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Quick Lit: December 2019


December was a pretty lackluster reading month for me overall. I liked most of the books I read, but that's about it. Nothing wowed me, which isn't my favorite way to end the year. Oh well! I finished 11 books, and I'm reviewing nine of them in today's post. The two that aren't included were re-reads – one is mentioned briefly at the end of the post and the other was Lovely War by Julie Berry. It's my favorite read of 2019 and one I'll finally post a full review of in January. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.


25 DAYS 'TIL CHRISTMAS BY POPPY ALEXANDER – I technically listened to most of this on audio from the library, but I picked up the physical book for the last 70 or so pages because I just needed it to be over already. This one started strong for me – I loved that it was set in England and seemed to be a little more serious than many other Christmas books I've read. Cheesiness tends me to my biggest complaint for this type of read, but this particular book went in the opposite direction. It contained poverty, depression, grief, learning disorders, and more. It started to feel so heavy and slow. And then the ending! Every problem the heroine faced was wrapped up with a bow in the quickest, most convenient way. I initially gave it three stars, but I realized I'm So Over It the more I think about it.

A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES BY DIANA GABALDON – This was the last unfinished book in my #My10toReadin19 stack, and it was a challenge to get it done! I've had a rocky relationship with this series overall – simultaneously enjoying the drama while still feeling like so much should have been edited out. But the good has always outweighed the bad for me... until now. The story in this one was better than the previous book, but it was painful to finish. I was reading it for two weeks and couldn't wait to be done. It's time for me to call it quits on this series. Gabaldon does her research, but I don't want read 2-3 more books of this length, with these characters, and this type of story anymore. This one was on par with the rest of the series, but I was only So Okay With It.

10 BLIND DATES BY ASHLEY ELSTON – I didn't realize this was a Christmas book until I saw it popping up on bookstagram! I was excited by the rave reviews and went in with high expectations. This was cute, and the family dynamic was the highlight. The heroine comes from a large Sicilian family, which immediately reminded me of Kelly. The dates themselves were fine (with two particularly funny ones), but the actual romantic conclusion was obvious from the start. I honestly wished that element had been cut entirely. I didn't like the way it was set up and didn't feel it added anything to the story. Just give me all the family bonding and holiday shenanigans, thank you! I So Liked It, but it wasn't the most memorable read for me aside from the family. 


A HOLIDAY BY GASLIGHT BY MIMI MATTHEWS – This randomly ended up on my radar after I saw a tweet about it. The cover was so eye catching! This Victorian romance is a short and sweet novella. It immediately hooked me, reminding me a bit of the relationship in Gaskell's North and South. I loved the premise and am a sucker for a gruff hero with a heart of gold, so that was a win. But I just kept wishing it was a full-length book! The romantic conflict felt like it was resolved too quickly, and I'd been really looking forward to seeing how the characters overcame their differences. Additionally, a storyline with two secondary characters felt like a distraction in such a short book. I So Liked It and felt like it had potential to be a new favorite if there'd been a little more to it. 

UNDER THE MISTLETOE BY MARY BALOGH – I love Mary Balogh, so I had to give this short story collection a try! The first, A Family Christmas, was my favorite. It was very similar to A Christmas Promise, but that didn't bother me too much. The romance in The Best Gift was way too rushed, but I suspended my disbelief and enjoyed the cuteness. The hero was frustrating in Playing House, but dang it if all those kids didn't win me over by the end. The Best Gift was my least favorite – the couple was annoying, and the plot was dumb. And The Star of Bethlehem had a few elements I liked, but the rake's 12-hour reformation and the nativity parallels that everyone missed until the last second were just too much to take. It was uneven, but the anthology averages out to a So Liked It.

TWICE IN A BLUE MOON BY CHRISTINA LAUREN* – Second-chance romances are tricky, and this one didn't win me over. The couple's initial relationship occurred on a very short timeline and was followed by such a long separation that I felt critical of everything about it. They meet as teenagers and are in their 30s before reconnecting, but it was as if they'd been frozen in time until that moment. Real people change! The book spent longer in the past timeline than I would have preferred, and then the romance didn't get a lot of attention in the present until the very end. The characters were pretty forgettable and needed more development because I wasn't invested in them at all. I was So Okay With It, I think. I just expected something funnier or more romantic from this duo!


LOVE LETTERING BY KATE CLAYBORN* – After loving Clayborn's Chance of a Lifetime series, I was thrilled to get a copy of this book for review! I expected to love it immediately, but it took me quite a while to find my footing with the story. The characters felt stiff, and I had a hard time getting a read on them. I didn't understand why they were continuing to spend time together when their interactions were so awkward! The heroine was a hand letterer who made custom planners for her wealthy clientele, an aspect I thought I'd love since I'm a paper nerd. Instead, it felt overly detailed to me. There was just a little too much time spent talking about typography. The pacing was uneven, and I wasn't as invested as I'd hoped to be. I So Liked It by the end, but it wasn't a memorable read for me.

THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE BY DIANA BILLER –
I have no idea how this book ended up on my radar, but I was so excited Nick gave me a copy for Christmas! However, I didn't pay enough attention to this summary because I was completely blindsided by the fact there were ghosts in it. Whoops! I'd hoped for more interior design and less ghost hunting, but that's my own fault. There are several genres at play here, but I'd actually categorize it as a historical (or maybe paranormal?) romance. The romance was the focus of the story, including a very unexpected sex scene. But the main characters were charming, had cute banter, and a rich backstory, so I was pretty happy overall. I'm skeptical of the historical accuracy because the characters felt so modern, but I still So Enjoyed It

A MATTER OF CLASS BY MARY BALOGH – Although Balogh is one of my favorite historical romance authors, I don't intend to read her entire backlist. But this one intrigued me, and I was thrilled to find a copy on clearance at my local used bookstore. What a score! This is a short story, but Balogh accomplished so much in these 200(ish) pages. The opening had me hooked, and I was immediately sold on the premise. When the first flashback occurred, I was annoyed. Then I realized what was unfolding and came to appreciate those scenes. This was such a delight and my favorite thing I read all month! I don't want to spoil anything so I'll remain vague, but I So Enjoyed It and recommend it to historical romance fans. One scene felt unnecessary to me, but it's a minor nitpick.  


In December, I re-read A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean via audio. I'd planned to continue on to re-read the second book in the series, but I wasn't enjoying this one as much the second time around. It was a bummer! It took me forever to finish listening, but it wasn't the narrator's fault. I just wasn't feeling the hero at all and hated that re-reading was ruining it for me. My rating changed from Enjoyed to So Liked It.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

What have you been reading lately?

1 comment

  1. I had the same issues with 25 Days Til Christmas - like wow, could any more problems be heaped on this poor woman?

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