The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper
What (almost) everyone is saying is true: this book is better than the first. It features the FitzOsbornes, the ruling family of the tiny fictional island of Montmaray, living in England after the Germans have bombed and then occupied their home. There, they must get used to a different way of life with their aunt (including the excitement and hazards of a London season and pressure to marry), while also figuring out a way to reclaim their home. Of course, it’s the late 1930s, and war is on the horizon – the readers know it, even if the characters try to deny it.
The FitzOsbornes’ attempt to get their country back seems so hopeless in this volume, it’s kind of sad to watch them try. Their main avenue is through the League of Nations, that oh-so-effective union of countries established after the end of World War I (read that in your sarcasm voice). It culminates in a pretty impressive scene where Veronica stands up in front of a bunch of white men and actually convinces them to do something about their situation. It’s empowering, even if it won’t really help much. Sophie’s voice is great, but overall I found Veronica a much more compelling character. There’s a tiny hint of romance plus some social complications to add to the political issues. Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy (plus some of her siblings) makes a cameo, which I thought was pretty interesting. This is a worthwhile second volume and I only wish the third was available on audio so I could finish up the trilogy.
The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn
I was craving a romance novel, but I needed to do laundry. The solution: romance audiobook. I thought that when I got to the steamy bits of the book (and Julia Quinn books always have some steam), I may have to skip over them, or at least put headphones on, but I actually didn’t mind hearing them aloud. It was a little weird, but for some reason the female narrator made it less awkward. (My next romance audiobook pick has a male narrator and I quite frankly might just giggle my way through the steamier parts of that one. I am still in middle school, apparently.)
As to the actual book and the writing and all that, this is a decent one. It belongs to the Smythe-Smith quartet, an offshoot of the Bridgerton series. It’s not Quinn at her best. The conflict that keeps the two leads apart is so ridiculous, I actually said aloud to myself “This is stupid” many times. There was so much melodrama and hand-wringing and I just wanted to slap all of the characters sometimes. It seems like Quinn was really stretching to find a way to add tension to the romance where none logically existed. You’ve got to have that tension, or else you have a boring book, but I didn’t buy it here. The characters aren’t particularly memorable, and the book just didn’t have the magic that I remember from Quinn’s earlier books, but I can’t say it was a waste of my time to read. Isn’t that a rousing endorsement?
Both books borrowed from my library.