"The Monk Downstairs" has all the makings for Chick Lit, but it's written by a man. I was surprised as well. Actually, I had been looking through my bookshelves the other day and noticed that most of my books are written by women, with the exceptions of several classics and Can Lit.
I enjoyed it. It wasn't what I was expecting. It wasn't a trashy written romance, although it had all the ingredients. The romance that buds between and ex-monk and a single-mom is tasteful, careful, and believable.
As for "Cassandra and Jane," I have mixed feelings. I enjoyed the fictionalization of Jane Austen's life. The author wrote a note of explanation at the end, and said that she has always been interested in the sisters, and indeed spinsters sisters would have been confidants as the novel suggests. Pitkeathley paints a portrait of a darker Jane Austen. Her wit that we're so familiar with in her novels becomes cutting in its view of family members and society in general. At times, it would appear that Cassandra didn't even like Jane, although she never lost her sisterly admiration. In the end, I did like the book, but it wasn't what I expected.