Jenny Holiday, author of this adorable, smack you in the feelings romance, calls it “a Hallmark-style Christmas book” in the Acknowledgments & while I haven’t watched a Hallmark movie before I definitely got some of those isn’t-this-book-cuddly-&-cozy vibes I associate with the genre.
I’m a big fan of Jenny Holiday’s books. They’re emotionally resonant, they’re sexy, & they’re beautifully written. A Princess for Christmas is all of those things: it’s also , super sweet, & it features a working class, kind hero & *these are a few of my fav-o-rite things.*
The Princess of Eldovia, Marie, is in NYC to secure a market for one of her country’s chief exports. While there she unexpectedly has to take a cab driven by our hero, Leo, who has two jobs & is basically living paycheck to paycheck while taking care of his orphaned sister.
The gulf between them is huge, for obvious reasons.
Like I said before Holiday is so skilled at writing emotion. A Princess for Christmas sparkles with feeling. It’s funny, it’s warm, it’s real. Both leads have anxiety; they buy pads for his preteen sister together—>those are just a couple of moments that plucked my heart like a guitar string.
Also the attraction between them is a dream & I love how Leo notices ALL OF THE THINGS about Marie.
In short I love so much about this book. But there are a couple of things that I have reservations about.
First, there’s a loose love triangle plot because Marie is a *princess* & there’s a suitor her father favors. My problem is that I don’t feel like the book is upfront enough with the reader about Marie’s plans with this (ie is she actually engaged? Is she on the way there?), her feelings, if she is in some way possibly acting or feeling inappropriately because of that possible relationship, etc.
The book moves pretty slowly in the steam department so it wasn’t a huge issue; still, I was a little confused about the basics of the potential love triangle for part of the book & when it comes to that trope in particular I don’t want it to be any more complicated/unclear than it needs to be.
Moving on (somewhat), I wanted Marie to take on an even more active role in choosing her future—for growth reasons. And finally, I feel like some logistical aspects of the resolution are rushed.
So in the end this wasn’t a “perfect” read for me. But it was really enjoyable & sweet, with leads who deserve happiness dammit! & we all need more of that.
4⭐️. A Princess for Christmas is out on 10/13. Thanks to Avon Publishing & Edelweiss for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Thanks for joining me on my blog tour stop for Jane Igharo's Ties that Tether!
(For an #ownvoices review, you might check out Jite’s @now_booking. She's one of my favorite reviewers & I appreciated her insights on this book in particular.)
One night Azere Izoduwa acts impulsively & has a one night stand with a handsome stranger. Then she learns that said stranger is her new co-worker. *Then* she learns that she’s pregnant & she’ll have to inform her Nigerian mother (of Edo heritage), a woman who strictly upholds the traditions & behaviors of their old village & demands that Azere do the same, that the father of her illegitimate child is white.
Jane Igharo’s Ties that Tether compellingly & thoughtfully considers Azere’s predicament: after having immigrated to Canada when she was 12, she’s tried to take on aspects of Canadian life & culture while also respecting & honoring her Nigerian history & culture, the latter of which often seems to necessitate that she act in specific ways her parents dictate.
Not only does she feel a need to have her mother’s approval; Azere lives with the deathbed promise she made to her father, to not marry a white man. To make her life & family with an Edo man.
But against these pressures & wants Azere weighs her attraction toward the father of her baby, Rafael Castellano, who grows more enticing.
I really enjoyed this book, how Igharo portrays Azere’s conflict between her family, her own fears about the erasure of Edo culture from her life, & her feelings for Rafael. Also lovely? Writing a hero & heroine who are imperfect but who respect one another, who offer forgiveness & grace to each other.
I was a little less enamored with how quickly their feelings seem to develop for the other, his deception plotline, & a love triangle aspect of the plot which detracts somewhat from the central romance arc for me—although it is nicely related to Azere’s internal conflict.
All things considered, I really enjoyed this debut. Sensitive heroes, sensitively rendered conflicts, characters who grow, plus some steam=a giant yes please.
a difficult labor, including a placenta complication.
3.5⭐️. Ties that Tether is out today. Thanks to Berkley Publishing & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
I didn’t know what to expect pretty much throughout my reading of Rachel Givney’s Jane in Love. Unpredictable, fun, funny, & yet sad at moments too, Jane in Love offers compelling observations about our time & the social conditions Jane Austen might have faced as a woman who wanted to write in her own time—but in terms of execution it doesn’t always work for me.
In 1803 Jane Austen is a spinster who loves to write but can’t share her efforts with her embarrassed family. After she’s rejected by a promising suitor, she seeks help from a witch & tells her she wants love. As a result she’s sent to the 21st century.
Straight to a film set where they’re adapting one of her novels.
Jane immediately meets spoiled & yet likable actress Sophia & soon after, Sophia’s brother Fred Wentworth, who irritates Jane immensely.
Initially believing that Jane is an actress in a candid camera situation, Sophia is eventually won over to believe Jane's time travel tale—with some funny scenes along the way.
Sophia's going to assist Jane in her efforts to return to her own time, but of course complicating everything are Jane’s growing feelings for Fred & her awareness that her lingering time in the 21st century is slowly making her published books disappear.
Givney clearly sketches out the dilemma facing Jane: what she stands to lose & gain no matter what decision she makes.
A standout for me in this book is the sense of voice. Givney writes voice in such a way that I felt as if I knew the characters; they're unique & memorable.
Filled with dry humor, the scenes in which Jane encounters the world of the 21st century & nearly every scene with Sophia are particularly fine. Though it’s not a humorous scene, the pep talk moment between the two women—when Jane coaches Sophia how to act—is written with sensitivity & quite lovely.
But the love story between Jane & Fred lacks subtlety at moments & feels rushed. I want to warn my romance-loving friends that this is not a romance. Setting aside that for a moment, the ending overall also feels hurried to me.
There are moments of Jane in Love that shine, & those moments focus on Jane as a writer & how that relates to social expectations for women, her sense of personhood, & her relationship with Sophia. I was less convinced & enamored with the “in love” part.
3⭐️. Jane in Love is out on 10/27. Thanks to HarperCollins Publishers and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Katie Reus’s romantic suspense & paranormal romance books are reliably sexy & entertaining with adventurous action plots, but unfortunately Deadly Past falls flat for me.
Autumn Perez was Ana Diaz before witnessing someone trying to dump a body. Now she’s living in Verona Bay & a member of WITSEC. After witnessing another crime, a bank robbery, she seeks comfort in the arms of her hot sheriff neighbor, Lincoln Jordan.
But their one night stand turns into a surprise pregnancy situation, made more complicated when someone seems to be threatening Autumn’s safety.
Lincoln’s an alpha who wants Autumn badly; he’s also content to give her space in the hopes that she’ll want something serious with him. I love how he respects her boundaries & how he even sets his own.
Deadly Past *is sexy & I enjoyed the round of secondary characters.
But I have a couple of substantial issues with the book, too. The romance between Lincoln & Autumn just doesn’t feel super believable to me. Instead it seems rushed. I wondered how much they really knew one another, beyond I think one serious convo about their pasts & the fact that they’re having a baby.
I can respect that relationships can & usually do move faster in romantic suspense but something about this one just doesn’t work well for me.
This book also has a lot of dramatic plot points & several of them aren’t related to the main story being told—and honestly, in my reading, distract from it.
Sadly I didn’t love this romance but I’m looking forward to reading a lot more by the author!
2.5⭐️. Deadly Past is out on October 20th. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Bethany Bennett’s Any Rogue Will Do has so much catnip:
A fantastic opening scene where the heroine gets to live out many of our fantasies by lobbing insults at the man (the hero) who wronged her years earlier. Who’s the Paper Doll Princess now, hero?!!! It 👏🏻 is 👏🏻 so 👏🏻 good 👏🏻.
Unforgettable 🔥 scenes. I’ll just leave this here: balcony 🤭🥵.
A “managing” heroine with a strong IDGAF energy tempered by recognition that she has to play the game some to get what she wants.
A huge, brawny hero who was supposed to be a shepherd but unexpectedly became lord. He made bad decisions when he first became titled—see first point—but now he works hard for his people & is prepared to help the heroine out however he can 😉.
In short, this is such a great debut & I was impressed time & time again.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, I’ll say: it’s Tessa Dare-ish; the conflict is thoroughly built up & I love love love how the book explores standards for “ladyhood” & how women are judged for not acting like a Lady & in this heroine’s case—as the hero reveals—for acting like a Lady 🙄. There’s a fake dating situation & frank, open discussions between characters, including about sex. Oh, and a curvy heroine who has such confidence in how the hero responds to her body.
Pick this one up!
Any Rogue Will Do is available on 10/13. I think this is a tiny bit below 5⭐️ for me but I’m rounding up to 5! Thanks to Forever Pub, Grand Central Pub, & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
(Image note re: the paper doll: I printed the “A Regency Lady of Quality Dolls by Helen Page” & then watercolor painted over one bc my color printer ink is gone 🥴.)
A comedy of manners set in India, Diksha Basu’s Destination Wedding is an entertaining portrayal of a large number of nuanced personalities coming together in Delhi for a wedding.
Tina Das, a reality tv show programmer, is the main character of the novel though it frequently switches to different perspectives throughout.
Having lived in the US since she was born but having been “conceived” in India, as she says, Tina has long been aware of the challenges associated with others' responses to her dual heritage & wonders again & again if she could/should live in India.
Traveling to India with her best friend Marianne as well as her parents gives her an opportunity to explore the place her parents are from & the place she visited often as a child.
Filled with moments that are by turns moving & absurd Destination Wedding seems to celebrate humanity. The characters are flawed, they are sometimes selfish and/or oblivious, sometimes unlikable, they show love & care, & they are hopeful.
There’s only a small amount of romance here and what there is isn’t super convincing to me but that’s not the focus of the story as I see it.
Though the switches in perspective are often jarring I also appreciated seeing things from so many different points of view, from Tina & Marianne, to the former’s parents, to the driver, a matchmaker, & more.
The various narrators’s thoughts on wealth, the complexity of India beyond any stereotype, & the complexity of the people in the story, are compelling.
While there are times the book feels a little too glossy to me, I enjoyed it *&* getting to meet characters who feel real to me.
3.5⭐️. Destination Wedding is available now. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Yesterday I had planned on reviewing an incredible dystopian romance but then I read the latest Trump & climate-related headlines & unfortunately saw some loose parallels.
The sad/infuriating truth is that the Trump administration is committing egregious offenses left & right & I see too many people I know & love support him—to say nothing of the people I see at the grocery store or whose yards I drive past.
The ICE-related headlines earlier this week were particularly horrifying.
(Of course I can hate Trump & also have to contend with my own white privilege, which means—as others have said, that I get angry about these things—often without being touched by them personally—& then retreat retreat retreat into something more comfortable.)
This is a book blog/romancestagram account & I will continue to post bookish pics. Like this one. Because these books make me happy & I see so much value in what they have to say.
I agree with what others have noted: the more time I spend reading in this genre the more I think it’s working harder for us than any other.
I’ll also continue to be committed to voting this administration out in November, to examining myself for biases & privilege, to raising kids who do the same, & to supporting AOC & POC in their creative endeavors & in their Human Rights. (& in the latter in particular, I don’t want to oversell myself: I need to *act* much much more instead of just using the words.)
I just wanted to share where I’m at.
I don’t even quite know what to make of Samantha Cohoe’s A Golden Fury. I think I started with certain plot & character expectations & the book kept blowing them up. This made for a reading experience that was both captivating & somewhat disorienting & I didn’t feel like I had quite found my footing until the end.
Beginning in Normandy in 1792, A Golden Fury tells a story centered around alchemy.
Thea has long worked for & with her famous alchemist-mother Marguerite. They’re very close to creating the White Elixir & then hopefully the Philosopher’s Stone when her mother cuts her out of the process & kicks her out of their lab.
Thea has never looked to her mom for kindness but this last betrayal is huge.
On the same night that Thea discovers that her mother has figured out how to create the Elixir & the Stone, her mother seems to have gone mad & tries to murder her.
Out of other options Thea travels to meet the father she’s never met before but not before grabbing some of the White Elixir. She will make the Stone on her & cement her reputation as the foremost alchemist.
But things never go as one hopes...
Inventively plotted & featuring complex characters, A Golden Fury is intriguing. I love the focus on female alchemists, how Thea constantly rises above the narrow expectations men have for her & forges her own way again & again.
This critique likely reveals my own biases, but while I loved that Thea is often unlikeable, there are times that I find her unadmirable & hard to connect to as well. Ditto for most of the other characters, who rarely do “good” things & who live in a world that mostly feels dark & unsettling until the end--which feels a little too hopeful to be entirely believable to me.
(Just to be clear: I don’t have to like and/or admire characters to love a book but in this one the individual characters seem portrayed unevenly & I had a difficult time emotionally connecting to them & to the book itself.)
On balance, I appreciated how unpredictable this book is, how it took me for a thrilling ride that wasn’t afraid to venture into dark territory, but I also didn’t feel overly invested in any of the characters or their fates, & that's a bit of a disappointment to me.
3⭐️. A Golden Fury is available on 10/13. Thanks to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
✨Q: how soon do you write reviews after you’ve finished a book?
🌿 I take notes as I read & usually write the review a week or so later.
I’ve seen so much buzz surrounding Rachel Reid’s enemies to lovers Heated Rivalry that when I had the opportunity to request her latest release I snapped that puppy up.
Common Goal is an age gap romance between an NHL goalie who wants to explore his long-held but never acted upon attraction to men & a younger bartender whose heart is currently preoccupied with having big feelings for a soon-to-be married man.
Eric Bennett, aforementioned goalie, is 40, divorced, & immediately captivated by Kyle Swift, bartender. But Kyle Swift sees the wedding ring Eric hasn’t taken off yet & is fully aware of how being attracted to older men has never worked out for him & decides to stay away.
It turns into a “we’ll go to a bar together & I’ll be your wingman” situation for a little while but luckily for us, Eric & Kyle can’t resist their attraction for one another & kissing commences.
Common Goal is super steamy & that made me 😄. What else did I love? How Eric & Kyle have compatible interests & actually talk about them.
But they also miss a couple of communication opportunities that always seem so easy to me (TELL HIM, the oversharer in me inwardly screams. My life philosophy = better to make someone feel awkward w/ oversharing rather than seem emotionally unavailable 🤣🤣.)
My biggest squabble with Common Goal however is that the resolution feels really rushed.
This was a 3.5⭐️ read for me. There are some things about the plot that I didn’t jump up & down for but I’m really excited to dive into Rachel Reid’s catalog. What I liked about her writing I really liked.
Common Goal is out 09/21. Thanks to Netgalley & Carina Press for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
It's release day for Mira Lyn Kelly's Dirty Rebound! Read on for a summary & review of this fun & flirty friends to lovers romance!
I care too much about Cammy Wesley to marry her…
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But hear me out.
Cammy’s my best friend. The one person I can’t live without. The girl with the sunshine smile, the loaded fridge, and the most awesome kid I’ve ever met. She’s also the hot AF single mom I’ve made it my mission to protect from guys like me. I won’t risk ruining our friendship by pushing for something more.
I can’t be her forever.
I’m not that guy. I’m the good time. The class clown. The hockey stud. I’m the happy for now, not the happily ever after.
I stay in my lane, but when Cammy’s ex needs a lesson, the rash overprotective part of me jumps the boards and I go from best friend to fake boyfriend in the span of a kiss. And that’s just the beginning. Because when it comes to Cammy, there’s nothing I won’t do for her.
Even if it’s guaranteed to wreck me.
I always really enjoy Mira Lyn Kelly’s books. That might sound like a generic statement but it’s not meant that way, especially right now when finding a lighthearted read to fall into sounds particularly nice.
A fun friends to lovers romance, Mira’s latest release Dirty Rebound is sweet & sexy. I love how Mira writes couples; her heroes are Devoted with a capital D & they make it very clear that they’re captivated by the respective heroine.
In this case, single mom Cammy & BFF hockey player Rux are adorable & everyone could see the romance blossoming between them books ago.
But sadly it feels like some aspects of this story aren’t developed as well as I’d like. Cammy’s attitude toward the father of her son who unexpectedly left them when she was pregnant & has returned to re-insert himself in their lives seems strangely uncomplicated. (I would think she’d still be wrestling with some negative feelings, for ex.)
An even bigger issue is how the treatment of Rux’s internal conflict & especially his turnaround feels superficial to me.
When you say fake dating, BFFs to lovers romance I’m there with bells on. But while Dirty Rebound delivers on a satisfying hero & heroine dynamic, the story itself doesn’t feel tight to me.
CW: reference to abortion.
3⭐️. Dirty Rebound is available today. Thanks to the author for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Where You Can Get a Copy
Hard core romantic, stress baker, and housekeeper non-extraordinaire. Mira Lyn Kelly is the USA TODAY bestselling author of more than a dozen sizzly love stories with over a million readers worldwide. Growing up in the Chicago area, she earned her degree in Fine Arts from Loyola University and met the love of her life while studying abroad in Rome, Italy… only to discover he’d been living right around the corner from her back home. Having spent her twenties working and playing in the Windy City, she’s now settled with her husband in Minnesota, where their four amazing children and two ridiculous dogs provide an excess of action and entertainment.
Dirty Rebound is available now! Thanks to the author for the complimentary ARC & promotional materials. All opinions provided my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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