BONUS Friday Fun Review: “Fix Her Up” by Tessa Bailey

Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered, #1)Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some background on why I read this now: I’ve been drafting my latest #romanticcomedy which now includes a racy scene for me as an author. The cover has been done for a couple of months now, and it came out looking illustrated, and very chick-lit looking. When I trialed the cover, mentions of Fix Her Up came up in comments. I remembered that people were shocked by the racy prose in Fix Her Up when they thought they were picking up a sweet RomCom from the cover. I had to get this one off my TBR list to compare. So, I was already warned about the heat level.

About the Story/the characters: Since I already knew about the heat level, it allowed me to move past the sexy parts to really see the story, which was very entertaining. I loved this new spin on a heroine finding her place in the world and a hero, trying to break out of his mold. The fake romance trope is cute and well done here to up the sexual tension. There are a lot of funny parts, crazy antics that you could see happening on screen–the For Us meeting that went out of control, throwing lo mien on Travis, the clown birthday parties. All cute, funny, original spin on #romcom tropes.



Travis is written so true to form, baseball player drummed out of the league due to injury, not finding anywhere to fit in and wanting to just be left alone. This is really his story, as I see the most change in him.

Georgie sees herself as she could be, but when no one else does, she realizes she has to prove it to others. Her family times, especially that dinner where they were all together made me cringe. It reminded me a lot of Me Before You and how Louisa’s family constantly puts her down or ignores her.

With all the characters, but especially Travis and the guys, I kept getting a Southern rural vibe, probably because that’s what I know (I grew up there), but still. I did not get The Hamptons/Long Island/ wherever they were. I got Backwoods Carolinas where Braves’ baseball plays on TV all summer long, guys call grown women “baby girl,” and people know each other and are always in each other’s business. Small town antics are small town antics everywhere, I guess.



So back to the sexy parts:Yes, this is hotter than most cutesy romcoms, but it’s not anything to be shocked about. (Also, most popular cutesy romcoms are YA if you think about it–read: Netflix). Unless you’re all about the Hallmark channel heat level for your romantic comedies. I would say it’s more dirty talk than dirty action. If you’re not into open-door sex or filthy mouths or sexual play, then yep you will be shocked here. If you like Penny Reid and Sierra Simone, you’re going to wonder what all the fuss is about.



The one thing I didn’t like is the manwhore/virginal girl trope. It annoys me so much in general. Here, I think it has a bigger purpose than just a trope for the sexy parts, so I tolerated it. It’s part of how people see them and how they see each other, so it kind of works.

Overall this was a funny, entertaining read. And though I may subtitle mine “A Dirty Romantic Comedy” both mine and Bailey’s are tame compared to some I’ve read. Lesson here: Don’t judge a book solely by it’s cover. But do be drawn in by it.

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Friday Fun Review: “Black Tie Billionaire” by Naima Simone

Black Tie BillionaireBlack Tie Billionaire by Naima Simone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first read from Naima Simone. And while this one is good; I know her outside-Harlequin-pubbed work has to be even better.

The Premise:The 2nd book in her Blackout Billionaire series, Billionaire Gideon Knight is immediately drawn to waitstaff server Camille at society event when the lights go out. When they’re trapped in an employee lounge, the blackout provides the perfect cover for them to be themselves and explore their attraction. But when the lights come back on and real life goes on, Camille physically disappears and so does the introspective Gideon persona Camille got to know. On top of that, Gideon is at war with his former school friend, and has plotted to use his nemesis’ sister Shay in a diabolical revenge scheme.

The story/The sex/ The characters One caveat here: you’ve got to suspend belief in two areas a little to really enjoy the book. One: it takes longer than it should for Gideon to recognize that Camille and Shay are the same person (and no, that was not really a spoiler unless you don’t plan to read past chapter 2). And two: for them to be in the close circles of the billionaire-elite, they know very little about each other. And by “they”, I mean all the main characters of the novel. I expected Gideon would know more about Shay and Shay would know more about Gideon’s family than they do. Shay’s brother seems to be in his own plotting-evil bubble and wanting to keep Shay away from the family business that I can see how they wouldn’t really know about each other’s hangups/agendas. But it’s amazing how these folks functioned so naively.


Gideon is another Billionaire-alpha-jerk hero, and if you’ve been following, I don’t love those, but I keep getting books with them in it somehow. Someone give me a Randall Pearson a la This is Us as a hero, please. I need a break! HOWEVER, I love the scene with Gideon @ the food truck, because it shows a softer side of him, a side that has known what it’s really like to work. This makes him more likeable to me as a billionaire alpha.


Shay on the other hand, has always been privileged. I imagine her as an adult Ashley from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She’s got her head on straight, but yes, she is an anomaly as a Black woman of privilege. I love how this isn’t even the traditional interracial romance (as these are both POCs), let alone a traditional romance with a white couple. That alone kept me reading.


The sex—It was open-door and fairly erotic. I discovered Naima Simone after attending a workshop she did about writing love scenes. She knows what she’s doing. But also like Theodora Taylor, I feel she probably had to tone it down for Harlequin. I want to read more of hers to see, though. As a writer, I love the pacing of the love scenes here. As much as I love a good open-door sex scene, too much and it gets tedious, not enough and I get bored. Hmm. Just as in life I guess! 😊

Overall, this was an entertaining read, and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of her self-pubbed, or non- HQ reads. I suspect they will be juicy gems!


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Friday Fun Review: “More Than Crave You” by Shayla Black

More Than Crave You (More Than Words, #4)More Than Crave You by Shayla Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the second experience I’ve had with listening to an audiobook, and the first experience listening to a romance audiobook. I’ve finished this about two weeks ago, but it’s taken me a while to separate what’s really audiobook experience from actual review. This is why I’ve been toying with the idea of a podcast: there’s so much I want to share about the audiobook experience (among other things) that’s not appropriate for a review.

Overall & Reasoning: In any case, this was an awesome book. Half of that was the narrator and the other half was the characters. But I think no matter how you read this, you will be entertained.

The premise: Evan Cook is a socially-awkward, tech nerd billionaire and a recent widower. He wants a wife for hire–one that will support him, help him domestically and sexually. So he asks his assistant Nia Wright to put out an ad for a wife for him. In the meantime, she offers to help around his house, and he begins to see her as more than an assistant. And after a hot night together, he can’t get enough of her. But she wants love, and he can’t give that. Will their relationship last? Or should he find someone else to fulfill his opening for the wife position?

The story/The characters/The sex: This story was messy as heck! Love it! Stuff happened when it shouldn’t have, and people with feelings or not sure what they’re feeling were just not connecting. Add in some family drama, some mysterious business dealings, and you’ve got one entertaining read!

The big sex scenes are open-door and pretty steamy, (I think I need a steam-o-meter. What do you say, readers?) which of course affected my listening experience. More on that later. Loved all of it.

I think I have been over billionaire books for a while, even though a new one keeps coming into my orbit every few weeks. Billionaire seems like a code word for jerk or alpha male, and I get enough jerks IRL. But Evan’s “jerk”-like behavior is mostly due to his social awkwardness and logical mindset. He’s clipped and rational, which could come off as acting like a snobby jerk. Here, it’s just endearing. Think Sheldon Cooper personality-wise, but less extreme.

And Nia gets him right in line! I love that she’s very much a round character and not a stereotype of a Black woman trying to save some dude. Again, we do that all the time, so I don’t need to read about it. Nia has her own issues, her own hobbies, her own interests, and an open mind. But she is blunt and no-nonsense like a Black woman with common sense who doesn’t take crap from people. Thank you, Shayla Black for this character.

This may be partly from the narration, but I think a Sebastian book needs to happen if it hasn’t. That dude…. yep. *wink*

The sisters and brothers and in-laws are a lovely mix of personalities that I don’t know how the narrator could have kept in mind, but wow, he did.

The packaging–More Than series, this cover, and audiobook experience: Again, I feel like some of the audiobook stuff is not pertinent to just this book, so I’ll save it for my upcoming podcast. Here’s my thoughts on this audiobook:

  1. I love Christian Fox as narrator. More Than Crave You is written in 1st person from Evan’s POV for most of it, and Fox nailed it. I’ve heard he narrates romance a lot, but for me, he’s Evan. I don’t know if I can separate him from Evan in another audiobook. I giggled almost every time Nia spoke in the beginning, because he sounded so cute doing her voice. Christian Fox probably converted me to being an audiobook listener now.
  2. Don’t openly listen to this book with kids (or your mother) around. I was glad I had a house to myself for the weekend to openly listen. This is erotic romance, that’s all I can say.
  3. While listening to the book helped turn off my writer/editor hat, there’s some repetitiveness in the language. There’s a lot of rehashing here: I get that Evan’s a widower, I get that he’s got family problems, I get that he wants a wife but has a problem with love. These are all things you’re going to find out early and often. Also the ending felt a little rushed. Like, I’ve created a lot of mess here that needs to be tied up/solved. So, this is why I can’t go totally 5 stars.

More than Crave You is book 4 in the More Than series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything from the others, or that I needed the others to feel satisfied here. While a couple of the others are on my TBR list, I’m not in a rush to read them, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I probably will with the others.

And last note: about the cover. While I love the model picked for Nia, and the model for Evan is hot, I don’t imagine Evan looking like that. I see Grant Gustin. Glasses on or off–still sexy.

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Friday Fun Review: “Dating You/Hating You”

I promise this will be the last of the Christina Lauren books for a while! The next Friday Fun Review will be from an indie author (like me!)

Dating You / Hating YouDating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve been following my Friday Fun Reviews on my site (or my reviews on GR for the last 2 months), you’ll know that I had Dating You / Hating You on my TBR list for 2 YEARS. It took me picking up My Favorite Half-Night Stand by coincidence to jumpstart my voracious consumption of everything Christina Lauren (writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings). Still so glad it happened!

Premise
In true CL fashion, this is a hilarious romcom with an amazing couple (both written as gorgeous) and a bunch of New Adult drama. It reminds me of the Netflix romcom “Set It Up” in parts, except Carter and Evie are the agents (execs), not assistants. However, this one also has a serious undercurrent.

Again, I’ll let them do the premise. [from Bookbub] “Despite the odds against them from an embarrassing meet-awkward at a mutual friend’s Halloween party, Carter and Evie immediately hit it off. Even the realization that they’re both high-powered agents at competing firms in Hollywood isn’t enough to squash the fire.

But when their two agencies merge–causing the pair to vie for the same position–all bets are off. What could have been a beautiful, blossoming romance turns into an all-out war of sabotage. Carter and Evie are both thirtysomething professionals–so why can’t they act like it?”

Along with their antics is a boss that has problems with powerful women–and more than a few secrets, Carter’s family, including an artist brother that’s right out of an “Uncensored” episode on TV One, and a host of friends and assistants that provide substantial amounts of hilarity.

Characters
Just like in MFH-NS, these characters are so relate-able. This is a dual 1st person POV Carter/Evie, but their friends and family will steal the show. All have the memorable personalities of a CL ensemble cast, and as a writer, I’m in awe of how they put them all together without getting them mixed up and giving each a unique voice. It begs for a movie so you can see these characters in action (or just get more of them.)

The story/The sex/The reviews
What steals the show romcom-wise is their “war” on each other and the “shots they fire” in a specific series of slapstick moments (trying not to create spoilers here.) Some thought it was over-the-top; I thought it was awesome!

Also notable is the lack of sex in this one. Having just read Beautiful Bastard where there was not much more than sex, I found DY/HY refreshing. However, if you are reading this hoping for the same amount of sex that you usually get in a CL novel (a la the Beautiful series), then you may be disappointed. I wasn’t. The story was so engaging and fun that I enjoyed it and didn’t notice the lack of sex in every other chapter. Sometimes, you just need a break!

Another difference is the hint of serious social discussion on female inequality at work. These agents are pitted against each other by a boss who’s obviously from the 60s. Don Draper has nothing on this dude. Some reviewers were turned off by Evie’s treatment in the office, and the inequalities of women in this story. While I am too, I also understand how REAL this is in an office. On top of that, these are Hollywood agents, so EVERYTHING is ramped up 100x more than in a regular office. If this scenario angers you, don’t blame CL, blame these male execs and companies who are shortchanging women! CL portrayed this in a real and eye-opening way. It should make you mad enough for action against the oppressive system, not CL for showing it.

Overall
This is a great story. It’s very much on the Women’s Fiction/chick-lit side of CL’s romance spectrum but still has a great couple dynamic. I haven’t thought about a movie cast for this one, but it could do well as a Netflix Romcom.

If you’ve read this one, what do you think about the movie cast? Comment below.

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Friday Fun Review…filled with Controversy?

Review of Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren
About the review (background on why I said what I said)

I didn’t go into this in the review, because it’s been SO LONG since the Twilight phenom, the fan fiction craze that followed and the subsequent Fifty Shades of Gray craze that followed that most people know what happened, how they feel, etc. And with the original version of Beautiful Bastard garnering more than 2 million reads online during that time, I’m sure most people that read Beautiful Bastard have their views on its place in all of this.

I’m not the audience for Twilight. The only part of the Twilight audience that I would identify with is that I love love stories. So, I knew next to nothing about the vampire series until the movies were released. I always like to read a book first before I go see its film adaptation, and I knew then that this wasn’t for me. As a reader, it had some key problems that I couldn’t get around. When FSOG was gifted to me, I thought okay, maybe an adult version would be more suited for me. It was not.

While Beautiful Bastard was an okay book, I appreciate what it spawned: a collection of wonderfully done titles since by Christina Lauren. And part of that collection is what I read first. I especially loved My Favorite Half-Night Stand (see review). I guess that’s why I was glad to discover Beautiful Bastard as I did: years after Twilight and FSOG, without knowing it was fanfic beforehand, and after reading other books that prove how great these ladies are at creating a contemporary romcom.

As a writer, you go through constant rejection and criticism just to get your book out there, and if you do manage to publish, you’re hit with mediocre sales, having to self-market (even if you are traditionally published), a field flooded with supply (so much competition most can’t even be recognized), being rejected for awards, 1-star reviews, no reviews, and predatory Amazon algorhithms.  It’s hard not to hate the author when they get the sales and recognition and deals, that “something better” or “something more original” should have gotten. But it’s really the luck of the draw for most authors that don’t have celebrity status. Tweens and teens loved Twilight. I don’t really know why. Their moms wanted an adult version, and a few decided to write one. Out comes Beautiful Bastard and Fifty Shades of Gray. How did FSOG get more up-front attention and a quicker movie deal than BB? One will never know. This is the lucky part.

So if you haven’t heard of CL’s Beautiful series, but have definite negative feelings toward Twilight, put your judgement aside for a moment to give this series a try. Even if you don’t read the first book (which is the only one in the series that’s really Twilight fanfic).

Readers: what did you think about all of this Twilight “controversy”? What do you think about fan fiction in general? COMMENT BELOW

What I had to say (Back in the day)

My Blog Post about Twilight

My blog Post about Fan Fiction (and indirectly FSOG)

My Goodreads Review of Beautiful Bastard (2019)

Beautiful Bastard (Beautiful Bastard, #1)Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, I’m LIGHT-YEARS behind the gossip about/reviews of/hype about this book. If you’re new to this book (I’m not going to say series, because I think this book stands alone in the series as twi-hard fanfic), and you’ve read Twilight (T) or 50 shades of gray (FSOG), and you’re thinking…. hmm familiar…. check out these 2 articles from EW to give you some background:
Book deal announcement and background–read first
Cover reveal and background

So this review is going to be a little different than what I usually do.

About Me (I swear it will be short!)–Feelings about, T, FSOG, fanfic, why am I reading this?
1) I did not like T or FSOG for various reasons. I 1-starred both of them here. 2) I don’t like “fan fiction.” There’s “inspired by” (we as writers are always inspired by someone or something), which is an original story created from a specific unoriginal idea/concept, and then there’s “fan fiction” which is basically a book remix. Except in the publishing world (unlike the music world), original authors don’t get royalties from fan fiction. And in the case of FSOG, the original author didn’t even get recognized and the whole situation tried to get downplayed. 3) So why read this? Long story short, I picked up Beautiful Stranger in the library, loved that book, realized there was a BB1 and picked it up.

About the Book itself
There’s a lot of sex here. A lot. And a lot of panty-ripping. And a lot of smirking. And a lot of “I hate you. Let’s have sex.” But not much actual story, and the character arcs are kind of shallow. It’s pretty exhausting by the end, to be honest. I don’t really like Bennett Ryan (now, I know why), and something about Chloe is kind of off, too. I kind of wanted to ask her a couple of times, “Is he sexually harassing you?” because the level of hatred between them seemed to be animosity-level at times instead of heated lustful back-and-forth. Also, I’ve worked in an office most of my life, and no one can keep THIS level of crazy under wraps like they “seem” to be doing here. But aside from all that, this is well-written (aside from the smirking) and a page turner, which makes it entertaining.

So if you’ve got all that negativity, why even give it 3 stars?/Comparison to T and FSOG
For these reasons:
1) The writing–as a first Adult novel–is well done. These ladies can put sentences together correctly, they know how to effectively create POV and voice, they understand vocabulary, and compared to T, this has much better writing. (FSOG doesn’t even rate as far as writing is concerned.)
2) They made an entertaining story out of some boring YA. T was wildly popular, even before the movies came out. I don’t know why. But it was. So, of course the T phenomenon once we saw Bella and Edward on screen would lead to this  “we-want-more-so-let’s-create-it-ourselves-for-ourselves (adults)” fanfic craze. Christina Lauren did a decent job making a story with the T characters and concepts, and it didn’t bore us or make us want to projectile vomit. That’s a win.
3) Chloe–while not great– is better than Bella. Chloe knows she’s good at what she does, she knows she’s got great taste (even if she has more hookups than cash), and she obviously loves herself. Everyone loves Bella, except Bella. Notice that? Not a good role model for a young girl, but for an adult reading T, it’s just a turn-off. Here, I can stomach Chloe.
4) What has come after from Christina Lauren has been a treat so far! Unlike T and FSOG, part 2 of this series was a delight to read. And other adult books CL has written since then that I’ve read have been true pleasures. So if it took a little meh fanfic to get them on the Adult map (they were already bloggers and YA authors before this) and get them to the wonderful books they’re writing now, I’m all for it!

Aside from the Book/Reviews/Overall:
It’s not T or FSOG, and that’s a good thing, because those suck. And while I am not a fan of fanfiction, I love how Christina Lauren own up to the fact that this was Twilight fanfic. After all, that’s how it garnered its interest! Unlike FSOG’s author: E L James on Wendy Williams Show 2019 downplaying and avoiding the subject. Beautiful Bastard does have its negatives, but considering how I feel about T, I know that I have a predilection to be biased against it. I’m not going to let that blind me to some of the positives in this book.
Some have some pretty strong negative reviews about this one. At the time (with no other CL adult books out there and 2 versions of THIS book floating around–one the rework and one the fanfic original), I might have been that way, too. But I see a bigger picture that makes me view this one so-so story in a better light than I might have otherwise. Overall, it’s an okay first effort, but since I know these get better, I’m sticking with the series.

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Readers: what did you think about all of this Twilight “controversy”? What do you think about fan fiction in general? COMMENT BELOW

Friday Fun Review of “My Favorite Half-Night Stand”

My Favorite Half-Night StandMy Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This the first novel I’ve read by Christina Lauren (writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings), but I have had Dating You / Hating You on my TBR list for 2 YEARS. Who knew I would love these ladies’ books so much? Why have I waited all this time! It was a coincidence that I came to read this book in the first place. So glad it happened, though. (Long story involving a mis-tweet, a comp title, and a lucky library visit.)

Premise/Overall
In any case, I’m here, and I loved it! I loved it so much that I could see a Netflix Movie made from it! It’s steamy, funny, poignant at times, and appealed to my nerd side.

Because I can’t seem to explain the premise correctly, I’ll let them do it. [from Goodreads] “Millie Morris has always been one of the guys. And she, just like her four best guy friends and fellow professors, is perma-single. So when a routine university function turns into a black tie gala, Millie and her circle make a pact that they’ll join an online dating service to find plus-ones for the event. There’s only one hitch: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid Campbell, secretly spend the sexiest half-night of their lives together, but mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic. Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter ‘Catherine’—Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon ‘Catherine’ and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship…but Millie can’t resist temptation in real life, either. Soon, Millie will have to face her worst fear—intimacy—or risk losing her best friend, forever.”

description

Characters
All of the ensemble has their funny moments, and you will love all of them because they’re so relate-able. But this is Millie and Reid’s show. This is a dual 1st person POV Millie/Reid. Millie is great at wrangling the guys in, but horrible at handling herself. Reid is the all-American guy, and one of those impossible combos of All-American hunk who’s super nerdy. It’s like a Clark Kent/Superman kind of deal but at the same time. Alex and Ed are comic relief, but together they are like the Odd Couple—one goofy and emotional, the other a straight man. Chris is the only one that’s ever been married out of the group and is pretty secretive. I would say he’s probably the most grounded of the gang. You know them, you’ve seen them, you love them. That is all.

description

The story/The sex/The movie potential
I can’t overstate how much this would be PERFECT as a Netflix rom-com movie. (JUST DON’T TOUCH THE DIALOGUE! It’s ridiculously funny and spot on!) You can say the F-word there, you can do the sexy stuff there, and lately as most of us Netflixers know, they are doing a lot of good Rom-Com movies. I’ve already got a potential cast below.
This is a great story line with a female protagonist emotional arc that is so #WomensFiction but is also delivering the erotic romance heat that we love. This is not your grandma’s romance story: there’s is at least 3 scenes worth of open-door sex. Not crazy graphic, but still steamy. Plus, these are a bunch of dudes and Millie hanging out, talking about hookups and such, so potty mouths abound. If you’re not hung up on that, then this is an awesome story. I read it in 1 DAY. And I’m a slow reader. Just get it, already. Geez.

Actor WishList for “My Favorite Half- Night Stand” (1st actor listed is my 1st choice where there’s more than one.)
Millie
— Lucy Hale or Leighton Meester
Reid —Miles Teller or Zac Efron. (Henry Cavil, only because I’m getting a Clark Kent/Superman vibe from Reid as I write this.)
Ed —Seth Rogen. (He’s been nicknamed a few times in this book, but he called himself a pasty Seth Rogen, and that stuck with me)
Chris — Kofi Siriboe or Jay Ellis
Alex —Manny Montana or Ismael Cruz Cordova (except Alex doesn’t have green eyes, and Ismael’s green eyes are smokin’ hot.)
Reid’s Mom — Debra Jo Rupp
Reid’s Dad —Ed O’Neill

If you’ve read this one, what do you think about the movie cast? Comment below.

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Review of “Accidents Happen” by Kassie Ward

Review’s first appearance was on Goodreads.

Accidents Happen: A Biggest Small Town Ever NovelAccidents Happen: A Biggest Small Town Ever Novel by Kassie Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really… 3.5 stars.

*Full Disclosure: While this is an honest review, I am friends with the author.*

The premise: Julian Fursey, writer with a day job, is coming back from a writer’s convention when she rescues 2 guys from a car wreck: Drake Salvatore, a Marine, and Amerigo, his little brother. She thinks that’s it–good Samaritan deed done–but the Salvatore family has other plans. Especially Drake, who can’t stop thinking about or checking up on her. So when a stalker starts harassing Julian, Drake feels it’s his duty to protect her. But will he be able to keep her from falling into the stalker’s trap?

The story: What I love about this novel is the story. This dual POV romance is a page turner that I devoured mostly in one day, and when I got near the end, I kept bookmarking because I wanted to savor the ending. The characters feel very real, even if the circumstances may be a little surrealistic (TV drama) at times. I love Hannah’s excitement and advice as Julian’s BFF! I can almost hear my BFF’s voice through Hannah’s words. Ward doesn’t bog us down with the insecurities of Drake and Julian when she could have–and like other authors do in this genre–and that’s a delight. Julian is a curvy girl who likes to eat, and is unapologetic about it. And while she’s unsure if Drake is seeing her out of duty or because he has feelings for her, Julian doesn’t seem hung up on WHY he would stick around. (There’s no annoying questions like: will my curves turn him off? what will he think of my body? does he think I’m pretty?) She does have moments, but they don’t go on annoyingly for several paragraphs.

Genre: This is a sweet romance, which means no gratuitous sex scenes. And there are religious (we assume Protestant Christianity) references from characters that make you think that’s the reason. However, these people have been around–both Julian and Drake are divorcees–and there is making out. I wanted to be annoyed with the tameness (I like my romances a little hotter), but I can’t be. For one thing, I love that Drake is not a reformed man-whore. So many romances, no matter the heat level, write the woman as virginal and pining and the man as a man-whore and settling. Not here. Drake is a guy who’s had his heart broken, been around the block, and maybe in a dry spell sexually. Julian is abstaining from sex because that’s what she wants to do at this point in her life. It’s a spiritual decision, not a sexual one. She has hormones like everyone else. I love that about this couple. And though I’m not the biggest fan of a sweet-level romance, this is a great example of how one should be done IMO.

Sweet but not so sweet? One thing I noticed that’s different in other novels of this subgenre is the level of violence. The scenes involving the stalker, particularly toward the end, seem more violent for something labeled “sweet” romance. In the grand scheme of everything, it’s probably  10:00 PM-cop drama-level violence, so the violence itself is not really an issue. It’s just that this is not as tame as you may think.

Writing: So why not 4 or 5 stars? Well, there are some detail mistakes and some writing errors. As a writer, I’m probably more sensitive to some of the writing errors than the average reader. A few of the detail issues may stick out to anyone. Drake calls Julia a nickname a couple of times early in the story, but near the end when Drake uses the name fondly, Julian says that was the first time he’d ever called her that nickname. When Julian and Drake first go out on a real date, and he describes how she looks, he lists the clothes she has on. Most guys would talk about how good she looks in the clothes. They wouldn’t be “she wore a pencil skirt”–most straight guys wouldn’t know what that is. There’s some weird confusion when they plan a date near p. 90 (Saturday v. Friday). Something doesn’t read right there.

And in general, the book is very plot-heavy, and sometimes you actually miss description: scene setting details, sounds, tastes, smells. Julian loves food and coffee, but we don’t get to enjoy that vicariously through her because there are no descriptions of the smells of her favorite coffee shop or the tastes of her favorite meal. I think with some more description/showing in places, this would elevate the plot and engage the reader even further.

Overall: This is an entertaining romance, with humor and a touch of mystery. Its subtitle is “A Biggest Small Town Ever novel”, so I am looking forward to the next in what I assume is a series of these books.

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