Review: CARRIE SOTO IS BACK by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Review: CARRIE SOTO IS BACK by Taylor Jenkins ReidCarrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Also by this author: One True Loves, Daisy Jones & The Six
five-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on August 30, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Taylor Jenkins Reid is the master of creating flawed characters that will capture your heart.  She did it with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, she did it with Daisy Jones & the Six, and she has done it yet again with Carrie Soto is Back.

When an injury forced her into retirement at the age of 32, Carrie Soto had cemented her reputation as the best female tennis player in the world. She had broken numerous records and had won an incredible 20 Grand Slam titles.  Becoming that great of a player has come with a cost for Carrie though.  Not only did she completely isolate herself from anyone she could have possibly formed a relationship with (friendship or romantic), but she was also cold and pretty arrogant when it came to speaking to the media and even to her opponents on the WTA tour, earning herself the nicknames “The Battle Axe” and “The B*tch.”

Tennis is everything to Carrie and so when, five years after her retirement, another player is threatening to beat her 20 Grand Slams, Carrie becomes obsessed with making a comeback to defend her record.  She decides to come out of retirement for one season to play the Grand Slam tournaments, and she asks her beloved father, who had coached her for much of her career, to coach her one last time.

I’m a sucker for an underdog story anyway, but there’s just something even more special about a legendary player trying to make a comeback and rise from the bottom back to the top.  What especially got me about this story is with the way Carrie behaves, so cold and arrogant at times, she should have been completely unlikeable as a protagonist.  But instead of hating her, I just loved her all the more.  There was just so much more to Carrie than what she showed the world, as well as a well hidden vulnerability, and it really surprised me how invested I became in watching her take this journey and watching TJR peel back the layers of Carrie’s personality and let us in.

The tennis matches we witness are all adrenaline rushes that made for riveting reading, but I also think readers will fall in love with this story whether they are tennis fans or not.  While Carrie’s comeback in the world of professional tennis is obviously front and center, Carrie Soto is Back is about so much more than tennis.  It’s a story about never giving up but also about accepting yourself as you are, and it’s also about love and the importance of letting people into your life.  My favorite scenes in the book are the ones between Carrie and her father as they train.  We get to see those both in the past when Carrie was first rising to the top, and then again through her comeback, and it’s clear they have a special bond.  Those scenes were incredibly moving and I adored her dad because of all the good he tried to instill in her and how he always believed in her no matter what. I found myself tearing up a few times as he was talking to Carrie.  She was his world and it showed in every word and action.

I devoured Carrie Soto is Back in less than a day, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a book and a protagonist that will stick with me for years to come.

five-stars

About Taylor Jenkins Reid

TAYLOR JENKINS REID lives in Los Angeles and is the acclaimed author of One True Loves, Maybe in Another LifeAfter I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Her most recent novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, came out June 13, 2017. Her novels have been named best books of summer by People, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, InStyle, PopSugar, BuzzFeed, Goodreads, and others.

In addition to her novels, Taylor’s essays have appeared in places such as the Los Angeles TimesThe Huffington Post, and Money Magazine.

Review: LOVE ON THE BRAIN by Ali Hazelwood

Review:  LOVE ON THE BRAIN by Ali HazelwoodLove on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
Also by this author: The Love Hypothesis
four-half-stars
Published by Berkley Books on August 23, 2022
Genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Ali Hazelwood’s debut novel The Love Hypothesis was one of my favorite reads from last year, and I’m happy to report that her latest “STEMinist” rom-com, Love on the Brain is just as hilarious and steamy as its predecessor.  I devoured the book in less than a day and closed it with a satisfied smile on my face.

Love on the Brain follows Bee Königswasser, an up-and-coming neuroscientist whose hero is Marie Curie, the mother of modern physics.  When NASA offers Bee the chance of a lifetime, to lead a huge neuroengineering project, she of course says yes, without hesitation.  But then she learns who she will be working with – her archnemesis from grad school, Levi Ward.  After years of loathing Levi and knowing he feels the same way, Bee can’t imagine a worst case scenario than being stuck working with him for three months.  But at the same time, it’s her dream project so she reluctantly packs her bags and heads to NASA Headquarters in Houston.

I absolutely adored Bee.  She’s brilliant, quirky, and just flat out hilarious. She’s also tough and independent, which I loved, but at the same time, there’s a vulnerability to her that made her especially appealing and relatable.  Her parents died when she was very young, and she and her twin sister were bounced around from one extended family member to another throughout their childhood.  Bee never stayed in one place and has grown up craving stability and a place where she can put down roots.  A horrible fiancé who left her at the altar has also put her off romance of any kind.

Levi was also a wonderful character, even though I kind of wanted to punch him in the face when Bee recounts her horribly awkward first encounter with him when they were in grad school and how it became the start of their mutual hatred of one another.  As we get to know Levi though, it becomes clear that while he may be the King of Awkward when it comes to Bee, it is not his hatred of Bee that makes him act so cold and aloof around her.

I’m not sure if I would call this enemies-to-lovers or more of a miscommunication trope, but either way, I was here for it.  I loved watching Bee and Levi slowly get to know each other better, and especially for Bee to realize that her initial perception of Levi was completely wrong.  They work together well professionally, the banter between them is hilarious and flirty, and the sexual chemistry between them is off the charts.  I flew through the pages just waiting for the moment when they finally couldn’t resist each other any longer.

Love on the Brain is also filled with some pretty great side characters as well.  I adored Bee’s research assistant, Rocio, who is just as quirky as Bee but with a darker sense of humor.  Bee’s twin sister, Reike, is also a fun, free-spirited counterpoint to Bee and often brings levity to the conversation when Bee is mid existential crisis.

If you like quirky STEM heroines, witty banter, and plenty of steam in your rom-coms, you’ll definitely want to check out Love on the Brain4.5 STARS

four-half-stars

About Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood is a multi-published author–alas, of peer-reviewed articles about brain science, in which no one makes out and the ever after is not always happy. Originally from Italy, she lived in Germany and Japan before moving to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She recently became a professor, which absolutely terrifies her. When Ali is not at work, she can be found running, eating cake pops, or watching sci-fi movies with her two feline overlords (and her slightly-less-feline husband).

Review: THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center

Review:  THE BODYGUARD by Katherine CenterThe Bodyguard by Katherine Center
Also by this author: Things You Save in a Fire, What You Wish For
five-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on July 19, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

I’m a huge fan of Katherine Center’s books and will read absolutely everything she writes. I love the emotional journeys she takes her characters on and even though she sometimes puts my emotions through the wringer, I’m always left with a smile on my face by the end of the book.  The Bodyguard was a bit lighter of a read than I’ve come to expect from Center, with more of a romcom vibe at times, but let me tell you, I was here for it every step of the way and it’s my new favorite Katherine Center novel.

Hannah Brooks is a professional bodyguard and she’s at the top of her field.  Lately though, she has been having a rough time. Her mother has recently passed away, and her boyfriend (who also happens to be her coworker) abruptly dumps her the day of her mom’s funeral.  Hannah is dying for a change of scenery to get away from all the awkwardness and so her boss assigns her as the lead bodyguard for a huge new client who is coming to town, Hollywood mega star Jack Stapleton.  Hannah is torn.  She kind of wants to quit because she really wanted an assignment out of town, the farther away the better, but at the same time, she has had a crush on Jack Stapleton for ages so the opportunity to protect his rather stellar body definitely has its appeal.

Jack is back in Texas because his mother is sick. Coming home is painful for Jack because he is still reeling from a tragic accident that killed his younger brother.  Because of this, he has been out of the spotlight for a while now and therefore doesn’t think he really needs a bodyguard.  His agent feels otherwise though because he does have some stalkerish fans, and so Hannah shows up on his doorstep ready to protect him.

Once Jack and Hannah meet, I flew through the rest of this book. I loved that they were both such messy and complicated characters, each dealing with their own issues, but who also just really pushed each other’s buttons when they are first forced to start spending time together.  Their banter is downright hilarious and had me laughing out loud more than once as I read.  It was easy to see how good they could be together if they would both let their guard down a bit and let the other in and I was rooting for this to happen all the way.

As much as I adored the forced proximity trope in this story, I actually loved the use of the fake dating trope even more.  Jack doesn’t want to worry his mom about stalkers and why he has a bodyguard following him everywhere, so he lies and tells his family that Hannah is his girlfriend.  Jack’s parents are so adorable and I loved watching them bond with Hannah.  They were so good to her that it had me all the more invested in Jack and Hannah hopefully becoming a real couple.

I don’t think what I’ve written has done justice to how wonderful The Bodyguard really is.  It has a little something for everyone – romance, an emotional journey of personal growth for both Hannah and Jack, a found family, humor, and even a bit of action and suspense.  The Bodyguard was everything I’ve come to expect from a Katherine Center novel and more.

five-stars

About Katherine Center

Katherine Center is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away, the upcoming Things You Save in a Fire (August 2019), and five other bittersweet comic novels. Six Foot Pictures is currently adapting her fourth novel, The Lost Husband, into a feature film starring Josh Duhamel, Leslie Bibb, and Nora Dunn. Katherine has been compared to both Nora Ephron and Jane Austen, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories, “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.” Katherine recently gave a TEDx talk on how stories teach us empathy, and her work has appeared in USA Today, InStyle, Redbook, People, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Southern Living, and InTouch, among others. Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her fun husband, two sweet kids, and fluffy-but-fierce dog.

Review: THE SUMMER PLACE by Jennifer Weiner

Review:  THE SUMMER PLACE by Jennifer WeinerThe Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner
Also by this author: Mrs. Everything, Big Summer
four-stars
Published by Atria Books on May 10, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

It’s almost summer so you know what that means — it’s time for a new novel from Jennifer Weiner!  The Summer Place is everything I’ve come to expect from Weiner’s novels – a healthy dose of family drama, juicy secrets, flawed but relatable characters, and a whole lot of heart.

The drama in the story revolves around an upcoming wedding.  The story opens with Sarah Danhauser’s 22-year-old stepdaughter unexpectedly announcing that she and her boyfriend are getting married in three months.  Everyone in the family, Sarah included, thinks she’s too young and the wedding is too soon, but Ruby is determined so wedding plans commence and the wedding is set to take place at Sarah’s mom’s beach house in Cape Cod.  The house is about to be sold so the wedding will also serve as a perfect goodbye to a house that has been in the family for generations.

As the wedding plans are being made, however, it soon becomes clear that nearly every character in the book has a secret they’re trying to keep under wraps.  You can almost immediately tell that there’s going to be some pretty intense drama if and when these secrets start to come to light, especially since there are hints that the secrets could very well derail Ruby’s wedding.

Weiner is a master when it comes to fully fleshing out her characters, and The Summer Place is no exception to that.  She has the story unfold from the perspective of several key characters: Sarah; her husband Eli; Ruby; Sarah’s twin brother, Sam; Sarah’s mother, Ronnie, and Rosa, the mother of the groom. Weiner provides pretty extensive background on each of these characters, and I have to admit that it took me a little while to really become invested in the story.  Once all the characters are fully introduced though, the story takes off and becomes one heck of an addicting ride!

I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot, but I will say that there are secrets and mistakes from the past that come back to haunt many of these characters, there are misunderstandings that get blown way out of proportion, and there are confrontations and revelations that could rock everyone in the family to the core.  That said, The Summer Place is also a heartfelt and satisfying story about love, sacrifice, and especially about families sticking together no matter how messy things get.  Throw this one in your beach bag because you’re going to love it!

four-stars

About Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of seventeen books, including Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and, most recently, Mrs. Everything. Her new novel, Big Summer, debuted May 5, 2020. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, she lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.

Review: SET ON YOU by Amy Lea

Review:  SET ON YOU by Amy LeaSet on You by Amy Lea
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on May 10, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

SET ON YOU is Amy Lea’s debut novel and it is a delight!  It’s a contemporary romance that focuses on fitness, features a plus size heroine and her sexy gym rival, but that also shines a light on the unfair standards our society has when it comes to beauty and anyone who isn’t a size zero.

The protagonist Crystal Chen is a biracial curvy fitness influencer.  The gym is her happy place and she doesn’t go there to lose weight.  She goes there because she loves to lift weights.  Being strong and healthy is her goal.  Her social media channels are devoted to supporting others like her who aren’t a size zero but who are looking to improve their overall fitness. She posts workout tutorials and lots of support and encouragement.  Crystal is such a fabulous character.  I loved that she embraced her curves and that she worked so hard to inspire others and keep them motivated to achieve their goals.  I also liked that even though she’s so inspirational, she also comes across as a realistic and relatable character, and sometimes she’s a downright hot mess.

The romantic element of the story is fresh and fun too, as it centers on Crystal and her gym nemesis.  Crystal is meticulous and regimented when it comes to her gym workouts.  For that reason, she doesn’t take too kindly to Scott, the new guy at the gym, a sexy firefighter who seems to be going out of his way to be annoying, even taking equipment that she is clearly about to use.  Now I’ll admit that some of Scott’s antics were a little juvenile, but it was hilarious watching him get under her skin, especially when she starts referring to him as Squat Rack Thief.  It’s pretty obvious that Scott is attracted to Crystal and trying to get her attention, and it’s equally obvious that no matter how mad Crystal gets at the Squat Rack Thief, she is pretty obsessed with him.

The evolution of their relationship is adorable too.  Crystal and Scott are forced to relate to each other as something other than rivals when they realize that Crystal’s grandmother has been dating and wants to marry Scott’s grandfather.  Getting to see each other outside of the competitive gym environment really helped take their relationship to the next level.  Crystal begins to think of Scott in ways she never would have imagined, while Scott becomes one of Crystal’s biggest supporters when it comes to both her career and her fitness, working out with her and even helping her film workouts for her social media account.  Both of their families are great too, and I especially enjoyed watching the grandparents embrace a second chance for love. They were so sweet together!

Aside from the fun rivals to lovers romance, Set On You also does a lot to tackle those unfair perceptions about size and beauty and it offers some interesting commentary on the body positivity movement and the effect internet trolls and haters can have on a person’s self esteem. As much as I enjoyed the romance between Crystal and Scott, Crystal’s work to inspire others and to honestly talk about her struggles with her own perception of her curvy body really made this a powerful read in addition to being a super fun one. If you’re looking for an entertaining and timely read to toss in your beach bag this summer, definitely check out Set On You!

four-stars

About Amy Lea

Amy Lea is a Canadian bureaucrat by day and contemporary romance author by night (and weekends). She writes laugh out loud romantic comedies featuring strong heroines, witty banter, mid-2000s pop culture references, and happily ever afters.

When Amy is not writing, she can be found fan-girling over other romance books on Instagram (@amyleabooks), eating potato chips with reckless abandon, and snuggling with her husband and goldendoodle.

Her Spring 2022 debut romantic comedy SET ON YOU from Berkley Romance at Penguin Random House is now available.

Review: THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’Leary

Review:  THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’LearyThe No-Show by Beth O'Leary
Also by this author: The Switch
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on April 12, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Don’t let the rom-com vibes of its cover fool you, Beth O’Leary’s new novel The No-Show is no rom-com.  While the story did make me smile at times, it also made me shed a tear or two because it’s such an emotional journey for some of the characters.  The story also took a huge unexpected turn that I don’t want to spoil so I’m going to be a bit vague with what I enjoyed about this book.

The No-Show follows three women who only have one thing in common – they were all stood up by the same man, Joseph Carter, on Valentine’s Day.  Siobhan is a life coach whose life is so over-booked that she doesn’t have time or the desire for a relationship. Since her past relationships haven’t been great, she has decided that booty calls are the way to go, with Joseph Carter being her go-to when she’s in the mood.  Then there’s Miranda, a tree surgeon, the only woman on an all-male crew.  She’s okay with being treated like one of the guys but she gets defensive when her crew makes fun of her boyfriend, Joseph Carter, because he’s so different from her that they don’t seem like they should be compatible.  Lastly, there’s Jane, a young woman who volunteers at a charity job and who has decided, after a disastrous romance at her former workplace, that she will no longer date.  To keep everyone she knows off her case about finding herself a man, she has a friend that she fake-dates whenever she has a function to attend.  That is, until she realizes she actually has feelings for him.  That man is, you guessed it, Joseph Carter.

Aside from the mystery of how this guy manages to keep up relationships with all three of these women but somehow manages to stand them all up on the most romantic day of the year, what really fascinated me were these women’s reactions to being stood up and the fact that all three of them actually forgive him and let him back into their lives.  In that sense, the story focuses much more on the emotional and personal journeys of Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane than it focuses on Carter.  I loved how well-developed and fleshed out all three of the women were.  Their voices and experiences were each unique, as was their path forward after being stood up.  I loved watching the other relationships they cultivated that in many ways were more important than their relationships with Carter.  I loved the friends Jane made through the charity shop and how they supported her and boosted her confidence, and I loved Miranda’s teammates who, although they razzed her at times, ended up being a pretty great support system for her as well.

Solving the enigma of Joseph Carter and wondering if one of these women was going to end up kicking his butt also had me very invested in the story.  I was so ready to hate this guy, and that’s when the entire story gets turned on its end and takes a direction I was not even remotely expecting.  I’m used to this kind of huge twist in thrillers, so it really caught me off guard here.  Beth O’Leary is sneaky here and I mean that in the best possible way.

I don’t want to say anything else because you really need to meet Joseph Carter and follow the women in his life yourself to get the full experience.  If you’re in the mood for a beautifully crafted story of love, friendship, and how to move forward when life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, you’ll want to check out Beth O’Leary’s new novel, The No-Show. 4 STARS

four-stars

About Beth O’Leary

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Review: THE WEDDING VEIL by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Review:  THE WEDDING VEIL by Kristy Woodson HarveyThe Wedding Veil by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Also by this author: Feels Like Falling, Under the Southern Sky
four-half-stars
Published by Gallery Books on March 29, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

Those who have followed my blog for a while know that I’m a big fan of Kristy Woodson Harvey’s novels.  I love how she writes her characters with warmth and depth, as well as how vibrantly she brings to life the settings for each of her books.  I was thrilled to learn that The Wedding Veil is actually a historical fiction novel since that’s one of my favorite genres and I couldn’t wait to see how Harvey reimagines the lives of one of the most famous families of the Gilded Age, the Vanderbilts.

In short, I loved everything about The Wedding Veil! I thought the premise of having the lives of four generations of women bound together by something as seemingly as simple as a wedding veil was just so creative and I loved watching their stories unfold and learning how it was possible that the treasured Vanderbilt heirloom veil ends up in the hands of another unrelated family altogether.

Harvey traces the journey of the veil from one family to the other through the use of dual timelines.  We follow Edith Vanderbilt and her daughter Cornelia in the early 20th century, and the struggles they encountered while trying to keep their famous home, The Biltmore Estate, up and running after Mr. Vanderbilt unexpectedly passes away.  I admired their strength and determination in the face of such difficult odds, including, particularly in Cornelia’s case, being forced into roles that they didn’t necessarily want and how the symbol of the wedding veil tied into all of that.  I thought that Harvey did a wonderful job of telling the Vanderbilt women’s stories with great respect and compassion.

As much as I enjoyed learning more about the Vanderbilt women and the Biltmore estate, the contemporary timeline was actually the one that captivated me the most, especially since it starts out with a runaway bride who is encouraged to run away, by all people, her grandmother!  I loved Julia and Grandma Babs from that opening scene and just couldn’t get enough of them.  Julia does a runner because she learns her soon-to-be-husband has been cheating on her and feels like she would be tainting the treasured family wedding veil if she were to go through with the wedding.  The veil and all it stands for leads Julia to go on a soul searching journey to figure out what she wants out of life, everyone else’s expectations be damned.  I really liked Julia – she’s smart, spunky, and resilient, and the more we get to see Grandma Babs in action, it’s easy to see where Julia gets her spark from.

I don’t want to say anything else because I think it’s best to experience the journeys of these four extraordinary women yourself, but I will say that with all of its intricate threads woven together between past and present, The Wedding Veil is a beautifully written story that spotlights the inner strength of these four unforgettable women and that celebrates love, family, and a woman’s right to choose her own path.  4.5 STARS

four-half-stars

About Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the bestselling author of DEAR CAROLINA, LIES AND OTHER ACTS OF LOVE, SLIGHTLY SOUTH OF SIMPLE, THE SECRET TO SOUTHERN CHARM and THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE. Kristy is the winner of the Lucy Bramlette Patterson Award for Excellence in Creative Writing, a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, her work has been optioned for film and her books have received numerous accolades including:

Southern Living’s Most Anticipated Beach Reads
Southern Living’s Best Spring Break Reads
Southern Independent Bookseller Association’s Okra Pick
Parade’s Big Fiction Reads Every Book Club Will Love
Entertainment Weekly’s Spring Reading Picks
Us Weekly’s Sweet Reads for Right Now
Woman’s WorldBest Books
PopSugar’s Ultimate Summer Reading
USA Today Happy Ever After’s Best Women’s Fiction
New York Live’s “Ashley’s A-List”
Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List
Raleigh News & Observer‘s “The Best Reads of Summer”
Charlotte Observer’s “Summer’s Best Books”
Bustle’s Books to Read and Discuss With Your Mom and Grandma
Huffington Post’s Summer Reading: Women’s Fiction Style

She blogs with her mom Beth Woodson on Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life. Design Chic is the inaugural member of the design blogger hall of fame, sponsored by Traditional Home, and winner of Amara’s Best Luxury Blog, as chosen by Roberto Cavalli. She also loves connecting with readers on kristywoodsonharvey.com.

Harvey is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a master’s in English from East Carolina University, with a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Traditional Home, Parade, USA Today, Domino, Our State and O. Henry. She has been seen in Today.com, Women’s Health,The Washington Post, US News and World Report, The Huffington Post,Marie Claire’s The Fix, Woman’s World, Readers’ Digest, Bustle, New York Live and North Carolina Bookwatch, among others.

She is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers, serves on the board of Beaufort Historical Association, and is a member of the University of North Carolina’s Women’s Leadership Council. She is a frequent speaker at fundraisers, book conferences and private events. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and son where she is working on her next novel.

Review: THE WEDDING RINGER by Kerry Rea

Review:  THE WEDDING RINGER by Kerry ReaThe Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on November 9, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea is a hilarious and heartwarming story about finding love and friendship when you least expect it.  It’s Kerry Rea’s debut novel and she really knocks it out of the park with this gem of a story.  It has that perfect balance of humor and weightier topics.  I laughed a lot but then there were also some sadder moments that made me want to wrap up these characters in a big hug.

After finding her fiancé and her best friend in bed together, Willa Callister has decided that she is done with both love and friendship and would rather just be alone.  This betrayal hasn’t just dampened Willa’s enthusiasm for companionship, however. It has also killed her writing mojo, which is problematic since she makes her living as a blogger. What Willa really wants to do is make enough money to move away and get a fresh start, but until that happens, she finds herself living with her sister, licking her wounds, and occasionally playing Princess Sparkle Fairy at children’s parties for a little cash.

I adored Willa from the moment we meet her at a disastrous children’s party where she accidentally drops the birthday cake after coming face to face with her cheating ex-bff.  Humiliated, Willa storms out of the party, flings her plastic throne to the ground, and dubs her character Princess Effing Sparkle Fairy.  Although it’s clearly a comical scene, I’m a sucker for an underdog and I could easily relate to and sympathize with Willa’s extreme frustration.  She’s lost her best friend and the love of her life in one fell swoop, betrayed by the two people she cares about most in the world.  The author does a wonderful job of creating a scenario that immediately had me rooting for Willa to get the fresh start she so desperately needs.

Willa’s chance comes in the form of another character I fell in love with, Maisie Mitchell.  Maisie is getting married and unexpectedly finds herself down a bridesmaid.  Rather than rearranging everything with an uneven number of people, she decides to hire a professional bridesmaid.  A chance encounter with Willa at a coffeeshop convinces Maisie that Willa is the perfect person for the job.  Even though Willa doesn’t really want to do it, Maisie offers her a sum of money that is too big to refuse.  What neither Willa nor Maisie realizes is that this business arrangement is actually the start of a beautiful, potentially life-changing friendship.  Even though Willa is determined that she doesn’t need anyone, there’s just something about Maisie that makes her heart open no matter how hard she tries to distance herself and keep it from happening.  I especially adored how protective Willa becomes of Maisie when it becomes apparent that she’s marrying into a family that looks down on her.

There is also a lovely side romance for Willa, featuring a sexy pediatrician named Liam. While I loved this relationship and thought Liam was perfect for Willa in every way and that they had tremendous chemistry, it’s truly the friendship between Willa and Maisie that makes The Wedding Ringer such a special book.

five-stars

About Kerry Rea

Kerry Rea lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and their small army of dogs. She grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and graduated from The University of Notre Dame. She believes that a happy ending is always possible. Visit her at authorkerryrea.com and on Instagram at @authorkerryrea, and on Twitter at @kerrymrea.

Review: THE FASTEST WAY TO FALL by Denise Williams

Review:  THE FASTEST WAY TO FALL by Denise WilliamsThe Fastest Way To Fall by Denise Williams
Also by this author: How to Fail at Flirting
five-stars
Published by Berkley Romance on November 2, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

Denise Williams’ How to Fail at Flirting was one of my favorite reads from last year so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of her latest novel, The Fastest Way to Fall.  Williams has a knack for creating wonderful protagonists that you just find yourself wanting to be bffs with, and Britta Colby, the protagonist of The Fastest Way to Fall is no exception.

Britta works as an editorial assistant for a popular lifestyle website.  She likes her job well enough, but her passion is actually to write so she would love to be promoted to the writing staff.  At a staff meeting, Britta goes out on a limb and pitches an idea for a story and is thrilled when the bosses actually give her a chance to write it.  Her task is to join a hot new body fitness app that includes a virtual personal coach and to write about her experience with it. Although Britta’s primary reason for joining the app is to secure that promotion, she does like the idea that the program focuses on overall fitness rather than weight loss.  She likes it even more when she starts chatting with Wes, her virtual coach, and they quickly become friends.

I immediately liked Britta. She’s warm and funny, and I also loved her determination to make something happen with her career.  We get to read some of Britta’s posts as she goes through this fitness journey and I loved how authentic and real she comes across and I also loved the focus on body positivity.  Even though she’s clearly the underdog here, she shines like a star and I was excited to see the number of comments on her posts grow as more and more people became invested in her journey.

Wes Lawson is actually the CEO of the Fit Me app Britta is reviewing.  Even though he has enjoyed tremendous success with the app, he’s feeling out of sorts these days and is dealing with a lot of family issues. He decides he needs to clear his head and the best way to do that is to get back to what he really loves, the coaching.  He selects one of the app’s new clients to coach; that client of course turns out to be Britta. Britta’s sense of humor wins him over from the start and he finds himself wanting to interact with her more and more, and not just to talk fitness.

I really enjoyed watching their friendship grow. I loved how Wes gently challenges Britta to up her fitness game, and I loved that Britta helps him escape everything that is weighing him down. My heart truly broke for Wes when it’s revealed exactly what kind of family issues he is dealing with, so I was all the more glad he had someone like Britta to talk to.  Their chemistry is so intense that when an accident leads to them meeting in person, I was immediately rooting for them to get together even though it would clearly lead to some sticky situations at work for them both.  Britta dating the CEO of the app she’s reviewing is not a good look for either of them even if the relationship started innocently enough.  Each of them has some tough decisions to make, both personally and professionally, and I thought Williams did a wonderful job realistically portraying how such a situation would play out.

The Fastest Way to Fall is the perfect read for anyone who enjoys warm and engaging characters with personal journeys you can’t help but become invested in, along with a healthy serving of both romance and family drama.

five-stars

About Denise Williams

Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD.

A diversity trainer and co-creator of a women’s empowerment group, she is dedicated to developing flawed, multidimensional characters who struggle with those issues impacting real women. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house.

Denise was a 2019 Romance Writers of America ® Golden Heart Finalist and How to Fail at Flirting is her debut novel.

Review: MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKES

Review:  MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKESMom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on September 7, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

I was honestly not prepared for how much I would fall in love with Alexa Martin’s new novel Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.  I requested it for review because of the fun title, cute cover, and because I enjoyed my last read from this author, but I’m going to tell you all right now before I break it down any further, this is my new favorite book about female friendships!

The story follows two women, Jude Andrews and Lauren Turner, who have been best friends since the third grade.  Jude is a popular social media influencer whose online brand is healthy eating, pilates, and a positive attitude.  Her online life, however, doesn’t even remotely resemble her real life, where she has a toxic relationship with her out-of-work celebrity mother and where a bad decision involving the guy she was dating left her with an empty bank account.  Lauren isn’t faring much better unfortunately.  She had to abandon her dream of becoming a doctor when she unexpectedly got pregnant and even more unexpectedly, when her fiancé decided to dump her and leave her to raise her daughter all alone.  Jude and Lauren turn to each other, as they have all their lives, and decide that the solution to their troubles is to move in together and be, as they like to call themselves, “Sister Wives”!

The relationship between Jude and Lauren just really spoke to me.  Sure, the book is filled with plenty of laughs and good times, particularly surrounding a fun podcast that Lauren and Jude decide to do together, but at the heart of the story is this truly beautiful friendship.  They are each other’s ride-or-die and it shows in everything they do for each other. I especially adored how much their love for each other spilled over to Lauren’s adorable daughter, Addy.  Jude would seriously lay down her life for that little girl and it just made me smile from ear to ear every time the two of them interacted.

Although the podcast provides plenty of laughs, Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes still has its fair share of more dramatic moments.  Jude and Lauren both have personal drama that weighs on them, Lauren in the form of her ex deciding, out of the blue, that he wants full custody of Addy, and Jude in the form of a mom who is little more than a parasite, constantly coming to Jude to beg for money to finance her career comeback.  Jude is so used to putting on this happy mask for her social media followers that she tries to do it to Lauren as well, but Lauren sees through her act and forces Jude to stop keeping everything all bottled up.

I really just loved everything about their friendship and about the book as a whole.  The book, like Jude and Lauren’s podcast, very realistically explores the ups and downs women, whether they’re moms or not, go through every day and sends the message that we should all support each other.  If you’re looking for a book that explores and celebrates the bonds of female friendship and sisterhood, I highly recommend Alexa Martin’s Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.

five-stars

About Alexa Martin

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. A Nashville transplant, she’s intent on instilling a deep love and respect for the great Dolly Parton in her four children and husband. The Playbook Series was inspired by the eight years she spent as a NFL wife and her deep love of all things pop culture, sparkles, leggings, and wine. When she’s not repeating herself to her kids, you can find her catching up on whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently airing or filling up her Etsy cart with items she doesn’t need.