Books just aren't holding my interest at the moment. Three Weddings And A Murder is a decent slump breaker.
I believe I have crossed over into the Obsolete Reader section of the market. My grandmother used to complain that there were no good Gothics anymore. Now with Gothics a distant memory, Regencies having evolved into Wallpaper Historicals, and the rise of Paranormals I begin to see her point. Long live the Victorians! I'm sure my kids will lament their demise as the Windsorian books begin to hit shelves. (Is Windsorian even a word? Well, we've a decade or so to figure that out.) Three Weddings And A Murder made me reflect on my place in the genre food chain because Tessa Dare is a very good author who bores me silly.
On paper, I should love Tessa Dare. In practice I find myself emotionally removed from her work. I'm not quite ready to cue my reader to the oldies station (Best of yesterday and today!) but my bones are creaking. In The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright Dare tells a time lapse tale of a young girl and a not so old man. I enjoyed it more than other works I've read by Dare but I felt the characterization was somewhat uneven. The heroine's speech patterns didn't work for me. She was given to more exposition than I found strictly plausible. The hero was charming, but his HEA required evolution didn't feel organic. (Why would he do that? Is he insane?) Tessa Dare is firmly in the list of authors I admire yet avoid. If you like Tessa Dare, I'd buy the anthology just for her novella - it's the closest she's come to winning me over.
Of course the draw for me was Courtney Milan's The Lady Always Wins. As an open fanatic of Milan I was not disappointed. While it lacks the emotional punch of The Governess Affair I found it the strongest of the four. (It played to my personal fetishes. Tulipmania has always fascinated me.) This is a tale of lovers lost, but their loss has a solid cause. I believed their separation as much as their reunion. You can't live on love, and Ginny knew that far better than Simon. (The formerly meddling parents are some of Milan's best characters. I adored their brief appearance.) I think what kept The Lady Always Wins from hitting great (it's very good) is the resolution. Ginny, who is risk averse, is required to bet almost everything in a way I am not sure she would. I believed her motivations, but her actions I have mixed feelings about. The fact that I spent so much time worrying about Would Ginny Have Done That reflects my investment in the characters.
Leigh LaValle was one of two authors new to me. The Misbehaving Marquess didn't work. This is a short where a little bit of communication between the primary characters would go a long way. They felt very modern in a historical setting, treating their relationship as something easily set aside. The reasons for estrangement were thin and the reunion therefore lacked power. Both of them needed a pair of Big Kid pants. Carey Baldwin was also a new author to me. I'm reasonably certain (but too lazy to do any actual research and verify) that she's a debut author. Solomon's Wisdom is a modern suspense that wouldn't be out of place next a Susan Elizabeth Phillips book. I don't think it does Baldwin any favors to follow three similarly themed tales with such a change of pace. Once I adjusted to the swap there was a lot to appreciate. While not offering a real challenge to solve, her mystery had several fresh touches that kept me interested. (I may check out her full length novel.) Overall this benefit compilation is worth checking out.