Dashing Home for Christmas

Happy Ending? I Hope So…

I loved the romance and humor in this. First of all the two leads were in each others company almost non-stop throughout the movie which led to lots of interaction and realistic relationship building. I loved their chemistry. They had two very distinct and quirky personalities which at the same time were polar opposites from each other. So the journey from indifference to friendship and then love was interesting and full of twists and turns.

I have to say the male lead was certainly not the typical leading man type. Dorky, with glasses, but handsome underneath it all.

He over shared with all and sundry and was pretty irritating to his co-star and the viewer as well. But as we and she come to see, it is because of his warm, kind and generous heart. I generally prefer the non-traditional underdog type hero to the too handsome to be real types anyway. If this is not your jam, you probably will not like this.

The “girl”, on the other hand was not interested in anything but her own business, and would not get off her phone. She was snotty and entitled, but yet she loved her family and wanted nothing else but to get home to them before her sister had her baby. She was an exotic beauty, as opposed to the hero’s looks.

So it was an interesting matchup and romance. Very much out of the typical box. My only doubt is if they can sustain the relationship past the “honeymoon period,” they were so different. So in the interest of happy endings, it’s probably a good thing it ended when it did.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

November 23, 2020

Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors

by Sonali Dev

HRH’s take on it was this advice to his children: “This is our home. This country is yours. Take everything you need. Give everything you have. From the beginning of time, humans have migrated. We’ve claimed land and let it claim us. Don’t ever fulfill anybody else’s definition of your relationship with your country. How many generations ago their forefathers got here may be how some people stake their claim, but I stake mine with how much I give. How wholly I love. This place called to me, I’m here, it’s mine. And now, it’s yours.”

I’m a soft touch for novels that are re-imaginings of or sequels to Jane Austen‘s works in film or on the page. I have a soft spot for even ones that are not all that good. This is one of the best ones. Sonali Dev did a masterful job of using P and P as an inspiration for similar themes while making it wholly her own. The looseness of the adaptation worked very well. A reader who enjoys contemporary romance or women’s fiction would enjoy this even if they haven’t read Pride and Prejudice. There are many characters in Dev’s novel that are not in the original and many characters and situations Austen’s classic that are not in Dev’s novel. Yet while they diverge in interesting ways, they also mirror each other in the essentials. There is the prideful, arrogant, but socially inept aristocrat (Trisha), the formidable love interest from a suspect background (DJ), victimized loved ones past and present, the evil opportunist, The cold and powerful head determined to “protect” the family from scandal, and the sweet and good sister. But they are deliciously shuffled up. A few scenarios are faithfully and delightfully reset in today’s times. One of the highlights of Austen’s work and this one as well is when Trisha (Darcy) pours out her heart to DJ (Elizabeth) and is rejected.

“I have absolutely no interest in you, Dr. Raje,” meeting the wild pleas in her eyes…it hadn’t struck her for one instant that he might not lap up her proposition or whatever this was.
“This might baffle you, but despite not being a physician, I do have some pride. Although most certainly not enough to withstand the kind of beating you’re capable of dealing to it. The kind of beating you’ve repeatedly dealt it from the first time we’ve met. You’re right, I value honesty, so I’ll tell you that I make it a practice not to find women who insult me at every opportunity attractive.”
…she looked entirely devastated. Had no one ever denied her anything?

One thing I really liked about it was how the black hero in the book was portrayed. Too often, lately, it seems like authors are using diverse ethnic characters to make a political statement but they are ethnic in looks alone. In one book I read recently, we’re told that the swoony successful love interest looks like Barack Obama, but other than that, he might as well be a white guy. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but it’s like the author wanted points for having a diverse cast of characters but didn’t want to make her mostly white readership too uncomfortable. Kind of like the Hallmark channel checking the boxes. Oh well, baby steps. In this one, Trisha, although “brown” has always had power and privilege. Unlike DJ who knows very well what is probably going to happen if a white cop sees him breaking into his own luxury car.

“Are you laughing because you think you taught me some sort of lesson?” Because he had, he had pulled the world from beneath her feet…DJ had stood there helpless as a cop reached for his gun for no reason other than fear based in prejudice…Trisha didn’t want him to be standing there in that inequitable ocean, unable to do anything about it. She wanted to live in a world where the waves hit everyone the same way, where everyone could choose how they surfed them. Where the only thing that mattered was ability. And she had allowed herself to become oblivious to the fact that they did not live in that world. 

I was not too impressed with the first book I read by Ms Dev. This one also slowed to a crawl in several places. It was repetitive (the constant rhapsodizing about food got old and kind of creepy in places, to me) There were a little too many tangents explored and too much detail which did little to advance the story. But even so, it kept my interest. Sometimes the sentence structure seemed a little off and sentence meaning was a little obscured at first. But this book was a really good novel and a superbly creative riff on Pride and Prejudice. I love books about interesting families and especially ones I have to do a family tree to keep everyone straight. 4 stars for the novel and 5 stars for the Pride and Prejudice connection. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

May 16, 2020

A Bollywood Affair

by Sonali Dev

The concept of this story was unusual and intriguing. Mili was married in India at 4 years old. She hasn’t seen her husband since he lives in America. Now grown, Mili wins a fellowship to study in Michigan and is looking forward to reuniting with her husband. Meanwhile, thinking the marriage had been annulled, her husband has gotten married and has a child. He sends his famous Hollywood director brother to get an annulment from Mili. The possibilities were exciting. Mili was a throw-back to the very early romantic heroines, as was Samir, the bad-boy who at heart was a true knight in shining armor. Yet, because Mili was an Indian and a stranger in a strange land it did not offend my modern sensibilities. Unfortunately, right at about page 100, I lost interest. It became repetitive, the plot was not advanced and it seemed to go around in circles. I still liked the characters, but I got bored, and skipped through the rest of the book to the big reveal, and lingered over an unexpected plot development regarding Samir. However, the comeuppance was ruined by severe over-reaction on the part of our heroine, and not balanced by enough groveling on the part of the hero. A great plot, but a missed opportunity.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

March 4, 2015

Bottled With Love

Bethany Bottles Charm

This is another take on You got Mail, which was a new take on In the Good Old Summertime, which was a new take on The Shop Around the Corner. That’s OK because it is a  sure-fire and enjoyable trope for a romantic comedy. Closed off  Abbey is disappointed in love again, and on the advice of her aunt pours out her heart in a letter which is found by Nick. He emails her and they start a correspondence. They really connect on a deep level.

Meanwhile, free-spirited Nick is summoned from his vagabond life by his father and sister who want him to temporarily help with the family corporation. Their star employee is none other than focused, efficient, no-nonsense workaholic Abbey who is paired up with Nick, who definitely marches to a different drummer. They strike sparks off of each other because they are so different, but as they get to know each other, they see the other’s value, and become attracted.

The pen pals finally agree to meet, but before that can happen, Nick realizes that his soulmate pen pal is none other than uptight Abbey. He freaks out and stands her up. She blocks him on email.

On a mission for the company, which is a whole other story, Abbey and Nick continue to bond and fall in love especially since Nick now knows Abbey’s business self is so different from her personal self. Nick finally confesses that he is her secret pen pal and humbly apologizes for not telling her sooner and crying off from their big date. Now here is where the Hallmark version differs from its predecessors. Instead of being thrilled that her pen pal soulmate is the same guy she is falling in love with in person, she gets mad! This is because the Hallmark formula demands a conflict and misunderstanding that has to be resolved in the last 20 minutes of the show. In addition to resolving the romance, Nick’s shaky career prospects are taken care of quite nicely as well.

Bethany Joy Lenz is a joy as always and she teams well with talented and attractive Andrew Walker. The scene where she blisses out over her beloved pancakes Nick surprises her with is delightful.  I just can’t say enough about Bethany Joy Lenz. She elevates every show she is in.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

October 15, 2021

How to Capture a Countess

by Karen Hawkins

“Financial standing, a social position beyond what she has now, and a husband to dote upon her every wish. What more could she ask for?”

“Maybe youth. Vigor. Teeth.”

“Lord Cameron has his own teeth.” Margaret narrowed her eyes at the other candidate. “I’m not so certain about Munro. They seemed somewhat clacky at dinner, so I’m suspicious.”

Tolerable. Karen Hawkins is a better writer than most of the historical romance writers I have found these days. She writes like she enjoys writing. This is the first book I have read by her, and I will give her another chance with next in the series. Humorous situations, though not laugh out loud funny. Doesn’t have the wit or the voice of some of my favorites, but she is one of the better writers in a genre I have grown weary of. Unfortunately, she follows the same hackneyed romance formula as most of her sister writers do. By page 30, X has to happen; by page 75 xx has to happen etc., etc. I had to skip through the last third of the book. This book was flawed by a silly and immature hero who was also kind of a jerk. When he threw our heroine in a lake because she dared best him in a contest and then accused her of cheating, I almost quit the thing. Still, she is engaging.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

July 31, 2015

Matchmaker Santa

Meh.

Reliable Lacey just didn’t do it for me in this one. This movie was made 8 years ago and Lacey Chabert hasn’t changed a bit. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Same hairdo, same lipstick, same signature eyeliner. Honestly, couldn’t she even wash her face before going to bed? On the other hand, If she ever wiped that eyeliner off, I don’t think I’d recognize her. Same affected giggle: It would make a good drinking game. I didn’t think she had much chemistry with her co-star, and the plot was tired and dull. Cupcake maker Lacey is invited to her bosses home for Christmas and she is hoping for a marriage proposal. On the way to meet him she meets a magic santa claus and is picked up by her bosses really nice friend/assistant. They are stranded on the way to her bosses vacation home. While Lacey and the assistant are falling for each other with the help of magic santa, her boss meets an old flame. And that ties it all up and puts a bow on it.

Maybe I just need a break from Lacey, because she can be a good actress, and is great with comedy when comedy is in the script. Unfortunately that’s a little difficult, since watching Hallmarks is kind of a silly hobby of mine. On a promising note, I have seen her in more recent efforts and she has been fine.

Florence Henderson, John Ratzenburger, Robert Pine, and Lin Shay, of Insidious fame, add some credibility. And I did like her love interest. On his own though. I’d like to see him pared up with someone else.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

November 23, 2020

Doctor, Soldier, Daddy

By Caro Carson

I took a chance on this author because it came highly recommended by one of my favorite authors who reads Ms. Carson herself when she wants some super light reading. This is still another time I was disappointed by a favorite author’s recommendation. Yes, it was light. Boy, was it light. As far as sentence structure, vocabulary, and complexity, and depth of feeling, it was on the level of maybe 5th grade. But I can’t really even say that, because the first 3 Harry Potters are 5th grade. There were some other promising signs that this might be worth reading: the publisher was a real one, Harlequin, which has published some really good books and given many a talented author their start. My library had a number of titles of Caro Carson available, she has decent ratings on Goodreads, and of course, words of praise by a beloved author. She must have some talent and a loyal following, right? Obviously, it’s me. Wow, what a disconnect.

But I finished it, so the writing was at least good enough not to make me mad. I just kept telling myself to give it a few more minutes, but by that time, I was so close to the end, that it would have been a shame to quit. And it was a very fast read because I could speed read or skip without missing a thing. The characters were cardboard; I didn’t care about them in the least; there was no humor, the prose was not entertaining, Let me count the ways.

Simply, (“spoilers” ahead! )a nice hot doctor needs a mother for his son he brought home from Afghanistan. He settles on a nursery helper who seems to have a special connection to his son, who has health problems (they both have health problems-she has allergies, his are more serious). She is poverty-stricken and plain and is treated unkindly, sometimes, by the nurses who work with her. She (finally) accepts his proposal, and the rest is just them getting together and making a real marriage of it. There is a little bit of suspense as he learns that the Afghan woman might have already been pregnant before our hero met her. So he takes a genetic test. I won’t include the result of the test, but does it really matter?

The plot summary of the book appealed to me. I like a fake-marriage story. I like a good Cinderella/make-over story. But that angle was wasted. There was no comeuppance for the mean nurses, no shock and awe over the plain little mouse becoming a cool chick. (Her make-over consisted of a new haircut and her nose stops running constantly because she can now afford allergy medicine.) But because of the simplistic writing and lack of character development, the book generated as much emotion and caring about these people in me as my paragraph summarizing the book did just now.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

December 13, 2018

The Christmas Club

Christmas Magic

This production was blessed by the good acting on the part of Cameron Mathison and Elizabeth Mitchell. They made a good match, and the story was very romantic. A slow development of their relationship with more than a hint of magic provided by the wonderful Gabrielle Rose. Two strangers, both missing true romantic love in their lives, team up to help a little old lady who lost her Christmas Club money. They give her $40.00, and from then on, magic follows them, and brings them together. It was something a little different from the typical cookie cutter offerings from Hallmark. It had some very imaginative and heartwarming plot points. Elizabeth was a little over-sensitive in parts; a little too fragile, but I guess that was her character. They did not drag the misunderstandings out too long. Probably not a re-watch, but I enjoyed it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

November 22, 2020

Suspense and Sensibility: Or, First Impressions Revisited (Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, #2)

by Carrie Bebris

I’m a sucker for anything based on Jane Austen if it is well done. And sometimes when it is not. This is evidenced by the fact that I’ve read all of these Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, though this is the only one I have actually written anything on. It starts off pretty well; the characters seemed pretty true to the originals, though Kitty is given a more positive spin. It is an improvement over Pride and Prescience. I actually chuckled a few times. Sadly, it degenerates pretty quickly once the mystery kicks in. Unfortunately, it is another paranormal mystery and it is positively outlandish. It was nice to see the Dashwood women again. Lucy Ferrars nee Steele starts out true to form, but her ultimate fate is positively ludicrous and cringe-worthy. The resolution has some tragic aspects considering the fluffy way it starts out. I was considerably less patient with the rest in the series, just skipping through the mystery part. I remember looking forward to more of Georgiana as she was pretty intriguing, and also an appearance of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Unfortunately, I do not remember anything about any of the other stories, which I guess is a review of the whole series in and of itself.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

September 15, 2014

The Astronaut Wives Club

By Lisa Koppel

“On his previous Apollo 10 mission, a “dry run” for Apollo 11, Geno had radioed back to Houston that riding around the Moon was a piece of cake. “It was definitely not a piece of cake for me,” said Barbara. “If you think going to the Moon is hard, try staying at home.”

This book was very much a page-turner for me. At turns funny, dishy, and sad. It’s a great thumbnail sketch of what women’s lives were like in the ’60s. It would have been improved had the author scaled down a bit and focused more on the original 7 or maybe 9 and gone deeper.

I picked this up because I loved The Right Stuff and have read it several times. I would have liked to have had more of the wives’ reaction to that book which really defined them in the public eye in such an irreverent but ultimately respectful way. The only mention was when the author reported that one of the women threw TRS across the room because of her objection to Tom Wolfe comparing their group to the Officers Wives Club. Huh? That’s what was cherry-picked? And what is the name of this book again? It seems very self-serving of Koppel to only use this reference to Tom Wolfe’s book when any book on the astronauts or their wives owes so much to it.

The Right Stuff really gave the Astronaut Wives their due in both lyrical and hilarious prose. Many of the anecdotes were first told in Wolfe’s masterpiece and told much better. The dramatic confrontation between John Glenn trying to protect his shy wife from the press and Vice-President Johnson made you bite your nails and then stand up and cheer. Especially when the other 5 had his back regardless of their rivalries and jealousies. Tom Wolfe’s incisive reveal of the travails of Betty Grissom, and their self-aware inside jokes such as Mr. and Mrs. “Primly and Squarely Stable” when they were anything but are included here. I wish it had taken off from there and gone deeper rather than lamely rehashing entertaining but old material. I would have loved to read what Wolfe would have had to say about Pat White and her ultimate suicide, Alan Shepard barring one of the widows from her dead husband’s things, the interesting characters of Buzz Aldrin, Edgar Mitchell, and Alan Bean, and many others.

That being said, I have to hand it to Lily Koppel: she does give a glance at some of the quirkiness and bizarre personality traits some of the wives had to cope with in their husbands. Unfortunately, it is only a glimpse. It is more of reportage rather than interpretation and insights into the great drama and comedy it was. The book would also have benefited from getting some of the men’s perspectives and musings, now that they are old.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

July 17, 2013