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!

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… 😉

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 18. Jane Austen-inspired

Other Possible Prompts: 15. A five-syllable title, 28. Award-winning book from your country, 34. An author’s photo on the back cover, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 41. Involves a second chance, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

This was an unexpected gem to add to my pile! I recently grabbed Count Your Lucky Stars at the library, then realized I was jumping into the middle of a sort-of series. Instead of reading anyways, I borrowed the digital copy of Written in the Stars from Libby on a complete whim. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it this much!

After a disastrous first date, whimsical and laid-back Elle and strict, type-A Darcy both realize they are not a match – but to get him off her back, Darcy tells her matchmaking brother Brendan that she’s seeing someone: Elle. Much to Elle’s surprise. After she finds out, she agrees to fake date Darcy for two months: to get Brendan to stop trying to bring her speed dating, and to get Elle’s family to realize that her job as an internet-famous astrologist, and her life in the city, is really nothing to scoff at.

As with every fake dating scenario, things get real. The more Darcy and Elle learn about each other, the more comfortable they become with one another, and it seems they may actually be enjoying each other’s company. Beyond their mutually-beneficial fake dating arrangement, are there enough sparks to start something real in the wake of heartbreak?

This book is just surprisingly enjoyable. I shouldn’t be surprised, I knew it won awards and tons of people loved it upon release. The writing is smart and sweet. The cover art kind of threw me for a loop because it’s so juvenile to me…but the book content isn’t juvenile. It’s a mature and ~steamy~ romance. I guess this book could also fall under “don’t judge a book by its cover” because that is certainly what I’ve done, every time I’ve walked past it in a bookstore. I know most romance books these days do tend to look like this, with the illustrated people on the front…but this art style just isn’t my jam, lol.

The sparks between Darcy and Elle are HOT. Their personalities fit together absolutely perfectly, much like their Pride & Prejudice counterparts. And while Written in the Stars does draw some influence from the Austen classic, it’s certainly a story all its own. Truly, the names and maybe a *few* familial relationships are the only good comparison. Elle and Darcy write their own story here, and it’s a great one!

I was a little nervous when I first started the book that the astrology part would take a front row seat, but it’s not really like that. I think if you’re into all that, the horoscopes and house and Mercury in retrograde or whatever it does, some of the jokes or dialogue may be enhanced by your knowledge, but it’s definitely not necessary to have a working knowledge of the stuff to enjoy the read. Heck, Darcy doesn’t even have a working knowledge of it.

The romantic plot and scenes were very endearing and well-written; I was easily able to fall into their story. I liked Darcy and Elle as characters, even through all their faults, and I think that speaks to how well rounded Bellefleur presented our heroines. Preference wise, I preferred Darcy, but only because in some scenes or in her own interior monologue, Elle can come off a bit clueless to her own situation, or needy and whiny. It’s not that I don’t think she has valid reasons to be upset (her contention with her family is a major part of the book, and a big hurdle for Elle to cross in her romantic life as well), it’s that her way of being upset is just a little…annoying. I still feel bad about it though.

Honestly, this is one of the best romances I’ve read in while. I definitely think I’ll be giving book two a try…I believe that’s Hang the Moon, so I’ll need to put that library loan off a *teency* bit longer.

Give this one a try, if you haven’t already! I’m definitely a little late to this party.

Have an awesome week!

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 4. Title starting with the letter “F”

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I knew, reading the back of this book after I picked it up at Gibson’s last week, that this one was going to be a wild ride. I seemed to have hit the nail on the head with that one. This book may just be one of the most ridiculous I’ve read as of late, and I absolutely loved it. It’s more like 4.75 stars to me – this just really exceeded my expectations!

Finlay is a recently single mom with a long-overdue deadline on her new romantic suspense book, and now apparently, an overdue electric bill. All in one morning, her daughter cuts off her hair, her ex fires her nanny, the electric gets turned off, and she gets mistaken for a hitwoman at her local Panera. In her attempt to explain the mistake to the stressed-out woman who hires her to kill her husband, she accidentally accepts the job – and gets swept into a world of crime and a real-life murder investigation.

And yes, this book really is just as ridiculous as it sounds. AND I LOVED IT. I laughed, I cringed, I even teared up a bit. The writing is witty and smart. The story, this crazy plot, is still masterful for all that it makes me giggle. And the characters are fantastic.

Of course, Finlay is the star of this show, and I really loved her character. She has so much growth from start to finish. She’s smart and relatable. I think her dire situation in the start of the book makes her more susceptible to all that’s to come after, but it also makes her better to think on her feet. She’s an unlikely heroine, but a heroine all the same.

Funny as this whole narrative is, it made me think of an article I recently saw comparing motherhood to the hero’s journey. We exclude mothers from the narrative of the hero for a multitude of reasons, as listed in that incredible excerpt, including: “we’ve all just internalized that the word “mommy” automatically diminishes whatever noun comes after it” (From Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out, which the article above is an excerpt of). Our heroine, Finlay, is a single mom, a writer, a divorcee – quite a few nouns we don’t give much weight to, and further, she’s not exactly exceeding at these endeavours when we start the story. But by some perfect storm, some complete accident, she ends up on a whirlwind that brings her first stress, pain, and confusion, but then success, money, stability – and the respect of those around her. Fundamentally, nothing changed, but Finlay’s confidence blooms. Her comfort in not being a perfect version of someone else brings the character to another level. I’ll leave you to make your own connections on what that means, and what it means to you.

My absolute favorite character was Finlay’s nanny, Vero. She comes back into the story after that original firing, and she is hysterical and naive, but really on top of her shit. At first I was a little suspicious of her, but as the story went on, she really grew on me. I really hope the sequel brings her in a lot more! Vero and Finlay’s easygoing friendship was warm and sisterly, and I loved the effect on both of them, even if it was for weird reasons! I think the two play off each other nicely and bring the story to life even more.

Pro tip for reading: don’t read the last page in this one! I always store my bookmark on the very last page, not just in the back of the book, while I’m reading – and this ending pretty glaringly gives away a good twist/cliffhanger for the sequel.

Suffice to say, I can’t wait to pick up Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead. I have a Barnes & Noble gift card in my wallet calling my name, telling me forty-five minutes really isn’t that long to drive if I can have the sequel right this second…

Have an excellent week, friends!

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 31. Technology themed

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 6. Household object on the cover, 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings (for now, anyways!), 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

Ali Hazelwood does it again! And by it, I definitely mean writing a book so good I’m willing to lose my valuable sleep schedule just to finish it. I’ve quickly become an adoring fan of Hazelwood’s and I’m feeling BLESSED that I was given this advance readers copy. BLESSED.

Bee, a neuroscientist, is absolutely floored to be accepted as the lead on a NASA project designed to help astronauts absorb more information when in space. For Bee, this is the ticket out of her crappy, post-grad life under a misogynistic boss… but she soon discovers her co-lead is her arch nemesis, engineer Levi Ward, and things become a whole lot more complicated.

In the years since she met him in grad school, it doesn’t appear Levi has gotten any better or grown to hate her any less. But under the circumstances, they create a shaky truce for all that extra time they’re spending together, and Bee soon discovers she may like Levi a little more than she originally thought.

This book has so, so many of my favorite romance tropes: workplace romance. Enemies to lovers. The mean one falls for the sunshine one. UGH. I’m so obsessed with this whole book and also now Ali Hazelwood, not me most definitely following her every career move…

This book is The Hating Game but STEM and on speed. I cannot convey my love for it enough. You know when you read The Hating Game and then you started reading contemporary romance in droves, forever chasing the high of reading Sally Thorne’s stunning debut in a single night? No?? Well if not, please know this has been my life for like, five years (I honestly thought it was three years, but didn’t want to misquote, so I checked my Goodreads history and yeah…five years. Five years chasing the high of Lucy and Josh. Also have you seen the movie?? LOVED it). I finally found its equal in Love on the Brain, and I am a forever fan of Hazelwood’s now.

I LOVED Bee. Much like my Lucy, Bee was just an introverted, intelligent, but wonderfully quirky gal who absolutely made the story for me. I connected with Bee and her struggles, even not being a science person myself. You don’t have to understand neuroscience to connect with Bee’s passion for her work. Also, her research assistant, Rocío, reminds me completely of my best friend. Their friendship felt so similar to my own that I found myself dying laughing at their bits. Every character in this story is so well fleshed out and felt like someone I know in my own life, which made it so much more fun.

I didn’t immediately love Levi, but you grow to understand him and it puts him in a new light. Honestly, from the start, he does come off like kind of an ass. But he’s supposed to, and Hazelwood’s way of shifting his character into a new space in the story totally works, and I come to love him, too.

There’s also this added element and depth from these two Twitter accounts in the story. Bee runs an account called @WhatWouldMarieDo, referring to Marie Curie, where she commiserates with other women in STEM fields on the sucky parts of being a woman in STEM. Together with an another account named @shmacademics, the two use their thousands of followers to start a movement in the academic world. I loved this part of the storyline, and once you read it, I think you’ll quickly get a feel as to why.

The drama and climax of this story kind of took me by surprise by I TOTALLY loved it! You will not expect the outcome, and maybe you won’t even suspect the problem…but it’s just so juicy.

So, yeah, I’m kind of recommending this all around. Like pick this up immediately. Pre-order this puppy. Cannot tell you enough; currently screaming my love for it from the roof. Like I said, I was *blessed* with this advance readers copy from the publisher through NetGalley, and Love on the Brain will release August 23, 2022…but if you have any chance of getting your hands on it before then, highly recommend doing so. 😉

Have an AWESOME week friends!

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 50. A person of color as the main character

Other Possible Prompts: 25. A wealthy character, 36. Recommend by a favorite author, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

Hey y’all! My first f/f romance was a delight. Something to Talk About was everything the hype led me to believe it was!

After a photo hits the press of star-turned-screenwriter Jo Jones laughing and smiling with her assistant Emma, the world decides the two are dating. While it couldn’t be further from the truth, Jo’s insistence on not publicly denying the rumors ends up putting them further in the spotlight and pushing them together even more than before.

But the more time they spend together, the more they realize there may be some truth to the rumors. The two like to be around each other…if only the implications of those rumors weren’t so inappropriate and damaging to their careers in Hollywood.

I have to say first and foremost that if you can’t do slow burn romance, this isn’t for you. I saw a lot of negative reviews online saying “nothing was happening in the first 100 pages” and they dnf-ed it, but it’s soooo good if you do like a slow burn. The will they/won’t they of it all was sweet and genuine and kept me interested in the story, and even wanting more long after it ended.

I liked both Jo and Emma a lot. I thought both their characters were super likeable, even when they made questionable decisions when it came to each other. I really rooted for both of them!

I don’t usually like books with the Hollywood scene, but I thought this one, working in the background of it all, was far more enjoyable and still tastefully done. It acknowledged the popularity and paparazzis without making it overwhelmingly about the stars in their eyes, if you will. I liked that an actor wasn’t our main love interest.

Further, they used the Hollywood scene to make some powerful and important points regarding the Me Too movement. The events of this book can be hard to read, but I think the way they are handled is great. Women lead this novel, and this is a great representation of women supporting women, and the power of that. I really loved all the feminist energy written all over this book.

I enjoyed Something to Talk About even more than I thought I would, truly. I’m glad I read it and I’ll be seeking out more of Wilsner’s work in the future. This was a refreshing romance for me and I hope you’ll give it a shot too! Or, let me know what you thought of it!

Have a great week. 🙂

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 2. Featuring a library or bookstore

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

I am just FLYING through this year’s challenge! I read Well Matched in literally, a day. I have honestly been most excited to see the April and Mitch story from the town of Willow Creek, so I picked this one up on a snow day with the intent of finishing it in one sitting. And what a good decision that was (even though it fit like, no prompts and I had to swap one read for another to make it fit).

Single mom April is finally nearing the end of her eighteen year sentence: while she adores her daughter, Caitlin, she’s never loved the small town of Willow Creek that she settled them in eighteen years ago. Caitlin’s graduation means she can finally chase her own dreams, starting with selling the house. So she enlists the help of Mitch Malone, Willow Creek gym teacher, coach, and kilted-Ren-Faire-organizer to help her fix it up. In exchange, he asks her to pretend to be his girlfriend in front of his family so they get off his back about settling down.

But much to their surprise, Mitch’s family keeps showing up and forcing their charade, and the more time they spend together fixing up the house, the closer they grow together. April knows it’s all part of the fake girlfriend scheme…but she just might be catching feelings for the sweet and caring Mitch – and that’s not something she’s ready to confront just yet.

This brought me back to what I really enjoyed about Well Met. I didn’t like Well Played as much because neither character was very assertive, and the story was not terribly humorous. But I liked Well Matched a lot better! It was just the right touch of Ren Faire, the added dose of humor, and the perfect friends-to-lovers romance. Not to mention, April and Mitch have been some of my favorite characters from the beginning of Willow Creek’s story. Their dynamic was fun and cute, and their story arc was much improved over Well Played.

And speaking of the story arc: I really liked the “problem” or the climax of Well Matched much better. April has been on her own so long, so closed off from everyone, that it takes Mitch for her to realize this is a choice she’s making and not one she needs to commit to as part of her personality. The pair face struggles of miscommunication and a slow-growing relationship because April is struggling to express those feelings. I thought it was heartfelt and honest, and likely very relatable for readers who have gone through what April did as a young and single mom, giving up her dreams for her kid’s safety and stability.

The only thing that struck me a little odd is that it seems the fault lies almost entirely with April, when it comes to the climax of the romance…and again, not entirely her fault, we all have our things. She was definitely still likeable in spite of her reservations that made her appear cold. Her panic issues, in particular, were so relatable for me and made me like her more, reevaluating her previous appearances in a new light. But you’ll notice throughout the story that there isn’t much blame to lay on Mitch for their “falling apart” (I don’t think this really counts a spoiler…any regular reader of romance knows where it’s going!). He’s a supportive, lighthearted, and funny protagonist with a warmth about him. April felt much more real, but I really liked both of them, and liked diving deeper into their characters, since they’ve been such a big part of the series so far.

Literally every time I read a Jen DeLuca book I want to go to a Renaissance Faire. I have got to try it one of these days, and I’m going all in if I do. Outfits, flower crowns, the whole nine yards. It’s time to get the gals together and do this.

I can’t wait to read Well Traveled! I looked for it on NetGalley and no luck yet…but you’d better believe my eyes are peeled. This renewed my faith in DeLuca’s writing and my interest in the series. I think Caitlin needs a story too! Now that she’s an adult, I think bringing Caitlin back into the folds as a romantic interest, centered around the Faire, would make such an awesome story. I hope that makes book five!

Highly recommend, especially if you loved Well Met! Have an awesome week, peeps!

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!!

Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey

Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I know, I know…another Tessa Bailey? It’s been like two weeks. Yeah, yeah. But it’s ~holiday Tessa~. If you have time to read this gem before Christmas this week (and it’s fairly short!), it’ll certainly put you in the holiday spirit!

Two weeks before Christmas, recently-released felon Stella finds herself in front of the Christmas window display at luxury retailer Vivant – judging their ridiculous array of penguins carting gifts around. When she judges it out loud for a complete stranger, she finds herself with the chance of a lifetime to dress the window herself – a second chance at life and her dreams. And it’s an added perk that that stranger – a bowtie-wearing southerner named Aiden – is her hot new boss.

Aiden is absolutely starstruck by Stella and her talent. Despite her background, he finds himself totally drawn to her, and willing to give her the chance of a lifetime. But the more they work together, the more they can’t deny the sparks flying between them. But Stella is still learning how to be herself, and Aiden fears he might just be too much of a “nice guy” for a girl like Stella.

I’m not sure where all the fanfare for this book is. It should be around. Should be in bookstores, online…but for some reason, Window Shopping is flying completely under the radar. And it’s not even bad! Everyone knows my feelings about Jasmine Guillory’s attempt at a Christmas novel. But this ain’t it! I got all the warm fuzzy Christmas feelings from Window Shopping, and it was an awesome Christmas romance. I like it for a book to get you in the cozy winter spirit.

And I really loved both Stella and Aiden. I loved Aiden’s goofy disposition and his silly bowties, but also the pain behind his continuous smile and kindness. The feeling of rejection from his family and being an outsider from his own staff is something Stella picks up on immediately. The lesson he learns in this book is a good one for the holidays, a reminder to take care of ourselves before others. Stella, too, even though her sort of goth vibe isn’t for me…she’s a good character. Her growth is incredible and her own obstacles to overcome are great, but I like that from the very start she’s making strides to better herself. Taking chances on herself. And I like that her windows reflect that; in a way, what happens in the windows in this book is what we should be taking away from it ourselves this Christmas.

I have to say as well, that I hate the use of “Christmas magic” in holiday romance novels. I feel like they all have just a little bit of them, and as a grown-ass adult reading it, I do cringe. I know that that does it for some people, but it’s not for me. And I LOVE that Window Shopping contains absolutely no paranormal, “perfect coincidence” nonsense. It’s just a damn good story taking place with a background of the holidays! There are no elves or glitter or Christmas magic.

My only complaint, and the reason for the loss of my half star, was that Aiden and Stella regularly had these pretty big misunderstandings that I couldn’t quite get a grip on the basis of, then they would instantly be fine again without really talking about it. Little strange. Mostly I chalked it up to Stella’s reintroduction to life, and trying to understand other people’s perception of her and their way of speaking. I don’t think either of them really messed up at all, except for maybe not listening properly the first time.

In terms of basis in reality, I’m giving this a thumbs up. The friendships were authentic. The characters were flawed but growing. The romance is super cute but not overdone. I just really enjoyed this quick read, right in time for Christmas.

And speaking of: I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. Enjoy this time with friends and family. Thank you for reading along with me this year and I’m looking forward to writing my last review of 2021! ❤

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tessa Bailey’s done it again. Honestly, I have no original feedback: nothing I haven’t said in a previous review whilst singing Tessa’s praises. Even her last release, It Happened One Summer, had me questioning, as I didn’t know if I could like the characters…but I did. Of course I did, because it’s Tessa Freaking Bailey.

Hannah is decidedly not a leading lady: the kind of woman who takes control of their lives and their stories. As evidenced by the hopeless crush she’s been nursing for years, and that she is still a production assistant, and not composing music scores. But when she finally speaks up at work, suggesting a new filming location, she ends up back in Westport…and much, much closer to Fox, her sister’s fiance’s best friend, and possibly hers, too.

Ever since Hannah Bellinger walked into Fox’s life last summer, everything he knows has been turned upside down. Regular trips to Seattle for hookups have been replaced by late night texts and purchasing records…and while he’s got it bad for Hannah, being a loyal boyfriend is just not in him.

Feelings aside, there’s a lot to unpack here!

I couldn’t wait for Fox and Hannah’s story since I devoured It Happened One Summer, last summer, lol. Hannah’s bold demeanor was an instant draw, and you could tell Fox had puppy dog eyes every time he saw her. I loved their dynamic even before it had a name. But truthfully, this was even better than I had hoped. Hannah and Fox fit together perfectly as best friends, so their romance comes naturally. Fox is a steamy fisherman who elevates the ~romance~. Hannah is sweet and down to earth, and I loved her true to desire to help people, including Fox. They’re a good contrast and an even greater match.

This book was psychologically deep. Like the characters here had some serious things to work through, but I love that it was done tastefully and believably. We leave our characters better than we found them, but still with work to do: and I’m living for it. I love when we acknowledge that people have problems, and despite their best efforts, that’s what they bring to the table in a relationship, too. Everything about this book hit so acutely: you can’t keep waiting for happiness to come to you. It’s an effort, and we work at it. All of Tessa’s novels hit pretty square in the chest when it comes to personal growth, but I thought this one was the more evolved and impressive of all that she’s written. The things that Fox grapples with in the book, regarding being a ladies’ man and where that stems from, is intricately woven and so delicately unraveled by Hannah, a perfect polar opposite, through her friendship and warmth. It’s truly a beautiful novel, while also being a hell of a good romance.

This is one of the first romance books to make me cry in a while. When did I tear up? Right about here:

You can’t live life worrying about what people will think. You’ll wake up one day, look at a calendar, and count the days you could have spent being happy.

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey, LOC 4711.

Even out of context, that hits hard! And in context, it’s just enough to make you cry.

Like I said from the start, I don’t know what else to say except read it. I’m so here for Hook, Line, and Sinker.

Hook, Line, and Sinker was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It will be released March 1, 2022. You’re going to love it. 😉