Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, February 08, 2016

Adding a touch of spice to your Valentine's Day reading

With Valentine's Day soon to arrive, romance is in the air and on the shelves for many readers looking for that special holiday feeling as they turn the pages of old favorites like Pride and Prejudice or newer classics such as The Time Traveler's Wife.

However, there is also a call for literature that's a bit more heart pounding that heart rendering in that category. For those like me who don't mind a bit of spicy flavor to their romantic reading but not quite willing to go with a ghost pepper level of heat, there are a couple of books that I've been enjoying lately that might suit your literary palate just fine.

Ashley Warlick's The Arrangement focuses on a particular period of time in legendary food writer MFK(Mary Frances Kennedy) Fisher's life, starting in 1934 when she and her husband Al are living in L.A.. Mary's desire to become a writer and her interest in food is somewhat tolerated by Al but not actively encouraged, unlike the positive feedback that Tim Parrish, her husband's best friend is providing her.

Almost on impulse, Mary begins a passionate affair with Tim just as his own marriage to ambitious actress Gigi is on the edge of implosion. While Al and Mary step in to help Tim as he tries to obtain a quick and easy divorce that won't threaten Gigi's career, the physical connection between two out of the three here sparks up even more, leading to an "understanding" that locks the trio into a relationship that offers pleasures as well as perils.

So far, the book has a leisurely pace that makes entering this part of the past as easy as walking into a dinner party and asking for a drink. Looking into Mary Frances' inner life, where she longs to find that sense of purpose and passion that she felt a grasp on during her time in France, and how it is leaking into her dealings with the people in her outer life is as tasty as a slowly simmering stew that packs a wallop of savory goodness in every bite.

When I do finish this book, I do intend to read some of MFK Fisher's actual works, many of which showcase her take on living that was rather forward thinking for that day. It's great how one book can lead you to another, especially one that lets you look at life in ways that you couldn't imagine for yourself:

Speaking of one book that leads to another, The Naughty Girls' Book Club by Sophie Hart offers a sizzling list of suggested reads that do more than simply titillate the characters.

When struggling divorced mother Estelle begins a book group at her bakery Cafe Crumb, she intends to cover serious literature but the low turnout at the first meeting prompts her to give sexy books a try.

Her group first takes up the latest raunchy bestseller Ten Sweet Lessons(a fictional take on 50 Shades of Grey) and then move on to classics like Lady Chatterley's Lover and sexy sagas such as Riders by Jilly Cooper. As the ladies and one gentleman read these eye brow raising titles, each of them starts to loosen up emotionally and even take chances that they normally wouldn't or just didn't have the nerve to.

 Despite their reading material, the boldness embraced by the characters isn't always sexual, although moody about her marriage Rebecca does manage to reignite a spark with her husband.

 Retiree Sue is bored with the humdrum life that her also retired husband is quite happy to settle down in while shy Reggie and feisty librarian Gracie find a bit of love and friendship together. Even overworked Estelle is surprised to discover that she has more to offer people than freshly baked treats.

At this point, the story is a great bookish delight that I don't want to rush through but when I do turn that last page, I might check out some of those Cafe Crumb selections. Just because it's labeled as a "dirty book", that doesn't mean that you can't have a little good clean fun with them:

Romance is a genre that often gets a bad rap and erotica even more so. Even when a story takes on a few elements from either side of that fictional fence, blushes and eyes lowered in embarrassment often accompany it's readers. However, when a tale is well told and laden with sincere emotion, those uneasy feelings are soon tucked away to make room for the growing interest in seeing how it all turns out, which is the true heart of any romance:

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