THE EDUCATION OF IVY EDWARDS by Hannah Tovey

Ivy Edwards is thirty-one years old, funny, shameless, and a bit of a romantic. She’s also currently trying not to cry in the office toilet.

Partly because she’s just run out of money for fags. A bit because her mum continues to annoy her. Definitely not because she’s just been dumped by her fiancé.

With her London life in shambles and her family miles away in the Welsh valleys, Ivy doesn’t actually feel like she belongs anywhere.

At least, she has her friends – and a bottle of vodka.

Embarking on a journey of singlehood, Ivy is about to discover that sometimes, having your life fall apart can be surprisingly fun.

Sometimes, heartbreak can be the best education . . .

The Education of Ivy Edwards is perfect for fans of Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love, Holly Bourne’s How Do You Like Me Now?, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag.


Title : The Education of Ivy Edwards
Author : Hannah Tovey
Format : Ebook
Page Count : 336
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : May 7, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 stars

THE EDUCATION OF IVY EDWARDS was months of a journey in Ivy’s life as she navigated some of the biggest life changes imaginable. Ivy was a thirty-something protagonist that was incredibly real, irritations to boot. The story started with a relationship break up and tracked her slow demise across the months of grief and trying to cope.

The narrative for Ivy’s life was witty, with inner monologue that kept you chuckling and endeared you to her, just when you were most irritated with her. Ivy was all about friendships and family and she leaned on them a lot in this time period.

I sat down at my desk and closed my eyes. I can do this, I thought. I am an adult, I have a degree and I frequently make my own packed lunches.

I struggled somewhat with Ivy’s self-destructive streak and the friendships that came along with that, such as Dan and Rob. Her reliance on alcohol and drugs was frustrating but probably realistic of that 30-something professional, working in the big smoke and spiraling down, looking for a crutch.

As the story reached it’s culmination, I held my breath because I thought the journey might be for nothing, that Ivy had learnt nothing. I was satisfied however with the end.

If you’re looking for something real, less cookie-cutter and more sitting on gutter drunk, reciting your woes, then this is the read for you. It felt fresh and the writing was fun and willing to ‘go there’ with difficult topics and taboos.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the early review copy.

THE GUY ON THE RIGHT by Kate Stewart

Strike One-My mother named me Theodore after her favorite chipmunk.

Not cool, Mom.

I‘ve spent most of my life answering to Teddy, because I couldn’t make Theo work. Except for here. College. The place where all bets are off, and I’ve managed to redeem myself. There’s only one problem, my new roommate, Troy, is football royalty and looks like he stepped off the set of an Abercrombie shoot.

Doesn’t matter, I cook a mean breakfast for his panty parade, and we get along well. And anyway, this year I got the girl. And she’s perfect.

That’s right. Theodore Houseman, former band geek, now marching band rock star has finally landed the girl of his dreams.

Everything is perfect.

That is, until Troy takes a good look at her.

I’m not going down without a fight. As a matter of fact, I’m not going down at all. As glorious as these days may be for my all-star roommate, Laney is my end game. 

I may not know much about play strategy, but I’ve been the good guy my whole life. I’ve been listening and I know exactly what women want. Framed in a picture standing next to me, Troy may seem like Mr. Perfect, but he’s underestimating the guy on the right.

Spoiler alert: In this story, the underdog is going to win.


Title : The Guy on the Right
Author : Kate Stewart
Series : The Underdogs (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 364
Genre : NA/college romance
Publisher : KLS PRESS/indie
Release Date : July 25, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .25


Hollis’ 4.25 star review

So, funny story, I had never actually read the synopsis for this book, only inferred from the cover what it might be about, plus friend reviews and word of mouth, and I’m glad I didn’t glance over it before one-clicking and picking this up, because I don’t think the summary is accurate to the vibe of this book at all! My advice? Don’t read it, just read the book.

That said, I’m left feeling a little bowled over by this read. I had been hearing rave reviews from friends for ages but, like most good things, kept putting off actually reading it. But after a recent string of disappointing fantasy reads I though, well, I need to mix things up anyway, so..

I’m so glad I reached for this.

I’ve got mabs.”
Mabs?
Maybe abs?

This is a nice-guys-don’t-finish-last best-friends-to-lovers romance and it might be my new favourite friends to lovers story. I don’t read many of them, it’s just not the trope I lean into very much, but this one? Puuuuurrrrfection.

We shouldn’t fit, but we do, and our fit is nothing short of spectacular. There’s no wool in the world thick enough to make me blind to that.

The enduring hilarity and loveliness of this friendship, the epic tension and build to the shift in their relationship, the steamies.. everything was (chefs kiss). I expected the big blow up, and the why, and I never really love that anyway, and so I didn’t really love this one either, but the grovel, the make up, moment? Oh wow. Fabulous. Grand gestures don’t always land for me, but this one? It fit so beautifully.

Both characters are a little offbeat, a little unexpected, though neither come off as a manic pixie dreamgirl or the alternative loner that another author might have made them out to be, and the complexity of both characters is what makes them feel real, genuine, and like people you’d want to be friends with. It rounds out the story and makes the whole thing that much more memorable, too.

Also, that cover? So perfect with context.

If you want laughs, feels, swoons, and just a really great feel-good story (she says, with tears drying on her face)? You need this in your life.

TIME OF OUR LIVES by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.

Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come–never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet– while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart for her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection–in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives. 

Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.


Title : Time of Our Lives
Author : Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I totally respect what this book is trying to do. And what, I imagine, it will successfully do for many readers. It just didn’t quite work for me.

This is such a great representation of the mixed emotions young people (I was young once!) feel going into the next stage (ie, post-high school) of their lives. The momentum that pushes them forward to escape their current situation (overbearing family, no room to be yourself, too much responsibility at too young an age, etc) and the reluctance to go too far afield (family obligations, health, anxiety, worry, etc). These characters were perfect representations of those, often conflicting though sometimes singular, feelings. I felt it.

I already know what the future holds. It’s right now that has the potential to be extraordinary.”

Where this book failed for me, I think, was I didn’t quite love the characters. I didn’t love what followed their initial meeting and connection, and how that all came about, and I was hard pressed to believe how quickly they just “got” each other. Thankfully this relationship wasn’t smooth sailing, I appreciated the arguments, the speed bumps, but overall it did kind of stretch my belief. Maybe if I had liked them more, I would’ve bought it? I don’t know. Part of me had hoped this had gone a different way, been a story that connected these characters but didn’t quite overlap.. she says, vaguely.

There’s a claustrophobia in comfort. The threads become a web, confining the person I want to be to the person I was.

There are definitely emotional elements to this story, with some suffocating but reassuring (for the character) familial roles (honestly, the first few chapters dealing with Juniper’s family made me want to break out in hives, but that’s just me) and some heartbreaking health issues when it comes to a parent. Again, like before, I could feel it. But..

But overall, no matter how great the writing, how stunning some of the turns of phrase, this was a story very character-focused, and I just couldn’t love them. The characters. Also, a certain cameo from IF I’M BEING HONEST made me so mad initially.. but that was redeemed. Had it not? I would’ve been devastated.

So this was a mixed bag, but also a strong read. These authors are definitely talented, and not writing the same story in each release (thank goodness for that), but this was also not what I got from IF I’M BEING HONEST and maybe, in part, that’s also contributing to some disappointment. Even though I said different things are great. And they are. If you’ve enjoyed this duo before, I think you’ll like this, too. Maybe not as much, maybe more. Who is to say. What I can say, though, is even though I didn’t love it, I’ll continue to read whatever they put out.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU by Mhairi McFarlane

Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.

When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.

When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.

And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…

From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.


Title : It’s Not Me, It’s You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 545
Genre : women’s fiction/romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : November 6, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

At the onset of writing this review I was still hmm’ing and haw’ing over my rating for this one (but by the time you see if it’ll have a nice shiny star value up above) because sadly I’m still comparing everything to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. This had a similar ish vibe to McFarlane’s latest, IF I NEVER MET YOU, in regards to where our leading lady finds herself relationship-wise at the beginning of the book but things spiral out much differently and I appreciated that.

Compared to the usual idiots I meet, he wasn’t a git. He was pleasant. He was.. benign.”
Tumours can be benign.”
That is so fucking deep! Write that down.”

I found this one easier to connect to on the emotional front than I did her latest, and I loved the complexity she made in the story’s romantic villain (I have to quantify this because there’s an actual villain). That’s the thing about this author’s books; I’m discovering that you may not always enjoy the journey, or love every second of it, but it’s all so painfully real and genuine and complex. You can’t fault her for that. This one did err a bit into the unreality with regard to where our lady finds herself along the journey to self-discovery and reflection and it was that bit I didn’t quite love. But it did get us on the road to the end game.

Oof. One night with you and he’s turned into a love-letter writer. You must have an incredible pelvic floor.

Additionally, I also appreciated how this could’ve gone an obvious route with regards to romance but it took a left turn along the way and I like that McFarlane made us wait a bit instead of just giving us the first available option. Well done.

So, again, yes, I enjoyed, one bit even had me howling so loud and long they probably heard me in the UK, but all around love, full body sobs of sadness or joy or both? Not quite and no. It does deserve a round up, though, because ontop of everything good or great mentioned? We have yet another fantastic female duo of besties, a delightfully awkward but also beautiful family dynamic (shout out to Ralph because he’s amazing!), and one of the best love letters I’ve had the pleasure to read. Delia might not have been my favourite McFarlane heroine (Georgie4ever), but I have absolutely no regrets about reading this or spending time with these characters.

THE HAPPY EVER AFTER PLAYLIST by Abby Jimenez – double review!

From the USA Today bestselling author of The Friend Zonecomes an adorable and fresh romantic comedy about one trouble-making dog who brings together two perfect strangers.

Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?


Title : The Happy Ever After Playlist
Author : Abby Jimenez
Format : eARC/finsihed copy
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever/ Little Brown UK
Release Date : April 14, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

If you read THE FRIEND ZONE, you know that Jimenez’s writing is compulsively readable and nigh unputdownable. So why I decided to pick it up at nine PM on a work night and stay up almost until midnight to finish and then write this review.. well, it wasn’t a decision, I just lived it. I don’t regret it now but we’ll speak later as to how I feel in the morning.

Additionally, if you’ve read Jimenez’s debut, you know that going into this one is going to be emotional. The events of the first book in this universe, events that directly change Sloan’s world, are a lot. And we open up two years after that event and Sloan is.. not doing well.

While we eventually get to a place where there’s a new love interest and there’s flirting and connection and sweetness, the grief doesn’t poof disappear. I really appreciated the balance that the author had between taking steps to move on — initially nothing to do with the romance — and the hesitations, the relapses, the moments that required her to pause and step back. It felt natural and not overblown and also heightened the intensity of the romance because this powerful connection had a counterweight of.. not sadness but maybe appreciation? Hard to say. But the early chapters? I devoured. I delighted.

Later there is some drama with an ex, the record label, a harsh tour schedule, and other than a few blips, I thought all the speed bumps were pretty acceptable. If you’ve read any rockstar romances, you probably won’t be too surprised with how it plays out, but this one is more wholesome than most, mostly because the characters themselves are pretty wholesome excellent humans. That said, I’m not quite sure I buy the big confessional but, again, it’s what you do in a rockstar romance, and it makes for great cinematic-dramatic style romance so, hey, whatever man. The ending is also hella cheese but HEAs are what it’s all about and it’s literally in the title, so.

So, yeah, smooth sailing all the way through? Maybe not. I can’t quite decide if this was on par with THE FRIEND ZONE or if the former was a little better, but this was still a really fun read, with characters just zany enough for comic relief (Kristen), supportive found-family friends, swoony love, a heaping portion of emotions and feels, a dog, and a big time second chance at love — not with the same guy, of course, but a second chance nonetheless.

This is definitely going to be a hit.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

Devoured in 24 hours and compulsive reading are my first thoughts on finishing THE HAPPY EVER AFTER PLAYLIST. This story had all the highs and crushing lows, so get ready for a roller coaster ride that had me gripping onto the safety bar.

The Sloan that we met in THE FRIEND ZONE was brought to life in this story, a shadow of her former self and still understandably stuck in a complex grief pattern of one significant date of loss to another. The grief element of this book was well written but it didn’t overwhelm the narrative; it was balanced so well. The serendipitous meeting of Tucker, the dog, Sloan and then Jason was absolutely fun. I got so wrapped up in their virtual meet cute and then their real life one.

I got lulled, lulled into chemistry for days, banter (much of which came from Kirsten) and the gorgeous newness of a relationship. So that when the rot and angst crept in, I wasn’t ready. The second half of the book had more serious tones and it was gripping but tough reading. I will say no more to the plot because you just have to read this.

I have exited the book reinforcing my fandom of Abby Jiminez’s writing and character creations. I feel like I want to go back and read these two books back to back soon because I just haven’t had enough. You are definitely going to want to read this.

Thank you to Little Brown for the finished review copy.

THE INFINITE ONION by Alice Archer

The truth is harder to hide when someone sharp starts poking around.

Grant Eastbrook hit the ground crawling after his wife kicked him out. Six months later, in Seattle without a job or a place to live, he escapes to the woods of nearby Vashon Island to consider his options. When he’s found sleeping outdoors by a cheerful man who seems bent on irritating him to death, Grant’s plans to resuscitate his life take a peculiar turn.

Oliver Rossi knows how to keep his fears at bay. He’s had years of practice. As a local eccentric and artist, he works from his funky home in the deep woods, where he thinks he has everything he needs. Then he rescues an angry man from a rainy ditch and discovers a present worth fighting the past for.

Amid the buzz of high summer, unwelcome attraction blooms on a playing field of barbs, defenses, and secrets.


Title : The Infinite Onion
Author : Alice Archer
Format : eARC
Page Count : 439
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : March 31, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I think, not unlike the title implies, this is a story you have to unravel. Much like the characters themselves undergo a shedding of layers, of revealing themselves and their secrets, there’s a journey and a process to understanding and learning.. about everything. But not unlike Grant, one of our leads, you might feel the urge to quit if you don’t like what’s happening. I was definitely tempted to — on multiple occasions. 

Initially (well, maybe, always..) I didn’t like the story or the characters. I slogged through the first 40%, putting this down every few pages, frustrated or lost, and feeling no anchor or connection to anything. I wasn’t without feeling for these characters and their struggles, both very different though they were, but they were also both such massive oblivious assholes, each in their own way, that I was uncomfortable and unable to connect for a long time. Or, rather, ever.

Having pushed through despite my reservations, or maybe because of them and wanting to see the other side, find meaning in it all, I can’t say I came to the end liking these characters. Or even the story itself. I might have hated it all a little less but the journey to get there was such a battle that I’m not sure less hate is much of an achievement. There were definite moments that felt sweet, or had the potential to tug on my heartstrings in a different context, but overwhelmingly I just feel pretty ambivalent. I did eventually “get” it, I think — the story, the reason for everything that had brought these characters to where they ended up — but I didn’t feel it. Still don’t. And maybe I didn’t really get it at all, and that’s why I don’t love it, or feel it, or even like it. 

This was a strange experience for me. The writing, the motions the characters went through, at times almost edged towards fabulism. There is an edge of dreamy nebulousness to the story and the events, this kind of Peter Pan and Neverland vibe, and it was hard to grasp and hold onto, hard to process, forever uncomfortable, and.. well, I think that’s all I have to say, really. 

I think this is a book you’ll either love and feel in your bones, your soul, or you just won’t. 

** I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. **

YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER by Sarah Hogle

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other. 


Title : You Deserve Each Other
Author : Sarah Hogle
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I wavered a bit in the actual ranking of this read because despite how much this made me laugh, moreso in the latter half but even in the beginning, this wasn’t always a.. nice story. This enemies-to-lovers (who-were-already-lovers aka affianced) romance errs very much on the side of OTT. Sometimes ridiculous, sometimes mean, sometimes (mostly) immature. There’s a definite almost-real-hate edge to this and that makes it hard to read, makes the characters hard to like, even as you can see, through Naomi’s POV (our only POV) that she hates that she doesn’t love Nicholas the way she once did. That she can be irrational, petty, self-absorbed. And that so can he.

It’s messy af. But it went from uncomfortable, weird, but still funny, to sweet, heartbreaking, and hilarious. And there was a moment at the end, where we relive something, something the reader wasn’t privy to until that moment, and I was just.. gah. The little tendernesses (is it a word? it’s a word now), the slow build up to this possible-maybe reconciliation, was gorgeous, but that scene? Wow. I have a feeling this will be one I reread and love when I do.

That said, I’m not going to say this’ll be for everyone. It almost wasn’t for me (see aforementioned uncertainty of ranking). I think some readers won’t want to tough it out in the beginning, which is valid, but I think if you can move past the antics, you will see some of the underlying issues, and then you can appreciate the one-up-manship. Or maybe you’ll only see it in hindsight. But outside of their relationship, there are also external elements that have soured things, of which family, friends, and career all play a role. This isn’t a one-note story about a couple who has drifted apart only to overlook real issues and earn an HEA. There is growth, there is understanding, there is communication. All while still being feisty and funny. Sure, it does go from one extreme to another but.. it works. Or, rather, it worked for me.

This read went from a “hm, I don’t know, it’s funny, but..” to “wow, I can’t wait to relive this all again”. So there you are. Definitely a debut to keep an eye on if it sounds like your thing and I will totally pick up what Hogle puts out next.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

DEAR ENEMY by Kristen Callihan – double review!

As kids, they hated each other. Macon Saint was beautiful, but despite his name, Delilah knew he was the devil. That he dated her slightly evil sister, Samantha, was no picnic either. When they broke up, it was a dream come true: Delilah never had to see him again.

Ten years later, her old enemy sends a text.

Delilah’s sister has stolen a valuable heirloom from Macon, now a rising Hollywood star, and he intends to collect his due. One problem: Sam has skipped town.

Sparks still sizzle between Macon and Delilah, only this heat feels alarmingly like unwanted attraction. But Delilah is desperate to keep her weak-hearted mother from learning of her sister’s theft. So she proposes a deal: she’ll pay off the debt by being Macon’s personal chef and assistant.

It’s a recipe for disaster, but Macon can’t stop himself from accepting. Even though Delilah clearly hates him, there’s something about her that feels like home. Besides, they’re no longer kids, and what once was a bitter rivalry has the potential to be something sweeter. Something like forever.


Title : Dear Enemy
Author : Kristen Callihan
Format : eARC
Page Count : 386
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : March 31, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : DNF / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ DNF review

I’m not rating this one, because generally my DNF rule of thumb is, unless the read is heinous, I will only rate if I made it more than halfway into the book. And I tapped out of this one just shy of 40%. But it’s worth noting this is a favourite author and I wanted out after 20%, and had concerns after the first few flashback/past event chapters, so. Be aware of that.

My issue with DEAR ENEMY is more than just in the continuity or inconsistencies (which, fair, could be corrected between now, March third, and the release, March thirty-first). The origin of this pairing begins when they are young, pre-teen or so, and how they meet again ten years after highschool. It’s one of those hate-to-love romances where the premise is setting things up one way at the get-go and we seem to be finding things are maybe not as they may seem later on. Someone has secrets, I imagine we’ll find there were reasons why certain people behaved in certain ways and they will be forgiven for it, and oh hey, there was always this big connection between them, despite the fact that he dated her sister for other reasons, and blah blah.

I honestly didn’t have time for this.

Delilah enters into some BatB-esque servitude to work off her shady sister’s debt with Macon and the homage to the fairytale was pretty loose in some sense and also it felt like one entire scene was lifted from the movie. I’m not against retellings, in fact JT Geissinger’s BURN FOR YOU followed along those lines and worked really well for me, amongst other retellings, but between everything else..? I just can’t get on with the characters. Things seem to be moving along fairly predictably, too, with certain interactions between the main protags and I’m just bored.

I’m used to a lot of complexity from his author, or at least a lot of fun, and this feels very surface level and, if I’m being honest, a little tired. Maybe it would’ve improved along the way, I’ve seen some positive early reviews, but at this point I don’t have the energy to invest in hoping it would turn around.

Based on the first 40%? This would’ve been a 1.5 for me.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

Okay, now wash your mouth out because we’re zinging from dnf to jolly enjoyment! DEAR ENEMY had some of my most favourite tropes all wrapped up in banter and jibes – second chances, hate-to-more and slow burn. It did however, have a trope I’m not keen on, stepping into a relationship with someone who’s been with a friend/family member. That said, I could cope with it because of the circumstances but I think that might alienate some readers. After a difficult to navigate prologue, this book took off well for me.

What was so delicious about this contemporary romance? It was the vulnerability of Macon stepping into feelings unknown but taking a deep breath and getting on with it. Meanwhile, his life was fun-laden barbs, and forced proximity with the heroine, Delilah. Add into that some chef-ing and food which always seems to make for a good story in my book.

She’s all twitchy now, eyeing me like a feral barn cat as if I might try to lash out and catch her.

The banter between these two was pretty entertaining and the chemistry was swoonish. I enjoyed the semi-hate especially as it seems to turn before it got irritating. Delilah was hard to win over and the annoying sister was…very annoying. The sister element was something I didn’t settle with but the circumstances were just about palatable.

The slow burn was spot on and there’s just something about Kristen Callihan’s romances when she’s in the zone that gives me all the feels; this one did just that. DEAR ENEMY was a great entertaining read that I just wanted to get back to when I wasn’t reading. Just the thing for a weekend read.

Thank you to Montlake for the early review copy.

IF I NEVER MET YOU by Mhairi McFarlane – double review!

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real? 

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend… 


Title : If I Never Met You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks/Harper Collins
Release Date : March 24, 2020/January 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

This is only my second McFarlane, whereas I’ve read a lot of contemporary writing by a lot of authors, but I think I can safely say that no one writes real life quite like her.

Laurie knew that most people were murdered by someone they knew; she’d stood up in court and argued or the killers’ bail applications while they wept not only about their fate, but about their loss. In this moment, she understood why.

IF I NEVER MET YOU is a women’s fiction title, much like the other one I read by her, DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME, but this one does have a higher romance-content than the latter. That isn’t to say you’re going to get any page time detailing swoony kisses or hot and heavies between the sheets, but instead you’re going to read a romance (fake romance, did I mention the fake dating trope?) that is heavily reliant upon friendship. And while I love me some romance, I love when the characters are friends, too.

Laurie noticed that someone “finishing” with someone else was such a savage language. They canceled you. You are over. Your use has been exhausted.

That said, I am finding it hard to nail down my feelings on this one. There is so much intelligence, strength, and emotion in McFarlane’s writing. This one deals with the emotional devastation and grief in the post-breakdown of an almost two decades long relationship, and where one goes after surviving that; particularly when one’s ex is a total cad. Throw in some maybe-not-so-healthy desire for revenge, the perfect playboy to get it with, and you have a fake dating meets office romance meets friends to real lovers story. But there’s even more than that, too.

“Oh, for fu– I’m sick of this perception of me as the greatest man slag of the northwest.”
Then be less man slag. Be the unslaggy man you want to see in the world.
Pfft. I’m selective.
Then select fewer of them.”

Complicated family dynamics, guilt and grief, enduring female friendships, and, of course, hilarity. And a cat named Colin Fur.

Are you girls ready to order? Need me to explain anything?
We’re not girls. So you can explain your mode of address.”
Hey, y’all look pretty young to me.
Oh, you dear sweet fool, she will now verbally decapitate you.”

I think part of why I find this one harder to rate than the other, which was such a no-brainer, is that for all the emotions, I didn’t quite get caught up in any of them. I very much liked both of these characters, each with their stories that made them so much more than what they were perceived to be, and also deserved so much more for themselves, and I quite liked their respective besties, but.. yeah, just not quite the same charm or outright love. But it’s still such a great story, and so well written, whilst balancing that very real ‘life is messy and sometimes imperfect’ dose of reality, and I’m still a thousand percent keen to dive into the author’s backlist that I’ve yet to explore.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

It’s been a long while since I’ve read Mhairi McFarlane and I’m glad to be reacquainted. IF I NEVER MET YOU was a read of phases for me, one of difficult angst for the first part and then a slow relax into a great story for the rest. I think I was expecting lightness from the start and that early heavy context took me by surprise initially. On reflection, that start made this a deeper story which I really appreciate.

Laurie was an incredibly likeable heroine from the start and it was not at all difficult to get on her side when she was wronged. I hated that sitution, the perpetrator and the demise of things. I loved the strong, successful women that Laurie was and her ability to keep her professional head throughout; I honestly thought that was completely realistic of so many women.

The ensuing story of Laurie and Jamie was pretty damn fun, full of tension and banter. So many lines were highlighted and I loved being the fly on the wall, stalking their dates and plotting. Jamie was a deeper character than I expected but I still think I’d have liked to have known him a little better.

This book was a Mancunian’s gift, set in the city and even more fun for me, visiting places around my work setting. I loved every single Manchester bit.

This was delightful Saturday read, I powered through it in a day, reluctant to put it down. It had some shades of predictability but that made it no less fun. Highly recommended for the kind of romantic read that has you laughing out loud.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST by Christina Lauren – double review!

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…


Title : The Honey-Don’t List
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books
Release Date : March 24, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I know, I know, you might be saying to yourself, but Hollis, didn’t you say in your last CLo read that you were no longer going to be requesting their advanced copies after so many disappointments? And yes, you would be correct. And this time I swear I mean it.

The concept of THE HONEY-DON’T LIST feels like a CLo take on the Netflix movie Set It Up and honestly that’s why I grabbed at this one, all excited, despite my best intentions. Because I loved that movie and wanted this duo’s twist to make it, possibly, even better. But sadly, for me, it wasn’t.

This book centers on the results of a once great working relationship — turned pseudo-family dynamic — between a young employee and her married bosses; a relationship that has become hella toxic and abusive and manipulative and with downright thievery. The marriage between her bosses is falling apart behind the scenes whilst they are trying to run a business, promote their brand of happiness and love and success, and also launch a new home decor show — and she and the male counterpart’s assistant are (for some reason) held responsible for making things seem like there’s nothing amiss as they go on a book tour for their (oh irony) successful marriage memoir.

Said other assistant is only two months into the job, apparently brought in to help rein in the husband (which in a continuity aspect, in relation to something that comes up, doesn’t make sense..) and as the MCs are thrown into direct proximity to each other, instead of a vague awareness of each other, and a general dislike, they get to know each other, grow to rely on each other, and boom, romance. Apparently.

I’ll admit, unlike the last one, at least they don’t fall in love in the span of a handful of days — I think the tour is a few weeks? — but still. I don’t know. I really liked Carey, I felt for her, but her situation literally hurt my stomach. It was awful. Her sudden desire to grow a backbone, stand up for herself, seems to come so late in the game, and definitely flickers in and out, until finally she owns it. Part of me wonders if it would’ve ever happened without James’ presence and that makes me sad. And it’s not like James was terrible but.. shrug.

The fact that so much isn’t resolved or owned up to by the end is frustrating. In hindsight I’m not sure why we needed the police interview interludes to break up the narrative (yes, this was a thing), I kept hoping a certain something had happened (which I won’t speculate on to keep you guessing) and in the end it was just.. flat. Which is sadly how I felt about the whole story.

So that’s it, it’s really over, no more CLo ARC reads for me.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

I am pretty much everything opposite to Hollis on this book. I was in a moody book slump and by a few pages in, this book had lifted me well and truly out of that with its genuinely unusual story.

I liked that this story centred on a famous couple, but they weren’t the protagonists. The protagonists were the two assistants to this high-maintenance, house-maintenance couple and that context of making shows, travelling on book tours set a really interesting backdrop. Added into the mix was the fact that this famous couple were like a bomb set to explode, this wasn’t happy coupledom but Carey and James had the job of damage-limitation.

The chemistry between Carey and James had a gradual and believable simmer that I enjoyed reading. The growth of their friendship and relationship was gentle and subtle; I don’t always want a big bang! One of my favourite elements to the characters was a disability and how this was written, written very well. This brought out a caring nature in James but not a overly sympathatic one; it was pitched just right.

This is the kind of book I could have read in a day if work hadn’t got in the way. As it was, I read it in two days and I will definitely reach for it for a quick, satisfying re-read. This is light but packed with depth at the same time. I highly recommend.

Thank you to Gallery and Edelweiss for the early review copy.