We’ll call this one a mixed bag round up of books I’ve read relatively recently and one I read months ago. Much like my reading these days, these reviews are all over the place. I think it is indicative of the times.
One thing that has really helped me though is giving myself the flexibility to read any books I want and not be pressured to read only ARCs. My library upped our available check outs through Hoopla so I have been trying to take advantage of that.
Cherish Hard and Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh– I read Love Hard back in March and loved it. I was super happy to see that my library had these two for me to get the back stories of the characters I met in Love Hard. Cherish Hard was a solid C read- nothing fantastic, nothing terrible. I liked Rebel Hard better (arranged marriage) but I wish I had spaced the readings out further. Because the timelines of Rebel Hard and Cherish Hard are similar, a lot of things felt repetitive. I am very much looking forward the next book, which I believe to be Isa’s younger sister and the youngest Bishop brother.
The Spire by Kate Canterbary– I read this via audio book back in 2017 and I always mention it as a great example of a prickly heroine so I thought it was a good idea to re-read it. Erin is still one of the toughest heroines I’ve read and I love her so much. Erin has been through some shit and Nick is her perfect match to help her come to terms with the fact that she can love and be loved.
Secondary love story in this book is between Erin and her sister Shannon as they start to find their way back to each other. I had forgotten about the epistolary aspect of this book and I loved it. One thing I had forgotten and really, really hated was Riley’s near obsession with Lauren, his brother’s wife. It got too much page time.
(CW: child abuse/sexual assault, mention of cutting)
When We First Met (Forever Yours) by Cara Bastone– I bought this novella in the wee hours of the night a week weeks ago. It was a cute and very quick read. Neighbors fall for each other. The MMC has been low key pining for the FMC for several months. There is no sex in this book (sorry for the spoiler, but I was looking for it and I want y’all to know this.)
It sets up a new series by Bastone out later this summer. I really enjoyed her voice and look forward to reading more. I did reach out to someone in the know about the upcoming books and I have it on good authority that they are steamy.
To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters– I’m going to be super honest, if you are looking for a laugh out loud rom-com about a relationship in trouble, I think you should skip this one and read You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle. Maybe if I hadn’t read that book just weeks before this book, I would have liked this one better. Who knows. The premise here is that an already married couple have been in a fight for four years and now are going to try to work it out. He gets hurt, she’s worried then she’s mad because he didn’t respond the way she wanted. It is full of hijinks that didn’t feel overly funny to me. Also the heroine pretends to be suffering from consumption (tuberculosis) and has all these fake coughing spells that felt weird to be reading about right now.
The side characters were interesting enough that I might be compelled to read more about them.
This was also a reminder to me that I struggle with Regency. I spend too much time trying to figure out what things are happening and what they mean. I should probably stick to contemporary.
The Sinner by Molly O’Keefe– Welcome back to the portion of the show where I fangirl over Molly O’Keefe. This one kept me up late at night reading and then sitting with my feelings. The way O’Keefe takes flawed, broken, and sometimes morally questionable characters and makes me root for them and believe in them and their love stories is amazing.
Matt goes to Louisiana looking for vengeance and finds Savannah instead. Matt is just trying to hide though and as we learn his secrets it is hard not to hurt for him. Also he wears glasses!! It is sexy as hell. Savannah has been hurt by men and seeing her learn to trust again is beautiful.
After I read this I did some research and see that this started as a Superromance from 2010ish and Molly recently rewrote. So it may seem similar to some readers. I am anxiously awaiting the next in the series which comes out on April 28th.
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez. I really loved The Friend Zone. I was SO EXCITED when Forever sent me an early copy of this book. I actually read it back in 2019 and dropped everything to read it. It was a huge disappointment to me.
What I liked- The dialogue between Sloan and Jason. I think Abby is a master at capturing dialogue between characters that feels so real. I loved seeing Kristen and Josh again. I absolutely adored the way Brandon is still very much part of the story. He might be dead but he is still very much part of Sloan and then Jason’s life. I love that Jason doesn’t want that to change.
What I didn’t like- I think the “crazy ex” trope is lacking nuance in the first half of the book. I am tired of seeing women, especially ex-girlfriends, as portrayed as crazy. I thought the conflict by the ex/management company was distracting and those parts felt like it was a different book. I think Jason was being wildly mismanaged, particularly by his recording company. His manager was not really an advocate for him.
At least twice I thought about marking the book as DNF because I was so disappointed in the heavy reliance on the crazy ex and manufactured drama by the record label. I felt like there was enough conflict with Jason being a rock star and traveling the world and having a long distance relationship that could have been developed more to be the true conflict rather than falling on the crazy ex.
For me, this was a disappointing read and I don’t really know how to grade it. I loved the witty dialogue and banter between Sloan and Jason. It felt similar to TFZ but not a duplication. But I just could not get over the conflict of this book and how the ex-was handled.