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

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.

Continue reading “The Holiday Swap”

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*

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