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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

Against the Paw
Diane Kelly
Progress: 194/352 pages
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
Abigail Revasch, Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Tara Sands, Listening Library
Progress: 67/473 minutes
The Mystic Marriage
Heather Rose Jones
Progress: 302/426 pages
Ichi-F: A Worker's Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
Kazuto Tatsuta
Progress: 448/553 pages
The Naked Sun
Isaac Asimov
Progress: 20/187 pages
Fluency
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages
The Very Comely Countess - Miranda Jarrett I had never read a book by Miranda Jarrett before, and all I knew about this one was that it was a historical romance, likely one with a countess in it. I found the setup, with an earl hero who is an undercover spy training an orange-seller to play the part of his mistress and help maintain his cover, to be interesting. Unfortunately, I kind of disliked Will at first. I wasn't fond of the way he thought about women. From what I could tell, he didn't really want a partner, he wanted someone who could be beautiful, obedient, and good in bed if he felt like sleeping with her. Actually, here's a quote:“'All I wish for now is a replacement for Jenny,' he [Will] declared, 'a sweet-tempered little hussy with a strong enough stomach for the sea, one who will take orders like a soldier and be willing to risk her pretty neck for the sake of her king and country.'”(p. 6)He made me wish that Harriet would turn out to be plain, but, of course, she was breath-takingly beautiful.Thankfully, Will gradually became more likable. I really enjoyed his playful conversations with Harriet, and I liked how kind he was towards her. I loved the scene where Will let Harriet sleep in his bed for her comfort, talking to her, learning about her and telling her about himself, until she fell asleep – after which he left the bed to go sleep elsewhere. He might have been able to convince her to have sex with him, but he was gentlemanly and didn't. When Harriet and Will stumbled upon the duchess' father's secret porn stash (heh), I expected that the book's first sex scene was nigh and was pleasantly surprised when Harriet changed her mind and Will didn't get upset.I was a little less pleased when Will and Harriet fell into bed with each other not long after Will declared that Harriet wasn't his mistress and that she shouldn't think of herself that way. Will is an earl, and Harriet had no guarantee that he wouldn't tire of her and leave her. He probably would have been as nice as possible about it, but still. The line between “lover” and “mistress” was thin and depended upon Will's continued interest in Harriet. I thought it was a bit silly for her to sleep with him after she'd spent most of the book saying she wouldn't be so stupid as to do something like that.Harriet was...interesting, a mixture of flirtatious and naive, worldly and innocent. Several of her interactions with Will were very flirty (the song with the oranges sticks in my mind as a good example), but there were other times she was almost prudish. She would probably have been horrified to learn that Will had once participated in an orgy. Heck, I was kind of horrified to learn that. Granted, it was only a stray thought of his, and I already knew he'd had sex with lots of women prior to meeting Harriet. Still, I could probably have done without knowing that about him. It contributed to my wish that he could be tested for STDs prior to sleeping with Harriet.Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked. So, Harriet. While she seemed nice enough, it was hard for me to get a handle on her. She seemed capable: for instance, she escaped a man who tried to kill her and then held herself together until a better opportunity to fall apart presented itself. However, I was never quite convinced that she really knew what she was getting herself into by agreeing to go with Will to France.When I first realized that Will was an undercover spy and that Harriet was going to be his new partner, I expected there to be some action-packed spy moments, maybe prefaced by scenes in which Will showed Harriet what she'd need to know in order to best be of assistance. If you go into this book expecting lots of “spy stuff,” you'll probably be disappointed – almost all of the book is Will and Harriet getting everybody to talk about “Will's new mistress, Miss Calliope” and preparing to go to France. True, there are a couple “danger” moments in the book. Harriet's clothes are slashed, and a man tries to kill her. However, all of that felt like a setup for greater danger later on, in France. I kept waiting and waiting for heavier spy stuff, but Harriet and Will didn't go to France until maybe the last 50 pages of the book.That last portion of the book felt rushed. The showdown with the book's villain was, for me, a bit of a disappointment, and I thought Zeke was handled badly. A brand new character, whom Will knew nothing about, allowed to be on Will's ship while he was acting in his role as a spy? I thought for sure Zeke would turn out to be a traitor, particularly since he mentioned that his mother had died of consumption and one of the villain's informants had been consumptive. While taking Zeke onto his ship was a nice thing to do, it made Will look like an idiot of a spy.All in all, I didn't think this was a bad book, but it wasn't a great one either. If I were to give this one a grade, I think I'd give it a C, or maybe a C+.FYI, the title of this book is misleading. Since Harriet is an orange-seller, I assumed that the “countess” part meant that Will was going to cave and propose to her early on, or that they were perhaps going to pretend marriage or engagement or something. Not so – Will doesn't propose until nearly the end of the book. (Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)