Eight Kisses: Eight All-New Tales of Holiday Romance

This was a fun anthology that truly has a story for every romance fan. In the foreword, the editor states that when looking for holiday romances, you can always find plenty of Christmas themed stories, but you have to search really hard to find stories that take place around Hanukkah.  This book was released in 2019 and while there has been an increase in Hanukkah romances, there is still a shocking lack of non-Christmas romance novels being published each year. If you are looking to change up your holiday reading, this book is a good place to begin.

To start, I think it was extremely clever to make this anthology eight stories in honor of the eight days of Hanukkah and to call this anthology Eight Kisses. Some of the authors take the eight theme even further and use the eight days of Hanukkah as a way to structure their story. The beauty of an anthology is that if you find yourself not liking a story, you can just skip it and not feel like you’re missing anything. Because each story is unique and there is a trope here for everyone, this is a great book for finding out which romance trope you really love and the ones that don’t do it for you. For the most part, I liked all the stories in this book and my issues with the ones I didn’t like had nothing to do with the author’s writing and more to do with my dislike of the plot and the short story structure. My favorite stories were A Highlander for Hanukkah, Can’t Help Falling, Frisky Connections, and Rededication. In my opinion, these had the most developed plots and involved Hanukkah the best. The other stories had undeveloped plots or too much going on, or there was not enough chemistry between the hero and heroine for me to get into the romance. I think this is where the short story format was a detriment. Given more pages, I think some of the stories I didn’t care for may have had a chance to get better.

I have a few minor complaints that I hope/wish will be addressed should these authors choose to release another anthology. The first is to have a better mix of historical and modern stories instead of only one historical. This didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of the book but having more sub-genres represented is always good. I would also love to see stories that don’t feature only hetero couples and instead include some stories that show different sexual identities. These are very minor issues but things that would be great in the next anthology. On the flip side, I must give credit to this book for including not one but TWO stories featuring older protagonists. If you think finding Hanukkah romances is hard, try finding a romance with people older than 40! I also loved that a few of the stories had couples of different religions and different races. Some of the stories showed the challenges that people of two different faiths have when beginning to date or falling in love and I liked that this wasn’t glossed over. Romances that aren’t afraid to show some realities are always nice to read as long as you can still escape the real world for a time.

This was a fun and sweet anthology with a little bit of heat that is a welcome addition to the many holiday romances out there. There is a great mix of different tropes here including second chance romance, instalove, romantic suspense, and enemies to lovers so there really is something here for everyone. I hope these authors (or different ones!) decide to publish another anthology because we need more diverse romances.

Authors: Lori Ann Bailey, Mindy Klaksy, Rose Grey, Michelle Mars, JT Silver, Erin Eisenberg, Lavinia Klein, and Lynne Silver

Published: November 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

State of Terror

I’m a huge Louise Penny fan (both of her writing and of her!) so when I heard she was not only writing a book outside of her Inspector Gamache series, but her co-author was Hillary Clinton, I was excited. I assumed I would like the book but how would her writing translate from a cozy style to a more thriller-esque mystery? While I had some minor issues, overall I enjoyed this book and I would read another one by her and Clinton if they decide to continue their collaboration.

As far as thrillers go, State of Terror succeeded in keeping me in suspense, anticipation, and excitement with a compelling story and interesting characters, despite the story being based on real events and characters clearly based on actual politicians. The story starts with several bombs being detonated in cities across the world, with the implication that these attacks are only the beginning of a wave of increasingly larger and more deadly attacks. Tasked to investigate and stop the terrorists is the new Secretary of State, Ellen Adams who has surprisingly accepted the position despite President Douglas Williams being her political rival. On the surface, this seems like a shrewd move by Williams and an attempt to heal the divide in their party, but Adams knows the truth-he wants her to fail so all the blame will fall on her when he can’t repair the damage the former President inflicted on the country and the world. Penny and Clinton don’t attempt to hide that the former President in this book is based on our actual former guy, just as Secretary Adams is based on Clinton herself. While I understand why they chose to do this, I sometimes found this distracting because I couldn’t stop thinking about the real people these characters were based on. (As it turns out, there were several more characters based on real people, as revealed in the acknowledgements at the end but they are minor so I didn’t notice). The original characters, and there were a lot, added to the story in ways that made sense and I was given time to get to know them so when they found themselves in dangerous situations, I found myself caring about what happened to them. There’s nothing worse in a thriller than not caring when you should because that takes you right out of the story. It could have been confusing with so many characters but the decision to change the points of view frequently helped me to not forget who each person was and kept me invested in each person’s storyline.

Where this book really excels is the story, which manages to avoid playing into stereotypes while being accurate to the real threats the world is facing right now. You can tell this was Clinton’s time to shine and her expertise shows. The threats in this book feel real and that must be thanks to Clinton’s knowledge in foreign affairs. My main issue with this book, and honestly with most thrillers, is that it was just too long. Pages could have been cut without sacrificing the story and it still would have been a hefty size.

This was a decent thriller written by a great writer and a woman with exceptional government knowledge. The story kept me engaged the whole time and I thought it wrapped up well. I think most people would find it an easy to read, enjoyable book and I recommend it.

Authors: Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton

Release Date: October 12, 2021

Rating: 4 Stars

All the Feels

One of the things I like most about Olivia Dade’s heroes, and especially the ones in her Spoiler Alert series, is how free they are expressing their emotions and how unafraid they are to enjoy the thing they love, even if those things would be deemed less than manly by most people in society. Alex, the hero in her latest book, All the Feels, is no different, and may be my favorite of hers so far. A lot of focus is spent on her heroines, and for good reason, but Alex captured my heart in a way a romance hero hasn’t in a long time. This book may not be for everyone but I enjoyed Dade’s latest look into the world of Hollywood, fanfiction, and all things nerdy.

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The Holiday Swap

Every year it seems like more and more holiday themed romance novels are being written and why not? The holidays are seen as a wonderous time, a time where people can fall in love in a matter of days and when the unexplained happens, we can chalk it up to the magic of the season. I am willing to overlook implausible scenarios in holiday romances as long as I’m enjoying the story,the characters are believable,and there are other aspects of the book that are likable.  The Holiday Swap is a book that shouldn’t and wouldn’t work in real life, but it’s so charming that I couldn’t help but like it.

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A Holly Jolly Diwali

The concept of this book is cute and the idea of a romance centered around a winter holiday that’s not Christmas is much needed, but this felt more like women’s fiction than a love story so it fell flat for me.  There are positive things about this book but I wouldn’t suggest this to hardcore romance fans or if you are looking for a holiday themed read.

The good things first. The main theme of the novel focuses on the growth of a young woman and the discovery of what she wants in life and who she wants to be and I am here for it. It’s executed well, even though there were times I wanted Niki to be a little stronger and surer of herself but part of the conflict comes from her learning to be her own person.  One of the strongest aspects of this book was the strength of the female relationships, whether it was Niki and Diya, Niki and her sister Jasmine, or when Niki opens herself up to new adventures and befriends Masooma. These relationships do a great job showing the reader who Niki is and what she finds important in life.  The representation in this book is needed and welcome and I liked that it was about a holiday I knew nothing about and the differences between the various families. Niki’s feelings about not belonging in her Indian family while also not belonging in her American family felt authentic and I loved the conversation she had with her parents about the motivations behind their choices when they moved to the States and why they treat their daughters the way they do. Their relationship was sweet and their concern for Niki provided some comic relief and heart to the story. And even though I didn’t love the romantic relationship, I liked that Sam and Niki were foils of each other; she is flailing in life after spending most of it doing what she thinks she should and not having fun while he is flailing after spending his life pursuing lofty dreams and finding himself at a crossroads. This was a fun take on opposites attract that worked well with the story.

Now the things that didn’t work for me. Diwali is in the title of this book so I expected the holiday to be a more prominent part of the story but other than a few times in the very beginning and a mention at the very end, Diwali isn’t a big part. One of the plot points is that Niki doesn’t know why Diwali is celebrated so she asks various people why they celebrate and…we never really get an answer. Most of the people tell her what they personally think but nothing about the holiday is explained.  The end of the book would have had more of an impact on me if the holiday had played a larger role in the story. My main issue with the book was the romance. To me, this isn’t a romance book, it’s women’s fiction. Yes, there is a romance plot running throughout but this is an insta-love story so we don’t get a lot of time to find out why Niki and Sam fall for each other so when the conflict is introduced, I didn’t feel anything.  There wasn’t enough on the page to convince me that Niki would make life changing decisions for this relationship and because this is told from her point of view exclusively, we don’t know how Sam is feeling and his actions didn’t convince me he loved her. We get a few kissing scenes and that’s it for the heat level as well so the lack of physical heat combined with the insta-love didn’t work for me. I was more interested in Niki’s journey to personal acceptance than the love story, which would have been perfectly fine had I not expected something completely different.

This was a well written book that had likeable characters and a good story, but it wasn’t what I expected, and the romance fell flat.  It also didn’t feel very holiday to me and that was one of the reasons I picked it up. Despite these issues, I would read another book by Lalli and I would recommend this book to someone but with the caveat that it isn’t a romance.  Give this one a read if you are looking for a story about a woman changing her life for the better and discovering her true self but not if you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit.

Author: Sonya Lalli

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Rating: 3 Stars

*Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Hook, Line, and Sinker

I didn’t think it was possible to love this book more than the first in the series but somehow Tessa Bailey has written a book that surpassed my expectations.  When I finished “It Happened One Summer” and found out that Hannah and Fox were getting their own story, I screamed out loud.  And then, when a week later, I saw “Hook, Line, and Sinker” pop up on Edelweiss as an advanced reader copy, I screamed out loud…again.  I could have waited until next year when this book comes out to read it, but I have no self-control and read this in one day.  Friends to lovers is usually not my go to romance trope but this book may have changed my mind.  I adored Hannah and Fox’s story and hope you do too.

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Morning Glory Milking Farm

I’m going to attempt to review the hottest and buzziest romance book right now, and keep it clean, but it’s going to be difficult when said book is about a human woman, a male minotaur, and…milking. Perhaps the most shocking thing about this book is how legitimately well written and sweet the romance is in a book that is categorized as monster erotica. Seriously, if you are looking to dip your toes into the water that is monster romance, this is a great place to start.

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A Woman is No Man

This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time but it was a tough, emotional read so I would be hesitant to recommend it without that warning.  This isn’t a happy book even though there were moments of joy throughout. But the feelings of sadness and despair outweighed those for me and I was left thinking about this book for days afterwards.

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The Love Hypothesis

Immediately upon finishing this book, I seriously contemplated making this my entire review and screaming it out loud for all to hear: I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH THAT I READ IT IN 1 DAY.  WHEN I HAD TO PUT IT DOWN FOR A MOMENT, I COULDN’T WAIT TO PICK IT BACK UP. IF YOU LIKE ROMANCE NOVELS, YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED WITH THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS.  But I figured that people would want to know WHY I loved this book so much so I gathered my thoughts and wrote this review in the hopes that I will convince you to read this book when it’s released.

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