Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

44792512Summary from Goodreads:
In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts one woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .

So, do you like planners and bullet journals and pens and paper? And food and nerdy games? And romance and longing and fantastic hand-written love letters? I have a book for youuuuuu.

The Planner of Park Slope – Meg Mackworth, whose hand-lettering business has taken off after a Buzzfeed profile – is having a creative block. She has deadlines and planner clients and a (huge) secret project for a life-changing opportunity and she just can’t get the design juices flowing. So she’s is helping out a friend in her stationery shop when an old client comes in. Meg hasn’t seen Reid Sutherland since the meeting a year before – a whole 45 minutes – when he came with his fiancee Avery to approve the final designs for his wedding stationery. Reid found a code hidden in the wedding program – he’s a mathematician – and has returned to ask Meg how she knew his marriage would fail (actually, he and Avery called off the wedding in a very amicable way since the discovery of this code gave him the impetus to do so, so don’t worry about evil ex-fiancees coming back to ruin things, this is not one of those books).

Meg is slightly panicked when stern, triple-take handsome Reid confronts her about the program. The code is a tic she has. Sometimes she sees words in specific fonts or forms, sometimes her impression of a client slips out in a tiny way, like specific letters will fall a hair lower than others in a word when she draws them. So she explains this to Reid over a coffee (and tea, Reid is a tea guy). He accepts her explanation and then admits that he only sought her out because he’s probably leaving New York City soon. He doesn’t like the city.

Meg, however, loves New York City and Brooklyn, where she lives. She came to love the city by exploring it on foot, taking notice of signs. How they talk to her, how they use color and design and font to convey information. So when she hits on an idea to break through her creative block she emails Reid and invites him on an adventure – they’ll walk around an area of the city and find signs for inspiration. Reid suggests that they make it a game and use the signs to spell out words of their own.

Thus begins an incredibly charming and cozy romance novel about an artist who creates custom stationery and journals and a Wall Street mathematician. There are so many things I loved about this book. Competence pr0n your thing? YES. Actual adults with jobs and adult stuff who handle their emotional mess through self-reflection and talking about it with others. But they are also in transition, which is what happens when everyone gets into their mid-to-late twenties. People grow and change, their goals change, intended careers don’t pan out, friends develop other relationships. This is where Meg is when the book opens and Reid comes in to ask her about the hidden message in his never-used wedding program. I loved their games, wandering around Brooklyn taking pictures of signs; this is very much a “setting-as-character” kind of novel. There is a hand-written love letter that comes into play late in this book and I may have turned into a puddle on the floor (exhibit A: one of my favorite books on this Earth is Persuasion, which also has a letter at a pivotal point in the plot, and I love this so much).

The book is written in first person present POV, which in general I do not like in my romance novels, but this one is in Meg’s perspective for the entire book. It is so skillfully done. The reader definitely doesn’t lose anything by not having Reid’s perspective alternating with Meg’s. If anything, it helps the story along because we also wonder along with Meg about this mysterious job Reid has and will not talk about.

I loved this book so much I read it twice in a row.

Love Lettering is out today, December 31! Get it and curl up for the New Year! (The cover is so pretty!)

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Netgalley – twice – and I preordered a copy at my store.

Addendum: this book will make you want to sit down and draw all the prettiest journal pages (spoiler: I have zero drawing capability but I have stickers, washi tape, and all sorts of colored pens. I can fake it 😂).

mini-review · stuff I read

1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List by James Mustich

37588678._SX318_Summary from Goodreads:
Celebrate the pleasure of reading and the thrill of discovering new titles in an extraordinary book that’s as compulsively readable, entertaining, surprising, and enlightening as the 1,000-plus titles it recommends.

Covering fiction, poetry, science and science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children’s books, history, and more, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die ranges across cultures and through time to offer an eclectic collection of works that each deserve to come with the recommendation, You have to read this. But it’s not a proscriptive list of the “great works”—rather, it’s a celebration of the glorious mosaic that is our literary heritage.

Flip it open to any page and be transfixed by a fresh take on a very favorite book. Or come across a title you always meant to read and never got around to. Or, like browsing in the best kind of bookshop, stumble on a completely unknown author and work, and feel that tingle of discovery. There are classics, of course, and unexpected treasures, too. Lists to help pick and choose, like Offbeat Escapes, or A Long Climb, but What a View. And its alphabetical arrangement by author assures that surprises await on almost every turn of the page, with Cormac McCarthy and The Road next to Robert McCloskey and Make Way for Ducklings, Alice Walker next to Izaac Walton.

There are nuts and bolts, too—best editions to read, other books by the author, “if you like this, you’ll like that” recommendations , and an interesting endnote of adaptations where appropriate. Add it all up, and in fact there are more than six thousand titles by nearly four thousand authors mentioned—a life-changing list for a lifetime of reading.

I picked up 1000 Books to Read Before You Die last year, intending to make a spreadsheet to get actual stats on the books included, but that didn’t happen. I actually started the Excel file and can’t find it. So, meh. By eye, the list is pretty wide-ranging, actually, with regards to genre and gender (though definitely needed more genre parity and the list does lean toward items written in English). A few surprises. It’ll definitely boost your TBR.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

A Delicate Deception (Regency Imposters #3) by Cat Sebastian

39735911Summary from Goodreads:
When Amelia Allenby escaped a stifling London ballroom for the quiet solitude of the Derbyshire countryside, the very last thing she wanted was an extremely large, if—she grudgingly admits—passably attractive man disturbing her daily walks. Lecturing the surveyor about property rights doesn’t work and, somehow, he has soon charmed his way into lemon cakes, long walks, and dangerously heady kisses.

The very last place Sydney wished to be was in the shadow of the ruins of Pelham Hall, the inherited property that stole everything from him. But as he awaits his old friend, the Duke of Hereford, he finds himself increasingly captivated by the maddeningly lovely and exceptionally odd Amelia. He quickly finds that keeping his ownership of Pelham Hall a secret is as impossible as keeping himself from falling in love with her.

But when the Duke of Hereford arrives, Sydney’s ruse is revealed and what started out as a delicate deception has become a love too powerful to ignore. Will they let a lifetime of hurt come between them or can these two lost souls find love and peace in each other?

New. Cat. Sebastian. Yes!

The last time we saw Amelia Allenby, she was co-authoring a Perkin Warbeck slash-fic novel so racy she was in danger of violating the obscenity laws. Since then Amelia has voluntarily exiled herself from the upper class Society her mother worked so hard to enter. Amelia didn’t want it. Between the whispers about her illegitimate birth and her growing social anxiety the situation was growing untenable, so Amelia just…left. In the middle of a dance at a ball, so quite dramatic, but for a year she and her ex-governess-turned-companion Georgiana have been living quietly in the countryside. Amelia has been writing less-racy historical novels and taking long walks.

Once day, there’s a man in her path. He’s large and mysterious and a land surveyor – and a Quaker. And he simply won’t go away. As we, the reader, so find out, Sydney is in the neighborhood because he is the owner of Pelham Hall – Amelia’s landlord – and he absolutely does not want to be present on the property he now owns that was the site of his brother’s and sister-in-law’s deaths. However, his old friend Lex, Duke of Hereford has summoned him. Amelia’s conversation is diverting, and her inquisitive mind challenges him, so Syd allows Amelia to believe he’s only visiting in the neighborhood. He’s not planning to stay long, so why allow formalities to come between them (which also seems to be a very Quaker viewpoint). Amelia lets down her guard….which is when Lex arrives – with several surprises for Syd in store – and upsets the delicate balance of Amelia’s life.

Lesson: being unreasonably vague about the circumstances of one’s life and trying to hide from it are extremely bad for the development of trust in one’s closest relationships. This cuts both ways because Amelia hasn’t exactly been forthcoming about who she is to Syd.

A Delicate Deception is a very quiet book – Lex and his Duke-sized ego aside – about working through one’s complex social anxieties to meet your partner halfway. Sebastian seeds in bits from beloved English canon novels (you’ll know them when you read them) and also gives Amelia some really lovely things to say about how we (still) view virginity and the position of children born to unmarried parents. However, I would have loved a few more scenes between Amelia and Syd “falling in love” – I didn’t quite feel them connect like Robin/Alistair and Verity/Ash did. The resolution of the HEA is very interesting in this book and I’m glad to see Sebastian working on an ending that fits the genre but is less traditional.

This has to be the queerest non-erotica historical I’ve ever read – all the presumed straight people are either deceased (Syd’s brother and sister-in-law), in America (his parents), or very minor characters who don’t really matter (the vicar and his wife, Lady Stafford, etc). Amelia is bisexual (or pansexual, possibly, since at one point she says something about kissing interesting people) and Sydney is bisexual. Lex is Syd’s ex-lover and best friend and definitely gay (he is also blind and gets all the best lines, because of course he does, he’s the duke) and Georgiana appears to be asexual or aromantic. Keating, from Unmasked by the Marquess, is here as Amelia’s groom/handyman and apparently making the rounds of the local gay men. AND ROBIN POPS UP RIGHT AT THE VERY END. (Omg, Robin and Keating greeting each other is like the “hey, bitch” of Regency romance I never knew I wanted; but we are denied a meeting between Lex and Alistair and you will understand why when you read this book *give it, do want a short story*)

Also, PLEASE can we have the Perkin Warbeck slash-fic novel? Will read, I promise 😂

A Delicate Deception is out today, December 10!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss and you know I had this preordered like last decade.