Reading Roundup #72: Don’t Mess With Texa(n)s

I can’t decide if I’m a cranky reader lately or if books are messing with me on purpose — because buttons were definitely pushed this week. At least I know that Anne Shirley Blythe will never, ever fail me. Let’s start with her and work our way down.

Anne of Ingleside (Anne of Green Gables #6) by L.M. Montgomery: I admit, I skipped through some of the kids’ chapters this time because I wasn’t in the mood, but I love love love the Anne chapters — and there are some true legends in this one! The funeral? Unsurpassed. There’s also a bittersweet quality to this book, as Anne enjoys a new stage in her life and as the story starts shifting to the next generation. I’m skipping Rainbow Valley this reread because I’m not in the mood for so much Mary Vance… and because I want to get to the perfection that is Rilla of Ingleside. So next week, expect glowing reviews and a happy Becca again!

Always Be My Duchess (Taming of the Dukes #1) by Amalie Howard: Who knew a Regency take on Pretty Woman could be this uninspired? In a story entirely dependent on chemistry between the leads, there isn’t a trace to be found. Banter that should sparkle is a a dull matte, and sex scenes that should burn fizzle like dying embers. Further, while Howard’s take is full of feminist rhetoric, she apparently felt the need to make the female lead more socially acceptable, transforming her from a sex worker into a virginal miss who would rather starve than sell her sexual favors (my friend Panda called it “virtue washing” which is SPOT ON). This fundamentally changes both the character and how she relates to the male lead, and it allows the author to attempt to shift all internal conflict and emotional development onto him. Whether she succeeds in this attempt is debatable, but the fact that she tries at all reveals an essential misunderstanding of her source material, which is firmly centered on the heroine’s journey. The result of these choices is two stock historical romance characters who no longer fit the plot Howard insists on following. Separated from comparisons to the movie, it’s neither a great book nor a terrible book — just an incredibly average entry into a genre that has so many better things on offer. My thanks to NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

No Funny Business by Amanda Aksel: Now, I’m sure this book is for someone, but it isn’t for me. I had trouble connecting to the protagonist, who is aggressively quippy (a requirement, I suppose, in a book about a stand-up comedian), is the definition of a mess (and a flake and a narcissist), and has a manic edge that could have been interesting if explored seriously but was mostly just irritating. Further, as a native Texan, I found the (I’m sure well-intentioned) representation of a Texan character ranged from hollow to offensive, with only the occasional detour into relatable. Now, the relationship between a Texan and her state is inherently complicated by the strong state identity most Texans hold, and it only becomes more complex when viewed through an intersectional lens, of course. For this reason (and others — hello, pop culture stereotypes!), I’m always wary of (and inevitably disappointed by) attempts by non-Texans (even Texan-adjacent people, as in this case) to write a Texan protagonist. That’s why I never knowingly pick up a book set in Texas or about a Texan unless it’s from an author I trust (like Ferber or Michener). But I didn’t know that about this book going in, and despite a few moments of despair and outrage, I decided to grit my teeth, ignore as much of the nonsense as possible, and… it was okay. It’s an okay book. But it is not for me. I admit I probably would have liked it more if the the main character wasn’t from a place I know so well — and didn’t shove it in my face so much. But that part, at least is true — if there’s a Texan in the room, she’ll make sure you know it! My thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

So… a very mixed week, and a rather rough one for ARCs. But I have some better readings going on at the moment and the expectation of more for next week, which is giving me hope. I’d much rather read a book I like and rave about it than go on a rant… but if a book hits certain buttons, I get caught on it like a jagged nail until I’ve said my piece. But now the emotional purge is complete, and I can settle down again. I hope you’re all having lovely weeks — in terms of reading and otherwise. And if you’re experiencing extreme heat like we have here in Texas (or any other extreme weather condition), I hope you’re staying safe. Let’s be careful out there.


5 thoughts on “Reading Roundup #72: Don’t Mess With Texa(n)s

  1. Oof, sounds like a proper rough week of reading 🙈 Sorry to hear that they were duds! I’ve only read one of Amalie Howard’s books and thought it was alright but this definitely doesn’t sound like a winner but No Funny Business really doesn’t sound like a read I’d enjoy. I hope that whatever you pick up next is better!


    1. My friend Panda said she’d read some Howard before, too, and was surprised by how dull this one was, too. It’s such a great premise, which I think is why I’m so disappointed. I have murder mysteries in the rotation now, so I’ll be okay — those always make me feel better! lol


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