Lynn Painter, Mr. Wrong Number
Olivia Marshall is perpetually unlucky, and when her latest mishap results in her apartment burning down, she’s forced to move in with her brother Jack and his best friend, Colin. Liv and Colin have never gotten along, but now that they’re living together, they start to see each other in a new light. Meanwhile, a text to Liv from an unknown number sparks an anonymous flirtation, but what will happen when she learns Mr. Wrong Number’s true identity? I enjoyed this cute rom-com, mostly for Liv’s funny and self-deprecating voice. The romance moves from enemies to sex to feelings a bit too rapidly, and I also wanted more exploration of Liv’s conflict with her family (they perceive and treat her as an immature screwup). That said, I enjoy Painter’s writing style and look forward to reading the sequel, which will feature Jack as the hero.
Stuart Turton, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
This genre-bender begins on the grounds of Blackheath, an English country estate, where the narrator wakes up in a forest with no idea how he got there and no memory of his own identity. The next day, he wakes up in a different body altogether, and eventually he pieces together the truth: He’s supposed to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, and he’ll keep reliving the same day (in a different host each time) until he can identify the murderer. Along the way, he discovers both allies and enemies and eventually learns the true nature of Blackheath. This is a clever take on the classic country house mystery, with a plot that becomes ever more intricate as the narrator’s choices in later days affect what happened on earlier days. The murder plot hangs together, but the resolution to the bigger question of what’s happening at Blackheath and why is not completely satisfying. Also, the book is long, and while seeing events from multiple perspectives is interesting, it does bloat the narrative. Overall, I’m glad I read this one, and I think it’s a well-done experiment, but it didn’t totally work for me.
Jane Dunn, The Marriage Season
Sisters Sybella and Lucie are headed to London for the Season so that Lucie can potentially make a match. Sybella, a widow with a young son, has no intention of remarrying; she’s too busy managing her country estate and keeping her son out of trouble. But of course, both women meet several potential suitors and must discern who’s a hero, who’s a rake, and who’s just a friend. I bought this e-book when it was on sale, partly because of the appealing cover and partly because I’d heard it was a well-written steamless romance. Steamless, yes; well-written, sadly no. I found the style clunky and unrealistic for the time period (Sybella at one point has an “existential crisis”), and the romances were unconvincing. My search for non-steamy historical romances continues, but unfortunately this one was a dud.