Tag Archives: Contemporary romance

Touchstone by Karen Stivali

Overview

Title: Touchstone
Author: Karen Stivali, Heart Eyes Press
Series: Speakeasy Taproom #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

I have to admit, having Sam as the male lead was incredibly yummy. And I’m not normally all that interested in reading about hipsters. Or just hipsters in general. But, he’s Wiccan, so the hipster thing was forgiven, and I actually enjoyed getting to know this so very yummy man a little bit better… there’s just something about not only his characterisation, but also the gorgeous relationship he has with his grandmother and great-aunt that had me smiling and digging further and further into this story.

Although I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary romances lately, I actually haven’t read many that feature the internet. I love that this tale actually uses the internet and our current obsession with memes to drive the storyline. It’s kind of a cruel beginning – memes drive a woman out of her life and thrust her into a whole new one. But I do love that it is something that generally happens these days. Plus, I seriously can’t get the idea of Phoebe with a huge hunk of meat flung over her shoulder, righteously marching off.

I’ve never been to America, let alone Vermont (where I think this is set). But I love the feeling of this setting. It actually kind of made me think of the tiny towns scattered throughout the Adelaide Hills. That sense of greenery and seclusion is so peaceful as you’re travelling through the region. It’s certainly the feeling that I get when I’m journeying into this tiny town. A feeling that I look forward to returning to with the reading of Heartwood.

Not only did I really enjoy both Phoebe and Sam independently and together, I also really loved all of the cooking and food throughout. I’m definitely developing an obsession with any kind of romance that features food and cooking. It’s just too delicious and… yummmm. So I had multiple reasons to drool while reading this fantastic romance.

<- More Karen StivaliHeartwood ->

Image source: Goodreads

Mad About Ewe by Susannah Nix

Overview

Title: Mad About Ewe
Author: Susannah Nix, SmartyPants Romance
Series: Common Threads #1
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

I really like reading romances that feature an older couple. It definitely seems that the older I get, the older I want my protagonists to be (which makes total sense). Dawn and Mike might be a little bit older than I had kind of anticipated / desired, but they still fit that happy space in which I had older protagonists that made me happy. Plus, Dawn literally opens her own yarn store… something that I most definitely can see myself doing later in life.

There are a number of quite intense themes of moments throughout this novel. Starting with Dawn’s health scare and the crisis that she deals with. She may not have the best of responses to making sure that she gives those around her the benefit of the doubt, but I can also completely understand where she’s coming from. Spun throughout the romance that builds between her and Mike, it gives a far more realistic backdrop to the ways in which we have to negotiate romance in adulthood. Although, that may just be because health scares seem to be a fairly common occurrence within my life.

Mike is a pretty good lead. There is something to be said about people moving on from the past. High school is a weird time that seems to stick with all of us. But for some, it’s a time that they never move on from. I love how all throughout, Mike is kind of ashamed of who he was in high school (as I think we all are to some degree). But, the fact that he was a jock and popular doesn’t make him feel like revisiting his heyday. In fact, his past with Dawn is something that he actively regrets. It made me love him all that much more.

This is my second Susannah Nix book, and I must say, I am most definitely in love. Her characters are wonderfully relatable, and the story line just way too lovely and relatable. That, and the fact that the protagonists in this aren’t quite what fits the normal mould for romantic comedies that I’m used to. I’ll definitely continue to fill my shelves with her works, and keep smiling my goofy smile as I devour them…

<- More Smartypants RomanceGive Love a Chai ->

Image source: Goodreads

Fallen Star by Susannah Nix

Overview

Title: Fallen Star
Author: Susannah Nix
Series: Starstruck #2
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

This is the second book in an absolutely adorable series, and it’s just encouraging me to read more and more within this world. I mean, I’m absolutely falling in love with Nix’s writing, but I’m probably also just, in general, becoming more and more enamoured with the world created in the Starstruck series. Mostly because they’re all just so damn cute. And they wonderfully investigate issues of self worth, and the persona we show the world versus our actual self.

I love how a simple mistaken impression and prejudice completely derails a relationship from the very beginning of this story. A stupid comment made in a moment not only screws with the relationship between Scott and Grace. But it also pretty seriously messes with Scott. Not only is this story all about them both overcoming their initial impressions to find a way to work. But, it is also, very much, about Scott learning how to overcome his own nonsense.

Nix does a fantastic job of dealing with mental health and addiction. She does this in a way that is beautifully relatable and accessible. Scott’s battles are so heartbreaking in moments. Particularly later in the story when he acts as his own worst enemy. Recovering from addiction is a constant journey, one that takes an immense amount of willpower. Nix also reminds us that it is an ongoing battle. For some people, mental health never leaves, but is our constant companion. And that is okay.

This was a brilliant cover to cover read when I was having a bad night. Whilst it deals with some pretty serious issues, it’s also just incredibly cute and adorable. Honestly, an incredibly easy read. With just enough drama and emotion, without making me literally grip the edge of my seat. Seriously enjoyable.

<- Star BrightRising Star ->

Image source: Goodreads

Star Bright by Susannah Nix

Overview

Title: Star Bright
Author: Susannah Nix
Series: Starstruck #1
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

This is one of the few stories lately where I actually read the blurb. So I was wondering how the Meet Cute was going to work between the two leads. The fact that it started with a panic attack and just spiraled deliciously from there… it definitely left me with all of the happy feelings.

Kimberleigh was fun as a lead. She was incredibly neurotic and had so many issues. But she was also adorable and I fell completely in love with her throughout the whole story. I particularly liked joining her in her journey when she started to acknowledge and deal with her shit.

Spencer is also completely adorable. I love how he spends the whole time trying to find ways to support Kimberleigh. He does have a few horrible habits in his past, but he’s willing to change. I like how Kimberleigh’s comments make him stop and think about his actions and decisions. Particularly that hot topic of always asking female actors about their damn underwear!

This is my third Susannah Nix novel. And the third beginning to a new series on my shelves. And, as with the others, I fell completely in love. This was just too cute and a whole lot of fun.

<- More Susannah NixFallen Star ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Neighbor by Lorhainne Eckhart

Overview

Title: The Neighbor
Author: Lorhainne Eckhart
Series: The O’Connells #1
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance, Romantic suspense
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2020

Thoughts

Whilst I seriously enjoyed this novel, it was nowhere near as suspenseful and romantic as I was expecting. I mean, I was expecting a whole lot of steam and action that you just couldn’t look away from. Instead, it was an unexpectedly sweet love story that had more darkness to it than anticipated. In fact, when I reflect on the story line, for me, this is very much a story about a dark and hidden past being moved on from and a happily ever after being found.

I love the fact that this novel was medium-paced, it was definitely hard to put down (because I wanted to know what was happening to Alison), it wasn’t impossible. And, the outcome of Alison’s going missing was nowhere near as dark as I was expecting. I mean, probably a bit hard to have a happily ever after, romantic ending in a story that ends the way my brain was expecting… but that probably says more about my brain than anything else (and let’s just not go there).

My favourite thing about this story was the O’Connell family. They’re such a great, tight-knit group. And, having only grown up with one sibling myself, what I always dreamt of in a family. I love the idea of the chaos that is inspired in every gathering of the clan. And the way that they rally together to ensure Alison is found and bought home safely? It’s just too damn adorable.

This is probably more of a psychological suspense novel than a physical one. Jenny’s abusive past and her ability to overcome it hold true to form. It’s not as if everything is magically fixed when Ryan decides to come into her life, but rather, it takes time. Plus, all of the crap that her ex hangs over their heads, even from the grave… wow. I had a bit of a sick feeling in my gut throughout reading this for that fact alone. Eckhart does such a brilliant job of giving you just enough information to make you feel seriously uncomfortable. Which makes me REALLY excited to read The Third Call.

<- More Lorhainne EckhartThe Third Call ->

Image source: Goodreads

Prose Before Bros by Cathy Yardley

Overview

Title: Prose Before Bros
Author: Cathy Yardley
Series: Green Valley Library #3
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

Drill is frequently mentioned throughout the Winston Brothers and other Smartypants Romance stories. He’s a fairly high up character in the Iron Wraiths. And, although I never found him scary, I certainly had no interest in liking him. And then I was introduced to Yardley’s writing. And I fell stupid in love. I mean, I know that many people who join gangs / find themselves in a criminal element are not necessarily doing it because of choice, but, more a lack of. But it was very different to read about someone with this history in such a cute romance.

Likewise, I never really got to feel overly involved in Old Man Blount. Just the knowledge of him as a supplier of some of Jen’s ingredients for her baking. I love how the Smartypants Romance world is so fully fleshed out with such a wide array of voices. I also love, that, again, there is a POC representation in this story. Thuy is of Vietnamese background, and although there are some darker moments throughout, it gives such a beautiful variety and flavour that left me smiling.

Thuy is quite potentially one of the toughest leads I’ve read in a while. She’s incredibly intimidating the more you get to know about her and her history in fact. And her loyalty… I have always felt loyal to my friends. But the level of Thuy’s loyalty is a whole other level. I’m not sure that I know many people who I would happily up the stakes of my whole life and just… start again. It all works out wonderfully in the end, but it’s still a bloody big leap.

There are so many aspects of this story that I absolutely loved. But I think, for me, my favourite was the way that Thuy was able to deal with the nonsense of strangers. For starters there’s the nosiness of the small-town-minded people. She has absolutely zero concerns about putting them in their place in a variety of ways. And, then, there’s the final confrontation with the Wraiths and Catfish. Again, Thuy is able to just take a whole load of nonsense, cut through it and deliver a fantastic ending. Definitely a book that I will be reading again and again.

<- Crime and PeriodicalsShelf Awareness ->

Image source: Goodreads

Dare to Desire by Carly Phillips

Overview

Title: Dare to Desire
Author: Carly Phillips
Series: Dare to Love #2
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2014

Thoughts

I immediately wanted to know more about Alex once I read Dare to Love. I mean, he’s the half-brother of Ian and the best friend of Riley… it’s a complex little mess that is going on in this story, I must say. And although Alex doesn’t necessarily come across too badly, you could tell he was going to be a moron who almost lost himself a very good woman. The fact that that woman was obviously going to be Madison… like I said, I was pretty keen to jump right in.

Turns out that I was right to be so excited and keen. This was a fun adventure from beginning to end. Alex was predictably a bit of a moron. But not enough that he wasn’t loveable. In fact, he’s so aware of his nonsense that I liked him even more. Alex spends the whole story trying to make up for his stupidity and mistakes.

Madison’s trials in this story, outside of trusting Alex were kind of heartbreaking. I was expecting a happy ending for her. But there really wasn’t one in this. However, it did make it far more real to life. And made me want a happily ever after all that much more.

This was a very light and easy read. It was a great journey. Just enough emotion to keep you attached and hooked. But not enough that it was too overwhelming. I definitely look forward to reading Olivia’s story next…

<- Dare to LoveDare to Touch ->

Image source: Carly Phillips

Forrest for the Trees by Kilby Blades

Overview

Title: Forrest for the Trees
Author: Kilby Blades, SmartyPants Romance
Series: Green Valley Heroes #1
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

I loved that this is a contemporary romance that deals, realistically, with inequality issues. I mean, at the centre it’s just another beautiful and heart-warming romance. But the other aspects of the plot that deal so directly with an issue that many people face? That was glorious. And, it’s not just dealing with a woman working in STEM (I actually wanted to work in the exact same area and eventually just gave up). But it is also about being a POC and how this can further become a restriction on what is available to a person.

I’ve got to admit, that I think Forrest’s quiet and steady pursual of Sierra is kind of adorable. I’m not normally a fan of that whole, steadily and quietly pursuing somebody. It can give off too strong a stalker vibes at times. But, it didn’t in this. Instead, Forrest’s court (even when Sierra was unaware of it) is very respectful and sweet. He takes the time to learn more about her and create a relationship that can be used as the basis of something more. Rather than just making a decision about their potential future.

On that note, I actually really loved the relationship building in this story. Sierra and Forrest slowly build up their knowledge of one another. It starts out antagonist, becomes closer and closer, and then eventually makes its way to something more serious. I love tales which build a relationship around truly getting to one another. I mean, I also love when there is all of that sexual sizzle, but sometimes it’s just nice when a couple takes that damn time to build something.

Alongside the discussions of inequality and the romance, there is also the secondary story line which is a bit of a whodunnit. I spent the whole time trying to figure out just how the fires were getting lit. What the motive was. Who had actually done it. And why there seemed to be a bit of a dodgy cover up throughout. Of course, it was all tied up quite nicely, and I definitely loved the comeuppance at the end when everything was revealed.

<- More Kilby BladesParks and Provocation ->

Image source: Goodreads

Chasing Romeo by Sarah Ready

Overview

Title: Chasing Romeo
Author: Sarah Ready
Series: Soul Mates in Romeo #1
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

This story takes a total and complete departure into CrazyTown. It’s a very cute contemporary romance, but, boy does it go to LooneyVille. And honestly, I loved every single damn minute of it. It’s completely unrealistic, but I think that most romances are – that’s why they’re such a great escapist read. Chasing Romeo really ticked all of my boxes for a good escapist read. It was funny, light, cute, completely predictable and just all round fun.

It’s impossible not to realise from the very moment that Chloe’s soul mate is announced as the first guy she kissed that it can’t be Nick. You know that the soul mate psychic can’t be wrong, and the purposeful vagueness of the pronouncement is exactly what drives the story line. I do love that the old broad is ridiculously manipulative though – and I’m looking forward to the rest of the books in this series to see how she is able to continue to manipulate others. But, even knowing how that will end, I did enjoy the journey to get there. And that realisation that whilst fate may exist, it’s still our choice at the end of the day.

The part of CrazyTown that had me laughing the most was the seven Matts. Each and every one is completely insane, has absolutely zero reservations in their insanity. And, in general is just ridiculously fun. I love how they all make a reappearance at the end of the story in the epic love moment. I mean, if you’re going to travel across a country and find all of the insane Matts you possibly can, why not use them in your romantic announcement? Seriously had me laughing out loud.

This was such a fantastic and cute cover to cover read. I had fun, I laughed, and I really loved the sweetness of the characters. Alright, Chloe is kind of an idiot with her determination to just hunt down some poor guy and announce that he’s her soul mate… but Ready is able to build that story up in a way that even if you kind of think she’s an idiot, you can also understand why. Plus, Nick is just a fantastic counter to this, which helps to dilute some of the “what is that woman thinking?”

<- More Sarah ReadyLove Not at First Sight ->

Image source: Booktopia

The Importance of Being Alice by Katie MacAlister

Overview

Title: The Importance of Being Alice
Author: Katie MacAlister
Series: Ainslie Brothers #1
Rating Out of 5: 2.5 (Readable, but not worth reading again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Year: 2015

Thoughts

I wanted to like this novel a lot more than I actually did. Which seems to be a bit of a common occurrence lately. I mean, I loved the premise and the idea behind this tale. But I didn’t necessarily find the execution to be quite to my taste. Actually, from the moment that I read about Alice’s boobs talking to Elliot, I started to go, yeah, nah…

The other aspect of this story that I found kind of difficult was the rivalry between women. The idea that Alice is falling for a guy, and there is a random woman on their cruise who has just decided to seduce him. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m kind of over the opposing female as the villain. An accidental villain yes, but one who is adamantly out to get someone’s man? Can we please come up with a new trope? It just feels so… painful.

I did like the backdrop of this story. Stuck on a cruise ship together, touring around Europe? I can imagine that it would be very easy to fall in love in such a setting. But, honestly, that’s probably the most that I liked about this novel. Maybe I’m being spoilt for the romances at the moment.

Even though I didn’t enjoy this, I will probably read the next book in the series… just for curiosities sake.

<- More Katie MacAlisterA Midsummer Night’s Romp ->

Image source: Goodreads