I finally got the chance to watch the companion short film to The Day of the Doctor, and it is HILARIOUS. Everyone, and I mean literally EVERYONE, makes an appearance -- not to mention tons of unexpected Hobbit jokes. *wink* Enjoy!
With a high-paying job and good looks and charm to spare, Dexter Yates epitomizes the life of a carefree London bachelor. Addicted to the thrill of the chase, once a woman succumbs to his charm he quickly loses interest, leaving him with a reputation of something of a heartbreaker. The only stability in Dexter's personal life comes in the form of his beloved older sister Laura and her newborn daughter, Delphi -- the only women in his life of whom Dexter will never tire. When tragedy strikes, Dexter is left reeling and faces a shocking choice -- grieving his sister's death and returning to the freewheeling emptiness of the life he's always led, or forsaking his playboy ways and honoring his sister's wish to raise Delphi as his own. Taking a leap of faith Dexter applies for guardianship and gives up his flat in London for a cottage in the quiet village of Briarwood. But although Delphi has capture his heart, the challenges of raising an infant alone -- in the midst of his grief -- threatens to derail Dexter's best intentions. Can the man who strove to avoid commitment of any sort find the courage to commit to his niece, and in the process find a love worth fighting for?
Molly Hayes's love life is a series of disasters, and after her latest messy break-up she resolves to forswear men -- at least temporarily -- and concentrate on her art. The genius behind a popular comic strip, she loves the quiet atmosphere Briarwood provides, allowing her to focus on her work and teach aspiring artists at the local cafe. But the day she lobs an unwanted fish into Dexter's backyard, her resolve to avoid romantic entanglements is put to the test the moment she sees the playful glint in her handsome new neighbor's eyes. As the months pass, Molly and Dexter find themselves forming an unorthodox family, but when the local doctor sets her sights on winning Dex, Molly is faced with a choice: move on with another or fight for a chance at happiness with the last man she ever thought she could trust with her heart?
Oh how I loved this book! Is it predictable? Sure -- but that is part of its charm. This is a novel that takes all the tropes of a romantic comedy and makes them shine. Mansell had me from the novel's first pages, when we're introduced to Dex and one of his fated-to-fail girlfriends. His transformation from romantic lout to caring brother and uncle just KILLED me -- because I immediately knew he was fated to lose his sister, the only person capable of keeping him honest. And as I'm a complete sucker for a redemption story, I was immediately charmed. I loved how Mansell took the time to develop a true relationship between Dexter and Molly, the seeds of a relationship that blossomed over time. While each party's respective detours on the road to happiness was oft-times maddening, I loved Mansell's honest portrayal of the rewards and frustrations of friendship, and the fear attendant with risking the same on the possibility of something more.
As I've quickly learned is the norm with a Mansell novel, in addition to the core romance she peppers each book's world with a host of fully realized, wonderfully flawed support characters, each as in desperate need of a happy ending as Dex and Molly. I loved the idea that Briarwood once played host to a classic BBC television show -- the fictional Next To You -- and one of that "classic's" stars unexpected chance to rekindle a love once thought lost forever. And then there is Frankie, the proprietress of the local cafe, and the completely INSANE discovery that her husband has -- with the best of intentions (*eyeroll*) been concealing the existence of a SECOND FAMILY for nearly twenty years. People, I KNOW this is the stuff of soap opera INSANITY, but for once I just didn't care. Mansell actually made me care about Frankie and her daughter and the fact that somehow, something of their relationship with her husband might be salvageable in a more or less believable manner.
I've quickly come to love losing myself in one of Mansell's frothy romances. Don't Want to Miss a Thing is replete with Mansell's trademark humor and warmth, from comic misunderstandings that leave you gasping with laughter one moment, to poignant moments of loss and uncertainty. Despite its arguably over-long length, there isn't a chapter or storyline I'd want to see cut. Like the best of romantic comedies, Mansell is a master at hitting all the right notes that hook a reader and tug at the heartstrings. One knows the story beats -- the meet cute, the dark moments, the reconciliation -- and while the conclusion may be foregone, here the joy is in the journey. And this is a ride I for one was more than happy to take. I'm so happy I still have multiple volumes of Mansell's backlist to discover. If you're looking for a frothy confection of a read with which you can while away a few hours, this is just the ticket. Enjoy! About the book:
He knows all about women, or so he thought...
Yates leads a charmed existence in London, with money, looks, and
girlfriends galore. Life's fantastic until Dex's sister dies and his
world changes overnight. Astonishing everyone, including himself, Dex
leaves the city behind, takes charge of his eight-month-old niece
Delphi, moves to a beautiful Cotswolds village, and sets about working
on his parenting skills. His neighbors, including cartoonist Molly
Hayes, seem friendly enough—but Dex can't shake the notion that he's
missing something important.
A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair #1)
By: Emma Jane Holloway
Publisher: Del Rey
Caught between two worlds, and on the cusp of finishing school and entering Society, Evelina Cooper is a woman caught between the pull of her past and the alluring possibilities of her future. The only child of an ill-fated union between a society miss and the rakish son of a circus family, following her father's death Evelina's disgraced and disowned mother took refuge with her husband's people, the vagabond Coopers responsible for the wonders of Ploughman's Paramount Circus. When her mother died far too young, Evelina was raised by her gypsy grandmother -- and amid the carefree wonders of circus life began to learn of the magical inheritance coursing through her veins, her sole -- and dangerous -- inheritance from her father. In Victorian England, power is controlled by the steam barons, and magic of an stripe or practice is squashed with a fearful ruthlessness. When her mother's grandmother appears with an offer to fund Evelina's education, she resolves to leave the freedom of the circus -- and her affinity for magic -- behind, exchanging the danger of the one for the irresistible pull of knowledge, education, and the respectability the Holmes family name commands.
Years pass, and Evelina readies for her society debut -- no longer a circus ragamuffin but not quite an accepted member of the gentry, even with the friendship of Imogen Roth, daughter of the powerful Lord Bancroft, lending her an extra measure of respectability. On the brink of the season's start, Evelina discovers the existence of forbidden, menacing, magic-touched automatons in Lord Bancroft's attic followed by the brutal murder of a family servant. Taking a cue from her Uncle Sherlock's profession, Evelina determines to stop the threat menacing her beloved friend's family. But the more she investigates, the scope of the plot touching the Roth household grows, a spinning a dangerous web that threatens not only Imogen and her family, but Evelina as well. For someone knows of Evelina's secret magic, someone determined to bend Evelina's future to their dark will -- and if her secret is discovered, her hope of making a future for herself, free of the past, will be lost forever.
Since discovering a love of steampunk fiction (thank you Gail Carriger and Lilith Saintcrow), I'm constantly on the lookout for new authors to try -- and when I discovered Holloway's debut, with a SHERLOCK HOLMES connection, I was instantly sold. A Study in Silks is a heady blend of steampunk wizardry and historical detail, the title a playful nod to A Study in Scarlet, the novel that introduced Holmes and Watson to the world. And much like that famous literary introduction, here Holloway introduces Sherlock's niece, an intelligent, passionate, atypical female with her uncle's flair for observation, but every bit as feminine and -- dare I say it -- emotional as the silks she wears and the society with which she mixes.
Holloway's world-building is superbly detailed. Her vision of Victorian England is at once both instantly recognizable and intriguingly different. The concept of iron-fisted steam barons controlling the power supply -- and therefore the political direction of the country -- each fiercely defensive of their color-coded district. The barons shut down industry and innovation, and since may of those with an affinity for magic possess a gift for the mechanical, Evelina has a double reason to guard her secrets from the barons who give no quarter in their quest to completely dominate the country. Holloway wisely limits Sherlock's appearances and influence -- his presence is felt as an inspiration for his niece, but she holds him in something akin to wary awe, leaving his legendary intelligence and prickly personality intact.
I'm absolutely dying to discover how Evelina's love life is resolved. Here Holloway introduces two potential love interests: Niccolo, the alluring and dangerous trick rider from her circus past who'd do anything for the woman who brings his own magic abilities to life, and Toby, Evelina's deliciously handsome brother, a devilish rake and inventor who tempts Evelina with his unabashed desire and easy charm. Usually when it comes to literary love triangles I have a clear favorite early on, but here I remain COMPLETELY torn. In a bold move each of Evelina's would-be suitors takes drastic actions at the end of the novel -- actions it is going to be hard to walk back and overcome. And yet I remain hopeful for each fellow's redemption -- because honestly, they're both too dishy to be lost to the dark side. *wink*
While I love Holloway's world-building (Evelina's relationship with the devas who bring to life her mechanical creations is a wonderfully quirky touch) and characterizations, her debut does suffer from a lack of editing. The first few chapters set an awkward tone, as Holloway rehashes the evening of the initial murder from three different perspectives, "restarting" the narrative three times with nary a transition. Once the initial awkwardness has passed the plotline gains momentum, but at nearly six hundred pages and covering less than two weeks of time, the storyline does, occasionally, meander into overlong territory. I love a "chunkster" read, but a novel of this ilk would benefit from a touch of the pacing, brevity, and focus that characterizes the Sherlock Holmes stories which inspired it.
Despite the novel's padded prose and meandering focus, I thoroughly enjoyed Holloway's introduction to the world of Sherlock Holmes's niece. The steampunk and magic elements are wonderfully realized and thoroughly inventive, and I am thrilled by the publisher's decision to release each of the three volumes in this series in quick succession (the sequel, A Study in Darkness, has already been released while the conclusion, A Study in Ashes, is due to release at the end of December). I cannot wait to dive into the next installment of Evelina's adventures and learn more of the threat of the ominous Baskerville Affair. About the book:
Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes, is poised to
enjoy her first Season in London Society. But there’s a murderer to deal
with—not to mention missing automatons, a sorcerer, and a talking
In a Victorian era ruled by a council
of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch and
sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted
weapon is magic that can run machines—something Evelina has secretly
mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could
mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret
laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and
pray she’s never found out?
But then there’s that murder. As
Sherlock Holmes’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but
she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is
whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come
faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if
she would only just ask.
Don Tillman, a brilliant but socially challenged genetics professor, is at a loss as to why he -- a prime specimen of mental and physical fitness, with an above average income, should find himself still single at the age of thirty-nine. Previous attempts at finding a life partner, while attempting to operate within society's accepted norm, a.k.a. the "traditional dating paradigm," had only led to unmitigated calamities such as The Apricot Ice Cream Disaster with Elizabeth the computer scientist -- an encore of such horrors to be avoided at all costs. Such forays into traditional mating "rituals" having proved to be complete wastes of time, money, and his not inconsiderable intellectual resources, and so Don has abandoned his search.
Thus resigned to his single state, Don is relatively content, until a chance opportunity to speak on the subject of Asperger's Syndrome opens his eyes to the possibility of approaching the dormant Wife Project rationally and scientifically. The result is a sixteen-page survey designed to eliminate those deemed incompatible -- the drinkers, smokers, picky eaters, chronically late, and otherwise intellectually lacking and therefore wholly unsuitable as long-term candidates for Don's project. With the scientific rubrics in place, Don is sure of long-term, scientifically validated success until Rosie Jarman walks into his office. Rosie is ostensibly a Wife Project applicant, but one also in search of her biological father -- the latter a quest Don is imminently suitable with which to assist. As Don gets to know Rosie, it quickly becomes clear that she is the antithesis of the ideal candidate the Wife Project questionnaire was designed to uncover -- and Don is forced to confront the idea that the most unsuitable woman in the world might just be his perfect match.
People, READ THIS BOOK. The last time I found myself so utterly captivated by an unconventional romance was Rainbow Rowell's Attachments -- and to those of you who've read and loved that novel as I do, make of that comparison what you will. *wink* Author Graeme Simsion takes his background in IT consulting and screenwriting to craft a fast-paced, charming debut novel as full of unabashed romantic heart as it is of the scientific precision with which Don constructs and lives every aspect of his life. And much like Don, pre-Rosie, Simsion's prose and plotline are crafted with a laser-like precision -- this is a textbook romantic comedy that manages to hit all the requisite story beats while remaining wholly fresh and unique thanks to Don's delightfully prickly and precise personality.
Rosie describes Don resembling Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird -- if only he had the right glasses and haircut. And while I may never recover from the swoon induced by the mental image of an endearing, socially-challenged Gregory Peck, for what it's worth in my mind Don most closely resembles Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, with a slightly less acerbic wit and a touch more warmth. Don wants to figure out this puzzle called life -- he'd like to better navigate society's murky waters, but without the emotional component or drive serving as an impetus to do so, he's at a loss...until he meets Rosie.
And therein lies the genius of Simsion's characterization -- The Rosie Project isn't about "fixing" people, or excising everything that makes Don a wholly, wonderfully unique individual. It is the story of one man whose genetic make-up conditions him to view the world through a rational, scientific lens, meeting a woman whose fractured home life has conditioned her to view it through an emotional lens -- and finding in their relationship and polar opposites personalities a connection, validation, and support that complements one to the other. We're all flawed in some respect, and perhaps the greatest danger lurks in buying into the lie that society's perfect standard, if unmet or unrealized, equals some sort of human failure. As Don learns on his roller-coaster journey, change -- equal parts terrifying and exhilarating -- is possible for even the most recalcitrant member of the human race.
I find myself equal parts intrigued and terrified at the thought of Hollywood turning this charmer of a novel into a film -- but Simsion has done his part by providing a detailed road map for the transition of Don's story from page to screen. Rarely is a novel so perfectly suited for film, as The Rosie Project is essentially the classic screwball romantic comedy in novel form. This is the rare story that hits all the beats of the format -- from the "meet cute" (here, the infamous Jacket Incident) through the resolution/joyful defeat without feeling the least bit tired or over-done. Don's status as a romantic hero operating from the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum brings a freshness, warmth, humor, and unexpected vulnerability to the page. This is a story that is a stark, gorgeously-rendered reminder of what it means to be human, of the beauty and pain that make up life in equal measure. The Rosie Project is a warm, humorous, always honest, occasionally heart-rending tale of love found, nearly lost, and found again between two of the most perfectly imperfect and -- on paper, at least -- incompatible characters one could hope to meet. A charming, life-affirming, hope-filled romance, Simsion's debut is as much a love letter to life as it is a beautifully-crafted romance between an atypical hero and his maddeningly wrong "perfect" match. This novel is an absolute gem, and I cannot wait to see who Simsion introduces to readers next.
About the book:
THE ART OF LOVE IS NEVER A SCIENCE
MEET DON TILLMAN, a
brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided
it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner
with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to
find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to
filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.
Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and
intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for
the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help
Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an
unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father
Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is
Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts,
you don’t find love, it finds you.
Arrestingly endearing and
entirely unconventional, Graeme Simsion’s distinctive debut will
resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in
the face of great challenges. The Rosie Project is a rare find: a book that restores our optimism in the power of human connection.