paris lettersParis Letters explores finding love and freedom in a pen, a paintbrush… and Paris

How much money does it take to quit your job? Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this questions to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up, and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A few days into her stop in Paris, Janice meets Christophe, the cute butcher down the street-who doesn’t speak English. Through a combination of sign language and franglais, they embark on a whirlwind Paris romance. She soon realizes that she can never return to the world of twelve-hour workdays and greasy corporate lingo. But her dwindling savings force her to find a way to fund her dreams again. So Janice turns to her three loves – words, art, and Christophe – to figure out a way to make her happily-ever-after in Paris last forever. (description from publisher)

matchmakerA touching new novel from bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand in which a woman sets out to find love for those closest to her – before it’s too late.

48-year-old Nantucketer Dabney Kimball Beech has always had a gift for matchmaking. Some call her ability mystical, while others – like her husband, celebrated economist John Boxmiller Beech, and her daughter, Agnes, who is clearly engaged to the wrong man – call it meddlesome, but there’s no arguing with her results: With 42 happy couples to her credit and all of them still together, Dabney has never been wrong about romance. Never, that is, except in the case of herself and Clendenin Hughes, the green-eyed boy who took her heart with him long ago when he left the island to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist. Now, after spending 27 years on the other side of the world, Clen is back on Nantucket, and Dabney has never felt so confused, or so alive. But when tragedy threatens her own second chance, Dabney must face the choices she’s made and share painful secrets with her family. Determined to make use of her gift before it’s too late, she sets out to find perfect matches for those she loves most.

The Matchmaker is a heartbreaking story about losing and finding love, even as you’re running out of time. (description from publisher)

on the rocksEver since she was a little girl, Abby Wilkes dreamed of her wedding, the day when she’d wear a pretty white dress and look like a princess. . . . But that was before her life fell apart for the entire world to see. Her longtime boyfriend-turned-fiancé, Ben, unceremoniously dumped her – changing his status to single on Facebook – while she was trying on the most gorgeous Vera Wang dress for the big day in On the Rocks by Erin Duffy.

Six months and twenty pounds later, the usual remedies–cupcakes, a freezer stocked with pints of Ben and Jerry’s, sweatpants, and a comfy couch–haven’t worked their magic. Worried about her best friend, Grace devises the perfect plan to get Abby back on her game. The two of them are going to escape sweltering Boston and its reminders of Ben and head to Newport for the summer. In a quaint rented cottage by the sea, the girls will enjoy cool breezes, cocktails, and crowds of gorgeous men. But no matter which way they turn, Abby and Grace discover that in this era of social media – when seemingly everyone is preserving every last detail of their lives online and prying eyes are everywhere – there is no real escape.

Truth to tell, dating has never been easy. But now that the rules have changed and the boundaries are blurred beyond recognition, will they ever find true love? And if they do, how can romance stand a chance when a girl’s every word and move can go viral with a single click? As the summer winds down to Labor Day, Abby will make some surprising discoveries – about love, men, friendship . . . and, most important, herself. (description from publisher)

romance is my day jobWho knows the ins and outs of romance better than a Harlequin editor? Romance is My Day Job by Patience Bloom gives us some insight into one editor’s search for love.

At some point, we’ve all wished romance could be more like fiction. Patience Bloom certainly did, many times over. As a teen she fell in love with Harlequin novels and imagined her life would turn out just like the heroines’ on the page: That shy guy she had a crush on wouldn’t just take her out – he’d sweep her off her feet with witty banter, quiet charm, and a secret life as a rock star. Not exactly her reality, but Bloom kept reading books that fed her reveries.

Years later she moved to New York and found her dream job, editing romances for Harlequin. Every day, her romantic fantasies came true – on paper. Bloom became an expert when it came to fictional love stories, editing amazing books and learning everything she could about the romance business. But her dating life remained uninspired. She nearly gave up on love. Then one day a real-life chance at romance made her wonder if what she’d been writing and editing all those years might be true. A Facebook message from a high school friend, Sam, sparked a relationship with more promise than she’d had in years. But Sam lived thousands of miles away – they hadn’t seen each other in more than twenty years. Was it worth the risk?

Finally, Bloom learned: Love and romance can conquer all. (description from publisher)

i always loved youA novel of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas’s great romance from the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter.

The young Mary Cassatt never thought moving to Paris after the Civil War to be an artist was going to be easy, but when, after a decade of work, her submission to the Paris Salon is rejected, Mary’s fierce determination wavers. Her father is begging her to return to Philadelphia to find a husband before it is too late, her sister Lydia is falling mysteriously ill, and worse, Mary is beginning to doubt herself. Then one evening a friend introduces her to Edgar Degas and her life changes forever. Years later she will learn that he had begged for the introduction, but in that moment their meeting seems a miracle. So begins the defining period of her life and the most tempestuous of relationships.

In I Always Loved You, Robin Oliveira brilliantly re-creates the irresistible world of Belle Époque Paris, writing with grace and uncommon insight into the passion and foibles of the human heart. (description from publisher)

I’m pretty sure that if a cute stranger offered to take me to a romantic European city for the day, I would probably say “No, but thank you. I’m just too awkward for that.” And I wouldn’t even fret about possibly missing out on an experience of a lifetime because, luckily, there are plenty of young adult romances that can satisfy my “but what would have happened?!” curiosity. Just One Day by Gayle Forman (and its companion book, Just One Year) is the perfect choice for armchair travel because the heroine just happens to be quite introverted herself, and thus, very relatable to us classic Librarian-types 😉

Just One Day begins with sensible, quiet Allyson feeling ready for her graduation trip around Europe with a teen tour group to be over so she can go home to the States. Yeah, that whining-about-being-in-Europe part isn’t that relatable to me, but granted her best friend has gotten a little bit wild/annoying, and the tour skipped over Paris–the one city Allyson wanted to see on the tour. But then she runs into a cute street actor who had flirted with her during his performance the night before…AND HE OFFERS TO TAKE HER TO PARIS! YES! YES! YES! So Allyson tells him her name is Lulu and hops on the train to Paris with him (and then promptly has several panic attacks on the train about him leaving her, killing her, making a fool of her, etc–this is actually the moment where I went from liking the book to LOVING the book). Lulu/Allyson and Willem spend an amazing day running around Paris and then live happily ever after. Swooooooon.

Well, until the next morning when Allyson wakes up alone in an empty Paris art studio.

With lots of tears and panic, Allyson finds her way back to London and her tour group and then back home to the United States. We then follow her through her first year of college as she learns to overcome her broken heart and embarrassment. After a long self-inflicted isolation, new friends help Allyson discover that she needs to revisit Paris and find Willem–partly because she believes that there is a mystery surrounding the morning Willem left her and partly because she needs to prove to herself that she is in control of her life.

Sorry, I can’t tell you if she finds Willem…BUT I will tell you that the companion book Just One Year tells the story of what happened to Willem during his year apart from Lulu. He does quite a bit more traveling…that is all I will say.

These two books are a must read for fans of Stephanie Perkins, John Green and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes a little independence and a little travel with their romances.

February 4th

dallas buyers clubDallas Buyer’s Club – Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof’s free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Shunned and ostracized by many old friends and bereft of government-approved medicines, he decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, he joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts and established a hugely successful ‘buyers’ club.’ Rated R

February 11th

riddickRiddick – Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Katee Sackhoff

Riddick must fight for his life after his people betrayed him, leaving him stranded on a desolate planet to die. On this unbearably hot planet, Riddick is up against predators of an alien race. Using his emergency signals, he summons two ships: one transporting a mercenary, and the other led by an old acquaintance. Rated R



enders gameEnder’s Game – Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis

A hostile alien race attacked Earth, and if not for the legendary heroics of Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham, all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, Colonel Hyrum Graff is training only the best young children. Ender Wiggin, a shy, but brilliant boy, is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope. Once at Command School, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham to lead them into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race. Rated PG-13

all is lostAll is Lost – Robert Redford

An open-water thriller about one man’s battle for survival against the elements after his sailboat is destroyed at sea. Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling, and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face. Rated PG-13

austenlandAustenland – Keri Russell, Jj Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, Jane Seymour

Jane Hayes’s adoration of all things Jane Austen is complicating her love life. Determined to be the heroine of her own story, Jane spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, an eccentric Austen-inspired resort, where she meets two very different gentlemen…but has a difficult time determining where fantasy ends and real life, and maybe even love, begins. Rated PG-13


February 25th

rushRush – Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde

Set against the golden age of Formula One racing in the 1970s, Rush is based on the true story of a spectacular sporting rivalry between English playboy James Hunt, and his structured, intelligent opponent, Austrian driver Niki Lauda. Directed by Ron Howard. Rated R



gravityGravity – Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Dr. Ryan Stone is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky. On a seemingly routine spacewalk, the shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left, and the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space. Rated PG-13

nebraskaNebraska – Bruce Dern, Will Forte

After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his estranged son into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Getting waylaid in the father’s hometown in Nebraska, the son tries to reconnect with his impenetrable father. Rated R



thorThor – the Dark World – Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Natalie Portman

Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos, but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all. Rated PG-13



longbournParodies, continuations and alternate universe settings of Jane Austin’s books have become very popular – mysteries, vampire hunters, etc. – with a greater or (more often) lesser degree of success. Now there is a new version using the world and characters Austin’s Pride and Prejudice and it is delightful and beautiful and very much a great success.

Longbourn by Jo Baker follows the story of Pride and Prejudice from the the servants point-of-view. As were good servants in real life, the servants in Austin are mostly silent and unseen. Here they take center stage. They have their own dramas and crisis, joy and heartbreak and a unique, decidedly  unglamorous view of the family. The Bennett girls, both thoughtful and frivolous, only rarely acknowledge the servants and the extra work they often unnecessarily create for them (except for sweet Jane who is always undemanding and kind), and offhandedly change the servants lives without consulting what they might wish. Although they are the center around which the servants orbit, the Bennets are regulated to the periphery here and the world of the servant is foremost. The work is physically hard and mind numbing dull, yet for most of the servants their place in the household gives them shelter, both physical and emotional, from a cruel world.

Sarah, orphaned at a young age, is grateful to have a place at Longbourn, yet wonders if she can again find the happiness she remembers before her parents died. Her suspicions of James the new footman gradually change and when she discovers his secret, they become bound by love and a common understanding of those who are alone.

Longbourn is beautifully written – you may find yourself stopping frequently to reread favorite passages – and full of compassion and secrets. James’ story is especially heartbreaking and suspenseful. At heart a love story,  Longbourn is also about the restrictions imposed by society and class structure, about what we are willing to sacrifice for those we love, about the power of waiting and standing firm, about finding your own path no matter the obstacles.

nappily ever afterIn Nappily Ever After, the first book in Trisha Thomas’ Nappily series, introduces readers to Venus Johnson.  Venus seems to have it all — a beautiful house, a great job, a loving doctor boyfriend, and “good” straight, shiny hair — but she feels like something is missing.  When her boyfriend, Clint, once again brushes off her desire to get married, Venus decides that she needs to start making changes in her life.

The first change she makes is cutting off all of her hair.  After spending most of her life in the solon having her hair chemically relaxed, she is sick of what she now sees as a painful, expensive waste.  This symbolic move of independence is important for Venus, who has always worked hard to reach the goals set by society.  She now has to fight against other’s expectations and make her own way.

Featuring love triangles, misunderstandings, and sabotage, Venus’ life is a ever changing soap opera.  Fans of Kimberla Lawson Roby and Benilde Little will want to pick up book.

For more than 15 years, Amish romance novels have been gaining popularity.  Publishers are eager to publish these quick sellers, and their popularity has yielded at least one academic book (Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels by Valerie Weaver-Zercher) and a slew of articles from online newspapers and magazines about the phenomena.  The LA Times coined the term “Bonnet Rippers” to describe them, although the books are too modest for much ripping to occur.  In the age of Fifty Shades of Grey these books seem to be the demure alternative for ladies (and gentlemen!) looking for a little romance.

If you’re looking to start reading this expanding genre, you may want to start with a series by prolific authors Beverly LewisCindy Woodsmall, and Wanda Brunstetter.

storekeeper'sdaughterThe Storekeeper’s Daughter is the first book in the Daughters of Lancaster County series by Wanda Brunstetter.  After the death of her mother, Naomi Fisher takes over all of the responsibilities of managing a household of seven children and helping her father at his store at 20-years-old.  She longs to gain the attention of a young man in her community, but with her new responsibilities and after making a horrible mistake while watching her baby brother, Naomi feels like it will be impossible to start her own family.

thesecretBeverly Lewis’ The Secret is the first book in the Seasons of Grace series, and introduces readers to Amish Grace Byler and “Englisher” Heather Nelson.  After family issues make her reassess her future, Grace breaks off her betrothal and plans a future as a single woman, until she begins receiving attention from another man.  Heather comes to Amish country to reconnect to memories of her mother, following a somber medical prognosis.  Although they are from different worlds, the two women develop a quick friendship and help each other find what they’re looking for.

whentheheartcriesIn the first book, When the Heart Cries, of Cindy Woodsmall’s Sisters of the Quilt series, we meet 17-year-old Hannah Lapp.  Hannah was raised Old Order Amish, but wants to break tradition to be with the Mennonite man that she loves, Paul.  He is a modern man, attending college and driving cars, which is unacceptable to her traditional father. She knows that marrying Paul would change the relationship she has with her family, but she also wants to spend her life with him.  When tragedy strikes, she finds herself having to seek answers outside of her family’s traditions.