Find it at your library!

I turned 32 a couple weeks ago, which means I was on the hunt, as I am every year, for the perfect book to read on my birthday. Last year I went with The Unseen World by Liz Moore, which was an absolutely fabulous feat of literary fiction and set the bar really high.

This year, though, my reading tastes have taken a hard left into genre territory, and I wanted to find a book that embodied my newfound love. Rather than risking my birthday bliss on an unknown quantity, I went with the odds and picked a book from a series I already know I love: No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean.

Sometimes the safe choice proves best, because I spent a lovely afternoon exploring the Killer Duke’s dark past with a cat on my lap.

Our former cat friend, Murphy, passed away a few months ago, after nearly 20 years of napping and randomly, inexplicably caterwauling. We still mourn his loss, but we are not the type of people who can be cat-less for long. Over the weekend, Adam agreed to take me to the Humane Society to pick out a new cat or cats. I was so excited because I’ve wanted a cat of my own since I was a kid, and this was the first time I ever got to pick one out myself. The realization of a childhood dream!

We came home with Cheeto, a 5-month-old boy, and Prunella, a 1-year-old girl. (Yes, Prunella is a ridiculous name, but if you met her, you’d see it fits. Also, she’s named after Prunella Gentleman from Sorcerer to the Crown!)


I’ve never been around a young, spry cat before, and Cheeto is definitely that with an extra dash of ornery on the side. I’m no longer surprised when a paw shoots out from under the bed and attacks my foot as I walk by. Prunella is more mature (some might say grouchy, but I’ll go with mature), and while she loves humans, she entirely resents the existence of both Cheeto and Cooper (our dog) and makes whiny-growly noises anytime either of them enters her sight, although we think the radius of anger is slowly reducing over time. Eventually, we’ll all be one happy family.

In any case, Prunie has already proven herself to be a top-notch reading cat.


By now you’ve probably realized I have pulled a bait and switch, luring you in with the promise of a romance novel and instead giving you unsolicited photos of my cats. So in the interest of fairness, here’s a little bit about No Good Duke Goes Unpunished and why you should read it!

Sarah MacLean is the ultimate in writing strong female characters. Mara Lowe faked her own death—it doesn’t get more badass than that. Years later she’s coming back to society to clear the name of the man she framed for her murder, the buff and brawny Temple, who now makes his living as a bare-knuckle boxer.

This series (The Rules of Scoundrels) has a little something for everyone. Each book features a different couple, and there are striking differences in the courtship of each one. It was fun to read this story about super-manly, larger than life Temple and contrast it with the last book, which was about (and I say this lovingly) skinny nerd Cross and his equally cerebral lady love Pippa.

I highly recommend Sarah MacLean, even if it’s not your birthday. Two paws up!


Find it at your library!

Nora Roberts’ books are like cookies made with Grandma’s recipe: sweet, satisfying, and positively foolproof. There is no more surefire pick-me-up or slump buster. Her books sell like hotcakes because she knows how to give people what they want, and she somehow manages to crank out more than one a year. I guess it’s no wonder she’s so good, with that much practice under her belt.

Come Sundown is the perfect escapist read, set on a Montana ranch and resort owned by the kind of family you wish you were a part of. Multiple generations live and work on the grounds, and everybody has a role that fits their nature perfectly. They’re joined by a handful of outsiders who quickly become like family as well. Sound like too much of a lovefest to be believable? Enter the second storyline: Aunt Alice left home years ago in a fit of teenage rebellion, but ends up being held captive by a kidnapping sadist just a few miles away from the family that alternately misses and resents her. The descriptions of Alice’s captivity and her treatment at the hands of her tormentor are hard to read (trigger warning for sure), but I could deal with it because I knew Roberts wouldn’t leave a girl hanging. That bastard would get what was coming to him, and I couldn’t wait to see it happen. In the meantime, there are delightful, gentlemanly cowboys to swoon over, the tough but feminine gals they fall for, and one very talented horse who steals the show.

This was my first time trying Nora Roberts in audio, and I highly recommend it, with one caveat: the family only has about three or four ideas as far as names for their children, and they just keep using those names over and over, generation after generation. Thus you get multiple characters (I counted at least three) named Rory, some characters for whom Bodine is a last name and another for whom it’s a first name, etc. It’s confusing, but if you focus up a little bit when each character is introduced, you’ll be fine.

As an aside, I never thought I’d find a barfight sexy, but Nora Roberts knows there’s something deeply attractive about righteous anger. Right on, girl.