Review: Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Hang the Moon
Author: Alexandria Bellefleur
Series: Written in the Stars #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Sweet
Length: 11 hours (384 pages)
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Written in the Stars

SYNOPSIS

In a delightful follow-up to Written in the Stars, Alexandria Bellefleur delivers another #ownvoices queer rom-com about a hopeless romantic who vows to show his childhood crush that romance isn’t dead by recreating iconic dates from his favorite films…

Brendon Lowell loves love. It’s why he created a dating app to help people find their one true pairing and why he’s convinced “the one” is out there, even if he hasn’t met her yet. Or… has he? When his sister’s best friend turns up in Seattle unexpectedly, Brendon jumps at the chance to hang out with her. He’s crushed on Annie since they were kids, and the stars have finally aligned, putting them in the same city at the same time.

Annie booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to Seattle to spend time with friends before moving across the globe. She’s not looking for love, especially with her best friend’s brother. Annie remembers Brendon as a sweet, dorky kid. Except, the 6-foot-4 man who shows up at her door is a certified Hot Nerd and Annie… wants him? Oh yes.

Getting involved would be a terrible idea—her stay is temporary and he wants forever—but when Brendon learns Annie has given up on dating, he’s determined to prove that romance is real. Taking cues from his favorite rom-coms, Brendon plans to woo her with elaborate dates straight out of Nora Ephron’s playbook. The clock is ticking on Annie’s time in Seattle, and Brendon’s starting to realize romance isn’t just flowers and chocolate. But maybe real love doesn’t need to be as perfect as the movies… as long as you think your partner hung the moon.

MY THOUGHTS

This was a cute romance featuring the best-friend’s-brother trope, lots of romcom movie references, and romantic dates around Seattle. Annie and Brendon had a strong connection, and this book has maybe my favorite romcom epilogue that will especially delight Disney fans.

However, this book also includes the MOST MORTIFYING scene I have ever read in chapter 6. There was no reason for that to happen in a romance book period, and that level of secondhand embarrassment so early in a book made me almost DNF. I stuck with it because Written in the Stars was one of my favorite books of 2021, and while I enjoyed the rest of the book, that scene nearly ruined it for me. IYKYK.

I also don’t love romance books where one person is on vacation/planning to leave soon when the couple gets together. It puts too much pressure on a new relationship and usually leads to unrealistic outcomes. I know romcoms are meant to be a fun escape from reality, but that kind of plot line requires too much suspension of disbelief for me to fully get wrapped up in the story.

Review: The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Trouble with Hating You
Author: Sajni Patel
Series: The Trouble With Hating You #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
Length: 11 hours (336 pages)
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: May 12, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: The Dating Plan
Content Warnings: sexual assault, misogyny, gaslighting, pregnancy, emotional abuse, death of a parent

SYNOPSIS

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?

MY THOUGHTS

Liya and Jay’s enemies to lovers romance was full of hilarious banter, awkward situations, romantic tension, and so many emotional scenes. I was rooting for them to find happiness with each other within a strict Indian community that shunned Liya for her perceived promiscuity.

While this is a rom com, it deals with several heavy, triggering topics, particularly sexual assault and gaslighting by an emotionally abusive parent. Sometimes Liya’s sexist treatment felt a bit over the top, but I felt so much anger on her behalf that kept me rooting for her throughout the book.

This is a great book to read if you are looking for a romance that addresses deeper issues, and I preferred it to the author’s YA book.

Review Template: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Charm Offensive
Author: Alison Cochrun
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Vikas Adam, Graham Halstead, Cassandra Campbell
Length: 11 hours (358 pages)
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: September 7, 2021
Source: Library
Content Warnings: panic attacks, depression, homophobia

SYNOPSIS

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

MY THOUGHTS

I love the amazing diversity and representation in this book on so many fronts: LGBTQ+, BIPOC, neurodivergence, and mental health. This book takes a real, raw look at depression, anxiety, and OCD. But it’s also such a cute and heartfelt romance!

Charlie is this season’s “Prince Charming” on dating show Ever After, and Dev is a producer on the show. While they initially clash, forced proximity leads them to develop a slow burn forbidden romance built on a foundation of genuine friendship and understanding of each other’s needs. Watching them fall for each other was so sweet, even when a long-term relationship seemed impossible.

I binged this audiobook in a day, but I wish I had taken more time with this book. I also am just not a fan of Bachelor-inspired storylines and the contrived situations they force. I do like how this book highlighted how much of “reality” TV is scripted and addressed homophobia in dating show.

Review: First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: First Comes Like
Author: Alisha Rai
Series: Modern Love #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Saira Ayers, Neil Shah
Length: 11 hours (432 pages)
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: February 16, 2021
Source: ALC via Libro.fm; paperback via publisher
Content Warnings: catfishing, panic attacks, grief, death of parent, pregnancy

SYNOPSIS

The author of The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral returns with a story about finding love in all the wrong inboxes…

Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.

There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.

The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…

When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life? 

MY THOUGHTS

After months of online flirting, Jia, a beauty vlogger, finally has the chance to meet Dev, a Bollywood star making his Hollywood debut, irl… only discover she’s been the victim of catfishing. Naturally, they hatch a fake dating scheme.

I really liked Jia and Dev as individuals. Both were career oriented and driven. They both come from large (albeit very different) families they love. The development of their romance was very sweet, and they completely supported each other even before they admitted their feelings for each other were real. I also love how this book represented diversity in the media.

However, a lot of things in this book didn’t make sense to me. For a series called Modern Love, the relationship in this story felt very outdated. Dev’s grandmother was incredibly manipulative, rushing Dev and Jia’s budding relationship into marriage because she overreacted to some fairly innocuous paparazzi photos. I just don’t buy that it was a career ending scandal! I also don’t think the catfishing explanation made sense.

And we need to talk about the confusing steam. This was a CLEAN romance (like didn’t want to be seen holding hands in public to avoid scandal…hello, this is not the regency era) until they put a ring on it. Then it was very open door. I usually don’t mind steamy scenes, but it felt very jarring based on their relationship development. They clearly had a strong connection, but they barely knew each other and had barely admitted their feelings for each other when they rushed to wed. Again, it did not feel like MODERN love.

Review: Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Reminders of Him
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: eBook
Length: 335 pages
Publisher: Montlake
Release Date: January 18, 2022
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Content Warnings: car accident, death, suicidal thoughts

SYNOPSIS

A troubled young mother yearns for a shot at redemption in this heartbreaking yet hopeful story from #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover.

After serving five years in prison for a tragic mistake, Kenna Rowan returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But the bridges Kenna burned are proving impossible to rebuild. Everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out, no matter how hard she works to prove herself.

The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter. But if anyone were to discover how Ledger is slowly becoming an important part of Kenna’s life, both would risk losing the trust of everyone important to them.

The two form a connection despite the pressure surrounding them, but as their romance grows, so does the risk. Kenna must find a way to absolve the mistakes of her past in order to build a future out of hope and healing.

MY THOUGHTS

Another emotional punch in the gut from CoHo! This is a story about a woman who just wants to meet her daughter Diem after she is released from prison, but everyone in her daughter’s life still blames her for the tragedy that put her behind bars. The story is written in a way where the reader can easily empathize with both sides, so it’s just heartbreaking all around.

Kenna has no one on her side at the beginning of the book. A chance encounter and instant connection with Ledger, who was best friend’s with Diem’s father, provide her first real bit of hope, but it could all go away at any moment. Ledger struggles with his new forbidden feelings for Kenna and his loyalty to Diem’s family.

Kenna and Ledger’s first encounter was a bit instalove-y for me, and I thought the ending felt rushed, but overall this contemporary romance was angsty and sad. I also really liked all the side characters in this story.

Review: The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Fastest Way to Fall
Author: Denise Williams
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: N’Jameh Camara and Teddy Hamilton
Length: 11 hours (361 pages)
Publisher: Berkley Romance; Penguin Random House Audio
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: romcoms & fitness
Content Warnings: fatphobia, disordered eating and exercise, addiction

SYNOPSIS

Britta didn’t plan on falling for her personal trainer, and Wes didn’t plan on Britta. Plans change and it’s unclear if love, career, or both will meet them at the finish line.

Britta Colby works for a lifestyle website, and when tasked to write about her experience with a hot new body-positive fitness app that includes personal coaching, she knows it’s a major opportunity to prove she should write for the site full-time.

As CEO of the FitMe app, Wes Lawson finally has the financial security he grew up without, but despite his success, his floundering love life and complicated family situation leaves him feeling isolated and unfulfilled. He decides to get back to what he loves—coaching. Britta’s his first new client and they click immediately.

As weeks pass, she’s surprised at how much she enjoys experimenting with her exercise routine. He’s surprised at how much he looks forward to talking to her every day. They convince themselves their attraction is harmless, but when they start working out in person, Wes and Britta find it increasingly challenging to deny their chemistry and maintain a professional distance.

Wes isn’t supposed to be training clients, much less meeting with them, and Britta’s credibility will be sunk if the lifestyle site finds out she’s practically dating the fitness coach she’s reviewing. Walking away from each other is the smartest thing to do, but running side by side feels like the start of something big.

MY THOUGHTS

I love the positive spotlight this book shines on the complicated relationship between exercise, body positivity, and mental health.

Britta and Wes are couple goals. I love Britta’s passion, authenticity, and vulnerability. Wes is a dedicated and compassionate cinnamon roll. They have amazing chemistry and banter from their first interaction.

Britta and Wes initially communicate through a fitness app; Wes doesn’t know that Britta is a journalist writing about her experience using the app, and Britta doesn’t know that Wes is CEO of the company in addition to being her coach. They eventually meet irl, their genuine friendship developing into a forbidden romance as their relationship toes an ethical line for both of them professionally. The secrecy might make some readers uncomfortable, but Britta and Wes are a really solid match despite their morally ambiguous beginnings.

Britta’s journey was so inspiring. Her motivation to get fit was not to lose weight, but to become stronger and healthier both physically and mentally. I connected with her perseverance training to run a 10k, especially since I started training for a 10k around the time I listened to this audiobook!

Review: The Singles Table by Sara Desai

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: The Singles Table
Author: Sara Desai
Series: The Marriage Game #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
Length: 11 hours (322 pages)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: November 16, 2021
Source: Library
Content Warnings: panic attacks, car accident

SYNOPSIS

Opposites attract in this romantic comedy about a free-spirited lawyer who is determined to find the perfect match for the grumpy bachelor at her friend’s wedding

After a devastating break-up, celebrity-obsessed lawyer Zara Patel is determined never to open her heart again. She puts her energy into building her career and helping her friends find romance through the wedding season. She’s never faced a guest at the singles table she couldn’t match, until she crosses paths with the sinfully sexy Jay Donovan.

Former military security specialist Jay has no time for love. His life is about working hard, staying focused, and winning at all costs. When charismatic Zara crashes into his life, he’s thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of chaos he wants to avoid. Worse, they’re stuck together for the entire wedding season.

So they make a deal. She’ll find his special someone if he introduces her to his celebrity clients. But when their arrangement brings them together in ways they never expected, they realize that the perfect match might just be their own.

MY THOUGHTS

I love how Sara Desai displays different sides of Indian culture and families in each book in this series. They are all very fun romcoms with laugh out loud moments, serious topics, emotional relationships, and plenty of steam.

I love how Zara is so unapologetically herself. She and Jay have such great chemistry and angst with their enemies-to-lovers, grumpy sunshine vibes.

However, sometimes the hijinks crossed a bit too far to the wrong side of ridiculous, and by the end I was tired of all the predictable romcom beats.

Review: The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Marriage Game
Author: Sara Desai
Series: The Marriage Game #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
Length: 12 hours (338 pages)
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Audio
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Source: Library
Content Warnings: domestic abuse, emotional abuse, infidelity, toxic relationship, medical trauma

SYNOPSIS

A high stakes wager pits an aspiring entrepreneur against a ruthless CEO in this sexy romantic comedy.

After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. He would do anything to see her smile again. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business and creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a man. She doesn’t know he’s arranged a series of blind dates until the first one comes knocking on her door…

As CEO of a corporate downsizing company Sam Mehta is more used to conflict than calm. In search of a quiet new office, he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he’s forced to share his space with the owner’s beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

MY THOUGHTS

This is a very enjoyable rom com. The enemies to lovers angst is top notch, and Layla and Sam had amazing chemistry. I love how central Indian culture and family dynamics are to this story. I also appreciate how this rom com doesn’t shy away from serious topics like medical trauma and domestic abuse.

My biggest complaint is that sometimes the comedy seemed *too* over the top. Most of the blind dates and “villains” in the story had all the depth of a cartoon character… I kept waiting for Sam’s business partner to start twirling his mustache. I also thought the ending dragged a bit.

I didn’t like this as much as The Dating Plan, but I had fun listening to this audiobook!

Review: Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Weather Girl
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: The Ex Talk, Set It Up on Netflix
Content Warnings: depression, abandonment

SYNOPSIS

A TV meteorologist and a sports reporter scheme to reunite their divorced bosses with unforecasted results in this charming romantic comedy from the author of The Ex Talk.

Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.

In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.

Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?

MY THOUGHTS

Weather Girl is a fun, sweet, and realistic office romance at a news station where a Parent Trap-inspired matchmaking scheme to reunite their bosses brings together meteorologist Ari and sportscaster Russel.

I enjoyed how Rachel Lynn Solomon portrayed a realistic relationship with real issues. I especially appreciated how she did not shy away from depicting Ari’s depression and the way it affected her self-worth and her relationships with family members, friends, colleagues, and romantic partners. Russel has his own struggles as a former teen parent single dad who doesn’t have the typical body type for a male lead in a romance novel. Ari and Russel were a great match for each other once they learned to navigate their vulnerabilities, and while I do prefer to read romances with more angst, theirs is the kind of relationship I would actually like to have.

This book also features fantastic Jewish representation, complex family dynamics, a few steamy scenes, plenty of weather puns and weather-related jewelry, and fun dates and events like swing dancing, air hockey, office Olympics, and plenty of show tunes. The story didn’t always fully hold my attention, but it always felt real.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the eARC.

Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Well Matched
Author: Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Length: 10 hours (336 pages)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Well Met
Content Warnings: divorce

SYNOPSIS

Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.

Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire — a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.

As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again… something that doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans — and open her heart — for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

An accidentally in-love rom-com filled with Renaissance Faire flower crowns, kilts, corsets, and sword fights.

MY THOUGHTS

I totally swooned for this fake dating, age gap, forced proximity, friends to lovers, reluctant romance. As much as I love a good enemies to lovers, there’s something so satisfying about watching two characters develop a genuine, caring friendship that develops into something more.

Mitch is by far the best leading man in this series…and it’s not just because of the kilt. While he comes off as a hunky, carefree jock in previous books, this story brings so much depth to his character with his family dyamics.

April could be a bit frustrating. As a single mom and soon-to-be-empty nester, she thinks she knows exactly what she wants…until she doesn’t. She definitely had some issues to deal with, but I wish she had been a bit more open-minded and slower to judge.

All those romance tropes plus the magic of the Ren Faire work together to create a truly charming rom com that will delight readers.

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