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

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.

Daring and the Duke (2020)

by Sarah MacLean
ASN/ISBN: 9780062691996
Publication: June 30, 2020
Series: The Bareknuckle Bastards #3

I haven’t read the other books in the series, but it’s not necessary to read the prior books to understand Grace and Ewan’s friends-to-lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romance. MacLean provides enough background to understand the events that lead up to Grace and Ewan meeting again. Grace is also known as Dahlia, but I’ll just refer to her by Grace here.

Grace created a kingdom with her brothers in Covent Garden, but she sits alone on her throne while her brothers have found love. While several men would willingly stand beside her, she’s never gotten over the boy who broke her heart. When he reappears, she attempts to get her revenge so she can finally move on and remove him from her life. Unfortunately for Grace, Ewan isn’t going to let her go so easily. 

This book was everything I needed and more to get me back to reading romance novels. I reverted to rereading old and new favorites because I was unsuccessful in finding something new that I liked. Then, I read a mini-review at A Fox’s Wanderings that mentioned lots of groveling, and I said, “Yup! I need it in my life.” (I stand with Alienor at A Fox’s Wanderings as a lover of books with groveling heroes.) I read the review on March 30th, started it on the 31st, and finished reading it on April 1st.  It was flipping fantastic! I smiled, I swooned, I had to set it down for a few minutes to breathe and settle my aching heart, and then I smiled some more, and I swooned some more.

I liked Grace. She was smart, kind, and a real badass. But even love will make fools of the most intelligent people. Despite multiple attempts by Grace to remove Ewan from her life, he continues to maintain a hold on her. He never pushes her more than she is willing to give. I appreciated his non-alpha character and the respect he had for her. Although Grace tries to stay away from Ewan, their connection is electric. When they’re together, there is always an undercurrent of passion sizzling beneath the glances they throw one another. The groveling was near perfection. It made the butterflies swarm, and my heart beat erratically.

The pull between Grace and Ewan and their constant longing for one another wouldn’t have been so fever-inducing had it not been for MacLean’s gift with the written word. MacLean skillfully seduced my emotions–I was in love, vengeful, hopeful, outraged…filled with regret. It was an aching wave of so many feelings in such a short amount of time. It was wonderful! (The evidence: here, here, and below)

However, as much as I enjoyed Daring and the DukeI kept expecting just a bit more. A bit more revenge. A bit more plot. A bit more than just the romance. There were multiple opportunities to expand on interesting points, but they don’t pan out to very much. The book mentions parliamentary votes, conspiratorial women, and even raids, but it doesn’t really go beyond this. The description promises revenge, but I didn’t get the revenge I was hoping for. The only real revenge from Grace is at the beginning, while the rest of the book is more about their struggle to control their feelings and define what they might still be to each other. Also, I just really wanted Ewan to experience more pain for all the heartache he caused. 

Fans of historical romance will enjoy Daring and the Duke, especially if a groveling lovelorn hero is sought after. There isn’t much outside of the romance, which doesn’t necessarily take anything away from it being an oh-so-satisfying read. If you’re looking for romance, this is certainly a book that will sweep you off your feet. 


One last quote from The Duke…
(Photo: Manohar Manu on Unsplash)

Just Like in the Movies (2021)

by Heidi Rice
ASN/ISBN: 9780008372576
Publication: March 12, 2021


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

Ruby becomes part-owner of The Royale movie theatre when her boss and best friend Matty suddenly dies. While she’s intent on making sure The Royale continues running, her new co-owner Luke, Matty’s nephew, would rather rid his hands of the crumbling theatre. Ruby will need Luke’s help to save the theatre, but he’s not exactly the easiest person to get along with.

Just Like in the Movies was a treat to read. We can only hope to have friends and a supportive community such as Matty’s, especially someone like Ruby. Ruby’s earnestness to save the Royale Theatre and to celebrate her best friend Matty’s life was endearing. 

Sharing a similar love of rom-coms, I liked Ruby almost immediately, nearly just as fast as I found Luke unlikeable. Ruby is kind and likeable but has never ventured too far from home until Matty’s death thrusts her into a new role. She’ll fight for what she believes in, but she doesn’t feel the same about herself; she doesn’t exactly believe in herself.

It’s easy to dislike Luke, especially with his attitude and suspiciousness over Matty’s intentions in leaving him part ownership of the theatre. Of course, I’d be suspicious as well should something like that happen to me (as if it would ever be likely, except, you know, like in the movies and books…lol), but his quick assessment of Ruby irritated me. His automatic assumption, as expected, is that Ruby was Matty’s mistress. He’s a grumpy character with what seems like a heart of gold, and eventually, it becomes a bit difficult to dislike him, even though I tried. I really did.

The story is fairly straight-forward with Ruby trying to keep The Royale open and Luke finding himself more or less roped into helping out. There are several funny scenes throughout the book, and I liked the chemistry between Ruby and Luke as they learn more about one another.

Ultimately the ending was a satisfying one, but I couldn’t help but wish that Ruby’s lesson in all this had been a more prominent theme throughout the book. It seemed to have just dawned on her at what felt like the last minute. I would recommend this book to those who like movies in their romance novels with characters who grow from hate to love. Those who enjoyed Waiting for Tom Hanks may enjoy this novel as well.

Romance Interlude 2.8

These interludes have turned into more of me ranting than actual reviews. I apologize profusely for that and also because it will likely remain this way. I like having these as outlets so I can shout about how much I love a book or gripe about how much a book was just okay. So far, I’ve been on a roll with romance books that are “just ok” so I’ve been doing more rereads, which means less interludes. Hopefully it will pick back up soon. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear about them!


The Accidental Kiss (2019)
by Heatherly Bell
ASN/ISBN: B07P16B1MD
Publication: April 25, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Miracle #1

One liner: Best friends are secretly in love with each other and are unsure about whether they should move their relationship to the next step due to occupational hazards.

Friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes so I was looking forward to this one. The opening is hilarious because Charley is trying to chase down her foster sister’s baby daddy. The problem is that she doesn’t know who it is so she’s just tracking down men in her foster sister’s life and basically scaring the sh*t out of them. I loved the opening and thought I would really like the book but there were parts I liked a lot and others were just okay. Eventually, it started to drag just a bit. I enjoyed Charley and Dylan’s friendship. They were perfect for each other, balancing one another out, but their fears kept them apart, specifically Charley’s unwillingness to stay in one place long enough and Dylan’s fear that being a firefighter could mean leaving behind someone he loved should anything happen. The whole sunset kiss legend wasn’t something I was particularly fond of. It felt a bit cheesy to me in this context. I loved the epigraphs! Here are a few of two of my favorites: “I just don’t want to look back and think, ‘I could have eaten that’ “and “Each month has an average of 30-31 days, except the last month of pregnancy, which is 1,453 days.” Funny, right?


Dante’s Angel (2015)
by Laurie Roma
ASN/ISBN: B08K9HLS77
Publication: September 27, 2020
First Published: November 21, 2015
Goodreads Summary
Series: Breakers’ Bad Boys #3

One liner: Zoe is a musical prodigy hiding her identity in Breakers while working for and falling in love with Dante Fox.

The first half of the book was good and there was a lot of chemistry between Zoe and Dante. One of the most memorable parts of the book is the opening when Dante heads back from the gym and finds Zoe playing her violin in his bar. This set the tone for the first half of the book–lots of repressed feelings from both Dante and Zoe and a somewhat slow burn. I was on board for the majority of the book–despite some cringey/cheesy lines–but then the last portion I didn’t enjoy where the book was headed and the dialogue between Dante and Zoe also got cringier at times. The book doesn’t drag. I was nearly done with the book when I remembered to check progress.


Rush (2013)
by Beth Yarnall
ASN/ISBN: 9781940811987
Publication: October 13, 2013
Goodreads Summary
Series: Pleasure at Home

One liner: Miyuki Price-Jones is being stalked so her employer hires bodyguard Lucas Vega to protect her.

This one took me a while to finish because I kept jumping from book to book. While it started off interesting enough, I was close to DNF-ing it because it went from strangers to insta-lust in just a few pages. It’s insta-lust and not love. I know it happens but it just didn’t work well here for me. I tried setting that aside, and when I successfully did that, I could enjoy the story a lot better. Then another problem arose: there was so much going on. Not only was there a stalker, but there were protestors, Miyuki had secrets, and Lucas had some personal things going on including his family and an ex-fiance. There were not enough pages to thoroughly give attention to everything so some of these storylines didn’t go very far. When the book was solely on Miyuki and Lucas, it wasn’t bad. The storyline I was most disappointed with was Miyuki’s family secret and her relationship with her brother. One minute he was a jerk and all of sudden he wasn’t. There was a lot of potential there.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On (2021)

by Karen Bischer
ASN/ISBN: 9781250242303
Publication: March 23, 2021


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

Senior year is off to a heartbreaking start after Ellie’s boyfriend unexpectedly breaks up with her. Forced to continue taking home ec(onomics) with her ex and his new girlfriend, Ellie sets her eyes on beating the other teams by working with her group to ensure they get the most points in the class. Initially, she doesn’t have high hopes for her group of misfits–horse racing obsessed Isaiah, tough guy A.J., and biker Luke–but she begins to change her mind once she gets to know them. They even start feeling like a family.

Change is hard but maybe it’s the motivation needed to force us to do things we normally wouldn’t do. The breakup forces Ellie to get out of her comfort zone and pursue activities she would never have thought about before or things her ex wouldn’t have approved of. As readers come to this realization alongside Ellie, they’ll cheer her on just like I did. Her growth from the beginning of the novel to the end was a mostly pleasant experience. Why only mostly? Despite knowing the break up is inevitable–it’s right there in the blurb–it’s still a pretty uncomfortable experience to read through. It can only mean that Bischer did a great job setting it up.

The best part of the novel is the camaraderie that eventually develops between Ellie and her home ec group. While the other groups in the class are cohesive from the start because most are already friends, Ellie, Isaiah, A.J., and Luke are a makeshift group. They’re individuals who don’t hang out together and probably wouldn’t have spoken to each other outside the classroom. Being forced to work as a group (I know, I know we all generally hate group work) facilitated meaningful interaction between the members in the classroom, eventually spilling over into life outside of class and even school. If we only stick to what we know and the people we know, we might be missing out on so many other wonderful things!

I enjoyed it overall. It’s a high school slice-of-life novel about growing up and trying to find your bearings after a breakup. It’s a cute, light read–something that can be quickly read in an afternoon.

Down Comes the Night (2021)

by Allison Saft
ASN/ISBN: 9781250623638
Publication: March 2, 2021
Series: N/A


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

After messing up, yet again, Wren is suspended from the Queen’s Guard and forced to head back to the abbey. After receiving a request from Lord Lowry of Colwick Hall to help heal one of his servants, Wren decides to head to the estate to put her magic to better use and to use her presence there as a diplomatic opportunity to return to the Queen’s Guard. Once there, she realizes that all is not as it seems when she recognizes the servant she is to heal is Hal Cavendish, an enemy to the Crown.

Down Comes the Night is one of my most anticipated reads this year. A YA fantasy with gothic vibes? Who wouldn’t want to read it? While there were elements I would have liked more of, overall, it generally does what it sets out to do–capture our hearts and leave us captivated–but you have to get past the beginning to get there. The beginning of the book attempts to immerse readers in the world Saft’s created and to familiarize us with Wren’s current predicament. Like in any fantasy novel, establishing the world is crucial. While interesting with its ongoing political conflicts and magic system, I was a bit turned off at the beginning largely due to a lovelorn Wren constantly lamenting over her love for best friend Una and not having those feelings reciprocated. It’s not until Wren arrives at the manor that she seems finally in her element and turns into the character I hoped she would be–compassionate and competent, less caught up in a tortuous, somewhat unrequited love. It is also at the manor that the writing itself takes on the tone I was hoping for–mysterious and slightly eerie. Had the book begun and ended at Colwick Hall and been able to retain the air of mystery cultivated at the manor, I likely would have enjoyed it a lot more–not that the other parts weren’t well written; it was just better there.

Once I got to the manor, where the gothic atmosphere settles in, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. The general plot is predictable, but Saft’s writing is engaging; I had to continue reading to confirm my suspicions. The mystery that forces Wren and Hal to work together is fairly straightforward. Saft drops enough clues throughout that, when paired with my suspicions, the reveals didn’t come as a complete surprise. I didn’t mind but what I did want was more blood and gore (I know. I know. For someone who stays away from thrillers, mysteries, and horror I sure do want more of what I don’t normally read in here accompanied with all the fixings, which might be a byproduct of not reading them but wanting a lot when I finally do.) The characters are well developed, with Wren and Hal fleshed out and the side characters also receiving backstories of their own. I felt like I knew them all well and understood their motivations. I think the Queen has the potential to be a more complex character and would love more on her. There’s still much to Wren’s background that remains a mystery whereas we learn a lot about Hal. The romance is a slow-burn (and I cheered when there was just a single bed…heh) and cultivated well.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel. It works as a standalone, but there’s a lot present that lends itself to the possibility of additional books. Individuals expecting a fully immersive gothic novel may come away a bit disappointed because, above all, it is a YA fantasy that contains elements of the gothic genre. (And I know it sounds a bit silly to explain it as such, but the novel isn’t as dark and creepy as what I would normally deem a gothic novel. It’s certainly atmospheric in parts, so it could still be a gothic YA fantasy. Semantics? Probably…Maybe my mind overly emphasized the gothic part prior to reading it.) Readers who head into the novel with this understanding will appreciate the book much more.

Romance Interlude 2.7


Unexpected (2021)
by Bailey B.
ASIN/ISBN: B08KF8V9KD
Publication: February 5, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

One liner: Ellie/Lainey pretends to date an old friend, Asher, after her best friend, Liam, decides they should stop seeing one another because he’s in love with someone else.

I picked this up after seeing the release blitz promotion. Initially, the plot was good but the additional side plots detracted from the main story, the fake dating and the potential love triangle. I felt for the characters, especially Ellie/Lainey who was being used by someone she loved and thought loved her in return. Liam was a horrible excuse for a friend while Asher was the bad boy with a good heart. I thought there was enough of a plot present and I liked the writing enough for it to keep me invested in what was going to happen. While I understood there needed to be some kind of conflict at the end, what I thought was the the main conflict just resolved itself too easily.


Melted (2019)
by Hadley Harlin
ASIN/ISBN: B07Y5V98T8
Publication: October 8, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Cooking Up a Celebrity #2

One liner: Two celebrity chefs serve as judges on a new cooking show

This enemies-to-lovers book was good in the beginning but slowly started to lose steam as it got closer to the end. The animosity between the Hawthorne and Sophia is established quickly so when they start pulling their shenanigans while travelling and filming, it’s believable. While I liked the characters, I never quite connected to either of them as well as I hoped. They have chemistry but I’m not sure they have the chemistry that would sustain the HEA I’m supposed to believe is meant for them–the romance felt forced. The lust and hate sex made sense just not the development of their feelings.


Not Your Average Road Trip (2019)
by Cassie Mae
ASIN/ISBN: 9781101885796
Publication: August 12, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Not Your Average #2

One liner: An unplanned road trip to an audition leads to unexpected feelings between an actor and his agent.

Jace is headed to an audition that can potentially change the trajectory of his idling acting career and his agent Shay is accompanying him. It’s her fault they’ve been stranded, and partially his fault the company credit is no longer in her possession so with very little money, they keep heading to his audition because both their livelihoods depend on it. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong. The book is told entirely from Jace’s perspective. He often laments about what things would or should be like if it was an actual script being written and I found it entertaining. (I’m always thinking…if what just happened was a book this is how it would have ended…hehehe) We get to know Jace a lot better than we get to know Shay. Jace is a playboy–he refers to How I Met Your Mother and Barney throughout the book–and his work relationship with Shay is probably the longest he’s had with a woman. At first, I wasn’t a fan of Jace but I loved how he started seeing everything about Shay and liked her just the way she was. Shay’s character isn’t as developed, feeling almost like a generic character but I couldn’t help liking her. She puts up with Jace and knows how to put him in his place. I liked their relationship because they weren’t afraid to be themselves around each other.

Romance Interlude 2.6


Dirty Talk (2020)
by Ali Parker
ASIN/ISBN: B08599MMXK
Publication: February 27, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Business of Love #1

The description gives away just about every thing that happens. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if the book is able to follow through and fills it in with good details. First, I liked that Vanessa was curvy. I appreciated the plus-size representation. She starts off with low self-esteem and pretty much remains with low self-esteem all the way through. I kept waiting for her to have an epiphany that she is awesome the way she is rather than constantly thinking about how other people might see her. Then there was the radio talk show that seemed like it would play a big role but actually doesn’t. She was supposed to be a host that gave great advice but we hardly saw her in action. Additionally, there were some discrepancies in the book that confused me. Vanessa ends a chapter narrating that he doesn’t even know…O_o… but I swear she just told him a few pages ago. Then at the worst particularly moment she decided she deserved so much better than what she was getting in return. First, that needed to happen a long time ago and then I disagreed with how she handled the situation.


Boyfriend for Hire (2019)
by Kendall Ryan
ASIN/ISBN: B07H8SVQNJ
Publication: February 19, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Escorts Inc., #1

One liner: Bridesmaid falls for the date she doesn’t know the bride hired for her.

This is a trope I can’t help reading. I was waiting for the “I do everything but this” rule…and…yes, there is one. The first time I heard the “no kissing” rule in Pretty Woman it was novel, but then it popped up in a lot of different places. When it popped up here too, I couldn’t help but cringe a little but also chuckle, giving it the “I knew that was coming” side eye. Nick is pretty much perfect and Elle is the “normal” girl who doesn’t realize how great she is who gives him all the feels that he’s been waiting for that will make him consider changing his occupation. There isn’t anything particularly new here. It’s predictable and a fairly quick light read.


That Man Next Door (2017)
by Nadia Lee
ASIN/ISBN: B076J3GXYT
Publication: October 24, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Sweet Darlings Inc. #1

One liner: Woman who skips out on her one night stand finds out he’s her new neighbor as well as new co-worker.

I read a previous novel by Lee that got great reviews but I didn’t really like it. I thought I’d give another of her novels a try, and I ended up liking this one a lot more. If you’re not a fan of the virgin trope, you probably won’t like this but the premise is funny. Jan Doe, yup that’s her real name, goes on one-night stands intent on losing her virginity only to freak out and leave before it happens. This isn’t the first time that it’s happened. Matt is this genuinely sweet guy who is one of her attempted one-night stands. It’s pretty funny with all the situations Jan finds herself when trying to avoid him until finally she realizes that maybe he’s more than just a one-night type of guy. There was laughing and swooning on my end too. There’s more depth to Jan’s character than is let on by the description that added to this being 3-star read rather than a 2-star. Because of her past, she feels like the odd person out in her very large extended family. She’s still trying to figure out her place in the family so while she’s comfortable in her current position in the family-owned company, it’s also clear that she could be doing more. Matt might be able to help her understand that. This was a fun read.