Happy New Year!! Here is the first interlude of the year. I contemplated posting last Saturday but was unable to review appropriately until this week. First, it seemed like 2020 would never end and then all of a sudden it was already 2021.
RomeAntically Challenged (2020)
by Marina Adair
Publication: July 28, 2020
Series: When in Rome #1
One liner: Annie takes a job in Rome and gets a surprise when the owner of her rental unexpectedly returns.
There are multiple layers to the book that I did not expect. Annie is adopted and struggles in this in-between place, wondering where she belongs. Her adoptive parents are white but she is Asian, specifically Vietnamese. While I also struggle with feelings of belonging, I balance a different in-between. As a child of the refugees, I struggle with being enough–Hmong/Asian enough and American enough. Annie’s struggle resonated with me. The book is also largely about a father who doesn’t feel like he quite belongs in his makeshift family. He shares the privilege of fatherhood with two other individuals, his best friend and his daughter’s stepfather. Here are two individuals with different struggles, both trying to figure out where they belong and finding love along the way. Despite so many different things going on, the book never feels like it takes too much on its shoulders and provides a good balance. I enjoyed it.
Love on the Ropes (2020)
by Aviva Vaughn
Publication: September 25, 2020
Series: Love in Action #1
One liner: One-sided work crushes end up being not so one-sided during a work retreat.
I picked up the book because the beginning hooked me. I needed to know why Clint was sitting in his car spying on Erin, wondering if Erin had moved on, and why he thought it might be too late for them. It was a somewhat sweet romance between two coworkers who were attracted to each other but I struggled with how much I liked this book. Half of the book takes place during a work retreat involving a ropes course and building team work while the other half is back at their work place. Their relationship was a bit of a slow burn, which I didn’t mind but I disliked the lack of communication and secrets. I did like Vaughn’s writing and will definitely pick up her other books but the ending was just so-so. I liked that Clint wasn’t an alpha male and how he was a bit flustered to be around Erin. It was cute.
IOU: A Romantic Comedy (2020)
by Kristy Marie
Publication: April 29, 2020
Series: Standalone but interconnected
One liner: After walking in on her cheating boyfriend and former friend/roommate, Ainsley James seeks out Maverick Lexington for a favor.
Sure, rumors are that Ainsley James is crazy but who wouldn’t be after coming home to find the two people you trust stabbing you in the back? I completely understood why she did what she did and loved that the book started with a bang…well, with flames (heh). I liked how feisty Ainsley was. Maverick grew on after I realized he wasn’t all that he seemed. My favorite part is when Ainsley goes back to her apartment to get her stuff and she takes the bread. She bought it so she’s taking it. Petty? Yeah. But I’d do the same thing if I was the one who bought the bread! I’m now sorry that I kept passing on this book when it constantly appeared as a recommended read.
by Shain Rose
Publication: December 2, 2020
Series: Stonewood Brothers #3
One liner: Close friends realize they may be more than friends but different hurdles need to be overcome before they can be together.
I was hooked as soon as I started reading it. Rose quickly establishes the relationship between Jay and Mikka, and the attraction they have for one another despite both clearly trying to maintain they are just friends. I try to stay away from certain content but it wasn’t clear until a bit later into the book that an abusive relationship is one of the obstacles Jay and Mikka’s friendship has to overcome. Rose portrays what happens in an abusive relationship very well. She compares it to having an addiction, and I think in many ways she’s right. There’s the belief that it’s just a one-time thing and wanting to stop and leave but being afraid or believing it won’t happen again. One of the highlights of the novel is side character Lorraine, the owner of the bed and breakfast Mikka and Jay stay at. She tells it like it is and, like Mikka, I loved her all the more for it. This was nearly a 5-star read for me but I didn’t like Mikka’s back and forth on the status of her relationship with Jay. Additionally, I wasn’t quite sold on the ending. Overall, I liked the book and look forward to reading more by Rose. (Content Warning: It’s not immediately clear from the synopsis but there is an abusive relationship that is central to the story as well as drug addiction.)