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At, first, this week’s assignment confused me. Were we supposed to write about what we’re actually reading this summer, or what we woud take with us to our mythical private Risky Regency Beach. (Oooh, I bet that would be a fab place. Piles of books everywhere, buckets of champagne, trays of strawberry-dipped chocolates and mangoes. Cabana boys named Clive and Gerard and Orlando and Sean…)

Ahem. I digress. Okay, so I turned this into a two-section thing: what I am reading right now, this week, for my summer enjoyment, and what I would put in my bag to take to our lovely RR beach. And let Orlando read to me while he feeds me grapes…

Books I am Currently Reading: (and these could go to the beach, too–I’m certainly not averse to hauling a massive hardback biography across the sands if I have to!)

1) Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder by Mary S. Lovell, who also wrote the riveting book The Sisters about the wildly eccentric Mitford sisters. Actually, these could be companion studies of dysfunctional families through the ages! Bess was born into the “upper middle classes” of Tudor England, but rose, though 4 advantageous marriages and much wheeler-dealering to be the second most wealthy woman in England after the Queen. She built several grand properties, including most famously “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.” She was close to Elizabeth and her leading courtiers, and had much to do with Mary Queen of Scots (her fourth husband was Mary’s main jailer, a source of high tension and stress that eventually drove their marriage into acrimony and separation). The book is full of wild family squabbles, spectacular marital spats, and an intriguingly wide view of Tudor society. I love it, and will probably read Arbella: England’s Lost Queen when I finish (Arbella, the ultimate rebellious teenager, was Bess’ granddaughter and a serious claimant to the throne).

2) The other book I’m reading is Julia Childs memoir My Life in France. In 1949, she married and moved to France with her diplomatic service husband, thus having the chance to experience the glories of French food for the first time. She attended the Cordon Bleu, started working on a cookbook with some friends, and the rest is history. Gorgeous meals, beautiful scenery, the general joie de vivre of France–it’s delightful. I would have so loved to party with her and her husband!

And now, what I would pack in my beach bag (paperbacks, so a little lighter than the two above!)
A Singular Lady by Megan Frampton (the blue cover would go so well with the sea, and the chick lit at Almacks tone is perfect for a vacation)
Code of Love by Cheryl Sawyer (because it looks interesting–I’m a sucker for intellectual skullduggery like code-breaking)
Runaway Duke by Julie Anne Long (because I’m also a sucker for dukes who don’t wanna be dukes–like they have a choice, poor things. Snort. And because I enjoyed her first book)
Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty, which I just finished and loved. Historical paranormal YA, where the fate of the world and the Realms rests on the shoulders of a gaggle of Victorian 16-year-olds. Loved it!)

And that’s it, my vacation book list. Until I start adding to it. And BTW, the pic is one of the very few you will ever find of me in a swimsuit. Someone snuck up on me as I was reading on the hotel lanai in Hawaii. The last bikini pic of me was when I was 3 and had a flashy gold lame creation to wear in my wading pool… 🙂

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Each year, for the past 17 years, my husband and I (well, he wasn’t always my husband, but you get the point) head to Ocean City, NJ for at least a week of the beach.

Now, if you’ve seen my picture, you know the sun is not my friend. But I like the idea of sitting somewhere and just reading. So I’ve come to love the beach, even though it means slathering myself with SPF 50 and higher each time I venture outside.

I have a theory about beach readsd. Instead of choosing light, frothy reads, I like to read stuff that is in contrast to my surroundings. My beach time is when I choose the meatier books from my TBR pile. The other necessity is that the book be something I can count on–there is absolutely nothing worse than reading a dud when you’re stuck in the middle of sand, and can’t get back to make another choice.

So here is what I’ll be taking to the beach this summer:

Bernard Cornwell‘s Sharpe series. I’ve read the first two (chronological) Sharpes, and have been watching the series on BBC America. Cornwell is a FABULOUS writer, someone who can write 100+ pages of battle scene and keep my interest all the way through. And what’s really cool is that Cornwell always has a twist at the end, so you know there’s another payoff coming at the end of the book. The best part, though, is that Cornwell is alive and writing, and he is very, very prolific, so you will always have more of his stuff to read.

Next up is Ross McDonald‘s Lew Archer series. Lew Archer is a detective in Los Angeles in the–I want to say ’50s and ’60s, but I’m not quite sure–who is smart, tough, and compelling. McDonald’s descriptions are amazing, and the way he writes is on par with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. If you like James Ellroy, you will like Ross McDonald. Again, I’ve been collecting his books. Unfortunately McDonald is dead, so there are no more Archer books, but he wrote plenty when he was alive, and they are now out in gorgeous trade paperback.

Loretta Chase‘s Captives of the Night has recently been reissued, and I have never read it. If you’re a Regency fan, you’ve read at least one of her books, and you know she is a solidly consistent author whose heroes are deceptively stupid and her heroines are smart and brook no nonsense. You can depend on Chase for an enchanting read, good for if there seem to be storms brewing over the horizon.

And last, Barbara Hambly. Her Benjamin January detective series is lush, intriguing, and describes 1830s New Orleans society so well I feel as if I’m there. January is a great character, a dark Black free man who is a pianist and a doctor. I’ve only read two of the series thus far, and am very much looking forward to reading more.

And that is what will be getting sandy with me at the beach. Sorry about no pictures, I am on a kind friend’s computer and haven’t the time to hunt down pictures.

Have you read any of these? Are there any in these genres that you would recommend?

Megan
www.meganframpton.com

I read quite a lot in real life–I am blessed with a commute on public transport which allows me ample reading time, and I also like to read before I go to sleep. But summer reading–the luxury of knowing that you will have time and opportunity to dive into some good stuff–is something else.

Since I so rarely go to beaches–or at least ones where the wind will not rip a book from your frozen fingers–I’ll talk first about the book I’m taking to Atlanta. I know it seems odd to take books to an event where you leave staggering under the weight of give-aways, but that’s me. And this one is quite a hefty tome: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I’ve been meaning to re-read this for years. I have vague memories of chilly, atmospheric descriptions of the Thames–the book opens with the discovery of a body in the river. It’s his last completed book, dark, tortuously plotted, and full of strange, weird characters.

If I were truly going to a beach, or having extended leisure time, I’d read the following:

All of the Malloren and the Rogues series by Jo Beverley. In order. Possibly with a flow chart to hand. That way I wouldn’t be so confused when the family descends in all their numerous glory.

Ditto Mary Balogh’s Slightly series. I think I’ve read most of them but in the most illogical order possible.

Byron’s letters–not the whole lot, I’d be at the beach for years and turn into a shriveled prune, but a good collection–any recommendations, anyone?

And that, I think, would keep me busy.

Janet

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