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Just Saying, Sophie Ranald

Just Saying, Sophie Ranald

Just Saying: An absolutely perfect and feel-good romantic comedy by [Sophie Ranald]

Genre: Humour, Romance,

My first Sophie Ranald read, and what fun it was. I really enjoyed this, laughed at parts and had tears at others. Its a very apt book with the #metoo still causing notice, and of course stories from the Windrush generation. .

I loved Alice, she was like so many people I know, internalising hurts, showing one face to the world while feeling very different inside. I think what I found so, so sad was her reaction to what happened, to blaming herself for not doing anything to stop it. That doesn’t make her complicit, its a natural reaction to shock, and yet still something used as a defence far too often. Victim blaming – despicable defence.

When Alice met Joe it was a perfect match. Joe is wonderful, solid, dependable, a true support to Alice, and when she loses her job and starts at the pub he’s very supportive. It means though that their work hours conflict and they see little of each other, just at the time their new, gorgeous lodger, Zoe, Joe’s ex, the girl he says he loved and broke his heart, has moved in. Zoe is stunningly attractive, a great chef, and Joe loves to cook. Alice enjoys eating but cooking isn’t her thing. Slowly it feels like its Joe and Zoe, rather than Joe and Alice, she’s always there, laughing with Joe over their shared past, reminiscing over old mates, singing along as they cook, and of course enjoying the garden. The one Joe and Alice had such plans for but never found the time to do so. Poor Alice, Joe assures her they’re just friends when she moves in, but its hard seeing that toned body parading around in sexy, skimpy nightwear. Does she want Joe back ? That’s what Alice fears, and feels “less” in comparison to the gorgeous, talented Zoe.

Then there’s the pub ( and that picture – I could just visualise it!! I loved Shirley’s poem too, Princess Diana has that reaction for some people…). There’s Alice’s brother Drew, her best friend Heather, landlady Shirley and the locals, and of course handsome Archie, who owns the craft brew shop next door to the pub. They all form a tale that’s is cleverly woven together, along with a secret burden poor Alice has been carrying for far too long. Its a fabulous read, well written, paced out just right and

Stars: Five. A great read. Has a perfect blend of romance and jealousy, topical issues, things that affect real people, us with our imperfect lives. And of course a HEA, a romance isn’t right without that for me.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Would Like to Meet, Rachel Winters

Would Like to Meet, Rachel Winters

Would Like to Meet: The most uplifting romantic comedy you’ll read in 2020 by [Rachel Winters]

Genre: Women’s Fiction

First off, Women’s Fiction – its 2020, this category is well past its sell by date. Men read and write books like this.
I loved the sound of this but….though it made me laugh several times, it wasn’t one that was a great read for me. Its light and fun, but felt kind of cluttered with so many possible plots, so much going on. Its was just so busy that for me it kind of lost direction. I felt Evie was a pretty poor friend to the JEMS too, very wrapped up in her own life, expecting help and support from them, but rarely offering any back.

I didn’t see how as an aspiring writer, encouraged by her dad since she was a kid, she let one rejection go to heart like that. Changed her whole career ambitions from it. Surely she’d know rejections are just part of a writers life?
The real stars were Ben ( I loved him) and of course Anette. She was an incredible kid, especially for only seven, but then maybe losing her mum made her grow up quick. Her actions were really touching.
I did like ( to dislike) the yummy mummies and their awful offspring and names. The vomiting session from Justice, reminded me of way back when as twenty somethings my husband and I had a small beach cafe. Picture it: busy lunchtime, seats all full and then right in the centre a kid vomits spectacularly over the table, floor, chairs, luckily didn’t get any people. “Oh” says mum blithely “ that always happens when she has strawberry milkshake, but she really wanted it”. Of course mum wasn’t the one that had to clean it up, that was me, muttering “why give her the damn stuff then….”

I’d guessed almost from the off what was going to happen with NOB and his manuscript, I don’t mind sometimes, but that was just so predictable I was disappointed.
I’m a reader, not a film lover so maybe the story would have appealed more if I’d seen the films connected to the story.
Its a decent read but I felt didn’t quite hit the spot for me. Usual caveat, what one reader hates another loves. Just because this didn’t do it for me, doesn’t mean you won’t love it as much as other readers do. Reading is incredibly subjective.

Stars: Two and a half. Just didn’t really work for me, too busy, too predicable in parts.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Coffee Girl, (Coffee Book 1), Sophie Sinclair 

Coffee Girl, (Coffee Book 1), Sophie Sinclair 

Coffee Girl (Coffee Book Book 1) by [Sinclair, Sophie]

Genre: Romance
I saw this on netgalley, but its a debut read and stories like this can be real gems or really dire…and as a debut read I didn’t know which it would be for me. Its on KU though so I borrowed it and it proved to be a fun and easy read.
Kiki is cute, looking for a new job, and not wanting to be her sisters nanny. Don’t blame her, neither would I! It was really funny reading her impossible timetable lits of what to do and how to do it.
She ends up being an assistant dresser for Country star Tatum. Kiki isn’t a country fan so has no idea who he is but when she sees him there’s an instant attraction. He’s got a superstar girlfriend though, and Kiki isn’t in the market to mess her new job.
Of course its superstarland, where everything is not as it seems, there are secrets, distrust, backbiting and bitchiness. There’s also sweet relationships, good friendships and loyalty. Tatum is mistrustful though, having worked his way up the hard way and Kiki can’t believe he’s really interested in her….
I loved Kiki and Tatum, loved Lex, Sarah, even Jess. Of course I love the mean girls too and there were two great ones here, for me they add so much to a story. What I am getting tired of though is the obligatory stereotyped Gay Best Friend and TJ was all of that. Characters like his seem to crop up constantly, as best friends, love advice, dressing and styling maestros. I’m just getting tired of gays – well, gay men, getting pigeonholed like this. Sophie does the character well, its just I’m bored with seeing this character crop up in every other romance. Time to let those guys break out of the mould authors 😉

Stars: Four, a solid debut read, fun story, great characters and I’m looking forward to book two.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

My Greek Island Summer, a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy, Mandy Baggot

My Greek Island Summer, a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy, Mandy Baggot

My Greek Island Summer: a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy by [Mandy Baggot]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

Bah, humbug. Women’s fiction. Why? Men write romance, men read romance. ’nuff said…

I wanted to like this story, it sounded perfect for me, and I’ve enjoyed many books from Mandy Baggot before. However I found the first quarter largely irrelevant IMO, I even went back to check I was reading the right book, it seemed so far removed from the description.
I really wasn’t feeling it, didn’t like Megan, thought Becky was a pushover and the other two workers a bit of a trope. Still, it got better slowly to first half, and then finally, finally, I fell into the story. That second half had the Greece I wanted, the romance I needed, although I still felt a bit underwhelmed by the other characters and the rest of the story. Somehow it felt like there was too much going on, Becky, her sister and the issues with the business, Greece and Elias’ family issues and of course Petra and her problems. I’m usually complaining if there’s not enough other parts than just the couple and the romance, but this went a bit too far. IMO. Towards the end it finally all tied up but it felt a little rushed, there was so much to deal with.
For me Elias and Becky needed to be the main story and the others supporting that. I love side plots, they can add so much depth to a story but this time I felt they detracted and took over the romance. I wasn’t entirely convinced Elias could change his very entrenched views about romance so easily. As usual though that’s just my opinion, reading is subjective and others will feel differently.
I liked it – but its not one I’d re-read, and I did skim read parts because I wanted to get back to the romance.

Stars: Three, one I liked but didn’t love.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Dear Enemy, Kristen Callihan

Dear Enemy, Kristen Callihan

Dear Enemy by [Callihan, Kristen]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

I love Kristen’s VIP series, have re read those several times and they still make me laugh – and cry….but her other books just don’t quite live up to those for me. This one was the same, it was good, great banter, Kristen excels at that, which had me giggling like a loon every now and then, but somehow it didn’t have the VIP magic.
I never like it when a guy dates a sister – or vice versa, and her its an integral part of the story but I just didn’t – even when everything came out – understand just why Macon ever dated the horrible Samantha.

Delilah coming to work for Macon was…a little contrived in terms of real life, but this is fiction so jut go with it. In reality would a chef/PA really be worth all that money? She might be the greatest chef- but is untried as a PA. Somehow though if you can suspend belief, and just accept it has happened it makes for a great story.
The characters are good, I love an evil, selfish character like Samantha, loved Macon in his early unpleasant days, that means when we learn his history it puts a different slant on what seemed like pure vicious nastiness.
I loved the way it finally came together, how Delilah was such an open, natural lady, always ready to help anyone, with a humorous quip at the ready for when its needed and yet also has a very serious side under that humour.
Its a great read, I’m just spoiled by VIP. Maybe its time for yet another re-read of those, Sunshine and Chatty-girl’s ( aka Gabriel and Sophie) story is the best IMO!

Stars: Four, a great read, just suspend belief in the reality of certain plots and go with it. Its worth it.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Marry Him, Marina Ford

Marry Him, Marina Ford

Marry Him by [Ford, Marina]

Genre: Romance, Humour
I’ve had a slew of books recently that were perhaps bad choices on my part and I really hate writing low star reviews. I always try to point out though that although I didn’t gel with the story others will, that reading is very subjective. This book illustrates that perfectly. Already I can see a few two star reviews, even a couple of ones and yet I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

It made me snigger with the scatty humour, and for anyone ( a few reviews mention it) who thinks life isn’t like that – it is. I don’t have Joe’s exuberance but do have his problems with everything going t$ts up, with my careful plans descending into chaos, although mostly I just go with the flow and don’t make strict plans. Everything goes wrong when I do so why bother? The nurses were sniggering when I broke my hip falling out of my wheelchair, moving the electric fence for my horses, then recently my scooter suddenly ran out of charge just before home and a big slope. I had to accept a push from a poor man who was using a stick to walk…then there’s the time I super-glued my hand to the kitchen worktop. I was putting it away safely so the grand-kids didn’t get it.
Frank is so like my late husband, that full on persona, always talking to strangers like long lost friends, always full of weird and wonderful ideas.
I enjoyed the very different personalities of Harry and Joe, again my late husband and I were very different, and yet it worked, we were together over 40 years, so there’s no reason why Harry and Joe couldn’t make it work too.

I wasn’t so keen on the timing, the way it was five years past, six months past and then present, it worked to tell the story but I found it frustrating jumping back and forth. That’s a small crit though and as I’m not a writer maybe that’s the only way the story would work?
I did like the different people, the prejudice, the way Joe was casually called “ the Gay “ from folk who’d be astonished at the suggestion that wasn’t really polite. Casual sexism, prejudice, bigotry like this is insidious, people only see the open hatred as being prejudiced whereas actually its far more and something people face daily but shouldn’t have to. Being a wheelchair user I get that kind of thing when folk talk to whoever is pushing the chair, offer them the change even though I’ve paid, ruffle my hair like I’m a pet. One day….

The story itself has some great dram that unfolds to a real climax at the end. I couldn’t believe it would really unravel, and yet the clues Marina set up for it all going wrong were incredibly real and believable.
Looking on goodreads Marina is a new to me author, I’ll certainly look out for her books in future.

Stars: five, a cracking read that had me sniggering at several points at poor Joe, and empathising with him having done the same kind of thing.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Where We Belong, Shann McPherson

Where We Belong, Shann McPherson

Where We Belong: An unputdownable contemporary romance novel for 2020 by [McPherson, Shann]

Genre: Romance, General Fiction (adult)

Well, I love these small town America stories. I’ve no idea – being British – whether there really are towns like this, but I love the idea of everyone having friends, being there for each other. Of course its Always Sunshine and Warmth – and here in UK that’s often in short supply, so that’s a huge bonus. BBQ in the rain, summer dress for night out ruined by downpour, hair carefully coiffed and makeup done, then wrap up in warm hat that ruins the effect – that’s UK summers. I love the fake GF/BF trope too.

Poor Murph, all set for a proposal from long time boyfriend, on and off romance, and then…he hands her an invite to his wedding. Oh I could feel her heart breaking. When we learned more about their past my heart was sad for her over again, and I wondered why she saw Nash as her HEA, when to me he was selfish and unreliable.
Still, here he is with his new love, and she wants to put a brave face on and in the momentary instinct claims Harley is hers. Poor Harley – give the guy credit, he goes along with it, but as we learn he’s been picking her up for years, What’s one more time.
And it could have been a fun read for me if Murph hadn’t been so unpleasant to Anna. Its not her fault Nash loves her, and I really didn’t like Murph’s actions. Acting on the spur of the moment is one thing, but deliberate actions? Nope. Not in my playbook.
It may not bother you and you may laugh at parts, I did have a silent snigger at one even as I was annoyed at it….hey- I’m human, it set a funny visual. And I want to know why Harley writes his name on his clothes?

Overall it ends well, I’m not entirely sure I was convinced by it, but its a fun, easy read.

Stars: Three, I enjoyed parts, but a) didn’t understand why Murph was so set on Nash and b) didn’t like some of her actions.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Serendipity Game, A Romantic Comedy, Teagan Kearney

The Serendipity Game, A Romantic Comedy, Teagan Kearney

The Serendipity Game: A Romantic Comedy by [Kearney, Teagan]

Genre: Romantic comedy

Well, I love a “good” B itch in a book, and had hopes Elena would prove to be one so was keen to read this. It was a fun, easy read, but very slow to start.

Apart from a quick incident in the first few pages, we don’t actually meet Jake until a third of the way through the book. Not at all, and for me that let the story down.
I expected there to be some kind of interaction between him and Casey before then. Once the do get together it was a fun read, quite light, not a deep dark, intense read, but a very surface based, light one. Sometimes that’s what you need though, a book you can read between other things, one you can put down and when you pick it up again you don’t have to restart to remember where you were.

I liked Casey and her friends, but at times she did over labour the differences between her and Jake. I loved Jake, such a romantic man, but also very thorough in ensuring everything involving Casey is taken care of, not leaving things to chance. I want a Jake of my own.
I’m OK with insta lust, and could feel that between them, but for me I like the love to have a bit more time to develop. In this book all the action takes place in a little over a week, apart from the very end of course. I found it hard to believe Jake especially would plunge straight in after being burned in marriage first time round.
The paparazzi parts were excellent, they really do dive in after pics regardless of how they can ruin lives, its all a game and money to them. I really felt for Casey when she got caught in that situation, and was so glad she had her friends to help.

The humour is quite subtle, very low key but I’d rather that than the forced in-your-face comedy so many books contain. I did snort very unbecomingly at the Casey/Elena and the vomit scene…perfect.
I did expect a bit more from Elena, she’s part of an overall plot but I was hoping for a bit more interaction between her and Casey, some nicely chosen verbal barbs, some manipulation of events. She’s really – well – nuts is the only way to put it. Bats-hit crazy. That shows when the final plot comes to a head, but I think she could have had a bigger part in the story, rather than a behind the scenes mostly appearance.
I’m not sure I’d class it as a Cinders retelling, but it is an easy, fun read.

Stars: Three and a half. I’ve dropped a half for that very slow start where we don’t meet a main character til almost a third into the book. For me I need to have them engaged in the story earlier, preferably with the other MC, but a behind the scenes peek would have helped.

ARC supplied by author

The Bromance Book Club, Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club, Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club: The utterly charming new rom-com that readers are raving about! by [Kay Adams, Lyssa]

Genre: Romance

Y’know, so very often books promise “you will laugh out loud” or maybe “gut clenching humour” and I find that actually they don’t, the humour is forced and more slapstick than comedic. This one promises nothing and yet was incredible. Clever subtle humour at times that had me smiling gently, and at other times ? I was snorting at the mental images.

Wonderfully written, you feel for both characters, and I adored them even if I could see where they were harsh with each other in expectations and of course, saying just the wrong thing at the wrong moment!
Gavin, he was wonderful. Top baseball star, dad of adorable twin girls, and thinks he has the perfect marriage and then….That comes out. Poor guy, all this while he’s been thinking he’s keeping his wife happy sexually, and then suddenly he finds out she’s never reached the big O. He (IMO) over reacts, a mix of feeling humiliated I guess, and feeling that she’s lied to him the three years they’ve been married.

Thea, suddenly found herself pregnant early in her relationship, and twins demand all your time. She loves Gavin, that’s clear, but feels an outsider in his closed Baseball world. I can see that, many wives/partners grow up alongside their partner, from junior ranks to the big time but Thea got dropped straight in, and it feels like she’s always trying to blend in, to belong, and yet never really fits. Of course there’s the classic mean girl, the type who says one thing while making it clear its not praise but an insult, Rachel, wife of one of the other stars, and I do love a character like hers. I wish she had a bigger part. I love the drama that follows people like her.
Then with the arrival of the twins Thea’s own career has ground to a halt too. She adores Gavin so how do you say “actually Gav, you’ve not hit the spot” and when? Once you’ve let that magic, hidden moment pass its gone. How can you respond when he says “why didn’t you tell me before?” and so it becomes a long secret.
The book club guys, they were just wonderful. I love First Rule of Book Club, you don’t talk about Book Club. The sheer silliness of modern day men, bug Alpha males, taking tips from fictional Regency Lords and their problems. And yet it was working…I guess times never really change. I love the way they convinced themselves the book was relevant to modern society, the way they used words to parallel it to modern feminism…and of course the wonderful Regency style insults and phrases that pop into Gavin’s head. It was the little touches like that which add so much depth and fun to the story
Its one step forward and two back for Gavin as both he and Thea learn slowly about the issues from their own pasts that have influenced their marriage. If they had dated for longer then maybe they wouldn’t have had issues, would have known more about each others triggers but…the twins came.
I think my favourite bit was the night Gav was looking after the twins and the book club lads had a meeting at his house. Thea and sister Liv came home early to find decorated beards and hair, big burly guys with painted nails, and of course The Russian and his stomach and flatulence issues. I actually had tears of laughter at the mental images in my head.
Its a great read, lovely romance with incredible humour that was just perfect for me, fitting to the story, not squeezed in regardless for a cheap laugh as in so many books. I look forward to the next in series.

Stars: Five. A wonderful read, romance, humour and sharply modern issues that were helped with ancient advice….

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Captain & the Squire, (The Captivating Captains 5) Catherine Curzon, Eleanor Harkstead

The Captain & the Squire, (The Captivating Captains 5) Catherine Curzon,
Eleanor Harkstead

The Captain and the Squire (Captivating Captains Book 5) by [Curzon, Catherine, Harkstead, Eleanor]

Genre: Humour, LGBTQIA

Well, I’m late to this series and have only read the previous book. I struggled with that so was hoping this would suit better – and it did. It was timing in last book that was wrong for me. I don’t really gel with books where everything takes place over a few days, but this one is longer, still short, just a month except for the epilogue, but it worked so much better for me.

I loved the way Tarquin and Chris are at odds from the moment they meet, and yet that magical thread of attractions pulls to them both. That meeting should have clued me to what sort of story this was going to be, but it took me a few more pages to realise that it really was tongue in cheek stuff, perfect schoolgirl humour that somehow I’ve never outgrown!
Chris is new to the area, although his family and Tarquin’s have been in Bough Bottom for generations. Tarquin is a long standing resident, local farmer, with the most horrendous fiancee, Petunia. She was so perfect in the book, adding a nasty edge to the spice and nice 😉 along with her boss, the awful Bryan.
If you’re thinking Romance, sensuality and emotional story – well, the emotion you’ll be feeling is tears, but tears of laughter. At times this feels like a Brian Rix ( now I’m showing my age) farce, it’s slapstick type comedy, so overdone that it works. There’s a fine line between slapstick funny and in your face OTT jokes, and the authors have found it perfectly.
From the countryside squire Tarquin portrays, trilby, tweeds and tractors, very typical stereo-type, Chris’ wide boy city financier, Petunia’s grasping, greedy social climber to the real star, Orry, otherwise know as The Oracle, cleverest pig on the planet its all so silly that it somehow works, and had me sniggering at the unlikely events.
Of course there’s a serious side in that Tarquin is engaged – to a woman, and his other inclinations go unknown, and what will come of that. Then there’s the terms of Chris uncle’s will, Chris has only a short window to act if he’s to keep the house and money, and it not go to his elderly uncle’s latest floozy… And just what did happened between the Hardcastles and the Boughs all that while ago?

The boat race and Orry’s actions – wonderful writing, had me sniggering at the though of super intelligent pig racing with a priceless antique dildo to help…..
Then there’s the semi serious side of the looting of precious historical artifacts in other countries, that’s a reality that sadly happens too much, and was good to see mentioned in the context of dealers and collectors. Some people have no morals, fortunately Chris and Tarquin do, and all ends well. Wish real life was like that.

Stars: Five, Its a wonderful, sniggering farce, with a spicy and sensual romance wrapped up in it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A fun read to drive away winter blues.

Arc via authors

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