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HOUSE SWAP by Olivia Beirne

You can learn a lot about someone when you swap houses. . .
Twins Katy and Rachel don’t know much about each other’s lives anymore.

Rachel thinks that Katy is a high-flying event planner in London, while Katy thinks that Rachel lives in idyllic marital bliss in the countryside.

Each sister believes the other has created a perfect life – but the truth is that neither twin has the life she pretends she does.

And when these sisters unexpectedly swap houses for a week, they’re in for a big shock.

But it might just be the wake-up call they’ve both been waiting for. . .

Packed hilarity and heartbreak, this new novel from bestselling author Olivia Beirne follows two estranged sisters who learn more about each other from a house swap than they ever expected… Perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary and Marian Keyes.


Title : House Swap
Author : Olivia Beirne
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 347
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Headline Eternal
Release Date : November 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

Headlines:
Broken bonds
Tangled webs
New paths

House Swap was a witty contemporary fiction about twin sisters, estranged and worlds apart…or so it seemed. Katy and Rachel were a hot mess individually and even more of a hot mess of sisterly disconnection. At first, I didn’t really like either of them; it’s hard to watch the veiled sparring but equally I was laughing along with the house of cards being built.

This house swap when it played out was a catastrophe in the making but all the time, as a reader, I was willing this to be the thing that repaired their connection. Secrets were part of the daily menu and as these two found out more about the reality of each others’ lives, it was funny and poignant watching the pennies drop.

I enjoyed the reluctant communications that began to reveal affection and love. I also enjoyed the side stories going on in each location, what was happening in the respective neighbour situations. The miscommunications were sometimes tough to read but author never pushed to the point of frustration.

House Swap was a story that most will find some identifiable features in. Whether thats wanting to be or appear successful, wanting relationships to work or being in frustrating relationships, this book serves a slice of reality while keeping a light and witty narrative. This was an enjoyable escape for the weekend.

Thank you to Headline Eternal for the review copy.

THE FASTEST WAY TO FALL by Denise Williams

True love never did run smooth . . .

Britta is excited for the chance to finally prove herself at work when she’s asked to write about a hot new body-positive fitness app that includes personal training.

When her training sessions with Wes begin, the pair click immediately. He may be the app’s CEO but despite his professional success, his personal life is in disarray and he’s enjoying his return to what he really loves – coaching.

As the weeks pass, Britta can’t believe how much she’s enjoying trying new things and finding her strength . . . and perhaps her perfect match?

The longer she spends with Wes the harder it is to deny their chemistry and maintain a professional distance. Walking away from each other may be the smart choice. but for Wes and Britta, falling never felt so good . . .


Title : The Fastest Way to Fall
Author : Denise Williams
Format : eARC
Page Count : 431
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : November 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

Headlines:
Health, eating, fitness
Body positivity and negativity
Misunderstandings

This contemporary romance offered a serious slice of themes to digest alongside the connection and romance between these two main characters. Britta was a bit of a hero to me, she mostly demonstrated a true love of her own body even though she fell off the wagon on occasion. We see some disordered eating alongside the positive in this story. Wes was her online fitness coach through an app but he crossed some lines.

I enjoyed the storyline for the first three quarters, it was easy to slip into and provided a couple to cheer for. I found the overall tone of the plot to be very body positive in all the ways and I appreciated how the author pitched this without any preach. It was about real, flawed and wonderful humans. I did struggle with the misunderstandings and miscommunications that came a bit later on but I pushed through for a great ending, which I got.

If you enjoyed this author’s previous book (like me), we do some some of those characters in the background which was a bonus.

Overall, this was enjoyable with a great depth to the plot.

Thank you to Piatkus for the eARC.

ALL THE FEELS by Olivia Dade – double review!

Following Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade returns with another utterly charming romantic comedy about a devil-may-care actor—who actually cares more than anyone knows—and the no-nonsense woman hired to keep him in line.

Alexander Woodroe has it all. Charm. Sex appeal. Wealth. Fame. A starring role as Cupid on TV’s biggest show, God of the Gates. But the showrunners have wrecked his character, he’s dogged by old demons, and his post-show future remains uncertain. When all that reckless emotion explodes into a bar fight, the tabloids and public agree: his star is falling.

Enter Lauren Clegg, the former ER therapist hired to keep him in line. Compared to her previous work, watching over handsome but impulsive Alex shouldn’t be especially difficult. But the more time they spend together, the harder it gets to keep her professional remove and her heart intact, especially when she discovers the reasons behind his recklessness…not to mention his Cupid fanfiction habit.

When another scandal lands Alex in major hot water and costs Lauren her job, she’ll have to choose between protecting him and offering him what he really wants—her. But he’s determined to keep his improbably short, impossibly stubborn, and extremely endearing minder in his life any way he can. And on a road trip up the California coast together, he intends to show her exactly what a falling star will do to catch the woman he loves: anything at all.


Title : All The Feels
Author : Olivia Dade
Series : Spoiler Alert #2
Format : eARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 416
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : October 26, 2021

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Body-positivity
Judgement
Friends to witty more

The start and ongoing premise to All The Feels starts with a judging a person by their appearance, judging Lauren the plus-sized heroine. This story is the journey back from that initial judgement and this man really was good guy, not one to go solely by supposed ideal appearances at all. I appreciated so much how this story navigated these issues while packing a great plot around it.

All The Feels picked up the batton where Spoiler Alert left off, with Alex an actor from the same series as the previous book and there was a fan fic element too. Alex for me, was such an adorable character, he had ADHD and he was a walking, self-depricating, guilt-ball. Lauren with her therapist background and babysitter role was able to inject some positivity to his sense of self over time.

This story was something of a slow burn. I appreciated the time passing, the friendship evolving and the chemistry building. Then everything was pretty much unleashed and much fun to read.

I didn’t always find the fan fic excerpts (which were few and far between) easy to read, they jarred me a bit with the flow. In this story, I didn’t feel like it added much but then when I remember the soulmate one, that was pretty special.

This series is shaping up so well and I’m excited to own some special editions of these two books when book two releases.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 2.5 (maybe rounded up?) review

Let’s just get the joke out of the way now. All the Feels only gave me some feels.

Okay, moving on.

But seriously. I don’t know if maybe Spoiler Alert just caught me at the right time or what but this one only had a few moments that actually worked for me. Mostly the discussion around Alex and his mum. I got a little misty about all that so, yes, those scenes had all the feels but the rest? Eh.

While I absolutely appreciated the role and presence of all the body positivity overall I just didn’t love this one or the characters. Both had their lovely moments but in general I didn’t like either one and so together it was hard to root for them.

Also don’t play a drinking game with the words “rubbed her forehead” or “rubbed her temples” or “Nanny Clegg”. You will regret it.

Oddly enough, where I found the fanfiction elements in book one to be fun (at least from what I remember) I found them very out of place with this storyline. I didn’t mind the jokes and delight about tropes but the actual writing of fic? It just seemed out of character.

I will definitely read on in this world but maybe I’ll scale down my expectations for book three. I’m definitely here for all the positive rep and love that Dade will likely give us more of that. Also, I just love the snarky commentary around this not-GoT but definitely GoT show at the centre of the plot. It’s incredibly satisfying.

WHEN SPARKS FLY by Helena Hunting

Avery Spark is living her best life. Between her friends, her sisters, and Spark House, the event hotel her family owns, she doesn’t have much time for anything else, especially relationships. She’d rather hang out with her best friend and roommate, Declan McCormick, than deal with the dating scene. But everything changes when she is in a car accident and needs someone to care for her as she heals.

Declan avoids relationships, giving him a playboy reputation that he lives up to when he puts a one-night stand ahead of a promise he made to Avery. While he may not have been the one driving the car, he feels responsible for Avery’s injuries and is determined to make it up to her by stepping into the role of caretaker.

Little did they know that the more time they spend in compromising positions, the attraction they’ve been refusing to acknowledge becomes impossible to ignore. When they finally give in to the spark between them, neither is prepared for the consequences. Their love is fragile and all it will take is a blow from the past to shatter it all.


Title : When Sparks Fly
Author : Helena Hunting
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 317
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : St Martins Griffin
Release Date : September 21, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Friends/flatmates/frisky
Guilt
A dose of drama

When Sparks Fly lives up to its title, delivering on chemistry and spark. The story is an age-old but welcome tale of friends to more but these two shared a condo, so complication potential was high. Avery was the sole female in a gaggle of guy friends obsessed with sports and Declan was her long standing buddy.

A big event occured that meant that Avery really had to lean on Declan for a lot of support and this part of the story was really interesting and my favourite part. It was a little slice of forced proximity and the chemistry fumes were thick.

What dragged this down a little was the dose of drama that arose, over-reactions were prevalent and I hated how Declan acted in front of Avery during that period; I couldn’t get on board with his behaviour. Declan’s journey to improvement felt a little lacking in credability for me.

All that said, this was a fun, quick read. You could devour this in an afternoon and feel a sense of satisfaction without a huge investment.

Thank you to the publisher for this early review copy.

BLACKOUT by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon – double review

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city.


Title : Blackout
Author : Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
Format : eBook (overdrive)/Paperback
Page Count : 256
Genre : contemporary / diverse reads
Publisher : Quill Tree Books/Electric Monkey Books
Release Date : June 22, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : unrated/3 stars


Hollis’ unrated review

I’m leaving this unrated and instead rating the stories separately with mini reviews.

Tiffany D Jackson’s story, The Long Walk, is the main driving force of these interconnected stories of Black kids during a city-wide blackout, with four parts that break up the anthology. This story focuses on a couple who have since broken up and both happen to arrive an internship there’s only one spot for. Before it can be resolved, the blackout hits. With nothing else to do, they agree to walk home together and, along the way, hash out their issues. This definitely got a bit overwrought at times, I’m mostly thinking of Act Three, and maybe I’m just used to Jackson’s more mature stories but this felt very.. young, on the childish end of YA, despite the fact that the characters were eighteen. And it’s such a bummer as I’ve loved so many stories from this author. But this one just didn’t do it. Two stars.

Mask Off by Nic Stone : a coming out/coming of age short between two boys who weren’t ever quite friends but were in each other’s orbit throughout the years. Until a queer masquerade party brings them together.. in a way. But it isn’t until they are stuck on the train together when the blackout hits that the masks (not literally!) come off. Honestly, this one was just.. fine. Nothing really remarkable. Two stars.

Made to Fit by Ashley Woodfolk : this short was set in an senior’s living facility, where two girls, one the granddaughter of a resident and the other, who visits the seniors with her therapy dog, meet. When a photo goes missing, the two girls search the home and, as they spend time together, sparks fly. This was a little too insta for me but it tied in with the theme of all the epic love stories being told around them. It was also a tiny bit repetitive RE the granddaughter’s sorta ex but it was cute. Three stars.

All the Great Love Stories.. and Dust by Dhonielle Clayton : hmm, sorta mixed feelings about this one. I love the idea of these two best friends with their history of bets combing through a library to find the greatest book of all time. She’s working up the courage to tell him how she feels and we get pieces of their history together; he’s got a revolving door of girlfriends, she never bothers. Does he feel for her what she feels for him? Again, love the concept, but some of this, despite being a novella, dragged out a bit. The pacing was a little off. But, still, it was cute. Three stars.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn by Angie Thomas : this short features a girl on a tour bus, on a school trip from Mississippi, struggling with feelings for her crush.. when she already has a boyfriend. I’m not going to say much more about this and risk spoiling it, because it didn’t end the way I expected, but the tie-in is that the driver is another character’s father and he may have accidentally gone off-route to drive them towards the block party happening in Brooklyn, where all the other characters we’ve met so far are also planning to attend. Four stars. And, in hindsight, though I loved Yoon’s writing best, this was my favourite story.

Seymour & Grace by Nicola Yoon : easily the best written of the bunch! And I enjoyed the story, too, even if it felt extra short. A girl is trying to find her way to the block party all the characters have made it to where she plans to confront her ex who dumped her because she’d “changed”. She ends up in a Ryde with someone listening to a philosophy podcast and they strike up a conversation; but it’s a rocky meeting. Things go wrong on the way to their destination but, eventually, they get there. And then.. well. Spoilers. I would’ve loved an extra chapter of this, instead of the extended Jackson story, and I’m sad it was so short. It’s a softer story but felt very Yoon-like. Which is a good thing. Four stars.

But while the little throw away tie-ins in Yoon’s story to bring everyone into the story, into the party, was nice, it still boggles my mind we didn’t get a concluding chapter that made it feel, after all this build up, that we were actually at this party?.That’s still confusing. It just kind of ends. Even though the Jackson wasn’t my favourite story, it held the anthology together, working as the glue. So couldn’t we have had a proper ending?

Overall, this wasn’t bad, but I expected to love a lot more from this bind-up than I did. So that’s a bit of a bummer. But I’ve not read anything by Woodfolk or Clayton before, though I’ve definitely had the latter on my radar, and I will definitely be picking up their solo offerings in the future.


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Different stories
Different authors
Threads to bring it together

I didn’t love this collection of stories but it was engaging in the main. This story captured black teens lives in a New York city-wide blackout, trying to get somewhere, or home or to a party. I definitely enjoyed some more than others and I’ll give a flavour of my favourites.

It’s no surprise to me that Nic Stone’s story Mask Off was my favourite because there’s something about her writing that always pulls me in. This coming out story for JJ and his past and present experiences with Tremaine really pulled at my heartstrings. There was some nod to the difficulties of queer sportsmen coming out and how that cascaded down to college age students. Overall this was really compelling.

The Long Walk by Tiffany D Jackson wove right through the books with various installments in between other stories. For me, this was the meatiest story, I got to know the characters best as these ex-es worked through the what went wrong and how we feel now. There was something tangible about this couple.

Finally, I enjoyed the short story of the Ryde driver Seymour and his passenger Grace (FYI Seymour is a similar age to Grace, just in case you were wondering. This tale by Nicola Yoon was cute and funny and I just enjoyed the ‘ride’.

The other three authors’ stories didn’t float my boat as much, thus my rating. Overall this collection is worth a read but like many anthologies, you’re gonna like some much more than others.

THE SHAADI SET-UP by Lillie Vale

In this witty and heartfelt rom-com debut for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Emily Henry, and Tessa Bailey, an Indian-American woman signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking site to prove they’re a perfect match, only to be paired with her ex instead.

High school sweethearts Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were the golden couple, until the day he broke her heart. Now, six years later, Rita has turned her passion for furniture restoration into a career and has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Neil. The last thing she needs is for Milan to re-enter her life, but that’s exactly what happens when her mother, an unfailing believer in second chances, sets them up. Milan is just as charming, cocky, and confident as he was back in school. Only this time, he actually needs her business expertise, not her heart, to flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency. 

While Rita begrudgingly agrees to help, she’s not taking any risks. To prove she’s definitely over him, she signs herself and Neil up on MyShaadi.com, a Desi matchmaking site famous for its success stories and trustworthy enough to convince everyone that she and Neil are the new and improved couple. Instead, she’s shocked when MyShaadi’s perfect match for her isn’t Neil…it’s Milan. Ignoring the website and her mother is one thing, but ignoring Milan proves much more difficult, especially when she promises to help him renovate the beach house of her dreams. And as the two of them dive deeper into work—and their pasts—Rita begins to wonder if maybe her match wasn’t so wrong after all…. 


Title : The Shaadi Set-Up
Author : Lillie Vale
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date : September 7, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I was so excited for The Shaadi Set-Up when I first heard about it and, though it started interesting, though not very strong, I still managed to have pretty high hopes.

Hopes that were rather quickly, and dramatically, dashed.

I don’t really know how this crashed so quickly for me but nothing really fit? We are meant to believe our MC is interested enough in her boyfriend to come up with this convoluted scheme to pair up on a Desi marriage site, in order to get their parents to — independently, not as a couple — stop hassling them to marry but we’re repeatedly shown she barely tolerates the guy she’s with. So, what gives? Why bother? Why do we spend 50% of the book cycling through this process, long after we are confronted with the long-ago love who broke her heart and she’s obviously going to end up with?

That drama aside, I just found the MC — and the idiot boyfriend — pretty insufferable, annoying, and just not likeable; which made sense for the boyfriend but less so for the MC. The best friend seemed delightfully quirky but has so little page time, and later just acts too weird when she does pop up, that it doesn’t work as a fun distraction from the rest.

Of course, when we finally get all the on-page time between the MC and her ex, we drag out any kind of closure for ages, and then when things are explained it’s just.. really? Is that it? Which, is at least sorta addressed on-page, but overall it’s just not quite satisfying.

This is also right around the time that the ARC, which has the fairly common formatting weirdness, started getting really weird. Scenes seemed to jump around, feel oddly placed, details didn’t line up, and as we started to come to the big resolution moment, nothing seemed to jive properly. Whether that’s a combination of rushing the scene and just a rough draft, I don’t know. But it was very jarring.

I found in general some dialogue to be strange, too; exchanges where instead of exposition all the explanation was done in dialogue even though the conversation didn’t call for it. In a similar vein, this started out with some very adult stuff on page, which surprised me because it was like.. chapter two, maybe? I could be wrong, and then it disappears completely except for random tingles, a bunch of fade to black, and then random references to sexual acts that were performed. This felt strange and inconsistent and like the author themselves didn’t know how spicy to make this.

This could’ve been so fun but no fun was had. For those who might want to pick it up, this’ll what you’ll find : a second-chance romance (admittedly, not my favourite), but make it Desi, some forced proximity and slowburn, and enough house renovating and flipping and designing and thrifting to make you nostalgic for saturday afternoon binges of Trading Spaces and Love It or List It (or maybe these shows still exist, I don’t know, I don’t have cable); but honestly this inevitably just felt like a bunch of tropes thrown together without actually considering how all the pieces fit or how the characters fit into those pieces to make the story, the history, the angst, and the reunion, actually work.

I believe this is the author’s debut, or adult debut at least, so I imagine a lot of my issues could just be growing pains, but I didn’t come out of this with enough enjoyment to try the author again, sadly.

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

THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang – double review!

A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this heartfelt new romance by USA Today bestselling author Helen Hoang.

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves. 


Title : The Heart Principle
Author : Helen Hoang
Series : The Kiss Quotient (book three/companion)
Format : e-ARC / eBook
Page Count : 304
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Corvus/Atlantic Books
Release Date : September 2, 2021 / August 31, 2021

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Love is messy
Grief is messy
Life is messy

My expectations coming into The Heart Principle were altered by things I’d seen on the author’s social media. I came into this expecting it to be different from the previous two in the series…and it was…and I’m okay with that. This story was definitely Anna’s book, Anna’s journey with some Quan on the side. I think some readers will miss that he wasn’t the full focus but I really liked Anna, her realisations, her evolving self awareness and her vulnerability. I could definitely have managed more Quan focus because as a character and great human, he was superb.

Anna’s character and her new diagnosis felt utterly raw. Anna’s reaction to the diagnostic news really resonated with me (not the same diagnosis), how she reacted, how it floored her, I could really relate to that. Later, how Anna grieved felt tangible and while some of that inertia of grief isn’t the most engaging thing to read about, it was and felt real.

I couldn’t stand Priscilla, I hated that dismissal she aimed towards Anna and having experienced that from my own mother, I seethed on her behalf. So much of this story that was personal to the character and author, felt personal to me too. This really isn’t your average romance, it’s messy and complicated but it’s rich.

There’s a lot of processing to do reading this and coming out of it; it still has me thinking. I will say that I wanted a little more depth in the closing quarter of the book but overall, this was a memorable journey and the most gritty of the three books. Helen Hoang really brought a portion of herself to this book and I am the richer for reading it.

Thank you to Corvus Books for the review copy.


Hollis’ unrated review

This is such a complicated reading experience and I’m really going to struggle putting some thoughts down, I think, and urge you to try this for yourself no matter what I come up with. Just know this might not be what you expect of it.

I knew pretty early on in the unfolding of this story that this was going to be very personal. Just from following the author, her struggles — all posted on public platforms — I could see the writing on the wall with this one. And she goes on to confirm it in the author’s note, too, just incase you think I’m reading too much into it. So the thought of “rating” or expressing dislike on something that is all but half a memoir is kind of uncomfortable. But if you go into this book expecting a romance ala what the cover is selling? You might end up with some buyer’s remorse.

Lately we’re seeing more and more romances toe the line of women’s fiction (or whatever you want to call it) where the romance is central, yes, but there are other topics that play just as (if not more) prominent a role. In this case I think there is equal page time given to both.. however, because of the structure of the story, you take turns reading about one thing and then another. The first part? Romance. Delightful. Sweet. Sexy. An irritating character or two. Some cameos. Everyone is having a good time and if we just quietly side-eye how quickly one of these two is moving and feeling? That’s okay. We can roll with it. The second part? Devastating. Uncomfortable. Frustrating. Hard to read. Over the course of a few different issues, really. Romance is on the back burner. And part three? A really rushed resolution that gives us a happily ever after but doesn’t resolve every single issue — which is often the case in women’s fiction but somehow, in this romance, feels.. unsatisfying? Not because I needed a bow tied on everything but I felt wound up so tight from part two and I wasn’t given enough time to decompress and process and see the character do the same. I don’t know how to explain it. But suffice it to say, yes, rushed.

That said, I am not calling this women’s fiction, nor am I hating on that genre — this year alone I’ve rated at least two of them five stars — it’s just that this feels a little bit of both, but not quite either.

Thus.. it’s an odd reading experience. But it’s obviously also a very personal one. Is Anna’s creative burnout, the fear of failing those who are watching her so closely, the author’s own manifested fear post-success of The Kiss Quotient? So much of Anna comes from the author (which she also explains was her reason to switch from third person to first) and the more I think about the elements of this story, the realer and realer is seems. And I haven’t even touched on the more obvious real-life elements she put onto the page.

I’m sure aspects of this will mean a lot for all sorts of readers or make them feel seen. I don’t want to dismiss that representation or impact. I just don’t know how it works as a whole when each section didn’t feel tuned to the same frequency.

What I’ve also yet to mention is that if you are expecting this to be Quan’s book? It isn’t, really. If you’re expecting the character represented by the woman on the cover to exude the energy she’s giving us with that pose? You won’t get it (this happens more and more due to illustrated covers, I think we’re all getting used to it, but it bears mention). This is a lot of things but between expectations and marketing I’m not sure it all lines up. And hey, it is what it is, I imagine the author did not anticipate her own circumstances to go the way they did during the course of writing this book, either.

So, again, how does one rate this? If you’re me, you don’t.

I absolutely don’t want to discourage anyone from reading this. I love this author, I love her works, and there is so much courage in putting these experiences out into the world in the form of fiction for people, like myself, to critique. I will absolutely read whatever else she puts out. But was this satisfying? Worth the wait? Everything I wanted? A great experience? I would say no. But the why of that no is due to all the aforementioned reasons above.

THERE WITH YOU by Samantha Young – double review!

For Regan Penhaligon, there’s no better place to run to than the exclusive Ardnoch Estate in the remote Scottish Highlands. Her impulsive behavior has finally caught up with her and Regan’s visit with her sister, Robyn, is an opportunity to hide from someone who has grown dangerously obsessed with her.

Determined to make amends for her mistakes, Regan plans to repair her relationship with Robyn by staying close. And when an offer of help comes from Thane Adair, Regan gratefully accepts.

Widower, Thane, needs a new nanny housekeeper for his two young children and when they bond with Regan Penhaligon, he offers her the job. But as the weeks pass and the complex American reveals who she really is, Thane struggles with his growing attraction to her.

Regan never expected to feel so intensely for Thane, but she can’t deny her passion for him or her love for his children. When someone from Thane’s past threatens his family, Regan wants to be his pillar of support. However, his continued inability to trust her might just destroy their chance at future happiness… and the person who drove Regan to Ardnoch might snuff out her chance for any future at all.


Title : There With You
Author : Samantha Young
Series : Adair Family #2
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 374
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : August 24, 2021

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Too Scot to handle
Gentle suspense
Sense of family

I’m already getting sad that this is marked as a three book series on Goodreads and retailers as I know I will want more than three books from this family and setting. I really enjoyed book one and I loved book two. This series is clearly building into a favourite contemporary romance/romantic suspense.

While the suspense in There With You felt gentler than book one, it was no less gripping. There was something very tangible about Thane and Regan’s story. With a nanny(ish) trope and the most engaging family, this story had me struggling to put my kindle down for the 24 hours that I read it. Thane could be an a**e but he had valid reasons and Regan was so misunderstood; I really enjoyed people realising her character just by being around her for a while.

“These Adair men…emotionally constipated, I tell you.”
“So what are we? The laxative?”

The chemistry between these two was so believable and had all the feels, as did the reluctant emotional connection. On top of that, I have been reflecting on the thoroughness of plot points, large and small in many of Samantha Young’s books and There With You was a great example of this. I was never once left feeling something was loose ended, nor were things neatly tied; she hits a great balance.

Sign me up for more Adair, I want more, I need more and I will definitely re-read this series. Oh, and I read this book in Gairloch on the NW coast of the highlands…pretty perfect all round.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy, this has not affected this unbiased review.


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

(insert song clip gif of Chris Pine singing Agony from Into the Woods here)

Phew, well, I had expected this one to go a little awry considering Regan didn’t make a favourable non-impression in book one, and it’s true her introduction here was rocky and I was not very inclined towards her, but while she did grow on me a bit she won’t be a favourite. Instead what ruined this was Thane, the love interest.

This went hot and cold and then back and forth more chaotically than a spring day in Canada. It was actually painful. But somehow, what was worse, was this preoccupation with people making assumptions about Regan. She’s leaving, she won’t stay; she’s young (twenty five, but from the amount of times it was mentioned you’d think she was eighteen) and will regret settling; she doesn’t know her own mind or her own feelings. Did anyone fucking ask her what she’s doing or what she wants before she was forced to set things straight multiple times because everyone was, once again, steering her around as if they knew her? No. No they did not. I may not have really liked her but ugh she deserved better.

And tied into the age thing, I’m sorry, this isn’t a historical novel, why was there such a preoccupation with her being a little bit younger and taking up with the single dad? Just because she’d started out as the nanny? Who cares what the town had to say? Again, she was not underage. The whole reason for this relationship being played out on the downlow was just dumb.

Don’t even get me started on Robyn and Regan’s mother. Do not.

Anywayyyy yeah this wasn’t a favourite. I’m kind of glad there’s only one more member of Robyn and Regan’s family that’s left to hook up with an Adair because it’s getting to be A Lot (and I can only imagine how weird the family tree will look). So after Mac seals the deal with Arro in book three, which I’m sure will be angsty as hell but I’m keen on it regardless because Mac has been a gem this whole series, I think I know who might wind up with one of the remaining brothers; and as this is a five book series, which makes sense as there’s five siblings, I guess the last one will be a surprise. Though I’m not too enthused about what I assume will be book four (Brodan) because he was a gross jerk in this one.

But yes, I’m reading on.

EIGHT PERFECT HOURS by Lia Louis

What if you fell in love…

… and then he disappeared?

When Noelle and Sam’s lives collide one snowy evening, they spend eight perfect hours stuck side by side believing that they’ll never see each other again.

But soon their lives become entangled in ways they never expected – and it’s going to change everything…

Don’t miss the latest, hotly anticipated love story from Lia Louis! Perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary, Josie Silver and Cecelia Ahern.


Title : Eight Perfect Hours
Author : Lia Louis
Format : e-ARC
Page Count :368
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Trapeze Books
Release Date : August 19, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Palpitations and angst
Kismet
Banter score 100
Down-to-earth relatable heroine

Eight Perfect Hours landed on my kindle from netgalley at 6pm and I opened at at 6:01pm, all other bookish plans cancelled (best decision ever). How long did it take me to get into it? One. Hot. Second.

Now that I’ve got the gushing over, here are some non-spoilery thoughts to encourage in new and those who are already Lia Louis fans. Noelle Butterby was one of the most relatable heroines I’ve ever read. Noelle would call herself boring and insignificant but this story was anything but. It started with a snowed up stationery motorway and a circumstantial meeting with Sam. Then they kept meeting one another. Now I want to say this is not some prolonged missed opportunities trope (which I do not gel with) it was something else.

Every time I’m near him, I want to stop the hands of all the world’s clocks. I never want to leave.

The characters in this book navigagted grief, ex-es, commitments and dependents. There were characters who annoyed the heck out of me (side entrance: Ed the Ped) and others that brought light and hope. All of this had me totally stuck to the page, I devoured this book, inhaled it really and I have no regrets.

Lia Louis keeps her streak for creating fantastic stories and characters but my actions on picking it up immediately showed that I never doubted it for a moment. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

IS THIS IT? by Hannah Tovey

-Employed (you have frequent nightmares about your job)
-Single and fabulous (swiping Tinder in your pyjamas while your best friend shops for engagement rings)
-Thriving (surviving)

Ivy and Mia have been best friends since the fun, messy, hungover years of their twenties.

Ten years later, Mia has it all – the man, the house, the career. Ivy is skint, single, and scared that she isn’t a ‘hot mess’ any more – she’s a walking disaster.

But one night, Ivy switches her phone off, peels last night’s drunken pizza off the sofa, and makes a list. A list that changes everything . . .

The new Ivy has a proper job. She goes on fancy dates in wine bars. She’s starting to think: maybe ‘faking it till you make it’ is easy?

But then she meets Scott.

Curly-haired, sarcastic Scott.

Sh*t.


Title : Is This It?
Author : Hannah Tovey
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 368
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus Books
Release Date : July 22, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Witty & Welsh
Finally getting your act together
New beginnings

Is This It continued the story of Ivy from The Education of Ivy Edwards but you could totally read this as a standalone. That said, the Ivy in this story was an Ivy I could identify with more and I loved seeing her journey here. I felt that new attitude in Ivy from the first few pages and the story pulled me in really quickly.

Ivy hadn’t changed completely but she had realised she needed a direction, a focus and she was determined. This really was a story of your life can be in the gutter for some time, but it is possible and believeable to find a way out. This book was full of positivity alongside the occasional typical Ivy high jinks.

There were a range of other characters I loved in this book but none more than Scott, Anna and Eleanor (with an honourable mention for Mr Reid). Scott saw that spark in Ivy that seemed hidden in the previous book and he helped her shine, I loved these two but they did put me through some angst (but I secretly loved it). Anna and Eleanor were such an important part of this story and I really liked the sisterly closeness and the complete unreserved love Ivy had for Eleanor. I thoroughly disliked Ivy’s mother and her cruel comments to her daughters.

Ivy’s education and job journey really drew me in and I thought how she blossomed was quite special. The kids were hilarious and Ivy really was made for the profession.

I think Is This It was made more of a sweet experience because of the hard won journey from book one. I could read about Ivy again!

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the finished review copy.