Jan 2016 TBRI’ve been away, and before I was away, I was working like a person who had forgotten that she knew how to say no and keep her work-life balance running smoothly and to never work after tea. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I needed to read something easy and soothing and so I (almost) did. I picked a Debbie Macomber from the DM pile and I raced half-way down the TBR shelf to pick another light novel.

Debbie Macomber – “Heart of Texas III”

(Passed to me by and looking after for Linda)

The fifth and sixth installments of this nice series about the small town of Promise, Texas. I’ve always preferred Macomber’s series about small towns and the web of relationships within them, and while these include romance and are each centred on a particular couple, there is a satisfying richness and denseness of characters behind them.

It’s the turn of dude ranch owner Nell Bishop to star in “Nell’s Cowboy” when a visiting novelist has to put up at her ranch before it’s officially open because he wants to solve the mystery of the ghost town, Bitter End, which has been cropping up in the whole series, once and for all. Clues are scattered throughout Promise and in trunks and attics belonging to different people. Nell starts to fall for the New Yorker, and her kids love him, even her mother-in-law Ruth thinks it’s time to move on from her grief for Ruth’s son, Nell’s husband, but Nell tries to stand firm, with her business to concentrate on. She reluctantly agrees to help with the ghost town research, but what else will she end up agreeing to?

In “Lone Star Baby”, we focus on the pastor, Wade McMillen, when he comes across a spiritual crisis as he feels more than just pastoral concern for attractive but very pregnant Amy Thornton when she makes a sudden decision and ends up settling in the town. What will happen when he takes her to his parents’ barbecue without explaining first? Will Wade finally join his friends in pairing off and, handily enough, joining the Promise population explosion?

I have to say that Macomber’s is a very conservative world. You can be a single mother if there’s a “good” reason for it, values are old fashioned, and I don’t remember ever coming across a gay character – this is a shame, as she writes well and warmly, but I suppose for an audience with which I don’t totally overlap. The writing is good and there is no unpleasant judgement on alternative ways of life to those depicted; they’re just airbrushed out. I’ll tolerate that in one part of my comfort reading although not in my full reading life, of course.

This book will suit … you need to read the series, really, otherwise it’s not so fun to see how everyone is doing.

Dana Bate – “Too Many Cooks”

(22 August 2015 – The Works (?))

I picked this up because it was about a ghost writer of cookery books, and the ghost writing aspect is well done and accurate – the descriptions of cooking and recipes seem viable, too.

It’s a classic chick-lit setup with a girl who has a steady but boring boyfriend getting an exciting opportunity (in the UK, again) where she meets a terribly attractive man, in this case a very unavailable one for a number of reasons, not least being that he’s married.

It seemed funny and quirky at the beginning, with a good dysfunctional family background with some depth and bite and more swear words than are common in such books, but it became clear that it was unfortunately lacking any moral code whatsoever (so, now I’m writing these up, kind of the polar opposite of the book above). In addition to this void, there were some characters who were partly revealed but never developed to have a role in the plot or the emotional life of the book, and there was an eating disorder that was hinted at heavily but never resolved in any way (and was potentially triggering because of some of the details that were unnecessarily put in).

I didn’t really care about the characters, which doesn’t always matter, but there wasn’t much else here. At least the writing was OK and the research well done, apart from some mystifying typos in the recipes at the end (were they added as a late thought and not edited?). Disappointing.

This book will suit … someone who won’t be triggered and has a high tolerance for moral voids and nonsense. Sorry!

Currently reading: well, fortunately I had one of the reasonably light but well-written Reykjavik Murder Mysteries between this last one and the current read – Virgina Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway”. This is so much darker than I remember – hard to read for the subject matter rather than the style. More on that later, anyway. What are you all reading? How are any challenges coming along? (Mrs D is for #WoolfAlong and also fills in a year in the Reading A Century challenge).