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:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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

ARC REVIEW: THE VERY SECRET SOCIETY OF IRREGULAR WITCHES BY SANGU MANDANNA

the book cover for The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

STAR RATING: 4.5 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 336 pages
CW: Abandonment, child abuse, sexual content, homophobia, racism, death
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Berkley Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is an absolute delight of a book. If you’ve read and enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea and desperately wanted more books that have the same sort of feel, well, look no further. This is the exact same sort of book, and I’m so glad that I read it. This is found family to a T, and well, you need to read it immediately. Especially if you’re looking for a cozy hug in a book.

That’s not to say there weren’t parts that I disliked. I desperately wished we had gotten to see more of the main character, Mika, and the love interest, Jamie, together. They do spend time alone, but it’s not very often in the book, and glazed over rather frequently. Mika and Jamie are absolutely sunshine and grump, though, so if you love that pairing, you’ll like this book. There are no real steamy scenes, however. The sex is the fade to black sort, with minimal descriptions of anything. Mika is extremely sex positive throughout the whole book, so this sort of threw me for a loop. I was expecting at least one high-steam scene, and ultimately, I was left disappointed.

BUT, the rest of the book’s absolute adorableness made up for it. The three child-witches were amazingly well done, though one of the kids was sort of…glossed over and didn’t have a real personality, unfortunately. Again, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book. The other adults at Nowhere House were also, just fantastic characters. Ian, in particular, was a favorite. I do also want to mention that Mika is an absolute ball of sunshine, and I loved her to pieces. I love when main characters are just bubbly and lovely.

This is a standalone novel where everything gets wrapped up beautifully at the end. I think this is going to be a perfect book to break people out of reading slumps. I can’t recommend this one enough.

the very secret society of irregular witches comes out AUGUST 23, 2022.

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

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

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!

ARC REVIEW: ALWAYS BE MY DUCHESS BY AMALIE HOWARD

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thank you to Netgalley and Forever Publishing for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Lord Lysander Blackstone, the stern Duke of Montcroix, has only one interest: increasing his considerable fortune. After a series of betrayals, he keeps his emotions buried deep. Money, after all, can’t break a man’s heart—or make promises it can’t keep. But when his reputation for being heartless jeopardizes a new business deal, he finds himself seeking a most unusual—and alluring—solution…

Once an up-and-coming ballerina, Miss Geneviève Valery is now hopelessly out of work. After refusing to become a wealthy patron’s mistress, Nève was promptly shown the door to the streets. When she accidentally saves the life of a handsome duke, she doubts the encounter will go any better than her last brush with nobility. But instead of propositioning her, Montcroix makes Nève an offer she would be a fool to refuse: act as his fake fiancée in exchange for fortune enough to start over.

Only neither is prepared when very real feelings begin to grow between them. They both stand to win… but only if they’re willing to risk their hearts.

This was a relatively cute historical romance novel. Nève Valery is a French ballerina down on her luck — she absolutely needs to find someone to hire her in a ballet. She needs money, in order to help pay for her ailing sister’s doctor. Lord Lysander Blackstone needs to prove that he’s an upstanding gentleman who’s settling down in order for another lord to sell him his property. Lysander only wants to buy this lord’s property in order to raze it to the ground so he can build his railroad through it. They have a rather hot meet-cute, and well, they come to an arrangement. Nève will pretend to be his fiancé, and Lysander will pay her big bucks.

This was really extremely slow to start for me. Their meet-cute was steamy, but then it cooled way, way down until I was left wondering where exactly the book was going. There was a solid chunk of the book where nothing really happened. Once it picked back up, however, the book picked up some heat again. Nève and Lysander butted heads a lot — Lysander was rather stoic, and I think supposed to have Asperger’s / be on the spectrum. Nève was bright, and bubbly, and hated that Lysander never really showed emotion. They’re at odds until Nève gets a bit more of Lysander’s history, and then, well, things make sense.

Overall, the book was cute. The supporting characters really stole the show when they were on the screen — I’m looking forward to their books, if they get any.

ALWays be my duchess COMES OUT july 12, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE

WOLF GONE WILD BY JULIETTE CROSS

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS

What’s the worst thing that can happen to a werewolf? Unable to shift for three months, Mateo Cruz knows all too well. His wolf has taken up residence in his head, taunting him night and day with vividly violent and carnal thoughts. Convinced he’s cursed, he needs the help of a powerful witch before he literally goes insane.

​Evie Savoie has always obeyed the house rules of her coven–no werewolves. They’re known for being moody and volatile. So, when a distempered, dangerous werewolf strolls into the bar and almost strangles one of her late-night customers, she’s ready to bounce him through the door. But the desperation in his eyes when he begs her to help him softens her heart and convinces her to bend the rules.

​What Evie doesn’t know is that Mateo’s wolf has a mind of his own. And now that she’s in his sights, he wants only one thing. Her. 

Wolf Gone Wild is a paranormal romance starring the Savoie family, who are a witchy group of sisters who control New Orleans and presumably, their eventual love interests. The Savoie sisters own a bar/tavern and a witchy shop in New Orleans, and from there ply their magic to whoever needs help. The majority of the world is in the dark when it comes to supernaturals, but from what I could gather, there were four main types. Vampires, Witches, Werewolves and Grims — who are grim reaper types.

In Wolf Gone Wild, Mateo Cruz, a werewolf with a hex problem, shows up at the Savoie’s door looking for help. He can’t shift, and it’s causing some issues with his wolfier side. There he meets Evie, and well, love happens.

This series has the potential to be really cute, but unfortunately, Wolf Gone Wild fell a little flat for me. The writing is what brought this down in rating. It’s very basic, which is fine, but the characters — especially the main character, Evie, just felt… elementary? She’s a geek who loves comics and Star Wars, and normally that would be fine and dandy, but there was no real heart there. It felt very filled-in, and that there was no real love for either comics or the Star Wars series. Maybe I’m reading too into a paranormal romance book. Who knows.

Anyway, Mateo and Evie were rather cute together, and I did enjoy the alpha-ness of the werewolf bits. When it comes to sex scenes, Wolf Gone Wild is on the steamier side of things. There are a few explicit scenes, and several scenes of characters thinking rather raunchy thoughts.

In the end, I’m not going to be rushing to the other books in this series. It’s a shame, I had high hopes for this one!

BOOK REVIEW: IT HAPPENED ONE SUMMER BY TESSA BAILEY

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.  

Okay, this was cute. It wasn’t anything mind-blowing, though. A fun, cute little romp of a contemporary romance book. I think my reaction is probably because I wasn’t a huge fan of Schitt’s Creek. (TBF, I don’t think I made it through half of season two…idk if that changes anything.) BUT ANYWAY — I thought this was fun.

Brendan is captain of a fishing/crabbing boat up in a tiny town called Westport in the Pacific northwest. His life is incredibly structured and rigid, and when Piper blows into town, well. Everything is turned upside down and hates the change in routine and…well…he hates her at first. Piper is loud, a tiny bit obnoxious at first, and just incredibly spoiled. HOWEVER, you find out quickly that she’s not a bad person. She doesn’t think down on anyone because they’re not as lucky or well-off as her. She’s sweet, and has a big heart.

I really thought going into this that I probably wouldn’t like Piper because of how she’s talked about in the official blurb. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I hate books about awful people. But that’s not Piper at all, and I’m so, so glad. She kinda slowly comes into herself, but the whole time she’s doing what she can to help people. Brendan is a big ol’ teddy bear of a man and I love him. He was so totally head-over-heels for Piper in the most adorable way. Not to mention these two were hot, hot, hot together. Tessa Bailey is known for the steam, and boy howdy does she deliver.

Three and a half-ish stars. I recommend if you’re looking for something fun that doesn’t make you think too hard!