It’s not rare to read stories of costars who start canoodling off-stage too. But that’s exactly the kind of press coverage Jasmine Lin and Ashton Suarez, leads of a new telenovela being developed by a Netflix-like company, want to avoid in Alexis Daria’s You Had Me at Hola.
Jasmine’s become prime paparazzi fodder after her rockstar bf cheats on her and unceremoniously dumps her. Recently she created a list of rules for turning herself into a Leading Lady. And Ashton’s got a secret life away from the cameras he’d do anything to protect.
Though their relationship starts off inauspiciously, for both of them their new show Carmen in Charge is a way to take their careers to the next level.
But what happens when chemistry & attraction start to outweigh their logical plans? I bet you can guess 🤣.
There’s so much about this romance that had me singing:
⭐️ Two leads who are emotionally soft with each other & genuinely good people.
⭐️ A family-centric romance novel.
⭐️ The breakthroughs Jasmine & Ashton have.
⭐️How much Latinx culture is part of this book. Latinx culture feels joyously incorporated in the romance itself—and as Jasmine and Ashton say, it’s great to see it as central to the decision of the cast and script for the telenovela they’re both starring in.
But when kissing starts happening and a big secret is still kept I literally wrote in my notes “I hope the grovel is freaking huge”...and I was kinda disappointed. Yes the characters are emotionally mature and yes one of them makes a big gesture but I personally feel like the grovel level doesn’t meet the level of the offense appropriately.
(And also like part of Jasmine’s storyline feels somewhat rushed.)
While the ending’s a bit of a letdown for me, I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it. I’m always on board for an engaging, sexy smooch-fest of a book with two people-not-looking-for-love but finding-it-anyway. Check it out!
You Had Me at Holais available 08/04. Thanks to Avon & Edelweiss for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Chloe Sanderson didn’t want her best friend Annie to write a screenplay based off the IRL pizazz she has with her boss, Nick Velez. But now the play’s becoming a movie and everyone’s wondering if she and Nick are a thing. With real romantic feelings.
Definitely not her, though.
If you like fun and funny romance, I highly recommend Kerry Winfrey’s Not Like the Movies. I don’t know what I looked like when I read this one but on the inside I was very smiley.
Like a good trope? This one has some one bed, some I’m sick-and-he-came-to-take-care-of-me, and even a vague love triangle that’s obviously not going anywhere (the only kind I can handle). Also some workplace romance and opposites attract. It’s a plethora of tropes that Winfrey seemingly joyously plays with.
Chloe’s a queen of kindness, a huge fan of yacht rock, and a devotee of pie—she’s also coping with some big stuff like her father slowly losing his memory due to Alzheimer’s. She has a lot to work through in order to accept a HEA and the book’s pretty one-sided in that it’s her perspective and mostly her fears, wants, and needs.
That’s not a bad thing, though there were times I wanted to hear from Nick some more. He’s a patient love interest who likes Bon Iver and also pushes back when he needs to (huzzah, Nick!). He also adores Chloe with every cell of his body and that’s obvious even when they’re arguing over music. Not Like the Movies covers some heavy topics but if you want something snappy and effervescent—if you want to finish something and think “that was cute!” with gusto—it could be for you.
Thanks to Berkley & Edelweiss for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Tropes: childhood friends to enemies to lovers; redemption; GROVEL
Q: what romance novel offers the best grovel?
If you want supreme grovel—supreme—then you probably want to check out Sarah MacLean’s Daring and the Duke, the last in her Bareknuckle Bastard series. This bodacious beauty of a romance focuses on Ewan, the mad duke of Marwick, (remember him?, she asks casually, the man who tried to *kill* the leads in previous books?!) and Grace, a proprietress and warrior-Queen of Covent Garden who uses her scarf as a weapon 🏻 and who was his first (and only!) love.
I’m going to keep this review pretty short because I feel like I don’t have a lot to add to the convo. Things that give me the good shivers: some serious swoonworthy lines (yowsers 🥵); equal opportunity grunting 🤣; an ending that’s lushly, boldly cinematic ; and fantastic consideration of women and choice and pleasure (the book uses those words btw, so it’s a very deliberate consideration.) Let’s not forget the groveling, which happens over and over again because dude has some big things to apologize for and explain.
This is what I wasn’t expecting: how funny Daring and the Duke is. Devil and Whit make the hottest Greek chorus.
Everything about this book works for me.
But I do think that it would be best to have the previous books fresh in your mind because you need to be recently emotionally devastated by what Ewan did and how it affects other leads in the series—people we care about. I didn’t do that, and the redemption arc felt a teeny tiny bit less impactful as as a result.
What a grand series. I mean, really.
Daring and the Duke is out today. Thanks to Avon and Edelweiss Plus for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what’s one of your favorite places to travel to?
Adriana Herrera’s Finding Joy is the sweetest little treat and then BAM it’s dirty and steamy and . That’s the combo that makes my world go round. Add to that two characters who truly connect on an emotional level & an immersive journey into Ethiopian culture & you can see why I’m smitten.
American Desta Joy returns to Ethiopia—the place where he spent part of his childhood & that’s very special to his family—determined to help others & decide his next step. Soon after he meets the handsome, strapping, & delightfully kind man who’ll be the driver & logistics coordinator on their aid surveys: Elias.
The chemistry between Desta & Elias is immediate. There are some friend feelings & eventually the revelation of some mutual less platonic inclinations. But neither man can be fully who he is or romantically with who he’d like to be with in Ethiopia, something Elias has long been all too aware of.
I loved this book. Finding Joy is romantic and sexy. It also takes on topics like misogyny, the effects of Occupation, & racism because that’s what Desta and Elias are passionate about. Other incorporated subjects include music & YA lit & Ethiopian history & food. It makes for a delectable romance.
My only quibble is that sometimes Finding Joy seems to do more telling rather than showing, but that didn’t bother me so much because while it’s DEFINITELY A ROMANCE, it also feels so travelogue-ish.
This is a beautiful story. It’s also a love song to Ethiopia and to being who you are, loving who you want to love.
Finding Joyis out now. Thanks to the author for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’m a Tessa Bailey super-fan so I was so excited to join the blog tour for her latest PNR release This Time Tomorrow. Check out my review below!
This Time Tomorrow, an all-new enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance with all the steam by New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey is available now!
Roksana, heiress to the vampire slayer throne, has performance anxiety.
She’s supposed to kill Elias, but so far she’s only succeeded in maxing out his credit card. Now her failure to stake the brooding vampire has sent her back to Moscow in disgrace to face her mother’s wrath. Expecting punishment by death, she’s given a rare reprieve. She now has three tasks to complete, the last of which is to finally kill Elias. She will not fail this time.
If only the memories of one magical evening—back when Elias was human—would stop holding her back. He claims to have forgotten that night. Why can’t she?
Three years ago, Elias was a SWAT team member on a guy’s weekend in Vegas. Playing poker and minding his own business, his life changed forever when a captivating blonde strolled past his table in a light-up bra. He followed Roksana as if compelled, his very bones demanding he do so, his soul resonating with the belief she would be important to him. Always. That turned out to be a vast understatement—and nothing has changed.
Roksana embarks on her mission, determined to win back her mother’s approval, but when an astonishing truth emerges in the eleventh hour, will her stake pierce the very heart that beats in her honor? Or will love triumph over duty? This Time Tomorrow, an all-new enemies-to-lovers paranormal romance with all the steam by New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey is available now!
trope: Enemies to lovers
After seeing the beautifully hot & twisted I-want-to-kiss-your-face-off but also I’m-supposed-to-slay-you vibes between vampire slayer Roksana & vampire Elias in Born Yesterday, I couldn’t wait to see what exploded between them in This Time Tomorrow.
As always, Tessa Bailey brings the heat & it’s so so satisfying. This couple's immediately drawn to each other and it’s evident that they belong together despite the big obstacles, & I do mean big, standing in their way. But as much as I love the intensity of Roksana and Elias’s physical & emotional connection, I also have a few reservations about the book.
I think the biggest issue for me is just trying to reckon with their dynamic. Roksana believes that Elias is at least partly responsible for the vampire-murder of her friends but she’s also attracted to him & won’t kill him, despite the fact that her mother has tasked her with doing so. While I can appreciate the complexity of this on paper, her response to him doesn’t seem fully & clearly developed in its narrative execution.
A couple other things that didn’t work so much for me are how dramatic this book is—while I usually love the drama of Tessa Bailey books this one kinda takes it to another level— and how the flashbacks are integrated into the overall story.
There’s so much that I love about Tessa Bailey’s writing—Alpha Alphas, magnetic, animal attraction, the absolute devotion the hero has for the heroine, how beautifully the hero and heroine understand the secret parts of each other, & the sheer boldness of her work (I love how brave she is in going for it)—and all of that’s definitely here.
But unfortunately elements of This Time Tomorrow feel inconsistent to me. I’ve seen lots of people love this one but it just isn’t my fave (ask me what that is if you’re interested. I’ll say it again: Tessa Bailey super-fan here! ).
murder of friends; Elias, a SWAT team member, has killed people in his job.
3⭐️. Thanks to Social Butterfly PR for my complimentary ARC & the provided promotional materials. All opinions provided are my own.
“Beers on me later,” Elias muttered, keeping his attention on the cards. “You can ask me whatever you want…”
He trailed off, that scrape between his shoulder blades growing more pronounced, until he couldn’t concentrate enough to decipher the suits of his cards. What the hell was going on? Throat dry, he laid down his hand and turned in his chair--
Silence fell around him when he saw her.
She was golden. Radiant.
The long-legged blonde limped through the casino with a beautiful pout on her face, a pair of high heels shoved under one arm. There was a fine sheen of dew on her incredible face, telling Elias she’d just escaped the stifling Vegas heat. Simply by existing, she commanded fealty and the casino seemed to part around her like the Red Sea, creating a path for her to complete a wobbly strut toward Elias’s poker table—and the closer she came, the more his lungs compressed, as if he was running out of fucking oxygen.
Who is she?
No idea. But the discomfort between his shoulder blades was gone.
Like a balm had been applied.
The girl was beyond gorgeous. He’d never noticed cheekbones on anyone in his life, but he noticed her high ones. The indigo blue of her eyes. And Jesus, he definitely noticed the way her soft mutterings made his heart flop over. Who are you?
Vaguely, he heard Latte ribbing him. “Bet you’d call her back, huh, Silent E?”
“Forget what I said about him being mysterious,” Kenny quipped. “Everything he’s thinking is right there on his face.”
More laughter. But the buzzing in his skull was already drowning them out.
Elias watched the blonde’s high heel fall out of her arms and flop sideways on the casino floor. He was on his feet before it stopped moving, abandoning his hand at the table without a thought so he could scoop up the shoe and follow. He didn’t have a choice in the matter. Going after her was a requirement, searing him, compelling him.
And a moment later, when she looked up at him from her seat at a slot machine, his world righted itself with a grinding snap. He hadn’t even known it was off kilter.
The blonde crossed her impossibly sexy legs and his body reacted swiftly, hardening. “Well?” she said in a husky Russian accent. “Make it good. I only have five minutes before I wreak the havoc.”
Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.
Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the workforce as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.
She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eleven years and seven-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.
🎳 Q: bowling is an important activity in this romance. How do you feel about bowling? Are you good? Awful?
🥵🥵🥵. Okay, sorry, had to get that string of emoji out of the way first. How do I always forget how perfectly dirty Joanna Shupe’s books are?! It’s inexcusable!
The Devil of Downtown is Shupe’s latest foray into the Gilded Age and it’s basically a treasure trove of some of my favorite things.
⭐️ A romance between a criminal kingpin and a “do-gooder.”
⭐️ A hero who is turned on by the “stern” tones of the heroine. In this case, said criminal kingpin is absolutely infatuated with do-gooder’s “brass ones” because she refuses to be cowed by him, the man they all fear.
⭐️ Steam, steam, steam!
⭐️ An aggressive, ruthless hero who is squishy soft on the inside BUT ONLY for the heroine and a philanthropic heroine who is hard as steel—as the hero notes on several occasions. She’s ambitious (for the sake of others) and not willing to ultimately compromise herself, even for him. The Devil of Downtown feels luxuriously enjoyable and it’s not without some commentary on deserting husbands and the police, too. I absolutely love the dynamic between the hero Jack and heroine Justine—I imagine him continually internally gaping at how unimpressed she is by his efforts to intimidate.
I have two quibbles, though. One is part of the ending, which I don’t want to get into because of spoilers. And the second, which makes me sound like a bad person, is that for a little while Justine only enjoys helping people (no hobbies, Justine?), and that can come across as a little one dimensional. But then she likes helping people, bowling, *and* being intimate with the most powerful criminal leader in Manhattan so 👍🏻, I’ll allow it 🤣. .
This is a fantastic historical and I loved every second of it.
The Devil of Downtownis out on 06/30. Thanks to Avon Publishing and Netgalley for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
All the praise hands to books that make us happy during this time and Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material is one of them for me. I love this book so and it’s going on my shelves as soon as I can get my grabby hands on it.
Luc is the son of two 80s rockers, one of whom abandoned him when he was 3. As a minor celebrity he garners his fair share of paparazzi coverage & it’s always negative. But one particular article puts his job at a charity in jeopardy & to save it he asks an uptight barrister with a good reputation to be his fake boyfriend.
Oliver is said barrister. And *be still my heart* because I am a fiend for an uptight hero. You know the type: they’re so proper and often seen as stiff, condescending, & judgmental (and sometimes they are!) but they’re also—at least in Oliver’s case—protective & loving & find it difficult to express their feelings. Ahhhhh!
I’d also like to take this opportunity to say that Luc is *not* uptight but he is so yearning & he loves his mother; he’s often snarky & not always the nicest, even to his friends, but he has a big heart & does some hard emotional work & deserves a million Oliver snuggles, okay?!
Boyfriend Material is so so so funny and Alexis Hall’s portrayal of friendship is divine. I love when friends are loving & supportive and also not 100% perfect. Even the loveliest of friends don’t always say or do the right things (and can sometimes push on our bruises unintentionally). But they can also read your heart & accompany you on road trips so you can chase your heart’s desire.
As funny as this book is it’s also not afraid to explore hurt and insecurity, but in a way that didn’t leave me feeling emotionally devastated.
In closing I’d like to say again: I love this book so much. I do wish there had been a (totally) on the page love scene and an Epilogue because as a previous review established, my soul is thirsty, but this book is also so wonderful as is & I would like to hug Luc and Oliver forever.
Boyfriend Materialis out on 07/07. Thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: when you get mad, do you really lay into someone or do you cry? Or both/neither?
In Farrah Rochon’s The Boyfriend Project, Samiah Brooks and two other women become viral celebrities after the man she’s dating turns out to be dating them all. They resolve to focus on themselves for six months, which as we all know means she will soon find the love of her life.
Samiah’s “love” is Daniel Collins, a “nice guy” who *is* nice and also an agent trying to uncover who at her company is up to nefarious deeds. He can’t reveal who he really is and as they both fall deeper, that becomes more and more of an *uh oh.
Like others have said, the romance between Samiah and Daniel is sweet and sexy and it’s so exciting to see a Black STEM heroine getting her HEA. I love how Samiah opens up to Daniel about the challenges of being a Black woman in her field, especially when, as she says, her name is Samiah and not the “nonethnic name” someone might assume it to be when they see S. Brooks.
My biggest issue with the book is the deception plot itself. Farrah builds up Daniel’s self-torment and moral dilemma so beautifully that I was kinda taken aback by what happened (and how), especially given how much Samiah’s talked to Daniel about how important her job is. The grovel feels so good in some ways and a little insufficient to me in one regard—but honestly, that might be a me thing.
All things considered, I really enjoyed this take on a STEM heroine who’s kicking butt and taking names, about to set the tech world on fire (how many cliches can I use here?), and living her best margarita and friend life. (The answer is three).
The Boyfriend Project is available now. Thanks to Forever Pub, Grand Central Pub, and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
4.5⭐️. Enemies to lovers, road trip, opposites attract.
Q: what’s your favorite game?
Here’s what we have: a cross-country trek to a game tournament between two men who are competitors & heavily dislike the other (and also look like Armie Hammer and Kit Harington. This is just speculation but let a girl live). What could possibly go wrong—and right (kissing, kissing, kissing!)? Annabeth Albert’s Conventionally Yours is delightful & I adored it. Told from dual perspectives, we get to see where Conrad (handsome, brawny, “Disney-hero”-like) and Alden (good with kids but seemingly awkward/grumpy/reserved with most adults, cute) assume or see the worst in each other. We also the moments when they start picking up on the fact that no, the other person is not the worst person ever. They’re actually pretty cute.
Albert compellingly sketches the conflicts both characters are facing in their families & shows how both they’re moved to meet the challenges facing them. I especially love how Albert portrays Alden’s neurodiversity and his anxiety, which sometimes makes him snap at other people. (<— me. It’s hard to explain how worrying about something irrational can lead to you being mean to someone cute in your vicinity but if you have anxiety, you get it, I think).
The romance between Conrad & Alden is low-angst though still high stakes because I wanted both leads to admit IMMEDIATELY that they loved each other and that—thank God for the sake of the story—didn’t happen right away.
I will admit that my thirsty soul wanted more steam on the page but Thirsty Soul was appeased by the slow burn and all the ways Conrad and Alden are sweet to each other.
This book is great. I’ll take four more like it, please.
outing not by choice, subsequently cut off by parents
Conventionally Yours is available now. Thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what kind of shifter romances do you read the most of? Mine would be wolf!
Ravyn’s sure that someone’s following her.
Drakon Steele Ezo’s drawn to the human Ravyn against his will. His dreams indicate that she’s also the next being he should turn over to the Reaper. They have no future together but he will protect her.
I really enjoyed my first A.C. Arthur book. The world-building in Claim the Dragon is intricate and also so cool, incorporating details from various realms Arthur created and parts of African history. It’s steamy; both characters are driven to protect and provide for others (I love noble characters + kissing!); and Ravyn DOES NOT immediately trust Steele because he tells her some things and I appreciate the hell out of that because *stranger danger.
What worked less for me is that some parts of the book feel slightly rushed and/or unclear. At times I felt like there needed to be a little more explanation to show A to B. Some transitions between chapters feel like they could be smoother and the ending—and all of its implications for the main characters—seems hurried.
Claim the Dragon is second in the series and I definitely recommend starting with the first, although Arthur takes care to explain things throughout.
While Claim the Dragon falls short for me in some ways execution-wise, the original world-building and great chemistry go a long way for me. I’m so excited to have found this PNR author and really looking forward to seeing where this Drakon team goes next!
Claim the Dragonis out on 06/08. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.