I can hardly believe that it is already May, but here we are. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I would be a liar and didn’t take a moment and say that I have been really struggling with my own mental health lately. It is very difficult to dig out from the lies that depressive/anxious brains like to lie about. But I am trying. Lots of things feel like impossible tasks and I’ve taken comfort in reading a lot more recently. I know that this is just a rough patch and there is light at the end of the tunnel and I am so grateful for my IRL and online friends. Now, while I’ve been hiding out from things, I read a lot books and now I will tell you about some of them.
The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves – I have read a couple of her books and enjoyed her voice so I was looking forward to reading this. The heroine, Annika, is neurodiverse, in the book she is described as being on the autism spectrum. The book alternates past (1991) and present (2001) and we get the POV from heroine and the hero. Annika and Jonathan are college sweethearts that broke up and reconnect in the present.
The book alternates between telling the story of Annika and Jonathan meeting and falling in love in college and reconnecting and falling in love again as adults. I was more connected to their story from college. As adults things seemed a little more forced. Annika really wanted to reconnect and Jonathan just kind of agreed. That was a little weird.
As I mentioned the present day of this book is in August 2001. Annika and Jonathan live in Chicago. 90% of the book takes place in/around Chicagoland. But Jonathan’s job in finance takes him to NYC in September 2001. (If you want spoilers, find me on the Twitter.com and I will give them to you) Anyway the connection to 9/11 had me incredibly anxious and rightfully so. I did not enjoy how this book ended. It felt manufactured for drama, there’s some high stakes stuff that gets resolution and then we get a quick flash forward and then roll credits. After the high emotions, I wanted a more payoff in the sense of seeing more from them and how they were going to continue their lives together.
The book is definitely more romantic fiction than a true romance, but there was enough of the romance to keep me reading. It was an interesting read. Although if you read On The Island and are looking for something similar to that, I do not think this is the book for you.
A Love Like Yours by Robin Huber– This book was recommended to me by my TwitterBestie, Estelle aka Publicist extraordinaire from Forever Romance.This book is part of a duet, with a HEA and cliffhanger. (see above note about spoilers, you know where to find me).
This book is angsty AF. But it is appropriate. Lucy and Will meet in foster care as tweens. Sam becomes Lucy’s protector and naturally they fall in love. Their love is destroyed when Sam is sent to prison on drug charges. Flash forward 7ish years and they reconnect. Lucy is now working to establish an art gallery. Sam is a famous boxer. At one point I almost messaged Estelle with an eye roll emoji, but I actually enjoyed this book a lot. The flashbacks of childhood Lucy and Sam were near perfect for me.
In current day, Lucy is engaged to another man. But remember that life and love is messy and I like seeing that reflected in my romance novels. It’s never really in question who Lucy is going to pick. She may have thought so, but as the reader I never doubted it.
Some bigger quibbles- there are a few “not like other girl” descriptors happening in this book and I hate them. It didn’t make me stop reading though. But I saw them and I am calling them out. Also, Lucy was so dependent on these men. Her fiance owns the gallery and Sam offers to buy it when they reconnect. Sam and Drew get in to some verbal altercations and I wish that Lucy had stood up for herself more. But the actions that Lucy took and didn’t take seemed pretty authentic to her character. I was definitely invested in their love story and will be reading the next book.
Fame Adjacent by Sarah Skilton– This book made it on my radar back in March when I tweeted about wanting books with older characters. The heroine, Holly, is a former child actor who is devastated when she doesn’t get invited to a reunion for the show she was on. When the story opens she is in “internet rehab”. I thought it was a joke in the blurb, but actually Holly is in an inpatient facility attempting to work on her addiction to being online. Thom, the hero, is at the same facility working through issues of his own.
Holly is obsessed with her former co-stars and friends. It is unhealthy. She kind of knows it. She is letting it consume her. Holly finds out the reunion is sooner than she thought and leaves the facility early to get there. She gets a ride from Thom who also has to get to New York. We get a road trip! What is better than characters falling in love over the forced proximity of a road trip!!
My new favorite sub-genre is romance/rom-com that features sad characters going through some shit who also happen to fall in love. Seriously, someone make this a tag on the ‘Zon and send me all the recs of them. Holly and Thom both fall in this category. We only get Holly’s POV but it worked for me. My note to myself about this book is that it was cute and unexpectedly heavy. If you read 99% Percent Mine by Sally Thorne and enjoyed it, I think you would like this as well.
Last up in this roundup is The Devil On Your Shoulder by Elyssa Patrick. I was really excited about this because I’ve read other books by her and really enjoyed them. This book uses the enemies to lovers trope which is not one that I pick up a lot and it did not work for me here.
The hero in this was a jerkface. I feel like I gave him a shot and I still disliked him after he took his cat for a walk. If that didn’t redeem him for me, there is no way I can believe that the heroine would like him. I had to file this one away as a DNF.
That’s all for this week. I’m currently reading The Last Dance by Aimee Brown. I hope to have a mini-review of it next week.