Tag Archive | romance

Dating by the Book, Mary Ann Marlowe

Dating by the Book, Mary Ann Marlowe

Dating by the Book by [Marlowe, Mary Ann]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

I loved Mary Ann’s first two stories, but this one wasn’t as good for me. It could be my personal circumstances. I’m STILL in temp accommodation, seven months now, and that means my usual schedule is on hold. Finding time to get totally absorbed in a book when you’re alone is easy, but when you’re living with a busy family isn’t so simple. It may be that if I re-read this in a few months time I’ll feel differently.

Maddie is lovely, as are most of the cast here, and I adored the setting, book/cafe and book club. She really brings folk together through her work and the club and I enjoyed reading about them and the issues they faced.
Maddie is still struggling a bit I felt, and with her relationship ending like that who can be surprised? Suddenly though it seems would be suitors go from an ambiguous possibility at some time in the future, to a shed load of them on her doorstep – and at the other side of her PC. Add in that she’s got a fast approaching deadline for her next novel, another that’s just been released and then her beloved Mossy Stone, which despite her hard work is struggling financially. Of course only her close friend knows about her book, she’s written under a pen name and not told others.(Against her advice she just can’t help reading reviews- I’d be like that!)
That’s a lot to contend with but we see her ploughing through.

I enjoyed meeting the different characters, getting to know them, seeing them in the store, at the book club and watching for which one might prove right for Maddie. I found myself putting the book aside a few times though, having to remind myself who was whom, and how they connected. Usually with a book I love I can’t put it down, engrossed in the story to the point I feel I know the characters, and certainly that was my experience with Mary Ann’s first two novels.

Stars: Three and a half. A good story but I didn’t enjoy it in the same way as the first two of Mary Ann’s novels. As I said though, its likely me and circumstances, and perhaps a later read will change that.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale

The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale

The Jasmine Wife: A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women by [Coverdale, Jane]

Genre: Romance

Well, this one doesn’t feature my usual bete noire, the “women’s fiction” category, but that runner just after the title? “Novel for women” – it means much the same and just makes me think, Why? Why alienate a potential swath of readers? Men write romance, men read romance, its time we stopped categorising stories as men/women reads.

Anyway, the story. I love books set in other countries, especially India/China/Japan, and especially set in a period of history where life was so very different not only between sexes but between races.
I loved this book, really made me feel there with Sara, feeling the heat, enjoying the rich aromatics, the colourful landscape, the busy markets and shops.

Its a good story too, what happens to Sara was what sadly happened so often then. Orphaned, brought up by relatives, and encouraged to marry rather than stay with the family. Didn’t really matter whether the match suited her, the fact that someone with a position in India chose her was enough. For those without connections there was the notorious “ fishing fleet” where desperate girls came on spec, hoping someone needed a wife.
Its hardly a romance a marriage like this, more a match of suitability. Perhaps, they don’t really know each other well after all. Sara thinks she loves Charles but barely knows him, and the man she meets in India, after a years absence is very different.
By her background, her childhood in India with very open minded, liberal parents though she sees the locals as people, while the British enclave here now are determined to treat them as lesser, as unfeeling, as beneath any decent treatment. What this books shows is just how it was in reality, and the sheer, breathtaking arrogance of people just because the are British is incredible. Its always amazed me how one tiny, little country became such a world power.
Of course Sara is lovely, way to good for Charles and the British Enclave in Madras. Charles is ambitious, and not above using Sara’s beauty to further his position, and insidiously bullies her into behaving with those who can influence his future. He sees her as a tool more than a wife, but then sadly he’s not alone. Women were regarded that way, possessions to be used, to be paraded out with, to show off, while they kept an Indian woman for what they saw as their baser needs. Wives weren’t allowed or expected to enjoy sex, but remain above such things, while men had “needs”…… Incredible how men who denigrate Indians in public still wanted them kept quietly somewhere for those needs. Sadly that was the norm, accepted even, and the poor ladies, Indian or British, had no say.

Sara gets a rapid eye opening about her husband, and of course the wonderful, attractive Ravi is a temptation she can’t resist. I loved the idea of their meeting being fated, that the signs, the gurus, Sara’s history, all meant it was inevitable according to Ravi. This idea of fate v personal choice always fascinates me, and there are times when things seem impossible but somehow work out, as if fate lent a helping hand.

Stars: Five. A gorgeous read, transporting me to India, desperate for things to work out for Sara, for her to be happy.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Exquisitely Broken, A Sin City Tale 1, M. Jay Granberry

Exquisitely Broken, A Sin City Tale 1, M. Jay Granberry

Exquisitely Broken (A Sin City Tale Book 1) by [Granberry, M. Jay ]

Genre: Romance, multi-cultural interest

The story is told in three parts; today, four years in the past and ten years in the past. At times that was irritating, frustrating, there’d be something climatic happen then next page we’d be in a different time period. I don’t really see another way of telling the story though, other than giving it all away at once, and that wouldn’t make good reading 😉

I wanted to know what happened to split them up, after all six years together is a long time. I know he cheated, Sin tells us that, but I wanted to know exactly what happened, why, how long etc. When I did find out what went down I was a bit confused. Why? Was it a one off or ongoing? Was that the only time? There had to be a reason, was Jake just getting cold feet? Was he just arrogant thinking he could do it just because? I feel that part of the book needed more work, more fleshing out.
It was such a huge part of them and the story but kind of glossed over. “oh, he cheated, right, on to next plot.” It wasn’t treated with the awfulness cheating is, and Jake didn’t seem to appreciate just how his actions affected Sin, it was as if he felt it was in the past, she should forget it. I’d always worry though, if he could do it once, he could do it a second time. It made Jake into a person I didn’t really like, and it took a while for that to change.
Sin is so loyal to her friends, has worked hard for her success but her heart is still with Jake, she hasn’t really got over their break-up, and now she’s within his sphere again he wants her back. I was a bit undecided though, was her really worthy of her? I guess without knowing what went wrong I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t happen again. Sin though is stronger now, and not just going to roll over.

We meet Jake’s family too, his dad isn’t so bad but his mum, what a piece of work she is. That’s fine by me though, I just love a nasty character on a book, makes the story so much more interesting 😉 I did feel though that Jake needed to stand up to her more, to stand by Sin, to tackle his mum about her past actions and her current attitude.

There’s lots going on in this story, some terrific characters and its a great debut read, but for me it needed a bit more – I needed to feel that Jake really regretted what he’d done. I felt he was sorry for it only in that he lost Sin because of it, not that he actually saw anything wrong in his cheating. There’s an important difference there, and its the one that makes me certain it won’t happen again.
I needed him to stand up to his mum too, to tell her to not interfere in his life, for him to stand up for Sin, rather than just let things play out and – kind of – apologise foe his mum after she’s been her usual unpleasant self.
Stars: Four, a great debut read. A few parts that didn’t work so well for me but I’ll be looking out for M Jay’s next book.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

More Than Anything, The Broken Pieces Book 1, Natasha Anders

More Than Anything, The Broken Pieces Book 1, Natasha Anders

More Than Anything (The Broken Pieces Book 1) by [Anders, Natasha]

Genre: Romance, General Fiction (Adult)

I’ve enjoyed a few of Natasha’s stories now. Sometimes I just want an easy, non taxing romance with a HEA and her books usually fit the bill. I didn’t enjoy this one much though, it wasn’t a bad book, I just found I couldn’t really relate to the characters or their problems.

I love an under-dog, and Tina seemed just that. She had an awful experience at 18, but unless she was incredibly naive I find part of that plot hard to believe. Likewise staying celibate for next ten years? Why? Still hating Harris for what happened even though as a close family friend they seem to be in constant contact some way? Then there’s the crux of that issue, her weight, but she doesn’t seem to be anything more than an attractive, curvy lady.
Though I like the underdog character I want them to have some spirit and Tina just came over as whiny at times, no backbone, just constantly blaming everything on Harris, when they guy didn’t know half the story.
Harris, I didn’t understand why he didn’t ask why Tina was so cold to him after The Event. He knows what happened, its not hard to guess why Tina was friends before and blanked him after. Why didn’t he just apologise, ask her why she was so different? I just found the idea of adults holding a ten year grudge hard. I’d just move totally away if I felt that strongly, but Tina seems to have had contact via family but kept on silently with the recriminations.
Then after a ten years of holding in that grudge its over quickly, and that didn’t feel right. Her friend Libby and Greyson too, their issues being the secondary plot-line, was kind of over and done without any real justification of the resolution. If I was Libby I’d have been gutted at what happened, it would take a lot of hard work to forgive and I’m not sure that kind of accusation could be got past.
I didn’t understand why her family were so harsh on her, it seems to have been almost since birth, and the failed businesses were just an anomaly in the book IMO. They didn’t add anything to the story, just filled pages and gave her supposed close family something to beat her with.

There’s another part of the story that did make me feel really sad for her, and having experienced something very similar I could understand a bit of her reaction. Again though, she has the money, she’s been to counseling, and when its affecting her friendship with Libby it needs dealing with.

Stars: Two and a half. I liked the premise, usually enjoy Natasha’s stories but this one just didn’t cut it.

Arc via Netgalley

Summer Season on the Seafront, Katie Ginger

Summer Season on the Seafront, Katie Ginger

Summer Season on the Seafront: The perfect feel-good romance for summer! by [Ginger, Katie]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.

With that off my chest, on to the book. I hadn’t realised there was an earlier book, I think if you read that first the relationships in this one will be clearer, but if like me you haven’t it doesn’t matter, its still a very easy to follow story.

I really didn’t like Nate when we first met him but as we learned more of his backstory I understood his actions more and loved him. Sarah of course, is attracted but the media are full of salacious stories and poor Nate is in a situation where he cant defend himself from the, I really hate that situation, and its one repeated time and again in British media who seem to want the story at any cost, and aren’t too worried about the truth. Caught out they’ll print some tiny retraction tucked behind other stories. They just want the name, the headline and the sales.
Sarah is lovely, been through a tough time but is gaining her confidence and then her past comes along to throw a spanner in the works. She’s attracted top Nate – who isn’t? She’s also had a long time crush on colleague Finn though, and he seems to reciprocate her feelings. I loved Lottie and Sid, and of course Gregory and Cecil, and could imagine the story unfolding ss if it was really happening.
The romance here is very understated, a secondary story almost, with the main plots being about the characters, their friendships and of course the Theatre and the play they are doing. With it being classed as a romance read I did expect that part to be stronger, but I guess that’s down to my expectations, not the book. I was just a bit disappointed to not get more romance in the story. The main cast of characters show just how a disparate group can form close friendships, can work together even if there is friction at times.

Stars: Four, an enjoyable holiday type read. One to relax with and just imagine you’re there with the cast.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer at the Art Cafe, Sue McDonagh

Summer at the Art Cafe, Sue McDonagh

Summer at the Art Cafe (Choc Lit): A wonderful happy-ever after romance! by [McDonagh, Sue]

Genre: Romance , Women’s Fiction

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.
Anyway, other than that moan I loved this book. I find that Choc-Lit books almost always work well for me, fun and easy to read but not a dumbed down romance. Sometimes I want a simple romance, not a deep, dark, heavy one but I still want some solid characters, believable plots and choc-lit delivers that.
As an artist myself I loved reading about Lucy’s artwork, and the lovely finds she brought into the cafe. The idea of cakes and art sounded wonderful, and the beach-side setting just perfect. Of course on a rainy November day its not so good but 😉 Its fiction, and in romance land its always sunny summer or crisp snowy winter, no grim and gloomy days allowed!
I loved Lucy, so talented, so kind and warmhearted but married to an absolute pratt of a man. It makes me wonder – and Lucy – how did things change, was he always like this and she blinded by love. Sometimes we’re just too much in the thick of things to see the real truth and that’s what seemed to happen to Lucy, it wasn’t until it was thrown in her face she realised how cruel and awful Gerry had become. Still, I like a character I can hate on so all’s good 😉 and of course when she masters all the things he belittles her for and makes a huge success of life without him, that’s just so, so satisfying.
Speaking of people to hate, Sarah was perfect too, one face to Ash and a very different one to Lucy. I love manipulative characters like that, bring in a real challenge to the story, and of course she was determined not to let things work between Ash and Lucy.
There’s some great humour in this story, a lovely plot encompassing not just romance, but growth, Ash growing to trust in love and Lucy learning to trust in herself and her talent, lots of new friends all round, Nic and Richard from the cafe, TV Tom, the Biker Girls, Ed and co from the bike shop, even the pupils Lucy first learned her CBT with.
I adored Daisy too, she made a fabulous character in the story, a wonderful young lady, and of course she ( and I) loved all the rescue animals. I’ve seen ex battery hens in jumpers too while their feathers grow in 😉 and Ash was so open hearted taking in all those animals.
What makes a romance perfect for me though isn’t just the build up, but the crash down, the angst and its really well done here, lasts a while not just over in a couple of pages, and that’s just what I need. Real life is like that, and when things go right again it feels so much more satisfying. Love, real love, needs that challenge to last IMO.

Stars: Five, a gorgeous read, perfect for holidays and beach, or when you just want an escape to a happy place for a few hours.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel by [McQuiston, Casey]

Genre: LGBTQIA, romance

Note: I’m reading an ARC so possibly the issues about UK/USA differences will be corrected before publication. As a UK reader things like this are very noticeable.

The first issue that bothered me came very early, UK Prince Henry’s brother’s wedding cake. We have £ not $ so the cake would be £75,000 not $75,000 ( or whatever the exchange rate equivalent is ). Then there’s Alex’ comments on the beans on toast breakfast. Well, we do eat that, but in a royal palace the fare would be far wider, they’d be pushing the traditional full English, with maybe kippers, smoked haddock etc and a Continental option. Poor Alex wouldn’t have been forced to eat something he so disliked.
Anyway, got that off my chest 😉 now to the book.

I hadn’t realised it was a YA/NA and to start with Alex especially felt even younger than his 21, and that irritated me. You can’t help liking him though, he’s got that irrepressible good nature, except when it comes to Henry…
Of course thrown together as they are, they start to see a different side to each other, and I really enjoyed how they developed a strong friendship before getting into deeper feelings. There’s quite a lot of artistic license given in how they manage to meet surreptitiously so often, in reality a Prince is incredibly closely guarded, and I expect its the same for the President’s son. Still, fiction 🙂 and it makes for a fun story.

I’d jumped in after reading the blurb, but when beginning it I really thought this wouldn’t be one for me with that shaky, YS feel start. I’ve read some YA books and enjoyed them, but YA romance isn’t really my thing. However once I got to know Alex better and see that despite my first impressions he really wasn’t a 21 going on 16 kid, that actually he was more mature I started to enjoy the story.
I don’t know whether its a UK/US thing but I’ve noticed often that characters in the 18-21 age group in US novels tend to be very immature, mentally like a UK 15 – 18 age group, whereas in UK ones at that age they act and are regarded as adults. Maybe its that they are treated that way in UK, and in US adulthood doesn’t seem to clock in till about 24 or 25?

I think what I liked best was getting to know the real characters, the people they were behind the front they show in public. I enjoyed the secondary characters too. They played a solid part in the story, backing up Alex and Henry, providing advice and working hard to keep the romance on track. I was surprised ( pleasantly) at how in depth some of the issues were treated, bringing in topically important plots, ones that affect folk in real life. I love that bit of reality in fiction, and it plays an important part in helping to effect change sometimes by raising issues folk may be unaware of.
There was the whole LBGTQIA issue, especially in a very traditional Royal family, the way it can affect voters in the US system, the issues of others making political capital out of others problems, and of course a very topical issue about sexual abuse in the workplace.

Stars: Four, a book that started badly for me but which had a lot more depth and topicality than I expected. And a great romance of course 😉

Arc via Netgalley and Publishers

Happiness for Beginners, One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! Carole Matthews

Happiness for Beginners, One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! Carole Matthews

Happiness for Beginners: One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! by [Matthews, Carole]

Genre: romance
Hmnn, I liked the sound of this, could relate to Molly – I too love animals, often find them easier to get along with than people. I just found the MC, Shelby, to be shallow, putting himself way ahead of his son, supposedly grieving for his wife who died a year back and yet out on the town, deep in a romance with someone who his son dislikes, who’s really only interested in her own image. I found that hard to take, and it coloured my view of him. I didn’t really feel this was a romance, given most of the book little happens between the two MCs and he’s with Scarlett. I felt so, so sorry for his son, poor Lucas. I was so glad he ended up with Molly and crew.
I loved the animals, the idea of the students, though the way it was run was pretty ad hoc, I did feel that in real life it would need to be more formalised, look more at the actual safety of the students around the animals, and the actual education they were receiving.
I did get irritated at the constant harping of Ringo’s ( I think it was him) skin issues. We keep hearing he’s got sweet itch, an allergy to his own hair. I’ve had horses for many years, one was an Icelandic, a breed prevalent to sweet itch so I’ve read a lot about it. Its caused by a sensitivity to midge bites, not an allergy to own hair, and is best treated by rugs covering tender areas. Cutting his hair short would make it easier for them to bite, though easier to clean the broken skin caused by rubbing as it’s intensely itchy. If you’re going to use specifics like this authors, please check you have it right.
Its a story I enjoyed but it was incredibly slow to start and I kind of felt there was a lot going on but not much happening, if you understand that 😉 It meant I got bored and skim read the last third of the story.

Stars: three, an ok read. Its a pleasant story, but I guess feeling Shelby was arrogant and selfish kind of coloured it for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Smitten by the Brit, Melonie Johnson

Smitten by the Brit, Melonie Johnson

Smitten by the Brit: A Sometimes in Love Novel by [Johnson, Melonie]

Genre: Romance

I really thought this sounded perfect for me, but I feel conflicted, ambivalent about it. It was well written, just didn’t wow me, didn’t make me feel I couldn’t put it down.

I wasn’t really gripped by either character, they were Nice. That’s it. No real character to either of them. Bonnie was a sweet girl, but I’d have thought she’d be more upset over her breakup considering how long they’d been together. Years, years after being childhood friends. That’s not something you can move from even though he was an ar- se, even though it was clear they’d actually drifted apart some while back. Yet within days she’s got the hots for Theo.
I think she’s the sort of person who would grieve losing the idea of the relationship you thought she had even if she didn’t grieve the man.

Theo, he made me so cross, a real mummy’s boy. I could see the issue with his family, understand the problems but really? The solution his mother proposed wasn’t something you’d pull from a hat, the issues weren’t something that sudden;ly cropped up and the solution – if hers wasn’t what he wanted – should have been worked out years ago.

Its that lack of practicality, the reaching for quick and easy solutions combined with the blandness of the characters that let this story down for me. You may feel differently, I can see others love it so clearly the issues I struggle with don’t affect other readers. Melonie is a new to me author, I will try another book before deciding she’s not for me, I like her writing style, just not the plot and characters in this book. Could be a one off and I’ll love others. Won’t be the first time that’s happened, and I’m always looking for some well written romance.

Stars: Two and a half, I enjoyed Melonie’s style of writing but sadly not this book.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer at the Lakeside Resort,(Lakeside Resort Book 2), Susan Schild.

Summer at the Lakeside Resort,(Lakeside Resort Book 2), Susan Schild.

Genre: romance

I loved the previous book, and enjoyed this. I’ve had a couple of follow-on books recently, and I guess I’m coming round to the idea that actually what I want, what I enjoy best is the pre-romance, the story and struggles that gets folk together. Once they are together, sometimes I enjoy a sneak into what comes next but more often I just don’t seem to get so engaged in the story.
I enjoyed seeing The Boys, Jenny feels her boys are family, exactly the way I’ve always thought about my pets. ( My dog, Roxy, is now shrieking “A Pet!! You think I’m a pet??” I swear she thinks she’s human. ) The resort is progressing, not without problems of course, and that made it so lifelike. Things do go wrong, I know, I’m still in temp accommodation because the 8-10 week renovation is now into about week 14 with another three or four to go. Uncover one issue, and three more pop up. I so felt for Jenny in the first book when this seemed to happen to her all the time. Now she’s laid out all that money she needs to get the bookings in, but to do that she needs to spend more cash on attractions….cash she doesn’t have.
I didn’t really feel the Luke issue, he’s a good guy at heart and the commitment worry felt a bit forced, though of course there is his workaholic dad for history. People do often follow the role model set by parents rather than learn from it.
It was a fun read, a light one but cemented my opinion that for me follow on books aren’t really what I like best.

Stars: three, I enjoyed reading about Jenny and co, and seeing the resort progressing and for those who like reading follow on stories it will be a five, just a case of its me not the book. Reading tastes are so subjective.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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