As you’ll have seen from this week’s Week in Books I was on holiday last week and read a lot. Now I’ve already written about Lucy Parker’s Headliners as Book of the Week, but I wanted to do some mini-reviews of some of the others as well. There are some that I loved, and some that I could see were very good – but just not quite for me, so I wanted to give them a mention too.
If I never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane*
Mhairi McFarlane has been a BotW pick before (after my birthday holiday a year ago in fact!), and once again I really, really enjoyed this. Laurie’s longterm boyfriend breaks up with her out of the blue at the start of this book, leaving her life in turmoil – not only do they live together, but they work together and it’s all a bit unbearable. After getting stuck in a broken down elevator with the office playboy he makes a proposal: he needs a serious girlfriend to convince the bosses that he’s serious about his job – she needs the rumour mill to find something else to talk about other than her break-up. Soon they’re posting pictures of their new relationship on social media – much to the astonishment of their co-workers. But what is the price they’re going to have to pay for their deception – and is Laurie getting a little bit too attached to a man who says he doesn’t believe in love? I was a little worried at the start that it was going to be a bit gloomy, because Laurie’s breakup was really, really bleak – and being pretty near her age, I could really empathise with her. But once the fauxmance plot got underway, it was really, really great. I was worried that the resolution wouldn’t be satisfying enough, but actually this was really neat. And for those of you who like a heroine who is older than the hero, this has that for you too!
How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch
This was Him Indoors’s top airport bookshop pick. I wasn’t expecting to read it, because even though I like football (I was the first female voiceover on UEFA.com don’t you know!) I don’t really read footballer memoirs. But then he laughed so much at it and read me so many bits from it that I just had to read it too. And it’s really good. Crouch has had a really interesting career, knows that he’s not a typical footballer (his build, his skills, his career trajectory) and is very funny. It’s written with Tom Fordyce and I don’t know how that arrangement worked, but the end product sounds very Peter Crouch, and also not at all what you’d expect from a footballer’s book. One to add to the list of books to buy to give as gifts too.
Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
This is modern take on the marriage of convenience trope – which I love in historical romance but is hard to pull off often in contemporary. But never fear, Rebekah Weatherspoon has done it! Xeni Everly-Wilkins is in upstate New York to clear out her recently departed aunt’s massive house. But when Sable’s will is read, family secrets spill out and in order for Xeni to claim her inheritance, she has to marry. Her aunt has even picked out the man: Mason McInroy. Sable was a mentor to him, and had promised to leave him some money to pay off the debt that made him leave Scotland, but she didn’t tell Mason about the conditions. Xeni and Mason decide to marry for the money and then divorce as soon as they can. But when it turns into a friends with benefits type relationship, will they actually want to break up? The dialogue is great, the hero is plus-sized, they’re both bi-sexual and the relationship is steamy and a little bit kinky. This is probably the most explicit on the page romance I’ve recommended in a while – it will make you blush – a lot – if you read it in public. I raced through this and could have read another 100 pages with Xeni and Mason.
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeal*
Creepy, atmospheric and not entirely my sort of book but very well written. I found the juxtaposition between the two threads of the story annoying more than anything else and I was much more interested in one side of the story than the other and that influenced my reading experience. I also wanted a more definite resolution but that’s fairly common with me – and if you’re a regular here, you’ve heard me complain about that sort of thing before.
The Butterfly Bride by Vanessa Riley*
I think Vanessa Riley may just be too melodramatic for me. I like the premise of this – illegitimate daughter of duke wants to be married off by Christmas so she can be independent – but I just don’t like it in the execution. I’ve had the same experience with the previous books in the series, but the blurbs are always so intriguing and so I keep coming back again. I think I just like a bit more humour and a bit less angst in my romances. But if you do like the drama, this has all you could want to keep you turning the pages and is well written to boot.
So there you have it. Four books from my holiday reading selection for your consideration. They’re all out now and should be easily available from all the usual sources – although The Butterfly Bride is probably a special order situation in the UK if you want a physical copy. The paperback edition of The Doll Factory is out in March and should be preorderable.