Categories
Romance

Read Something Wild & Wonderful

Read Something Wild & Wonderful by Anita Kelly

Alexei Lebedev’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail begins with a single snake. And it is angling for the hot stranger who seemed to have appeared out of thin air. Lex is prepared for rattlesnakes, blisters, and months of solitude. What he isn’t prepared for is Ben Caravalho. But somehow—on a 2,500-mile trail—Alexei keeps running into the outgoing and charismatic hiker with golden-brown eyes, again and again. It might be coincidence. Then again, maybe there’s a reason the trail keeps bringing them together . . .

Ben has made his fair share of bad decisions, and almost all of them involved beautiful men. And yet there’s something about the gorgeous and quietly nerdy Alexei that Ben can’t just walk away from. Surely a bad decision can’t be this cute and smart. And there are worse things than falling in love during the biggest adventure of your life. But when their plans for the future are turned upside down, Ben and Alexei begin to wonder if it’s possible to hold on to something this wild and wonderful.

I liked their dynamic together. Alexei’s interest in birds was a nice element. I enjoyed the brusque side character Ruby.

At their split, I didn’t think the second “reason” was necessary for Ben’s choice. I thought the epistolary segment worked well. This didn’t end how I expected, but I thought the ending worked. I think it would have been beneficial for Ben to have a little more of a *moment* of realization, but probably slow dawning is more realistic 😉 What he did for Alexei at the end was cute and was convincing that he’d begun his path of change.

As a backpacker who’s read and watched a lot about through-hiking, but hasn’t done anything longer than two weeks, this felt pretty true to my experiences and reflects what I’ve read. I appreciated that the author showed hikers of all stripes, reflecting the greater diversity of people enjoying the outdoors today.

Mild spoiler below the cut.

Categories
Romance

Read Battle Royal

Read Battle Royal (Palace Insiders, #1) by Lucy Parker

Ready…

Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, colorful creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere, the hottest pastry chef in London. When her glittery unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has managed to use her fame to help fulfill her dream of opening a bakery, Sugar Fair. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.

Set…

Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker, the go-to for sweet-toothed A-List celebrities, and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that the irksome Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.

Match…

When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they’re both determined to come out on top.

The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.

In this royal battle, can there be room for two?

I quite enjoyed this. At first I thought the two leads were too antagonistic and it would be a loooong haul to get together, but I bought the way the author nudged them together more quickly.

I liked the investigation and their rivalry, and I think the GBBO subplot was unnecessary with all the other stuff going on. This felt on the long side — trimming down some of the extra subplots could have helped with that too.

The ridiculous requests of the royals on their cakes was entertaining. His sister Pet was entertaining and I liked their relationship growing. Both characters had difficult experiences in their youth, and I almost teared up a couple times, but there was also plenty of funny stuff to balance it.

Categories
Romance

Read Flashed

Read Flashed (Happy Endings, #3)

A former soccer player, stripper, and model, legendary party boy Patrick Halloran finally gets his big break starring in the summer blockbuster. But when an accident leaves him changed forever, he hides away in his secluded Montana ranch. Only his new housekeeper is allowed inside–with one rule: she’s not allowed to see him. But Pat sees her, and she’s the most stunning woman he’s ever laid eyes on. Even her voice is beautiful. Still, Pat can’t allow himself to get close to anyone. Not without a fight at least . . .

Magdalena “Lena” Martel is a long way from Queens, New York. After a rough patch, the aspiring artist is working her way through college–even if it means keeping house for a man whose gruff voice she can only hear through a closed door. Still, Lena senses Pat’s got a good heart, maybe even a lovable one. She’s intrigued–until his anger sends her running into the freezing woods. Now Pat will have to find her–and when he does he may have found the one woman who can thaw his heart–not to mention the rest of him. But can their new bond survive the paparazzi–and their personal demons? . . .

I like this adaptation of beauty and the beast — the guy really did have some work to do on being a better person. He was a huge jerk at first, which gave him a long way he needed to grow, so appropriately the first half was a pretty slow buildup. I would have liked a little more resolution with the evil stepmother, and would have liked to build up to the finale a bit more. I was bummed and not wholly convinced by the misunderstanding breakup.

Categories
Romance

Read Her Big City Neighbor

Read Her Big City Neighbor (Cider Bar Sisters, #1) by Jackie Lau

When small-town engineer Amy Sharpe inherits a house in Toronto, she decides it’s the perfect opportunity to start over and go back to school. Away from the family that takes her for granted, away from the ex who expected so much and gave little in return.

The new Amy enjoys wandering around the city and frequenting bubble tea shops, German beer halls, dim sum restaurants, and coffee bars serving Japanese pastries. She has a roommate with the same name as her favorite fictional character, and a group of friends who meet at a cider bar every couple of weeks.

The new Amy is also in lust with her brooding, tattooed next-door neighbor, Victor Choi, who is far from friendly but looks really hot cutting the grass without a shirt. Too bad the grass doesn’t grow faster.

As she starts telling him about her daily adventures—and as a little kissing in the garden becomes a regular activity—Amy begins to feel more than lust. But she fears she’s falling into her old patterns in relationships and refuses to let herself be underappreciated again.

Is Victor really more than a hot fling? And what’s he hiding behind that grumpy exterior?

Light low-conflict read with adults acting like adults and having conversations they don’t want to have. Lots of food (honestly too much). I liked their relationships with their families. I didn’t 100% buy their connection, it seemed to start too quickly. Something about the lack of intense emotions made it feel like the volume was kinda dialed down. Somewhat unbelievable this woman was in a graduate program with the amount of time and money she had, and lack of stress 😂

Categories
Romance

Read The Trouble with Hating You

Read The Trouble with Hating You

Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she’s out the back door in a flash. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later — the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. What’s not surprising: he’s not too thrilled to see her either after that humiliating fiasco.

Jay Shah looks good on paper…and off. Especially if you like that whole gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He’s also arrogant and infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance?

I expected this to be a romcom based on the cover and title but on balance the heroine’s history of sexual abuse and abusive parents and hero’s trauma and self-loathing dragged it into more serious territory. It was smooth reading but there was quite a lot that I found distressing, from a near date rape with another guy to emotional blackmail to worker exploitation to slut shaming to the hero saying some truly terrible things to the heroine’s face to leading other romantic interests on after the halfway point. I disliked how the hero confronted the wannabe rapist and forced her to interact with him again. They bicker a lot at the beginning and everyone else thinks it’s cute but mostly they’re just being assholes to each other, not bantering.

Categories
Romance

Read Ship Wrecked

Read Ship Wrecked (Spoiler Alert, #3)

After All the Feels and Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade once again delivers a warm and wonderful romantic comedy about two co-stars who once had an incredible one-night stand–and after years of filming on the same remote island, are finally ready to yield to temptation again…

Maria’s one-night-stand–the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note–just reappeared. Apparently, Peter’s her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they’re about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him…but he now wants nothing to do with her.

Peter knows this role could finally transform him from a forgettable character actor into a leading man. He also knows a failed relationship with Maria could poison the set, and he won’t sabotage his career for a woman who’s already walked away from him once. Given time, maybe they can be cooperative colleagues or friends–possibly even best friends–but not lovers again. No matter how much he aches for her.

For years, they don’t touch off-camera. But on their last night of filming, their mutual restraint finally shatters, and all their pent-up desire explodes into renewed passion. Too bad they still don’t have a future together, since Peter’s going back to Hollywood, while Maria’s returning to her native Sweden. She thinks she needs more than he can give her, but he’s determined to change her mind, and he’s spent the last six years waiting. Watching. Wanting.

His shipwrecked Swede doesn’t stand a chance.

Unfortunately, this one didn’t work for me as well as the previous two books. There was a lot of funny banter, but not much plot. It felt longer than it needed to be — I kept waiting for something to happen. They had long conversations where I was waiting for information to appear or real conflict, but 🎆 nothing of substance. It felt like the author jumped to the scenes she felt like writing and glossing over the rest, and mostly what she wanted to write was banter. If you are looking for banter, this is your book.

Mild spoilers below the cut

Categories
Romance

Re-read A Lot Like Adios

Read A Lot Like Adiós (Primas of Power, #2)

Hi Mich. It’s Gabe.

After burning out in her corporate marketing career, Michelle Amato has built a thriving freelance business as a graphic designer. So what if her love life is nonexistent? She’s perfectly fine being the black sheep of her marriage-obsessed Puerto Rican-Italian family. Besides, the only guy who ever made her want happily-ever-after disappeared thirteen years ago.

It’s been a long time.

Gabriel Aguilar left the Bronx at eighteen to escape his parents’ demanding expectations, but it also meant saying goodbye to Michelle, his best friend and longtime crush. Now, he’s the successful co-owner of LA’s hottest celebrity gym, with an investor who insists on opening a New York City location. It’s the last place Gabe wants to go, but when Michelle is unexpectedly brought on board to spearhead the new marketing campaign, everything Gabe’s been running from catches up with him.

I’ve missed you.

Michelle is torn between holding Gabe at arm’s length or picking up right where they left off—in her bed. As they work on the campaign, old feelings resurface, and their reunion takes a sexy turn. Facing mounting pressure from their families—who think they’re dating—and growing uncertainty about their futures, can they resolve their past mistakes, or is it only a matter of time before Gabe says adiós again?

Still great on second read! She did an excellent job highlighting their emotions throughout, and how it changed their perspective. I related to their difficulties with their attitudes about work.

The action is maybe a little light, but the character arc and relationship work was so well done I didn’t mind that they didn’t actually do a whole lot. The sex scenes do heavy lifting on relationship building and characterization, are important to the story. The condom buying scene is hilariously cringe.

Appreciate that they are a non-traditional couple in that they don’t want kids, and don’t actually want to get married, but still find a way to be together that works for them.

Also that cover art 😍

Categories
Romance

Re-read The Soulmate Equation

Read The Soulmate Equation

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. After all, her father was never around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before her daughter was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands.

At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98 percent compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Peña. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Peña. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get ‘to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could launch GeneticAlly’s valuation sky-high, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.

Second read.

The heroine’s stubborn insistence on being a dishtowel in all situations except one that might make her happy is verrrry frustrating. Her willingness to subsume herself for her daughter grated — at the beginning she says she’s going to give up on finding a partner till her daughter is eighteen, eleven years in the future 😳 Like why hasn’t anyone talked to her about not making her daughter solely responsible for making her happy, there’s a recipe for some future trauma — she was so scarred by her mother not caring for her that she’s overcompensated to the point she has almost no life besides her kid.

Some of the scenes with the kid dragged, detracting from the romance. I imagine for single moms reading it might better match their experience of fitting a partner into an existing relationship between parent and kid 🤷‍♀️

It’s interesting to see Christina Lauren’s shift as a writer from hot impulsive people in their twenties to middle-aged single mom and business focused dude — a shift I would guess matches their own life path, even if it doesn’t resonate with me.

See also: first read in 2021

Categories
Romance

Re-read About Last Night

Read About Last Night

Sure, opposites attract, but in this sexy, smart, eBook original romance from RITA finalist and bestselling author Ruthie Knox, they positively combust! When a buttoned-up banker falls for a bad girl, “about last night” is just the beginning.

Cath Talarico knows a mistake when she makes it, and God knows she’s made her share. So many, in fact, that this Chicago girl knows London is her last, best shot at starting over. But bad habits are hard to break, and soon Cath finds herself back where she has vowed never to go . . . in the bed of a man who is all kinds of wrong: too rich, too classy, too uptight for a free-spirited troublemaker like her.

Nev Chamberlain feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist and bohemian struggling to break free and lose control. Mary Catherine—even her name turns him on—with her tattoos, her secrets, and her gamine, sex-starved body, unleashes all kinds of fantasies.

When blue blood mixes with bad blood, can a couple that is definitely wrong for each other ever be perfectly right? And with a little luck and a lot of love, can they make last night last a lifetime?

At least third read. Forgot how quickly the ending happens — too fast IMO, I thought I’d somehow missed a chapter — and the hero’s redemption not fully earned. I bought the heroine’s standoffishness more than another recent reread, The Soulmate Equation — though some of her self-abuse comes off uncomfortably judgmental and sex negative — probably would be updated if written today. Her ending arc was good but totally implausible.

Categories
Romance

Read Coming in from the Cold

Read Coming in from the Cold (Gravity, #1)

He can’t have her. And he can’t tell anyone why.

Ski racer Dane “Danger” Hollister does not do relationships, though he keeps his reason a secret. The real-life curse he’s inherited from his mother will eventually cost him everything: his place on the Olympic ski team, his endorsement income, and his ability to fly downhill at top speed.

Reluctant country girl Willow Reade meets Dane by accident. Literally. Her skidding truck forces him off the road during a blizzard. Stranded together in his Jeep as night falls, the two loneliest people in Vermont find themselves sharing more than they’d planned. And not just conversation.

Yet neither can guess how their unlikely tryst will threaten Dane’s frightening secret and Willow’s tentative peace with her own choices. Only mutual trust and understanding can end their pain and give them a hard won shot at love.

I’m not convinced that the heroine really grappled with her mental hurdles, since the focus was on his angst. I’m also not convinced he showed he was enough of a catch to keep her affection after being such a douche 🤔