Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
With Ashley Herring Blake’s Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail we’re back with the same magnetic, loving, boisterous & balanced friend group, this time watching Astrid—who feels an imperative to always seem calm, cool, & collected—take on the renovation of a beloved inn before the eyes of the inn’s family members, a tv crew…& as always, her overbearing mother.
Also before the eyes of carpenter Jordan Everwood, the same woman who Astrid had a nasty moment with at the end of Delilah’s book & the beginning of her own, about some spilled coffee & her power dress.
Astrid isn’t someone who is open easily—we see that even with her close circle—& it’s lovely watching her find that safe place to land with the person who she started off so antagonistically with.
Jordan, too, needs that safe place.
As always, my heart cheered for two people finding a home & a refuge with each other, especially when I can relate to one of them in some way (hello self-consciousnesses & fear of failure etc. it’s nice to see you again ).
This book has an interesting tension that strikes at the heart of what both women desire for themselves, heart-grabbing backstories about growing up & in the present, trying to wrestle back an identity & purpose for themselves, & that aforementioned wonderful group of friends.
The “villain” in this story feels a bit obvious & I would have liked a bigger conclusion to that whole storyline, but on the whole, this is another emotional, powerful, sensual read with a great group of characters. Can’t wait for Iris’s book!
4.5⭐️. Out 11/22.
CWs: mother’s manipulation & overbearingness, & there’s a reference to her homophobia. Jordan’s ex wife had cancer & left her soon after learning she was in remission.
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own
Is it possible to fall in love with someone in one magical day, Alison Cochrun’s Kiss Her Once For Me poses. I don’t know about IRL but this book made me feel it, you all.
From the beauty of the writing, to the romantic story that swept me off my feet, to the humor of this magical family & couple together, & just overall the evocativeness of the settings & the emotions. Bam. Total heart engagement.
Last Christmas Eve artist & animator Ellie gave aspiring bakery owner Jack her heart after meeting on a day of random snow when most of the city was shut down. The very next day Jack gave it away.
One year later Ellie has the chance to ask Jack about it all when she inadvertently poses as Jack’s brother’s fiancée at a family Christmas get together.
So Ellie is fake engaged to Jack’s brother & the stakes for all of them are big. Especially since she feels like she can’t tell Jack that the engagement is fake.
There’s demisexual rep, anxiety rep, a big whopping second chance, some deception & a grovel, & a lovely lovely story about two people finding their person.
There’s only one thing/s that bothered me *dun dun dun*. That would be the conflict. I felt like one of the leads was a bit hypocritical—or maybe just not as understanding I thought they could be—but I was the only person who thought this . All of the characters are firmly on the side of one person so YMMV .
But three cheers for beautiful romances that make me feel the love & the wonder of love & snow days.
4.5⭐️. Out 11/01.
CWs: emotionally manipulative mom; absent dads & in one case, infidelity. Jack is married when they first hook up & she doesn’t tell Ellie this.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary e-ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I’ve been dipping my toes into holiday romance novels so to speak & Helena Greer’s Season of Love has some winning qualities but ultimately falls somewhat flat for me.
Miriam Blum is an antique upcycler who’s estranged from most of her family, including her horrible father, her mother who remains married to him, & the beloved aunt who owned the one place she felt totally comfortable, a Christmas tree farm.
At the beginning of the book Miriam’s aunt has passed & Miriam’s going to return to that farm after many years away to sit shiva. Back to the other people she loved but hasn’t had a meaningful relationship with in years, including a cousin.
But there’s a new person living on the farm, Noelle Northwood, who immediately dislikes Miriam, & Miriam’s time at home is complicated by the presence of this person who doesn’t like her but whom she’s attracted to.
There’s a lot to appreciate about this Queer romance, including Jewish rep, romantic moments on the ice, & how Miriam finds her way back home & to an old artistic love.
But in general, I wasn’t a huge fan of Noelle (whose brashness & personality might feel authentic in some ways but also gets a little off putting for me in moments) and a secondary storyline which is a little puzzling at times. Also, a lot seems to happen to Miriam personally & professionally & it’s a little unsettling how quickly it did.
Overall, there’s potential here & I can see a lot of people relating to & enjoying this sweet romance, but it didn’t really work for me.
3 ⭐️. Out 10/11.
CWs: Noelle has a tattoo of “deadly women” including Lizzie Borden & I just found that choice a bit odd. Death in the family. Difficult relationship with mother & father. Noelle is a recovering alcoholic and was drinking as a youth. Dad destroyed her paintings.
Thanks to the author for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Somewhere there’s a bar called Moonies where people can drink, sing karaoke, & fall in love…
In this latest novella in Anita Kelly’s Moonlighters series, Wherever Is Your Heart, MCs Mal & June build a long-building slow fire into something bigger & lasting.
As Anita Kelly tweeted last week, this book is “a quiet tribute to mutual pining, soft butches, growing old, & taking a chance during Pride. (Doesn’t that sound amazing?)
This book is so good. The writing is gorgeous & feels real (that’s a description that might not mean anything specific to you but it feels like something particular to me 😆) & it’s often funny.
I love the pacing, how Anita relays info about Mal and June’s long history, & the idea of a simple road trip that’s actually a momentous step/moment for two people.
This whole novella is soft but packs a punch.
5 ⭐️. Out now.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Francesca May’s Wild and Wicked Things is a dark, engrossing story where magic is both something that’s craved & feared…if you’re smart.
It’s set in the years immediately after magic helped ravage soldiers in war & opens with protagonist Annie going to Crow Island, where the father who left her & her mother lived & died.
As the blurb mentions Annie’s soon fascinated by her neighbor Emmeline, a rumored witch who seems to know Annie’s estranged best friend Bea—also on the island & newly married.
Basically this is a twisting, twisted book that’s quite dark but also has hope, found family, & love too. I’ll be honest—some of the discussions of magic confused me (like it’s premise within the book 🥴) but the setting & the plot-points are compelling & entertaining to watch unfold. As is the complex characterization (though I didn’t really find a lot to grab onto with Bea).
This book isn’t for the faint of heart, really. It is scary & gory in spots 😆. But the Sapphic representation, the sense of danger & recklessness, of throwing off weight & enjoying oneself, are all winning.
4 ⭐️. Release date: 03/29
Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: what percentage of your reading would you characterize as fantasy?
I knew from the first pages of Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, as a pyre was lit for women to be sacrificed on & one woman refused it, that I had stepped into an engrossing & also unsettling book.
Featuring complicated women walking the line between personal survival & wants & what will be best for their people, who are looking to the future even as they feel the weight of their fiery pasts, The Jasmine Throne has a lot to offer readers of fantasy.
In Ahiranyi, an imperial city state of the Parijatdvipa empire, many of the Ahiranyi suffer from poverty & a rot that affects the body. Tensions remain high between Ahiranyi & Parijatdvipa & as the characters are aware, the fact that the Emperor sends his sister, the princess, to be imprisoned there likely won’t help matters.
A maidservant, Priya, is assigned to help the princess Malini. But what Priya doesn’t know is that while the princess is at the mercy of her brother & his whims to some degree, to his fanatic obsession with female purity, Malini is also a master of emotional manipulation. It’s how she’s survived.
& what Malini doesn’t know about her new maidservant is the details of Priya’s past in their prison, where she once lived with Elders & brothers & sisters. What she’s capable of & will be capable of in the future.
Told from many different perspectives, TJT shows how people can be motivated by different reasons for the same things or even just be comfortable working together for different ends. The political machinations are fascinating, & it’s captivating & disturbing to see how far Malini in particular is willing to go.
The portrayal of women is hard-hitting & what it says about women & purpose & desires is particularly moving.
Weighty in page numbers & tone, this read will stay with me for a while & defies my attempt to succinctly describe it in a book review.
4.5 ⭐️. Release date: 06/08.
Give me that HEA, please.
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