Valentine’s Day is closing in, and once again, love is in the air — fictional love, anyway — some heartwarming and some risqué.
I noticed a few weeks ago that a self-published e-book was No. 1 on the best-seller list. I had never heard of it, so I looked it up on Amazon. The darned thing had more than 2,000 reader reviews and still had five out of five stars. A self-published book! How was this possible? I just had to find out.
The book is “Hopeless” by Colleen Hoover. It’s the story of Sky, a girl of 17, who is attracted to bad-boy Holder, same age, in Texas. (At first, I thought the book could have used a good copy editor — my pet peeve with self-published books — but the ardent writing and natural dialogue kept me turning the pages.)
Sky is new in school. She and Holder both have bad reputations they didn’t earn, and they become very close very quickly. And when I say “close,” I mean close. These are some really great love scenes. “I’m pretty sure we just broke the record for the best first kiss in the history of first kisses — without even kissing.” Holy cow! If I’d had this book when I was a teen, I would have had some of these passages memorized.
The story line pivots on the evolving relationship between the two kids. Just when Sky thinks it’s all too perfect, Holder acts “crazy and strange and a little possessive.” But wait — there’s more, including some laugh-out-loud moments.
And then the book takes a huge turn, which I will not reveal, and becomes something else altogether — approaching the domain of Greek tragedy: “Sometimes you have to choose between a bunch of wrong choices and no right ones. You just have to choose which wrong choice feels the least wrong.” Teen angst, romance, death, crime, abuse, lies, stunning plot twists and toe-curling love scenes — what more could you want?
Even though I found it a bit cringeworthy to “watch” two 17-year-olds make out, the plot was compelling. Great literature? Hmm. If you only like fine writing, stay away. It isn’t for everybody, but I couldn’t put it down. No wonder it’s become a best-seller, viva voce.
Explicit adult situations and language.
How about a good old racy romance novel? “The Reluctant Countess” by Wendy Vella is a ribald bodice-ripper with some pretty hot love scenes.
Patrick, Earl of Coulter, suspects that Sophie, the beautiful new Countess of Monmouth, is a fraud. He vows to find out the truth, but he’s falling in love with the “raven-haired temptress.” For Patrick, “No other woman could make his skin feel hot with just a few softly spoken words.” To Sophie, Patrick was “arrogant and deeply disturbing” and “He made her body feel like a flickering ember that would ignite with a mere touch.”
Sophie isn’t the only one with a secret. There’s intrigue, danger (well, she has to be rescued, doesn’t she?), and writing like this: “He had only kissed her and she had fallen like a brazen hussy into his arms.” (Now, I’m of the opinion that you can’t use the term “brazen hussy” often enough.) Pretty satisfying stuff, really.
Explicit adult situations and language.
For something appropriate for all ages, try “An Irish Country Wedding” by Patrick Taylor, the seventh book in the charming series set in Ballybucklebo, Northern Ireland. The wedding of nurse Kitty and Dr. O’Reilly is approaching, but his housekeeper is in the hospital. Young Dr. Barry Laverty is still pining over the “golden girl” who got away, but he’s finding some consolation whenever he looks at the pretty red-haired teacher.
Taylor can still sweep the reader right into the scene: “Across Belfast Lough the cloud shadows played follow-my-leader over the Antrim Hills. ... A freighter headed up-channel to the Port of Belfast. The sinking sun scattered spangles on the crests of wavelets and the squeals of gulls gave high counterpoint to the song of the sea on sand.”
The author finally brings talk of Irish politics into his stories, set in the mid-1960s. But it isn’t overwhelming. Another great entry in the heartwarming series.
Here are some ideas for fans of Christian romance:
“Goodbye to Yesterday” is Book 1 in a new six-part series, “The Discovery,” from popular faith-based writer Wanda E. Brunstetter. The story is set in Lancaster County, Pa. Luke and Meredith have been married about a year. The Amish carpenter has lost his job, and the lack of work is bringing tension and bickering to the marriage. Meredith may be pregnant but hasn’t told him because she doesn’t want him to worry about money. Luke gets an opportunity to start a new business, but his wife is against it. And a desperate man on the run will soon cross their path.
The very short book ends with a cliffhanger. In essence, the six books will count as one in the end.
Brunstetter’s work is always good, but this is frustrating. I may just wait till they’re all out before I read the next installment. How patient are you?
“Christmas in Sugarcreek” by Shelley Shepard Gray is a Seasons of Sugarcreek novel. Solid, reliable Judith Graber helps out with the family store. Ben Knox, who left town a while ago in disgrace, is back, and Judith’s father has hired him to work in the store for the holidays.
This is their love story, but at least three other couples are involved in subplots with their own romantic problems.
The faith-based Amish/Mennonite tale has a nice, happy ending.
“The Bartered Bride Collection” from Barbour Publishing features nine novellas of faith-based historical fiction by seven authors. Stories include women who marry husbands chosen by their parents, or strangers they’ve just met, or who agree to marry by correspondence, and one or the other is disappointed or even heartbroken by the match. Will their faith bring them love? The tales are set in Wyoming, the Louisiana bayou, on the Oregon Trail, and more.
Each is fairly short, but this is a nice, hefty collection.
Copyright © 2013 by Mary Louise Ruehr.