Reviews: THE DEAD ROMANTICS & HERE FOR THE DRAMA

 

Happy Friday everyone! I’m back today to share my thoughts on a couple of romance novels that thoroughly delighted me over the long holiday weekend.  Both of these are out in the world already so if you like what you read here, you can go right out and snag these for your reading pleasure. 🙂

 

Reviews:  THE DEAD ROMANTICS & HERE FOR THE DRAMAThe Dead Romantics Goodreads

Author: Ashley Poston

Publication Date: June 28, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I first became a fan of Ashley Poston’s after loving her YA Once Upon a Con series, so I was thrilled to hear she has her adult debut, The Dead Romantics, coming out this year.  I was so intrigued by the premise that the protagonist is a romance ghostwriter who no longer believes in love.  I couldn’t wait to dive into this one and I’m pleased to report that I now have a new favorite Ashley Poston novel because The Dead Romantics is an absolute gem of a book!

The story follows Florence Day, a young woman who is the ghostwriter for a very popular and prolific romance author.  Florence’s next deadline is looming but she just can’t seem to finish the book.  Why the writer’s block?  Because after a terrible breakup, in Florence’s mind, romance is now dead so every time she sits down to write a happy ending for the book, she instead ends up pouring out her heart and writing doom and gloom. After butting heads with her new and very sexy editor, who refuses to give her another extension on her deadline, a family emergency sends Florence back to the hometown she hasn’t visited in a decade.  Although Florence is reluctant to go home, at the same time, she’s hoping for inspiration to finish this book before her career is dead.

I adored Florence.  As we learn more about her, it’s clear she has been through a lot in her life and she’s an easy character to feel sympathetic toward.  It also becomes clear why she hasn’t come back home even though she loves her family dearly and that returning home reopens some old wounds.  Florence’s family runs the local funeral home and because of this, Florence realizes early on that she has the ability to see ghosts and to communicate with them, to help them finish up any unfinished business they still have.  Florence’s ability to see ghosts is what drove her away from home, but when she comes face to face with her editor, who has apparently died since she last saw him in his office, it may also be just the thing she needs in order to restore her faith in love and romance and get her career back on track. Now I’ll freely admit that you’ll probably have to suspend disbelief a little to fully embrace Florence’s gift and how it plays out in the book, but if you let yourself just accept it and roll with it, you’re going to love the journey that Florence’s gift allows her to take.

I also loved how this story was a nice balance between Florence’s journey, her close relationship with her family as they came together to grieve the loss of a loved one, as well as a slow burn romance that surprised and delighted me.  The Dead Romantics is one of those stories that both tugged at my heartstrings and made me laugh throughout as I was reading. I flew through the pages because I was just having such a wonderful time watching these characters interact and was so invested in how things would play out for Florence.

If you’re looking for a unique story that perfectly straddles the line between romance and women’s fiction, I highly recommend The Dead Romantics.  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE DEAD ROMANTICS & HERE FOR THE DRAMAHere for the Drama Goodreads

Author: Kate Bromley

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Publisher: Graydon House

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I was a big fan of Kate Bromley’s debut romance Talk Bookish to Me because of its relatable characters and witty banter, so I was eager to get my hands on her new novel, Here for the Drama.  With its London setting, a female playwright as the protagonist, and the promise of an adorable but rambunctious rescue dog, Here for the Drama appealed to me on every level.  Bromley really delivers too.  As much as I enjoyed her debut, her sophomore effort really shines!

The story follows Winnie, a young woman who dreams of being a famous playwright.  Even though she is actively writing her own plays and hoping to get them noticed, her day job is to serve as an assistant to a woman who actually already is a famous playwright, Juliette Brassard.  Winnie is trying to get one of her plays in shape to enter it into a contest and keeps hoping Juliette will read it and give her feedback, but Winnie’s play gets put on the back burner when Juliette announces that they are going to London because one of her plays is being staged there.  Winnie is reluctant to go, but the trip ends up being life changing for her in many ways.

I really liked Winnie.  She’s a well-drawn and relatable character, especially when it comes to her insecurities about whether or not she has what it takes to make it as a playwright.  Winnie is also quick witted and just a really enjoyable character to follow.  In addition to rooting for her to have success with her writing, I was also rooting for Winnie on a personal level as well.  While in London, she meets Juliette’s sexy nephew, Liam, and the two of them have both incredible chemistry and just some flat out hilarious conversations.  From their earliest conversations, it felt like they had known each other forever.  They’re clearly perfect for one another, but there’s just one huge obstacle – Juliette does not want Winnie and Liam to get involved with one another.  I don’t often come across the secret dating trope, but I have to say I quite enjoyed it here and was cheering Liam and Winnie on.

Here for the Drama is just a delightful and heart-warming read.  From Winnie and Liam to the adorable scene stealing rescue dog, I just loved every page of it.  If you’re in the mood for a rom com that really delivers and that will leave you with a contented smile on your face, be sure to pick up a copy of Here for the Drama4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Never Coming Home & Take Your Breath Away

 

Welcome back to Sharon’s edition of Thriller Thursday! This week I am reviewing Hannah Mary McKinnon’s, Never Coming Home and Linwood Barclay’s, Take Your Breath Away.  I really enjoyed both of these books and they both had similar themes; husbands that are at the center of their wives disappearance/murder. LOL!

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Never Coming Home & Take Your Breath AwayNever Coming Home Goodreads

Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: MIRA

I have enjoyed every book I have read by Hannah Mary McKinnon and Never Coming Home is no exception. Lucas Forester didn’t really hate his wife, Michelle. She was beautiful, sophisticated, and very rich. It is because she is rich that Lucas married her. He had originally planned on divorcing her after a couple of years to get his millions, but thanks to his father-in-law and an airtight pre-nup, Lucas had to adjust his plans to get his hands on her money. For years Lucas planned Michelle’s death. He hired a hit man to kidnap and kill Michelle, and he made sure he left no trace that would lead police to him.  Lucas has been playing the grieving husband for a month and patiently waiting to be able to cash-in on Michelle’s fortune. But when shocking photos of Michelle start showing up, with notes stating, “I know what you did,” Lucas starts to unravel. How could anyone know what he did? Lucas is determined to find out who is behind the photos and notes and shut them up for good.

McKinnon did a great job of creating a villain that I hated, but also liked and had sympathy for at times.  Lucas was a great character. Yes, I know he put a hit out on his wife, but he also had me chuckling a few times and he was very devoted to his mother in-law, who has terminal cancer and does not have long to live. He was always going over and sitting with her and you could tell his feelings for her were genuine. He also loved his father, and it is because of his father he is doing all this. His father had a stroke years ago, which Lucas blames himself for, and he needs the money to be able to keep his father in the best care facility. And he rescued and adopted a stray dog. See, he is a good guy, well except for the killing his wife part. LOL!

The book was told from Lucas’ POV, and I really loved getting inside his head and learning all about him and what made him do what he did. I especially loved watching him unravel as the photos and notes started arriving. He went from this cool, collected, and calculated guy, to a nervous, always looking over his shoulder guy, who was starting to make many mistakes. It was really fun to watch.

I did figure a few things out early on who was behind everything, but I still enjoyed the ride while Lucas was trying to piece it all together.  The last chapter had me cringing, and I kind of felt bad for Lucas.  If you are looking for a psychological thriller that features a somewhat likable villain, then check out Hannah Mary McKinnon’s Never Coming Home.   3 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Never Coming Home & Take Your Breath AwayTake Your Breath Away Goodreads

Author: Linwood Barclay

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Publisher: William Morrow & Company

Take Your Breath Away is my second read by Linwood Barclay and while it did not knock my socks off like Find You First, I did enjoy it very much.

Andrew Mason’s wife, Brie, went missing six years ago while he was away on a fishing trip. Most everyone assumed he got away with murder but try as they might, the police could not build a case solid enough to arrest him. Andrew eventually sold his house, moved a couple of towns over and changed his last name. He has finally gotten his life back together and lives with his new girlfriend, Jayne, and her teenage brother, Tyler. Now six years after Brie went missing, a woman who looks just like her shows up at their old house, which has been torn down and rebuilt, screaming “Where’s my house? What’s happened to my house?” As quickly as she appeared, she disappeared again. The appearance of this woman has a ripple effect that puts a lot of people’s lives in danger.  Who is this woman? If she is Brie, where has she been for six years? And if not, why is someone pretending to be her? And what did happen to Brie?

I really liked Andrew. Andrew’s life spiraled out of control after Brie disappeared, and it didn’t help that his sister-in-law, Isabel, was doing everything she could to make his life miserable. She was sure he was responsible and made it her mission to get the police to take action. I can totally relate to her on that aspect. If that had been my sister and I thought my brother-in-law was to blame, I would stop at nothing to make him pay. Now with the “Brie” sighting, Andrew’s life could come crashing down again and he is determined to figure out what is going on.

Detective Melissa Hardy was the original investigator on the case and she too made Andrew’s life hell. She had such tunnel vision that he was responsible for whatever happened to Brie, that she would not let up. And then when the mysterious woman appeared, Detective Hardy was back on Andrew’s case. I have to say I did not like her much. I thought she was too aggressive in her approach to things. She didn’t follow the true facts; she followed what she wanted to be facts.

Most of the characters in this book had secrets to hide, though some secrets were worse than others. And that just added to the mystery of who this mysterious woman was and what happened to Brie.

There is so much I cannot say about this book because I don’t want to spoil anything. There are so many twists and turns and I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. I was very surprised when everything was revealed at the end.  3 1/2 stars

Reviews: FOR THE LOVE OF THE BARD & A THOUSAND MILES

 

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve had a crazy busy week but I’ll finally be catching up on my blog hopping today.  Today I’m sharing two very entertaining second chance romances with you.  One is a fabulous road trip read, while the other is an ode to the Bard himself.

 

Reviews: FOR THE LOVE OF THE BARD & A THOUSAND MILESFor the Love of the Bard Goodreads

Author: Jessica Martin

Publication Date: June 28, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, so Jessica Martin’s new contemporary romance For the Love of the Bard was a must-read for me.  Aside from all of the Shakespeare love, the story also features a small town setting, a second chance romance, and a fabulous dog named Puck, all things that are basically catnip for me. For the Love of the Bard doesn’t disappoint either.  I spent most of the book smiling and chuckling to myself and was ultimately bummed when I reached the last page because I wanted to spend more time in this setting with these characters.

The story follows Miranda Barnes, a literary agent and author, who returns to her hometown for the summer in hopes of finding some inspiration to finish her next novel.  Miranda fully expects to hole up in the attic at her parent’s house and write all summer, but her mom has other ideas.  Each year their town hosts a popular Shakespeare festival, and this year is the centennial year and Miranda’s mom is the event planner.  She recruits Miranda to direct one of the plays they will be putting on as part of the celebration.  Miranda reluctantly agrees but immediately finds herself face to face with someone she had hoped never to see again – Adam, the high school flame who ditched her on prom night.  Will Miranda finally get to confront Adam and get some closure about what happened that night so many years ago?

I had so much fun reading this book! Miranda’s hometown of Bard’s Rest, in particular, delighted me.  If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, imagine Stars Hollow but where every building, street, etc. is named using a Shakespearean reference and all the residents are Shakespeare enthusiasts who want to be part of the festival. It was so charming and quaint, and I just wanted it to be a real place so that I could visit it and geek out on all the Shakespearean references.

I was also a big fan of Miranda.  Even though the book is advertised as a romance and there’s definitely plenty to keep readers entertained with respect to Miranda and Adam’s will they or won’t they vibe, it’s Miranda’s journey and her relationship with her family, especially her sisters, that captivated me.  It was interesting to watch the different dynamics between Miranda and each of them as they try to navigate some personal drama regarding their mom’s health.  In addition to the family drama, Miranda is also dealing with fan pressure.  Her fans were very vocal about not liking the direction her last book went in, so she’s under tremendous pressure to write a new installment that will satisfy everyone.  I was very engrossed by what turns out to be a very personal journey of self-discovery for Miranda as she discovers who she really wants to be as an author.

For the Love of the Bard is a charming story about love, family, community, and most of all, it’s about second chances and finding yourself.  If you enjoy stories that features those elements and you’re a Shakespeare fan as well, I highly recommend this one.  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews: FOR THE LOVE OF THE BARD & A THOUSAND MILESA Thousand Miles Goodreads

Author: Bridget Morrisey

Publication Date: June 21, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I love a good second chance romance and I’m also a fan of books that feature road trips so when I saw that A Thousand Miles by Bridget Morrisey featured both, I knew I had to read it.  The story follows Dee and Ben, two former best friends who had a falling out and haven’t spoken to each other for ten years.  One night Ben shows up unexpectedly on Dee’s doorstep simply stating “a promise is a promise.” The promise in question is to recreate the 1,000 mile road trip to Colorado that the two of them completed their senior year before their falling out.  Even though she’s still angry and confused about what happened ten years ago, Dee agrees to take the trip, hoping for answers and to reconnect because as upset as she is, she has missed Ben more than she wants to admit.

I really enjoyed this book. Ben and Dee’s road trip was so entertaining, and I loved the whole nostalgic vibe that surrounded it as they went to all of the same places they went the first time around.  I liked the contrast between the memories of when they were best friends versus experiencing the same things now but with so much awkwardness and tension between them.  It’s a fun trip for them, but there is also a lot of angst as those memories of their fight are still hovering between them.

I also thought both Ben and Dee were fantastic characters.  I loved their friendship, particularly as they slowly rekindled it, and was fully invested in learning what happened ten years ago and hoping they could move beyond it.  It was also pretty clear that they have more than just friendly feelings toward one another, which gave me another reason to be invested in their future.

The entertainment factor doesn’t just come from Dee and Ben’s road trip though.  Dee hosts a popular podcast called “Did I Forget to Tell You?” where she and her cohost share personal stories about their pasts, both the highs and especially the lows.  Transcripts of some of the episodes where Dee discusses her troubled relationship with Ben (or Name Redacted as she refers to him) are sprinkled throughout the book.  I loved the added in-depth look at Dee’s life and personality that those excerpts provided.  You can tell just how much the falling out with Ben has dominated her thoughts over the years.

A Thousand Miles is a delightful and insightful story about love, friendship, and second chances.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fun but angsty summer read and especially to those who are fans of road trip books. 4 STARS.

Reviews: FLYING SOLO and HOW TO FAKE IT IN HOLLYWOOD

 

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all doing well. I’m back today with more reviews. This time it’s a new book from the author of Evvie Drake Starts Over, followed by an exciting Hollywood-based debut from Ava Wilder.

 

Reviews:  FLYING SOLO and HOW TO FAKE IT IN HOLLYWOODFlying Solo Goodreads

Author: Linda Holmes

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Linda Holmes’ new novel Flying Solo follows Laurie Sassalyn, a soon to be 40-year-old woman, who has just called off her wedding and returned to her Maine hometown because her beloved great-aunt Dot has passed away. Laurie has been tasked with handling Dot’s estate and what starts out as a few weeks of sorting through boxes of photos and souvenirs from Dot’s travels over the years, unexpectedly turns into a journey of self-discovery and a second chance at love for Laurie. The catalyst for all of this?  Surprisingly, a hand carved wooden duck decoy that Laurie finds wrapped in a blanket and stored in a trunk.  Convinced that the duck has some significance, Laurie sets out to see if her hunch is correct. As she begins her research on the wooden duck, she ends up at the library and comes face to face with her former high school boyfriend, Nick Cooper, who is now the town librarian.  It’s clear the two still have chemistry and some unfinished business, but is Laurie ready for love?

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. I’m a sucker for a good second chance romance so I was excited as soon as Laurie and Nick reconnected and it was clear the feelings were still there.  Both Laurie and Nick are such likeable characters, and I loved the banter between them.  I also loved how realistic the dialogue between them felt as they grew closer and tried to navigate the logistics of a possible long-distance relationship since Laurie has no intention of staying in Maine.  The conversations between them felt so authentic that I could easily imagine a real couple in a similar situation having the same conversations.

One area where the story fell a little flat for me, however, was the duck subplot.  While on the one hand, it was fun to follow Laurie as she searched for what made the duck so important to Dot and to learn more about Dot’s life by extension, after a while, it felt like the duck mystery was in the way of Laurie and Nick’s story, which was what I was most invested in.

Flying Solo was still a very solid read for me though and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys second chance romances and journeys of self discovery.  3.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  FLYING SOLO and HOW TO FAKE IT IN HOLLYWOODHow to Fake It in Hollywood Goodreads

Author: Ava Wilder

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Dell

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Ava Wilder’s debut novel How to Fake it in Hollywood is one of those books that you definitely cannot judge by its cover.  I went in expecting a light-hearted flirty romance, and instead, I found myself immersed in a moving, emotional and sometimes painful story that centers on grief and loss.  I love a good angsty read, so even though I was surprised, I was not disappointed.

I was drawn to this story by the promise of the fake relationship trope, and again, I was not disappointed.  Grey Brooks is an actress who, even though she had success as a teen in a long-running soap, is now struggling to really kick her career into high gear.  Her publicist comes up with a scheme to put Grey in the spotlight – to fake a love affair with Ethan Atkins, a former but now disgraced Hollywood heartthrob who is looking to make a comeback. Both Grey and Ethan are desperate enough to agree to meet in person to discuss the idea, and after some initial head butting and trading of barbs, they both agree to give fake dating a try.

I loved both of these characters so much.  Grey is feisty and scrappy and even though she’s a bit star struck by Ethan at first, she doesn’t hesitate to put him in his place when it’s warranted.  Ethan is a little prickly at first, but as I got to know more about him and what he has been going through, particularly the death of his best friend and writing partner, my heart just broke for him.  Ethan is struggling with grief, depression, addiction, and he just desperately wants to get his act together, especially so that he can spend more time with his daughter and secure more visitation with her than he has been allowed since he started spiraling.

The story was fun in terms of watching Grey and Ethan try to navigate the early stages of their fake relationship, especially when they were out in public.  There are definitely some hiccups along the way for them, but I really loved it once they realize their chemistry with one another is way more than just acting.  The real action takes place when they are together in private and they start to support and care about one another.  I was really rooting for them to become a real couple and was glued to the pages each time their budding relationship was threatened, first by paparazzi invading their privacy and then again by the media, when a reporter tries to get a rise out of Ethan about the death of his friend.

How to Fake It in Hollywood does have some steamy, sexy, and fun moments, but overall it is a story filled with depth and emotion, and with richly developed characters that will tug at your heartstrings.  4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Twenty Years Later & The Shadow House

 

I hope everyone is having a good week and getting lots of good reading in. I am doing good, aside from working I have been getting a lot of chores done now that the good weather is finally here. I have also been reading some very good books as well. So for this week’s Thriller Thursday by Sharon, I am reviewing Charlie Donlea’s, Twenty Years Later and Anna Downes’, The Shadow House.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Twenty Years Later & The Shadow HouseTwenty Years Later Goodreads

Author: Charlie Donlea

Publication Date: December 28, 2021

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation

Twenty Years Later is my first read by Charlie Donlea, but it will definitely not be my last. I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and I want to thank Goodreads and Kensington Publishing Corp for my copy of this amazing book.

Avery Mason is the host of the television show, American Events. Avery’s ratings have been soaring this past year and she has come across a story that will make her ratings go even higher next year. Little does Avery know, but the story she heads to New York to cover is only the tip of the iceberg and there is an even bigger story underneath. New DNA technology has made it possible for the New York medical examiner to be able to identify a 9/11 victim after twenty years. The victim is Victoria Ford, and it is this story that Avery is going to New York to cover. Only when Avery talks to Victoria’s sister, Emma Kind, does she find more of a story. Emma has waited twenty years to be able to put her sister to rest, but she has also waited twenty years to clear her sister’s name.

Victoria was having an affair with a famous author and when he was found hanging from the balcony of his Catskills mansion and Victoria’s DNA was all over the crime scene, it did not take long for the DA to assemble a grand jury to indict Victoria. The day Victoria was to be arrested she was meeting with her lawyer in the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the plane hit. Before she died, Victoria called her sister to tell her she loved her and to tell her she was innocent and to promise she would clear her name. Now, with the help of Walt Jenkins, the lead detective from the murder case, Avery starts to read through all the evidence and discovers that there were a lot of holes in the investigation and Victoria may very well be innocent.

Did that synopsis catch your interest? Well, hold on to your seats because that is just the tip of what goes on in the book! There were so many more smaller plots that are also taking place and they all tie together.  I don’t really want to say too much because anything I say could spoil things and I think going into this book not knowing is best.  I will say that I thought for sure that I knew what the outcome of everything was going to be, only to have twists and turns happen at the end of the book that proved everything I thought I knew, to be wrong.

I really liked both main characters, Avery and Walt. They were very well written and have flaws and pasts that have shaped who they are today, which I think makes them all the more relatable and realistic. I loved the growth they both had in this book and seeing them face their pasts.  Again, I am being vague as I don’t want to spoil anything.

Twenty Years Later is a fast paced mystery, full of twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages to a shocking ending.  4 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Twenty Years Later & The Shadow HouseThe Shadow House Goodreads

Author: Anna Downes

Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Publisher: Minotaur Books

The Shadow House is my second book by Anna Downes. It follows two women who, though separated by six years, have similar eerie experiences involving their teenage sons.

Alex Ives is a single mother who fled an abusive relationship and is determined to make a fresh start in Pine Ridge, an ecovillage in Australia, for her 2 children, fourteen-year-old Ollie, and eight-month-old Kara. But as soon as they move into their new home disturbing events start to happen: a box with a dead bird, and a doll made out of wax and sticks was left on their doorstep. Alex soon realizes that Pine Ridge may not be the peaceful community she was hoping for and that her family may be in danger. To protect them Alex has to confront the shadows that are lurking in the woods.

The book is told from the POV of Alex, as well as Renee Kellerman. Renee and her husband and their fifteen-year-old son, Gabe, lived on the farmland six years ago before they sold it to Pine Ridge. A few months before they sold the farm, Gabe went missing. As with Alex, the Kellermans also had a box with a dead animal and a doll show up on their doorstep just before their son went missing.  I really liked both of these characters, their stories are quite similar, and I was very caught up in trying to uncover the mystery of what was going on.

Alex has not made the best decisions in life when it comes to men, and when the going got tough, Alex ran away. But she is determined to finally settle down and give her children the best life she can give them. When they first arrive at Pine Ridge, all of the neighbors were friendly and eager to help Alex out. But as the strange events start to happen, Alex is not sure who she can trust in Pine Ridge. And neither was I. I had so many theories on what I thought was going on and who was responsible.

Renee’s chapters are from 6 years ago and start a few months before Gabe goes missing. I had so much sympathy for Renee. Her husband really does not help out, Gabe has closed off from her and just wants to stay in his room all the time playing video games, and her in-laws are sure that Gabe is being possessed by the devil.

I loved having the alternating timelines and POV’s. With each new chapter, things slowly start coming together to a tension filled conclusion.

The Shadow House starts off slowly, but Anna Downes does a great job creating a creepy and supernatural vibe, as well as increasing the tension as the book progresses. I had no idea what the outcome was going to be and when a twist was revealed at the end, I was totally shocked. And I have to say the ending did bring a few tears to my eyes.   3 ½ stars

Reviews: MEANT TO BE MINE & THE FRIENDSHIP PACT

 

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. We are slowly getting into a good post-op routine with my son so I hope to be blog hopping a lot more frequently starting this week.  Having to ice his shoulder round the clock has my husband and I feeling like we have a newborn all over again, haha.  Anyway, even though I’m behind on my reviews and my visits, I have been continuing to read some good books.  This week’s highlight for me was finally trying Jill Shalvis’ books after two or three years of saying I wanted to read something from her. I could kick myself for waiting so long, especially since she has such an extensive backlist that I now want to go back and read.

 

Reviews:  MEANT TO BE MINE & THE FRIENDSHIP PACTMeant to Be Mine Goodreads

Author: Hannah Orenstein

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Publisher:  Atria Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

What if you knew the exact date you would meet the love of your life?  This unique premise of Hannah Orenstein’s new contemporary romance Meant to Be Mine really intrigued me.  The story follows Edie Meyers, a young woman who thinks she will meet her true love on June 24, 2022.  Why?  Because starting with her own true love, Edie’s grandma Gloria has been able to accurately predict the day every member of their family has met their soul mate.

We meet Edie, a Jewish stylist living in New York, on the morning of this fateful June day.  She is at the airport catching a flight to Maine and Edie is already on the hunt for the man she is meant to spend her life with.  She scopes out everyone and when a handsome musician named Theo ends up with the seat next to hers on the plane, she just knows that Theo is the one.  Or is he? Edie ends up making the first move and as the two of them get to know each other over the next few months, even though Edie really likes Theo, she has nagging doubts about whether the two of them would really work as a couple because they don’t seem to really want the same things in life.

I found Edie to be a very sympathetic character.  I couldn’t imagine how I would act or what I would think if I was in her shoes.  She has no reason to doubt the date her grandmother has given her based on Gloria’s track record, but should it be so hard to make things work with the one you’re meant to be with?  I also liked that Edie is clearly a flawed and messy character.  She tries so hard to force Theo to fit into her life and there are definitely some awkward, almost cringeworthy moments along the way.  But it’s easy to understand why she’s trying so hard and why she’s so confused based on what she has been told her entire life.  I also loved watching Edie interact with her quirky grandmother and with her amazing friend group.

I will say that as much as I enjoyed Meant to Be Mine, I did predict pretty early on how things would turn out for Edie.  I still enjoyed watching Edie’s journey to get to that ending, but I couldn’t help but wish that I hadn’t guessed it so soon.  Obviously I would have been much more annoyed if this was a thriller and the ending was that easy to guess, but I’ll let it slide since this is a romance.

Overall, I’d say Meant to Be Mine is a solid read with a unique premise and relatable characters that left me wondering, based on Edie’s experience, if I would want to know the exact date I’d meet the person I was meant to spend my life with.  3.5 STARS

 

 

Reviews:  MEANT TO BE MINE & THE FRIENDSHIP PACTThe Friendship Pact (Sunrise Cove, #2) Goodreads

Author: Jill Shalvis

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

Publisher: William Morrow Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’ve had Jill Shalvis on my list of authors to try for a while now and finally decided to dive in with her new Sunrise Cove series.  I requested The Friendship Pact not realizing it’s actually the second book in the series, so I immediately checked out the first book and binged it in a couple of days.  I loved it and jumped right into The Friendship Pact.  Let me start off by saying that, aside from the fact that both books are set in the Lake Tahoe area, there’s no crossover between characters so both books work great as standalones. That said, they’re both fabulous so I highly recommend them in whatever order you choose to read them.

Tae Holmes is an event planner in the Lake Tahoe area.  When we meet her, she is in the midst of hosting her first big fundraiser for an adventure company for athletes with disabilities and for wounded warriors.  Tae is sharp, savvy, and on top of things, although the weather has put a damper on the event’s turnout.  Beyond the weather disruption, however, a couple of other things happen that throw Tae off kilter: 1) One of the event’s donors approaches her to chat about seeing her father recently, which is impossible because Tae has never even met her father because he died overseas before she was born, and 2) her old friend and one-night stand from high school, Riggs Copeland, shows up.  It turns out he is part owner of the adventure company, along with his brother, Jake.  Tae’s brain is already spinning with questions about her dad and seeing Riggs for the first time since high school just adds to her chaotic thoughts, especially when it’s clear that the sparks between them are still very much there.

I love a good second chance romance so I was hooked on this story from the very first scenes between Tae and Riggs.  Both characters were so likeable but with complicated pasts that made them very reluctant to become involved with one another.  Riggs is especially reluctant to start anything because he has no intentions of staying in Lake Tahoe long-term, which is where the “friendship pact” came into play. I really loved both Tae and Riggs and the scenes between them are so fun and sexy that with each passing page, I hoped the friendship pact would fail.

This story isn’t just about the romance though.  There is quite a bit of personal drama as well, revolving around all those questions Tae now has about her father.  Was the donor at the event mistaken or is there something more to the story?  Has her mom not been honest with her?  And if not, why?  This aspect of the story kept me just as captivated as the blossoming romance did, especially because Tae and her mom are so close.  I adored their relationship and the fear that something might tear them apart had me turning the pages late into the night.

I don’t want to give away anything, so I’m just going to say that, with the first two books in her Sunrise Cove series, Jill Shalvis has made me a fan and I’ll eagerly be checking out everything else she has written.  4.5 STARS

Reviews: MEANT TO BE and OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY

 

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I got a bit sporadic again last week with my blogging because my son had surgery to repair a fractured/dislocated shoulder on Thursday. He’s doing well, although not excited to be in a sling all summer, and we’re all a bit tired from our travels, our stay at the hospital, and from the run-the-clock post-op care since he got home late Friday.  I did manage to get a few reviews written this weekend as he has slept, so today I’ll be sharing my thoughts on novels from two of my favorite authors, Emily Giffin and Kristan Higgins.  No surprise, but neither of them disappointed.  Side note:  how adorable are those covers?

 

Reviews:  MEANT TO BE and OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKYMeant to Be Goodreads

Author: Emily Giffin

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Publisher:  Ballatine Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Emily Giffin’s latest novel Meant to Be is a captivating romance that is loosely inspired by the Kennedys, specifically John F. Kennedy Jr and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy.  It’s the story of two people from very different worlds who are both trying to find their place in the world and, in the process, manage to find each other.  Can their love overcome all the obstacles that stand in their way?

Meant to Be follows Cate and Joe.  Joe, or Joseph S. Kingsley, III, comes from a family that is practically American royalty. His father was devoted to public service, first in the military, then in politics, and then in the space program, where he was tragically killed in an accident.  Everyone in the country, including Joe’s mother, expects him to pick up his dad’s mantle and carry on with the Kingsley legacy.  Joe doesn’t know how he feels about this and has a tendency to behave recklessly as he’s trying to figure out what he wants out of life.

Cate comes from a poor background, having spent her early years living in a tiny apartment with just her mom and a revolving door of men.  Cate hates living this way and when she is a teenager, she finds her ticket out of poverty when she has the good fortune to be discovered by a modeling agency.  When she meets Joe while on the beach doing a photoshoot, their attraction is instant.  Cate wants to keep the relationship secret because if word gets out about her poor background, it’s all over for them since she doesn’t believe there’s a place for her in Joe’s world.

Giffin does an amazing job using Joe and his family to capture America’s obsession with the Kennedys and “Camelot” while at the same time creating a wholly fresh and engrossing love story of these two young people who just want to be together in spite of the pressures of class and society. Both Cate and Joe are just so well drawn. I loved the complicated dynamic of their relationship, the realistic angle as to whether their love is strong enough to withstand what would happen if Cate’s past were to be exposed.  I was completely rapt by Cate and Joe’s story that I couldn’t put the book down and actually found myself sobbing by a huge unexpected twist at the end.

Meant to Be is a beautifully written story that will capture your heart, emotionally wreck you, and still manage to leave you feeling hopeful.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  MEANT TO BE and OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKYOut of the Clear Blue Sky Goodreads

Author: Kristan Higgins

Publication Date: June 7, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I was hooked on Kristan Higgins’ new novel Out of the Clear Blue Sky from the very first moment we meet the protagonist Lillie Silva, who is in the process of sedating a skunk so that she can sneak it into her ex-husband’s new house.  I immediately admired Lillie’s spunk and resourcefulness and, most importantly, was instantly invested in finding out what had driven her to do such a thing.

Lillie had been under the impression that she and Brad had a great life and a happy marriage.  Their only child is about to go off to college and Lillie is busy planning a wonderful European vacation for just herself and Brad.  She is therefore blindsided when, on the night of their son’s high school graduation, Brad announces that he wants a divorce, that he deserves to find joy for himself and that he is in love with someone else. Lillie is further blindsided when it turns out Brad’s new woman is Melissa, a newcomer to town whom Lillie actually introduced to Brad.  Needless to say, Lillie is both shocked and seriously ticked off that Brad has just turned her life upside down.

What I love about Higgins’ novels is that her characters are always so realistic and well drawn.  They’re full of flaws, just like us, and they find themselves in situations that are easy to relate to.  In Lillie’s case, she’s dealing with Brad’s betrayal, being an empty nester once her son goes off to college, and she also has the added challenge of how she can afford to live on just her salary.  Lillie’s journey is also very realistic in the sense that it takes time for her to work past the anger and pettiness she feels toward Brad (the skunk and other assorted hilarious pranks that I won’t spoil), before she comes out on the other side ready to move forward and heal.  I was cheering for her every step of the way, laughing out loud at some of her more petty moments, but ultimately rooting for her to find her own joy and show Brad what he was missing out on.

This novel was also fascinating it the sense that it’s a dual POV and the other POV we get is not from Brad, but instead from Melissa, the other woman.  Melissa is a seemingly irredeemable character who ended up surprising me in the end.  I can’t decide if I liked her or not, but I will say that her journey is an interesting one that kept me glued to the pages even when I wanted to shake her.

If you enjoy stories about second chances and new beginnings, with a hilarious side of revenge thrown in the mix, Out of the Clear Blue Sky is the book for you!  4.5 STARS

Historical Fiction Reviews: THE BOOK WOMAN’S DAUGHTER & OUR LAST DAYS IN BARCELONA

 

Hey everyone! I’m back today with a couple of historical fiction reviews from two of my favorite authors.  If historical fiction isn’t your usual genre but you’ve been wanting to try a novel or two, I highly recommend both of these authors.  They both create such unforgettable characters and do a brilliant job of fully immersing you in the history and culture of the time periods they are writing about.

 

Historical Fiction Reviews: THE BOOK WOMAN’S DAUGHTER & OUR LAST DAYS IN BARCELONAThe Book Woman's Daughter (The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, #2) Goodreads

Author: Kim Michele Richardson

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I was a huge fan of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson when it came out a few years ago.  It was the story of Cussy Mary, a blue-skinned packhorse librarian determined, even in the face of extreme prejudice because of her rare skin color, to bring books and literacy to the folks living in the hills of Kentucky.  Cussy Mary captured my heart as well as that of many other readers, so when I heard we were getting another book set in this world that focuses on Cussy Mary’s daughter, I couldn’t get my hands on a copy fast enough.  I’m so glad I did too because I loved this book even more than the first!

When we first meet Cussy Mary’s daughter, Honey Mary Angeline Lovett, she is learning firsthand just how cruel and unfair, life can be because her parents have just been arrested and charged with miscegenation.  They are each looking at several years in prison and because Honey is only a teenager, the court wants to have her committed to a home until she’s 21 years old.  The majority of the story follows Honey as she tries to figure out how she can, first, evade capture by law enforcement, and second, find a way to secure her freedom, a journey that has her following in her mother’s footsteps.

Honey is such an easy character to fall in love with.  She’s passionate, quick-witted, resourceful and determined, just like her mother, and she’s also born into the role of an underdog because she has inherited her mother’s blue-tinted skin, although in Honey’s case, the blue is confined to her hands and is easily hidden by gloves.  I always love a good underdog story and became immediately invested in Honey’s journey, particularly after she declares that she wants to be emancipated and that a bunch of random powerful men shouldn’t be allowed to determine whether or not she can be free.

I loved Honey and I also loved the assorted cast of characters who stepped up to help her because they loved her mother so much and because they knew Honey’s family had been dealt an unfair hand.  They treat Honey like family and it’s wonderful to see.  One young man even offers to marry her because he knows that will keep her from being committed, but Honey, even though she is immensely grateful he offered, doesn’t want her freedom to come at the cost of marrying for a reason other than love.

Honey’s story is so compelling and the author also does a wonderful job once again exploring the important role of the packhorse librarians and literacy.  In many ways, both Book Woman books are love letters to books and reading, both for education and for escape.  If you love books about books and books that feature strong resilient female characters who want to smash the patriarchy, you’ll want to check out The Book Woman’s Daughter4.5 STARS

 

Historical Fiction Reviews: THE BOOK WOMAN’S DAUGHTER & OUR LAST DAYS IN BARCELONAOur Last Days in Barcelona Goodreads

Author: Chanel Cleeton

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’ve really been enjoying Chanel Cleeton’s historical fiction novels that focus on the women of the Perez family, a family that was exiled from Cuba after Fidel Castro took over the country.  In her latest novel, Our Last Days in Barcelona, Cleeton tells the story of eldest Perez daughter, Isabel.  As the eldest, Isabel feels a tremendous sense of responsibility when it comes to her family, who for the most part have settled in South Florida.  The notable exception to that is Isabel’s younger sister, Beatriz, who has relocated to Spain and is engaged in espionage.  When Beatriz disappears, it is Isabel who immediately books a flight to Barcelona to find her and while there, also discovers a shocking family secret that makes her question everything she has ever known about her life and family.

Through the use of dual timelines, Cleeton takes us on quite an adventure in this novel. One timeline is set in Barcelona in1964 and is the one that follows Isabel as she sets out to track down Beatriz.  When Isabel arrives at Beatriz’s apartment, instead of finding Beatriz, she meets an unlikely ally and this timeline follows them on their dangerous journey to track down her sister.

The second timeline is also set in Barcelona, but this time in 1936 and it features Alicia Perez, Isabel’s mother, as well as an infant Isabel.  Alicia’s marriage is on the rocks and she has left Cuba and traveled to Spain to stay with family.  Her timing is awful though because Spain is on the brink of a civil war and danger is all around them.  Alicia’s life takes an unexpected turn when she finds herself face to face with a man who once held her heart.

I love how Cleeton weaves together these two timelines, intertwining Alicia and Isabel’s lives, and showing how both mother and daughter found themselves, nearly 30 years apart, having to choose between being dutiful daughters or following their hearts.  I found both timelines equally engrossing and was fully invested in both Alicia’s and Isabel’s journeys.

I also love Cleeton’s brand of historical romance. She not only vividly immerses me in the history and culture of both Spain and Cuba in this novel, but she also infuses the story with plenty of romance, suspense, and drama so that it’s a real page turner.

Our Last Days in Barcelona would definitely work as a standalone but I think reading When We Left Cuba, Next Year in Havana, The Last Time to Key West, and The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba gives the richest reading experience so that you know the moving histories of all the Perez women.  4.5 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Younger Wife & The Secretary

 

Welcome back to another edition of Thriller Thursday with Sharon. 😀  I hope everyone is doing well and getting in some good reading time. This week I am reviewing Sally Hepworth’s, The Younger Wife and Britney King’s, The Secretary.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Younger Wife & The SecretaryThe Younger Wife Goodreads

Author: Sally Hepworth

Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Sally Hepworth’s newest book, The Younger Wife, is a domestic thriller that follows the dysfunctional Aston family.  Stephen Aston is a 63-year-old heart surgeon who is engaged to 34-year-old interior designer Heather. The only problem is that Stephen is still married to Pam, who is in a nursing home and suffers from dementia.  Stephen plans on divorcing Pam so he can marry Heather, although Stephen says that the divorce is on paper only, that Pam will always be a part of his family. Stephen’s two daughters, 37-year-old Tully and 35-year-old Rachel, are not too happy with this arrangement and as family secrets start to unravel, they are determined to find out who their father really is.

That synopsis sounds more sinister than the book really is. While this was not a heart thumping read, it was a great mystery with interesting and relatable characters. The story opens with Stephen and Heather’s wedding. The whole family is there including Pam. After the ceremony is over, they all go into the back of the church to sign the registry and it is there that someone is hurt. We do not know who is hurt, how bad or who did it. All we know is there was a scream and then the pastor comes out to ask if there is a doctor in the house and the pastor has blood on her. Then the story jumps back in time and progresses forward and is told through the POV of Tully, Rachel, and Heather. I have to say after that opening chapter, I had so many questions and was already speculating on what I thought happened.

Each of the three main characters are flawed and have secrets, which to me made them all the more interesting.  I also loved the growth they all had throughout the book.

Tully is married and has two small sons. Not only has her husband lost a substantial amount of money in an investment, but Tully is also a kleptomaniac.  I had a lot of sympathy for her because she felt there was no one she could talk to.

Rachel was my favorite character. After an incident that happened when she was sixteen, Rachel has given up on men, that is until she hires a new delivery guy for her bakery business, named Darcy. Darcy is able to finally break down the walls that Rachel has put up.

Heather was a character I thought I was going to hate, but actually ended up liking. Heather comes from an abusive childhood and has done everything she can to put all that behind her and make a life for herself. During her chapters we get to see a different side of Stephen and it is not a good side.

I really connected with Rachel and Tully as I watched their interactions with their mother who, due to dementia, didn’t know who they were most of the time. I could relate to them, as I too lost my mom to dementia a couple of years ago and the last few months were the toughest when she would forget who we were or where she was.

It is at the end of the book that we finally find out what happened at the wedding, and I have to say after reading all that leads up to the end, I was quite happy with what happened.  If you like domestic thrillers about dysfunctional families with lots of secrets, then Sally Hepworth’s The Younger Wife is the book for you. 4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Younger Wife & The SecretaryThe Secretary: A Psychological Thriller Goodreads

Author: Britney King

Publication Date: January 20, 2022

Publisher: Hot Banana Press

When I read the synopsis for Britney King’s new book The Secretary I was immediately intrigued. What murder does the protagonist Gillian have to cover up? I couldn’t wait to find out. But while I did enjoy this book, it was not what I was expecting at all. This was one weird and twisted book.

Gillian Martin wants to be a writer and is currently working as a Doordash delivery person, but she can hardly make ends meet. When she lands a job at Shergar, a medical research company, Gillian does not realize that her life is about to change, and not for the better.

The book is told from the POV of Gillian.  I did have a lot of sympathy for Gillian because so many bad things happened in her life. She was living paycheck to paycheck, one day she was robbed by a bunch of teenagers, her father died of a sudden heart attack the day before her interview at Shergar, and there was a lot of family drama with her mother and sister. But even though I had sympathy for Gillian, I also wanted to shake her and tell her to wise up because she made a lot of bad decisions.  Her boss, Ellis Harrison, left her a note on her desk “Will you have dinner with me?” “Check yes or no” and even though Gillian has a boyfriend who is overseas doing mission work for their church, she checks yes. Dinner leads to a more intimate relationship with her boss. There was also an occasion when her supervisor tells Gillian that Gillian needs to have her wisdom teeth out because they did not get a lot of participants to sign up for the procedure that would include some of the medical research the company is doing. I am sorry but heck no! No way would I do that.

We also get a few chapters from “Helper 256”. We do not know who this person is, but boy did these chapters give me the chills. Don’t let the name Helper fool you. The Helpers are not there to help you; they are there to help the company clean up anything that may have gone wrong. That could be anything from eliminating a threat to cleaning up a murder.

There is not a lot I can say without giving anything away, except that this book had a lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing. I had no idea where this book was going and right near the end there was a twist that I totally did not see coming. There were also a few spots in the book that made me cringe, the wisdom teeth extraction being one of them.

If you are looking for a fast, weird, and twisted read, that features a sympathetic protagonist who makes questionable decisions, then be sure to check out Britney King’s The Secretary. 3 ½ stars

Reviews: THE LOVE CONNECTION & THE EMMA PROJECT

 

Hey everyone! I hope your week is off to a great start.  I have a three-day weekend so I’m using the time to relax but also to get caught up on some reviews I had gotten behind on due to busy times in my personal life (end of school year activities, soccer tournaments, an upcoming shoulder surgery for my son, etc.).  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two romances I was able to squeeze in in between all of those activities.

 

Reviews:  THE LOVE CONNECTION & THE EMMA PROJECTThe Love Connection (Airport Novellas, #1) Goodreads

Author: Denise Williams

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

You wouldn’t think romance could blossom within the confines of an airport, but in her new novella The Love Connection, part of her Airport Novellas series, Denise Williams not only convinces me love in an airport is possible, but that it can also be quite a magical experience!

The story follows Olivia Wright (Ollie), who, along with her best friend Jess, owns a pet grooming salon in a busy airport.  Having just come out of a bad breakup with a cheating fiancé, Ollie is 100% focused on expanding her business and has no interest in putting herself out there for another man.  That said, she does enjoy watching the eye candy that passes through the terminal adjacent to her salon, in particular, the sexy guy in a suit that comes through every week, obviously traveling for work.  Ollie is quite content to watch this sexy man from afar, but when a runaway soapy dog leads to the most adorable meet-cute in the middle of the airport, Ollie’s life takes a most unexpected turn and one she’s not sure she’s ready for.

I adored Ollie from the moment we meet her.  She’s smart, funny, and I love that she’s willing to take a chance on such an unusual business. I mean, really, a dog grooming salon at the airport?  I admired her creativity and her determination, and I immediately wanted her to also have a personal life that made her happy because she deserved so much better than her loser ex.

The sexy stranger, Bennett Baker, is pretty great too.  His day job is a professional risk assessor, but in his free time, Bennett actually writes historical romance novels.  He is experiencing writer’s block at the time of the meet-cute with Ollie, but inspired by his chance encounter with her, he is suddenly able to write more than he has written in months and the two of them start having the most adorable dates in the airport every time he comes to town – coffee dates, dates at the pretzel kiosk, picnics.  I was practically swooning at how romantic each of their meetups were and by the flirty texts they start sending each other.

Normally novellas leave me frustrated and wanting more because they’re just so small, but Williams does a phenomenal job with The Love Connection.  The character development is wonderful, the banter is hilarious, and the evolution of their relationship is perfectly paced, from meet cute to some deliciously steamy moments. Nothing felt rushed, and Williams also very realistically explores the theme of taking chances after being hurt as well as the obstacles involved in a long-distance relationship.  I did want more and was sad when I reached the end, but it was just because Ollie and Bennett were so perfectly suited to one another, not at all because I felt like I had been cheated by a novella.

The Love Connection is fun, fresh, and oh so sexy.  If you’re looking for a quick but satisfying romance to read this summer, be sure to check it out!  5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE LOVE CONNECTION & THE EMMA PROJECTThe Emma Project (The Rajes, #4) Goodreads

Author: Sonali Dev

Publication Date: May 17, 2022

Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

The Emma Project is the fourth installment in Sonali Dev’s popular Jane Austen-inspired series, The Rajes.  The Rajes are a prominent Indian American family, and each book in the series focuses on one of the adult children in the family.  This time, it’s Vansh’s turn and Dev tells Vansh’s story in the form of a wonderful gender-bent retelling of the Austen classic, Emma.

Vansh is the baby of the family. He’s handsome, engaging, his family completely dotes on him and so do most other people who meet him.  Vansh spends his time working on various charitable projects and has lived a charmed life thus far.  The only person who ever challenges him is his long-time friend, Naina.

Naina is a career-driven young woman who up until recently, was fake dating Vansh’s older brother, Yash.  This arrangement allowed Naina to focus on her work without her family pressuring her to find a man.  When Yash breaks off their relationship because he has met someone he wants to marry, things become strained between Naina and the Raje family, including with Vansh.

The situation between Vansh and Naina becomes even more awkward and tense when one of Naina’s financial backers proposes diverting some of the funding from Naina’s foundation to one of Vansh’s pet projects.  After some initial arguing, Vansh and Naina soon realize the only way to move both of their projects forward is for them to team up.  Both of these characters were quite likeable and I liked the way they interacted with one another as friends. There’s plenty of fun banter between them, and it’s pretty clear that they have more than friendly feelings toward each other.

As with the previous books in the series, Dev has crafted wonderful characters with so much depth.  Naina, in particular, has a complicated and strained relationship with her mother and father, and Dev does a marvelous job delving into that and fleshing out Naina’s character.  It became very easy to understand why she seems so aloof and closed off most of the time.

My only issue is with the romance trope used, mainly because it doesn’t quite match up with the original Emma.  In that one, Emma and Knightly are friends who are completely oblivious that they have feelings for one another until nearly the end of the book.  If you’ve seen the movie Clueless, another Emma retelling, think Cher and Josh.  This modern retelling doesn’t really have that same level of obliviousness, or at least I didn’t sense it.  It didn’t really hamper my enjoyment of the read since I do enjoy a good rivals-to-lovers story, but if you’re an Austen enthusiast, just don’t expect the read to exactly mirror the original.

With its rivals-to-lovers vibe as well as several scenes that are much steamier than in the earlier Raje novels, The Emma Project concludes the series on a very sexy and satisfying note.  3 ½ STARS.