Tag Archives: contemporary romance

ARC REVIEW: GEORGIE, ALL ALONG BY KATE CLAYBORN

the book cover for Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
  • STAR RATING:  5 ENORMOUS stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 320 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: January 31st 2023 
  • PUBLISHER: Kensington Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Child abuse, Emotional abuse, Drug use
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  In a Jam by Kate Canterbary

Thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

In this heartfelt tale of one woman’s quest to reinvent herself, the acclaimed author of Love Lettering and Love at First delivers a poignant, witty reflection on how the hopes, dreams, and stories from our past shape our future . . .

Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.

Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.

Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who’s ever wondered about the life that got away . . .

Georgie, All Along is a profoundly lovely story about self-discovery and figuring yourself out. Yes, it’s a romance book, but I found that wasn’t the most important part of it for me. Georgie is lost — she’s been let go from her important assistant job out in Hollywood, and has found herself slinking back to her home town. She’s supposed to be staying her parent’s house while they’re out vacationing, but the first night she’s there a man walks right into the house while she’s dancing in her robe and underwear. That night will forever change her life — in the best way possible.

I love, love, loved this book. Every character in it felt like someone I know in real life. They all were dynamic, and understandable and dang if they didn’t just breathe right off the page. Georgie reminded me so much of myself I wanted to scream. She’s such a lovely, bright, bubbly person but all she does is help everyone else. Once she realizes this, she’s even more lost than she already was — who is she when she’s just taking care of herself? Who is she when she has no one to help? Who is she when she looks forward and stops thinking about right now? Georgie finds the answers to all of these, and gah. I want to be her best friend, but that role is already taken by Bel, another fantastic character.

But even more than I loved Georgie, I loved Levi. What a strong person. What a horrible past. What god-awful parents. I loved that Clayborn gave him such a thorough backstory, but what was best was that she sort of peppered it in. You learn in bits and pieces and then when it all finally comes out you want to take Levi and hold him tight. I love that he took his hurt and used it it improve himself, and make a life that he wanted. I loved that he was silly with Georgie, but generally a quiet man. He took care of her without smothering her — Levi let Georgie be Georgie. He loved her — all of her, not just the palatable bits. Georgie and Levi fit together like puzzle pieces.

It’s obvious I’m just gushing now, but I really adored this book. This one is one I’ll come back to again and again, just hoping for more Georgie and Levi. Go pick this one up the second it comes out, okay?

GEORGIE, ALL ALONG comes out JANUARY 31, 2023.

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BOOK REVIEW: THE WORST GUY BY KATE CANTERBARY

  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 340 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED:   December 28th 2021 
  • PUBLISHER:  Vesper Press
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Eating disorder, Sexual content, Emotional abuse

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

SYNOPSIS

Eight weeks of forced proximity is a long time to hate someone you’re trying not to love.

Sebastian Stremmel doesn’t need another headache. He has enough of his own without Sara Shapiro, the noisy new reconstructive surgeon, stomping all around his surgical wing with her chippy, chirpy cheerfulness.

But Sebastian doesn’t usually get what he wants.

No one gets under his skin like Sara – so much so a heated “debate” and an exam room left in shambles later, they land themselves in eight weeks of hospital-mandated conflict resolution counseling. Now they’re forced to fight fair…which quickly leads them to playing dirty when no one’s looking. 

They know it’s a mistake.

They promise themselves it will never happen again.

They swear they got it out of their systems.

They didn’t.

I really enjoyed this, but it was a rough go at the start. That might be because I’m in the midst of one of the worst reading slumps of my entire life, or it might be that I’m not really into hate-relationships all that much. Or, you know, it could be a combination of the two, I suppose. BUT THAT’S NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, as I really did end up enjoying The Worst Guy. It’s my second Canterbary novel, and so far her record is 2/1. I loved, loved, loved In a Jam, but I DNFed The Belle and the Beard.

ANYWAY — Sebastian Stremmel is not a very nice guy, and well, Sara Shapiro isn’t all that nice, either. Though I did like her a helluva lot more than I liked Sebastian at the start. He’s grumpy, grouchy, and just plain mean sometimes. Put them together and it was like pouring gasoline on a fire. Things just sort of imploded. They picked on each other, teased each other, and they just plain shouted at each other. But when the clothes came off, damn they were hot together.

I loved that there were reasons behind who they were. I loved that Canterbary gave Sara and Sebastian horrible backstories. It made sense. Everything felt right — there was no part of this where I questioned whether it was realistic. It felt real, the way these two butted heads, but then sort of clicked together like magnets. This was great.

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BOOK REVIEW: IN A JAM BY KATE CANTERBARY

  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 474 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 18, 2022
  • PUBLISHER:  Vesper Press
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, abandonment, fatphobia

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey for grumpy/sunshine

SYNOPSIS

When Shay Zucconi’s step-grandmother died, she left Shay a tulip farm—under two conditions.

First, Shay has to move home to the small town of Friendship, Rhode Island. Second—and most problematic since her fiancé just called off the wedding—Shay must be married within one year.

Marriage is the last thing in the world Shay wants but she’ll do anything to save the only real home she’s ever known.

Noah Barden loved Shay Zucconi back in high school. Not that he ever told her. He was too shy, too awkward, too painfully uncool to ask out the beautiful, popular girl.

A lifetime later, Noah is a single dad to his niece and has his hands full running the family business. That old crush is the farthest thing from his mind.

Until Shay returns to their hometown.

Okay, so I picked In A Jam up after a few different bloggers and authors on Twitter wouldn’t stop praising it. I’m not a huge contemporary romance fan — I prefer historicals — but this one really pushed a lot of my buttons in a great way. Like, I didn’t want to do anything but sit down under a comfy blanket and read this book in one sitting. Unfortunately, life wouldn’t let me do that, but I still devoured this one.

Shay is a very competent kindergarten teacher. She’s friendly, loves to talk to kids, and more importantly, knows how to talk to kids. She wears goofy earrings, isn’t thin as a stick, and is, unfortunately, second guessing every decision she’s ever made. With good reason though — she was basically left at the altar by her no-good ex. I felt so, so bad for her, but what a wonderful group of friends she has that pick her right up and get her moving again. I really, really loved her character.

Noah is a no-nonsense lawyer-turned-farmer, and I love, love, love him. He’s gruff, grumpy, but oh my god does he fall HARD for Shay pretty much instantaneously. I am a sucker for a grumpy hero who does absolutely nothing but simp for his love. Like he is on her team IMMEDIATELY. He’d do just about anything for her, and frequently does. Hell, Noah offers to marry her just so she can inherit her farm! THAT’S NOT NOTHING.

Together, they are so, so steamy. They have chemistry right off the bat, and I loved how Canterbary wrote these two together. I will definitely be checking out more of her work, even if I wasn’t super into the first book I tried by her (The Belle and the Beard, in case you were curious.) But this book has me hoping for more like this. I want more like this right now, please. (Send me recs!!!)

The other characters in In A Jam are equally amazing — especially Noah’s niece, Gennie. I loved every second of her, and I ESPECIALLY loved that she actually sounded like a kid, and not like a weird baby-child-combo that some authors write. Shay’s friends were on her side constantly, and it was nice to see support without babying the person being supported. They were all also unique and not caricatures of types of people.

I would have read 92480234 more pages of this one. Five stars.

Add to your Goodreads, or check out on Kindle Unlimited at at the following links:

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BOOK REVIEW: BEACH READ BY EMILY HENRY

  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 361 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 19th 2020
  • PUBLISHER:  Berkley 
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Confinement, panic attacks, fire

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Book Lovers by Emily Henry, People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

SYNOPSIS

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really. 

I am now all caught up on the Emily Henry adult contemporary romance novels! And I have to say, my ranking of them goes as follows: Book Lovers, People We Meet on Vacation, and lastly, Beach Read. Now they’re all solidly 4 stars and higher, so don’t go thinking I didn’t enjoy Beach Read. I just enjoyed it less than the other books!

Let’s get into the why:

First off — Beach Read is profoundly about grief, over everything else. Grief of relationships not being what you thought, grief of a father who passed away unexpectedly, grief of a non-childhood. Grief, grief, grief. I am a-okay with books being about grief, but when I pick up a book called Beach Read, it’s not really what I’m expecting. Like at all. And it took over halfway through the book for the characters to even end up on a beach! (I was very confused as to why this book was even titled what it is for a good chunk.) Secondly, Gus just seems like a garbage-slob of a person all of the time? He is kind, but not nice, and it’s not my favorite sort of leading man in a romance novel. He reminded me of Nick from New Girl, but if Nick was about a million times less funny, and dealing with some serious childhood trauma.

January was extremely relatable, however. (The give-up pants made me laugh so much.) I loved her character, and I rooted for her the entire novel. I wanted her to succeed in everything she wanted so very badly. I wished that she could have had the chance to just shout at her dad. She deserved it. As for the romantic relationship, I understood why January liked Gus, but I didn’t believe it as much as I did in Henry’s other books. I am probably an outlier in how I feel about this. They are just so, so different, but dealing with so, so much trauma it seemed like a bad bedrock for a relationship.

Overall, though, another solid book from Emily Henry. Four stars.

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PS – Don’t forget my Sabriel Read-a-long starts next week!

BOOK REVIEW: PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 364 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 11th 2021
  • PUBLISHER:  Berkley 
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Confinement, panic attacks, fire

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Book Lovers by Emily Henry, 99% Mine by Sally Thorne

SYNOPSIS

Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

People We Meet on Vacation is my second foray into Emily Henry’s writing, and I can safely say that I really like her books. Despite me saying that, Book Lovers still remains top dog in the Emily Henry pile for me. It’s going to be a hard one to beat, that’s for sure. People We Meet on Vacation is an extremely cute read, but there was just a tiny something missing for me, and I’m still not quite sure what that something could be.

(Is it Charlie Lastra? It might be Charlie Lastra.)

Even though there is no Charlie in People We Meet on Vacation, Poppy and Alex are adorable together. This is childhood-friends to lovers only…they meet in college. So not really childhood friends, but sort of? Eh, it’s close enough. Anyway. They’re really dang cute together. Co-dependent to the extreme, but adoring and there for each other when needed. (When he comes to take care of her when she’s sick? I think I audibly sighed out loud. God, that was great.) Poppy was just a tiny bit obnoxious in parts, but that’s just who she is. She’s a loud person, vibrant, friendly, and absolutely unavoidably present in every scene. Alex is much more like me — quiet, likes to read, always taking care of others.

I loved the vacations they went on together, the little glimpses of the world travel that they went on. My favorite of the bunch was New Orleans — I could really almost see myself there, right alongside them as they had fun getting wasted and discovering the city. And who hasn’t been on a bad vacation before? The ‘current’ vacation they’re on just…woof. That one was rough — until it’s not.

My biggest beef with this book is that the whole book we’re led to believe something god-awful happened two years ago, but once the reveal finally comes its…lackluster. It’s nothing that should have broken them, and it’s nothing that feels worth the build up that it was given. But regardless of that one tiny thing, People We Meet on Vacation is a really cute read. I love, love, love Emily Henry’s writing, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Beach Read.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

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BOOK REVIEW: BOOK LOVERS BY EMILY HENRY

the cover for Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 377 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 3rd 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Berkley
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Death of parent, grief, sexual content, pregnancy

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Well Met by Jen DeLuca, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

SYNOPSIS

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Book Lovers is pretty much universally adored by contemporary romance readers — that I’ve seen, anyway. (This is a partial fib — I’ve seen like…two bad reviews of this book. Two out of the many, many, many good ones.) I am firmly in the holy-shit-I-adored-this-book category, in case you were wondering. Book Lovers is full of tropes, but Henry twists them on their head and pokes fun of them in the best way possible. If you’re a romance lover, you’ll see so many familiar tropes you’ll end up grinning from ear to ear as you pick them apart.

Now, this is my first Emily Henry book, so I can’t say much about her consistency, but I can say that I loved how she writes dialogue. The characters felt like real people talking — no fake plasticine layer over everything. I loved the banter between the leads, Nora and Charlie, most of all. I frequently found myself laughing out loud at some exchange between them. Their chemistry was like fire — smoky, and extremely hot.

The general plot of the book is that Nora needs to learn how to let go and not control everything — including her sister. She doesn’t want to control her sister, as much as she desperately wants to take care of her, but still. Nora is controlling. It takes three weeks in a podunk little town — and an extremely hot rival — to get her to loosen up. The scenes with Nora and Libby truly felt like real situations between sisters. The love they had for each other was extremely evident on page, and it was a joy to read.

I also love that this book did not end with Nora and Charlie expecting a baby or moving to the little town. I love that they got their happy ending where they wanted it the whole novel — right there in NYC. It just goes to show how many romance novels end with the lead couple giving up their separate dreams to live out some generic idea of happiness. Book Lovers ended perfectly, in my eyes. Five stars. Holy crap, I loved this.

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BOOK REVIEW: PARADISE LOST & FOUND BY JENNIFER KNIGHTLEY

Book cover for The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 410 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: June 14th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: King & Knight Publishing
    CONTENT WARNINGS: PTSD, anxiety & panic attacks, mentions of surgery, sexual content

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, but this recommendation is a het romance.

SYNOPSIS

Falling hurts . . . even falling in love.

What happens if you meet the perfect person, in the perfect place, and then the holiday ends?

Paradise Lost & Found is the perfect beach read, exploring an LGBT romance set in a tropical paradise.

Honeymooning alone after being left at the altar, Adam Callaghan is hoping two weeks in a tropical paradise will clear his head and soothe the ache in his heart. But with the romantic setting weighing on him, Adam soon realizes he’s made a mistake. He’s about to throw in the towel when fate—and a mix up with the hotel’s reservation system—brings him together with the charismatic Kip Carter, a guest at the resort for his sister’s destination wedding. Sparks fly, and as they enjoy the island together, bringing out the best in each other and exploring emotional baggage they’ve both tried to bury deep, Adam grapples with the possibility of letting himself move on. But with the clock ticking on their time together, what will become of their burgeoning romance once their two weeks are up?

If you’re looking for a ‘slow burn’ summer romance with ‘only one bed’, elements of fake dating, and idiots in love that will make you want to dip your toes into the ocean, then this is the book for you.

If you’ve known me for awhile, you’ll know that I was hugely involved in the Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes part of the MCU fandom. I still consider myself a part of the fandom, but I haven’t written anything vaguely resembling fanfic in a long, long time. Despite that, when I found out that a fandom writer was publishing a contemporary romance book based on one of their fics, well, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Paradise Lost & Found is a cute story, it really is. Adam (the Steve replacement) has been left at the alter by Vanessa (Peggy). Instead of losing money on the honeymoon, Adam goes on his own. While there he meets Kip (Bucky), who is there for his sister’s wedding. There’s a whole debacle with a room — they end up sharing one — and well, they fall in love over the course of a two week vacation. It’s adorable. The premise is solid.

Unfortunately, think it could have used another pass by an editor before being published. The book clocks in at a little over 400 pages, which felt much, much longer while reading. Paradise Lost & Found is dual POV, which I normally like. However, each time the book changed POVs, there was a rehashing of what had just gone on. This was completely unnecessary and made the book much longer than it needed to be. There were also frequent UK-isms in the text, which was slightly jarring as both Adam and Kip were from the US. A few examples off the top of my head: cooling box = cooler, tin = can, whilst = while.

On the romance side of things, Adam and Kip were steamy together, with rock-solid chemistry. You couldn’t help but feel how attracted they were to each other. This part of the book was top-notch. But I do wish the steamy scenes had actually been steamy, instead there was a lot of vague references, and some fade-to-black.

Overall, Paradise Lost & Found is a cute book. Cute, but not something I’ll probably pick up again for a long while.

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BOOK REVIEW: RULES OF ARRANGEMENT BY MAREN MACKENZIE

The Rules of Arrangement book cover

STAR RATING: 4 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 344 pages
CW: Sexual content, suicide attempt, toxic friendship/relationship, death of parent
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Always be My Duchess by Amalie Howard for the arrangement side of things, or Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross for the artistic side

SYNOPSIS

A ten-page paper on the Cold War? Three hundred dollars. Need it by tomorrow? Four hundred. Want an A? Five.

Cash-strapped college senior Adelaide Wright doesn’t give discounts—she can’t afford to. Writing papers for other students is an expulsion-worthy risk, but Adelaide thinks she might actually make it to graduation day—until Declan, her art history TA, threatens to reveal her secret.

Declan won’t turn her in to the university on one condition: she must recover his stolen paintings from a notoriously cutthroat art dealer.

Jack Nolan is older, wealthy, and exacting, a power player in a world where money, sex, and high art rule. Adelaide’s only way into his exclusive circle is through an arrangement that leaves her at Jack’s beck and call. But can she handle being his arm candy without revealing her true motives? And as the chemistry unexpectedly sparks between them, is it possible that Jack isn’t quite the villain Declan described?

As Adelaide’s relationship with Jack intensifies, so do Declan’s demands. Soon the only thing holding her in place is a delicate tangle of secrets and lies that threatens to unravel at any moment… 

Rules of Arrangement by Maren Mackenzie wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. I was hoping that art would take more of a forefront here, but sadly, it really doesn’t. The art dealing world was just a backdrop to a rather steamy story. (I also somehow thought this was about an art heist? Dunno where I got that idea from.) Despite that, I really enjoyed Rules of Arrangement for what it was: a romance book with a contract.

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a contemporary romance with a contract in it, but I liked the trope in this book! I might have to seek out more like this one, to be honest.

Adelaide Wright is an excellent leading lady. For much of the story, people are telling her what to do, when to do it, why she should do it, etc. When she finally stands up for herself, it is a triumph. I loved watching her come to realize that she had the power to do whatever she wanted, regardless of the consequences. That was nice. Jack Nolan, the leading man, was frequently a horrible person. He is stubborn, he is used to getting his way, and on top of all that, he’s rich as hell. Did I end up liking him as the story went on? Yes, I did. He still drove me nuts in some scenes, though. Declan, the artist who blackmails Adelaide, was straight-up insane most of the book. The author did a fantastic job of showing him just spiraling into insanity throughout the story.

Adelaide and Jack had amazing chemistry together that you could really feel as you read. Their sex scenes were steamy, and their conversations (where they actually talked) felt real. Despite their age difference (She’s 22, and he’s…38? I think?), it felt like a definite match between them.

I really enjoyed Rules of Arrangement — I read it in a matter of hours, actually. I just couldn’t put it down!

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

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ARC REVIEW: BOOKED ON A FEELING BY JAYCI LEE

The book cover for Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee
  • STAR RATING2.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH:  320 pages
  • WHAT SERIES? A Sweet Mess Series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? A Sweet Mess
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CW: Sexual content, strained relationship with a parent
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Lizzy “Overachiever” Chung, Esq. has her life mapped out neatly:
* Become a lawyer. Check.
* Join a prestigious law firm. Check.
* Make partner. In progress.

If all goes to plan, she will check off that last box in a couple years, make her parents proud, and live a successful, fulfilled life in L.A. What was not in her plans was passing out from a panic attack during a pivotal moment in her career. A few deep breaths and a four hour drive later, Lizzy is in Weldon for three weeks to shed the burnout and figure out what went wrong. And what better place to recharge than the small California town where she spent her childhood summers with her best friend, Jack Park.

Jack Park didn’t expect to see Lizzy back in Weldon, but now he’s got three weeks to spend with the girl of his dreams. Except she doesn’t know of his decades-long crush on her–and he intends to keep it that way. She’s a high-powered attorney who lives in L.A. and he’s a bookkeeper at his family’s brewery who never left his hometown. He can’t risk their friendship on a long shot. Can he? When Lizzy decides that the local bookstore needs a little revamp, of course, Jack is going to help her bring it back to life. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to ignore there might be more than just friendship among the dusty shelves and books…

Sometimes the path to the rest of your life has been in front of you all along.

Unfortunately, Booked on a Feeling was ultimately disappointing. I actually considered DNFing around the 20% mark, because I was flat out bored. I should have just stopped reading then. Obviously, it goes without saying that it took me quite a while to care about the characters. Lizzy and Jack were interesting for about maybe a third of the novel, and then boredom came rushing back in.

This book needs another pass by with an editor, I think. The last like five percent of the novel needs to be reworked, because all it is is the ‘narrator’ telling us what’s happened. There is little to no showing going on. It’s just and Lizzy did this, and then she did that. And then she realized this, and Jack realized that. I actually ended up skimming several pages, because I was so bored my eyes wouldn’t focus. There’s so much back-and-forth (and not in a good way) in the later half of this novel. Jack wants to move to LA, Lizzy wants to move to Weldon. They switch, and Lizzy figures out that she doesn’t want to be in Weldon without Jack, etc, etc. It’s a whole thing.

This book had the potential to be cute, but it just fell completely flat. The characters had very, very little personality. In the rare instance they DID show some sort of personality, their chemistry shone. But these scenes were few and far between, when they SHOULD have been the entire focus of the novel!

And don’t even get me started on the epilogue. Highlight below for a small spoiler.

A surprise-honey-I’m-pregnant epilogue? When children hadn’t been mentioned by either character in the ENTIRE novel? Pass.

Blah. I won’t be picking up any of the other books in this series, if they’re all written like this one. Two and a half stars for Booked on a Feeling, and that’s me being quite generous.

BOOKED ON A FEELING COMES OUT JULY 26, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

TOP 6 CONTEMPORARY ROMANCES FOR BEGINNERS

Now, unlike my Beginner Fantasy Recommendation list, I can’t claim to be someone who knows the ins and outs of contemporary romance. I’ve read a fair few, mind, but nowhere near the amount of fantasy books that I’ve read! But despite that, I thought I’d put together a little list of some contemporary romances that I recommend!

Please note — these are all cis/het romances. There is queer rep in most of them, but none of the main relationships fall under the LGBTQ+ banner. In the future, I do plan to do a queer romance recommendation list!

THE FLAT SHARE by BETH O’LEARY

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.

WHY THIS BOOK? I picked this book up on a whim, and ended up absolutely loving it. My favorite bit was that Leon is not your typical male lead in a romance novel. He’s a bit awkward, and his POV is written quite differently than that of Tiffy’s! If you’re looking for the feeling a there’s-only-one-bed fanfic gives you, start no further than The Flat Share!

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Flat Share
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
  • CW: Emotional abuse, toxic relationship, gaslighting
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: 500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan 

WELL MET by JEN DELUCA

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek. 

WHY THIS BOOK? I adore the town of Willow Creek that Jen DeLuca has come up with. Every character has their own personality, their own history, and well, it gives the books in this series a very homey feeling. I also just flat out love the setting of a Renaissance Faire! Simon is semi-based on Once Upon A Time’s Hook, too, so you can picture Colin O’Donaghue while you read…

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Well Met
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 5
  • CW: Sexual content, death, grief, mentions of cancer
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren, The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

JOSH AND HAZEL’S GUIDE TO NOT DATING by CHRISTINA LAUREN

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right? 

WHY THIS BOOK? This is one of the first contemporary romances that I ever picked up ever, and well, it’s got a huge forever spot on my list. I just absolutely adore Hazel’s entire personality. It’s not for everyone though, (surprise baby) and I realize that.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
  • CW: Sexual content, pregnancy
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey, 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by LYSSA KAY ADAMS

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

WHY THIS BOOK? A difference perspective on the whole ‘romance’ genre! A group of men desperate to either seduce their wives, or gain love turn to romance novels to understand the ‘female’ mind. These books are hilarious, but also a little heart-breaking.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Bromance Book Club
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 5
  • CW: Sexual content, pregnancy, miscarriage
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey, You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

SECOND FIRST IMPRESSIONS by SALLY THORNE

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Dazzle (n): Brightness that blinds someone temporarily.

Position Vacant: Two ancient old women residing at Providence Retirement Villa seek male assistant for casual exploitation and good-natured humiliation. Duties include boutique shopping, fast-food fetching, and sincerely rendered flattery. Good looks a bonus—but we aren’t picky.

An advertisement has been placed (again!) by the wealthy and eccentric Parloni Sisters. The salary is generous and the employers are 90 years old, so how hard could the job be? Well, none have lasted longer than a week. Most boys leave in tears.

Ruthie Midona will work in Providence’s front office, and be at the Parloni’s beck and call, forever. That’s sort of her life plan. If Ruthie can run the place in her almost-retired bosses’ absence, with no hijinks/hiccups, she has a shot at becoming the new manager. She might also be able to defend her safe little world from Prescott Development, the new buyer of the prime site. Maybe after all that, she can find a cute guy to date. All she needs to do is stay serious—and that’s what she does best.

Until, one day, someone dazzling blows into town.

Teddy Prescott devotes his life to sleeping, tattooing, and avoiding seriousness. When Teddy needs a place to crash, he makes a deal with his developer dad. Teddy can stay in one of Providence’s on-site maintenance cottages—right next door to an unimpressed Ruthie—but only if he works there and starts to grow up.

Ruthie knows how this sweetly selfish rich boy can earn his keep—and be out of her hair in under a week. After all, there is a position vacant… 

WHY THIS BOOK? Teddy Prescott is a precious cinnamon roll and I will hear no further arguments. And also the supporting cast in this novel are just all *chef’s kiss*. The Parloni Sisters in particular are just…ah they’re amazing.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Second First Impressions
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
  • CW: Sexual content, death, panic attacks
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: THIS BOOK IS HARD TO COMP…but I’ve been reliably informed The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler is at least similar. If you squint.

SPOILER ALERT by OLIVIA DADE

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. The world may know him as Aeneas, star of the biggest show on television, but fanfiction readers call him something else: Book!AeneasWouldNever. Marcus gets out his frustrations with the show through anonymous stories about the internet’s favorite couple, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone discovered his online persona, he’d be finished in Hollywood.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s long hidden her fanfic and cosplay hobbies from her “real life”—but not anymore. When she dares to post her latest costume creation on Twitter, her plus-size take goes viral. And when Marcus asks her out to spite her internet critics, truth officially becomes stranger than fanfiction.

On their date, Marcus quickly realizes he wants more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. But when he discovers she’s Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to keep from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

WHY THIS BOOK? Okay first off, if you’ve ever written/read fanfiction, than you will absolutely 100% without a doubt love this book. The fan representation in here is just…you can tell Olivia Dade has been a member of a fandom at some point! Secondly — holy crap does Marcus appreciate and love the hell out of April.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Spoiler Alert
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CW: Fatphobia, body shaming, sexual content, ableism
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Meet Cute by Helena Hunting, Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

What’s your favorite contemporary romance out there? My favorite didn’t even make this list because it’s the second in a series! So honorary mention to Melt For You by JT Geissinger!