Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Why did I resist this one so much?! I feel like I’ve said that a lot this year (writing from 2022)…I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a number of bestsellers that I probably wouldn’t have picked up, if not for friends’ recommendations or local booksellers’ praise. Book Lovers falls squarely in that category. And I loved it!

Feeling that she’s losing a beloved closeness with her little sister, Libby, city-girl and shark-like literary agent Nora agrees to a month’s retreat to the small town of Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. The pair set out with a list, written by Libby, of things you do in small towns according to literature: save a small business, ride a horse, and date the locals. While she remains committed to working through the “vacation”, she endeavours to help with the list before Libby’s third child arrives…the last thing she’s expecting is cold and ruthless book editor Charlie to be in Sunshine Falls, too. And they just can’t seem to stop running into one another.

This book is, and somehow isn’t, what I was expecting. I don’t think I ever expected it to be a ~romantic comedy~ in its entirety, despite its Book Lovers title. However, there was *a lot* more romance than I thought there would be. I love Nora and Charlie’s dynamic. It feels both reminiscent of The Hating Game in its wit and simultaneously transcendent of it for how they fit together so well, so perfectly to serve the plot and their character growth. This isn’t wholly a romance, but it hits the mark for that as well.

I also love that, from the very beginning, Nora acknowledges that she will never be that small town girl people fall for, that she is cutting and calculating, loves the city, and is never going to soften for another person. She remains committed to that narrative and I love her all the more for it. Not everyone needs to get teary-eyed for small Christmas tree farms and towns where everyone knows everyone. City girls and hard-working bosses deserve love and happiness too! And not only do they deserve it, they can find it in places that aren’t those very small towns. I like the hopefulness of that message, and how surprising and refreshing it feels in the romance genre.

But the real reason I love this book all around is the storyline. There is so much more here than a love story. This is an awesome work of literary fiction, and while I may not have totally related to Nora, I connected with her, thought her story was well-composed and earnest. Her relationships with her sister and formerly her mother, her previous romantic entanglements, her clients – they were all very real and raw; even when things were bad you could feel every human reason why Nora was the way she was, as things slowly unfurled. I just really loved all of these characters, in their own way. Henry nails a small town-feel, but with a larger focal point: a bigger problem than that small town can solve. There’s a lot to love here.

Highly, highly recommend this one. Don’t be me, don’t resist. Just read it. ❤

Have a wonderful weekend!

From Bad to Cursed by Lana Harper

From Bad to Cursed by Lana Harper

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This series continues to be quite good, and perfect to put you in the fall mood! While the writing and storyline in this one were, again, top notch, I dragged through this in comparison to the way I tore through Payback’s a Witch. It took me significantly longer and I’m hoping I figure out why in the process of reviewing!

At the Thistle Grove Beltane festival, Isidora Avramov witnesses an evil spell trying to take the power of one of the Thorn family girls as she competes to be May Queen. Being the daughter of an Elder, and of the house under suspicion for such dark magic, she is chosen to collaborate along with her arch-nemesis, Rowan Thorn, to investigate the incident.

Issa and Rowan are determined to be professional about their (ugly) history, but it doesn’t take long for the antics (and sparks) to start. To Rowan, it’s clear Issa has a lot more integrity and depth than he previously thought, and for Issa, Rowan’s good deeds might actually be just that: good deeds, and not the holier-than-thou attempts at the spotlight she thought they were. Through the investigation, they grow closer together, the closer they get to the answer: who cast that evil spell, and who has it out for the Thorns?

These books hit the perfect note for fall, even if this one is more spring-themed. Lana Harper, who, as it turns out, is actually Lana Popović (YA fantasy author), writes a great witch story. The magic is both in-depth and immersive while also remaining based just enough in reality that I, as someone who hates fantasy, still thoroughly enjoy it. I get into all of the Thistle Grove magic and history while I’m reading, even if that’s not usually my speed. She makes it easy to enjoy.

I really liked Issa and Rowan, but for some reason they just weren’t as magnetic as characters to me as Talia and Emmy were. I think there’s also something to be said about immersing yourself in a sequel, where the world has already been established and therefore doesn’t require further explanation. In Payback’s a Witch, we were learning of Thistle Grove for the first time, and therefore a lot of the content had to be directed at explaining that. There is less of this in From Bad to Cursed, so it seems as though the romance or mystery should be more present… but I think they were about the same, comparatively. Maybe I was more driven by the storyline of the first novel, whereas the mystery in this one is good, but not as high-energy. Sorry for all my rambling! Point being, I liked book one better, but this one is still really good and enjoyable.

I just got approved for Back in a Spell on NetGalley, so I’m sure I’ll be picking that up in the fall! I will definitely continue to be a reader of this series; I always enjoy them and I appreciate the diversity and inclusivity of the books, as well as the atmosphere of the setting and the magic.

Have a great weekend! 🙂

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 51. The word “game” in the title

Other Possible Prompts: 9. A book that sparks joy, 18. Jane Austen-inspired, 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 34. An author’s photo on the back cover, 41. Involves a second chance, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

Y’all are in for a real treat because I have, once again, reread The Hating Game. I got the urge to watch the movie again the other day at like, 10pm which is way too late for me, and I remain grateful that I had the foresight when it was released to buy it instead of rent it because obviously I was going to watch it over and over again. Well, naturally, like if you give a mouse a cookie, once I rewatched the movie I wanted to reread the book. I opted for the audiobook this time, my first time listening to this masterpiece.

Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeman hate each other. Every day, they sit across from one another in their glass walled office space at B&G Publishing, and play the hating game. Sometimes it’s the staring game, sometimes the HR game, sometimes the copycat game, but the object is always the same: make the other one crack first.

When Lucy and Josh have to compete for the same promotion, the tension reaches an absolute breaking point. The antics get more intense, and Lucy realizes that hating someone feels disturbingly like loving them…

I am very pleased to inform you that, upon a third listen, this is still the gold standard for romcoms. Authors, take note. We are all shooting for The Hating Game. I love discovering that time has not tampered the charm and warmth that this book holds; it is still just as good as the first day I stayed up until 3am devouring it.

I honestly forgot how laugh out loud hilarious this book is. The “word tennis” that Lucy and Josh play throughout is so smart and witty, and it happens so fast that you’re still cackling when the next punchline lands. It is hysterical, and it increases my enjoyment of the book 1000%. I couldn’t stop laughing.

One thing I did forget from watching the movie more recently than having reread the book was how mean Josh is! I think in the movie you can always tell that he’s flirting, but when you’re listening to Lucy retell it, there are times when it truly doesn’t come across that way. He is brutal. Knowing how it all turns out makes it easier to swallow or spin, but I forgot that I really felt that way as a first time reader. It’s hard to tell when he’s joking or messing with her sometimes.

Lucy and Josh just fit together perfectly. Everything about their romance makes sense. It is just too good. The gold standard. The only thing I’ve read that even came close to matching this wit and heart was You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle, which also had me roaring laughing. I think if you can make me *actually* laugh out loud while reading, you’re doing something right. The rest will fit together fine if you can make your characters genuinely funny to the reader and the other character. This book is a perfect example of that.

So yes, obviously, I recommend The Hating Game. I have been for just about a billion years (I think Goodreads said I first read this in 2017 – so five whole years!), but now you have a full review for once!

Enjoy this fabulous week!

Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 6. Household object on the cover, 15. A five-syllable title, 33. A bilingual character, 41. Involves a second chance, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 46. A job title in the title, 50. A person of color as the main character, 52. Published in 2022

Another Book of the Month DOWN!! I am calling this an absolute win.

As for the book itself, I wasn’t *in love* with it, but I think there’s a lot of things it gets right. Let’s jump in!

Newly thirty, single lawyer Kareena feels like she faces a constant barrage from her family, aunties, and uncles about not yet being married. It’s not for lack of wanting to, she just hasn’t found her true love yet. In contrast, Prem doesn’t believe in true love: an arranged or approved marriage creates the most health and happiness in a home, and once he’s done building his health center, that’s how he’ll have it.

After a chance encounter at a bar, and an internet video gone viral, Prem and Kareena hate each other for this exact difference in relationship views. But as Kareena’s father prepares to sell her late-mother’s home, and Prem needs to secure the last of the funds for this health center, they realize they could have a mutually beneficial arrangement: engagement.

This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting from the book but I definitely enjoyed it. I thought the plot was going to be going in a different direction but I actually thoroughly enjoyed the “marriage for love/marriage for obligation” dynamic. It created really interesting tension and an engrossing story. I read this in a day! It’s a pretty fast and enjoyable read.

It’s always fun to be immersed into a different culture while you read, and I liked Dating Dr. Dil for this as well. While I found that the way her family treated Kareena was sad, in a cultural context of being from an Indian immigrant family, I understood why she went along with it even when it was painful. Additionally, the clothes and food interwoven into the story were magical details that helped me immerse myself.

The first couple pages into this book I made the mistake of reading some reviews on Goodreads…and while they’re incredibly entertaining thoughts on the subject, it was a bit of a deterrent. Pretty much everyone had one very, particular problem…by the name of Charlie. I won’t go into detail. I wish I hadn’t even written it here because I think reading it ruined that aspect of my reading experience, but, uh…it’s kind of hilarious. But definitely, definitely a con when we’re talking about the book. I’m not sure why the author chose to include “Charlie” or why his name is Charlie to begin with, but yeah.

Kareena and Prem were both pretty okay, they each had their annoying faults, but overall they were decent characters and I was invested in their happiness. In Kareena’s case, especially, I really felt like her family was working against her. They all pretty much sucked except the Aunties. They treated her pretty badly and it made me wish she would cut them off, but I get the dynamic. Prem was fine. Just…fine. Pretty unremarkable. When I thought he was a big television personality I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, because I don’t typically like the “famous people” romances, but that turned out to be a very small part of the plot, so it was fine. Everything’s fine.

Overall? I would recommend this book. I do plan to read the second one when it gets released, so she couldn’t have warned me off that much. My biggest complaints were just the immaturity of the writing and the whole…Charlie thing.

Have an awesome week!

Shipped by Angie Hockman

Shipped by Angie Hockman

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This was unexpectedly good, even better than Dream On which I thoroughly enjoyed! They describe this book as a cross between The Unhoneymooners and The Hating Game, which isn’t all that far off – though I naturally hesitate to compare anything to Thorne’s masterpiece (and they should, too…don’t set yourself up for failure like that, guys).

The ultimate career woman, Henley Evans is about to land a big promotion in the marketing department at her vacation cruise line job – if she can beat out Graeme Crawford-Collins, her number one nemesis. To prepare for their interviews, their boss sends them on a cruise to the Galapagos to experience the adventure for themselves, and put together the perfect marketing presentation.

Once the two meet in person, however, sparks start flying. Henley is shocked to find Graeme may actually be…nice? But she can’t lose sight of the prize: a promotion, a director position, and the stability to pay her student loans. It’s all she’s ever wanted…she thinks.

I don’t think this measures up to The Hating Game, because the antics are non-existent. If you’re going to make that comparison, I better be laughing my butt off (kind of like You Deserve Each Other). This book really isn’t funny; it’s not like they’re playing jokes or lobbing quips. They just hate each other. It’s enjoyable, but it’s a long way from comedy. The Unhoneymooners *is* a good comparison, though. I liked that one as well, but for different reasons, of course!

Graeme and Henley were super cute. Henley was driven and relatable. Graeme was sweet and sensitive. They made for a good contrast and a good couple, if nothing remarkable. Their romance was sweet and genuine. For some reason, today, I just can’t make this book sound that good – but I swear I really did like it.

The Galapagos also makes a fantastic backdrop. I like the ~transformative atmosphere~ and all the animals. 🙂 However, none of the supporting characters here were good. I didn’t like Henley’s sister, Walsh. Or the guy who fawns over her, Nikolai. Or their coworkers, their bosses, or anyone working or enjoying the cruise. All bad or mediocre at best. Henley and Graeme were the only good characters, which made them all the more likeable when it came down to it.

I’m always bothered when I’m reading a workplace story and we just skate right over men not looking out for their female coworkers being treated poorly. This book includes some of that misogyny, but I think it’s handled well. Instead of just providing a good excuse and moving on, Graeme actively works to do better by Henley in their office after his behavior is pointed out. I appreciated that! Definitely a positive.

I’m sorry for this jumbled mess of a review – it’s not my best work. Shipped, though? May be Hockman’s best work. Give it a try!

Have a great weekend!

Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood

Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 6. Household object on the cover, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

Buckle up for the next three posts friends, because you’re about to get the entirety of Ali Hazelwood’s STEMinist novellas! I’ve been hesitating to read these, but truthfully I’m not even sure why. I’ve loved everything Hazelwood has published, this included. Let’s jump into it!

After Mara’s mentor passes, she is surprised to learn she has been left a home in Washington, D.C. – and even more surprised to find it’s only half a home, the other half owned by her former mentor’s nephew, who immediately tries to buy her out. Unfortunately for Liam, Mara has a job with the EPA and needs to room with him in their new shared space until she has the money to move out and pay an armload of student loans.

Immediately like oil and water, the two employ antics of all kinds to drive the other away. While they can’t stand each other, there is also undeniable physical tension since the very start. As their time as roommates nears its end, will Mara have the courage to move on?

This book, out of the three novellas, seemed most up my alley (no pun intended!). I love the enemies-to-lovers, forced-to-share-a-space tropes that this book falls into. And I was immediately hooked: the prologue had me diving in headfirst to this adorable and sexy novel of an environmental scientist, her big oil lawyer roommate, and all the hilarious antics between them.

Each chapter is packed full of those perfect awkward moments I’ve now come to associate with everything Hazelwood writes. She crafts the scene you always wish for and never get, and she delivers in the most hilarious and sexy ways. Think “there’s not enough seats left, I’ll have to sit in your lap”, or “my shower was broken so I used yours, and you walked in on me naked”. The absolute wildest of stuff, but you’re laughing like a maniac the whole time you’re reading because it’s just too perfect.

This book is no exception to her incredible talent as a romance writer, but I do (of course!) wish it was longer! I’d read this as a full-size novel. Instead, we get the fun-size. With some writers, I might’ve prefered this adorable, bite-sized, action-packed book where every new scene is relevant and important, but in all my experience reading Hazelwood, all her books are like that. Even when they’re 300, 400 pages. So yeah, I would’ve read even more. I would have loved the additional time to fall into the delightfulness of this novella, and every little moment of Liam and Mara.

I genuinely think Hazelwood is one of the best romcom talents out there right now, so don’t let the younger, more immature cover art sway you against reading them. That’s what kept me from reading The Love Hypothesis for so long, and I regretted that choice! These are great books and I’m pumped for even more releases.

Enjoy your weekend, and your brief respite from my next novella review…it’s coming… 😉

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!

The Godparent Trap by Rachel Van Dyken

The Godparent Trap by Rachel Van Dyken

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 6. Household object on the cover (pillow, houseplant, picture frames)

Other Possible Prompts: 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings, 15. A five-syllable title, 23. 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

Utterly shocked by just how many prompts this one fits. Anyways, like I wrote on Goodreads, I’m giving the story of this one four stars and the writing two stars – so I’ll meet in the middle at three. Objectively, this is not a great book, but if I’m being honest with myself, I also couldn’t put it down? So that’s still worth mentioning.

After a fatal accident leaves their best friend and sister dead, Colby and Rip become the guardians of their godchildren, Ben and Veira. They move into their friends’ house and attempt to keep some semblance of normalcy for the kids – even though Colby and Rip hate each other’s guts.

The pair had a failed date years before that left a bad taste in their mouths, and their lifestyles couldn’t be more opposite one another – Colby is flighty and carefree, where Rip is strict and rigid. The two are like oil and water, but it seems their friends knew more than they did about themselves when they left their children to both Colby and Rip. The two battle their grief and battle parenthood, as best they can, together.

First off, I just need to clear the air and say that Rip is literally the dumbest name I can think of. Rip (*shudders*). Rest in peace. Which honestly makes this story SO MUCH WORSE WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT. One time I literally read it that way in my head and I outwardly cringed. Who in the hell came up with “Rip”?

Additionally, this book totally reminds me of Life as We Know It, that Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel movie. I do enjoy that movie, because Katherine Heigl rocks, obviously, but this book feels like *literally the exact same plot* and it would be unfair not to acknowledge that fact when talking about the merits of the story. Did I like it? Sure. Was it original? Yea, nope.

Which leaves me to the writing. Which, also, not stellar. There’s a lot of inconsistencies and a lot of implied time gaps that need to be filled differently. I have to note that I’m reading the advance readers copy, so hopefully some of that will work its way out before final publication, but there’s something about the entire tone and flow of the novel that feels disjointed and amateur-ish. Apparently Van Dyken’s written ninety books, so I’m not sure why I’m getting the amateur vibe…but it’s there. Trust me, it’s there. It feels a bit like some moments you’re on the floor with our characters, participating in the action and watching a scene unfold, and then at some points I am a figure just hovering above it all, not even quite able to hear the characters’ voices clearly enough.

I have to give credit regarding the characters, however. Both Colby and Rip (*shudders again*) are well fleshed out and are both likeable in their own ways. They’re certainly the most round and most understandable, whereas some of the supporting characters make odd choices or don’t feel real. But, I suppose, it’s best that our main characters feel the most relatable to the reader.

I just have to say, especially if you’ve gotten this far down into my review, this is objectively not a good book. Like I can’t recommend this to you on it being good literature. It’s fine entertainment for a few hours, but no, it is not a good book.

I hope all that is helpful! Thanks to NetGalley for the advance readers copy of The Godparent Trap, in exchange for my honest review. This book is set to release July 19, 2022.

Have a most fantastic week! 🙂

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!

How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan

How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 36. Recommended by a favorite author

Other Possible Prompts: 6. Household object on the cover, 25. A wealthy character, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

Meh. That’s how I’m feeling about this one.

Grace is an interior designer, finally leaving her life of let-downs behind, pulling herself up by her bootstraps, and beginning the renovation of a lifetime on her very own home. Unfortunately, mega rich guy Noah next door won’t stop asking to buy it…to put in a pool, no less.

Looking to begin renovations on his own home, Noah seeks an opportunity with a design magazine to have his own reno featured and help him grow his name in the real estate business around California. Much to his chagrin, they ask Grace to do the designing, because the two have such an electric chemistry…but once the pair start the project, they realize they work well together in more ways than one.

Reading the synopsis you kind of get the impression this will be an enemies-to-lovers romance, but very little of this story fits that trope. I would definitely classify it as a slow burn, though, and those aren’t typically my jam.

However, I really liked the first half of this book: the slow burn and banter from the beginning of this novel sucks you right in. I was really enjoying it, until they actually got together, oddly enough. Sullivan nails the lead in, but their actual romance flops. Flops hard. It bored me and I became more invested in the reno and the family drama than in their picture-perfect romance.

I think it flopped hard because it lost the humor. To me, there’s just something authentic and funny in enemies-to-lovers stories because they’re constantly nitpicking or cracking jokes, and it makes the relationship more natural and real, even if it is strained. When Noah and Grace flip sides of this relationship, it loses its natural tone and takes on a far more forced one through dialogue and action.

Because of this observation, I can’t help but wonder how Ten Rules For Faking It plays out. That one’s been in my NetGalley ARCs for…a while, let’s say. Long enough that she wrote a second book, so. Reading the description now, it sounds like The Ex Talk but with less humor and more nervous energy. But because there’s no hatred, no banter, I can’t help but wonder if that one also falls flat.

I have to say, though, that reading this makes me want to redecorate my house! Bahahaha. The design details and that fun background story element makes the book enjoyable enough. Grace is a likeable character and Noah’s not all that bad either. They’re just boring.

I also have to commend Sullivan’s recognition of family strains. Both Noah and Grace have strained parent relationships from the start of the book, that come to a head by the end. I half expected to read that everyone made up and got over it – but (SPOILER ALERT) I’m really glad I didn’t. Not only does it teach you that some people will truly be there for you, but it also teaches that sometimes blood won’t be, not in the way you need. Plenty of people in my life have strained family relationships, and I’m constantly letting them know that their worth is not determined by this other person, and the decision to keep them in their life is theirs alone, and they owe no explanations. I like that that was represented in a novel, and particularly one about love, because it shows that you don’t need those who hurt you to be happy or successful – even if they are blood relations. You just need your close inner circle.

Overall, though, I don’t think I would recommend this one or pick up Sullivan again. I’m actually positive I’ll be skipping the first one now, too. This was a drag for me to get through and the payoff didn’t do it for me in the second half…so I think I’m all set with Sullivan’s work.

Have a wonderful week, friends!