Genre: Contemporary Romance

An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow | Book Review

Posted December 3, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review, Bookish Little Christmas / 0 Comments

An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow | Book ReviewAn Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow
Series: Wild River #1
Published by Harlequin on September 24, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

In Alaska, it’s always a white Christmas—but the sparks flying between two reunited friends could turn it red-hot…

If there’s one gift Erika Sheraton does not want for Christmas, it’s a vacation. Ordered to take time off, the workaholic surgeon reluctantly trades in her scrubs for a ski suit and heads to Wild River, Alaska. Her friend Cassie owns a tour company that offers adventures to fit every visitor. But nothing compares to the adrenaline rush Erika feels on being reunited with Cassie’s brother, Reed Reynolds.

Gone is the buttoned-up girl Reed remembers. His sister’s best friend has blossomed into a strong, skilled, confident woman. She’s exactly what his search-and-rescue team needs—and everything he didn’t know he craved. The gulf between his life in Wild River and her big-city career is wide. But it’s no match for a desire powerful enough to melt two stubborn hearts…

I really, really love Alaska, so I was excited when I found this Christmas romance set in Wild River! This was very fun book, but I would have been happier if it had been more festive and Christmassy.

The synopsis has done a really good job explaining what the book is about. You’ve got workaholic Erika, who has to take a forced vacation by the order of her boss (aka her dad). She heads to Alaska to stay with her old best friend, Cassie, who owns a tour company. And then you’ve got Cassie’s brother, Reed, who Erika has always had the hots for. He works for a search and rescue crew. Cassie and Erika haven’t been close in years, so things are a bit awkward at first as they figure each other out again. Obviously, they have both changed. And Reed definitely notices the changes in Erika.

I always enjoy friends to lovers and dating the best friend’s sibling tropes, and this book gives us a bit of both. Cassie goes off on a tour with a group for a few days, leaving Erika at home to go stir crazy. She gets out and starts hanging with Reed… goes on a few rescues… gets to know the locals. It’s fun. I like the town of Wild River and the people that live there. This book was a strong set-up for the series, and I know I would have liked it more if I hadn’t gone into it expecting an explosion of Christmas decorations and festive merriment. You could really read this at any time during the year, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but was a bit of a disappointment for me. An Alaskan Christmas was actually a lot deeper and more heavy than I was expecting when I looked and the beautiful cover. I was picturing steamy Hallmark, but this was more of a drama than a romance for me. Everyone is working through a lot of stuff, and Erika is reanalyzing her life. I honestly can’t remember much Christmas or even many swoons. I really liked Erika and Reed together, but I didn’t have any strong feelings for them as individuals. They were not very memorable, personality-wise. I enjoyed the search and rescue tidbits, which were exciting and interesting.

All in all, this was fun! I was expecting something different, but it doesn’t mean that what I got was bad. I’m interested in continuing on with the series to see who gets their own romance next. Maybe Cassie? Or one of the search and rescue team? Both would be fun. :)

3 Stars

Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday | Book Review

Posted October 15, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

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

Birthday Suit by Lauren Blakely | Book Review

Posted June 11, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Birthday Suit by Lauren Blakely | Book ReviewBirthday Suit by Lauren Blakely
Series: Sexy Suits #2
Published by Lauren Blakely Books on January 17, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 306
Source: Audible
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5 Stars

There is no rule in the Man Code as unbreakable as this: no matter how beautiful, smart, clever, and witty she is, do not—under any circumstances—fall in love with your best friend’s woman.

Yeah. So there’s that.
Look, it’s not like I didn’t know I screwed up by falling for her.
Also, for the record, unrequited love sucks big time.
And, I might have cut myself some slack by now, given everything that went down in the last few years, but Lulu just walked back into my life in a big way.

***

There are three things I've never been able to resist—my friends, my family, and chocolate.

Leo Hennessy? He was nowhere on that list. He's been a true friend—a friend who walked through hell and back with me.
Now, I'm stepping into my new future. I didn't expect it to include a riddle-filled, race-against-the-clock scavenger hunt across New York City.
With Leo.
Suddenly, I'm looking at this man with new eyes...
But my life spun out because of a man once before, and I can’t risk my fresh start, no matter what the temptation. And Leo is most definitely a temptation of the sexiest, sweetest, and most dangerous variety.
More irresistibly delicious than chocolate...

I will admit, I grabbed this immediately after loving and finishing the first book in this series, Lucky Suit (a novella). And yes, I loved that book a lot, but I think loved it more than I if I had actually read it with my eyes because of the narrators. So when I saw the huge cast of narrators for Birthday Suit (which includes Shane East/Steve West, my love) and read the synopsis (YES), I decided to shove all current plans aside and listen to this immediately. Boy, am I a good decision maker.

Things I Liked:

  • The narrators. Each character in Birthday Suit has their own narrator and, instead of alternating chapters like some audiobooks do with narrator duets or trios, this one was read like it was a TV show! Lulu (Andi Arndt) and Leo (Sebastian York) narrate alternate chapters as a whole, but then whenever any of the characters have anything to say, the narrator assigned to that character reads their lines. It’s SO much fun. This is an AMAZING cast of narrators, and each one brought so much life and personality to their characters. It felt like an episode of Friends. I will actively seek out full casts from now on, and already have a bunch on my wishlist.
  • I have to hand it to Lauren Blakely, because she obviously wrote the book to facilitate the kind of narration we got. It was amazing. The snark and personalities that she created gave the narrators amazing content to work with. All those full cast audiobooks I mentioned above that are now on my wishlist? Yeah, they’re all by Lauren Blakely. I think I’m a total fangirl. I ran to her website to sign up for email notifications so I’ll know exactly what to wish for next.
  • Lulu is a chocolatier with big dreams. She’s divorced after a rather toxic marriage to a guy who had a better relationship with alcohol than he did with her. I really, really like Lulu. She can do hard things and make hard decisions. She puts her best interests ahead of everything else, yet she’s still so caring and compassionate. I really loved reading her story.
  • Speaking of her being a chocolatier… this book will make you crave chocolate. Trust me on this and have some handy while you read because you’re going to be hearing about chocolate recipes and truffles and chocolate fountains… sea salt and caramel… SO MUCH CHOCOLATE.
  • Leo is awesome. He works for a company called Heavenly that is all about chocolate. He immediately recommends Lulu for their Rising Star event, and they bring her on to the team to develop a new line of chocolate treats. Leo has been in love with Lulu since before she married his best friend, and the two of them have the cutest friendship. But, of course, he wants so much more with her. His pining and infatuation with her was very sweet. I loved how he looked out for her and protected her and loved her while also trying to respect his friendship with her ex-husband. He really had to suffer, and I felt for him. He’s got some baggage and some emotional turmoil going on in his head, and he’s so torn on some decisions he has to make.
  • Lulu and Leo have a very cute romance, too. I loved their flirtiness and their backstory as a duo. And their riddles. They love to do riddles together, many of which they make up on their own, and I thought that was so cute!
  • There’s a lot of depth and intense underlying issues going on, which added some interesting layers. I liked the light-hearted romance and chocolate and scavenger hunt, but I also liked the growing and healing and moving on that some of these characters are having to do.
  • The supporting characters are great. Lulu and Leo both have wonderful and supportive friends.
  • All the loose ends are tied up, and things are so swoony and sweet!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • This is hard, because I’m not sure there was anything I didn’t like! I think my only disappointment is that I didn’t get more info on Ginny’s romance. Ginny is one of the supporting characters that I loved. I hope she gets her own book.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Definitely get your hands on the audio if you can! I know it made the story so much better for me. And at the end there’s a 1-hour bonus interview between Andi and Sebastian that was really fun. Listeners learn what recording was like, and rituals of audiobook narrators. They talked about lots of fun things.
  • I could EASILY re-listen to this. I’m not much of a re-reader, but this was so much fun that I know I’ll go back to it again someday.

All in all, this was a total win for me and I’m a Lauren Blakely fangirl! I can’t wait to listen to/read another one of her books! Highly recommended, and a brand new favorite!

5 Stars

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely | Book Review

Posted June 4, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely | Book ReviewLucky Suit by Lauren Blakely
Series: Sexy Suits #1
Published by Lauren Blakely Books on July 1, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 129
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
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5 Stars

Kristen Leonard is done with setups. She’s not interested in your son or your nephew or your butcher or the guy who mows your lawn, thank you very much, grandma! After all, she’s a modern woman—she’ll take her chances on the algorithms of online dating to find her ideal man. Before long, she meets a man who might just be the one—he’s hilarious, quick-witted, and full of heart. And when she meets up with Cameron in real life, he certainly looks exactly like his profile picture…but something’s not quite right.

There’s really no telling what brought them together and all bets are off as to whether or not they can trust their hearts over their heads. After all, can you fall in love with someone you’re not sure you really even know?

Lauren Blakey might be one of my new favorite authors! After reading Lucky Suit and its sequel, Birthday Suit, in less than a week’s time (and giving both of them 5-star ratings) I’m eager and excited to read more from her! Lucky Suit was a free Audible Original about a year ago, so I grabbed it because I’m a huge lover of romance (as you know). This one was short and sweet, just how I like them sometimes!

What I Liked:

  • I loved the narrators. Andi Arndt and Zachary Webber have both rocketed their way into my very favorite narrators ever. They were both so much fun to listen to, and really brought the characters to life. I’m going to keep an eye out for books read by both of them in them in the future. Andi’s got this sassy, sweet voice and can really bring the snark and sarcasm. And Zachary has this swoony, sexy voice that made me totally fall for Cameron. He’s also great at infusing personality into the character.
  • Kristen and Cameron are both such great characters. I love Cameron for how sweet he was with Kristen’s grandma, playing online poker and talking fancy cars with her. I can just picture him winking and humoring her, and I love guys like that. He’s also funny and charming and so sweet!
  • Kristen is super relatable. She’s skeptical of dating and finding the right guy, and I totally agree with her. She’s very smart and completely analytical about a lot of things.
  • Jeannie, the grandma, is a HOOT. I love her so much!
  • The pranks in this story are top notch. No spoilers, so I won’t expound on this!
  • No sexytimes, which I appreciate because they make me blush on audio!!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Honestly, I just wish the story was longer. I wanted more romance, more online chats, more Jeannie antics, more everything! But it’s a favorite of mine just as it is, so I’m not that upset!

Additional Thoughts:

  • Definitely read this one before you read Birthday Suit. Even though it’s tiny, and basically a novella, Cameron shows up in Birthday Suit and I was excited to see him again. You appreciate him more in BS if you’ve read LS, at least in my opinion. Although, I’m pretty sure Lucky Suit takes place DURING Birthday Suit because we never hear about Kristen, just a “mystery woman”. But anyway! Do it for Cameron.
  • Must find more books read by Andi and/or Zachary!
  • Must go browse Lauren Blakely’s other books and find more swoony stories!

All in all, this was so much fun and I highly recommend it! If you can listen to it, do it, because I think it made me love it even more.

5 Stars

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid | Book Review

Posted May 28, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid | Book ReviewNeanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
Series: Knitting in the City #1
Published by Cipher-Naught on July 1, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 404
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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4 Stars

There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris:
1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved,
2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and
3) She doesn't know how to knit.

After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can't help wondering what new torment fate has in store.

To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan—aka Sir McHotpants—witnesses it all then keeps turning up like a pair of shoes you lust after but can't afford. The last thing she expects is for Quinn to make her an offer she can't refuse.

I’ve had my eye on Penny Reid’s books for quite some time now, but I kept not reading them! There was never a big reason why, there were just always other books to read instead. Then I was talking with my romance book club about fun books and Penny popped up in the conversation and I knew it was time to make time for her! Neanderthal Seeks Human was a JOY to read!

What I Liked:

  • This. Was. Adorkable.
  • Janie is such a sweet and wonderful heroine, and might be one of the most unique characters I’ve ever read about. She has not street smarts whatsoever, but she makes up for it in book smarts. She knows every useless fact you didn’t know you wanted to know. Socially, she’s a little off and awkward… but get her talking about a topic she’s interested in and you can’t get her to be quiet. She comes up with some of the goofiest, most random questions and discussion topics. She spouts off the funniest thoughts. She’s also incredibly insecure, aloof, and has some of the worst luck ever. Oh, and she thinks cell phones are evil and will not use one. She just warmed my heart. I loved her because I could relate to and empathize with her.
  • Quinn is the large and in charge, burly, no-nonsense, gruff, cynical hero and I was here for him. He’s a man of very few words, with a lot of secrets, sarcasm, and snark. He’s a complete and total alpha and has no idea how to date someone because he’s always been the one-night-stand kind of guy. Everyone fantasizes about being wrapped up in some big teddy bear, and that’s what I think of when I think of Quinn. All he needed was to find a girl that he felt strongly enough about to motivate him to work through his crap and become the man he wants to be. He’s so sweet and loves all of Janie’s quirks. It takes a special someone to fall for an oddball, and he is just the right guy for her.
  • Together, Janie and Quinn have some of the best witty banter I’ve read. Their disagreements and debates are hilarious. Their deep and not-so-deep-but-full-of-useless-facts discussions plastered a smile on my face often. They’re just such a fun pair, and they’ve got amazing chemistry.
  • The knitting group… so funny. There’s a little drama and some trouble comes looking for Janie and Quinn, and the knitting group intervenes in a way you will never expect. I can’t wait to read the stories of the other women in this group. Janie has some wonderful friends, and I am so jealous!
  • Penny’s writing is awesome. And she’s incredibly smart to be able to write such a smart heroine! I didn’t know smart romances were my thing, but apparently they are!

What I Disliked:

  • Ho boy, this book was HUGE and it dragged in a few places. I kept being amazed at the small dents I was making in this book as I read.
  • That being said, the book started off pretty slow but once things really got moving I enjoyed the ride.
  • Sometimes Janie’s thoughts and questions and ramblings went on a little too long. But I love her anyway.
  • At times I had a hard time believing what was happening because it just seemed too outlandish or over-the-top.

All in all, this was so cute and the kind of light-hearted fun I needed during this crazy time of quarantine. Janie and Quinn are a couple to root for, and I’m so excited to read about the rest of the women in Janie’s knitting group! I also can’t wait to dive into the sequel to this one, Neanderthal Marries Human, and read more about Janie and Quinn!

4 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

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle | Book Review

Posted April 2, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle | Book ReviewYou Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
Published by GP Putnam's Sons on April 7, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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5 Stars

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They're preparing for their lavish wedding that's three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there's a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they're finally being themselves--and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

The first line of You Deserve Each Other‘s synopsis had me hook, line, and sinker. “When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé…” How could you not be intrigued by this kind of book? Lovers… to enemies… to lovers. This is pretty much never done in the book world (at least that I’m aware of). Contemporary romances tend to fall under a lot of the same tropes and storylines, so I was immediately excited to read something unique. And I LOVED it. Brand new favorite, pre-ordered the moment I finished it. If this book is not on your radar, adjust your radar. You’ll thank me later. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. This book begins right in the nitty gritty of Naomi and Nicholas’s relationship. There’s no meet-cute, no getting-to-know-you, no twitterpated glances across a crowded room. That’s all already happened. We are thrown into a relationship that is seriously on the rocks. It was so refreshing to see a real relationship from a different angle. Rather than starting at ground level and moving up, we’ve got a relationship that’s already been up there and is quickly plummeting downwards. I loved reading about these two characters, and their theories of how they got to this point.

2. I will admit that this book took a little time to hook me. The hatred, mostly on Naomi’s side (since she’s our narrator and her point of view is the only one we get to read), was so SO heavy. But once it took hold, I was fully invested in this story. If you find yourself bogged down or struggling, keep going!

3. Sarah Hogle did a really awesome job of keeping this completely hilarious while also bringing deeper issues to the forefront. When you really think about the premise of this story. it’s actually very sad. These two people, once very much in love, have pushed each other to the brink of ruin. They’re able to so perfectly and effectively push each other’s buttons because they used to avoid pushing them at one point. I laughed at Naomi’s inner ramblings of how much she couldn’t stand Nicholas. I laughed at their antics and their immature acts of sabotage. And then I felt sad for them because this is a relationship that is about to flat-line at any minute! But the entire time I also felt such a strong sense of hope for them. I’d see a glimmer of love here and there, and it’d make me yell: “STOP IT CHILDREN! Can’t you see how much you love each other!?” Naomi and Nicholas do a lot of reflecting and go through a lot of emotional baggage throughout the story and even though I mentioned the strong hate vibes, it was never too much for me. It felt very real and raw. I felt them longing for each other as often as I felt them resenting each other. It quickly becomes obvious that the money one of them would lose if they cancel the wedding is not the soul reason they haven’t called it off.

4. Naomi took some time to worm her way into my heart, but Nicholas got there almost immediately. He made a pretty dumb decision in the beginning of the story that had me side-eyeing him, but by the end I realized it was the absolute best decision he could have made for their relationship. The gears in his brain are constantly working on ways to save them. Yes, he’s really good at the emotional warfare but I never felt like he pushed things too far. Naomi seemed to be the one who had nothing to lose, and I felt like she hit below the belt more. Nicholas seemed to be reacting. He was protecting himself and retaliating more than instigating. I really felt for him, especially once I learned how sentimental and romantic he can be.

5. Many of the pranks and shenanigans were hilarious. Nothing felt abusive. These two are actually very passive aggressive, which readers will quickly learn is the bud of the issue. They bottle up their resentment and never talk about it with each other. Passive aggressive people can be super entertaining, though, and that’s why things worked so well in this story.

6. The emphasis on communication and working through your issues was strong in this book, and I really liked that message. You can’t ever stop working on a relationship. It’s not always easy. This message is not usually presented to readers in contemporary romance, and I really appreciated that Sarah Hogle was able to do this without sounding preachy. It was done in a very lighthearted way.

7. The writing is very sharp and smart, and I still can’t believe how Sarah made me feel so many things all at the same time.

8. The characters are so well done! Even our side characters are amazing. Naomi works at this quirky little shop and has some great friends. Her boss is the biggest teddy bear. Nicholas’s mother is the definition of a momzilla. You will LOVE how the momzilla situation goes down.

9. For those concerned… there is a way happier ending to this book that I expected.

I left out a lot of my feelings because this really is the kind of book you need to read and experience and form your own opinions about. I love Naomi and Nicholas. I loved watching their relationship. I loved all the fall vibes and the cute little cottage they lived in. I loved the lake in the back and the coveralls and the feelings. You Deserve Each Other is a sweet, real, hopeful story. I loved it.

5 Stars

Well Met by Jen DeLuca | Book Review

Posted March 25, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 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