Romance Interlude 2.5


The Strike Out (2021)
by Meghan Quinn
ASIN/ISBN: B08RNFL4C6
Publication: January 4, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Brentwood Boys (Baseball Romances)

One liner: Holt pursues Harmony but she isn’t looking for a relationship.

Harmony and Holt have such great chemistry together. As annoying as Holt was, I had to give him credit for working so hard to get Harmony to give him a chance. While their romance is the focus, I enjoyed Holt’s conversations with his dad the most. In many of the novels I’ve been reading, the leads usually have bad relationships with their parents or their parents are no longer with him so it was refreshing to read about a healthy one. It was sweet that one of the first people he wanted to talk to about Harmony was his dad. While it was a good read, there were a few things I wasn’t a fan of…like some of Holt’s tendencies. Then there were were a few things that happened closer to the end that felt like they came out of no where.


Rules of Engagement (2020)
by J.T. Geissinger
ASIN/ISBN:
Publication: January 28, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

One liner: Quarterback looking for a wife through a matchmaking service discovers his real match might be the matchmaker.

Mason needs a wife to help him clean up his image. Despite his grumpy nature, he’s a sweetheart but not many people get to see it. Maddie is the good natured matchmaker who Mason’s agent seeks out to help find a wife. She doesn’t realize Mason’s only looking for a marriage of convenience until they finally meet and, to make matters worse, there are sparks between the two. I liked Maddie more than I liked Mason because she’s so happy all the time and she loves pink–hahaha, reminds me of me. What I liked best about her was her ability to see through Mason’s prickly nature and how she would remind him what a great person he actually is. Their bantering was top notch–so fun–and they have great chemistry. Maddie’s aunt was unexpected with her talk of auras and seances. While most chapters alternate between Maddie and Mason, I liked the additional perspectives of Maddie’s aunt and Mason’s agent from time to time.

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me (2016)
by Mariana Zapata
ASIN/ISBN: B01CDDTGRY
Publication: February 28, 2016
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone but appearances by other characters from other books

One liner: After quitting to work for herself, Vanny’s former boss shows up at her apartment asking her to come back.

Zapata has a way with slow burn romances. She makes her readers work as much as she does her characters and the ending is so satisfying. Despite her novels being tomes, I’ve never regretted picking them up. Especially with this particular book, the first 100 pages didn’t feel like it was 100 pages at all whereas I’ve read other books that make 20 pages feel like an eternity. I liked Vanny and how she was just genuinely nice despite Aiden being Aiden. What is Aiden like? He works hard but is closed off. He never greets her despite all her attempts at being nice to him. Despite living with his teammate Zac, they can’t really be called friends either. He’s a wall (physically and emotionally) and then as soon as he does something nice, I couldn’t help but swoon. Despite being over 400+ pages, I couldn’t put it down.

Christmas Playlist 2020: Last Christmas

I’ve been busy with school and finals so I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d like. I’ve been wanting to do something holiday related other than participating in the Reindeer Readathon and reading a few Christmas centric books. Here is my holiday playlist along with a related bookish discussion that fits the the track. I nearly forgot I also signed up for Bookending Winter 2020 and it also works well with the event. (See: Fictionally Sam & Cuppa Clo)

Track 01: Wham! – Last Christmas

This is an 80’s contemporary that is now a classic. I’m not sure about elsewhere but at least in the U.S., I don’t think you can really go anywhere without hearing it come on at least once a day during the holiday season. This ranks at the top for me. It’s one of my favorite songs to listen to. A few years ago, I had a playlist consisting of the original and its many covers. I think my family and whoever caught a ride with me wanted to strangle me that December. While multiple artists have covered it, from Ariana Grande to Taylor Swift, nothing quite hits like the original.

When I think of “Last Christmas”, I think of two types of books: 1) contemporaries turned classics and 2) books that ultimately broke me.

A BOOK THAT BECAME A CLASSIC

Merriam-Webster defines classic as “serving as a standard of excellence; of recognized value.” Often, it’s quality is judged over time. Books I love, those I often measure other books against are what I deem classics and not necessarily what book critics tell me are classics, although there might be times when there is overlap. Being a serial rereader, I know I love a book when I can reread it. When I think of a book that carries this title, there is really only one that immediately comes to mind.


Green Rider (2000)
by Kristen Britain
ISBN: 9780886778583
Publication: April 1, 2000
Goodreads Summary
Series: Green Rider #1

This book has all the goodness of medieval fantasy. I’ve read it nearly ever year since I first read it years ago. Karigan Gladheon is stubborn, tenacious, and loyal. These qualities are what allow her to deliver the message that she receives from a dying green rider and ultimately help her make it through what ends up being a perilous adventure. There is a hint of romance but it’s not developed until later books in the series. While I’ve reread the series multiple times, this remains the best book in the series. While not all questions are answered by the end of the book, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. If you don’t want to read the rest of the series (which is still not complete), you are safe to do so. The First Rider’s Call (Green Rider #2) and The High King’s Tomb (Green Rider #3) are also pretty good. Book #7 is slated for publication in 2021.

BOOKS THAT BROKE ME

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away

Despite being upbeat, the song is about unrequited love. There are a few types of books that fit in this category but I want to focus on two. There are books I thought I would love but didn’t necessarily measure up to expectations. Then, there are those that I loved and broke my heart anyway. Either way, I loved them and they couldn’t love me back!!


Midnight Valentine (2018)
by J.T. Geissinger
ISBN: 9780996935838
Publication: February 6, 2018
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

I really love this book, and I also like J.T. Geissinger. After her husband dies in an accident, Megan moves to the town where they had planned to open a bed-and-breakfast. She’s never moved on after his death. Then, she meets Theo, who stopped speaking after an accident left him scarred both physically and mentally. The book deals with grief but also finding second chances. It was nearly a 5-star book for me but the ending left me conflicted; I couldn’t decide if the ending was a fair one for Theo. It’s still a good book though. If you’ve read this, you have to let me know what you thought of the ending.


The Sun is also a Star (2016)
by Nicola Yoon
ISBN: 9780553496680
Publication: November 1, 2016
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

I’m a romantic. I love love. Love makes me swoon. I read The Sun is Also A Star as my team read for Tropeical Readathon and it broke me. I always wanted to write a review but couldn’t find the words…I was too busy bawling. I’m back and forth on insta-love. I’m not the biggest fan of it in books but, as an author pointed out, sometimes all it takes is a glance. And, sometimes, it can take years. There’s insta-love here but it works so well. I spent at least 5 minutes crying my eyes out after I finished this book. I highlighted so many passages. That ending had so many onions, my eyes stung. (I love onions by the way.)

What books do you consider classics, whether it’s one you love and reread or just exemplary of a genre you enjoy? What books have broken your heart?

Here are links to a few of my favorite covers of “Last Christmas”:
1sagain (Korean)
Good Charlotte
Carly Rae Jepsen
Savage Garden
Meghan Trainor


Bonus:
Here’s a Spotify playlist with over 100 covers of the song, CLICK!
(Yes, you may silently judge me…hahaha) Just in case you, here’s a 1-hour loop of the original, CLICK!

ISO: Happily Ever After

At the end of July, I found that I had read over 60 novels since shelter-in-place was first instituted around March and continued reading even after things became more relaxed.  Interestingly, nearly half (26) have been in the past month alone.  There are two crazy things about this.  First, I haven’t read nearly this many books within a few months in probably never.  Second, the majority have been romance novels.  There’s nothing crazy about romance novels except that I have never consumed them in this quantity.  For the most part, they have always been scattered between fantasy novels, not one after the other or twice in a day.

This led me to wonder why I was reading romance novels in large doses.  I discovered that romance novels offered  me an escape from all the uncertainty in the world.  I was in search of a guaranteed happily ever after.  Who knew? Certainly not me! Most romance novels guarantee HEA/HFN (happily ever after/happy for now) endings—the keyword is most so please double-check reviews to make sure it does.  Any anxiety from the pandemic, and life in general, was muted because the endings were predictable.  I might not know what would happen tomorrow or even a few hours from now, but I did know there would be a rainbow at the end of what I was reading.

I also rediscovered how bad of a reputation romance novels have.  I hate the stigma surrounding romance novels and I’m ashamed to admit that I have—more than once—turned a cover over or shut down my reading app to avoid unsolicited assessments of my reading choices.  They don’t deserve this bad reputation.  Romance novels have proven to be therapeutic for me, reducing anxiety and providing introspection. The novels that have lingered long after the last page are those that allowed me to contemplate my life, my goals, my relationships, and a plethora of other things.  Here are three recommendations and just a glimpse of one of the many lasting impressions I pulled from each.

RECOMMENDATIONS

In Melt for You (2018; ISBN: 9781503902138), Joellen Bixby has been in love with her married boss for a long while. Things start looking up when she finds out he is in the middle of a divorce, and he suddenly starts showering her with attention. Because she is socially awkward and lacks dating experience, her new neighbor Cameron McGregor offers to help.  The beginning of the book is a bit slow but picks up quickly once the arrangement is made.  It sounds cookie-cutter but the appeal of this book comes from Cameron’s character.  Despite his ego, he is the most supportive and body-positive male lead I’ve met thus far.  I enjoyed the evolution of his relationship with Joellen and his influence on her because she goes from being insecure about her body to standing up for herself.

Hate to Want You (2017; ISBN: 978006256677) is full of longing, the kind that hurts in a sadistically good way. It’s a slow burn. The two main characters Livvy and Nicholas still love each other, but the bad blood that led to their break up has not relented even after a decade has passed. Since their break up, they’ve met up every year for her birthday–she sends coordinates and he goes, no matter where it is. The sex is passionate, it’s sensual, but, most of all, it is heartbreaking and the aftermath is worse because each time it’s supposed to be the last time, there just seems to always be that one time more…until there isn’t. Rai has become one of my go-to authors. I have come to appreciate the way she writes. In this particular novel, she doesn’t move onto the next scene until she’s wrenched all the emotion from the current one. If Rai is at the helm, I can also expect there will be diverse representation.

A Thousand Letters (2017; ISBN: 9781542772426) is part of Hart’s series inspired by Jane Austen novels.  A retelling of Persuasion, Elliot—like Anne Elliot–has regrets for not choosing to marry Wade—Captain Wentworth’s counterpart.  Neither have spoken for several years, but are forced to reunite when Wade’s father is suddenly diagnosed with brain cancer.  Because Elliot is very much part of the family, she’s best friends with Wade’s sister and Wade’s father was her mentor, they are unable to avoid one another. It is clear that neither has moved on from the other and neither is also willing to speak to one another about it.  Hart beautifully captures the longing between our leads and the impending loss of a parent.  The book brought me to tears on multiple occasions.  If you’re a fan of Persuasion, you will easily be able to identify plots from the original novel as well as what is all Hart. What I love about this retelling is that Elliot is portrayed as a lot stronger in character as compared to Anne Elliot in Austen’s original novel.  Hart does a good job of bringing Persuasion to the present day and making it her own. There is sex in the book but not nearly as explicit like in Hate to Want You and Melt for You.

Like any other genre, not every book is going to be great.  Romance novels will vary in plot as much as it will also maintain tropes.  Interestingly, I also discovered a trove of novels about athletes, billionaires, and all-around bad boys. This was newer to me on the book front but not so much when it came to Korean dramas (harharhar).  Romance novels vary in how explicit sex is as well.  It might be nothing at all—holding hands or a kiss—to erotica.  Take your pick! The beauty of this is that you get to choose what you’re comfortable with.  If you’ve never read a romance novel before, I’m urging you to give them a chance. My life is all the better because of them. And, if you have recommendations, please send them my way, whether romance novels or books that left deep impressions.