Recommendsday: April Quick reviews

Another month, and another set of quick reviews that are all new releases that I got from NetGalley. Check me out with reading things in a timely manner again. I’m surprised at myself. Anyway, it’s a variety pack too – with short stories, historical mystery and contemporary romance. Let’s get to it.

Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny*

I mentioned this on release day, but I’ve finished reading it now and can say that if you want a thought provoking collection of short stories about love and the different forms that it takes, then this is for you. Some are a bit melancholy, many are funny, others will make you wish for more time with the characters. There are eleven stories here and I read it one a day to spread it out and that worked rather nicely.

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear*

This standalone novel from Winspear is darker in some ways than her Maisie Dobbs series, and in others more straightforward. If you like the War Time bits of Maisie (whether the flashback bits or the 2nd World War era ones) then this may well be your Jam. Our lead character is Elinor who is trying to live quietly in the country but is haunted by the things she did as a special operative in both world wars. When a new family moves to her village she finds herself drawn back into violence as she tries to protect them. There are two strands to the narrative – the 1947 one and then a second one looking back at Elinor’s life and how she came to be the woman she is. I very much enjoyed it and although I had worked some of the bits and bobs out, it was a very satisfying read. I hope it’s the first in a series, although I’m not quite sure how you can create more plots around Elinor at this point. I’d definitely read them though!

If Only You by Chloe Liese*

My first book in this series – and I’ve been hearing a lot about them so I was excited to read it. Firstly – I really enjoyed the playlist that came with it, although as I’m not a Spotify premium subscriber I got it in a random order rather than in order with the chapters! So, to the actual book: I have slightly mixed opinions – I liked the idea of the plot and the family set up, but I found the writing style a little hard going. There is a lot of American style-therapy speak going on in the dialogue and that always winds me up the wrong way but also doesn’t sound like how any one I know talks! It also definitely feels more towards the new adult side of the contemporary romance genre than I was expecting – but maybe that’s because most of the sports romances that I have read recently are things like the Bromance Book club series which are definitely aimed at an older audience. I think this is more of a not my thing end of books rather than anything else – I suspect other people are going to eat this up with a spoon!

I know that last one is a little more negative than I normally am – but I wanted to throw it in because it’s been a weird month or so in romance reading. I’ve read some really, really good stuff but goodness me there’s been some that I’ve disliked. And actually the Chloe Liese falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum – I like it more in retrospect compared to some of the stuff that’s been worse!

Anyway, the Books of the Week in April included three really good feel good romance or romance adjacent novels – Happy Place, Romantic Comedy and The Roughest Draft – and one really good rich people problems book – Pineapple Street – so I’ve really got nothing to complain about.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books, new releases

Book of the Week: Happy Place

It’s the last week of April and I’m bang on time with a review for once – because Happy Place is actually out today. Astonishing work from me for once!

Emily Henry’s new novel is about Harriet and Wyn, who are on a weeklong summer holiday with their group of friends who don’t know that they broke up five months earlier. They’ve all been going to Sabrina’s dad’s cottage in Maine since they were students but now he’s decided to sell it they’re there for a last hurrah and neither Harry or Wyn can bring themselves to spoil it by telling everyone that they’ve broken up – especially as the others all call them the perfect couple. But as the days pass it’s clearer and clearer that they’re not over each other and pretending they’re still a couple is not helping any of it at all…

This is definitely at the women’s fiction end of the romance genre – yes, it follows the rules but it’s actually a lot about Harriet herself and her own personal growth as well as about her relationship with Wyn. It also made me cry more than once, so there’s that – Him Indoors got quite worried about me sniffling away at the end of the sofa – but by the end of the book it was worth it, even if I had a couple of minor quibbles along the way that mean I didn’t like it quite as much as I liked Book Lovers, but that was a high bar to reach!

You’re going to be able to get this everywhere – and it’s even got a nice coordinating/matching cover to the other three Emily Henry Romances. You can get it on Kindle or Kobo here and I’m expected the physical copy to be on the tables in all the bookshops, the airports and probably the supermarket too.

Happy Reading!

books, romance, series

Romance series: Cowboys of California

Given my focus on Rich People Problems this week, I thought I’d do a rich people romance series this week, just because I could. It just felt like a nice piece of synergy – although it’s a shorter than usual post because I’ve already written about two of the three of the series at length!

So the three books in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Cowboys of California series feature three brothers whose family own a luxury dude ranch in California. They’re also fairytale re-tellings: A Cowboy to Remember is Sleeping Beauty, If the Boot Fits is Cinderella and A Thorn in the Saddle is Beauty and the Beast. As I said at the top I’ve written a bit about all of these before – the first and the last were BotWs when they came out, and the middle book was in a Romance on Ranches post, so there’s more detail on all the plots here, but basically these are smart and fun – and so smart about the fairy tale retelling angle that I sort of didn’t realise they were doing it until I read the blurbs.

The reason I wanted to feature them today is because of those paralels with the rich people problems books – because they’re about people falling in love in a low-key, money is no object, no-one’s future is in peril sort of way. There is a little bit of suspense-y peril in the final book, but nowhere near the peril in Weatherspoon’s romantic suspense series.

If you’re in the UK, the easiest way of getting hold of these is going to be on ebook – this is the link to the Kindle series page, here is the Kobo equivalent. The ebook prices do go up and down – I read two from the library but bought the other on kindle for under £1, so if you’re in the market for them and not in a rush, add them to however you run your watch list for book prices. If you’re in the US, they were definitely in paperback there, but I don’t know what the situation is in terms of getting hold of them at the moment as they came out during the pandemic and I don’t know how long physical books are staying in print in the bookstores these days.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Book of the Week, books, new releases

Book of the Week: Romantic Comedy

Yup, I’m going there. I can’t help it. I was trying to pace myself, but I had it finished before the end of release day so it had to be my pick this week.

So as previously mentioned the plot of this is: Sally is a long time writer at a late night comedy sketch show called The Night Owls – known as TNO and definitely not SNL. She’s single but has watched the show’s actors fall in and out of love with guest stars on the show, but when her friend Danny starts dating a glamorous actress who was a guest host on the show she writes a sketch about average looking – or dorky – guys who get involved with beautiful women and how you never see the reverse and calls it the Danny Horst Rule. That week’s guest host is Noah Brewster – a music star whose romantic history (according to the gossip magazines) includes a lot of models. Noah and Sally hit it off as they work on sketches together but would someone like him ever date someone like her?

The first part of the book covers the production week of the show and then we jump ahead two years to Covid times when Sally is staying with her stepdad in Kansas City and Noah is in LA and they reconnect. It’s playing with the ideas of romantic comedy movies whilst also being a romantic comedy and following a lot of the rules that you would expect but in subtle (well sort of) ways. What I always enjoy about Curtis Sittenfeld’s books are the heroines – they’re always smart often a little (or a lot) neurotic and have interesting and not perfect lives and back stories. It’s fun just to spend time with them – but even more so when Sittenfeld is playing with something that you love – which I think is why I loved her Eligible (modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice) so much. And this is a good one. If you follow celeb gossip in anyway you can probably work out who inspired the Danny Horst rule, but actually that’s just a device to set up everything else. I’ve read a bunch of books recently where one half of the couple is famous and the other isn’t and while a lot of them give their celebrities similar issues not all the books are good at it. And yes I realise that I’ve now recommended three of them in a very short time – but I’ve read more of them than that and haven’t told you about the rest!

I guess the main difference with this is that because it’s Curtis Sittenfeld it gets a hardback release and a photo cover (in the UK at least) rather than coming out in paperback with a cartoon/drawn cover like Nora Goes Off Script or Funny You Should Ask. But it’s actually much more similar to those in style and tone than it is to a lot of the other stuff that gets hardback releases. And that’s a good thing not a criticism. And it’s also a Reese Witherspoon pick. So that’s fun too.

Anyway, I have a physical copy of Romantic Comedy that is still on its way to me (it was a special edition for indie booksellers which has got held up in the bank holiday weekend post) but I also requested it from NetGalley before the preorder – not expecting to be approved but I was! Hence how I’ve managed to read it before my actual copy has arrived. It’s out now and available in all the stores – I saw it in Waterstones and Foyles at the weekend and it’s also in ebook on Kindle and Kobo and I’m audiobook. I suspect it’s the sort of thing that will also get an airport edition if you’re heading off on holiday and it would make a great sun lounger read.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books

Book of the Week: The Roughest Draft

It may be a new month, but for the second week in a row I’m picking a contemporary romance with a then and now strand to it. Admittedly I did finish this in March, so maybe it’s not the start of a trend, but hey, it’s nice to imagine that there’s some rhyme or reason to my reading!

Katrina and Nathan used to be writing partners. But three years ago after they had finished their second book together, their partnership broke up for reasons neither has ever spoken about. Since then, they haven’t spoken and have moved on with their lives – including Nathan writing a novel on his own. But it didn’t sell as well as the books they wrote together – and now his publisher has passed on his next novel and says they want the third book on his contract with Katrina. And so the two of them end up in the same house they wrote the last book in, trying to write another best seller. But it’s hard to write a romantic novel when you hate the person you’re writing with and the two of them will have to try to work through their differences to get it done.

The book jumps backwards and forwards to show you what went wrong between Nathan and Katrina as well as them in the present day. So it’s sort of friends to enemies to lovers. The reasons for the break up are sort of what you expect they might be – or at least what I was expecting – and the pace of it all is quite slow. It’s very close focus on the two of them – but also manages not to give you much detail about either of their personalities beyond that they are writers. Emily Wibberley and Austin Sigemund-Broka are a married writing duo and have written a few YA romances – which perhaps explains some of the above. And I know that sounds like I didn’t like it, but I actually really did. I read it in less than 48 hours and bought the next book from them to see how they handle something that’s not writing about a couple writing! Given that this was their debut rom com and only came out in October, I was surprised they already have a second out but who knows the mysterious ways of publishing in the TikTok algorithm era.

If you are only going to read one of the picks from the last two weeks, I would probably go with Funny You Should Ask, but if you like YA or New Adult romances then this might be the one for you. I read this on Kindle, but it’s also on Kobo. I haven’t spotted it in a bookshop yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t.

Happy Reading.


Book of the Week: Funny You Should Ask

It’s only a few weeks since I recommended Nora Goes Off Script, but I’m back with another romance that features a movie start – and I don’t care because it is so, so good. This is the book I was talking about yesterday when I talked about trying to cure a book hangover!

Ok, this plot is a little complicated – because the narrative is split between now and then. The then is the start of Chani Horowitz’s career. She’s graduated from her writing course, but instead of writing novels like her fiancé, she’s writing magazine articles. Then she’s asked to write a profile piece of Hollywood heartthrob Gabe Parker. He is her celebrity crush – and he’s just been cast as James Bond. The weekend she spends with him for the piece changes her life – it launches her career and also sets the tabloids buzzing. The now is ten years on. Chani is asked to revisit the subject of her most famous piece to do a second interview. After a decade being asked about that profile, and fresh from a divorce, Chani knows she should say no. But she has never forgotten that weekend – and it could be a chance to finally turn the page.

I loved this so much. So, so much. It’s got a long slow pine and so much yearning. And two people trying to figure out what is going on between them. There is a lot of drinking in the before part of the story – and the Gabe of the now section is fresh from rehab and newly sober. And unlike one of the books I read after this last week as I tried to get over my book hangover, you get to see that Gabe has grown and changed and is a different (and better) version of himself. And Chani is a great heroine. She’s smart and clever and fed up of her career being defined by one piece when she wants to do different things.

I bought this in my haul from Foyles earlier in the year – you can see it in the February Books Incoming – I started reading it in the shop and knew it was going to be good, which is why I’ve read it so soon (for me!). I finished it and immediately ordered Elissa Sussman’s next book which comes out later the year.

You should be able to get hold of this fairly easily – I’ve seen it all over the place since I bought it, and it’s in kindle and Kobo too. The only thing I couldn’t find was the audiobook on Audible but there does seem to be one on Goodreads so it may yet turn up.

Happy Reading!


Recommendsday: Swoon-y romances

Lets continue the romance theme for Valentines week after Nora Goes Off Script yesterday with some romances that will sweep you off your feet!

Right, lets start off with some literal sweeping off someone’s feet -although as a tall woman, it’s something that’s probably never going to happen to me, unless it’s a giant and a fireman’s lift. Moving on… let me take this chance to reintroduce you to #DrRugbae from Talia Hibbert’s Take a Hint, Dani Brown who rescues our heroine from a fire drill and spawns a fake relationship for social media. Another book with a literal sweeping off the feet on the cover is Ali Hazelwood’s Love on the Brain, where our heroine gets her dream job only to find out that her arch-nemesis is the person in charge of the project.

Next up: epic grovelling, because some times that’s what you need – one half of the couple (it’s usually the hero!) has made a huge, mistake at some point and they’re going to have to do something pretty spectacular to make up for it. Sarah MacLean is the queen of this and my favourite of this oeuvre is Day of the Duchess which is the final book in the Scandal and Scoundrel series where we’ve hearing about the heroine’s issues with her estranged husband since the first book and it finally all gets sorted out – and the problems they have are the sort where you really wonder if a happy ending is possible. But it’s a romance so of course it is! And if you want a contemporary grovel, how about The Bromance Book Club – where our hero has missed a bunch of problems in his marriage and turns to romance novels to try and fix things. I have a minor quibble with part of the resolution to this, but it has a great hero and heroine pairing who have potentially insurmountable differences to a Happily Ever after.

Moving to some slow burn romances – can you count Pride and Prejudice as a slow burn? Because it really is – it doesn’t get much slower burn than Elizabeth’s journey from hating Darcy to loving him and then a happy ending, even if he’s at the love stage much earlier! Anyway, it’s just over two years since Kate Claybourn’s Love Lettering was a BotW (and the third time this year I’ve mentioned Claybourn, but shhhh) and this was one of my favourite of that year and it’s a really lovely journey with the heroine as she becomes friends and then more with this man who wants to know how she predicted that his marriage wouldn’t last. Then there’s In A New York Minute where the heroine and hero feature in a viral moment together and personality-wise they seem like complete opposites but they just keep running into each other.

And if these weren’t enough don’t forget, I’ve written a lot of other posts about romances over the years – whether it’s enemies to lovers (also good for a grovel), romances on ranches, secret identities, funny and smart romances, and royal romances, as well as romance series like Bridgerton, Desperate Duchesses, London Celebrities, London Highwaymen or Georgette Heyer.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Book of the Week, books, romance

Book of the Week: Nora Goes Off Script

It’s Valentine’s Day today and we have a romance pick this week. Nora Goes Off Script is probably the easiest BotW choice in ages, for reasons which I will explain later in the post and (spoiler alert) are not the fact that it’s a romance and today is February 14th!

The plot: Nora is a scriptwriter for a romance channel, but after her husband leaves her and their two children she uses their breakup to write a script that doesn’t end in a chaste kiss and a happily ever after. And it sells to a movie company who want to film part of it on location at her farmhouse. Along with the film crew comes the film’s star: Leo Vance, former sexiest man alive and playing Nora’s ex. But when the film crew leaves, Leo doesn’t. And what turns into a week for him to clear his head turns into something more, something that can break your heart…

The Goodreads blurb calls this Evvie Drake Starts over meets Beach Read, and although I haven’t read Beach Read (yet) I have read Book Lovers and have been comparing it to Emily Henry to people so let’s call that pretty accurate. It’s romantic and sweet but it’s also relaxing. Yes Leo and Nora’s relationship doesn’t go smoothly but there’s no peril, and actually Nora does that thing I love in books of figuring out who she is and what she wants and the fact that she gets a handsome man by the end is a delightful bonus not the solution to her problems. Did that make any sense? It’s like in Legally Blonde: Elle is successful by the end because of her hard work and brains not because of a relationship. Yes she ends up with Emmett but he’s not the reason why she wins the case and gets voted valedictorian*.

I bought this while writing the Recommendsday post, started it in bed on Tuesday night and read nearly 100 pages without noticing (and definitely not what I meant to do and had finished it before bedtime on Wednesday. And then I read the last 20 percent again on the train to work on Thursday. Yup. I liked it that much. In fact writing this has made me want to go and read it all over again. It’s Annabel Monaghan’s first adult novel and I am already really looking forward to her second one which is due out in June. If it’s anything like as good as this I’ll be a happy girl.

As I said last week – this is 99p on Kindle at the moment and I don’t think you will regret it. I don’t know how easy the paperback will be to find – I couldn’t see it in Foyles on Friday, but that’s not foolproof.

Happy Reading!

* this is the crux of my biggest issue with the stage musical version of the show where Elle definitely succeeds because Emmet helps her and tells her what to do. But I digress.

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Georgie, All Along

Continuing the Kate Clayborn theme of the last few days, but I’m not even sorry about it because this was delightful and it’s new and it deserves a bigger mention than just Thursday.

Georgie is back in Virginia after years away working as a PA in LA. Most of the time she’s too busy to think about anything except the next job on her list. But suddenly there are hours and days and weeks stretching out in front of her. She’s meant to be helping her best friend – who has just moved back to their home town too ahead of having her first baby – but it doesn’t feel like she really needs Georgie. And then they find a diary they wrote in high school full of plans for the future. Are these the ideas Georgie needs to figure out who she is and what she wants? And then there is the problem of Levi, her unexpected roommate and former town bad boy and current dock builder and semi recluse, who offers to help her on her quest…

This was a really lovely, calming read – and also romantic. There is very little peril (maybe no peril?), just two people trying to figure out who they are and what they want in the world. And if you’ve ever wondered what you’re doing with your life and why everyone seems to have things better planned than you, this may well speak to you on a cellular level. I often say that I’m very lucky because I knew what I wanted to do for my job at a very young age, and turned out that be good enough at it that I’ve been able to earn my living doing it (so far!). But I don’t really have a grand plan. I’m much better at knowing what I don’t want to do, than what I *do* want to do and so I really enjoyed watching Georgie working out what she wanted from life and also the way it all resolved – and I can’t really say more, because: spoiler.

So if you want a charming romance that will make you swoon-y happy but without making you anxious, then this may well be it. My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in various formats: in Kindle and Kobo in the UK – it looks like the paperback option is the US version (at the moment at least).

Happy Reading!

romance, series

Romance series: Chance of a Lifetime

With a new Kate Claybourn novel out this week, it seemed like the perfect time to talk about her Chance of a Lifetime series which I read over the last couple of months – and yes, like so many things it would have been quicker if I hadn’t gone on the Meg Langslow rampage. So sue me.

So this is a trilogy featuring three friends who win a lottery jackpot after buying a ticket on a whim. Each book features one of the women finding love and a happily ever after. Beginners Luck is about Kit, a materials scientist who has spent her adult life building herself the stability that her chaotic childhood didn’t have. She uses some of her lottery win to buy a fixer-upper to turn into her first real home. But standing in her way is Ben who has returned to his home town to try and recruit Kit for a corporate gig. Book two is Luck of the Draw, featuring lawyer Zoe who uses her winnings to quit the job she hates and to try and make it right for some of the people whose cases she was involved in. Aiden’s brother died in a wrongful death case that Zoe worked on – but when she turns up at the family home to try to make amends instead of sending her away he asks her to pretend to be his fiancée to try and help him buy a campground as part of his brother’s legacy. And finally Best of Luck is Greer who uses her winnings to go back to college and try and finish the education that she missed out on and to prove to her overprotective family that she’s independent. But when she discovers a problem that might stop her graduating. Alex is a world renowned photographer and Kit’s brother – and back in town for her wedding – and finds himself agreeing to help Greer with the photography projects that she needs to complete to get her degree.

I had trouble picking my favourite – I lurch between Kit and Zoe, but maybe give it to Zoe because the set up for her romance is so difficult that I wasn’t sure it was going to be fixable. I mentioned the fact that Ali Hazelwood has blurbed Georgie, All Along yesterday and if you like heroines with jobs in Stem, definitely go for Kit and Beginner’s Luck. I liked Greer’s story – but I did mostly want to strangle her family who take infantilising her to whole new levels, even if there is some reason for it. Of course there is a chance that I came to Greer’s story having read too much Meg Langslow where there is a tight knit family, but it all has a humour about it, that these don’t have so it may be a me thing.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a romance trilogy to read, these would be a good choice. Equally if you’ve just read the new Kate Claybourn and want more – these would be a good place to go to. As you’ll see I managed to buy one of the series twice, but I got them all on offer so I don’t begrudge it. And it made me laugh that I managed not to have a matching set despite owning one of them twice. Anyway, these are easily available from your ebook vendor of choice – Kindle has the three book omnibus for £3.99 at the moment, but the single books are £1.99 for book one and three or 99p for book two as I write this.

Happy Reading!