Discussion: Second Chance Romances

Reflecting on My Love/Hate Relationship with Second Chance Romances

THE TROPE

Two individuals are in love but then something happens, leading them to break up.  For some reason or other, they’re back in each other’s lives. Time is especially pivotal here. What happened during the time apart? How has distance, emotionally and, often, physically, affected our leads such that romance is still possible? Eventually, one thing leads to another, feelings can no longer be ignored, and they’re back together. Maybe this time around, the ending will be a better one. Better yet, maybe there won’t be an ending because they’ll be together forever.


Second chance romances always leave me with twisted emotions, torn between anger (e.g. Don’t do it! He doesn’t deserve you! ) and swooning (e.g. He loves you! You still love him! Just kiss each other already!). After reading Priscilla Oliveras’s Anchored Hearts, I had a sudden revelation about why I always feel a slightly uncomfortable with second chance romances. (Light bulb moment!)

I hate second chance romances because of the vulnerability that comes with it–this is where the discomfort comes from.  Someone can always hurt you at any time, but the problem with second chance romances is often times one person has already hurt the other–someone hurt you or you hurt them. Now, you’re giving them an opportunity to do it again, but what’s worse is that you’re doing it with your eyes wide open–I guess this can be a good or a bad thing. It also feels like you’re giving them permission to do it again. I hate this feeling and it usually rears itself just about every second chance romance novel I read.

Yet, I continue to subject myself to this pain because I also can’t help loving the trope. A new beginning brings with it hope that the outcome will be different. Hopefully, time and distance has allowed each to grow, to mature. It’s not just knowing everything that went wrong or even right, but understanding what happened. Maybe, we will be smarter this time around. Past hurts can be overcome. Maybe happily ever after is possible with each other. But then there’s always this little fear in the back of my mind, whispering that hope can be a dangerous thing.

I’m a sucker for second chances, and I’m a sucker for hope even though it means restarting something that might lead to painful consequences. Then again, I’m usually reading this trope in a romance novel where HEA’s are guaranteed. (Thank goodness!) My favorite second chance romances are where there is growth and lots of groveling, especially on the part of the love interest. It helps to tamper that niggling discomfort that the lead is making themself too vulnerable and they’ll be hurt all over again.

Second Chance Romances

Persuasion_cover

Persuasion (1817)
by Jane Austen
ASN/ISBN: 9780192802637


**One of my favorite Austen novels where time has allowed for greater introspection by the offending party. **

Goodreads Summary
Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

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The Good Luck Charm (2018)
by Helena Hunting
ASN/ISBN: 9781538760154


**Not nearly enough groveling for me but an ultimately satisfying read.**

Goodreads Summary
Lilah isn’t sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career, or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she’s no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan Kane wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let him in, though, she finds out their reunion has nothing to do with her and everything to do with his game. But Ethan’s already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he’ll do anything to keep from losing her again.

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Daring and the Duke (2020)
by Sarah MacLean
ASN/ISBN: 7980062691996


**Second Chance Romance/Lovers-to-Enemies-to-Lovers novel with so much groveling from the male love interest that I couldn’t help but love it. No discomfort here at all. Nearly perfect. My favorite read of the quarter so far (My Review)**

Goodreads Summary
Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best, until the man she once loved returns.

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back… and make her his duchess.

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.

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In Case You Missed It (2020)
by Lindsey Kelk
ASN/ISBN: 9780008384654


**While it’s a bit slow and Ros isn’t the most interesting protagonist, I added it here because it provides a different perspective on second chance romances from the other books listed. The overall message of the novel resonated with me as well. (My Review)**

Goodreads Summary:
When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…

AnchoredHearts_cover

Anchored Hearts (2021)
by Priscilla Oliveras
ASN/ISBN: 9781420150193
Publication: April 27, 2021


**The one that got me thinking about second chance romances. Alejandro’s light bulb moment happens on the pages, but I really wanted to smack Anamaria over the head and make sure she knew what she was doing because Alejandro is pretty selfish. (My Review)**


Goodreads Summary
Award-winning photographer Alejandro Miranda hasn’t been home to Key West in years–not since he left to explore broader horizons with his papi’s warning echoing in his ears. He wouldn’t be heading there now if it wasn’t for an injury requiring months of recuperation. The drama of a prodigal son returning to his familia is bad enough, but coming home to the island paradise also means coming face to face with the girl he left behind–the one who was supposed to be by his side all along…

Anamaría Navarro was shattered when Alejandro took off without her. Traveling the world was their plan, not just his. But after her father’s heart attack, there was no way she could leave–not even for the man she loved. Now ensconced in the family trade as a firefighter and paramedic, with a side hustle as a personal trainer, Anamaría is dismayed that just the sight of Alejandro is enough to rekindle the flame she’s worked years to put out. And as motherly meddling pushes them together, the heat of their attraction only climbs higher. Can they learn to trust again, before the Key West sun sets on their chance at happiness?


How do you feel about second chance romances?

Hurricane Summer (2021)

By Asha Bromfield
ASN/ISBN: 9781250622235
Publication: May 4, 2021

GOODREADS | PURCHASE

Welcome to my leg of the blog tour for Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield (April 26 – May 10). Thank you to Wednesday Books for allowing me to be part of this tour. Links to different sections are below, but also feel free to scroll on through.


DESCRIPTiON

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Age group: YA
Genres: Contemporary

In this sweeping debut, Asha Bromfield takes readers to the heart of Jamaica, and into the soul of a girl coming to terms with her family, and herself, set against the backdrop of a hurricane.

Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.

When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise―all in the midst of an impending hurricane.

Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic―and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.

Content Warnings (For a more comprehensive list please see Book Trigger Warnings):
abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, sexual assault


ABOUT THe AUTHOR

Asha Bromfield - Author Photo, Copyright Felice Trinidad

Asha Bromfield is an actress, singer, and writer of Afro-Jamaican descent. She is known for her role as Melody Jones, drummer of Josie and the Pussycats in CW’s Riverdale. She also stars as Zadie Wells in Netflix’s hit show, Locke and Key. Asha is a proud ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and she currently lives in Toronto where she is pursuing a degree in Communications. In her spare time, she loves studying astrology, wearing crystals, burning sage, and baking vegan desserts. Hurricane Summer is her debut novel.

Instagram | Twitter


REViEW

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley as part of my participation in the blog tour. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Hurricane Summer is an appropriate title for the experience Tilla has in Jamaica while visiting her father for two months. Her hopes of reuniting with her dad and spending time with him over the summer go astray as soon as she gets there, proving once again why she feels the way she does about him. It hurt my heart to know that both she and her sister Mia waited so long to see their father only to hardly spend time with him. The father-daughter relationship was the heart of the novel but so many additional issues, including classism and colorism, piled on top of it that there was never time to fully explore each issue. The conversation Tilla has with her cousin about colorism is an especially poignant one though. This was one of my favorite moments in the book. I liked their relationship.

I’m a fan of emotional reads. The book tugged at me right away with Tilla longing for her dad’s love, secretly hoping to repair her broken image of him. As things slowly begin to spiral downward, with hurricane warnings abound, my anxiety level increased along with Tilla’s confusion about what exactly was going on around her. Just about everything that happens, except for moments of respite with her cousin Andre who might be the only character I liked in the book, is heart breaking. I kept wondering when it would stop. The answer? Like a hurricane, it’s unrelenting. However, as it neared the end, the final few chapters didn’t have the same impact. One event in particular did not add much to the story, and I felt it was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by the ending.

One of the weaker parts of the novel is the romance. I couldn’t buy into it, and I was constantly questioning Tilla’s decisions regarding her love interest. The connection felt superficial at best, and when the word love is mentioned, I was taken aback. I couldn’t see how their limited interactions suddenly turned into love. But, the most difficult part for me was Tilla knowing the complications that would ensue from continuing the relationship yet still choosing to pursue it.

I was immersed in the book because of the writing. It’s poetic and the descriptions kept me reading–one of the most memorable being when Mia and Tilla bite into mangoes. Tilla feels a lot, and Bromfield was able to place me in Tilla’s emotional state of mind. It’s also well-paced. The plot moves along, never feeling disjointed or abrupt, despite the multitude of things that happen. I never felt the urge to jump pages or chapters to get to the end, with the exception of some of the heavier components of the book.

Hurricane Summer‘s beautiful cover hides a devastating coming of age novel about a young woman trying to come to terms with her relationship with her father while on vacation in what looks like paradise. It’s a heart wrenching novel filled with multiple events meant to break Tilly, culminating in what she decides to do: will she break, or will she overcome them? It’s a departure from the books I normally read, with a slew of triggers that pile on one after the other; it’s a heavy read. Despite the this, I did like the book even though it might not have hit all the marks for me. If you decide to read it, please be aware of the content warnings. I’ve listed them above in the book description, but I’ll include it here too: abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, and sexual assault. Again, for a more comprehensive list, please see Book Trigger Warnings.

Today Tonight Tomorrow (2020)

by Rachel Lynn Solomon
ASN/ISBN: 9781534440241
Publication: July 14, 2020

**May contain spoilers. Please proceed with caution.**

When Neil is announced as the school’s valedictorian, it puts a dent in Rowan’s diabolical daydream of having him finally bow to her as the more formidable opponent. Now, she has only one last chance to beat him, the school’s annual scavenger hunt for graduating seniors known as the Howl. The competition takes an unexpected turn when she finds out a group of seniors are out to eliminate both her and Neil, turning the academic rivals into an unlikely team. Spending time working with each other as opposed to against one another has Rowan reevaluating her perception of Neil, seeing him in a different (possibly more rosy-colored) light.

As a fan of Sleepless in Seattle, Rachel Lynn Solomon had me at Seattle but my adoration of the book is all Solomon’s doing. “It was like…magic” mixed with a hefty dose of nostalgia when I first read it last summer. It remained much the same when I reread it recently. During my first reading, words evaded me when I tried writing a review. Even months after, I was unable to express how I felt about my best read of 2020. As May comes around with graduation ceremonies abound, I finally found the words to write something coherent.

Today Tonight Tomorrow completely and unexpectedly overwhelmed me. It felt like I was thrown back into high school. I was flooded with nostalgia as I simultaneously lived Rowan’s last day of high school and recalled celebrating my last days–mine was nowhere near as exciting as the Howl but I did get one last hurrah with friends.

Rowan and Neil were well-rounded characters. We learn about their hopes, dreams, and fears. I couldn’t help but adore them as they turned from rivals into an unexpected team. Initially, they have a one-dimensional relationship due to their rivalry but teaming up forces them into a different relationship that allows them to discover different sides of the other. While the events of the book take place in the span of 24 hours, the feelings that blossom in a single night don’t feel new at all–just newly uncovered. The feelings have been nurtured throughout their rivalry, and the layers of their relationship are now being peeled back, or maybe more accurately ripped off like a bandaid considering the time frame. With the book told strictly from Rowan’s point of view, it was entertaining to observe her thoughts and feelings, to see the different stages of her discovery, and to witness her initial shock that (gasp!) Neil is a person with feelings (I’m completely exaggerating here), that he could be someone she would feel anything other than antagonism toward. It was deeply satisfying.

There are so many things I admire about Rowan, including her passion and drive to go after what she wants (like bringing Neil down). One of my favorite scenes is when her friends tell her that for someone she dislikes, Neil occupies an alarming amount of her thoughts and time. Rowan thinks they’re clearly out of their minds for suggesting she feels anything beyond wanting to take him down. I couldn’t help but also agree that her friends were onto something. I also admire her commitment to her writing aspirations, which leads to Rowan explaining her love of romance novels. I agree with her assessment of the genre and the less than warm reception it generally receives. Solomon, through Rowan, helped me be comfortable with my love for romance novels even as my friends cringed when I (cautiously) confessed my undying love for the genre.

In an interview, she says the book is an homage/a love letter to Seattle. What a love letter it is! I’ve never been to Seattle, but I’ve always wanted to visit one day. Solomon created a sense of urgency to visit the rainy city, as though I should have done it yesterday. She does a tremendous job creating a sense of place with the vivid descriptions of the many places, both touristy spots and hidden gems, throughout Seattle. All this is possible because Solomon isn’t just a writer, she’s a conjurer of images and feelings, able to stir my long-forgotten memories of high school to life and make Rowan and Neil feel alive.

Today Tonight Tomorrow solidified Solomon as an automatic buy author for me. If you’re still wondering if I recommend Today Tonight Tomorrow, then I haven’t done a good job of divulging my love for this novel. I hope you’re itching to read it, even if you’ve already read it before. It’s my chef’s kiss of 2020!

To deal with the feelings you might have after finishing the book (book coma anyone?), here’s a short list of things that might help. I wish I had prepared them in advance. You know what they–whoever they are–say, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”

GRADUATiON PLAYLiST

YouTube | Spotify

Six Degrees of Separation: May 2021

**I have to do a shout to Mikaela at MikaelaReads first. This is my first Six Degrees post and I wouldn’t have a first post had I not seen this meme on Mikaela’s blog in April. I enjoyed the meme so much I decided to do it too. **

HOW IT WORKS:
Six Degrees of Separation is a meme that began with Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman and has been hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best since 2016. Each month a new book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Links can be formed in multiple ways. For instance, books can be linked through author, themes, settings, or even publishing year. Links can also be more personal such as books you reread often or books that remind you of a time in your life. The possibilities are limitless!

Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the Linky section (or comments) of each month’s post. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments section. You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degrees

STARTING BOOK: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Clearly

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary is the first in a series of middle grade books about sisters. Unfortunately, I don’t recall ever reading this particular book or series by Cleary, but her name is a part of my childhood because she wrote Dear Mr. Henshaw.

DearMrHenshaw_cover

Dear Mr. Henshaw, on the other hand, was a book I had to read for class. It’s about a boy who writes to his favorite author Boyd Henshaw every school year. They become friends through these letters, and Mr. Henshaw is a source of encouragement. Guess who also wrote to one of her favorite authors?

DealingWithDragons_cover

Me! I wrote a letter to Patricia C. Wrede, author of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, when I was in elementary school and she wrote me back! I don’t know where the letter is anymore, and I can’t remember the content of the letter, except that it was encouraging. I probably told her something about wanting to write when I grew up. I treasured it so much and even shared it with my teacher. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a set of four books. The first three books are about Cimorene, a girl who decides to go live with a dragon, and in the last book her son is the main protagonist. Dealing With Dragons is the one I’ll use to make the connection because this is the earliest book I remember reading (and loving) with dragons; thus, igniting my love for fantasy novels, kickass protagonists, and dragons. Now, speaking of dragons…

GirlWithDragonTattoo_cover

There’s this Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While I never read the book by Stieg Larsson, I watched the movies and was blown away by the awesomeness of Lisbeth Salander. She’s a punk prodigy and is enlisted by journalist Mikael Blomkvist to help figure out what happened to a woman who disappeared over 40 years ago. Salander has the dragon tattoo and is a kickass protagonist. Who else is a kickass protagonist that is very good at what she does and is enlisted for help?

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Zafira bint Iskander of We Hunt the Flame is known as the Hunter and is gifted with her bow and arrow. She disguises herself as a man so that she can bring back food for her village. She enters a forest and is always able to return whom while others are unable to make it back alive, or if they do, they’re not the same when they return, which is why she is sought out to go on a journey to bring magic back Arawiya. It was published in 2019, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until recently. This was one of my favorite reads at the beginning of 2021.

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Also published in 2019 is Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. Holmes’s debut book is about a woman whose husband died in a car accident. A year after his death, she rarely leaves her home so people think she’s still devastated over his loss. Her best friend’s childhood best friend Dean needs a place to stay while he tries to figure out why he can’t throw a baseball straight anymore. He moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house and they become friends. This was one of the few books that set me on the path toward not only overcoming a long reading drought but consuming romance novels one after the other.

One of my latest reads with just the right amount of romance in it is Tricia Levenseller’s YA fantasy Blade of Secrets. Two sisters are on the run with a mercenary and a scholar to hide a weapon commissioned by a warlord who wants to reunite 6 countries under a single rule, the warlord’s rule. I hadn’t expected the romance and was fueled by the intriguing plot because the weapon was created by one of the sisters, Ziva, a blacksmith who imbues her weapons with magic. I’ll be posting a review for it soon (spoiler alert: I liked it…a lot.)

ENDING BOOK: Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

That was an unexpected ride through books I loved when I was young and books I now enjoy as an adult (more like a big kid). Also, I didn’t expect to end back up at a book about sisters.

Asian Readathon: May 2021

Start Date: May 1, 2021
End Date: May 31, 2021

I was supposed to be working last night but I needed to create my TBR for the Asian Readathon hosted by Cindy (withcindy). I was suddenly reminded of the Asian readathon while scrolling through my feed. (I know, I know…that’s not work either.) This is my first year participating in it, and I’m excited. (Look at me branching out and doing more readathons! Woohoo!) You can watch Cindy’s announcement video or access the Google doc for more information.

The goal of the readathon is to encourage reading more books by Asian authors and what better month than May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to do it in! While challenges can be combined, the twist is that books should feature a character or an author of a different Asian ethnicity. If one book features a Japanese character, then the next book read should a character of a different ethnicity/nationality for it to fulfill any remaining challenges. I really like the push for diversification.

  1. Read any book written by an Asian author.
  2. Read any book featuring an Asian protagonist.
  3. Read any book written by an Asian author in your favorite genre.
  4. Read any nonfiction book written by an Asian author.
  5. Read any book written by an Asian author that’s not US-centric.

I know that I’m not as productive when school/work is in session, but hopefully I can get these done. The most difficult one for me will be reading a nonfiction book. ACK! Unless it’s something I HAVE TO read, I tend to stay away from nonfiction because I use books for escapism…

PLANNeD TBR

This has already undergone multiple transformations because the diversity twist that seemed fun was a bit harder than expected. This is the final planned TBR–keyword is planned. Heh…

Author
Protagonist
Fave Genre
Non Fiction
Not U.S.-Centric

Twisted Love (2021)

by Ana Huang
ASIN/ISBN: B08Y6DCS1Y
Publication: April 29, 2021
Series: Twisted #1

Free in Kindle Unlimited
Goodreads
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU
| Universal
Also available in Special Edition Paperback
Cover designed by E. James Designs


DESCRIPTION

He has a heart of ice…but for her, he’d burn the world.

Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape.

Driven by a tragedy that has haunted him for most of his life, his ruthless pursuits for success and vengeance leave little room for matters of the heart.

But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest:

A crack.
A melt.
A fire that could end his world as he knew it.

***

Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember.

But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want.

Her brother’s best friend.
Her neighbor.
Her savior and her downfall.

Theirs is a love that was never supposed to happen—but when it does, it unleashes secrets that could destroy them both…and everything they hold dear.

Twisted Love is a brother’s best friend/opposites attract romance with plenty of heat and no cliffhangers. Recommended for 18+ due to adult language and explicit content.


Coming Soon!
Twisted Games #2
Releasing July 29
(click for Goodreads Links)


EXCERPT

Something smelled delicious, like spice and heat. I wanted to wrap it around me like a blanket.

I snuggled closer to the source, enjoying the strong, solid warmth beneath my cheek. I didn’t want to wake up, but I’d promised Bridget I would volunteer at a local pet shelter with her this morning, before my afternoon shift at the gallery.  

I allowed myself one more minute of coziness—had my bed always been this big and soft—before I opened my eyes and yawned. 

Weird. My room looked different. No photograph prints papering the walls, no vase of sunflowers by the bed. And did my bed just move by itself?

My eyes latched onto the broad expanse of bare skin beneath me, and my stomach dropped. I looked up, up—straight into a pair of familiar green eyes. Eyes that stared back at me with no hint of the humor from last night. 

He flicked his gaze down. I followed it…and realized, to my abject horror, that I was touching Alex Volkov’s dick. Unintentionally, and he had on sweats, but still.

I. Was. Touching. Alex. Volkov’s. Dick.

And it was hard.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ana Huang is an author of primarily steamy New Adult and contemporary romance. Her books contain diverse characters and emotional, sometimes twisty roads toward HEAs (with plenty of banter and spice sprinkled in). Besides reading and writing, Ana loves traveling, is obsessed with hot chocolate, and has multiple relationships with fictional boyfriends.

Website
Facebook | Facebook Group
Instagram | TikTok | Bookbub


REVIEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

I enjoyed reading Huang’s previous new adult works, the If Love series, so I was excited to see her coming out with a new book. Opposites attract? Forbidden love/brother’s best friend trope? Count me in! Just as the title suggests, the book is twisted in all kinds of ways–in love, in life, in everything. While I was conflicted about the book as a whole, the parts I did like were simply titillating.

Ava is a “Pollyanna” who finds herself intrigued and ultimately falling for a dark and vengeful Eric, who explicitly tells her that she’s not his type and that she shouldn’t romanticize him. His warnings, of course, fall to deaf ears. Who would hear his words when Huang has created a seemingly unfeeling, single-minded hot male as the love interest? I’m not a fan of alpha males with their overprotective tendencies and possessiveness–all characteristics of the love interest here–but I can’t be mad at Huang because I knew what kind of love interest I was getting when I picked up the book. It bothered me, but putting that aside, Eric is hot. I mean, look at his eyes on that cover…**swoon** I also liked Ava for being such an optimistic character. She’s sweet and genuinely good-natured and is Eric’s complete opposite. While there is chemistry between the leads, I would have liked a more fine-tuned build up. I ultimately rooted for them because Eric needed good things in his life and she could possibly be that for him. There was some groveling…and that was nice.

The events of the book certainly live up to its title but not every thing seemed necessary to me. It would have been just as twisted had the book focused solely on the main plotline with a supporting subplot or two as opposed to the multitude of things that happen. The main plotline is an interesting one but sometimes I would forget what it was amidst all the other things happening. As much as I enjoyed the book when Huang gets it right–I mean, I relished those parts that I liked (one of my favorite scenes is Ava’s sudden appearance at an alumni gathering and it clearly has Eric hot and bothered)–there was also jumping from one event to the next that interrupted the overall flow of the novel for me. Some felt like unnecessary obstacles that didn’t move the plot forward nor established much about what I already knew about the characters; thus seeming more like filler than anything else. Overall, the book falls smack dab in the middle because the good stuff is really good but then it would be interrupted with other things that were not so good.

Scavenge the Stars (2020) / Ravage the Dark (2021)

by Tara Sim
Series Review

**This is a series review that contains spoilers for Scavenge the Stars**

ScavengeTheStars_cover

Scavenge the Stars
ASN/ISBN: 9781368051415
Publication: January 7, 2020


Amaya is nearing her final day on a debtor ship when she saves a stranger from drowning. He gives her an opportunity to take vengeance on the man who destroyed her family but things get complicated when she starts to fall for the mark’s son, Cayo.

I’ve never read The Count of Monte Cristo so I likely missed the book’s references to the novel it is based on. Aside from this, having not read the foundational material doesn’t take away from enjoying the book. It might even be better since that means I’m less likely to compare it to what I hear is a phenomenal classic. Up until about the end of Scavenge the Stars, I felt this was what revenge novels should be like. Amaya’s chapters were my favorite, a lot darker and intriguing, while I was not nearly as invested in Cayo’s plight.


Ravage the DarkRavageTheDark_cover
ASN/ISBN: 9780753555334
Publication: March 9, 2021

Betrayed by someone she thought was more friend than foe, Amaya and her friends narrowly escape with the help of a friend. Cayo and his sister also accompany Amaya and her colleagues. While it’s difficult to tell whether Cayo and Amaya will be able to overcome Amaya’s betrayal, everyone will have to work together to save the state of Moray. 

Ravage the Dark focuses more on Cayo’s development as he searches for his place outside of his father’s household. There’s less of a focus on Amaya and she does a lot of brooding in this one–so much. Ravage the Dark is repetitive in many parts, following Cayo and then trying to figure out the source of the illness.


Characters: Amaya & Cayo

Amaya is trying to fulfill the revenge plot of her benefactor while also trying to understand why her mother gave her up to a debtor ship. Her time on the ship has stolen her childhood and hardened her to life, but has amplified her desire to protect the other children she served her time with–those too young to fight against the life their parents have given them to. There are two sides to Amaya: the hardened child slave seeking revenge on those who have wronged her and the girl who believes in love, yearning to break free of the chains of vengeance placed upon her. She is strong and full of conviction, ready to uncover what happened to her family.

While Amaya as this stronger, capable individual, Cayo is written less so. Aside from his father’s wealth and reputation, Cayo comes across as weaker in character. He is trying to overcome a gambling habit and hasn’t been able to live up to his father’s expectations. Except for loving his sister, initially his only redeeming quality, I wasn’t a big fan. Of course, he is trying to be a better person. Cayo is constantly trying to prove his worth throughout both books, but it’s not until Ravage the Dark that he slowly comes into his own. Overall, Cayo isn’t a particularly likeable character. In each other, Amaya and Cayo see qualities they desire in themselves. Additionally, in each other, they seek freedom from their obligations and even hope to find redemption.

Overall Assessment

This is a well-written duology, however, both books suffer from the same fate: a great build-up with somewhat lackluster endings. Sim does a great job of creating the world along with an intricate plot. I kept turning the pages, wanting to find out what would happen next. As I got closer to the end, however, I became increasingly frustrated. This happened with both books. I was able to forgive the ending of Scavenge the Stars, just a little, because most everything before the end was great. Also, I hoped it was building to something bigger in the next book. I was more frustrated with Ravage the Dark than I was with Scavenge the Stars. There was a character who had so much potential but was underutilized. Then, what could have been an epic ending happened outside the pages of the book! I was flabbergasted by this. Sim had me fully immersed in Amaya’s plot for revenge but the endings in both books reduced my overall enjoyment of the duology. I couldn’t return from that even though there was much to like, especially in the first book.

In the Jaded Grove (2021)

By Anela Deen
ASN/ISBN: B08YTGPGZS
Publication: April 15, 2021
Series: Kindred Realms #1

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Welcome to my leg of the tour for In the Jaded Grove by Anela Deen through Caffeine Book Tours (April 26 – April 30). I was elated to be selected to help promote such a beautifully written novel. Links to different sections are below, but also feel free to scroll on through.


DESCRIPTiON

Goodreads | Amazon

Cover Artist: Jenny Zemanek
Publisher: Fine Fables Press
Age group: New Adult
Genres: Fantasy

Simith of Drifthorn is tired of war. After years of conflict between the Thistle court and the troll kingdom, even a pixie knight known for his bloodlust longs for peace. Hoping to secure a ceasefire, Simith arranges a meeting with the troll king—and is ambushed instead. Escape lies in the Jaded Grove, but the trees of the ancient Fae woodland aren’t what they seem, and in place of sanctuary, Simith tumbles through a doorway to another world.

Cutting through her neighbor’s sunflower farm in Skylark, Michigan, Jessa runs into a battle between creatures straight out of a fantasy novel. Only the blood is very real. When a lone fighter falls to his attackers, Jessa intervenes. She’s known too much death to stand idly by, but an act of kindness leads to consequences even a poet like her couldn’t imagine.

With their fates bound by magic, Simith and Jessa must keep the strife of his world from spilling into hers—except the war isn’t what it appears and neither are their enemies. Countless lives depend on whether they can face the truths of their pasts and untangle the web of lies around them. But grief casts long shadows, and even their deepening bond may not be enough to save them from its reach.

On-page Representation:
Filipino (main character); secondary sapphic characters

Trigger and Content Warnings:
violence; trauma; grief; death of a loved one (in the past – not on page)


ABOUT THe AUTHOR

Author (Anela Deen)A child of two cultures, this hapa haole Hawaiian girl is currently landlocked in the Midwest. After exploring the world for a chunk of years, she hunkered down in Minnesota and now fills her days with family, fiction, and the occasional snowstorm. With a house full of lovable toddlers, a three-legged cat, and one handsome Dutchman, she prowls the keyboard late at night while the minions sleep. Coffee? Nah, she prefers tea with a generous spoonful of sarcasm. 

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


REViEW

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in the tour. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

In the Jaded Grove is a beautifully written fantasy. It’s fast-paced, sometimes a bit too quick for me, especially when I wanted to ruminate over certain scenes to decipher their meanings. One of the characters spoke my thoughts out loud about the brewing feelings between the leads, but I’m mostly convinced that the mechanism used to create the connection between the leads is a believable one. It’s either that or I’m just a sap, allowing myself to fall for anything that reasonably explains an instant connection.

Simith is our pixie hero from the fairy realm and Jessa is the human protagonist. Simith is jaded with a war that had no end in sight while Jessa’s grief has overtaken her. As the pieces of their lives are revealed through memories and their interactions with each other, a connection quickly begins forming. For someone quite ruthless in war, he’s gentle with her. Despite being so incredibly hard on herself, she’s understanding of his actions. The connection is so quick that there is hardly an emotional build-up, which made me hesitate about how authentic or real the connection was.

I liked the world created. Information is given about the fairy realm in pieces and at opportune times. While the fairy realm feels a bit under developed, there’s enough world-building to understand the current situation as well as to at least visualize the landscape. The magic system is not explained in-depth, but it doesn’t appear to be overly complicated. The apparent hierarchy among the creatures of the fairy realm is an interesting one, and I hope it gets further explored in additional books. I’m also interested in gaining a better understanding of the governing system that fully explains the fairy triad that is mentioned. (Why is there a triad? Did I maybe miss an explanation?) The book only just scratches the surface of a fascinating world and its connection to the human realm, possibly even other realms, so I am excited this is only the first book of a series.

I loved that I couldn’t guess what would happen at every turn, and there were unexpected moments that made me laugh. To top it off, Deen kept me turning the pages with her vivid descriptions.  For instance, referring to the night sky as the “cloak of souls” resonated with me and is now one of my favorites references for a sky awash with stars. Despite the quick pace and second-guessing whether I liked the relationship formed, it was these unexpected moments and the writing that helped to solidify why I ultimately enjoyed the book. While In the Jaded Grove doesn’t have nearly as much laughs, I think there are some parallels with G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin series and her newer series The Scarred Earth Saga. Individuals who have read and enjoyed either series may also enjoy In the Jaded Grove.

Anchored Hearts (2021)

By Priscilla Oliveras
ASN/ISBN: 9781420150193
Publication: April 27, 2021
Series: Keys to Love #2

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Oliveras gives us a slow burn second-chance romance with leads who still have lingering feelings for each other. Anamaria is a firefighter medic with a burgeoning fitness business. Alejandro is a globe-trotting photographer guilted into returning home to his hometown to assuage his mother’s and his abuela’s concerns over his broken tibia. When they meet again–not through fate but the meddling of their mothers, which could be considered a kind of fate–it’s hard not to recall what they used to be to each other, especially when seeing one another instantly reignites emotions each long thought dissipated.

With second chance romances, the time apart is a pivotal element. Anamaria found herself during their separation, growing into the person she was meant to become. Staying in the Keys and close to family hasn’t stifled her growth but bolstered it, bringing with it an added confidence in herself and her goals. Now, she only needs to find the courage to seize the opportunities her hard work has created for her. Alejandro is an award-winning photographer, but when we meet him, nothing about him has changed very much except for his career accomplishments. Despite the twelve years apart, the emotional growth for him happens within the pages whereas Anamaria’s already done most of it outside of the book’s present timeline. Anamaria was mature enough to recognize what he is now only beginning to understand, that sometimes choices are not mutually exclusive. His situation was complicated by a father who had different expectations for him, which also further manifested into undue pressure from him on his relationship with Anamaria.

The love for family and the sense of place was soothing for me. The family dynamics were heartwarming, Alejandro and his father’s complicated relationship aside. I loved how family was a positive consideration as opposed to being viewed as a hindrance. Loving where you’re from was also seen as a positive attribute that I appreciated, and helped me to identify better with Anamaria’s character, leading me to like her character a lot more as compared to Alejandro.

I was generally not a fan of Alejandro. His selfishness and impatience largely contributed to their relationship’s demise when Anamaria just needed more time, something he was unwilling to give her. I’m not fully blaming him, but I also kind of am placing a lot of it on him…hahaha. Take that with a grain of salt since I’m fully on Anamaria’s side here. He couldn’t see beyond himself and his desires. It could be argued that Anamaria was the same, but she didn’t harbor the same kind of selfishness he did. She understood his desire to leave Key West and supported his endeavors. He wanted her life to revolve around him but was unwilling to do the same for her. Time apart, I guess, helped push him into a more mature individual even if he only just recognized it after returning home. (Hmm…maybe 12 years didn’t do as much I just wrote it did.)

Priscilla Oliveras’s writing flows so effortlessly, transitioning from the past to the present to feelings both old and new. I loved it. The descriptions are mesmerizing, and the longing between Anamaria and Alejandro over what was and the instances of what could have been packs a punch. I enjoyed the book a lot. It’s standalone, and Luis’s story is mentioned here whenever Luis and his love interest show up. You don’t need to read the first book to enjoy this one. I haven’t read the first book but may do so now because I enjoyed Oliveras’s writing so much.

The Forest of Stolen Girls (2021)

by Jane Hur
ASN/ISBN: 9781250229588
Publication: April 20, 2021

I was excited to read Hur’s The Forest of Stolen Girls. Some of my favorite dramas are set during the Joseon era so I was looking forward to reading a novel set during this period as well.

After learning about 13 girls all missing from the same village, Detective Min heads back to his old home to try to solve the case, but he also goes missing. Our protagonist is his 18-year-old daughter Hwani Min who refuses to believe her father is dead with only a scrap of his clothes found as confirmation of his death and not his body. She heads to Jeju Island to search for him.

Set during a time when women had limited agency, it was somewhat surprising that Hwani was given so much leeway throughout Jeju to search for him, but I liked the focus on strong women, especially Hwani. Hwani is a determined individual, quite stubborn actually. It’s also very clear from the beginning that she’s her father’s daughter. Throughout the book, Hwani is constantly looking over the evidence and list of suspects, trying to figure out what her father would do. She often refers to him as Joseon’s greatest detective and has lived her life trying to make him proud. Her belief in her father and her conviction that he is alive is so strong that I hoped as much as she does that he would be found alive.

While Hwani is the main protagonist, her younger sister Maewol plays a central role in the story. Their relationship is complicated because their vastly different relationships with their father. Hwani idolizes her father, whereas Maewol’s feelings are much more complicated–she is the daughter left behind. Maewol has different memories of their father, making it difficult for Hwani to reconcile what she knows and feels about her father with Maewol’s account of him. Hwani’s memory loss of a significant event further exacerbates the problem so there is a lot of tension whenever the sisters interact with each other. The focus on their relationship highlights how the story is more than just about searching for their father and solving the disappearance of girls from Nowon Village; it’s about grief and family.

The plot was interesting and well thought out. There are several red herrings throughout the book, just enough to make the reader question who the culprit might be. I read it the first time, eager to get to the ending, then I read it a second time to piece together the clues and to fully enjoy Hur’s writing prowess. It’s not just the plot, but the writing that makes this such a good read. One of my favorites is the first line of the novel, providing a hint of the beauty of Hur’s writing in the pages to come: “The screen of mist was thick around the red pinewood vessel, as though secrets hid beyond of a land I was not permitted to see.” The book is filled with vivid descriptions that make the setting and the story come alive. I would recommend this to those who appreciate a good mystery novel. Individuals who liked Firekeeper’s Daughter (2021) and are looking for another well-written mystery may enjoy this novel as well.