The Stolen Kingdom (2021)

by Jillian Boehme
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250298836
Publication: March 2, 2021

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

Mara goes from being the daughter of a well-known vintner to the heir of the Perrin Faye throne after her lineage is uncovered. Her appearance sets in motion a secret plot to free the kingdom from the Thrungraves, which includes killing the king and his two heirs.

The Stolen Kingdom is good but has the potential to be better. The plot is interesting with some twists I saw coming and others I did not. While I enjoyed the novel, especially as the magic system was slowly unveiled, I never reached that climactic moment where I thought it was too good to put down. I was, instead, continually thinking how great it would be as a duology or even a trilogy because there is a lot packed here that could easily be expanded had there been more details. For instance, with minimal descriptions, there lacked a sense of place with the world appearing generic even if the political intrigue and the magic system kept me interested in continuing to the end.

In addition to a lack of detail, there was little build-up to pivotal moments in the plot. I didn’t have to wait long to find out what would happen or how a problem was resolved. I only just inched toward the edge of my seats, and then it was over. While this wasn’t as much an issue in the beginning while the story was being set up, it was more apparent in the latter half when events happened one after the other. This also contributed to a pace I wanted to be slowed down so things wouldn’t just keep flashing by. Aside from these factors, I generally liked Boehme’s writing style, especially as it relates to characterization.

Mara and Alac, with their backstories and aspirations, are compelling characters even if I didn’t particularly connect with them like I have other characters in similar situations. They are similar in their desire to do something different from the paths open to them.  Mara is smart and has compassion for the people affected by Thungraves’ rule although her family has suffered less than most. She’s also quite frank. All these things have her fall into the “not like other girls” trope, but that isn’t a trope I particularly mind, and it’s also what draws Alac to her. Alac is “the spare,” and wants to get away from his princely duties secretly to have his own winery. Unlike his father and brother, he doesn’t appear to be particularly power-hungry and is considerate of others. His status hasn’t gone to his head either–his best friend is head of his guard. Mara and Alac seem like they’d be perfect for each other as soon as they’re introduced in the book. While their time together is sweet–the attraction is instant between them–I questioned how their feelings so easily overcame their common sense. 

I enjoyed the book. The book is written with all the pieces fitting together, which is good but almost too easy. I liked Mara and Alac even if the connection I had with them wasn’t entirely present. I look forward to more from Boehme, with hopes that future books will provide greater detail and keep me on the edge of my seat.  

The View Was Exhausting (2021)

by Mikaella Clement and Onjuli Datta
ASIN/ISBN: 97815301010
Publication: July 6, 2021

**A positive review of the book from a fellow blogger prompted me to read an excerpt of it through NetGalley, which then lead me to purchase a copy because I needed to find out what happened.**

The View Was Exhausting is a book about a relationship of convenience used to quell negative media attention. Win’s and Leo’s on and off again “relationship” is complicated by, what appear to be, very real feelings. Win is reluctant to follow those feelings and pursue what she and Leo could be. While Leo has a seemingly laid-back attitude, Win is overly conscious of media scrutiny, which is why they are constantly reconnecting. Although her life appears glitzy and glamourous, melancholic overtones are scattered throughout as their past and present relationship unfold on the pages. At times, the interweaving of the past and present leads to some confusion about what is happening at the moment, making some things a little hazy. Their friendship and even their potential for more are at risk when something in Leo’s past comes to light.

The first few chapters lulled me into believing I would not get hurt by this book. Wasn’t it obvious these two individuals who couldn’t be themselves around many people were often only genuine toward one another? Wasn’t it obvious they had such sizzling chemistry? However, the book did a number on me. I wanted to slam it (but carefully and gently because it’s still a precious book) on the table because it left me vulnerable to a trigger I didn’t recognize I had until some books ago. At one point, I wanted to stop reading but the need to know what would happen next was ultimately greater–a testament to how much I liked the writing and even the storyline itself despite the pain I incurred. Would the dilemma get resolved? Are they in love with each other? What will Win choose?

Win and Leo won me over with their fabricated romance. Like the public they are trying to convince, I had beautiful illusions of two people on the road to figuring out that love, above all, is a worthy risk. Win and Leo are more vulnerable than they seem. Win has learned to reinforce herself with armor–she’s isn’t always likeable–but Leo often seems lost, without drive or purpose. Together, they’ve created a kind of haven. They’re friends who put their lives on hold for each other, who show each other their true selves even if they have to put on a show for the rest of the world. Underlining their trust in each other and how readily they rely on one another is their scorching chemistry, even if they both (mostly Win) try to hide from it. 

The social commentary also kept me glued to the novel. The undue pressure on members of marginalized groups when they succeed is captured well in the novel. There is an expectation that the successful individual is now representative of an entire group of people, and there requires a delicate balancing act the individual must endure. Every action is scrutinized and there are those just waiting for the person to fall. People want to place you neatly into a box, and if you break out of the box, they wait for any mistake, big or small, to put you “where you belong.” Win’s success places her in such a position. She loves acting and she’s great at it, but it all gets overlooked as soon as rumors begin to circulate about anything. She can be described as cold and calculating, but she’s learned to be this way to survive in an industry that is ready to strike her, to replace her on any whim. She succumbs to the pressure, and even when she wants to speak up, she self-censors because there is a price for her every action. 

Ultimately, this isn’t a feel-good type of novel. That was one of the more difficult parts of reading the book. I tend to read less angsty novels, those that are more toned down and focus on the good as opposed to the bad, but the writing coupled with leads I couldn’t help but want together propelled me to keep moving forward. 

Gin’s Tonic (2020)

by Olivia Owen
ASIN/ISBN: B085RQJYWR
Publication: April 16, 2020

Virginia “Gin” Lee’s life is turned upside after a devastating loss. Running away from what’s left of her life in So Cal and looking for a place where she can be no one instead of someone, she finds herself in small town Jasper, Colorado after nearly running someone over. Yup, it’s a “city girl looking for escape in a small town” book. This may prompt an eye roll because of the abundance of similar books but Gin’s Tonic is so well-written. I picked it up on a whim but it was the book I needed in that exact moment. It embraced me like only a comfort read could. With imperfect characters, found family, and healing, Gin’s Tonic soothed a part of me I didn’t realize needed it.

Gin is broken and aware of it. She recently takes up smoking to purposely shorten her lifespan. She considers ending her life, even attempting it at one point. Anyone in her situation–going through the motions of living while not really living at all–might act in a similar way. While I cannot relate to Gin on every level, there were things about her I identified with, making the story feel more personal in some ways. The town easily embraces her, and she finds herself becoming part of the town’s “we” rather than the no one she wanted to be. The church ladies break the typical church lady stereotypes and are a fun bunch, and Aunt May and Becca essentially adopts her into their small family.

Roman is a big brooding alpha male. He’s the silent, protective type and seems to always show up when Gin needs him most. If this was real life, I’d be a little bit terrified but it’s a romance book so, for now, let me have swoon. I’m always on the fence about alpha males and some of their tendencies but Roman’s personality and overall behavior doesn’t particularly trigger any of my alarms and eyerolls the way other alpha male characters normally do. I loved how patient he was with Gin.

It’s told solely from Gin’s perspective, which is surprising considering the majority of my romance reads alternate viewpoints of the potential couple. As much as I liked Roman and would have liked to hear his thoughts–in the beginning I was wondering when would I get his perspective–I quickly realized that I preferred it without. I liked that this was solely Gin’s story; this was her journey to healing.

I flipped back and forth on the romance. Initially, I loved it because Gin and Roman seemed to fit so well but upon rereading my favorite parts over, it was difficult to understand why they gravitated toward each other. In piecing their progression from strangers to lovers, I found I wasn’t as easily convinced the second time around. It’s attraction at first, but becomes this unexplained connection that draws them to each other. It’s attraction mingled with lust bordering on instalove but they talk about it as if it’s something more. Eventually, it could be but I don’t know if I believe it is. Of course, maybe it’s just the cynical me who comes out when I try to understand rather than simply believing. Alternatively, it makes just as much sense to say Owen just doesn’t explicitly write it. It could be the brokenness they see in each and their loneliness that connects them to each other or something but there’s no explicit confirmation. Of course, after all of that (I’m so sorry for putting you through my rant) the hopeless romantic in me still enjoyed them together.

This is Owen’s debut novel and I liked it so much. I continuously looked at how much I still had left to read every few pages because I was scared I was getting close to the end. And, I didn’t want it to just yet. While I wished it would keep going, my heart was content with the ending, epilogue included. The book leaves a lot of room to continue the stories of those connected to Gin, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave Gin and Roman behind just yet. I will be rereading this book many times over.

Romance Interlude 2.10


Give Love a Chai (2021)
by Nanxi Wen
ASN/ISBN: B08NS6V82S
Publication: March 18, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Common Threads #2

One liner: Tia needs to divorce her husband before she can get married to her fiance.

The book started off rather interestingly with Tia in her car trying to gather the courage to serve her husband with divorce papers…again. She didn’t realize she was still married when she accepted her boyfriend’s proposal. I has hooked pretty quickly from there but it didn’t pan out to be the romance I expected. It’s established immediately that even after 10 years, both Tia and Andrew still have feelings for one another but they’ve forged different paths. The book hit so many right notes for me and yet I felt a bit distant from their relationship, like the emotional aspect of it that would make me root for them was missing. Additionally, it didn’t make sense to me that the only emotion they seemed to display was desire for each other and the pain and anger were muted. They should have been pissed some of the time rather than just still feeling like they were still in love….even if they were supposed to be. There were things thrown in at the end that were unnecessary, so I had to drop a star.


Choose Me: A Small Town Romance (2021)
by Leah Busboom
ASN/ISBN: B093MPLQBZ
Publication: May 16, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Connor Brothers Book 9

One liner: Austin decides he wants to date someone he normally wouldn’t so he decides to pursue Luci, a software engineer who took his ski course.

It started out as a cute opposites attract novel with non-athletic software engineer Luci taking a ski class from trainer, ski instructor, and rock climbing instructor Austin. Austin ultimately makes the first move and before long they’re dating. Before long, he’s pretty sure she’s the one. Before long, her parents object. And before long…well, the clichés pile up and make this one a pretty forgettable book. I actually forgot I read it even though I finished it not too long ago.


Love’s Defense
by Laura Marquez Diamond
ASN/ISBN: B092SZLNFS
Publication: April 16, 2021
Series: The Thrasher Series #2
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Daniel is attracted to Stella, his dog’s new vet, but different obstacles stand in their way.

The book started off interesting but for a somewhat short book at just under 200 pages, it packs in a little too much from Stella’s fear of starting a new relationship to Daniel’s complicated family. I would have liked it to stick to one main plot and have the subplots take up less space. The dialogue also gets a bit cringey at times. The book was okay the first time around but I don’t know if I could reread it in full again.

Six Crimson Cranes (2021)

by Elizabeth Lim
ASIN/ISBN:  9780593300930
Publication: June 6, 2021
Series: Six Crimson Cranes #1

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.** (Loved it so much I had to purchase a copy though…just saying)

Six Crimson Cranes is a retelling of The Wild Swans that incorporates other legends such as Chang E the Moon Goddess and Madame White Snake. It reads as magical as a fairy tale with a princess, a kingdom in peril, and the deceptions of a stepmother. Lim’s descriptive prose, from the rendering of lush landscapes to the decadent food, immediately transported me to Kiata. I’ve always appreciated this nearly dreamlike quality that accompanies Lim’s novels that make them so enchanting.

After discovering her stepmother’s true identity, Shiori’s brothers are cursed and turned into cranes while she is forced to remain silent about their conditions lest she kills a brother with each word she speaks. Shiori begins as a headstrong troublemaker, used to being indulged by the family and getting her way. The curse forces her to be more thoughtful toward others while still retaining her headstrong tendencies. I appreciated that she didn’t completely transform into someone new because I liked her curious nature and willingness to stand her ground.

The sibling dynamics is another element I enjoyed. Despite their duties forcing them to spend most of their time apart, Shiori and her brothers all love one another dearly. There isn’t as much one-on-one time between her and each brother, but it’s easily discernible that her relationship with each is different, but she is cherished among all her brothers. (Being the youngest and the only girl can be so hard…hehehe.)The curse reinforces how much they love one another as they search for one another and work together to break the curse. 

The romance is both expected and unexpected. I couldn’t help but smile at the direction the book takes in terms of love interests. It’s gradual, beginning soft and subtly, seemingly not like much until a few key lines made me swoon. The book hints at a potential love triangle, and I’m hoping if that becomes the case in the next book, it is short-lived. I dislike love triangles a lot.

Lim includes a letter at the beginning noting the different tales she includes in the book. I grew up with similar tales and also watched some as wuxia movies. Familiarity with the stories does not take away from enjoying the book nor should being unfamiliar with the tales. Lim creatively weaves them effortlessly into each other, although there are a few times when just a bit too much was going on. It was fun identifying details from the various stories as well as trying to figure out how different parts would play out in the novel. Although more still needs to be done, the increase in diverse books creates positive opportunities like this one, allowing readers to not only see themselves in the books they read but also the stories they grew up with. Six Crimson Cranes is now my favorite of Lim’s novels.

Cinderella Is Dead (2020)

by Kaylynn Bayron
ASIN/ISBN: 9781547603879
Publication: July 7, 2020

I’ve been meaning to read Cinderella Is Dead since it was first published nearly a year ago, but being a mood reader means wanting and doing are two different things. I finally finished it yesterday. The premise behind the book is rather interesting, providing readers with a retelling of the fairy tale and what happens after Cinderella and her prince supposedly lived happily ever after.  While I did enjoy the book, it didn’t quite live up to the expectations I built around it. 

Sophia is in love with her best friend Erin, and while Erin seems to return those feelings, she is unwilling to rebel. The laws are explicit that young women are to attend balls where suitors will choose them as brides. And just like the fairy tale, they are meant to then live happily ever after with some caveats. The happily is optional, women only have three tries at finding a suitor, and men can terminate the ever after if they choose to. The ball maintains the illusion of what Cinderella had to go through to find her prince including arriving in one’s best dress and finding a life partner at the end of it. For over 200 years, this has been the way of things, and women have been without rights. Forced to attend her first ball, Sophia makes a run for it, choosing an alternate path she carves for herself.

While Sophia is tenacious and daring, willing to risk her life not only for love but freedom for herself as well as those of other young women in her position, I found her character naively idealistic at times. I wanted to yell at her and tell her to consider the consequences including thinking through her actions more carefully before doing anything risky. Maybe it’s meant to be part of her character but I wanted more complexity from Sophia. With the plot moving so quickly, jumping from one thing to the next, Sophia hardly ever gets to think many things through. I was also bothered by how quickly Sophia moves on despite being adamant about her love for Erin and her willingness to risk everything to be with Erin. She jumps from one love interest to the next in a matter of what seems like days. This feeds into the too fast pace of the novel, which I was not particularly fond of. I didn’t get the depth I was expecting in a story with a premise that fascinated me. The lack of depth also extends to Constance, Erin, and a few other characters.

While it lacked depth, I did like the dominant themes in the novel. The recurring theme of empowerment was particularly done well. There are several lines from Sophia that highlighted this that I loved. One of my favorites is Sophia saying, “I don’t want to be saved by some knight in shining armor. I’d like to be the one in the armor, and I’d like to be the one doing the saving.” I also thought one of the most poignant lines in the book asks who the tale of Cinderella is really for. It highlights how problematic fairy tales can become and the book confronts this through the retelling.

Cinderella Is Dead offers a retelling of the classic fairy tale that turns it on its head. Rather than waiting for a prince or princess, the book emphasizes seizing the opportunity to be your own hero. While not all my expectations were met, those who look forward to alternatives to the stories they’ve heard or watched growing up may enjoy the book.


To Sir, With Love (2021)

by Lauren Layne
ASIN/ISBN: 9781982152819
Publication: June 29, 2021

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

(If you’ve never seen You’ve Got Mail then this review will be filled spoilers for both the movie and the book. Please proceed with caution. Sorry!)

To Sir, with Love updates the dial-up connection of You’ve Got Mail with the DM alerts of a dating app; however, the romance doesn’t quite hit the mark. Of course, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’s chemistry is a tough one to recreate. The book closely mirrors the plot of You’ve Got Mail, which mirrors the plots of those titles it is an adaptation of. A woman has a connection with a man whom she has regular correspondence, but they have never met, except they have and just don’t realize it. In person, they mostly despise each other, but there’s a bit of a spark that is the complete opposite of hate. There’s enough to differentiate To Sir, With Love and appreciate it on its own merit, but if you love You’ve Got Mail as I do, the comparisons are inevitable.

Gracie’s backstory is compelling. She is a budding artist who gave up her dreams to fulfill her dad’s dreams of keeping their store in the family. Faced with the impending close of the store, she has to figure out what she wants to do–continue daydreaming or live her dreams. The exploration of Gracie’s character beyond the store was an aspect of the book I especially liked, giving her character a bit more depth. The secondary characters fill out Gracie’s life and help enhance the plot. I especially liked neighbor and friend Keva’s potential love line with her boss Grady. There’s just enough information about it for me to want a book about it from Layne in the future.

Here comes the inevitable comparison. I wanted to like the romance but was disappointed with the development of Gracie’s relationships with both Sir and Sebastian. Sir is introduced through messages to Gracie on the dating app. Their interactions appear more formal than personal and sometimes even a bit detached. I could believe it to be an attraction, but I wouldn’t think it was love, not enough to stake my entire love life around it especially because there is no declaration of love, even if you read between the lines.

With Sebastian, Gracie shares a moment–more Sleepless in Seattle than You’ve Got Mail–and it didn’t work that well for me. This is the moment Gracie harkens back to when she thinks of Sebastian. They meet again and grab food a few times, but it never feels like they move beyond that first magical connection. It’s something to build on but the building never reaches love or friendship potential. There lacked a book equivalent of a montage of them getting to know each other and becoming friends. Remember how Tom Hanks knows he needs to change Meg Ryan’s perception of him so he works hard for them to become friends before the final reveal? There’s hardly any of it before Gracie was already saying she was in love with two people. Just like with Sir, this relationship felt one-sided as well. The addition of Sebastian’s point of view might have helped remedy this, helping to establish a connection on his part and build a sturdier foundation for possible later declarations.

I liked the book but had expected a bit more. Despite my disappointment, my heart still managed to flutter as the book neared its conclusion–I am still a hopeless romantic after all.

Wrath of the Tooth Fairy (2020)

by Sarina Dorie
ASIN/ISBN: B0851NDS9G
Publication: July 21, 2020

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

Mira was a fairy godmother until she was found in a compromising position after falling in love with a godson, a Prince Charming. After losing her job as a fairy godmother and deemed a predator, she is relegated to a tooth fairy. After nearly a hundred years, she’s still trying to work her way back to being a fairy godmother. When she starts being visited by a bogeyman, she sets out to find a way to keep him away. The bogeyman, however, may be more than he seems when a prank he plays makes Mira suspect there may be shady practices going on within the company she works at.

Wrath of the Tooth Fairy can be classified as a romantic fantasy, but the romance is not as developed as I would like in my romance novels. Fortunately, the romance isn’t the draw of the book. Mira’s journey is what kept me reading. Mira loved her job as a fairy godmother and was on the way to holding a prominent position before falling in love with Prince Charming. She is determined to regain her fairy godmother status. She has a soft heart and bends the rules to help her clients beyond her teeth collecting duties even if being found out could lead to losing her job–becoming a toilet fairy does not sound fun. While she tries to keep her head down and stay away from trouble, the small ways in which she rebels against the system made her someone I rooted for. (You can do it!) But are these small gestures enough? What happens if you need to put more skin in the game?

The world immediately drew me in. Although there are different dimensions, the world we spend the most time in is the one that overlaps with humans and operates much like it as well. Individuals fulfill occupational roles ranging from bogeyman to Santas and Easter Bunnies. Not all fairies have wings. Unfortunately, cupids do have uniforms that look exactly like a giant diaper. Of all things replicated, it’s the oft-dreaded bureaucracies and their red tape that made me cringe. (Ugh! Not here too!) Joining Mira on her journey felt like it could be just another day at work: a lousy boss, incessant complaints, and commiserating with coworkers. Different world, the same problems. Heh…

Just like being on the clock, that darn minute hand doesn’t budge very easily. As much as I liked the setup of the novel and Mira’s journey, the pacing of the book had me checking how much more I had to go before the middle mark and then how much more until the end. It’s repetitive with Mira working, the bogeyman showing up many times over, and Mira trying to figure out what to do about him. It felt like so much happened, but also nothing happened at all. It’s not until the second half that the plot moves forward. When it did, I breathed a sigh of relief and was rewarded for overcoming the first half. It was an uphill battle for a while there. Then toward the end, it kept going when I was ready for it to stop.

Like Mira, I had to figure out whether I should risk putting my skin in the game–so many books, so little time, right? And, time is something you never get back. (That’s a lot of skin!) Overall, I made a sound decision. The pacing wore me down some, but Mira puts up a good fight, well, at least in the second half, which is how the half star appeared. For the most part, I enjoyed it and can positively say time was not wasted. While I do recommend Wrath of the Tooth Fairy, you’ll have to consider if the risk is worth it as well.

This Is for Tonight (2021)

by Jessica Patrick
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250757159
Publication: May 4, 2021

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

Andi enters a scavenger hunt for social media influencers at a music festival. With a prize that can help pay for college, she’s intent on winning the scavenger hunt so she can attend the same college with her brother. One of the competitors is Jay Bankar, the host of a prank channel and someone she loathes. Jay was kind enough to help her set up camp for the festival. While she’s certain she dislikes him, she also can’t help her attraction to the person she met before she realized who he was.  

This Is for Tonight is a cute YA romance that takes place in the span of a few days. Although the burgeoning romance between Andi and Jay is the central focus of the story, it also touches on grief, family, and the inevitability of growing up. However, I wouldn’t quite categorize it as a coming-of-age story. The elements are present, but the exploration of the themes is surface level.

I enjoyed the book for the light romance. Andi loves crafting, which serves as the main content of her YouTube channel. She makes no apologies for what she likes to do and also speaks her mind. When she first meets Jay, she doesn’t realize who he is, and they’re attracted to each other nearly instantly. The scavenger hunt plays a minor obstacle in comparison to Andi’s dislike of Jay, which is completely understandable. While Jay initially comes off sweet, Andi notes there are so many sides to him that it’s difficult to trust him. Who is he exactly? He appears genuine and helpful in person, but his personality runs opposite to how he appears on his channel–obnoxious and misogynistic. The only thing certain about him is how confusing he is. The bulk of the book is about trying to figure him out and whether a relationship is even possible. There are a few moments in the book that were frustrating because Andi would be on the cusp of finding out only to be left hanging.

One of the other highlights is Andi’s relationship with her brother Jordan. She is the more responsible twin, while he is the sociable and popular twin. He also doubles as her best friend. Although somewhat unreliable and more than willing to blow her off for a pretty girl, Jordan is also there for her when it counts, but is that enough? She also feels like she has to take on more responsibility than she has to, especially when one of the reasons for going to the same college as her brother Jordan comes to light. While the sibling relationship is a highlight, it isn’t thoroughly examined, and any tension that might exist gets resolved rather quickly.

This Is for Tonight is a light romance set within the backdrop of a music festival. It is relatively short and doesn’t delve deeply into some of the topics it touches on, but I still had a good time reading it.

Friends With Benedicts (2021)

by Staci Hart
ASN/ISBN: B08HPD92F9
Publication: June 8, 2021

Friends With Benedicts, a brand new, heart felt rom-com from Staci Hart, is finally LIVE! Grab your copy today from your favorite online book retailer!

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DESCRIPTION

Timing is everything.

Presley Hale and Sebastian Vargas are no strangers to goodbye. Their high school summers were spent wrapped up in each other until she would inevitably go home to California. One season after college, Sebastian finally escaped the little Texas town to travel the world, and they said goodbye for what they thought might be the last time.

Sebastian went one way. Presley went the other.

For the first time in five years, they’re both in town, but the timing is no better than ever. So the only thing to do is what they do best. Keep it casual.

Friends with benefits.

They’ve done it before—doing it again will be easy.

But their hearts don’t get the memo.

When the lines of their arrangement blur, Presley and Sebastian are faced with decisions they’ve avoided for years. And that’s not even their biggest problem.

A small town in danger of failing.

A secret that could tear them apart.

And two hearts that can’t hide anymore.

They’ve shared so many summers, but none compare to what they’ll face.

Timing is everything.

And their time is almost up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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REViEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher and author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Presley made multiple appearances with her daughter Priscilla (Cilla) in Bet the Farm, and now we get their story. Having moved from California, Presley is currently living in Texas with her aunt and cousins. As luck would have it, the boy she’s always loved is now also there, but just like when they were young, timing remains a problem. Sebastian is set to leave as soon as summer is over.

Friends with Benedicts was satisfying in a way that Hart’s Bet the Farm was not. A lot of it has to do with the chemistry between Presley and Sebastian and just Sebastian himself. It also helped a lot that Cilla is so adorable. I can’t help but fall for the cute kid trope.

I generally like Hart’s female protagonists because they are often strong-willed, determined, and independent. Presley has all these qualities. It’s usually the male love interests that have me going back and forth. Sebastian was a love interest that I liked. For the most part, he has some emotional depth to him. There’s more to him than just being angry all the time (yes, I am comparing him to Jake from Bet the Farm, whom I was not a fan of).

Sebastian and Presley’s relationship moved both too quickly and at just the right pace. They just barely meet again but can’t keep their hands off each other despite different existing complications. Of course, jumping into their old habits is directly the result of their shared history. It’s always just been this way except for the last five years. Having quickly established this meant I wasn’t as bothered by their instant relationship as I could have been. The most irksome part of the book is the lines of communications headlining as one of the major tropes. It ranged from lack of communication to miscommunication. What helped lessen my dislike of the trope here was the amount of introspection from the characters and other characters pointing out the obvious communication problems. (Thank you so much for trying to make them see reason!)

A small town Hallmark-ish subplot is also present as Sebastian and Presley try to navigate their relationship. I’m not sure how necessary this was to the main storyline because the book already had a few things going for it. I would have kept on reading the book even if this hadn’t been present. In fact, when it popped up, I was surprised by it.

Overall, I connected to the characters because their connection to each other was one I generally liked. Their story was messy in the way real life love stories are, showcasing the difficulties of adjusting to a new life and a renewed love. I also appreciated that the main “villain” in the story was more complex than she could have been, she was made more human and had feelings.