Review: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Boyfriend Material
Author: Alexis Hall
Series: Boyfriend Material #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook Listening Copy
Narrator: Joe Jameson
Length: 13 hours
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca; Dreamscape Media
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Source: Libro.fm ALC program
Recommended for fans of: Red, White, & Royal Blue; lgbtq+ romance, fake dating, enemies to lovers

SYNOPSIS

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go. 

MY THOUGHTS

I adored this hilarious and heartwarming fake dating romance. Luc, a child of celebrities, needs to clean up his public image. Enter Oliver, a friend of a friend. They’ve never cared for each other and seem to have nothing in common, but before you know it, enemies to lovers sparks are flying. This romance focuses more on the relationship than the steam (one fade to black scene), but I didn’t feel like anything was missing.

Both Luc and Oliver had complicated relationships with their families. Luc attempts to reconnect with his absent rockstar father, while Oliver struggles to meet his family’s expectations. It’s difficult to discuss these relationships without spoilers, but I was more satisfied with how Luc’s family storyline resolved than Oliver’s. Luc grew so much throughout the story in terms of understanding his wants, needs, and self-worth, but Oliver’s character development was not quite to the same level.

I knocked half a star off my rating because the ending felt so rushed….what kind of romcom doesn’t have an epilogue?! It needed one.

Thank you to libro.fm and the publisher for gifting me the ALC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: All Your Perfects
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 305 pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: infertility, pregnancy loss, infidelity, self-harm, depression

SYNOPSIS

Colleen Hoover delivers a tour de force novel about a troubled marriage and the one old forgotten promise that might be able to save it.

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

MY THOUGHTS

This is a super quick second chance romance with chapters alternating between a couple falling then in love and now on the brink of divorce. The juxtaposition with Quinn and Graham’s blissful beginning made their later struggles with infertility and open communication even more heartbreaking.

I do think it was a bit overhyped for me because I’ve heard SO many great things about this book and Colleen Hoover in general. The writing was not always at the level I expected. I felt for the characters, but I didn’t have ALL the feels. I definitely teared up a bit, but I didn’t need a box of tissues.

This book is very emotional and heartbreaking, and you want to make sure you’re in the right headspace to read about these heavy topics.

Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Spoiler Alert
Author: Olivia Dade
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Isabelle Ruther
Length: 13 hours (416 pages)
Publisher: Avon; HarperAudio
Release Date: October 5, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: fandoms
Content Warnings: fat shaming, toxic parents

SYNOPSIS

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster.  Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

MY THOUGHTS

This romance was cute and heartwarming. I loved how fanfiction and fandom in general was so normalized in this story. It made me miss going to comic conventions so bad!

Marcus is the star of a Game of Thrones type show…who secretly writes fanfiction that criticizes the show’s storylines. As an actor, Marcus presents a public image that hides his sensitivity, intelligence, and insecurities about his Dyslexia.

April is a plus-size fan of Marcus’s show who earns the star’s attention when finally finds the confidence to post a photo of her cosplay on Twitter. After they go on a date, the secret identity trope comes into play, because it turns out Marcus and April are longtime Internet friends through the fandom.

Both protagonists had complicated relationships with their parents and grew up feeling shamed and misunderstood. This added emotional depth to the storyline and created opportunities for significant character growth.

Chapters were interspersed with scenes from fanfic the characters wrote or scripts Marcus acted in. Some of these were entertaining, but these transitions were a bit confusing to follow in the audiobook.

I didn’t totally swoon over the romance, but I did really enjoy this book. The characters had a very healthy relationship with open communication (aside from Marcus’s secret identity…which is actually a pretty big deal). Even though this book wasn’t perfect, it had a lot to love, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun romance with unique representation.

Review: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Ex Talk
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Emily Ellet
Length: 11 hours
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Audio
Release Date: January 26, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: fake dating, single POV romance, Northwestern Wildcats

SYNOPSIS

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

MY THOUGHTS

I ADORED THIS. Fake exes is the twist on the fake dating trope I never knew I needed. Multiple other romance tropes were also executed flawlessly: enemies to lovers, office romance, just one bed.

I loved Shay. Normally I prefer dual POV romances, but Shay’s was the only perspective I needed. I found her so relatable and passionate, and we share a lot of nerdy interests.

I also loved Dominic, he was soooo swoon worthy, and DID YOU KNOW HE WENT TO NORTHWESTERN? (#GoCats)

I’ve been enjoying books about podcasts lately, and I really liked the influence of radio on the story. I also loved the sweet backstory with Shay’s dad and the epic takedown of a sexist media producer! All the stars.

Review: Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Written in the Stars
Author: Alexandria Bellefleur
Series: Written in the Stars #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Sweet
Length: 11 hours (384 pages)
Publisher: Avon; Harper Audio
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of: fake dating, enemies to lovers, modern retellings of classics

SYNOPSIS

With nods to Bridget Jones and Pride and Prejudice, a charming #ownvoices queer rom-com debut about a free-spirited social media astrologer who agrees to fake a relationship with an uptight actuary until New Year’s Eve—with results not even the stars could predict!

After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.

Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.

When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.

But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?

MY THOUGHTS

OMG I LOVED THIS SO MUCH.

A Pride & Prejudice retelling as a modern-day, queer romance? With fake dating? And enemies to lovers? And opposites attract? And astrology?? YES, PLEASE!

I could gush about this book all day. I just loved these relatable characters and their “written in the stars” romance so much! This story was fresh and steamy, but it also explored Darcy and Elle’s complicated family dynamics, so it’s not all fluff. I know this is shorter than most of my reviews, but I don’t know what to say besides EVERYONE NEEDS THIS ROMANCE IN THEIR LIFE!

I recommend the audiobook, but I loved this so much that I think I’ll be picking up a physical copy for my collection as well!

Review: Covet by Tracy Wolff

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Covet
Author: Tracy Wolff
Series: Crave #3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 680 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of: vampires
Content Warnings: panic attacks, death, violence, emotional torture, incarceration
Series Reviews: Crave, Crush

SYNOPSIS

I may have reached my breaking point. As if trying to graduate from a school for supernaturals isn’t stressful enough, my relationship status has gone from complicated to a straight-up dumpster fire.

Oh, and the Bloodletter has decided to drop a bomb of epic proportions on us all…

Then again, when has anything at Katmere Academy not been intense?

And the hits just keep coming. Jaxon’s turned colder than an Alaskan winter. The Circle is splintered over my upcoming coronation. As if things couldn’t get worse, now there’s an arrest warrant for Hudson’s and my supposed crimes—which apparently means a lifetime prison sentence with a deadly unbreakable curse.

Choices will have to be made…and I fear not everyone will survive.

The Crave series is best enjoyed in order.
Reading Order:
Book #1 Crave
Book #2 Crush
Book #3 Covet
Book #4 Court 

MY THOUGHTS

Crave continues to be my ultimate guilty pleasure series. Do I really need more teen vampire romances in my life? The answer is always YES. I love this world and these characters so much. I love seeing Grace become more confident in herself and her supernatural abilities. And Hudson is too good for this world (probably why he’s fictional).

However, I know that this series was originally conceived as trilogy before it was expanded to four books on a tight publication schedule, and it shows in Covet. This book is TOO LONG, and the pacing doesn’t always work. I flew through Crave and Crush in about two days each, but Covet took me two weeks. Multiple characters were uncharacteristically indecisive and oblivious for the sake of drawn out plot detours. Grace was especially frustrating and hypocritical in the way she viewed her mating bond and her relationships with Hudson and Jaxon. I also thought the whole prison plot line was confusing and underwhelming.

There were lots of developments I really liked: the Bloodletter, the giants, the Dragon Ball. The final battle was AMAZING and emotional, and I wish more of the book had that energy and pacing (although there is one thing at the end I think should’ve played out differently). Even though this book left more unanswered questions than I would like, I have faith the series will get back on track for an epic, emotional, and fun conclusion in Court!

Review: Wild at Heart by K.A. Tucker

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Wild at Heart
Author: K.A. Tucker
Series: The Simple Wild #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebekkah Ross
Length: 13 hours (472 pages)
Publisher: self-published
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Alaska
Book 1 Review: The Simple Wild

SYNOPSIS

From the internationally best-selling author of The Simple Wild comes the continuation of a woman’s journey to Alaska and a life she never imagined for herself.

Calla Fletcher returns to Toronto a different person, struggling to find direction and still very much in love with the rugged bush pilot she left behind. When Jonah arrives on her doorstep with a proposition she can’t dismiss, she takes the leap and rushes back to Alaska to begin their exciting future together.

But Calla soon learns that even the best intentions can lead to broken promises, and that compromise comes with a hefty price—a log cabin in interior rural Alaska that feels as isolating as the western tundra.

With Jonah gone more than he’s home, one neighbor who insists on transforming her into a true Alaskan, and another who seems more likely to shoot her than come to her aid, Calla grapples with forging her own path. In a world with roaming wildlife that has her constantly watching over her shoulder and harsh conditions that stretch far beyond the cold, dark, winter months, just stepping outside her front door can be daunting.

This is not the future Calla had in mind, leaving her to fear that perhaps she is doomed to follow in her mother’s fleeing footsteps after all.

MY THOUGHTS

Unpopular opinion here! I was disappointed in this sequel. It’s missing the elements that made me fall in love with the first book: the enemies-to-lovers romantic tension, Calla’s fish-out-of-water humor, and the emotional father-daughter relationship. To me, this felt like a watered-down rehash of The Simple Wild.

Calla still struggles to fit in, but now she’s more like a fish in a puddle. The new characters were enjoyable, but I missed the characters I loved from the first book. Jonah was not in the book nearly enough, and when he was, he was pressuring Calla to “compromise” (aka sacrifice what she wanted for what he wants). And I thought the steamy scenes were meh.

There just wasn’t enough happening in this book. For the entire first half, the biggest conflict was about buying furniture to decorate their new home. The ending was very emotional, but I thought it was lackluster in comparison to the ending of The Simple Wild.

Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Act Your Age, Eve Brown
Author: Talia Hibbert
Series: The Brown Sisters #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: ALC
Narrator: Ione Butler
Length: 11 hours (400 pages)
Publisher: Avon; HarperAudio
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Source: Libro.fm
Content Warnings: mentions of child neglect and ableism

SYNOPSIS

In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

MY THOUGHTS

This is easily my favorite of The Brown Sisters books (which are all wonderful). I absolutely adored the enemies to friends to lovers romance. Plus, it was freaking hilarious.

This book has incredible autism and neurodiverse representation. Jacob was diagnosed with autism as a child, and spending time with Jacob leads Eve to recognize her own autistic tendencies. This led to Eve and Jacob developing such a great understanding of each other’s needs and reactions.

And oh boy, this book is spicy! The steamy scenes left me blushing, but there were only a couple scenes like that.

I especially loved Eve as a main character. I love how sure she is of herself and her personality. Her openness is inspiring, and I loved watching her mature throughout the book as she finally let go of her fear of failure and chose a path for herself.

Thank you Libro.fm, HarperAudio, and Avon for the ALC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: A Court of Silver Flames
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses 4
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 751 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: February 16, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: rape, suicidal ideation, PTSD, trauma, depression

SYNOPSIS

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

MY THOUGHTS

Nesta is hard to love… but Sarah J. Maas made me love her in this book. I am currently a sucker for stories about healing as I just when through a healing journey of my own. I felt parallels between Nesta’s healing and my own, which gave me insights into her actions, her thoughts, her trauma, and why she is the way she is.

I absolutely loved Nesta’s relationship with Cassian and how it developed. Cassian is my new fae bae after this book. Be aware that the sex scenes are very explicit, and some of the details were a bit much.

Everyone praises Sarah J. Maas for writing so many swoonworthy males, but I thought the best part of this book was the female friendships Nesta developed with Gwyn and Emerie. They were exactly who Nesta needed to find her self-worth when she was not willing to accept help from her family. I also loved that Nesta’s female friends, and not just her love interest, helped her find healing.

This book also explores new lore and history of Prythian and the world beyond, opening up lots of possibilities for storylines in future ACOTAR books.

Be aware that this book has a lot of triggers for those who have experienced trauma and mental health struggles. I personally loved this book and Nesta’s journey, but many reviewers I respect felt triggered by problematic aspects of the story. Please do your research before you decide if this book is right for you.

Review: You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: You Had Me At Hola
Author: Alexis Daria
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Seraphine Valentine
Length: 10 hours
Publisher: Avon; HarperAudio
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Jane the Virgin, Twice in a Blue Moon
Content Warnings: stalking

SYNOPSIS

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez. 

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had. 

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

MY THOUGHTS

This was a sweet and spicy romance! I love that the plot centers around Latinx representation in show business. I especially loved the focus on family and Jasmine’s friendship with her female cousins. This book did not feature my favorite romance tropes, and I thought the familial relationships were more interesting than Jasmine and Ashton’s romantic relationship.

I really enjoyed the “inside look” at a celebrity romance. Jasmine and Ashton had different approaches to their careers and finding a work/life balance. Their different levels of comfort with being in the public eye, despite the different places they are in their careers, led to a lot of the tension and drama in the relationship.

I wish that Carmen in Charge were a real TV show coming soon to Netflix!