Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Someone to Romance

As I said in yesterday’s post, most of last week’s books were nice soothing reading to help my frazzled brain after a lot of work on US election coverage. And a fair few of them were old favourite authors or the latest in long-running series. So today you get a romance pick!

Cover of Someone to Romance

Jessica Westcott has decided that this season she’s going to get married. After years of ignoring the marriage mart because of the way they treated her best friend Abigail, she’s decided that she can’t be left behind any more. She might be older than some of the other debutants, but she’s the sister of a duke, so there will be options. Gabriel Thorne has just returned to England from Boston in order to reluctantly claim his inheritance. When he sees Jessica he decides that she might be his ideal wife. And when she learns more about him, she is intrigued and drawn to him. But will he manage to claim his birthright and will Jessica be at his side if she does?

This is the seventh in Balogh’s Westcott series, but you don’t have to have read the others for this to make sense – as with most romance series they’re a linked set of standalone stories rather than an ongoing plot with the same characters. I’ve read two of the others – the first and the fifth. This one is not quite a marriage of convenience, not quite a lost heir, but it’s also really quite low angst for all of that. Mary Balogh has been writing reliably good romances for decades and on the drama scale they clock in closer to the Georgette Heyer end of the drama scale than the Big Confrontation, Major Twist into a Sudden Ending one. And ditto on the steaminess scale – more Georgette than Sarah MacLean. It’s a lovely, romantic and calming read that did exactly what I wanted it to last week. And if you’re feeling stressed about the world – and goodness knows 2020 has dealt a lot of stress – than this would be a perfect read for you.

My copy of Someone to Romance came from the library, but it should be fairly easy to get your hands on – there are Kindle and Kobo editions as well as a paperback release in the UK. All the physical bookshops are shut at the moment, but bookshop.org.uk has stock of it. If this were normal times I’d say that these often crop up in The Works a year or so after release so you should be able to find them in supermarkets or Waterstones on release. But these aren’t normal times so who knows.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Manhunting

Back with a romance book this week – a contemporary romance at the time it was written, but given that that was the early 90s, not quite contemporary now! I’ve written about Jennifer Crusie’s books a few times before and as I read two of them last week it feels like they’re turning into a regular comfort read for me. And I needed some comfort reading. Anyway, to the book.

Kate Svenson is a successful businesswoman, but she’s unlucky in love. She’s been engaged a few times – but found out just in time that the men were only after her (father’s) money. But she’s fed up of being alone and wants someone to spend her life with. So she comes up with a plan: a two week holiday at a Kentucky resort. The Cabins is full of eligible bachelors – surely one of them must be the guy for her? But everytime she goes on a date, something happens to the guy. Jake Templeton’s brother owns the resort and he works there. He’d sworn off women even before he picked one of Kate’s rejects out of the swimming pool. He’s not interested in her, and she’s not interested in him – so why are they spending more time together than Kate is with anyone else?

This is a fun, frothy romantic comedy. You know exactly where it’s going to end up, but there are enough complications to keep it interesting, and the various situations that Kate finds herself in with the prospective boyfriends are a hoot. Obviously life – and technology – have changed a bit since 1993 when it was written, but I don’t think there’s anything here that’s dated in a bad way – which isn’t always the case! It’s just the sort of book I love reading – the stakes are fairly low, it’s funny but the humour isn’t nasty or based on humiliation and you come away with a nice warm feeling inside.

The bad news is that this doesn’t seem to be available on Kindle or Kobo at the moment, but Amazon have a bunch of paperback copies for a couple of quid.

Happy Reading

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Duke Who Didn’t

After a few weeks of crime or somewhat mystery-y picks, I’m back with some romance for this week’s Book of the Week – and the new novel by Courtney Milan, which is also the first in a new series from her.

The cover of The Duke who Didn't

Chloe Fong is super organised. She lives by her lists, and hopes that one day she’ll have the perfect day and get everything done. And beyond the daily list, she has a big plan too and it’s helping her father launch his new business. Jeremy Wentworth has been visiting Chloe’s village since his early teens, but stopped a couple of years back after Chloe told him that for anything to happen between them he would have to get serious. It’s taken him some time, but he’s realised that he just can’t be serious – or at least not the sort of serious his family wants him to be. But he’s convinced he’s the right man for Chloe and he’s back to convince her – if she can just get past the fact that he’s never told her his real name, that he’s a duke and owns the whole village…

This is a historical small town romance, set across the course of a couple of days in 1899 that happen to be the busiest in the village’s entire year – and possibly of Chloe’s life. There is a big competition called the Wedgeford Trials and Chloe and her father are using the influx of visitors this year to launch their family’s new sauce. Prepare to feel really, really, hungry – because the food in this sounds delicious. And it’s also taking a subtly clever look at colonialism through food – which is interesting and very real: I was watching Nadyia’s latest TV show this very week and she was making a recipe with Tamarind paste in it and said that if you don’t have Tamarind paste, it’s in Brown Sauce – so just use that. If you’ve read the book, you’ll get even more from that story. I promise. So go read the book.

Courtney Milan is also doing a lot of fun things with tropes here too, because the plot summary (even in my version) sounds like the story is going to be really angsty, and it’s not. It’s a perfect read if you’re feeling stressed and uncertain about the world and want to escape into another reality – there are stakes, but it’s not going to stress you out; there are conflicts, but it’s not life or death. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything going on. There’s plenty of plot, and character development – and also the set up for the Wedgford Trials of the series name – which are delightfully incomprehensible in the way that many British traditions are – even for Brits like me. Eg – in normal times, my village has an egg rolling race in the run up to Easter (I want to say on Palm Sunday but I can’t remember for sure), where you use a newspaper to hit a hardboiled egg along the road. Why did it start? I don’t know. Is there areligious meaning behind it? Probably, but I’ve forgotten. Is it fun – yes. Bingo.

My copy of The Duke Who Didn’t came from the author in return for an honest review, but it’s out now and available on Kindle and Kobo – and apparently in paperback, albeit with a very long leadtime.

Happy Reading!

 

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Daring and the Duke

The well-informed may have spotted the final books in two series on my reading list yesterday. The final book in the Wells and Wong series – which sees the girls take a Nile cruise – and the last in Sarah MacLean’s Bareknuckle Bastards series. This week’s BotW is the latter – because it’s an epic grovelling book and that turned out to be exactly what I needed last week.

Paperback copy of Daring and the Duke

The Daring of the name is Grace, queen of Covent Garden and the Duke is Ewan, who betrayed her when they were children and who Grace’s brothers have been hiding her from ever since. Ewan has been searching for Grace for a decade – and was told that she was dead – and has been busy trying to ruin her brothers in revenge ever since. But now he knows she’s alive and he’s determined to win her back and make her his duchess. If you haven’t read the first three books in the series, that already sounds like a lot of grovelling is going to be needed, but if you have read Wicked and the Wallflower and Brazen and the Beast it feels going into this like it will be impossible to redeem Ewan. Which is what makes this book so intriguing.

And it mostly delivers. I think if MacLean didn’t have such strong form for series ending novels I would have been even more enthusiastic but  it’s not quite as brilliant a redemption as MacLean’s previous epic-grovel series ender Day of the Duchess or the big reveal general epicness of Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover – which came off the back of a cliffhanger moment so big that you almost couldn’t believe it had been done. But Grace is a great character (also her business organisation is a lot of fun) and peeling back the layers and finding out what happened to Ewan is very satisfying.  We continue to be in difficult times and a bit of escapist reading in early Victorian London with plenty of grovelling as well as actual boxing makes for a strangely calming experience. Or at least it did for me.

I’ve written before that I’m trying not to save up books by my favourite authors anymore because my tastes change and I end up missing out on books that I would have enjoyed at the time but that now don’t float my boat. And previously this would probably have been a book that I would have saved for a time of need, but to be honest all of coronavirus life is pretty much a Time of Need, so I wasn’t going to risk saving it. I’ve also had a recent run of disappointing reads from new books by authors who I usually love, which means it was also a real relief that this was so good and did what I was hoping it would do.

Coronavirus also means that there was no Sarah MacLean meet up for me to go to this year, so instead I treated myself to a signed copy of Daring and the Duke  from Sarah MacLean’s local bookstore in Brooklyn, Word bookstore – but you should be able to get hold of the UK edition (which looks substantially more ethereal and floaty than these books are) from your usual purveyor of books (I can’t promise it’ll be in stock though, it might be an order) or in Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

Bonus picture: it was a sunny week outside and there was also a bit of a sunshine-y theme in the look of my reading!

Copies of Daring and the Duke, Death Sets Sail and The Vinyl Detective

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: Take a Hint Dani Brown

Back to my happy place in romance for this week’s Book of the Week. You might have noticed two Talia Hibbert books on yesterday’s reading list and they’re both excellent, but Take a Hint, Dani Brown is out today (Tuesday!) so it’s getting the pick, but I’m basically going to talk about both of them.

Danika Brown knows what she wants from life: professional success and whatever the academic equivalent is of her name up lights. There is no place in her plan for relationships – she’s tried that before and got burned. So after her latest friend-with-benefits decides she wants more from the relationship than Dani is prepared to give, she asks the universe to send her the perfect no-strings partner. So when Zafir, the grumpy security guard she chats to on the way in to work, rescues her from a firedrill gone wrong, she thinks it a sign. Trouble is, that someone filmed the rescue and now it’s trending on the internet and is one half of #DrRugbae. But it turns out that Zaf has a sports charity – and it could really use the publicity and soon the two of them are playing along for the internet and fake dating. Dani’s plan is to try and seduce him behind the scenes, but Zaf is a secret romantic, with some issues of his own. Life is about to get very complicated.

I have mentioned before that I love a fake-relationship story and this ticked all of my boxes. Dani and Zaf are great leading characters and both have a backstory that totally explains why they are the way they are. And as they go about faking their relationship for social media, the two of them have the best banter. Dani’s sisters (more on them in a minute) are great – as are Zaf’s best friend and nieces. The resolution at the end is totally in keeping with their characters and what’s gone on before so it just left me with a big happy smile on my face. As well as the banter between the characters, the narrative has such a witty turn of phrase that it will make you giggle.

Cover of Get A Life Chloe Brown

Now this is the second book in the series – the first was about Dani’s older sister Chloe, and the last in the series will be about the other Brown sister, Eve. And as I mentioned at the top, I also read Get a Life, Chloe Brown last week. Chloe is a computer geek with a chronic illness, who comes up a plan to get a life after a sort-of near death experience. Top of the list is getting her own place and that’s where she meets Redford Morgan, her new building’s handyman who paints at night when he thinks no one is watching. Except that Chloe sort of is. Chloe and Red make a great pair and I love the way that they navigate their relationship as well as their personal hurdles. They’ve both got legitimate reasons for all of their understandings, and pretty much every time I thought things were about to get derailed by something that could be fixed with a conversation, they immediately had the conversation. I also really liked that Chloe’s health problems weren’t cured by a magic penis/amazing sex – she’s still got them at the end of the book, but she’s also got a partner who understands her and supports her. Chloe (and Red) make supporting appearances in this book, as does Eve in both books and I’m throughly looking forward to seeng what Hibbert has in store for her in the final book in the series, Act Your Age, Eve Brown which is coming next year. And if you want an example of that witty dialogue that I mentioned earlier, here’s a quote:

 

Since Gigi wasn’t wearing a head scarf this afternoon, her chic crop of white coils on display, Chloe had absolutely no idea where the Marlboro had been hidden. Her knickers? Up one nostril? In an alternate dimension she accessed at will? God only knew.

I bought my copy of Get a Life, Chloe Brown, but my copy of Take a Hint, Dani Brown came from NetGalley. You should be able to get hold of both of them fairly easily I would hope – because they’re published by Piatkus. If you want an ebook here are your links: Chloe Brown Kindle and Kobo and Dani Brown Kindle and Kobo. And Chloe is only £2.99 as I write this, which is a bit of a bargain.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: The Boyfriend Project

So I said yesterday that I had a slumpy week of reading, but actually I started the week with a really good new romance by Farrah Rochon, so that was an easy choice for my pick today! And after two weeks of books aimed at young readers, I can confirm that this one is definitely for the grownups!

Cover of the Boyfriend Project

Samiah Brooks is about to go out on a date, when someone live tweeting a horrific date reveals that she’s being cheated on – and not just two-timed, but three-timed. When she and the other two women confront the catfisher in a restaurant, they end up going viral. But Samiah also gains two new friends and they make a pact to spend the next six months focussing on themselves and not on men. Samiah’s big goal in putting herself first is to work on the app that she has been dreaming of creating, but hasn’t had time to do. But her resolve is soon tested by the new guy who has joined the tech company she works at. Daniel Collins is smart and funny and attractive – but Samiah can’t help feeling that he might be too good to be true.

I thought this was lots and lots of fun. As a reader, you know what is going on with Daniel from very early on and it’s a nice suspense-y subplot to the romance. I was somewhat concerned about how that subplot was going to impact on the happy ending – there was definitely a point when I was worried that there wasn’t a way to get to a satisfying resolution, but it actually all worked out really quite nicely. And if you like competency porn in your romance heroines this is one for you: Samiah is incredibly good at her job and also very upfront about the challenges and barriers to black women in tech. Oh and Daniel is pretty smart too…

This is the first in a series – I’m assuming Samiah’s other two friends will be the other heroines in the series and I am totally here for that. One of them is a surgeon, the other is running her own exercise business and the setups for both of them in this book is great. I love a strong group of female friends in a book – and I also love that they seem to be making a resurgence in romances. If you read and enjoyed Tracey Livesay’s Sweet Talkin’ Lover (maybe after I recommended it!) and the group of friends that that has, this has a similarly supportive and fun group. I preordered this (only a few days before publication but it still counts!) after hearing Farrah Rochon talking about it on Smart Podcast, Trashy Books last week – and that’s well worth a listen too if you need something to listen to on your daily exercise.

I’ve mentioned several times now that I’m focusing on reading black authors at the moment, and if you are too – maybe you’re taking part in the #blackpublishingpower week that Amistad publishing came up with, which is asking people to buy two books by black authors this week, then this would be a great pick for you. It came out last week and is a bargainous £1.99 in Kindle and Kobo. It’s also available in paperback – but I suspect it’s an import type of deal if you’re in the UK, rather than something you’ll be able to pick up at your newly reopened local bookshop.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: A Cowboy to Remember

As I said yesterday, it was a tough week for me last week, with all the changes in the world getting to me a bit. And I struggled to find my usual relaxation from reading, but there were some bright spots, And after a run of murder mystery picks, today I’m back with a contemporary romance choice.

Evie Buchanan is on the edge of something big. After winning a TV-cooking show, she’s snagged a hosting gig and she’s killing it. But when a fall down some stairs at a party nearly *literally* kills her, she’s left with a case of amnesia that she really needs to hide from her bosses and her fans. Her assistant gets in contact with the only “family” Evie has left – cowboys who run a ranch in California. Evie doesn’t remember them at all –  but when they arrive at the hospital to visit, one of them is the guy she’s been having dreams about since her accident. Zach hasn’t seen Evie since she left the ranch when he refused to admit that there were feelings between them. His family have always been desperate to pair them off together, but is he ready to admit that they might be perfect for each other? And what will happen if Evie gets her memory back and remembers how it ended the first time?

So, tell me again that I don’t like amnesia as a plot line (or cowboy stories), because this is so good and just goes to show in the right hands anything can make a great romance*. I’ve read a couple of Rebekah Weatherspoon’s other books (including Xeni which I wrote about after my birthday trip back in the times when we could still go away on holiday) and this has all the relatable characters and interesting plot that the others do, but with less on the page bedtime action. The chemistry between the leads is still as good, and it is in no way closed door – but it’s not as blush inducing as Xeni was. I was a bit concerned about how Zach and Evie’s relationship could be resolved if (well when) her memory came back because there seemed to be a couple of unresolvable things there – as I was concerned that one or other of them would have to become less (or give up their dreams) to make it work but actually, it was really cleverly worked out and fit in with both characters.

This is great fun and made great escapist reading at these difficult times. Your mileage may vary, but a ranch in California is sufficiently different to my every day life that I wasn’t constantly worrying about social distancing or viruses the way I am everytime I try and read something set in the contemporary UK at the moment! It’s also the first in a series – because luckily for us, Zach has brothers (and one of them is a pro-sports player, so they may not all be cowboy romances). The next one is out in the autumn and I’m hoping it’s about Jesse, but there’s no blurb for it on Goodreads yet.

My copy of A Cowboy to Remember came from the library, but it’s available now in Kindle and Kobo or as a mass market paperback. The delivery time claims to be quite short, bu I suspect you might be waiting a while for that physical copy because of it being a US release and you know: the ‘rona.

Happy Reading – and stay safe.

 

 

 

*but I’m not prepared to read a lot of Secret Baby or pregnesia romances to try and prove this though.

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!