Katie Cotugno, Birds of California
Ten years ago, Fiona St. James starred on a successful TV show, but she had a very public breakdown (shoplifting, public intoxication, etc.) that caused the show’s cancelation. Now she’s no longer acting, just trying to avoid the limelight. Meanwhile, her former costar Sam Fox is still struggling to make it in Hollywood, so when his agent calls him about a potential reboot, he’s eager to sign on. He just needs to convince Fiona to get on board, which she absolutely refuses to do. But the more time Sam and Fiona spend together, the closer they reluctantly grow. I really enjoyed this book, with caveats. It’s well written and the characters are relatable, though not always likable. But I wish there had been more resolution to a lot of the storylines: What about Sam’s relationship with his family? How will his career turn out? Fiona decides to publicly reveal the cause of her breakdown, but what happens in the aftermath of that decision? While I bought the central romance, I wanted more about the rest of the characters’ lives. So, I do recommend the book, but be forewarned that the lack of resolution in some areas is frustrating!
Ngaio Marsh, Artists in Crime
When Inspector Roderick Alleyn meets talented painter Agatha Troy, he’s immediately drawn to her, but she doesn’t seem to like him. They’re destined to meet again, however, when a murder occurs in the midst of an art class Troy is teaching. The victim, a model, is stabbed by a dagger that’s been hidden under the chair she was posing on, and it seems only one of the artists could have placed the dagger there — but which one? And can Alleyn maintain his impartiality as an investigator if he’s fallen in love with one of the suspects? This is another enjoyable installment of the Alleyn series; I feel like, six books in, his character is finally starting to gel. The mystery is fair play, and of course I enjoyed the element of romance as well. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series!
Lauren Willig, The Masque of the Black Tulip
This second book in the Pink Carnation series features Henrietta Selwick, Richard’s younger sister, and Miles Dorrington, his best friend. A dangerous French spy known only as the Black Tulip has recently arrived in London, and both Miles and Henrietta are trying to discover the spy’s identity. They’re also beginning to have confusing feelings for one another; their longtime friendship suddenly seems to be taking a romantic turn. Can they work together to capture the Black Tulip and, more importantly, realize they’re in love? As with the first book in the series, this is a fun historical romp with a charming central romance. Miles is a particularly delightful hero, endearing in his obliviousness. The spying stuff was not as interesting to me (especially given the fact that both Miles and Henrietta seem extremely incompetent), but I still had a good time with this one!