Category Archives: Book Review

Heart Smart by Emma Lee Jayne

Overview

Title: Heart Smart
Author: Emma Lee Jayne
Series: Work For It #2, SmartyPants Romance
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

Max and Holly are an incredibly well fit and beautiful couple. And you can tell that they’re going to be so from the very beginning. Primarily because he is the typical grouchy male lead who doesn’t let anyone close. And although Holly isn’t all sunshine and roses, she certainly comes across as that in moments. The more you get to know each of them as Heart Smart unfolds, the more you realise that these initial views aren’t quite correct. But, they’re still a good indication of how well-fit and beautiful the couple of this romance are.

Both Holly and Max are neurodivergent, and although there are some liberties taken (Jayne herself states this at the end of the story), it still has a total sense of authenticity to it. I particularly loved the lack of understanding shown by others – in particular Holly’s ex-husband. And the ways in which other peoples’ inability to understand people who are different manages to scar the two leads. Even if we state that other peoples’ opinions don’t matter, they often do. And when you can’t conform to them, there are some very varied and not always healthy shields that people construct to prevent themselves from getting hurt again. Both Max and Holly might do this is slightly different ways throughout, but they do do them.

It took a long time for me to want to dive right back into tales of academia – I got pretty bitten by that realm when I was a part of it. But, there were also aspects of it that I absolutely adored. And Heart Smart manages to highlight many of them. The total dedication to one area of study, the fascination, the peace and quiet of the lab out of hours… all of those things that Max obviously relishes are things that I, myself, often miss. But, then there’s many of the hurdles that Holly faces – the expectations to conform to a certain type of “smarts”, the requirements of a very specific study pathway, even if it doesn’t work for you… I love how Jayne is able to talk about both these negative and positive aspects throughout her writing.

I absolutely loved reading this book and I am completely disappointed that it is over. Even though you know how this story is going to end (as you always do with a good romance), the journey and the bumps along the way are just stunning. It was a story that was beautiful and heartfelt, and made me think about all of the wonderful ways in which people can create their own families.

<- Street SmartBook Smart ->

Image source: Goodreads

Street Smart by Aly Stiles

Overview

Title: Street Smart
Author: Aly Stiles
Series: Work for It #1, SmartyPants Romance
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

So this is definitely a Smartypants Romance book that doesn’t have a ridiculously strong connection to the rest of the series. Or at least, the books that I’ve managed to read in this collection. The mention of the Sandekes is pretty much it. But, I can’t say that that really impacted my enjoyment all that much. I still absolutely adored this tale and couldn’t bear to put it down. It’s a fun, adventurous tale that most definitely left me smiling and just generally enjoying the world that Stiles is able to weave around you.

Although there was insta-love in this story, I really enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t quite insta-love. Through working closely together, Eva and Marcos are able to build their understanding of each other and each other’s strengths. It’s this that truly draws them to one another again and again. Alright, Eva was a lot more aware of some of Marcos’ talents before they meet (the whole resume and hiring thing). But I do like how they slowly get to know one another to build that relationship, and then decide to go further in their relations.

Most stories I’ve read that feature an office romance have the man being the one who is in charge and who has all of the power. I love that in this story, it is Eva who is the office superior. She’s the one who is nominally in charge – a fantastic dynamic and one that I don’t see nearly often enough. The risks and trials that she takes to be with Marcos are also highlighted. Alongside the constantly frustrating feeling of being overlooked and underestimated. It was certainly a wonderful alteration in the expected. One that I want to read more of.

Street Smart is a fantastic romance. It has strong characters, a fun story line and a wonderful sense of being dropped into the corporate world. I love that alongside falling in love, Marcos and Eva are trying to uncover an espionage plot. I have absolutely no interest in joining the corporate world. But I did enjoy the insight that this cutesy romance granted me.

<- More SmartyPants RomanceHeart Smart ->

Image source: Goodreads

Mermaid River by Alexia Arthurs

Overview
How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs

Title: Mermaid River
Author: Alexia Arthurs
In: How to Love a Jamaican (Alexia Arthurs)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Picador
Year: 2018

Thoughts

I loved how this short story flicked back and forth in time. I definitely feel that it’s the case in any circumstance when you are visiting the past. It’s like a layer of juxtaposition – you see the past and all of its nuances, but then you also place that against the present which you are living. Definitely a unique journey to go on.

Arthurs not only flickers between the past and the present, but also between America and Jamaica, helping to drive home the immigrant experience that many go through. For me, an Aussie, both experiences and countries were thrillingly unique and unexpected. I loved how these totally different worlds sat nestled in the narrators experience and built an incredible picture.

Mermaid River is a story that I’m sure many people could connect to. I myself, who has no experience with either country nor immigration was reminded of grandparents and saying goodbye to the past. Definitely a sweet and wonderful short story that will transport you to another reality.

<- IslandThe Ghost of Jia Yi ->

Image source: Goodreads

Dare to Love by Carly Phillips

Overview

Title: Dare to Love
Author: Carly Phillips
Series: Dare to Love #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2013

Thoughts

There is a really fine line when writing romances with a dominant male – they have to be a little toe curling with their orders. But they also can’t be too overbearing. I’ve read some romances which the line between dominant and abusive feels seriously blurred and flirted with. Phillips doesn’t even come close to that line and discomfort. She is able to write Ian as an incredibly domineering and controlling man, but one that you really want to have in your life. One you want to reach out to and hug.

I also really enjoyed the fact that alongside this level of controlling, Riley also questions the dominant side of Ian. She even goes so far as to really delve into whether her submissions to him are dangerous to her independence, or just something enjoyable between two consenting adults. As I’ve said, some of the bodice rippers that I’ve read don’t really go near this line very well, and Phillips is completely able to do so. Which just made me love both Riley and Ian even more.

Ian’s history with his father and the existence of the “two families” is so tragic and difficult to comprehend. I can completely understand why the man has some pretty big baggage, particularly with his counterpoint in the other family. I like that as Riley and Ian are getting to know one another, Ian is forced to not only confront his own past, but also the family that he never really wanted to know. Now I can’t wait to see how Alex experienced this and what scars he’s been left with. Riley also has some serious trust issues that she spends most of the book working through. She might think that her childhood hasn’t scarred her like, but like everyone else, our childhood’s can influence who we are today and the way we maintain our relationships.

I love that both Riley and Ian have to confront their past and figure out how to trust one another in this story. it’s a great novel, and I do love a bit of the domineering sexuality that comes out. But it was the emotional turmoil and bonding that truly made me not want to put this book down. And, in fact, I pretty much didn’t – reading this all in one day.

<- More Carly PhillipsDare to Desire ->

Image source: Carly Phillips

Cutie and the Beast by M.E. Carter

Overview

Title: Cutie and the Beast
Author: M.E. Carter
Series: Cipher Office #1, SmartyPants Romance
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2020

Thoughts

Abel’s sarcasm and banter with Rian in Weight Expectations was honestly glorious. And witty. And adorable. When I discovered that not only has Carter written more books in this series… but that this featured my favourite trainer? Sign me up! Yet again, it hit all of my happy romance spots and drew me in.

This story had a very found family feeling to it. In some moments a little insta-family. But even that concern is addressed in the story line. Which makes it a little less on the nose in my opinion. Although I would love a revisit to this family to see how Mabel and Ainsley grow up together…

Able and Elliott may make a wonderful romantic couple. But as seems to be the case with many stories featuring young children, Mabel and Ainsley totally stole the show. And, even though they were adorable, I like that they were also the wedge that caused one of the upsets to a happy ending. When you’ve got children they feature heavily in every aspect of your life and Carter definitely reflected this in this story line.

There wasn’t quite as much witty banter as in Weight Expectations in this novel. Which I did miss a bit. But I think that on the flip side there was a lot more heart. And who could complain about that?

<- Sticking to the ScriptWeights of Wrath ->

Image source: Goodreads

Sticking to the Script by Stella Weaver

Overview

Title: Sticking to the Script
Author: Stella Weaver
Series: Cipher Office #1, SmartyPants Romance
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2019

Thoughts

Steven is SUCH a sweetheart in the Knitting in the City series. Which means that when I found out that he gets his own LGBT romance… be still my beating heart!!! And yes. It was everything I could have wanted. And more.

Not only does Sticking to the Script have cameos from Quinn and Janie, Elizabeth and Nico also make a good appearance. Which works wonders since Steven’s other half, Ken features prominently in their story. Even Kat and Dan and Steven’s machinations to help them in their story take centre stage at one point. All of which work to give an alternate point of view to these moments in the main series.

I enjoyed that Ken is given a whole lot more fleshing out in this book. As a secondary character that was not all that likeable, I loved how Weaver was able to make me fall in love with him. Very, very quickly. She’s taken a character that I didn’t necessarily give a second thought to, to one that I kind of adored and wanted with all my heart to hug. Actually, there were moments I preferred him to Steven, who I was already in love with…

This is my first LGBT romance in the SmartyPants Romance novels that I’ve read (admittedly there aren’t many, unless you count the Love Beyond Measure series in which case…). I love that this was a wee bit of a departure from what I’ve come to expect. But still filled with that love and light that I’m getting used to in this world.

<- Weight ExpectationsCutie and the Beast ->

Image source: Goodreads

Weight Expectations by M.E. Carter

Overview

Title: Weight Expectations
Author: M.E. Carter
Series: Cipher Office #1, SmartyPants Romance
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2019

Thoughts

I’m slowly falling more and more in love with the SmartyPants Romance world. But, this is only my second dive into it. And I was NOT disappointed. Weight Expectations returns to the joyous world of Quinn’s office with some wonderfully humorous moments surrounding Janie’s pregnancy. Partner with that the fact that the second main setting is a gym and I was hooked.

I love the realism of fitness and working out throughout this book. One of my pet peeves is people constantly fighting to work towards a body type and weight that just isn’t healthy and doesn’t work for their genetics. Rian is aware of this, and whilst there are many moments of insecurities, she ends up being damn proud of her curves. It made me want to do a standing ovation.

Carlos on the other hand starts out a little less realistic about his workout goals. I mean, a couple of hours a day, working full time and clean eating? I’m not entirely sure WHO is able to do that. Certainly not anyone I know. Yet, even his slight insanity is mellowed out by the presence of Rian in his life.

I absolutely adored this novel and although it was through kobo plus, I cant wait to add the physical book to my shelves. This was such a fun and cute read that completely swept me away. Perfect for somebody who has their own gym obsession, but an inability to train at the moment. And you know… anyone who loves romance.

<- More SmartyPants RomanceSticking to the Script ->

Image source: Goodreads

Once Upon a Duke by Erica Ridley

Overview

Title: Once Upon a Duke
Author: Erica Ridley
Series: 12 Dukes of Christmas #1
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Christmas, Historical romanceRegency romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2018

Thoughts

I was a bit tentative to read this at first – I mean, a story set around Christmas. And dukes and… yeah, it just sounded kind of kitschy. But, whilst it was fairly predictable and stereotypical, it was epically fun and special. The whole idea of the spirit of Christmas was woven throughout the storyline beautifully. And, it was incredibly fun to find some of those little easter eggs of Christmas tales that Ridley managed to weave through the storyline.

One of my favourite easter eggs was most definitely the partridge in a pear tree… I can only assume that the other 12 days of Christmas presents will find their way into the rest of the books about the 12 dukes. It may not be Christmas time at the moment – but that carol has definitely been echoing in my head since I read the name of the series…

I like that Noelle (and I JUST got that Christmas name), is focused on community and love. She is such a sweet lead, and if I find that a bit of an unrealistic characterization, it is still just beautiful. After all, she is the one who falls in love with a humbug and decides to spend the rest of her life with him… not a choice for the faint of heart.

This is a great second chance love story. The fact that it is set in a village lovingly called Christmas and features a humbug and woman named Noelle… well, it just makes it all that much cuter. I might have found it a little bit too sickly cute at times. But, overall, I think that this was incredibly enjoyable and a nice, fun and light read.

<- Making MerryKiss of a Duke ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn

Overview

Title: The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Smythe-Smith Quartet #4
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Historical romanceRegency romance
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2015

Thoughts

As a final book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet, I was intrigued to how everything would tie together. Plus, although Iris only makes her first memorable appearance in The Sum of All Kisses, it was intriguing to know what was going to happen in her happily ever after. Not going to lie though, I wouldn’t mind finding out about the happily ever after of Daisy. Regardless, I did thoroughly enjoy how The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy rounded out this quartet and left me feeling very happy and content.

I love that Iris is completely suspect of her new husband, but also happy to try and find a good ending. She isn’t taken in by his actions and doesn’t fall for his underhandedness. But, she’s also willing to try and find the good in him and love him. Honestly, with his big secret and trickery, I don’t know if I could ever forgive him myself. But, Iris is smart and good, even when she has every right not to be. She’s also pretty determined and underhanded herself when she wants to be.

Richard’s secret is somewhat predictable considering the era in which this story is set. It’s still pretty harsh and horrible for Iris, and I did wonder how the reveal and subsequent battle would evolve. But, it was still seriously predictable. Luckily for me, I read these regency romance novels for their simplicity and predictability. There is enough of a surprise throughout the evolution of their relationship that I couldn’t put this down though. Not that it’s hard for me to sink deeply into a book.

I absolutely adored The Secrets of Richard Kenworthy. I didn’t necessarily feel quite as connected to the characters as in other Julia Quinn books, but I also couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen to them next. Ultimately I think what I loved the most about this book was the way in which Iris was able to deal with an untenable situation in the best of ways.

<- The Sum of All KissesMore Julia Quinn ->

Image source: HarperCollins Australia

The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

Overview

Title: The Sum of All Kisses
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Smythe-Smith Quartet #3
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Historical romanceRegency romance
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2013

Thoughts

Every time I pick up a Julia Quinn novel, I know I’m going to love it and that I’m in for a treat. I do like to put a little bit of time between my reads so that I don’t start to feel the same same about regency romances. But it doesn’t seem to matter if I’ve read 4 in a week, or nothing for a few months… I love all of her books that I’ve read. Sarah and Hugh’s story is no different.

I enjoy the poetry of the cousin of the man whose life Hugh kinda screwed up is the one he ends up with. I also like that Sarah just takes all of the needless drama of the men and fixes it. In like one moment of her cracking it. A good reminder of the power of women.

Hugh’s background is probably the most abusive if the heroes I’ve read in the Julia Quinn books. In fact, his father absolutely horrified me. I like that they kind of got control of him in the end. But the bustard is still terrifying and I just can’t imagine marrying into such a horrifying legacy.

Iris has a bit of a cameo in the other Smythe-Smith books, but she has a lot more of a presence in this novel. It just makes me look forward to reading the next book in this series all that much more…

<- A Night Like ThisThe Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy ->

Image source: Julia Quinn