Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is a charming romance with older characters set in a contemporary small English village. Major Ernest Pettigrew, a widower of six years, has just been told his brother unexpectedly died, when he re-encounters the owner of their local grocery shop, Mrs. Jasmina Ali. Jasmina is a widow as well, and they make a swift and unexpected emotional connection. Their romance is mingled with family issues stemming from the major’s brother’s will and Jasmina’s in-laws. They’re also both dealing with changes, both pleasant and difficult, that come from entering a new stage of life; they’re learning what they want to keep, and what they want to let go.
You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo is space opera about a group of former soldiers trying to make a new life for themselves with a restaurant on the edge of known space; but their life is interrupted by a vengeful pirate from their captain’s past, and possibly shaped by the forces of destiny. From the description of this book, which mentioned “The Great British Bakeoff,” I’d expected a lot more lighthearted hijinks than it actually contained. I enjoyed it, but a massive disaster and a harrowing death about halfway through took me by surprise. The worldbuilding is excellent, featuring all sorts of aliens including a plant being and a squid-like being with symbiotic elements. I could see this story being made into television very easily.
My TBR Challenge book for December was Silent Night by Stanley Weintraub, about the 1914 World WAr One Christmas truce.
The One Where They’re Stars on HGTV by earlgreytea68 is an absolutely massive alternate universe romance series focusing on Arthur and Eames from the movie Inception. You do not need to have seen the movie to read the series, though there are amusing references to the movie here and there. The setup is simple. Arthur is a real estate agent; Eames is an interior designer. They star in a television show called “Love It or Leave It” in which they compete to offer couples either a new house or a fabulous renovation of their current house. Eames and Arthur become romantically involved. Third in the series is “Next Big Thing,” in which they take a job as judges on a reality show for aspiring designers; a late replacement for the third judge turns out to be an ex-lover of Eames, another design show host named Alec Hart, who’s determined to further his career by any means necessary. Despite the conflicts driven by Hart, the story is fairly low-key as the relationship between Arthur and Eames is never in doubt. Their on-screen relationship begins to spark social media response, which they learn to deal with, and they begin to think about what sort of future they want to have. Judging from the author’s comments throughout, this story had a live following as it was being posted, much like the imaginary reality show; the commenters affected the show’s challenges and outcome, which is so fun.
Fox on the Run by avocadomoon is a Bucky Barnes story that veers off before The Falcon and The Winter Soldier series; with the assistance of Pepper Potts and a civil rights lawyer, Bucky goes into hiding. Once there, he encounters former Black Widow Melina Vostokoff (who appears in the Black Widow movie) and Clint Barton, comics version rather than MCU version. I enjoyed this because it was a new angle on Bucky’s post-escape characterization, and did not involve him joining the Avengers. There are some possibly triggering references related to the Red Room and its abuse of young female trainees as well as the usual Winter Soldier angst.