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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, February 6, 2000

Readers Don't Always Fit Gender Stereotypes

The other day burly fellow was browsing through the new fiction at my library and I struck up a conversation trying to find out if he needed any suggestions on what to read. I started talking about authors such as Patrick O'Brian and Tom Clancy but he quickly set me straight. He was not a fan of macho fiction but rather was seeking the latest Danielle Steel or Sandra Brown or another in a long list of favorite authors which I wrongly assumed appealed only to women readers. Working at the library I learn something new everyday, about books and about people too. Today's recommendations are both new and older works and range from literary to light entertainment. All are available through your public library and they are not just for women only.

Fortunes Rocks by Anita Shreve (Little Brown, 2000).

If you are looking for a big book in which to lose yourself, this may be the one. It's a lush new novel from the author of a recent Oprah pick The Pilot's Wife. Fortune's Rocks is a New England seaside town which provides the setting for the novel. The sensual awakening and subsequent downfall of a turn of the century teen heiress provides the drama in this atmospheric page-turner. The book has garnered conflicting reader opinions on Amazon.com. Most thought it was great, but some did not like it and found the characters unbelievable. I listened to the abridged audio version and thought it was not up to Shreve's earlier works, but that doesn't mean you won't love it.

The World I Made for Her by Thomas Moran (Riverhead,1998).

A book that was highly recommended by a fellow librarian as a memorable literary love story about a New York policeman on life support and the nurse about whom he has fantasies. The author was at the brink of death with only a five percent chance of surviving, a victim of the same rare condition that afflicts his fictional hero. The fact that he lived is amazing and that he turned his ordeal into a memorable and moving novel is a tribute to the power of the writer's craft to make universal even the most unusual experience.

The Duke's Daughter by Angela Thirkell (Moyer Bell, c1951).

The setting is rural England between the wars, the cast is the landed gentry and the action revolves around the engagements of three couples. Those who want the deeply comforting pleasure of an English novel in the tradition of Jane Austen need look no further than this segment of the Barsetshire chronicles. Anglophiles looking for a series of novels with lots of nostalgia can't go wrong with Angela Thirkell.

The Proposition by Judith Ivory (Avon, 1999).

Lady Edwina Bollash is a talented linguist, but she may have taken on more than she can handle when she accepts the challenge of transforming a handsome but rough rat catcher into a gentleman in a mere six weeks. Of course the guy is irresistible and straight-laced Edwina soon finds herself loving everything about the brash charmer whose approach to life is so different from her own. A sexy variation on the Pygmalion theme, this Regency-era tale was among the Romance Writer's of America's top ten favorites, and was also selected by Library Journal as one of the top romance novels of 1999.

The Riddle of the Reluctant Rake by Patricia Veryan (1999).

Mystery fans who want a light romance from a male character's point of view might try Veryan's newest novel. In 1814, Colonel Hastings Adair faces a court martial board that accuses him of dereliction of duty for abducting an unmarried woman of quality. Of course he is innocent but must track down the lady in question, set trap that not only catches the villain, but also foils a dangerous political plot. Lots of action, suspense and period atmosphere make this third in a series one which critics are hailing as outstanding.

What the Heart Knows by Kathleen Eagle (Avon, 1999).

Readers looking for something a little different might try this contemporary romance about a teacher turned undercover investigator who accepts an assignment which brings her back to the Bad River Sioux Reservation. Thirteen years earlier she had been a teacher here and became involved with Reese Blue Sky, with whom she had a passionate love affair. Using an Indian Reservation casino as a backdrop, the author has come up with a second chance love story with several subplots exploring the conflicts between traditional folkways and modern ideas of progress.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.