Tag Archives: Contemporary

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

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Overview

Title: One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, LGBTQI
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Year: 2021

Thoughts

I absolutely loved Red, White and Royal Blue. It was brilliantly written with amazing characters and a wonderful storyline. Which means that I’ve been kind of hanging to read One Last Stop. I figure if one novel by McQuiston was going to be amazing, the next one probably was too. And I was completely correct. This book is amazing and wonderful and has so many emotions to it. I honestly don’t quite know where to begin…

Alright, so it took me a little to get into this. I did love August from the start. But some of her hang-ups and insecurities were just… too difficult for me to comprehend. Partly it’s probably because I’ve never really been floating through the world and untethered. I’ve always had someone, or something to give me roots. It’s incredibly difficult to understand what it would be like to not have that grounding and then relate… but I digress. August, regardless of that small factor in her characterisation that I couldn’t quite relate to was a wonderful lead. And, as I understood her more and more, I wanted to see the amazing character growth that I was hoping for from McQuiston’s writing. I wasn’t disappointed. At the root of this story, there is a major coming of age vibe that left me with all of the happy feelings.

It took me a decent chunk into this book to find the paranormal element to it. It was completely unexpected. I spent the first chunk trying to figure out how this wonderful little romance was going to go off the rails and fill the roughly 400 pages. And then that mystery element hit, and suddenly the length of the book became a lot more understandable and less tedious. I love how it was a twist that I honestly just didn’t see coming, one that had me hooked and unable to look away. It was a wonderful approach and idea that I kind of want to read more about. Actually, mostly I just want to read more about what happens after the whole cast of this story rides off, happily, into the sunset… they’re all just too cute.

This novel has a fantastic cast of characters. August and Jane as the lead couple are wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed August’s journey to acceptance and finally growing her own roots. But, then there’s the rest of the cast. Not only do multiple facets of the LGBTQIA+ community get represented within here, but there are also drag queens. Which I find ridiculously fun and wonderful. It just made me sink further and further into this story with the biggest, most ridiculous smile on my face.

<- More Casey McQuistonRed, White & Royal Blue ->

Image source: Goodreads

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Overview

Title: Ayesha at Last
Author: Uzma Jalaluddin
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romanceMuslims, Retellings
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2018

Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, and, indeed, anything Jane Austen. Which means I’m always happy and intrigued when I get the pleasure of reading a retelling of her classics. The fact that this was one of those books that I just had sent in a miscellaneous box… it left me feeling incredibly happy and over the moon. And, yes, I am completely obsessed with Jalaluddin now. She is an amazing writer, and once I sunk into this book, I struggled to put it down.

I’ve not read a lot of stories which feature Muslims. It’s definitely a cultural outlook that I am slowly increasing in my reading. But it is still incredibly sparse. Reading a retelling of a well-loved classic with this spin on it gave me an even greater understanding than I had expected. Not only was it a storyline that I already loved, but it was a cultural reality and life that I am completely fascinated by. (To be fair, I’m fascinated by anything that is not my own reality, hence the reading of a lot of books.) This window into another world also reminded us that pride and prejudice exist for everyone, no matter what their own cultural and social realities.

Unlike Pride and Prejudice, I didn’t find any of the “villains” in this story to be particularly villainous. Yes, they were a little difficult to stomach in moments, but you could also understand what drove them. Often it was small-mindedness. But it was still painful to read about, and the characters weren’t likeable. They were just… somehow more understandable. I love when the “villains” of a story are like this – it reminds you that often the “bad guys” in your own life have their own drivers and needs. It might not be exactly good and kind, but it is a little more understandable and relatable. It also takes an amazing writer to write characters that are completely unlikeable but totally understandable.

I absolutely adored this novel, and it is one that I look forward to reading again and again. There are so many fine details that pepper throughout this book that I found really intriguing and fun. I absolutely adored this and am kind of sad that it was over so soon. Which for me, is the mark of a truly amazing story.

<- More Uzma JalaluddinHana Khan Carries On ->

Image source: Booktopia

Willow Brook Road by Sherryl Woods

Overview

Title: Willow Brook Road
Author: Sherryl Woods
Series: Chesapeake Shores #13
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2015

Thoughts

I love how drastically different Carrie is from the rest of the O’Briens. Where they all want high-powered careers, she just wants a family. And Woods reminds us beautifully that this is just as important and meaningful as the rest of the O’Briens’ ambitions.

Whilst I seriously enjoyed this romance, the emotional entanglement of Susie’s journey in this also drew me in. She doesn’t act in the best of ways and is honestly quite a bitch in moments, but there is still that understanding that you get from her actions. It adds an extra layer of difficulty and drama that Carrie’s romance would otherwise be lacking.

Although I did really love the departure from the structure of the rest of this series, I did find it harder to relate to Carrie. She is incredibly and beautifully maternal. She has this fantastic natural instinct and willingness to love. Both things that I, myself don’t feel that I have. It was nice to read about someone who does though.

Yet another beautiful and incredibly cute Chesapeake Shores novel to fill a few hours with. There is just something gorgeous about this small town that pulls you in. Something that will have me returning again and again and again over the years.

<- Dogwood HillLilac Lane ->

Image source: Goodreads

The Christmas Bouquet by Sherryl Woods

Overview

Title: The Christmas Bouquet
Author: Sherryl Woods
Series: Chesapeake Shores #11
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Christmas, Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2014

Thoughts

Caitlyn and Carrie are little show stealers from their appearance in The Inn at Eagle Point. I mean, how could they not be? They’re identical twins who just run havoc across everyone’s emotions and practicalities. And, after reading about Jenny in A Seaside Christmas, I was looking forward to reading another tale about this latest generation of O’Briens.

Caitlyn was everything I had wanted her to be. She is driven and direct. Slightly scarred, and definitely terrified of commitment. Many things that I’ve felt myself. It doesn’t matter how much you love someone… if you’re a woman who wants a career, there are certain aspects of settling down to a family life that are truly terrifying. Caitlyn is scared of all of the same things.

Noah was a fantastic balance to Caitlyn in this tale. He is patient and kind, willing to understand her fears. And also willing to slowly work on them without putting untoward pressure on her. In fact, his patience and kindness in moments reminded me of my own partner… mines not quite as patient as Noah, but who would be? The whole point of a book hero is to be the ideal… not the reality.

This story may be set against Christmas, but mostly when I think about it, I recall the love. Christmas is sweet, well and good. But it is the family that, as always, drives this Chesapeake Shores romance.

<- A Seaside ChristmasDogwood Hill ->

Image source: Amazon

A Seaside Christmas by Sherryl Woods

Overview

Title: A Seaside Christmas
Author: Sherryl Woods
Series: Chesapeake Shores #10
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Christmas, Contemporary, Contemporary romance
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Year: 2013

Thoughts

After Jenny’s abrupt departure in An O’Brien Family Christmas, I was kind of wondering how things would turn out. I mean, you do understand WHY she’s so upset. But you also feel seriously frustrated at her being… well, brattish. I was wondering how I’d bond with her considering that background. Luckily, this story starts with Jenny KNOWING what a brat she is. And feeling guilty for it.

There’s a lot of things I love about the Chesapeake Shores novels. And, just contemporary romances in general. One of the things though that shines through most in this is that the love story isn’t an insta love. Rather, it is a tale about forgiveness and moving on from past hurts. Regaining trust is incredibly important for any broken relationship, and I love how it takes centre stage in this story.

The fact that this story is also based around Christmas just made me even happier to curl up with it. There’s nothing like spending a warm December’s evening reading a Christmas romance with the dogs curled up on your lap. Tales of Christmas and love always leave me feeling happy and settled. Jenny and Caleb’s tale is no exception.

Christmas by the beach is definitely an Australian tradition. It may be winter in the setting of this book, but it still had a powerful atmosphere to it that felt familiar. That, and the chaotic O’Brien Family just about made this tale. A fantastic way to start off the stories of the next generation of O’Briens.

<- The Summer GardenThe Christmas Bouquet ->

Image source: Goodreads