I knew Willa and Everett’s story was going to be adorable from their first glimpses in Crime and Periodicals. But I didn’t quite expect this level of intensity. Or outside drama. I mean, I knew Willa had crap to deal with, but I didn’t quite expect either of their baggage to be so intense. Which, of course meant that it was seriously difficult to put this down and go to bed at night…
Everett’s issues were a little bit less intense than Willa’s, and I also found them to be a little bit disjointed. He has so many self-confidence issues with women because of his geekiness. And the fact that women don’t want a hot, geeky, lumberjack in their lives. Personally, I just can’t picture this. I mean, who would NOT want that man in their lives and their bed? Maybe his issue is actually shyness, or I’m just projecting because that’s what I’d want in my bed…
Unlike Everett’s backstory, Willa’s actually broke my heart a little bit. Firstly, she has a mother who is just horrible and passive aggressive. Then there’s her ex-husband who is seriously terrifying. I mean, it doesn’t matter if he only hit her once. The man is a damn stalker and bully. It definitely hurt to read about. But then there’s her sisters. They’re freaking amazing. Like Ruby in Crime and Periodicals, Gracie is full of sassy teenage spunk. Spunk that helps her older sister find herself. (Not to mention that Ruby makes plenty of appearances too). And Sadie and Clara are most definitely “crazy sisters” but are willing to kick butt and take names in solidarity with their sibling.
Carpentry and Cocktails is yet another fantastic SmartyPants Romance and Nora Everly tale. It has all of the great cameos from other stories and hints at the next Monroe brother to fall. It was a constant struggle to try and out this book down, one that I honestly didn’t fight too hard against. One that I look forward to picking up again and again in the future.
I know that this is a romance. And I did most definitely love the lead couple Zeke and Finley. But I’m sorry. The true dream team in this story were GramBea, Dot and Estelle. They are freaking amazing and wonderful. And in every scene, they’re in, they completely steal the show. I definitely love stories with tough old birds who are done with not being themselves, instead loving running riot on the world. That, and the fact that they’re able to beat a potential badge to a pulp with their handbags. Iconic scene there.
Finley finding her husband cheating as the catalyst for her life change and move isn’t really a new mechanism of change. However, the fact that this happened with a man. Wow, that was a whole new twist. One that I really really appreciated, mostly because I seemed to have read a chunk of books with the whole cheating spouse as a driver in a bit of a hit. So, having a guy cheating spouse? It was a fresh new spin and a great way to give Finley some more challenges to overcome beyond being cheated on.
I loved how Zeke’s main challenge to overcome is in finding his bio family. For him, part of that is a positive journey, the other part, not so much. Interspersed within all of this is the ways he is co Stanley challenging Finley. Taking her cosplaying might be one of my favourite literary dates. Again, it was just adorable and fun to read about. And have a thing for geek men.
This was a gorgeous romance, one that I thoroughly enjoyed and would love to read again. Katie Ashley has definitely been added to my pile of loved authors. But what I loved the most about this was that throughout the whole story, Zeke and Finley help each other to heal from their past hurts and move on. They figure out who they are without losing themselves in a new relationship.
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.
One of the things that I’m absolutely loving about the literature that is coming out these days is that there is a lot more representation of neurodivergent characters throughout. Even though in this book, the neurodivergent Harry isn’t one of the lead romantic characters, he is still front and centre. And honestly, he is so damn ridiculously gorgeous that there are often moments where he steals the spotlight. As do Wyatt’s two daughters throughout. Which, if there are children in a story, I can completely get behind them doing a whole lot of show stealing.
I’ve seen a lot of mentions of anxiety throughout the media that I consume. Sometimes it’s used as a bit of a punchline (as are many other things). And often I’ve seen it kind of glorified or made a little sexy. When I see it glorified and made into something that isn’t completely debilitating at times, I get seriously pissed. Believe me, if you have issues with anxiety – it is not fun, it is not sexy and it is not desirable. Everlytotally gets this. Sabine’s issues with her anxiety and mental health frustrate the hell out of her. They constantly impact her life, and she is not in any way, shape or form enamoured with her reality. In fact, much of what I loved about this story was her trying to overcome her “crap” and build a more functioning life for herself. With or without Wyatt’s involvement.
I also love that this story features a dead-beat mother. It’s tragic and definitely makes your heart hurt for the girls, but again, it’s a nice look at something that is realistic. Not all mothers are great at mothering, and some are just downright terrible. I love that Sabine is able to go a long way towards healing the hurt and damage that is inflicted upon Wyatt’s poor children. Can you tell that I found the kids absolute show-stealers in this book? I love the romance and the development of Sabine and Wyatt’s relationship, but it’s the ways in which their children are worked into the future that really had my heart doing all of the happy leaps.
Like many of the other SmartyPants Romance books that I’ve read, there are many moments that dove-tail perfectly into the rest of the universe-happenings. Those mentions of some beautiful characters give a great sense of familiarity, particularly when I was reading a whole new author for me. An author that I must admit I have completely fallen in love with. And one that I look forward to reading again and again.
I have to be honest, I get a little bit over the storylines that feature a woman who has only had sex with the one man. Or who are virgins before they meet their one and only… and this did have a bit of that kind of trope. It made me feel a little hesitant to sink into this novel. Although I didn’t necessarily love that Naomi spent twenty-odd years waiting for Nathan to come back into her life, I did still enjoy this story. Probably because Naomi didn’t really spend that time pining for and waiting for one man, but just dealt with her sexuality and weird messed up feelings about it in her own time and her own way.
There are pretty much no contemporary books on my shelves that feature wiccans. Sure, I have plenty of paranormal stories which feature this practice – but they combine the paranormal views of magic. This is the first one that is all about what it’s actually like to practice Wicca in the everyday world. The practices, the beliefs, and the prejudice that people have to face. The fact that it endangers Naomi on a regular basis because she’s in a small town… it’s completely understandable and realistic. Unlike all other stories that I’ve read featuring Wicca.
Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t go into a career as a librarian – I have a book obsession and am an introvert. Naomi’s job and the constant, beautiful reminders of Bethany Winston made me wonder even more why I haven’t trialled this as a career. Although, to be fair, I do love the career that I currently have… but I digress. The backdrop of the library and it’s potential for being closed against the drama of Naomi and Nathan’s relationship is absolutely gorgeous. Then, there’s the complete counterpoint of Nathan’s dramas – the Iron Wraiths and all of their horribleness. It made me fairly uncomfortable throughout. But it was most certainly the perfect obstacle to overcome.
I may have been a bit hesitant about reading this due to the virgin trope – but I did end up absolutely loving it. The virgin trope is a little less painful than I had anticipated – and probably takes up more of my review than it did of the actual story line. Definitely an enjoyable book that I look forward to reading again and again.