Anna Campbell

February 2022

Recommended Reading – Fiction

After a break from all the short book reviews, we’re heading back to some more now! I can’t help it. Reading a good book is one of my absolute favorite things! This month, I’m talking about some fiction I’ve recently enjoyed and that I think you’ll like too.

First up, I’ll start with one of the best romance writers in the business. I’ve been a fan of Loretta Chase for years. Her Lord of Scoundrels often gets voted as the best romance ever written and if you haven’t read Mr. Impossible, you’re missing out on a huge treat.

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke (2020) is book 2 in her latest series, Difficult Dukes, and it follows on from the events in the almost as charming A Duke in Shining Armor (2017). TTIHATD is a take on The Taming of the Shrew in a fairly vague way – I must admit the link wasn’t paramount in my mind when I read this story of enemies into lovers who fight their way into a lifelong passion.

Cassandra Pomfret is the sort of heroine Loretta Chase does perfectly – mouthy, smart, daring, brave, but with a heart the size of Alaska. The Duke of Ashmont, her bugbear, is charming, aimless and possessed of a stronger sense of honor than anyone would suspect from his disreputable behavior. These two are just lovely on the page. I found myself laughing out loud at their banter and their antics, not to mention heaving a lovely satisfied sigh when they finally shut up long enough to realize that they were deeply in love with each other. Lovely story! And don’t just take my word for it. Ten Things I Hate About the Duke won the Vivian award from Romance Writers of America for the best historical of 2020.

My next choice in this quick rundown of recent fiction I’ve liked is from a genre that in general isn’t my cup of tea. I often find dystopian fiction too depressing, given I read for enjoyment. If I want to feel down about the world, I just have to watch the news, especially at the moment!

But a friend of mine whose taste I trust recommended Good Morning, Midnight (2015) by Lily Brooks-Dalton, and I decided to give it a whirl. I’m so glad I did. This is a haunting story about the last people on earth after an unspecified disaster, but mainly it’s a character study (which is I think why I liked it!).

The story is told through two characters. One is a rather curmudgeonly scientist called Augustine, who has remained behind alone at an Arctic research station after everyone else has evacuated, once news of trouble comes through. The other is a female astronaut called Sullivan who is returning from an expedition to Jupiter with the rest of her crew.

I’ve thought about this book a lot since I finished it a couple of months ago. It has a peculiarly melancholy but powerful atmosphere that’s hard to put into words for review purposes. And the use of setting to reflect human emotion is masterly. Definitely one of the more unusual, memorable stories I’ve read in the last year.

My last choice is a really fun read called Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who wrote the brilliant Daisy Jones & the Six that made an appearance in My Favorite Things on this website back in July 2020: http://annacampbell.com/my-favorite-things/2020-2/july-2020/

This one covers similar celebrity/glamour territory to Daisy Jones, but this time it’s the rise of surfing culture on the California Coast during the 1970s and 1980s. The story centers around a wild party that takes place in August 1983 at the home of famous female surfer and supermodel Nina Riva.

Since her alcoholic mother’s death, Nina has parented her three charismatic siblings. Her brother Jay is a championship surfer, too, and Hud is a famous sports photographer. And then there’s their rather lost youngest sister Kit, who feels overwhelmed and out of place in this high-powered family. The children have grown up in the camera’s eye because their father was world famous crooner, Mick Riva (who definitely has a touch of the Frank Sinatras going on!).

I loved the way the plot of this one intertwined past and present, yet never lost sight of the powerful family bonds and resentments at the heart of the story. Not to mention, it was fun to spy on the lifestyles of the rich and famous for a time, especially when the Riva kids are such good company. I read this one in one gulp one Saturday morning and I think you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did.