Review of “Chasing Wild Horses” by Mila Nicks

Nicks, Mila. Chasing Wild Horses. [United States]: Mila Nicks, 2020.

ASIN: B089NBTN1H | $3.99 USD | 334 pages | Comtemporary Romance

Blurb

A slow-burn romance between two outsiders from opposite worlds:

He’s the biggest outcast in town…

Chase Collins has never met a horse he didn’t like. Too bad he can’t say the same for people. In his hometown Lutton, his poor reputation follows him like a dark shadow. It’s best for everyone if he sticks to where he belongs. At least on Wild Horse Ranch, he’s safe from judgment. Then one day a familiar face from 10 years ago shows up out of the blue.

She’s a wanderer who comes and goes…

Samara Grant is a nomad at heart. She doesn’t like staying put for too long. But when her Grandma Bunny passes away, she has to put her carefree lifestyle on hold to handle her affairs. She might have spent childhood summers in Lutton, Texas, but it’s no place to live. She wants to get in and out as fast as possible. Little does she know life has other plans.

Together, they form an unbreakable bond…

When Samara feels like she’s losing control of her life, she decides to take it back. She asks Chase to teach her how to ride. Neither expect to find common ground—and a fiery attraction—when Chase agrees. But their blossoming relationship isn’t celebrated by everyone. The closer Chase and Samara get, the more an unforeseen enemy seeks to tear them apart… 

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Chasing Wild Horses is the first in a new series from Mila Nicks, and I’m intrigued at the direction it’s going in so far, exploring the modern day relationship between Chase and Samara and its parallels to Bucky and Bunny’s forbidden love in the 1960s.

I was a bit unsure what I was getting into at first, in spite of having read Nicks before, because this is such an extreme slow burn, taking its time to establish who the characters are before delving into their relationships with one another. But it ultimately pays off when it picks up. Chase and Samara’s relationship develops in a convincing way, and I rooted for them as they faced issues that echoed the ones Bunny and Bucky faced. 

The one minor issue I had was that it ended abruptly, but a quick glance at the excerpt of book two shows that both storylines continue there. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

This is a wonderfully original contemporary romance, and one I’d recommend to romance fans, especially those who love slow burn. 

Author Bio

Mila Nicks has a thing for romance. Chick lit, chick flicks, you name it, she’s there. She’s all about basking in a quality, well-told love story. It’s why she’s decided to use her passion for writing to pen love stories featuring women of color.

When she’s not engrossed in all things romance, she’s probably out shopping, sampling food off of someone else’s plate, or hanging with her feisty and dangerous pet chihuahua, Zayden.

For more on Mila, including upcoming releases and story freebies, check out her website and subscribe to her newsletter: https://www.milanickswrites.com/ 

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Review of “More Than Just a Pretty Face” by Syed M. Masood

Masood, Syed M. More Than Just a Pretty Face. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0316492355 | $17.99 USD | 352 pages | YA Contemporary Romance

Blurb

For fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han, a sweetly funny YA debut about falling in love, family expectations, and being a Renaissance Man.Danyal Jilani doesn’t lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he’s funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn’t approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal’s longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man, a school-wide academic championship, it’s the perfect opportunity to show everyone he’s smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her . . . the more he learns from her…the more he cooks for her . . . the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.
In this young adult debut full of depth and heart, author Syed M. Masood will have readers laughing, sighing, tearing up, and shouting “YES!” at the top of their lungs.

Review

5 stars

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

More Than Just a Pretty Face piqued my interest as part of the current crop of YA rom-coms, and this one featuring religion and culture as components in the character identities was another part of its appeal. 

I liked Danyal, and how the story sees him working toward a goal in the form of the Renaissance Man competition to demonstrate his true worth, and ultimately coming into his own. 

And him originally being having an unrequited crush on someone else, but then coming to notice the somewhat unassuming Bisma as she helps him prepare for the competition, was really sweet, and I found the development of their relationship believable.

I also liked that Bisma’s not the ideal match in the eyes of many traditional Muslims due to a scandal in her recent past, and her parents were upfront with Danyal, and he accepted this about her, even defending her later when the secret gets out. 

This is an utterly wonderful book, and one I recommend to anyone who loves multicultural romantic comedies. 

Author Bio

I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently live in Sacramento, California. There have been plenty of stops in between though. I’m a first generation immigrant, twice over. I’ve been a citizen of three different countries and lived in nine cities. I am, as Goethe, said, “nothing but a wanderer […] on this earth.”

Living among different people, in different countries at fascinating times in their histories, has shaped both my view of the world and my writing. Ultimately, human beings are the same everywhere (despite the fact that they tell themselves, everywhere, that they are different from each other), and the theme of this fundamental human unity informs everything I write.

As to my life outside of writing, I went to the William and Mary School of Law, and before that attended the University of Toronto, where I studied English Literature. I am currently practicing as an attorney and must “measure out my life in coffee spoons” on a daily basis.

Some members of my family will tell you that I’m also a poet. This isn’t true. I wrote a few poems in Urdu when I was a teenager, and I’ve never heard the end of it…which I wouldn’t mind, honestly, if they were any good. As it is, I’m very happy living in prose, thank you very much.

Other interests include good food, video games, sitcoms, and books of all kinds. Most of my time that doesn’t go to writing or billable hours is consumed by my two children, four and two years of age.

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Review of “Sweetest in the Gale” (There’s Something About Marysburg #3) by Olivia Dade

Dade, Olivia. Sweetest in the Gale: A Marysburg Short Story Collection. Stockholm?: Hussies and Harpies Press, 2020. 

ASIN: B08B14HHMJV | $4.99 USD | 303 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

3 stories + 3 couples = 6 lonely hearts finding happily-ever-after at last.

“Sweetest in the Gale”: Much ado about love…

Candy Albright has always stomped confidently through the halls of Marysburg High, passionate and loud and entirely devoted to her students and her various English department initiatives. From his first day as her colleague, Griff Conover couldn’t look away, despite his best efforts.

After a summer apart, though, Candy returns to school a changed woman. Muted. Dimmed. Bowed by a grief Griff recognizes all too well, but doesn’t yet understand. And when they’re thrown together to coordinate a poetry project, he can’t resist the urge to read between her lines once and for all–even if doing so means he’ll have to confront his own loss…and his own lonely, longing heart.

“Unraveled”: The more tightly wound a man is, the faster he unravels…

Math teacher Simon Burnham–cool, calm, controlled–can’t abide problems with no good solution. Which makes his current work assignment, mentoring art teacher Poppy Wick, nothing short of torture. She’s warm but sharp. Chaotic but meticulous. Simultaneously the most frustrating and most alluring woman he’s ever known. And in her free time, she makes murder dioramas. Murder dioramas, for heaven’s sake. But the more tightly wound a man is, the faster he unravels–and despite his best efforts, he soon finds himself attempting to solve three separate mysteries: a murder in miniature, the unexplained disappearance of a colleague…and the unexpected theft of his cold, cold heart.

“Cover Me”: First comes marriage…

Elizabeth Stone has no health insurance. No savings. No one to turn to when she finds a lump on her breast…except James Magnusson, her friend of over twenty years. When he offers her a marriage of convenience for healthcare coverage, she’d be a fool to say no. But given the emotions she’s buried for so long, saying yes might lead to a broken heart.

James won’t take no for an answer. Not when marriage could save Elizabeth’s life, and not when he’s finally realized how much he needs her. Even during his doomed first marriage, James considered Elizabeth a special friend–one he had to keep at a safe distance. Now he’s free, and Elizabeth is his wife…but will they finally have the chance to be together, only to have everything torn apart?

Content guidance for “Cover Me”: This story contains discussions of breast cancer, an on-page mammogram and biopsy, and a definite happily-ever-after.

This book contains one entirely new story (“Sweetest in the Gale”) and two stories previously published in the He’s Come Undone and Rogue Acts anthologies. The latter stories have been lightly edited since their original publication, and “Unraveled” has a new epilogue.

Review

Sweetest in the Gale is a collection of short stories set in the same “world” as her previous Marysburg books, one new and two previously published and lightly edited. However, just as her novels stand on their own, these stories are great stand-alone pieces, and could serve as a great entry point into Olivia Dade’s writing, just as much as they would please fans who’ve read her other work. In signature Olivia Dade fashion, the stories combine humor with heart, tackling tough topics with a light touch. 

“Sweetest in the Gale”

5 stars

I love the tender way this story conveys grief, with both Candy and Griff navigating through it as individuals, while a project at work throws them together. I love how sweet and understanding they are of one another, paving the way for them to slowly enter a relationship as a couple. 

“Unraveled”

4.5  stars

I don’t have much to say I didn’t already say when I reviewed this in its original form in He’s Come Undone. However, I love the edition of the epilogue and how it feels like a natural conclusion/“afterward” to the story, and not something tacked on for convention’s sake. 

“Cover Me” 

5 stars

Perhaps the most heartwarming, I loved how it combined my favorite trope friends to lovers with marriage of convenience, a trope I know I like, but rarely can think of titles that stand out that fit the trope. I love that James wanted to marry his best friend to ensure Elizabeth had access to insurance to cover the care she needed, and how it eventually grew into more for both of them. 

Author Bio

Olivia Dade grew up an undeniable nerd, prone to ignoring the world around her as she read any book she could find. Her favorites, though, were always, always romances. As an adult, she earned an M.A. in American history and worked in a variety of jobs that required the donning of actual pants: Colonial Williamsburg interpreter, high school teacher, academic tutor, and (of course) librarian. Now, however, she has finally achieved her lifelong goal of wearing pajamas all day as a hermit-like writer and enthusiastic hag. She currently lives outside Stockholm with her patient Swedish husband, their whip-smart daughter, and the family’s ever-burgeoning collection of books.

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Review of “You Had Me at Hola” by Alexis Daria

Daria, Alexis. You Had Me at Hola. New York: Avon Books, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0062959928 | $15.99 USD | 320 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

“I could not get enough of Jasmine and Ashton! I adored Jasmine–her ambition, her confidence, her attacks of self-doubt, and especially her hilarious, snarky, and loving cousins. She and Ashton have such a steamy, swoony, love story that I didn’t want the book to end!”–Jasmine Guillory, New York Times bestselling author

RITA® Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and The Kiss Quotient.

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars. 

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

Review 

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I didn’t entirely know what to expect from You Had Me at Hola, but the cover is on fire, and the blurb piqued my interest, particularly the telenovela setup. And, ultimately, I really enjoyed this one.

Jasmine and Ashton are both relatable, in spite of being celebrities. I could understand Ashton wanting to keep certain aspects of his life out of the public eye, and inadvertently delaying telling Jasmine about it, in spite of them bonding outside of work. I also related to Jasmine’s humiliation at some of the headlines about her love life, and felt Daria managed to replicate how it feels in a way someone who hasn’t been through that experience could understand. 

And while the occasional shifts to scenes from the show they’re filming can be a little jarring, I like how it provides insight into the show, while also providing that contrast to show where the actors’ minds are at in terms of their real life relationship while filming the scene through subtle textual cues. 

I also loved the role friends and family played in this book, presenting lots of angles for potential spinoffs, whether it be further installments surrounding the telenovela world, or a plethora of family and friends. 

On the whole, this is a solid book and definitely has me excited to read more from her, both in terms of  backlist and future titles. If you love steamy contemporary romance, especially one focused on television drama on- and off-camera, then you’ll love this one. 

Author Bio

Alexis Daria is a native New Yorker and award-winning author writing stories about successful Latinx characters and their (occasionally messy) familias. Her debut Take the Lead won the 2018 RITA® Award for “Best First Book” and was one of the “Best Romance Novels of 2017” in The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly. Her super powers include spotting celebrities in NYC, winning Broadway ticket lotteries, and live-tweeting.

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Review of “Paradise Cove” (Matchmaker Bay #2) by Jenny Holiday

Holiday, Jenny. Paradise Cove. New York: Forever, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1538716540 | $7.99 USD | 368 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

From the USA Today bestselling “master of witty banter” (Entertainment Weekly) comes a hilarious and heartwarming romance about a big city girl who never expected to find the man of her dreams in the tiny town of Matchmaker Bay.
Dr. Nora Walsh has just been dumped in spectacular fashion, making it the perfect time for a major life change. She figures taking over the medical practice in tiny Matchmaker Bay for a couple of years will help her get over her broken heart, and then she can head back to the big city. But when the first man she sees looks like a superhero god, she wonders if maybe there’s something to small-town living after all.
Jake Ramsey also has a broken heart — one he never expects to heal. He doesn’t need people anyway and is content hiding out in his secluded cottage on the beach. But after helping Nora with a medical emergency, he finds himself opening up to the witty, warmhearted doctor. Soon the local matchmakers are working overtime to pair them off, and Jake begins to wonder if his campaign to get Nora to stay is for the town or because he can’t bear the thought of her leaving.

In the series

#1 Mermaid Inn

Review

Warning: There are spoilers in this review, as the specific thing that bothered me cannot be discussed without revealing said spoilers. Proceed with caution. 

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Have you ever had a book that you were mildly enjoying, then something that you find personally  objectionable (although not morally wrong, just enough that it’s a personal dealbreaker when reading) jumps out at you in the last act? That was my experience with Paradise Cove.

The setup is fine: both Nora and Jake have experienced heartbreak in their pasts, and I felt for both, particularly Jake, having lost a child. I like how Jake’s grief manifested, particularly when it came to his feelings for Nora and the idea that maybe he didn’t deserve it.

And I did feel the transition from becoming friends when she initially comes to town and becoming lovers was fairly well done, although I didn’t feel like there was anything substantial I liked about them as a couple.

That brings me to that big issue I had with this book: the last-act pregnancy. When secret babies and accidental pregnancies are advertised in the blurbs, it really depends on other factors as to whether I’ll even pick it up, much less if I’ll even become invested, so this way, keeping it as a surprise that no one else warned me about pisses me off. 

Anyway, birth control was brought up in the book, which I initially appreciated, but then there’s a moment that should have been a red flag when they talked it over and said they’ll stop using condoms and Nora will just take the pill. And later it goes into how much she enjoys sex without condoms. But of course, she conveniently (for the plot) forgets to take her pills while away somewhere, leading to an accidental pregnancy, serving as the catalyst for these two people who haven’t confirmed they want to be serious with each other to do so. 

I have no beef with anyone who enjoys plotlines revolving around accidental pregnancies. And I also acknowledge people are fallible, so a situation like the one depicted could happen. Instead, I object to not being warned that this element was in the book, and I want to reiterate that it’s something I personally just don’t want to read about, and the execution of it just felt like an overly convenient way for the couple to get over their issues and finally settle things. 

So, should you read this book? I guess it’s down to whether the situation described is also a pet peeve for you or not. It’s a fairly charming book otherwise, and it does have its good points, just not enough to overwhelm my personal dealbreakers.

Author Bio 

Jenny Holiday started writing in fourth grade, when her awesome hippie teacher, between sessions of Pete Seeger singing and anti-nuclear power plant letter writing, gave the kids notebooks and told them to write stories. Most of Jenny’s featured poltergeist, alien invasions, or serial killers who managed to murder everyone except her and her mom. She showed early promise as a romance writer, though, because nearly every story had a happy ending: fictional Jenny woke up to find that the story had been a dream, and that her best friend, father, and sister had not, in fact, been axe-murdered.

From then on, she was always writing, often in her diary, where she liked to decorate her declarations of existential angst with nail polish teardrops. Eventually she channelled her penchant for scribbling into a more useful format. After picking up a PhD in urban geography, she became a professional writer, spending many years promoting research at a major university, which allowed her to become an armchair astronomer/historian/particle physicist, depending on the day. Eventually, she decided to try her hand again at happy endings—minus the bloodbaths. You can follow her on twitter at @jennyholi or visit her on the web at jennyholiday.com.

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Review of “The Way You Tempt Me” (Pure Talent #1) by Elle Wright

Wright, Elle. The Way You Tempt Me. New York: Dafina, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1496725776 | $7.99 USD | 320 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

Brilliant and ambitious, the high-powered team behind the Pure Talent Agency manages the best creatives in the business. In this sizzling new series, they gamble big on every wild-card, industry-outsider client–and on delicious, unexpected, crazy-irresistible passion . . .

The heir-apparent to Pure Talent, ex-playboy Xavier Starks had it all figured out. With an engagement to Hollywood’s hottest actress and his innovative expansion plans, he can finally prove to his dad, Jax, that he’s responsible enough to step into a leadership role at their company. Until a jilting-gone-viral puts Xavier back in the relentless social-media spotlight, out of the running for partner–and in competition with the last person he ever expected: his very-grown-up childhood friend and girl-next-door . . .

With her acclaimed sports talent roster and unparalleled instincts, agent Zara Reid knows she can take Pure Talent to the next level. To make the most of her mentor Jax’s faith in her, she’ll go head-to-head and scheme-to-scheme with Xavier to prove she’s got what it takes. But suddenly, long days working too close together turn into reckless, insatiable nights. Now, being co-workers-with-benefits means Zara and Xavier must face their secrets, dare to trust–and negotiate the toughest game of all–love.

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Way You Tempt Me piqued my interest with the mention of my catnip trope, childhood friends-to-lovers, and a pretty intriguing, cutthroat premise surrounding a talent agency.

The leads are both likable and fairly nuanced, and I liked that both were career focused. Xavier is trying to shed his playboy ways and prove his worth to his dad, a nice flip on the trope of the wayward rich playboy heir, showing his trial-and-error as he tries to show he’s matured. Zara is also working really hard in her career, and I liked seeing that as a big part of her character. 

As both are after the same position, there is some competition. But I like how well the underlying romantic tension was conveyed, and that, ultimately, it wasn’t mean spirited.

This is a sweet, fluffy, and glitzy  read, and I enjoyed every moment of it. If you love romances about the glamorous world of celebrities, then you’ll enjoy this one. 

Author Bio

Elle Wright is an award-winning author of edgy contemporary romance loaded with heat, humor, and scandal. Her novels feature strong, intelligent, courageous, beautiful, yet flawed, heroes and heroines of color.  

There was never a time when Elle wasn’t about to start a book, wasn’t already deep in a book—or had just finished one. She grew up believing in the power of reading to transform, to heal, and to enhance life and love. She became a lover of all things romance after her mother convinced her take a chance and read something new. Writing stories of unconditional love through adversity has become as necessary to her as reading. When she’s not writing complex characters and using every day experiences to craft her next story, she’s spending quality time with her family and friends, watching old Rom Coms, or trying to solve crimes on her favorite Investigative Discovery Channel shows. 

A proud Michigander and University of Michigan alum (GO BLUE!), Elle lives her own friends-to-lovers romance with her real-life hero of many years. She is also mom to three young adults who inspire her to be better.

Elle loves to connect with her readers. You can find her online at ElleWright.com, Facebook ElleWrightAuthor, Twitter@LWrightAuthor, Instagram: @lrwrightauthor.  

Elle is a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC), Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) and the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writer’s of America (CIMRWA). She is a co-founder of Rose Gold Press. She’s represented by LaToya Smith of LCS Literary Services.

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Review of “I Kissed Alice” by Anna Birch, with Illustrations by Victoria Ying

Birch, Anna. I Kissed Alice. New York: Macmillan/Imprint, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-1250219855 | $18.99 USD | 320 pages | YA Contemporary Romance

Blurb

“Rivals-to-lovers, mistaken identity, and slow, slow burn… A loving homage to fandom and queer girls.”
—Victoria Lee, author of The Fever King

For fans of Leah on the Offbeat and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, Anna Birch’s I Kissed Alice is a romantic comedy about enemies, lovers, and everything in between.

Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other.

Rhodes, a gifted artist, has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts (until she’s hit with a secret bout of creator’s block), while Iliana, a transfer student, tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.

They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a webcomic. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other… a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?

An Imprint Book

“The swoony queer romcom of my heart… Pitch-perfect.”
—Rachel Hawkins, New York Times-bestselling author of Prince Charming and Her Royal Highness

Review

2.5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher  via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I Kissed Alice sounded right up my alley, involving queer love and fanfic creators who (unknowingly) are collaborators on an online comic, while competing for a scholarship in real life.

I love the detail that went into conveying snippets of said comic, with simple, yet appealing illustrations. I also loved the interstitial online  conversations, highlighting “Alice” and “Cheshire’s” relationship, as well as having other readers commenting and interacting occasionally, creating a truly immersive experience.

However, I feel a bit conflicted as to the story itself. Iliana and Rhodes aren’t horrible characters (although their POVs aren’t super distinct from one another), but I felt like they were more “enemies” that didn’t quite work transitioning into lovers outside of cyberspace, given how hostile they were to each other. And given the initial reason they hated each other, which has nothing to do with them competing, but instead is focused on their jealousy of each other’s relationship with their mutual friend, I found it very underwhelming.

I think certain people will like this, particularly if they don’t mind an angstier YA read. But it’s just a case of it being not for me, even though I had every hope it would be.

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Review of “The Single Mom’s Second Chance” (Sweet Briar Sweethearts #7) by Kathy Douglass

Douglass, Kathy. The Single Mom’s Second Chance. Toronto, Ontario: Harlequin, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-1335894755 | $5.99 USD | 288 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

She could use a shoulder to lean on…

Facing the fight of her life after a cancer diagnosis, widow Roz Martin is forced to ask her estranged brother-in-law to help care for her children. Being there for his nieces and nephew is a no-brainer for gym owner Paul Stephens. But being there for the woman who’d betrayed him by marrying his half brother is hard. Especially when he discovers the feelings he once had for Roz never died…

From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.

Discover more true-to-life stories in the Sweet Briar Sweetheart series.
All books are stand-alone but were published in the following order:
1. How to Steal a Lawman’s Heart
2. The Waitress’s Secret
3. The Rancher and the City Girl
4. Winning Charlotte Back
5. The Rancher’s Return
6. A Baby Between Friends
7. The Single Mom’s Second Chance

In the series

#1 How to Steal a Lawman’s Heart

#2 The Waitress’s Secret

#3 The Rancher and the City Girl 

#4 Winning Charlotte Back 

#5 The Rancher’s Return

#6 A Baby Between Friends

Review

4 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

I hadn’t read any Kathy Douglass before, but I was intrigued by The Single Mom’s Second Chance, particularly how it would handle the sometimes controversial concept of in-laws in love (something that doesn’t bother me as long as there’s no cheating) and the inciting incident of a cancer diagnosis. 

And it works well on both counts. The story is fairly low-angst, but does delve into the issues at hand with enough care that the diagnosis never feels like it was done lightly. It leads Roz and Paul to reckon with their feelings for one another, and whether things can still work between them, in spite of what happened in the past. 

And of course, there’s the kids. I loved seeing the role they played in the story and shaping Roz and Paul’s more mature romance. 

This was a nice sweet read, full of hope and the power of second chances. And with a picturesque small-town setting, it’s sure to delight fans of small-town romance. 

Author Bio

Kathy Douglass came by her love of reading naturally – both of her parents were readers. She would finish one book and pick up another. Then she attended law school and traded romances for legal opinions.

After the birth of her two children, her love of reading turned into a love of writing. Kathy now spends her days writing the small town comtemporary novels she enjoys reading.

Kathy loves to hear from her readers and can be found on Facebook.

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Review of “Take a Hint, Dani Brown” by Talia Hibbert

Hibbert, Talia. Take a Hint, Dani Brown. New York: Avon Books, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0062941237 | $15.99 USD | 384 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral…

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

In the series

#1 Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Review

5 stars

Take a Hint, Dani Brown is another winner for Talia Hibbert, being just as fabulous as the first book in her Brown Sisters series, if not even better. Once again, she has created two dynamic, sympathetic lead characters that shatter stereotypes. 

Dani is bisexual, sex-positive, and academically driven, and I love her for it. I admired her drive to succeed in her field, even at the expense of romance and personal happiness, and loved watching all her plans in that regard slowly unravel as her plans for no-strings-attached sex turned to more. 

And Zaf…I’ve love that he’s another in the recent trend of fictional men who love romance novels, especially his reasoning for it as providing hope for a happy ending that he very much needed in the wake of losing loved ones years ago. And I could also relate to his struggles with anxiety and his description of how it manifests, and I loved seeing such compassionate representation of that on the page. 

And even while delving into tough topics, Hibbert is also laugh-out-loud funny at times. The inciting incident being a viral moment where Zaf saves Dani from an elevator, the inclusion of social media to document the momentary obsession with #DrRugbae had me in stitches, as did Zaf and Dani’s friendly banter. 

Seeing Red and Chloe again (albeit briefly), and getting a cheeky reference to their auspicious first meeting was also a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Eve. 

This book is a ton of fun, and I loved every moment of it. If you love contemporary romance, you won’t want to miss this one! 

Author Bio

Talia Hibbert is a USA Today bestselliing author who lives in a bedroom full of books. Supposedly, there is a world beyond that room, but she has yet to drum up enough interest to investigate.

She writes sexy, diverse romance because she believes that people of marginalised identities need honest and positive representation. Her interests include beauty, junk food, and unnecessary sarcasm. She also rambles intermittently about the romance genre online.

Talia self-publishes via Nixon House and is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary.

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Review of “The Do-Over” by Jennifer Honeybourn

Honeybourn, Jennifer. The Do-Over. New York: Swoon Reads, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1250194688 | $18.99 USD | 240 pages | YA Contemporary Romance

Blurb

In The Do-Over, a teenage girl gets the chance to redo her past in this smart and charming YA novel by the author of When Life Gives You Demons, Jennifer Honeybourn.

Emelia has always wanted to fit in with the A crowd. So, when Ben, the hottest guy in school, asks her out, she chooses him over Alistair, her best friend—even after he confesses his feelings to her.

Six months later, Emilia wonders how her life would have been different if she’d chosen Alistair instead. Haunted by her mistake, she finds a magical solution that promises to rectify the past. As a result, everything in her life is different.

Different, but not better.

What happens if her second chance is her only chance to make things right?

Review

4 stars

The Do-Over feels reminiscent of a lot of the fun teen rom-coms, notably 13 Going On 30. I also felt it had some slight vibes of the more recent Isn’t It Romantic, but for the teen set. It’s fairly predictable, in the sense that the moral is to “be careful what you wish for,” but the story also provides some comfort in that predictability, particularly when things fall into place at the end. 

Emilia isn’t always likable…she makes bad, self-serving  choices, and that’s the whole reason for wanting to do things over to begin with. But on some level I could still identify with her, as I remember what things were like for me at her age and not really belonging. 

I love her relationship with her friend-turned-love-interest, Alistair, and how they complement each other. I wish the plot had allowed for more exploration of their relationship, instead of her figuring out how to make things right with him when things kept going wrong, but I understand why.

This is fairly cute, but I do think this is a book that is solely for teen readers going through this stuff right now, and I don’t think it should be critiqued too harshly for accurately suiting the audience it’s meant for. 

Author Bio

Jennifer Honeybourn works in corporate communications in Vancouver, British Columbia. She’s a fan of British accents, Broadway musicals, and epic, happily-ever-after love stories. If she could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, she’d have high tea with Walt Disney, JK Rowling, and her nana. She lives with her husband, daughter and cat in a house filled with books. WESLEY JAMES RUINED MY LIFE is her first novel.

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