Category Archives: Book Review

Perfect Stranger by Carly Phillips

Overview
Image result for hot summer nights book cover

Title: Perfect Stranger
Author: Carly Phillips
Series: Serendipity #3.5
In: Hot Summer Nights (Jaci Burton, Carly Phillips, Erin McCarthy & Jessica Clare)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Dates read: 31st October 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Novella
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Year: 2013
5th sentence, 74th page: Alexa couldn’t relate to guy issues considering she lived an extremely busy life, spent hours in the hospital ER, and had no time for a relationship, let alone hot, stress-relieving sex – something she could definitely use.

Synopsis

Carly Phillips takes you back to the town of Serendipity, where overworked Alexa has an instant connection with a sinfully sexy football star on the dance floor. A one-night stand evolves into multiple nights when Luke decides to teach the good doctor about his own brand of fun. But when it’s time for him to leave town, will this “Perfect Stranger” be able to say good-bye for good?

Thoughts

Alright, this story did have slightly stalkers vibes. I mean, guy and girl dance I a club, she has to rush off to help a friend. He then… follows her? And yet, because there is that level of mutual interest and chemistry, it somehow becomes sweet. I’m not sure WHY that is. But I still thoroughly and seriously enjoyed this novella.

I loved that this is a story about usurping parental expectations and finding one’s own path. So many of my younger decisions were based on the idea of what my parents would and wouldn’t like. What was expected of me because I was intelligent. But, ultimately, happiness for me was completely against what my family had expected for me. And the same is obviously the situation I this story. Probably part of the reason I enjoyed it so much.

Although this is a romance, the part I enjoyed most about the “romance” was the fact that it was about finding one’s own happiness. And that most definitely happened here.

<- Hope SmoldersThe Legend of Jane ->

Image source: Goodreads

My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

Overview

Title: My Kind of Christmas
Author: Robyn Carr
Series: Virgin River #18
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Christmas, Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Dates read: 31st October 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Harlequin
Year: 2012
5th sentence, 74th page: He could love her for a lifetime; he would never regret it.

Synopsis

Patrick Riordan always thought that nothing could match the adrenaline rush he gets from his job. 88 But this Christmas, Patrick’s pulse is really racing…

The Riordan brothers may have a reputation for being rough-and-tumble, but Patrick has always been the gentle, sweet-natured one. These days, his easygoing manner is being tested by his high-octane career as a navy pilot. But for the Riordan brothers, when the going gets tough… the tough find the love of a good woman.

Except the woman who has caught Patrick’s attention is Jack Sheridan’s very attractive niece.

Angie LeCroix comes to Virgin River to spend Christmas relaxing, away from her well-intentioned but hovering mother. Yet instead of freedom, she gets Jack Sheridan. If her uncle had his way, she’d never go out again. And certainly not with the rugged, handsome Patrick Riordan. But Angie has her own idea of the kind of Christmas she wants – and the kind of man!

Patrick and Angie thought they wanted to be left alone this Christmas – until they meet each other. Then they want to be left alone together. But the Sheridan and Riordan families have different plans for Patrick and Angie – and for Christmas, Virgin River-style!

Thoughts

Visiting Virgin River is always comfortable and fun. But, visiting Virgin River at Christmas time? Perfect. I probably should have waited another month or so to read this so that it was more based in the festive season… but anyway, it was a perfect way to spend the day… reading about love and sweetness in Virgin River at Christmas time.

From the very beginning, I loved that this story is about Jack’s niece. It brings out a side of him that you know is there, but is still funny regardless. I really liked having him unravel as he tries to protect Angie. And how she likes to make him unravel even more with her antics and stubbornness. It definitely brings the Sheridan clan full circle. That, and the Riordan circle also closes.

Both Patrick and Angie have PTSD from past traumas. Considering this is often something associated with soldiers, I enjoyed the ways in which both learnt to deal with their own issues. Plus, it highlights that anything can happen to give an individual PTSD. And it doesn’t make them damaged. Or irreparable. I love that it’s accepting each other’s difficulties and challenges that these two find their common ground. Common ground that binds them together and helps to make your heart melt.

I loved travelling to Virgin River again. It’s such a quaint and wonderful town. The romances are gorgeous. And, honestly, both the Riordans and Sheridans are amazing. So having a couple that unites them all together – yeah, this gave me all of the happy feelings. I may have to read this again in another month or so just to recapture that beautiful Christmas feeling.

<- Sunrise PointReturn to Virgin River ->

Image source: HarperCollins Australia

Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands by Alexia Arthurs

Overview
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Title: Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands
Author: Alexia Arthurs
In: How to Love a Jamaican (Alexia Arthurs)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Race
Dates read: 31st October 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Picador
Year: 2018
5th sentence, 74th page: I observed that every man she pointed to in school or around the city, men she joked about rebounding with, were all white.

Synopsis

Friendships are difficult. But they’re even more difficult when you come from different worlds and see everything through a different lens.

Thoughts

I found this story a little intense. In the best of ways. I’m white, so although I’m peripherally aware of my privilege, I’m not consistently aware of it. And I hadn’t even thought of privilege in terms of friendships. How simple it is for me to walk into a room and find a friend, because most people look like me.

I really loved the slightly jumpy nature of this tale. For me, it highlighted that friendships aren’t exactly a simple and linear thing. Rather, they do literally jump all over the place. Maybe not in time, but when you reflect, which is the tone of this piece, you think of different moments in a totally non linear order.

Having never thought about the impact of racism and racial identity on forming something as simple (or not so aimple) as friendships, I found this intense. And thought provoking. And yes, I will be reading this again.

<- How to Love a JamaicanMash up Love ->

Image source: Goodreads

Live and Let Grow by Penny Reid

Overview
Live and Let Grow by Penny Reid

Title: Live and Let Grow
Author: Penny Reid
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Dates read: 30th October 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Novella
Publisher: SmartyPants Romance
Year: 2021
5th sentence, 74th page: Yeah.

Synopsis

Alice is in love with her best friend.

Now all she has to do is tell him.

Best buds Milo Manganiello and Alice Hooper have been the one constant in each other’s lives for over fifteen years. The charismatic and compassionate physics professor was there when Alice got married, and he was there ten years later when she got divorced. Likewise, the candid and kind computer science professor has always been there for Milo. She babysits his apartment and plethora of houseplants when he’s traveling and they share breakfast together every day he’s in town.

Alice wasn’t always in love with Milo, but the feeling has grown, and when Milo returns from his latest globe-trotting adventure, Alice decides it’s time to spill the seeds. 88 Does Alice have the grit to confess? And will feelings take root? Or is hers a love destined never to bloom?

Thoughts

For such a short story. This was just too damn cute. I mean, two people who are completely in love with each other, not quite ready to let each other know. And just generally having a whole heap of misunderstandings that could lead to total tragedy.

Alice is such a quirky lead. I know how hard it is to tell the person you love of your feelings. But the multitude of ways that she’s tried to do this… just way too cute for words. Actually, I would have probably enjoyed it far more if the first scene of her attempt to tell Milo of her feelings continued. Her sister was a bit of a killjoy with the whole romance thing. And kind of strongly putting down poor Alice when she was “looking out for her”.

The part that I’m most jealous of in this story is the fact that Alice is able to keep plants alive! I mean, I’m sure I should be jealous of the amazing romance in this tale. But since I don’t tend to even be able to keep cacti alive… I’m mostly just incredibly jealous that Alice can.

This was a fantastic visit back into the world of Penny Reid’s mind and writing. It was a short read. But one that I loved and will read again and again and again.

<- More Penny ReidMore contemporary romance ->

Image source: Goodreads

Hope Smolders by Jaci Burton

Overview
Image result for hot summer nights book cover

Title: Hope Smolders
Author: Jaci Burton
Series: Hope #0.5
In: Hot Summer Nights (Jaci Burton, Carly Phillips, Erin McCarthy & Jessica Clare)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Dates read: 30th October 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novella
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Year: 2014
5th sentence, 74th page: And her bangs covered what would undoubtedly be a slight scar, so she wasn’t too worried.

Synopsis

In Jaci Burton’s “Hope Smolders”, sturggling divorcee Jane has put her personal life on hold to raise her kids – until she runs into Will, her ex’s former best friend, who convinces her it’s time to start having fun again.

Thoughts

As the first story in a series, this definitely pulled me in. A small town, romance and characters that have their own baggage? Yeah, sign me up. That seems to be the thing that draws me in lately.

I love that Jane is working on being a strong independent woman. And even when Will comes in to try and help her, she still holds onto her independence. Alright, she might take it a little too far. But I can totally respect and admire that strength and power.

The pool setting, the romance and the feeling of second chances makes this a perfect summer romance. There are some bumps along the way, but ultimately, this is such an easy and sweet read. One I’ll definitely return to.

<- Hot Summer NightsPerfect Stranger ->

Image source: Goodreads

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

Overview
Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales - Books - Hachette Australia

Title: Only Mostly Devastated
Author: Sophie Gonzales
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance, LGBTQI
Dates read: 24th – 25th October 2021
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Hodder
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: Did you do this on purpose, or what?

Synopsis

Ollie falls for Will over the holidays, but once Summer’s ended, Will stop texting him back.

Enrolled at a new school – Will’s school – Ollie finds that the affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from Summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This version of Will is a class clown, a basketball jock and, well, a bit of a jerk.

The last time Ollie gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would be a fool to truth him with it again. Right?

Thoughts

Not only is this a fantastic and fun LGBTQI+ romance, but it is also a really sweet coming of age story. It made me cry. I’m incredibly hormonal with the whole being pregnant thing, which may be why I started to cry. But still… tears. And feelings. It was wonderful.

I’ll move onto the romance aspect that I enjoy in a moment. But part of what made me cry and connected me so strongly with this story was the way in which Ollie is dealing with his own family dramas. Set with a backdrop of getting older, having confidence in oneself and just finding a new path in life, Ollie’s journey is powerful. He is able to take on board things that I know, I, myself have found difficult. But he’s able to finish off this tale with pride and his head held high. In the most adorable way possible.

Family is such a backbone of this story. It’s a great driver for the tale. But, there is also the aspect of friendships. Ollie makes some amazing friendships from the very beginning of his time at Collinswood. But he also has to work hard for some others. I like that it’s not this picture perfect joining of people that come together. Ollie has to negotiate different personalities and motives. But, eventually, he’s able to find his own “secondary family”.

Will and Ollie are an incredibly cute and fun couple. There is a lot of complications and negotiations. Much drama. But, all in all, both Will and Ollie are able to find themselves and what they want in their lives. I love the ending of this story. They’re heading off into an unknown future that is full of beautiful potential and everything just feels… settled. Not complete. There is a lot of life left to live. But there is also so much hope.

<- The One That Got AwayPerfect on Paper ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

Marriage and Murder by Penny Reid

Overview
Marriage and Murder by Penny Reid

Title: Marriage and Murder
Author: Penny Reid
Series: Solving for Pie #2
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance, Cozy mystery
Dates read: 24th – 29th October 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: SmartyPants Romance
Year: 2021
5th sentence, 74th page: The lie.

Synopsis

The Devil is in the details…

Cletus Byron Winston wishes to marry Jennifer Anne Donner-Sylvester (aka The Banana Cake Queen) posthaste! He’s spent the last year wanting nothing more than for the celebrations to be brief, libations flowing, and BYOB (bring your own blueberries). His future mother-in-law has other plans, plans his intended has been willing to indulge, much to Cletus’s chagrin. Therefore, so must he. To a point. But truth be told, he wouldn’t mind if the meddlesome matriarch disappeared, at least until the nuptials are over.

On the night of Cletus and Jenn’s long-awaited engagement party, just when the surly schemer is of a mind to take matters into his own hands, a shocking events upends everyone’s best laid plans and sends the small hamlet of Green Valley into complete disarray. The final months leading up to Cletus and Jenn’s matrimonial bliss are plagued with chaos and uncertainty. Will Cletus and Jenn finally make it to the altar? Or will murder and mayhem derail their happily-ever-after?

And most importantly, who done it?

Thoughts

After the most enjoyable of moments in Engagement and Espionage, I couldn’t wait to pick up Marriage and Murder. Luckily, this was one of those times that I actually had it sitting on the shelf, ready to go. So, of course, I dived right in. And I most definitely was not disappointed. This was an amazing story. love the contemporary mystery feel. Loved the story line. And, as always, loved Cletus and Jenn.

This may make me a slightly bad person… but, personally I love the fact that Kip dies in this story. I mean, death is bad and all. But he is the kind of villain I most fear. The sort that is so deliriously self-righteous that you just… can’t even reason with them. Or bribe them. Or really in anyway do anything. And they’re also the type of person that I fear the most in the world. I mean, someone who has no logic and you can’t have an open, safe and frank conversation with? Yup. That’s scary. So in this story, I appreciated that he can no longer quite torture Jenn and Cletus. Once his murder is solved anyway.

I always love a good mystery in which you can’t quite guess what / who the guilty party is. The facts of this get more and more blurred as there are potentially two different murder methods / villains. I loved trying to piece together all of the bits and pieces as Cletus and Jenn rush to try and do the same thing. I mean, I would love this story just because of the amazing lead couple. But the fact that there is a mystery I spent the whole time trying to piece together? Completely priceless.

This is most definitely one of my favourite books to have read recently. Again, mostly because, well, Cletus and Jenn are awesome. They’re fun and quirky, they’re completely unique and they just leave me with a huge smile on my face from the very beginning. Definitely an impossible couple to forget. And not one that I would want to. I’m so glad that this story ends in their marriage. Now I get to find out about the next part of their relationship when I save up the money to buy Home and Heist.

<- Engagement and EspionageHome and Heist ->

Image source: Goodreads

Engagement and Espionage by Penny Reid

Overview
Engagement and Espionage by Penny Reid

Title: Engagement and Espionage
Author: Penny Reid
Series: Solving for Pie #1
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romanceCozy mystery
Dates read: 22nd – 24th October 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: SmartyPants Romance
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: What am I going to do about those cows?

Synopsis

Jennifer Sylvester made her deal with the devil… and now they’re engaged!

But all is not well in Green Valley. A chicken choker is on the loose, 61 dead birds most “fowl” need plucking, and no time remains for Jennifer and her devilish fiancé. Desperate to find a spare moment together, Jenn and Cletus’s attempts to reconnect are thwarted by one seemingly coincidental disaster after another. It’s not long before Cletus and Jenn see a pattern emerge and the truth becomes clear.

Sabotage!

Will an undercover missions unmask the culprit? Or are these love-birds totally plucked?

Thoughts

I already know that Penny Reid can write an amazing romance and a wonderful story. Plus, I did fall stupid in love with Cletus and Jenn in Beard Science. But, I was a little intrigued as to whether she could write a decent cozy mystery or not. It turns out, she can. And, like everything else I have read by her. It’s brilliant. And fun. And just all around a really good read.

I love that throughout this story, there is not only the question of who is out to get Jenn, but how Cletus is going to propose. I love that he is sweet enough to have multiple rings and to want to try again and again to get the exact right proposal. He’s incredibly dense, but also completely adorable. A nice balance in my opinion. I mean, I don’t know many people who aren’t kind of dense in at least one area. And the fact that for Cletus, it’s how relationships work… loved it.

One of the hardest things I’ve found about being in a relationship is trying to juggle everything when things get a little hectic. I know that my partner is always in my corner, but I also know that I need to make the time and space to show him that I’m also in his corner. I love that Cletus and Jenn very much go through this. They are madly in love and completely understanding of one another, but they’re not quite meshing completely throughout this story. Something that, realistically, I think most relationships go through at some point.

Jenn and her mother have a contentious and difficult relationship from the very moment that you meet them. I like that Reid acknowledges this and works towards finding a more satisfactory way to live with one another. It’s a difficult line to walk and I found the way that they try and negotiate this to be absolutely brilliant. It’s a reminder that no one is perfect, and all relationships need work – particularly those that have been dysfunctional for far too long.

There are a number of cute moments throughout this, but the part that, of course takes my attention the most – the battle that Jenn and Cletus face. The way that they are racing against the clock to try and figure out who, exactly, is trying to sabotage them. The relationships and the negotiation of their worlds’ just makes this all that much better. And, of course so much harder to put down.

<- More Penny ReidMarriage and Murder ->

Image source: Goodreads

Marry in Secret by Anne Gracie

Overview
Marry in Secret by Anne Gracie - Penguin Books Australia

Title: Marry in Secret
Author: Anne Gracie
Series: Marriage of Convenience #3
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Historical romanceRegency romance
Dates read: 23rd October 2021
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Berkley
Year: 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: If they didn’t know they couldn’t fuss, couldn’t ask me endless, impossible questions.

Synopsis

Heiress with a secret
Lady Rose Rutherford – rebel, heiress and exasperated target of fortune hunters – has a plan to gain the freedom she so desperately desire: a marriage of convenience to the biggest prize on London’s marriage mart

Hero with a past
There’s just one problem: the fierce-looking naval officer who crashes her wedding and claims to be the dead husband she secretly married when she was still a schoolgirl.

A very inconvenient marriage
Broke, embittered by betrayal and with a secret agenda of his own, Thomas Beresford needs Rose for only one reason – her fortune. Her family knows it. Thomas knows it. But Rose refuses to accept it, and when she takes matters into her own unpredictable hands, Thomas finds himself in an infuriating predicament: He’s falling in love with his wife….

Thoughts

Rose is such a pillar in the first two Marriage of Convenience books that I’ve been seriously looking forward to finding out more about her story. The fact that she’s actually been married the whole time this series has been going?!?!?! FANTASTIC. And so, very, expectedly Rose.

There are so many little secrets and tragedies that are revealed throughout this novel. Ones that you kind of guess at, and ones that you just didn’t see coming. I love that Rose and Thomas are able to keep me on my toes throughout. And most of all, that they keep me guessing from that very first moment.

Marry in Secret also hints at the final story in this series. One that I’m sure will be just as exciting and cute as the first three. But, I digress. Unlike some romances, this pulls in the first 2 couples repeatedly and beautifully. So not only are you finding out about Rose’s happily ever after, you get to keep track of Em and Lily’s as well.

I completely adored the joyful sweetness of this tale. There was just enough drama to pull me in, but mostly it was just… damn cute. A perfect way to drift away for the afternoon on a cloud of love.

<- Marry in ScandalMarry in Scarlet ->

Image source: Penguin Books Australia

A Beardy Bonus by Penny Reid

Overview
A Beardy Bonus, Bonus & deleted scenes from the Winston Brothers series by  Penny Reid | 9781942874652 | Booktopia

Title: A Beardy Bonus
Author: Penny Reid
Series: Winston Brothers Companion
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Chic lit, Contemporary, Contemporary romanceShort story collections
Dates read: 22nd October 2021
Pace: Slow
Format: Collection
Publisher: SmartyPants Romance
Year: 2020
5th sentence, 74th page: Time.

Synopsis

Beards and bonus scenes, oh my!

All the Winston Brothers bonus scenes and deleted excerpts all in one place!

Thoughts

After the emotional intensity of Beard Necessities, this was a great way to come down and just flow out of the Winston Brothers series. It’s not intense, but it is enjoyable and easy.

The short stories in this collection are just fun. There’s not anything huge or life shattering in it. And you’d be more than filled in on the Winston Brothers if you didn’t read this. But, as I mentioned, it is a bit more of a mellow finish than Beard Necessities provides. But you kind of expect that with Billy and Scarlet as leads in that.

Like the Knitting in the City collection, I didn’t love Beardy Bonus like like did the rest of the series. That’s not to say anything bad about it… I just didn’t quite NEED this in my life as much.

Overall this is a fun, easy and engaging story that had me smiling and giggling as I got to revisit some favourites.

<- Beard NecessitiesMore Penny Reid ->

Image source: Booktopia