Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Love Hard

Back with a romance pick this week – and a book that was new last week to boot. I’m coping with the current world situation by reading a lot of romance and mystery (because it all turns out alright in the end) and this really did what I needed a book to do last week.

Cover of Love Hard

Love Hard is the third Singh’s Hard Play series – about a set of brothers in New Zealand’s professional rugby world. Rugby star Jacob Essera is known for his calm on the field and his ability to read the game like it’s chess. Off the pitch he’s a devoted single dad to his six year old daughter Esme, who’s mum – his childhood sweetheart Callie – died when Esme was a baby.  Juliet and Callie were friends at school. Jacob and Callie, not so much – she was just his girlfriend’s bad girl friend and he was her friend’s boring boyfriend. These days she’s all grown up and is building a sucessful business career. her only problem is her ex-husband – a pro-cricketer and tabloid magnet who seems determined to keep her name in the gossip columns.  When the two of them end up working together on an ad campaign, an uneasy truce turns into friendship and sparks start flying. But will they be able to find their way to a happy ending?

Well, duh, of course they will, because this is a romance. I loved the characters, I loved the world and I loved the way that Jake takes care of his daughter. I loved the way that Jake and Callie’s relationship built and the way Callie approached being part of their family.  I’m all about strong families in books – be they blood families or found families and this really delivered on that. On the sport front, I’m a casual rugby watcher -when-its-on-and-a-big-match rather than a proper fan, and I had to do a bit of googling because some of the positions have different names in NZ, but it’s not a big issue.  If not familiar with rugby at all, you’ll either be a googler or you won’t mind and will just go with the flow (a bit like I do with hockey or basketball romances!).  If you’re a fan, you’ll know what the positions are obviously, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you how good the passages about action are – but they’re not a big part of the plot anyway – it’s more about knowing what Jacob’s status is in the sports and celebrity world.

Nalini Singh is fairly prolific in romance terms, but this was my first of hers – mostly because I don’t really read a lot of paranormal or urban fantasy romance and that is where she primarily writes – but I do like sports romances (as I have discovered recently). I’ll be keeping my eye out for the previous two books in the series – and watching out for the final brother’s book.  My copy came from NetGalley, but Love Hard is available now in Kindle and Kobo, as well as in paperback although I suspect that won’t be in the shops in the UK at least.

Happy Reading!

romance, week in books

Book of the Week: Love Lettering

After a classic crime pick last week, this week it’s a romance – and one that’s had a lot of buzz. The buzz is good, because Kate Claybourn’s latest novel came out on December 31st – and so was too late for anyone’s 2019 roundups, but sort of doesn’t count as 2020 either. Anyway – to the plot.

Cover of Love Lettering

Meg Mackworth is know as “The Planner of Park Slope” because of her hand-lettering skills, which she puts to use designing custom journals for those in the know in New York City. But she has a secret – sometimes she weaves secret patterns into her work, like the one she left in a wedding program for a couple she was sure wasn’t going to last. When Reid, the handsome and mathematically-minded groom, appears in her shop a year later to demand how she knew his future wasn’t going to last, it looks like it’s coming back to haunt her. Grappling with a case of creative block, Meg comes up with a plan to try and fix the situation. As the two wander the city getting to know each other and opening up, a connection develops. But Meg can see signs everywhere of problems ahead – how can this lead to a happy ending?

From the description above, Meg sounds a bit like a Manic Pixie Dream girl – one of those characters from quirky movies with improbable jobs and glamourous lives. She’s not. She’s guarded, anxious, likes routine, hates confrontation and sees letters in everything that she does. Her relationship with Reid is such a slow burn – just to friendship, let alone to more. But it’s such a joy to watch develop. The games they invent as they’re walking around the city, the way it makes Meg develop confidence and her ideas as well as the romance. And on top of that, the book itselfs really well designed – it’s got different fonts and lettering dropped in so that you can see what Meg is seeing in her head. It’s just lovely.

Also I think we can conclude that the tense a book is written in doesn’t bother me – because I’ve seen several reviews mentioning that it’s written in first person present and they still liked it, but I didn’t even notice really. I was so swept away by the book that I was just thinking about what happened next. Thinking back now it does feel like it had a sense of movement and uncertainty that was generated by the present tense – but at the time I wasn’t even thinking about tenses – just about Meg and Reid.

I absolutely ate this up with a spoon. I mean – I borrowed this from the library, but it’s on offer for 99p on Kindle (and Kobo) at the moment, so I’ve bought it so I can go back to it now my loan is up, and I may also have pre-ordered the paperback (out in March) so I can see what the all the different letters look like in the print version. It is so much fun.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Sweet Talkin’ Lover

Another Tuesday, another book of the week post.  I read a few books I really liked last week, and it was a close decision on what to pick, but I think Tracey Livesay’s new book was my favourite last week.

Cover of Sweet Talkin' Lover

Caila Harris is ambitious and driven. She’s given up her social life and is working all the hours she can to get her next promotion as she climbs the ladder in the beauty industry.  But when her beloved grandfather dies, she makes some bad decisions – and suddenly her chances of promotion are on the line.  The assignment she’s given to turn it around: go to a small southern town, and write the report that justifies shutting a factory down.  But when she gets to Bradleton, she runs into more trouble than she expected in the form of the town’s mayor, Wyatt Bradley. He’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep the plant open.  Soon sparks are flying between Caila and Mayor McHottie as the town calls him – but will their relationship survive if she finds out the sneaky tactics he’s using to try and keep her in town and when he finds out that the closure decision has already been made.

This is smart, fun and has a hero and heroine with great chemistry.  I like enemies/rivals to lovers as a trope and Sweet Talkin’ Lover does that really well. I also loved Caila’s relationship with her group of friends.  Livesay has said that the group is based on her own friendship group – and the holiday they’re on at the start is what they do every year. I love a ride-or-die friendship group in a story and these ladies really are that – and I’m looking forward to reading the books about the others, because this is the first in a series.

My only quibble with the book was from right at the end.  I didn’t quite believe that Wyatt’s family issues – either with his career or the way they treated Caila – were really all sorted out.  I believed that Wyatt and Caila wanted to make it work between them and that some of the roadblocks were removed, but I wasn’t quite confident that it was really all resolved enough to be confident that the happy ending was really going to be all ok if that makes sense. But that’s quite a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things.

Sweet Talkin’ Lover is Livesay’s print debut and came out in the middle of all the RWA problems.  She was also one of the resignations from the RWA board on Boxing Day (because of the way the Ethics Committee handled the complaint against Courtney Milan), so I think it’s fair to say that RWA messed up her Christmas and a big moment in her writing career.  And this book did not deserve to get swamped by RWA being a trashfire.

My copy of Sweet Talkin’ Lover came from the library, but its availalble now in Kindle, Kobo and as an audibook, but the paperback isn’t out in the UK until February 20.  I’ll try and remember to remind you.

Happy reading!

book round-ups, Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: Royal Romances

Another bonus post for you today – there’s a new series of the Crown out on Netflix this week and there’s been a rush of romances about royalty recently (gee, I wonder why) – a lot of which I seem to have read – so I thought I’d round up a few for you here – new and old.

The Princess Plan by Julia London

Cover of The Princess Plan

This came out yesterday (in the UK at least) and is a historical romance which sees a prince and a commoner team up to solve a murder mystery. Prince Sebastian of Alucia is in Britain for trade talks when his private secretary (and friend) is murdered after a ball.  Eliza Tricklebank helps write a popular gossip sheet and receives a tip off about who committed the crime.  She is probably the only person in the country who doesn’t really care about Sebastian’s rank (for Reasons).  Soon the two of them are investigating what happened – with Eliza digging in the places Sebastian can’t go, while he investigates at court. And as they work together, they develop feelings for each other – but how can a prince marry a nobody – a spinster firmly on the shelf and with a scandal in her past? You know they’ll find a way! I read a lot of historicals – but not many that involve royalty – and this is really quite fun. The mystery is twisty and although I had the culprit worked out very early on, I didn’t work out how they were going to fix the Happily Ever After.  Lots of fun and it’s the first in a series. I had an advance copy from NetGalley, but the ebook for this looks like it’s on offer here this week for release – it’s £2.99 Kindle and Kobo at the moment.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Cover of Red, White and Royal Blue

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the First Son of the United States.  Prince Henry is, well a British Prince.  They hate each other, right until they don’t (hello enemies to lovers trope again) and then there’s a whole lot of secrecy and new problems to deal with. This is a lot of fun while you’re reading it – it rattles along so fast that you don’t get a chance to analyse or dissect the backstory and set up too much. I don’t read a lot of New Adult because usually it’s too angsty and drama-filled for me, but in this most of the drama and angst is external to the couple which worked well. And by the end I wanted the ending to be true in real life. Just don’t think too hard about it all or it all falls apart! Luckily it rattles on at enough speed that you don’t have time to think about it too much – a bit like the Royal Spyness series – and try not to over think it afterwards! This one is new and expensive – Kindle and Kobo are in the £7-£8 bracket at the moment, and the physical version even more.
The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne
Cover of The Runaway Princess
An older pick now – I read this five years ago, but it actually came out in 2012.  The title is something of a spoiler, but hey, I’ll try and not give too much away. Amy is a gardner, not a social butterfly, but when a drunk European prince crashes her friend’s party, she falls for Leo the guy who helps her sort the mess out.  But Leo and Amy’s lives are very different and soon Amy’s trying to decide if he’s worth the changes and problems that life with him would bring This is a fun, easy, romantic read with likeable characters and a lovely (if a perhaps a little bit underdeveloped male lead). It’s a modern princess story – but with a leading lady that’s not as polished and perfect as Kate Middleton (remember this came out in the year of the First Royal Wedding, not the Harry and Meghan era). Amy has some skeletons in her closet – and to be honest I’m surprised they didn’t come out sooner when the press started sniffing around. I had pretty much worked out what had happened (I’m being vague because I don’t want to give it away) but the resolution to that strand of the story was more inventive than I expected. Oh and the Kindle and Kobo editions are £1.99 at the moment.  A win all around.

Reluctant Royals series by Alyssa Cole

Cover of A Prince on Paper

And I couldn’t let this post go by without reminding you of the Reluctant Royals.  I’ve reviewed Alyssa Cole a lot in recent years and two of this series have already been Book of the Weeks – A Princess in Theory and the novella Can’t Escape Love – but if you haven’t already checked out this series, they’re well worth a look.   The last in the series, A Prince on Paper, features a Playboy prince (or so we think) and a woman trying to find out who she is after discovering that her father has betrayed her. I had a few quibbles with how it all resolved itself (it seemed to easy) but absolutely raced through this the day that it came out – which says pretty much all you need to know about it! A Princess in Theory is £1.99 at the moment on Kindle and Kobo – but they’re all under £3 – and there are three novels and two novellas. Cole’s new series, Runaway Royals, starts next year with How To Catch A Queen and I’m looking forward to it already.

So there you have it – the best of my recent royal-themed reading and some older picks too.  If you’ve got some more recommendations for me, leave them in the comments!

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: The Luckiest Lady in London

Back in historical romance for this week’s BotW, which was a tricky week to pick a book from in some ways. It was a short list, but there were some really good books. I binged on the Alisha Rai series because they were really addictive – but the first of those was last week’s choice and I don’t repeat (or not that quickly anyway). I loved the latest Vinyl Detective – but the the four in the series and you ready need to have read the others. Then there was the Susan Mallery – who I’ve definitely already talked about enough. So that leaves The Luckiest Lady in London, which I did enjoy – but which isn’t my favourite Sherry Thomas and its only six months since Study in Scarlet Women was a BotW. But it is a lot of fun and it is a stand-alone choice. And I love Thomas’s writing style. Welcome to my stream of consciousness decision making everyone.

Cover of The Luckiest Lady in London

Ok, to the plot: Felix Rivendale is The Ideal Gentleman, or at least that’s what society believes. After the death of his parents, he made himself into society’s dream man, worth of his title, the Marquess of Wrenworth. He’s been playing the role so long, he can almost believe it is really who he is. But there’s one person who sees through it. Louisa Cantwell can see through the flattery and attention and knows that he shouldn’t be trusted. She has planned and prepared for her season in London because she needs to marry well. Unfortunately no one else can see through Felix and they keep pushing the two of them together. At the end of the season, his is the only proposal and she reluctantly accepts. After all, there’s something between them – but what is it, what game is he playing and can she ever trust him enough to fall in love with him?

Now that is quite a lot of plot. It’s more than I usually give you – but this isn’t a book that ends with a wedding or an engagement. It’s more complicated than that, and to only give you that part of the plot would be to short change you about what this book is really about. It’s playing with historical romance tropes in a way that really works for me. Louisa has a plan for how to catch the husband that she needs – but she’s never portrayed as scheming or deceitful. Felix sees what she’s doing but doesn’t shame her for it – this isn’t an enemies to lovers romance because he ruins her prospects. This is more of a marriage of convenience with a twist. Felix is charming but manipulative and has a lot to learn about being in a relationship and giving up some of his power. I liked him as a hero and I thought his issues were well handled. Having read Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series, the feisty smart heroine and her voice are familiar, but the setting is not. I thought it all wrapped up a bit quickly at the end, but that’s a minor quibble really and one I often have with romances.

If you like the Lady Sherlock series (and I like it enough to have the next one preordered even though it’s an American import and really quite expensive for a paperback) then I think you’ll like this. If you’re not into Sherlock Holmes retelling but like smart heroines who aren’t passive, then I think this would be a good book to try.

My copy of The Luckiest Lady in London came from the library, but you can get it on Kindle and Kobo and it’s only £1.99 at time of writing, which is a total bargain. The paperback is slightly harder to get in the UK but it should be manageable if you’re prepared to special order or to buy through Amazon.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Hate To Want You

Back in the contemporary romance world again this week because another of my library holds came in and it was a lot of fun.

Hate To Want You is the first book in Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series and features a second chance, enemies to lovers, family dysfunction sort of thing. Livvy and Nico spend one night together every year. One night where they forget the fact that their families are enemies, the tragedy in their past and the reasons they hide their feelings even from themselves. Then one year Nico doesn’t hear from Livvy. He tries to forget and move on, but then she reappears in town and the two of them have to face up to the issues in their past and work out if they can find a way to be together agains the odds.

Cover of Hate To Want You

I had heard so much about this book, from so many places so it was great to finally read what everyone had been going on about. I liked the characters, I liked the set up and I liked the complicated situation they found themselves in, I just wanted more of it resolved. I liked that they sorted themselves out, and resolved their problems but I wanted more of the wider picture issues sorted too. Luckily, I’m two years behind the curve as usual, so I can go straight on to book two and book three (library loans permitting) and hopefully get the resolution to the other stuff that’s bubbling along here.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that this has got great representation – the cast is diverse, they have proper issues that can’t just be “fixed” by love and just in general feel like real, breathing people that you might know, living in a world that you can recognise. It’s a really well put together romance that will keep you turning the pages to find out how Livvy and Nico get to their happily ever after.

My copy came from the library, but you can get your own copy from Kindle and Kobo (for £1.99 at the moment, which it definitely wasn’t when I put the library hold in!) . If you want a paperback and you’re in the UK, it’s going to be a special order, because I don’t think it’s had a UK release. Which is a shame – but it’s possible – Amazon list the mass market paperback (and for a reasonably sensible price). There are three books in the series and you can expect to see the other two popping up on Week in Books lists once I can get my hands on them.

Happy reading!

American imports, Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Bride Test

You all knew this was coming.  You knew I’d been looking forward to this.  It was in my anticipated books post, Helen Hoang’s debut, The Kiss Quotient, was a Book of the Week and one of my favourite books of last year.  It is on my bullet journal list of 2019 books I want to read and only came out two weeks ago.  The reading list yesterday was short.  Doris Day died and I’ve been watching romantic comedies and being nostalgic.  This was the perfect book to be reading last week and the perfect BotW pick.

Cover of The Bride Test

So, Khai Diep doesn’t have feelings.  Not like everyone else seems to anyway.  The big feelings that everyone else gets, he doesn’t seem to.  Or at least he doesn’t think he does.  So it wouldn’t be fair on him to have a relationship with anyone – because he can’t give them what they need.  Except that his family knows better – he feels things, it’s just that his autism means he doesn’t process them the same as everyone else does.  So that’s why his mum makes a trip to Vietnam to find a woman for him.  Esme Tran has always felt out of place in Ho Chi Minh City – as a mixed race girl in the slums.  So when she gets the chance to spend a summer in America, she just can’t turn it down.  She could make a better life for her family, she could try and find her father.  But Khai isn’t what she expected.  There’s a language barrier and a culture barrier sure, but there’s something else as well that’s making Khai hold back.  But holding back isn’t a problem for Esme – everything that she’s doing to try and make Khai fall for her is only making her fall for him more.  And Esme’s on a clock – she’s only got a tourist visa and if she doesn’t make Khai want to marry her by the end of the summer, it could all have been for nothing. How will these two get to happily ever after?

I loved this.  Esme is a fantastic heroine – she fierce and determined and resourceful and she’s taking an opportunity to make her life better.  Her story mirrors that of many immigrants from around the world – who are looking for a better future.  You’re willing her on every step of the way.  Khai’s family are the other end of that migration story – they’ve been in America, they’ve arrived, they’ve set down roots and they’ve started the next generation.  And Khai is a fabulous hero – smart, but clueless, generous and caring but in ways that people don’t always recognise.  They make a great couple and it’s a real treat watching them work out their relationship.

There’s a lovely afterword from Helen Hoang talking about how her mother’s life inspired and informed elements of Esme’s life, and it shows.  What also shows is the care and attention Hoang has taken with Khai.  Like Stella in The Kiss Quotient, Khai is in the autistic spectrum, but the two of them are very different and that is absolutely as it should be.  Austism comes in many forms and we need more representation of neurodiverse characters in books.  I’ve been lucky enough to read a lot of books who feature heroes and heroines who I can see myself in – and everyone in society and the world deserves that for themselves too.  Books have also always been one of the ways that I expand my horizons and my understanding – so having more books (and knowing where to look for them) about people who don’t look like me fills me with joy.

This would make the perfect holiday read – I’m almost sorry I didn’t manage to save it for my next vacation.   The next book in the series just can’t come soon enough – especially as it’s Quan’s story and I’ve been itching to find out more about him.  I know I’ll be pre-ordering it just as soon as it that’s an option.

My copy of The Bride Test was pre-ordered on Kindle, which is good because at my library the hold list for the ebook is currently around 19 weeks. But it’s available now on Kobo (£1.99 at time of writing) and Kindle (only £1.19! total bargain)  or you can pre-order the paperback – which comes out on June 6th – from Amazon, Book Depository or wherever you buy your books.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Happy Reading!

Bonus photo:  The aforementioned upcoming books master list in my journal.

Double page journal spread with a bookshelf on one side and a list of books on the other