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Reviews: BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UP

Happy Monday all!  After delving into a few thrillers last week, I found myself running back to the rom-coms this week for some lighter, more upbeat reads.  I had a lot of fun with all three of the books I’m sharing with you today.

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPBattle Royal (Palace Insiders, #1) Goodreads

Author: Lucy Parker

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

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

Lucy Parker’s new romantic comedy Battle Royal became a must-read for me as soon as I learned that it features a reality TV baking show and two rival bakers who truly cannot stand one another.  Not only are these rivals forced to serve as judges together, but there is also a battle royal where the two rivals go head-to-head as they each try to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design and bake a cake for a royal wedding.   This sounded like the perfect recipe (pardon the pun) for entertainment and Lucy Parker sure delivers!

I loved the main character Sylvie Fairchild from the moment she’s introduced.  She is a charming ray of sunshine and her shining personality comes through in every whimsical, often glittery, creation that she bakes in her shop, Sugar Fair.  Four years ago, she appeared on her way to victory on the reality TV show, Operation Cake, until the famous (and sexy) pastry chef, Dominic De Vere, voted her off the show and pronounced her as lacking in talent and relying on gimmicks.  When Sylvie is offered the opportunity to serve as a judge on the same show, she reluctantly agrees to do it even though it means she’ll have to deal with Dominic again.

In addition to serving as a judge on the reality show, Dominic also owns a well-respected bakery that is often used by businesses in the area and even by the palace at times. Sylvie snarks that everything Dominic bakes is beige and colorless, just like his personality.

I loved the tension between Sylvie and Dominic as the sparks flew between them.  It became clear pretty quickly that what they were feeling for each other wasn’t hate at all and it was very entertaining to watch their relationship grow and evolve, especially as they each vie for the contract to bake the royal wedding cake. It also becomes clear that they have more in common than they ever realized, particularly as it relates to loneliness and loss.

Battle Royal also features a fabulous cast of lovable secondary characters, including Dominic’s sweet sister Pet, as well as Sylvie’s coworkers at Sugar Fair, who, although they love to snark at each other all the time, are loyal to Sylvie above all else and were definitely her found family.  These characters were all so great. I became very invested in all of them and I’m hoping we’ll see them in future books since this is apparently the beginning of a new Palace Insiders series.

If you enjoy romances that feature rivals to lovers and sunshine personalities versus grumpy, Battle Royal is the book for you!  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPHot Under His Collar (The Nolans, #3) Goodreads

Author: Andie J. Christopher

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Andie J. Christopher’s new novel, Hot Under His Collar, is a forbidden romance, and the latest installment of her The Nolans series.  It focuses on Sasha Finerghty, an event planner with a bit of a problem.  She’s always drawn to what she can’t or shouldn’t have.  Her latest obsession with forbidden fruit comes in the form of a huge crush on Father Patrick Dooley.  She has drooled over the sexy priest from a far for a while now, but when she is paired up with him on a fundraising event to save the church’s pre-K program, her crush rises to a whole new level.

Father Patrick was very close to his devout mother and when she passed away, he decided to join the clergy to fulfill her dying wish.  He has questioned his choice for a while now and when he meets Sasha and realizes he is physically attracted to her, Patrick becomes even more conflicted about his path in life.

Both of these characters are super likeable and it’s very clear from their early interactions that, forbidden or not, they have major chemistry.  I had a lot of fun watching the two of them trying and failing to fight their attraction to one another.  The more time they spend together planning the fundraiser, the more opportunities there are for awkward and potentially inappropriate moments.   There are also a lot of engaging and thought-provoking internal monologues as both Sasha and Patrick reflect on what it would mean if they were to try to pursue a relationship.

The only drawback for me was that this was definitely a slow burn romance and I found myself getting impatient with them dancing around one another for so long.  I just wanted them to just hurry up and get together already so it was a little frustrating.  Even with that though, Hot Under His Collar is still a pretty fun and sexy read.  3.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPDelia Suits Up Goodreads

Author: Amanda Aksel

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Amanda Aksel’s new novel Delia Suits Up is a hilarious modern day take on popular films like Freaky Friday and Big, but instead of just swapping bodies, you also swap genders.  Delia Reese wants to make it big on Wall Street and she has the credentials to do it.  However, no matter how many job interviews she goes on, no one will hire her.  She becomes more and more convinced she can’t land a job because she’s a woman.  During a drunken round of Truth or Dare with her roommates, Delia says if she could change one thing about herself, she’d wish to be a man.  When she wakes up the next morning, she has gotten her wish, penis and all.

After Delia’s initial freakout and after she has convinced her roommates she’s really her and not some random stranger who has turned up in their apartment, Delia changes the name at the top of her existing resume to a man’s name, dresses up in her roommate’s best suit, and heads back to Wall Street to make something happen for herself.

You guys, this is such a fun and entertaining read! Delia is such a great character and her frustrations with job hunting are all too relatable.  She’s also really funny.  I laughed out loud so many times as she was trying to get used to her new body, and in particular, to her new appendage.  Some might consider the humor to be a bit crude at times since a lot of it revolves around exploring that appendage.  Crude or not, it’s pretty hilarious.

It’s not all just over-the top humor though. There’s obviously a more serious exploration of sexism in the workplace as Delia tries to break through into the “boy’s club” that is Wall Street.  Another layer is added to the story when Delia encounters her best friend Eric, who she also has a crush on, while she is dressed as a man and accidentally learns how Eric feels about her.   One of the only downsides for me was actually that I would have liked a lot more of Eric and Delia together because he was such a sweet guy.

If you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced read and enjoy movies like Big, Freaky Friday, and 13 Going on 30, you’ll want to check out Delia Suits Up3.5 STARS

Romance Reviews: Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One Summer

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  It was a quiet one here, filled with lots of quality reading time.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts one two fun romance novels, one of which, Isn’t It Bromantic? was one of my most anticipated reads of the year.  Check out my reviews and let me know if you’re planning to read either of these. 🙂

 

Romance Reviews:  Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One SummerIsn't It Bromantic? (Bromance Book Club, #4) Goodreads

Author: Lyssa Kay Adams

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know I’m pretty obsessed with Lyssa Kay Adams contemporary romance series, Bromance Book Club, and that the latest installment Isn’t It Bromantic? is one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.

Isn’t It Bromantic? finally gives us a story featuring Vlad, aka “The Russian,” the adorable but gaseous Russian professional hockey player.  Vlad is a fan favorite, and he’s definitely my favorite character so expectations were high. I didn’t think it was possible to love Vlad more than I already did, but this book proved me wrong.  For a beast of a hockey player, Vlad is actually the softest of soft boys and quite possibly the biggest romantic on the planet.  Women love him, animals love him, and his Bromance Book Club brothers love him.  The man even writes his own romance novels!

Vlad being such a romantic makes it all the more sad that he has spent the last 6 years in a marriage of convenience with Elena, a fellow Russian and his childhood best friend.  My heart truly broke for Vlad in the opening scenes of the novel when he confesses to Elena that he’s in love with her and wants a real relationship with her, and she snubs him and tells him she’s moving back to Russia. I have to admit that this at first made me feel pretty hostile toward Elena, but once it’s revealed why she’s acting the way she does, I felt more sympathetic toward her and really wanted her and Vlad to work things out since it was pretty clear her feelings for Vlad run way deeper than she’s letting on.

I don’t want to say much else since it’s best to watch the drama of Vlad and Elena’s relationship unfold for yourself, but suffice it to say that if you’ve enjoyed the hilarious shenanigans of the Bromance Cook Club boys in the past, you’re sure to enjoy yourself this time around too. There’s also a fun new cast of secondary characters, including a sassy group of widows who call themselves the Loners and who are very protective of Vlad and the mysterious Cheese Man, who feeds Vlad’s cheese addiction.

Four books in and I’m still loving the Bromance Book Club series so much.  They’re fun, sexy, and quick reads, perfect for devouring over a weekend or a day at the beach.  Here’s hoping that there will be a fifth book in the series!  4.5 STARS

 

Romance Reviews:  Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One SummerIt Happened One Summer Goodreads

Author: Tessa Bailey

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

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

When I saw Tessa Bailey’s latest novel, It Happened One Summer, described as a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com, it immediately landed on my must-read list. Schitt’s Creek is one of my favorite television series so I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about the comparison since it creates high expectations in the humor department for me, but I’m thrilled to report that It Happened One Summer really delivers. The Schitt’s Creek-inspired part of the story involves Piper Bellinger, a Hollywood party girl and influencer, who takes her partying one step too far and lands herself in jail.  Piper’s mother and stepfather are beyond furious at her behavior and decide to cut her off from their money and send her to live in a fishing town in the Pacific Northwest.  She’ll be living in an apartment above a bar that her father used to own and will have to fend for herself for three months.  The hope is that Piper will learn there’s more to life than parties, fashion, money, and getting likes on Instagram.

The characters in It Happened One Summer are what really made me fall in love with this story.  I honestly really wanted to dislike Piper when we first meet her, just because she comes off as such a flake, but she wormed her way into my heart almost immediately.  There’s so much more to her than first meets the eye.  She’s got a huge heart, she’s a lot stronger than she thinks she is but at the same time, she has a vulnerable side as well, particularly when it comes to her own sense of self worth. I felt so much sympathy for her when she talked about how alone she feels in Hollywood, even when she’s in the middle of a crowd.  The more I got to know Piper, the more I wanted her to find happiness in this little fishing town so that she wouldn’t return to the toxic Hollywood environment.

As much as I adored Piper’s character, I loved Brendan, the sea captain, even more.  He’s big, burly, and gruff, but like with Piper, there’s so much more to him than first meets the eye. He might be a grizzly bear on the outside, but he’s soft like a teddy bear on the inside.  Brendan’s wife Desiree died seven years ago and he now devotes most of his time to helping his father-in-law keeping Desiree’s memory alive.  In essence, Brendan himself has stopped living.  That is, until he meets Piper and the sparks fly.  From the moment the two of them meet, it’s clear they are each exactly what the other needs and I was hardcore rooting for them to get together.  I don’t want to give anything away about how their relationship progresses, but I was fully invested in every page, every scene of it, even the inevitable angsty, dramatic moments of their journey.

It Happened One Summer is a sexy, flirty, romance that will leave you feeling swoony, but at the same time, it’s a hilarious read that will have you laughing out loud page after page.  It’s truly just a delightful read! 4.5 STARS

Romance Review: WHILE WE WERE DATING by Jasmine Guillory

Romance Review:  WHILE WE WERE DATING by Jasmine GuilloryWhile We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
Also by this author: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4), Party of Two
four-stars
Series: The Wedding Date #6
Published by Berkley Books on July 13, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Also in this series: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4), Party of Two
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.

 

While We Were Dating is the sixth book in Jasmine Guillory’s popular contemporary romance series, The Wedding Date. I’m a big fan of this series so I’m thrilled to report that Guillory’s latest is just as delightfully sexy and swoony as its five predecessors.  One of the things I love about this series is that even though the books are loosely interconnected and characters sometimes make appearances in later books in the series, each book still works quite well as a standalone.  While We Were Dating follows Hollywood actress Anna Gardiner and Ben Stephens, an up and coming executive at an ad agency.  For those familiar with the series, Ben is the younger brother of Theo Stephens who appears in The Wedding Party.  Theo and his girlfriend Maddie also make an appearance in this story.

Guillory always does a wonderful job of crafting main characters that are likeable, relatable, and that have undeniable chemistry between them and Anna and Ben are no exception here.  Anna has been struggling with anxiety recently and so has had to put her acting career on the backburner.  She feels ready to take on the world again and is determined to take control of both her career and her personal life and mount a comeback.  I loved Anna right away because while she may be ultra-famous, she’s not a diva at all.  While she’s clearly aware of how talented she is, there’s never a time when she tries to act like she’s more entitled than anyone else. I loved how down-to-earth she is.  She’s also funny, sexy, sassy, and smart, so there’s plenty about her to love.

Anna meets Ben when the ad agency he works for decides to make a pitch for a campaign that is going to feature Anna. Ben usually takes a backseat when it comes to pitching big campaigns like this one, but when his colleagues are delayed in getting to the pitch meeting, it’s finally Ben’s turn to shine in the spotlight.  And shine he does!  Ben is charming, sexy, funny, and he’s also very good at his job.  The chemistry between Anna and Ben becomes immediately apparent during the meeting. In fact, Anna is so impressed by Ben that she tells the campaign heads that she wants Ben’s agency but only if Ben runs the show.

I loved watching Anna and Ben grow closer and especially enjoyed that their relationship wasn’t just all about the sex.  Sure, there were plenty of swoony sexy scenes between them sprinkled throughout, but there are also many heartfelt discussions as they discuss their families as well as their own mental health struggles.  Both Anna and Ben regularly see therapists and they have some very healthy discussions about why they do.  In addition to the sexy and the heartfelt moments, there are also some downright comical moments that involve road trips, fake dating, as well as shenanigans to avoid the paparazzi.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to stop now, but as with all of the other books in this series, I just had a lot of fun reading While We Were Dating.  It’s one of those stories that just has something for everyone and it just left me feeling so content when I reached the last page.

four-stars

About Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.

Romance Reviews: TO SIR, WITH LOVE & ONCE UPON A ROYAL SUMMER

Happy Monday!  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two fantastic contemporary romances that I devoured this weekend.  This was my first time reading a novel from Lauren Layne even though I’ve wanted to for ages, and this was my second novel from Teri Wilson, whose novel The Accidental Beauty Queen I fell in love with a couple of years ago. Also, how cute are these covers together? I just noticed they’re color-coordinated as I was putting this post together, lol.

 

Romance Reviews:  TO SIR, WITH LOVE & ONCE UPON A ROYAL SUMMERTo Sir, with Love Goodreads

Author: Lauren Layne

Publication Date: June 29, 2021

Publisher:  Gallery Books

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

I’ve been wanting to read one of Lauren Layne’s contemporary romances for a while now, and when I saw her latest book, To Sir, With Love, being compared to You’ve Got Mail, one of my favorite films, I knew this was the book for me.

The premise of the story is a fun one.  Main characters, Gracie Cooper and Sebastian Andrews, meet on a dating app and really hit it off.  They haven’t exchanged real names, only referring to themselves as Sir and Lady, and have not met in person, but they regularly correspond through the app and it’s clear they have great chemistry.  There’s just one catch.  Gracie and Sebastian do know each other in real life, and Gracie can’t stand Sebastian.  She thinks he’s nothing more than a greedy corporate big shot who is trying to force her to sell her family’s struggling champagne business.

I had so much fun reading this story.  I loved the contrast between the friendly and flirty messages Sir and Lady send to one another versus the outright sparks that fly between Gracie and Sebastian every time they interact.  I also loved watching Gracie’s feelings toward Sebastian evolve as she gradually starts to realize he isn’t the monster she had made him out to be in her head.  I love a good enemies to lovers story so I was completely invested in the changing status of their very entertaining relationship.

In addition to the relationship between Gracie and Sebastian and their alter egos, Sir and Lady, there’s also a big focus on family that I loved.  Gracie’s two siblings feature prominently as they are also part owners of the family business, even though they’ve pretty much abandoned Gracie to run it alone while they live their own lives.  There’s a bit of family drama around that, but I did love the bond between these siblings and how they’re able to come together and have an honest and supportive discussion about what to do when it becomes clear the store may not make it.  There’s also a wonderful cast of secondary characters who work in the shop with them, as well as Gracie’s neighbor Keva, a quirky chef who pops in at all hours. They all add an extra layer of fun and humor to the story.

There’s also a very important message about the importance of living your own life and following your dreams and passions.   Gracie didn’t want to let her father down since it was his dying wish that they keep the business in the family, but it was his passion, not hers. Gracie’s struggle with that is a struggle I think many readers will relate to.

I truly loved everything about To Sir, With Love, from its Manhattan setting to waiting with anticipation to see what would happen once Gracie and Sebastian realized their connection through the dating app.  The reading experience was everything I hoped it would be and more and I look forward to reading more from Lauren Layne. 5 STARS

 

Romance Reviews:  TO SIR, WITH LOVE & ONCE UPON A ROYAL SUMMEROnce Upon a Royal Summer: A delightful royal romance from Hallmark Publishing Goodreads

Author: Teri Wilson

Publication Date: June 15, 2021

Publisher:  Hallmark Publishing

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

The tagline on the cover of Teri Wilson’s new contemporary romance, Once Upon a Royal Summer, describes it as “A theme park princess. A real-life prince.” As a Disney fanatic and a romantic at heart, I couldn’t resist the story’s premise and its promise of a modern-day fairy tale.  And boy does it deliver!

Wilson grabbed my attention and my heartstrings from the opening pages when we meet Lacey, who works at Once Upon a Time theme park in Florida as Princess Sweetpea.  We learn that Lacey’s mom passed away when Lacey was seven and that one of the few joys she had during her mom’s many hospital stays were princesses who would come around and visit the children to keep their spirits up.  Lacey remembers how special they made her feel and now she wants to pay that forward by doing her best to make special moments for as many children as she can. I had tremendous sympathy for her for losing her mom so young and I just loved how big-hearted she is.

Our real-life Prince Charming, Prince Henry of Bella-Moritz, is also a lovable character.  Henry has brought his young daughter, Princess Rose, to Florida to celebrate her birthday and to let her have a few days where she can just be a normal little girl, without all the pressures of being a Royal, which have already started to bear down on her.  When Lacey first meets Henry and Rose, she has no idea who they are.  All she sees is a girl who loves princesses and a single dad doing his best to give his daughter the time of her life.  Henry’s devotion to his daughter just melted my heart and I just knew from the moment we met him that he would be perfect for Lacey. I was so happy to see sparks between them as soon as they met.

After their initial meeting, Lacey is informed who Henry and Rose are and is charged with giving these VIP guests a magical vacation. I adored watching Lacey spend time with Rose.  She brings out the best in her and also makes her happy in a way Henry hasn’t seen since Rose’s mom died.  And she does the same with Henry. Henry and Lacey share so many sweet, romantic and flirty moments. At first neither of them can tell if it’s just the magic of the theme park or if there’s really something between them, but the answer soon becomes clear and I was loving every minute of it because I’m just such a sucker for the royal falling for a commoner trope!

There’s so much to love about this story beyond just Lacey, Rose, and Henry.  I also really enjoyed the magical, romantic setting, which is split between the theme park and Henry’s charming kingdom of Bella-Moritz.  It’s a picture-perfect backdrop for romance.  I also loved the fabulous secondary characters, including Ava, Lacey’s best friend who works as  Little Red Riding Hood at the theme park, and Ian, Prince Henry’s bodyguard, who is like an uncle to Princess Rose and who according to Ava, looks like a long-lost Hemsworth brother.  The Queen is also a pretty great character as she struggles between what is “right and proper” for royals, but is also a caring mother and grandmother who just wants her son and granddaughter to be happy and loved.

If you’re into modern-day fairytales that will warm your heart and leave a smile on your face, I highly recommend Once Upon a Royal Summer.  I devoured the story in less than a day so it’s a perfect choice to throw in your bag for a weekend at the beach or to read poolside.  4.5 STARS

Romance Reviews: VERY SINCERELY YOURS & LOVE SCENES

Happy Friday everyone!  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two romance novels that I think are going to find their way into a lot of beach bags this summer because they are both truly delightful.

 

Romance Reviews:  VERY SINCERELY YOURS & LOVE SCENESVery Sincerely Yours Goodreads

Author: Kerry Winfrey

Publication Date: June 15, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey follows Teddy Phillips, a young woman who is going through a rough patch.  Her longtime boyfriend has just unexpectedly dumped her and kicked her out of their home.  After spending so many years catering to this man’s every whim, Teddy feels like she doesn’t even know who she is without him.  She spends most of her days working at a vintage toy store and engaging in her biggest guilty pleasure, watching a local children’s show that is hosted by a sexy Mr. Rogers type named Everett St. James.  Of course Everett is easy on the eyes but what Teddy really loves about his show is how kind and respectful he is to all of the children who send him letters looking for advice.  When Teddy decides to take a chance and send him a letter herself, she has no idea how much her life is about to change.

I swear this book was like catnip for me.  I loved every page of it and just couldn’t get enough of both Teddy and Everett.  They’re both just such sweet, soft, adorable characters and as soon as I met each of them, and especially as soon as Everett wrote a response to Teddy and they basically became flirty email pen pals, I knew they would be perfect for one another. Their emails truly gave me life as I was reading.  They’re filled with witty banter, good advice from Everett, as well as humorous sign offs that made me laugh out loud.  The more Teddy and Everett wrote to each other, the more I was rooting for them to find their way to each other in person.

It’s not even just Teddy and Everett that made Very Sincerely Yours such a wonderful read for me; it was also all of Teddy’s friends.  She has such a lovely and supportive relationship with the owner of the  toy store.  They’re more like mother-daughter than boss-employee and I really enjoyed their friendship.  I also adored Teddy’s roommates, who were her best friends prior to her relationship with loser guy.  He basically monopolized her attention to the extent that she drifted apart from her besties, but they were right there for her every step of the way after she got dumped and they really helped her pick up the pieces and get back to living her life and having fun.  It was just so nice to see Teddy surrounded by so much love and support.

Very Sincerely Yours is one of the most delightful romantic comedies I’ve read so far this year.  It’s a gem of a book that is sure to put a smile on your face.  5 STARS!

 

Romance Reviews:  VERY SINCERELY YOURS & LOVE SCENESLove Scenes Goodreads

Author: Bridget Morrissey

Publication Date: June 22, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Love Scenes by Bridget Morrissey follows Sloane Ford, a young actress who hails from Hollywood royalty.  Everyone in her family works in film and they’ve decided to work on a project together, a WWII era romance, and although they wanted Sloane to play the lead, she declined because it conflicted with work she was doing on a TV series.  When her character is abruptly killed off, Sloane’s mother offers her a job as a producer on their film, but doesn’t tell her they’ve cast Joseph Donovan, her arch nemesis and the man who almost derailed her acting career, to play the male lead.  Oh boy, what has Sloane gotten herself into?

I really enjoyed the chemistry between Sloane and Joseph from the moment they come face to face on the movie set.  It’s clear that there is some loaded history between them, and it’s also clear that they have feelings for one another, whether they want to admit it or not.  Joseph knows how awful he was to Sloane the last time they worked together and he really wants to make amends.  Sloane was recently dumped by her musician boyfriend and is completely off the whole idea of love. But when she steps on the movie set, and the female lead is abruptly fired and Sloane is asked to fill in, the more she works with Joseph, the more she realizes she doesn’t hate him as much as she thought she did. I really liked both Sloane and Joseph a lot and wanted her to give him a chance to prove he has changed.

As much as I enjoyed the evolving relationship between Sloane and Joseph, what I loved most about this book is Sloane’s family.  They’re such a fun, tight-knit, and quirky group and I love watching them all interact as they worked together on the film.  The egos, the personalities, the ex-husbands and ex-wives who are still very much part of the family, etc. were just so entertaining to watch and I loved how vividly and realistically the author brings this family to life. I especially loved the relationship between Sloan and her sister Tyler, who is also directing the film.  The two of them are very close and actually used to make home movie versions of their favorite films for fun when they were kids.  I love a good sibling relationship and watching these two sisters work and grow together just made for a lovely read.

Love Scenes is a fun read that is filled with romance, family, and all the drama you could ever expect to find on a movie set and then some! It’s also a wonderful story about second chances that will warm your heart.  4 STARS.

Book Reviews: The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the Palace

It’s hard to believe that summer is already almost upon us, but here we are nearly finished with the month of May already.  One of the many wonderful things to look forward to about summer are the fantastic romance books that will be soon be hitting the shelves.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on three more books that I read recently and really enjoyed.

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalaceThe Road Trip Goodreads

Author: Beth O’Leary

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

Beth O’Leary’s new novel The Road Trip hilariously combines a second chance romance with what might actually be the worst road trip ever.  The story follows Addie and Dylan, who broke up two years ago and haven’t spoken to each other since but find themselves traveling to attend the same wedding.  Addie is traveling with her sister, Deb, and some random, socially awkward guy named Rodney who needed a ride to the wedding. As if that isn’t awkward enough for an 8 hour car ride, almost as soon as they start out on their trip, their car is rammed from behind in traffic by none other than Dylan and his best friend, Maurice.  It’s an accident of course, but Dylan and Maurice’s car is totaled. Addie and Deb reluctantly agree to give Dylan and Maurice a ride and all five adults pile into Deb’s mini Cooper and off they go!

This was a fun and quick read for me.  The road trip itself was a highly entertaining comedy of errors where truly everything that could possibly go wrong did, and I loved the way the author structures the story into Now and Then timelines.  The Now timeline is where all of the hilarity takes place, while the Then chapters gradually reveals the backstory between Addie and Dylan, how they met and fell in love and of course what happened to drive them apart as well as the role Maurice plays in their breakup.

The road trip is messy, and Addie and Dylan’s history is equally messy, but I couldn’t help but root for them to somehow find their way back to each other through all of the awkwardness.  I won’t say that I was quite as attached to Addie and Dylan as I was to the characters in O’Leary’s last two books, The Flatshare and The Switch, but I still liked them both and thought they belonged together.  I also really enjoyed the secondary cast of characters, especially Addie’s sister, Deb.  Maurice was the character I loved to hate, although he grew on me over time, while Rodney might have been the biggest surprise of them all. No spoilers but keep your eye on that guy!

If you enjoy road trip stories and second chance romances, you’re going to want to add Beth O’Leary’s The Road Trip to your list of must-reads. 4 STARS.

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalaceOne Last Stop Goodreads

Author: Casey McQuiston

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston is one of my favorite reads of 2021 so far.  The protagonist of the story is 23-year old August, who has moved to New York City because she has become cynical about everything to do with her life and feels like New York is the perfect place for her to embrace her cynicism and go through life alone.  August’s new roommates, however, have other ideas.  They help her find a job, show her everything that is wonderful about New York, and basically adopt her into their little found family and it’s the cutest thing ever.  Think “Friends” but with a much more diverse cast, including a drag queen who lives across the hall and a lovable extended family at the 24-hour pancake diner where August ends up working.

August is also taking college courses and encounters a young woman named Jane on the subway one morning when she spills coffee all over herself and Jane comes to her rescue.  August is attracted to Jane right away and it seems like Jane feels the same way. They meet on the train every morning and evening and grow closer with each encounter. August even starts thinking that maybe she doesn’t want to be alone after all and decides to ask Jane out.  Every time August asks Jane to go out, Jane tells her she can’t come.  August is confused by the mixed signals Jane is sending until she finally figures out that something very strange is going on.  Jane has somehow been displaced in time from the 1970s and is trapped on the subway line.  She can’t go out with August because she’s literally stuck on the train.  August loves Jane and is determined to figure out how to set her free, even if it means sending her back to her own timeline and never seeing her again and she calls on her roommates to help.

I don’t want to give anything away about how this all plays out, but wow, I just fell so hard for this entire lovable, quirky cast of characters and I also loved how unique the overall premise of the story is. Sometimes magical realism doesn’t work for me, but I thought McQuiston used it perfectly here.  It was like Quantum Leap with a side of romance set in the subway.  One Last Stop is such a refreshing and original read and I just loved every page of it.  4.5 STARS

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalacePlaying the Palace Goodreads

Author: Paul Rudnick

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a book, but Paul Rudnick’s new romantic comedy Playing the Palace delivers nonstop laughs and kept me entertained from cover to cover. The story follows Carter Ogden, who is an event planner and an adorable hot mess whose number one skill is self-sabotage.  When Carter meets Edgar, the openly gay Prince of England, their attraction is immediate and the two men decide to get to know each other better. They try to keep it lowkey with little pancake dates at the local IHOP, but it doesn’t take long for the media to figure things out and to go looking for trouble.  The more nervous Carter gets about the fact that he is dating a Prince, the more his self-sabotage skills kick into high gear, resulting in one embarrassing incident after another, much to his dismay as well as that of the Royal Family.

I was invested in Carter and Edgar’s relationship from that first meeting and really wanted Carter to get his act together, although his blunders did make for hilarious reading.  I also loved his encounters with Edgar’s Nana (a.k.a. the Queen of England). She gives Carter a hard time but he gives it right back to her and they are actually quite hilarious together.  Add in Carter’s loud and lovable Jewish family, in particular his sister Abby who is just the absolute best, and his Aunt Miriam, who practically becomes bffs with the Queen, and the story really is just one big barrel of fun.

If you’re in the mood for a romantic comedy that is truly laugh out loud funny, Playing the Palace is the book for you. 4 STARS

Reviews: The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to Me

 

I’ve got a totally bookish theme going on for today’s reviews.  I’ll be sharing my thoughts on a book about a most delightful book club and on a book that features a romance author desperately seeking inspiration for her new book.  Fun times!

 

Reviews:  The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to MeThe Break-Up Book Club Goodreads

Author: Wendy Wax

Publication Date: May 18, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I couldn’t resist a chance to read a book about a book club so I was excited to dive into Wendy Wax’s new novel, The Break-Up Book Club.  The story follows four women of different generations whose lives have been turned upside down by the men they love. They each go to their local book club’s meetings in hopes of finding a distraction from their problems, but what they find is so much more.  There’s nothing quite like the healing power of good friends and good books.

The story is told from the perspectives of these four women.  I really like how the author chose to present their stories, with us following each woman’s individual journey but also having them come together regularly at their book club meetings.  There’s Sara, whose husband is always out of town for work which leaves her saddled with Dorothy, her incredibly difficult mother-in-law who has been living with them.  There’s Judith, whose children have grown up and moved out, leaving her at home alone to ponder the state of her marriage and how she feels like nothing but a supporting player in her husband’s life.  Rounding out the main cast of characters are Jazmine and Erin, who work together at a sports agency.  Jazmine is an agent and a single mom, trying to make it in an arrogant man’s world, and her young assistant, Erin, has just been dumped by her high school sweetheart less than a week before they were supposed to get married.  I really liked all of the main characters and found them all to be quite sympathetic.

I also really enjoyed all of the secondary characters as well.  The members of the book club are a fun, diverse, and quirky bunch and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on their meetings. There’s always good food and wine, a spirited debate about whatever book they’ve read, and there’s also a fun contest to finally give their little club a name that really brings out the competitive side of these book lovers.  I loved watching the friendships blossom within the club and just how therapeutic these relationships become over time for Jazmine, Erin, Judith, and Sara.  The book club is basically their “found” family, which just made this such a feel good read.

If you’re in the mood for an uplifting read about the power of friendship and community that will leave you with a smile on your face, you’ll definitely want to check out The Break-Up Book Club.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to MeTalk Bookish to Me Goodreads

Author: Kate Bromley

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Graydon House

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

Kate Bromley’s debut novel Talk Bookish to Me is a contemporary romance that was irresistible to me because it features so many of my favorite things. It’s set, first in Manhattan and then later in Italy, it features a romance author as the protagonist, and it’s equal parts enemies-to-lovers and second chance romance. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you can see this book practically has my name written all over it.  Talk Bookish to Me didn’t disappoint either.  It’s filled with loveable characters, witty and hilarious banter, some seriously intense chemistry, and, as if all of that isn’t enough, there’s also an adorable bulldog named Duke.

The story follows Kara Sullivan, who is a romance writer with no inspiration to write.  With the deadline for her latest novel fast approaching, Kara needs to find the spark that will get her writing mojo back on track.  That spark unexpectedly appears in the form of her ex-boyfriend, Ryan, who she runs into because he is in town for their friend’s wedding.  Kara and Ryan parted on bad terms ten years ago and after this tense and awkward reunion, Kara is suddenly able to crank out a few chapters for her book.  When Ryan’s dog, Duke, destroys their hotel room and gets Ryan kicked out, Kara surprises herself and offers to let Ryan and Duke stay at her place.  Her thought behind this crazy idea is that if she continues to trade barbs with Ryan, perhaps she’ll be inspired enough to actually get her book written on time.  What could possibly go wrong?

I had so much fun reading this book.  I loved Kara right away and found her so relatable. She’s fun, sweet, quirky, and not only is she an author, she also loves to take photos of books and post them on Bookstagram.  In many ways she felt like a kindred spirit.  She’s also carrying around some pretty heavy emotional baggage involving her father’s death that put me in her corner rooting for her all the more.

Ryan is a great character too.  I loved watching him with his dog and his banter with Kara is just so entertaining.  It’s clear from the moment they reconnect that he still cares for her and would love a second chance.  The more I watched them interact, the more I wanted him to get that second chance as well.  I will say there was one moment where I really wanted to kick his butt and wanted Kara to kick it as well, but he eventually digs himself out of that hole and then I was rooting for the two of them to get their long-postponed happily ever after.

I also enjoyed the way the author gave us Ryan and Kara’s journey but also mixed in chapters from Kara’s book as she was writing it. It was fun to see what her interactions with Ryan inspired her to write each step of the way.

Talk Bookish to Me is a fun and sexy read that is sure to please romance fans. 4 STARS

Review: HANA KHAN CARRIES ON by Uzma Jalaluddin

Review:  HANA KHAN CARRIES ON by Uzma JalaluddinHana Khan Carries on by Uzma Jalaluddin
four-half-stars
Published by BERKLEY on April 13, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
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.

 

 

 

 

I requested Uzma Jalaluddin’s new novel, Hana Khan Carries On, as soon as I read the synopsis which describes it as inspired by the popular romantic film, You’ve Got Mail, but set in two competing halal restaurants.  The promise of romance, rivalry, and descriptions of delicious food was too irresistible to pass up.  I’m happy I did too because it did not disappoint!

The story follows Hana Khan, a 24 year old second generation Muslim woman who lives with her family in Toronto.  Hana helps out at her family’s halal restaurant, but her real passion lies in radio.  In addition to her waitressing gig, Hana has an internship at a local radio station and she also hosts her own podcast.  I really adored Hana from the moment we meet her. I loved how devoted she is to her family and how much she wants to help her mom with the family restaurant even though that’s not where her true interest lies.  I also loved that she wants a career in radio specifically because she wants to share stories about her fellow Muslims. Stories that shine a true light on her people rather than just retreading tired and  harmful stereotypes.  I also liked that while she had so many admirable qualities, Hana was definitely still a flawed and very realistic character.  She makes plenty of mistakes throughout the course of the story, but I loved that she was always learning from her missteps and growing as a person.  She was just a really easy character to like.

In addition to adoring Hana, I also liked that the story had plenty of drama in the form of a rival restaurant that opens up in their neighborhood.  Hana has a run-in with Aydin, the handsome, young owner of the new restaurant and finds herself unexpectedly attracted to him.  She knows she should hate him because of what he’s doing to her family, but the struggle to fight her attraction to him is real.  Hana finds this especially frustrating since she also has a possible relationship budding online with Stanley P., one of her podcast fans.  She and Stanley haven’t exchanged real names or met in person yet, but they talk every day and he is always super supportive of her as she shares her hopes and dreams with him, as well as her fears and frustrations.  How can she possibly be attracted to a jerk like Aydin when she has Stanley P.?  Except that Aydin isn’t exactly a jerk and Hana and Aydin have amazing chemistry.  I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers romance anyway, so I was absolutely eating up the initial tension between them as well as the changing dynamic between them as they got to know each other better.

There’s honestly so much to love about Hana Khan Carries On, but what I think I loved most was it’s a story about love and family and sacrifice and that it’s also a story that is infused with culture, religion, and community.  It’s a story that has fun and romantic moments, but it’s also a powerful story that explores timely and relevant social issues, including racism, prejudice, and stereotypes.  I have not yet read Uzma Jalaluddin’s first novel Ayesha At Last yet, but I loved Hana Khan Carries On so much that I immediately purchased the first one and can’t wait to dive into it.

four-half-stars

About Uzma Jalaluddin

Uzma Jalaluddin grew up in a diverse suburb of Toronto. Her favourite place in the world is the nearest bookstore or library, so it came as no surprise to anyone when she started writing her own stories, poems, plays and other creative writing from an early age. Her debut novel, AYESHA AT LAST (2018), is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the Toronto Muslim community. The novel was a Goodreads Choice Award Finalist, was featured on The Today Show, and was a Cosmopolitan UK Book of the Year. AYESHA AT LAST has been optioned for film by Pascal Pictures. Her second novel, HANA KHAN CARRIES ON, will be published in April 2021. She writes a culture and parenting column for The Toronto Star, and has written for The Atlantic. Uzma lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two sons, where she also teaches high school. She is probably dreaming up ideas for her next book right about now.

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAME

 

If you saw my Top Ten Tuesday post last week, you’ll remember that I shared ten rom-coms I’m excited to read this year.  Well, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I got a jump on reading them this past week and have reviews to share for the first two I read, First Comes Like by Alisha Rai and The Wedding Game by Meghan Quinn.

 

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAMEFirst Comes Like (Modern Love, #3) Goodreads

Author: Alisha Rai

Publication Date: February 16, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

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

Even though I’m only reviewing First Comes Like, the latest book in Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series, I actually binge-read all three books in the series last month.  Usually I’m terrible at keeping up with series, but once I started this one, I just couldn’t stop reading.  What hooked me on Modern Love is the way Rai writes her main characters.  I love the mix of strength and vulnerability she infuses them with and of course, the chemistry is always off the charts. I also love that, as the title of the series implies, all of the books are modern and focus on where many people turn these days when they are looking for love, social media.

First Comes Like follows Jia Ahmed, who is a very popular beauty influencer on social media. She’s busy making connections and trying to build her brand and has no time for men, although she’s willing to make an exception for Dev Dixit, a sexy Bollywood soap opera star, who has recently slid into her DMs and started flirting with her. Jia decides to score an invite to a party for his new film so that she can finally meet Dev in person.  All is going swimmingly until she meets Dev face to face and he says he has no idea who she is.  Awkward!  It quickly becomes clear that someone has used Dev’s social media account to catfish Jia; the question is who. Things between them take an even more awkward turn when paparazzi photos of Dev and Jia embracing become public. Even though the photos are in actuality way more innocent than they seem, the public and both of their families flip out and that’s where things got really fun.

I had so much fun with this book.  I loved the chemistry between Jia and Dev, especially watching their relationship evolve from her wanting to kill him at that first party to the two of them working together to concoct a plan on how best to deal their families. I also really loved the focus on their beliefs and culture, in particular the respect Jia and Dev each gave to the other’s beliefs as their relationship grows.  I also thought it was wonderful that Dev was so respectful of Jia’s career.  He didn’t think it was silly or shallow at all and even watched all of her videos and even helped her film and take photos.  The two of them were just really sweet together and I was of course rooting for them to continue to grow closer.

I wouldn’t call this a hot and steamy romance, but it’s definitely a sweet, slow burn and I enjoyed every page of it.  4 STARS.

 

 

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAMEThe Wedding Game Goodreads

Author: Meghan Quinn

Publication Date: March 1, 2021

Publisher:  Montlake

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

Meghan Quinn’s new novel, The Wedding Game is one of the most charming and entertaining romances I’ve read in a long time.  I laughed, I cried, and I honestly loved every single character in the book. Okay, well two of them I loved to hate, but you know what I mean!

Set in New York City, the story follows Luna Rossi, a self-professed jack of all trades when it comes to crafting. There’s pretty much nothing Luna can’t do when it comes to crafts and she even has her own very popular social media accounts where she offers tips and tricks to others who share her passion for all things crafty.  About the only thing Luna loves more than crafts is her brother, Cohen, so when she learns that a DIY reality TV contest called The Wedding Game is coming to NYC and is seeking contestants, she takes it upon herself to sign her brother and his fiancé up.  Luna lives to make sure the people she loves are happy and so can’t resist the idea of giving her brother and the love of his life a perfect wedding day. Plus the grand prize of a NYC penthouse apartment for whoever designs the best wedding doesn’t hurt either.  With the Queen of Crafts in their corner, how can they lose?

The Wedding Game also follows Alec, an attorney who, like Luna, has a brother, Thad, who is about to get married.  Unlike Luna though, Alec is not especially close to his brother and has no interest in his wedding plans.  Alec and Thad used to be incredibly close, but have drifted apart in recent years.  Thad sees the ad for The Wedding Game and begs Alec to do it with him and his fiancé.  For Thad, it’s a great opportunity to get his family started off on the right foot, but even better, it’s a chance for he and Alec to reconnect. Alec reluctantly agrees and it’s off to the races.

The bulk of the story focuses on the contest itself and an unexpectedly fierce rivalry that develops between Luna and Alec.  Oh my goodness, you guys!  I don’t want to give away any spoilers but these two have such intense chemistry from their very first hostile encounter.  It was hard to tell if they were going to kill each other or rip each other’s clothes off, haha! I thoroughly enjoyed every scene they had together and some of their banter truly had me laughing out loud.  The evolution of their relationship had me captivated more and more with each turn of the page and before long, I was rooting for them to have a happy ending of their own.

It wasn’t even just the relationship between Luna and Alec that had me so invested in The Wedding Game either. Honestly it was all of the relationships. Yes, this is a sexy, steamy enemies-to-lovers romance with a hilarious reality TV show as its backdrop, but it’s also a beautiful and heartwarming story about love, family, and forgiveness that left me with a big smile on my face.  4.5 STARS 

 

Review: TEN RULES FOR FAKING IT by Sophie Sullivan

Review:  TEN RULES FOR FAKING IT by Sophie SullivanTen Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan
three-half-stars
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on December 29, 2020
Genres: Romance, Contemporary 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Sophie Sullivan’s romcom debut novel Ten Rules for Faking It is a lighthearted read about two characters who are both in need of a happy ending.  The story follows Everly, a radio producer who has spent much of her adult life struggling with anxiety, horrendously bad birthdays, and apparently, awful taste in men as well.  Everly’s thirtieth birthday may be her worst yet too as she catches her boyfriend in bed with his assistant and then proceeds to accidentally rant about the cheating snake live on-air to all of her radio shows’ listeners.  The radio station’s manager, Chris, the other protagonist in the story, is initially not excited about the attention Everly’s on-air outburst is going to bring to the station, but when he realizes that nearly all the attention is positive and that all of Everly’s listeners think Everly deserved better, he comes up with a plan that will not only help Everly find someone better, but it could also benefit the radio station and land Everly’s show in a more coveted timeslot. His plan?  A Bachelorette-style radio contest where listeners enter for a chance to go out with Everly and prove that they are the Mr. Right she has been looking for.

The contest premise was so much fun and was definitely a highlight of the story for me.  I also thought the author did a wonderful job of showing just how much anxiety played a role in Everly’s everyday life and particularly as she is faced with the stressful prospect of going on so many blind dates per the rules of the contest.  I also liked the idea of Everly deciding that she really needed to take control of her life, and particularly that anxiety, so that she could really move forward and make things happen.  She comes up with a list of 10 “rules” that she’s going to try to live by, most of which are geared toward her not becoming a hoarder or crazy cat lady but also which force her to step out of her comfort zone and take chances both personally and professionally.  It’s a huge step and I was rooting Everly on every step of the way.

Everly and Chris were also highlights for me.  Both are just such likeable characters and I enjoyed watching them get to know each other better as the contest progressed.  I was an especially big fan of Chris, who is living under the shadow of his father, a cutthroat businessman who doesn’t think twice about pulling the plug on a company without any warning.  I found myself really invested in Chris as he tried to find a way to get out from under his father’s thumb and become a businessman in his own right, and one with a heart.  Watching both Chris and Everly evolve made for an enjoyable reading experience all around.  I did find myself wanting them to move through their issues faster and find their way to each other because this one is definitely a slow burn.

A final highlight for me was the cast of secondary characters at the radio station, especially Everly’s friendship with her DJ, Stacey.  Stacey is the friend who tells Everly what she needs to hear, even when she really doesn’t want to hear it.  As I was reading, I kept thinking it would be fun to read another book all about Stacey because she was such a scene stealer in this book.

If you’re in the mood for a fun and romantic read that will leave you with a smile on your face, give Ten Rules for Faking It a try.

three-half-stars

About Sophie Sullivan

SOPHIE SULLIVAN is a Canadian author as well as a cookie-eating, Diet Pepsi-drinking, Disney enthusiast who loves reading and writing romance in almost equal measure. She writes around her day job as a teacher and spends her spare time with her sweet family watching reruns of Friends. Ten Rules For Faking It is her romcom debut novel, but she’s had plenty of practice writing happily ever after as her alter ego, Jody Holford.