Three Books for Two Weeks of Sickness

I had high hopes that my first “what I’m reading” post would be something really special … an impressive title that showed my discerning taste in reading material (I’m joking—I’m a fairly nondiscriminatory reader and always have been). But instead, my entire household got hit with our first case of COVID and my reading for the past two weeks was whatever I could manage while dealing with frequent fatigue and occasional brain fog.

Now, I don’t get sick very often, but apparently when I do, my reading brain seeks out not-too-heavy books with happy endings. Which led me directly to a genre that I otherwise don’t read much: romance.

During my illness, and while I was helping family members with their own illness (which I gave to them), I read three books. All of them, while very different from each other, fit into the romance category. I would also unreservedly recommend them to anyone who’s looking for a well-written but light read for whatever reason.

Book #1: Devil’s Cub (Regency romance)

In regards to Regency romance, I have a confession to make (and if you know me well you probably already know this):

I do not like Jane Austen.

This is shocking news to virtually every other female reader I meet. For some reason, it seems that I ought to like Jane Austen, people assume I like Jane Austen, and I sometimes just take the easy route and let others go ahead and think that Pride and Prejudice is probably my favorite book of all time. But I just really don’t care for it. I’ve tried—I’ve read it three times (and a few of her other books, besides), and there’s something about Austen that I just don’t like.

(I do love the Brontës, though—Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, both their books and their fascinating and sad biographies. I highly recommend the movie To Walk Invisible if you love these literary sisters.)

So when I get the urge to read Regency or Georgian romance, I turn instead to another witty female writer: Georgette Heyer. My favorite of her books is The Grand Sophy, but what I had on hand this time was Devil’s Cub (published in 1932, and a sequel to These Old Shades, but perfectly fine as a stand-alone title). It was delightfully distracting, laugh-out-loud funny in several places, and yes, entirely predictable and formulaic. You have your dashingly handsome rake, who is of course in need of the right woman to set him straight; your brainless and (temporarily) distracting beauty; your intelligent, resourceful, and underestimated heroine; your misunderstandings and mistaken identities; your duels and deaths and familial intrigues; and your happy ending, all in about 300 pages. It was a welcome diversion during my first week of sickness.

Book #2: What Alice Forgot (contemporary romance)

I first read this book about 10 years ago, when I was 18 years into my marriage and still very much in the throes of heavy-duty child-rearing. If you are in that place in your marriage—probably about year 10 to about year 20—I highly recommend this one. It’s a contemporary, light beach read, yet is more profound than what you might expect.

This 2011 book from best-selling Australian author Liane Moriarty is about a type-A, relentlessly driven mother of three who is in the midst of a messy divorce. It opens immediately after she has fallen and hit her head, and wakes to find that she has amnesia and has lost ten years of her life. She thinks she’s 29, still madly in love with her husband, and newly pregnant with her first child. Over the course of the book, you learn what has happened to cause such a change in her marriage, and in the process, you also do some soul-searching about your own life and your own marriage and how you have changed over the years—for better or for worse. (I’ve talked with many women about this book  and we all have agreed that it’s a book that really spoke to us about our own marriages during those difficult and often too-busy child-rearing years.) I enjoyed rereading this one. I think I got more out of it back when I was in that busier-with-kids stage of life, but I still enjoyed the humor, characterization, and writing style. (There is some non-gratuitous language.)

Book #3: Winter Rose (fantasy romance)

Any time I read anything fantasy, there is generally one reason for that: my daughter has told me to read it. Fantasy is not my go-to, and I wasn’t even aware there was such a category as “fantasy romance.” I was drawn in by the lovely cover, and ended up pleasantly surprised that this 1996 book by Patricia A. McKillip was so well written. The language is beautiful, even lyric and poetic.

There is, of course, a great deal of magic throughout the book, and G-rated romance on a very otherworldly, ethereal level. It takes place in an unknown time and place, similar to what you might think of as the European late Middle Ages, and is very like a long fairy tale, with overtones of “The Snow Queen” and Wuthering Heights. I enjoyed it, and if someone handed me another book by McKillip, I’d definitely give it a shot.

The sister connection

One interesting thing about all of these books is that they’re not just about romance. They’re also about sisters. In each book, the sister relationship is an important part of the plot, essential to the story on many levels. So that lends another dimension and might be one reason these romances are a cut above many others of their genre.

There are many reasons over the past month that I’ve wanted to wryly say, “Thanks, COVID.” But I can say it without sarcasm when it comes to my reading material. The best kind of sickness is the kind where you are forced to stay and home and “do nothing,” but you still have enough brain and energy to read. This was exactly the kind of sickness I had during my two weeks of waiting it out until things returned to normal in my household, and I’m grateful for that!

2 thoughts on “Three Books for Two Weeks of Sickness

  1. I enjoyed your book reviews, and am glad, from what it sounds like, that you and yours are feeling better. 😊


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