SLAY by Brittney Morris

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?


Title : SLAY
Author : Brittney Morris
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Simon Pulse
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This book is getting a lot of hype and, honestly, it deserves every single bit of it. I don’t remember exactly what it was, or who, inspired me to request this one but I’m so glad I did. So here I am paying it forward : watch out for this one.

The summary perfectly sums up (hah) what this is about, there’s no need for me to rehash anything in my review, and honestly the less I say about this, the better, I think. Not only because it isn’t my place to talk about representation (which I never would for an #ownvoices story) or what this book is or isn’t doing right (also not my place) — though I think it got everything right, to be honest — ultimately, all that matters, is this book both entertained and educated me and I loved the experience of reading it.

The wide-lens of this particular conflict is, I think, so important. It’s a multifaceted narrative. Race, identity, culture, gaming, ambition, history. It’s all tied up beautifully. I might even have teared up ar the end. Got me a bit in my feels there, Morris.

And speaking of beautiful. Beyond the relevant, and relatable issues, that readers will experience, the creativity? Incredible. The secondary setting of Morris’ story is this immersive VR online world and the way she infused not only Black culture but also Black history into this game was just unreal. Except, I want that to be real. I would wish for that kind of safe space, sans trolls, to exist for gamers who are otherwise treated terribly in the anonymous space that is the internet, who constantly have to listen to hateful vitriol spewed at them across the ether by strangers. A place that celebrates, and even educates, as well as focuses on mutual love and respect, even as opponents duel each other.

I enjoyed this book so much and absolutely hope the buzz continues post-release and this finds its way into many hands, no matter their colour. There’s something for everyone here, even if this book isn’t about you. Maybe, even, particularly if this book isn’t about you.

I know I’ll be picking up whatever this author comes out with next, too.

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

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MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE by Nisha Sharma

Winnie Mehta was never really convinced that Raj was her soulmate, but their love was written in the stars. Literally, a pandit predicted Winnie would find the love of her life before her 18th birthday, and Raj meets all of the qualifications. Which is why Winnie is shocked to return from her summer at film camp to find her boyfriend of three years hooking up with Jenny Dickens. Worse, Raj is crowned chair of the student film festival, a spot Winnie was counting on for her film school applications. As a self-proclaimed Bollywood expert, Winnie knows this is not how her perfect ending is scripted.

Then there’s Dev, a fellow film geek, and one of the few people Winnie can count on to help her reclaim control of her story. Dev is smart, charming, and challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope to find someone she’d pick for herself. But does falling for Dev mean giving up on her prophecy, and her chance to live happily ever after? To get her Bollywood-like life on track, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family, and of course, a Bollywood movie star.


Title : My So-Called Bollywood Life
Author Nisha Sharma
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 332
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Stripes Books
Release Date : 2 May 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

What a delightful, fun, escapist read this unusual YA was. It was completely unexpected in nature and plot line, fairly low in terms of teenage angst and it made me smile while reading many times.

I know only a little about Bollywood films but through the protagonist Winnie, I learnt just a little more and came to love her love for it. Winnie finds herself in a break up situation in her final year of high school, with a new low-key love interest and uses her savant-ish knowledge of bollywood films to guide her direction.

The sense of family in this story was full and fun. Nani, her mum and dad were in the background but powerful in wanting to steer Winnie alongside her astrological predictions. 

Raj her ex and Dev her want-to-be, were hilarious to read about; I knew where my wishes swayed towards from early on. The friendship circles were both interesting and complex with some strained loyalties. The story had a feminist underpinning which I appreciated and Winnie was empowered as a young women by her family and school.

“I don’t understand why you love the singing and dancing and Bollywood drama…but Winnie Mehta, I would dance for you.”

There’s so much to this story, much more than just a great romantic storyline. Whilst I’m not from the Indian community in the US, I felt this was relatable with a strong coming-of-age theme that will appeal widely.

The cover for this book is one of my favourites this year and the words inside match beautifully. I will love seeing this book on my shelf and I would definitely re-read it. MY SO-CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE is a fun, own-voices and diverse read and I highly recommend it.

Thank you @nishawrites for these words, @stripesbooks @darkroomtours and @hatecopy for the fabulous cover. 

LIKE A LOVE STORY by Abdi Nazemian

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.


Title : Like a Love Story
Author Abdi Nazemian
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA historical fiction, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : June 4, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

LIKE A LOVE STORY is a little like a love story, really. But more in the sense of love for oneself, one’s body, and one’s community. I think it did a really good job of that, particularly when propped up against the setting, but when it comes to the love story, the romance, within the book.. it kinda failed. And by kinda I mean really.

Nazemian’s story takes place on the cusp of the nineties, in 1989, and is set against the AIDS crisis. Not as a backdrop but as a very real threat and very present player for our three protagonists. Art is out and proud and angry. His best friend, Judy, has an uncle dying of AIDS. And the new kid, originally from Iran, is Reza; someone both friends fall for but who, despite initially dating Judy, is closeted. 

I knew this wouldn’t be an easy story but I knew it would be an important one. It was a frightening time and is made even more terrifying when held up against the current social and political climate. Addressing the bigotry and the homophobia was all very visceral and awful but well done. I felt like I was living it. Where the fear of touch, of being touched, infected every interaction. Where not subscribing to white, heteronormative, ideals made you worthy of hate or shunning. Where it was acceptable to wish your son dead just for being queer. Where hate fuelled both sides of the equation; one side for being ushered into an early grave just for being who they were, and the other for not understanding or not accepting people different from themselves.

What I believe failed this story was the characters.

The romance is fast tracked as is fairly typical — though the fact that these two besties go from zero to eleven within half a page over the new kid is unlikely as it is; but for it to be turned into a triangle, infusing unnecessary drama into the mix, just becomes tedious — and ultimately, it’s the leads that do a disservice to the goings on around them. Or, rather, I feel they overshadowed the rest with their nonsense. I outright disliked two of the POVs (one more strongly than the other) but overall it was their behaviours, too, that I just couldn’t stand. 

The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy.

I’m heartbroken that this didn’t work but I do think, if the synopsis draws you in, you should still pick it up. LIKE A LOVE STORY is a book that features a four star topic but is, unfortunately, saddled with one star protagonists. 

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


AYESHA AT LAST by Uzma Jalaluddin – double review!

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist 

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on.  Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. 

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind. 


Title : Ayesha At Last
Author : Uzma Jalaluddin
Format : eARC
Page Count : 343
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : June 4 (US & Can), June 12, 2019 (UK)

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


Micky’s 5 star review

4.5 stars that I am rounding up.

I am buzzing finishing this book, I have devoured it in 36 hours as life made me put it down a few times. This was a loose pride and prejudice take set in the Muslim community in Toronto. Most importantly it is own voices written (and a debut).

Khalid is a beta-male character with little to paint an admirable picture of his personality. Khalid was a bit of a jerk, he lacked a verbal filter, judged too quickly but he was definitely misunderstood. Khalid grew on me, he was pretty endearing at times and he was a man with integrity and kindness. He didn’t know how he was perceived but awareness did begin to creep in.

Ayesha was a vibrant character, headstrong, a feminist, bucking some traditions that seemed unnecessary to her. I liked her immediately and her quirky ways. Khalid and Ayesha met through friends initially and later at the mosque organising a conference. Misunderstanding and chemistry seemed to be the nature of their relationship.

“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.”

This was a strong story, with amazing side characters, mostly family and community, that painted a rich depth. I was glued to this book and I thought about it when I wasn’t. The connection between Khalid and Ayesha was slow developing but full of feeling. This was a clean read along the lines of pride and prejudice but it didn’t need anything more. I could have done with a little more about Khalid and Ayesha in the end, however.

This is an amazing debut from Uzma Jalaluddin. Her writing flowed beautifully and I was hooked so easily; I am eager to read more from her and this context.

Thank you to Readers First for my review copy.


Hollis’ 2 star review

It pains me to rate this so low considering all the excitement I had surrounding this title, not to mention the brilliant diversity in this particular retelling, but..

If this story had been just about Ayesha and Khalid, with the former’s delightful grandparents thrown into the mix, I probably would’ve rated this much higher. But then it also wouldn’t have been as true to the PRIDE & PREJUDICE retelling. Or.. maybe it could’ve been! All I know is there were so many villains, so many unpleasant characters, and I was just bothered and frustrated by it all.

But even some of the non-villains were just.. annoying. The drama was really turned up and I know this is fictional but I was really uncomfortable, not to mention fairly rage-y, over the discrimination in the workplace plot line. Like.. no, I’m sorry. I just can’t see that going as far as it did; and maybe I’m extra sensitive about it because this took place in my hometown? I’m not saying I’m naive enough to believe things like this don’t happen in some form or another, as much as we think we’re all above it, but it just went too far.

I think what it comes down to, more than anything, is while I’m aware that most of these caricatures existed in the original, I’m honestly starting to wonder if I just can’t get behind the book anymore; if maybe I wouldn’t even like the original if I tried to read it today. Maybe I should just stick to movie or TV adaptations from now on.

I love that this book exists for the representation it brings, I did enjoy the changes to the family structures the author made, could appreciate the Toronto setting (even if it only amounted to random references to Timbits and a fairly loose, though accurate, description of Scarborough..), but.. lots of buts.

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

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE by Sandhya Menon

Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?


Title : There’s Something About Sweetie
Author Sandhya Menon
Series : When Dimple Met Rishi (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Simon Pulse
Release Date : May 14, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, don’t pelt me with rotten fruit, but I have to get this out of the way : THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE was very.. sweet. Kind of gooey. I wonder if it was a deliberate choice in order to balance out the less-than-fun fatphobic elements of the story or if that’s just the author’s preference (I’ve read WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI but it was a few years ago and I can’t remember what the sweet factor was like, so, anyway..).

Resisting fatphobic messages was one thing — but what about the insidious, internalized fat phobia she carried around?

I was really keen on this one because of the aforementioned fat issue. As per the summary, Sweetie was toted to be big and beautiful and trying to be braver, bolder, in the face of her mother’s criticisms and constant need to hold her back for fear of what others might say or do. And this definitely lived up to that. I actually really really adored Sweetie. I liked how she pushed herself to take risks, to stand up for herself, how she was confident in herself despite the fact that everything (society, media) and everyone (family, peers) would have her believe there was something wrong with her. But I also appreciated her moments of doubt, of frustration, with her body — we all have that one area, or more, no matter our size, that we just dislike — that just proved she was human, too. 

“The word ‘fat’ isn’t inherently bad or gross. It’s people who’ve made it the way. ‘Fat’ is just the opposite of ‘thin’, and no one flinches at that one. So, to me, ‘fat’ is just another word that describes me, like ‘brown’ or ‘girl’ or ‘athlete’.”

As for Ashish, this is where the connection to the first book came. He’s Rishi’s little brother; confident, cocky, not-quite-connected-to-his-culture, and also recently heartbroken and reeling from the fact that for all his cool player ways he actually loved his ex, and doesn’t know how to move on. Desperate to change things up, get his groove back, he follows in Rishi’s footsteps and has his parents set him up with someone they approve of. And in comes Sweetie. Nothing like the previous girls he dated and yet.. 

Ashish was one of those naturally flirty people. It was, like, his resting state. He had resting flirty face.

I loved their connection, I loved their differences, I loved their individual sets of friends, and all the diversity within the pages. I’ll admit that some of the monologue-y impassioned speeches or wise observations were a little much, and kind of over the top, and not hardly what I think we’d see from sixteen and seventeen year olds. But they were passionate and wise and accurate. So, thumbs up, but maybe a little too much and a few too many. 

There’s your typical ‘hide something for good-ish reasons and have it blow up in your face’ drama, which is hardly limited to YA and happens in all romance, and some issues or conversations did feel repetitive, plus Sweetie’s mother as the sole hold out only to have the eleventh hour epiphany was kind of.. shrug. Again, typical, and I would’ve liked to have seen more gradual awareness in that transition but alas. The romance, too, is definitely a fall hard and fall fast situation and, again, ooey gooey sweet, but I still liked it.

He was doing his trademark smolder-smirk; she could see it in her peripheral vision. It was thirty percent smirk and seventy percent smolder, and she didn’t even have fire protection in the car.

If you want a diverse, feel good, YA contemporary that’s heavy on the romance and heavy on self-acceptance, this is the book for you.

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

THE BRIDE TEST by Helen Hoang – double review!

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.


Title : The Bride Test
Author : Helen Hoang
Series : The Kiss Quotient (book two)
Format : eARC / paperback
Page Count : 315
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley / Atlantic
Release Date : May 7, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

She got you a mail-order bride from Vietnam, Khai.
Why do you say it so it sounds so bad? She’s not a ‘mail-order bride’. I met her in person.

Like pretty much everyone else in the world, I loved THE KISS QUOTIENT. I was so excited when Hoang announced a companion to her world that would not only feature a male lead with autism, though would not be quite like what we experienced with Stella, but would be equally diverse, too. And I really did enjoy being inside Khai’s head. When he wasn’t breaking my heart, that is. Esme, too, was a wonderful heroine. Strong and determined but taking chances, and risks, not for personal gain — or, rather, not only for it — but for her family.

She didn’t need a rich man. She just needed someone who was hers.

The conflicts in this story, Khai’s belief that he’s unable to feel emotion (and, conversely, his inability to handle soft touches and how instead he needs to be handled firmly, held tightly), and Esme’s self-worth as an uneducated immigrant, feel genuine and real; and reading the author’s note helps to explain why these characters resonate so strongly. Khai’s brother, Quan, is a character I want to know more about, too, because he all but leapt off the page at me. Plus, yeah, I want more.

It was easier to keep people at arm’s length when it was for their own good instead of his. That way, he got to be a hero instead of a coward.

However, I’ll admit that this read didn’t consume me the way THE KISS QUOTIENT did. While I so loved when these two got together (hell, even the build-up and the way Esme’s presence wreaked havoc on Khai was fabulous), even if they weren’t yet on the same page, even if they had yet to divulge all their secrets, it was something of a slower start, and as much as I loved these characters, I think I still wanted.. more. I did love the epilogue, though, which I thought to be a much more reasonable ending after all the dramatic excitement just before the final chapter. But that’s all I’m saying.

He was strange and tactless and very possibly an assassin, but when she looked at his actions, all she saw was kindness.

Should you read this? Absolutely. Will it overtake your love for the THE KISS QUOTIENT? To each their own. It’s definitely a sweet, funny, swoony, and a totally worthy addition to the author’s little universe.

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

How do I follow up Hollis’ and many others’ reviews of this rather special book? I don’t know but I’m going to give you a snapshot of my experience. Hold on while I gush because a mail-order bride story with diverse representation, you say. Signed up.

What starts off as an interesting Vietnamese character, My, quickly transports to the US where My renames herself Esme, ready to take on the challenge of being the wife-to-be for Khai. Esme was a ball of self-proclaimed inadequacy, desperate to provide for her family. The slow transformation of a twinkling of Esme’s self-belief and beginning to live for herself was beautiful as it unfolded. I was drawn to her humility, her heart on her sleeve and genuineness.

“Sky and earth, she wanted to taste that smile. And each of those dimples.”

Khai didn’t feel or emote and despairing, his mother went on a special mission to find him a wife, a companion. Khai didn’t know what he wanted or needed, he lived by his routines and the satisfaction in intellectual tasks. However, in little ways, Khai was a stand-up guy for his brother and his mother that gave insight into the caring man he could be. This book brought such believable character development as he navigated the heart connection and sexual attraction.

There wasn’t one thing I didn’t enjoy about this story. It was engaging, it represented topics that we need to read and hear about more, such as, immigration, autism spectrum disorders, poverty and access to education. Helen Hoang wove these issues seamlessly without pontificating, through real lives. Most of all, I adored Khai and Esme, together, apart, awkward and yet natural together, fish sauce and all.

“Her curves fit to his hollows, soft to hard, smooth to rough, the perfect debit to his credit.”

Thank you Atlantic books for the review copy, I feel lucky to have read this early.

THE TAKEOVER EFFECT by Nisha Sharma – double review!

Hemdeep Singh knows exactly what he wants. With his intelligence and determination, he has what it takes to build his own legacy away from Bharat, Inc. and the empire his father created. But when his brother calls him home, Hem puts his dreams on hold once again to help save the company he walked away from. That’s when he encounters the devastating Mina Kohli in the Bharat boardroom, and he realizes he’s in for more than he had bargained.

Mina will do whatever it takes to regain control of her mother’s law firm, even if it means agreeing to an arranged marriage. Her newest case assignment is to assist Bharat in the midst of a potential takeover. It could be the key to finally achieving her goal while preventing her marriage to a man she doesn’t love—as long as her explosive attraction to Hem doesn’t get in the way.

As Mina and Hem work to save Bharat, they not only uncover secrets that could threaten the existence of the company, but they also learn that in a winner-takes-all game, love always comes out on top.


Title : The Takeover Effect
Author : Nisha Sharma
Series : The Singh Family (book one)
Format : eARC / OverDrive (ebook)
Page Count : 384
Publisher : Avon Impulse
Release Date : April 2, 2019

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


Micky’s 4 star review

I had high hopes for THE TAKEOVER EFFECT and my hopes were realised. I have really enjoyed previous desi contemporary romantic reads so I knew this was a book worth taking a chance on. THE TAKEOVER EFFECT was about equality in the workplace, legacy and it had an office setting with a whole spaghetti of problems because the mix of family and work is complicated.

Mina was a feminist to the core and I delighted in her character. This was a woman who knew herself, had drive and was a realistic beacon for readers. Mina’s work as a lawyer found her in an unbiased role assessing an attempt to buy out a multi-million dollar company. Here she met Hem, eldest brother and ex-CEO of the organisation. Hem was a strong Sikh man with feminist sensibilities (hooray) and what ensued between these two was a slow-burn of sizzling chemistry set in a great plot. I loved watching the connection between these two grow.

The story was interesting from the start with some fast-paced excitement towards the end. I really enjoyed the other characters, they gave depth to the read and I am envisaging future stories for a number of them; I want books with Raj and the other brothers. I have found a new author to keep watch for and I am delighted. More of these desi diverse reads please, the book world needs them.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. Thank you Avon Impulse and Edelweiss.


Hollis’ 2 star review

If you strip away the romance, and left this story as a tense corporate espionage and family feud-y business takeover thriller, I think I would’ve loved THE TAKEOVER EFFECT. But the romance was very prominent and gross characters (who are supposed to be gross) were extra awful by toying with the heroine and threatening arranged marriages if she didn’t comply with their shady nonsense. Which, I mean, I think I could’ve been okay with just that as a blackmail tactic when, again, paired with the tense business politics and schemes. But the actual romance plot just dragged it all down for me.

I didn’t love the romance, obviously, and didn’t love the characters together. Infact, maybe didn’t love the hero at all? Mina was strong, feminine, feminist, but I also feel like she got railroaded by the hero a bit. She stood up to him but she also let herself be convinced, consumed, and let him distract her beyond sense and logic despite how hard she tried to stay professional. Add to the that the fact that the hero went alpha at every given moment? No me gusta. The fact that we also had constant comparisons, or references or throwaway lines, in association with the hero’s “evil ex” was too much. It was to the romance’s detriment that so much time was spent tripping over this character that didn’t even have her own page time and it felt a little like the author was trying so hard to compare the two women in order to sell us on Mina. Did it work? No. Because I was too distracted by Lisa’s ghostly presence in these situations that had nothing to do with her.

Also, the sex scenes? Can’t say they did anything for me. They felt very abrupt, often shoehorned into important dialogue or emotional scenes, and they were too out of place, over too quickly, for any connection to be given to them. I like sexy times as much as the next person but I like them better when they have a purpose or build the relationship. These didn’t.

I will likely read on in the series because the writing wasn’t bad, even if some moments felt a little cheese, and because maybe it was just these characters that failed to sell me on the swoonytimes; other brothers and/or family members, who I assume will get their own stories, might appeal more (the one I most want is the cousin & PA m/m romance because yes hi I want that hate banter please).