Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Books 79 & 80 of 2015: Sealed With A Christmas Kiss by Rachael Lucas & Mrs Rosie and the Priest by Giovanni Boccaccio

Week 45 of the 2015 Reading Challenge called for a book set in your home town. I had actually intended to nip into our local bookshop and pick up a book by a local author. There's someone who writes books set on the island and the whole way through the challenge I'd been planning on doing this.

But I just never got around to it and in the build up to Week 45 I'd been having fertility treatment and then getting pregnant and there just wasn't any energy left over for buying books.

So I turned to my Kindle, bent the rules slightly and picked up a copy of Sealed With a Christmas Kiss by Rachael Lucas.

This is a short follow up story to Lucas's previous book, Sealed With a Kiss. Both stories are set on the fictional island of Auchenmor which seems to be heavily based on Bute. In this story Kate and Roddy are working to prepare 'the big house' as a five star wedding venue and are putting on a wedding to kick off their business. Of course, not everything is going to go to plan.

One fantastic thing about this story is that not only is it basically set on my island, it's actually set on the estate where I live. It seemed like there were a number of little nods to Mount Stuart, allow me to illustrate:

"The rhododendrons were still wild, but the worst of the potholes on the driveway had been repaired, so the overall impression was of an artfully unkempt rather than dilapidated stately home. Or at least that's what we keep telling ourselves, thought Kate, as they lurched over an unexpected bump."

This amused me because until recently when you drove onto the estate you passed a row of crazy rhododendron bushes and, until last week, swerved round a bunch of potholes to preserve your car's suspension.

"'This place has seen better days, hasn't it?'
Kate felt herself rising up slightly, in defense, 'Kilmanen used to be one of the most popular holiday destinations in Scotland, back in Victorian times.'
'And it's not seen a lick of paint since, by the look of it.' His smile was superlicious."

Um, Rothesay was also one of the most popular holiday destinations in Scotland, once upon a time, and the lick of paint comment is one which has been made by many.

"'I've checked the CalMac website, Kate. There's no ferry this morning.'"

Story of my whole life!

To people who haven't been to my little island, it's some nice storytelling and scene setting. To people like me, it's like a little nudge and a wink to let you know that you're both in on the secret.

I did really enjoy this short story, perhaps even more than the original book because there was none of the set up of the place and characters. It was understood that if you were reading this story, you already knew who everyone was and why Kate was there.

The story was a little obvious from the start. I kind of guessed that the ending was going to happen the way it did, but I think that's kind of the point with these sorts of stories. It's like the chick flick films where you know the bickering couple on the poster will be hooking up before the end!

Despite that, or maybe because of it, it was a nice, fun, quick little read. I normally start reading Christmassy books around about the start of November but I was late starting because pregnancy! So this was a good way to ease myself into it. I think this would be the perfect one to read in one sitting, on a cold winter's day, snuggled up with a nice warm jumper and a mug of hot chocolate. I'm thinking I might even crack it out again in the next couple of weeks for my early Christmas reading.

One thing though, Christmas Eve wedding? Copy cats! ;-)

I follows this one up with Mrs Rosie and the Priest by Giovanni Boccaccio for Week 46 of the Reading Challenge: a book that was originally written in a different language.

This is a short collection of stories about husbands who are played by their wives, priests who are more interested in their female parishioners and men who just aren't too smart. It was translated into English from Italian by Peter Hainsworth.

I should really stop having such low expectations for older books, but I found it quite funny for its age. The stories in this book probably wouldn't really be that far out of place in some gossip magazines today. They're pretty bawdy and I think most of them are to do with sex in one way or another.

My favourite story was 'Ricciardo da Chinzica loses his wife' which was about a man who uses religious days as an excuse not to have sex with his wife. Of course, she gets a bit fed up with this and takes matters into her own hands, or rather someone else's hands.

'Patient Grimelda' was my least favourite and was the darkest. A man systematically psychological tortures his wife over many years to see how devoted to him she is. And she just sits back and takes it because she loves him or whatever. He told her he was killing her child, I don't think that's the sort of thing you should just sit back and take, but maybe that's just me.

The language in this was very informal, like it was a spoken conversation. That made me wonder about whether there are other translations that I might be able to see sometime, just to see whether that conversational style is something which is in the original or has been adopted for this telling.

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