Category: Adult Fiction

Well Met by Jen DeLuca | Book Review

Posted March 25, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

Well Met by Jen DeLuca | Book ReviewWell Met by Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met #1
Published by Berkley on September 3, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

All's faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

I’ve always thought going to a Renaissance Faire sounded like a lot of fun, so I was immediately drawn to this title that predominately takes place at one. The story is just as adorable as the cover! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I will admit that it took me a little while to get into this one. Things moved slowly as Emily settles in to take care of her sister, April, and her niece, Caitlin, after they were in a car accident. Emily tries to find her footing in a new town, recover from a bad relationship, and find new direction in her life. She ends up being roped in to Renn Faire and the first part of the book is mostly practicing for Faire, hating on Simon, and slowly making friends. It wasn’t heavy (or even semi-heavy) on the romance at all until about halfway through, but hang in there because you’ll love it once it starts. 

2. Simon and Emily each have baggage they’re carrying around, so it makes complete sense that they don’t like each other so much in the beginning. Simon is living in the shadow of his older brother, the founder of the town’s Renn Faire, since he died of cancer. He’s bitten off way more than he can chew, and is living a rather unfulfilling life. He plays a pirate at Faire, and I love that part of his personality. He’s able to let go of everything and have fun when he pulls on his black leather costume, and Emily and I both fell for him as we saw more of that side and less of his grumpy, frazzled side. He can also be incredibly romantic. Emily has come out of a really toxic relationship recently, and doesn’t know where her life is heading once summer is over. I really liked how authentic and down-to-earth she was. I also love the devotion she feels to her sister, and the bond she shares with her niece.

3. There are actually a lot of really fun platonic relationships in this book. Emily’s family relationships are so sweet. She’s also got Chris, the queen of Renn Faire as well as the owner of the bookstore Emily is working at. Then there’s her Faire friends, Mitch and Stacey, that she meets up with for pizza on Sunday nights after Faire is over for the week. I loved all of these secondary characters so much. Mitch in particular is so funny. He wears a kilt without a shirt during Faire and has the cockiest personality. But he’s also mushy and sweet to his friends. And Stacey is the sweetest best friend type.

4. I loved Renn Faire. The descriptions of what it looked and sounded like were so amazing that I felt transported to the woods and felt like I was the one watching the jousts and hearing the characters speak in their period language. The costumes, food, music, and set-up all sounded like so much fun.

5. The romance is so sweet. At one point, Simon decides he’s going to give Emily her first proper wooing and it’s so wonderful that I was giddy from it. These two have such great chemistry, and they also have this special bond that goes deeper and allows them to help each other through their issues.

All in all, I loved Well Met! It was the perfect mash-up of fantasy and reality, friendships and romance, and light-hearted fun that punches you in the feels. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series!

4 Stars

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren | Book Review

Posted March 19, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewThe Honey-Don't List by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on March 24, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (ALA)
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4 Stars

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

From the “hilariously zany and heartfelt” (Booklist) Christina Lauren comes a romantic comedy that proves if it’s broke, you might as well fix it.

My favorite author power duo is back for another romantic contemporary/comedy! I tend to not really enjoy workplace romances… Ever since I read and LOVED The Hating Game, every workplace romance or romance among co-workers I’ve read has paled in comparison, so I was kind of scared and not exactly bursting with excitement over The Honey-Don’t List. Honestly, if the author were anyone other than Christina Lauren I don’t even think I would have been interested. But these two never steer me wrong, and I always enjoy my time reading their books so I put it on my eagerly-anticipating list and was delighted to have the opportunity to read an early copy! And, of course, I was not disappointed! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I was immediately intrigued! The book starts off with one of our main characters giving their testimony to the police about something bad that’s happened. We’re not sure what has happened or why, and then are transported to the very beginning (probably a week or two earlier) to learn the entire story of Carey, James, Melissa/Melly, and Rusty. We get more interview transcripts spread throughout the story, and I could not wait to find out what happened that had these people being interrogated by the police!

2. Carey and James are our main characters, love interests, and narrators of the book. I liked them both much more than Rusty and Melly, and wish that they had had more of a starring role in their own story… Rusty and Melly were both supporting characters, but they are very much at the center of everything. Readers learn all about the marital problems, the evolution of their careers, and their history as a couple. I’m not used to the supporting characters being front and center, but it worked because they are the reason Carey and James have been thrust together. Their tumultuous relationship is why Carey and James bond initially, so it’s important that the reader really understand what’s going on with them. I just wish I’d seen more romance between the two mains. I actually think this is one of Christina Lauren’s less romantic titles. 

3. Melly and Rusty are a celebrity power couple who own the famous comb + honey home decor brand, have a TV show, and have recently released a marriage advice book. The thing is, their marriage is anything but ideal. They started out 10 years ago as a sweet, down-to-earth couple with their teenaged assistant, Carey, by their side before everything blew up and the life of fame and money kind of drove them apart. Rusty is a major cheater, and Melly is an absolute mess of a person. I really, really did not like her at all. She’s rude and entitled and spoiled and so difficult to work with. She also takes way more credit for her success than she deserves. Rusty was drunk and difficult for most of the book. This couple appears to be America’s sweethearts, but we know the truth. I kind of hate people who hide behind a pretty facade and then show all their crap in private to the people who actually mean the most to them, so neither one of them was terribly likable. If I had to pick one over the other I’d choose Rusty just because he was nicer to the people he interacted with than Melly was. But really, they are just really hard to like and never quite redeemed themselves in my eyes.

4. Carey has been working for Melly and Rusty for 10 years (since she was 16), and is very talented and smart. She has no formal education, and feels locked into a job that’s taking her nowhere. I loved her personality and her spunk. She also has a disability that she does not let rule her life. She’s so great! I love the kind of women Christina Lauren write about. She’s strong and assertive. James is new to the company and was hired to be an engineer, but ends up doing assistant work for Rusty instead, much to his chagrin. He wears suits and is the brainy, nerdy-but-swoony type. Carey and James don’t like each other a ton, but end up bonding due to forced proximity and commiserating together.

5. Melly and Rusty are about to head out on their book tour, but at the last minute something happens between the two of them that makes the higher-ups decide it would be best if James and Carey accompany them and force them to behave and preserve their public image. The bulk of the book takes place on a luxurious tour bus, in and out of hotels and bookstores. This is where the forced proximity comes into play. James and Carey are babysitting two adults who are close to twice their age. Melly and Rusty are either yelling at each other or not speaking at all the entire time. Melly knows something is going on between James and Carey (and does not approve at all), so there’s also a bit of a forbidden romance kind of thing going on, too. There’s a lot of tension hidden in stolen glances and sneaking around hotels at night.

6. The story is quite funny in places, but also tackles some deeper issues and I love how nothing felt too light or too heavy.

7. These ladies do such a wonderful job writing and developing characters, love stories, swoony moments, deeper issues, and unique stories. I had so much fun with James and Carey as they complained about their bosses, tried to figure out how to live their dreams, and slowly succumbed to the attraction between them.

All in all, this was fun! The Honey-Don’t List is not my favorite Christina Lauren book, but I really enjoyed. I would definitely recommend it to people who enjoy reality TV (Melly and Rusty would totally be on HGTV if this was a true story), book tours, swoony nerds, strong female leads, swoony gestures (James helping Carey with her disability just melted me), and characters who reach for the stars. I can’t wait for the next Christina Lauren book, and hope these two never quit writing!

4 Stars

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler | Book Review

Posted February 27, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler | Book ReviewThe Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler
Series: Moose Springs Alaska #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on May 5, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars

When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now he's stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless string of resort visitors who couldn't interest him less. Not even the sweet, enthusiastic tourist in the corner who blushes every time he looks her way…

Two weeks in Alaska isn't just the top item on Zoey Caldwell's bucket list. It's the whole bucket. One look at the mountain town of Moose Springs and she's smitten. But when an act of kindness brings Zoey into Graham's world, she may just find there's more to the man than meets the eye…and more to love in Moose Springs than just the Alaskan wilderness.

ALERT! ALERT! New favorite book! I love Alaska, and was so excited when I saw that this rom-com with the cutest cover ever takes place there! I’ve really been gobbling up rom-com books lately. They’re so much fun and allow me to escape with sweet characters. The Tourist Attraction did just that for me. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Moose Springs is the quaintest, cutest little town. I love that Sarah Morgenthaler was able to keep those cute town vibes while also allowing us to spend time at an exclusive resort that the locals (aka Graham) refer to as “the big house”. Yeah… the locals don’t like the resort at all. They feel it’s ruining their small town and driving business away, not to mention bringing in tons of unwanted tourists and destroying the natural beauty of Moose Springs. I tend to agree with them. I’d be much happier of the resort was a bunch of cute little bare bones cabins (Alaska has my heart and I want it to stay as wild and untouched by consumerism as possible), but we never would have met Zoey and Lana if they were!

2. Zoey, our heroine, has been saving up for YEARS to visit Alaska. When the opportunity arises in the form of crashing on her rich friend Lana’s couch in her luxury suite while she’s there on business, Zoey can not pass it up. She lives a very simple life and doesn’t get around much, which I loved. It makes her all the more excited when she arrives and sees what Alaska has to offer. She’s got everything planned out to the dollar, and carries all of those dollars around in her sparkly green frog coin purse. She’s kind of awkward, glasses slipping down her nose a million times a day, and quirky in a very endearing way. Adorkable, really. I loved her. She’s so relatable and down-to-earth. She is easily excited and wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s also got a good head on her shoulders and a spunky personality that really shines through when she’s pushing back against someone who has done her wrong. She won’t take crap from anyone, but is also emotional and feels a lot of things. I really saw a lot of myself in her.

3. Graham opens a greasy spoon diner called “The Tourist Trap” as a joke, but this place has become a right of passage for anyone who visits. It’s even in the guide books. People line up before the place opens, and insist on experiencing it even though it’s notorious for having the worst service ever. Graham is known for kicking everyone out at a moment’s notice because he’s just tired of the noise or the people or wants to go home. He’s known for not opening on time (or at all) because he’s got better things to do. But the people still come! It was so fun to read about how things at the diner work, and what Graham thinks about it all.

4. Zoey and Graham get off to a bit of a rocky start. I’m not even kidding. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that it lands the both of them in jail. Hysterical. Graham is a rugged, sarcastic, grumpy, surly, blunt artist who just so happens to own a diner and is in a pretty serious relationship with a moose that likes to lick windows and loves the smell of fresh baked bread. When he’s not at the diner, he’s carving wood pieces with a chainsaw in his shipping container out back. If I didn’t know this book took place in Alaska, I’d think Graham was a cowboy. He’s got that smooth cowboy swag and calls Zoey “Darlin'”. He’s got a very laid back attitude, but will turn into a grizzly bear if you hurt him or anyone he cares about. He’s kind of the town troublemaker, but not even close to a bad boy even though I think he secretly hopes that’s what people see him as. He loves his moose and his sweet blind dog named Jack, and he hates tourists. Well, except Zoey. He will do anything for Zoey, including making a fool of himself and bringing her the biggest cinnamon rolls known to man.

5. I love all the banter between Graham and Zoey. They flirt and joke, but they also talk about deeper things that mean a lot to them. They’ve shared pain over what they’ve gone through. They’re there for each other, and I felt like their relationship was very sweet and meaningful for the short amount of time they’ve known each other.

6. I loved the locals, and had so much fun getting to know them. If you’ve ever seen Northern Exposure, I got those kinds of vibes from some of the people. Easton in particular is amazing.

7. There are narwhals in this book. NARWHALS. And whales. WHALES.

8. The Tourist Attraction is so funny! I loved everything, from the locals vs. the big house shenanigans, to the run-in with a whale, to the moose that’s left footprints on Graham’s heart and dents in his truck, to the silly touristy things Graham does with Zoey because he’ll do anything for her, to the hangovers and the jail debacle. There’s so much to love here.

Sarah Morgenthaler has done a wonderful job writing a rom-com that has so much depth and heart. I was swooning and laughing my way through it. A charming, sparkling debut. I’ve been forcing everyone I know to either read or pre-order this book, and I’ve already pre-ordered the paperback of the next book in this series! It’s a Christmas book called Mistletoe and Mr. Right, and it comes out in October 2020. This time Lana, Zoey’s best friend, will have her shot at romance. From the sounds of it, it’s going to be just as a wonderful as The Tourist Attraction. I can’t wait!

 

5 Stars

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren | Book Review

Posted January 23, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewThe Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on May 14, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.

I read The Unhoneymooners almost a year ago, and I loved it so much that I didn’t want to review it because it’s hard to review a book that you love EVERYTHING about and hate NOTHING. I didn’t even dislike anything. I instantly added this book to my favorites list and put it on my wishlist to own a physical copy for my bookshelves. It was just so perfect. BUT I’m reviewing it because it deserves to be reviewed. And I’ve talked about it so much on Twitter and here on the blog, so it’s time to explain my love of it (or at least list out the reasons why I love it). As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Right off the bat, that synopsis sold me. I know this author duo well enough to know that they would do this story so well. I mean, the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from a bad seafood buffet at the reception and the ONLY two people who came out of it unscathed (because of an allergy and an aversion to buffets) go on the bride and groom’s honeymoon because why let it go to waste? So, even though they hate each other (or so they think) they dash off to Hawaii together. And hilarity ensues.

2. Why does hilarity ensue? Because they have to PRETEND they’re the bride and groom because the trip was non-transferable. Enter the fauxmance, which is my favorite trope as I’m sure you know. So these two people who hate each other have to be all mushy and lovey dovey and do all these coupley things (like a couples massage) in order to not get in trouble. It’s so perfect and hilarious, because there’s definitely tension there and a mutual attraction but they avoid it all costs because they hate each other.

3. Olive is amazing. She’s spunky and smart and capable. She’s also totally comfortable with herself and has so much confidence. She also has the worst luck ever. I want to be her friend and I want her to teach me how to not care about what anyone thinks.

4. Ethan is pretty swoony. Where Olive is high-strung and emotional Ethan is level-headed and soothing. He’s also pretty snarky and never calls Olive by the right name. They’re such a great match!

5. Their chemistry is explosive, and they can argue like nobody else. There is so much snark and contempt between the two of them, but as they spend more time together they realize there’s something more there.

6. Olive’s family is wonderful. I love her twin sister, Ami (the bride), and their bond. They are so devoted to each other. The entire family is awesome.

7. The writing *Italian chef finger kiss*. I hope these two never quit writing, Their rom-coms give me life.

All in all, read this. Read. This. Book. It’s the perfect romantic comedy with all the tropes I love. Christina Lauren can do no wrong.

5 Stars

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton & Nina Bocci | Book Review

Posted January 8, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton & Nina Bocci | Book ReviewRoman Crazy by Alice Clayton, Nina Bocci
Published by Gallery Books on November 13, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

Anytime I find a book that’s set in Italy, I get excited. I hear bells and I light up because Italy is my favorite place on this earth and I love returning there through books. I’d heard good things about these authors individually, so I was also excited to read a book written by the two of them. I really liked all the characters, but I particularly liked the friendship between Avery and Daisy. It would be seriously so nice to have a best friend like Daisy, who is always there and will support you no matter what. Marcello was also super swoony and quintessentially Italian, so I was falling for him pretty quickly! I love second chance romances, and I love that Marcello and Avery fall right back into old feelings nine years after having a summer fling. It brought so much validity and depth to their love story.

Eve though the book can be called a romance, there’s more going on. This story was largely about Avery finding herself after finding her husband cheating on her with his secretary. She flew to Italy heal and to fall in love with art (again) and herself, and it was so much fun getting to see her come to terms with her life, learn from it, and move on to better things. If only we all had the chance to heal from a breakup in Italy! I loved the descriptions of the food and the scenery. I also loved the mix of funny and deep moments, not to mention super romantic moments. This book was the whole package for me, and I’m excited to read more from these authors.

4 Stars

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book Review

Posted December 13, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book ReviewMine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham
Published by Carina Press on December 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 77
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Thanks to a transatlantic house swap, California girl Ashley Turner is finally going to fulfill her lifelong dream of a proper English Christmas. Her holiday plans did not include a sexy stranger climbing into her borrowed bed in the middle of the night. But in the light of day, Ashley can't help but wonder if Santa has delivered early...

Game designer Oliver Stansfeld can't wait to leave dreary London—and all its difficult holiday memories—for sunny San Diego. But a freak ice storm and a grounded plane have forced him back to his already-occupied flat. To make up for the mix-up, the least he can do is show his pretty houseguest where to get the perfect Christmas tree before he leaves.

The more time they spend together, the more their attraction grows, and soon Ashley is tempting Oliver to give in to the spirit of the season and snuggle up for the rest of the winter. As the ice melts and flights start taking off again, he must choose between giving in to the past or risking his heart on a chance at love.

Doesn’t this book sound a little like The Holiday? That is one glorious movie and my favorite movie ever, so I was super excited when I found out that this book is about a transatlantic house swap! Even better, a man and a woman are swapping. And even BETTER, the airport gets shut down and she makes it to his London home… but he does not make it to her California home. SO… they have to both stay at his house. I mean, come on. How could you not want to read about this? It sounds super romantic, not to mention an accident waiting to happen! House swapping sounds like one of the coolest adventures ever, but I think I’d be a nervous wreck having a stranger living in my house. Anyways…

Ashley and Oliver are both looking for something. Growing up in poverty, Ashley has never had a real Christmas. And Oliver is looking for a way to survive the pain Christmas brings him. Neither of them were entirely happy to discover they would be sharing a home until Oliver could fly out to California, but they decide to make the best of it after an awkward encounter when Oliver enters his dark room and falls into bed… right on top of Ashley. Oops! She smacks him in his happy place, and he falls to the ground, naked and in pain. And that’s how their love story begins.

Oliver feels for Ashley and her strong desire for a beautiful Christmas, so he takes her shopping for a tree, takes care of her when she slips and falls on the ice, watches her decorate her tree, and enjoys her peppermint hot chocolate. I love the tension and the romance that grows from the bud of friendship. They confide in one another and share their stories, bonding over their sad memories and hope for a better future. I don’t like sad books at all, so I was happy to discover that the book did not feel sad for me. I just felt hope for them and excitement over the possibilities of their love story.

I really enjoyed this sweet, quick Christmas read and would recommend it to people who love The Holiday! While I think that movie is better, this book will make you smile and remind you that the most important part of Christmas is having someone special to share it with.

 

3 Stars

The Dance Before Christmas by Victoria Alexander | Book Review

Posted December 8, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

The Dance Before Christmas by Victoria Alexander | Book ReviewThe Dance Before Christmas by Victoria Alexander
Series: The Lady Travelers Society #2.5
Published by HQN Books on October 1, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 113
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars

A fake fiancé and a Christmas engagement are a recipe for trouble in this delightful holiday romp featuring New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander’s Lady Travelers Society

Miss Anabel Snelling needs a fiancé, and fast. If her father, Sir Archibald, has his way, she’ll be married in time for Christmas—to a man she doesn’t love. That’s why she and her aunt have concocted a brilliant plan to hire an American actor to play the role of her suitor. But the charming Wesley Grant is playing the part a little too well, and Anabel is in danger of falling for him. What Anabel doesn’t know is Wesley is not the actor her aunt hired. Still, what kind of a gentleman would he be if he didn’t come to her rescue? He has a new plan of his own—win Anabel’s heart…for real.

I really love fake romance tropes because these kinds of relationships are always laced with tension and wondering and so many feelings. I also love historical romances set at Christmastime because they feel so cozy and traditional, with the candles and the traditional Christmas decorations. I’d been intrigued by The Lady Travelers Society series as well, so I was happy to jump into this novella for multiple reasons. While it was cute, it did fall victim to the same plight that so many novellas do: the shortness prevented character and plot development.

I did really enjoy what I saw of these characters, which is always the most important thing to me in any story I read. Anabel is resourceful and liberal during a time when women did what they were told. I loved that she and her aunt dreamed up a plan to fake an engagement in order to avoid an arranged marriage set up by Anabel’s father. I loved Wes, and the fact that we’re dealing with mistaken identity with him made things even more fun. I liked watching him try and figure out how to play the part of an actor. The romance was a bit fast and unbelievable for me, but I guess that’s where the magic of Christmas comes in! The three elderly ladies who meddle and snoop and conspire under the surface cracked me up. I’m not usually a fan of silly characters like this, but I liked them.

All in all, The Dance Before Christmas was a fun little holiday romance that got me into the spirit of the season. I wish the characters had been a little more developed because they had such great potential to be. I wish the story had a little more depth as well, but that’s what I get for reading a novella. I’m definitely interested in the rest of The Lady Travelers Society series!

3 Stars

Jingle Bell Harbor by Tracy Brogan | Mini Book Review

Posted December 7, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Jingle Bell Harbor by Tracy Brogan | Mini Book ReviewJingle Bell Harbor by Tracy Brogan
Series: Bell Harbor #3.5
Published by Montlake Romance on October 20, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 111
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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4 Stars

As assistant buyer for the world’s second-largest Christmas store, Kelsey Parker feels like a holiday harlot. She’s contractually obligated to promote the yuletide season. All. Year. Long. And it’s taking a toll on her spirit. But when her clueless, self-absorbed boyfriend goes on their long-anticipated romantic vacation—without her!—Kelsey is beyond disappointed to find herself tromping through the Bell Harbor snow instead of lounging on a tropical beach.

Drew Hampton is considered quite a catch among the Bell Harbor bachelorettes, but when his high school dream girl, Kelsey Parker, shows up at his grandfather’s Christmas tree lot complaining about her love life, he decides it’s long past time to get her under the mistletoe himself.

As things heat up between the two, a surprise visitor arrives, making Kelsey an offer she can’t quite believe. Now she must decide what matters most, and she just may discover the key to her happiness.

This is a sweet, funny Christmas novella that’s perfect for getting you into the holiday spirit! I’ve not read any of the other Bell Harbor books, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. There’s not a lot to say about it because it’s such a short book, at just over 100 pages. I read it in one sitting and had so much fun with the characters (Drew gives me heart eyes), the holiday festivities, the swoons, and the setting. The story did not feel rushed or compressed in order to fit into a novella. I loved Tracy’s writing and bought the rest of the Bell Harbor series because this one was so much fun. I can’t wait to read them! Consider this my seal of approval. If you’re looking for a magical dose of Christmas cheer, pick up this little gem and prepare to smile!

 

4 Stars

How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, & Joanna Shupe | Book Review

Posted December 5, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, & Joanna Shupe | Book ReviewHow the Dukes Stole Christmas by Joanna Shupe, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Tessa Dare
Published by Avon on October 15, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 392
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Christmas magic is in the air... From the ballrooms of London, to abandoned Scottish castles, to the snowy streets of Gilded Age New York, four bestselling authors whip up some unforgettable romance...with a little help from some enchanted shortbread.

"Meet Me in Mayfair" by Tessa Dare
Louisa Ward needs a Christmas miracle. Unless she catches a wealthy husband at the ball tonight, the horrid, heartless Duke of Thorndale will evict her family from their beloved Mayfair home. But when her friend begs to switch dance cards, Louisa finds herself waltzing with the enemy: the horrid, heartless--and unexpectedly handsome--Thorndale himself. Now the duke's holding her future in his hands...and he's not letting go.

"The Duke of Christmas Present" by Sarah MacLean
Rich and ruthless, Eben, Duke of Allryd, has no time for holidays. Holidays are for whimsy and charm--the only two things his money cannot buy. Lady Jacqueline Mosby is full of both, even now, twelve years after she left to see the world. When Jacqueline returns for a single Christmas, Eben can't resist the woman he never stopped loving...or the future that had once been in reach. It will take a miracle to convince her to stay...but if ever there were a time for miracles, it's Christmas...

"Heiress Alone" by Sophie Jordan
When Annis Bannister's family leaves her behind in the rush to escape an impending snowstorm, she finds herself stranded in the Highlands, left to fend off brigands terrorizing the countryside, robbing homes locked up for winter. Her only hope falls on her neighbor, a surly hermit duke who unravels her with a look, then a kiss ... until she fears the danger to her heart outweighs the danger of brigands and snowstorms.

"Christmas in Central Park" by Joanna Shupe
Women all over America devour Mrs. Walker's weekly column for recipes and advice. No one knows Rose, the column's author, can't even boil water. When the paper's owner, Duke Havemeyer, insists she host a Christmas party, Rose must scramble to find a husband, an empty mansion, and a cook. But Duke is not a man easily fooled and she fears her perfect plan is failing--especially when Duke's attentions make her feel anything but professional. To save her career will she give up her chance at love?

I actually picked this up because I love Tessa Dare so much and make sure I read everything she writes. I’ve also been interested in Sarah MacLean, though, and have enjoyed Sophie Jordan’s YA books so I had a feeling this was going to be good! I really love historical romance, and when Christmas is thrown into the mix it’s even better. This was a wonderful set of novellas that I really loved for the most part!

My thoughts on “Meet Me In Mayfair” by Tessa Dare:
This was a very fun story about a girl trying to save her beloved home from the duke who is planning to take it away from her. I liked the chemistry between Louisa and the Duke of Thorndale. There was also a TON of Christmas in this. They spend an entire night exploring the town of Mayfair in the snow getting to know one another and falling in love. It’s very sweet and the snow made it so magical. The writing was great, and I loved the banter between the characters that I’ve come to expect from Tessa Dare.

My thoughts on “The Duke of Christmas Present” by Sarah MacLean:
This was my first story written by Sarah McLean! Jacqueline and Eben have quite the history, and she’s back home for Christmas after twelve years of being gone. I really loved the flashback scenes interspersed throughout the present day scenes, and I thought the author did a wonderful job of really developing the story despite its short length. I felt like I got a fully fleshed out novel with the backstory, the baggage that each of the characters carry, and all the feelings and emotions as they figure out their past and their future. Eben is very tender, and Jacqueline is very weary. The story was filled with Christmas spirit, and quite a bit of steam as well! It was very fun to read.

My thoughts on “Heiress Alone” by Sophie Jordan:
This one was a bit rocky for me because I didn’t love the Scottish-style dialogue of some of the characters. I love books that are set in the Highlands, but I honestly could not figure out what was being said at times without actually reading parts out loud. It took some getting used to. And what family accidentally leaves a member behind!? And then there’s this plot line that deals with magical/bewitched shortbread… it was kinda weird. I didn’t really like the love story or the main characters. I liked the service staff, but the main couple was meh. I did love the castle setting and the added mystery with the scary brigands!

My thoughts on “Christmas in Central Park” by Joanna Shupe:
This was my least favorite of the novellas in the book, and I found it hard to get through. I liked the less commonly seen setting (New York City) and the idea of the story, but something was missing for me and I’m not sure what it was. I did have a problem with the dialogue. A character will slip from perfectly proper word choices and not using any contractions to sounding like a character from modern time partway through a paragraph. Characters would go from sounding like an overly proper robot to a silly teen outside the movie theater in the blink of an eye. It just didn’t work for me, and kept undermining my efforts to try and convince myself this was a historical romance. I also didn’t feel that this story particularly complimented the other stories, which felt more traditional and historical than this one. Oh well. You can’t win them all! I did like the Christmas party!

All in all, I really loved Tessa Dare’s novella, am excited to read more from Sarah MacLean, think it’s worth looking into more of Sophie Jordan’s adult books, and might possibly try another Joanna Shupe because she deserves a second chance. I love the Christmassy feels from all of them, some were just better than others.

This review was originally posted on December 24, 2018 and was re-posted for some extra love.


Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe | Book Review

Posted August 14, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe | Book ReviewDating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe
Published by Kensington Publishing on June 25, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Is love just something you find in books?

Six months ago, writer and bookstore owner Maddie Hanson was left at the altar. Since then, she’s had zero interest in romance—despite the fact that she runs a book club full of sexy eligible bachelors. But when her latest novel is panned by an anonymous blogger who goes by the name Silver Fox—and who accuses her of knowing nothing about passion—she decides to prove her nemesis wrong by seeking a romance hero in real life . . .

There’s the smoldering rock musician, the bookish college professor, and her competitive childhood friend who may want to steal her bookstore more than her heart. Even Silver Fox is getting in on the action, sending Maddie alarmingly—and intoxicatingly—flirtatious emails. And that’s not all. Her ex wants her back.

Now Maddie is about to discover that like any good story, life has twists and turns, and love can happen when you least expect it—with the person you least expect . . .

I love books about bookish people, so when I discovered that Dating by the Book is about a woman who is an author and owns a quaint little bookshop I was immediately excited to dive in. The fact that she hosts a book club was icing on the cake for me. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. This is just a happy book. It’s so light and happy and sweet. It reads like a Hallmark movie, and we all know how much I love those. It also reminds me of the movie, You’ve Got Mail, with the cute bookshop and the mysterious emailer and the big competitor wanting to buy out the little guy. It all felt very familiar in a comfortable way.

2. Maddie is super relatable. She was left at the altar, and is anti-romance right now. She did one of those bad things authors aren’t supposed to do, and read online reviews for one of her books. I don’t know why she got so bent out of shape over a 3-star review, but she did and she let it fester and fester until she wrote to the author of the review and let him have it. A big no-no! But since this is a happy, fluffy, sweet book the two form a bit of a friendship. Luckily he doesn’t go and subtweet about her on Twitter! He claims her book wasn’t good because she doesn’t know real romance, real passion, and she sets out to prove him wrong. She’s human. She makes really dumb mistakes and has a bunch of men after her. I loved her and hated her.

3. I loved the mystery of the Silver Fox, and his emails back and forth with Maddie. Their flirtations and deeper conversations were really fun to read. I was dying to figure out who he was!

4. I found the book club discussions to be rather boring and drawn out, but not enough to detract from the book. Maddie’s book club reads and discusses the classics, and since I’ve read very few of them I kind of felt like one of those kids who sits at the dinner table with their chin in their hand, bored to death by the grown-ups having grown-up conversations that they have nothing to add to. It’s just no fun listening to people talk about something you have no knowledge/interest in, and that’s how I felt skimming through their book chats. Luckily they didn’t last too long!

5. Mary Ann Marlowe is a great writer! Everything flowed nicely, and I was very comfortable while reading. I didn’t get tripped up by details, and I followed everything. I loved the humor and the way she wrote her characters.

All in all, this was a win for me! I loved everything about this book, and would love to go and visit these characters (particularly a few of the minor ones) to get their stories. There’s a bookish professor who I’d love to see get his own love story. Highly recommended!

5 Stars