YOU AND ME ON VACATION by Emily Henry – double review!

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?


Title : You and Me On Vacation (UK) / People We Meet On Vacation
Author : Emily Henry
Narrator : Julia Whelan
Format : Paperback/Audio/eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : romance
Publisher : Penguin UK / Berkley
Release Date : May 11, 2021

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5 / ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Roller coaster friendship/love
Holiday vibes
Chem-is-try

There was nothing that I didn’t enjoy about Emily Henry’s upcoming release. The fact that she delivers on summery read to remember (again) and that I was lucky to read and listen in tandem to this book. Both formats were as good as one another.

You and Me on Vacation was told over a number of summers, charting the most lovely friendship; in the main this was platonic…until it wasn’t. Then, oh boy, the chemistry set fire to the pages, slowly.

We’re magnets, trying to draw together even as we cradle the careful distance between us.

In all the ways, both Poppy and Alex were opposite in personality and goals. They worked so well as friends and their summer trips were fun expeditions and something they both lived for. I loved seeing these trips unfurl as the years were recounted. I loved the people they met, the places they went but nothing was more interesting than THIS SUMMER. I loved getting back to that narrative.

The pages of this book, the minutes of the audio just turned themselves and I was sad to get to the end. Emily Henry knows how to inject just a little drama and tension with a great contemporary story. I’m here for next summer’s installment!

Narration-wise, this was single POV and single narration and it was excellent. I got all the sense of characterisation and the emotional feels from the listen. It’s such a perfect format to absorb the story while on literal vacation!

Thank you to Penguin for the gorgeous book and audio early copies.


Hollis’ 4 star review

I absolutely loved Beach Read so to say People We Meet On Vacation was highly anticipated would be an understatement. Expectations were high (sorry self! sorry book!). Then I found out it was a best-friends-to-lovers romance and I braced myself; it’s not one of my favourite tropes (though I like it a lot more than second chance romances) and the track record for enjoyment has been pretty hit or miss. I don’t mind people who initially start as friends and transition but long-time friends to more? I don’t know, I’m generally not sold.

But this might be a new favourite?

He is tall, quiet, and eager to see the library. I’m short, loud, and hoping someone comes by and invites us to a real party. By the time we part ways, I’m fairly confident we’ll never speak again.

The way this story was told flirts with that “one day a year in the life” concept but in a much better way. Also, on the topic, the flashback element? Solid. Sometimes it just does not work well but it was so good. Particularly how it built. Also also this was one of the better-done third act breakups (it’s not a spoiler, we all know to expect it!) because I hate manufactured drama and this just felt perfectly timed for r e a s o n s.

When a hot babe approaches you at a bar, the number one thing you should not bring up is your codependent relationship with your asshole cat.”
First of all, Flannery O’Connor is not an asshole. She’s shy.”
She’s evil.
She just doesn’t like you. You have strong dog energy.”

This doesn’t quite get full marks from me but I think that’s my fault. Mostly. The ARC has some minor but annoying formatting issues, yes, but more than anything I think I just read this too fast. I did not savour this experience and I wonder if maybe I should’ve soaked up the feels and the nuance and the awkward and the everything else that this book did such a good job of doing. I will definitely be adding this to the re-read pile and I hope to eventually come back and bump this up a little higher. But it’s still such a great time. Because of the sorta-grumpy-sunshine mix. The millenial ennui. The way so much just didn’t go according to plan. The heart. The so much more I’m not even touching on.

I think you’ll like this! And if nothing else you can live vicariously through the vacation and jetsetting. That alone is worth picking this up. The laughs and swoons are just a bonus.

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

JUST LAST NIGHT by Mhairi McFarlane

International bestseller Mhairi McFarlane explores lifelong friendships, long-buried secrets, and unexpected love in a heartfelt, emotional new novel, perfect for fans of Evvie Drake Starts Over, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, or In Five Years.

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction…

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?


Title : Just Last Night
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

‘I’ll just pick this up to kill an hour or two before dinner’, she thought. ‘That’s all. Just dip my toe in and then read the rest later or tomorrow.. ‘

.. fast forward to four hours later when I have not even moved from the couch. I swear. No pee breaks, no food, nada. I love that feeling. Also I should’ve known better because not only is it me but it’s also a McFarlane book.

Is my face covered in tears? Yes. Was this exactly what I (even limited #NoBlurber that I am) thought it would be? Nope. Did I love it anyway? Obviously.

This feels like the most McFarlane book to McFarlane since I read Don’t You Forget About Me in 2019. I’ve experimented with some of the author’s backlist, read her most recent release, and now this one. But this is the closest I’ve got to that all-consuming feeling I first had a few years ago upon discovering this author. If you’ve read her before, you know exactly what I mean.

I’m honestly without any kind of words. I’m just feelings. I laughed, I cried, I did both some more, and mostly I just marveled at how good she is at creating complicated messes that don’t feel like someone who is contriving to write about complicated messes. It feels like eavesdropping on real lives, people you sort’ve know, and are therefore invested in. No perfect specimens, no uncomplicated situations. Just real.

I still have a few McFarlane’s to dip into but in looking back through my memories of what I have read I think where I waffle is sometimes I’m just not into the romance element. I’m here for the wit, the biting truthbombs, and the friendships, but sometimes I’m not sold on the romance. I do still think Don’t You Forget About Me tops the chart, even in that respect, but this was the closest I’ve had since. And just, overall, I loved every single thing about it, too.

If you’ve yet to try this author you absolutely must.

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

A STRANGER IN TOWN by Kelley Armstrong

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s next Rockton book, A Stranger in Town, the biggest mystery is the fate of the town itself.

Detective Casey Duncan has noticed fewer and fewer residents coming in to the hidden town of Rockton, and no extensions being granted. Her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, presumes it’s the natural flux of things, but Casey’s not so sure. Something bigger is happening in the small town they call home.

When an injured hiker stumbles from the woods, the sole survivor of a hostile attack, it’s all hands on deck. Even a member of the elusive Rockton council comes in to help. This council member also comes bearing news: Rockton is being shut down due to the hostile situation.

Casey and Eric must now race to save the town that has allowed residents to have a fresh start, away from the mistakes of their past, while also getting to the bottom of this latest attack. 


Title : A Stranger in Town
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : Rockton (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 9, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Realistically I should not have liked this so much, particularly considering the last two books in this series were somewhat of a disappointment (but only in the grand scheme of the series, I mean, and when compared to books one to three). But the plot got so.. I won’t say wildly but quite a bit out of control, much suspension of disbelief required, and yet I had a great time anyway.

To more or less copy over from my previous review’s summation, this series is about an off-the-grid town in the Yukon, called Rockton. Rockton being a town populated by people who have escaped horrors, are on the run from something in their pasts, and have found a place where they can disappear for a few years. Sometimes, too, they are the ones who caused the horrors and just paid enough to a particular group in order to be admitted in order to lay low. Our lead protagonist is Casey Duncan, who arrived to this town to help her friend escape her ex, and has become one of the three detectives who help to police the outlaw-esque locals and keep the peace. Each book has juggled conflicts from within the town but also dealt with those who run the program that allows this to exist, as well as outside elements; as in, literally the outsider weather elements but also.. more.

This was the first since installment since book three that actually felt true to the origins of the series. Yes, via Casey, two years in, we are now settled into the running of this town, but equally her involvement has shed much to light — in a multitude of directions. Specifically this mystery, this adventure, while it had so many moving parts, it managed to juddle them without ever feeling overwhelming, and watching them come together was ever so satisfying; even though for some of them I was tapping my foot waiting for the characters to clue in. It was a smug kind of foot tapping, though, not the impatient kind.

Additionally, this book has broader impacts to the series at large, making me wonder if maybe Armstrong really is trying to wrap things up soon. She must have an end in mind and I wonder if maybe we’re nearing that now. Because if the characters go down a particular path they are considering, especially now that a particular element is more or less out of the way, well.. that would be it, wouldn’t it?

Either way, I’ll be eagerly anticipating that upcoming journey, no matter how it looks.

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heartpounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead. 

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.


Title : What’s Not To Love
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary romance
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

I am so relieved right now. I was really starting to think If I’m Being Honest was a fluke for this duo. While I had liked everything else they had written, nothing had edged over into love category and while I enjoyed the topics and themes, I was nonetheless a little disappointed.

What, Sanger? You don’t enjoy our conversations?
They’re not conversations, they’re hostage negotiations.

Until now.

For every reason I have to despise Ethan, I’m grateful for the chance to prove my worth. To prove not that I am the best, but that I can be the best.

That said, I was definitely feeling some minor trepidation with this one, too. I was loving the competitive dynamic between the two leads but, not unlike in another romance (though, that one was adult, not YA), I worried it was just a little too much to come back from. Too often toeing over that line where the bickering and banter becomes too harsh, the back and forth too toxic, the overall relationship too problematic. But not only did the characters have dialogue about those moments but how it all unfolded ended up working just right.

I’m surprised this many people want to celebrate his birth. I would rather commemorate it the way one would a natural disaster or other unfortunate occurence — somber social media posts, vows to stay strong on this dark day.

This particular match-up was also so much more than I expected it to be, in regards to motivations and self-awareness. I’ve definitely appreciated how these two authors have explored the strangeness of post-highschool life, and what that looks like, what it has to be, both on personal and romantic levels, and I liked how they worked through it via a new angle with these two characters; and even with those within their friendships and families.

Even when you think you’ve found your story, you might need to change it later if the one you’ve living doesn’t work.

Overall it was just.. fun. The tension, the combativeness, the mixed feelings when one would deviate from the expected, and how that looks going into their future. I would definitely recommend this one. Obviously.

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

ROYALLY YOURS by Emma Chase

Princess Lenora Celeste Beatrice Arabella Pembrook had an unusual childhood. She was raised to be a Queen—the first Queen of Wessco.

It’s a big deal.

When she’s crowned at just nineteen, the beautiful young monarch is prepared to rule. She’s charming, clever, confident and cunning.

What she isn’t… is married.

It’s her advising council’s first priority. It’s what Parliament is demanding, and what her people want.

Lenora has no desire to tie herself to a man—particularly one who only wants her for her crown. But compromises must be made and royals must do their duty.

Even Queens. Especially them.

**

Years ago, Edward Langdon Richard Dorian Rourke, walked away from his title and country. Now he’s an adventurer—climbing mountains, exploring jungles, going wherever he wants, when he wants—until family devotion brings him home.

And a sacred promise keeps him there.

To Edward, the haughty, guarded little Queen is intriguing, infuriating…and utterly captivating. Wanting her just might drive him mad—or become his greatest adventure.

**

Within the cold, stone walls of the royal palace—mistrust threatens, wills clash, and an undeniable, passionate love will change the future of the monarchy forever.

Every dynasty has a beginning. Every legend starts with a story.

This is theirs.


Title : Royally Yours
Author : Emma Chase
Series : Royally (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 304
Genre : NA romance
Publisher : Emma Chase LLC
Release Date : Octobe 29, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Of all the books in this series, this is not the one I thought I would love. I kinda thought this would be a throwaway addition of the Royally world and wow was that a bad assumption. Hello you, I am ass.

This story is the prequel of the series, chronicling Queen Lenora, the first Queen of Wessco, and the heartbreak and victories that became the foundations of her life. Oh yeah and this book made me cry at least twice. Possibly thrice.

The emotional beats of this installment are so good, without being overblown, and I think this was actually the most solid romance of the series, too. Almost everything felt pitch perfect, though, yes, maybe a bump or two along the way but hey, no road is totally smooth. I’m willing to acknowledge but don’t quite hold those bumps against the overall story.

If anyone who loved, or even just enjoyed, this world hasn’t read this final (?) installment, I would highly recommend it. It even kind of works great just as a standalone. Though you might find yourself hooked and want to backtrack through the rest.

I’m so delighted to have put this on my Series to Finish in 2021 list because I’m not only glad to put this series to bed, finally, after all this time, but I’m so so happy it also ended on a good note. 

SECOND FIRST IMPRESSIONS by Sally Thorne

From the USA Today  bestselling author of The Hating Gameand 99 Percent Mine comes the clever, funny, and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two old women—under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager.

Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.


Title : Second First Impressions
Author : Sally Thorne
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

There was a lot of the classic Thorne magic in this but, spoiler alert, I definitely think I’ve liked this the least of all three of her books.

A walk of shame when you’re over eighty is really, really slow.

I don’t know if it was me or just the book but this did start out a little strange, I felt a little offbalance by the characters, but it did eventually settle into place before too long. But there were times I struggled a bit with the love interest; I like that he was a little (a lot) different not only from previous Thorne men but also just in general. But he was equally a bit hard to pin down and to love (though he was painfully likeable; like a puppy). I wavered between being charmed by how our protagonist couldn’t help but be charmed by him and also wishing.. I don’t know. Wishing she could resist him, wishing.. something.

This menu has no prices. That’s not a good sign.”
Your friends have advised us that they will be ordering for you. Any dietary restrictions?
Just basic poverty.”

Maybe, not unlike the title, this is a book that needs a second go. Maybe I need to revisit my first impression.

This is a stripper’s costume. It’s all held together with Velcro.”
I’ve taken it to the dry cleaner so many times. What must they think of me?

That said, I think the people who had a really hard time with 99 Percent Mine will enjoy this a lot more. It’s nothing like the author’s debut but I think maybe this release is The Hating Game‘s nicer cousin as opposed to its prickly stepsister — which is how I categorize them all now, don’t ask.

As this is an ARC, I will say that I hope the second to last chapter gets a bit more polish before release. As it stands it rushes through a few emotional moments that I felt didn’t quite land as a result, which is frustrating as those moments are surrounded by one or two other really lovely emotional moments, and I think they would all benefit by being a bit more spread out.

In that vein, the book itself is also written a bit stilted at times, particularly in the beginning, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a way of connecting a bit more with Ruthie’s approach on.. well, life? It worked sometimes but other times just took me out of the story.

Anything I can do with complete competence, a young man can do with less technique but more fanfare.

I realize there might be more complaints or criticisms in this review than there should be.. so also take note that I read this on a work night (something I haven’t been able to do very often anymore) and it completely sucked me in. So. There. That says a lot without me having to say much at all.

[soon] you’re going to be sitting in your very own tattoo studio writing Live Laugh Love down a girl’s back in Comic Sans.”
That’s the most disgusting thing you could possibly say to me.”

Overall I didn’t quite fall in love with this, only bits of it (the Parlonis! Melanie! the turtles!), but I liked it. I loved being swept up by those epic Thorne turns of phrase. I’m also glad the cover finally (finally) makes a bit of sense. Will I reread? Yes, in the hopes of maybe liking it all a bit more. But would I reach for it, or think about it, the way I think of Thorne’s other books? Probably not. I do think though that if you do your best to lower your The Hating Game-level expectations (I know, it feels impossible), you will enjoy this a lot more than you think.

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

ROYALLY ENDOWED by Emma Chase

Logan St. James is a smoldering, sexy beast. Sure, he can be a little broody at times—but Ellie Hammond’s willing to overlook that. Because, have you seen him?? 

Sexy. As. Hell. 

And Ellie’s perky enough for both of them.

For years, she’s had a crush on the intense, gorgeous royal security guard—but she doesn’t think he ever saw her, not really. 

To Logan, Ellie was just part of the job—a relative of the royal family he’d sworn to protect. Now, at 22 years old and fresh out of college, she’s determined to put aside her X-rated dreams of pat-downs and pillow talk, and find a real life happily ever after. 

The Queen of Wessco encourages Ellie to follow in her sister’s footsteps and settle down with a prince of her own. Or a duke, a marquis…a viscount would also do nicely. 

But in the pursuit of a fairy tale ending, Ellie learns that the sweetest crushes can be the hardest to let go.
***
Logan St. James grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, in a family on the wrong side of the law. But these days, he covers his tattoos and scars with a respectable suit. He’s handsome, loyal, brave, skilled with his hands and…other body parts. 

Any woman would be proud to call him hers. 

But there’s only one woman he wants. 

For years he’s watched over her, protected her, held her hair back when she was sick, taught her how to throw a punch, and spot a liar.

He dreams of her. Would lay down his life for her. 

But beautiful Ellie Hammond’s off-limits. 

Everybody knows the bodyguard rules: Never lose focus, never let them out of your sight, and never, ever fall in love


Title : Royally Endowed
Author : Emma Chase
Series : Royally (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 275
Genre : NA romance
Publisher : Emma Chase LLC
Release Date : August 14, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

In the moment, after finishing this, I thought it might be my favourite of the series (so far). But after being distracted before I could actually write out my thoughts, and with a little more time to think on it, I’m not going to round up on this one.

While I question some of the bits of this plot, I do have to say, as far as laying groundwork for a long slow-buid, this one definitely did do that, unlike book two. But where I enjoyed the background noise of the plot in book two, this one did follow somewhat typically cliché bodyguard tropes. Which, I mean, nothing wrong with that. But one particular element of said trope was kind of a there-and-gone bit of conflict and in the grand scheme of things had all the lasting power of something.. well, there-and-gone. It either should’ve been a bigger problem, with more fallout, or lifted from the page completely.

But anyway.

My other complaint would be that as much as I liked Ellie, and thought she was fun, Chase kind of did her a disservice by making her painfully horribly stupid at times. Granted, it was done when the character was still young-ish but still.. wow, it hurt. I don’t think I had any real complaints about Logan except, like another mentioned bit of the plot doing little to nothing, inserting his family into the story was also a non-event. I think the author tried to dot too many i’s and cross too many t’s in this one. This is where, in hindsight, it felt a bit messy.

But, again, as it is with most of these, it was a bit of quick sexy low-angst kind of fun and in true end of the series fashion (book four is a prequel, from what I could tell from just the name in the synopsis), it worked as a big come together kind of wrap up, catching us up all the events from as far back as book one background all the way to “present day”, so we got to see all the couples together. And I’m a sucker for an ensemble, so.

I’ll be dipping into the little novella, even though it’s marked 4.5, to get a bit of a HEA timejump from book two’s couple and then I’ll wrap this series with Royally Yours tomorrow and call time on yet another unfinished series. Once again, these won’t be a favourite, but I’m not mad to have spent time with them.

LIFE’S TOO SHORT by Abby Jimenez – double review

Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment.

But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element.

The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all. . . 


Title : Life’s Too Short
Author : Abby Jimenez
Series : The Friend Zone (book three)
Format : eARC/Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever/Piatkus
Release Date : April 6, 2021/April 22, 2021 UK

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

So we’re three books into this series (though this one I think is more like a companion where books one and two were definitely more connected) and I think we all know the drill by now : pack the damn tissues. Though, out of all three books, this was probably the one I cried the least over. And yes we’re all ignoring the fact that a strong wind can make me cry, so, why even bother mentioning the cry factor. Like it means anything. Moving on.

Don’t get a cat. It’ll walk around pushing your drinks off the coffee table. You’re not emotionally strong enough for that.

I think Life’s Too Short did right all the things (all? there were only a few, really) that I didn’t love from The Friend Zone. Not that there’s any crossover here (though there might be cameos!). The topics are very different, with very different realities for both characters, but both deal with issues surrounding health — the latter reproductive and this one focusing on the possibility of a terminal illness. Having neither of these conditions I, of course, can’t speak on any of it, not in my review for book one and not this one now, but it surely seemed like the author did her research.

I’ve never seen [The Office].”
You’ve never — are you serious? Where have you been? How do you understand memes?

That said, I don’t think I was fully living this book, only visiting. I enjoyed what was going on, I was moved, entertained, but even though I think this was the better paced of all three stories, I don’t think it will have the same kind of lasting impression books one and two have had. But I still really really enjoyed it, even going as far as rounding up to bring all three books on par star-rating-wise.

I can’t do what you do. I can’t pretend none of this is happening. I can’t pretend to be happy.
I don’t pretend to be happy. I just refuse to be sad.”

This has all the beats, all the emotes, again the pacing (!), but it just didn’t crawl inside me. As much as I liked these characters, I never loved them. I just got swept up in their adventures. But that’s a ridiculous and silly complaint, really, and probably means nothing to anyone but me. And I still think you’re going to enjoy this.

Um, where’s the dog? You do remember you have one, right?
With all the shitting it does? How could I forget.
You just left him at home? He can’t be in the apartment all day by himself, he’ll be lonely.
He’s got the demon he’s possessed with to keep him company.

Neighbours, friends-become-more, a baby, a very elderly dog, and a sorta-grumpy meets sunshine trope? This’ll hit so many notes for so many readers (worth noting is that I think this toed the line more towards women’s fiction than pure romace only because the heat level was way lower than I remember the other books being). But it’s also chockful of many other topics I haven’t even mentioned and don’t want to for fear of spoilers (if you think you need content warnings please do seek them out). And I so hope it hits all the right notes for those who are impacted by the subject matter. If you can, if there are any out there, please try and hunt down some feedback on the ALS content. I’m too early to see anything yet but I’ll be keeping my eyes out for it.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Light and dark
Joyful family goodness
Dark clouds

This third installment in The Friend Zone had a lighter feel to it, or so I thought. I think I should know by now that Abby Jiminez’s signature is to lure you in then pounch on your feelings, stamp on them a little and then gently pick you up again. That was basically my experience with this book and you can see, I really enjoyed it.

Vanessa was such a bright spark of a character, infectiously joyous, a kind and lovely heart but deeply enclosed inside were these dark shadows. She didn’t let them out much and she didn’t commit to anyone but her family. Adrian, her neighbour, lawyer, owner of impressive abs was a quietly lovely character.

This story was built around a quick but deeply evolving friendship that made for invested reading. The baby of the piece, Grace was pretty delightful even though her personal story was tragic. I loved everything around this little unit, their bonds and banter.

However…I hit a point in the book where I thought oh my goodness please do not take this story, these characters there. I was preparing to throw the book at the wall but the book was saved. The tension is still in my body while I write this review. Kudos to Jiminez for that ability to have me so invested.

I have loved this series, I don’t know if there is more to come but I am a fan of this author’s writing, characters and wit.

Thank you to Piatkus/Little Brown UK for the review copy.

TWICE SHY by Sarah Hogle

Can you find real love when you’ve always got your head in the clouds?

Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.

Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.


Title : Twice Shy
Author : Sarah Hogle
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Few things are as satisfying as the moment the title of the story or the cover plays out on page of the book you are reading. In this case, it was the cover more than the title and.. looking at it now with context? My heart.

Which is basically an apt description for this whole read. My. Heart. Twice Shy is pure sweetness, pure wonder and whimsy, and slow-melting gooey delight.

I think he’s under a curse — if he laughs, he’ll die. This is a sensible explanation to me. It isn’t that I’m not a joy to be around, it’s that he’ll literally die.

There’s a gentle edge of melancholy to the story because what brings these characters together is the passing of someone they had both loved and both felt possessive of in different ways. Together they have to come together to decide what is to be done with the inheritance they’ve been left, in the form of property now resembling something of a ruin (with extra fun inside!), and naturally there is friction not only in personality but also intent. And yes, incase you weren’t aware, this is a grumpy/sunshine pairing but the layers as to the why of their assigned archetype is just something else.

I get it. You’re Mr. Reality Man and you have no tolerance for good vibes or whimsy, but you know, dude, you’re really starting to bum me out.”
Mr. Reality Man? WHat kind of superhero lottery did I lose?

I flew through this book, unable to put it down, but while I found You Deserve Each Other to be more compelling — because of the sharp biting contention, and how far that couple had strayed, making their journey more of.. well, a journey, back to each other — instead I found this one to be less of a hold-on-for-dear-life ride over the waterfalls and instead just let myself be leisurely caried along down the river. It is a less intense read but while the ups and downs were gentler it was still very moving. The last 30% in particular was the definition of lovely. And I think, as I also said with about her debut, this is a good I’m going to love even more on a reread when I’m able to eagle eye so many little things I might not have picked up on without the benefit of hindsight.

At what point did my happy place stop being a dream and start being the person in front of me?

With two books under her belt, Hogle is offering something for all readers but also satisfying those who love romance no matter the specific tropes (or who love all tropes; and there’s a great homage to them all snuck into the narrative, too!). I cannot wait to see where she’ll go for her next release. If she wasn’t an auto-read after her debut, she sure is now.

If you haven’t yet read this author, I highly recommend you do so.

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

ROYALLY MATCHED by Emma Chase

Some men are born responsible, some men have responsibility thrust upon them. Henry John Edgar Thomas Pembrook, Prince of Wessco, just got the motherlode of all responsibility dumped in his regal lap.

He’s not handling it well.

Hoping to help her grandson to rise to the occasion, Queen Lenora agrees to give him “space”—but while the Queen’s away, the Prince will play. After a chance meeting with an American television producer, Henry finally makes a decision all on his own:

Welcome to Matched: Royal Edition.

A reality TV dating game show featuring twenty of the world’s most beautiful blue bloods gathered in the same castle. Only one will win the diamond tiara, only one will capture the handsome prince’s heart.

While Henry revels in the sexy, raunchy antics of the contestants as they fight, literally, for his affection, it’s the quiet, bespectacled girl in the corner—with the voice of an angel and a body that would tempt a saint—who catches his eye.

The more Henry gets to know Sarah Mirabelle Zinnia Von Titebottum, the more enamored he becomes of her simple beauty, her strength, her kind spirit… and her naughty sense of humor.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day—and irresponsible royals aren’t reformed overnight.

As he endeavors to right his wrongs, old words take on whole new meanings for the dashing Prince. Words like, Duty, Honor and most of all—Love. 


Title : Royally Matched
Author : Emma Chase
Series : Royally (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 276
Genre : NA romance
Publisher : Emma Chase LLC
Release Date : February 21, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Here it is, the start of another series to knock off my list and complete as per an earlier blog post. Though I had ended up rereading books one and two to complete the first series I tackled, I didn’t bother rereading book one in the Royally series as, while events carry over, we pick up with new characters. I didn’t really think I needed the details, just the broad strokes of what came before; and that much at least I did remember. Not that I even needed to as much of it was rehashed. Contemporaries are good like that!

This was really fun though. It didn’t quite warrant very high marks as I did feel some of the relationship moved quite fast, even if it did start with a decent amount of friendly foundation, but I did have a good time. It was quite raunchy, actually, and if book one was like that, well, I totally forgot. But it was definitely steamy, with some good emotional strings being plucked along the way, and actually the whole Bachelor-style reality show happening in the wings was pretty fun. I liked how that was done without any really petty or catty behaviour. We love to see it!

One of my nittier picky things was definitely the grand gesture (we hates them, precious) but that’s always a personal pet peeve thing for me so it’s not the fault of the book. But there was one shithead in this book, who granted didn’t get much page time, but I kind of wish we’d seen some fallout. There was something alluded to that may have happened in book one (sigh, this is why I generally reread, guess my opening paragraph was a little bit “spoke too soon..”) and I think because of that something more should’ve happened. Unless we’ll see him in future books? Hard to say.

Overall though we had a really well rounded and fabulous cast. I definitely want to see more of some of these periphery characters. I’m hoping they crop up in future books. I guess I’ll find out soon as, surprising no one, I will likely be knocking the rest of these out in short order.

If you’re looking for a quick but fun, and sexy, romance with a royal edge, you could definitely do a lot worse than these!