Tag Archives: romance books

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.

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BOOK REVIEW: HEARTBREAKER BY SARAH MACLEAN

the book cover for Heartbreaker by Sarah MacLean
  • STAR RATING:  Four and a half stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 391 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 23rd 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Avon
    WHAT SERIES? Hell’s Belles
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Bombshell
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Literally any of Sarah MacLean’s backlist, particularly the Bareknuckle Bastards series

SYNOPSIS

New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean follows her highly acclaimed Bombshell with Heartbreaker, featuring a fierce, fearless heroine on a mission to steal a duke’s secrets…and his heart.

A Princess of Thieves

Raised among London’s most notorious criminals, a twist of fate landed Adelaide Frampton in the bright ballrooms of Mayfair, where she masquerades as a quiet wallflower—so plain and unassuming that no one realizes she’s the Matchbreaker…using her superior skills as a thief to help brides avoid the altar.

A King of Reputation

Henry, Duke of Clayborn, has spent a lifetime living in perfection. He has no time for the salacious gossip that arises every time the Matchbreaker ends another groom. His own reputation is impeccable—and the last thing he needs is a frustrating, fascinating woman discovering the truth of his past, or the secrets he holds close.

A Royal Match

When the two find themselves on a breakneck journey across Britain to stop a wedding, it’s impossible for Clayborn to resist this woman who both frustrates and fascinates him. But late-night carriage rides make for delicious danger…and soon Adelaide is uncovering Clayborn’s truths, throwing his well-laid plans into chaos…and threatening to steal his heavily guarded heart.

Ugh this was so good. I love a Sarah MacLean novel (minus one, but I won’t name names) and Heartbreaker is no different. Take a delightfully stuffy duke who reminded me of Henry Cavill, and the queen of the cutpurses, and mash them together in a road trip of sorts, and you get….well, you get a wild ride of a romance novel. I really, really loved this, and I think it’s in part because I loved the Duke of Clayborn so freaking much. Seriously — I could have inhaled this in a matter of hours if I didn’t have to do my job.

I love, love, love big strong, stoic men who just turn absolutely feral when they meet the love of their life. That’s Clayborn to a T. He does literally everything in his power to make sure that Adelaide stays safe — even when she’s trying her best to keep him safe from her past. He doesn’t care in the slightest where she’s from, as long as she’s his. He’s got a deep voice, he’s big and muscly, has a perfect face, and has a habit of saying, “Hmmm,” when he’s thinking of rather naughty things he wants to do with Adelaide. (Anyone else picturing Cavill now??) The whole of Heartbreaker is a seriously swoony affair.

Adelaide, however, frequently drove me bonkers. She spends a great deal of the novel believing herself to be not good enough for Clayborn. DESPITE him telling her over and over again that he doesn’t care where she was born, who she was born to, or what she’d done in her past. It doesn’t matter to him! He loves her as she is! But she doesn’t take his word for for 99% of the book — so we’re regaled time and time again with paragraph after paragraph of her woe-is-me-ing about this. I could have done with like…80% less of this, personally. But she eventually does figure out that Clayborn is telling her the truth, and well, the rest is history.

There are some seriously steamy sex scenes, too, because MacLean is an absolute master of her craft. You’re in for a treat if you love historicals. I can’t recommend her work enough.

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ARC REVIEW: THE KISS CURSE BY ERIN STERLING

the book cover for The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling
  • STAR RATING:  4.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 320 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 20th 2022
  • PUBLISHER: Avon Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Sexual content, violence, kidnapping
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

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

SYNOPSIS

Welcome to Spooky Season!! The follow-up to Erin Sterling’s New York Times bestselling hit The Ex Hex features fan favorite Gwyn and the spine-tinglingly handsome Wells Penhallow as they battle a new band of witches and their own magical chemistry.

Gwyn Jones is perfectly happy with her life in Graves Glen. She, her mom, and her cousin have formed a new and powerful coven; she’s running a successful witchcraft shop, Something Wicked; and she’s started mentoring some of the younger witches in town. As Halloween approaches, there’s only one problem—Llewellyn “Wells” Penhallow.

Wells has come to Graves Glen to re-establish his family’s connection to the town they founded as well as to make a new life for himself after years of being the dutiful son in Wales. When he opens up a shop of his own, Penhallow’s, just across the street from Something Wicked, he quickly learns he’s gotten more than he bargained for in going up against Gwyn.

When their professional competition leads to a very personal—and very hot—kiss, both Wells and Gwyn are determined to stay away from each other, convinced the kiss was just a magical fluke. But when a mysterious new coven of witches come to town and Gwyn’s powers begin fading, she and Wells must work together to figure out just what these new witches want and how to restore Gwyn’s magic before it’s too late. 

Oh, this was just a lot of fun! If you’re anything like me, sometimes you can sit down and just inhale a romance book. If I didn’t have a toddler, that would have been me with The Kiss Curse. Despite having a toddler, this book went very quickly.

The Kiss Curse brings us back to the delightful witchy town of Graves Glen, and to the absolutely hilarious Jones family. Well — really just Gwyn, and very tiny glimpses of Vivi, the heroine from the first book, The Ex Hex. Vivi and her new husband, Rhys, go away on a honeymoon, and leave Gwyn alone to run their shop. I did miss their presence on page, but as they already had their book, this was probably the best decision possible. This really gave Gwyn and Wells a chance to shine, and dang did their personalities just jump off the page.

Gwyn is a hilarious, very powerful witch, and I loved her so much. Wells is a little more stick-in-the-mud traditionalist when it comes to magic, but he very quickly loosens up. To be honest, Gwyn all but forces him to let go a little. Together, their chemistry was basically fire. They hate each other at the start of the book, but by the middle, they’re basically climbing each other. It’s fantastic. Not to mention the one real sex scene was incredibly steamy, so thumbs up to Erin Sterling, there.

The background plot of the book was interesting, but not as interesting as Gwyn and Wells together. To sum it up very simply: something is causing Gwyn’s magic to go haywire, and no one is quite sure what it is. It’s incredibly similar to the plot of the first book without being an exact copy. I wish their had been a little more variation, but whatever. I wasn’t really here for that. I wanted more Gwyn and Wells.

Oh and — Sir Purrcival is definitely still on page, and he’s definitely still talking, so I was extremely happy.

Four and half stars for pure enjoyment’s sake.

THE KISS CURSE comes out SEPTEMBER 20, 2022.

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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: NOT YOUR AVERAGE HOT GUY BY GWENDA BOND

the book cover for Not Your Average Hot Guy by Gwenda Bond
  • STAR RATING:  4 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 320 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: October 5th 2021
  • PUBLISHER:  St. Martin’s Griffin
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Confinement, panic attacks, fire

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

SYNOPSIS

A paranormal romantic comedy at the (possible) end of the world.

All Callie wanted was a quiet weekend with her best friend. She promised her mom she could handle running her family’s escape room business while her mom is out of town. Instead a Satanic cult shows up, claiming that the prop spell book in one of the rooms is the real deal, and they need it to summon the right hand of the devil. Naturally they take Callie and her friend, Mag, along with them. But when the summoning reveals a handsome demon in a leather jacket named Luke who offers to help Callie stop the cult from destroying the world, her night goes from weird to completely strange.

As the group tries to stay one step ahead of the cult, Callie finds herself drawn to the annoying (and annoyingly handsome) Luke. But what Callie doesn’t know is that Luke is none other than Luke Morningstar, Prince of Hell and son of the Devil himself. Callie never had time for love, and with the apocalypse coming closer, is there room for romance when all hell’s about to break loose?

From New York Times bestselling author Gwenda Bond, Not Your Average Hot Guy is a hilarious romantic comedy about two people falling in love, while the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. 

Not Your Average Hot Guy is a delightfully silly romp of paranormal romance book. For a book about the possible end of the world, starring the son of the literal devil, it does not take itself seriously. If you go in knowing that, then you’re going to have a helluva good time. (Did I make a Hell pun? I did. Sorry.) Callie’s mom runs an escape room business, and Callie helps her set the rooms up, find the props, etc. Its in doing these particular jobs that she finds (and buys) a legitimate grimoire. Without spoiling anything too important, the grimoire ends up being used to summon a demon…only…Luke shows up instead.

Luke is Lucifier Morningstar’s son, and he’s not a very good demon. Or devil. Or uh…bad at all, actually. He’s tempting, handsome, and has a sense of humor. Its really almost as if he doesn’t belong in Hell at all. Callie is a legitimately good person, and because of that, is a giant cinnamon roll of a person. Her, and her friend, Mag, are enormous nerds, which I very much appreciated. (As someone who self-identifies as a nerd, it always makes me happy to see a book about a nerd that has very clearly been written by someone who is also nerdy. You can tell, I promise.) Sidenote — Mag is non-binary. It’s brought up once, and then never made a big deal of the rest of the book. It is excellent representation. I loved it.

Luke and Callie are fantastic together. They pick on each other a little bit, but oh do they prop the other up when they really need support. It is a bit insta-love for my usual tastes, but they are way too cute for me to care too much about it one way or the other. My one real complaint, though, is that there are no real sex scenes! It’s a fade-to-black book, my friends. Still enjoyable, but not quite what I want from a romance book. For that, I’ve docked one star, but the rest of the book is too much fun not to recommend.

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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ARC REVIEW: THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY BY MEGAN BANNEN

the book cover for The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
  • STAR RATING:  5 enormously huge stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 336 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 23, 2022.
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, sexual content, grief, cursing, violence, body horror
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones for the quirkiness

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

SYNOPSIS

Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.

Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.

After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?

How do I sum up what has to be one of the most unique books I’ve read in a long, long time? I have no idea. I know that The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is one part romance novel, one part zombie novel, one part mystery novel, and one part western novel. You mix all that up and you end up with an extremely quirky, loveable trip that’s about processing grief, and letting yourself live.

Hart Ralston is one of our main characters — he’s self-described as prickly, and when you first meet him, that is definitely the case. But as the novel wears on, it’s increasingly clear that Hart is not prickly at all. He is ooey-gooey marshmallow on the inside, and it’s adorable to see him realize it.

Mercy Birdsall is stubborn, proud, and unafraid to work hard. I loved Mercy, so, so much. She stands up for what she wants — to run the Undertaking business — and she holds her family together like glue. I wanted to shake her family for most of the book. Not one of them seemed to care what she wanted, despite saying that they knew what was best for her. Spoiler alert — they did not. But don’t read this thinking they’re an awful bunch. Quite the contrary. They are an adorable family who really do want the best for Mercy. They just don’t know what the best thing for her is. I loved the scenes with Mercy’s sister.

Put Hart and Mercy together and it was like watching an inferno. It takes a little bit for them to get together, but once they do they are…well. Really hot Together. I loved reading about how much they cared for one another, to put it mildly. There are at least two semi-explicit sex scenes, which fit rather perfectly within the novel.

The main plot of the book is that there are suddenly way more drudges (zombies) than there used to be, and they are venturing into populated areas and hurting people. The question is — where are they coming from, and why now? Megan Bannen does a fantastic job of weaving in the plot with the romance, and I didn’t see the answer to those questions until it was literally right in front of my face. I loved it. I loved this world. I loved the characters, and the relationships between them. I would read about eighty more novels set in this world.

If you like the original Hell Boy movies, I think you’d like this book. (Humor, dark themes, violence, anthropomorphized animals, and love.) The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is frequently laugh out loud, and full of scenes that will make you go “what exactly am I reading right now?” in the best way. But despite all of that, it’s rather dark, and there’s serious discussions of actual, horrible gut-wrenching grief. And the ending…oh my god the ending had me sobbing. I loved this book.

Thank you to Becky for buddy reading this with me. It was so much fun discussing the book with you as we went along!

THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY comes out AUGUST 23, 2022.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE