Romancing Charlotte, by Colin Scott (Book Review)

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I’ve been lucky enough to snag a copy of the new novel Romancing Charlotte, by Colin Scott.  On the most obvious level, this is a charming page-turner of a romance set in modern-day Ireland.  With well-developed characters and touching but realistic familial relationships complimenting the various romantic plotlines, this is a great book to cozy up with on a chill evening.

That being said, there’s a lot more to this story:  Scott’s hero and heroine are no ingénues, and it’s refreshing and all too rare to read a romance about folks in their later years.  With a Downton-Abbeyesque twist, Charlotte is the lady of the local manor, while PJ, recently returned from living in the States, is descended from a humbler family.  This division is a tricky one anywhere, and it’s made even more complex in an Irish setting, what with issues of religion and politics.  Scott also weaves in a strong sense of place, and a subplot involving illegal turf-cutting in peat bogs, an issue that is similarly layered and three-dimensional.  While “Colin Scott” is – according to his own twitter profile – a pseudonym, it’s obvious that this Irish author is writing from inside the culture:  Romancing Charlotte takes place in the nuanced, complex world of modern Ireland, not some “top o’ the mornin'” Hollywood version.

The Verdict:  Romancing Charlotte is like a good raspberry cordial:  It’s sweet and goes down easy, but nevertheless can be quite nuanced and much more nourishing than you might think.  It’s a perfect choice for anyone interested in the subtleties of modern Irish culture, for anyone who’d like to take a trip abroad between the pages, and really for anyone looking for a good read that will neither traumatize nor patronize.


Book Review: The Angel Makers, by Jessica Gregson

December sure is flying by!  I’ve been having a blast writing stories for Looseleaf, not to mention taking care of the usual holiday preparations.  But I wanted to make a quick stop here and point out a great novel that was just released this month.

The Angel Makers is the story of a small village in Hungary during the early 1900s.  Sari is the daughter of an herbalist, and when he dies she partners up with the village midwife.  When the men of the village go off to war, the women experience unexpected freedoms.  Then the men return, and Sari’s fiance becomes abusive.   Without, she feels, any other recourse, she poisons him.  But when the rumor spreads, the other women of the village want help with their husbands too…
This book is based on a true story.  You can read more about that here.

When I first read the back of this book, I thought it sounded pretty nightmarish, but it’s actually a very human story.  Author Jessica Gregson does a wonderful job of developing memorable characters and a distinct sense of place but her greatest achievement in this book is managing to neither vilify nor justify Sari’s actions.  This book is a wonderful read and ideal for discussion.

PS:  You can click on the cover image to find this book at an indie bookstore near you.