Format: eARC

Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday | Book Review

Posted October 15, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday | Book ReviewParadise Cove by Jenny Holiday
Series: Matchmaker Bay #2
Published by Forever on July 28, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Dr. Nora Walsh has just been dumped in spectacular fashion, making it the perfect time for a major life change. She figures taking over the medical practice in tiny Matchmaker Bay for a couple of years will help her get over her broken heart, and then she can head back to the big city. But when the first man she sees looks like a superhero god, she wonders if maybe there's something to small-town living after all.

Jake Ramsey also has a broken heart -- one he never expects to heal. He doesn't need people anyway and is content hiding out in his secluded cottage on the beach. But after helping Nora with a medical emergency, he finds himself opening up to the witty, warmhearted doctor. Soon the local matchmakers are working overtime to pair them off, and Jake begins to wonder if his campaign to get Nora to stay is for the town or because he can't bear the thought of her leaving.

I’ve struggled with books by this author in the past, so I was a bit worried about trying again. But my friend, Estelle at Forever, pitched this to me so hard while we were talking on the phone one day that I decided to give Jenny Holiday another try! I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed this for the most part! I do have a few tiny complaints, but I’m definitely interested in reading the other books in this series. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. We’ve got Nora, the city girl who moves to a small town to take over the medical practice there. I love stories like this, because I really enjoy anything medicine (even though it plays a tiny part in the story). She’s also running from a bad relationship and wants a new start. She’s a very energetic, bright personality and I enjoyed the contrast between her and Jake, the hero of this story.

2. Jake is a very quiet Mr. Fix-it that everyone loves even though nobody knows him very well. Well, they know his story but they don’t know him. He’s a man of very few words, but when he does speak it’s important. He lives off in a secluded part of town and goes around quietly fixing things that need fixing. He randomly shows up at Nora’s house to re-build her deck, and she stumbles upon him while he’s out there working. That’s just what he does! He’s the fix-it fairy, and I loved him for that. He’s got major heartbreak in his past, and watching him go through the grieving process and learning to open up again was very sweet. Oh, and Nora refers to him as Aquaman, if that does anything for you. I’m not a fan of the long-haired, man-buned man but I know many are!

3. Nora’s and Jake’s relationship is very organic. They start out as friends with benefits, which I actually hate. lol. But then things get deeper as he opens up to her. She expects absolutely nothing from him, and lets him open up slowly and quietly and on his own terms. When he tells her his story, she responds in a very comforting way without exhausted cliches. She reacts to him in a way nobody else has. She asks him tough, but meaningful, questions about his son instead of glazing over him as if he never existed. It’s hard on Jake, but also helps him realize that he can look to the good times and remember than fondly, rather than feeling guilty for the bad times.

4. The sex scenes were a bit too much and too frequent for me. I enjoy steam in my books, and I like it when it adds to the story. But when these scenes just keep happening and happening I start to skim over them because I need more than that in my books. I begin to disconnect from the characters because I’m not seeing them grown and learn and love. I’m just seeing how much stamina they have in the bedroom and that gets old. lol.

5. That being said, I really had fun getting to know these two characters and seeing their love story unfold. I loved Jake’s dog and his house, which was in a cute little cove. I loved that Jake bought Nora some rain boots that stayed at his house so he could put them out for her when he knew she was coming over. That way, when the tide rolled in she could traverse the wet rocks and wade through the water to get around the bend and make it to his house without getting wet. How sweet is that?

6. I loved the supporting characters and all the friendships that were developed in this story between the townspeople and Nora. I’d like to go back and read the first book in this series so I can get more info about some of these characters.

All in all, I enjoyed the story and am excited to read more books in the Matchmaker Bay series! Jenny’s writing is great and her characters are loveable. I could do with a little less heat and steam and more actual story, but it’s not enough of a drawback for me to keep me from reading more of her books!

3 Stars

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai | Book Review

Posted June 26, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai | Book ReviewThe Marriage Game by Sara Desai
Published by Berkley on June 9, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

A high stakes wager pits an aspiring entrepreneur against a ruthless CEO in this sexy romantic comedy.

After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. He would do anything to see her smile again. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business and creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a man. She doesn’t know he’s arranged a series of blind dates until the first one comes knocking on her door…

As CEO of a corporate downsizing company Sam Mehta is more used to conflict than calm. In search of a quiet new office, he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he's forced to share his space with the owner's beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

Today I’m posting my book review of The Marriage Game by Sara Desai as part of the official blog tour hosted by Berkley! The synopsis sold me early on, and I was even more eager to jump in and read this diverse, sexy, romantic comedy as soon as I laid my eyes on that beautiful cover! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. First off, I loved the pieces of Indian culture throughout the story. There was so much talk of food, especially, which is always a plus for me. I also found the practice of arranged marriages fascinating. It’s not like I’d never heard of this concept before, but Sara Desai explained it and outlined it in a way that made sense to me in a way it hadn’t before.

2. The humor was spot on, and the banter between Layla and Sam as they duke it out for ownership of their shared office was my favorite part of the book. 

3. Layla was a very fun character to read about! She’s confident and really loves herself. She’s also got big dreams and isn’t afraid to try hard things, even when she’s just been knocked down a peg or two.

4. I loved Layla’s family, but especially her dad. He’s adorable. In an effort to heal her heart, he sets up a secret online dating profile for her and then spends who knows how long surfing through hundreds of profiles and curating a list of 10 men for her that he approves of. He even set up all the meetings with them. What a sweet, caring dad! I mean… I suppose it was a total overstep, but I could see how much he cared and that warmed my heart.

5. Sam’s great, too. He’s got quite a back story that involves some darker issues and a lot of guilt on his part. I loved reading as he worked through these past experiences and it gave me a better understanding of why he was the way he was. His master plan was to get Layla married off so he would win the office by default, so he accompanies her on all these dates to try and make things happen. But he hates all of the guys and his conscience can’t handle talking her into dating any of them. lol.

6. And seriously. Some of these dates and the men on them were hilarious. 

7. The romance was sweet and slow-burning, just like I like them to be. I’ve always been a fan of enemies to lovers romances as well, and this one is a fiery one for sure!

All in all, this was lovely! I really enjoyed reading about a culture I’m not at all familia with, and such memorable and fun characters. I’ll be keeping my eye on Sara Desai!

3 Stars

Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book Review

Posted May 13, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 12 Comments

Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book ReviewBeach Read by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 19, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2 Stars

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Who doesn’t love a good beach read? This cute summery cover, the fun title, and the unique synopsis had me reaching for some fun, swoony romantic comedy in the sun. While this was a fun book, unfortunately it wasn’t as fun and swoony as I had hoped. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The first thing I think of when I think about Beach Read is that it’s a lot heavier than I expected. I was expecting a light, fluffy storyline with two authors throwing their witty banter back and forth, all while the summer sun blazes down on them as the waves crash against the shore outside their beach houses. This was not that. We learn immediately that January is reeling from the death of her secret-keeping father. The beach house is the house he owned with his mistress. January finds out about this mistress (whom he was spending time with while his wife, and January’s mom, was at home going through chemotherapy) at her father’s funeral, when said mistress hands her a key, a note, and a teary smile. Holy heavy. That’s a lot to grapple with. While struggling with the worst case of writer’s block ever (because what even is love anymore?), she’s living in his home cleaning out his and his mistress’s things and preparing to sell it. Gus is also carrying a lot of his own baggage. Both characters go through a lot of emotional ups and downs. This book also didn’t feel summery to me. Yes, it’s hot and sticky during the day but no beach stuff really happens. The rom-com field trips that January takes Gus on are highly overshadowed by Gus’s death cult excursions and their own personal demons. The evenings and mornings are cold and damp. I just didn’t get the warm fuzzy feelings I had hoped for with this title.

2. On the flip side, when Beach Read chooses to be a rom-com, it does such a good job! January and Gus have this awesome chemistry. They pick at each other and push each other’s buttons, and the sexual tension is totally there. They spend their days sitting in their own kitchens, which are mirror images of each other, working on their books. If they look up from their laptops they can see each other, through the windows, sitting at their kitchen tables. Even though they both have phones, they choose to communicate by writing notes to each other with sharpies on their notebooks and then holding them up and waiting for the other person to look up and read them. Some of these notes are funny, some are flirty, and some are motivational. This was my favorite part of their relationship, and the book. I thought it was really cute.

3. I didn’t love the execution of January (the romance writer) writing literary fiction and Gus (the literary fiction writer) writing romance. Maybe I didn’t like this because I hate it when my favorite authors make a disappointing genre jump, thereby writing a book that holds absolutely no interest for me. The tidbits of both January’s and Gus’s novels sounded kind of crummy to me. lol. Her literary fiction novel ends up being about a circus, and his romance novels ends up being about a death cult (don’t worry, this is not a spoiler). I would have ZERO interest in both of these books, and I have a hard time believing that this was a good career move for either of them. All for a silly bet. Honestly, I wish this part had been left out. It would have been fine if they’d both just had writer’s block and tagged along on each other’s research trips just for fun.

4. I liked the supporting characters better than the main characters. January’s best friend, Shadi, was my favorite character in the book. She seems like such a sweet, supportive, loving best friend. Throughout the story, a romance is budding in her life, and I loved reading about it. There’s also Gus’s aunt Pete who owns the book store and the coffee shop. Pete is hilarious. January’s publicist, Anya, is a treat and I’d love to read a book about her. Her emails checking in on January’s writing progress were so much fun. She’s got quite a personality.

5. Unfortunately, I never really connected with January or Gus. I liked them, and I felt bad for their heartaches and personal struggles, but I never felt connected to or invested in them. I think that’s why I struggled to get through this book. I’m a very character-driven reader, so not being able to connect with either main character was very hard for me.

6. I did like all the writer stuff. The advance reader copies, the writing process, the writer’s block, professional and reader reviews. That was fun.

7. The death cult stuff honestly made me uncomfortable. It was just too creepy and kind of upsetting in places. If this were in a mystery or thriller I would have been fine because I would have been expecting to feel uncomfortable and creeped out. That’s not what I wanted to feel when I picked up Beach Read, though. I would have preferred more of January’s rom-com 101 field trips. 

8. This didn’t feel at all romantic to me. Gus says some GREAT things that are very swoony on their own, but they didn’t feel swoony when mixed in with everything else. There wasn’t any wooing. I didn’t feel like there were any grand gestures. The cover and synopsis actually seem a little deceiving. The romance is there, and there’s sexytimes… it just didn’t feel romantic.

9. I came away feeling kind of dark about the entire reading experience. The ending wasn’t even satisfying. 

All in all, I’m kind of all over the place with Beach Read. I liked some parts, I was meh about many parts, and I really didn’t like some parts. There was SO much going on. The book was kind of all over the place, now that I think about it. I think my biggest issue, though, is that I couldn’t connect with the characters I was really supposed to love and feel for. I really think that’s where it all went wrong for me. Not being able to connect with them made their story feel very flat and not the least bit romantic. I’m disappointed.

2 Stars

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler | Book Review

Posted February 27, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 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

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

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare | Book Review

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

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare | Book ReviewThe Governess Game by Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #2
Published by Avon on August 28, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 373
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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3 Stars

He’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson.

The accidental governess.

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart... without risking her own.

The infamous rake.

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling... and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

I love Tessa Dare. Her witty banter, strong heroines, and swoony heroes are unparalleled. Unfortunately, her new Girl Meets Duke series doesn’t seem to be as magical for me as her Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After series were but that doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this book! I had so much fun reading it, and really liked all the characters. I think The Governess Game is Tessa’s first book (that I’ve read, anyway, which is a lot) that includes children as main characters. I nearly always shy away from books that include kids, which I suppose is kind of weird… but I don’t see children as romantic. lol. But it’s Tessa Dare! So I read it. Anyway… As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Alexandra is a strong, bookish lover of astronomy. She was raised by her dad alone, on the decks of a ship. This makes her unique in my book. Women during this time period were not into the sciences, nor were they typically brought up in such a rough and unrefined way. She’s spunky and stands up for herself. She takes no crap, and has no problems calling Chase on his idiocy. She shows up to Chase’s home to do one job, and accidentally becomes the governess for these two wild girls. She has no idea what she’s doing, but at least she’s got better ideas than Chase! I really liked her! Her unconventional teaching methods were refreshing.

2. Chase is nothing extremely special in the beginning. I suppose it’s honorable for an unattached, playboy of a bachelor to bring in two little orphaned girls because nobody else in his family would take them, but I felt bad about how he treated them. He had no interest in showing them any love or compassion. He wanted Alexandra to come in and train them so they would be accepted into society and become someone else’s problem. I love kids, so this made me sad. He spent his days furnishing and decorating his man cave for optimal sexytimes with a revolving door of women, rather than making sure the girls were happy. I struggle a lot with heroes in books that are notorious playboys. I don’t find those kind of men attractive. He was pushy with Alexandra, and really left a lot to be desired. But he does melt and become a better person as Alexandra works her magic on him along with the girls, and I grew to understand what she saw in him.

3. Daisy and Rosamund are sweet, odd girls. I can’t remember which girl this is, but one of them has a very morbid curiosity with death. She has a doll named Millicent, and every morning this doll dies of something new like consumption or internal bleeding or a bowel obstruction and the girls drag Alexandra and Chase in for a very formal funeral. Chase has to perform a different eulogy every morning while holding hands with the girls and mourning Millicent’s death. It’s actually quite sweet and was one of the reasons I grew to like him so much. I actually really liked these girls and their antics, which surprised me since I’m not usually a fan of children in romance novels like I mentioned above.

4. I loved all the astronomy talk and the telescope.

5. The romantic chemistry between Alexandra and Chase wasn’t as swoony as I would have liked. It felt more like lust and less like love, which is not what I’m used to from Tessa Dare. Maybe this is less the author’s fault and more back to the fact that I don’t like playboy heroes. Alexandra just seemed like another notch on Chase’s bedpost at first. He had a hard time convincing me that he thought of her as different than all the others. They do have some great banter, though!

All in all, this was another fun Tessa Dare book! I always like reaching for one of her titles when I need a pick-me-up and some light fun. While it’s not a favorite, I still enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys unique, strong heroines.

3 Stars

One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker | Book Review

Posted July 12, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker | Book ReviewOne Summer In Santorini by Sandy Barker
Published by Maze on June 24, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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1 Stars

Sarah has had enough of men. It's time to rekindle her first true love – travel – so she books a sailing trip around the Greek islands with a group of strangers.

The very last thing Sarah wants is to meet someone new… But then a gorgeous American man boards her yacht and she knows she's in trouble. And when she also encounters a handsome silver fox who promises her the world, she realises that trouble really does come in twos.

Will Sarah dive into a holiday fling, embark on a relationship, or stick to her plan – steer clear of men, continue her love affair with feta, and find her own way after all?

UGHHHHHH. I love books set on vessels. I love books that involve travel–ESPECIALLY to other countries. Greece!! I love when all these things come with a huge side of romance. I expected to LOVE this. I did not expect to find the kind of disappointment I did in this book. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Where do I even begin? I really disliked Sarah. She went on this trip hoping to avoid men at all costs. Did she? No. And instead of owning it and just being with men anyway (nobody would blame her), she just used her I-don’t-want-men-right-now mindset to justify her leading on one guy while leading on another guy and not really caring about the feelings of either one of them. She’s also very dull and boring and lacks personality. I kept forgetting her name.

2. The love interest is an American boy named Josh (I legit just had to check Goodreads to make sure that’s his name, so score one for me), but simply calling him an American doesn’t make him an American. He needs to sound like an American. Josh said things that sounded so non-American. For example, he said “Don’t poke your tongue out at me.” We don’t say that here! We say “Don’t stick your tongue out at me.” There were more non-American things he said, but you get the picture. He was also a snoozefest. I don’t have any clue what he does or who he is. And I’m pretty sure we are never told what he looks like. So I pictured a Ken doll because what else was I going to do?

3. The dialogue was pretty awful and made me want to scratch my eyes out. I like dialogue, but only if it’s interesting. I was beyond bored. Josh and Sarah in particular didn’t talk about anything interesting. I read this on my Kindle with the default font size, and these two doorknobs talked about how much they liked a movie for roughly 5 pages. FIVE PAGES. I did so much skimming to try and slog my through what felt like a very fly-on-the-wall kind of experience throughout the entire book. I felt like I was trapped in a room with two of the dullest people.

4. Every single day was the same. There was so much repetition. The characters wake up, they make toast, they eat breakfast as a group, they say “wow, nice view”, they disembark the boat and go explore various towns. Or they stay on the boat to talk because that’s all they do and who needs cute Greek towns when you can be boring instead? But these towns were all the same. Every town looked the same. I don’t even know why they got off the boat! It seemed like they just kept visiting the same place over and over again because nothing noteworthy was ever said about any of them. They shopped. They looked at the view. They ate food in some cafe or restaurant. But it was all the same food. I kept seeing the same Greek foods mentioned over and over again. Everything they ate was SO GOOD. There was so much horiatiki and it was all SO GOOD. It’s just salad, people! Talk about something else! Oh, and they would not shut up about the AMAZING tomatoes. They’re tomatoes. Move on.

5. The characters also had the same conversations over and over again. “Are you and Josh a thing? Did you sleep together? Did you sleep well? Are you ok? Are you drunk? This travel group is like family!” On and on and on.

6. This is seriously the most boring group of people. Some of them were very sweet and most were completely unremarkable. I’ve already forgotten all of them. They did nothing. They sat around the boat talking about boring stuff. Or they read. They didn’t go swimming off the boat or play games or do anything. They just sat. And talked. About boring things. At one point some dolphins swam in the boat’s wake, and it was seriously the most exciting part of the book for me.

7. The romance just bugged me. I’m fine with the age different between Josh and Sarah (I believe she’s 8-10 years older than he is), but it was brought up so much that I felt like I was supposed to be uncomfortable. And they kept saying they were just friends because neither one wanted to be in a relationship, but then they kept doing very relationshippy things like kissing and cuddling and getting jealous when the other noticed another member of the opposite sex. And it was all so insta-something. How do you look at a guy and decide he’s going to be your best friend by the end of the trip before you’ve even talked to him? And then it happened. It was all so formulaic and easy. And I really hate these two, whether what they have is a relationship or friendship. I just don’t like them. To go from “we’re just the best friends ever” to planning out their sexcapades and never shutting up about all the sex they want to have just… it just didn’t work for me! They felt too brother/sister to me at that point. I cringed a lot.

8. So what kept me reading? Well, there’s this older guy, James, that Sarah meets before the trip who is very drawn to her in a creepy “I’m going to kidnap you and hide you in a secret room in my fancy mansion” kind of way. He puts a little pep in her step because he’s a sexy and serious older man who strokes her ego and makes her feel alive, but she blows him off. But then they cross paths again and he was too smooth for comfort. I wanted to see if she picked our non-American American or our probable “import/export, a little of this, a little of that” creepily mysterious silver fox, so I kept going. I’m all about the drama.

9. Worst ending ever. We are left with all the loose, frayed ends just flapping around in the breeze. The book just ended. There was no climax, no resolution, no information. Just done. There’s no sequel, and I honestly don’t care enough to read one if there is one someday. But to put me through 400 pages of boredom only to leave me hanging just makes me mad. This book wasn’t worth my time.

10. There were some pretty scenery descriptions in the beginning that I liked (and they gave me high hopes for a wonderful trip to Greece), but they were used so many times that by the end I was begging to get off that boat.

Bottom line, I’m mad. lol. Maybe Josh’s non-American speak was fixed by an editor in the finished copy, but I highly doubt any of the rest of this was fixed because it’d have to be a completely different book. I’m so disappointed! One Summer In Santorini had all the makings of a very Jana book, but nope. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it.

1 Stars

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

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

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewSerious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 16, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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4 Stars

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite authors. I’ve now read all four of her young adult books, and the two things I can always count on are that the story will be filled with unique characters that I can’t help but fall in love with and that the story will be unlike anything I’ve read before. I really, really enjoyed reading Serious Moonlight, but it will not knock Starry Eyes out of first place in my eyes. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I love our little bookish Birdie. She loves mystery novels and endeavors to be a private investigator one day. She has a bit of a dark past, wears a flower in her hair everyday, loves her family, and deals with anxiety (and a couple other health issues that make her interesting). I actually really connected with her when she got anxious about various things because she worries the same way that I worry: a lot and about things that aren’t actually that big of a deal. At the same time, this anxiety drove me nuts sometimes when her inner dialogue just kept going and going as she thought things to death and analyzed everything. lol. She also suspects she has narcolepsy like her grandfather, but tries to leave that pushed under the rug. For an anxious person, I’m actually surprised she can do that! Anyway, she’s a unique and interesting character with a backbone and a confidence I wish I had had at her age.

2. Daniel is the epitome of swoony boy (except he wears man buns, which makes me struggle to like him more than I otherwise would have). He’s exactly the kind of boy you would expect Jenn Bennett to dream up for us. He and Birdie met at the Moonlight Diner, and had a one night stand in the back of his car before Birdie flipped out and ran away, never to be seen again. Well, not until she shows up working the graveyard shift with him at the Carlisle Hotel. You’d think a boy who had been so epically rejected wouldn’t give her a second glance, but he pursues her relentlessly with his smooth, flirtatious nature. He’s got some of the best one-liners, and is so witty. He’s got some baggage just like Birdie, and I liked the depth it brought to his character. He’s very loyal and loving, too.

3. Birdie’s Aunt Mona is a HOOT. Oh my goodness, I loved her so much. Can Jenn write an adult romance just for her, please? Aunt Mona is mid-thirties, is an artist, lives in an old theater that she has re-purposed as an art studio, speaks very flowery (does that even make sense?), and cosplays every day. Seriously, she sews intricate costumes inspired by people in history and pop culture and has a huge collection of wigs, not to mention an entire rainbow of make-up to select from to complete her looks. She is a very supportive and loving aunt to Birdie. I’d love to be friends with this woman. She gives such great advice, and sounds like such a fun person to be around.

4. The mystery aspect was a fun addition to the story. Daniel really wants to spend time with Birdie, so he brings a hotel-related mystery to her attention and they spend their time investigating, discussing, and breaking a few laws to try and solve it. I love that this is how they bonded!

5. Daniel knows Birdie’s heart and takes her on a date to alive-action Clue dinner party for couples, and I was very invested. How cute is that? I loved it.

6. I loved the setting of the book. Birdie lives on Bainbridge Island and takes the ferry into Seattle for work every day. Things felt very cozy to me. Birdie and Daniel walk around Seattle exploring and investigating, and I loved reading little tidbits about the drizzly weather and fun tourist spots they end up in.

7. Things get a little heavy as we learn more about Birdie’s mom, Daniel’s family, some health issues they both deal with, and even some of Mona’s past. I appreciated the depth, but felt kind of weighed down by it. I wanted things lighter and fluffier, but that was just me at the time I read it. Jenn likes to bring real life into all of her books, and I can appreciate that. Nobody has a perfect life, and letting these characters be flawed and discuss their problems makes them more realistic and relatable.

8. The romance is very, very sweet and follows a natural progression as Daniel and Birdie learn how to let each other in and trust each other. I’m rooting for their future.

9. There’s an octopus named Octavia!!!

All in all, Serious Moonlight was so much fun and has given me more characters to love! Jenn’s writing is amazing, and her storytelling abilities always warm my heart. The dialogue between all the characters is wonderful, and kept me tearing through the pages. Even though Starry Eyes is still my favorite Jenn Bennett book, I highly recommend this one as well.

4 Stars