Happy New Year! And talk about seconds! I ate far too many of them over the holidays. My personal weaknesses are shortbread and mint-flavored cookies, cakes, and hot chocolate. Okay, dark chocolate with peppermint pieces makes the list, as well, but I’m getting hungry just thinking about all this decadence, so I think I should stop. I hope your holidays were filled with good times with friends and family, and with many, many helpings of deliciousness.
This year, as almost always seems to happen, I had far less time for holiday reading than I had hoped for. I’m a sucker for holiday romances and anthologies, so my collection, both physical and digital, is huge. But I also borrow books, especially audiobooks, from an embarrassingly large number of libraries. (Due to an abominable memory, I’m always pleasantly surprised by what turns up on my queue.) I’ve loved Lyssa Kay Adams’s books in the past, and I was hoping to listen to A VERY MERRY BROMANCE this holiday season, but alas, I’m still only number two on the waiting list. I’ll strive to keep my eagerness for holiday magic alive and well, at least until my number comes up, and I hope to report back soon.
Luckily, though, the titles I did get to spend time with were rich in my favorite theme: second chances. NORA GOES OFF SCRIPT, by Annabel Monaghan, is a deliciously captivating story of a disillusioned woman getting a surprise second chance at love and then losing it. Her heartbreak and resignation are palpable, and my own heart broke for her. Even now, my fingers are hesitating over the keyboard as I ponder what to write and struggle not to give anything away. Because in this book, more than most, I seriously did not see how the author was going to pull off a happily-ever-after—so much so that I took a quick peak at the book’s listing to make sure it was, indeed, categorized as a romance! But oh, it is, and please take a minute to visualize a much younger me doing cartwheels of delight over how the gifted Ms. Monaghan did it.
As a bonus, Nora Goes Off Script is a fun look at the inner workings of movie making and a not quite realistic but nevertheless inspirational account of how a novelist gets her work out into the world. And as in the best books, the secondary characters, in this case Nora’s two children, are beautifully developed as the smart, interesting kinds of kids you’d really enjoy spending time with. They’re integrated into the story in a most fulfilling manner and steal your attention at times as you worry over their personal plotlines. The male lead in this story, a world-weary, world-famous actor named Leo, pulls his weight perfectly as a hero worthy of our understanding and love. And as for seconds, this is one novel I know I will return to for at least one repeat read and most likely more.
One advantage to having a book collection so great that it threatens the foundations of my house is the ability to find an older title when someone mentions it in passing. During the fall when ghost books were all the rage, there was an online discussion over whether or not MAYBE THIS TIME, by Jennifer Crusie, was a) a ghost story, and b) a romance. By the time I got to the book, many other controversies had come and gone, but my answers are decidedly yes, and yes. But more importantly, it is a second chance triumph. North and Andie (that’s he and she, since nothing is immediately obvious from the names alone) fell in love fast, married young, and then quickly woke up and smelled coffee that somehow wasn’t right. Sadly, as frequently happens, they went their separate ways. That would make a terrible romance, though, so fate intervened, and North needed Andie’s help, and, yes, ghosts were involved, but yes, most definitely, true love was as well. Once again, secondary characters--here, too, in the form of great kids--helped round out the story, although Maybe This Time also provides a smorgasbord of eccentric sidekicks. Not to give too much away, this single line captures what we want and crave most from second chance stories: “’I don’t want to go back to where we were,” he said . . . “I want to start something new.” Ahhhh. My heart sighed when I first read the words and sighs again now as I retype them.
May your new year be filled with second chances: in life, in love, and in the glorious assortment of romance novels awaiting your attention.
Meg's friends during her high school years all expected her romance novels to hit the shelves decades ago, but she foolishly allowed "serious pursuits" to get in her way. Now that her beloved children can feed, clothe, and most importantly, support themselves, she's free to turn her attention to her first passion - putting words to paper that capture your attention and make your heart sing in quiet joy. Her stories tell most frequently of second chances--in life, love, and sometimes even at rediscovering a soul-mate from a previous life.
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