Stuck With You by Ali Hazelwood

Stuck With You by Ali Hazelwood

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 41. Involves a second chance, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

On to the second novella in the STEMinist series! I didn’t enjoy Sadie and Erik’s story as much. It lacked some of the charm I typically enjoy, but there are still scenes that made me smile and laugh right along with the characters.

Nearly a month ago, superstitious Sadie walked into the local cafe for her pre-pitch croissant – only to discover the last one had just been sold. After a significant meltdown over her engineering job’s impending doom, Erik hands over the croissant, and sparks a conversation, that sparks a date, that sparks an incredible night together. The following day, Sadie discovers she lost that pitch…to Erik’s company. For an identical pitch to hers at a lower price, after she had explained her ideas over dinner.

Now, Sadie and Erik are stuck in an elevator in a power outage at their shared office building. It seems the time has finally come to talk out what transpired after their incredible first date.

I don’t think the descriptions of Sadie and Erik really match the illustrations on the front, so that was a bit disorienting while I was reading. The kind of guy I was picturing Erik to be is not the kind of guy on this cover art – he looks very sharp-angled on the cover, and I didn’t think of him that way. Same with Sadie; this cover makes her look edgy with borderline RBF, but she’s really a big softie with a lot of structure and rules. So these definitely weren’t the characters I was expecting.

The classic trapped-in-an-elevator trope could have been used more. We go in and out of the present story and the past that informs their current relationship, and their present predicament could’ve been more…fun, I guess? Obviously, she’s mad at him during this time in the elevator, but Hazelwood doesn’t play it up to its full potential. I’m thinking like, The Hating Game elevator scene. Unusual move for Hazelwood to not play into it.

I just wasn’t terribly attached or connected to Erik or Sadie. I actually really liked Mara from Under One Roof, even within the fewer pages of the novella versus a full novel…I felt no such way about these two. I admire Hazelwood’s ability to write different kinds of characters, but clearly I feel most connected to the nerdy, introverted, messy types she’s been writing. Erik, similarly, I found to be cold and annoying with little to redeem himself. I prefer her other male characters: cold and broody, no social skills, but somehow squishy on the inside?

Not my favorite, but I’m not discouraged. Below Zero is up next for me, and it sounds like I’ll enjoy that one more. Hazelwood is still a glowing writing talent, even if this story didn’t speak to me personally. It’s definitely not bad, just didn’t stand out to me!

One more of these novellas for you – coming Friday! Enjoy the week!

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 3. Title starting with the letter “E”

Other Possible Prompts: 14. A character with superhuman ability, 34. An author’s photo on the back cover, 37. Set in a rural area, 41. Involves a second chance, 42. An indie read, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I’m on a streak of some really *meh* books, which SUCKS because I was quite excited for this one! I was hoping for The Hating Game meets Payback’s a Witch, but no such luck.

Nine years ago, Vivienne and her cousin cursed her ex-boyfriend with a Bath & Body Works candle. After a wonderful three months, she broke it off with witch Rhys Penhallow and promptly labeled him a dickbag – but now he’s back, home to charge the ley lines that power the witchery of Vivi’s town, and the curse she didn’t really think worked apparently very, very much did.

Now, the pair have to work together to shut down living toys and ghosts, and other witchy antics haunting the little town as a result of Rhys’ curse, which he passed on through the ley lines. The proximity and the unresolved feelings make Rhys and Vivi’s relationship sizzle with some lightning intensity.

Without a doubt, this relationship was *sizzling*. The romance in this book is steamy and entertaining, if nothing else. Truthfully, I didn’t initially like Rhys and Vivi for each other…and I still didn’t really, by the end of the novel, but it mattered less because they never turned out to be super round or relatable characters so I wasn’t even mad. I felt like their backstories were generic and their reactions to things very neutral/unimaginative. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than I legitimately did not care about either of these characters, but Sterling writes some good romance *scenes*. That’s where all the magic happens.

I really want more from my witch books than The Ex Hex had to offer. I enjoyed Payback’s a Witch so much because it did a great job blending the romance and the witchy world; there was a lot of substance to that story and a lot of magic interspersed. That’s a series that will carry itself on the magic alone. The Ex Hex falls flat in comparison. I didn’t even really get the cozy vibe of a fall novel from this one, though I am reading it in 80 degrees…so that could be my fault. I just expect more from books about witches than Sterling was able to deliver.

I feel like I’m just entirely trashing this book here, but I evidently enjoyed it at least a little bit. And it really wasn’t that bad, it just wasn’t that good. The romance part was really solid, as I mentioned, but the rest of it was not stellar.

I think I will still pick up The Kiss Curse, especially because I really liked Gwyn’s character more than I liked Vivi. I had the potential to like Vivi more; I liked that she didn’t grow up as a witch, that she was coming into her own power in this book…but it was poorly executed. Gwyn had more warmth, character, and personality, so I’m excited to see her story play out on the page. Though I have to say, somewhat disappointed that we went from the f/f lead up created in The Ex Hex to whatever f/m magic is happening in The Kiss Curse.

And in conclusion, I would like to say that Sir Purrcival the cat was my very favorite character. He reminded me of my own kitties. I would be a witch in another life, and Eloise would be my Sir Purrcival.

Have a lovely week, friends!

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 52. Published in 2022

Other Possible Prompts: 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I think I liked this one while reading, but when I look back I’m far less impressed. Not to mention, the second half just grated on my nerves. Let’s jump into it!

After her fiance of three years cheats on her with their realtor, Dani finally snaps. She calls off the wedding and swears off guys altogether – but it really feels like her ex, Sam, got off scott-free. So, together with her cousin and her new landlady, she conspires to buy the lot next door to his house and build a girls retreat – a “spite house”.

As an interior designer, Dani takes the lead on the project, but she needs an architect. The grumpy and off-putting Wyatt volunteers himself, much to Dani’s chagrin – as the time they’ve worked together at their company has not left warm and fuzzy feelings – but once they start working together, sparks seem to be flying in spite of Dani’s no-man rule. If only her revenge wasn’t getting in the way…

I was really digging this romance through the first half, with lots of tension and quips with the “hate” start to their romance, but then they totally lost me through the second half. It started strong, but then I really saw Dani get needy, and Wyatt get truly horrible at communicating. Neither are terribly attractive features, and as a functioning adult, I couldn’t fall into a romance where these two clearly had some growing up still to do. It (spoiler alert) destroyed their good chemistry, and made me disinterested in their success as a couple. As a whole, I quite enjoyed the novel, but the romance does not carry it start to finish.

In fact, the drama of the house build carries the second half. I rooted for Dani in all aspects except her needy romantic self. Mia and Iris were my favorites, because their sass and wisdom make them great supporting characters, but Dani is pretty solid, too. Wyatt, however, was a no from me. I always want the grumpy ones to be Mr. Darcy types, but he falls flat. I just don’t want the chiseled asshole archetype anymore. No soft and squishy insides here.

The “spite house” itself is an interesting concept…but the antics became a little much for me. It overtakes so much of the novel, but I can’t tell if it’s *supposed* to make me uncomfortable or not. It did. It was too much. Too try-hard. Just a build a gorgeous house, block his view, and be done with it all – why do we have to make your ex so mad?? I’m the queen of boundaries, the queen of let it go – this was very much the opposite of establishing a boundary and letting it go.

I can’t decide if I want to recommend this or not. I think I do. I would read Anna Collins again, but this definitely doesn’t top my favorites. I’m curious to see how a second novel pans out.

A copy of Love at First Spite was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

That’ll about do it. Big “meh” vibes from me as of late. Enjoy the weekend!

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 46. A job title in the title, 52. Published in 2022

What a cute one! I was wary about Weather Girl because it sounded too similar to The Ex Talk that I didn’t think it’d be worth the read, but I was wrong. Weather Girl is all its own, and I enjoyed it even more than The Ex Talk. This is Solomon coming into her own.

Weather Girl follows Ari, weather-obsessed twenty-something meteorologist, after her engagement is broken off and she’s finally had enough of her divorced bosses fighting with one another. The tension is so bad, she’s starting to dislike her job – and there’s nothing Ari loves more than rain and her job. Drunk after a holiday party, her and her sports reporter coworker Russell hatch a plan to get their bosses back together.

The more time they spend together scheming, the closer Russell and Ari grow. But Ari, carrying the baggage of depression and being burnt by past relationships, is hesitant despite her comfort with Russell. And Russell, a parent, has a tough time bringing his two worlds together.

I cannot start this review without saying the representation of mental illness in this story, and the conversations around them, are so well done. It’s easy to glamorize things like depression and anxiety through literature, but Solomon’s characters are frank and honest about trauma; and even better, they’re having self-aware and critical conversations to do better for themselves and those around them. Not to just “be better”, but to be kind to ourselves and our reactions to things as people with mental illness. The people in Ari’s life, particularly her brother, warm the heart with their unbridled support, without overstepping.

The romance, also, is a step up from The Ex Talk. I liked her debut, but it was admittedly slow and cooled off. This is much, much better. My hesitation to read her in the future has been whisked away by this one book. It reminded me more of a Jasmine Guillory novel, and I really liked that. Solomon hit that perfect note in tone with this one.

I really liked both Ari and Russell’s characters. Actually, there wasn’t really any characters in this one that I didn’t like! Torrance and Seth, their bosses that start the book as exes, are a little too much at first – but if there’s anything you can take from this book, it’s that people can grow. Even the characters I didn’t love at the beginning come around. They grow. And not just in little ways: there’s therapy involved, medication in some cases, and the journey from A to B is a long one. That sets this one apart in my opinion.

I’m also a sucker for a romance book with a kid in it… I loved Elodie, Russell’s daughter, and the element of depth she added to Russell’s character through their bond was really enjoyable to watch. Kids just soften a story somehow, even if they are in their pre-teen years. Elodie was a glowing supporting character to this story.

So, with all this good stuff, I definitely recommend Weather Girl. I only really gave it 4.5 stars because, like The Ex Talk, it took me a while to get through it for some reason. I got through three-quarters of it in just a couple hours, then proceeded to ignore it for like a week. I couldn’t tell you why, I just didn’t at all feel like picking it back up again.

But go get it!! That last line probably didn’t sell you, haha. But I really did enjoy this one, and I think fans of Jasmine Guillory, or those that enjoyed The Ex Talk, probably will as well.

Have an awesome week!

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 41. Involves a Second Chance

Other Possible Prompts: 2. Featuring a library or bookstore, 5. Chapters have titles, 14. A character with superhuman ability, 37. Set in a rural area

This book!!! Too much fun. I legitimately have not read a fantasy book I enjoyed this much in many, many years. It wasn’t entirely what I was expecting – it was better.

After years away, Emmy Harlow returns to her hometown of Thistle Grove in anticipation of a house competition for the town’s founding family witches – over which she is to preside. But there’s good reason for her being gone so long: one of the other witches, Gareth Blackmoore, left her ten years before and made her feel inconsequential – as the Harlows are considered to be the weaker witches, and do not participate in the tournament that brings strength and prosperity to its crowned family. Emmy left magic behind in exchange for leaving behind a family legacy that followed her around like a storm cloud.

Back in Thistle Grove, Emmy and the other houses – Avramov and Thorn – are teaming up. Having been similarly scorned, her best friend Linden and the mysterious Talia Avermov are working together to put the Blackmoores, and Gareth especially, back in their place. But all that time together seems to be creating some sparks between Emmy and Talia…

There’s a lot going on this book so it is a bit hard to describe for you – but I think part of the action and imagination is what makes it so good. As I said, this is one of the first fantasy books I’ve read in a long, long time – I expected magical realism, but it’s pretty far into a fantasy realm. And I actually loved it! Payback’s a Witch was easily accessible and yet tons of fun. The whimsy and magic of it all was a great ride.

The romance was also adorable! That’s what I actually was reading it for – I honestly didn’t realize it was such an in-depth fantasy, though I live for witches and witchy vibes. And even jumping into a romance, I didn’t know this was queer romance, lol. Somehow I missed that – I don’t tend to read descriptions as much anymore, so I just jumped right into the book. After a few minutes, I actually laughed out loud at my own confusion…”That’s odd, I feel like they’re implying that Talia is the love interest? That’s an odd way to describe her if she isn’t.” Silly me! Really not sure how I missed that but oh my lord, are they cute!

I also loved Emmy and Linden’s friendship. It was sweet and genuine, and riddled with shared history that you could feel through the story. Sometimes I read a romance, and I honestly like the best friends more than I like the couple. Sometimes romance stories can feel disingenuine, but a writer can almost always capture best friends. But Linden and Emmy really compliment the romance and highlight the levels of intimacy differences between Talia and Emmy. Linden and Emmy’s sweet moments of friendship build even better expectations of connection between Talia and Emmy.

The storyline, and the ending, absolutely killed it. I can’t even express to you how much this reignited the vibes I gathered from my middle school, fantasy-reading days (but like, obviously…this one is not meant for middle schoolers!). I also want to note that I listened to this as an audiobook, and the performance and reader was very good. I love, love, loved it!

There’s a sequel coming! I’m told there’s another Witches of Thistle Grove book on the horizon…and I literally cannot wait. This book was just tons of fun. That’s the best way to describe it. Please check it out!!

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Howdy! This week I read Jasmine Guillory’s newest in The Wedding Date series: While We Were Dating. The more Jasmine Guillory I read, the more disillusioned I become with its quality. I enjoyed While We Were Dating, but it didn’t blow others out of the water.

Anna Gardiner is on a mission to get herself back to the Oscars. After a year facing anxiety and panic attacks, she’s getting back on the horse with an advertising campaign led by Ben Stephens, a sweet and funny flirt who also happily drives celebrities hundreds of miles in a family crisis. Their flirtation quickly blossoms into friendship and hookups.

When her manager catches their chemistry, he suggests a plan to help Anna launch back into stardom: the two should fake date in the months leading up to a huge movie premiere that will heavily influence the future of her career. It’s just what Anna needs…and maybe Ben is, too.

I have to say, I noticed last night that there were a lot of times where I genuinely laughed, like it was just too funny to keep inside, or how often I smiled at how sticky sweet the dialogue was. With the exception of Royal Holiday (review here, I’m sure you’ve all picked up how much I hate this one), this is what Guillory excels at: her characters are real, and feel real to the reader. Their emotions are accurate, not overstated. Their problems are legitimate. This book, in spite of being about celebrities, is genuine, grounded in reality, and lovely to read.

Like I said, it just didn’t blow me away is all. It’s a fun story! I love the de-stigmatization of mental health issues, and the healthy relationship behavior displayed throughout this book, too: too often you read romance and there’s at least one really problematic element that just makes you cringe, but Guillory is so good at covering all her bases. Even when behavior is unhealthy, her characters call it out and change. Their growth throughout the book makes the romance stronger, and their story feel more real. I love it. It feels grounded in truth and actual experiences even when the story is fantastical and whimsical like this one; for example, Guillory writes Anna with anxiety in this book. Her panic attacks sound like real panic attacks to me, a haver of panic attacks, lol. Her responses to the way people treat her in regards to her mental health also sound like real responses. I have a whole other level of appreciation for romance books where the characters have lives outside of their loves lives, and Guillory nails that time and time again. Ben and Anna both have their own set of issues that they’re working through, but it’s clear throughout that they’re stronger together, and make better decisions when they have each other to reflect with.

Even with that sticky sweet dialogue that made me smile as I cringed, I also must say that Anna and Ben’s chemistry was cute and didn’t feel forced. They have an easygoing friendship from the start, in part because of the way they both interact with other people. They’re both open and friendly, so there’s never any ice to break. They’re both very warm characters, and their dialogue was fun and humorous. I liked them both a lot (maybe not as much as Nik and Carlos, or Maddie and Theo, but quite a bit).

The more I write, the more I realize I just don’t have anything bad to say. It’s not a bad book! It’s just not my favorite. I don’t know if I love Guillory’s books as much as I used to, but after reflecting on my reading experience I still couldn’t tell you exactly why that is. Any other readers who have been around since the beginning starting to feel that way, or is it just me? Nothing wrong with tastes changing, I just couldn’t tell you exactly what it is that changed for me. I still like and recommend Guillory’s works. But I’m not knocking down the library door to read them anymore. You know?

So I feel comfortable giving While We Were Dating just 3.5 stars. Didn’t love it, definitely didn’t hate it. Would I recommend? Maybe. Depends on whether you’re a casual romance reader or if you’re like neck deep in all these new releases and new authors now like I am. I’ll let you make that call.

Happy reading friends. 🙂

A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria

A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I had super high hopes for A Lot Like Adiós after absolutely loving You Had Me at Hola last year. I initially resisted because the names are just, the cheesiest. I can’t even. But the story was actually wicked cute, and I was kind of obsessed with the fact that I had done enough Duolingo to actually pick up on some of the dialogue in Spanish? Is that stupid?

Gabe has spent his whole adult life trying to escape what his family thought of him. He’s worked his ass off to start his own gym in Santa Monica, and now, it’s expanding to New York: unfortunately, in his hometown. When his business partner can’t go, he has to fill in and fly out to tour property and meet with his childhood best friend, aka his new lead marketing staff…

Michelle has stuck closer to home, running her own freelance marketing business from her couch. When she gets a random email out of the blue from her childhood best friend, who abandoned her without a backward glance at age eighteen, she’s equal parts angry and intrigued. In the end, curiosity wins out – and she ends up working with Gabe on his gym’s expansion while the sparks fly and big questions about their past finally get some answers.

I’m not going to lie, this one just didn’t hit the same for me as You Had Me at Hola. I dragged myself through A Lot Like Adiós, unfortunately. I just didn’t love the characters the same way, and I don’t think they had the same ~sizzle~ that Jasmine and Ashton had. Gabe and Michelle’s friendship felt genuine, built on real trust and shared experiences, but their current-day relationship seems so reliant on their geographic proximity, instead of on their actual love.

I really related to Michelle…or I would have, at like, age 17. I loved her job, her passion, her cat… but both Michelle and Gabe had this really stunted version of emotions that feels more reminiscent of teenagers. There’s a lot of secrets and hiding emotions even from the people who care for them and they care about, like Michelle’s Primas of Power (her cousins/best friends). I tend to wonder if it was intentional, as both Michelle and Gabe really had their hearts broken by one another in their youth, and likely would’ve held onto that feeling. But, that said, it was so annoying. Can’t we just talk to each other like adults?! I felt Lyssa Kay Adams, screaming about how half the nonsense in this story wouldn’t have happened if two adults had had a reasonable conversation about expectations.

Further, and I really hope this doesn’t sound like a spoiler, I don’t like their “happy ending”. Ug, that is a spoiler. Sorry, I suck today. Anyways, Gabe and Michelle’s happy ending wasn’t my idea of a happy ending! I didn’t relate to the wants and needs of these characters in a way that made me feel good about the way things were left. Yes, I understand it was their ideal, but it certainly wasn’t my ideal, and that lack of relating bled into my love of this story… or lack thereof.

As you can see, I gave this read 3.5 stars, but I guess I’m not really recommending it? I’m writing this a few days after finishing it, and I guess I’m realizing even more that I just didn’t *love* it. Certainly not like I loved You Had Me at Hola. If you loved her debut, just skip over this one. I’ll keep giving Daria a try, but this one fell flat in my book.

A copy of A Lot Like Adiós was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It will be released September 14, 2021.

Have an awesome week friends!

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I know I said I would read everything and anything written by Tessa Bailey, but I *almost* didn’t read It Happened One Summer. The description of this book sounds like a superficial spin-off of Schitt’s Creek, which I have absolutely no interest in…however, this book was pretty dang good. It has Tessa Bailey’s charm and warmth, and even if it wasn’t something I would normally love, she wrote it, so I couldn’t help myself.

Piper Bellinger is an LA it-girl. Her job includes attending parties and making connections, and she’s paid in likes and follows. After another breakup in a string of bad relationships, she ends up in jail for throwing an epic party…and her stepdad sends her and her sister away to the town they were born to learn the value of money and hard work.

Brendan is Westport born-and-raised fisherman, and he’s never seen anything as ridiculous and over the top as Piper. But as annoying as she might be, she’s starting to get under his skin in a good way, as he notices her warmth and heart. While Piper’s stuck here the next three months, fixing up her late father’s bar, he’s determined to make her want to stay forever.

I thought I would hate this book. If you read the description of It Happened One Summer, it sounds like Piper is a rich and spoiled brat who’s going to be hard to love. However, I don’t think the description does her any justice. She’s warm, kind, hardworking, and much more – but I don’t think her life in LA helped her showcase those skills or practice them. Life in Westport gives her purpose and helps her character develop significantly, to someone I can actually like and enjoy a story with. That’s something I’ve always loved about Bailey’s characters.

Another thing Tessa has always done well is her supporting characters. The town of Westport is full of life and memorable faces, from Brendan’s crew mates to Piper’s father’s old friends, to her own grandmother. Tessa’s built a comforting little setting here that you just can’t wait to come back to!

Brendan and Piper’s romance was cute af. I loved Brendan’s gruff demeanor, and I think every girl dreams of being spoiled and adored just the way Brendan adores Piper. It’s wholesome, sweet, and undistracted: there’s nothing I hate more than a love triangle or something similar, but these two are absolutely devoted to each other.

Tessa Bailey proved once again that she is an absolute master. I dared to doubt her briefly, but I was wrong. I’m a committed reader now!

I literally can’t wait for the next part of this story, Hook, Line, and Sinker. Piper’s sister Hannah and Brendan’s friend Fox are getting their own story, and omg did I love them and all their little parts in this book! I hopped on NetGalley before I even finished this book just to request it. I’ll keep you posted. 😉

Pick this one up for sure! Even if you didn’t think you would like it either. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Have a great week friends!

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

God I love Talia Hibbert. What a delight to read. Like I said in my last review of hers, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, I would basically read anything Hibbert writes. I am HERE FOR IT.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown focuses on the second Brown sister, Danika, in her quest to find some no-strings-attached, a-bit-more-than-friendship. The security guard at her work building, Zaf, is a great friend, but she doubts he’d be up for more than that. Until the goddess Oshun leads her to believe otherwise! After a video goes viral of Zaf saving Dani from a building that is definitely not on fire or filled with poisonous gas, Zaf proposes they fake a relationship for the good of his nonprofit. Tackle It, which provides training programs during rugby games that help young boys get in touch with their emotions, is getting great publicity from their fake relationship…but it’s only bringing Dani and Zaf closer together.

The problem is, Dani has been seriously hurt in the past. She’s got a lot of confidence and bravado, but her self-esteem is in the toilet. She is extremely opposed to making this friendship with benefits into anything else.

I’m just so in love with the way Talia Hibbert writes her characters and her stories. She’s got a wonderful way of using words. Again, I will read anything she writes. It’s just a delight.

I particularly liked in this one just how different the characters we got were. I feel sometimes that repeat romance authors fall into the trap of using the same archetype over and over. But Zaf and Dani were very, very different from Chloe and Red! Dani is a witchy, feminist PhD candidate with an incredible brain but basically no capacity for taking care of herself. Zaf is tough on the outside, but has struggled much over the last few years of his life, trying to put loss behind him. Their story is a fundamentally different, yet important one. I like that this book can dive into some real issues and gives the romance more purpose. I hate nothing more than a romance that sticks two people together with no rhyme or reason; this book does the opposite because it provides a really deep understanding of who these people are and why they fit together so well.

I particularly liked Dani’s character, because I think she’s relatable. Not only to me, but to the many women who have begun to pick up our modern age’s feminist romances. She’s an academic, and extremely goal driven. She forgets to take care of herself properly. She’s a feminist. And she practices whatever form of witchcraft feels good to her. Basically, Dani is all of us, and Take a Hint is our reminder to stop eating Skittles for breakfast and staying up ’til 2 in the morning. YOU CAN DO THIS. ❤

In an age where we are driven by progress and accomplishments, we mustn’t forget to leave time for what brings us joy. Which is exactly why I’m very happy and grateful I got to read this delightful novel. 🙂

Highly, highly recommend Take a Hint! I can’t wait to read the next book, with Eve’s story! A copy of Take a Hint, Dani Brown was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It will be published June 23, 2020 (and you should go get a copy!).

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I don’t think Christina Lauren is my brand of romance. This is my fourth attempt at their books, and I chose this one on NetGalley for the plot – it does sound super cute, but in practice, falls flat.

Carey is an assistant to incredible home design team (and husband and wife) Melly and Rusty Tripp. They’re beloved by many, and wildly successful, but what most people don’t know is that their relationship is falling apart. With the help of the other assistant (who’s supposed to be their engineer), James, she just has to keep them from ripping each other part for one week, during their book tour for a guide on marriage, of course.

In such close quarters, James begins to notice a lot of the things Carey has been trying to hide about herself: her dystonia, the fact that she’s been doing all of Melly’s designs for a decade, that fact that her relationship with Melly is emotionally abusive… he sees it all, and begins to love the person that shines through her tough situation. But the two are both stuck in this job, for different reasons, with this god-awful couple. Working love in around that proves more difficult than they expected.

Like I said, plot sounds heckin’ cute. The Tripps give off a sort of Gaines’ vibe, obviously, but their marriage is clearly way more of a disaster. I liked the complexity of Carey’s character and her situation with Melly, but James fell flat in comparison. I couldn’t picture either of them (Carey or James) in my mind as real people, but funny enough, the Tripps were clear as day. I think there was something deeper here, or an opportunity to make the plot more intricate and well-connected, that was very clearly lost. I think many romance authors miss that opportunity, but the best romcoms I’ve read in recent years are those that can focus in on that. It makes their characters more real to the readers.

The plot was also kind of dull. There was no real arch or build-up, likely because the conflict relied on you understanding the deeper, inner workings of these characters and why what they did was so untrustworthy, but because it lacked that, the story arch was more of a mild bump in an otherwise straight line. It made reading through it slow and grueling, and I kept avoiding picking it up, which is very unlike me.

These are my biggest complaints. Having read the acknowledgements, it sounds like the Christina Lauren duo knew they were a problem, but somehow this book will be reaching bookstore shelves by March 24 anyway.

I received a copy of The Honey-Don’t List from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.