Everything for You

Title: Everything for You

Author: Chloe Liese

Series: Bergman Brothers

Publication Date: May 10, 2022

Format: e-book

Genre: Romance

Sub Genre(s): LGBTQ, Sports


Summary:

Gavin

We’ve been teammates for two years, but it feels like a lifetime that Oliver Bergman’s been on my last nerve. A demanding captain and veteran player, I’m feared and friendless, while he’s the beloved rising star, all sunshine smiles and upbeat team spirit. To make matters worse, he’s obscenely attractive. In short: he’s genetically designed to get under my skin.

Avoiding Oliver has been my survival tactic on and off the field. But when Coach drops the bomb that we’re now co-captains, avoiding him becomes impossible, and keeping the truth from him–let alone my distance–is harder than ever.

Oliver

Life was great until soccer legend Gavin Hayes joined the team and proved he’s nothing like the guy I grew up idolizing. Instead, he’s a giant–albeit gorgeous–grump who lives to rain on my parade. I’ve sworn off pranks since entering the public eye, so rather than settle our differences the Bergman way, I’ve had to settle for killing Gavin with kindness. There’s just one problem: killing him with kindness is killing me.

To make matters worse, Coach gives us an ultimatum: put an end to our enmity or say goodbye to being captains. I’m prepared to be miserable while we meet her demands and make nice, but the last thing I expect is to discover an explosive attraction we can’t help but act on, and worse yet, to realize the man hiding beneath Gavin’s gruff exterior is all I’ve ever wanted.–From Goodreads


What I Liked: This series continues to be such a joy to read, and I find myself eagerly anticipating each new release.  Each Bergman sibling is unique, and I’ve found myself enjoying their individual love stories. Liese has done a fantastic job of giving the reader enough information about the family so that when it’s time for the next sibling’s book you feel like you know them already.  I already knew I liked Oliver from the small scenes he had been in before this, but this book made me love him. His personality was so unique and fun and a great antithesis to Gavin’s grumpiness. Liese does a good job showing us why Gavin is such a grump and how Oliver would be able to look past that to fall in love with him.  As a fan of Ted Lasso, the parallels here are obvious but that just made me like this book more.

What I Didn’t Like: As a fan of the enemies to lovers to trope, the thing that makes the reader invested in the story is the progression of the relationship.  In this book, we don’t get that.  The initial meeting of Oliver and Gavin is only talked about, not seen, so we miss the initial moment of attraction hidden by hatred. In many ways, enemies to lovers is also a slow burn story and I felt that this story went too fast.   

Who Should Read It: Existing fans of the Bergman Brothers series won’t be disappointed with this one and will want to continue the series after this but anyone looking for a sports romance will also enjoy this book. And while this is part of a series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

Review Wrap Up: Great banter, great chemistry, and great sex. What more can anyone ask for in a romance? As much as I loved the characters in this book and the overall story, I wish there was more to the enemies to lovers build up and we saw Oliver and Gavin’s initial meeting. Despite this issue, I would recommend this book for romance fans looking for a good sports themed story.

Favorite Quote: “We’re already proud of you. If you did nothing but exist the rest of your life, we’d be proud of you. Because you’re ours and we love you.”


@thespinsterlibrarian
*Thank you to Netgalley and the author for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Book Lovers

Title: Book Lovers

Author: Emily Henry

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Format: E-Book

Genre: Romance

Sub Genre(s): Contemporary


Summary: Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.-From Goodreads


What I Liked: Emily Henry has become a must read for me because she writes characters I wish were real, characters I want to be friends with, and characters I want to date and fall in love with. Only in my dreams do I have the ability to speak like her characters do-the witty banter between Nora and Charlie, the heartfelt conversations between Libby and Nora, it was all perfection. Charlie is a perfect, brooding, enemies-to lovers romance hero who has flaws and imperfections but who deep down wants to be brave enough to show his true self to someone who deserves it. Nora is a true queen and a breath of fresh air in the romance novel world. She’s not the girl who dreams of the white picket fence or 2.5 kids. She knows who she is and what she wants but that has left her feeling left out in a world that places so much emphasis on being the sweet, docile woman. I love that Nora and Charlie compromise for each other without losing themselves in the process.  While categorized as a romance, one of my favorite parts of this book is the complex relationship between the sisters and the evolution of that relationship. The way Henry shows how two people who are everything to each other can still view shared experiences differently is masterful as is the way she shows how two “identical” people (Nora and Charlie) can be vastly different.  

What I Didn’t Like: I loved everything about this book. There is nothing I would change.

Who Should Read It: Fans of Emily Henry will love this book as will fans of complex yet fun romances.

Review Wrap Up: This book was truly an enjoyable experience that checked all the boxes I look for in an enemies-to-lovers romance: flawed yet likable characters, sexual tension, witty banter, and a satisfying ending. Emily Henry continues to write entertaining stories that are must reads for romance fans and I highly recommend this book.

Favorite Quote(s): “Is there anything better than iced coffee and a bookstore on a sunny day? I mean, aside from hot coffee and a bookstore on a rainy day.”

“That is what I’m looking for every time I flip to the back of a book, compulsively checking for proof that in a life where so many things have gone wrong, there can be beauty too. That there is always hope, no matter what.”


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

Ten Trends to Seduce Your Bestfriend

Title: Ten Trends to Seduce Your Bestfriend

Author: Penny Reid

Series: N/A

Publication Date: April 12, 2022

Format: e-book

Genre: Romance

Sub-Genre(s): Contemporary, Slow-Burn


Summary: Winnifred Gobaldi and Byron Visser are not best friends.

Yes, they’ve known each other for years, but they’re not even friendly. Winnie considers them more like casual, distant acquaintances who find each other barely tolerable, especially when he’s being condescending (which is all the time).

The truth is, they have nothing in common. She’s a public school science teacher with stars in her eyes, and he’s a pretentious, joyless double PhD turned world-famous bestselling fiction author. She loves sharing her passion for promulgating women in STEM careers and building community via social media, and he eschews all socialization, virtual or otherwise. She’s looking for a side hustle to help pay down a mountain of student debt, and his financial portfolio is the stuff of fiduciary wet dreams. So why are they faking a #bestfriend relationship for millions of online spectators?

When a simple case of tit-for-tat trends between nonfriends leads to a wholly unexpected kind of pretend, nothing is simple. Sometimes, it takes a public audience to reveal the truth of private feelings, and rarely—very rarely—you should believe what you see online.—Goodreads


What I Liked: Penny Reid always manages to write books that have a lot of heart, tackle some serious issues with grace and aplomb, and make me laugh the entire time. I’m happy to say that this book held up to my very high expectations. Winnie and Byron are two people who are dealing with their own issues and realize that to truly commit to each other, they need to accept themselves for who they are.  This book isn’t afraid to discuss issues you don’t normally see in romance novels like sensory processing disorders, the difficulties women face in STEM fields, and the societal pressure of losing one’s virginity. Normally I find myself frustrated when the issues between characters would be solved if they just talked to each other but the communication difficulties between Winnie and Byron made sense here. I loved the supporting characters and the depth and emotion they added to the story, especially Amelia as the friend stuck between both of them. We should all be so lucky to have a friend like her; someone who isn’t afraid to tell the hard truths when needed but gives you the space to figure things out on your own. The main conflict in the story felt real within this world, even if some of the situations were over the top. Overall the story was enjoyable and the characters were charming.

What I Didn’t Like: Despite not feeling like it, this book is very long, and I don’t think that any romance novel needs to be over 500 pages. As much as I loved these characters and the world they inhabited, I would rather their story be split into two books if needed. This is a very minor “issue” and more a personal preference.

Who Should Read It: Fans of slow-burn romances will love this book as there is enough heat and smoldering looks to keep the reader interested but the relationship takes its time until the satisfying conclusion. If you have never read a Penny Reid book, this would be a good place to start.

Review Wrap Up: This is a great story about how another person shouldn’t complete you but compliment you and be someone that brings out the best in you. At the end of the day, we’re all looking for someone to accept us for who we are while also wanting us to be the best version of ourselves and Winnie and Byron are a fantastic, fictional couple that embodies this. I was rooting for them from page one and never stopped.

Favorite Quote: “You are extraordinary.”


thespinsterlibrarian

Thank you to Social Butterfly PR and Cipher-Naught for an ARC in exchange for an honest review

Part of Your World

Title: Part of Your World

Author: Abby Jimenez

Series: N/A as of now

Publication Date: Expected April 19, 2022

Format: e-book

Genre: Romance

Sub Genre(s): Contemporary


Summary: After a wild bet, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich, and cuddle with a baby goat, Alexis Montgomery has had her world turned upside down. The cause: Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot carpenter who’s ten years younger than her and as casual as they come—the complete opposite of sophisticated city-girl Alexis. And yet their chemistry is undeniable.

While her ultra-wealthy parents want her to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons, Alexis doesn’t need glory or fame. She’s fine with being a “mere” ER doctor. And every minute she spends with Daniel and the tight-knit town where he lives, she’s discovering just what’s really important. Yet letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean turning her back on her family and giving up the opportunity to help thousands of people.

Bringing Daniel into her world is impossible, and yet she can’t just give up the joy she’s found with him either. With so many differences between them, how can Alexis possibly choose between her world and his?

What I Liked: Romance is a genre in which the characters have to be likable (unless the trope calls for an unlikeable character) and you as a reader have to feel the chemistry between the protagonists. If I don’t buy that the people I’m reading about would fall in love by the end of the story, then the book has failed to live up to it’s promise of being a romance. This is not the case with this book. Even though Alexis and Daniel are complete opposites, their chemistry is apparent right away. I LOVE that for once, the age difference is an older woman and a younger man and that it’s not an unsubstantial amount (10 years). I like that the reservations Alexis has about their age difference aren’t the main focus of the story and goes away as their relationship develops. Despite their differences in age, class, and occupations, they are both struggling with the weight of obligation, which is a realistic obstacle in their love story.  Another fun aspect of this book that I liked was the moments of magic that pop up here and there and the allusions to Disney movies. It was fun to catch these as I was reading and added something extra to the story.

What I Didn’t Like:  There were times that the antagonists in this book, mainly Alexis’s parents, were so outlandishly over the top that I wanted to roll my eyes. I know that this was done as part of the “evil villain” theme but there was only so many scenes of Alexis being yelled at by her dad that I could take. I also felt like some of the storylines were left a little open ended or without a conclusion that made sense. Alexis’s friendship with Jessica and Gabby in particular would have benefitted from a clearer conclusion.

Who Should Read It: Fans of romantic comedies that also deal with heavy subject matter will like this book. As a content warning, a major part of this book deals with both physical and emotional abuse (nothing graphic) and how easy it is for an abuser to hide their actions from the world.

Review Wrap Up: Jimenez received some flak for a previous book that left me a bit leery to read something of hers but I’m so glad I did because this was a fun yet emotional story that managed to tackle some difficult subjects with compassion. The opposites attract trope was used well here and I enjoyed the growth that both Daniel and Alexis had to do in order to be together in a healthy way. I’m excited to read Bri’s story, expected to be released in 2023.

Favorite Quote: “Like, seriously? These are the men we’re supposed to get a UTI for? If you found someone you like, date him. Trust me.”

“I don’t think she realizes how exceptional she is. I got the sense nobody tells her, which is weird.”


*Thank you to Netgalley and Forever Publishing for an ARC in exchange for an honest review*
thespinsterlibrarian

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care

Title: Delilah Green Doesn’t Care

Author: Ashley Herring Blake

Series: Bright Falls

Publication Date: February 22nd, 2022

Format:  e-book

Genre: Romance

Sub Genre(s): LGBTQ+, Contemporary


Summary: Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her.

When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.

Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise…at first. Though they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other—so Claire is unsettled when Delilah figures out exactly what buttons to push. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to…


What I Liked: Every character in this book is fully realized, with their own quirks and problems and feelings. Delilah can best be described as prickly but as we find out she has genuine reasons to be that way. It’s a testament to Herring Blake’s skill as a writer that Delilah never comes off as mean, at least to people who don’t deserve it. The queer representation in this book is something that has been missing in a lot of recent romance novels. Many LGBTQ romances seem to include queer characters as an afterthought but both Delilah and Claire feel like real people. Claire’s bisexuality is truly a part of her personality and shapes her thoughts and actions. I don’t know how Herring Blake did it, but she wrote a romance novel that is swoony and funny and heartwarming and also managed to write a touching story about the relationship between sisters and the importance of friends who always support you and the real struggles of co-parenting with an ex and the fear of being alone. Phew!  Every side story got enough time to feel important and I was invested in each and every character.

What I Didn’t Like: Ummm nothing? If pressed to find something to critique, the villains in the story sometimes felt a bit over the top and out of place in a book that overall felt authentic and real. However, the way they are dealt with in the end makes sense to the story.

Who Should Read It:  Any romance fan will find something to love about this book. I think this will end up being on a lot of best of the year lists.

Review Wrap Up: It was truly refreshing to read a romance in which the heroines are their authentic selves and love each other just as they are. The relationships in this book, both romantic and platonic, felt true and I want to be friends with this group in real life. It’s only January but this may end up being one of my favorite books of the year.  

Favorite Quote: “She didn’t have to be alone. Not unless she just wanted to be, and goddammit, she didn’t.”


thespinsterlibrarian

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

Count Your Lucky Stars

Title: Count Your Lucky Stars

Author: Alexandria Bellefleur

Series: Written in the Stars

Publication Date: February 1st, 2022

Format:  e-book

Genre: Romance

Sub Genre(s): LGBTQ+

Summary: Margot Cooper doesn’t do relationships. She tried and it blew up in her face, so she’ll stick with casual hookups, thank you very much. But now her entire crew has found “the one” and she’s beginning to feel like a fifth wheel. And then fate (the heartless bitch) intervenes. While touring a wedding venue with her engaged friends, Margot comes face-to-face with Olivia Grant—her childhood friend, her first love, her first… well, everything. It’s been ten years, but the moment they lock eyes, Margot’s cold, dead heart thumps in her chest.

Olivia must be hallucinating. In the decade since she last saw Margot, her life hasn’t gone exactly as planned. At almost thirty, she’s been married… and divorced. However, a wedding planner job in Seattle means a fresh start and a chance to follow her dreams. Never in a million years did she expect her important new client’s Best Woman would be the one that got away.

When a series of unfortunate events leaves Olivia without a place to stay, Margot offers up her spare room because she’s a Very Good Person. Obviously. It has nothing to do with the fact that Olivia is as beautiful as ever and the sparks between them still make Margot tingle. As they spend time in close quarters, Margot starts to question her no-strings stance. Olivia is everything she’s ever wanted, but Margot let her in once and it ended in disaster. Will history repeat itself or should she count her lucky stars that she gets a second chance with her first love? 


What I Liked:  After being a side character in the first two books of this series, Margot finally gets her own book. As one of my favorite characters in the previous stories, I couldn’t have been happier when I saw this book would be centered around her and her chance at love. I am usually not a fan of the childhood friends/first love trope because for some reason authors think that if a character found their “true love” when they were young that means they can never date anyone else or be happy for the rest of their lives until they are reunited once again. Here, Margot and Olivia have gone on to lead their own lives with its ups and downs and aren’t looking for each other when happenstance brings them together again. The reason for their initial falling out is believable so I was able to buy into their love story, even if the reason for their forced proximity togetherness is a bit wild (but hey, romance reasons!) I loved that all the characters from the previous books are in this one because the found family aspect of this series has been one of my favorite things about it.

What I Didn’t Like: Some of the conflict in this book could have been resolved if the characters just talked about what happened in the past so it was hard to not scream at the page sometimes “just say what you really feel!” But this is a romance novel so the angst has to come from somewhere and after being hurt in the past by each other, I can see why there would be some trepidation to open up. The other minor issue (and this isn’t really an issue, more an observation) is that I feel you must have read the first two books in the series to TRULY understand and enjoy this book as much as possible. It can certainly be read on its own but I would not recommend it.

Who Should Read It: Fans of second chance romances who like their stories with a medium level of heat. Fans of found family stories and romances with a touch of fate and magic sprinkled in.

Review Wrap Up: This was a great conclusion to the Written in the Stars series and may be my favorite one of them all. Margot is a fantastic, well-rounded character and Olivia was a great addition to the group. This is a series of friends that you want to be a part of, and I was sad to see them go. I would highly recommend you give this one a shot but make sure you start with the first book Written in the Stars.

Favorite Quote: “The right person shouldn’t complete you, they should love you the way you are. And it’s cool if they make you want to be better, but they should never make you feel like you’re too much or not enough exactly as you are.”


 

thespinsterlibrarian

D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding

Title: D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding

Author: Chencia C. Higgins

Series:  N/A

Publication Date:  January 25th, 2022 (expected)

Format:  E-book

Genre: Romance

Sub Genre(s): LGBTQ+

Summary: Instant I Do could be Kris Zavala’s big break. She’s right on the cusp of really making it as an influencer, so a stint on reality TV is the perfect chance to elevate her brand. And $100,000 wouldn’t hurt, either. D’Vaughn Miller is just trying to break out of her shell. She’s sort of neglected to come out to her mom for years, so a big splashy fake wedding is just the excuse she needs. All they have to do is convince their friends and family they’re getting married in six weeks. If anyone guesses they’re not for real, they’re out. Selling their chemistry on camera is surprisingly easy, and it’s still there when no one else is watching, which is an unexpected bonus. Winning this competition is going to be a piece of wedding cake.  But each week of the competition brings new challenges, and soon the prize money’s not the only thing at stake. A reality show isn’t the best place to create a solid foundation, and their fake wedding might just derail their relationship before it even starts.


What I Liked:  The representation in this book is incredible. The two leads are a fat, Black Lesbian and an Afro-Latina butch lesbian ,which would be amazing enough, but there are several queer side characters as well.  This was fun from page one and I thought the reality show premise was clever and made the insta-love trope more believable. I loved that the angst in this book didn’t come from the main relationship but rather the very real and difficult task of coming out to your family.

What I Didn’t Like: The relationship between Kris and D’Vaughn moved very quickly and while I know that’s the point of this book, I’m not a huge fan of insta-love stories so I would have loved a few more scenes of them falling in love. I would have also liked more closure between D’Vaughn and her mother about her coming out and the feelings surrounding that. This was a large part of the beginning of the book and I would have enjoyed a conversation between them to wrap things up.

Who Should Read It: If you like your romances to be fun and low-angst, this would be a great read for you. The steam level is pretty mild so this would be a good book for people who don’t want too much explicit sex in their romances.

Review Wrap Up: It took longer than I would have thought but reality TV-themed romance novels seem to be popping up more and more (see “One to Watch” and “If the Shoe Fits”). While I’m not a fan of reality shows, I have to admit they make a great backdrop for insta-love romances. While I felt this story wrapped up too quickly, I thought it was really fun and I was rooting for Kris and D’Vaughn the entire time and had a smile on my face at the end.

Favorite Quote: “…it was no secret that reality shows tended to put a certain style and shape of woman in front of the camera. Petite, with flawless skin. Dazzling smiles and relaxed hair. Skin so fair it was almost translucent. So aggressively heterosexual they were willing to fight another woman over a man offering community dick that was mediocre at best.”


thespinsterlibrarian

*Thank you to Carina Adores and Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Electric Idol

Title: Electric Idol

Author: Katee Robert

Series: Dark Olympus

Publication Date: January 18th, 2022

Format: e-book

Genre: Romance

Sub Genre(s):  Fantasy


What I Liked:  The chemistry between Eros and Psyche was incredible and writing love scenes is clearly one of Roberts’ strong suits. The tension between them was amazing and one of the highlights of the story. The enemies to lovers and fake marriage tropes can be hard to pull off but the circumstances here work and the need to protect each other, from outside influences and themselves, was a really great way to show Psyche and Eros growing closer. I really love when heroes in romance novels feel like they don’t deserve the heroine so Eros was my dream romance lead. Only in romance novels can a damaged, flawed man be changed by love which is what I loved about this story. In real life, you will never change that man so don’t even try, haha! Psyche is how I wish all plus-sized heroines would be written. She is confident and sexy but also fully aware of the world she lives in, how she is viewed, and the limitations she has based on her size. She doesn’t let anyone talk down to her but knows how people judge her and it’s one of the most realistic portrayals of a plus-sized heroine I’ve read in a long time. One of my issues with Neon Gods was the lack of world-building so I liked learning more about the hierarchy of the leaders in Olympus and the insight into how the Thirteen are chosen.

What I Didn’t Like: Even though Roberts’ shares a little bit more about Olympus in this book, I feel like I still don’t know much about this world outside of its leaders so sometimes it felt like I was only getting part of the story. Who are the people these leaders are leading? Why are there Gods in the first place? I wish there was a more time taken to expand what we know about Olympus. For me, I don’t mind that this is not so much a retelling of Greek mythology as it is taking characters from the myths and writing about them, but I could see other readers being upset by that. Don’t expect this to be a classic retelling.

Who Should Read It: Fans of hot, fun, fake marriage romances that don’t mind a story that bends the definition of “modern retelling.’ You don’t need to have read the first book, Neon Gods, to enjoy this one but it would help as this one features characters that are in both books.

Review Wrap Up: Electric Idol was a fun read that highlighted Katee Roberts’ gift for writing steamy love scenes and builds upon the world she created in Neon Gods quite nicely. While there is nothing new here in terms of the tropes, I loved Eros and Psyche and I will continue reading this series.

Favorite Quote: “You might be a monster, Eros, but you’re my monster.”


thespinsterlibrarian

*Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca, Katee Robert, and Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Homecoming King

This is the first book in Penny Reid’s brand-new series and while it has her trademark humor and charming characters, this feels like the beginning of something new and exciting for her “Pennyverse.” I’ve loved her other books and her writing has always been great, but I can see the growth of Reid’s writing in “Homecoming King” and I enjoyed every minute I spent in this new world.  I think every fan of contemporary romances will find something to love about this book.

I read a lot of and I’m a fast reader but it’s still rare for me to read a book in one day, let alone in one sitting, yet that’s what happened with this book. Once I started reading about Abigail and Rex, I didn’t want to stop. This was one of the most realistic fake marriage romances I’ve ever read, with this trope usually being so over the top that it’s hard to suspend my belief enough to enjoy the story.  Abby has sworn off dating after a particularly damaging relationship that left her in massive debt. She has also harbored a major crush on Rex since elementary school so her hesitance to agree to his fake marriage plan makes sense.  And Rex….oh my heart. Rex is the grumpy (but in fact super soft and lovable) romance hero of my dreams. His vulnerability is a rare trait not often seen in romance heroes and his willingness to wait for Abby to work through her own insecurities was wonderful.  In turn, Abby sees through his gruff exterior and sees who he really is, something that very few people in his life have taken the time to do.  This may be a slow burn story, but the chemistry between Abby and Rex practically leaps off the page the entire time.  Even their awkwardness with each other is charming, thanks to Reid’s usual quirky writing style.  

This being a Penny Reid book, the secondary characters in this book play a big part in the story.  Abby’s friend Kaylee was a friend we would all want to have in real life; she supports Abby while also giving her a kick in the butt when she needs it.  Cyrus ended up being the friend Rex needed the most, even though Rex didn’t know it and we could all use someone to have our backs like him.  Even the football wives, who are only in the book for a short time, managed to make an impression.  I can’t wait to read more about these characters in the next books in the series.

This was truly a wonderful and joyous book to read and a great start to a new series.  It uses the fake marriage trope to perfection and features relatable characters and a swoon-worthy romance. I highly recommend it for any romance fan, especially those looking for something fun to enjoy over the holidays.

Author: Penny Reid

Release Date: December 14th, 2021

Rating: 5 Stars

*Thank you to Cipher-Naught and Social Butterfly PR for the ARC in exchange for an honest review*

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

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