Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#TBRChallenge 2018: Sweet Lullaby

The Book: Sweet Lullaby by Lorraine Heath

The Particulars: Historical western romance, Berkley Diamond Books Homespun, 1994, Out of print.  Available in digital edition, Harpercollins Avon, 2010

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  It's a Lorraine Heath western and a beloved book for many in Romancelandia.  I tracked down a print copy pre-ebook days and paid the exorbitant price of $6.50 for a pristine used copy.  Because that's what us old farts had to do back in the pre-ebook days.

The Review: It's been a long time since Wendy hated on a classic romance beloved by Romancelandia - yet, here we are.  Although "hate" is probably too strong a word.  To get this party started let me just say that this was Lorraine Heath's debut novel and it finalled for a RITA.  That bit about this being her debut?  That's important.  I'm come back to it in a moment.

Rebecca Anderson is the only child of a prosperous Kentucky rancher and Daddy has been grooming her to take over the family business.  Then the fool girl makes the mistake of falling in love with one of the men and getting pregnant.  This is how naive our girl is - when she tells her father about the baby she's blindsided by his less-than-thrilled reaction.  Anyway, the Baby Daddy has taken off for parts unknown before Rebecca even knows she's pregnant and he made no promises or gave any indications when or if he would return for her.  Daddy sees only one option.  She's going to have to marry someone else and Jake Burnett is the man for the job.

Jake has loved Rebecca since he first laid eyes on her and while they are friends, this love is totally unrequited.  But given her limited options and with Jake having land in Texas that they can settle on, a shotgun wedding is planned and over with before we even hit page 50.

After I finished the first two chapters I immediately went to check the author's web site.  This is the same author who wrote the Texas trilogy and Always to Remember?  Yes it is - and that's how I verified that this was her debut.  Guys, it totally reads like a debut.  You know what else it reads like?  Like the author wanted this to be a saga.  A 600-800 page historical saga with a long-winding romance arc but she ended up selling it to Berkley who told her to chop out half the word count.  The character development is flat.  We're TOLD Jake has unrequited feelings for Rebecca.  We're TOLD they're friends.  But there's no foundation laid.  Other than Jake being the Beta-iest Hero to Ever Beta, I'm not sure WHY he loved Rebecca so fiercely.  The pacing also felt "off."  There's too much time spent on secondary characters for a book that's less than 300 pages (in my opinion) and there's a mad dash to the finish line that felt positively frantic.

Things do get better the further along in the story we go, but these characters never feel fully realized until towards the very end of the book, and that's when more problems come into play.  Namely, Rebecca.  Man, is this girl a problem.

I liked her at first, I really did.  She has gumption.  She knows her own mind.  She sticks up for herself and for Jake.  But, as you can probably guess, her past comes back to haunt her towards the final third of the book and that was when she was dead to me.  You know how we like to talk about romance heroes who need to grovel?  The kind of heroes you want to have to crawl over broken glass to atone for how dismally they treat the heroine?  Well, never let it be said that I'm not equal opportunity because Rebecca's actions during this portion of the book had me shaking my head in disgust. 

Original cover. Isn't it horrid?
Now, Jake?  He's one of your standard Too Good To Be True heroes.  The only thing (and I mean ONLY) thing saving this guy from being a hopeless Gary Stu is that the author gives him a back story to explain his lack of backbone.  Frankly, given Rebecca's actions in the latter half of this story I was left firmly believing that he was WAY too good for her and was hoping against hope he'd fall in love with a woman who truly deserves him (for those of you who have read this - I had my eye on Velvet The Prostitute for that role).

I was all set to slap this with a C grade, mostly because of the flat writing and lack of character development.  But then the conflict that spurs the reader towards The Black Moment comes into play and it left a sour taste in my mouth.  I'll be honest - this final grade is probably a little harsh.  I've read way worse and maybe if I had read this book earlier in my romance reading life I would have loved it.  But I didn't and I didn't and here's where we're at. 

Final Grade = D+

Monday, February 19, 2018

Top 5 Unusual Historicals For February 2018


This month marks a new venture, of sorts, for my Unusual Historicals column.  It will now be cross-posted over at Love in the Panels!  Suzanne and I worked together at Heroes & Heartbreakers (RIP), and this seemed like a happy marriage of getting more eyeballs on new historical romance titles (always my nefarious goal!).  So what is catching my eye this month?  So glad you asked!

Westerns Galore!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0748MDZZB/themisaofsupe-20The Cowboy Who Came Calling by Linda Broday
A Former Texas Ranger on a mission
A determined woman slowly losing her sight
A love neither could have predicted
...and a danger that may steal their happy ending before it can even begin.

Glory Day may be losing her vision, but that doesn't mean she'll ever stop fighting. Determined to provide for her struggling family, she confronts an outlaw with a price on his head. But when a mysterious cowboy gets between her and her target, Glory accidentally shoots him instead. Flustered, she has no option but to take the handsome stranger home to treat his wounds.

Former Texas Ranger Luke McClain didn't plan to fall in love, but there's no denying the strength of Glory's will or the sweetness of her heart. But Glory's been burned before, and Luke will have to reach into the depths of his own battered soul to convince her to take a chance...
This is a reprint, originally published by Dorchester and now reissued by Sourcebooks with a lovely new cover.  I reviewed the Dorchester release an online lifetime ago, and back then I found this an enjoyable story with a mix of folksy charm and grittier elements.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B073TZG5XW/themisaofsupe-20Married to Claim the Rancher’s Heir by Lauri Robinson
To claim his heir…

…he must marry his enemy!

Gabe Callaway is outraged when feisty Janette Parker lands on his doorstep with her orphaned niece—though he soon realizes little Ruby is heir to his ranch! If Janette wants money, he’ll pay her off to keep the little girl in her rightful place. But all Janette wants is Ruby… Will Gabe do whatever it takes to claim his heir—even marry Janette?
It’s a Harlequin Historical western, which means I’m obligated by some unwritten law to add this to my TBR Mountain Range (hey, I don’t make this stuff up!).  Also, color me intrigued.  My first instinct was move this set-up to a contemporary setting and it could be published by Harlequin Desire.  One-click!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B077XQ6B9Z/themisaofsupe-20
A Gambler’s Pleasure by Michelle Beattie
Ten years after strolling out of Marietta without a backward glance, Mitch McCall wins a land deed in a game of poker that has him returning to his hometown, ready to collect his winnings. A few weeks later, he's surprised when he doesn't want to leave. Not only is he working a saloon and unknowingly putting down roots, he's also trying to convince the town's good girl that he's not the rake she believes he is. But love isn't a game and if the successful gambler wants to win, he'll have to bet it all.

Melissa lives her life to please her parents. Suffering from their son's abandonment, Melissa puts her own desires and dreams aside to save them more heartache. But a late night encounter with the completely unsuitable Mitch McCall changes everything. With one night becoming many, Mitch helps her uncover the woman she really is and dares her to chase her dreams. But when shocking news arrives about her brother, will Melissa retreat back into her peacemaker role or will she fight for the man she loves?
It’s like there’s Wendy catnip sprinkled all over this book.  You’ve got a rascally hero who is really a good guy and a heroine weighted down by a sense of obligation.  And it’s a western.  One-click!

Across the Pond!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0786R81LP/themisaofsupe-20
The Bittersweet Bride by Vanessa Riley
Widow Theodosia Cecil needs a husband to help protect her son. The former flower seller turned estate owner posts an ad in the newspaper, and no one is more surprised than she when her first love, the man she thought dead, reappears.

Ewan Fitzwilliam has been at war for six years. Now, the second son of a powerful earl is back but his beloved Theo needs a husband and will not consider him. She believes Ewan left her—in desperate straits—so she denies the feelings she still harbors for the handsome, scarred soldier. Theo and playwright Ewan must overcome bitter lies and vengeful actions that ruined their youthful affair. Theo must reveal her deepest secret in order to reclaim the love that has long been denied.
“Second son of a powerful earl,” yeah OK. Honestly? I’m reading this book because I’m dying to find out how a former flower seller becomes an estate owner!  And pray tell, when was the last time you saw a flower seller heroine in a historical romance?  The heroine’s backstory has me itching to read this one.

Historical Fiction / Romantic Elements!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B071FMQ6NN/themisaofsupe-20
Hearts of Resistance by Soraya Lane
At the height of World War II, three women must come together to fight for freedom, for the men they love—and for each other.

When Hazel is given the chance to parachute into Nazi-occupied France, she seizes the opportunity to do more for the British war effort than file paperwork. Alongside her childhood friend, French-born Rose, she quickly rises up the ranks of the freedom fighters. For Rose, the Resistance is a link to her late husband, and a way to move forward without him. What starts out as helping downed airmen becomes a bigger cause when they meet Sophia, a German escapee and fierce critic of Hitler who is wanted by the Gestapo. Together the three women form a bond that will last a lifetime.

But amid the turmoil and tragedy of warfare, all three risk losing everything—and everyone—they hold dear. Will their united front be strong enough to see them through?
Technically this is historical fiction but I’ll be perfectly frank - how can I be expected to resist that cover?!  And three Nazi-fightin’ heroines?  I feel like this is relevant to Romancelandia’s interests.  Lane has written a number of books, including some very good Harlequin Romances.  I’m curious to see what she does with a historical setting.  Oh, and it's free to Kindle Unlimited folks.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to this month?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Reminder: #TBRChallenge for February


Hey, hey, hey!  For those of you participating in the 2018 #TBRChallenge, a reminder that your commentary is "due" on Wednesday, February 21.  The theme this month is Backlist Glom!  This means any author who has more than one book in your TBR.

OK, seriously?  This should be a slam dunk of a theme.  But, that being said, remember that the themes are totally optional.  If you don't want to read an author who has more than one book in your TBR it's not like I'm going to show up at your front door brandishing a torch and pitchfork.

Well, maybe I would but not this month because I'M GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!  That's right.  I have every intention of getting my review scheduled to post, but I'm going to be on vacation during TBR Challenge Day.  So all y'all have fun without me, OK?

Reminders:

1) If you're participating via social media, remember to use the #TBRChallenge hashtag

and 

2) It is not too late to sign-up!  You can get further details and links to all the blogs participating on the 2018 TBR Challenge Information Page.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Mini-Reviews: Princesses and Ranchers

I stumbled across Bad Princess: True Tales from Behind the Tiara by Kris Waldherr while reading something "work related."  Don't ask me what it was now and if I saw the book featured on a recommended list or merely saw an ad for it.  Whatever it was, it was apparently enough to have me check the catalog at work, and I breezed through this in short order on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

This is Children's Non-Fiction and I'd gauge the age range somewhere between 9 and 12.  The whole premise of the book is that being a princess isn't necessarily as cracked up as Disney makes it out to be, and Waldherr regales her audience with tales of historical princesses and a few modern day ones.

Waldherr covers the history of "fairy tales," and the cold reality that, throughout history, princesses were used as political pawns.  She also covers some rather gruesome subjects, including Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous "Blood Countess" (something to keep in mind depending on the reader's maturity and comprehension levels!).  It's also a bit unfortunate, but not terribly surprising, that Waldherr tends to keep this book pretty European-centric - although Princess Ka'iulani of Hawaii gets a healthy mention and three modern day princesses, Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini, Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, and Sarah Culberson are included.

Finally, I'll admit it was a bit weird to read about Princess Diana from the perspective in this book - namely, that the intended audience wasn't even born yet when Diana died.  Diana is painted with broad strokes, largely as a victim, which is one I've never wholeheartedly embraced.  But I'm an adult who is supposed to see all those shades of gray in a person and certainly the girls reading this book will get there in due time.

Final Grade = B

Dorine read Beneath Montana's Sky by Debra Holland for last month's TBR Challenge and I was suitably intrigued (Holland is a local author for me, plus it's a western).  One of my library cards (yes, I have a few...) paid off when I found this one in their digital collection, so I downloaded and started reading.  Darn you Dorine!  Now I'm going to have to get the rest of the books in the series.

This is a prequel to the author's Montana Sky series and even though it's a novella, it feels like a large story.  John Carter is a prosperous rancher in Montana.  He has just buried his best friend, the man's wife, and their young daughter.  Only their son, Nick, is left and John, the boy's godfather, is now his guardian.  They're both grieving but John realizes that the boy has to be his first priority.  And the most pressing matter?  The boy needs a mother figure.  But eligible single women of marriageable age in the wilds of Montana aren't exactly growing on trees, so he writes his great-aunt Hester. He's taking the train to Boston with the singular mission of finding a wife.

Pamela Burke-Smythe is a plain debutante who is resigning herself to the fact that she will be "the maiden aunt" for the rest of her days.  Her plain looks haven't done her a lot of favors, but the downturn in the family business means her dowry is paltry at best.  Needless to say, suitors aren't beating down her door.  She meets John at a charity gala, where Hester has introduced him to Pam's BFF, Elizabeth - thinking they'll be a good match.  However, Elizabeth is still in mourning over the death of her parents and her fiance' - plus it's plain to see that Pam and John are the more suited match.

I really liked this story and it's refreshing change of pace.  The hero having to go back East to find a wife, the whirl of society outings, and the chaperoning of great-aunt Hester, then Pam, then Elizabeth (once John sets his sights on Pam).  Once the marriage occurs, they're back on the train to Montana where new challenges await.

This is a sweet, gentle story (that's your no-sex-scenes warning!) but John and Pam are such a good fit, I didn't miss them.  The final chapter got to be a little too much for me on the cutesy scale (the whole countryside shows up to welcome home the newlyweds), but it was an enjoyable read that has me curious about the rest of the series.  I'll be adding more Holland books to my TBR.

Final Grade = B

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Review: Rumors at Court

I'm a small handful of librarians inhabiting the planet who does not have an undergraduate degree in English.  No, mine is in history - and I spent the better part of four years working on a concentration in British history.  This being said, I'm fairly hopeless when it comes to anything prior to the Tudors.  I like reading medieval romances, but medieval history never captured my imagination in the same way that, say, the Victorian era did.

Which is why I appreciate how Blythe Gifford writes about the time period.  She has this way of infusing her stories with the history without 1) writing dull textbook treatises or 2) hopelessly confusing the reader.  While reading Rumors at Court, I'll admit, I ran off to Wikipedia early on to brush up on the Duke of Lancaster's timeline but after that I sunk right into the story and let it carry me away.

Valerie of Florham is a widow and she thanks God for that fact.  Hers was not a happy marriage.  Her husband was abusive and was not faithful.  Adding insult to injury, she failed to conceive - and a child is something Valerie so desperately wants.  Her husband's death means she has been summoned to London where the Duke of Lancaster (now calling himself My Lord of Spain) has wed Constanza of Castile.  The Duke was hopelessly in love with his first wife, Blanche, but his second marriage is strictly strategic.  He knows he is unlikely to ever sit on the throne of England and our boy has ambition.  So he weds the exiled Constanza which gives him a claim to the throne of Castile.  All he has to do now is wage a war to take it.

This would be where Sir Gil Wolford comes in.  She served the Duke faithfully fighting in France.  He is a trusted knight, and has the Duke's ear.  He was also Valerie's husband's commanding officer and he wishes to meet the widow to return something she gave her husband before he rode off into battle.  A small scrap of beautiful silk.  Imagine his horror when he meets Valerie and she spurns the silk.  Um, yeah.  She gave her husband no such thing.  So here's poor Gil, offering back the token to the wife that some mistress gave her husband.  Oopsie doodle.

What follows is a story about two people who lack agency - because, to be frank, very few people had agency during this time.  If you weren't at the mercy of the Court, you were at the mercy of the Vatican.  Valerie lives in fear that the Duke will decree she take another husband and given the dumpster fire that her first marriage was, she's not exactly in a rush.  All she wants is to go home, to tend her small garden, to work the land.  Gil is a man who has a home, but it's one he spurns.  His family's history is unsavory to the point of ugly.  He's damaged goods.  It's what has driven him to be a fierce warrior, that blind hope that people will forget what blood runs through his veins.  His greatest wish?  To take Castile for the Duke and live there permanently - a land where nobody knows his name.

We all know where this is going, right?  The Duke eventually decrees that Valerie and Gil will marry.  Valerie resigning herself to be controlled by yet another man, and fearful because her only memories of marriage are horrid.  Gil wants a family, desires a wife, and he is attracted to Valerie.  But she's a puzzle, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in an enigma - and he has no idea how to reach her.

Secondary storylines come into play surrounding the Duke, his mistress Katherine (a friend of Valerie's) and Constanza, who is pregnant by the Duke when this story opens.  As Gil prepares for war, Valerie is making herself indispensable to Constanza, and looking for a way to return to her home - even as it seems inevitable that she will marry Gil and end up in Castile.

There's a nice mix of external and internal conflict to this romance, but even with all the drama surrounding court life, this is a quiet story.  Valerie and Gil are both characters with deep insecurities and fears who must learn to trust and be open with each other.  Gil is a fearsome knight with a fearsome reputation, but his gentleness with Valerie make this a movingly sweet romance.  And Valerie, with Gil's understanding, has to learn to find her voice.  Gil makes decisions over the course of this story that will break her heart, but as they come together, as they learn to trust, Valerie and Gil find their way to each other and carve out their own path to happiness.

Final Grade = B

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review: The Ladies' Room

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00941PRJK/themisaofsupe-20
The Ladies' Room by Carolyn Brown has the kind of whizz-bang women's-fiction-y style opening that reeled me in but good.  Trudy is trying to make it through her great-aunt Gertrude's funeral when the call of nature gets too loud to ignore.  She hustles into the ladies' room and while wrestling with her control top pantyhose, she overhears her "fashionably late" cousins come in.  They don't realize Trudy is there and promptly start talking about her behind her back.  That's when Trudy finds out that for the past 20 years she's been "Poor Trudy Bless Her Heart."  Her husband has been cheating on her since the day they married and worse still?  The whole blessed town knows about it and nobody thought to clue her in!  Oh, and her college-aged daughter is just back from Las Vegas, where she eloped with her boyfriend.

This breaks something inside of Trudy.  She leaves the funeral, hustles home, grabs a few meager belongings, and moves into the rundown house that Gertrude left her.  Trudy and the vile cousins were Gert's only remaining kin, and Trudy has inherited the whole shebang.  Falling down, rambling house stuffed to the gills with hideous knick-knacks.  She also inherited a hunky next door neighbor.  She grew up with Billy Lee Tucker and everyone in Tishomingo, Oklahoma finds him a bit "odd."  But Trudy doesn't find him odd at all! And they quickly become fast friends.

As much as I loved the opening in the ladies' room, everything after becomes a slog.  This is a story where literally nothing happens.  All the secondary characters are vile, until three of them miraculously see the light and show up on Trudy's doorstep to apologize profusely.  Billy Lee and Trudy spend time together either fixing up Gert's house or going on quick road trips.  Literally, that is it. Other than Poor Trudy Bless Her Heart being too obtuse to see what's right in front of her, there's no conflict to speak of in this story.

In Romancelandia we spend a fair amount of time bitching enthusiastically discussing Alphahole heroes.  Billy Lee is what happens When Beta Heroes Go Horribly Wrong.  Yep, our guy is a total Gary Stu.  He has zero personality.  Now, this might sound like just what the doctor ordered in light of current events and if you're a woman currently wondering if there are ANY decent men in the world - but Billy Lee is so far on the other end of the spectrum I began to suspect he was neutered.  He never elevates himself past wish fulfillment and frankly, he's kind of creepy.  For a while it truly feels like Trudy is a "substitute" for Gertrude, who was his neighbor and BFF for many years.

The other fly in the ointment here is Trudy's weight-loss which, given how hard I've worked to lose 25 pounds recently, had me rolling my eyes.  Here's a woman who manages to drop to a clothing size just by remodeling a house.  She's still stuffing her face with fried chicken, potato salad, pie and guzzling sweet tea and Coke.  But it could be the lack of carbs making me all cranky and bitter.

So yeah.  Great opening, solid premise, snooze-fest after that.  Also, I think it's worth noting that this was a RITA finalist in the Inspirational category several years back.  The characters go to church.  It's a part of their lives.  Also, this is a just-kisses romance with a years-from-now epilogue - so there's no sex, even of the closed door variety.  I have a hard time slapping the Inspirational label on it just for those reasons, but whatever.  What does Wendy know?

Final Grade = C-

Monday, January 29, 2018

Little Miss Crabby Pants Talks About Weight Loss

I was a skinny kid and all the way up through my teen years.  I topped out at 5'9" by high school and probably weighed somewhere in the ballpark of 135 pounds.  I had no boobs, no hips and iron-deficiency anemia issues.  Then I went away to college, turned 19, hormones fully kicked in and viola! I somehow got hips overnight.  This was largely a good thing, since that iron-deficiency anemia was now a thing of the past.  But my weight has steadily crept up on me ever since, until last year I went to the doctor for a ridiculously overdue physical and got The Talk.

The talk essentially was "You're on the other side of 40, you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease and you're over 200 pounds.  Get your weight under 200 pounds."

5'9" does hide more sins but I had crept up to a size 18.  Plus, as much as I hated to admit it, my stupid doctor was right.  I started to get better with exercise right then and there....only to fall off the wagon around April.  And I laid in that ditch for a while until August, when I kicked my butt back into gear.  I have since lost 25 pounds.  Why am I blogging about this now?  Because it dawned on me recently that when it comes to the cold, hard truth about weight loss, the romance genre has a pretty crappy track record.  Case in point, the book I'm reading now where the Southern Fried Heroine is still eating fried chicken and potato salad while guzzling sweet tea and drinking Coke - but has somehow magically lost a dress size simply because she's remodeling a house.

Not that I'm bitter.

So here it is.  The Highly Unvarnished Truth of How Little Miss Crabby Pants Lost 25 Pounds and Still Finds Time to Whine.

Disclaimer: I'd be remiss to not mention that there are very real socioeconomic factors when it comes to health, diet and weight loss.  A box of Kraft macaroni and cheese is a heck of a lot less expensive than fresh vegetables and lean cuts of meat.  Don't believe me?  Pay attention at the grocery store sometime.  Anyway, this is to say that I have disposable income and while I budget, I don't have to make hard choices between "eating healthy" and paying the rent.  Other folks can't say the same.

Step One: Find Motivation That Works for You.  

This started for me at the Montreal Romance Novel Meetup back in August.  We walked. A lot. The last time the lower half of my body felt like that was after I spent eight days in London in 2014.  I realized I had to get serious again and I bought a Fitbit (I have the Charge 2 model).

Having an "electronic nagger" has been great motivation for me.  It also made it really easy for me to start keeping a food journal - which I had always heard works, but I'm not going to lie - it's a total drag.  I started out by counting calories.  Mind you, I was still eating junk - I was just eating less of it and trying to up my activity levels.  And it worked.  I lost 15 pounds within a few months.

Step Two: Face Reality When You Hit Your Plateau

I was at 17 pounds lost when Thanksgiving hit and was able to maintain.  However, I was stuck there for a while and even gained back a couple of pounds at Christmas.  Yep, time to face cold, hard reality.  Counting calories had gotten me this far, but I now had to make some changes in how and what I was eating.  And let me tell you, if I thought counting calories was a drag?  Yeah.

Say farewell to carbs and sugar.  OK, so it's not like I've fallen off a cliff and gone to the extreme.  However I have limited my intake considerably.  Given that I'm hopelessly addicted to sugar, I've been surprised how much easier that has been to give up than carbs in general.  Dear Lord, I miss bread.  Pasta not so much, but gods I miss bread.  I'm not proud.  I'd run over anyone reading this for a croissant right about now.

Step Three: Make Your Peace With Exercising

You know those people who say they "feel better" after exercise?  That they get a "runner's high?"  Yeah, those people are nuts.  I dislike exercising.  Always have, always will.  But the whole high blood pressure and heart disease history in my family means I really need to be serious about cardio.  The trick is finding something you can marginally tolerate.

I'm lucky in that I live in a warmer climate.  I'm not trying to exercise through two feet of snow and freezing temperatures.  My exercise of choice is mainly walking/hiking.  I also have my own elliptical machine at home, but I tend to only use it during the work week, if I use it at all.  Since I moved to a new Bat Cave in early November, my average has been around 20 miles a week.  This includes your basic day-to-day walking around and more brisk exercise walking.  I mostly walk at a nearby park, but sometimes I just walk around my neighborhood.

Step Four: Things I'm Still Trying To Figure Out

People ask me if I feel better.  Um, not really?  I'm not noticing a huge difference, although you think I would after losing 10% of my body weight!  I chalk this up to missing bread and hating exercise.  Also, I have the knees of a 70-year-old woman and they're a bit achy today after a long weekend of walking (12 miles - I hurt).

What has been great?  The clothes shopping.  I finally broke down and bought new work slacks because the old ones made me look like a circus clown.  I went from an 18 to a 14.  That being said, it's hard to gauge your progress through the vagaries of women's clothing sizes which are seriously messed up on a good day.  To give you some idea?  I bought some nice dresses recently.  One is a size 14 (OK) and the other is a size 12.  A 12.  There's no way on any logical plane of existence that I'm a 12 right now.  But there you have it.

Step Five: Figure Out Where You Want To End Up

My goal is to hit the weight I was when I graduated college.  I feel like this is realistic and doable.  And then I'll need to shift my focus on to maintaining my weight loss.

Step Six: Don't Feel Like a Freak

The main reason I wanted to write this blog post is to assure anyone currently struggling with fitness and weight loss that you are not a freak.  Little Miss Crabby Pants is here to keep it real.  Keeping a food diary?  It sucks.  Counting carbs and sugar?  It sucks.  Exercise?  It sucks.  None of this is fun for me.  It's not always easy.  Frankly it's a drag.  But what's the alternative?  Ignoring my family medical history, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best?  So yeah.  Here we are.  No, it's not easy.   And take a moment to celebrate your successes, even if they're small ones.  Find a way to maintain an upbeat attitude and your sense of humor.