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!

Recommendsday, romance

Recommendsday: People who end up marrying the person they’re trying to save someone else from

Long title I know, but all the shorter versions didn’t really cut it! Two weeks ago for Recommendsday we had Reformed Rakes in honour of Anthony Bridgerton. Today’s post is in honour of Kate – who in the book is 26 and on the shelf, but in the TV series is putting her younger sister first. So I went looking for historical romances with characters who are unmarried and trying to save someone important to them from marrying someone they think is unsuitable (and end up marrying the unsuitable person themselves) Before I get to my suggestions, I’ve read a lot of articles with reaction to the Sharma family in series two Bridgerton and what it means for South Asian representation – among them this one from Bustle and this from Glamour. Well worth a look. Anyway, to the books!

And it turns out it’s actually really hard to find heroines who aren’t desperate to jump off the shelf and who are saving someone from their heroes. I thought this was going to be a walk in the park – after all, I’ve read a lot of romances over the years. But I’ve put in proper time on this and unless I’m missing some super obvious options – or my search strings are out – it’s a tougher ask than I thought! I can find plenty of spinsters who want one night to find out what passion is (but aren’t expecting it to go beyond that), or who enter marriages of convenience because it’s the least bad option and then fall in love. But not a lot of Kates. But maybe that’s why the Bridgerton series are special?

In The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting, Sir John Hartlebury is definitely not a spinster but he is uninterested in marriage and High Society – so KJ Charles’s novel is actually quite close – Hart is trying to rescue his niece from dashing fortune hunter Robin Loxleigh, but ends up falling for Robin himself. There’s a slight Pretty Woman type situation that ends up going on, but handled well and without many of the pitfalls of that sort of thing.

The Georgette Heyers that are closest are probably Black Sheep or Lady of Quality – the key difference from The Viscount Who Loved me being neither of them end up marrying the man they’re trying to save their relation from. In Black Sheep our heroine, Abigail, is busy saving her niece from a fortune hunter when she falls in love with the fortune hunter’s uncle – just returned from India having made a packet. In Lady of Quality, Annis rescues a runaway heiress and falls in love with the heiress’s guardian. Ok so they’re not quite the same, but it’s closer than some of the other options – Frederica is trying to get her sister a dashing match and ends up falling for the cousin who has agreed to help them (rather than stopping her sister from marrying him), Hester in Sprig Muslin is an older heroine who is not expecting to marry, but she’s not trying to save anyone from Gareth – in fact she turns down his first proposal because although she (secretly) loves him, he doesn’t love her and Mary in Devil’s Cub is not so much determined to not to marry as doesn’t like the options she’s got, and although she does marry her sister’s original beau, he wasn’t planning on marrying her sister just absconding with her (Vidal, such a dastardly rake until he falls in love. Ahem).

In other slightly tenuous options, you could also probably count Alexa Tarabotti, the heroine of the Parasol Protectorate is a confirmed spinster at the start of the series in Soulless – but she’s not looking or trying to save anyone. Ditto Amelia Peabody in Crocodile on the Sandbank – whose age ends up being quietly reduced once it’s clear it’s gong to be a series and we’re going to keep going through til Ramses is an adult… Phyrne Fisher is also determinedly unmarried, but it doesn’t stop her from having as many boyfriends as she wants, so it really doesn’t count for this purpose!

And there you have it. An awful lot of work on my part, for not a huge amount of results. Tell me all the books that do this that I’ve forgotten about – or that I should have read – in the comments!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: March Quick reviews

Another month, another batch of mini reviews. I’ve already written about so many books this month, I was almost surprised that I had anything left to write about, and yet here are three more…

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomons

Ari is a weather presenter at a Seattle TV station. Russell is one of the station’s sport reporters. Both of them are being driven mad by their bosses. Ari wants Torrence – the station’s star meterologist – to give her more mentoring but Torrence is too distracted by fighting with her ex husband – the station’s news director Seth. Russell wants off the college sports beat and onto pro sports, but Seth is paying too much attention to his fight with his exwife to take him seriously. After a disastrous Christmas party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to try and get Torrence and Seth back together. But over the course of their plan, the two of them end up spending a lot of time together too… I liked this a lot more than I liked the first book in the series – for some reason the romance in this just clicked for me. Ari and Russell make a great couple and each of them have valid reasons for avoiding relationships, but they work through them like sensible people (for the most part) rather than having dramatic Big Misunderstandings all the time. I also loved the fact that it had a Jewish hero and heroine – which is something I’d like to read more of! Lots of fun – would probably have been BotW if I hadn’t read Better Luck Next Time the same week.

With Love from Rose Bend by Naima Simone*

Owen is a former football player in hiding from the world after the accident that caused him to call time on his career. Leo is hiding from adult relationships by being constantly busy running her family’s business. Leo wants Owen to judge a contest at a town festival – but when she turned up at his house to ask him, she realises he’s the man she has a steamy one night stand with a year ago. And it gets slightly more complicated than that as a fake relationship element is added to the mix too. I’ve mentioned before that I like a sports romance and I also like a competent heroine and this ticked my noses in that front. Lovey weekend afternoon reading!

Sex Cult Nun by Faith Jones

Now this is a weird one. I’ve included it here because I think some of you will have seen it on my lists and known exactly why I was reading it – my ongoing interest in weird religious stuff -and wondered why I haven’t written about it’s so now I am and here is your answer: it is brutal. It’s bleak. It’s filled with child abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual abuse, neglect. But it’s also not as well written as say Educated and I don’t think the author has really come to terms with what happened to her, so it doesn’t actually really get you anywhere or give you a takeaway at the end. So it ends up just being a lot of really grim abuse without as much breaking away from it as you want/expect/hope.

And that’s the lot – and I know that’s a bit of a downbeat note to end on, but I couldn’t make any other order of the reviews feel any better!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: A Thorn in the Saddle

I mean it’s only a few weeks since I wrote a whole post about romances on ranches, and here I am recommending another one! You wait ages for a a cowboy and then a while load of them come along at once!

Lily-Grace and Jesse went to school together, but she skipped town for the bright lights of tech startups as soon and she could and he stayed at home to help run his family’s luxury dude ranch and look after his siblings while his parents were away acting. Jesse has never really had time for relationships – and the ones he’s tried have gone badly – but he’s been approached to run for public office, so that single status might have to change. Lily-Grace is back in town after a breakup and after Jesse decides that Lily-Grace’s dad can’t date his grandmother she gives him what for. But when she sees his shy and awkward side at a community event, she offers to help him. And you know where this is going!

This is the third in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Cowboys of California series and this one is a Beauty and the Beast sort of thing, with a side order of a sexually inexperienced hero to boot. I was a bit worried at the start with where it was going with Jesse’s anger issues – but actually it’s more boundary issues and the fact that he’s had to take on a parental role to everyone and never had the chance to have any fun. I really enjoyed the way his nurturing side came out as his relationship with Lila-Grace continued.

This at the higher end of the middle of Rebekah Weatherspoon’s steam and peril range. Yes I know that sounds confusing. I would say this is closer to the heat levels of Rafe than the other books in the series as and it also has a little more of a suspense-y peril element, but no where near as dramatic as her actual suspense stuff. But mostly it’s just a fun way to pass a few hours reading about a couple of people falling in love in a low-key money is no object sort of way. Oh and there are horses. And that was just what I fancied last week.

My copy of A Thorn in the Saddle came from the library but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and in paperback – although I suspect if you want it in paperback you’re likely to have to order it from Amazon.

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Reformed Rakes

So some of you may already have finished the new series of Bridgerton, which is based on the second book in the series – the Viscount who Loved Me. In case you need a recap, our hero Anthony is a reformed rake and the heroine Kate doesn’t think she’s ever going to get married but is determined to stop him marrying her sister because she doesn’t think he’ll make a good husband. So if you’ve watched the series and want to read something similar I am here for you. And so today we are looking at historical romances with reformed rakes for heroes.

And I’m going to start with the daddy of all rakes (in my eyes at least) the Duke of Villiers from Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses series. You don’t need to have read the five previous books in the series, but if you have by the time he gets his own book A Duke of Her Own, you’ve seen him being all rake-y through all the previous books – he’s even got the children to prove it and isn’t hiding them. Which probably explains why his matrimonial options are not huge. But that makes the happy ending (when it comes) even better. When this series originally came out, this one wasn’t initially published in the UK, but I was so keen to find out what happened that I ordered myself a copy from the US. But that’s not a problem now because you can get it on Kindle.

In Sabrina Jeffries The Truth About Lord Stoneville, the hero has been raking it up since the death of his parents but has to reform himself because his grandmother is threatening to disinherit him. The plot involves a fake engagement, an American heroine and a very feisty matriarch. It’s also the first in a series – with all of Stoneville’s siblings also having to get married if they don’t want to lose their inheritance from her.

My first Sarah MacLean book, as I’ve told you many times before, was Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake – and if you’re in the US it’s just come out in a new edition. Lisa Kleypas also has a lot of rake-y heroes – my favourite of them is probably Devil’s Daughter but I know lots of others Love Cold Hearted Rake. In the previous book of the week stakes, there’s also The Governess Game by Tessa Dare. And of course also in the Bridgerton series, is my favourite When He Was Wicked.

Happy Wednesday!

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: The Family You Make

As I mentioned in Friday’s bingeable post, I read the new Jill Shalvis last week and although I finished it at the start of the week, somehow I knew it would be the pick, so I wrote this. And thank goodness I did because: covid.

When Levi Cutler gets stuck in a ski gondola in a snowstorm, his only companion is a mysterious stranger called Jane. When he calls his parents to say goodbye, he can’t bring himself to do it and instead lets his mum think he is happily settled and Jane is is girlfriend. But they survive. And now Levi’s family want to meet this girlfriend that he’s so happy with. Thus starts a fake relationship and off we go on one of my favourite tropes! Jane had a traumatic childhood and keeps people at a distance – that’s why she’s a travelling nurse who moves from trouble spot to trouble spot, stopping only to work the ski season near Lake Tahoe. The only person she has let get close to her (even if she won’t admit it) is Charlotte, her landlady and another fiercely independent woman who likes to keep other people at a distance. Charlotte definitely doesn’t need any help from anyone – especially not her annoying neighbour and co-worker Matteo…

I absolutely raced through this – it’s one of my favourite of Shalvis’ for a while. I haven’t always loved her Wildstone series, but this felt much more my sort of thing. I liked the primary and secondary romances and thought they both got about the right amount of time – too much plot in not enough time has been a recent problem for me with Shalvis – and and I liked the parallels between Jane and Charlotte’s lives and attitudes to relationships. And their different heroes are pretty good too. Plus Levi’s family is entertaining side show – I mean who doesn’t love meddling relatives – and it all ends on a nice heartwarming note. Plus it’s a ski resort romance that *isn’t* set at Christmas – which is a really rare find! There’s a sequel out at the end of June and I’mooming forward to reading it already.

My copy of The Family You Make came from the library, but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and paperback, although as ever I’m not sure how easy the paperback will be to find – Foyles have it available to order (but not click and collect) but it looks like a supermarket sort of book, but I haven’t been into a big Tesco for a couple of years right now, so I guess we won’t know until it turns up in The Works in six months time (or not)!

Happy Reading!

binge reads

Bingeable series: Fool’s Gold

I finished the new Jill Shalvis this week and it got me to thinking about reliable romance authors, which got me thinking about when the next Susan Mallery is due out (turns out there was a woman’s fiction novel that came out on Tuesday and there is another non-series title out in May before the next wishing tree in October) which made me think that Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series makes for an excellent binge read. And so here we are. You’ve had an insight into the way my mind works, so now on to the books!

Fool’s Gold is a small town romance series set in a community at the foot of the Sierra Nevada hills. Across the series you’ll find an above average number of world class athletes living there and also that it’s big enough to have its own radio station – but this is small town romance, all such things are allowed. In the first in the series, the town is short of men and heroine is a city planner brought in by the town’s Mayor, Marsha (who is a great recurring character through the series, a bit like a fairy godmother), to try and bring things around. There are 20 books in the series and they come in groups. So in the first book you get meet the character who will feature in the next couple and then you move to a fresh group of people. You get the idea. It’s charming.

Looking back through my reviews, there are more pregnancy/baby plots that I would usually go for, but they are all still fun. I think my favourite set are the three books about the Hendrix triplets, but I also like the set about the ex NFL players and their business. Anyway, there are 20 full length books to chose from as well as about the same again in novellas – all of which means you can have a good old binge on them. And it looks like they’ve all had a bit of a cover redesign since I last read them too – I suspect because of the success of Virgin River on Netflix and people looking for similar books to read.

My goodreads ratings for these are fairly consistent – I’m not giving any five stars, but they’re mostly threes, with a few fours and they only drop off towards the tail end of the twenty. In fact romance series like this make for a perfect binge to be honest. When I was writing about Sookie Stackhouse last week I talked about spotting the formula. Well you don’t have that problem with a series like this – because each book is about a new couple and you can do different tropes each time. You don’t even need to read them in order because it’s different characters in each book. The only thing that’s going to happen is spoilers for previous books when you encounter them in their happily ever afters – but as you know from the blurb of a romance that they’re going to end up together, that’s not much of a spoiler really! As long as the writing and the characters are good you’re all set for many happy hours of reading.

Book of the Week, book round-ups, romance

Recommendsday: Secret identity/double identity romances

Off the back of yesterday’s book of the week, today we’re talking romances where one (or both) partners are living a double life or have a secret identity

Let’s start with Georgette Heyer – because she has a few of these of various types. The Masqueraders has a cross dressing brother and sister who are trying to lie low after the Jacobite rebellion, False Colours has one twin pretending to be his missing brother and These Old Shades – one of my all time favourites has Leon the page who is actually Leonie. And that’s before you get to The Corinthian (girl runs away from home dressed as a boy and drops out of the window into the hero’s arms), and Arabella (heroine pretending to be a great heiress). Is it any wonder I love this trope so much?

Duchess by Night was my first Eloisa James – and I picked it up at the library because it mentioned the heroine in disguise. Now it’s much, much more steamy than Heyer – but as all you get in Heyer is a kiss, then that’s not a surprise. This’ll anyway, our heroine dresses up as a man to sneak into the house of a notorious rake to see what his debauched parties are actually like. You see where this is going (and why it’s not closed door!). Anyway, as an introduction to the series it was great – although I haven’t reread it in a few years so I hope it holds up!

I came to Eloisa James after discovering Julia Quinn and after James I moved in to Sarah MacLean who I have now written about a lot but has a secret identity type – but telling you what it is is a spoiler and a reveal and you need to have read the rest of the series to get the most out of it. I had to go back and read the Rules of Scandals series again after the shock twist at the end of No Good Duke Goes Unpunished because I was so convinced that MacLean must have slipped up at some point and she hadn’t. It is a master stroke.

Let’s go contemporary! And Jen De Luca’s Well Played which has a heroine who has been emailing back and forth with someone all year who actually turns out to be someone else. It just about manages to stay on the Cyrano side rather than the catfishing, the latter of which is the risk in all the modern day twists on this and obviously I love the Ren Fair setting because I made the first book in the series a BotW – and I read Well Matched (which is the third book) in two giant gulps last week. And maybe the aforementioned catfishing situation is why I can’t think of any other contemporaries to include here – it’s hard to come up with a twist on this that doesn’t create an insurmountable issue on the romance. Which is maybe why I was so impressed with Playing with Love! So please – if you have more, put them in the comments!

Happy hump day!

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!

book round-ups, not a book

Super Bowl Sunday

Yes today is the day when people will be talking about Superb Owls and the Super Bowl. I am a Dallas Cowboys fan, and although my team won’t be playing tonight, I’m still likely to be staying awake to see at least some of the match – hopefully I’ll last all the way to the halftime show.

American football and the NFL have their problems. We’ve all see about them – whether it’s CTE injuries to players, or race scoring retired players to determine their compensation, or Washington Commanders’ old name, or Tom Brady, but there is something I find hypnotic about the game. And not just because you can watch it whilst reading a book and not miss much action. I should have gone to the Dolphins at Jaguars in London before Christmas, but in the end, it didn’t happen. But as soon as the Cowboys come over, I will try again. I’m also currently (well at least before the Olympics started) working my way through Amazon’s All or Nothing seasons that deal with NFL franchises – I’ve just hit the Carolina Panthers’ season.

Why the Cowboys? Well I have family who live in Dallas, so that was what started it – back when I was in France on my year abroad and learning how American football worked from August in the Irish bar in Tours and had to pick a team to support. And by happy coincidence, the Cowboys organisation is also responsible for one of my great guilty pleasure TV shows: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team. If you’re in the UK you can find it on ITVBe every few months early in the mornings, if you’re in the US it’s on CMT. And you too can watch women try out to wear unforgiving uniforms to dance on the touch line at the AT&T stadium for what presumably is not very much money at all, especially given the hours of training they have to do.

Anyway, in case you’re wondering why this isn’t a Not a Book post – that’s because I’m going to recommend some football books to finish! I personally am marking the Super Bowl by finally getting around to reading Paper Lion by George Plimpton. But as I haven’t read it yet, I can’t write about is, so let’s head off to my usual wheelhouse: romance!

Firstly Alexa Martin – Intercepted was a BotW and she writes fun football romances that feel like they are more grounded in reality than many of the others, which might be because her husband was a player! She’s been an NFL wife and although her books obviously feature shiny romance versions of what life in the NFL is like, they do also feature some of the worries and risks which adds an extra something to it all.

I wrote about several Susan Elizabeth Philips books in my Enemies to Lovers post last month, but her Chicago Stars series basically work their way through key members of a fictional football team. The first one is 20 years old now, which probably qualifies it for Old School Romance status, but the latest one When Stars Collide came out just last year – and I really need to get around to reading it! Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe features a retired football player as the hero, and the other novels in that sequence have football connections in patches.

And finally, because my love of Girls Own books is well known, I have to mention Grid Iron Grit, which is American Boys’ Own from the mid 1930s and is about a spoilt teenager who is removed from his small but exclusive school for rich kids and sent to a much bigger school with a better academic record. There he learns the error of his snobbish and lazy ways and to become a proper gentleman through the medium of American football. Lots of fun, even if some of the descriptions of the football got a bit too technical for me!

Enjoy the game if you’re watching – if not, enjoy whatever you’re reading!