As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers” — but lately, it seems like all we’ve had is more showers! I can’t wait for spring to come into bloom. Until then, however, I’m happy to stay curled up in a blanket with a cup of hot coffee in one hand and a good book in the other.
May 2020 has been an interesting month, to say the least. For most of us, it was our second full month of quarantine. Personally, I am finding this month even more challenging than the last. The weather hasn’t been conducive to spending much time outdoors — and soon, we will be facing the obstacle of moving during a global pandemic.
One thing that has helped me survive these unprecedented times is reading. I’ve always been one to find refuge in a book, and COVID-19 has been no different. Books have been my comfort throughout this pandemic, as I’m sure they have been for many of you. Hence, I decided to splurge on a stack of books this month to see me through the rest of quarantine (or at least until we move to Providence this June).
Jane Austen: Seven Novels
Get it for $20 at Barnes and Noble.
Months ago, I happened across a beautiful collector’s edition of Jane Austen’s novels at Barnes and Noble. After searching and searching, I finally hunted down a copy at a B&N kinda far from my apartment in downtown Cleveland. I ordered it immediately and forced David to drive for an hour with me to pick it up — but the results were #worthit.
This collector’s edition of Jane Austen’s work features all seven of her published works in a beautiful, leather-bound hardcover edition, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. The edges of every page are flaked in (fake) gold leaf, as is the cover, whose decoration reminds me of a medieval illuminated manuscript in the best possible way.
Embarrassingly enough, I have only ever read Pride and Prejudice (and you all KNOW how much I love a good Regency romance, so this is a difficult confession to make!). I’m already obsessed with Jane Austen, however, and just know that I’m going to love the rest of her work as much as I do her most famous one.
Of Curses and Kisses
Get it for $18 at Bookshop.
The first book I decided to read when I received my latest book order was this one! I was eager to read Of Curses and Kisses due to my affinity for fairytale retellings (this is a loose spinoff of Beauty and the Beast) and couldn’t wait to dive right in. It’s been a while since I last picked up a book like this one, but I’m already becoming increasingly fond of Sandhya Menon’s characters.
Of Curses and Kisses tells the story of Princess Jaya and her sister Isha. Their family, the Raos, are descended from Indian royalty and remain respected and revered in their community. Following a scandal that thrust Isha into the tabloids, the two attend an elite boarding school in Colorado with other wealthy children. Only, there’s a catch: Grey Emerson, British royalty and the heir to the Emerson family (who are the Raos sworn enemies), also attends their school.
This book builds suspense from the very first page: will Jaya achieve her goal of breaking Grey Emerson’s heart, without breaking her own in the process? And will Isha be able to escape the scandal wrought on the Raos by the Emersons despite his presence at their school? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out!
To Have and To Hoax
Get it for $15 at Bookshop.
Combine the words “romp” and “Regency” and you get To Have and To Hoax. When I stumbled upon this novel on Goodreads, I knew I had to have it. I mean, this book was practically written for me. It has deceit, treachery, romance and the Regency Era, which I believe is the exact recipe god used when he made me.
I’ve read plenty of rom-coms in my lifetime, but never a rom-com about an already-married couple falling back into love with one another. Lady Violet and Lord James had a fight to end all fights four years ago, and have barely spoken since. But when Violet receives a letter stating James has been thrown from his horse, she races to be at his side — only to discover him perfectly fine, at a tavern. Wanting to teach James a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own, which starts a chain reaction of lying, manipulation and other crazy antics.
Enemies-to-lovers may be a trope, but it’s a trope for a reason — and I love it just as much as the rest of us. That being said, To Have and To Hoax is one of my most anticipated reads of my May book haul, and I can’t wait to pull it off my TBR shelf!
Get it for $11 at Bookshop.
Critics have been raving about the New York Times’ bestselling novel, Lovely War by Julie Berry. In a way, I’m weirdly smug about it, because I actually grew up in the same town as Mrs. Berry! (Her son was in the same grade as me — so, let’s face it, she will always be Mrs. Berry to me.) I attended her first book signing ever in our hometown library, and since then, it’s been a pleasure watching her books get more and more attention.
Lovely War spans World Wars I and II. During the height of WWII, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells the overlapping stories of four lovers that occurred thirty years ago, during WWI. One of the stories offers insight into the lives of African-American soldiers during the war, while both tell of the hardships that occur when couples are brutally ripped apart by war. In telling these stories, Aphrodite hopes to answer the question of why love and war are so deeply intertwined — an important question that, while I’ve never thought to ask it, I think we all have wondered about.
The Knockout Queen
Get it for $24 at Bookshop.
The Knockout Queen was my May Book of the Month pick, and is exceedingly different from any other book I’ve read in recent years. Normally, I pick lighthearted romances, sometimes historical, sometimes fantastical, but always heartwarming. However, this is a tale of a different flavor, which makes me both strangely nervous and eager to devour it.
Rufi Thorpe, author of The Knockout Queen, is no stranger to writing about best friends; her first novel received critical acclaim for its treatment of the subject. Now, she revisits it in a different light as she tells the tale of Michael and Bunny, two best friends whose lives take a drastic turn after a violent accident comes between them.
The Knockout Queen is a tribute to the differences that bring people together — like Michael’s gayness and Bunny’s tallness — and those that set people apart. Told by Michael, this story is a classic “loss-of-innocence” bildungsroman, much in the vein of Catcher in the Rye. I look forward to reading it precisely because of its serious tone and sharp contrast to the books I’m usually interested in, and am certain I’m about to become a member of the Rufi Thorpe fanclub!
Red, White and Royal Blue
Get it for $16 at Bookshop.
I must be the last person in the world (or at least in the romantic fiction community) to have read Casey McQuiston’s Red, White and Royal Blue. People who have read it attest that it is a book that hits you right in the feels. After months of stalling, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy, so I purchased this book as an add-on to my May Book of the Month box.
Red, White and Royal Blue answers the question, what if America’s First Son fell in love with the Prince of Wales? Alex, the First Son, and Henry, the Prince of Wales, have beef with each other — and the tabloids have gotten wind of it, causing U.S.-British relations to take a downturn. This book is an LGBTQ+ romance, which, admittedly, was one of the reasons I was hesitant to read it at first. I was a little afraid it would read like bad Harry-Draco fanfiction: campy pornography written for hetero white women.
Still, at the end of the day, representation is important, and Red, White and Royal Blue accomplishes it — so, how much does it really matter who writes the book? To me, a little, but not so much that I didn’t want to read it. As a bisexual woman, I’m excited to read the book and offer my opinion.