Flirting with Fifty: Take a Risk and Read Jane Porter’s Thoughtful Romantic Novel

Title: Flirting with Fifty
Author:  Jane Porter
Publisher: Berkley
Released: May 24, 2022
Pages: 336
ISBN: 978-0593438381
Stars: 4.5

It has been a while since I have read a Berkeley title by New York Times Bestselling Author Jane Porter, and I am thrilled that she has this new book, Flirting with Fifty, out now, with a follow-up called Flirting with the Beast coming in November.

I do not read many romance novels because I have not been fortunate in love and gave up hope of finding my soulmate long ago. As someone flirting with sixty, I am cynical and jaded after being hurt by men too many times. I prefer spending time with friends, attending concerts, writing visceral poetry, reading literature, and watching dark, fantasy, supernatural or period dramas on TV. I am independent, self-reliant and comfortable with being single rather than dating from the truly cringe-inducing shallow pool of uninteresting men in my age group where I live.

As a result, although I have never been married, I can relate to Porter‘s heroine in this book. Paige Newsome is a professor of math and statistics at UC Berkeley and a divorced mother of three grown daughters, each of whom lives in various parts of the US. Her best friend, Elizabeth, is always there for her, her career is fulfilling, and she has interests outside of work. Her life is full. Paige doesn’t think anything is missing in her life. Then she’s coerced into a co-teaching assignment for a semester that includes an exciting field trip to Tanzania. The other teacher is a charismatic, celebrity professor whom she had a one-night stand with thirty years earlier when she was an insecure, inexperienced student.

I had a one-night stand almost twenty years ago in Ireland that unravelled me with its unexpected, exciting perfection. If that Black Irish, early 2000s, Johnny Depp-reminiscent social worker ever found his way in front of me again, I would feel like forty-nine-year-old divorcée Paige does when she realizes that the well-known Princeton tenured professor of biology (who has a show on the Discovery channel) she will be teaching with is her long lost one-night stand from Paris.

Jack King is everything a woman like me wants in a romantic interest: intelligent, interesting, successful, confident, handsome, and comfortable in his skin. And I won’t forget to mention his Aussie accent. That kind of man would make most women’s hearts skip a beat. And I love that he “believes value comes from accomplishments and not acquisitions.” However, at fifty-five, not even perfect guys come without baggage. Jack’s career demands a lot of travel; his twenty-eight-year-old son, Oliver, is his heart, and he never remarried after his wife died of ovarian cancer. He also never committed to his longtime, on-again, off-again lover and colleague, Camille. So could he possibly commit to Paige?

What I love about Porter’s writing is that she writes so authentically for her audience and makes storytelling appear effortless. Her characters are richly and carefully developed personalities with flaws that we understand and relate to. When Paige and Jack talk about their children, the meaning of parenthood for each is evident. All of Paige’s insecurities about her body and sex are mine. Porter knows her settings and characters intimately, and readers can sense her love for them. Most of all, I love that Jane’s stories make me dream again about abandoned possibilities for later-life love. I know I have to leave Kingston for it to be possible, and Porter almost makes me believe I can do it and that true love could be lurking around the next corner. Like Paige, I ask myself, “Why couldn’t she try different things without obsessing about the negatives or the future?” And could I make new friends at this stage of life who would not only have time for me but have my back? We will never know the answers to such questions if we don’t take a risk.

Sometimes we long “to be greedy and want more. More adventure. More fun. More change. More new, fresh, interesting.” And we won’t get it if we don’t start by doing something different. However, being genuinely tired, disappointed, and exhausted by life does stand in the way of risk-taking in the future. Fortunately, there is safety in living vicariously through Jane Porter‘s thoughtful, romantic books.

BOOK REVIEW: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon

Book Review

Title: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone
Author:  Diana Gabaldon
Imprint: Doubleday Canada
Released: November 23, 2021
Pages: 928
ISBN-13: 978-0385685542
Stars:  3.5

Like every other die-hard fan of the Outlander series and Diana Gabaldon’s writing, I anxiously anticipated this ninth book, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, and man, we waited a long time for it. In the meantime, I and millions of others enjoyed the Outlander television series immensely, although it does not faithfully stick to the books’ plot lines.

I read a couple of other books simultaneously because, unlike many of the other volumes in the series, I could easily put this one down and wait for it. I was often uninterested in the lives of the newer characters, including Silvia Hardman and her family, Agnes and Fanny. I also felt that William received a lot of space but didn’t do anything of substance, although hopefully, that will come. I find it hard to connect with William and care about him even though I want to, but I enjoyed him getting to know Bree a little.

I have read these books because I love Jamie and Claire, their love story and adventures. I wanted Diana Gabaldon to spend more time with them in this book than she did. However, I also appreciate Roger and Brianna, Young Ian (though his Quaker wife Rachel is a bore), Fergus and Marsali (I would’ve liked to see them have a much larger storyline) and especially Lord John Grey. I love him as much as the Frasers. I could do with fewer children in the story, but I understand why they need to be there. I also enjoy every appearance of John Quincy Myers. I could care less about the rest of the characters (except for Hal and Percy), and in my humble opinion, they received far too much time.

There must be antagonists in every book, and Ezekiel Richardson has proven to be a decent one, although he is no Jack Randall or Stephen Bonnet.

My favourite scenes included the bear attack on Amy, the emotional scene between Jamie and Jenny, and when Fergus finds out who his birth father is. That was awesome! I also thoroughly enjoyed the heart-pounding battle scene near the end of the book and holding my breath to see whether Jamie would come out alive.

While characters like Amy, Fanny, Agnes, and Silvia may support the storyline, they receive too much space. They are not exciting characters, unlike Amaranthus, and I wouldn’t have cared if Gabaldon had omitted them. Also, while dramatic, the whole baby-delivering incident with Agnes’ mom didn’t feel unique compared to other scenes Diana has written in past books. I know she doesn’t write linearly, but in scenes, as they come to her. Sometimes I think that method can make the book cumbersome.

I will have to trust that she had a reason for everything. There is no doubt that I will read the tenth book, which I hope will be the end of the series. Jamie and Claire, at their age, likely won’t have the types of adventures that they once experienced—which made for exhilarating novels. I don’t care anymore how many of Fraser’s Ridge settlers Claire heals or how many babies she delivers, or about them hanging out with a dozen grandchildren or fighting in more small battles during the birth of the United States. (I didn’t mind the bees.) I would like to see their entire immediate family return to Scotland in the tenth book, whether to the eighteenth century or the twentieth. I want to know how it ends, and I think Gabaldon could wrap it up nicely in 600 pages or less.

Here’s hoping I live long enough to read it.

Fantasy Book Review: The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 2) by P. L. Stuart

Fantasy Book Review

Book Review         
Title: The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 2)
Author:  P.L. Stuart
Publisher: FriesenPress
Released: March 31, 2022
Pages: 534
ASIN: B08VS15WTR
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4


Book Two in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, The Last of the Atalanteans by fantasy fiction master, P.L. Stuart, opens with Othrun, Thurol, and Glathan: three Atalanteans in disguise as Lynchun soldiers using assumed names, entering the Lynchun border city of Lionshead, en route to its capitol, Lionfort. Together with the usurped Lynchun King, Centi, Earl of Lynchun, and the rightful King of Lynchun, Wely, this five-men ruse intend to get Wely’s kingdom back from his corrupt brother and wife.

Badan—the ugly Earl of Lionshead—sides with Wely’s usurping brother Orlu, Lynchun’s greatest, undefeated warlord. Badan is a man to be reckoned with and not discounted. Badan’s men are watching the “captured” Wely, for whom he hopes to be rewarded by Orlu while nudging Centi out of the way so he can gain the king’s favour.

Othrun, the narrator and orchestrator of their remarkable play, hopes that their deceptive plan will hold and that within twenty-seven days, their forces will besiege Lionfort. But he has no idea what lies in store for them.

And so, author Stuart sets the stage for another grand and bold chapter in this epic fantasy saga. He writes this brilliant chess match between usurpers, warriors, noblemen and mages with a visceral description of the sights, sounds and odours of the places his heroes occupy. Stuart perfectly sets the tone for the adventure and inevitable battles to follow. Stuart skillfully interweaves the fascinating supernatural tale of Othrun’s beloved, albeit cursed, Atalantean steel sword, Sure-Steel, and the Anchali, an enigmatic angel who claims to be his true father. Othrun has a hard time wrapping his Single God-believing mind around the contradiction of the pagan beliefs he’s surrounded by, creating an absorbing conflict of a non-killing kind.

Stuart also reintroduces the powerful mage, Lysi, Princess of Nyrimia. She is my favourite character and the perfect adversary for the Fab Five of Fantasy—regardless of her sexual attraction to the married Othrun. Fierce, fearless and intelligent, Lysi is the femme fatale warrior who will hold the fate of the Five in her hands. In addition, she adds much-needed humour, magic, and sexual tension to Othrun’s tale as she challenges his spiritual beliefs.

There are spies amongst the band of warriors trying to make their way to Lionfort, making their journey treacherous beyond the inclement weather and inhospitable accommodations. The King of Lynchun’s wife, Syda, also a powerful mage, wants Wely dead. It will take cunningness and hyper-vigilance for Othrun’s men to deliver Wely to King Orlu in one piece. Lord Badan doesn’t view Othrun as the noble hero he believes he is, so the arrogant Othrun will have to hold his cards close to his chest to protect his ruse.

Othrun hates paganism and blames it for the seduction of his brother Erthal by Dira and the downfall of Atalantyx. He believes that there is no room in the realm for other gods. They must eradicate them. 

“It was the God-given task of the virtuous kingdom of Atalantyx, I believed, led by my royal house, to rid the world of those idolaters. I had seen the Anchali’s power, its glory, and its wonder. I knew our Single God to be real. Any other sort of worship was heresy. Yet there I was believing in pagan magic, as wielded by Lysi.”

In Chapter Twenty-Nine, Yedwol the Old tells the story of the Battle of Berefet to Othrun, and the reader learns more about the history of the Altalantean warriors. It is superbly crafted. Describing the tragedy of war from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old warrior with the spirit of a dragon, Yedwol’s tale will make you weep. Beheading women and children for the gold in their land is beyond atrocious. However, the Berefetish people still tried to kill and poison the three hundred warriors left in the Atalantean army after their colossal battle as they resisted their sovereignty. Yedwol and his young men stole everything they could and killed everyone who opposed them while praying to their Single God. And how that sickens me. There is no justification for such behaviour and no way I could cheer for them.

Othrun asks himself if he could kill Eltnish women and children to bring monotheism to the continent of Acremia and secure gold for the prosperity of the Eastrealm, his soon-to-be kingdom. However, he cannot abide rape or violence against women, children and the weak, so he watches the shine of his uncle’s glory tarnish.

As war rages between Russia and Ukraine, it is difficult to read such a passage knowing that millennia later, in the real world, men still kill each other for power, land, and greed and because they think their religion is the truth. War is not only something glorified in fantasy fiction or history books; it is inherent to man’s nature, which saddens this reader deeply. Of course, we should never ennoble war, but for those who enjoy reading about it and want to experience the horror, Stuart is a master narrator. He also manages to capture the humanity behind the carnage.

Othrun’s conflict is authentic and complex. This profoundly flawed man slowly evolves before our eyes in the second volume of this epic seven-book series that author Stuart is planning. In this story, he must be a follower rather than a leader most of the time. Othrun befriends a homosexual warrior named Hani, who enjoys cooking for their party of conspirators against Orlu. Although Hani favours sleeping with men, an abomination to the Single God, Othrun decides he doesn’t care and likes him anyway.

After reading Book One, I wasn’t sure if I would care enough about Othrun to follow him on his journey. But after reading Book Two, I am pleased by his evolving humanity, captivated by the storyline, and cannot wait for what will happen in the next instalment of The Drowned Kingdom saga, Lord and King, to be published next year.

If you missed it, read my review of A Drowned Kingdom (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 1). Then, buy your copy of The Last of the Atalanteans here.

P.L. Stuart will be a fantasy fiction legend like his heroes Cornwell, Martin, and Jemesin before the last book in this series is published.

My Bodacious Blog

Flirting with Fifty: Take a Risk and Read Jane Porter’s Thoughtful Romantic Novel

Title: Flirting with FiftyAuthor:  Jane PorterPublisher: BerkleyReleased: May 24, 2022Pages: 336ISBN: 978-0593438381Stars: 4.5 It has been a while since I have read a Berkeley title by New York Times Bestselling Author Jane Porter, and I am thrilled that she has this new book, Flirting with Fifty, out now, with a follow-up called Flirting with theContinue reading “Flirting with Fifty: Take a Risk and Read Jane Porter’s Thoughtful Romantic Novel”

BOOK REVIEW: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon

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Fantasy Book Review: The Last of the Atalanteans (The Drowned Kingdom Saga Book 2) by P. L. Stuart

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NEW BOOK RELEASE: Audley Enough: A Portrait of Triumph and Recovery in the Face of Mania and Depression

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Exclusive Review of Finny McConnell’s (The Mahones) Debut Solo Album, The Dark Streets of Love

I’m honoured to be the first person to review Finny McConnell’s (The Mahones) debut solo album, The Dark Streets of Love!

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