Tag: Rural Setting

REVIEW: Grace Livingston Hill’s THE SUBSTITUTE GUEST, Or “Pilgrim and Stranger Man”

TheSubstituteGuestTo appreciate Livingston Hill’s 1936 The Substitute Guest, one must read it as an artefact. Thus did Miss Bates and was equally fascinated and horrified; the experience was akin to looking at a train wreck, wanting to look away yet unable to. To the general romance reader, this author will have little appeal. To the historian and critic of the romance genre, she is of consequence. To the reader of inspirational romance, she may prove engrossing, if your tastes run to heavy-handed religious content, religious conversions that rival a non-inspirational’s heightened love-scene diction, and characters reminiscent of 1930s Hollywood melodrama. To the women’s studies scholar, this will provide a spellbinding picture of the idealized fantasies of the thousands of women who read Hill. For Miss Bates, reading her was like reading an evangelical Betty Neels, though Neels is, by far, the better writer. (Miss Bates would add that both have a penchant for writing good food descriptions … and in 1936, at the height of the Depression, this too may have been a fantasy for some readers.) Hill’s narrative (and she wrote over a hundred) is the epitome of all things being well that end well. This is not truer anywhere, Hill asserts, than in her vision of the Christian narrative as reflecting her time, place, and concerns. Continue reading for Miss Bates’s commentary on this iconic writer of inspirational romance

REVIEW: Miranda Neville’s THE RUIN OF A ROGUE, Or Honour For a Thief

The Ruin Of A RogueMiranda Neville’s latest, The Ruin Of A Rogue, second in the Georgian-set series that opened with the disappointing Importance of Being Wicked, was, contrariwise, delightful. Along with Grant’s A Woman Entangled, it is one of the best historical romances Miss Bates read this year. What a relief it was for her, after some recent duds, to sink into the replete reader immersion that a romance well-told and well-felt brings. Neville’s novel is adeptly written, witty, poignant, and utterly charming, as are her rogue and his beloved, Marcus Lithgow and Anne Brotherton. If you’ve read the less successful Importance, you’ll recall the scoundrel who indulged in certain shenanigans concerning the heroine’s, Caro’s, Titian and her geek heiress-cousin with the obsessive interest in antiquities. If you haven’t read Importance, you need not read it to enjoy this romance, though mysteries set up in the first are resolved in the second. Read on, for the whys and wherefores you should read this historical romance

REVIEW: Mary Jo Putney’s SOMETIMES A ROGUE, Runner, Aristo …

Sometimes A RogueUntil she read Sometimes A Rogue, Miss Bates’s only Putney novel was The Bargain, a revised version of the 1989 Would-Be Widow. It had a great premise, great first third or so … then, it all went to hell in a hand-basket. Sometimes A Rogue has its “problems,” i.e., the unique position of being peculiar and soporific. Much of it was … yes, boring. It comprises three, consecutive, not-well-executed narratives: with the same hero and heroine in strange mutations of their personalities over three contortions of the plot in one of the flattest-toned romance novels Miss Bates has ever read. Whew. More often than not, Sometimes A Rogue felt like Putney was assiduously following an outline, sketching in every scene: novel by fill-in-the-blanks, paint-by-number. Miss Bates had the same question at the end of Putney’s latest as she’d had at the end of one of her earliest: what happened here? Why did everything go so wrong in a book that had a modicum of potential? Read on; Miss Bates tries for droll

REVIEW: Julia London’s HOMECOMING RANCH, Or “Where They Have To Take You In”

Homecoming RanchIn Robert Frost’s poem, “The Death of the Hired Man,” a wife convinces her husband to allow their former “hired man” to stay with them, though he’s “ditched” them in the past and can’t work as he once did. She argues that home is “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Their farm is the only place he’s ever been valued, or felt useful.

Julia London’s contemporary romance, Homecoming Ranch, is centered around the idea that one comes home when one recognizes home not only as a place of blood ties, but belonging. The hero and heroine answer the questions: “Where do I belong? Where am I needed? What is important?” Their HEA is not a narrow world of two, but extended family, community, and nature. Don’t mistake London’s Homecoming Ranch, however, as a story sombre and serious; Miss Bates spent four hours non-stop reading this novel … alternating between snorty guffaws and sniffy sobs. This novel fulfilled that most difficult of tasks in the romance writing world, to create a beautifully written story that is highly entertaining, deeply moving, and utterly believable. Continue reading for more of Miss Bates’s thoughts

MINI-REVIEW: Amanda Flower’s A PLAIN SCANDAL, and Wherein A Little Malaise Sets In

A Plain ScandalLong before Miss Bates was ever a spinster, she read all the Pippi Longstocking books she could get her hands on. It was with a nostalgic smile that she read Chief Greta Rose’s assessment of our romance heroine and amateur sleuth, Chloe Humphrey, in Amanda Flower’s first Appleseed Creek cozy mystery, A Plain Death, “You’re like the Pippi Longstocking version of Nancy Drew.” Our red-haired geek girl and wanna-be detective continues to eavesdrop, interview, investigate, and fight for truth, justice, and the Amish way in Flower’s second cozy mystery, A Plain Scandal. In this case, she’s in pursuit of the culprit who is cutting off the beards of Amish men and Amish girls’ long hair … until these nasty shenanigans turn to murder, the murder of a successful young Amish man, Ezekiel Young. Continue reading for a rare look at a surprisingly succinct Miss Bates

REVIEW: “And Now For Something Completely Different,” Amanda Flower’s A PLAIN DEATH

A Plain DeathFor some time now, Miss Bates had a hankering to read outside of her contemporary and historical romance comfort zone. She wanted to read an Amish-set romance, but didn’t know enough about the sub-genre to select an author or title. She’d read about Amanda Flower’s Appleseed Creek series in USA Today and thought this might be her gentled way in, thought she’d pay a call and linger for a spot of tea. Miss Bates is leery of the cozy mystery’s cuteness and catness, having consumed tons of these before embracing romance wholeheartedly. Once assured that there was a strong romantic element woven into the who-done-it, she gave Flower’s first Appleseed Creek, Amish-set, inspirational, cozy mystery a try. With some misgivings aside, smack, smack, like trying a new food, she uttered, “me like”. Continue reading about Miss Bates’s foray into Amish country

A REVIEWish Reading of Carla Kelly’s SUMMER CAMPAIGN, or The Hero-Suitor as Grand Strategist

Summer CampaignWhen Miss Bates rediscovered romance and dipped into various authors to determine who would suit for long-term relationships, she resolved to read certain authors’ oeuvres because she enjoyed, appreciated, or found the initial sampling thought-provoking . One of those was Carla Kelly; this reading comes of Miss Bates’s reach into the back-list. Summer Campaign did not disappoint. After a slow start, Summer Campaign was wonderful and had the rare honour of turning Miss Bates into a watering-pot on several counts. What is it about Kelly’s stories that Miss Bates finds poignant, slow in places and imperfect, but moving and loveable? In the case of Summer Campaign, it lies in Kelly’s use of a military metaphor to tell a story about laying a siege of the heart. If you are vulnerable to her writing and the type of stories she tells, Kelly’s novels besiege the reader’s heart, tear down the walls, and expose vulnerable centres all the while reminding us that the purposeful life is a life of service conducted with humour, strength, and good will. Read on for more of Miss Bates’s watering-pot commentary

GASP: Patricia Gaffney’s TO HAVE AND TO HOLD

When Miss Bates turned the last page of To Love and To Cherish, she sighed with relief. It hadn’t been as bad as she’d feared. Nothing’d shocked her; nothing’d disturbed her all that much. On the contrary, in the end, her sensibilities were at ease; she thought Christy endearing and a great study of the meaning of Christian faith. Anne was a good, decent heroine, with integrity and had blossomed in the most wonderful way. All was well in Miss Bates’s romance universe. Gaffney’s first Wyckerley novel had inspired associations with many 19th century novels Miss Bates’d loved, still loved. It was all good and what need was there for any fuss? To Love and To Cherish was what its title claimed: loving and cherishing the other, making the other precious in one’s eyes. Christy comes to this state naturally; Anne has to learn it. There is a darkness to her understanding; there is a price, but it is one that she makes of her own free will. Then, Miss Bates read To Have and To Hold and is reeling. She doesn’t have much to say, hopes to reach some equanimity by the time a much-anticipated discussion takes place at Something More. For now, however, there are only half-formed thoughts.  Read on at your peril; Miss Bates is too riled to say that much and the little she does say would be of mild interest only to those who’ve read the novel

SECOND THOUGHTS On Patricia Gaffney’s TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH: Why Not JANE too?

In the cool of the evening, Miss Bates swatted a fist-sized wasps’ nest from the back porch. She’d like to do the same to Gaffney’s novel. No matter, the wasps and it will settle in the vicinity to plague her. Not for a full and missbatesian pedantic post, but a pinata swipe, yes, she’ll manage. Miss Bates has settled into ambivalence’s discomfort zone. Ambivalence in an ordered spinster’s world … not good. Need a lodestone, a familiar one … like Rochester at his neediest, she calls out to “Jane.” If you want more, read on, but clarity still eludes

IMPRESSIONS Of Patricia Gaffney’s TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH

After supper, Miss Bates tried a piece of wasabi-flavoured chocolate. The smoky-sweet flavour of the dark chocolate was familiar; the wasabi, not so much. This is also her reaction to Gaffney’s To Love and To Cherish. She can’t really review it per se because she’s not sure what she can say about it other than you might want to read it. She doesn’t even really want to review it. There’s more, but not much, nor is it articulate