Book Review: The Sugar Queen, The Gospel and Desperate Duchesses

It has been an interesting month of reading with some historical romances by an acclaimed writer and contemporary works by new authors, thrown into my diet of fantasy romances that form the staple reading material on my bookshelf.

First, the historical romances. I’ve long enjoyed the woks of Eloisa James, who is well-known for weaving Shakespeare verses, and poetry into her novels, most of which are acclaimed best-sellers for the highly entertaining plots and engaging characters Ms James has created. I’ve not looked back since I first picked up Potent Pleasures, so it should be no surprise that my eyes lit when I saw her latest books, Desperate Duchesses and When the Duke Returns.

Another Year, Another Shopping Spree Another Year, Another Shopping Spree

This latest Desperate Duchesses series, which James revealed in  is her take of “Desperate Housewives set in Georgian England”, has all the drama, intriguing affairs, delicious suspense, and relationship issues that happened in the television series, but with lots of romance and comical moments caused by the wilful and colossal misunderstandings perpetrated by the main characters involved. Stringing all these plot fillers together is the friendship amongst the four intelligent titled women, and the heartbreaks and emotional battles they go through before finding true happiness.

Some shades of the plot development in Desperate Duchesses actually made me recall Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. I sort of skipped off on the next two books and simply embarked on the 4th, When the Duke Returns, which left me hungering for the conclusion of Jemma’s and Elijah’s story, and of course, Villeirs’ own happy ending. For the synopses, jump here and here as I’m saving some space for the reviews of two other interesting books.

IMB ratings: 3.0 for Desperate Duchesses and 4.0 for When the Duke Returns

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen was every bit as whimsical, heart-warming and magical as Garden Spells, which I liked.

Everyone has some skeletons hidden in their closet, and Josey Cirrini, the heroine of this small-town romance set in the fictitious North Carolina ski town of Bald Slope, is no exception. This story began with heroine, Josey discovering a woman, Della Lee, who is on the run from something in her life, in her closet one morning while retrieving the stash of sweets and travel magazines she kept in a secret compartment of her closet.

Taking up the TBR Challenge

At first adamant about ousting the intruder, Josey was eventually persuaded to offer the brash and wild woman sanctuary in her closet. As the two women started getting to know each other, strange things began to happen in Josey’s life that led first to finding a lost half-sister, and eventually, love with someone she’s had a crush on for a long time. Oh, and you have to read right to the end for the little revelation of the true nature of Josey’s guardian angel. Overall, though I was less enchanted by the predictable plot development, I’m still charmed by the simple sentiments and general feel-good value of this book to give it an IMB rating of 3.5.

The truth about this book — The Gospel According to Luke by Emily Maguire – is that I find it too radical for my taste, and even though the book has won prizes and rave reviews, Maguire’s take on faith, fanaticism, lust, love and violence may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The controversial angle of a pastor falling into the trap of desire and attraction in an almost Romeo and Juliet manner is not new. But the way the author delivered it in her straightforward narrative and sharp dialogues brings new perspective to a timeless tale of star-crossed romance. The conflicting beliefs of Luke and Aggie Grey, a free-spirited, big-hearted sexual health counselor who keeps company with gay friends and advocates understanding and offering pregnant teens choices in their unborn babies’ fate were not strong enough to keep the two protagonists apart, but purists of the faith may find the endings proposed a little hard to swallow. I suspect, however, that there may be some reality portrayed in the fiction of this story, but am too scared to examine the possibilities further.

It will take a brave soul to read this challenging book and not feel unsettled by it. For that, I present give it an IMB rating of 2.5 on this book.


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