Our Comfort Reads: Ashes in the Wind

Our Comfort Reads
Our Comfort Reads is our own blog feature that Cait and I use to highlight and recommend books that we read when we need a little pick-me-up. Whether we’re overwhelmed with our TBR pile, need a break from a bad run of books or just want something familiar to read that we know will deliver a good story and a happy ending, these are the books we turn to and we hope that you’ll enjoy them too.

While my mom and dad really nurtured my love of books and provided them to me whenever I wanted (and there was always the library), I didn’t really grow up in a house where new sources were just a bookcase away.  That all ended when I was old enough to appreciate romance novels and my grandmother introduced me to her never-ending stash.  She had subscriptions to all of the Harlequin lines, had all of these strange gothic romances that I barely understood and had piles and piles of pirates, landowners, Yankees and Rebels, wenches, cowgirls and spunky heroines of all varieties.

Ashes in the Wind was the first Kathleen Woodiwiss that she ever let me read, at the semi-tender age of thirteen.

Ashes in the WindAshes in the Wind

By Kathleen Woodiwiss
Published: January 1, 1979
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical Romance

Alaina MacGaren is forced to flee the devastation of her homeland in the guise of a young boy, only to find sanctuary in the arms of an enemy. Cole Latimer is a dashing Yankee surgeon who has served the Union faithfully, and his tender heart compels him to help a ragged, innocent “lad” in need–never suspecting the rags conceal a bewitching belle suspected of being a rebel spy.

But Alaina’s masquerade does not fool Cole for long. And the strength, courage, and breathtaking sensuality of this woman whom it would be treasonous to love sets duty and desire at war within him. Yet Destiny has joined them for good or ill–and they both must follow where their hearts would lead them, if they are to build a glorious new life together out of the ashes of the old.

Goodreads Summary

This is not Woodiwiss’ best and like most of her early books, it’s horribly politically incorrect. It’s not even really my favorite (the even more egregious The Flame and the Flower gets that honor). But as the first, it’s become a book that I still find myself drawn to, like a pair of fuzzy socks that you know has a hole near a toe that bugs you, but they’re so soft and one of your favorite colors. So I keep taking it out and while I skip some passages, I still love most parts and I love the ending.

Alaina has to disguise herself as a boy to get away from Yankees who think she’s a Rebel spy but finds herself caught by Yankee Dr. Cole Latimer and put into service for him, working at his hospital. Eventually he figures out she’s not a boy and sparks fly, but then he’s called off to war. When he returns, he’s changed – injured and bitter. After being “compromised,” Alaina and Cole are forced to wed, definitely against his wishes and he takes her home to Minnesota, a bleak change from her home in New Orleans. There are lots of nefarious goings-on, a dead wife who may be haunting his house, a dastardly villain from New Orleans who is after Alaina and a nasty cousin who wants to come between the couple before they can unravel the misunderstandings that are keeping them apart.

As horrible as it is to the characters, I just love the last section of the book. It has a creepy gothic feeling, almost Rebecca-esqe. My favorite scenes are when Cole and Alaina are dancing and he begins softening towards her finally and when she finally has the courage to go to him. After an entire (long) book of these two just passing each other, a very simple and almost chaste love scene gives me shivers.

Nope, this isn’t a perfect book, but it holds a place of honor on my bookshelf next to all of the other Woodiwiss books I collected long after my grandmother reclaimed her copies. When I’m feeling nostalgic or when I miss my grandmother, this is the book I reach for every time.

Barbara

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Our Comfort Reads: Natural Born Charmer

Our Comfort ReadsOur Comfort Reads is our own blog feature that Barbara and I use to highlight and recommend books that we read when we need a little pick-me-up. Whether we’re overwhelmed with our TBR pile, need a break from a bad run of books or just want something familiar to read that we know will deliver a good story and a happy ending, these are the books we turn to and we hope that you’ll enjoy them too.This was the first book I ever read by SEP. I was just getting into Goodreads and the book blogging world, and this book was mentioned over and over again so I thought I’d give it a shot. I completely fell in love! This book opened up a whole new world of contemporary romance for me, and I soon devoured every book SEP had ever written. Some were better than others, but this book will always be my favorite.

Natural Born CharmerBy Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: Feb 1, 2007
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Chicago Stars quarterback Dean Robillard is the luckiest man in the world. But life in the glory lane has started to pale, and Dean has set off on a trip to figure out what’s gone wrong. When he hits a lonely stretch of Colorado highway, he spies something that will shake up his gilded life in ways he can’t imagine. A young woman . . . dressed in a beaver suit.

Blue Bailey is on a mission. As for the beaver suit she’s wearing . . . Is it her fault that life keeps throwing her curve balls? Witness the expensive black sports car pulling up next to her on the highway and the Greek god stepping out of it.

They’re soon heading for his summer home, where their already complicated lives and inconvenient attraction to each other will become entangled with a charismatic but aging rock star; a beautiful, fifty-two-year-old woman trying to make peace with her rock and roll past; an eleven-year-old who desperately needs a family; and a bitter old woman who hates them all.

Natural Born Charmer . . . for anyone who’s ever thought about leaving their old life in the dust.

Goodreads Summary

The first few pages had me openly laughing out loud when Dean and Blue first meet. Blue Bailey is a down on her luck artist, and has had to resort to standing around in a beaver suit to earn back the money her ex-boyfriend stole from her. She is angrily striding down the road with her beaver head in one arm and her tail flapping behind her in the breeze when Dean pulls up along beside her offering her a ride. Not one to pass up a good opportunity, Dean can’t help but stop and satisfy his curiousity about the woman. He offers her a ride, thinking it would just be a simple lift into town. Blue somehow manages to convince him to take her cross country with him, where he was headed to spend a few weeks of R&R before the football season starts up again.

Blue and Dean don’t immediately fall into bed together, and in fact they find each other quite annoying. Their verbal sparring is one of the best aspects about this book. Once they reach Dean’s home, there’s a surprise visitor waiting for them and Dean finds himself clinging to Blue and ends up announcing their fake engagement. What was supposed to be a few weeks of alone time for Dean has turned into a house full of unwanted guests and an undeniable attraction for Blue that Dean can’t seem to shake.

SEP generally follows the same formula for every novel she writes. They all tend to run together after awhile, but there’s just something about them that make me happy. Maybe it’s the bickering and the will-they/won’t-they tension, or maybe it’s the hoops that SEP makes her characters go through to achieve personal growth. Dean and Blue are two of my very most favorite characters. They’re flawed, they make mistakes but they have a unique way of looking at the world and once they do decide they want to live happily ever after together, it’s a beautiful thing. Equally as great in this book are all of the side characters. The two find themselves thrown into a family neither of them knew they wanted, including a long lost father and a bitter old woman that rules the town.

Natural Born Charmer will have you laughing to yourself one moment and holding back tears the next. It’s just that good.

Cait

Our Comfort Reads: When There Is Hope

Our Comfort Reads
Our Comfort Reads is our own blog feature that Cait and I use to highlight and recommend books that we read when we need a little pick-me-up. Whether we’re overwhelmed with our TBR pile, need a break from a bad run of books or just want something familiar to read that we know will deliver a good story and a happy ending, these are the books we turn to and we hope that you’ll enjoy them too.

This is a new-old comfort read.  I heard about it through one of the HaBO posts at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and thought it sounded so good, went on a treasure hunt until I found a used copy that didn’t cost as much as a third-world country’s GNP.  I was delighted to find this was a book that held up to the memory of the original poster who sought it out and it’s become one of my favorite reads.

When There is HopeWhen There Is Hope

By Jane Goodger
Publisher: St. Martins
Publication Date: May 1, 1996
Genre: Time Travel Romance

Waking up after an accident, the last thing Susan Butler remembered was living in the 1990s, happily married and joyously expecting her first child. Now, suddenly, inexplicably, she is Margaret Johnsbury, the year is 1888, and she is about to find out she is detested not only by her handsome husband, Carter, but by the entire town of Newport.

Goodreads Summary

Susan Butler and her husband Steve are happily preparing for the birth of their baby when she’s tragically killed in a car accident on her way to a doctor’s appointment.  Susan’s spirit isn’t allowed to pass peacefully though – when she wakes up, she’s in a field in someone else’s body in an entirely different time.  She’s disoriented and needs answers but she’ll get no sympathy – this woman that she’s become is universally loathed, especially by her own husband.  For the sunny, friendly Susan, being ostracized simply isn’t acceptable.

Margaret Johnsbury, the woman Susan has become, is an overweight, selfish, rude, arrogant and cuckolding harridan – her complete opposite – and she sets out to change every single thing about her.  She sets up an exercise regime, tries to befriend the staff and convince her husband that she’s a changed woman.  Carter is afraid Margaret’s case of amnesia will wear off and she’ll return to the evil woman she was before and he’s reluctant to let his guard down against this “new” wife of his, no matter how much evidence he sees that she’s not the same.

For the obvious reasons, this is one of those personal growth-relationship big romances and not an exciting action-adventure.  There isn’t even really a bad guy until near the end, unless you count all of the people who hate Margaret and snub her but the conflicts with them are interesting enough to carry the entire book.

I just love Susan – watching her take this ill and unhealthy, detestable woman and turn her into a desirable, kind and beloved wife makes this worth re-reading over and over.  She has wonderful spirit and is stubborn beyond what’s healthy.  Her attempts to make running clothes which shock the heck out of everyone that sees her are hilarious.

Because her transformation is essentially their wooing, Susan and Carter’s romance develops slowly through the book and is tentative and sweet rather than wild and passionate.  When they do come together, it’s because there’s finally trust, finally love and it feels perfect.

I adore epilogues and this has one that explains everything, including Susan’s accident and her ending up in Margaret’s body.  It always makes me tear up a little because it looks back on Margaret/Susan’s life with Carter and the way it all turned out and it just makes such perfect sense.  I just love, love, love it and it makes the re-reading all that much sweeter.

Barbara

Our Comfort Reads: Beautiful Disaster

Our Comfort ReadsOur Comfort Reads is our own blog feature that Barbara and I use to highlight and recommend books that we read when we need a little pick-me-up. Whether we’re overwhelmed with our TBR pile, need a break from a bad run of books or just want something familiar to read that we know will deliver a good story and a happy ending, these are the books we turn to and we hope that you’ll enjoy them too.

My pick this week is a book that I read a few months ago for the first time, and now I can’t seem to forget the characters or the story. It used to have a different cover that was kind of weird and bizarre, and it was a self- pub book and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. My family had a rough week and when I needed to escape for a bit, this was the first book I turned to. Beautiful Disaster has quickly become one of my favorite books.

Beautiful DisasterBeautiful Disaster

By Jamie McGuire
Publisher: Jamie McGuire, LLC
Publication Date: May 26, 2011
Genre: Young Adult

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend America, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the charming college co-ed. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his charms, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’ apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

Goodreads Summary

This book has a TON of angst. Most young adult novels do, but the angst level in this book blows every other book out of the water. The sole focus of the book is on Abby and Travis and how messed up they are. The title is really appropriate in this case, since the two really are a disaster. They’re a disaster individually, and when they’re together they create disaster’s around every one else. Ever know a couple that had the hardest time getting their crap together? They were on again, off again, fighting all the time, dragging everyone else into their drama.. that’s exactly what Travis and Abby are like. Surprisingly, I wasn’t bothered a bit by the angst and drama in the book. I have a tendency to roll my eyes when the shenanigans are over the top, but that’s what this book is all about. The chemistry between Abby and Travis jumps off the page, and I was pulled in from their very first meeting. Forget sleeping. Forget eating. Forget pretty much the whole world around you as you are drawn in to the whirlwind that is Abby and Travis.

It’s the perfect book for when you need an escape from real life. The ending is sweet and happy, and my only complaint is that the book had to end!

Cait

Our Comfort Reads: The Order of the Phoenix

Our Comfort Reads is our own blog feature that Barbara and I use to highlight and recommend books that we read when we need a little pick-me-up. Whether we’re overwhelmed with our TBR pile, need a break from a bad run of books or just want something familiar to read that we know will deliver a good story and a happy ending, these are the books we turn to and we hope that you’ll enjoy them too.

Yesterday I went out and bought Deathly Hallows Part 2, and it was a bittersweet moment for me. While I love this series, I am sad that there isn’t anything left to look forward to. I’m watching the movie tomorrow night with the hubs for date night (such an exciting life I lead…), and I thought featuring my favorite book of the series for the post today would be appropriate.

I’m not sure why this book is my favorite, since Umbridge makes me cranky and Harry himself is a bit of a jerk for a lot of the book. Whatever the reason, when I need my HP fix, I head for this book every time. I won’t do an involved summary, since you’ve either read the book or watched the movie, and if you haven’t done either… then you’re an idiot. And I say that with all the love in my heart. I think out of all the books I’ve ever read, this series is my favorite. Every time I dive into the world of Harry Potter, I feel like I’m coming home.

The series, and this book in particular, is my favorite comfort read out of all the books I’ve ever read.

The Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

By J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 21, 2003
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

There is a door at the end of a silent corridor, and it’s haunting Harry Potter’s dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?

Here are just a few of the things on Harry’s mind:

• A Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey
• A venomous, disgruntled house-elf
• Ron as Keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team
• The looming terror of the end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams

. . . and of course, the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

In the richest installment yet of J.K. Rowling’s seven-part story, Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice.

Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back.

Goodreads Summary

Cait

Our Comfort Reads: Wild Card

Our Comfort Reads

Our Comfort Reads is our own blog feature that Cait and I use to highlight and recommend books that we read when we need a little pick-me-up. Whether we’re overwhelmed with our TBR pile, need a break from a bad run of books or just want something familiar to read that we know will deliver a good story and a happy ending, these are the books we turn to and we hope that you’ll enjoy them too.

I’m not a giant fan of romantic suspense, or at least I don’t read a lot of it.  On top of that, while I’m generally a fan of a lot of Lora Leigh’s books (pre-editorial nightmares), they’re mostly her paranormals.  I’ve tried a few of the Elite Ops and Tempting SEALs books and haven’t really enjoyed them.

This book though, I come back to over and over and over again.

Wild CardWild Card (Elite Ops #1)

By Lora Leigh
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperback
Publication Date: August 26, 2008
Genre: Romantic Suspense

It was supposed to be simple. All Navy SEAL Nathan Malone had to do was rescue three young girls from a Colombia drug cartel, then allow himself to be captured just long enough to draw out a government spy. That was before his mission went disastrously wrong…and before his wife, Bella, was told that Nathan was never coming home.

Bella’s mourned her husband’s death for three long years. But she has no idea he’s still alive. Forced to assume a new identity, the man Nathan was is now dead. If he can get back to his wife, can he keep the secret of who he really is…even as desire threatens to consume them? And as danger threatens to tear Bella from Nathan’s arms once more?

Goodreads Summary

Six years ago, Navy SEAL Nathan Malone died in military hospital after being tortured and disfigured by drug lord Diego Fuentes. In his place, Elite Ops Agent Noah Blake was born. Nathan left behind a family, including his young wife Sabella, who were told he died in combat rather than the truth – he came back from Columbia a physical mess and pumped full of whore’s dust, a drug that creates a crippling need for sex. Noah has a new face and a new job as a special security agent – in exchange for creating a new identity for him, he’s signed his life over to the Elite Ops.

Noah’s back in Bella’s life when he learns that a militia group is in his hometown and targeting his garage for takeover and putting Bella in danger. He’s counting on his altered face and those six years apart to keep Bella from knowing who he is, especially because he knows he can’t stay with her.

Bella’s spent six long years trying to get over Nathan’s death. When she was able to recover from the shock of it, she realized she was in danger of losing their house and his garage and she’s spent all of her time and energy trying to save it ever since. Half the town has been trying to buy her out or ruin her, including Nathan’s own father – only his half brother has stood by her. Now he’s shown up with some new employee, a dangerous-looking guy named Noah Blake who seems to think he can just take over.

Once he sees her again, Noah can’t resist going after her again. In spite of her lingering grief over Nathan, Bella can’t fight her attraction to him either – but he does seem familiar…

Noah is probably a little rougher than Leigh’s typical hero in some ways. He’s a man who’s suffered loss twice – first when he was being held captive for more than a year and lost his sense of self, then when he came back and made the choice not to go back to being Nathan Malone and lost his wife and family. There’s nothing smooth, sweet or particularly polite about him and he has friends because he’s loyal and steadfast, not because he makes nice and kicks back with a beer after work with them. Noah is rough with Bella in ways Nathan would never have been with Sabella.

A few of Leigh’s books get me to cry, but with this one, I just start out with the box of Kleenex in my lap and it’s because of Bella. While Noah’s had these six years thinking she was better off without him, she’s spent them struggling every single minute. As they’re dancing around each other, he’s mad at her for loving Nathan – and she can’t set his memory aside, for good reason.

The suspense plot is moderately interesting – more interesting were the town politics and the different people that turned on Bella after Nathan died. Some of the other Elite Ops agents are here that have their own books later, and some of those get spun off into different series’. This has some of the usual Leigh quirks that show up in all of her books – the hero has a tendency to say raunchy things to the heroine during sex and yep, he goes there. This was before the editing got bad though, so it’s easy to read.

Wild Card isn’t one of those books I pick up when I’m in the mood for something light. It’s a big emotional read, full of ups and downs, fighting and making up, some hot sexy times and a giant romantic ending.  I re-read this probably once a month and it’s the only one of Leigh’s non-paranormals I have both on my Kindle and in paperback.

Barbara