Romantic

Romance Book Mini Reviews

I have been knee deep in romance books during the shelter in place and most of them were amazing. I find myself getting further and further behind in reviews and, in an attempt to catch up, I wanted to feature some of my favorites in the mini review format. If you are looking for a romance book to keep you company and during this time, look no further! The link in the title will take you to Goodreads.


The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

unhoneymooners

Synopsis


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.

Mini Review


I had never read any of Christina Laurens’ books before and these two authors gave me a friends-to-enemies story that I enjoyed from cover to cover. Occasionally, this type of romance is hard to swallow but Olive and Ethan’s story was nuanced and felt wonderfully real. There were one too many side stories that could have been edited out to make this book perfection itself but, in the end, I was wholly won over.


The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

theflatshare

Synopsis


Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

Review


I want to live in Tiffy and Leon’s apartment building. Separately these are two genuinely good people who deserve nothing but happiness in life. Bringing them together was necessary. And the journey that got them there? Perfection! Beth O’Leary’s inclusion of Tiffy’s ex-boyfriend and Leon’s brother in prison took this romance from light vacation read to a deeply personal look at how romantic relationships can break us down or build us up. This is one I cannot wait to re-read.

Emma by Jane Austen

persuasion

Synopsis


Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.

Review


I am working my way through all of Jane Austen’s works and eating crow with each page. See, in high school a girlfriend of mine was so obsessed with Austen and talked about her so much that I grew to hate her work completely unread. Turns out, she was right and I was wrong. Even with all the hype, Austen’s works are wonderful. Emma manages to be utterly likable even though she mettles too much. The supporting cast of characters is wondrous. I would have liked a splash more romance when Emma and Mr. Lightly finally confess their love but Austen gives me just enough to sigh and dream away the day imagining their life together.


To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

to be honest

Synopsis


Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

Review


I was hesitant to include this book. Much like Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, I felt that To Be Honest was a fantastic book of self-discovery and growth that had an element of romance rather than a romance-first story. But, since it is marketed as a romance I figured, why not? I loved Savvie. I cannot imagine being that self-possessed and confident in high school with a mother that is clearly struggling with several mental health issues and losing my sister (and only buffer) to college. In fact, my only complaint would be that I wanted the mother to have to explain herself more and apologize longer. Still, watching Savvie come into her own was just as rewarding and lovely as it could be.


Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Midnightataustenland

Synopsis


When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests’ Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn’t sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside’s mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte’s heart be a sign of real-life love?

The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen’s world. How could it not turn out right in the end.

Review


As much as I loved Austenland, Midnight in Austenland topped everything I hoped for in a sequel. With a different leading lady and gentleman and a mystery to boot, this book had everything I wanted to transport me away for this repetitive quarantine existence. I especially loved watching Charlotte get her confidence back during her stay at Austenland. Not only will I look forward to another in the Austenland series (Hale says she has two more planned out already!) but this book has my vote for being made into a film. Quickly please!


Tell me, please!

Have you been reading any good romances?


 

Romantic

Austenland and Midnight at Austenland by Shannon Hale

Years ago I stumbled across a movie entitled Austenland starring Keri Russel, JJ Field, and Jennifer Coolidge. I like Keri Russel but I will stop everything for Jennifer Coolidge. The movie is an absolute delight and I highly recommend it (especially if you need a nice romantic escape right now). But, until very recently I had no idea at all that it was based on a book by Shannon Hale. A random tweet brought this to my attention! I had to get my hands on a copy and read it immediately! Happily, there are already two books based in Austenland and so I picked them both up.

AUSTENLAND: A NOVEL


SYNOPSIS

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret: Her obsession with Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is ruining her love life–no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen fans, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen-or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own? from Amazon


austenland


REVIEW

Now, remember, I already saw the movie, bought the movie, rewatched the movie, made a friend watch the movie with me, and quietly watched it again before reading the book. When comparing books to movies, it is important to understand the order of consumption and the depth of devotion to a particular platform.

Since the screenplay was co-written by Shannon Hale it largely followed the movie. Still, there were many moments that were just so gorgeously written that didn’t completely transfer to the movie. Some of the lines Hale gives the delightful male characters should be etched in marble. Gorgeous and swoon-worthy. What this book did give that the movie really didn’t was Jane’s backstory and how her devotion to Darcy became so prominent in her life.

However, the book doesn’t have Jennifer Coolidge in it. In the movie, Jennifer’s part is that of a rich older woman named Ms. Charming, who is also visiting Austenland at the same time as Jane. The character is cute and over the top in the book but Coolidge’s performance, like many of hers, just steals the show. God bless Keri Russel because she seemed absolutely fine with having letting Coolidge take the audience’s attention every time.

Overall the book did what books do best – it gave me just a little more of the characters, their backstories, and their time together than the movie. Both were excellent and, happily, I had another Austenland story ready to go!


MIDNIGHT AT AUSTENLAND


SYNOPSIS


When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests’ Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn’t sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside’s mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte’s heart be a sign of real-life love?

The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen’s world. How could it not turn out right in the end? from Amazon


Midnightataustenland


REVIEW

Obviously there is no movie for this second book and perhaps that is part of why I found myself so completely enamored with the whole thing. Or, it might have been that there were layers of mystery and murder along with the truly spectacular romantic tensions. Either way, I was so pleased to see the return of Ms. Charming and a little more flamboyance in her character than in the first book.

Like me, Charlotte has come to understand Austen’s power later in life. When she finds herself at Austenland she is taking a much needed step away from the fallout of her divorce. Watching Charlotte remember herself through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood while struggling to redefine herself on vacation at a place as ridiculous as Austenland was a wonder to behold. We are constantly trying to figure out who we are in the world aren’t we? Hale captured that imbalance and redefinition perfectly.

If you are looking for something to transport you away from the stress of the current COVID crisis, or if you just need a genuinely lovely romance in your day, I encourage you to pick up these two books. Midnight at Austenland especially was so perfectly plotted that I ignored every small thing that required my attention until I could finish the book. Don’t forget to watch the movie!


Tell me, please!

What is your favorite book and movie pairing?


 

Romantic · YA

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A YA loose re-telling of The Beauty and the Beast that captured my heart. I love a strong protagonist and Harper delivers in spades even though I am still unsure how I feel about Prince Rhen.


SYNOPSIS

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

From: Amazon


acurse
“A Curse so Dark and Lonely” Words are woven through with thorns on a blue background.

REVIEW

Occasionally a book lands in your hands at the perfect moment. Perhaps I wouldn’t have fallen so deeply in love with this story if I hadn’t been sick and stuck in bed with ample time on my hands to consume it all in one day. Or, if I had been in a murderous mood and not a romantic one. It doesn’t really matter because I am having a hard time imagining doing anything less than loving on this book.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is billed as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but other than a Prince cursed into transforming into a hideous creature, this story is nearly unrecognizably altered. For one, Prince Rhen looks human for the season and only transforms at the end. The whole lesson of Beauty and the Beast is to trap a women into loving your disgustingness through gifts and grand gestures until she professes her love and only then can you reveal that you are really a hot dude. Instead, Prince Rhen is a nice looking human man during the wooing only to violently transform and become a true Beast completely lacking in humanity or the ability to control himself.

The Beauty is also wonderfully changed in this story. While Rhen’s Captain of the Guard, Grey, is tasked with bringing a woman back from our world into Emberfall’s enchanted realm, he tries to bring back a beautiful lost soul that he drags out of a bar. Typical man. “I need a beautiful woman to be my queen, where should I look…a bar!” Harper intercedes on the unconscious girl’s behalf and is taken instead. Her physical beauty isn’t remarked upon. In fact, since she has cerebral palsy, most of the physical commentary (which is still scarce) is spent discussing her gait. Instead, it is her personality that is beautiful.

Let me say too that the evil witch that issues the curse is a real piece of work. Lilith has none of the good intentions of the Disney Beauty and the Beast and just seems to enjoy torturing Rhen and Grey all these years as an intense hobby. Even Harper seems unable to comprehend Lilith’s genuine bad-ness and her cavalier refusal to follow any predictive patterns. Lilith is bad like Voldemort is bad; without logic and seemingly endlessly.

I love reading books where characters are multifaceted and nuanced and I really love Harper. She is a devoted sister, a loving daughter, smart and often overlooked. She has cerebral palsy but that is just one aspect of herself that treats not as defining her but as part of her total identity. Here is the one interaction between Harper and Lilith that made me so happy.

“Do you not see my power?” (Lilith) takes a step closer. “What if I could end the torment of your broken body?”

“No,” says Rhen. He staggers forward. “Harper, what she offers will come at a cost.”

“My body is not broken.” I say.

And I appreciated that the author made a point of adding a note at the end of the book making it clear that while she tried to create a girl who was strong, resilient, and capable, CP affects everyone differently.

I will confess though that I like Rhen almost as well as I have liked the Beast in any Beauty and the Beast retelling. Which is to say, not at all. In every one of these stories you have a spoiled rotten Prince who has been cursed and now feels really super bad about it but is still acting like a spoiled rotten butt-head. Rhen isn’t terribly different but somehow the author built him up slowly but surely until I found myself impressed by his passion for his people. This author even manages to make me believe that together, perhaps, Harper will support Rhen’s desire to be a better person.

Meanwhile, Captain Grey. Hello. Captain Grey has all my votes and I would very much like this fictional character to come to life and teach me to throw some knives. My birthday is in March. Thank you.

This book ended in such as way that I took my agitated and sick self up out of bed and directly to the closest bookseller. I was too sick to logically think about purchasing a copy for my Kindle which is a bit embarrassing now but I am thrilled to have the physical copy so it all worked out. All in all, I loved this book!


Tell me, please!

What is your favorite re-telling?


 

historical fiction · Romantic · Uncategorized

Scot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch

The second in this historical romance series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Enoch is sure to make you feel Scot under the collar. A strong hero, a smart heroine, and a truly despicable villain make this regency romance a true delight!


SYNOPSIS

In Scot Under the Covers, a resourceful English lady and a hot-blooded Highlander join forces to trick a scoundrel, and every rule will be broken!

Miranda Harris is known for her charm, wit, and ability to solve any problem she encounters. But when her brother lands neck-deep in gambling debt to a crafty villain and Miranda is subsequently blackmailed into marrying him, she must enlist the help of the devil himself to save the family honor―and herself.

“It’s time to fall in love with Suzanne Enoch.” ― Lisa Kleypas

Devilishly handsome Highlander Aden MacTaggert knows next to nothing about the ways of the ton, but he most certainly knows his way around gaming halls and womens’ hearts. Still, Aden is not sure how he’ll manage to find a Sassenach bride in time to save his family’s inheritance. When his almost sister-in-law Miranda comes to him for assistance, he proposes a partnership: She will help him navigate London society and he’ll teach her everything about wagering…and winning back her freedom. The beautiful, clever lass intrigues Aden―but is she playing her own game, or are the sparks between them real? He is accustomed to risking his pocket. But betting on Miranda’s love is a game he can’t afford to lose. . . Amazon

scotunderthecovers


REVIEW

I love Regency Romances and have been reading them for years. While there are seemingly innumerable different subcategories of Regencies they fall into two major classifications for me: the first is when the couple gets to the culmination of the story, becomes engaged, and sneaks one (perhaps two!) kisses. The second has more bedroom action. It is easy to tell the difference because the cover for the more open door romance scenes usually features a scantily clad individual. As you can see, Scot falls into the second category. In this book, even the open door scenes weren’t so outlandish as to make me uncomfortable but I know some of my readers prefer a heads up about these things. Don’t let it deter you, the romance and the villain are the bulk of the story!

This book is part of the The Wild Wicked Highlanders series which follows the three MacTaggert brothers in their journey to England to reluctantly search for a bride. Scot Under the Covers focuses on the middle child, Aden, while the first in the series,  It’s Getting Scot in Here, focuses on the youngest son. While I missed the first book, Scot Under the Covers did an admirable job catching me up on the backstory. I truly never felt like I was missing anything. Still, I plan on getting my hands on the first book as quickly as possible because I would really like to know everything about Niall and Amy’s love story.

Scot Under the Covers sets up a great tale of romance with a reluctant Aden and an indifferent Miranda being brought together to thwart the villainous Captain Vale. Captain Vale has wagered with Miranda’s brother, Matthew, and won a fortune but is willing to accept Miranda in lieu of the payment. Matthew is engaged to Aden’s sister which is how Miranda and Aden are initially brought together. Disgusted with her brother’s culpability in this situation, Miranda turns to Aden to learn about gambling in an attempt to get herself out of this situation. Sparks fly and the fire of love is lit! I love when two people are brought together with a common goal and fall in love. It makes the partnership more balanced and I certainly felt that Miranda was an equal participant in rescuing her own future.

I have only two small things that I didn’t fully enjoy about this book. First, Aden’s speech patterns (as well as his brothers’) were very repetitious. I got a little annoyed with the number of “nae”s and “Sassenach”s thrown about. I am sure the author did this to fully flesh out the character but it grated just a little bit.

Second, I really enjoyed how Aden dealt with Matthew but I wanted Matthew to have a little more punishment than he seemed to receive in the story. He wagered more money than he could ever hope to repay and then seemingly guilt-free handed over his sister in place of his debt and returned back to the loving embrace of his fiancee and his own life. The author gave us great insight into the workings of Aden’s mother and her thoughts about what was happening but I would have loved to see Matthew’s turmoil over what he did to Miranda.

These two tiny things aside, I could not put this book down. It is unusual to find romances that are written so that you really understand both the male and female components and this book does that so well. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed hating Captain Vale. Watching Aden and Miranda work against his dastardly deeds was nearly as good as watching them fall in love!

I want to thank St. Martin Press for sending me a complementary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Tell me, please!

Do you enjoy Regency Romances? Who are some of your favorite authors?


Romantic · Science Fiction · SeriousSeriesLove · YA

The Illuminae Files

The chance of this not being my favorite series of the year is so slim it’s not worth mentioning. But, since I already brought it up… This is the best series I’ve read this year.

These books are winners, each and every one of them. I am obsessed with these books. I formally apologize to each and every person that recommended them to me for delaying in reading them. I’m sorry. Let me take you out for coffee so we can gush. Wait, first, perhaps I should calm down.

Ugh. I’m being obnoxious. (Clears throat). Let’s start over. The Illuminae Files…..? shrug. They were good. (So freaking good)

IlluminaeFiles

I am going to do everything in my power to avoid spoilers but this is so difficult to do in a series review. I’ve included the book jacket descriptions but even then, there are spoilers. I’ll let you know before you get there.

Note: the books look huge but don’t be put off by their size. They are not a straight forward narratives but rather, a collection of documents. I initially passed on reading the books because I thought they would take too long. That was silly of me. These stories are so ingenious and artfully crafted that the pages almost flip themselves.

Also, while books take place in space and in the future they each have a timeless feel. The romance in each book feels genuine and the balanced inclusion of action, mystery, and straight up terror keeps the story from any feeling of familiarity. Not to say they are as scary as say, Misery, but being locked on a spaceship with a virus, or being stuck on a space station with bugs are high, high, up on my own personal nightmare list. The romances are sweet and fairly clean but the language is not. Hilariously, the words are redacted, but that just made my brain work a teeny bit harder to come up with the most appropriate expletive.

Illuminae


This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes. (Goodreads)

This is the book that introduced me to the format and wonder that is The Illumnae Files. I have said it before but it is important to note that I read and listened to the full cast audiobook and it brought the book to a whole other level for me. If you have the chance, I highly recommend doing both. Please don’t make me pick between the audiobook and the physical copy – I doubt I could manage to choose.

Kady, the strong female lead of our dreams, is an talented computer hacker while still in high school. Her brusque manner belies the depth of her caring. In fact, this book introduces a cast of characters for the ages. My own personal obsession is Analyst ID 7213-0089-DN. Hello Mr. Hilarious observations!

Gemina


Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope. (Goodreads)

I didn’t think I could enjoy anyone as much as I did Kady but Hanna Donnelly is a woman after my own heart. Furthermore, she keeps a physical diary in which she draws her thoughts (Marie Lu Illustrates!) adding just one more layer to the experience of reading these books.

I was, admittedly, throw by the shift away from Kady’s perspective. It started to dawn on me that there was some connection between the stories when I saw my beloved Analyst’s reports start coming through. In the end, if this has been a standalone, I would have been thrilled but the way the two books connect turned me into that person on the bus that tells random strangers how fantastic their book is. That lady didn’t need to get off the bus to get away from me… Sorry lady! I hope that was your actual stop!

The book jacket for the third book contains series spoilers! If you want to avoid this: stop reading this post now!

Obsidio


Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken. (Goodreads)

I ignored every obligation in my life to read this book. I couldn’t even wait for the audiobook to read it to me – I cleared my calendar, holed up in my house, and read it page by delicious page.

People are not exaggerating when they talk about this series. It has something for everyone and delivers book after book. This series gets all the stars from me and will get a hug every time I see them out and about!


Tell me, please!

Have you read The Illuminae Files? Can we please talk about them??!!


 

fiction · Over 18 · Romantic · YA

The Joy of Romance Books and the Struggle with Recommending Them

I’ll be honest. I have a hard time recommending romance books to a general audience. If someone asks me for recommendations, I have many.  But I have questions first. That’s because romance is personal. One person’s romantic gesture is another individual’s suffocating display of affection. Furthermore, what appeals to a reader at one point in their lives may not appeal at all later. I don’t want to speak for all women but I can certainly attest to the fact that what I found romantic at 20 is nothing like what appeals to me now.

Ultimately, though, there are some factors that are universally romantic. Kindness is necessary. Admiration for another individual’s true self (which leads to total acceptance and unconditional love) is so much more than ogling a single body part. A willingness to put another person’s happiness before your own is a foundation in romance. On top of that, most quality romances add a problem or misunderstanding to test the strength of the new couple. Realistically, what we are looking for in a romance is the same thing we look for in most books – good people making morally sound choices which results in unconditional love. One of my favorite romance authors, Jennifer Crusie said this,

“My feeling on this, which I have expressed loudly and often, is that the romance novel is based on the idea of an innate emotional justice in the universe, that the way the world works is that good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. The mystery genre is based on the same assumption, only there it’s a moral justice, a sense of fair play in human legal interaction: because the good guys risk and struggle, the murderers get punished and good triumphs in a safe world. So in romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice, unconditional love in an emotionally safe world.”

If I were being honest, what I find fun to read in a romance book is not at all the same as what I am looking for in real life romance. I will read any book or watch any movie featuring a love triangle. I sit and sigh imagining inspiring two people to fight for my attention. I’ll remain riveted to the story until the “right one” is chosen. I love those stories. In real life, I would absolutely die if I had to handle more than one person at a time. How dishonest is it to cling to two people simultaneously? Talk about leading a person on….

Similarly, I love an enemies to lovers story. Watching the characters challenge their understanding of another person as they slowly fall in love can be so enjoyable. In real life, once a guy does something unforgivable the chances of me looking at him romantically fall to zero. “Oh, you loved me all this time but you were just behaving terribly….? Well in that case no I will never date you.” I have become friends with people who made terrible first impressions but never dated one. I do not find real life bad behavior attractive. Now, fictional bad boys, those are just fine.

Romance books are no different than thrillers – they put you in positions that are fun to think about but would be a nightmare to deal with in reality. They are a beautiful escape from everyday life. Let’s take a look at some romance books I have enjoyed this month.


What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

whatifitsusArthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a show stopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

This book had me sighing all the way through. First loves are always fun to watch unfold and Arthur and Ben were uniquely likable both individually and as a possible couple. I don’t know what magic spell Becky Albertalli weaves through her stories but they always manage to stay with me long after I turn the last page. Adam Silvera is new to me but I cannot wait to acquaint myself with his other works. This books features some closed door romance which makes it perfect for YA audiences (and those that enjoy YA books).


A Bride Test by Helen Hoang

bridetestKhai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

This is the second in Hoang’s popular The Kiss Quotient series and features Micheal’s cousin Kai. Many readers have complained that Esme is unlikable because she leaves her child behind in Vietnam. This didn’t bother me. Countless families are often forced to make difficult decisions in an effort to secure a more promising future for their children. I felt Esme was doing exactly that. After all, back home, Esme, her mother, her grandmother and her daughter all share one room. Convincing Kai to marry her would provide them all with a better life. But the more she tries to win him over the more she find herself falling in love with him.

I sucked this book down like a delicious milkshake. In reality would I want to leave my child behind to travel with a stranger I met in the bathroom to marry another stranger? Nope. But I enjoyed watching Esme take that chance on a better life. More lovely was that Esme grows tremendously as a person. As does Kai. This book, like many contemporary romances, has some open door sex scenes that feel slightly gratuitous. This book has less sex than The Kiss Quotient and I was glad that the author established a basic relationship before including physical romance. I don’t consider myself a prude but I will say, if I am prudish it is when reading stories of characters I don’t know having sex with each other. It makes me feel like a Peeping Tom. Books with sex scenes are the most difficult romance books for me to recommend because sex is even more complicated than romance. With that said, the book was ridiculously enjoyable.


Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

meetcuteTalk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either…

Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner.

The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

I did a full review here so just a quick overview is needed here. I picked this book up because I thought it was Helen Hoang’s new book. It’s yellow and the alliteration of their names confused me! This is an adorable book and vastly different than the other books I saw by the author available on Amazon. This one really focused on character development and watching each of them change their lives as their relationship develops was more fun than any solo sexy time scene. This has some open door sex scenes but they are not graphic and are romantic in nature. Oddly, I already had another of her books on my Kindle that I had DNFed. I returned to The Good Luck Charm after enjoying Meet Cute.


The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

thegoodluckcharmLilah isn’t sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career, or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she’s no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan Kane wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let him in, though, she finds out their reunion has nothing to do with her and everything to do with his game. But Ethan’s already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he’ll do anything to keep from losing her again.

Helena Hunting has a series of romance novels that don’t appeal to me but both Meet Cute and The Good Luck Charm are standalone books and each has a very sweet theme. Furthermore, like Meet Cute, the most enjoyable part of this book is the character development of the the main character, Lilah. I feel like there is open door scenes but honestly, I was all about Lilah in this book and less interested in her relationship with Ethan than her own personal transformation.


Each of these books has all the hallmarks of an enjoyable romance story. Two people trying to make morally sound choices so that they are deemed deserving of true love. There is also a problem for them to overcome either together or alone that puts the strength of their new love to the test. And, of course, kissing!


Tell me, please!

Do you read romance books? If so, what do you look for in a “good romance?”


 

Over 18 · Romantic

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

I used to be wretched at remembering author’s names. In fact, long ago, I was interviewing for a job at a book store and when they asked me my favorite authors I completely blanked. It was mortifying. I looked like a fake book lover. Since then, I have nearly compulsively tried to remember author’s names and give due respect to the people who work tirelessly to bring me such joy.

Sometimes I still mess up. For example, I thought Meet Cute was by the author of The Kiss Quotient. To be fair, Helen Hoang and Helena Hunting are not far off and I knew that Helen Hoang had a new book coming out but still, the mix up feels like an unintentional slight to Helena Hunting. Amazon doesn’t help things either with this blurb:

“As charming as its title, but it’s also so much more… Fans of Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date and Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient will love Meet Cute.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books.

meetcuteEither way, this mistake led me to the fresh and fun contemporary romance that is Meet Cute. From cute cover to the delightful ending, the book is adorable with moments of deep introspection and feeling. The premise may sound a bit ridiculous and the blurbs are misleadingly simplistic, but I challenge you to start reading and try and put it down.

Kailyn Flowers was obsessed with childhood actor Daxton Hughes when she was a teen. Running to her first law school class she collides into him and knocks him down. As she lays on top of him she does the unthinkable, she professes undying love. Cue three years of law school filled with Dax and Kailyn flirting and challenging each other but never dating. After Dax betrays their friendship they part ways. Five years later they meet again when Kailyn becomes involved with the legal needs of Dax’s thirteen year old sister.

If you read the jacket synopsis for this book it might seem like a simple enemies to lovers romance. And, as much as I love these books I’m getting a little tired of watching couples just fall in bed with each other. I want them to actually resolve their differences! Similarly, I despise when a strong female character has a tenderhearted moment of forgiveness and forgives the bad boy instantly of all wrongdoing. This book has neither of these common traps.

Instead, Kailyn is intensely driven and has an intricate backstory of her own. I loved watched this character change as the story progressed independent of the romance. Similarly, Dax’s change occurred internally instead of being wholly inspired by Kailyn. Add in a cast of supporting characters that felt three dimensional and true and this story was a winner for me!

One thing I can assure you, I won’t forget Helena Hunting’s name ever again. By creating a sweet spin on a tried and true contemporary romantic theme she has completely won me over. I can hardly wait to read her other books.


Tell me, please!

Do you have trouble remembering author’s names? Have you ever gotten them confused? Don’t tell me I’m alone in this!


 

historical fiction · Romantic

Highland Crown by May McGoldrick

Do you love Diana Galbadon’s Outlander Series? Or, like me, did you love books one through four but you just couldn’t take it anymore? I mean, Jamie is great but can Claire just stay out of trouble for two minutes?!? Sheesh. If, like me, you love a lot of things about Outlander but not the infinite never-ending drama, look no further then Highland Crown by May McGoldrick.

highlandcrownHighland Crown is going to be compared to Outlander. I don’t enjoy making comparisons like this but let’s just look at the facts.

Both set in historic Scotland? Check

Hot male character that is instantly admired? Check

Gorgeous medical female lead? Check

Instant love connection in the midst of turmoil? Check

Time travel? Nope, that is just Outlander.

So, I felt a duty to get this out into the open. Yes. I see the similarities. But, I want to focus on the differences and why it all worked so beautifully. Written by Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick under the pen name Mary McGoldrick, Highland Crown is a fast paced romance told in shifting narratives with loads of historic facts that brought the action to life. Alternating between the beautiful doctor and fugitive, Isabella Drummond, and the strikingly handsome ship captain, Cinead Mackintosh, the reader is literally tossed into the action from chapter one. And, since half of this writing duo has a PhD in sixteenth century Scottish and English literature, the historical aspect felt so true and alive it was hard to step back into the present.

I am an absolute sucker for romances where the male character falls deeply in love and has to either reassure the female character of his love or somehow earn her trust. This book gave me that romantic aspect in spades and I cannot wait for the next two books in the series! I appreciate NetGalley providing me a digital copy of this book in return for an honest review.


Tell me, please!

What is your favorite kind of romance novel?


Over 18 · Romantic

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I hate math. So, a book with math on the cover is to be avoided. But, then the delightful Penny Reid’s fan club argued that The Kiss Quotient by Helen Huang was perfect for any of Reid’s romance ninja’s. I have been anxiously waiting for Reid’s new book (it’s out today!) so I figured, challenge accepted. I purchased a copy of The Kiss Quotient and added it to my Canadian book pile.

thekissquotientThe ninja’s were not wrong. The Kiss Quotient is a unique contemporary romance that was a quick enjoyable read. Helen Hoang’s has said that a gender swap of Pretty Woman had been on her mind for some time when she was told that her daughter might have “high functioning autism.” While family and professionals disagreed, Hoang was intrigued, what if the heroine of her romantic tale was a person with autism? More specifically a woman with autism? The result is Stella Lane.

Stella Lane loves her work. She creates algorithms to predict customer purchases and she is extraordinarily talented. However, her parents and peers point out that she is lacking in the romance department, specifically sex. Stella knows she needs practice and prefers a professional so she hires Michael Phan. Michael is an gorgeous escort and cannot refuse when Stella puts together a lesson-plan compete with a payment that will free him from long term familial burdens.

Like Penny Reid, Helen Hoang has created a female protagonist that brings a unique perspective to the bedroom. And throughout the book the shifting narrative between Stella’s perspective and Michael’s kept me engaged. I am hopeful that Ms. Hoang will write another book and we will have the opportunity to see Stella and Michael’s relationship continue to develop and grow.


Tell me, please!

Do you enjoy contemporary romances? Have you read The Kiss Quotient?


 

Romantic · YA

Love & Gelato and Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

 

Recently I read a review of Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch on Beauty and the Bean Boots. The book sounded too adorable to pass up so I requested it from my lovely library along with Welch’s first book Love & Gelato and quickly consumed them both. These sweet YA books are perfect for summer light reading!

Love & Gelato features Lina who finds herself in Florence following her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. All she wants to do is go back home to her best friend Addie and the world she used to know. After all, why should she want to get to know someone who has been absent for the past 16 years? But then she is given the journal her Mom kept during her year in Italy which opens with the words “I made the wrong choice.” What choice did Lina’s mother make?

Love & Luck is Addie’s story and we join her for her domineering aunt’s wedding in Ireland.  After the wedding Addie is supposed to join Lina in Italy but finds herself on a strange road trip with her brother Ian and his surprising friend Rowan. Guiding them through Emerald Isle is a book Addie found written as a Irish guidebook for the brokenhearted. But why is Addie brokenhearted? And how will she ever mend her relationship with her brother Ian?

I adored Lina. She is strong and kind and is clearly working through the unfathomable loss of her Mother. The Addie we meet in Gelato through Lina is very different from the Addie we see at the beginning of Luck. Something has happened to Addie.  Something she is hiding from everyone in her life that has caused the rift between herself and Ian. Both Lina and Addie are at that fragile stage of growing up when they must face the serious curveball life can throw your way.

In both books the author vividly takes the reader on a physical journey through Italy and Ireland while simultaneously having us accompany Lina and Addie on an emotional journey. I appreciated that there was a book in both stories that helped to guide and inspire both girls. And, any romantic intrigues were secondary to the main story of personal growth.

Between the two I would have said I preferred Gelato until I got to the last quarter of Love when we finally find out what happened to Addie and why Ian is being so closed off and judgmental towards her. In the end both books are uplifting, fun adventures and sweet YA stories that are just perfect for delightful summer reading.


Tell me, please!

Have you read these books? Or, do you have different kinds of books you read in the Summer?