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ARC Review: Wherever is Your Heart (Moonlighters #3) by Anita Kelly

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Synopsis:

How long, exactly, had June been coming to Moonie’s for the sole purpose of pining after the bartender? 

She certainly didn’t come for the karaoke. Even though the karaoke made her smile sometimes. All these young queers with their off-key, bouncy energy. They made Mal smile, too, June knew. Even if Mal tended to hide her smiles. 

But she saved them sometimes, for June.

Maybe Mal had secret smiles for other women, when June wasn’t around. There was probably no good reason for Mal Edwards, a bastion of stability and good sense, to see any kind of future with June anyway. Was it even fair to express feelings to a woman like that when you spent months away on the road?

But as another Pride weekend approaches, June’s fiftieth birthday and the eventual end of her long-haul trucking days loom in her mind, nestled against the memories of Moonie’s nights gone by where it felt like June and Mal came close—close to something happening, something real. Until June would inevitably chicken out. Retreat once again to life on the road. 

It’s time for June to finally figure out her next act. And if she’s not brave enough to ask Mal Edwards to be part of it, she doesn’t deserve her, anyway.

After all. If you can’t tell a butch you love her during Pride, when the hell can you?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this So so much, and related to Mal and June so hard. Their love is quiet but it shines through every moment of the story, every word and every action and every look they share. I also loved that the conflict wasn’t external. It was an internal will-she-or-won’t-she brooding that was easily dispelled. The getting together was so natural and comfortable it just felt right.

The writing is so beautiful and I highlighted so many lines to refer back to. The one about being alone but together was just. Exactly how I’ve always felt with my partner. I crave that quiet companionship and it was so nice to see it on the page. Also, I too went to college in California and then went up the coast to (almost) Oregon and love the rugged pacific coast so. This novella stole my heart in a lot of different ways.

Even though I haven’t read the first two novellas — which I will remedy now — it was easy to know and love Mal and June. They were just so honest and easy together, and felt so real and present as characters despite the fact that this is a novella. The customers at the bar were only on the page for a brief time but I am intrigued by them and excited to read more.

*thanks to Anita Kelly for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes

“Mal,” she said, quiet. “Your whole body relaxes when you talk about her. I’ve never even met her but I’m half in love with June Davis just from the way you say her name.”

Wasn’t that what love was, really? Doing beautiful, funny things, just for the hell of it. Because you wanted to. Because the other person made you feel like you could.

“We’re going to look like two beached whales,” she muttered.

“Good,” I said. “Whales are majestic as fuck.”

As if I would have something to say about this, her being a secret civil engineer, other than being supremely turned on.

Well, this was a delight. Calling each other by our full names. Which seemed way too simple a thing to elicit such pleasure in my spine, but there it was.

“It’s true,” I said slowly, “That I like being alone. But with you… it’s different. Like we can still be alone, but together.”

ARC Review: Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

Love & Other Disasters

Publishing Date: January 18, 2022

Synopsis:

The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut “that is both fantastically fun and crack your heart wide open vulnerable.” (Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate)

Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I absolutely LOVED this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because I don’t generally read contemporary romance, but I saw ‘queer and nonbinary’ and took a chance, and I’m SO glad I did.

The representation in this book was SO SO good. As a queer, nonbinary person myself, so much of what London said and was rang true. And I loved queer disaster Dahlia so much for her warm acceptance of them. They were just so good together and (almost) everyone in the book was surprisingly cool with respecting them and their pronouns.

I also loved how well-written this was. I was totally invested in this fictional cooking show and I don’t even watch real life cooking shows. Dahlia’s and London’s love of cooking came through so well, I could almost taste the dishes they were creating.

I was also totally invested in their relationship. And the writing was just so beautiful and there were so many passages that just viscerally struck true. I loved the discussion of Dahlia’s divorce, and the way she was trying to reinvent herself in LA, and when London realized that exuberant Dahlia was just… sad.

Gah I just loved it so much.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

It would be September soon, and Dahlia was glad. It would be easier, somehow, she thought, to be sad in the fall.

A flurry of expletives ran around London’s mind like foul-mouthed bunnies on speed.