Blogmas Book Review: Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Summary:
Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.
But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.
As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self-preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Book Cover

Review:
Accidentally Engaged follows Reena and Nadim as they fall in love over their shared interest in food and cooking. Reena has been trying to escape her meddling parents for most of her life and even though she’s moved out of their house, they still find ways to try to set her up with men and try to convince her to come work for the family business. She’s sick of being compared to her perfect older brother and has a whole different set of issues with her younger sister. Nadim has a story of his own, one that we don’t really get until the big conflict of the story.
As a romance novel, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the romance between Reena and Nadim. They had great chemistry and hit it off right from the start. I really enjoyed their banter and their shared love of food and culture. I think I especially liked Reena’s friends and family, or the growth and development of her relationships with them. I genuinely was happy for Reena when she started to be more honest with her family, especially her younger sister (that was my favorite of the familial relationships). I thought the irony of everyone keeping secrets that everyone else already knew about was a good twist.
Overall, as a romance novel, I liked this book. I was easily invested in the characters. The cooking show was fun and creative. I cared about the romance and rooted for them to be together. But I do want to mention the Muslim representation because it’s mentioned right in the synopsis. I am not a Muslim, nor am I affiliated with any religions (read this review and this review by Muslim reviewers!) But it’s pretty obvious, even to me, the things that these characters do go against their religion. I’m not here to say whether it’s good or bad representation because it’s not me being represented. But I did want to mention that there’s an excessive amount of drinking mentioned, the characters engage in premarital sex, there’s talk of some of the Muslim characters gambling, which are all things that Islam forbids. So, if you picked this one up for the Muslim representation, just know that much before you read it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochran

Summary:
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. This story is basically what would happen if the star of the bachelor fell in love with one of the crew members instead of one of the fellow contestants. But also, make it gay and bring some really great conversations in about mental health.
I loved this. I thought the forbidden romance between the star of the show, Charlie, and his producer, Dev, was really well done. We see them make excuses for their actions, but there’s still an ‘oh no, what if we get caught’ element to the story and that’s a trope that I totally eat up. I liked both Charlie and Dev. They both struggle with different mental illnesses. Charlie has OCD and anxiety and Dev has clinical depression. It was so heartwarming to see them interact when they were struggling with their mental illnesses and they simply asked what the other one needed. Saying “what do you need from me?” is such a simple way to show someone you love that you’re listening and that you’re there for them. I also think this book did a great job showing lots of different aspects of having a mental illness. The stigma is shown and talked about with how people with mental illness are treated in the workplace. I think the representation was so great.
Overall, I liked this book. I was easily invested in the romance. I didn’t totally hate the third act break up. I had a lot of fun with the reality tv aspect of the story too. I really loved how things turned out with the reality show. I really loved all of the characters. Dev and Charlie were a very lovable couple, but their friends were also such great additions to the story. I definitely think this one is going to be a hit with romance readers.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee

Summary:
Tara Park doesn’t do serious relationships. Neither does she hop into bed with virtual strangers. Especially when that particular stranger is her best friend’s new brother-in-law. It isn’t an easy decision, though. Seth Kim is temptation personified. His unreasonably handsome looks and charming personality makes him easy on the eyes and good for her ego.
When a friendly game of Truth or Dare leads to an uncomplicated four-date arrangement with Seth, Tara can’t say she minds. But their dates, while sweet and sexy, have a tendency to hit roadblocks. Thankfully, their non-dates and chance meetings get frequent and heated.
Seth is leaving for a new job in Paris in a month and a no-strings attached fling seemed like a nice little distraction for both… But soon Seth realizes that Tara Park doesn’t come in a “nice & little” package–she’s funny and bold, sweet and sexy, and everything he ever wanted and never expected to find. Neither of them are ready for something serious and both have past relationship baggage they’ve been ignoring, but with a shot at forever on the line will they follow their hearts and take a chance on happily-ever-after?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this advanced copy, here is my honest review. The Dating Dare follows Tara (who is the bff from A Sweet)and Seth (the brother of the love interest in A Sweet Mess). The story starts off at the wedding of the couple from A Sweet Mess. Tara tells Seth to stop staring at her and they are immediately flirting and the attraction between them is obvious. The issue is that both Seth and Tara have sworn off of serious relationships because they were both hurt very badly in their first serious relationships in college. So, Seth dares Tara to go on four dates with him and not fall in love with him while he’s house sitting for his brother, before he leaves to move to Paris. Obviously the two fall in love, but not without some bumps in the road.
I liked this book. It was a fun romance that had great sexual tension and flirting. The lead up and tension to the pair finally having sex was excellent. They kept finding themselves out in public or in other places where it wasn’t really appropriate to get naked and I thought that was a funny, but good way to build up the anticipation of them finally getting together. I didn’t love that both Seth and Tara had the same emotional issues. I don’t know why I didn’t like that though. There was just something about it that had me rolling my eyes a little bit. I also didn’t love that they didn’t really talk about any of those things until after they finally mended things after the third act break up.
Overall, I had fun reading this book. Their dates were fun and sweet. It was a bit funny to see them try to keep things between them a secret. I liked the familiar setting of Wheldon. And I was happy to see them end up together at the end of the book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Summary:
Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.
Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire — a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.
As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again… something that doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans — and open her heart — for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

Book Cover

Review:
Well Matched is finally the book where we get April and Mitch falling in love! I had a lot of fun reading this one but I wanted more of it. The story follows April, who is mostly focused on helping her daughter get ready to graduate high school. April’s plan has always been to move out of Willow Creek once Caitlin went off to college. So, she’s doing some things around her house, like painting, to get ready to sell it and move closer to her job in the city. But things get a little complicated when Mitch asks April to be his fake girlfriend and go with him to his grandparent’s anniversary family get-together. As this is a romance novel, obviously hijinks ensue, and the two fall in love. I’m happy to say that we get not only the fake dating trope but also the “there’s only one-bed” trope (which was absolute perfection).
I had a hard time connecting with April for the first half of this book. She’s incredibly defensive, which I might not have noticed if the story wasn’t told from her perspective. She’s been a single mom for almost 18 years, and she’s still living like she’s just arrived in Willow Creek. She’s private and doesn’t allow herself to really connect or develop relationships with anyone. Her sister, Emily (the main character of Well Met), has gotten April a little bit more involved and April has sort of become friends with Emily’s friends. But even after living here for all this time, she’s kept herself pretty distanced. I had a hard time with this until I realized that it wasn’t that April hadn’t changed in the last 15+ years she’d lived in Willow Creek, it was just that she hadn’t *realized* that she’d changed. And once that was pointed out, I liked April a lot more.
Mitch is a total cinnamon roll. I loved every bit that we got to see with him in previous books and this book only made me love him more. His family is incredibly judge mental of his career choice and they dismiss him. So, they’ve never really gotten to know the extent of what he does for the kids he teaches or what he does for the Faire. I thought this was a really interesting aspect of the story and allowed for great development between April and Mitch when April learns of this dynamic in his family.
I really liked April and Mitch as a couple, but I felt a little bit like we didn’t really get to see them fall in love. We did see that, as they worked on painting her house, staining her deck, putting in new carpet. But so many of those scenes felt so similar to one another that when they finally said they loved each other I couldn’t help but think “wait, when did that happen?” I think a part of this was because of April’s desire to deny that anything real was going on between them and her thinking that their relationship needed to be a secret. Everything being kept so quiet and sneaky meant that we didn’t really get to see them doing a lot of the usual things that we might see couples do (like dating, in front of other people). We did get some absolutely excellent scenes of the two of them at the Faire.
Overall, I really had a fun time with this book. It was a fun romance following two characters that had depth and a romantic connection I was easily invested in. I really love this series and I can’t wait to see what other romantic tensions at the Ren Faire DeLuca can come up with. I can’t wait to get to know Lulu more in the next book in the series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

Summary:
A warrior princess trained in isolation, Lara is driven by two certainties. The first is that King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom is her enemy. And the second is that she’ll be the one to bring him to his knees.
The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom enriches itself and deprives its rivals, including Lara’s homeland. So when she’s sent as a bride under the guise of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture its impenetrable defenses. And the defenses of its king.
Yet as she infiltrates her new home and gains a deeper understanding of the war to possess the bridge, Lara begins to question whether she’s the hero or the villain. And as her feelings for Aren transform from frosty hostility to fierce passion, Lara must choose which kingdom she’ll save… and which kingdom she’ll destroy.

Book Cover

Review:
After absolutely loving Jensen’s Dark Shores series, I knew I wanted to try some of her other books as well. Antonia bought me The Bridge Kingdom and its sequel for my birthday. Now that it’s cold and I’m in the mood for fantasy again, I thought it would be the perfect time for some new fantasy to love.
The Bridge Kingdom follows Lara and Aren in alternating perspectives. Lara is a princess that’s been sent to marry Aren, a King, as a part of an alliance treaty that was agreed upon fifteen years ago. What Aren doesn’t know, is that for the last 10 years, Lara has been trained in every area possible so that she can spy and infiltrate his kingdom and spill its secrets to her father. But Lara is learning that she wasn’t raised in isolation in the desert just to keep others from learning things about her and her sisters, but also so that she wouldn’t know the truth of her own kingdom. She finds herself torn between the truth of Aren’s kingdom and its people and destroying them for the sake of her own people.
Lara was a great main character. She’s fierce and cunning, clever and ruthless. It was really compelling to follow her indecision once she starts to really spend time with Aren and his people. When she sees their struggles and imagines what would happen if she were to fulfill her father’s plan, she’s torn between her mission and her heart. I thought that this was a really interesting inner conflict for her.
Aren was also a great main character. I liked that we got his point of view alongside Lara’s. He’s a really good king and he just genuinely wants the best for his people. He worries that his choices aren’t the right ones, but he also tries new things to see how he can improve the lives of his subjects. I loved seeing him take charge and flex his authority when he needed to. But I also loved seeing his softer side, giving in when Lara is panicking on the water for example. He was a really well-developed character.
The plot of the story was a little predictable, but I honestly didn’t mind that. I definitely guessed most of the things that were hinted at right from the get go. I still had a good time following the story as the chaos unfolded. I think the next book will have a lot more opportunities to surprise me with the plot. The world was interesting, but I’d like to have seen more of it. There was a lot of emphasis on the histories that these countries have, but I don’t really remember it being explained why all of these kingdoms were always at war with each other. It very well might have all just been because of the bridge. I wanted to know more about the bridge too. Was it always there? Did someone build it? I would have loved to have even heard some folklore or myths about the bridge.
Overall, this was an interesting and well-told story. I really liked the main character as well as their supporting characters. I think the world was interesting enough and easy to learn about. I will definitely be continuing this series and reading Jensen’s other backlist books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

Summary:
Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.
Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous—and it turns out he has very different vision for the property’s future.
Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.

Book Cover

Review:
Twice Shy follows people pleaser Maybell and grumpy Wesley after they find out they have co-inherited Maybell’s great-aunt’s house. Maybell didn’t have a super great childhood. Her mom wasn’t really a stable adult, so she never had a stable home. They were always staying with relatives here or there for a week before having to find somewhere new. Maybell remembers her great-aunt’s house as one of her best memories of childhood. So, she is saddened to hear that her aunt has passed but delighted to inherit the beautiful house and property from her childhood memories. But she’s in for a surprise when she shows up at the house and it’s in complete disrepair. And also, she’s not the only one that inherited the property.
Our love interest, Wesley, has been the groundskeeper of great-aunt Violet’s property for almost five years. She’s told him that he will inherit it after she dies, so he has lots of things planned to fix up the house and the property. But of course, Maybell arrives to complicate all those plans. Wesley has social anxiety. I loved this representation so much. I love the social anxiety representation, but especially in a man. I thought it was wonderful and really well done. I loved how he explained his anxiety and panic and how Maybell reacted to learning about it as well as her behavior toward him after she learned of his social anxiety. Wesley was just a wholesome cinnamon roll and I wanted to give him a great big hug the whole book.
I really enjoyed the slow pace and build up of the romance. I didn’t think I was going to because it’s almost halfway through the book before they really start to actually interact with each other. But I think the payoff was worth the wait. I liked that the author took the time to let us get to know Maybell before we got into the romance. I also weirdly enjoyed the whole process of fixing up the house. I think there were some great opportunities for banter and playfulness between the characters and we definitely got to see that.
Overall, this was such a sweet and wholesome story. It wasn’t a hot and passionate romance. It was slow and steady, but the pay off when the pair finally admits their feelings for one another was excellent. I especially liked that there wasn’t a third-act break-up. There totally could have been, but the author took things in a different direction and I really loved how that whole situation was handled. I want a whole sequel of Maybell and Wesley running their hotel/animal sanctuary together because it will be so sweet might need to check my blood sugar afterward. I really loved this story and its characters and I cannot wait to read what the author writes next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day Twenty-Five: 6 Fall Romance Recommendations

Hi, lovelies! I am usually a summer romance reader, but while I was browsing my ‘read’ books for Blogtober ideas, I saw Well Met and thought to myself how perfect that book is for the autumn. I couldn’t help but wonder what other romances I read in the summer that would be perfect to read in the fall. So, these aren’t all books that take place in the autumn season, just books that I think have a fall vibe.

Book Cover

Well Met by Jen DeLuca
“All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.
Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him? The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying? This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.”

Book Cover

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
“With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows. When reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.”

Book Cover

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker
“Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born. She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild. Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.”

Book Cover

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morganthaler
“When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now he’s stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless string of resort visitors who couldn’t interest him less. Not even the sweet, enthusiastic tourist in the corner who blushes every time he looks her way… Two weeks in Alaska isn’t just the top item on Zoey Caldwell’s bucket list. It’s the whole bucket. One look at the mountain town of Moose Springs and she’s smitten. But when an act of kindness brings Zoey into Graham’s world, she may just find there’s more to the man than meets the eye…and more to love in Moose Springs than just the Alaskan wilderness.”

Book Cover

The Next Always by Nora Roberts
“The historic hotel in Boonsboro has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. Beckett is the architect of the family, and his social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen. After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town’s bookstore. Busy, with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett’s transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer look . . . at the building and the man behind it. With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett’s happy to give Clare a private tour – one room at a time. It’s no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something new – and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next . . .”

Book Cover

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
“Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him. Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare. But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.”

These are six romance novels that I think have some fall vibes in them. Some of them just have fall settings and others actually have fall events like Thanksgiving and what not. What do you think of my choices?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

Summary:
The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Book Cover

Review:
For the Wolf was chosen by my book club for September. I’m so glad that we ended up reading this book because it’s going to be one of my 2021 favorites. This story really pulled me in and spit me out in a way that a book hasn’t in a while. I alternated between the eBook and the audiobook because I just could not story reading this story. I needed to know how it ended. I stayed up until way later than I should have so that I could finish.
There are two daughters. The first, Neve, will become Queen, in time. And the second, Redarys, was to be given over to the Wilderwood, and the Wolf that lived there. There hasn’t been a second daughter in many years, so when it’s finally time for Red to be given to the Wolf, the people hope that the Wolf will finally return their kings to them. But there’s so much in the legends of the Wilderwood that just isn’t true. That’s what the heart of this story really is, learning the truths behind the tales and how to right the wrongs that have been done.
The world really fascinated me. There was just so much of it that it was hard to get a handle on at times. The kings from legend, the ones supposedly trapped by the Wolf, brought all of the kingdoms together under one ruler, the first daughter. So, there are quite a few different places mentioned and once I just sort of ignored everywhere other than the Wilderwood and Red’s home, it was less confusing. This world felt vast, so narrowing it down felt necessary for me to enjoy it rather than get lost in trying to remember all the names that didn’t really need remembering. So, the Wilderwood is incredibly mysterious, but also endlessly fascinating. I was filled with so many questions. I think Whitten did a good job creating suspense and mystery by not answering questions, but I think some of those questions could have been answered a bit sooner and still had the same or a similar effect on the story. But the setting of the Wilderwood was stunning. I could picture it and I’m not usually very good at picturing settings, especially in fantasy stories.
The characters were ones that were easy to love. Red is a fierce woman that willingly goes into the Wilderwood to meet the Wolf because she has magic that she’s kept hidden, a magic that she’s terrified will hurt her sister if she cannot control it. But when she learns the truth of the Wolf, she falls for him, slowly. He tries to protect her, Eammon. But his protection is in the form of keeping secrets (one of my least favorite tropes). I think their romance was a little bit insta-lovey which I don’t usually love. But I think the way that it was set up worked for this story. I still liked them both individually and grew to love them together. By the end, I was definitely invested in their romance. I think the lack of clarity with the way the Wilderwood’s magic worked honestly just added to the story. I usually like well explained magic, but it somehow worked for this story.
Overall, I loved this book even with the few things that I didn’t like. I also might have died a little reading the preview we got of book two. I am beyond excited to learn more about the kings and what will end up happening with Neve. Plus, man is that book cover to die for and the cover for book two is just as stunning. I cannot wait to read more from Whitten in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Summary:
The Mayan God of Death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore, for readers of The Song of Achilles and Uprooted.
Here we shall begin to tell a story: a tale of a throne lost, of monsters and magic. A tale of gods and of the shadow realm. But this, our story, it begins in our world, in the land of mortals.
It begins with a woman. For this story, it is her story. It begins with her.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty, small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it–and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan God of Death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey, from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City–and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.
Mixing the excitement of the Roaring Twenties with Prehispanic mythology, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a vivid, wildly imaginative historical fantasy.

Book Cover

Review:
Gods of Jade and Shadow follows Casiopea, a young woman who lives in her mother’s childhood home. She’s treated like a servant, tasked with cleaning the house, attending to her grandfather and her cousin, Martin. Everyone, aside from her mother, treat her as less than because of who her father was. He wasn’t ‘good enough’ for Casiopea’s mother, so she is treated like she isn’t good enough for her family. All Casiopea dreams of is escaping the small town she’s stuck in and then suddenly, one night, she must leave. She pricks her hand on a bone shard she finds in her grandfather’s room. A bone shard that turned out to be Hun-Kame, a Mayan death god that was trapped, and now needs Casiopea’s help in reclaiming his throne from his brother.
This really was a beautiful story. The writing was beautiful and almost melodic. The pace of the story wasn’t so slow that I lost focus, but it also wasn’t a super-fast paced story either. I really liked the pacing of the story. It allowed me to feel like I was really getting to know the characters which was good because I could have easily felt left outside this beautiful story because of the world building and mythology. But it’s written in a way that I really felt like I got to know Casiopea, her dreams and wants, and how those things change the more time she spends with Hun-Kame. Casiopea was an incredibly courageous character. She does things that she’s afraid to do, but she does them anyway because she believes they’re the right thing to do. Doing what you believe is the right thing is usually the hard thing to do. I really liked the development of the relationship between Casiopea and Hun-Kame. I feel like we didn’t get to know him as well as we did Casiopea, but I liked him all the same.
The world building and mythology was just as good as the characters. The Mayan mythology was lush and fascinating. It’s not a mythology I know much about, so it felt like a whole new fantastical world for me, but it was incredibly interesting to be immersed in. Moreno-Garcia paints an incredibly vivid picture of all the magic and myths in the story. I just couldn’t get enough.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I had a great time getting to know the characters and getting invested in them and their journey. I really loved the settings and the mythology. I would definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

Summary:
With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad took up the pen to write a novel the Bromance Book Club would swoon over.
Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared after speaking out against government corruption, she escaped danger the only way she knew how. She agreed to marry her childhood friend, Vladimir, and move to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.
Vlad, aka The Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But after four years, it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance–both on and off the page.
The Bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love–and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s senior citizen neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves The Loners. Just when things finally look promising, the danger from Elena’s past life intrudes, and the book club will face their first-ever life-or-death grand gesture as they race to a happy ever after.

Book Cover

Review:
I’m going to do this review in the ‘what I liked/what I didn’t like’ format because I think that’s going to be the best way to get my thoughts across.

What I Liked:

I genuinely liked Vlad. He’s very obviously a good dude. He’s a good friend to his fellow book club members. He’s kind and thoughtful. He’s sweet and romantic. He’s a little dense when it comes to Elena, but I liked him anyway.

I liked that he wanted to write a book. I thought it was a bit on the nose that he realized what he needed to do in order to be with Elena from writing his own book.

The book club guys will always be the highlight of these books. The way they come in and pick their friends up, brush them off, and tell them to pull their heads out of their asses every book really is wonderful.

I liked the childhood friends to lovers peak that we got with Elena and Vlad. We see glimpses of it, but I liked it.

What I Didn’t Like:

The whole reason that Elena and Vlad were in a marriage of convenience was not enough for me. I couldn’t get behind it. I didn’t think that after four years, neither one of them would have had any sort of conversation about their relationship. If they were childhood friends, they should have been able to talk to one another. I married my childhood best friend and we certainly went through times where we didn’t talk because of dumb stuff, but we always eventually talked about it or moved past it.

I didn’t like that there wasn’t really any book club content. They sort of used Vlad’s book for the book club, but I didn’t love that like I loved the guys learning from their book club books in the other books in this series.

I didn’t love Vlad’s writing being included. We only got a small bit of it and it felt a bit convenient to the story instead of natural like it felt with the book club books in the earlier books.

Overall, I liked this book, but it wasn’t my favorite. I was disappointed I think because I was super excited to read ‘The Russian’s’ story and it wasn’t what I wanted. I will probably continue the series if there’s going to be more books, but I think I’ll lower my expectations for future books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Summary:
For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

Book Cover

Review:
One Last Stop was another birthday gift (Thanks, Avhlee!). I don’t know if I’m going to be able to really explain my feelings about this book. This book is probably going to make my favorites of 2021 list. It just felt like a deeply personal story to me and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to portray that in this review. So, instead of writing a review in my normal format I’m going to share 5 things I loved about One Last Stop.

  1. I love the way that the past connected with the present. We see it again and again with Jane and August. One example being the pancake diner.
  2. Jane and August meet on the subway and they spend most of their time together on the subway. So, a fun thing that McQuiston added into this book was little blurbs and snippets from various ‘missed connections’ pages. They’re all about Jane because she’s been on the subway for literally years. I thought this was a really fun extra that we got in the story.
  3. The sex scenes were everything I wanted them to be. I give them an enthusiastic chef’s kiss.
  4. I really loved the way that McQuiston included LGBTQIA history. We see it through Jane’s eyes who was a lesbian in the 70s. We also see it with the inclusion of the UpStairs Lounge fire that happened in 1973 (and this connects to another part of the story).
  5. August’s three roommates, Niko, Myla, and Wes, are the found family of my dreams. They’re weird and quirky, but they accept one another and love one another. I love how they came together to help August find a way to be with Jane.

Overall, this book reached into my soul and made a home there. I was constantly laughing out loud and couldn’t stop myself from reading bits and pieces aloud to Antonia. I loved this book with my whole heart and soul and I already cannot wait to reread it in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

Summary:
Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.
When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.
As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaste

Book Cover

Review:
Tools of Engagement follows Bethany who wants more responsibility when it comes to the family business. She wants to do a whole house, from demolition to decorations. But her father and brother don’t take her seriously. Enter HGTV jumping in and creating a sibling house flipping competition. Bethany is working with Wes while flipping the house and things get busy at the job site.
I still think the second book in this series is my favorite, but I did really enjoy this one. I liked the family aspects that were involved with Wes and his niece. I also liked seeing Bethany make an effort to show and be more herself.
I can totally understand why this series is so popular. I really had a fun time reading all three of these books. I read them back-to-back so I really got to enjoy the friendships and the romantic relationships all together. I will definitely be recommending this series in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Summary:
Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be, anyway. Now, Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with 10 years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.
Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous – yet surprisingly helpful – assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

Book Cover

Review:
Love Her or Lose Her is the second book in the Hot & Hammered series. I really enjoyed Fix Her Up so I was very excited to read the sequel. We follow Rosie and Dominic who are high school sweethearts. The story starts and Rosie is finally leaving Dominic. She doesn’t feel like they have a salvageable relationship, but Dominic doesn’t want to give up and agrees to therapy (which surprises Rosie). I don’t know what it is, but I really love romance novels about already married couples and this one continued that trend. I really liked Rosie. She has goals and dreams that she’s actively working on making reality. She has things that she wants and she’s not going to wait to get them any longer. But when things between her and Dominic start to get better, Rosie’s not sure if leaving him is the right thing to do anymore.
I loved this book. I think it’s my favorite in the series. I loved seeing Rosie and Dominic find their way back to one another emotionally. I think the book was totally steamy, just like the first one. I was easily invested in the chahracters and the romance. I rooted for them and felt the ups and downs alongside them.
Overall, I loved this one. I will be reading move from Tessa Bailey as soon as I get the chance.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Summary:
When MacKayla’s sister was murdered, she left a single clue to her death, a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone. Journeying to Ireland in search of answers, Mac is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to master a power she had no idea she possessed – a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae.
As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho…while at the same time, the ruthless V’lane – an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women – closes in on her. As the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: to find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book – because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control both worlds in their hands.

Book Cover

Review:
I’ve had Darkfever on my TBR list for a super long time. So, I finally managed to pick it up thanks to my TBR Jar. I read this one for ‘favorite of a friend’ since my friend Ari loves this series. I’m so glad I finally read this one because I absolutely flew through the story.
Darkfever follows Mac, who has just found out her sister died in Ireland. After finding a weird voicemail on her phone, Mac decides she must travel to Ireland and do some investigating herself, since the police haven’t found anything. But Mac finds herself way in over her head. Enter Jericho. Owner of a bookshop, he helps her with her mission of finding the truth of what happened to her sister. But there are others that pop in and out of the story as well.
I think the mystery really stood out in this story. I went into this book thinking it was going to be a fun paranormal romance (which it sort of was), but the mystery was a huge part of the plot. The plot was actually what kept me interested in the story, more than the romance. This is a slow burn romance for sure as the couple that I anticipate being the romantic focus didn’t even kiss. I am
Overall, I really can’t wait to continue this series. I think it’s going to be a wild ride. the world that Moning has created is a dark and eerie once, but a fascinating one as well. I loved Mac and Jericho and I’m excited to see where things will go next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Summary:
After an injury ends Travis Ford’s major league baseball career, he returns home to start over. He just wants to hammer out his frustrations at his new construction gig and forget all about his glory days. But he can’t even walk through town without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his buddy’s little sister, who is definitely not a kid anymore.
Georgette Castle has crushed on her older brother’s best friend for years. The grumpy, bear of a man working for her family’s house flipping business is a far cry from the charming sports star she used to know. But a moody scowl doesn’t scare her and Georgie’s determined to show Travis he’s more than a pretty face and a batting average, even if it means putting her feelings aside to be “just friends.”
Travis wants to brood in peace. But the girl he used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman who makes him feel whole again. And he wants her. So damn bad. Except Georgie’s off limits and he knows he can’t give her what she deserves. But she’s becoming the air he breathes and Travis can’t stay away, no matter how hard he tries…

Book Cover

Review:
Fix Her Up follows Georgie and Travis. Travis is a baseball player whose career ended early due to an injury (though I don’t ever remember being told what the injury was and he never really talked about it). He’s a player, nicknamed ‘Two Bats’ (yes, this is about his penis. Yes, this is a stupid nickname.) But when a new job opportunity arises, he must shed the ‘play boy’ image and show that he can be wholesome and family network approved. Enter Georgie. Georgie has had a huge crush on Travis her whole life. He’s her older brother’s best friend. So, she’s always been Stephen’s kid sister. This is an image she’s trying to shed. She feels like no one takes her seriously (which I mean, she’s a professional clown so…). She and Travis ‘fake date’ to make Travis seem more wholesome and to get people to stop thinking of Georgie as a kid.
I liked Georgie. I could relate to her with her family dynamic. My dad owns his own business and it’s always been planned to be passed on to my older brother. So, I was sort of left to wonder what the heck I wanted to do since my life wasn’t planned for me since birth. I was left to make my own way, like Georgie. Though, I didn’t become a professional clown. I liked how Georgie was persistent and stubborn. She was determined to help Travis at the beginning and she really did help him.
Travis was interesting because we see him pretty down at the beginning of the story. But we also see things turn around for him. His character growth was really enjoyable. I loved being in his head while he can’t seem to stop thinking about Georgie. I thought the struggle of ‘but she’s my best friend’s sister’ was a good one. Especially since he couldn’t ever really manage to stay away from her.
Now, I have to mention this. If you like romance without explicit sex scenes, this series is not for you. Because these books are hot. They’re explicit and incredibly steamy. I loved it. I loved the positive talk about masturbation. I also loved the communication between the two whiles being intimate. Some reviewers have said there’s too much talking, but damn that dirty talk was absolutely excellent.
Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this book. The sex scenes were steamy and the romance was one that I could get behind. I liked the growth and development of the two main characters. I also liked the growth of the side relationships. Georgie betters her relationship with her sister and makes a new friend, Rosie, and I loved these three women together. The only thing that I would have liked to be different was that I wanted more of Georgie expanding her entertainment business. We see her talk a bit about getting more performers, but the story focuses more on the romance and on Travis’s future than Georgie bettering her business.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.