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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Bookshop
Goodreads

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: BEND TOWARD THE SUN by Jen Devon

Review:  BEND TOWARD THE SUN by Jen DevonBend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon
five-stars
Published by Griffin, St. Martin's Griffin on August 9, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Bookshop
Goodreads

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

 

Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon is one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve read in a long time. It’s a moving story about two people, both of whom have been broken by events from their pasts, who unexpectedly connect with one another.

Rowan McKinnon is a botanist who doesn’t believe in love.  Rowan finds solace in plants and in academia, and has no interest in emotional entanglements of any kind.  She’s a one-night stand girl all the way.  Little does she know, but Harry Brady is about to try to change that.  Harry is a doctor who has taken a leave of absence from his job.  His self-confidence is shattered after losing a patient, and he has come home to work on his family’s new vineyard and to hopefully heal and recover his self-confidence.  A surprisingly intense encounter with Rowan at a family game of hide and seek turns Harry’s world upside down.

I was fully invested in Rowan and Harry from that intense first encounter.  The sparks between them were insane and it was clear they were attracted to one another in spite of themselves.  The sexual tension between them only continues to grow when Rowan accepts a job at the vineyard and spends months there getting the grounds into shape.  I’m a sucker for watching two people grow closer after they’ve gotten off to an initial rocky start, so I just soaked up every scene that brought Rowan and Harry together since it was so obvious that they really needed each other. Rowan, in particular, has built walls around herself, and I loved watching Harry try to break them down.  It was truly an emotional tug of war between them at times.

Watching to see what would happen between Rowan and Harry was captivating on its own, but I also just absolutely loved the author’s writing style.  Every sentence is lush and beautiful without feeling overdone, and I loved how vividly she brings the setting to life.  I could practically smell the grapes and reach out and touch the vines, and that sensation just immersed me in the story all the more.

Equal parts heart-wrenching and heartwarming, Bend Toward the Sun is an intensely emotional story about love, family, grief, and healing that will ultimately leave you with a smile on your face.  This one’s a gem that romance fans won’t want to miss!  5 STARS

five-stars

About Jen Devon

Jen Devon writes steamy, cinematic contemporary romances about imperfect people finding their perfect match. A former ecology academic and university lecturer, she currently works in the tech industry and dreams of writing full-time. She’s an avid gardener, photographer, and boardgamer, a thrift store enthusiast and unapologetic nerd. She’s a mom of five (three kids, two rescue mutts) and lives in central Ohio with her engineer husband.

Her debut novel BEND TOWARD THE SUN will be available from St. Martin’s / Griffin on August 9, 2022, wherever books are sold.

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Bookshop
Goodreads

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
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’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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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: BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry

Review:  BOOK LOVERS by Emily HenryBook Lovers by Emily Henry
Also by this author: Beach Read
five-stars
Published by BERKLEY on May 3, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
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.

 

 

Emily Henry’s new novel Book Lovers follows Nora Stephens, a top notch literary agent in Manhattan. She’s great at what she does, has a take no prisoners attitude, and thus has earned herself a reputation as a shark in the industry.  Nora also has a softer side though, when it comes to her younger sister, Libby.  They lost their mom when they were young and so Nora has practically raised Libby.  Even though Libby is a grown, married woman with baby number three on the way, Nora still deems herself Libby’s protector and the person who fixes things so that Libby is always happy and safe.  So when Libby announces she and Nora are going to get away from New York for an adventure before the new baby arrives, of course Nora drops everything and follows Libby, to of all random places, Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, the tiny town that inspired one of Nora’s client’s most famous novels.

I really adored Nora and liked that we got to see both that tough, driven workaholic side of her personality as well as the softer, more vulnerable, yet ultra-protective side that comes out whenever she’s with her sister. You can just tell that Nora and Libby have been through a lot together and their close bond is very moving to witness. I also loved that as part of their trip to Sunshine Falls, Libby has created a “bucket list” of sorts for her and Nora to complete – wear flannel, date a local, go skinny dipping, etc.  Libby’s list lends itself to many entertaining, often laugh out loud moments as it forces Nora way outside of her comfort zone.

Watching the sisters interact was definitely a highlight of Book Lovers for me, but that’s not to say the romantic element was any less satisfying.  In fact, it was pretty spectacular, particularly if you’re into romance of the slow-burn variety with witty banter that moves from sharp and cutting to increasingly flirtatious the closer the characters become to one another.  Even though Nora wasn’t a fan at first, I really loved Charlie Lastra from the first moment we meet him, mainly because he really gives Nora a run for her money in the shark department.  He’s a broody editor type who is not impressed by Nora showing up late for their meeting and isn’t bashful about telling her this.  The fireworks between them are immediate, and even though Nora swears she can’t stand the guy, she also can’t stop thinking about him.  When he also shows up in Sunshine Falls unexpectedly and runs into Nora, the sparks just keep flying.  I loved watching their relationship grow once they each get past their initial impressions of one another.  It turns out that Charlie is actually from Sunshine Falls and is home dealing with some complicated family issues.  Henry excels at writing realistic characters with messy lives, and both Nora and Charlie fit the bill.  As the older sibling in my family, I could relate to many of the things each character was trying to work their way through.  That said, I was also very much rooting for them to team up and face life’s challenges together.

I love Emily Henry’s books anyway, but Book Lovers truly felt like it was custom-made for me.  I love New York and I love small town settings, and I get both with this book.  I also adore book loving characters and the enemies-to-lovers romance trope, and again, I get both here. Lastly and perhaps the biggest draw of all, the sisterly bond between Nora and Libby, and all of the complicated family issues facing both Nora and Charlie.  If you’re familiar with my blog and the types of books I tend to gush over, you already know that Book Lovers checked pretty much all the boxes for me. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it ultimately left me with a smile on my face.  I think Emily Henry has another winner on her hands with Book Lovers.

five-stars

About Emily Henry

Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the now-defunct New York Center for Art & Media Studies. Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites.

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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.

Blog Tour Review: Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson

Blog Tour Review:  Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana AlbertsonRamón and Julieta by Alana Albertson, Alana Quintana Albertson
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on February 1, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Retelling
Pages: 304
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.

 

As you can probably tell from its name, Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson is a retelling of the Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet.  Julieta Campos is a gifted chef who specializes in seafood based Mexican dishes.  She and her mother own a restaurant in Barrios Logan.  They have both sacrificed a lot to keep their restaurant open, but when Ramón Montez and his father, who own the Taco King fast food chain, buys up the entire street their restaurant is located on, they know their days as restaurant owners are numbered.  It stings all the more because the fish taco recipe Ramón’s father used to build his Taco King empire is one he stole from Julieta’s mother years ago. Needless to say, the Campos hate the Montez.

Ramón and Julieta have no idea their families hate each other when they first meet at the local Dia de los Muertos celebration. Ramón helps Julieta properly honor her recently deceased father after she misses the official procession to the cemetery.  Then he proceeds to serenade Julieta with romantic Mexican ballads.  The chemistry between them is undeniable and they can’t wait to see each other again.  That is, until Julieta realizes who Ramón is. Even though she has very strong feelings for Ramón and he feels the same attraction, how can they possibly be together when his father betrayed her mother? Not to mention the fact that he’s now her landlord and wants to turn her beautiful little restaurant and the other Mexican-American owned businesses on the block into Taco Kings and Starbucks.

I really loved Albertson’s contemporary romantic spin on the original Romeo and Juliet.  The obstacles that threaten to tear Ramón and Julieta apart, while modern in nature, are still essentially the same obstacles Romeo and Juliet faced. If Ramón wants to be with Julieta, he cannot strip her beloved community of its culture, which means he must stand up to his father.  If Julieta wants to be with Ramón, she has to convince her mother that Ramón is not like his father, but she also has to face the fact that she may lose her business because of his family, as well as the love of her community since they will brand her a traitor if she chooses him.  They both have very tough decisions to make.  Do they choose each other or do they remain loyal to their families?

What I also loved about this take on Romeo and Juliet was that aside from the drama surrounding the star-crossed lovers, there’s also a much lighter element to the story and that involves the Mexican food and the infusion of Mexican culture.  I loved the author’s vivid descriptions of both the incredible sounding fish tacos Julieta was known for, and of the Dia de los Muertos festivities and costumes.  She brought it to life in such a way that I felt like I was there and a part of the wonderful community vibe.  She also had me seriously craving beer battered fish tacos, haha!

The big question though is that even though Ramón and Julieta is technically a contemporary romance, can a contemporary romance that is inspired by a Shakespearean tragedy have a happily ever after?  You’ll have to pick up a copy of Ramón and Julieta if you want to find out!

four-stars

About Alana Quintana Albertson

Alana Albertson is a multi-award winning author, current President of Romance Writers of America’s Contemporary Romance Chapter and the former President of both Romance Writers of America’s Young Adult and Chick Lit chapters. Alana Albertson holds a Masters of Education from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University. A recovering professional ballroom dancer, Alana currently writes contemporary romance, new adult and young adult fiction. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, two young sons, and four dogs. When she’s not spending her time playing with her sons, dancing, or saving dogs from high kill shelters through Pugs N Roses, the rescue she founded, she can be found watching episodes Homeland, Devious Maids, or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.