Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Romance

Book Review: Christmas at Tiffany's
Swan, Karen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was better than I expected. Chick lit is my guilty pleasure and this one was better than most. I liked the descriptions of New York, Paris, and London and the story line was sweet. But don't let the title fool you, it doesn't take place just during Christmastime.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
This Is How You Lose the Time War
El-Mohtar, Amal
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This time-travelling story of love and genocide centers on two rival agents battling to secure the best possible future for their warring factions. It opens with a blood-covered Red, the last woman standing on a battlefield heaped with corpses. She finds a letter that starts with “Burn Before Reading” from Blue, her rival whom she has spent lifetimes trying to thwart. So it starts with a taunt followed by a challenge scratched in a lava flow and a message woven into the DNA of a tree cut down by marauding armies. These spies never meet but these compromising letters – certain death if discovered by their superiors – build upon a mutual understanding that evolves into love. Who better to understand someone weary and confused by merciless, contradictory orders than their rival? Or is this an attempt to turn the other into a double agent? Or lay a deadly trap? This novella deftly avoids the confusion that spoils average time-travel yarns by making each of the chapters into a vignette, told from either Red or Blue’s perspective, until a satisfying, meaningful conclusion.
Awards: 2020 Nebula Award for Best Novella, 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novella

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Vinegar Girl
Tyler, Anne
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This lightweight comedy of manners by Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Tyler is based on William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. The 2016 novel is part of a Hogarth Press series of classic plays retold by modern, popular authors to honor the 400th anniversary (April 1616) of his death.
Set in modern-day Baltimore, Kate Battista is the 29-year-old daughter of eccentric scientist Louis Battista. The witty and sharp-tongued Kate is a socially inept college dropout after being expelled for criticizing a professor's efforts. She then drifted into a part-time preschool assistant job while caring for her detached, workaholic father and younger sister, Bunny.
Dr. Barrista's brilliant lab assistant, Pyotr, must leave the country due to an expiring visa, prompting the self-involved scientist to concoct a sexist plan where his daughter marries Pyotr to allow him to stay and work for him. Kate is appalled. But she warms to the idea after meeting Pyotr, who enjoys and shares her outspokenness, and realizes this arranged marriage may help her create a satisfying future.
Tyler's considerable skill at bringing characters and settings to life with humor and precision are a big help in this tale about finding a partner who appreciates and shares your idiosyncrasies and principles. It's a quick read and a fun one for Tyler fans.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Awards:
Cover
Guillory, Jasmine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Olivia Munroe has just moved to LA, and finds herself frequenting her hotel's bar as she navigates the rental process in LA. On her last night in the hotel, she meets a sexy stranger at the bar. They have a cute interaction, but go their separate ways. Olivia is stunned when she realizes the sexy stranger was in fact Max Powell, a hotshot junior senator from CA. The two have another chance encounter, and this time continue to see each other. But is Olivia ready for life in the public eye?

This is my second Jasime Guillory book (The Wedding Party was my first), and I obviously liked the first enough to read this one, but I liked this one so much more! Olivia and Max were just such great characters, I fell in love with both of them pretty quickly. There's also some topical information about relations between the Black community and the police and politics at large, so that was super timely to read and adds an extra dimension to what would otherwise be a fluffy book. Really, aside from a couple of plot aspects that annoyed me personally, the only thing that bothered me was the lack of sex! Where is the sex?!?! There was soooooooo much sex in The Wedding Party that I expected a bunch here as well and was disappointed by it's absence, especially as I connected with these characters a little more.

I would generally recommend this to women's fiction readers, especially those who are looking for a slightly lighter way to read woke. 3.5 stars - it's somewhere in-between "I liked it" and "I really liked it" for me.

Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Books for the eARC that I received in exchange for an honest review. Party of Two is available on 23 June.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Almost Home
Debbie Macomber
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Almost Home is comprised of four short stories detailing 4 people who take risk of opening their hearts to new relationships. "Whale Island" is about a children's writer who is resisting falling in love with the reporter who interviews her because she has a big family secret to hide. In "Queen of Hearts', a man who was a real geek in high school has become successful and handsome as an adult and has run into the woman who he had a crush on in high school but felt out of her league. "The Honeymoon House" is a story of a photographer who finds a bridesmaid of a halted wedding destroying his house. And finally "The Marrying Kind" reunites two high school sweethearts who has a very brief marriage right when they got out of high school but were cruelly torn apart by family members. A great read if romance novels are your genre!

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
In Her Shoes
Weiner, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Maggie and Rose are sisters with very different lives and personalities. The two common things they share are their mother's tragic death, a "car accident" when they were kids and the same shoe size. Rose is an attorney, practical, responsible and has her own apartment. Maggie, the younger of the two, is good looking (which she uses to her advantage), impetuous and manipulative. They live together for a short stint, until a major falling out causes them to go their own ways. Thus begins a journey of self discovery for each woman and the surprise of a grandmother who they thought was long gone. The love/hate relationship of sisters is well captured, along with humor and sharp observations.

Reviewer's Name: Susi W.
Book Review: The Flatshare
O'Leary, Beth
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I don't usually rate chick lit higher than 3 stars as it's my guilty pleasure, but this book was very well written, had an engaging plot, likable characters, and addressed a serious topic without seeming heavy handed. I recommend it as a quick and satisfying read.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Shadows Between Us
Levenseller, Tricia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Alessandra wants to channel her murderous rage into something more productive than, well, murder. So she aims to become the Queen (of course, she'll have to murder the King once she's married him, but that'll be the last one). As the second daughter of a minor royal, this doesn't seem like a super realistic goal, but...you haven't met Alessandra.

I'm a huge sucker for the love-him-then-kill-him trope, and it is awesomely used here. I was expecting this book to be more of a fantasy, but it's really a romance with fantastical trappings. And it is so sex positive! I have been describing it as Wuthering-Heights-only-it's-actually-fun-to-read, but the author describes it as a romance between two Slytherins, which is better. Even though the characters are objectively horrible, you'll find yourself rooting for them. It was a tad ridiculous in terms of how the characters talked and interacted with each other, but in the same kind of way as Daughter of the Pirate King, the author's other book that I've read, which I also enjoyed.

If you are looking for a fun, purely escapist romance, I would highly recommend this book. I read it in one sitting. 4 stars - I really liked it!

Thanks to Netgalley and Feiwel & Friends for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Shadows Between Us is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Book Review: No Judgments
Cabot, Meg
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

First, before I go any further with this review, if you are ordered to evacuate, for goodness sake, EVACUATE. Doing anything else is putting not just your life at risk, but those of the emergency responders as well. It’s just not ok.

Alrighty then, I’m going to hop off my soapbox.

After the death of her father, an assault, and a bad breakup, Bree has decided to flee New York in search of warmer, more gentle climes…and people. As a current resident of Little Bridge Island (a small key in FL), she’s not excited when the first hurricane she experiences is a Category 5. She decides to stick it out in Little Bridge with her employers, the Hartwells and their hot-if-unavailable playboy son, Drew. No Judgements follows Bree’s exploits before, during and after the hurricane.

Meg Cabot’s books are always hit-or-miss for me, and unfortunately, this one was the latter. There were a few things that were approached in a completely inappropriate way. For example, our heroine deciding not to leave Little Bridge even though literally everyone she knows is begging her to evacuate, she has no experience with hurricanes, and she lives in an apartment that’s only eight feet above sea level. There’s also some insane gun usage later in the book, and a grown adult solves an issue with his fists and is lionized for it. No no no no no. The book, being a romantic comedy, has some fun romantic moments, but a lot of the comedy felt, again, borderline inappropriate to me. Hopefully some of those jokes are removed before the book is published.

Why is the protagonist 25? This book would’ve been much more interesting if it were about an older protagonist, and this woman, to me, did not act like most 25 year olds that I know. She acted like she was a teenager, and not a very smart or mature one at that (see above examples). Romantic comedies featuring twenty-somethings are a dime-a-dozen. I wish Cabot had taken a risk here. The male lead is not any better. He likes animals and is hot, and we don’t learn much else about him. They do fall in love instantly, though, so…yay?

As someone who grew up in a hurricane affected area, I think the idea of a romantic comedy centered around a hurricane is a fabulous idea. I just wish the execution had been less offensive. I did like the pet-rescue sub-plot, though.

Even though I didn’t enjoy this book, I’ll still check out Meg Cabot’s next one and keep recommending those books of hers that I do like (for instance, Insatiable or Queen of Babble). I mean, I read this book in a day, so that says something, right? I think plenty of readers will enjoy it. For me, though, it was a 1 star read: I didn’t like it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the electronic advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. No Judgements will be released on 24 September, but you can put your copy of the book on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Wedding Party Cover
Guillory, Jasmine
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Maddie and Theo have known and disliked each other for a long time - as long as they've had the same best friend, the newly engaged Alexa Munroe. When they end up hooking up after Alexa's engagement party, it was unexpected for both of them to say the least. They both end up in the wedding party, and they know they will be thrown together more often. When they find themselves unable to resist a second hook-up, they put some rules into place, the chief one being that they'd only hook up until the wedding and then they'd go their separate ways forever.

If you read that synopsis and thought that you knew exactly where this book is headed, then you are correct! This is a very straightforward romance. What you see is what you get. I was expecting a little more. I thought it would be a comedy or maybe there would be some political commentary since our leads are both people of color but neither of those things were present. That said, I actually found the straight-up nature of this read to be surprisingly refreshing. I knew exactly what I was going to get and I got it. I didn’t learn anything new, and some aspects of the story were frustrating (for example, they don’t hate each other so much as tolerate each other with mild annoyance) , but all was resolved by the end. It was a good palate cleanser, and next time I don’t know what I’m in the mood for, I may pick up a Guillory book.

To be completely honest, I don’t read a ton of romance (which is how I would classify this book, perhaps mistakenly). If you like contemporary romance, I see no reason that you wouldn’t like this one – its a sexy read with believable characters and scenarios. 3 stars. Despite myself, I ended up kind of liking it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley publishing for the advance copy which I got in exchange for an unbiased review. The Wedding Party will be available on 16 July, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Cover
Menon, Sandhya
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Sweetie Nair is fat. She doesn’t care, but her mom cares. Like, a lot. A lot a lot. Definitely too much. So much that so when Ashish, a hot local boy from a good (and crazy rich!) Indian family tries to date Sweetie, Sweetie’s mom shuts it down. But Sweetie won’t give up without a fight, and so she, Ashish and Ashish’s parents hatch a plan in which the kids will go on four dates. If it works out, they’ll tell Sweetie’s parents. If not, no harm done. Plus, what can happen in four dates? Turns out, a lot.

If you’ve read any of Menon’s other books, this one is completely on brand. I’ve read her other two books, and this one might be my favorite? It’s up there with Dimple, for sure. It’s a funny romantic comedy with endearing, mostly believable characters from a culture that’s different from mine. In addition to reading an adorable book, I get to learn a little bit about Indian Americans. This one has an added element of pointing out our society’s horrible ways of treating fat people. The way a folks react to Sweetie will have you seeing red – but you know it’s unfortunately totally realistic. Luckily, Sweetie is a self-confident young lady, and it was a joy to see her grow throughout the book. Ashish isn’t too bad himself! He has a very believable journey through the course of the book, and was a male lead you could root for even as he made a few terrible decisions.

TLDR: If you’re looking for a light, funny and very swoony read, this one will do it for you. I know it put a smile on my face.

Sandhya Menon is coming to PPLD to be the keynote speaker for Mountain of Authors! Meet her, listen to her give a talk and get a book signed on 27 April at 21c. More information about the event can be found here: https://research.ppld.org/mountainofauthors

Thanks to Netgalley and Simon Pulse for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. There’s Something About Sweetie will be available for purchase on 14 May – don’t forget to put your copy on hold!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi
Menon, Sandhya
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Sweet book, but the main character was annoying. Calling coding a passion like art is not something I can get behind. I code for a living and it definitely is not a passion. But that's my perspective. Maybe it is for others though, I don't know. The love story was sweet and the glimpses into Indian culture were very interesting.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Unmarriageable
Kamal, Soniah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Unmarriageable is a very charming Pakistani retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. If you aren’t familiar with the original, all you really need to know is that it’s a period romance with a lot of social commentary around sexism and classism. Unmarriageable is a very faithful adaptation set in Pakistan in the early aughts, so I think if you like the original, you’ll also enjoy this one.

The best part of Unmarriageable, to me, was the social commentary. Not only does Kamal approach the sexism and classism from a more modern Pakistani lens, but she addresses racism and colonialism as well. Pakistani culture in the early 2000s apparently had some attitudes towards women’s place in the home and sex and sexuality that somewhat mirror that of Georgian England. It was (is?) frowned upon to have sex or most types of sexual contact before marriage. Women were expected to tend to the home. Light skinned folks were seen as being more attractive than darker skinned folks. Kamal addresses all of this and much more quite deftly without compromising the swoony romance.

Speaking of romance, if you like Pride and Prejudice for the romance, Unmarriabeable will make you quite happy. Alys Binat and Mr. Darsee are just as likable as their original counterparts (so, in Darsee’s case, it may take a minute to warm up to him). Their chemistry and enimistry is almost palpable. The book definitely swings hard towards being cheesy at times, but that didn’t really compromise my enjoyment of the book.

The other thing I really enjoyed about this book was the Sherry (Charlotte) character. I always thought Lizzie was kind of horrible towards Charlotte, and Sherry and her relationship with Alys get a lot more time and consideration in this version of the classic.

Clearly, I really enjoyed this one. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice, you should definitely check this out. It’s perhaps a bit too close to the original, but as an Austen fan, I wasn’t much fussed by that. 4 stars.

Thanks to Ballentine Books and Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Unmarriageable is available now!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Muse of Nightmares
Taylor, Laini
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This follow up to the beautiful best seller Strange the Dreamer picks up right where the first one left off. This book is just as intense, dark, raw, magical, entrancing, dreamy, atmospheric, and amazing as the first one. I can not sing the praises of Laini Taylor enough. She is a force in YA fiction that infuses her characters with such deep emotions, that the reader cannot help but to be pulled in to the tide of emotion that the character is feeling. This is definitely a very emotional book that transcends the story itself, to explore the power of the human spirit.

When we left Lanzlo and the others in Strange the Dreamer, the citadel had nearly fallen, Lazlo had just discovered his true identity, that he was more than just farangii junior librarian who liked to dream, but a god blessed with the very god like power that caused so much pain and anger all those years ago when the godspawn first came to Weep. Sarai his lover also was no longer a goddess but a ghost. She goes to join the ranks of other ghosts all held together and controlled by her sister Minya who is still intent on the revenge of Weep, and holds both of them hostage using Sarai’s soul as a bargaining chip. We also have the addition of two new characters Kora and Nova, and their stories intertwine to meld with the main narrative in both beautiful, surprising and painfully sad ways. As these various characters go through the grief and trauma, and pain that resulted from the citadel’s near fall, they also discover all they are truly capable of.

If Strange the Dreamer was about the question of Identity, Muse of Nightmares is about the question of origins. This book also explores origins from many different perspectives. It explores origins of the citadel and how it came to be in Weep, of Weep the city itself, it explores the circumstances of Lazlo’s true birth and nature, it also explores how the other characters in the book, such as Minya, developed to become the people they are today and how their perspectives shape their future actions. It asks the question What really happened all those years ago? And the various answers to this question once their discovered, are anything but simple. They open up paths to new worlds, characters, and horrors that are both painful and beautiful. Filled with mystery, intrigue, loss, pain, beauty beyond imagining, and so much
more, Muse of Nightmares is a diamond in the rough of YA fiction and needs to read by everyone. Laini Taylor is a truly magical and memorable writer. If you haven’t yet please pick up the first book of this series Strange the Dreamer, these characters are truly memorable characters that everyone needs in their life. This book come out October 2, so now is the time to catch up if you haven’t yet. You can put both on your holds list today! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Genres:
Book Review: The Romantics
Konen, Leah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Cute book about love, told from the perspective of Love. I liked the idea behind it, having Love narrate the story. I'm not the target audience, but I enjoyed it. Teens that are into rom-coms will enjoy it even more.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
The First Grave on the Right
Jones, Darynda
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is the first of a 13 book series and it is FANTASTIC!!!!! It is hilarious, the characters are very well developed. The story line is very intriguing as well as entertaining. All around this book is a great mix of romance (beware it seems a little surprising how descriptive it is), supernatural and comedy!!

Reviewer's Name: Meg
Awards:
Genres:
Metro Girl
Evanovich, Janet
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I can honestly say, this is the worst book I have read in 2018. I couldn't believe it was written by Janet Evanovich. It lacked her usual wit and laugh out loud moments. I actually thought I would love it since I enjoyed the graphic novel. But no. I didn't care about any of the characters.
I thought the story line plodded along and at the end, I just didn't care. I was hoping a canister of nerve gas would just destroy every copy of this book so no one else who's thinking of reading will suffer.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Book Review: Tell Me Three Things
Buxbaum, Julie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I think this book would have been better if I had read it instead of listening to it. The person who voiced it was highly annoying. Too bad, it may have gotten 4 stars otherwise.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Doubting Abbey
Tonge, Samantha
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Very stereotypical chick lit. Not particularly well-written but I finished it so it was okay.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
That Inevitable Victorian Thing
Johnston, E. K.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

In the near future, if Queen Victoria’s reign and the general principles of the time had been perpetuated, crown princess Victoria-Margaret is travelling to Toronto to masquerade as a commoner so that she can have a proper debut season. Regardless of who she meets, however, she will be required to marry a strong genetic match to ensure the strength of Queen Victoria I’s line. At the same time, non-socialite Helena and her beau August are heading to Toronto for Helena’s debut, and introduction into high society. The three will meet, and the events of the summer will change their lives forever.

I’m a huge sucker for books set in Victorian and Edwardian England, so I was eagerly anticipating this read. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. Part of the problem is that the charm of reading about Victorian England is that it is in the past. We certainly don’t accept a lot of those social sexist, racist and classist norms now (or at least, we pretend not to, but that’s a whole different discussion) and I think that’s for the best. It was weird to read a book about the future that’s not meant to be a dystopia where many of those awful norms are still acceptable. The author does acknowledge this in a note at the end, which is why I’m giving this two stars instead of one. There were also quite a few worldbuilding holes, if you will. For example, at one point, Margaret has a question about sexual identity. Bear in mind that this is a near future book in which the characters have access to computers and some form of the internet. So, instead of doing whatever the equivalent of googling the question would be, she e-mails her uncle, the archbishop, which no teen ever would actually do. Little inconsistent things like that popped up relatively often, and I found that it pulled me out of the story.

Speaking of the story, there’s not much in the way of plot here. That’s perfectly fine, if plot is being sacrificed for character development, but the characters here were not particularly compelling. The POV switches between the three main characters, and while all of the characters were nice and likable, they were also fairly bland. I didn’t care about anyone but Margaret until a big reveal about halfway through the story, at which point I started to find Helena interesting as well. I never could make myself care about August. All of that being said, I definitely think that romance readers will respond positively to this novel. I just kept getting bogged down in the worldbuilding or lack thereof, and never could connect with the characters. It wasn’t for me. Thanks to Dutton Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for the eARC. 2 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt

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