American imports, binge reads, Book of the Week, fiction, new releases, reviews, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Thank You for Listening

Taking a break from the Girls Own and book conference related content for this week’s book of the week. This is another recent release – the same day as Husband Material in fact – and one that I had heard a lot of buzz about and discovered was on offer while I was writing the August offers Recommendsday post.

Thank you for Listening is a romantic comedy about a former actress who became an audiobook narrator after an accident halter her on screen career. When Sewanee is sent to an audiobook convention by her boss she has a whirlwind night in Vegas with a mystery man. But when she returns to California, she finds an offer to narrate a beloved romance novelist’s final book. The trouble is, she doesn’t do romance novels any more, but money could pay for her beloved grandmother’s nursing home care so she resurrects her old pseudonym and starts recording the book with one of the genres hottest and most secretive male narrators, Brock McKnight. There’s a steady back and forth of chatter between them, but as secrets are revealed, can Sewanee get the happily ever after that she doesn’t believe in?

Julia Whelan is a renowned audiobook narrator so this is is filled with insider titbits from her experience as well as being a love letter to the romance genre. They even joke about how many tropes they’re ticking off more than once. And it’s a delight. Swan is an intriguing leading character, with a complicated family and some issues to deal with. And the shadowy and mysterious Brock has great banter. And, well, it’s very well put together – with a swoony ending and a nod and a wink to fans of the genre. What more could you want.

If I could have read this in one sitting I would have – but unfortunately I had to go to work, so instead I decided not to go to the theatre one of my London nights and instead read this on the sofa at the hostel, and then in my bunk when it got too noisy. No greater testament really.

My copy of Thank You For Listening came from Kindle for the bargain price of £1.99. It’s also on Kobo for the same price and available in paperback from Thursday – although how easily it will be to actually find I don’t know – Waterstones (Foyles’ owners) are having some distribution issues. I will try and remember to check Foyles’ romance section a few weeks after release…

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Acting Up

Plenty of options to chose from this week, and I’ve gone with a romance novel to make a nice change for the summer heat. Or what I hope is going to be a summery week!

Cath and Paul have been friends since college – and Cath’s been hiding a crush on Paul all these years. Now he’s a theatre director, and she’s a stage manager and they do their best work together. As friends. Just friends. Nothing more. And that’s fine with Cath, because she doesn’t want to risk losing the friendship she has with him. This summer, they’re working on a production of a new play at a regional theatre in Connecticut. If it goes well, it could go to Broadway – but will it go well if Paul insists on hiring Cath’s college nemesis to play the leading role? When rehearsals start, Paul realises that his leading lady is making Cath’s life miserable. And also that the leading man is showing an interest in Cath. Paul realises that what he wants is Cath – but can he persuade her that it’s worth taking a chance on?

Regular readers will remember how much I enjoy Lucy Parker’s theatre-set romances and that I always say I want more books like them. Well, here is more like them. This is friends-to-lovers rather than enemies-to-lovers and it’s in American regional theatre rather than the West End, but it’s got great characters, cracking banter – they quote plays at each other everyone, including some Busman’s Honeymoon, what more could I want – and the supporting characters are also amazing. Plus more backstage theatre details than you can shake a stick at, but not in an info dump sort of way. I read it in two sittings – it would have been one sitting, but it was 2am and I had to go to bed. Then I bought the next one so that I can read it on the train to work this week when I have finished the other things I am meant to be reading.

I bought this as part of my read the samples of books on offer spree (as mentioned yesterday) and it is 81p at the moment on Kindle everyone. EIGHTY ONE. And 99 cents in the US. Run don’t walk everyone, because I suspect this offer is going to finish at the end of June. It’s also available on Kobo (for 99p) and in paperback. You’re welcome. I’m off to see what else Adele Buck has written and buy it add it to my wishlist.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Roomies

Back with contemporary romance this week, because it’s only been two months since Death Goes on Skis was BotW so I can’t do Nancy Spain again yet, but don’t worry I will find a way to talk about Poison for Teacher, and this Christina Lauren is a good one too!

The heroine of Roomies is Holland, a MFA graduate who finds herself somewhat adrift after her muse deserts her. Instead of writing she’s working for her uncle, who has written the latest Broadway smash, and has a huge crush on a guitarist she’s heard busking in the subway. When Holland helps Calvin to get his big break, it turns out that his student visa is long expired and his chance to shine may be out of reach after all. So Holland offers to marry him, and so begins their attempt to keep him in New York and fool The Powers That Be that theirs is a genuine relationship. But as they live together in Holland’s apartment and find out more about each other, who is actually fooling who and is this relationship turning real?

Marriages of convenience are one of my favourite historical romance tropes, but you don’t get a lot of them in contemporary romance, so when you find one it’s a real treat. This is a bit slow to get started – I think because Holland’s infatuation with Calvin before she knew him made me a little uncomfortable, but once it does click it’s a lot of fun. There is a good group of supporting characters – Holland’s uncles are lovely and her boss is awful – and watching Holland figure out who she is and what she wants is a good counterpart to the romance. Christina Lauren’s books can sometimes be too cringe or have leading character that are too unprofessional for me to deal with, but Roomies manages to stick on the right side of that – just. It all wraps up a little quickly, and I wanted a little bit more closure on a few things, but all in all it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

My copy of Roomies came from the library, but it’s out now and you can get it on Kindle and Kobo and the paperback looks like it may be relatively easy to get hold of.

Happy Reading!

new releases, romantic comedy

Out today: Mad About You

Here’s a confession. I meant to read Mhairi McFarlane’s new book well in advance of its release date. But that pesky Covid thing that’s making me binge reread things I’ve read before got in the way. So I started this on Tuesday night, read about 50 pages before bed and thought “well I’ll keep reading it tomorrow and write a post saying I haven’t finished it yet but on past record I trust that it’s going to be great.” I’d even stated the draft of a post saying just that.

Except on Wednesday night I finished it. I was glued to my sofa reading it from the moment I put the dinner in the oven. I read 350 pages basically in one big gulp – ok I stopped to eat dinner and there were a couple of loo breaks in there too, but that’s it. The TV was in on the background, but I think Him Indoors could have been watching a gory movie and I wouldn’t have noticed. I stayed up late to finish it because I couldn’t bear to Lea it it to the train in the morning – and as it made me get all weepy at the end, I think I made the right choice. It’s that type of book.

And now I realise I’ve written two whole paragraphs without telling you what on Earth the plot is. So, here we go: Harriet is a wedding photographer in Leeds. Business is booming, but despite being around happy couples at work all day she doesn’t want a marriage of her own. When she finds herself in need of a new place to live, she moves in with Cal. He’s handsome and charming and his love life is also a complete mess. But is this the start of something good for both of them?

Now there’s a lot more to the plot than that – but I’ve tried to stick with not giving anything more away than the blurbs on Goodreads and Amazon do. Harriet is a brilliant heroine – she’s independent, resilient and smart and she and her friends have some great one liners. Cal is an attractive hero too – mysterious (until he’s not) with a ride or die best mate of his own. The Amazon strap line calls this a romantic comedy – and it is – but a big part of the book is a Harriet dealing with issues in her own past so that she can move on and move forward – and there are some tricky issues in there which definitely aren’t funny. But the resolution is punch the air brilliant and it all ends up alright in the end.

Now I realise in writing this that I’m doing myself out of a book of the week option on Monday, but hey, sometimes I break with my own rules and traditions – and it’s nice to mix it up a bit and do a review on release day – especially when it’s a book that I’ve enjoyed so much. Mad About You is out now in Kindle, Kobo and paperback. Enjoy!

not a book, romantic comedy

Not a Book: The Philadelphia Story

This Sunday I’m treating you to the latest instalment in my occasional series about films I love is the Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn comedy The Philadelphia Story.

Hepburn plays Tracy Lord, the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family, who is about to get married for the second time. Days before the wedding, her ex-husband turns up, with a tabloid reporter and photographer in tow. C K Dexter Haven (Grant) has been working for Spy magazine in South America since his marriage to Tracy broke up (she didn’t like his drinking, he drank because he didn’t like her criticisms of him) and is inveigled into taking Maccauley “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) the the wedding with a threat that if he doesn’t then a scandal about Tracy’s father will be published instead. Thus the scene is set for a love square as Tracy finds herself drawn to Mike and to her ex husband all while she’s preparing to marry George.

There’s more to it than that of course, but that’s the best potted plot summary I can come up with. It’s very funny and is managing to skirt the production code rules of the time by being a comedy of remarriage (see also Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday among others) and it’s full of snappy, witty dialogue as well as a few nice bits of physical comedy. If you’re a fan of movie musicals, you’ll recognise the plot as it was later turned into High Society (with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly) but it started as a stage play -written for Hepburn – and marked her comeback after being dubbed Box Office Poison after a string of flops. I didn’t know any of the Hepburn-y background when I first watched it on a DVD in my hall of residence at university. I just thought it was clever and funny and something a bit out of the normal run of the black and white movie classics I was renting (from LoveFilm!) at the time.

That said, it does fit perfectly into the types of romantic comedies – films and books – that I love. It’s got a smart heroine (as well as a smart hero), it’s got plenty of banter and the comedy doesn’t come from humiliation – see also When Harry Met Sally, Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Shall We Dance (the Fred and Ginger film) and authors like Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Julia Quinn and Lucy Parker (although those last two are more witty than comic).

Anyway, this is the sort of film you’re most likely to come across on TV on a Sunday afternoon – and if you do, you should definitely stop and watch it.

Book of the Week, new releases, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Playing for Love

After a few weeks of murder mystery picks of various types, I’m back with another romance book for this week’s BotW – and it’s even a new release! Check me getting new books read in a timely manner. I know. Astounding

Ever since her mum died, Samadhi has watched YouTube streams of video gamers to help her destress. Sam plays games herself as well, so when she’s selected in a contest to partner her all-time favourite streamer, Blaze, in a competition to promote a new game, it’s her lucky day. Except that in real life she’s trying to get her fashion business off the ground and she needs all her time to do that. Blaze is a swashbucking pirate type – with a big following and as well as wanting to make sure she doesn’t embarrass herself in front of the internet, she’s also got a bit of a crush. Ok, make that a lot of a crush. But what she doesn’t know is that in real life, Blaze is actually Luke – the shy guy from her office who has been helping her with her crowdfunding campaign. And of course Luke doesn’t know that Sam is Bravura. And every day as Luke is working up the courage to ask Sam out, Sam is falling a little bit harder for Blaze. How will the competition end – and will Sam realise who Luke is before it’s too late?

So I love a double identity/mistaken identity romance which is something I could list a whole bunch of historical romances with that trope but I’m going to save that til tomorrow (!) and obviously there are also films like You’ve Got Mail, Pillow Talk and Some Like it Hot. And this is a delight. I really appreciated that Luke never took advantage of the fact that he realised who Sam was first (which is my problem with You’ve Got Mail and Pillow Talk if I think too hard about it) and there is also plenty of competency porn and calling out of people being icky to women in the gaming world and in the bottom half of the internet. But the slow burn romance is the main attraction here – and it’s a delight to watch especially as I wasn’t quite sure how it was all going to work out.

This is the first book that I’ve read by Jeevani Charika – but she also writes as Rhoda Baxter and I’ve heard her interviewed before on the Smart Bitches podcast and have been meaning to try and read some of her books. And I enjoyed this so much that I’ll definitely be doing that. If they’re all as much fun as this, I’ve got some really good reading in front of me. I complain a lot about wanting more romantic comedies and how hard it is to find them – so I really enjoyed finding one and I’m hoping that the act of buying some of the back catalogue will help the algorithm put some more my way!

My copy of Playing for Love came from NetGalley, but it’s out now and is a bargain 99p on Kindle and £1.99 on Kobo as I write this. And it’s also coming out in paperback, but not until April – and don’t worry Foyles will let you preorder it.

Happy Reading!

American imports, Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Second First Impressions

After yesterday’s little essay at the start of my Week in Books I feel a little bit like I’ve already talked way too much this week. But I’ve got plans in my head for a summer reading post and a couple of last weeks books are likely to feature in that. So this weeks BotW is a fun and frothy romance, perfect for reading any time of year, not just in a sunny garden in summer.

Ruthie has been working at Providence Retirement Villas for six years. That’s her whole adult life – and she’s turned the job into her entire life. She’s shrunk her world so that it revolves around the residents (human and turtles) and maintaining the place. She is nervous, risk averse, acts way older than her age and her latest fear is what the property developer who has just bought the site might do to up end her life. It turns out that the first thing he’s going to do is land Providence with his son. Teddy has run out of places to stay and needs to raise money for his share of the tattoo parlour he wants to open. He’s tall, dark and handsome – and dangerous for Ruthie’s self control. So she sets him up with the one job no one has ever lasted at: personal assistant to two rich, 90 year old trouble making ladies – who get most of their enjoyment from setting their assistants fiendish tasks. But Teddy looks set to be the one who stays the course – but is his charm for real or is is all just an act?

That’s quite a long plot summary and makes this sound way more complicated than it is. It’s a charming opposites attract romance with a sweet but wary heroine and a charming people pleaser hero who have to do a lot of figuring out about what they both want in life. The retirement village provides an excellent cast of supporting characters to make you laugh as you watch Ruthie and Teddy do some cautious getting to know each other. It does suffer a little bit from the end wrapping up too quickly (oh a common theme returns to my reviews) but I sort of forgive it because it was just so charming for the rest of the book. I’ve been hearing good things about Sally Thorne for a while, but this is the first time I’ve managed to get around to reading one of her books – even though I think I may own the Hating Game. I am annoyed that it’s taken me so long. But again: what is new there. In summary: charming escapist reading.

My copy of Second First Impressions came from the library but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in (very expensive) hardback. No paperback (in the UK at least) until next year.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: He’s Not My Boyfriend

I said yesterday that I was having trouble picking and I did. There were a few options for today. But the Deanna Raybourn is the sixth in a series – and I’ve written about Veronica before. The Grand Sophy was a reread via audiobook and that book is the very definition of a problematic favourite. I’ve written about several Lumberjanes before (including the novelisations) as well. And when I came to write up my reading list I realised that although I’ve read eight of Jackie Lau’s books and novellas over the last year, I haven’t made one of them a BotW yet. So that made my mind up for me.

Cover of He's Not My Boyfriend

Iris Chin likes her independence. She’s a successful structural engineer and a bit of a party girl and life would be pretty much perfect if her family didn’t keep setting up up with men to try and get her married off. But her job and her home life collide when she discovers that Alex Kwong, the one night-stand she snuck out on the next morning, is the man she’s going to have to work with on a new project for work. On top of that she’s moved in with her nosy, meddling grandma and you’ve got a recipe for a disaster…

This makes for a really fun read. Alex and Iris are both convinced that they don’t want to be in relationships – Iris, because she thinks her parents and grandparents relationships weren’t successful, and Alex because his mum has died and left his family broken hearted and he doesn’t want to go through that pain again. But they have great chemistry together, and Iris introduces Alex to her family to help him with some of the female family he’s missing without his mum. Watch them work out their relationship is really good, but Iris’s grandmother nearly steels the show. She’s a 90-something ball of energy – who has learnt English since her husband died, taken a string of cookery courses to fill time and has started reading Harlequin romance novels. She’s brilliant, and I would read a whole series of her setting up her hapless relatives on blind dates!

So this is a couple of years old and the second in a series – I haven’t read the first, but the couple from that do pop up in this. The running theme in the Jackie Lau books that I’ve read are delicious food, meddling families and heroines who know what they want from life and aren’t afraid to go out and get it. So if that is your thing – and you don’t mind feeling hungry while reading, then definitely check this out. Her first book with Berkeley is out at in November and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I bought my copy of He’s Not My Boyfriend on Kindle but it’s also available on Kobo – and it’s 99p on both of those at the moment. It’s also showing as available to order in paperback, but I can’t work out how easy it actually will be to get hold of.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

After a slight diversion with Mrs Tim of the Regiment, a return to some familiar themes for my BotW post today: guaranteed resolutions,  romance and an author I’ve recommended before – but for once it’s a new release as this came out on the 9th so I actually read it pretty much on time for once – even if my review is this week. Just quickly, before we talk about the new Talia Hibbert – another of the books I read last week is out today – the new Maisie Dobbs book from Jacqueline Winspear. I’ve written a series I love post about Maisie – but I suspect this one will feature in my end of month mini reviews – I really enjoyed it, but as The Consequences of Fear is the 16th in the series, it’s really hard to talk at length about without giving loads of spoilers for previous books!

Cover of Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Eve Brown’s parents think she’s flighty. To be fair the string of half finished courses and short-lived careers might give that impression – but that’s just because she hasn’t found her passion yet. But when her parents give her an ultimatum after she “ruins” a wedding by releasing some doves too early (to be fair I would probably have liberated them too), she high tails it out of town to prove them wrong. Jacob is looking for a new chef for his B&B, but Eve is definitely not it. But then she accidentally hits hit with her car and he winds up with a broken arm and when he emerges from the fug of his concussion, she’s filing in for him trying to help. He’s a grump, she’s a purple haired Ray of sunshine in a slogan t-shirt. They should be each other’s worst nightmares but the more time they spend together, the more sparks fly.

So this is the third and final book in Talia Hibbert’s series about the Brown sisters and they’ve all been a delight – in fact I recommended the second book, Take a Hint, Dani Brown in June last year when that was a new released. If you’ve read the other two books in the series, you’ve caught glimpses of Eve, but I think whatever the opinions are you’ve formed of her, you’re probably wrong. It was a fascinating surprise getting to know her and watch her journey. And Jacob is a great hero – as the book unfolds you realise that he’s autistic but that’s not the most important thing about him – and nor should it be – but it’s still quite rare to see autistic characters getting their own love stories, so that feels unusual. This is a slow burn, dislike at first sight, enemies to lovers forced proximity romance – all tropes which I love.

The chemistry and banter between Eve and Jacob is great and the sex scenes are really, really steamy – if I had been reading on a train (as I likely would have been in the beforetimes!) I would have been blushing. I also loved the way that you see the two of them working out and navigating their relationship and its parameters. And there is also no stupid drama for the sake of it here. The conflict is well-thought out and really works – and if something could be sorted out with a conversation then it probably will be, which is also a really positive at this point in time. There’s no coronavirus in this books, but it very much is exactly the sort of book I want – no need – to read after a year of Covid-19 life. And on top of that you get some more of Gigi, the girl’s fabulous grandmother and appearances from the other sisters and their partners. Just lovely. I’m looking forward to whatever Hibbert writes next – but I’m really hoping that the next thing is about Jacob’s best friend…

My copy of Act Your Age, Eve Brown came from NetGalley, but it’s out now and should be nice and easy to get hold of in all formats. Words and Kisses – my current favourite purveyor of romance in the UK is out of stock at time of writing, but they’ll get it back – and I suspect this will be in the supermarkets and on the tables in bookshops (when that’s a thing again) and of course it’s on Kindle and Kobo and audio too.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, LGTBQIA+, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Boyfriend Material

Another week, another contemporary romance pick for BotW.  This time it’s Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, which has been much buzzed about, to the point where it took months for my library hold to come in, but it was totally, totally worth it.

Cover of Boyfriend Material

Luc’s parents were rockstars – and back in the day they made some of their best music together. And then they made him. And it means that he’s sort of famous – even though his dad walked out of his life when he was small and his mum hasn’t made any new music in year. But now his dad is making a comeback – and that means more interest in Luc as well. After an unfortunate picture of him tripping up coming out of a club puts his job (fundraiser at a charity trying to save the dung beetle) at risk, Luc decides that the solution is to get himself a nice normal boyfriend. That’s where Oliver comes him. He’s as normal and sensible as it comes – a barrister, an ethical vegetarian and absolutely scandal averse. The only things that they have in common are the fact that they’re single, gay, and they both need a date for a big event. So they come up with a deal. They’ll be fake boyfriends until Luc’s job is safe and Oliver’s family party is over. Then they’ll never see each other again. Simple. Except this is a romance and we all know these sort of arrangements never go to plan!

I loved this so much. I’ve written a lot here about my quest to find more of the funny but romantic books that I love reading and which seemed to be everywhere in the early 2000s, but which seem to have vanished off the face of the planet these days, in favour of really angsty books where everyone has a miserable backstory or comedies where the comedy is based on humiliation or people being terrible at their jobs (and either not really caring they’re rubbish at their jobs or not realising they are) which is really not my thing. But this was just in that sweet spot. It’s witty, it’s fun, the characters are charming and good at their jobs and the secondary characters are hilarious. It’s just a joy to read. I could have read another 200 pages of Luc and Oliver trying to work out how to have a proper relationship. It really was exactly what I needed last week.

It’s had loads of buzz, been various bookclub and magazine picks and so clearly I’m not the only person who wants to read books like this, and fingers crossed it’s the start of a renaissance. If you’ve got any recommendations for books that do the same sort of thing, please drop them in the comments, because the Goodreads and Amazon suggestions aren’t helping me any! This was also my first Alexis Hall book, so I’m off to dig into the back catalogue, although having chatted to my romance reading friends, I think that the steam levels on some of the others is much higher than this – this is kissing and then pretty much closed door. I’ve already pre-ordered Hall’s next book – Rosaline Palmer Takes All the Cake, which is out in May because a romance set on a baking show is exactly what I didn’t realise that I need in front of my eyeballs!

My copy of Boyfriend Material came from the library, but it’s available on Kindle and Kobo and as an audiobook. It’s a paperback too, but the shops have been closed so long now I’ve lost all sense of what is going to get stocked where and so don’t know how easy it will be to get hold of if you’re trying to order from your indie, but Foyles have it available to order if that’s any indication.

Happy Reading!