Q: who’s an underrated historical romance author you rec?
I’m a big fan of Grace Burrowes:
Unconventional, sex-positive characters.
An understated Downtown Abbey-esque style—gentle tones used to convey some tough love, insults, & drama!
Secrets! & some familial discord but the characters also possess an unbending sense of integrity & loyalty.
The Truth about Dukes focuses on Robert, a duke living with epilepsy who has decided to return to his rightful societal place.
As a child, after experiencing epileptic episodes, Robert was sent to live in a mental asylum by his father & the assumption was that he was dead. After his brother rescued him Robert spent years in his home, anxious of many things related to his terrible asylum experience.
Now, forced to act like a Duke, Robert finds an old ally, Lady Constance Wentworth, who once left her family for reasons unknown so she could be a maid at the aforementioned asylum. They had a friendship, an allyship, then but haven’t spoken since.
Like with her other books I’ve read, the love story here is touching & tender & gives me those awww feelings. Because Burrowes writes imperfect characters, her romances often feel real & approachable.
Robert & Constance are two ships on storm-wrecked seas & I love how they latch onto each other. They’re able to reveal their vulnerabilities with one another & it’s truly beautiful to me.
I did feel like there are some execution issues with this romance though, particularly some aspects of the plot & characterization that feel rushed.
Be aware too that this book is tackling the subject of how people in the 19th century might have viewed someone with epilepsy, & the reactions to Robert & his episodes are often callous, insensitive, &/or cruel, both outside of the leads’ families & within.
With TTaD Burrowes offers another beautiful tale of two characters falling in love—it’s just that some aspects of how the tale unfold don’t quite hold up for me.
the heroine felt like she had to give up her illegitimate daughter for adoption years earlier. Veiled references to the heroine’s background, including things her violent father did & forced his children to do.]
3.5 ⭐️. The Truth about Dukes releases on 11/10. Thanks to Netgalley, Forever Pub, & Grand Central Pub for the complimentary ARC (and the latter two for the finished copy, too.) All opinions provided are my own.
I love how the authors Christina Lauren surprise us from book to book—from the contemplative, heart wrenching Love and Other Words to the face-sweating heat of Beautiful Bastard.
In the case of their newest release In a Holidaze, I was once again impressed by their versatility but unfortunately didn’t fall for the love story.
After an inebriated make-out session with a friend who just happens to be the brother of the man she’s had unrequited feelings for for years, Maelyn Jones asks the universe to “show me what will make me happy.”
The universe decides to make her relive her Christmas vacation, the one her family does every year with her parents’s college friends & their kids, including Theo, the aforementioned friend she kissed, & Andrew, his brother & the man she’s harbored romantic feelings for.
The question becomes: what does Mae’s happy life look like? & who is front & center in it?
Though this romance shares a basic premise with the movie Groundhog Day it feels fresh & entertaining in Christina Lauren’s hands, peppered with approachable wry & sometimes crass humor.
Mae’s a likeable heroine—she goes on a fun evolution from someone who, in her words, tries to be so careful to someone who isn’t afraid to upset the balance a bit.
Where the book falls short for me is with the brothers, both of whom come off as rather one-note for me. The brother her heart ends up truly desiring feels too perfect; I couldn’t get a sense of his flaws or that Mae could see any, & that veered a little too close to putting-him-on-a-pedestal-adoration for me.
After a sustained period of not warming to him, I couldn’t fully relax into their romance, a sensation that was made more unsettling by the unpredictability of the time travel plot itself.
With that being said, I like this book: it’s sweet, sexy, and funny. The premise is great & the writing is warm & cozy. The romance just doesn’t rock my (holiday) socks off.
3.5⭐️. In a Holidaze is available now. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: have you ever named your car?
Ok. This book is adorable.
Carter Ramsey’s an injured MLB player who’s about to be named Man of the Year. When he succumbs to peer pressure from his twin & travels to his hometown of Haven for their high school reunion, he never imagines that the first person he’ll run into at his temporary lodgings will be his former lab partner, Olive Dunn.
Everyone loves Olive. She’s capable, confident, & never met a problem she didn’t cut off at the knees. She’s also a whirlwind of energy & when she sweeps into Carter’s life—literally repeatedly barging into his home or imposing on his plans—he’s not prepared to like her. A lot.
Feelings happen, but Carter’s got a secret he’s only confided in Olive. He’s also home to *possibly* reunite with the other half of his golden high school coupledom (don’t worry about a real love triangle here!)
Yours to Keep is a consistently funny (I know, I know, does that even mean anything in reviews anymore?!), steamy read with a lot of heart. Both leads are genuinely nice people & I always love that when happens. Especially when one nice person is really drawn to another nice person & then they kiss.
Layne offers a friends to lovers story that I think will appeal to a lot of people—a pro baseball player + a high school biology teacher who seems confident in most ways, insecure in others—& she writes the ending of the book (the chapter before the epilogue) in a way that feels hopeful for their relationship but that doesn’t make either one of them entirely sacrifice their personal aspirations. & the Epilogue is 🏻.
There are some aspects of the romance that I think could have been expanded on throughout the book—like the storyline with his former high school girlfriend, which feels a little flimsy for me. Also the ending, which doesn’t seem to have as much introspection or reflection as I’d like.
But I definitely recommend Lauren Layne’s Yours to Keep for a lighthearted small town romance that kept me smiling.
4⭐️. Yours to Keep is available now. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
🤩 Q: do you like the brother’s best friend trope?
I’m the oldest of my siblings & I always wanted an older brother. The idea of a big brother’s best friend wasn’t even on my radar then but now—I’m very happily married but I really like the trope 🤣.
Emma Salah’s Dirty Tactics puts a spin on it. The hero & heroine have known each other since adolescence & have secretly had feelings for each other since then. Before the book begins they’ve kissed a couple of times—once recently—& our heroine Reagan wants more but the hero Zac says no.
She’s going to make him want her. He wants to make her lose interest. Which one will win?
It took me some time to warm to Zac. Sometimes he comes across as have my cake & eat it too. But at least Reagan is aware of what a dick he occasionally is.
And let’s talk about Reagan for a sec. A sports agent who has to fight for her career, she pursues what she wants when it comes to Zac, too.
The family dynamics in this read are thoughtfully complicated & Zac’s inner conflict feels realistic. Zac wasn’t always my fave but he has a lot of work to do & by the end he understands & embraces that.
Dirty Tactics is steamy! & the heroine is a go-getter & that’s a thrilling combo in my book. Just check out the content warning before you dive in.
Past abuse of hero & his mom. The hero deals with fallout with both parents on the page.
Dirty Tactics is available now. Thanks to Carina Press & Netgalley for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
There are some writers who really get the emotional stuff—who open up their characters & reveal the intricacies of what makes them human: fallible & lovable—and Jenny Holiday is one of them.
Like @b.andherbooks noted, Paradise Cove is a pretty emotionally devastating romance. It’s also touching, sexy as hell, & hopeful.
Physician Nora just temporarily re-located to Moonflower Bay. Almost immediately she meets the handsome, dependable Jake Ramsey, who’s still reeling from his infant son’s death & his subsequent divorce years earlier—& who doesn’t want to get past the former event at all.
Eventually & beautifully Nora & Jake become friends & then BFFs...even if the whole town is shocked by that development. And somewhere along the way they start sleeping together, both of them asserting that it’s sex & friendship only.
Jake & Nora are truly admirable characters who give so much of themselves to others. If Fixer men is your kink then you’ll love Jake and if competence porn is your thing you’ll love both leads. The chemistry between them is hot & take no prisoners, & their friendship gives me all the warm fuzzies.
Holiday’s taken on a huge project with this book, incorporating grief on and off the page, & it feels nuanced & sincere. But I did feel like some of the big moments in Nora and Jake’s relationship—how they come together, how they break part, & reconnect—kinda feel like whimpers in some ways instead of having the full emotional effect I would like. That’s maybe because the grief they’re dealing with, that Jake in particular is so ravaged by, is so tremendous & understandably has a huge effect on any entanglements he has with others.
Paradise Cove is a stunning entry to Jenny Holiday’s Matchmaker Bay series. Maybe most of all, I’m just glad to see this couple get their HEA.
death of child (off page); death of grandparent (on page); heroine cheated on by former partner (off page)
Paradise Cove is out on 07/28. Thanks to Netgalley & Forever Publishing & Grand Central Publishing for my complimentary e-ARC & the latter two for my finished print copy; all opinions provided are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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