Not Twilight or Fifty Shades. You’re welcome.

February 4, 2015

Only Enchanting (Signet, 2014) is the fourth in the Survivor’s Club series by Mary Balogh, which focuses on six men and one woman who have been physically and/or emotionally wounded by the Napoleonic Wars.


Only Enchanting is the story of Flavian Arnott, Viscount of Ponsonby. Flavian’s wounds have left him with gaping holes in his memory and a stutter.  


While attending the annual survivor’s club gathering, Flavian meets Agnes, a young widow living with her spinster sister.  
Agnes previously married for companionship rather than love, and she falls quickly for Flavian’s “golden god” looks. 

 
Agnes and Flavian soon marry, but before they can get to know each other, they are confronted with the appearance of Flavian’s ex-fiancée, now the widow of his childhood friend.
In addition, Flavian must contend with his family, who want him to toss aside Agnes in favor of his former betrothed.


Balogh is well known to romance readers for the Simply Quartet and the Bedwyn Saga, and for novellas, The Temporary Wife and More Than A Mistress.  


While there is considerable overlap in the styles of almost all romance novelists, Balogh manages to set herself apart by focusing on the inner workings of the characters.  


Fans of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series or Stephanie Lauren’s Cynster series, will enjoy the Survivor’s Club books. While Balogh is not as well known for her snappy dialogue, she manages to hold her own. In Only Enchanting, one result of Flavian’s wounds is that he is often too blunt. Balogh gives us insight into his thought process in a humorous way.


Although the fourth in the Survivor’s Club series, Only Enchanting is not dependent on the reader being familiar with the previous books. Balogh does a fine job of briefly setting up the backstory in each of the parts of the series. ★ ★ ★ ★

 

 

I Love the 80s by Megan Crane (Tule Publishing, 2014) tells the story of Jenna Jenkins, a low-end assistant at an all-80s television station.  


Dumped by her fiancé for his yoga instructor, Jenna has spent the last year immersing herself in all things 80s. Her friend Aimee keeps trying to set her up, but Jenna is interested in only one man: Tommy Sear, lead singer of the 80s band Wild Boys.  


The problem is Tommy died over 20 years ago under suspicious circumstances when Jenna was 12. Despite this, Jenna is convinced that she and Tommy were meant to be together, but fate has botched their mutual destiny. The only one who supports her in this belief is her aunt, who merely says, “Stranger things have happened.”


Enter a late working night and a freak lightning strike, and Jenna wakes to find herself face-to-face with Tommy Seer. Thinking at first that she is caught in a dream, Jenna has actually traveled back in time to 1987 and everyone thinks she is her aunt Jennifer.  


Tommy turns out not to be the person Jenna built up in her adolescent fantasies. He’s American, not British, and more than a bit of a jerk. Even so, Jenna decides she was sent back to save Tommy from his untimely death two months in the future. How can she save someone who takes an almost instant dislike to her?


Although I have followed Crane’s writing for years, I had not previously read any of her books. It’s a nice starting point, and the mystery adds a twist to the straight-up romance. Fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments or Landline should enjoy I Love the 80s.


Though neither of Rowell’s books contains a murder mystery, there is still the common element of secrecy and intrigue. Landline shares the brooding and troubled hero, with its own twist on time travel. All three share a light-hearted tone, witty dialogue, and unlikely situations that will elicit a chuckle.

 
Fan of the 80s era, or those who lived through it, will find themselves nodding and smiling at the ridiculous shoulder pads and the Jon Cryer-wannabe boss whose attentions border on sexual harassment.


Crane’s obvious fondness for the 80s shines through. In one particularly poignant moment, Jenna is traveling through New York and spies the Twin Towers. It is then that the reader gains a sense of how much Jenna’s life in the 80s differs, and she must navigate the time she knew only from her teenage memories and magazines.


I Love the 80s is a quick and enjoyable read. Jenna's character comes off a bit too passive for someone who feels that the specter of Tommy Seer has dominated all her relationships, but when the novel switches to Tommy’s perspective Crane finds her voice as a writer. ★ ★ ★

Kris Milstead is a nerd insomniac. When she is not surfing the Internet or watching Doctor Who, she can probably be found reading and working on her next book review. You can follow her on Twitter at medelle71 or email her at tardis_lord@yahoo.com.

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