A Gem Of a Category Romance, and a Few Changes to Miss Bates Reads Romance

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.

Miss_Prim_Greek_Island_FlingBut 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.)

21 thoughts on “A Gem Of a Category Romance, and a Few Changes to Miss Bates Reads Romance

  1. My reading of the MacCulloch has stalled, but I really should get back to it. I am always here for your thoughts on whatever you are reading, romance or not, and it matters not a jot to me whether they are reviews of hot new books or long-since-published gems. But I missed you on twitter, so I’m glad you are not leaving us forever there.

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    • Oh, I can’t really say I’m making any great MacCulloch inroads either. Usually, it’s a few pages before sleep, but I’m in awe of his smooth prose and erudition. I’ve only made it as far as Rome, so barely a dent. But I will persist … and maybe this is the best way of savouring this HUGE, comprehensive book.

      I missed you all so much more than I thought: it was your faces and presence that stood out for me, so at least, it crystallized for me why I want to continue to be there. But also how I want to engage.

      As for the reviews: that was all on me and my “good girl seeks approval” fallback. The key is to stay off Netgalley and Edelweiss+ and live in blissful ignorance of new titles. And to continue to read as I did during Lent, enjoying a mix of genres.

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  2. Betty Neels sustained me through my angst-ridden teen years in the 1980s. I have read all of them, and still go on a quick binge of re-reading my favorites every few years. Love Sayers! And I’ve tried Marilynne Robinson twice, but haven’t felt passionate about her. Really enjoying your blog 🙂

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    • Oh, thank you! I must say I’m loving my Neels reading and I can see why I’d want to reread favourites in the future. As for Sayers, I’d read her over 20 years ago and have forgotten the plots, but also her marvelous prose. Rediscovering that, and her sly humour, has been marvelous. I had the same response to Robinson, but I heard two talks she gave on Calvin and I was blown away by her mind, decided to try her again.

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  3. I’m getting my spiritual reading in small doses. I am slowly (1 book a month) re-reading Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael mysteries. The mystery part of the book is always interesting, but Peters’ best prose is reserved for touching on the spiritual life of the Abbey’s monks. Exquisite and very moving. Peters doesn’t belabor her message, nor does she preach (thank goodness); I always come away with food for thought and a feeling of peace.

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    • I ADORE the Brother Cadfael books and have reordered and hoarded on my shelf Cadfael #1 to 10. I think this is a great idea, I might follow your lead after my Sayers read.

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  4. I’m so glad you’re taken steps to make yourself feel better about social media and reviewing.

    BTW, my husband is actively working creating on a romance server for us. I really want to get away from twitter.

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  5. I am so glad that you have returned to Twitter, even in a constrained way. I too have taken a huge step away from the platform for similar reasons.

    However, I think you are are being too harsh on yourself when you write “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.” I don’t dismiss your self-reflection, but as a friend who met you through your attempts “to reach an audience”, at no point did I ever feel there was a vanity underpinning it. I think seeking an audience has complex and muddled motivations. Sure, there might be vanity in there, but as your reader/friend/audience, I felt that you had this enormous understanding of romance fiction as literature, and due to the lack of other voices that engaged in a serious contemplation of the literature on a public platform (rather than a scholarly one or a funtimes or raunchy or dare-I-say-it shallow platform), I saw you reflecting your love, knowledge, religiosity and deep consideration for the genre for all of us to share and understand. Reaching out to share your perceptions with readers is not only vanity. If you had stayed on a private account when you started, I would never have had the benefit of your deep wisdom and insight into the books we read, and even worse – we would never have become friends!!!!

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    • It’s absolutely true, and what my Twitter hiatus helped me conclude: the BESTEST thing ever about my blog, or Twitter for that matter, is the friends I’ve made. It’s what brought me back and what will keep MissB going.

      As for my vanity, I agree with you. I loved writing my blog initially for those very reasons. But lost them along the way. Well, there was a bit of vanity. I CAN be quite vain … 😉 As we said elsewhere, my Orthodoxy helps keep that in check and that is a wonderful thing. I want to get some of that love and religiosity back and read b/c of how they books make me feel and think. I want to write passionately about them again. Not adhere to any schedule or feel as if I have to “keep up” or may be “missing out” … I think THIS is social media’s most pernicious aspect. As I said to Willa, I go on Twitter and find I have nothing to say, esp. since I’ve banned myself from retweeting. Or responding to politics, or jumping into rom ARC discussions. Um, that doesn’t leave me with much, does it???!!! LOL! I’m a ghost of my former Twitter self.

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      • Adhering to a schedule is difficult especially when your other commitments are so important. I look forward to seeing how your blog will change. Mine has had several iterations and each one has taught me a lot about myself, my reading and my writing. I am sure that we will see your reading passions re-emerge. 🙂

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  6. This post is beautiful and it speaks to me on several levels. It is . . . less lonely to know that others whose taste and words I admire also struggle with and reflect upon writing, faith, blogging, and social media in the same ways I do.

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    • That means a lot to me. I have struggled, with a diffuseness in the genre, with a certain tiredness that had set in for me. It felt rote. And I didn’t think I was doing what I’d set out to do. I’d lost my blogging and reading way, even while there were many wonderful books I read and enjoyed, like the Dev I prematurely reviewed (sorry about that!). It’s less lonely to know there are kindred spirits who also question their place in this strange world of online life and identity.

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  7. I am nodding my head at all of what you’ve written, Miss B, and I’m so glad to hear you’re finding a way to work through what does and doesn’t make you happy online. Your blog and your tweets have always displayed great integrity, so like Shallowreader, I’ve never seen your vanity at work, but I think I know what you mean.

    I have had a similar feeling over the years when I’ve paid attention to whether my posts and reviews have been read or commented on. It’s human to want attention and praise! But not worrying about that is freeing, and in my recent blogging I’ve found that I enjoy the comments more when I’m not second-guessing myself when there are fewer. Everyone is busy, everyone is giving as much time as they can, and I am learning to be mindful that what matters is that I am contributing to a community I care about and getting to express myself.

    Even though I don’t read as much romance these days, I still read some, and I faithfully read other people’s reviews and comments about romance novels. I read your reviews whether I plan to read the book or not, because the reviews themselves are worthwhile. Speaking of which, my library hold on that Liz Fielding you reviewed just came in and I’m really looking forward to it.

    Happy Anniversary!

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    • You’re right, Sunita, no one likes to blog/tweet into the void; it is lovely to get a response and the online world is so NOT face to face that it’s hard to remember there are friends reading when they can and commenting when they can too. I think you thought about the whole blog/tweet thing too and made some wise and interesting choices about where you would engage, or not. I’m glad to see you blogging again and I don’t care whether you write about litfic, or romance, or your weakness for a great pen ;-), I love that you’re here and that I get to read your thoughts.

      As for my vanity: well, I had to take a good, long hard “look” at myself when the noise of Twitter was silenced and I can honestly say it’s me, not you, Twitter, blog, or ARC. I think Vassiliki said it best when she said I started to write b/c I wanted to share my love of reading and the romance genre in particular with readers. I want to continue to do that. It can’t be what it was six years ago and, like you, I’m ready to read “other stuff” than romance, though I’ll always still read the genre. As I do and always did crime fiction.

      Thank you for reading my reviews for their own sake: that means the world to me. And I did have sad moments of Sunita has abandoned us, but I tried to understand why you may have needed the time away. Glad you’re back!

      Oh, the Fielding is so gently lovely, no one writes gardens better! Douglas’s Miss Prim very much reminded me of Fielding. When you’re ready for another gentle, intelligent romance in the same vein, I’d recommend that one to you.

      Many years to you and your blog too!

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  8. It’s so wonderful to read your reviews, which give due credit to even the most lightweight of category romances, and the pleasure they bring us. Re: Betty Neels, I have bookmarked The Uncrushable Jersey Dress blog, but so far have had scant opportunity to delve into the reviews there. I read a Neels book recently which did something unheard of for her; she was writing from the male POV! It really struck me, because usually her heroes are a black box.

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    • Thank you, that means so much to me. In a way, I’m reminded why I started Miss Bates to begin with: to give voice to a genre I thought was dismissed too often. I don’t think much has changed, though bigger venues than mine have given a nod here and there.

      A hero POV in a Neels romance? I’ve yet to read one!!!! I’ll come across it in my Epic Betty Read, I’m sure. Thank you for reading MissB! 🙂

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