartbroken baby sister? How can handsome-extraordinaire, commitment-phobe Finn ever consider marriage and babies?), Finn and Audra strike a deal to challenge each other with favorite activities unappealing to the other (secretly intent on making the deal the “cover-up” to their true motivation: to take care of the other, to ensure they heal in body and spirit).
Douglas’s pen soars with banter, humour, and tenderness as Audra gets restless Finn to enjoy books, walks, and Greek-harbor dinners, even while Finn gets fragile Audra to take joy in her food and in her body with jogs and swims. The binder: Finn and Audra’s sparring humour, affection, and tenderness. The brokenness and wounds sustained in life’s losses and battles find healing and renewal in shared fun and rediscovered purpose. I adored Audra’s Miss Prim to Finn’s Mr. Hothead. If you want to spend a few hours with two worthy opponents and heart-wrenching near-lovers (this romance is confined to glorious, passionate kisses that surprise and delight hero and heroine with the depth of their desire for the other), then Douglas’s romance is for you. It was certainly for me, my spirit companion Miss Austen, and doppelganger Miss Bates.
Till next time, my friends, when I return with more of what the days held in store for me and what I’ve been reading and responding to. Hope you have sustaining books on your reader, in your ears, or between your hands. What have you been reading and thinking about?
(Please note that I received a copy of Douglas’s Miss Prim’s Greek Island Fling from the author. It’s published by Harlequin Books and released today, May 1st.)