Miss Bates’s 2020 Year-End “Review”

Sky_Dec_31_2020Dear readers and friends, if there’s one quotation that ran through my mind this annus horribilis, it’s Fitzgerald’s, “It occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence, or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well” (The Great Gatsby). And we have lived it every single day since March, when the subtle rumbling of the covid avalanche came to our attention. Then, lockdown … and a strange, united elation of singing from balconies and applauding health care workers and a kind of strange peace for those of us staying home that took the form of bread-baking and staring out windows. And, what I thought would be “reading time”, despite WFH. It wasn’t. Not the reading time part: instead a length of days, lost, in dream and lethargy. Of the books I did read, few stood out. Here they are.

MISS B’S BOOK OF 2020: I had one memorable book this year and it wasn’t a romance. My book of the year is Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing.

I’ve long loved Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne contemporary mystery series and with, at long last, a new release, I caught up with the series and loved them all: One Was A Soldier, Through the Evil Days, and the latest, Hid From Our Eyes. I discovered Anne Cleeves and loved The Long Call (sad to hear it’s only a two-book series). 

I discovered a new author in Allison Montclair and am now committed to yet another historical mystery series (the first one, thus far, was the best), The Right Sort of Man. I also started, mid-way, Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford and Sloane Regency-set series, loved #3, Murder At Kensington Palace. I started a new series with its début, Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, and would highly recommend Tessa Arlen’s A Woman of World War II series. Another beloved series had a superb addition this year, not only because my favourite historical-mystery-sleuths finally consummated their relationship and it was, of course, Deanna Raybourn’s A Murderous Relation. C. S. Harris’s latest St. Cyr historical mystery proves yet again that her books only get better and deeper and I loved Who Speaks for the Damned.

I didn’t read much historical romance, but I did find a few gems, including some a new-to-me author, Sarah M. Eden’s The Lady and the Highwayman. I also loved Julie Anne Long’s Angel In a Devil’s Arms.

MISS B’S HISTORICAL ROMANCE OF THE YEAR Netflix’s adaption of Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I, though I’ve never been a Quinn fan. There’s something near-sneering in her romance ‘tude and treatment. I loved the adaptation of what I’ve always thought a mediocre historical romance. Though the series overdid the Lady Thistledown element and spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME on the Featherington narrative (except for Penelope, she was wonderful … unlike Eloise, who was strident and annoying), the leads, “Daphne” and “Simon,” were sexy as heck and most likeable. They beautifully encompassed several favourite romance tropes: the banter of I-don’t-like-you-but-I-may-love-you, friends-to-lovers, and marriage-in-trouble before it even began. As always, romance does wonderful work of making communication, physical and verbal, the vital element to achieving an HEA. Everything else is tumult and struggle and hurt. Daphne and Simon hurt each other in so many ways that it makes their love for each other reach the pinnacle of what romance is truly about, caring for the other person, flaws, foibles, and fancies. My favourite character, other than Penelope, was Jonathan Bailey’s Anthony Bridgerton. He had the best hair, pulled off that most odious of facial enhancements, side-burns, and imbued Anthony with a struggle between privileged, sulky immaturity  and the ill-sitting mantle of responsibility and duty.

I tend to read more contemporary than historical romance. This year, again, not many stood out, but I did much enjoy a long-established writer who is totally-new-to-me, Meg Cabot’s No Judgments. I also continued my reading of Lucy Gilmore’s Forever Home series and found a diamond in Puppy Christmas. Another new-to-me author I loved was Angelina M. Lopez’s Lush Money. Only one romance competed with Lucy Parker’s (see below), Mia Sosa’s hilarious The Worst Best Man.

This was the year the HP and I parted ways, except for one terrific read in Dani Collins’s Cinderella’s Royal Seduction. I read only one lovely category romance, Michelle Douglas’s Redemption of the Maverick Millionaire.

I also used to read more romantic suspense; only one novel stood out in terrific-ness, Adriana Anders’s Whiteout.

MISS B’S CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE OF THE YEAR I adored and will continue to adore Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series, but this year’s #5 may be my favourite (were it not for the wonderfulness of The Austen Playbook, argh), Headliners. I may have to waver and let reading dust settle before I determine a definitive favourite. After all, Charlie’s book is coming!

One 2020 highlight for Miss B was her Sunday Afternoon/Evening Romance Book Club on Twitter, with Ros Clarke, Keira Soleore, and Mary Lynne Nielsen. Thus far, we read and debated the merits of Cecilia Grant’s “A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong” and A Lady Awakened, Lucy Parker’s Act Like It, and Mary Balogh’s A Christmas Promise. We’ve taken a hiatus for the holidays, but join us, or lurk to your heart’s content, starting January 10th, when we begin discussion of Kate Clayborn’s Beginner’s Luck.

Wishing you and yours, and the entire world, a better 2021!

23 thoughts on “Miss Bates’s 2020 Year-End “Review”

  1. Oh, I just love Beginner’s Luck and in fact only just reread it, so maybe I’ll join in your discussion when it starts.

    Overall, this actually seems like a pretty good year of reading! We have Say Nothing in common as a favorite (you were one of those who first put it on my radar), and your reviews have made me add Alison Montclair to my ‘watch’ list though I haven’t yet picked one up.

    Thanks for all the reviews and also the Twitter conversations during this strange and memorable year. It has certainly made the importance of my ‘virtual’ friends clearer than ever!

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    1. Aw, thank you! For reading and caring so much about teaching and books. It’s encouraging and inspiring.

      Oh, we’d LOVE if you joined us! I’ll be reading it for the first time, so my impressions will be “raw”. But I do like Clayborn a lot. Oh, the Montclair is so lovely. I think you’ll really enjoy it.

      It has been one heck of a strange, surreal, difficult year, and I agree, makes virtual friends a LIFE-LINE.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your reviews during what has been a difficult year for all of us, where ever we are based. I have found some wonderful new to me authors based on your reviews, and am looking forward to discovering many more. If only I had time to read on the books in my TBR list.

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    1. You’re most welcome; thank you for reading MissB. And may I wish you and yours the best of the new year: good health, good friends, and an ever-diminishing, all-the-more-reason-to-replenish TBR!

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  3. You mentioned a lot of my faves. Lucy Parker rules !!! Veronica Speedwell & Revelstoke finally fall into bed & stay there. But, I agree with you about Say Nothing – it stayed with me a long time after I finished it. I love Kate Clayburns books, the trilogy & Love Lettering.

    Happy New Year (2021 can only get better)

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    1. And a happy new year to you and yours! Thank you for reading Miss B.

      Your Veronica-Stoker comment made me laugh so. I can’t wait to read their next adventure/continued bedding!

      Say Nothing, again I agree, is a book that resonates. I’m so glad readers found their way to it.

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    1. Once we decided to do it, it came to naturally and made the week so much better, even when things were dark and I didn’t even feel like reading. I read b/c I wanted to be with you guys.

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  4. Despite the stress of the year, you’ve had a good reading year. I’m so glad to be part of the book club with you, Ros, Mary Lynne, and others. Our Sunday club meetings really frame the reading week for me.

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    1. I think it was pretty good through the summer, but the fall, with school onsite-offsite and endless Zoom meetings, put the damper in my reading. Looking forward to the 10th!

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  5. Thank you for all the great reviews and general commentary! Our tastes are pretty close, and although I haven’t read all the books on your list, the ones I did read I am in agreement with. I haven’t gotten past the first Veronica Speedwell or Wrexford & Sloane books, but I am all caught up on C.S. Harris. I also loved Whiteout and Allison Montclair, and I am thoroughly enjoying Bridgerton on Netflix. I also got hooked on Anna Lee Huber’s post-World War I historical mystery series, the Verity Kent books. I like them even better than her Lady Darby series. I can’t say much about them because there is a big surprise twist in the first book, so it has to be read first for the following books to make sense.

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    1. And I forgot to mention, one of my most memorable books of the year was “Simon the Fiddler” by Paulette Jiles. It’s classified as historical fiction, not romance, but happily there is an HEA.

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    2. Thank you for being my reading twin and all the lovely comments!!!

      I just got the first Verity Kent book on Kindle sale, so I’m looking forward to it AND I got the Lady Darby for my birthday from a dear friend!!!

      Hoping 2021 brings us more great books and good health!

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  6. I barely read anything this year so I am in awe that you still managed to retain the capacity to both read and review. I parted from HP in the past 2 years too and I feel I need to find a way back to them as I still consider them to be the most perfect story form. Also, to date, I have watched 5/8 of Bridgerton and I am thoroughly enjoying it but not yet thinking deeply about it beyound “oooohhh pretty”.

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    1. Oh, thank you! B/c this was my least-writing year of all. Only 64 reviews where I usually write about 80+. OTOH, what’s super-strange is my little blog, in decline for year, has seen a little uptick in reader visits. I think it’s the lockdowns, people are more likely to check stuff out they once went to regularly. In any case, it’s nice to be read!

      Bridgerton: the more I think about it, the more I have to say … but I’ll await till you’re done.

      Happy new year and chronia polla!

      Liked by 1 person

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