Since my last post, I’ve been giddy with reading possibilities. I picked up one book and set it down, swiped e-reader “cloud” pages, and flitted from book to book like a bee unable to settle on a flower. Now that I was free of my ARC schedule, I was going to read all the things. Except I didn’t. Work was fraught and till about mid-week, I was preoccupied with an important meeting I’d been pulled into. Without my steady ARC reviewing schedule, I was gleeful, but book-fickle.
*big breath* I thought about what I loved about reading, and it turned out to be somewhat like the comments I made in my previous post about being in church and experiencing Paschal services. What I love about it is I get to carry the book around in my head, characters, world, and concerns, while going about my everyday business of work, a sandwich for lunch, and traffic-ridden commutes. The bee-me settled on several flowers; it may not be the way forward, but bee-me is in a happy place. I thought about what worlds I wanted taking up space in my head and what worlds I could anticipate spending time in when I settle on the couch to read, post-workday.
(I persist with MacCulloch’s tome, eking out a few pages every night. I’ve hit his Rome chapter, but haven’t made it anywhere near Christianity proper. Lest we forget, he deems the history of Christianity at 3000 years, not a smidgen over two. Starting with ye olde classical Greeks (he’s right: how can one write about Christianity without considering Plato?), it makes his work massive. But MacCulloch is a long-term reading commitment and near impossible to carry around in my backpack to whip out for a quick peruse while I’m munching my lunch sandwich.)
Whose worlds did I want in my head? What did I have in the TBR that I’d love and had been putting off to the reviewing schedule? What I needed, I decided, was the familiar and beloved. The author worlds most precious; neglected, yet missed.
I settled on C. S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr historical murder mystery. I’d bought the second to last volume, Why Kill the Innocent, with a gift card and had been gazing longingly at its black-and-white cover on my ereader. Harris writes my favourite series. A Regency-set murder mystery series with a compelling, sexy, complex hero, a love between two intelligent equals, secondary characters who match hero and heroine in their compelling complexity, and a world where the weak, vulnerable, and defenseless find justice. I don’t have words to say how immersive I find Harris’s Regency aristo-detective-war-veteran and the world he inhabits. I carry Seb; wife, Hero; friend Paul; reluctant ally Alexi; Cockney tiger Tom; friend, magistrate Lovejoy; and antagonist Jarvis (to say nothing of Seb’s complicated family relationships), and Seb’s adorbs son, Simon, in my head with great contentment. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ll return with my gushy verdict of the series’ latest iteration. It opens in an 1814 London beset by snow and ice, one of the worst winters in memory. It reminded me of the horror of our past winter (April snow storm, folks!). Harris’s novel feels like I’m plunging back into my own snow-and-ice-covered streets. I feel even closer to Seb and Hero for their knee-deep sinking into snow drifts.
I also started a reread of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, largely thanks to a new podcast I discovered: http://shedunnitshow.com, about classic detective stories. Podcaster Caroline Crampton has a soothing voice and great love for and knowledge about the genre and I’d highly recommend it to crime fiction and genre history lovers. I also remembered how classic murder mysteries helped me survive the soul-destroying experience of grad school, so I knew this was comfort-read supreme. I settled on The Unpleasantness At the Bellona Club and am about half way through. Because the universe coincides in amazing ways, Crampton named Sayers’s mystery as one of the ten novels that introduced the Penguin paperback series back in the day, 1935 to be exact! Stay tuned for my thoughts on Bellona and “memento mori”.
For the past year (and it’ll take me years yet), I’ve been working on reading all 134 of Betty Neels’s romances. I read them for my #bathtubromreading hashtag Twitter project, long abandoned. I’m at #26 now and going strong. Over the past week, I finished #25, The End of the Rainbow, and loved it. Heroine Olympia is a poverty-stricken Cinderella-waif at the beck and call of cruel Aunt Maria. She is rescued by widowed Dr. Waldo van der Graaf who offers her an MOC. He comes with a daughter who needs a caretaker. Olympia’s response to Waldo is what I love about Neels: her hero’s and heroine’s integrity. Olympia doesn’t want to give up on love, or enter into a mercenary marriage, but when she sees an opportunity for service, the little girl (and the hero, heroic as ever, does some Aunt Maria arm-twisting, making her an offer she can’t refuse), she accepts. Olympia is an affectionate soul and the care, good manners, and affection Waldo shows her soon bring her to an “I love him” conclusion. Waldo takes longer to reveal his affections. There are two things I loved about The End of the Rainbow: Olympia’s seething, internal rages and the gaslighting, soft-voiced villainess and OW, Elizabeth. I hear over and over again how Neels is a comfort read and she is, for me as well. But we need give her credit that the relief of the HEA often comes at the end of cruelty and manipulation. The subtle portrait of the Machiavellian Elizabeth is brilliant.
(My overdevelopped sense of obligation also picked up a romance from my still-guilting-me-from-afar ARC schedule, Megan Crane’s Sniper’s Pride. I’m not loving it. The heroine is wrong-side-of-tracks interesting, but the hero is one of those aloof, disdainful Iceman types, not my fave. Not sure I want this guy in my head. If he were a grump, maybe, but he’s a block of emotional stiffness. We’ll see how it goes. For now, I’m likely to stick with it because it’s set in Alaska and that’s a setting we don’t see often enough.)
What have you been reading, friends?